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Moonlight Magic by Becks

Word Count 6,133

Warning: Johnny does find his catch!  If this bothers you, please do not read on.  

In need of a small romantic fling, bored again.  Excuse the mistakes, they are mine and you can’t have them just read them.  It’s pure and simple writing from the heart! Hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.


During a beautiful early evening the full moon was starting to light up a glistening scene that was normally dark and mysterious. Johnny walked his horse instead of riding it, giving Barranca a chance to regain his breath after a long hard ride prior to reaching town.  He enjoyed the beauty of an early evening.  A light breeze caressed his cheeks.  He wanted to take pleasure in a few minutes of solitude before having to complete an errand for Murdoch.

Picking up his ‘Pa’s’ guest from town wasn’t exactly how he wanted to spend his evening; he’d rather be playing poker, relaxing with his chums, and drinking his beer.  Yet at that time, the thought of him sitting in a saloon filled with musty air and loud noises gave him the shivers, especially now as he enjoyed his time alone.  ‘Had forgotten how tranquil a night cans be.’ he thought to himself and released a sigh of content.

Approaching one of the lakes on Lancer land for a quick drink, he suddenly heard a splash; he touched the handle of his gun and slowly started to make his way to the edge of the shore. Barranca snorted a bit, so he leaves him behind and continued quietly towards the edge.  On all fours, Johnny maneuvers himself slowly and carefully without causing a sound.

Reaching the edge on alert gave him a most amazing sight.  He smiled and thought; ‘Didn’t think this night could have gotten any better’, and he shrugged his shoulders as he stared with delight.  Leaning against a rock, he observed the flowing manner in which a young lady savored the cool waters with her body like a graceful swan in the lake.

He immediately caught wind of his non-gentlemen like ‘stalking’, so he purposely broke a branch to get the attention of the girl.  She quickly turned her head, which allowed the moonlight to shine on her face.  Johnny could not help it as he exhaled a grunt of approval at what he saw. 

The young lady yelled out.  “Who’s there?”  He felt compelled to respond, but didn’t want to startled her.  Most cautiously, he stepped out and with his calm demeanor and soft drawl, he responded, “Please excuse my intrusion ma’am.  I heard a noise and thought that someone might be in trouble.” 

Irritated that her swim was interrupted, she coldly retorted, “Since when is swimming quietly sound like trouble?”  She then swam closer to the edge.

He smiled, “Thought maybe a fish might o’ jumped out of the water thinking the moon light was a continued stream from the water hole.”

“Oh, so you are a savior of fish?”

“No ma’am, just a savior of God’s creatures – when they need saving.”

“Well, do I look like a fish that needs saving?”  

“You are wet, but I can’t rightly see if you have a tail. Who knows…” He added an impish step forward. “You’re not one of those mythical mermaids they write about are you?”

He slowing lowered his sight only to be taken a back by her boldness as she walked out of the water hole in her skimpies without any signs of embarrassment. 

“Seen enough… Sir!”

“Sorry ma’am.  Just didn’t expect to…..”

“Didn’t expect to what, sir, gawk?”  Making her way to the bushes, she reached for her clothes.

“Could you gawk in another direction while I get dressed?”

He shyly smiled and turned away.  He could hear the rustling in her attempt to quickly get dressed.

“Could you please lend me a hand?” Signaling she was having difficulty climbing up out of a small mud spot. 

He couldn’t help but chuckle, walked over by her, and reached out.  His brazen attitude sent a sense of anger up her spine. Her naughty face caught his eye, as she pondered a wicket move, but he was too late to react.  She grabbed hold of him, maintained her balance, and pushed him into the water!

“That should cool off your gawking needs!”  And she rushed off.

He laughed and yelled out, “What did I do to you?” then splashed around a bit while he sat in the shallow waters with an enormous smile of cheerfulness.

He heard his horse whine.  Thinking she was taking off on it, he jumped up and out and ran towards his stallion.  Only thing he saw was the young lady walking faster than a tarred rabbit up the road towards town.  His horse just stared at him, waiting to see if Johnny was going to do the gentleman thing by offering her a ride.

Mounting his steady steed, he galloped up next to her, smiled and nodded his head. “Ma’am couldn’t help but notice you might be heading in the same direction I am.  Could I offer you a ride?”  Then he shook some water off himself only to have it land on her face.

She stared up at him and huffed, wiped her face, and brushed her long skirt to one side, and walked even faster.

