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1881. It had cost Duncan Moran dearly in objective time. Each trip for just himself cost a 3 days. He had used 3 days to travel to Jun 1881 to purchase a horse and tack, travelled out to buy land and have all the legal work done. He had arranged for the purchase and delivery of building materials as the existing farmhouse wasn’t fit for animals. He had contracted the construction of barns, and a henhouse. Then he had returned to town and simply sold the horse and tack back at a heavy loss, but explained a he couldn’t take the horse with him and care for it properly, but expected to be back in a few months and if the horse were still there, would offer to buy it back.

He returned in late September. He managed to buy his horse back and gave the merchant the same price with no argument, and even paid a little extra for holding off on selling the steed. He also paid to have some feed delivered for the horse. He bought a pair of draft horses and a covered wagon. The merchant was tickled. The horse was really an old nag. The reason the young man (Duncan) had liked it was probably because the horse was too docile - and half blind - to throw him. Duncan had named the horse Old Man.

Now he had to pray the building materials for his home had been delivered. He hadn’t trusted anyone to build a house right. And he had to buy tools. He hadn’t trusted people not to steal them. Besides in three months perfectly good nails would have rusted even in the dry climate of New Mexico.

News of the young man’s return reached his neighbors within a week. He hadn’t shown up at anyone’s doorstep starving to death or dying. There were signs of a campfire going from time to time. He hadn’t taken on any workers. But then he hadn’t bought any animals yet either. But then it was fall and he might have been planning to wait until spring. Maybe he was going to live in town on and off.

Truth was Duncan could build a house by himself faster and better than he could with help. He had brought a nailgun, lots of nails and compressed air canisters. These and any other advanced tech were kept stored under the false bottom of a dry well. He also used a portable skill saw. The fact that people used planks rather than plywood had forced him to order a shipment from the east. The standard 4’x8’ sheet would come out for a few decades, but that’s how he ordered it. And he had order plenty of it to spare - a couple rail cars of it. He was just amazed to find it on the site - and tarped as he had instructed. There was some damage and warping, but that was no surprise.

He had the frame up and covered in a day, complete with a roof. The rest was done by the end of the third day except windows and the adobe. He had completed the insulation and bulletproofing. (He added 1.5 inch thick plates of ALON to the walls and external doors.) Regular windows he planned to leave … regular. It would be hard to explain glass that wouldn’t break. He added in ceiling fans. He had to use belt driven liquid propelled fans as electric fans wouldn’t come out until 1882, but he designed with upgrades in mind. By the end of the 10th day the house was complete - devoid of amenities, but move in ready.

All he had was camping gear. But oddly he felt a sense of accomplishment that rivaled the creation of a time portal. He found that more than a little humorous.
Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by Angel Vicky
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~The Crest Farmstead~

3 days ago..


Alexander and Victoria Crest rode the perimeters of his white picket fence like he did every day at high noon. His farm land bordered that of the new and mysterious stranger's farm. The weather was a little overcast today, which signalled the coming rain to dowse the parched grasslands that his cattle and horses fed off. He rode a black and white American Mustang and she rode a prized white stallion, worth its weight in coin - that was how much he loved his little girl. His mane was kept pristine thanks to his daughter's loving tender care of the farm's animals.

Alex stops his horse by the click of his heels against the saddle. "Woah boy." The horse neighed and bowed its head and trotted to a stop. Victoria mimicked him as he peered over the fence to see a house slowly forming in the distance in his neighbours land. He was surprised at how quickly it was erected in just seven days. No-one had seen height or hair of the young lad that claimed to own it. Apparently he had been taken for a ride was the gossip round town, the horse merchant was particularly tickled...

"Damn crazy fool. I give him one month before he's tossed out on his behind." Alex tutted.



"Now Papa." Victoria chuckled at his bluntness. Her long wavy hair was partially tied back with a silver jewelled clip and some of her strands of hair frayed slightly from her face in the gentle breeze.

