Idaho fairytale bride ro.., p.9

Idaho Fairytale Bride (Rocky Mountain Romances Book 2), page 9

 

Idaho Fairytale Bride (Rocky Mountain Romances Book 2)
 


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  Yes, she found Tex far too attractive for her own good for surely he had a fly in the ointment somewhere. And she didn’t want to be the woman who got hurt by it. Then again, neither could she deny that she sorely wanted to be near him. What a silly girl she was.

  Chapter 14

  Moriah felt both relieved and empty when she left Tex to tend to the horses. Even though the horses weren’t more than fifty feet from the campsite, that was far enough to give her some room to think.

  The horses didn’t notice her turmoil. Compass and Dancer seemed happy as could be as they grazed, occasionally flicking their tails to chase the flies away. She brushed them quickly, then checked the saddles and saddle blankets to get rid of any stickers or hunks of dirt that could rub sores on the horses backs.

  By then, Tex strode toward her with a cup of coffee in hand, which she was happy to see—the coffee, at least. She stood, rested her hands on her waist, and stretched her back. As she turned to show him what she’d done, she noticed four horses on the hillside less than a quarter of a mile away, and one of them was a buckskin. She put her forefinger to her lips so he would know not to talk, then pointed at the horses.

  When Tex got closer, he said in a low voice, “That’s my buckskin, all right, and it looks like he found some friends.”

  “You want just him? We could catch them all—Compass and I’ve been on several wild horse roundups so don’t worry about us being a liability to you.”

  Tex rubbed the stubble on his chin. “I could use all of those horses. If I had them, I’d train them and keep the best two, sell the others to buy an older gentle horse for Arthur.”

  “It’s not that far to the ranch, and I can help. Really, I can.”

  “Like ladies are expected to do?”

  She shrugged and smiled. “You’re in Idaho Territory now, Tex. Idaho ladies do whatever needs to be done.”

  “We’re downwind and our horses are between us and them, so no hurry. Drink your coffee while I put the fire out. You sit low and don’t move around much while I bring you some rolls and cheese for we might have a wild ride ahead of us.”

  “I could get the horses saddled.”

  “We ought to eat first, else we alert the mustangs by moving around too much.” His stomach growled.

  Moriah was just as hungry. “All right. If they wander off, we can track them again.”

  The hot September sun had moved to the west. They needed to head for home soon if they wanted to get there before dark.

  What would the school board do if their teacher stayed out all night with an eligible bachelor?

  * * *

  Tex gobbled down three rolls and a couple hunks of cheese while Moriah sat on a rock looking downright pretty as she nibbled on one roll and waved off the cheese. “You sure?”

  She nodded. “I could use another cup of coffee, though.”

  “Fresh out of luck on that score—I doused the fire.” He stood slowly so as not to spook the small band of mustangs. “You ready to go?”

  “Anytime you are.”

  “Best take a drink and top off the canteens first. You can start saddling Compass and I’ll be back shortly.” He slung the canteen strap over his shoulder, got down on all fours, and crawled toward the stream.

  By the time he got back, Moriah had saddled and bridled Compass, and bridled Dancer.

  “I’ll take over.” He finished the job and studied the terrain. “You know this country—think it’d be better to go around the backside of the hill?”

  “There’s a big gully that you can’t see until you get right on it. We’d be an hour getting past it and the day’s wasting. Let’s cross the creek and see if we can ride in plain sight without them spooking.”

  Tex nodded, then adjusted his hat and checked Dancer’s cinch on last time. “I’ve worked with the buckskin a few hours every day all this week. Could be that he’s tame enough not to shy from us. He knows me well by now, and he’s been corralled with Dancer and Compass so he shouldn’t shy from them. If our luck holds, he won’t run—but the others will, no doubt about it.”

  “Then we should separate. I’ll go the long way and you try to get the buckskin’s attention. When the pack takes off, and they’ll take the flattest path, I’ll herd them back your direction.”

