Monday, May 29, 2006

Kin to the Saboteur - Letter to Readers

Kin to the Saboteur was about so many things and had so many lessons contained within its pages. Among them were the dangers of bitterness, the consequences of coveting what belongs to another, and the reality of just how powerful forgiveness truly is. Yet the primary focus of this book was to just let people know that it’s okay to celebrate ourselves sometimes. Like Halona, we all have to be proud of how God made us, even if no one else is. Adam had to learn that and so have I over the years.

Another important lesson learned through Kin to the Saboteur is the need to rely solely upon God to give us what we need. And that means in every area of our lives. Read 2 Chronicles 13, particularly verse 18 which talks about how the children of Judah prevailed because they relied upon the Lord God of their fathers.

In Kin to the Saboteur, Adam needed a father figure in his life. He was given one in Hezekiah. In that same respect, Hezekiah needed sons to love. He was given those in Adam and in the boys enrolled in his summer program. Let’s not forget about Halona, who needed a man that could look past all of her little quirks and give her unconditional love. Thankfully, she found that in Adam.

In conclusion, I truly hope that you enjoyed Kin to the Saboteur, my very first attempt at a western, as much as I enjoyed writing it. By the way, there really was a woman named Black Mary. Research it out and see what intriguing things you will find. God bless.

PS: Chapters 16 and up were removed as of June 2. To read Kin to the Saboteur in its entirely now, feel free to purchase a copy through my website.

© 2006 Suprina Frazier

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Author Note

Just a heads-up to let everybody know that I'm scheduled to go on vacation starting the weekend of May 27 through June 3.

I will try to post as many chapters of Kin to the Saboteur as I can before then. I will also try to keep processing orders up until Friday (May 26th). That way, you can still get your 2 for 1 specials.

If for some reason my schedule changes, I will process those Friday orders when I return and still give you that 2 for 1 special discount.

Be blessed,

Suprina

P.S. Don't forget to check out my review blog - Read Any Good Fiction Lately?

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Kin to the Saboteur - Ch. 15

Adam did not go straight home after his encounter at Halona’s house. Nor did he seek after her, since it was obvious that she needed to be alone for a while to sort through her feelings. He also needed some time alone to think. So where did Adam go? Nowhere. He stayed right there in Halona’s empty house and waited around for her to return. After all, this was as good a place to think as any.

While Adam waited, he cleaned up the mess in the dining room, tidied up the kitchen, and even put away any excess food. Afterwards he feed her dogs, who’d come in from playing in the fields, and then sat out on the back porch to watch them eat.

The whole time, Adam thought long and hard about his life, particularly about his life before and after meeting Halona. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that he’d been much happier since meeting her and coming to work on her farm. And the fact that he no longer cared about his law practice in New York or about starting a large newspaper verified how much he’d changed over the last few months.

As a result, Adam knew exactly what he needed to do, no matter what the consequences. With that burden off of his mind, the peaceful man soon fell asleep right there on Halona’s back porch.

~~<<>>~~

Leaving the waterfall well after the sun had set, Halona returned home the same way she’d left – on foot. However, there was something slightly different about her. Her denims were now shorts and the missing pants legs had been used as a towel and a turban to dry her body and thick head of hair.

Putting up her rifle, Halona went over to her piano, pulling off her makeshift turban along the way. She didn’t want to go anywhere near the dining room or the kitchen since she knew the mess that was waiting for her there. She had enough mess to clear out of her mind.

After putting the denim fragment on top of the piano, Halona just stared at the black and white keys below for several long moments. She marveled that they seemed to get along all right and were quite capable of making beautiful music together. Unlike people, who seemed to want to remain separated forever solely based on color.

Then Halona began to play. She played out her feelings of rage, her feelings of loneliness, and her feelings of despair on the black and white keys below. Why must she feel this way? Why must she be in love with a man that she could never legally have in a place that was so near and dear to her heart? Halona could not leave this farm when so much of her blood, sweat, and tears had gone into the land. Not just her blood, sweat, and tears, but also her father and mother’s before her.

With nimble fingers that flew over the keys, Halona continued to play with such fervor, such passion. She had no idea that she was silently being watched from the parlor’s archway by the man who’d quietly reentered the house from the back door. The same man that had created such turmoil in her life and made her love him so.

Still so engrossed in her playing, Halona did not notice that Adam had come further into the room. Nor did she sense his presence until she was at the end of her spontaneous recital and draped over the piano keys in a ball of tears. That’s when she felt comforting hands about her shoulders. That’s when she heard Adam’s deep voice speaking oh so tenderly in her right ear.

“Sakari, my sweet,” Adam said, calling Halona by her rarely used middle name. He pulled her to her feet and scooped her reluctant frame up in his arms. It was time to reveal his secret. A shameful secret that he’d keep hidden inside for so long that he really didn’t know how to began telling it. Yet it was one that Adam finally would reveal since it was now a means to a very delightful end.

“Don’t look at me,” Halona said, turning her tear-stained face away from his gaze. Being held so tenderly by a man was just too unfamiliar to the woman who’d been raised a tomboy. Halona’s father had often carried her on his back. She couldn’t remember ever being cradled in Gordon’s arms the way Adam was cradling her now.

Adam smiled and nudged her head back towards him with his chin. “My sweet, I have seen you look much worse, believe me. Besides, your tears are precious to me. I treasure each one that you shed for me,” he said, sitting down on the piano bench with her still in his arms.

“Who ever said I shed these tears for you?” Halona retorted, revealing some of that fiery temper that Adam had grown to love. Even still she felt those familiar flutters in her belly, tingles in her fingers, and slight light-headedness at his presence.

Adam simply chuckled at her flame of temper. “I’m sorry. You must have dust in your eyes then,” he replied. Suddenly his eyes and tone grew very serious. “I need you, my sweet. And I want to be with you…in marriage.”

“But we can’t get married, remember? Too many technicalities.”

“Oh yes we can, my sweet. For you see, I am part Negro,” Adam confessed. It was interesting that saying that hadn’t been as bad as he thought it would be.

Halona’s eyes grew wide. Her mouth dropped open in shock. “You are? But how? All those freckles, this fine red hair,” she said, touching his face and head as she sat upright in his lap. “I don’t understand.”

“Let me help you understand.” Then Adam began to tell Halona about his family history, leaving very little out. “My full name is Adam Brion Thorpe. My mother was a Creole woman named Angelique Brion from Louisiana. She got pregnant by a red-haired, married Irishman from Texas. Although my father never completely disowned me, he never had much to do with me, either. Thus my mother ended up raising me basically alone.”

“Did she treat you well? Did you love her?” Halona asked, staring intently into his eyes. She didn’t want to miss not even one of his emotions as he told her this shocking tale.

His honey-brown eyes grew glossy. “Yes, my mother treated me very well and I loved her very dearly.” Adam’s eyes suddenly took on a hard glint. “But I hated how other people treated her because of her complexion. I especially hated how they treated me when they found out I was her son. One minute I was acceptable, the next I wasn’t fit to spit on. And even though I did not deny my mother all the days she was alive, I did deny that part of my heritage when she died.”

“Why? When you loved her so.” Halona couldn’t imagine ever disowning either of her parents.

Adam took a deep breath and blew it out. “It was just easier to pass for white. I got into the best schools that way, the best neighborhoods, even into the best law firm that way. I feel so ashamed of myself now. Especially when I’m around someone like you who is proud of both sides of your heritage even though you suffer constant rejection because of it.”

Now Halona understood why the rude boys in front of the general store had affected Adam so much. Now she understood a lot of things about him. When Adam was finally finished with his tale, including the part about his father changing his last name from Brion to Thorpe in order to make him even more acceptable, Halona couldn’t contain her tears. She also couldn’t contain her happiness as she leaned her head against his left shoulder and snuggled, actually snuggled with him.

“You’re very silent, my sweet. Does this mean you need time to think about marrying me? Or is the answer a flat no?” Adam asked, after several quiet moments had passed between them.

Wiping her tears away, Halona lifted her head to look into his eyes. “My mind is already made up. I’d be honored to marry you as soon as summer and fall harvest is over,” she replied, thinking about her agricultural timetable. Halona knew that she needed to get married in either late spring or sometime in winter in order to avoid the seasons of planting, heavy field work, and harvest. Most farmers planned their lives, work or play, around the seasons.

“Why so long, my sweet? I want you to be my wife immediately,” Adam inquired with impatience showing upon his face.

Halona actually giggled, which is something she had never done in her life. Not even as a child. Yet it seemed so natural to do so now. “I want to be your wife as soon as possible, too. It’s just that I won’t be able to fully concentrate on being a wife until after this year’s harvest and all the troubles we’ve been having with it are past. Plus, with more time on our hands, we can take a real honeymoon. Go somewhere that color doesn’t matter as much.”

Adam smiled. He was appeased by her words. “All right. We will wait until after harvest is over. In the meantime, I will do whatever I can to help this harvest go smoother and quicker.” Adam would also use that time to conclude what remained of his life in New York and conclude his business with his father. He wanted nothing standing in the way of his union with Halona.

Now Halona was appeased. To show her satisfaction, she lifted her lips to his and sealed the moment with a kiss. That kiss turned out to be kindling to the dry wood of their suppressed desire. Soon Halona found her legs being repositioned so that all the special places on Adam’s body were now aligned with all the special places on hers.

Halona appreciated Adam’s aggressiveness and responded with equal aggression as she wrapped her legs about his waist and began to move against him like an animal in heat. The fact that her pants were now shorts provided Adam with access to areas of her body that he’d only dreamed of touching. In fact, his exploring hands were rapidly reducing her to putty.

Normally Adam prided himself on behaving like a gentleman at all times and certainly on his ability to always remain in control. However, every time he was around Halona he struggled to contain himself. In fact, every time he was around her, he actually wanted to devour her. This was one of those times.

Running one of his hands up the back of her shirt, Adam found next to nothing underneath. He inhaled sharply and moaned with pleasure as he encountered even more bare skin. He wasn’t sure if Halona had left some garments at the waterfall or if she just hadn’t put much of anything on after church. Either way, he was glad for the extra access.

With Halona’s legs still wrapped deliciously around his waist, Adam turned both of their bodies towards the piano, lowering the keyboard cover in the process. Then with Halona’s back to the piano and with her oversized shirt and tighter undershirt pulled over her head and back behind her neck, Adam’s steadily exploring hands began to play a tune of his own.

First, he played in Halona’s long, only slightly damp hair which confirmed that she’d been in her secret place swimming. Next, his fingers cascaded along her throat and collarbone, marveling at how delicate they looked in contrast to her hard biceps and triceps. His lips took a moment to play as well as they eagerly traveled the path that his fingers had, causing Halona to arch like a cat towards him, causing her to move with even more hot abandonment against him.

