La Belle Dame Sans Merci by Dori

Word count: 1,080

It was a skill he’d spent years perfecting. Hours of practice…in drawing rooms, at balls or strolling through the park. Until, now, he could—immediately upon arrival and in any size crowd—single out the most alluring, desirable woman present, study her unobserved for a few moments and come up with a successful approach.

Coming west had been no reason to lose his touch. Between parties at Lancer, church socials and community dances, he’d kept his hand in. Something he’d been thankful for when he’d first spotted the striking redhead. She was obviously a newcomer to Green River because he’d have remembered seeing her at any of the previous dances.

A few tousled locks of hair might be considered charming, but one hand crept up to ensure that his tie was straight. Satisfied, he took a smooth, confident step towards his objective…and froze.

It seemed his little brother had beaten him to the draw.

Even without the benefits of polite society, Johnny had never had a problem with what Murdoch called ‘the affinity of Lancer men for beautiful young women’. He’d developed his own very effective methods of captivating the gentler sex. Kissing her hand—without having been properly introduced—would have come off as too forward, so Scott gave his brother points for simply smiling, leaning close and probably whispering some gallant compliment in Spanish.

Since he’d seen this routine work so many times before, it came as something of a shock when the lady in question gave what appeared to be a genteel but firm dismissal.

As Johnny crossed the room, the only hint that he’d been brushed off was a crooked, rueful grin. But he was more than willing to accept the drink his brother offered, especially when the first sip told him that the mild punch had been appropriately *doctored*.

“Looks like the lady is a hard sell.”

Johnny only shrugged. If the encounter had put any kind of a dent in his pride, you’d never guess it by his unruffled demeanor.

Scott set his drink down and—knowing his tie was already straight—fingered the lapels of his jacket.

“So…you figure she’s got a weakness for fair-haired…gentlemen…from Boston?”

“If she doesn’t now, she soon will have.” A certain amount of smug assurance was called for. It was the way this game was played…at least between him and Johnny. “So let me show you how the thing should be done, little brother.”


There was a tiny ‘clink’ of metal on glass as Scott emptied the contents of his flask—half into his brother’s punch cup and half into his own—balm for their bruised egos. He’d managed to ignore the wicked gleam in Johnny’s eyes after his own attempted flirtation proved to be a dismal failure.

“Well, I suppose it’s of some consolation to note that we haven’t seen the lady offer her favors to any other man present tonight.”

“Seems like a shame that such a pretty girl couldn’t be a bit…friendlier.”

“The French have a phrase that seems apropos in this case…la belle dame sans merci.”

“A beautiful woman without mercy,” Johnny mused, smirking slightly at his brother’s expression of mild surprise. “Lots of French soldiers down around the border. I picked up bits and pieces of the language.”

Lifting his cup in a mock toast, he went on, “No doubt about the fact that she’s beautiful…and she did shoot both of us down without turning a hair, so I guess…”

“Look at that, Johnny.”

Weaving his way among the dancers and striding purposefully across the floor, it appeared Jelly would be the next hopeful to make a bid for that mysterious and lovely stranger.

“Wanna make a bet on how long it takes her ta throw cold water on his pipe dreams?”

“The last time we placed a wager about Jelly’s love life, it ended up being a wash for both of us,” Scott reminded him, “and I suppose the decent thing to do would be to warn him what he’s up against.”

“And where’s the fun in being decent?”

There was no arguing with that logic, so Scott leaned against a nearby post, ready to enjoy the show…

…and ended up having to pick his jaw up off the floor.

“Scott, did we really just see that?”

But there was no denying the evidence before them. All smiles and fluttering lashes, she’d curtseyed slightly and then stepped into his arms, beaming down at the grizzled, gray-bearded face as if she beheld the most handsome, dashing suitor possible.


As the unlikely couple whirled energetically to the music, a solitary observer was surveying the scene.


It would have been a sin to waste prayers on such a frivolous lark, so it had come down to serendipity—events lining up so that this practical joke had been possible. Nobody else from Lancer had met Mrs. Collins niece, Lydia, yet. One look at the girl had been enough to inspire a plot that was both sneaky and diabolical. Getting her cooperation came with a price. It hadn’t been easy to part with that new pearl necklace, but watching the dumbfounded expressions on their faces made it all worthwhile.

Heaven knew she’d asked them to treat her like a sister—had it really been two years ago?—but there were limits. She didn’t mind so much that they’d begun taking her efforts around the household very much for granted, but lately their teasing had become rather trying. Scott—usually more reserved and gentlemanly—had been joining forces with his brother.

A few weeks ago had been the last straw. The two of them had ferreted out her secret interest in Peter Manning and had deliberately kept her on pins and needles for fear that they’d say or do something to embarrass her in front of him.

She’d managed to bide her time, waiting for an opportunity for revenge, and arranging this little ambush had certainly filled the bill. Jelly had no notion that he’d been subtly nudged into taking part in her scheme. Lydia was leaving on the morning stage, so she wouldn’t reveal any details. The plan had worked perfectly.

Even now the expressions of bemused disbelief on their faces couldn’t be more gratifying. Sometime, far in the future, she might decide to tell the truth about how they’d been duped. But for now, it was pleasant to simply watch them suffer.

Teresa smiled—la belle dame sans merci*





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  • La belle Dame Sans Merci – a beautiful woman without mercy.

2 thoughts on “La Belle Dame Sans Merci by Dori

  1. I think Teresa thought of it as evening the score….LOL I’m glad you enjoyed this. Thanks for offering your comments.



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