Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Chapter Four The Painted Pony

Watch For The Raven

Sitting in the old ranch kitchen with Ben, watching him work his magic with the fry bread he'd made especially for her, the world's petty troubles seemed far away and her father closer than ever. She missed him so much. Ben was as close to a second father as any could be, and they were a lot alike. Jamie could appreciate this now. 

"…Nephew comin ta hep out. Get the place ready fer winter 'n all."

Ben's smooth, mellow voice lulled her with its cadence. Nephew? Her mind grabbed the word and she pictured the lanky pain in the patoosie she remembered from earlier times. His flaming red hair, from his mother's side of course—those eyes that seemed to rivet people to the ground they were standing on. Menace, not a help, her mind said. She never really gave much thought to Ben's having relatives as they rarely visited when she was there growing up, or except for that red-headed nephew they were part of the woodwork, so to speak. She pretty much thought Ben appeared from thin air one day and was the total package, as in no relatives or significant others. 

"That'll be nice for you. Are you planning to stay the winter then?" He always had, but he looked so frail she couldn't help but wonder if maybe he should think otherwise this year. 

"Always have. Wouldn't know what else ta do. Not really inta skiin' Aspin or Vale, but love the winters here." 

Maybe his nephew could talk him into leaving. Winters here were tough even for the able bodied.

There was a short rat-tat tat on the door before it burst open and Courtney blew in like a Diablo wind. Courtney didn't acknowledge Ben as she brushed by him, spun a chair from the table so the back faced the table and straddled it in one flash move. Not giving Ben or Jamie a chance to squeeze out a word. She grabbed a piece of fry bread and tore a piece off to shove in her mouth. She looked like a painted hussy to Jamie. 

"So—how long you sitckin this time til the dust of desert sand sticks in your citified hair and you beat it to civilization again?"

Taken aback by her sudden appearance and tart manner, Jamie paused to drink in the full spectrum of a sister she no longer knew, indeed, if she ever did. Before she could respond there was another knock on the door. She and Courtney turned to see who this might be.

Ben's nephew removed his hat before he stepped over the threshold. "I'm here, Unc. " He slid by his uncle as he spotted Courtney and Jamie. After letting out a low whistle and said, "and who are these two visions?" He replaced his black hat on his equally black, full-head of hair. His blue eyes riveted Jamie to the spot. Courtney recovered way quicker than Jamie as she eyed the cowboy from his boots all the way to his six foot plus, to the crown of his hat. Courtney slithered from her chair and extended her hand. "Courtney," dripped from her overly painted lips. "Puleezed to welcome you to my father's house."

The tall stranger's eyes never left Jamie. Oh, cue the music. Jamie could feel soap opera drama smothering the scene. 

"B.J. Archer, meet Courtney and Jamie. They be Jim's daughters." Ben had closed the door and stood beside the mesmerizing BJ.

Jamie found her voice. "Hi and welcome. I hear you've come to help Ben winterize the ranch."

"Don't tell him, but I really just came for some of his vittles. Ya can't get food like this at Mc Donald's."

The air lightened with laughter, like the sunshine after a thunderstorm. Jamie's insides felt scrambled. Ben pulled plates out of the cupboard for all of them and Jamie helped him prepare to serve his meal to the sudden explosion of guests, while Courtney entertained blue-eyed BJ. This couldn't be the gangly teen she remembered, no way.  From the size of the kettle of beef stew, Jamie was certain he was expecting BJ before he showed up at the door.

Through dinner Courtney monopolized the conversation and BJ, though he kept his attention focused on Jamie. Jamie could fee his eyes on her. It made it hard for her to eat. She wished she could read minds. Especially, his mind. She also wished Courtney would evaporate or sink into a black hole and quit embarrassing herself and everyone else with her brash and distasteful swooning over BJ.
Later, much later, after Courtney had finally left and BJ retired to the bunkhouse, Jamie mulled over the impact both Courtney and BJ had had on her. Courtney was nothing but a big flirt and tease. If Damien caught her she would be in a world of hurt. Why she didn't leave that jerk Jamie couldn't figure out. He was trouble with a capital T and her dad knew it. Once Courtney turned eighteen there was no reasoning with her or stopping her.

Jamie tried to brush aside Courtney, BJ and the day to get her mind back to the council fire and the mission that seemed to be calling her. The Painted Pony had escorted her back to the ranch, but he couldn't be coaxed in for grain—she wasn't about to be corralled or confined, obviously. She never had the opportunity to ask Ben about The Painted Pony. In the morning she'd be sure to. Sleep seemed to come over her like Grandmother Nokomis pulling one of her handmade quilts over her. "Yes, morning was soon enough to ask question," Nokomis seemed to whisper.
 Watch for the Raven (Old cover will show - but the new cover, posted above, will be on the book you receive.)

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