Going even further downward upon her frame, Adam’s roaming hands and equally roaming lips touched Halona in places no man had before. He tasted her in those same places. His tongue caused her belly to quiver as it playfully swirled in her bellybutton and lapped at her like a tasty summertime dessert. It was a good thing the keyboard cover had been lowered; otherwise all kinds of notes would have been hit off key as Halona delightfully squirmed in ecstasy against it.

With her arms spread wide across the front of her piano and with her eyes closed in ecstasy, Halona experienced what it was like to be a sexual being for the first time in her waking hours. For this was definitely no dream. And although the gate of her secret garden hadn’t been breached, the rivers flowing from that garden had been called forth by a red-haired man with amazing hands and lips.

“Are you sure you want to wait until harvest is over?” Adam asked as he lifted his head from her delectable torso. He was ready to take her now, despite his usual gentlemanly resolve. Seeing her eyes flutter open and closed in ecstasy like that made him want to ‘have supper before he said grace’ which was just another way of saying that he wanted to have sex before marriage…with Halona. Desperately.

Before Halona could answer either way, there was suddenly an urgent knock on the front door. She stopped all movement and her eyes snatched open just in time to see Adam’s passion-filled pools take on an inquisitive look. He was obviously curious about the source of their distraction, as well.

“It can’t be Marilu. She would have just walked on in or else used her key if the door was locked,” Halona said in a low tone as Adam helped her upon her feet again.

“Well, we’ll never know who it is, if we don’t ask or at least go see,” Adam whispered back, standing to his feet as well as the knocking persisted. “Do you want me to answer the door? Or shall I make them wait for you?” he asked, quickly fumbling with his clothes to set them to rights again. Fortunately, his passion had swiftly weaned at the first knock and all evidence of his desire was rapidly fading away.

“You can get it while I go to my room and make myself decent again,” Halona said, heading towards the back of the house even as she spoke.

However, what Halona and Adam heard next would make them both stop short in their tracks. “Miss Halona, somebody done set the field on fire again!” Henry yelled, shouting above his knocking after hearing hushed voices in the house.

Suddenly Adam and Halona started to move at the same time as they raced for the front door. Although he got there first, they both knew that they were in for a long night.

© 2006 Suprina Frazier

Kin to the Saboteur - Ch. 14

By end of the second week of her cousins’ visit, Halona thought she would go mad. She was actually starting to miss being lonely. Ileen and Hadley were no help on the farm. They certainly weren’t any help around the house, which made their gracious hostess wonder why they had really come to visit in the first place. But more importantly, Halona wondered when they were going to be leaving.

Little did any of them know, Ileen and Hadley were going to be leaving that very Sunday. And not under the best conditions, either.

After church, Halona drove her cousins back to the homestead in her carriage. Marilu, who’d left church ten minutes earlier, promised them a bodacious meal today and they all couldn’t wait to partake of it.

Elnora and Napoleon opted out of coming for dinner this Sunday and any other Sunday the Ackerman cousins were around. Ileen and Hadley were too condescending to most folks and extremely condescending to people of the darker hues. Even Marilu wouldn’t be staying for dinner. Although she would fix the meal, she would make two plates of it to carry home for her and her waiting husband.

While their meal was being prepared, the three young ladies retired to their rooms to change. Although Ileen and Hadley had each asked to reside in Gordon’s extra-large master suite during their stay, Halona had politely refused them. She never allowed anyone else in her father’s bedroom except for Marilu. Instead the two Ackerman sisters were assigned to the two smaller guest bedrooms sandwiched in between the master suite and Halona’s large bedroom at the end of the hallway.

It only took Halona fifteen minutes to change. She chose her usual after-church wear of denims and one of her father’s old calico print flannel shirts. She liked to wear Gordon’s shirts at times due to the comfort they always brought her. And after seeing Adam looking so handsome at church today as he sat in his usual place with the Colberts, Halona felt the need for a bit of comfort right now.

Then while Halona waited another forty-five minutes for dinner and her cousins to get ready, she went to the parlor and played her Avers & Pond upright piano. Halona loved her magnificent piano with its African mahogany finish, ornate cabinetry, and beautiful set of ivory keys. It had cost a pretty penny to buy and have shipped, but the benefits the piano had added to her life during her time of grief had been priceless.

Halfway through her fifth recital, Halona heard a firm knock on the door. She got up, grabbed her rifle, and went to answer it. To her surprise, Adam was standing on the front porch.

Halona looked beyond him to the dogs wagging at his feet. She couldn’t believe they hadn’t barked at all this time. Aponi, Elan, and Jacy seemed to have taken to Adam from the very beginning, much like their owner had. Aponi, the only female, was especially friendly towards him and her name meant butterfly. It was usually Elan who followed his namesake of ‘friendly one’.

“What are you doing here?” Halona asked a bit breathlessly, feeling overwhelmed by how good he looked. Adam had changed clothes from this morning. He looked even better than before in his black Stetson, black trousers with its center fly design, white loose-fitting linen shirt, and black fitted vest.

Suddenly Halona wished she’d left on her red and blue striped church dress. That was another first for her. She usually couldn’t wait to get out of those restricting clothes.

“I was invited to dinner,” Adam replied with a wide smile. He seemed pleased to see her eyes roaming his frame with such appreciation.

“By whom?” Halona asked, trying to rein in her emotions as she cleared her throat. Yet her feelings were like a herd of wild broncos that refused to be tamed.

“Your cousins,” was Adam’s simple answer.

That figures, Halona mused. Aloud she said, “I see. Well, come on in then. Dinner’s almost ready.” She opened the door wider for him to enter.

“Well, howdy, Mr. Thorpe,” Marilu said, making her presence known in the archway between the parlor and the great room. She’d been there for the last minute, observing how amorously the two youngsters had gazed at each other. If Marilu was a betting woman she’d bet every dime she had on this fellow being Halona’s future husband.

“Howdy, yourself, Mrs. Bridges. And won’t you please call me Adam,” he said, following Halona inside and removing his hat in the process.

“Only if you see fit to finally call me Marilu and my husband Jether,” she answered fondly. Marilu figured it was time for all formalities to be set aside. Adam had been around long enough now. And if all went well between him and Halona, he was subject to be around for a good long time.

Adam nodded. “I can do that.” He’d liked Marilu from the moment he met her over a plate of her special caramel pie. Since then she’d been one of his favorite people in Miskito. Halona was Adam’s most favorite person.

“Now that we’re square on that, I’ll go tend to today’s meal,” Marilu said. Then before turning to go back towards the kitchen, she gave Halona a pointed stare and added, “Have fun, sweetie.”

Once they were alone, Adam turned to address Halona again. “Was that you playing the piano just then?”

“Yeah,” Halona said just as her cousins entered the room wearing even fancier dresses than before.

Hadley was in a silk, lilac-colored evening dress with a low neckline, short sleeves and lots of decoration. Ileen’s was the same style, except in the color yellow. Both dresses were store bought from an eastern boutique. On the often isolated frontier, store bought clothing was usually reserved for church and special occasions. Otherwise homesteaders generally made their own clothes and wore them until they gave out.

So now everyone had on nice clothes for dinner at the Ackerman house, except for the owner of said house. No doubt my ‘lovely’ cousins planned it this way, Halona mused. She had half a mind to rip the bustles clear out from under her cousins’ dresses. They’d worn the derriere enhancing items from day one of their visit as a way of getting as much male attention as possible. Halona never wore a bustle with any of her dresses. Never really saw a need to own one.

Halona’s set-up theory was soon confirmed when Hadley looked at her extremely casual attire and then smirked as she sashayed across the room. Although these two cousins were the same age, they’d never been close. And after this latest stunt, the possibility of them ever being close was slim to none now.

“You play wonderfully,” Adam said. He handed Halona his hat to put up, too, as she prepared to put away her rifle. Then he turned and nodded in acknowledgement towards Ileen and Hadley. “Good evening, ladies.”

“Good evening, Adam,” the Ackerman sisters echoed simultaneously. They fluttered their eyelashes at him and came closer. Soon each of them had one of his arms and together the sisters led Adam to the black velvet and calf skin, S-shaped settee in the middle of the room.

“If you think Halona plays wonderfully, you really need to hear my sister perform. Unlike our cousin, Hadley’s lessons started when she was a very small child. She’s quite accomplished now,” Ileen said as she sat down beside Adam on one of the velvet sections with Hadley on his other side. The younger Ackerman sister seemed clueless to the fact that although it was nice to make someone feel important, it shouldn’t be done at another person’s expense.

Ignoring the slight Ileen issued towards her cousin, Adam looked over at Halona with a question. “When did your lessons start?”

“Three years ago,” Halona replied, cutting her eyes at her cousins as she settled into the lone black calf skin chair near the westward fireplace. Her cousins were being unusually rude to her in her own house. Had they forgotten all of their childhood spats where she’d whipped the both of them for being mean to her? That could happen today if they kept this up.

“You play as if you’ve been at it much longer than that. I’m impressed,” Adam said.

“Adam, you will be even more impressed by my sister. Go ahead, Hadley, play him a tune or two,” Ileen inserted, trying to deflect his attention from her cousin. Through her words, Ileen revealed which sister was the most interested in their guest and which was helping her to get him.

Adam nodded politely in agreement as the woman on his left got up to try to impress him. Inwardly, he preferred the woman who had impressed him already, without even trying to.

Hadley did play well and proved to be quite accomplished, yet her performance lacked the same passion that Halona had put into her recital. Halona had played as if she and the keys were one, as if they shared a special secret that no one else knew. Hadley’s playing was cold and stiff, unable to warm the listener in any capacity even on the coldest day.

Halona listened to her cousin play with many thoughts running through her mind. On one hand she was angry at the way her relatives were shamelessly promoting Hadley’s virtues in an effort to gain Adam’s favor. On the other hand, she was starting to think that perhaps this was all for the best. She couldn’t have Adam anyway, so why not release him to at least be happy with someone that could.

But why does that someone else have to be Hadley? Halona bemoaned inwardly. Although admitting that she loved Adam was better than a sharp stick in the eye, it still hurt.

At the end of Hadley’s recital, everyone courteously applauded her efforts while Ileen issued cries of ‘bravo’ and ‘encore’. Fortunately, before an encore could be given, Marilu came into the room announcing that dinner was ready. Adam let out a low sigh of relief.

~~<<>>~~

At the polished walnut dinner table, Ileen continued to lift her sister up at the expense of putting her cousin down. She would not have done so if she’d only known that it was Halona who was responsible for paying the taxes on their land, keeping their opera business afloat, and keeping them in nice clothes from that monthly allotment she sent their father. However, when one pushes a woman in love too far, all kinds of secrets start tumbling out.

“Adam, did you know that my sister can cook a mighty fine meal as well? Why, Hadley can make any recipe sing,” Ileen said, smiling sweetly across the table at her older sibling who was sitting right next to Adam. Hadley also had a sunbeam of a smile on her face.

