Do you like your heroes tall, dark, and handsome? Are they always topped with a Stetson hat?
Check out Wednesday's Western Hero... Dobson Winters from A Cordial Christmas now out at Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, and Smashwords.
With a half turn, he slammed the wood at the entranceway so, the windows along the front of the great room rattled. His left hand reached out and swiped the weapon off the table surface. He took one-step toward his desk and spied his Chinese cook peering around the edge of the dining room. His eyes rounded, a meat cleaver raised in his right hand. Dobson leveled him a hard glance.
"Ain't you got some meat that needs fixing?"
No sooner had the words left his mouth, than the little man disappeared. He rushed toward the kitchen, his queue waving madly down his back, with a stream of gibberish echoing in his wake.
"Good." he huffed.
Stomping to the gun cabinet, the cattleman removed the loose lock and stowed the firearm away. He put the unspent shell beside the weapon in case any other do-gooder ventured into his path. The door closed, he turned the key in the lock and secured the guns from prying hands. Staring at the silver key, the edges of his mouth turned down.
Who was he kidding? There weren't any prying hands. That dream ended ten years ago like so many others. His fingers closed around the key so tight, he could feel the cold metal cut into his skin of his palm. Damn them all for reminding him of the season.
A log in the hearth split. The sound echoed across the room and sent sparks leaping up the chimney. He heard the wood break apart with a heave; then give something akin to a human gasp of despair. A sudden chill filled the air. He shook it off and walked to the fireplace to stare. One hand on the mantle, without thinking, he placed a boot upon the stone edge, and reached for the wrought iron poker to shove the timber further back.
Ten years ago, next week, he sighed and it seemed like yesterday.
Not wanting to dwell on the memory, he placed the poker back, and moved across the room to his desk. Issuing a grunt, Dobson sat down and picked up his pencil, intent on resuming his work. There were only two pages to put in his ledger. Concentrating on the figures, he could push all the other thoughts from his mind.
Two hundred cattle marked to make their way down to the winter pastures. From that, he and his men would cut out the heifers due to calf and move them closer to the barn. He wanted the accounts up to date so they could order supplies against the first snows of winter that were bound to fall soon. Tomorrow, he'd make the journey into town and lay in the basics. His thoughts drifted to the conversation with the men from town. On second thought, he'd make sure to double it. That way, he wouldn't be bothered to go into town and have his ear bent about their foolish notions of celebrating a holiday meant to line a merchant's pockets until long after the first of the year.
He counted the tallies again and as he worked, the pale sunlight moved at a steady pace across the desk. A twinkle flashed and caught his eye. He brought his gaze up and found the golden light centered on the woman pictured in the framed tin-type. He paused. His heart tightened as he remembered the luminescence of her blue eyes, similar to smoke. Her dark hair, as she always wore it, in one long braid and coiled at the nape of her neck. His mouth softened. In the picture, he could see the two hairpins, which held that thick braid in place.
Another memory surfaced making him wince. He'd ridden a loco horse at the county fair that summer in order to earn enough money to buy the jade combs she'd seen in the window down in Austin. They were building this home back then. Most days, he hardly had enough money to make ends meet let alone give 'em extras. But, oh, how her eyes had lit up when she saw those pretties. She'd never asked, just given a soft sigh that turned his heart over as they walked away.
It was something a man couldn't forget. Scrimping and saving added enough to the winnings. In the middle of a blinding snowstorm, he'd ridden down and shown up at the door by daybreak. Curled up in an old thin coat, he sat and waited, till they opened. The wrapping was worse than any kid's. Still, when he'd given them to her, she'd cried. Unable to stand her crying, he'd kissed her and kept right on kissing until all traces of her tears were gone. Forgotten were the chores and the cattle. Alone in this cabin, they did what a man and woman did best - made love.
How his heart ached. The memory of lying in her sweet arms made his heart ache. He placed his pencil down to rub the sear from his chest as he reached out and picked up the frame. She might be gone, but the hurt was never far from the surface. That day, in that cold creek, the rushing water took her laughter, took everything that made living so easy. Worse, it took the innocent bundle she held close to her heart and for that, he'd never forgive.
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