Texas Trio Pt. 02 – Becky’s Debt Ch. 35-36a

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REMINDER: I write long stories. Many chapters don’t have naughty bits, but those that do will be way more fun if you read the others, too! Also, although TT2 is a stand-alone novel, it takes place in the same family as Texas Trio, so you might want to read that one first! –Stefanie

—:—:—:—:—:— Chapter 35 —:—:—:—:—:—

The explosion came a week later.

Every night after Graham’s departure, Brody appeared at the ranch-house after dinner, asking Becky to walk with him. The first time, she excused herself and went to bed without acknowledging him, and Colt thought to himself that it was going to be a long year. The next two times she glared and snapped, “No, thank you,” before storming inside and slamming the door. Then she took to embroidering her refusals with caustic remarks. “No, thank you, Mr. Easton, I’m composing a newspaper advertisement seeking a wealthy man to wed.” “No, thank you, Mr. Easton, I’m listing the jewels I’ll buy when I catch myself a rich husband.”

When she progressed to outright hostility, bristling “Mr. Easton, I’d just as soon—,” her sister interrupted.

“Alright, that’s enough, Rebecca. There are children present. It’s time you walked with Mr. Easton, if only to spare the rest of us a litany of your wounds.”

Becky tore her fiery glare from Catherine and turned it on the true object of her ire: Brody Easton.

“Why, yes, Mr. Easton, I would love to take a stroll with you.”

She smiled beatifically down at him.

Brody gaped. If he hadn’t known better, he would have been completely taken in by the sweetness of her voice and smile. Ladies were truly treacherous.

Becky hopped off the porch in an extremely athletic, un-ladylike manner, and strode toward the creek without glancing in his direction.

Brody followed more slowly, wondering what he’d gotten himself into.

Colt stood abruptly, glancing at Jem. “I’ll go.” He grinned. “Save Caleb the brain-pain.”

He hurried into the woods after his sister-in-law, surprised she hadn’t asked to borrow his guns.


Becky went straight to the swimming hole and stopped with her feet exactly where Brody’s had been the first time they made love.

He hesitated when he saw where she’d chosen to stand, for the first time wondering how much of her anger stemmed from that part of their relationship.

She crossed her arms and glared, not concerned with appearances or being polite or anything of the sort. “Well?”

“I’m sorry.”

“That’s it? You needed to take me for a stroll to say that? Fine. Good night.” She took two steps toward the path, and he stepped in front of her, grasping her upper arms to halt her flight.

She wrenched her arms away and backed up.

“That’s all I can say. Nothing else matters. I’m honestly sorry. I thought I had good reasons for what I did, but I was wrong. I made a mistake, and I apologize for having hurt you.”

Outwardly, she didn’t soften, but the bitter rock of pain at the pit of her belly began to melt, just a tiny bit, though it didn’t change the facts. “Well, that’s just too damned bad, Brody. Apologizing won’t undo anything. I wouldn’t employ a maid who lied to me about her past employment, why would I continue to entertain a man who lied about his entire life?”

Brody winced. Every word she said was true. “Again, I have no good defense. I wanted it to be between us alone. I didn’t want to wonder if it was about my bank account—”

She interrupted him. “What about me, Mr. Easton? How do I know you’re not after my fortune?”

Brody’s brow wrinkled. “Well, I didn’t know until this very moment that you had a fortune, Miss Connor, but since I’m not a man who could ever be content subsisting on his wife’s income, it hardly matters.”

Becky thought she should be relieved, but realized quickly he hadn’t said anything about not taking control of his wife’s money. Just because he wouldn’t spend it didn’t mean he’d allow his wife to do as she pleased with her inheritance. Plus, she amended irritably, she would never be in a position to care how he dealt with a wife.

“If you’d mentioned your fortune, perhaps I would have mentioned my own months ago, relieving you of concern,” Becky pointed out briskly.

She was silent for a long moment, then shook her head dejectedly, betraying her weariness. “I don’t see why we’re even discussing this. There’s no point. You’ve had your say, now let me go home.”


“What?!” Her fatigue vanished.

“No. You can’t leave.”

“Are you serious? My brother is right there!” She threw her arm up in Colt’s direction.