“Suit yourself.  Thought I’d make up for my ‘intrusive gawking’ by offering you a ride.  You know you’ll dry up faster riding on a horse as you air dry with the wind. ‘Sides it beats walking with the wet clothes clinging to your body.”

“Huh!!??” she stopped and stared at him intensely.  “Haven’t you had enough in regarding my body…SIR?”

“What?  Geez, lady, I am just trying to help you out.  Didn’t realize you were going to be so…” Whoa Nelly, he knew he was going to stir up some more trouble by finishing the statement, but oh how he enjoyed watching her expression of distain.  It was all he could do not to jump off the horse, grab her and kiss her hard…

“…fishy about it. It’s not like ‘em baiting you in any way.” he ended with a smirk.

She looked like she was ready to belt him. He looked away and tried hard not to laugh at her expense.

“Why you just think you’re real cute, don’t you?”

“No ma’am, I am just trying offer you some help; Seeing how’s you were reel good at taking a dip in Lancer land, thought I’d just cast out my neighborly manners.”  He tentatively offered her his hand.

She looked at him straightforwardly.  “Pppffftttt.”  Then agreed to the ride, but as she reached up to accept his help onto the horse, she stopped herself cold, and then pulled away.

Johnny looked at her inquiringly.  She looked down and up again before speaking her mind.

“Look, as hospitable as you seem, you are a complete stranger who just happened to have seen me swimming in my…um…less than appropriate attire and now you, a complete stranger, is offering me a ride on your horse, sitting behind you with my arms around you….” She was now peeved.  “Who do you think I am?”

“Wha-a-a-t?  Johnny’s was dumbfounded.   

With hands on her waist and a grimaced look, she continued, “I mean if you had a daughter my age and she did what I just did, plus accepted a ride from a stranger, would you approve?”

Johnny sat back on the saddle, swung his leg over the horn and looked at her beaming. “No ma’am, No I wouldn’t.”  He thoughtfully looked out to the road.  “Why I guess I’d be awfully upset at my daughter, very, very upset as a matter of fact.”

“See there…” shaking her head, she continued to walk on the road.

He nudged Barranca up a bit, “But…” adding to his but,  “I’d be even more upset to have my daughter walking alone, possibility encountering a dangerous and unfriendly person while on a nights stroll on somebody else’s land to boot.”  Johnny was trying real hard to give the impression that he was serious.

“Yeah, well that’s you I’m sure.”

“What…an unfriendly dangerous person?”  Gliding a trot along side her on his horse.

“Ha, unfriendly????  Obviously not that one.”

“So you think I am dangerous?”  That gave him the idea to place his hand on his gun. 

She ignored his attempt to seem fierce. “Need I define the word ‘stranger’?  I don’t know you.  Dangerous?  I don’t know you.”

“Alright then, let’s take care of that now.” Stopping, he rested his arm on the horn of his saddle and looked down at her, “Good evening ma’am.  My name is Johnny and I’d be pleased to offer you a safe ride back to town.”

She paused and looked at him again.  Johnny had a sincere look on his face as he spoke to her.  She sighed, reached up again and Johnny flung her up onto the horse.  She carefully placed her hands on his waist and felt compelled to direct his attention her more appropriate upbringing.

“Please understand that just because you used the word ‘safe’ when offering me a ride, doesn’t in the least indicate that you are not dangerous.  You probably are, in ways I don’t care to discuss with.”

He smiled and bit his lip not to offer his rebuttal.  She continued. “I am not usually this forward or acceptant of strangers offering me a ride, but I am in a hurry to get back into town and meet with my father, whom I might add, raised a respectful daughter!”

His smirk was so big; it was starting to hurt his face.  He just sighed, “Oh ma’am, I am sure he raised a respectable daughter.” Without resistance, he had to ask.   “I take it you have a sister?”

She gripped his shirt as if wanting to throw him off his horse, but he grabbed on tight to the reigns and stirred the horse into a faster gallop, which in turn caused her to wrap her arms around his waist preventing her from falling off.   This movement made him beam some more.

They made it back to the hotel where her father waited.  Rushing in and quickly washing off any signs of a nightly swim or riding on horseback, she dressed her self accordingly for a delightful evening.  She then made her way down the stairs as her eyes caught her father’s eyes.  He smiled at her and signaled a man standing next to him.

“Ah, here she comes, the angel of my life, my daughter.  Murdoch, this is my daughter.”

