Chapter 1: I'M GETTING MARRIED
I'M GETTING MARRIED"
Conversation around the card table of the Dead Horse ranch suddenly came to a screeching halt.
Dusty opened his mouth and didn't close it. Marty's fingers froze on the pile of poker chips he'd just stacked into a neat pile, and Roy stopped dealing the cards. when old Shorty swallowed his beer too fast and choked, Andrew reached over and slapped him twice between the shoulder blades before turning to stare at his boss. "You want to repeat that?"
"I'm getting married." the young man grinned. he leaned back in his chair and put his hands behind his head. "I guess I surprised y'all, huh?"
Andrew, the only one capable of speech, wasn't impressed. "This is some kind of joke, right?"
"No, sir. No way. don't you want to know who I'm marrying?"
Four of the men nodded, so Bobby continued. "Francisca Handel Marti, from back east." He frowned, the way he did when he was thinking hard. "She lives in that little state, Rhode island, but went to school in Colorado."
"An Eastern girl, huh? makes sense," Shorty mumbled. "since none of the local gals will have anything to do with you. You've just about broken all their hearts."
"I don't know about that," Dusty interjected. "Jessie left a message for him the other day, and the Lynette twins were hanging around the barns all weekend"
"they could have been there to see me." Marty, who spent most of his days and half of his nights trying to keep up with Bobby , tapped his poker chips. "I've made enough money tonight to take 'em both to the movies Sunday night."
Andrew took a long drink of beer and set the bottle on the table before he spoke. After all, he didn't want to get his hopes up again. Getting Bobby to settle down had been a futile exercise for many years now. the kid acted more like fifteen than twenty five; his unending energy made Andrew feel a lot older than thirty-five. More like fifty, he figured . And that was on a 'good' day. "Well, that's interesting news," he drawled , hoping they all hadn't just been sucked into one of Bobby's pranks. "when's the wedding?"
The young man hesitated, making Andrew's stomach tighten. "I'm trying for this summer, soon as I can but Francisca Handel said she wants her aunt to meet me first."
"Her aunt," Shorty repeated, nodding approvingly. "So she's a family kind of gal. that's good."
"Yep," the boy agreed. "I guess. if the old aunt likes me." You can sweet-talk the auntie," Marty declared. "piece of cake for a charmer like you."
Andrew wasn't so sure. three cooks in the past two years had quit, saying they were "decent women" who weren't going to put up with the Bobby's shenanigans one minute more. the main house, never much to look at, now seemed downright decrepit. what made Bobby think this place was ready to impress a couple of city women? It was clearly time to find out exactly what was going on. Andrew leaned forward and looked the boy in the eye. "Where'd you meet a girl from Rhode island? and how come we've never heard of her?"
"It's a long story." Bobby grinned and grabbed a handful of taco chips from the ripped bag by his elbow. He looked at his attentive audience. "you sure you wouldn't play poker?"
Roy put the deck of cards down. "I'd sure rather try to win a hand or two , but I guess everyone else can't mind their own business," he grumbled. "Just let me know when you want me to start dealing again."
"Don't pay any attention to him," Marty said. "Does Francisca Handel have a sister?"
"No." Bobby finished off the chips and wiped his hands on his jeans. "just the aunt."
"Damn." He looked up hopefully. "How old is the aunt?" The future groom shrugged. "Francisca said she was pretty old. She is-was-a teacher."
"Teachers scare the heck out of me." Andrew was running out of patience. "Get back to how you met this girl," he ordered.
"Remember when I went to deliver horses to the McAllister's in April?"
Andrew remembered. Bobby had stayed for four weeks and missed the end of a grueling calving season.
"They had company," Bobby continued. "The older daughter's college roommates." He picked up his beer. "From Colorado."
"Does she go to school in Boston or Colorado?"
Andrew still didn't believe this latest announcement.
Leave it to Bobby to play a prank like this.
"Transfered to Colorado last year," he said. "Or something like that. I didn't pay much attention to that part of the conversation, if you know what i mean." He winked at Marty.
"You have all the luck," Marty grumbled. "I just can't figure it out."
Bobby shrugged. "Just comes naturally, I guess." "What's natural is that load of bull you keep coming up with," Roy said. "Are we gonna play cards or nah?"
"It was love at first glance," the kid declared. "Hit me just like when lightning hit tha old cottonwood a few years ago. You know , the one down buy the creek in the West pasture where..."
"Love ," Shorty interrupted, because everyone interrupted Bobby when he started off on one of his tangents. "Love can sure get a man in trouble pretty damn fast. You sure you know what you're doing son?"
"Sure I'm sure." He glanced toward Andrew, and good smile faltered. "Don't look so serious, Andrew. I'm the one getting married, not you."
"And it's a good thing, too," Andrew replied. "Considering I wouldn't want to be the one having to figure out how to get this old place ready for company. Especially 'female' company," he added, hoping to make damn kid squirm a little.
"Yeah?" Bobby looked pretty relaxed.
"Yeah," Andrew said. "if you want to get married..." and Andrew sure hoped the boy did "... then we've got to figure out a few things. like cleaning. And cooking. And what you're going to do with Gus. And how you're gonna keep the Lynette girls out of the barn."
"And how to keep Francisca's old auntie from cramping my style."
Andrew frowned. "You're not going to ... well, you know what you're not going do here on the home place."
"Yeah i know." But he didn't look thrilled about it, making Andrew wonder if the boy had already seduced his Francisca Handel. the sooner he got Bobby married, the sooner Andrew could stop worrying about the boy getting someone in trouble. There would be no more unwanted kids at the Dead Horse, not as long as Andrew was in charge.
"Well , then, we need a plan."
"We could plan to play a few more hands of poker, that's what we could do." Roy picked up the cards and started dealing where he'd left off. "it's not even nine o'clock." "Good idea," Bobby said, tossing a red chip into the center of the table. "Let's make this interesting, okay?Everyone but Andrew eagerly agreed. Bobby picked up his cards, but before he looked at them he winked at Andrew and said, "Loser gets the aunt." Andrew shook his head. "Gets the aunt? What the hell does that mean?"
"She's gonna need a chaperone, someone to show her the truck and all that kind of stuff."
"Aw, Bobby," Roy moaned as he finished dealing the cards. "I thought we was gonna play cards, not talk about women anymore."
His boss ignored him and tossed a blue chip into the center of the table. "Who's in?"
"We all are. Now," Andrew added, putting the "old auntie" out of his mind.
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