Tuesday Teaser 1/31/17 Victoria’s Cat Part 5
Wow! It’s almost February. I’ve been slacking off a little on my writing. Bad Maddy! No cookie! But I do have a good sized snip for you from Victoria’s Cat. Enjoy 🙂
Eagle bristled. “If they so much as smile at my sister…”
“Smiling is acceptable,” Stone said. “No fighting unless they step out of line.”
Victoria waited for him to define what constituted stepping out of line, but he didn’t. She tapped her chin with a forefinger as a wicked idea came to her. Compared to the Aller-Jensen boys, Marty must be much more acceptable to her menfolk. She smiled.
“You’re right, Uncle Quill. Dad told us we should present ourselves well here in Omaha. Beating up strangers because we don’t like their lifestyle would be wrong.” She swallowed and forced the next words out. “We should invite them to sit with us at supper.”
Every one of her relatives snapped his head around to stare at her. “What?” they chorused.
“Well, you know, just to be nice. I mean …” She faltered under their combined outrage. “It would be neighborly. Right?”
Hawk voiced their collective response.” No,” he said with flat finality.
Victoria sighed to hide her relief. “Oh, alright. Where’s Uncle Sand?”
“He went to deliver some letters for Amanda.” Hawk seemed glad of the new topic. “You know his mate grew up here in Omaha.”
“Uh-huh. Oh, look, Mrs. Theige is waving at us.”
The housekeeper came to stand by the stairs. “The buffet is ready, gentlemen. And Miss Wolfe,” she added quickly.
At home, when someone said food was ready, there was a stampede to the where ever the food was to be serviced. Here, no one moved, but all the men were looking at her. Eagle nudged her with an elbow. “They’re being gentlemen, sis, so lead the way before we all starve to death.”
Victoria cast a glance over her shoulder at the corner where Marty was. He and his nephew, Ray, were standing now. He gave her a subtle nod and a slow smile. Good. Marty would join her for supper. Her tummy made a little shimmy of anticipation. She hadn’t spoken with Marty in more than a month. How odd, she thought, that she had missed him so much when she’d barely known him a few months ago.
Once she took a plate from the staff at one end of the table against the wall the men flooded to form a line behind her. She went along the table, taking generous helpings of all the offerings. Anything that Renee made was guaranteed to be delicious. She carried her plate to one of the small square tables, put it down, and went to the next table.
Eagle was right behind her. “What you doing?”
“Let’s put some of these tables together so we can all sit together.”
“That’s a good idea.”
Eagle and Colby shooed her out of the way and moved the table themselves. She grabbed another of the tables and dragged it over.
Colby frowned at her. “We don’t need that many tables.”
“Yes, we do,” she said. “There’s me, you, Eagle, Hawk, Rock, Quill, and Stone. Sand will be coming soon, so we should save a chair for him.” She added in a casual tone, “And don’t forget Ray and Marty.”
Colby stopped dead. “The Madisons don’t belong at our table.”
“Don’t be rude, Cole. Ray Madison is going to be your brother-in-law.”
Apparently, Colby couldn’t find an argument against that. “Oh, fine.”
It wasn’t a gracious acceptance, but Victoria would take it. She wasn’t stupid enough to smile where he could see her. Now if she could just arrange it so Marty sat next to her. Maybe she could say she was saving the seat on her left for Sand and then wave Marty over?
That didn’t work, of course. Stone took the chair on one side of her and Eagle was in the other. Darn. Victoria cut the beef roast on her plate and took a bite. She closed her eyes to savor the flavor of it as it melted in her mouth. No one made beef roast as tender as Renee. She opened her eyes to look for Hawk so she could compliment his mate’s cooking, and saw Marty sitting across the table from her. Her smile grew.
“Hello, Marty,” she purred. “Nice to see you. How have you been?”
If he could sell his mile, he would be a rich man. “Good, thanks.” He aimed his smile at Stone and Eagle. “How was your trip?”
“Long,” she replied before the men could. “We rode the fifty miles to Deadwood to catch the train. Well, I rode, but most of the escort was in wolf form. It’s a good thing Deadwood knows us. I think there might have been a couple of visitors who were surprised to see a lone woman ride into town with three packhorses and twenty wolves running alongside her.”
He laughed. “That must have been a sight.”
Eagle grunted. “There were some visitors. They looked at my sister with too much hunger. Like maybe they wanted to steal her.”
“I bet the twenty of you around her discouraged that idea.”
Eagle grunted again, looking very satisfied.
“And then you took the train here. I hope it wasn’t too uncomfortable.”
Her brother shoveled in a spoonful of mashed potatoes. “I didn’t like being cramped up in that train car for nearly two days, but it wasn’t too bad.”
“Good.” Marty smiled at Victoria. “I know some of your uncles have been to Omaha before, but I don’t believe you have?”
She scooped up a spoonful of mashed potato herself. At this time of the year, the potatoes must made from spuds that had been dried and ground into powder, but the butter and cream Renee whipped them with made them very tasty. She really missed eating Renee’s cooking, but even that couldn’t compete with the appeal of the man across from her. “No, this is my first visit.”
“The legislative session begins the day after tomorrow. If you don’t have plans for tomorrow, I’d be happy to take you on a tour of the city.” When Eagle looked up sharply, he added smoothly, “All of you, of course.”
Hiding her smile and speaking quickly, before any of her relatives could forbid the trip, she said, “That would be great. I’d love to see the city.”
Eagle’s spoon clattered on his plate. “No.”
Victoria jabbed her elbow into her brother’s side. “Yes.”