Her father reached up, grabbed her by the hand, and guided her towards Murdoch who greeted her warmly.

Her smile lit up the room, which made her father grin with more pride. “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you sir.  My father has spoken so highly of you that I feel a kinship towards you already.”

“Just the same dear, now I know why your father glows every time he speaks of you.” Murdoch turned to signal his son to come meet his friend. “But now I’d like to introduce you both to my son, who is doing us a favor by driving you to our ranch in the horse carriage.”  He expressed his pride with a wide smile as he looked over his shoulder. 

“Henry and Valeria, this is my youngest son Johnny Lancer.  Johnny these wonderful people are Enrique, Henry, Montiel and his beautiful daughter Valeria.”  Johnny walked out from behind Murdoch only to set eyes on the ‘mermaid’.  His smile expanded and he refrained from expressing any twisted comment to her.

Johnny shook Henry’s hand and then slowly turned towards Valeria. With a cunning look, he reached out to Valeria, “It is a real pleasure to meet such a respectful young señorita. Valeria, is it?”  She bit her lip then answered, “Yes, MR. LANCER, it is Valeria,” she tightly gripped his hand as they shook. He felt her grip and tighten his as well.  Neither would release their firm handshake. They could have actually been having an arm wrestling contest if not for Murdoch sudden interruption. 

Murdoch asked Johnny to load the carriage with their bags, plus, he requested that Johnny ride with Valeria because he wanted to take the time and show Henry something on the way home.  Well of course Johnny gladly accepted.  Valeria just frowned at his mischievous grin.

In his teasing manner, he assisted her onto the carriage.  He could not for the life of him get rid of his smile.  It glowed with the moonlight.

Nervously, Valeria called out. “Papá, please don’t take long.  I’ve missed you today and I want to spend more time with my father, who would protect his daughter against anything that might hurt or annoy her.”  She smirked at Johnny.  

Her father looked puzzled with her remark, then assured her he would join them as soon as he and Murdoch went on a slight detour.  Murdoch’s bellowed as reassured her that she couldn’t be in better hands then with Johnny.  Lip shut tight, Johnny just stood there and shyly nodded in agreement regarding his father’s comment.

Johnny turned and tipped his hat at Valeria, “Ready ma’am?”  Climbing aboard, he whipped the carriage reigns causing Valeria to buck back as her legs flew up ever so lightly, but it was enough to amuse him.

She straighten herself out and mumbled, “Hum, looks like you need lessons on handling….a carriage.”

“Oh, I can handle a carriage just as well as I can handle other needs that might come my way, ma’am.”  When he turned to look at her, he found himself mesmerized by her softness despite her rough behavior.  His smile relaxed when looked at her again noticing the moonlight on her hair, her face and her silloute.  He took a deep breath and then cleared his throat.  

“Maybe we should start again.  I mean, from the beginning, as if we had never seen each other.”  He reaches out to shake her hand, “Hi, my name is Johnny Lancer and I am very pleased to meet you.”  His soft drawl was sincere which made Valeria turn and look him in the eyes.  She was couldn’t believe his gentle expression.  Shaking his hand she adds, “Nice to meet you Johnny, I’m Valeria, Valeria Montiel.”

They both held hands lightly this time and continued to stare at each other.  Their breathing became in sync which was then interrupted by a rough bump on the road.  Valeria let out a small but funny squeal.  Johnny could help himself and laughed.  She huffed and straightens herself out again.  The magic moment seized for a while anyway.

“I am SO glad to be amusing you tonight.”

“Ah come on now.  We just met.  Be nice.”  

“So this is what I have to look forward to?”

“What do you mean?”

“We’re moving here and the Lancers will be our neighbors. You’re what I have to look forward to as a neighbor?”

“Could be worse, could be a pack of wolfs, cougars, or a…herd of buffaloes.”

She couldn’t help but smile.

“Oh, so you do smile?”   He looks at her again.  “It’s a nice smile, a sweet smile.”

She glances at him.  “Thank you, Johnny Lancer, neighbor and savior of God’s creature.”

Both chuckles as the ride started to go smoother. 

They talk about their fathers each expressing pride in their relationship.  Johnny realized that he had never spoken so much about Murdock.  He enjoyed sharing this with her.  

The conversation changed from likes to dislikes and just about life in general.  They formulated questions for each other depending on previous information that was spoken.