"Give the poor man a chance." She clicked her heels and Phillipe set off again on border patrol.

~~~~~~~~

Present day..


That morning Victoria had fed the horses, brushed them down as she did every morning. She loved each and every single one of them very much but her white stallion Phillipe was her most treasured. He was always the one who had the strongest personality and he seemed to listen to her and she swore he could speak back 'with his eyes'. Her best friend Jasper, a red border collie who helped to herd the farm's cattle with the horse riders was sat watching in the corner as she went about her routine.

Donning a long floral pale yellow summer dress due to the humidity and heat she could not bear to wear her jeans and ranch boots. It was just too hot. Her dress complimented her blue eyes and contrasted with her dark hair.

She hummed softly as she brushed Phillip's white fluffy mane. Suddenly Jasper's ears pricked up. He whined slightly. "What is it boy?" Victoria turned around to see how confused he was. And then he suddenly bolted.

"Jasper!!" She yelled after him and quickly ran to the door in her small ankle boots. She saw him run off into the fields and soon out of sight. "Jasper come back!!" She shouted, all her workers turned their heads and attempted to capture the dog but he was too springy for them.

"Oh God." She ran back into the stable and mounted Phillipe in one swift leap up, she had mastered the art of horse riding. "HYAH!" She clicked he heels and Phillipe sprang into action straight into a gallop out of the barn.

She took off toward where Jasper had went, hoping to catch up to him. She soon spotted the collie at the border fence adjacent to their new and mysterious neighbour. His name was apparently Duncan according to the townsfolk. Her faithful red haired companion had found a calf stuck within the fence. The poor thing got curious to the next field and got its head wedged between the pickets.

She came to a stop and hopped down from her horse. "Good boy!" She fussed Jasper as she passed him and went to help the calf. But with only her bare hands, she could not free the calf's head without it squealing. She attempted to pull the white stake out from the ground but that proved futile as well as she struggled to pull it out. "Someone help!!"



She shouted back out to her farm, she had to get the calf's neck out, she was struggling frantically and causing herself to bleed. "Please come quick!!" She worried for the calf as she tried to kick the post down.

"Hold on Moozie!" She grunted as the fence would not budge. If only she had some tools...
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Duncan had yet to receive visitors - not unless you counted the occasional coyote, wolf or mountain lion. As he had yet to add any prey for them to hunt - save for the horses, they weren’t much interested in his ranch. He had a set of solar powered drones with thermal imaging that maintained a 24/7 watch over his ranch. Of course the coverage wasn’t perfect. But as people of this time didn’t know to keep hidden from aerial observation it didn’t need to be, and he had designed the drones to blend with the sky.

Truth to tell he was getting bored. He was glad now that he hadn’t chosen a prehistoric era. He’d have been bored as Hell with no way to do anything about it. At least here, or rather now, he could ride to town and see people. But he was also procrastinating about that. He still had yet to really learn how to survive in this time. He was still living on a diet supplemented by MRE’s. It was getting expensive. Oh the cost in money was nothing. His 300 pound mass combined with some carried materials had muddied up the spacetime continuum enough to prevent either his return to his own time or bringing supplies from the future for 3 days. He had prepared pallets of cargo. 200 pounds of MRE’s meant one day of time he couldn’t go home. Sept 25 to Jan 4th 102 days. The first 5 days went by after his first crossing.

He had been hooking up the wagon for a trip to town for supplies when the perimeter alarm went off. Now his ranch was fair sized, 1600 acres, or ¼ square mile. That meant it was a good quarter mile from his home to the edge of his land. His spread was about 10 times the average, maybe more. (But then it wasn’t the best land either.) He had been just about ready to go when his perimeter alarm went off. He figured it was likely a coyote, but decided to take a look. What he spotted made him smile.

