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2 yrs ago
Current I tried to fight it but the flu was too strong. :( Sorry to my partners for the delay.
2 yrs ago
FINALLY feeling normal again! Thank you antibiotics!
2 yrs ago
Hoping my partners/groups see this. Very sick. High fever for three days. Finally downgraded. Will reply when I can stay awake.


Hate writing my biography but also don't like it when people don't have one so...Long time role player. Enjoy writing many different genres (favourites are cyberpunk/near future and high fantasy). Prefer advanced stories/plots and 1x1's. I like to have depth to stories and characters. Not fond of high school role plays or fandoms/fanfic.

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The men entered. Her cousins through one door, they had obviously stopped to clean up. Her uncle and Vance through another, coming from the hall and the parlour.

A shuffling of chairs as everyone took their seat. Lillian adjusted her napkin on her lap and then looked up. She found herself facing Vance. On either side her cousins in law sat. He commented on having the best seat, charming both the women at his sides and even getting a show of flattery from her aunt. Mabel smiled, giving him a good natured shake of her head as if to say he was full of nonsense.

The slight clattering of silverware was interrupted by a question then a compliment.

Before she could really answer him her uncle announced that Vance would be working for the ranch as their night security and would live on the property. Mabel agreed to the arrangement and said she would make plans to have it swept for him.

The table went back to eating. Lillian paused in her meal. “In regards to your inquiry, “ Lillian lifted her dark eyes to meet Vance’s. “Yes, I did. My hair was falling from its previous-”

“I suppose that was Jenny’s influence. Trying to get you from your mourning to be her social partner. Maxwell, you really should get better control of your wife.” Johnathan shook his head and ate a spoonful of soup.

“I will have you know that Jenny needs no controlling. She is a well spoken, educated and independent woman. Things are changing John, perhaps you would see that if you put down your cards and picked up a newspaper.”

The sound of Johnathan’s spoon dropping into his bowl signalled the beginnings of an argument between the boys. Their values were constantly at odds. Johnathan saw traditional to be the way while Maxwell was more modern, liberal.

Both Jenny and Anna were agitated. It was not the first time such an argument occurred between the men.

“Excuse me.” Lillian put her spoon down and folded her hands in her lap. “If I may interject for a moment. Anna is the one who helped me. I like it and found nothing wrong with the style. Mr Hamilton’s - Vance’s compliment confirms the style is fetching.” A blush stained her cheeks. “I thank you for the compliment.”

“Anna?” Johnathan looked across the table at his wife. “You know she is in mourning.”

Jenny huffed. “But she is free to stop. If she were a man she would have already taken a new wife and would have been patted on the back for taking care of his home by putting a new woman in it. Why shouldn’t Lilly choose when her mourning period is over? She is young, has means and good standing. She should be able to enjoy life.”

Lillian licked her lips. She appreciated Jenny sticking up for her but it was sure to just resume the previous argument.

Johnathan looked around the table as if looking for confirmation that Jenny had turned into a monster before his eyes. “She is married and the mourning period should be a year to show respect for that.” He hissed the words at Jenny.

“If I may, again. As I am the topic of this conversation it might be pertinent to ask me my thoughts on the topic?” The family looked at Lillian. Since her arrival at the ranch she had been quiet, rarely engaging family discussion and debates. This felt different. Perhaps because she was the focus, perhaps because they had a guest.

“My apologies Vance, my family seems to desire to discuss my private life in front of a guest and ruining a perfectly lovely meal.” To add to the statement Mabel clucked out a noise of annoyance and agreement. Her children were being ill mannered indeed.

“As for my status, since you all seem to have decided that it should be discussed, I would have you know my feelings on it. I will, slowly, end my mourning. I am not ready to cast it off as if it did not matter but I believe that Bruce would not have wanted me to spend my life in black and in the shadow of his memory. If that had been the case he would not have left the estate for me to run.”

Jenny grinned. “So does this mean we can look at dresses for the party?”

Lillian looked thoughtful. “Yes, we can but I reserve the right to decide I am not ready.”

“Of course!” Jenny excitedly went back to her food. Anna smiled into her soup. Johnathan looked as if his soup had soured. Her aunt and uncle proceeded through their meal as if nothing had happened.

The conversation turned to the nursery preparations, the need for a new mattress for Maxwell and Jenny. Mabel made note that she would order a new one for the Cottage House as well.

“When will you start your position here Vance?” Lillian, her soup done looked up at him. The bowls that were empty were being cleared and plates with hard cheese and some fruit put out for them.