Colt was propped against a tree a hundred feet away, whistling and doing his best not to hear a damn thing. He was confident he’d hear a silence, though. That was the reason he was out here at all—he’d made up with Cat a few times, too, and knew how quickly screaming could turn into . . . well . . . screaming of another sort. He didn’t think Brody had gotten aydınlı escort up to any nonsense with Rebecca yet, but if Becky and Brody stopped yelling, you could be damn sure he’d stop being discrete and turn around.

“I don’t care about your brother. You’re not leaving. You’ll go back in the house and refuse to ever come out and see me again.”

Becky set her jaw and folded her arms, glowering.

“I’ll get old and gray and crotchety and still be living in a bunkhouse with twenty snoring, stinking cowhands, and I don’t want to live in the damn bunkhouse anymore, Becky! I won’t let you go until you agree to at least let me sit on the porch with you after dinner. You don’t have to talk to me, but I want to be there when you get mad enough to holler. You’ll never stop being angry with me unless you have a chance to work it out.”

“My anger isn’t what you should be worried about, Brody Easton.” Becky’s eyes spit fire. “I feel no need to contain my anger, and will be more than happy to work it out on your lying hide, but I don’t trust you.”

She turned and leapt easily over the log to circumvent his presence in the path. “You can come sit on our porch until you do get old and grey—feel free—but I can’t imagine ever trusting you again.”

And she strode off toward the house, leaving Brody and Colt trailing along behind her.


After three more weeks of porch-sitting had yielded only three weeks of curt, polite refusals to Brody’s invitations, Jem took Brody aside for a talk.

He did it where he was sure no one would overhear them, after the rest of the household had gone inside to get ready for bed.

“I know Becky can be difficult sometimes, but I’m asking you to be patient.”

Jeremiah studied Brody across the cluttered surface of his desk. Beneath the healthy brown glow of an active life, Brody’s skin bore a harsh gray cast. His eyes were sunken in pools of purplish skin, and his hands had been fisted for close to a month.

“She has good reasons for her distrust, and your—” Jem waved his hand dismissively. “—secret life has stirred up old feelings for her.”

Brody shook his head to Jem’s offer of a drink.

“What I’m about to say isn’t something Becky would want me to tell you. Whether you tell her later is up to you. I wouldn’t tell you this if you were a destitute ranch hand, but I’ve seen a letter of credit from your banker, and you don’t need Rebecca’s money.”

Brody frowned. This was only the second time he’d heard anything about “Rebecca’s money.” He didn’t care whether she had a fortune or ten, but he listened to Jem’s story.

“After their parents died, Catherine and Rebecca lived with their aunt and uncle in Galveston. They come from a wealthy background, and except for parents, lacked for nothing until their aunt died, a few months before Colt and I met Catherine.”

“I don’t know all the details, but apparently Harrison Matthews’ less civilized tendencies had been held in check by his wife’s purse strings. Even so, he’d spent every dollar that had been allotted for the girls’ care—money that would have bought them a lifetime of luxury—and he needed more.”

“Catherine and Rebecca still had their individual inheritances—the family money, if you will. Harrison had spent huge sums supporting his wastrel habits, but that was only a tiny percentage of their parents’ estate. From that you will gather some idea of the kind of wealth to which I refer.”

“The money is in trust to protect it—each of the girls will gain control of her half of the estate on her thirtieth birthday—a delay meant to discourage fortune-hunting suitors. Unfortunately for Rebecca and Catherine, Harrison knew of the secret codicil their parents left, which directed the lawyers to transfer half of each trust into the control of whomever they married, should they wed before the age of thirty.

“Harrison wanted that money, and he meant to sell Catherine into marriage with any man corrupt enough to split her fortune with him. He didn’t care what happened to Catherine after the marriage. I pretended to be a South American landowner with morals worse than his own and he took the bait. Before Colt and I managed to get the girls away from there—”

Jem’s hand was tight around the glass, his knuckles so white that Brody was worried the heavy crystal would shatter and slice into his palm. Jem cleared his throat and looked up from the amber liquid.

“Becky thought of Harrison as her father: he’d never been anything but patient and kind, and she missed a good portion of those last few months while she was away at school. When she came home, Catherine didn’t tell her the worst of it, but of course servants talk, and Becky found out. Harrison had been using her to control Catherine, threatening—very seriously—to put Becky in a bordello unless Catherine married whomever he chose.”

Brody’s hat became an anonymous bağdat caddesi escort bundle of wrinkles in his fists when he pictured the bright, inquisitive optimist he knew locked into a life of degradation and despair. The ponderous beating of his heart felt like it would hammer a hole right through the wall of his chest.