At her usual place at the head of the table, Halona rolled her eyes. Yippee! More virtues of Hadley. More hot wind from Ileen, she mused sarcastically. Halona was five minutes from clouding up with rage and raining all over her cousins. And oh what a heavy shower that would be, complete with thunderbolts.

“No, I didn’t know that,” Adam replied. Then he turned to Halona, who was sitting entirely too far away from him at the end of the table, and asked, “Do you cook as well?”

Before Halona could answer, Ileen and Hadley burst out laughing. “Halona cook? That’s hilarious! Why, my cousin can’t even boil water right, bless her heart,” Ileen said condescendingly. Too bad she was starkly unaware that that was the last straw. So sad that she was ignorant to the fact that even a fish wouldn’t get hooked if it kept its mouth closed.

Halona was beyond jealousy now. She was plum angry that she’d allowed things to go this far without taking action. I must have been a fool to allow someone to insult me in my own house, she mused as she stood up from her seat.

Then quicker than a duck on a June bug, Halona swiftly moved over to the right to Ileen’s chair and pushed her cousin’s head face down into her plate. To add insult to injury, she held Ileen’s head down a few seconds longer and moved it from side to side in order to make sure that mashed potatoes and gravy got into every crease of her face.

Halona didn’t need her cousins’ help in running a man away from her. She could do that all by herself. In fact, after today, she doubted if Adam would want anything else to do with her or her farm. And that was becoming increasingly fine by her. Who needed this whole love thing anyway? It was all just too complicated for Halona’s tastes.

Ileen immediately began to shriek with a mixture of fright and indignation. “I’m going to tell my father,” she whined juvenilely as she began to scrape clunks of potatoes and gravy off of her face.

“Tell him anything you like. I don’t particularly care, you big crybaby!” Halona retorted, waiting for one of her cousins to take a swing at her. She was aiming to practice that new kicking move that Mr. Wang’s son taught her and the orphans in town anyway.

From the left side of the table, Hadley stood up and went to assist her humiliated sister, spewing vile words out of her mouth in the process. “You…you savage!” she said, referring to the part of her cousin’s heritage that others had long since mocked. At least the others had the sense to mock hot-tempered Halona behind her back. It took a certain amount of boldness and stupidity to mock her to her face.

“I see you’re not full enough yet, either,” Halona replied, soon smashing Hadley in the face with a plate of mashed potatoes as well. It was a good thing Marilu was gone home already or she would have been fit to be tied to see all her delicious food going to waste like this. It was also a good thing she lived closer to town now. That way, she wouldn’t accidentally stop by to see how everything had turned out, only to discover just how bad the evening had gone.

By this time Adam had also risen to his feet as the makings of a very interesting scene continued to unfold before him. Yet instead of being aghast by Halona’s behavior, the distinguished lawyer was highly amused and highly stimulated by it. He loved the fire in the country heiress’ eyes. He especially loved how she stood up for herself.

Fully humiliated now as well, Hadley began to scrape food off of her own face. When she noticed that her expensive dress was also covered with potatoes and gravy, she grew angrier and bolder. “Do you have any idea how much this dress cost, you country bumpkin?!” Hadley practically screamed at her cousin.

“Of course I do since I paid for it!” Halona shouted back, rolling up her sleeves in order to make room for whatever would come next.

Per her request, Uncle Eamon always sent quarterly invoices so that Halona could see how her money was being spent. Incidentally, the money in question was any amount over that which had be left to Eamon in her father’s will. For some reason her uncle always needed more than his due each month. And up until today, Halona had gladly given it to him.

“You did not! Our father buys all of our clothes,” Ileen inserted through her tears.

“With money that I send him every month.” Halona scoffed, continuing to reveal a secret that she’d long since kept between her and Uncle Eamon. She’d kept that secret in order to help him save face in the eyes of his family and neighbors. But no more.

“But don’t worry,” Halona continued. “After the way you two behaved these last two weeks, that allotment will be greatly reduced from now on. From this day forward, I will adhere strictly to the amount specified in Papa’s will and not give your father a penny more.”

Then Halona turned to Hadley and added, “Perhaps you can start giving piano lessons to buy your own wardrobe now. Many women respectably earn money that way these days. Oh, and by the way, I want you out of my house before sundown or I’m gonna start ruining more than just your pretty clothes.” To prove her point, Halona balled up her fists and stood in a fighting stance with her chest out and one foot back.

To that Hadley and Ileen tore out of the room to go pack. Ileen left crying, Hadley left cussing – revealing that she wasn’t as much of a lady as she pretended to be, either. Either way, the Ackerman sisters left the dining room. Halona couldn’t wait for them to leave her property altogether.

Then remembering that she had another guest, Halona turned to Adam and said, “I would apologize for my behavior just now, but since I don’t feel a lick of sorrow, I won’t. Those two got what they had coming for insulting me in my own house.”

“I concur,” Adam agreed quietly from his place near the large eastern window of the formal dining room. As a firm believer in leaving family business up to the family to handle, he’d remained out of the conflict between the cousins. However, he’d been secretly routing for Halona all along.

Halona’s brows rose. “Uh…? You concur?” She couldn’t believe it. “You mean you aren’t disappointed, turned off, horrified by my actions?”

Adam moved closer to her. “I am neither disappointed nor horrified by anything you’ve ever done since the day I met you. I agree with your actions completely today and, in fact, applaud your considerable patience with your cousins these past two weeks.”

He moved closer still and cupped her face tenderly in his large callused hands. “As for being turned off, nothing about you turns me off in the least. Rather everything about you turns me on every time I see you. In fact, I dream of making love to you almost every night. I only accepted your cousins’ dinner invitation in order to spend more time with you today.” Adam smiled down into Halona’s eyes and felt elation that the anger in her ebony pools was rapidly turning to desire. He liked affecting her this way.

“Adam, you and I can’t…” Halona whispered right before his mouth descended upon hers. Then for the next several minutes, she forgot all about what they couldn’t do as their tongues collided in a hungry kiss and began to dance in and out of each other’s mouths. Halona even forgot about her cousins packing down the hall as she partook of lips that tasted of honey and spice and everything nice.

Just then, Ileen and Hadley came storming down the hallway in order to have the famous ‘last word’. Adam and Halona broke apart just in time to avoid anyone seeing them kissing, yet not in enough time for the two sisters to assume the worst by their close proximity and their heavy breathing.

“I knew you would throw yourself at Adam as soon as my back was turned, you low-class, half-bred hussy!” Hadley said as she practically waddled under the pressure of her floral tapestry covered bag. Both sisters’ faces were free of all food, yet their dresses were not.

“Don’t worry, sister. The law won’t let her legally have him anyhow,” Ileen inserted, looking at Adam and Halona with disgust.

Not about to let those comments go unpunished, Halona charged her cousins with both fists clenched tight. Using her right hand, she first socked Hadley in the left eye. She followed that action by socking Ileen in the nose with her left hand. Both cousins cried out in pain and grabbed their injured parts. Ileen’s nose started bleeding and soon red spots were joining the mashed potatoes on her dress.

This time, Adam did intervene in the Ackerman family conflict. If he hadn’t, Halona would have done even more physical damage to her cousins who’d proven to be all talk and no action.

Restraining the kicking heiress in his strong arms, Adam gave Ileen and Hadley enough time to get their things and get out. He held Halona a few minutes longer so that the injured Ackerman sisters could get properly situated in their own carriage and leave. Adam only relaxed his hold when Halona became more docile upon hearing the sound of wheels and hooves go in the opposite direction of the house.

“You can let go of me now!” Halona barked, starting to struggle in his arms again.

“I don’t ever want to let you go, Sakari,” Adam replied, whispering in her left ear. His arms were not restraining now. Now they were in a lover’s embrace about her small waist.

Halona grew still again. “But you must. Although I hate to admit it, that silly little filly was right. Our case is hopeless.” Then after snatching away from Adam, she said, “Lock up when you leave.”

Then before the gathering tears in her eyes could spill out and embarrass her further, Halona stormed out of the house. She only paused briefly to retrieve her rifle from the shelf beside the front door. Until these little ‘accidents’ stopped happening around her property, she would never leave home without some type of protection.

~~<<>>~~

Aponi kept leaping upon the frustrated man’s legs as he struggled with his supplies. Her son, Elan, and mate, Jacy, followed suit. They knew the man at the outer perimeters of the center portion of the Ackerman field. They had even played with the man’s dogs on occasion. However, they did not know what the familiar man was doing with matches in his hands. Nor why he refused to play with them as usual.

“Go away, mutts!” the Ackerman spy hissed to the brown and black mixed breed dogs. Besides trying to fight the dry wind that was constantly blowing out his flames, he was also fed up with trying to work around three canine distractions. And to prove it, he picked up a thick fallen tree limb and began to swing it at them.

Acting as if their feelings were hurt, Aponi, Elan, and Jacy avoided the menacing swings and raced back towards the homestead. The scent of this particular human was no longer pleasant for them to be around.

© 2006 Suprina Frazier

Monday, May 15, 2006

Kin to the Saboteur - Ch. 13

On the Monday following the Fourth of July, it was back to business as usual. There was more threshing to be done. This time on the centermost part of the Ackerman land. The eastern portion had already been done and the product had been processed and shipped by railcar to distribution sites all over the United States. After this they could start on the western portion where the oat crop was.

Unlike many farmers who were depended on income from a single crop and thus were vulnerable to fluctuating market forces, Halona’s prudent father wisely diversified the yield of his land much like he did his business holdings. He planted oats and wheat on his large farm in Miskito. The much smaller farmland that he owned in northeastern Nebraska was used solely for corn. Napoleon’s family ran that farmland for the Ackermans.

Even though today was business as usual on the work front, there was still something very different going on when it came to Halona’s personal life. First of all, she’d gotten a surprise visit from her two hoity-toity female cousins this morning. They claimed they came to help her with her harvest for a spell.

Ileen and Hadley had never volunteered to help Halona in any way before today. They weren’t doing too much helping now. In fact, the Ackerman sisters were doing more sitting and standing still than anything else. And who actually wears fancy aprons and summer walking dresses with decorative parasols to a harvest?

Secondly, Halona now had to deal with those same cousins constantly flirting with the handsomest man on the farm – Adam Thorpe. But what really irked Halona the most was her fear of romantic feelings sparking between Adam and one of her cousins. Even though he claimed he wasn’t the marrying kind, he could legally marry one of them if he ever changed his mind.

Thirdly, after tossing and turning every night since they kissed at the waterfall, Halona finally admitted to herself that she was in love with Adam. Deeply and unequivocally in love with him. So much so that she’d actually counted down the hours until she could see him again. Everything had just happened so fast. Too fast.

By the last meal break of that blistering day, Halona felt rung out like a wet towel. She’d never been this tired before. Yet it wasn’t just a physical tiredness, it was emotional tiredness, too, that had her feeling so out of sorts today.