"Yes and will you stay here, in the guest room as the Cottage House is prepared?" Jenny chimed in on the conversation. She wanted to learn more about the man. She also hoped he might throw some compliments her way instead of her widow cousin in law.

He used her first name again. It felt familiar and right on his lips even if decorum said otherwise. Vance followed it with an apology for being forward. Lillian did not take it as an insult, though to tell him that she enjoyed it would be forward on her part. It did bring up the point that she had not decided if she was returning to her maiden name or keeping her husband's. Much like when she would change from her mourning clothes, Lillian had not thought that far into the future.

Vance discussed what he believed about monsters. Lillian found his thoughts on the subject fascinating. She hadn't realized how much she missed conversation of this sort until now. She and Bruce often discussed many topics from business to history, philosophy to general news. Both were well read and well educated. Their breakfasts often turn into great long discussions that they had to pull themselves away from to get on with their day. After dinner was often the same.

Now, she leaned in engrossed in listening to him when the knock on the door seemed to startle them both. Lillian sat straighter, her one hand gripping her book to her lap. Vane was standing, hand on his gun. As the door opened, Lillian's cheeks warmed. They were acting almost as if they had been caught doing something wrong yet they had just been too involved in conversation to pay much attention to their surroundings.

She stood as the men began to leave. "I will stay but I thank you Mister Hamilton for the conversation. And Lillian is fine."

Lillian watched them go. She couldn't bring herself to tell him which of her last names she would continue with. Choosing Stewart felt like she was trying to forget about Bruce but McGregor brought back sadness.

Her book in hand she made her way out of the parlour to the upper floor and her room. Luncheon would be ready soon and she felt the need to freshen up after her nap. As she made her way down the hall her mind was on Vance, the book and the desire she had to continue their conversation again.

"Your hair is a mess. What did Tilly do to it this morning?" Anna stood in her doorway with a frown on her face.

"What? Oh, no. I tried to pin it up myself..." Lillian reached a hand up to touch her hair. It was slipping out of its pins.

Anna shook her head. "Let me fix it for you."

The two women headed to Lillian's room. She deposited her book on the bedside table before sitting at her dressing table. Anna came up behind her and began to free the pins from the dark hair.

"Mr Hamilton is here. Uncle has taken him outside for a walk around the ranch."

As if on cue the sound of gunshots rang out. It had taken Lillian some time to get used that sound when she first arrived. Boston had guns but most gentle society did not carry them. There wasn't the same need as there was out here. It really was a different world than the one she had grown up in.

"I bet Jenny will be happy to see him. I know I am pleased to learn we will have some night time protection. I can hear things at night, when I can't sleep. Animals most times I am sure but there will be something nice about knowing someone is watching the grounds. Not losing cattle will be good too. I hear we have lost a fair number. Let's hope your Mr Hamilton is a good shot."

Anna's eyes met hers in the mirror that was attached to her dressing table. By the heat in her cheeks Lillian didn't need to look to know she was blushing. "He is not my Mr Hamilton. I have known him for as long as you have."

"And yet that rosey skin says perhaps you enjoy the attention he pays you. I am guessing he will sit across from you at lunch as well. The man was quite interested in you yesterday. I saw him watching you from the moment he came in the door."

Lillian shook her head a little causing Anna to pull her hair as she wound it. "Hold still now." Anna scolded.

"I believe you are mistaken. A man does not find a widow attractive."

The brush ran through the long strands. Lillian was waiting for Anna to pin them up as well but she stopped, stepping away. A look in the mirror showed that some of her hair had been artfully wound into a bun on the back of her head. The rest of the dark brown locks hung in waves about her shoulders and down her back.

Lillian looked at Anna. "Married women wear their hair up."

Anna smiled sadly. "You aren't married anymore sweetheart." She patted Lillian's cheek. The young woman was three years younger than her and had not been married long. She had less experience in men, families and marriage. Anna both envied and pitied her. To be young and widowed felt hard and harsh in this place. She should be out and enjoying life, not wearing black and sitting alone.

"I think Jenny's idea for a party before the baby is a good one and I think you might want to consider changing. I did not know your husband very well but what I did know of him I do not think he would want you to spend your time missing him and not living a life. You think on it. Would Bruce want you to smile or sit here pale, alone with a book in your hand?"

Anna put down the brush and left the room. The luncheon bell rang out signalling the family to come down to the dining room.