“The last time Harrison beat Catherine, Becky was there. She heard the furor and ran in to find Harrison beating her sister, though Catherine was nearly unrecognizable by then. Becky thought Catherine was dead or dying and ran to put herself between them. Harrison knocked her out. She has a scar on her forehead from the ring he wore. Whenever she looks in a mirror, she’s reminded that the guardian who reared her from girlhood wanted to sell her to a bordello—because he preferred playing cards to working.”

Jem paused, remembering Catherine’s poor face. She’d been in so much pain, yet chiefly concerned with his feelings and Colt’s safety.

“She was only fourteen when all this happened, and she hasn’t been able to leave it behind as Catherine did. Understandably, trusting any man is very difficult for her.”

Silence filled the small cabin as each man sat with his own thoughts.

Brody at last had an explanation for the sisters’ faint rectangular scars . . . and wished he didn’t. He stood abruptly, breaking into Jem’s reverie, and reached across the desk, offering his hand.

Jem stood, too, and they shook for the first time.

Brody’s voice was gruff, his demeanor dark but sincere. “Thank you.”

He turned immediately and left.

Outside, he hesitated, hat in hand, staring at the back of the ranch house, where beams had been laid across the stone foundation, and a second chimney took shape at what would one day be the eastern wall. The porch was empty. He wondered if anyone was in the kitchen looking this way, or if maybe Becky was in the children’s room on the second floor, looking out at him while she tended to one of the children. It was almost bath-time.

Brody growled and turned right, mashing his hat down on his head and stomping through the moonlit orange grove to the swimming hole, where he sat on a boulder and brooded.

Wilson had said that trust wasn’t easy for Becky.

Brody recalled all the times she’d trusted him—in the bunkhouse, the library, the stable—her glowing topaz eyes glued to his merely because he’d wanted it so. She’d trusted him here, at this pool, not to hurt her physically, though he’d felt the depth of her anxiety. She’d trusted him not to make her pregnant, and he was so far gone that the thought never even occurred to him! He’d told Becky that he was a murderer and a thief, and she’d trusted him still. She’d laid her body at his feet, trusting him with her life, and he’d lied to her about something as insignificant as money.

Money, for Christ’s sake. As a homeless child, it had meant everything: power and security and respect. As a man, he could see it was just a tool, and he’d give every damn dime away if having a fortune meant he couldn’t have Becky Connor. He’d give anything if she’d just give him one more chance, but Brody was horribly afraid he wasn’t going to get it.

—:—:—:—:— Chapter 36a —:—:—:—:—

Becky was as good as her word, which was more than you could say for some people, she thought, smiling graciously at Brody while she imagined peppering his behind with buckshot, or throwing him in Big Bob’s paddock with a cat tied around his neck. Bob didn’t like cats. Her eyes flickered. No, not Bob. That was too much; she’d seen what Bob had done to Clancy.

In the end, though, Clancy and Bob were what got Becky speaking cordially to Brody again.

Everyone was hanging around the ranch house one Sunday afternoon—and “everyone” meant quite a few people, that particular Sunday, since a steer had tumbled down an incline and broken a leg Friday evening when they’d already slaughtered two pigs earlier in the day. Rather than watch his wife spend any more time stuffing sausage, salting meat, and making jerky, Jem decreed they’d have a ‘do’ and invite some folks over after church.

The crowd included the entire household, including Louella, who was feeling better, Caleb, two out of the four stable lads, Captain Jackson, Mr. Perkins—Becky was doing her best to make eye contact while trying not think about his picture postcards—Margaret and her four children, and three other long-time hands with their wives or current lady-friends in tow.

It was during that lazy, quiet pause between making a glutton of oneself and cleaning up that Clancy rode in from the east, galloping much faster than he usually did—especially with Lily on the saddle in front of him. Lily, of course, had her hands in the air and her eyes closed, a giant smile of glee on her face as she enjoyed the breeze on her tiny round cheeks. Catherine jumped to her feet, ready to bostancı escort tear a strip off Clancy for riding that way with her daughter astride—and not holding the pommel as she should be!—when she saw that Clancy had Lily roped to his middle.

Brody was toward the back of the group as Jem and Colt ran to get them untied, and he hung back, missing parts of the old man’s story.