  Her sound advice told Tex that she really had been on horse roundups. “Good plan. Just keep in mind that it’s the buckskin I need the most and above all, I don’t want you run down by a band of mustangs. If the other young studs get away, that’s not a great loss, especially since we didn’t ever have them in the first place.”

  We? He’d been thinking only of himself. “Of course, if we can get them all, you get your pick—you’ll be rightful owner of half of them.”

  “We’ll worry about that when we get this little band in the corral.” She turned the stirrup so she could put her boot in more easily. “Ready?”

  “Yep. Slow and easy.” He helped her onto her horse although they both knew she was perfectly capable of doing so herself. She smiled at him, giving him a little hope that maybe he had a chance with her. Contract or not. But mustangs first.

  When he mounted, he was careful to do so slowly and keep a low profile. He nudged Dancer ahead, and Moriah reined Compass alongside. They didn’t talk for the plan was in place, and the closer they got, especially when Moriah went ahead and would be upwind, the more likely the mustangs would hear them and spook.

  When they parted, Tex stayed in place while Moriah rode to where she thought the horses would run. After she was out of sight, he still waited. One of the mustangs lifted his head and stared right at Tex and Dancer. He neighed and the other horses turned their heads in his direction, but none of them bolted. Yet.

  The buckskin didn’t seem alarmed and put his head down to continue grazing. When the others did the same, Tex urged Dancer forward and approached the band at a slow walk. During that time, he got his lasso into the best position in the palm of his hand—he’d already made the loop before they’d left the campsite. The spare halter was tied to the back saddle strings and the rope strap held the lead rope instead of the lasso.

  Now, for patience. Everything these days took patience—the house, the buckskin, Moriah, and that infernal goose of hers.

  He rode right up to the band without them scattering, but when he attached the lead rope to the buckskin’s halter, the other four horses took off, kicking up dirt clods, rocks, and brush twigs. The buckskin shied but calmed down when Tex cooed at him as he dallied the rope, then regripped the lasso in case he’d need it.

  Now, he had to wait to see what Moriah could do.

  He didn’t have to wait too long. The horses raced back toward him and passed him. The buckskin leapt ahead and followed. Dancer knew right what to do and followed along.

  Moriah, on Compass, caught up and passed him. One dun horse took off to the right and she followed, twirling the lasso over her head. She let fly and the loop settled perfectly over the mustang’s head. She gave the rope a jerk to settle it lower on his neck so he wouldn’t choke. The dun reared and screamed as Moriah quickly dallied and Compass backed up to tighten the lasso.

  Any worries Tex had that she’d choke the horse ended when she nudged Compass and let them both run. Stretched out over her horse’s neck, the wind whipped her shirt, then her bonnet flew off and her pretty dark hair streamed behind her.

  She looked like a goddess.

  He nearly forgot to attend to his own business, but the buckskin reminded him by rearing and taking off after his buddy. Dancer stayed right with him but Tex nearly didn’t. He righted himself and chuckled at his own folly.

  Yep, Moriah was the woman for him. Now he just had to convince her of that. And the school board, when the time came. There had to be an honorable way out of the contract.

  * * *

  Moriah’s arms ached from weariness. So did her thighs—and everything in between. But she refused to let go. Tex didn’t seem to have a high opinion of a lady’s abil
ities and she set out to prove him wrong.

  Just as she was about to rethink that, she saw the dust of several riders. She hoped they didn’t scatter the small herd. With her lasso still on the bay mustang, she pulled Compass back a bit to put more tension in the rope, hoping that would discourage him from taking off. He whirled around to face her and reared some, but Compass kept the rope just tight enough that the mustang wouldn’t be able to get a deep breath.

  What a wonderful horse Compass was!

  Tex also slowed only the buckskin seemed content to be led. The other three wild horses stuck close.

  As the riders got closer, Moriah recognized Cole Richards’s horse, with him riding. “The house-raising men have come to help!” Thank goodness, for she was flagging fast and so was Compass by the looks of her damp coat. She hadn’t lathered yet but would soon. Moriah didn’t want to overtax her sweet mare, especially if she carried a foal, and she’d worked hard already.