Lillian looked at herself in the mirror. The black added to the paleness of her skin. It almost made her look corpse like in certain lights. The dress itself was a cut for a woman her aunt's age, not a woman of 22. A hand touched her hair that now framed her face.

She looked down to her hand where her wedding band still sat on her finger. What would Bruce want her to do? The sound of people in the hall, Jenny's laugh reminded Lillian it was time for their meal. And of course, their guest.

People were sitting and the food was being put at their places when she stepped into the room. Jenny's eyes went wide at the sight of her hair. "You look beautiful." The woman smiled and looked excited. "Does this mean we can go get a new dress for the party?"

Lillian could feel her aunt's eyes on her as she took her seat. "We will talk after lunch Jenny."

Jenny bounced into her seat. "Maxwell is outside. He said Vance..Mr Hamilton is here. I wonder if he will take the job. Won't it be nice to have so many strong men around to protect the ranch?"

Lillian nodded as she looked down at her plate. Would Vance notice her hair? Would he like it? Did it matter to her if he did?

"The soup is beef and vegetable. Some cheese and other things will come out soon. Bread should be warm." Mabel looked around. "Those men better not bring dust into my dining room." She looked stern as she passed the basket of bread to Jenny. Anna rolled her eyes a little.

He used her name. For some reason that didn't bother her. In most she would find it forward, ill mannered but Lillian found herself liking the way her name sounded when he said it.

She smiled, her head tilting a little and a stray strand of hair falling from it's loose position. Her hair had not been well pinned up today and it seemed to threaten to fall at every moment. "Apollo, Artemis...gods and goddesses of the Greek world. I rather enjoy the stories of their heroes."

A blush formed as he turned the book. It wasn't long before he closed it, hiding away the illustration. Her aunt would never have approved. Of the book, of his viewing it with her or of him being alone with her.

"You bring up an interesting point and one I happen to ask myself often." Lillian took the book from him, placing it in her lap. "To me, the monsters as they often call them are beautiful and not to be treated as evil or bad. Often they are creatures or men, changed due to circumstances and just doing what they need to fight back, to survive as you put it. In Greek myths it is often the beautiful gods and goddesses who are the ones who bring down the worst experiences. For instance if Zeus stopped bedding every woman he desired no matter if she wanted it or not a great number of the so-called monsters would not exist."

A blush rose quickly in her face colouring her cheeks a pretty pink. It was not a topic one discussed in civilized company.

"I just meant that it seems in their stories monster does not mean evil. Sometimes yes, though I would argue that often not. They are often the result of the wickedness of others and made to suffer."

She leaned forward. It had been months since she was able to engage in such interesting conversation.

"Where do you stand on monsters then? Are men monsters?"
Something felt different in the room and Lillian was pulled from her nap. Her eyes opened slowly. At first she didn't really understand what she was seeing. A dream? There was a figure in a nearby chair. Her hands grasped for her book as if she could throw it and dispel the apparition.

When her hand came down on nothing and her vision focused Lillian was greeted with the sight of Vance Hamilton sitting there, in the parlour with her.

"How-" Her confusion was clear. A hand came up to her chest as she looked around. Lillian sat up slowly. "Hello, Mr Hamilton."

She tried not to seem to surprised but it was difficult. Her legs shifted, her feet lowered to the floor. She was careful to adjust the skirt so no part of her legs were visible.

"I am sorry. You have caught me off guard. It is nice to see you." Now, slightly more composed Lillian smiled. Her eyes caught sight of her book in his hands. "Do you always rescue wayward books from the hands of their sleeping reader?"

Her pulse was racing. She was alone in the room with a stranger and while she was not afraid it did bring back some of her rather sensual dreams from the previous night. Dreams that had included Vance Hamilton thanks to Anna's observations.

Lillian had tried to reason that her cousin in law was simply trying to tease but there a small part of her that found herself longing for the attention. She had never been a flirt as Jenny was but she had at one time been far more social than she was at present. Mourning changed a woman's obligations.
Drinks were filled and Johnathan settled in. He needed to play conservatively tonight. He already owed Noah Grady a lot of money and his boys, the Iron Club gang had already given him more than one warning that payment was overdue.

The game ebbed and flowed. Just a he felt his luck turned Vance took his hand and others began leaving the table. It wasn’t his night. He sighed and pushed his cards to the dealer.

“Nature of the game.” He gave a shrug at Vance’s apology. “Shall we go have a drink at the bar now? I should be getting home. Early morning.”

As he stood, waiting for the man to collect his winnings he eyed Vance. An eyebrow raised as the man inquired into his cousin.