Wanting only a fruit and a beverage now, Halona retired to her private spot to rest her mind and body for a while. She also intended to use that time to motivate herself to finish the work day out and not go home early like she really wanted to. The sun wouldn’t set for another three hours or more and she needed to make the most of that time for her harvest’s sake.

Taking a deep breath into her nose and out slowly through her mouth, Halona released some of her tension before taking a hearty bit of her red apple. Unfortunately, as soon as she glanced in the direction of the beverage stand a short distance away, she felt more tension attack her stiff shoulders, causing them to ache all over again. Ileen and Hadley were flirting with Adam again. This time, they were asking him to show them the latest big city dance steps after he finished his meal.

Sure ‘they’ have the energy to dance. They ain’t been in the hot sun working all day, Halona mused as she waited to see what Adam would do.

~~<<>>~~

“Ladies, I must ask you for a rain check. I am not at my best at this moment and would not do the lovely people of New York City justice right now,” Adam said. As he took another long swig of lemonade, he marveled at the vast differences between Halona and her two cousins.

Adam had plenty of reason to marvel. Not only did the Ackerman sisters look differently from their dark-haired cousin with their blond hair and blue eyes, they acted differently also. Halona was more serious, whereas her cousins were two flibberty-jibbets who had absolutely no clue what the real world was all about.

“Ooo…” the Ackerman sisters squealed simultaneously once they discovered where Adam was from.

“You’re actually from New York City?” said Ileen, the younger and the bolder of the two sisters.

“Yes,” was Adam’s polite answer.

“What did you do in New York City?” Hadley asked, her eyes eager and lit with interest.

“I practiced law,” Adam replied, starting with the truth before throwing a well formulated lie in the mix. “But just like your uncle, I came out west for a different kind of life. I needed a change of pace.”

“Ooo…a lawyer. How prestigious,” Ileen practically cooed. “Are you planning to settle down in Miskito after the harvest?”

Hadley wrinkled her nose in distaste and interjected her two cents worth. “Oh, please don’t do that. This town doesn’t have enough culture for a man like yourself. You should consider coming to North Platte. It’s brimming with all sorts of social activities. Buffalo Bill has a home near there and even staged his Old Glory B blowout rodeo there four years ago. We also have an opera house which is owned and operated by our father.” When Hadley said ‘our father’ she pointed conceitedly to herself and her sister.

“Actually, I kind of like Miskito. It has a lot of potential,” Adam replied truthfully as he turned to look in Halona’s direction. When he encountered her stormy expression, it was obvious that she was not happy with him or her two cousins right now. It was also obvious that she’d overheard their conversation since the attention-hog Ackerman sisters were a bit on the loud side.

Deciding that it was better to stay in Halona’s good graces than her cousins, Adam stood to his feet and politely excused himself from his present company. Not only had his research revealed that the Ackerman sisters and their father were basically penniless without Halona’s monthly support, he also didn’t care to continue long conversations about things that ceased to be meaningful to him since his arrival in Miskito.

“Do you have to go?” Ileen whined, truly sounding younger than her current age of twenty as she reached for his left arm to hinder his departure.

Adam fought not to wince at the immature young lady who needed a generous dose of reality to set her straight. Then deciding not to give Ileen that dosage right now by outright rejecting her efforts to dominate his attention, he pasted a smile on his face and freed his arm with a discreet tug downward.

“Yes, I have a few things to discuss with my boss,” Adam replied with finality as he placed his now empty cup and plate in the steel washtub near the beverage stand. Then without another word to either sister, he turned to leave.

Adam soon forgot about the whole encounter as his mind became completely focused on Halona and the little something special he’d been waiting to give her all day.

~~<<>>~~

Seeing Adam coming her way, Halona steadfastly drained her face of all emotion. Yet she could still feel the frown lines from where she’d been practically scowling at him and her cousins. She hoped no one else had noticed.

Oh, am I kidding? Halona mused. No doubt everyone, who had noticed the interaction between her loudmouth cousins and Adam, had also noticed Halona’s reaction to that encounter.

On top of all that, Halona had had to deal with Marilu hinting about how wonderful it would be for her to find a man like Adam all day. And Elnora, who’d successfully avoided a sisterly spat the other night by saying all the right words, had showed up at the noon meal and repeated those same words today.

‘Adam is just as sweet on you as you are on him. And he don’t seem to give a hoot about your complexion or even about the fact that you are his grouchy boss,’ Elnora had boldly said. Her eyes had dared Halona to deny the obvious.

Yet Halona hadn’t been able to deny the obvious then and she couldn’t now. She’d also noticed those things about Adam and they thrilled her. They also scared the jelly out of her bread since those very same things made her feel so vulnerable inside. And that was just two of many emotions she felt concerning Adam on a daily basis. However, the emotion that was most in control now was jealousy.

Despite herself, Halona was downright jealous of her cousins’ interest in Adam. She wanted to be the one flirting with him about carefree things. She wanted to be the one gathering information about his pre-Nebraska life. In short, she wanted to be the one. And suddenly Adam was standing in front of Halona, available for her to do and be all those things.

“May I sit with you for a bit, Miss Halona,” Adam asked.

“What for? You seem to have had more than enough company already.” Now why did I say that? Halona mused, feeling as if she’d thoroughly put her size seven shoe in her mouth for real this time.

Then determined not to act like her cousins and start talking and acting like a silly goose because a handsome man was around, Halona quickly tried to get said foot out of her mouth. “I was just getting up anyway,” she amended as she got up and walked a short distance away from her usual spot.

She’s jealous, Adam deduced with pleasure as he followed her out of ear range of others. Now they stood closer to the field stables where the employees’ horses and wagons were kept.

“Why are you following me, Adam?” Halona asked, looking thoroughly irritated now.

“To let you know that the company I had was not the company that I truly desired,” Adam replied, meeting Halona’s stony gaze head-on. The fire leaping in her eyes excited him immensely. For a moment, he lost all focus as the stirring in his loins shot to his heart and danced a happy jig. He’d felt that heart stirring on several other occasions and hadn’t known what it was. Now Adam was pretty sure that it was love.

Adam Thorpe in love…imagine that, he mused in a cloud of wonder.

Halona’s cheeks flushed crimson at his words. “Uh…is there anything else that you want, Adam?” She licked her lips and swallowed over a dry throat, unaware of the affect she was having on the man before her.

After following the path of Halona’s tongue and feeling the heat of her actions clear down to his toes, Adam lowered his voice so that only the two of them could hear. “Yes, there is. I want to taste your lips again, Sakari. I want you to taste mine. I want you to put your hands upon me again and make me shudder from your tender caress. I want to do the same to you.”

If Adam had ever spoken an ounce of truth in his life, this was it. And if Halona fired him right here on the spot, he’d go away with a smile on his face knowing that the rush of desire in her ebony eyes was as a direct result of his confession.

Halona swallowed again and turned her gaze away. She was starting to feel all tingly again. Surprisingly, she also felt as if she could work another twelve hours because the man before her had just stimulated and invigorated every cell in her body.

“We can not,” Halona said a bit on the husky side as she looked anxiously around to see if anyone had heard Adam’s confession. Fortunately, no one had. Many were looking their way, but none could hear their hushed tones.

“Of course not here, but later at the waterfall perhaps.” Adam honestly wanted to stop everything and go there now as love and desire swirled together and created a fantastic blend within him.

Halona was so tempted to agree to that insanity, but she did not. “We can not here, there or anywhere else, Adam. My virtue will not be compromised. As you well know, kisses can lead to other things. They almost did the other night.”

“My intent was not to compromise you in any way that night,” Adam replied. Yet inwardly he knew that that’s exactly what would have happened if they’d continued to kiss. Adam would not have been content to just stop at Halona’s lips. He wouldn’t have been satisfied until they both were in the most primal of states and basking in the aftermath of ecstasy.

“Be that as it may, we can not put ourselves in that kind of situation again. I will not allow it.” Halona was determined to be the voice of reason. This could go no further, despite their obvious attraction to one another.

Suddenly Adam abandoned all wayward plans concerning Halona as overwhelming love for her flooded and took control of his heart. What he was currently feeling had nothing to do with his father, his future business, or even satisfying his flesh. Adam wanted Halona for his heart’s sake now.

“Sakari, hear this and hear this well. You are the boss of my time, and only some of that. You are not the boss of my heart. My heart wants to kiss you again and I will do what’s necessary to satisfy its demands,” Adam said with equal determination.

“You would force yourself upon me? Here? Now?” With one hand holding her cup and the other her fruit, Halona stood akimbo style in challenge. Her eyes dared Adam to try such a thing at the risk of getting pumped full of buckshot. Fortunately, her voice was still too low for others to know what she was saying. Yet that didn’t stop several nosy people from staring and straining their ears to hear anyway.

“There will be no force involved. You will be just as willing as you were the first time. As for when, I wouldn’t dare dishonor you in front of others, particularly your employees. No, when we taste of each other’s lips again, it will be a private moment between you and me. In the meantime, I made something for you,” Adam replied with finality as he pulled a piece of folded parchment from his right trouser pocket.

Then after placing the unexpected gift in Halona’s fruit hand, Adam turned around and walked off, leaving her glaring after him with an open mouth and a tingling body.

When, he said. Not if, Halona mused, noting how sure Adam had been about the possibility of them kissing again. She wished she was that sure about them. Yet no matter how much her head protested their relationship, her heart still craved Adam like biscuits craved gravy.

Then careful to keep her back turned to others, Halona placed her half-eaten fruit in her cup and slowly unfolded the parchment. Suddenly the tingles in her body quadrupled when she saw that the goat skin contained a drawing of two people kissing under a waterfall. What a reminder!

© 2006 Suprina Frazier

Kin to the Saboteur - Ch. 12

Adam followed Elnora’s directions to the letter and soon he was upon an undiscovered natural wonder. Was this natural wonder the eighty foot cascade of water flowing over stair-like rock formations into a crystal clear pool below? A pool that was illuminated by the rays of the setting sun pouring through the elevated gaps in the rocks on the west side of the cave. No, the natural wonder Adam had in mind was the beautiful naked woman swimming in that clear pool.

Feeling his heart and loins stir simultaneously at such a sight, Adam was grateful that he’d thought to leave his horse several yards away from the cave-like enclosure. He wouldn’t have wanted to disturb the bathing beauty for anything. Yes, Halona’s build was slender and athletic with defined muscles in her arms and legs. Yet it still looked full and so womanly soft, especially with her generous bust, slender waist and shapely bottom. And she was only olive-skinned where the sun didn’t shine. Everything else was a nice deep bronze color.

Standing behind the large boulder on the left, opposite the one that Halona’s clothes rested upon to his right, Adam observed the swimming woman in silence. He watched as Halona took several leisurely laps across the width of the pool which had to be at least six feet deep. The spray of the falls made the whole area feel cool and refreshing. He could only imagine what the water felt like.