The drive to want to know more about each other was equally shared.  He couldn’t believe how easy it was to talk to her.  Neither was oblivion their shared interest for one another.  They both could keep from making it.  Enjoying each other’s company, they did not want this time to end.

Back at the hacienda, it seemed that Valeria’s father had a hidden agenda for his reason to move into their area. He was enjoying the night air as he waited for his daughter.  Deep in thought about her well being, he reminisced on how he just wanted a decent husband for his Valeria.  

During Cattlemen meeting where Henry would sit and discuss ranching business, they’d get off and wind up proudly discussing family members.  Henry had developed an interest in one of the Lancer boys and he’d pry for more information.

Of course, Murdoch would discuss both his boys to no avail for withholding back any information.  He was equally proud of both his boys.  Each for their own uniqueness and ability to handle the ranch business, but he’d mostly ranted proudly about his boys relationship, respect and love for one another, given that they had not been raised together.

All of this was acceptable to Henry, but his ears and mind keep targeting that one special boy, Scott.  His daughter would do well to marry someone with Scott’s background.  All he could see was a refined gentleman with a prestige education.

As Johnny and Valeria rode closer to Lancer, Valeria had mentioned her suspicions to Johnny.  “I really don’t think my father thinks me capable of finding my own husband.  He hasn’t stopped mentioning Scott Lancer.  I’m guessing he’s your brother from what I’ve gathered.”

“Yes, he’s my half brother, but my brother just the same.”

She continued. “My father just keeps harping about him.  Scott this, Scott that, wait till you meet Scott, he is a Lancer, he can do no wrong, blah,blah, blah.  So, I suspect that I am going to be meeting my future husband.” She giggled shamefully.

“How does your father know so much about Scott?”  Changing his stance and becoming quieter he just opted to listen to her.

“Murdoch and my father have known each other for some time.  They always get together whenever there is a Cattleman meeting and catch up on old times.  It was during one of those meetings that Murdoch told my father how he had finally gotten you both back.  Well, my father can be a bit inquiry about something or someone he is interested in and Scott was the one, so here we are.  He has made it so obvious.  It’s almost embarrassing.”  She nodded and shook her head while letting out a deep sigh.

After listening to her go on and on about meeting Scott, it was evident that Johnny was starting to get annoyed by the ‘Scott’ conversation; plus, he was a bit disturbed by Henry’s reason to bring Valeria to the valley.  He couldn’t help but wonder if Murdoch had even mentioned him in their conversations. He did not reveal this trepidation to her, but instead discreetly questioned her about how she felt.

“I really do not approve of what my father wants for me with Scott.  Honestly, I don’t foresee anything coming out of this, but my father is determined for me to meet him.  I can’t see any harm in testing the waters.”  

After hearing this, Johnny just looked down and gripped the reigns tight. 

She continued, “I mean it’s not a real arranged marriage.  Seriously, I can’t see myself marrying someone I’ve never met. Yet, Mrs. Scott Lancer does have a nice ring to it.  Valeria Lancer.  Don’t you agree Johnny?”  Her tone was mocking.

“I am sure Scot has to have a say in this.”  He looked straight into her eyes, sneered, and spoke with a strong twang. “’Sides, I don’t think he’d appreciate his brother have’n already seen his ‘mermaids’ wet scales.”

She just puckered her brow then smirked, “Hum, I wonder how he’d react to seeing my wet scales.” leering into the night, she waited to see Johnny’s reaction and noticed that her comment did strike a nerve with him.

Fancying the jealousy being shown, she thought it fine to add some more fuel to the fire. “In reality, well, I just want the adventure of starting a new life in this part of the country.  This is beautiful country.”  She swings her arms out and throws her head back.

 “It is a great place to raise children.”

She couldn’t resist teasing him one last time, “Now if Scott is a good looking man, why we could have beautiful children and… you’d be their Uncle Johnny.”

That did it; Johnny hit the reigns harder this time that it made her flip back onto the carriage basket.

“HEY!”  She managed a yell as she tried to regain her stability; she hit Johnny on the arm.

Scott was not even aware of his involvement with Valeria, but Johnny couldn’t help resenting Scott.  He hated feeling something special for her; plus, it infuriated him that Murdoch did not glorify him to Henry and not being spoken of with pride by his father irked him to all ends. 

She finally managed to climb back into the seat.  “Take it easy or I’ll tell Scott you hurt me.”  That was a bigger blow to his ego.