It was a calf that had managed grown curious, decided maybe the grass was greener on Duncan’s side of the fence, and got its head through. When he check back on the calf next it was clearly upset and a second target was approaching his border - a neighbor. The calf had angled its head sideways to get at a tasty looking bush. Problem was the calf’s head fit in sideways, not straight up and down. And it was too panicked to realize this. Duncan shook his head, grabbed some rope and a bucket and tossed them in the wagon next to the two jugs of crystal clear water and climbed up.

The girl was going to think he was crazy taking a wagon right out into the field and off the road. But he never got stuck. He smiled cheerfully as the sight as he approached and tipped his hat. The hat was really a little too big. And while it wasn’t apparent it was way too heavy and stiff. Duncan had modified it is bit to spare him a knot of his head in the event of a mugging with all the money he had flashed around. He had shaped the material of a hard hat to fit.

“Howdy ma’am,” Duncan smiled. “Seems like someone got himself stuck. Fella, I know you won’t believe this, but the grass ain’t no greener on this side.” He returned his attention to Victoria. “I think I can get him out of there without tearing down the fence. Just have to think like a calf.” He slid a jug and the bucket to the rear of the wagon along with the rope. Then he climbed down.

“My apologies. I’m forgetting my manners. The name is Duncan Moran.” He reached over and grabbed the bush and tilted it toward the calf. “Well, hello there. I just bet you were hungry.” He reached forward once he got the calf to try the bush and sought to pet the thing. That sort of backfired. Duncan sighed. “Too soon.” He pulled the bush away. “The rope is a last resort. Let’s try water.”

He walked back and got the bucket and poured some water into the bucket so the calf could see. Next he moved the bucket between the rails and handed it to Victoria. “Hold it so he has to twist his head to the side to see it.” he reached back and broke off some of the bush and tossed it into the bucket. Then he held the jug of water straight out with one hand. It had to weigh at least 50 pounds, but he showed no signs of a strain. He started to pour in water.

“Lower the bucket a little and tempt him.”

The calf did exactly as Duncan had said it would. With its head tilted sideways to see the bucket and freed itself.

“Yep, figured if he could get his head in, he could get it out. That beats having to flip him on his side and pull him out. I’d be a little afraid of breaking his neck trying that.” He paused, looked apprehensive. “I guess I haven’t been very neighborly. I’ve never been great with social graces. But then my place is pretty much vacant. I was about to head into town to start picking up some supplies for the winter. I may have to take on some workers. I hate the idea. To be honest, the place isn’t ready for people. It isn’t even ready for animals. I really should have started sooner. But I hate to admit it. I may have to ride to town every day to eat.” He laughed. “Life isn’t as convenient out here.”

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Victoria turned her head up to the sound of an oncoming wagon. The gentle breeze sent a couple of her hair strands into her eyes, to which she gently moved to the side of her face so it wasn't in the way of her vision. She saw her new neighbour coming toward them...in a full wagon. A little bit over the top but he handled the vehicle well enough.

She nodded at him as he greeted her. "Hello." She replied to his howdy.

As soon as he mentioned his name, she let him get on with his plan but returned the sharing of information. "Victoria."
“Lower the bucket a little and tempt him.” She did as she was told and the calf stuck his head into the bucket and managed to free itself. She breathed a sigh of relief then. "Thank you Mister Moran." She placed a hand on her chest as she watched the calf happily trot off to find its mother.

"You sure know a lot more about cattle than people give you credit for." Victoria remarked as she put her hands on her hips and nodded with a smile to her neighbour.

"Ah don't worry about it. Suppose you got your hands full and all." She chuckled as Duncan explained about the state of his farm. A thought then occurred to her after he mentioned he was seeming to struggle with life out here and organising everything.