  Moriah cast a smile at Tex, who looked as dashing as usual and none the worse for the wear.

  Cole rode up behind her. “Unwind your dally and I’ll take the rope.”

  Easier said than done, but she managed, still at lope. Cole already had a hold of the rope and the second it came free of her saddlehorn, he dallied it on his. The excitement over, Moriah pulled Compass to a walk.

  “Good girl,” Moriah said as she patted the mare. “We’ll walk a ways, then I’ll get off and you can rest, but we might as well do it near water and grass.”

  “Fine idea,” Tex said as he rode beside her. “Jonas said he and the men would take the horses to the ranch, and we can tarry all we need to, for the horses are tired.”

  As was she, although she wouldn’t admit it.

  “I have to say, Miss Jensen, you’re a marvel.”

  “Call me Moriah, at least in private. Arthur has to call me Miss Jensen in school, of course.”

  “I’m honored, Moriah.”

  She wondered if she’d just made a big, big mistake.

  “That was some catch you made on the mustang,” Tex said. “You’re da—er—really good with a lasso.”

  “That’s how Idaho ladies do it.” She grinned.

  Moriah wasn’t about to tell him that it was a lucky catch and she’d been so shocked that she’d actually made a good toss, she’d nearly forgotten to dally. “Papa showed me how to rope when I was little, and I practiced a lot.” Which was true, but the only live animals she’d ever roped was her old dog Shorty and a few calves that were standing in the pasture. “He warned me that if you dally wrong, the rope would pop off your forefinger, so I practiced that, too.” Except the dallying practice had been when the horse was loping, but the steer horns were stuck in pile of hay.

  “Your father was a good teacher. Maybe that’s where you got your teaching talent from, too.”

  “Could be.”

  By then, the men and mustangs were long gone. Suddenly, she felt very aware that she was alone, far from home, with Tex. And she didn’t mind it a bit.

  “I think we should rest our horses before we start for home.”

  “Wouldn’t hurt my feelings a bit, and I’m sure Dancer and Compass will cooperate.”

  Chapter 15

  Once they rode into the barnyard, Wilbur sounded his goose alarm and flapped all the way to Moriah before she could dismount. Luckily Compass was too tired to shy.

  “Well hello, Wilbur,” she said, holding a lap full of gander. “Did you miss me?”

  The goose rubbed his head on her cheek and made goosey cooey noises, which wasn’t really a coo.

  “Do you mind getting off so I can dismount?”

  He ignored her and kept loving on her. Moriah cast a glance to Tex, pleading for help.

  Tex shrugged, then chuckled. “I’m not stupid enough to get between you and your goose.”

  Wilbur simply wouldn’t leave Moriah even when she tried to push him off.

  “Tex, how about if I hold the goose and you get us both off the horse?”

  “My pleasure as long as you keep the business end of his beak pointed the other direction.”

  “Coward.”

  “I call it good sense.” He dismounted and walked to the left side of Compass. “Let me know when you’ve got a good hold on Wilbur. I’ll grab a hold of you off by your waist and set you on the ground in front of me. Sound good?”

  “Very. I just want a hot meal and a bath, not necessarily in that order. Playing nursemaid to a goose wasn’t in my plan.”

  He lifted her down, and she felt her face turn hot at the feeling of his strong hands around her waist, and then she leaned back against his hard chest.

  Wilbur squawked and she put him down, but he stayed right by her feet as she turned to face Tex.

  “I’m ready for some grub, that’s for sure,” Tex said, “but I need to rub down our horses and check on the mustangs. Also need to see if any of the men are around and have a talk with them.”

  She wondered if Tex had felt the same thrill when he’d lifted her down. Likely not, for he didn’t sound like it. After a cleansing breath, she said, “Or Morgan. I’m sure they told everyone about the horses.”

  “No doubt. But I’m not worried about that. Pa stayed here and I hope he didn’t overwork himself on the house while the rest of us were haring around the countryside.”

  “We had good reason to.”

  “We did, but I need to know how the house is coming along.”

  “Horses and houses. We’ve had quite a day.”