Johnny glared at her and made the horse go faster. She held on tight and won’t bestow him the satisfaction that she was being tattered around the hard bumps, the dust from the horse flying into her face and the unsettling bouncing that hurt her rump. 

As they past under the arches, Johnny slowed the rig down. He turned to observed her appearance; she was no longer the well-groomed senorita.  Frankly, she was a mess. 

Her hair was teased in and out of order, her face had dust on it and her clothes were crumbled and out of place.  She looked angrily at him as she blew some strands of hair out of her mouth. 

“We’re here Ma’am.  Welcome to your new home!”  He jumped off and veered around the horse to help her down off the carriage.  He offered her a gentlemen smile, “Looks like you need another swim to clean yourself up.”

She just pushed him out of the way, “Watch it buddy!”  Then stormed up to the veranda where her father and Murdoch were waiting for them. Her father was surprised to see how messed up she was, “Honey what happened to you?”  She just walked past him and grunted.  Murdock glanced at her walking into the house and looked at Johnny, “Johnny, what’s this all about?”

He looked down. “Dust twisters.  We got caught in some dust twisters.”  He brushed some dust off his clothes and he walked into the house.  The fathers just glanced at each other and displayed a bit of an embarrassed smile for the way their children were acting.

Murdoch cleared his throat, “Those dust twisters can be a real problem some times.”  Wide eyed and shrugging his shoulders, he sighed and quickened his pace to walk into the house. 

Scott was standing at the end of the living room eagerly waiting.  He was in shock to see this girl, dusty, messed up with an expression that could scare of a wounded cougar.  His displayed a nervous smile when her eyes met his.  She just took a deep breath and waited for her father to take care of the introduction. 

 Johnny walked in looked at Scott, nodded his head to greed him and stood at the end of the dining table with his arms crossed.

‘Wonder what happened between these two.  Johnny is definitely upset about something.’

Scott was just observing his little brothers pouting face.  Teresa and Jelly was just as concerned and they just stared at Johnny then they glanced at each other.

Murdock and Henry knew something was brewing between them as well, but decided to ignore it for the moment.  They patted each other on the back and procedure to walk into the great room.  Murdock cleared his throat, “Well, seems everyone is here now.  Teresa I guess our guest are ready for dinner.  God knows I am famished.  Uh, Johnny, why don’t you get cleaned up first?”

He looked up and smiled. “Sure Murdock.”  

As he walked by his father, Murdoch patted his son’s shoulder and looked at him questionably, then offered him a smile.  He then spoke to his ward. “Teresa, would you mind showing Valeria where she can get cleaned up?”

“Teresa would you mind showing Valeria where she can get cleaned up?”

Teresa was getting ready to direct her when Valeria spoke up, “Oh, Mr. Lancer, please, couldn’t Johnny show me the way.  I am sure Teresa has a lot to do in getting dinner on the table.  You wouldn’t mind showing me where I can get cleaned up, right JOHNNY?”

“No, VALERIA, please allow me the pleasure of showing you where you can get cleaned up.”

The room felt like they were getting ready for a boxing match.  Johnny scooted to one side signaling Valeria a passage to go outside.  She brushed her dress to one side, skimming the side of Johnny’s pants almost forcing him to move further out of the way.  He stared down and politely forced a smile. 

Now, Murdock, Teresa, Scot and Jelly all knew that the area to get cleaned up was not outside, but they figured Johnny knew what he was doing.  All turned to look at Henry.  Murdoch just shrugged his shoulders once more, not knowing what else to do, and signaled for Henry to take a seat.

Johnny walked over next to the stable area when the horses drink water.  “Here is where we get cleaned up.”  He reached for a bucket and filled it with clean water from the pump. He then set the water down next to a water trough.

Gesturing for her to go first, she stepped back. “Oh no, please, after you Johnny.”  

He proceeded to splash water over his face when suddenly he found himself back into a pool of water.  Valeria had pushed him into the trough.

“Think I don’t know that this water is for horses!!”

Johnny stood up fast and managed to grab her from the wrist and pulled her into the water.  “I figured you knew, but what better place for a senorita to cleaned up for her future husband then in a horse…” 

She let out a scream and landed on Johnny’s lap.  