Deciding that he wanted to find out, Adam began to quickly and quietly shed his clothes and put them on the boulder he stood behind. The whole time his eyes stayed glued to Halona’s swimming form.

Meanwhile in the water, Halona continued to try to swim out her frustration and fear. She’d long wondered what kind of man would finally accept her challenge and actually win. Now she knew. His name was Adam.

Adam had hair like the richest red clay Halona had ever seen. Sweet, honey-brown eyes that could attract any bee. And for all of his citified talk, Adam worked like he’d been born and raised on a farm. He was always helpful to others and he never complained no matter how hot or tiring the day became.

But what did Halona do when she came face to face with this unusual man who wasn’t ashamed to arm wrestle a woman and do everything he could to win? She high-tailed it and run like a coward, unable to face her destiny.

I never thought myself to be yellow, Halona mused with lingering anger. She was mad as a wet hen at herself. She was also angry about the fact that she was falling for a man she could never have. With all those freckles Adam had to be a full-blooded white man.

Suddenly all of Halona’s thoughts were driven completely away as something splashed in the water to her right. Knowing that distance would be her greatest friend at a time like this, the country heiress kicked off with her legs to put some space between her and the unknown intruder. When she was in shallower water, she stood upon her feet. Then drawing one hand up to hide her bosom, while she snatched the other hand below to hide her lower paradise, Halona prepared to quickly back out of the pool just as the intruder’s head resurfaced.

“Wait, Sakari!” Adam called out as he swiped water from his eyes. When he could see clearer, his eyes widened with pleasure.

Halona stopped moving at the sound of her middle name. “Adam?! What are you doing here? And turn around!” she barked, quickly realizing what he was gawking at.

Adam did as she requested, even though he’d already committed her curves to memory while watching her in silence a few minutes ago. No doubt the image of those curves would visit him in his waking and sleeping hours from now on, and Adam had no problem with that at all.

“I mean you no harm, Miss Halona. The water looked so inviting after that long hot ride from town and I thought I might cool off a bit, too,” Adam explained.

“But how did you get here? This place is virtually unknown.” Halona quickly backed the rest of the way out of the pool. As for committing things to memory, she would never forget Adam’s wide shoulders or that hairy muscular chest that looked like it was etched in stone. Despite herself, Halona wanted to touch it to see if it was truly as hard as it looked.

“I could say that I followed you, but the truth of the matter is a caring friend shared my concern for your welfare after that arm-wrestling defeat and told me where to find you,” Adam confessed.

“Remind me to sock Elnora real good,” Halona muttered as she began to rapidly dry herself behind the large boulder. They hadn’t had a catfight in years. Maybe it was time for them both to lose a bit of hair. At least that’s what happened the last time Halona and Elnora fought.

“What’s that?” Adam asked over his shoulder. He hadn’t been able to make out her last comment.

“Nothing, just reminding myself to thank Elnora for her concern, that’s all,” Halona replied with a gleam of revenge in her eyes. As she spoke, she deftly moved the white towel she’d brought along earlier over the bulk of her body. When her body was dry enough, she wrapped the towel about her wet hair turban style and started to re-dress.

Adam nodded. “Yes, she’s quite a friend.”

“Yeah, quite a friend,” Halona recited, buttoning her dress up with hasty fingers. The only things left to put back on were her boots. Then after practically slamming sand-covered toes into those boots, Halona gave Adam the okay to face her again. “You can turn back around now.”

“Thanks.” Adam did as she requested and began to move towards the shore.

Upon seeing his hairy muscular torso give way to narrow hips that didn’t appear to be covered with anything beyond them, Halona slammed her eyes shut and stuck out her right hand. “Stop right there, mister! Do you have on anything underneath that water?”

Adam didn’t move a step further. “No, but neither did you for that matter. I assumed that that’s how you all swam out west. I didn’t want to offend you with my eastern ways.”

Watching Halona blush was just too good for Adam to disclose that he’d kept his custom-made, flesh-colored breeches on and that they’d only dropped just a tad lower in the water. In reality, he was more decent than she’d been just a few minutes ago.

Halona’s cheeks rushed with color. “I only swim in the buff when no one else is around. I would never show that much of my body to anyone.”

“Not even to your own husband?” Adam surprised even himself with that question since marriage to Halona was definitely out of the question. He knew that even if he did marry the country heiress and gained access to her land and her finances, which would satisfy his father and provide the backing for his publishing company, he would have to do so at the expense of revealing the other half of his heritage.

The release of that information could prove brutal to Adam’s law practice in New York and to his future business. The northeast was certainly more progressive than many other parts of the country and even had fewer miscegenation laws, but there was still a racial barrier to contend with.

Halona’s eyes snapped open and her tone grew formal and terse. “Husband? Wh…what exactly are you proposing, Mr. Thorpe? Seeing as a marriage between us could prove to be null and void in many states, including this one.”

Halona had been taught a lot about the law from her father and knew not to get her hopes up at all concerning a union with an all-white man in this country with its constantly changing legal system. At present there were only seven states without miscegenation laws and most of them were in the northeast with Minnesota and Wisconsin as the exceptions.

And although the majority of Miskito residents knew that Halona was of Indian’s descent, some secretly speculated that she had a bit of Negro in her, as well. They based that belief upon how brown she got in the summertime, how brown her mother used to be, and the uninhibited marrying practices of her mother’s tribe. That kind of speculation could likely pose a problem in the eyes of the courts. And Halona had neither the time nor the patience to try to prove the specifics of her heritage.

“I’m not proposing anything between us, Miss Ackerman,” Adam replied, just as formally. “However, I was speaking of the man in your future. Would you deny him the right to see as much of your beautiful body as he liked?” he added, taking a step further. A bold step further, considering his current state of undress. Adam might not be able to marry Halona Ackerman, but he would make her want him so badly that she would be willing to sign over whatever he asked for.

“My future husband would be the only exception.” Although everything in Halona wanted to close her eyes and relish the fact that he’d called her beautiful, she did not act on that urge. Nor would she close her eyes out of modesty this time, either. Not when she saw the unspoken challenge in Adam’s eyes, the challenge that dared her to look away again.

Halona would not concede defeat in this particular contest of wills. And to prove it, she began to allow her eyes to travel upon Adam’s frame at leisure. She even went so far as to light one of the lanterns that she kept in the sand between the boulders for her nighttime swims now that the sun had finally set. Halona suppressed a sigh of relief when she discovered that Adam had kept his unique breeches on. Yet when her gaze traveled back up to his honey-brown pools, only an open dare could be seen in her ebony eyes.

Observing the return challenge from Halona and her bold act of lighting the lantern for a better look-see at his frame, Adam ventured even further. Despite the fact that he moved at a snail’s pace, his pulse was racing with excitement. He’d never met a feisty woman like Halona in his life and everything she did seemed to stir fierce things within him. Things that Adam wanted to explore to the fullest...right now.

“Lucky man to be privileged to all that I’ve seen today,” Adam said, intent on fanning the flames between them any way he could as he inched even closer to her.

“And your future missus will be lucky to see all that I’m seeing right now,” Halona countered as her eyes traveled downward again, beyond his hips to his soaked breeches. Although she could not hide the blush in her cheeks at seeing parts of him that only a wife should, she did lower the lantern away from her face before it turned really red.

Didn’t the cold water have ‘any’ effect on him? Halona mused, unable to forget what she’d just seen. If only she’d kept her eyes above his neck.

Adam chuckled as he finally closed the distance between them. “Unfortunately, I have no desire to ever marry. However, if I were to marry, I would hope that my missus looked half as beautiful as you.”

Beautiful, there was that word again. Halona had never been called that word twice in one day. She was starting to feel all mushy inside, yet her chin stayed firm and high as she met Adam’s gaze. In the distance the sound of fireworks could be heard.

“Mr. Thorpe, it appears that we are missing the fireworks,” Halona said, trying to change the subject as she bent to place the lantern back down in the sand. She hated that her words had come out a bit on the breathless side just then.

“No, we are not,” Adam replied, reaching for Halona’s hands and pulling her upright again. The electricity sparking between them was enough to light up the whole city of Miskito.

“Adam…” Halona protested weakly, right before he lowered his head and claimed her mouth in a hungry kiss.

Lip met lip, tongue met tongue and soon loud moans of animalistic pleasure could be heard echoing in the small cave as Adam and Halona began to satisfy weeks of suppressed passion. Each flicker, each suckle, each delicious smack increased the intensity of the moment and weakened even the strongest resolve.

Then conceding defeat for the second time that day, Halona surrendered to the urge to roam Adam’s wet hair. The feel of his auburn locks between her fingertips was like an aphrodisiac, arousing and escalating her desire, making her want to touch even more of him. And she did. Halona’s bold hands moved downward from Adam’s head to his neck and on to that magnificent hairy chest of his. It did her heart good when a powerful shudder rocked his body, and not from the cool air hitting his damp skin, either.

Adam kissed Halona long and deep, intent on leaving a brand on her very soul. She would remember him after this summer was over. She would remember him well. Adam would see to it that she yearned for him even after she’d married the man that destiny had for her.

Extending his kisses to her neck and collarbone, the exploring man sought to taste where no man had tasted before. Despite Halona’s unusual ways, Adam suspected that she was just like most other respectable women in the west and was saving herself for marriage. And although he felt like a cad for thinking this way, Adam found that he wanted to be the man to claim Halona’s virginity. To slide endless kisses up and down her satin skin, to see her eyes flutter with passion, and feel her quiver with ecstasy as he rocked her fervently with his desire.

Suddenly, like the fireworks going off in the distance, fireworks began to go off in Halona’s mind even as she pressed her body that much closer to Adam’s. She couldn’t allow herself to continue kissing a man in a secluded place like this. A half-naked man at that. She was already a social outcast. If the wrong people learned of this encounter, no decent man of any color would marry her. Then where would that leave Halona? Childless and even more alone?

Snatching away from Adam, Halona’s rising anger caused her to soundly slap his left cheek in reprimand. “Do not take such liberties with me again, Mr. Thorpe. I am not only your employer; I am also a respectable woman. Furthermore, I am no night crawler that takes pleasure in slipping into strange men’s beds.”

Wanting to remind Halona so badly that she was a willing participant in their little tryst, Adam ignored that inclination and his stinging cheek for the greater good. He intended to get what he came out here for and then go home and start his company. Yet he could only do it with Halona’s cooperation. As a result, he had to continue to play nice.

“My apologizes, Miss Ackerman. I had no right to take such liberties with you. I will pick up my last wages on Friday,” Adam replied, moving further away from her, towards the boulder that held his clothes. If resigning his position didn’t put him back in good graces with Halona again, he didn’t know what would.

“No!” Halona said quickly, too quickly and too loudly. Somehow the thought of Adam leaving her in any way produced a level of pain. That pain showed up in her anguished tone.