They moved to a small table with comfortable high back chairs. They seemed more like something one would find in a parlour than a saloon but this part was set up for men to relax in hopes they would end up with a whore in their lap. Johnathan ordered drinks for them both. He sat, leaning comfortably in his chair. A woman began approaching but Johnathan waved her away. His money was best spent on cards, not women.

“Lilly?” Johnathan never could understand what men saw in his cousin. She was doe eyed, fair faced but too educated in his opinion. He liked women who focused on the home, like his mother. His aunt and uncle had always encouraged their children, Lillian included to read, discuss and debate. It was something Johnathan found tiresome in the opposite gender. Bruce had liked Lillian for her face and her brains. It appeared Vance at least had an interest in her physical features. He figured the man would grow weary of his cousin but in the end it was none of his business. At least for now.

“Let’s see. They married a year and a half ago….when was that….” He took a drink. “Oh yes, they married late spring at aunt Helen’s insistence. The accident happened in….” Johnathan ticked off months on his fingers. “She has been in mourning for about three months now. Two at home before they sent her out here to get away from Boston. They thought the air out here would put the colour back in her cheeks or some such nonsense. Women…”

Another sip of his drink went down. “Bruce, her husband was trampled you know. He was taming a horse and it turned on him. She has money, let me tell you. Married well that one and yet she does nothing with it.”

Johnathan sighed. He knew his cousin had wealth that she simply just sat on. Bruce had come for a wealthy family and when he died he left the estate to Lillian. When she headed out west she left it in the trust of caretakers and advisors. She received weekly reports though. Again, something Johnathan found unattractive in a woman. Other than household basics women had no place in money or business.

“If Jenny manages to pull off this party I think she will be out of her mourning clothes in a week. If not, who knows if she ever will.” He smirked. “You have an eye for my little cousin then? You would be far different from her husband, I assure you of that. I will see to it that Jenny invites you to the party though I doubt she will need any convincing.”

When his drink was done Johnathan bid his farewells and headed home. The ranch was quiet as he turned in.
Mornings came early on a ranch. There were cattle to feed, milk, check in on. There were other parts of the ranch that needed tending. They took care of themselves with chickens, fields and a kitchen garden. Between the three Stewart men, their few ranch hands and the house staff the whole place ran efficiently.

Their only issue was at night. Every morning the Stewart men checked the livestock in hopes that none had been poached. This morning found their numbers accurate. Benjamin was pleased though that Vance was coming to speak with him this morning. He hoped the man was as true as what he said. They needed a man or men to keep watch over night.

In the house the women were up and dressed. The men had headed out before the sun was fully up but now they all sat around the table enjoying breakfast. There was a little talk but overall quiet.

Mabel was working on a short list of things they were need from the general store. Jenny was sitting next to her discussing her plans for the party.

Lillian had risen early. Her sleep was plagued with dreams that had bordered on the scandalous. She blamed Anna’s bluntness before she had gone to bed. This morning she felt better, pushing aside those less than ladylike thoughts with the book that rested on the table beside her.

She had bathed and smelled of lightly scented soap. It was lily of the valley, a scent she had always favoured. Her hair was swept up and pinned loosely. A few stray strands fell about her ears. Her dress, still black was a less formal cut and material. Lighter and with a sheer fabric over her bodice that allowed the garment to breathe in the Arizona heat. It was not a style that suited her youth or figure but it was appropriate and Lillian wanted to ensure her aunt had no objection.

“I must go work on some paperwork before I meet with Mr. Hamilton. Good day ladies.” Benjamin rose and headed for his office.

Anna yawned and stood. “I think I will nap.”

“Already?” Johnathan frowned. “Should we send for the doctor?”

The rest of the table looked up and towards the woman.

Anna sighed. “No need. I am just warm and pregnant.” She moved off towards her room.

Her meal finished Lillian rose, taking her book. “I think I will go read.”

Johnathan looked over at her. “So, cousin will you be changing from those clothes for the party? A little colour perhaps?” He was curious, bolstered by Vance’s question the previous evening. He wouldn’t let that little secret be known yet.

Jenny practically bounced in her chair. “You should order a new dress! In lavender. It is the colour that is in style at the moment. I was going to order a dress for the party too. Perhaps we could go into town later together.”

Lillian scanned the table. It wasn’t the cost that had her worried but the timing. Was it enough? Shouldn’t she mourn for him for a year? “Perhaps.” Her tone was tentative. “We can talk after the men’s meeting and luncheon when our guest will be gone.”