“Arghhh, you horrible rough, gawking… gawking, you, you,…”

Johnny started to laugh as he saw her hair streaming with water and her expressions of exasperation.  She glared at him and was ready to slap him when grabbed her face to kiss her.  And he did, then caressed her cheeks with his thumbs, “I’ve wanted to do that ever since I first saw you swimming.”

“What took you so long…?”

Johnny smirked and kissed her again, this time longer.  When they both came up for air, they heard a cough and a throat clearing.  Both looked up and saw that everyone was staring at them.  Henry looked devastated at the sight, but the others were just smiling.

Johnny and Valeria quickly stood up dripping wet.  He helped her step out of the trough. Teresa grabbed her by the hand, “Let me show you where we get cleaned up.”  And they walked away together.

Johnny still stood in the trough and felt Murdock look peering right through him.  He shifted his stance and stepped out slowly. He glanced at Murdock, then at Henry.  Henry just turned and walked away followed by Scot and Jelly.  Murdock just waited.

“Murdock, I swear I didn’t plan this.  It just happened.  She, she just….”

“Forget it for now Johnny.  We’ll get the entire story at dinner.  Do you need me to show you where you can get cleaned up as well?”

“No, Murdock, I know where it is…” Murdock turned and walked away.  Johnny couldn’t help himself and added, “But thanks for offering.”  Murdock stopped cold in his track and placed his hands on his waist.  He then heard the squishing sound of wet boots running towards the bathhouse.  He couldn’t help but smile and continued to the hacienda. ‘What am I going to tell Henry? God help me.’

The family waited for them to clean up to eat dinner.  Johnny noticed that Valeria and her father were not with them.  “Where are Vale and Henry?”

“They are having a family…. discussion out in the veranda.”  Johnny just looked down and shuffled his feet then walked over to the window hoping to get a glance of the pair talking.  The outside door opened and both of them walked in.  Vale was a bit embarrassed with the whole incident and Henry looked at Murdock, “Children…what do we do with them Murdock?”

“Just try to keep one step ahead of them. Now are we ready to eat?”  He looked over to the Johnny and Valeria.

Vale walked up to Murdock and added, “I wish to apologize for my unlady like behavior.” She stared at Johnny, “Circumstance were just…” she took a deep breath and looked at her father, “they were….” Murdock interrupted, “Valeria, it takes two to tango, for now, please, let’s just all sit down and enjoy our dinner.” 

Scott, Teresa and Jelly were enjoying that evening entertainment. They just sat there with a smile a mile long waiting to see Johnny’s next move.

He walked over and assisted Valeria to her seat.  He nodded and smiled then looked at Henry, “Sir” as he signaled him to his seat.  Then he looked at Murdock and smiled.  Murdock just shook his head.  Dinner was quiet at first and Val avoided eye contact with Johnny.  Conversation began politely, mostly amongst the two elders.  Scott would interject occasionally, about land and business.  Johnny would eat and glance at Vale.  Vale would continue to avoid eye contact.  Dinner was over and Vale offered to help Teresa clean up.

Once in the kitchen, Teresa and Vale looked at each other and started to laugh.  Johnny walked in, “What’s so funny?”  Teresa spoke up, “Nothing of interest, Johnny.  Do you need anything?”  

“Murdock was wondering if there was anymore coffee?”

“Sure, I’ll take some to him in a bit.”  

“Well, I can take it if you get it ready.  I don’t mind waiting.  I can help clean up while I wait.”

“You, Johnny Lancer, help clean, in the kitchen.  That’s a first.”

“I’ve been known to clean up a mess or two in my life.”

“Surely not in the kitchen, am sure!” snorted Valeria.

“Ah, now…be nice, Valeria.  Remember what happened when the circumstances got….”

“Ok, you two.  Here Johnny takes the coffee to Murdoch and thanks for offering to help.  Here now go.”  Teresa handed him the tray and scooted him along.

Johnny left. Teresa turned to Vale.  “You like him…a lot.  Why do you annoy each other?” she asked smiling.

 She smiled at Teresa.  

“Are you in trouble with your father?” asked Teresa.

“No, not really.  He was more upset about my disrespect of Murdock hospitality.”

Still, I don’t get it.  Johnny is so….”

“Adorable?”  Teresa laughs and continues, “He is a great person with a heart of gold.  He does carry his feelings on his shoulder.” She now had a look of concern.

“What are you saying Teresa?” Vale stopped what she is doing and looked at her.

“All I am saying is that Johnny’s been through a lot.  I love him like a brother and I don’t want him to get hurt with matters of the heart. That’s all.”

