Summary: Hello! I had the longest time of no ideas, so I hope you all like my last ditch effort. First paragraph by Laura Anne Elizabeth(Writing Desk). ~Nzie
Category: The Big Valley
Word Count: 1400
Nick sat at his desk reading the paper, his feet propped up on the corner as he leaned comfortably in the high backed, leather chair. It had been a long day as he and the boys mustered those wild mustangs, but they managed it expertly and corralled them in the temporary corral in the field, waiting for the army to pick them up in the morning. He smiled to himself as he turned the page and thought about the lucrative new deal. He had disregarded Jarrod’s warnings and patted himself on the back for his brilliant scheme.
There she was, lovely as ever in a resplendent, deep blue silk gown complementing her strawberry blonde hair. The sapphire earrings accentuated her long neck and the matching necklace showed off the low neckline.
“Oh, Nick,” she said, “they’re beautiful! They must have cost you a fortune. I can’t accept these.”
“Now, now, of course you can. The cost is nothing compared to the lady who’s wearing them.”
“You’re sure you can spare the cost? My, they are lovely. Oh, thank you, Nick! You’re so sweet.”
He wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her into a kiss……. He sat up abruptly from the leather back chair. “Must’ve fallen asleep….”
Heath rode past the south field on his way into town. All those horses–where were the hands? They couldn’t be broken yet, could they? Had the Army been delayed or something? Why on earth were they just sitting there?
“I’ll take them both, Zeke.”
“Both, Nick? The necklace and the earrings? Sure? Must be some lady.”
“She is, Zeke. She surely is.”
Nick waited while Zeke wrapped them. Paying the man, he walked out of the store. Heath saw him from across the street and waved to stop him before waling over.
“Hey, Nick,” he began. “Say, you plannin’ on doin’ anything with those horses in the south field? Isn’t the Army coming Saturday? It’s already Monday, ya know. How’re you gonna get ‘em broke?”
“Who said anything about breaking them?” Nick replied nonchalantly. “Hey, what do you think about these?” He opened up the box for Heath to see. Heath pushed his hat back on his head.
“Whew-ee, Nick. How’d ya ever get the money for those?”
“Don’t worry. It’s taken care of. In fact, I’ve been thinking about getting a new saddle, too.”
“Who’s the lucky lady?”
“Miss Charlotte Ames.”
“Nice work, big brother. I gotta get back to the ranch. See ya later.”
“Right; see ya.”
He’s gonna try an’ sell ‘em without breakin’ ‘em?! He’s gotta be nuts! What in tarnations is he tryin’ to pull? I gotta talk to Jarrod.
“Oh, Nick, it’s you. Please, come in.”
“Thank you, Charlotte.”
“Please, have a seat. Can I get you some coffee, cookies…?”
“No, thank you. I-I have something for you. Here,” he handed her the package.
Charlotte unwrapped it slowly and gasped in surprise.
“Nick, these are beautiful! Oh, you shouldn’t have.”
“Why don’t you put them on, see how they look?”
“Will you latch the necklace?”
“Gladly. Do you need a mirror for the earrings?”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I can’t wear earrings; my ears aren’t pierced. Do you mind, Nick? Here, you can take them back. The set cost too much, anyway.”
“Don’t worry. It’s fine. The necklace is the more important piece, anyway, and I like your ears just fine the way they are.”
“Oh, you are sweet!”
“Here, Audra,” Nick said.
“What’s this? Oh, they’re lovely! How sweet of you! Thank you so much, Nick! They’re beautiful. I’ll go put them on right now.” She gave him a hug and skipped up the stairs.
“Funny, Nick, I coulda sworn you said those were for Miss Ames.”
“The lovely Miss Ames does not have her ears pierced, does she, Nick?” Jarrod prodded. “How did you not notice? I thought I’d caught you nibbling on them once or twice.”
“Jarrod, you hold it right there! I-I…I’m going to bed. G’night.”
“What’s up, Heath?”
“I need to ask you a what-if.”
“A what-if. Hmmm. Go ahead.”
“What exactly would happen if someone tried to pass off unbroken horses for broken ones on a deal that’s already been made?”
“The legal ramifications would be terrible. He’d be up for lawsuits, others could accuse him of doing that to them whether it’s true or not, his reputation as a businessman would suffer irreparable harm. The consequences are terrible. You don’t mean…..?”
“That’s what I thought would happen. Thanks.”
“Is Nick up to something like this after I specifically told him it was a bad idea?”
He rose early and worked late all that week. He had to get his regular work done as well as the work added from Nick’s crazy scheme. For his part, Nick hadn’t even noticed anything and hadn’t even looked at the horses with more than a passing glance.
Rain was poor weather for breaking horses, but Saturday was only a few hours away and he needed to finish this one last one. Nick had only seen that one was broken as the demonstration mount. That left nineteen to Heath to make sure they didn’t lose the deal or their reputations.
He lowered himself from the fence to the saddle. The mustang was still for a prolonged moment and then bucked for all he was worth. Heath tried to meld himself to the horse’s movements. In unison, they twisted, reared up, struck the ground fiercely and then rubbed against the fenceposts. Despite his soreness, Heath clung on for all he was worth. Suddenly, they were still again. The last horse was broken and it was time to go home before another long day.
“Here, Colonel, try this bay,” Nick offered, leading him to the already saddled horse.
“Fine looking animal, Nick, as usual.”
Heath rode up and dismounted just as the colonel was about to sink his foot in the stirrup.
“Nick, I’m surprised at you. Colonel, you really ought to try that one over there. This one isn’t right for you. He’s too small. Try that one. The black. Isn’t he a beaut?”
“You know, son, I believe I will. I’ll just saddle him up myself and try ‘im.”
“Uh, Colonel….Well, Heath, I believe you can, uh, handle the rest of this. I’ve got to go check on the or—”
”There ya go again, Nick,” Heath said as he hooked his brother by the arm. “Ought not leave before you see how well they do from your hard work.”
“What are you doing?!” Nick whispered harshly. “I told you they weren’t broke! What’s gonna happen to him when he gets on that horse?”
He could see it all. The colonel mounts up. He’s thrown almost immediately. The newspapers go haywire, their reputation is ruined. They lose the house, Mother and Audra are homeless, and he, Jarrod and Heath are drifters. And all because of a crazy, harebrained scheme……
“Well, Nick, these are better than usual,” the Colonel complimented. “Ya know, someone actually tried to sell us unbroken horses before. Can you imagine? Takes a special kinda fool ta try that. Well, we’ll be leavin’ now. Nice doin’ business with ya.”
“So long, Colonel,” Nick called out as they left. He turned to Heath, puzzled. “How did that happen?”
“How much did ya make on this deal? I won’t charge ya for the jewelry.” Heath held out his hand. Nick opened his wallet.
“Just give it to me.” Nick placed the money in his hand. “Let’s go into town for some beers.” Nick still looked dumbfounded. “Alright, I’ll buy. Now get on your d—ed horse, Nick.”
“Huh? Oh. Yeah. Whatever you, uh, say. How….?”
“Just leave it be, Nick. Just leave it be.”
Thanks for reading