"Well...." She started and came over a little bashful as she placed her hands in front of her and held together neatly. "Since you did me a kind favour of helping my calf, how bout I return the gesture and you come over for dinner? It'll save you the trouble of heading all the way into town and back." She suggested as she raised both her eyebrows as she reasoned, trying not to make a big deal out of it. "Call it neighbourly hospitality. Perhaps I may be able to help you out a bit with your farm. My Daddy has things under wraps around here and I like being useful...also saves me some boredom." She smiled brightly as Jasper sniffed Duncan's trouser leg and smelt all manner of wonderful new futuristic smells he hadn't encountered before.

"Seems Jasper likes you." Victoria chuckled as she fluffed his ears and got him to stop sniffing Duncan too much out of rudeness.
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Duncan smiled at the calf. “Honestly, that is the closest I have ever been to a calf. I rode a Brahma bull when I was a little kid … and that is about it. All I did here was use a little common sense. Well, once I got it to calm down a little I did.”

Her offer to come over for dinner was kind, but a little poorly timed. The way she asked, she seemed to expect him to drop everything and follow her over. It was morning. His plan had been to head to town and pick up supplies. But he supposed that could wait a day. He simply couldn’t make a habit of this. It wouldn’t hurt to make nice with the neighbors though. He sighed.

“I was supposed to head into town and get supplies Victoria. But you may have noticed I am terrible about being sociable. I suppose that supplies can wait a day. Can’t say as ANYone would be much use on my farm until I have supplies. I don’t even have furniture, cooking stuff, nothing. I have basically been camping.

“To be honest, I am not sure what possessed me to start a ranch. I suppose I just wanted some privacy. That’s why I bought such a large tract of land. And the quality really doesn’t matter much to me. I can turn any land into fertile, productive land - or industry. Of course, it would have been nicer to be by the river. But I can work around that.

“Tell you what, walking long distances is rough on me. If you like, hop on up into my wagon and we can ride around the fence. It’s the long way, but it will likely end up faster.”
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“Really?” Victoria asked Duncan as he said it was the nearest he’d been to a calf. “Could have fooled me. You must be a natural then.” She chuckled sweetly. As he mentioned that he was supposed to head into town, her face dulled slightly as she realised she had put him on the spot like that. “Oh, I’m sorry I didn’t mean to intrude on your day. But…if you’ve not got any cooking supplies or even furniture, it won’t do you any good. You need the necessities before you get anyone in there, that’s for certain!”

He offered for her to hop onto his wagon She took one look at her white steed and nodded. “Alright. Phillipe, you head on back to the stables now” She patted his back and he trotted off as that was the signal he was home free to roam a bit. She turned to Jasper then “Home.” He yapped and trotted off back to the house. “Good boy!” She yelled after him and then turned, picked up her long skirt and held it slightly higher than her knees as she took a running jump and vaulted over the fence. She landed in the dirt somewhat sloppily. “Much harder in this darn dress.”

She dusted her dress down but the hem was a lot dirtier than before. “Belle’s gonna be mad.” She simply stated nonchalantly at Duncan as she passed him by and got up on the wagon by herself. “We going or what?” She asked with a playful smile. Any other girl in town would have expected him to help them up to it. Not Victoria, she was more independent from being used to doing things for herself. It would be nice to be treated like a Lady sometimes though. And this Duncan seemed like a gentleman, good mannered. She hoped her father would like their new neighbour or it would cause all sorts of problems and drama she didn’t want.
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Duncan tried to reach out to help the girl up, realizing his faux pas. Denied the chance to be much use he at least reached out to offer a steady stance before she sat down. Then he seated himself and they were off. As they rode his offered a little chit chat.

“It's no problem about supplies. But I may have family joining me. He watched for any signs of a reaction. Then he added, “My parents, right hand man, and our Butler may join me. That's part of the rush - and the reason I haven't bothered with hiring any other hands. But I do want to at least make the place presentable. I just have no idea what to buy. Money is not the problem. I have a healthy bank account. But I know my Mom. She is going to want the place to have a lady’s touch.”

“I’ve heard that crime has taken a sharp upswing. Our new Marshall may help, but that is a man I’d be careful about trusting. Crime is the main reason I decided not to build a business in town.” He sighed. “I still haven’t decided what I'll do. With the school system that will form soon, I might teach.”