Adam paused from putting on his white shirt. “Ma’am?” A puzzled look was upon his face, yet his heart was beating with joy from the implications of her sorrowful response to his resignation. Could it be that Halona didn’t want him to leave, either?

Taking a moment to clear her throat, regain her composure, and lower her voice, Halona expounded on her previous statement. “What I meant to say was that there is no need for you to quit your job. After all, I did kiss you back and I kind of took certain liberties of my own.” Her fingers were still tingling from the contact with his hairy chest. “I figure if you can forgive me of my part, then I can forgive you of your part.”

Adam smiled and returned to buttoning up his white shirt. “All is forgiven, Miss Ackerman.”

Halona felt relief like no other as she smiled in return and picked up her well-concealed weapon housed in a chasm of the largest boulder. “It’s Miss Halona to all of my workers,” she reminded Adam as she made her way towards the mouth of the cave. “Just remember to dull the lantern when you’re done,” she added, before exiting the cave altogether.

“Yes, ma’am, Miss Halona.” As he watched her leave, Adam felt his smile slowly turn into a wide grin. He also felt a strange, unfamiliar stirring in his heart.

~~<<>>~~

Sheriff Birch sat in his office the day after the Fourth of July celebration, meditating over the results of today’s questioning. Starting from the day after the rattlers had been found on the Ackerman farmland until now; Hezekiah had questioned each of Halona’s employees, one by one, as their schedules allowed. The last interview had been with Adam and it had been very interesting. Also very informative.

Hezekiah had been almost reluctant to question Adam at all. After all, the man hadn’t been in Miskito long enough to have started those accidents on the Ackerman farm. However, based on what he’d learned about Adam today he was so glad that he had interviewed him.

Although it was clear that Adam didn’t have any negative feelings towards Halona, it was also clear that he had a plethora of positive ones for her. In fact, if Hezekiah didn’t know any better he’d say that the auburn-haired man was in love with Miss Ackerman. Every time Halona’s name had been mentioned today, Adam got this sick puppy dog look in his eyes and he couldn’t seem to stop smiling.

No doubt about it. That man is definitely in love with Halona Ackerman, Hezekiah mused as he crossed Adam’s name off of his suspect list. Now there were only two suspects left. One was a suspect because he came into Halona’s life around the same time the accidents started to occur. The other, although reformed now, was a suspect due to his troubled past and tendencies towards unhealthy pursuits of money.

© 2006 Suprina Frazier

Kin to the Saboteur - Ch. 11

On the Fourth of July, the city of Miskito had a grand celebration like many of its neighboring cities. There was plenty of food, music, and lots of activities in the immaculately kept town park. One of those activities was arm wrestling. So far, the only people participating in the arm wrestling contests were men. That soon changed when Halona Ackerman came to the park an hour before sunset.

Choosing not to fellowship with people who constantly used these types of occasions to pull her aside and petition her for money, Halona had deliberately stayed away from the festivities until close to the very end. Ironically, she didn’t mind fellowshipping with the same people on Sundays since they all respected the Lord’s Day and sent their petitions heavenward instead.

On the outside Miss Ackerman looked like any other modest woman in her midnight-blue dress with its white lace at the collar and the lower sleeves. Yet with her long straight black hair rebelliously not sporting a bonnet like the other women around her, and her ebony eyes flashing challenge at the men around her, Halona looked like a firecat.

The other men surrounding Halona politely bowed out of the challenge. Many didn’t want to deal with the possibility of losing to a woman in so public a place. Some of them had already suffered that humiliation in previous years and didn’t want a repeat performance.

Adam readily stepped forward. He wasn’t afraid of rising to any challenge, least of all to this challenge. Besides, he desperately wanted to touch some part of Halona’s smooth deep bronze skin. Especially since he hadn’t seen her all day.

Positioning his elbow and forearm in the required manner on the wooden block between them, Adam mentally geared up for this test of will and strength. Little did he know that this was Halona’s private test to see which man in town was actually husband material for her. The fellow first had to be man enough to accept the challenge. Secondly, he had to honestly beat her at arm wrestling. Finally, he had to be of mixed descent since that would make the legalities of their marriage that much smoother.

Each year since her father died there had been fewer and fewer takers. The last one had been Griffin Haines and Halona had derived great pleasure from beating him at something for the second time in her life. The first time had been in a school yard fight, surrounded by all of their classmates from age four to sixteen. Griffin had been bigger and stronger, but Halona had been wiser and quicker, and thus had obtained the victory.

Today Halona had a different opponent. Adam was bigger and stronger, too. Certainly man enough to accept a challenge from a woman. However, he didn’t look mixed with anything but white on top of white with all that fiery auburn hair and those adorable freckles.

Halona’s brows only rose slightly at her confident opponent as she took a seat on a wooden crate across from Adam. “I expect you to put your all into it, Mr. Thorpe. Do not consider my gender at all,” she said, speaking to him in a formal tone.

Adam smiled. “I put my all into everything I do, Miss Ackerman,” he replied just as formally. “And even though your gender is pretty hard to ignore in such a lovely dress, I will not let it affect me in this matter,” he added, briefly perusing her frame in appreciation.

Halona smirked in challenge, despite the tingles brought about from the way Adam had caressed her with his eyes. “See that you don’t, Mr. Thorpe,” she replied curtly, pretending to ignore his compliment. Now if she could only stopped tingling she would be all right.

Then at the sound of the mediator’s (Sheriff Birch’s) ‘Ready’ command, all of the new opponents grasped hands across the wooden blocks that they were stationed at. Two sets of opponents were on Halona and Adam’s left and two other sets were on their right. The Thorpe and Ackerman match was at the center block.

Then at the issuance of Sheriff Birch’s ‘Go’ command and corresponding one-shot fired in the air, all of the opponents began to go for what they knew. At first Halona showed all the signs of winning as her fingers tightened around Adam’s and the strength in her right arm propelled his downward. The whole time she gazed into his warm honey-brown eyes, waiting to see the moment he recognized he was defeated.

Meanwhile, a crowd began to gather around the center block, making Adam and Halona truly the center of attention now. One very interested person in the crowd was Griffin Haines, the owner of The Miskito Buzz - the same newspaper that often reported more gossip than news in its pages.

Griffin wanted to see Halona defeated. Yet he wanted to be the person to do it. Perhaps after she got through arm wrestling the red-haired fellow, he’d give it another shot. Griffin’s ego had since healed up from the last time and he was ready for a rematch. As a result, he secretly routed for Halona to win.

Unbeknownst to Griffin, Adam would not give Halona or anyone else the satisfaction of seeing him lose today. In fact, he did everything he could to win. Adam didn’t consider Halona’s gender, his attraction to her, or the main reason he’d sought her out in the first place as he concentrated on obtaining the victory.

Halona was equally focused as she used every trick she could think of to win. She utilized tried and true pressure points to weaken Adam’s grasp, but that didn’t work. She tilted her wrist just a bit to add more force behind her downward push, yet that didn’t work, either. Now feeling the sweat of exertion bead upon her forehead, Halona prepared herself for the worst as her arm was slowly but surely lowered in the direction of defeat.

As soon as her wrist hit the block, Halona snatched her hand away from Adam as if she’d just been burnt by a firebrand. She stood abruptly to her feet with a face as stormy as a rain cloud. Yet behind Halona’s anger, and larking only for a brief moment in her eyes, was a touch of fear.

“You were a worthy opponent, Mr. Thorpe,” Halona squeezed out, before turning on her heels and disappearing into the crowd that had gathered to watch the intense center match. She would not be arm wrestling anyone else today.

Nodding, Adam stood to his feet as well. He’d wanted to say a few words of consolation to his opponent, but she’d departed so fast and a throng of onlookers had already surrounded him in congratulations. After graciously accepting his accolades and turning down matches from men who’d been too cowardly to accept the challenge of the town’s number one benefactor, Adam set out in search of Halona. He’d seen the flash of fear in her eyes and had been deeply disturbed by it.

Quickly perusing the immediate area for Halona, Adam soon discovered that she had left the scene altogether. There was no sign of her or her carriage anywhere. Halfway to the hitching post where his horse awaited him, Adam was approached by Halona’s best friend.

“She’s at her waterfall,” Elnora whispered, not above playing matchmaker. She’d seen the way Adam and Halona looked at one another during the match and whenever she visited the fields. Plus, Elnora knew about Halona’s arm wrestling test and suspected that her friend had run off scared after being confronted with her potential life-mate.

“Waterfall? I didn’t know waterfalls were in this area?” Adam replied, untying Cimarron’s reins from the heavy hitching post. He’d heard about other waterfalls in Nebraska, but there hadn’t been any mention of one being located in Miskito.

“It’s her private waterfall. No one knows where it is but me, her, and our parents,” Elnora said in that continuously low tone. Then she began to give him the exact location.

When Adam saddled up and left with those discreet directions, Elnora smiled secretly to herself and turned to go find Napoleon before the first firework lit up the sky. In her heart, Elnora prayed that Adam would be the man to fill the bill for Halona in every respect that she needed.

~~<<>>~~

Meanwhile, Griffin Haines made his way down the street to the building that housed his newspaper. He needed a quiet place to think, away from the crowd. What did Griffin have to think so hard about today? Simply put – he had to ponder about Halona’s interaction with her opponent and how affected she’d been by the red-haired man.

Although Griffin doubted if Halona would ever deliberately throw a fight, he’d clearly seen how she was defeated long before her wrist ever hit the block. The more she’d looked in that man’s eyes, the more it was obvious that she had a weakness for him. There was undeniable chemistry between Halona and Adam and anyone who’d observed them as closely as Griffin had today would have surely seen it.

Griffin’s only comfort was the fact that Adam looked even whiter than him and thus would not be suitable husband material for Halona, either. And even if Adam did fit the bill, the newspaperman would be the first to stand up in court and accuse Halona of having Negro blood in her to stop such a union. After all, the progressive mixed tribe that Halona’s mother belonged to was known for marrying beyond color lines.

With that burden off his mind, Griffin unlocked the door to his office and prepared to write the first fruits of next week’s publication. He’d seen and heard a lot on this humid Independence Day and couldn’t wait to comment on it. Next week’s front page headline: ‘Man Finally Puts Ackerman Beauty In Her Place’.

© 2006 Suprina Frazier

Kin to the Saboteur - Ch. 10

“Henry, I’ll be glad to help you and your missus take your eggs into the store,” Adam volunteered as he got down from the Colbert’s wagon on that bright, cloudless Saturday morning.

Yesterday’s sporadic showers had given way to a steady downpour last night. As a result, Adam was careful not to step in any puddles or thick mud spots as he walked towards the back of the Colberts’ wagon to be of assistance.