Johnathan snickered under his breath. Jenny’s cheeks turned red. “Oh yes! Mr. Hamilton is coming. That should be fun to learn more about him.”

With that Lillian gave a slight nod of her head before moving to the parlour. She sat on the chaise with her feet up and began reading her book. Greek mythology. She enjoyed the stories of gods and mortals, monsters and quests.
Lillian found him extremely fascinating. He was well traveled, at least in the sense that he had been lots of places and some were quite distant. She wondered what he had done in each place.

It seemed he may come to work for the ranch and Lillian realized perhaps, she may get the chance to ask him more.

As they were leaving, each of the men escorting their wives to the door, Lillian was stopped as he offered his hand. She took Vance's hand.

"I will be there, at the ranch. I imagine I will see you when you come by, after your talk with my uncle." Something about the way he was looking at her, that he had stopped her a little longer than the rest made Lillian's pulse race.

"I hope to see you as well Mr. Hamilton." Her voice was soft and she looked away demurely before pulling on her black gloves. She should have had them on before taking his hand but it couldn't be helped now. Lillian could feel the warmth where their hands had touched.

She followed her family out but cast a slight look back over her shoulder at Vance before moving out the door.

The family piled into the carriage and headed home.

It didn't take long for Johnathan to vanish back out into the night, a card game calling him away.

Lillian sat in the parlour with Anna, who had her feet up. Two cups of tea were brought in for them. Her aunt and uncle had retired for the night. There was no sign of Maxwell and Jenny.

She lifted the tea to her lips and blew on the hot liquid.

"He likes it you know. When Jenny flirts like that. He is probably fucking her brains out right now as they talk about that man taking her while he watches."

Lillian almost dropped her tea. Anna's tone and language shocked her. There was such lewd suggestions and such bitterness behind it.

Anna chuckled a little, she saw the shock on Lillian's face. "It's true, just not something polite people talk about. Just you watch she will throw that party and be all over every man she can. Maxwell will play the uninterested husband but as soon as they are alone..."

Her mouth was open and it made Anna chuckle harder, her round belly shaking. "Your husband never had something like that? Johnathan likes cards and gambling more than me or whores. I guess that is a blessing..." She took a drink of her tea.

Lillian shook her head. "No, we- I mean he -" She was flustered and her face turned red.

Anna smirked. "You just weren't married long enough to learn what he liked. That first year all men tend to be more gentlemanly but soon they want more."

Lillian looked down at her tea. "I suppose that could be true. I would not know."

Anna sighed tiredly. She lifted herself out of the chair slowly.

"Mr Hamilton seemed quite taken by you. He couldn't take his eyes off you." She gave Lillian's shoulder a squeeze. "Night."

With that Anna left Lillian alone with her tea. Lillian's mind now went places that caused her whole body to flush. Her mind flashed with images of Vance's eyes. She could still feel where his hand had taken hers. Images shifted to that hand on her arm, her back, her neck as it pulled her in-

Lillian put her tea down and began to unbutton the bodice of her dress. She was impossibly warm. She stood fanning her exposed neck.

Her dreams that night proved interesting.
Johnathan arrived at the saloon. He surveyed the room as he removed his hat. His eyes fell on Vance, amusement playing on his features.

"I see I got you interested in learning poker..." It was a jest. Many men hid their interest in cards as women could be such judgemental creatures.

"First drink on me then?"

They all waited as the man came and joined them.

Lillian watched him as he took a seat across from her. His name was Vance and he had only just arrived in the town.

Jenny was pleased as punch when he sat down. She grinned to him when they were introduced. Lillian couldn’t help but mark that it was almost as if she were a schoolgirl and he, her crush. She forgot about Maxwell it seemed though her cousin was more engrossed in his food at that moment.

As she watched Vance hand over his weapon one slender, dark eyebrow rose. He was certainly aware of what others noticed.
They talked. Vance’s meal arrived and slowly everyone ate as they conversed. The men did most of the talking while Jenny fawned over the man. Lillian listened intently to any answers the man gave. Something about him was alluring, interesting but she couldn’t put a finger on what it was exactly. Perhaps it was just his person, his general presence.

Anna sighed when her husband brought up poker but she said nothing. Maxwell and Jenny were keen to hear Vance’s response. Johnathan put a lot of stock into a man he might win money from at cards.

His answer made Johnathan pout as Vance seemed disinterested entirely. Anna perked up and the others tried to ignore the topic.

Lillian had her fill of her meal. She wiped at the corners of her mouth and took a sip of her sherry. Her uncle prattled on about cattle and the ranch, the town and how they had done well.