"As far as the ranch goes, my plans, for the moment are pretty simple. Greenhouses. My thoughts are to build about 100 acres of them. I'll be able to grow stuff year round. Even with my meager knowledge I'll get a far better yield per acre than they do in the South. And I'll be able to grow stuff not native to these parts and not have to ship them far.

"With the development of refrigeration on railcars, I'll be able to ship anywhere in the territories. My only real limit is water.

"Problem is, I have no real interest in farming. It's just something to do. I am debating on doing research and starting a university. Although, I have no idea where I'd get instructors who could keep up. I'd have to teach them first.

"Or ... I might contract to the government. Thing is, New Mexico won't be a state for about 30 years. Maybe I can speed that up. Who's the new president? Chester Aurthur?" Duncan grimaced. "Won't be any great presidents for another 20 years. Some decent ones, yes. But there is something about the turn of a century that makes a president great. Still, I could pave the way now. Maybe my mom could help President Aurthur, but I don't think so."

Duncan glanced over at Victoria. "Sorry, thinking out loud."

++++++++++++

The trip didn't take long. And when Duncan arrived, he set the brake and vaulted to the ground to help Victoria down. Then he looked around to survey the scene?

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Victoria did take his hand to steady herself upon finally sitting down and she thanked him. She chuckled at the mention of his mother wanting to add a feminine touch. Must be nice to have a mama she thought. As he talked about the possibility of him teaching upon a new school system that may form, it peaked her interest. Did he know something the rest of the townsfolk didn't? Something from Washington perhaps? He certainly seemed like a well educated man. "I could just about see you in a suit and top hat. As for me, I guess I'd love to teach archery and English Literature." She replied in jest to him teasing the man slightly and turned serious a moment later upon thinking about it.

"Certainly seems ambitious I reckon!" She nodded as she listened to his farming plans. "You'll need a lot of helping hands. You could really turn this town around to something really prosperous if money is at your disposal. Give my Pa a run for his money for a change!" Her dad thought he was the big shot around here, boy was he gonna get a shock. She could see him feuding with the lad's parents already. She dreaded it...

"Yeah....I hate farming. No adventure in it for me..." She sighed under her breath.

But then the neighbour started spewing things she couldn't make head nor tail of. She didn't think herself particularly smart but she had a good education enough to understand most things. But what he said was...rather strange. It was like he was from a different world. From out of a fantasy book she read.

She gave him a raised eyebrow and a sort of confused look. "You know Duncan...for someone who claims to be unsociable, you sure do talk a lot!" She giggled and took his hand to get down from the wagon.

She landed and her boots kicked up a slight dust cloud underneath from impacting the dirt track. "Can't wait to meet the rest of your folks too." She placed her hands together neatly before her lap.

"What on Earth? Where have you been? And who is this boy?" Alexander came walking out of the house upon seeing his precious girl roll up on a stranger's wagon she had only just met, he didnt know this boy from Adam, and what were his intentions?

"Oh hey Papa. This is our neighbour Duncan Moran, Duncan this is my Father Alexander Crest."

"Sir Alexander Crest, my dear." He reminded her of his title he was granted before leaving England. Victoria folded her arms at his mini lecture, it was clear she didnt quite like being reminded for the 100th time. "Yes Daddy, Sir." She saluted him with a smile.

"Duncan Moran, eh? You certainly got that house up quick." He went to shake his hand. Funny, how days earlier he was bad mouthing the man.
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Father Alexander Crest … The play on words struck him as amusing. But Duncan chose to watch his tone. A 19th century man could take words the wrong way all too easily. He was not at all surprised to see this man extend a hand. Duncan did likewise, limped over and nodded, extending his good hand.

