Word count: 1,124
“Mr. Lancer, have you seen Scott? He promised to let me ride Waterloo today.”
The tall rancher looked down at the small boy. “He must be around somewhere, Willie. He and Johnny have to go into town later.”
The thunder of hooves announced the arrival of the missing Lancers as first the bay hurtled a small fence, followed a fraction of a second later by the palomino. Pulling up in front of the white hacienda, the two brothers dismounted, laughing and throwing mock punches. “I won so I get to dance with Jane first on Saturday!”
“You cheated!” Johnny protested. “You took off before I said, ‘Go!”
“Okay, okay, crybaby. I’ll give you one more chance. I’ll race you out to the overlook.” Scott started to jump on his horse when he was stopped by the stentorian tones of Murdoch Lancer.
“Stop right there you two. What is going on?”
“Me ‘n Scott had a bet and he cheated.”
“Well, I don’t care what your bet was and who won. Your horses are exhausted and it’s time for the two of you to go into town and get those supplies.”
At the mutinous looks in the two pairs of blue eyes, Murdoch Lancer stood up straighter and flashed them his famous glare. “Now!”
Grumbling mightily, the two brothers headed for the stables to wipe down their sweating horses and to hitch up the buckboard for their weekly trip to town with Willie running behind them.
“Scott, Scott? Can I ride Waterloo now?”
The blond Lancer turned around to see the red-haired boy. “Sorry, Willie, Waterloo ‘s pretty tired right now, but if you’d like you can come to town with Johnny and me. Then when we get back maybe he won’t be so tired.”
“Really? Can I? Can we go to the general store? I’ve got a penny to buy candy.”
Scott ruffled the freckle-faced boy’s hair, “Tell you what. Go ask your mother if you can go and when we get to town I’ll buy you and Johnny a dime’s worth of candy each!”
Johnny stuck out his lower lip. “Only a dime’s worth?”
Scott pretended to think a minute and then sighed dramatically, “All right, I’ll buy a whole bag for you two boys.”
Johnny took Willie by both hands and they danced around in a circle for a moment until the younger Lancer realized that five or six vaqueros were watching. The dancing stopped. With all the dignity he could muster, the dark-haired man muttered, “Guess that’ll do.”
Scott stifled a guffaw and then urged Willie to get permission for the trip into town. As Willie ran off to do so, the two young Lancer continued towards the stable so that they could take care of their tired horses. Jabbing an elbow into Scott, Johnny announced, “Don’t think you’re gonna use that candy to sweeten me up so I’d think you won the race.”
“Oh, I’d never do that, brother. Nothing can sweeten you up that much.”
Johnny shrugged, “Okay, just so that’s clear. Johnny Madrid Lancer doesn’t take bribes.”
“Of course not, brother. I wouldn’t dream of treating you to dinner out and an extra helping of dessert to let me dance with Jane first.”
“Good. Man’s gotta stand for his principles. Uh, extra piece of cake?”
“If you like or any other little treats they might have.”
“I believe Mrs. Taylor said that she was going to put something new on the menu. It’s like a flat piece of chocolate cake and has a rich fudge sauce on it.”
Johnny’s lips quivered. “Fudge sauce?”
Suddenly, Johnny reached over and slapped his brother on the back. “Congratulations on a fine ride, Boston . Knew you’d beat me one of these days.”
“Why thank you, Johnny. It takes a big man to be a good loser.”
A whicker from Barranca reminded the two men of the job that needed doing before they could undertake their journey. Ten minutes later Willie returned to join the brothers on their foray into town.
Later that evening the three returned to Lancer. Fortunately, Scott was still in a condition to drive the wagon with its needed supplies. That could not be said for Willie who had overindulged in candy and for Johnny who had shoved down three pieces of Mrs. Taylor’s new dessert. The pitiful groans from the two sufferers were met with little sympathy by Willie’s mother, who shook her head at the blond for his lack of control over Willie and by Murdoch, who knew that it was not likely that his younger son would be up to much work for a day or two.
Happily, both patients were up and about on Saturday when Scott was finally able to take Willie out for his ride on Waterloo while Johnny took a long hot bath and dressed up for the dance in town. He might not have the first dance with Jane, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t be able to trip the light fantastic with her later.
Arriving precisely at the dot of 7:00 , the two handsome men entered and scouted the competition. Spotting Jane standing with her uncle, Scott immediately walked over to the young woman and asked her to waltz. Johnny just watched. He wanted to be ready to jump in as soon as the dance was done so that none of the others could get ahead of him.
As the last strains of the waltz faded away, Johnny purposefully walked toward the woman in mauve. “Jane, how about dancin’ with me now?’
Jane’s lovely gray eyes and full lips smiled at the dark-haired man. “Oh, Johnny, I’m so sorry. Didn’t Scott tell you? I only planned to come for one dance. My aunt is very ill, but she insisted I come to show our support for the orphanage. Maybe we can dance the next time?”
Johnny gritted his teeth, but didn’t let it show. “Sure, sure. Tell your aunt I hope she feels better.”
“Oh, I will. It’s so nice of you to be understanding. Ready to go, Scott?”
The blond smiled pleasantly at the girl, “Of course. Oh, by the way, Johnny, I’m not sure when I’ll be home. Jane’s uncle needs to stay here since he’s one of the trustees for the Orphanage so I told him I’d be sure that Jane gets home safely. Have fun.”
The blond man and raven-haired girl started to walk out together when Scott turned to remind his brother, “I saw Mrs. Taylor over there. Why don’t you see if she brought any of that chocolate dessert to help raise money? My treat.” On that note Scott and Jane prudently left.
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