Adam was willing to be of as much help as possible to the couple who’d opened their home up to him for the duration of the harvest. From Henry, he’d learned that the only way to have a friend is to be one. Yet up until he came here, Adam hadn’t wanted to be anyone’s friend, just their associate since no emotional involvement had to occur that way. But things were different now.

Things were so different now that Adam was actually going to church with the Colberts every Sunday that the weather allowed. Henry’s wife, Evie, had a lot to do with that since her most important rule in the house was that everyone who slept there had to attend church with her. As a result of attending worship services on a regular basis, the voice of Adam’s conscience was growing louder and louder, slowly but surely every day.

After this stop at the general store, Adam was going to unhitch his horse from the wagon and mosey on up to Plum Creek (later to be renamed Lexington) in order to mail the usual bi-weekly letter to his father. The latest article he’d written for the Tribune would be mailed from the post office in Miskito since he didn’t mind Pastor Maguire - who was also the town’s postmaster and postman, knowing about that particular piece of correspondence.

“Thank you much, Adam. I believe we will take that help,” Henry replied as he made his way around to the back of the wagon, too. His wife and eldest son were already back there. They’d been sitting in between several crates of fresh eggs, keeping them steady on the rocky ride from their house to the Ackerman General Store - which conveniently used the barter system as well as transacted with money.

Like her other two children that had been left at a neighbor’s house, Evie Colbert hadn’t wanted to leave the eggs unattended. They got good money from their side business of raising chickens and selling eggs and she didn’t want to jeopardize their maximum profit. Besides, Evie had wanted to give her husband a good chance to fellowship with his newest friend up front.

“You’re just a sweetheart for helping us, Adam,” Evie said as her husband courteously helped her down from the wagon. “And if you don’t mind me asking, why ain’t you married yet?” Now on her feet, Evie straightened out the front pleats in her brown and white checkered dress. She believed in looking her best on Sundays and before going to talk business.

“I don’t want to be married. Some men are meant to be bachelors. I’m one of them.” Adam took the first crate down from the wagon and sat it on the ground beside the stairs to the general store, out of the main walking area.

“You think so, huh?” Evie inquired with a twinkle in her beautiful nut-brown eyes. “Well, I think you just ain’t found the right woman yet. But you just might find her in Miskito,” she added with finality. Then without another word to either man, Evie turned to walk up the stairs and left all the toting to the menfolk.

Adam turned to Henry with a smile of amusement on his face. “Not one to mince words, is she?”

Henry nodded. His smile was just as wide. “The missus don’t believe in chewing the fat. Just likes to get to the meat of things, if you know what I mean,” Henry replied, handing off a crate to his son.

“I bet that’s why you love her, too.” Adam lifted another crate from the back of the wagon and prepared to stack it near the stairs with the rest. Once they were all stacked, the three males would take them inside of the store. No doubt Evie was already talking up on the transaction right now and would have the whole lot sold before they even finished being unloaded.

“Sho’ nuff.” Henry chuckled.

Just then, two adolescent boys in cut-off shorts and dingy sleeveless shirts came running out of the store with candy in one hand and sling shots in the other. Adam swerved to avoid colliding with them.

“Whoa there, boys. Watch your step,” Henry admonished, fearful that they would trip and fall. He didn’t want the lads hurt no more than he wanted his supply destroyed.

One of the boys, the sandy-haired lad, turned around and faced Henry with stormy blue eyes. “We ain’t no boys! My papa says the word boy is for yo kind.”

Henry and his son bristled at the way in which the lad had taken such an innocent word and changed it to mean something bad. Although life out west was far better for the Negro after the Civil War than any other part of the country, prejudice and racism always seemed to follow them via narrow-minded non-black settlers.

Many Exodusters like the Colberts had experienced the same things. They’d all had to learn how to deal with this additional psychological burden while adjusting to their new lives. Even still, it was a wonder that there hadn’t been more ‘Turnarounds’ and ‘Go-backs’ than there were.

Yet before either Henry or his son could speak, a red-faced Adam was already coming to their defense. “You are indeed boys, boys,” Adam said, putting extra emphasis on the word. He put the crate in his hands down and stood akimbo style, towering over and glaring at the now frightened two lads.

“Tell your papa that according to Noah Webster and his competitor Joseph Emerson Worcester, a boy is a male child or youth. Mr. Colbert is neither and should be respected as the upstanding man that he is. Do I make myself clear, boys?” Adam continued.

“Yes, sir,” the two lads echoed, thoroughly reprimanded by the glowering freckle-faced man.

“All right then. Now apologize to Mr. Colbert and be on your way,” Adam demanded, his face slowly returning to its normal hue.

“Sorry, Mr. Colbert,” the two lads said. Then eager to get away from the angry red-haired man, the two boys took off running in the opposite direction.

Then while Henry thanked Adam for his intervention, neither man noticed that their little altercation with the wayward Miskito lads had been witnessed by someone from inside the store. A very angry someone.

~~<<>>~~

Halona, who happened to be at the general store this morning, making sure that the orphanage had their regular weekly provisions, had seen the whole thing. While Evie had been at the counter talking business with Elnora, Halona had been perusing the list Mrs. Cable submitted. After approving the list, she’d been on her way home when she heard the two rude little boys outside. The same two little boys that she’d just given free candy to.

They better enjoy it, because they will never get another piece of free candy from this store, Halona mused. Then she turned around to go whisper that notion to Napoleon, the co-manager of the store. She would not reward prejudice, even if it came in small packages.

Then as Halona motioned for Napoleon to come closer for a brief and very discreet consultation, she thought about Adam’s reaction to the rude lads. He’d looked as if he was personally offended by the things that were said. She’d never seen a white man act like that before and she pondered over it. Halona continued to ponder over it for some time.

~~<<>>~~

Adam sat on the Colbert’s wide front porch much later that steamy evening, talking to his new friend. He’d done his business up in Plum Creek and come directly back after giving his horse a chance to get his wind, a few oats, and enough water to quench his thirst. Cimarron hadn’t been the only one that needed his thirst quenched on that hot day. Adam had repeatedly used his flask all the way back to Miskito today.

Unfortunately, it was still hot even though the sun had set. Now it was actually hotter in the house than it was outside, making it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. As a result, Henry paused from their conversation long enough to hang a wet sheet in the open doorway of the house. The sheet was down in a tub of water so that the moisture could keep coming up and hopefully cool the house down faster.

Henry’s two sons were already in their long nightshirts and had made themselves a tent on a grassy area in the yard. His daughter was in the house with Evie, possibly lying on a pallet on the front room floor. Henry would later join his wife and daughter in the house. As for Adam…he was scheduled to make a tent outside near the boys.

Adam never thought sleeping under the stars would be fun. But having already done it for two nights this week, he found it to be very relaxing. In fact, he was surprisingly starting to prefer the simple life over big city life. The only thing he truly missed was indoor plumbing.

“So Mrs. Bridges used to be Miss Halona’s caregiver, but now she’s her cook?” Adam asked as Henry came back on the porch and returned to his rocking chair. Adam sat on the top stair, scribbling on a piece of parchment since drawing always helped to relax him.

“Something like that,” Henry replied, getting comfortable on the quilted cushion his wife had sown for his sitting pleasure. “But to say it rightly, Marilu was really just supposed to be the cook and general help around the Ackerman house. The care giving part came after Mrs. Ackerman died. In a way, Mr. Ackerman and Marilu kinda helped each other take care of one another’s kids. He always had a kind word and a moment of his time for Elnora and Marilu did the same for his child.”

Adam was even more impressed with Halona’s father now. He would have loved for anybody’s father, black or otherwise, to act kindly towards him as a child. And the fact that Gordon Ackerman had built such sturdy and attractive tenant houses for struggling families to live in made him that much more impressive. It was fortunate that the Colberts kept the house so well-maintained, inside and out.

“Both Miss Halona and Elnora were the best dressed kids in school.” Henry chuckled. “But you could hardly tell it with Miss Halona. She was always messing up her dresses by roughhousing with the boys.” Henry had met the Ackermans when he was a teenager. He’d always been tickled pink by the escapades of Gordon’s unique little girl.

Laughing too hard to focus, Adam paused from his drawing. He could just imagine Halona now. Looking like a wild child in fine clothing, no doubt with her long straight black hair tousled all over the place. Possibly a few smudges of dirt on each cheek and her forehead from roughhousing. Then as if anxious to draw what his mind’s eye had just seen, Adam’s skilled hands began to automatically move over the parchment again.

“How is she with the opposite sex now? I haven’t heard a thing about anyone courting her,” Adam inquired, starting to sketch out the face of a little girl with wind blown hair.

“Besides arm wrestling at the Fourth of July picnic, Miss Halona don’t have much to do with men. Too busy she says. My missus seems to think she’s just being picky and rightly so since a lot of wrong fellows would be more attached to Miss Halona’s money than to her.” Henry paused briefly as if he needed a moment to reflect upon the gravity of what he just said.

Then shaking his head as if prompting himself to move on to other things, Henry began to discuss Marilu again. “Anyway, speaking of the picnic, wait ‘til you taste all the preserves Marilu makes every year. From that big orchard the Ackermans got, she cans cherries, plums, apples, currant, and blueberries. And Marilu’s applesauce will make you wanna slap your mama.” Henry chuckled and licked his lips as he rocked back and forth in the same extra rocking chair that had belonged to his now deceased father. The elder Mr. Colbert had died the same year Halona’s father did, yet from natural causes, not foul play.

Adam continued to sketch and laugh. “No wonder Mr. Bridges is a burly fellow. All that good eating.”

“To tell the truth, Jether was thick like that before he ever married Marilu. They only been together for a year, but he ran behind her for two, which was right after he moved to town,” Henry said.

Now ‘that’ I didn’t know, Adam mused. He wondered if Jether was a spy planted by the beef barons since the man had only been in town for three years, the same number of years as the Ackerman calamities. The auburn-haired man wouldn’t put it past his father’s associates to use any willing party to ensnare the Ackerman family. After all, Adam himself was currently on one of the head cattlemen’s payroll.

“What does Mr. Bridges do for Miss Halona again?” Adam asking. He wanted to know more about this relatively recent addition to Halona’s life. His hands continued to move over his parchment.

“Besides helping Marilu with the big garden and the orchard, Jether takes care of the animals on the farm and the repairs around the farmhouse itself. He also keeps Miss Halona’s smokehouse and freezer box stocked up with every part of the cow or hog you could think of. Uses that good old apple wood, too, makes everything in the smokehouse taste extra right. Bacon, salt pork, ham, sausage, roast, all that.” Henry licked his lips again.

Adam couldn’t help but laugh at his friend. It was clear that Henry was a man with a hearty appetite. Unlike Jether, Henry kept his weight down by working for longer periods of time in the fields and by keeping an active lifestyle with his children. Mr. Colbert’s only ailment was those unexpected muscles spasms he got from time to time.