“Sir Alexander Crest. Hmm, for conversational purposes it would be useful to know your preference. Sir Alexander, Lord Alexander, or Mr Crest - the American version. While we are being formal, I am Dr Duncan Moran - not the medical kind, but science. My specialties are Physics, Chemistry, and Math - but I am also knowledgeable of Geology, Astronomy … and several other fields. To be honest though, I prefer not to make that common knowledge. Noone likes a know-it-all. But Duncan is what I prefer to be called.”

Duncan laughed a little. “Actually it is the more practical things I know little about - like how to ride a horse, rope a steer, or run a farm. That said, I am sure that people have said a number of things about me already - like how I was taken for a fool at the price I paid for a horse. The gentleman I bought it from was a little too eager to part with it for the price I paid, but it was exactly the sort of horse I needed. And the horse is getting on in years. Least I can do is give him a decent end to his life of service. I’ll get a better horse once I learn to ride properly.

“I’m afraid your daughter discovered that one of your calves decided the grass was greener on my side of the fence and got his head caught between rails. Her presence reminded me of the fact that I have been remiss about introducing myself to my neighbors. And yes, I have been working hard to raise the house. I am hoping my parents will join me. But the house is really far from done.”

Duncan realized that Victoria’s father had to have passed the average lifespan for these times. Wealth had probably lengthened that a bit. But a hard life in the West wasn’t helping. He had to smile at the man’s house. It had likely taken weeks to build, but would be dwarfed by his home. Truth to tell, he might have gone overboard.

Duncan was getting that uncomfortable feeling he always got around his mother whenever a single girl was around. She was always hinting how she wasn’t getting any younger and asked when she was ever going to be a grandmother. Duncan was getting that same vibe from Victoria’s father. He wondered if Victoria would know. His guess? Probably.

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"Ohhh. A doctor eh?" Alex turned softer at the premise of having a professional fellow as his neighbour, he seemed to have more approval over him. He gave Victoria that look, that said, this man was a good match for her. She simply rolled her eyes and folded her arms, listening to the men folk talk it out, as usual she knew her place in society. Men came first.

"Well now eh Duncan - just call me Alex, seeing as we'll be neighbours now on. So what's a doctor like you taking up that land over yonder if he knows so little about the ways of farming?" he couldnt fathom as he winced. "Ah family's important, I look forward to meeting your folks." He politely commented. He turned to his daughter. "Why don't you go on inside and get a pot of tea on the go for the young fellow. I bet he's parched helping you out in this heat." She nodded and obeyed "Yes Daddy." She picked up her skirt hem and trotted up the steps toward the front door and disappeared inside.

Alex then turned back to Duncan's attention. "Say...my gal knows a thing or two about horses, I bet she could give you a pointer." He had the immediate idea of making the two spend more time together "And maybe you can get to know one another better. She hasn't many friends out here..." he sighed. She also had no prospects of suitors since she'd shot them all down one by one, it bothered him that she seemed so content with being single at her age. By now she should have a kiddy or two like all the other women in town.

Victoria ventured into their kitchen where their maid and her best friend Tia worked now. she proceeeded to make a pot of tea. "Hey I'll do that Miss Victoria." Tia said attempting to take the kettle from her hands.

"No, its fine T." She pulled the kettle away from her and popped it over the fire place. Tia frowned at her. "It's my job."

"Papa asked me to do it, I don't mind. We have a guest coming over for tea. Our neighbour in fact, his name is Duncan." Tia gasped and clasped her hands together. "Really? He's here? I saw him in town yesterday, he is SO delightfully handsome!" She gushed as Victoria raised an eyebrow at Tia then. "Seems you have a keen eye for the fella, huh? Although, he doesn't strike me as a sociable boy. So don't get your hopes up too much!" She smiled and went over to the parlour to get more ingredients out. "Since we'll be having more mouths to feed, why don't I help you with the cooking?" Victoria offered her friend.