“We do have to deal with cattle thieves and I think we may have to look at hiring a few more ranch hands to help protect them. Daytime isn’t the issue mind but nighttime the men simply want to drink and it is hard to find someone willing to do that job.”

Her glass was empty. Her hands folded in her lap as the hotel staff began to clear the tables. Sherry was poured for everyone with empty glasses. Desserts were ordered by her aunt for the whole table, including Vance.

Maxwell leaned back in his chair a little to look at Vance. “What brought you to Willow Springs?”

Jenny clapped her hands together. “Oh yes and what sort of work are you looking for. Perhaps you could work at the ranch!” She batted her lashes at Vance. Anna sighed at Jenny’s behaviour.

Lillian tilted her head a little and licked her lips. “Please forgive Jenny, Mr Hamilton. She is the social butterfly of the family and is very keen to get to know everyone. Perhaps you can start with where you arrived from? I am very interested, as someone who only arrived here a month ago, to know where people have come in from.”

She raised her glass to her lips and took a sip. She could feel her cheeks warm from the alcohol.
The family went back to their meal. The others had turned their conversation to ranch and the baby. Lillian paused to take a sip of sherry and to look out the window again. Her gaze never made it to the window. The man, the new arrival was sitting in her line of vision. He had removed his hat now and was studying her.

Unconsciously her head tilted as if observing him as well. Soft, brown eyes moved over his features a moment before she blinked and looked away demurely.

She ate a little more of her meal as the others talked. At one point she looked up, watching the stranger through her lashes. To all who looked it seemed that Lillian was engrossed in looking at her meal but her attention was elsewhere.

This man was interesting. She watched him put a coin on the table.


“Don’t you think so Lily?” Jenny’s voice startled her.

“I am sorry? I was lost in thought for a moment.” Lillian pulled her eyes to the woman.

“I said I think we should have a little party before the baby is born. A last gathering before we all tiptoe about trying not to wake a sleeping infant. Don’t you think so too? Wouldn’t it be fun?” Jenny was excited and wanted the woman on her side.

“Oh! I just had a wonderful idea! It would be the perfect time for you to change from your mourning clothes. Think of it a party and no more black. Perhaps you might even meet someone.” Jenny was practically bouncing in her seat.

Lillian paled and opened her mouth to respond but the waitress interrupted her.

“Here you are sir.” She put a new bottle of sherry by Benjamin.

“I didn’t order this.” Her uncle frowned.

“No sir, a gift. From the gentleman at the table over there.” The waitress gestured to where the stranger sat.

Lillian looked up to see his eyes on her once more though he nodded in the table’s direction. That had been what the coin was for. Now she wondered why and who he was. Curiosity pulled at her. She adjusted the lace that played at her throat. The action allowing her to keep her eyes up and watch the man without staring.

Benjamin gave a nod back. “Well, that was nice of him. Just leave it then.”

Johnathan, silverware in hand, looked over at the stranger. “Curious that. Why would he send that over?”

Benjamin took a bite of steak. “Perhaps he knows who we are. Maybe he is just a well mannered gentleman.”

Mabel dotted at her mouth. “Perhaps we should invite him to join us.”

“He doesn’t have his food yet and we are half done. We wouldn’t want to put the man on the spot while he eats.” Maxwell glanced back towards the man.

“I think we should invite him over.” The flush had returned to Jenny’s cheeks. “It is the only polite thing to do. We can take our time so he isn’t eating alone.” As if to emphasize her point she put her silverware down.

Benjamin was engrossed in his steak once more. “I will go and thank him, introduce myself. That is-”

“Invite him over.” The words came out without thinking. Lillian looked at her uncle. Benjamin was staring at her as if she had grown a second head.

“It would be more polite to invite him over and introduce him to the whole family uncle. He may have business here that might be good for you and the ranch.” Lillian felt her throat go dry. Her eyes shifted back to the stranger.

“Very well. It seems I am outnumbered by the women in this household. Anna, do you care to weigh in as well for good measure.” Benjamin stood up and placed his napkin on the table.

Anna leaned back in her chair a little, hand resting on her round stomach. “Never hurts to meet the new folks who come to town.”

Benjamin grunted and walked over to the man’s table.

“Evening sir. Thank you for the sherry. My family and I would like to know if you would care to join us at our table. It would only be polite since you so graciously purchased the bottle for us. I am Benjamin Stewart.”

He put his hand out to shake the man’s.
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