“Maybe I ought to ask Mr. Bridges for his secret to good smoked food,” Adam suggested, determined to ask Jether more than that in an effort to weed out all spies.

“Oh, he’ll tell you right on about everything he does. Never seen a book that open in my life. And like Miss Halona, Jether’s generous to a fault. Shoot, on account of him, all the extra meat he butchers goes to her workers. I heard Jether ask Miss Halona about that myself one day at the general store a couple years past,” Henry replied, being more than forthcoming himself.

As Henry continued to talk, Adam nodded at all the right places even though his mind was taking him elsewhere. His hands had long since stopped drawing. Adam felt guilty sitting here being suspicious of another man when he himself was guilty of spying on Halona. The fact that Henry, Evie, and possibly Jether were such upright people and he was not added to his guilt.

Unable to sit there any longer with that negative feeling clawing at his gut, Adam put his parchment on the porch and stood to his feet. “Does your missus need the furniture section of the Sears and Roebuck catalog? I hear the outhouse calling me.”

“Well, I expect you need to answer that call right away, huh?” Henry chuckled and stood to his feet also. “I’ll go get it directly,” he replied. His heart was still patiently waiting for the day when he would be able to afford a house with indoor plumbing and all the tissue paper he, his family, and their guests could ever want or need.

© 2006 Suprina Frazier

Friday, May 12, 2006

Kin to the Saboteur - Ch. 9

On a sunny afternoon of his third week of employment on the Ackerman farm, Adam was just getting another jug of water from Henry and Evie Colbert’s only daughter when a prairie rattlesnake appeared out of nowhere. The greenish-brown reptile quickly squirmed closer to Mindylee’s left leg and looked intent on biting the child at any hint of movement from her.

Now very comfortable with his weapon thanks to Sheriff Birch’s summer program, Adam swiftly pulled out his Colt six-shooter and blasted the reptile. Yet before he could put the weapon back in the side holster he wore, he had to blast three more. Suddenly all eyes were on Adam. The work of the farm instantly stopped.

Halona quickly rode up at top speed, having heard the first gunshot from her location one field row over. “What is going on here?!” she demanded, bringing her black steed to a halt directly in front of Adam and the frightened little girl.

Mindylee’s cheeks were streaming with tears that soon saturated the white collar of the brown dress she wore. The forgotten water jug lie at her feet, saturating the ground underneath it.

“Rattlesnakes about.” Adam pointed to the dead reptiles. “I dealt with four, but there may be more.” He silently breathed a sigh of relief that he’d thought to freshen up his shooting skills as soon as he came to town. Otherwise, he would not have been such a straight shot when he really needed to be just now.

“I’ll alert the others,” Halona replied, looking at the dead rattlers. Some of them were still squirming and making biting motions with their mouths until the end.

Then quickly lifting Mindylee up and into the saddle with her, Halona turned her horse about and went to warn the rest of the workers. Inwardly, she knew that this was just another tragedy waiting to happen. She had personally checked these fields for any signs of snake dens not more than two days ago and had found nothing. And just yesterday they’d threshed with no problem in the area.

Therefore, someone had to have deliberately let these critters loose in her fields over the last twenty-four hours. The same as someone had deliberately left that small animal trap in a place where Sonny could get hurt, the same as someone had deliberately tried to burn the western portion of her crop back in April. The bottom line was that someone was deliberately trying to ruin Halona.

When Elnora heard about the latest Ackerman incident, she praised God for His continual provision and protection. She saw Adam being so handy with a gun today, Halona being so close to Sonny that she was able to quickly release him from the trap and carry him into town a few weeks ago, and heavenly rain sent just in time to quench April’s fire, as signs of God’s favor and mercy upon the Ackermans.

Although Halona didn’t necessarily disagree with her friend’s assessments, she just didn’t understand why God bestowed mercy in certain areas and at certain times, and not in others. She would have gladly allowed every inch of the property to burn in exchange for one more day with at least one of her loving parents.

After calling an early quitting time today so that they could search the fields for more rattlers, Halona and a small crew of men combed the fields with long sticks in one hand and weapons of choice in the other. Adam was a part of that search team and he proved to be very handy in the necessary extermination process.

By nightfall, they’d found twenty more rattlers, which further proved that someone was deliberately trying to sabotage the Ackerman crop. Even Sheriff Birch had been called out to investigate. Usually Halona tried to handle whatever happened on her farm on her own, yet the fact that a child had almost been seriously hurt today caused her to finally bring in the law.

Now that Halona was no longer dismissing the calamities as simple unrelated accidents, Sheriff Birch was finally given free rein to follow every possible lead to the source of the sabotage. The first thing he did was set up appointments to question every Ackerman employee in hopes of finding out who was loyal and who was not.

That night, Adam did take Henry up on his offer for lodgings. He not only didn’t feel like riding back to town, he also didn’t want to stray too far away from the Ackerman property. Adam was starting to feeling something deeper than lust for Halona and he didn’t want whoever was behind these accidents to get too close to her. Even though he desired some of her land for his father, he did not wish to see her harmed in any way.

Although Adam suspected that he was somehow related to the person sabotaging the Ackerman property, he couldn’t prove it. Robert O’Donnell adamantly denied any involvement in those mishaps in his last return letter, which he routed through Adam’s New York law office in order to avoid suspicion in Miskito.

Robert’s exact words had been ‘My associates and I are above violence in any form.’

Yet if it wasn’t the head of the O’Donnell Cattlemen’s Association and his acquaintances, then an indubitable mystery had just been created. A mystery that Adam felt compelled to solve now. After all, who else had something to gain from running Halona off of her property?

~~<<>>~~

“What do you mean this plan didn’t work, either?” the bearded man asked as he conversed with the man on the black and gray horse. His own horse was already in the red stable behind them.

“Sir, it seems like no matter what trap you have me to set, Miss Halona always escapes. This time that new hand she hired helped her out,” the Ackerman spy replied, getting down from his horse so that he and his benefactor could talk face-to-face, despite the surrounding darkness.

“What new hand? I thought all the locals were scared stiff to work on that farm.”

“They is. This new hand is a carrot top from the east. He talks citified, but he mighty useful on the farm. Probably one of the hardest workers Miss Halona got besides me, of course.” The Ackerman spy smiled in conceit. He even tugged proudly at the collar of his gray flannel shirt.

“Of course,” the bearded man in the black and blue plaid sack suit agreed. He was more than ready to stroke the ego of his most trusted field spy on that cool June evening. Especially if it would help keep the man loyal to him.

After taking a puff of his new clay pipe with its horse foot-shaped bowl, the bearded man proceeded. “Now tell me more about this citified new hand. Is he rich? No, he couldn’t be too rich if he’s working on a farm. What about educated? Does his citified talk all sound like he’s reading from a book?”

“Yep, and all the women folk seem to like that trait about him. Plus, he good-looking and that helps his cause, too,” the Ackerman spy replied.

“Hmm…all the women folk? Including Miss Halona?” The man puffed on his pipe again.

“Yep, including her. I even caught my own missus looking at him for too long a time or two.” That last part was said with a bit of resentment.

The bearded man chuckled. “I imagine that must have got your temper blazing.”

“Yep, but seeing as this carrot top is a good sport and all, and only seems to have eyes for Miss Halona, I let it slide.” The Ackerman spy failed to disclose that he was more than a bit intimidated by the new farm hand who had demonstrated superior shooting abilities with his gun today.

“So Miss Halona is kinda sweet on the new hand, huh?” This information gave the bearded man more than a few new ideas to explore.

“Yep, but she try to hide it, though.” The Ackerman spy chuckled. “But he don’t seem to care who sees him eyeing her. Don’t even care that she got mixed blood in her, either.”

“Interesting. Well here’s your due for your services this month.” The bearded man pulled a leather sack of gold coins out of his pocket and handed it to the man.

“Thank you kindly, sir. Well, I best be getting on back now, seeing as how I got an early day of work tomorrow and the ride back is gonna cut an hour off my sleep time already,” the Ackerman spy concluded as he received his ill-gotten gains. Then he got back on his horse, and prepared to take his leave of the city known as the ‘Gateway to the Cattle Country’.

The departing field spy had been making sure the Ackerman farm in Miskito suffered one calamity after the next for the last three years. It was unfortunate that nice old man Ackerman got hurt on his very first try. Yet the payoff for that accident had been more than enough for the man to make a fresh start in life. First, he bought a small patch of land in town. Then he built a house on that land in order to show further stability in the eyes of others. After that, the Ackerman spy was finally able to convince the woman of his heart’s desire to marry him.

One would have thought the Ackerman spy would be extremely happy that he’d finally gotten everything he’d ever wanted in life. Yet it was hard to be truly happy with his conscience always bothering him. He could barely stand to be around Halona these days, especially with his benefactor pushing him to increase the frequency of the incidents. Before it was one every six months or so, now it was one almost every month. Yet the Ackerman spy continued to perform these acts of sabotage, especially since he now needed that extra money more than ever before.

~~<<>>~~

Griffin Haines casually leaned in the doorway of his newspaper business, watching the afternoon pedestrians stroll by. There were more people in town today due to the episodes of sporadic rain that made it an inconvenience to try to get much work done in the fields.

Two of those pedestrians were the newspaperman’s dark-haired older brother, Reuel, and his blond-haired sister-in-law, Annabelle. The former is whom Griffin would direct his smug comments towards. “Still working on that doomed farm with that half-bred and her misfits, huh? I heard about those rattlers.”

“Still don’t have a wife yet, huh? Or maybe you still waiting for that same half-bred to suddenly turn all white so you can marry her,” Reuel retorted, stopping in his tracks with clenched fists. He was ready to go toe-to-toe in any way with his obnoxious younger brother on that last Friday in June. He could care less that he was about to ruin his day off and his new beige summer sack suit in an uncivilized street brawl.

Griffin’s fair skin turned almost as red as his cravat at that reminder of his secret crush on his archenemy. Halona was the only girl that had ever whipped him and stolen his heart at the same time. His gray eyes grew stormy as he now stood erect at his full height of 6’1.

“You just better be glad Annabelle finally took pity on a born loser like you and tried to make a half-decent man out of you,” Griffin said.

Reuel started to come back with an equally spiteful comment, but when he felt a constraining tug on his arm by his pregnant wife, he knew that it was time to continue on his way. Annabelle obviously didn’t want him to get into another fight with his younger brother. For her, Reuel could walk away from this confrontation. For her, he could and would do a lot of things.

“Honey, let’s go get them supplies you wanted from the store. And you can have anything else you want, too,” Reuel said, turning to his wife and completely ignoring his brother now. Then seeing a few sprinkles hit her creamy white cheeks, he considerately took the black umbrella in his left hand, opened it and put it above their heads.

Then as Reuel and Annabelle walked away, they failed to see the thick slime of green envy seep upon Griffin’s face before the lonely man turned around and sadly walked back into his business.

© 2006 Suprina Frazier