  “That we have, Moriah. And I’m glad you followed me to help out. I might have been able to get the buckskin eventually, but I never could’ve rounded up those other four studs without your help.”

  He drew closer and she thought he’d kiss her, but he didn’t. Instead, he patted her on the shoulder. “I’d ride the river with you any day, Moriah.”

  A bit stunned, she stood with Wilbur as Tex led the two horses away. Then the six lady geese noticed Wilbur and took after him, honking with glee.

  “Oh no, you don’t, Wilbur.” She managed to herd him into the barn and shut the door before the other six geese got to him. “We’ve chased that colt enough for one day. And really, you’ve got to not be so afraid of the lady geese. We’ll never get any goslings if you keep running from them.”

  “Good advice,” she heard Tex call from the other end of the barn. She remembered he’d gone to groom the horses. “What’s good for the gander is good for the goose.”

  “Doesn’t that saying go the other way around?”

  He chuckled. “Not in this case.”

  She escaped from the barn, for she didn’t want to ponder whether or not he actually referred to her.

  Maybe she was a silly goose.

  * * *

  Tex spent most of the next week with his pa working on windows for the new house. Saturday, while Tex and Moriah had been off chasing horses, and after church on Sunday, the neighbors had helped frame and roof the house, so the week since had been spent on the complicated and intricate task of making windows.

  Jeff had helped after school, and occasionally one of the neighbors stopped by. They helped with sanding the casements and other tasks that didn’t require expertise, but only Tex and Morgan cut and shaped the wood, especially for the muntins which held the panes. Even as hard as they all worked, they could only make and install one window per day. Tex began to wonder if they could do with fewer windows, but that meant less light, which wouldn’t be acceptable to his ma—or any lady he managed to bring to his house.

  “I’ll start work on the other house next week,” Morgan said as he fitted the pane in the casement.”

  “Other house?”

  “For your ma and me. We don’t need a house this big, and once you start adding to your family, you’ll need every square inch of this house and then some.”

  “No rush. For the foreseeable future, it’s just Arthur and me.”

  “I wouldn’t be so sure about that. Miss Moriah is easy on
the eyes and a nice gal once you get past her veneer of propriety. Grace and I’ve talked—we wouldn’t mind her for a daughter-in-law. Not at all.”

  “She is nice to look at, for sure, but she doesn’t seem at all interested in me. Even if she were, she’s not getting married for at least two more years on account of she has that much longer on her teaching contract, so we can build your house next summer, or even the year after that.”

  “I wouldn’t be so sure. I happen to be on a first-name basis with the head of the school board, and his daughter has decided that Moriah and you would make a good couple.”

  Tex chuckled, although he didn’t actually think it was funny. “You’d be speaking of Daisy Richards, I presume?”

  “I would.”

  “And she told you this?”

  “No, but Grace told me Daisy practically forced Moriah to go after you when you were chasing that buckskin.”

  “Is that so?” Tex had a hard time believing anyone forced Moriah to do anything she didn’t want to do. Besides, he saw how much fun she had—she likely saw an opportunity to do something she didn’t ordinarily get to do, and took it.

  “That’s so.” Morgan marked a measurement on the board and took it to the saw. “Cole saddled the horse—seems like the whole bunch of them was in collusion with Daisy. And she told Grace to be prepared, for with luck you’d be out all night, and then we’d need to be planning a wedding party, which she said could be held along with the box social that didn’t happen on Saturday.”

  He wouldn’t have minded camping overnight with Moriah. Truth be told, he’d sorta hoped exactly that would happen, but it didn’t work out. Then again, he’d like it a whole lot better if they were married and could enjoy one another all night, every night.

  “She also mentioned that Cy could marry you, bein’s he’s mayor and all.”

  Tex didn’t look up from the rail he was sanding. “I can’t imagine that Moriah would want anything less than a big proper church wedding, so their planning would’ve been all for naught—especially since she doesn’t want to be married at all.”

  “If you’re interested, and I think you are, I expect she’ll come around but it’ll take as much patience and sweet talking as that buckskin of yours.”

 
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