Colt handed Lily off as most of the men present ran for the barn and stable. Brody would have followed, but Colt stopped him with a dart of the hard cobalt eyes. “Watch out for the women.”

The dozen situational questions which had arisen in Brody’s mind subsided instantly: those five words cemented Brody’s position as part of the family.

Brody was elated, like he imagined a half-grown son would feel receiving a pat on the back from an adored father. He didn’t remember his father, and Colt wasn’t at all paternal toward him, but he’d earned the respect of a man whose ethics, work, and intelligence he respected in return—a man who, until fairly recently, had loathed him and wanted him gone forever. Possibly dead.

Carrying Lily as she passed him on her way into the house, Catherine met his eyes and smiled. She saw everything he was feeling; as usual, he thought.

He smiled down at her in return, and Lily acknowledged his presence with her usual serene, queenly smile. “Bwwwwody.”

“Miss Lily.” He bowed as she passed, making her mother chuckle. Lily wouldn’t have understood the humor had she noted it: Brody’s tribute was merely her due.

Brody hung around outside, keeping an eye on things as Clancy directed the stable lads in cleaning up the leftovers, moving tables, and carrying bowls and plates to the ladies in the kitchen. Clancy glanced his way every so often, with less antipathy than usual. Brody didn’t mind. He didn’t think he’d be pulling stable duty for the old man again, and after all, Clancy had been protecting his family, too.

On her way indoors with Kent—who had a coating of sawdust, gravy, and dirt cemented over the lower two-thirds of his face—Becky intercepted the tail end of one of Clancy’s long looks. She couldn’t help but smile at his drastic change of attitude, considering it was precipitated by just one clipped order from Colt. Brody was the recipient of that smile.

His heart jumped, but his only reply was a small, ironic smile of his own.

When she came out a while later without Kenny—but with damp hair and a fresh dress—she leaned against the other side of the column he stood against, closer to Brody than she’d chosen to be since Graham’s arrival.

“I didn’t catch the whole story, but I take it Bob’s out?”

Becky nodded. “I guess the fence is down at the Dos Colinas enclosure.”

Becky didn’t bother explaining what that meant. Everybody on the ranch knew Bob was dangerous—he had a habit of goring mounted riders and wasn’t crazy about other animals in general, on two feet or four.

“Did I hear Clancy say Lily saved his life? Again?”

Becky nodded, her face serious and her eyebrows high. “Yes. Hard to believe, isn’t it?”

“Mmm.” He waited, enduring the lengthy pause with ease because of the smile she’d given him. “Please?”

Becky laughed, because she had, in fact, been teasing him by withholding the information. She felt a flash of disgust but dismissed her temporary softening by telling herself it meant nothing. She could tell the story and go right back to ignoring him.

“Well, this isn’t the first time Bob got loose. Early this year, just before you arrived, one of the lads pitched some hay over the fence for Bob when he was in from pasture for the veterinary doc. The boy knocked the paddock latch loose without noticing. Clancy left the stable on his way up to the house, and Bob butted the gate, like he always does when he sees Clancy—he hates him—but this time the gate swung open. Bob was twenty feet away—there was nowhere for Clancy to go—Bob would certainly have killed him if Lily hadn’t run out of the barn right then. She saw what had happened and called Bob—she calls him ‘Bob-Bob’—while Clancy was muttering desperately at Yan, telling her not to move. Bob followed Lily right back into his paddock like a big puppy, and Sammie, who’d started the whole mess, latched the gate behind them. Lily petted Bob for a minute and climbed back out, went right to Clancy, who was sweating and shaking and half-dead from fear, patted his hand and said Bob-Bob was safe now. Yan was crying, hysterical: my sister nearly sent for Doc Malone to come out and sedate her.”

Brody was too stunned to speak, not sure if he completely believed the story, but if it was even half-true . . . .

Becky went on, “I guess the same thing happened today, more or less. Bob saw someone on a horse—maybe he even smelled Clancy—started pawing and snorting, getting ready to charge. Lily just sang out ‘Bob-Bob’ and he calmed right down. He couldn’t manage to make himself walk over there when she was up on a horse with Clancy, but he dropped his head, started grazing, and ignored them as they trotted off. Clancy got out of sight, tied Lily on, and you know the rest.”

Brody was speechless for a good long while before saying the first thing that came to mind. “Why does Bob hate Clancy? Don’t get me wrong, I understand the sentiment . . . .”

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