Valeria grabbed a dishtowel and smiled. “He is lucky to have a sister who cares enough to be upfront with me.  Thank you.”

Vale hugs Teresa and continues, “I would never intentionally hurt Johnny or any other member of the Lancer family.  I wouldn’t do to others what I wouldn’t want done to me either.”

Teresa assures her, “Johnny gives himself fully and would never hurt you or your father.”  After they finished their chores, they walked out to the foyer where the others were talking and relaxing.

“Well ladies, thanks for joining us.” Murdock acknowledges their presence.  

Henry added, “Teresa, honey, that dinner was absolutely delicious. Now that Valeria and I are going to be neighbors maybe the two of you can share recipes and continue to treat us to more delightful nourishment.”

Vale looked at her father. “Daddy, you’ve decided?”

“Yes, honey, we are making this country our new home.  I sort of enjoyed the excitement and watching you light up like your mother used to when she, uh, was a bit feisty assured me that she’d want your happiness.  Not like in the big city.  You know Murdock; I could see her spirit leaving her.  I couldn’t bare to watch her light leave.  I had to reignite it and it seems your boy, Johnny, managed to do just that!”  He let’s out a laugh.

Valeria moves closer to him and hugs him. “Daddy you’re embarrassing me.”

“Something funny what’d I missed?”  Johnny approached the foyer.

Scott was standing next to his little brother.  “Whatever it is brother, I am sure it has to do with you.”

Johnny jabbed him playfully in the ribs.  “We got the horses all bedded down. Now, what’s all the ruckus about?”

“Henry decided to make this beautiful country their home.” Answered Murdock.

“And that’s funny?”  Everyone else laughed.  Johnny just squatted down and knelt by Murdock chair looking at him with inquiry.  Murdock laughed and placed his hand on Johnny shoulder.

“OK, I think it is time we retired.  We have a long day ahead of us, such as helping out our new neighbors get settled in to their new home.  Henry, I expect you two to stay with us until you get your house set up.”  

Henry stood and wrapped his arms around his daughter. “Murdock, I am most grateful and I am sure Valeria is as well.”  They all started to walk into the house.

Johnny looked at Henry “Good night sir.”  Then he looked at Valeria.  She acknowledged him with a slight nod and a smile.   

Murdock offered a suggestion before going in. “You know Henry, this is a beautiful night, why don’t we let Johnny show Valeria around the ranch. They don’t seem tired yet.”

Henry fidgeted at the thought of his daughter alone with Johnny, but gave in to Murdock suggestion.  “Now Johnny, I expect you to be the gentleman your father says you are.”

“Yes sir, I promise to fully respect his word”.

Alone, they walked without talking.  Johnny held his head down and had a small skip to his steps. Vale just walked and looked round enjoying the moonlit sites.  “This is beautiful.  Are all nights like this?”  Asked Val.

Johnny laughs, “No, not like tonight.”

“Oh, you know what I mean.”

“Yeah, yes ma’am I do.”  He reached for her hand and stopped walking.  “Well, what are we going to do now Miss Valeria?”

“Accept the inevitable, I guess.”

“Yeah, and what is the inevitable?”

“You tell me, Mr. Lancer.”

He reached over to her face, gently brought her closer and kissed her.  He moved back at bit and looked at her face admiring her looks in the moonlight. 

“The moon light makes you….” and he caressed her cheek, while brushing strand of hair out of her face.  “I don’t know what you did to me back at the water hole.”  He kissed her again. 

She smiled and pressed her face into his neck.  “The inevitable, huh?  It feels delightful.  I don’t want it to end.”  They kissed again.

“I’d better get you inside before they send out a posse.”  He held her hand and they slowly walked back to the house.  He walked her all the way to her room, kissed her on the forehead and said goodnight.  She leaned on the door and opened it, slowly sighed, and waited as he slowly released her hand.  She smiled and walked into her room.  Closing the door, she took a deep breath and got ready for bed.

Johnny walked quietly down the hall feeling like he was flying.  He heard a voice, “I hope you acted the gentleman I told Henry you were.”

Johnny looked up and saw Murdock in the hall.  He smiled at him, “Yes sir, I was.” Then adds, “Goodnight….Pa’.” 

Murdoch smiled wider that ever possible. “Goodnight…son.”

 Life was great that night.  New friendships and new relationships were bonding.

The End


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