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When Victoria brought the tea, then bustled off to help with the cooking, Duncan realized he was stuck entertaining her father. He was not blind to the fact that Mr Crest might be matchmaking. He did his best not to sigh. He had honestly been expecting this. And to be honest, the idea wasn’t unappealing. His greatest hesitation had more to do with time - as in time travel. That and he still hadn’t decided what path he wanted to use to try to alter time and change the event that forced him to travel into the past to begin with - which was a paradox in itself.

Duncan made a face at the sight of creamer for tea. But sugar cubes he grinned at. “You may have to chase my mother away with a stick until we can get some tea growing. She sounds more like you. Father and I grew up more … provincial.” Duncan found himself adapting to Mr Crest’s culture. Although, I fear I must call you Mr Crest. My family wouldn’t approve of my use of your first name. So it is not a good habit for me to get into. Mr Crest or Sir Alexander.”

Duncan stopped and smiled as if at some sort of private joke. Then he gave a sharp sigh of resignation. “I still don’t know if they are going to show up here. It’s complicated as family matters often are. But I do know I need to get to work on making the house ready for them if they do show up. I am so used to being able to walk down to the market and pick up whatever I need. But here it is a chore to ride to town for supplies. I have to figure out what will keep and what won’t. I had hoped to have chickens laying eggs before winter. But I have grave doubts that will happen.

Oh … should you ever need a refuge from outlaws or storms, come to my place. I could hold off a small army. And I built a storm cellar. I doubt weather will ever be a problem here though. We don’t get twisters here.”
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Alex's moustache twitched at the corner of his mouth when Duncan insisted on calling him Sir or Mr. He eventually relented with a hand going up and then wavering slightly. "Alright if you insist Mr Moran." He actually liked that this boy had polite manners.

He chuckled at the comment he made at his mother having to chase the poor man away. "Well we do enjoy our tea, us Brits." He admitted. "And my daughter makes a fine pot of tea indeed!" He beamed with pride, she had her UNrebellious moments...

"I surely look forward to greeting your folks if they do decide to show up. It's actually Victoria's birthday next month so I'll be throwing a big garden party for the whole town. It's a rather special event." Nothing was too good or expensive for his little girl. His princess. She was all he had left in the world. Of course he was going to spoil her.

--

In the kitchen, Tia hummed as she stirred the stew pot atop the stove. "This sauce is coming along nicely, dontcha think Miss Vixy!" She had always called her nicknames affectionately. Victoria ventured over from slicing some fruit for dessert to taste test the sauce. With a delicate hand she took the wooden spoon, held her hand underneath to catch any drips and sipped the hot broth. "Mmhh. Yeah. I do declare Miss Tia you have done it again!" She playfully teased her friend. Tia shook her head. "It was your idea to put the thyme and rosemary in." she pointed out as she wiped her hands on her apron.

Victoria chuckled. "I do declare Miss Vixy has done it again!" She pointed an index finger in the air as she smiled brightly. The girls did have some fun. Much to Alex's and Belle's disapproval. Tia's dad didn't seem to much mind though. Speaking of Miss Belle....the door was heard opening and shutting as heeled footsteps were heard. Belle ventured into the room and greeted the ladies and took off her pale yellow hat. Adoring in a long black cloak over a long black dress, her hat was the only thing colourful. She used to dress in such bright colours in her youth but all she seemed to wear these days was black.

"My word! The market was busy today!" She exclaimed and handed Victoria a bag of some sorts. "Here, I got you some more of those bows you like for your hair. And Lord! What happened to your dress!" She pointed toward her dirty skirt from where she had ventured out into the field to rescue the calf.

"We had an emergency. In faaact...let me introduce you to our hero of the day." she removed her apron and led Belle into the lounge by her hand. She found Alex and Duncan chatting between themselves as she presented Belle. "Duncan, may I present Miss Belle, my au pair." She then directed Belle to Duncan. "This is our neighbour Mr Moran."

"O-oh...pleasure!" She glanced at Alex, who winked back at her, you could see they were formulating an idea into their heads already....
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