From her other side, Stone said with exaggerated patience, “Of course you can go, Vic. I’m sure Colby and Rock would like to go too, even if Eagle doesn’t.”
With their sharp ears, Colby and Rock, sitting a little further down the table, had followed this exchange. By leaning forward, she could see them both frowning at her. “We’ll go,” Rock affirmed, transferring his frown to Marty.
“I’ll go,” Eagle said, grumbling.
“Wonderful,” Marty said, as blithely as if he didn’t have three wolf warriors glaring suspiciously at him. “Tomorrow after breakfast?”
Victoria happily contemplated her dried apple pie. She would be with Marty for the whole morning. There had to be a way to get rid of her brother and cousins for at least a little while. She made eye contact with Marty, willing him to see that she was interested in him as more than just a friend of the clan.
His eyes were gorgeous, a vivid shade between blue and green, fringed with eyelashes longer and thicker than her own. Their true beauty, though, was in their warmth. She had seen some eyes that always looked cool and distant. Her uncle Dan, for instance, had eyes of glacier blue that only warmed when he was looking at his mate or his daughter. Every time she had seen Marty looking at her, his eyes had been warm. He would have been a very handsome man regardless, but that warmth made him devastating.
When Stone cleared his throat, she realized she had been staring at Marty too long. She busied herself cutting into her pie. “How is your mom doing, Marty?”
His eyes clouded. “She’s not getting any younger. I’m afraid we might not have her with us much longer.”
“I’m sorry.” Marty had been a surprise child born when Mrs. Madison was in her mid-forties, so she must be at least seventy now. She didn’t know Mrs. Madison well, but she had every intention of becoming the woman’s daughter-in-law. “That must be so hard.”
“Thank you. How are your parents?”
They spoke of generalities for the rest of the meal. The tone was casual and impersonal, which seemed a great contrast to how she was feeling, but none of her relatives growled or glared any more than they usually did. She considered it a great success. Tomorrow will would be her chance to move the relationship past casual and impersonal.
Victoria woke earlier than usual the next morning. Winter was her favorite time of the year because the long nights gave her more time to sleep. Sleeping was one of her favorite activities. But spring was just about here, and the flimsy curtains at the window didn’t keep the light out. She sat up in the saggy bed and stretched. Going by the amount of light filtering in, breakfast was still an hour off. Good. Today she was going to spend time with Marty. There was only one thing standing in the way of that, and she was going to take care of it before breakfast.
Dressed in jeans and a pale blue sweater, she went across the hall and knocked on the other bedroom door. “Hey, you guys awake?”
Her brother’s voice sounded. “Yeah, come in.”
When she saw that Rock, Sand, Quill and Colby were there as well as Eagle and Stone, she smiled with satisfaction. “Good morning.”
Sand stood up from his lean on the wall and came to give her a quick hug. His chipped tooth flashed when he smiled. “Good morning, Vic.”
She smiled back, devising her plan of attack. When she was a girl, her mother had taught her that the best way to handle a bunch of wolf warriors was to put them on the defensive at the start and not give them time to regroup. She looked around the room, considering. Rock and Colby were on the bed. Eagle was propped against one corner of the dresser and Quill was on the other. Stone lounged against the wall beside the head of the bed. Taking a deep breath, she marched to the wall opposite the door and folded her arms.
“Uh-oh,” murmured Stone.
Sand closed the door and leaned on it, looking at her with one eyebrow raised.
“I want to talk about our plans for this morning,” she announced.
Colby nodded. “Yeah, we were just—”
She cut him off with a sharp chopping motion. “I’m talking.”
The expression of outrage on Colby’s face almost made her laugh, but she suppressed it. Accustomed to her speeches, Eagle folded his arms over his chest with exaggerated patience.
“Marty Madison will be taking some of us on a tour of Omaha this morning, and I expect him to be treated with respect.” She looked around at her kinsman to be sure they were paying attention to her. “I will walk beside him—” She raised her voice to be heard over their growls “— so that I can hear what he says. I don’t have super hearing like you do.”
“No one needs super hearing to be able to hear you,” Rock muttered sourly.
She ignored that, congratulating herself for finding the excuse of needing to hear Marty as a way to walk beside him. Even her idiotic brother couldn’t argue with it.
“So I don’t want to hear anybody growling or complaining about me being too close to him on the tour. In fact, if I put my hand on his arm so I can keep my balance on the ice, I don’t want to hear one peep out of any of you.”
Into the shocked silence, Stone shook his head with a smile. “She’s just like her mother,” he commented to Quill.
“Scary,” agreed Quill.
Victoria re-folded her arms over her chest with a scowl. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Nothing.” Stone held up his hands in surrender. “Your mother is a wonderful woman with strong opinions and a way of running over opposition.”
“I just want to make sure that everyone has a good time on the tour today.” She jabbed a finger toward Colby and Rock on the bed and then glared at her brother on the dresser. “No growling. No howling. No dragging me away if I actually brush against Marty.” She would brush against him, and it wouldn’t be on accident, but they didn’t need to know that. “Okay? Are we on the same page?”
Eagle pushed away from the dresser. “You’re doing this just so you can be with Marty Madison.”
Busted. Her brother had seen right through her plot. So what. She walked around until she stood toe to toe with him. “You make it sound like a crime. I happen to like Marty Madison. I happen to like spending time with Marty Madison. And if I want to be with him, I will!”
“He’s not the right man to be your husband,” Eagle shouted.
“And who decided that?” she demanded. “Dad? I love him, and I love you, but you have no right to tell me who is the right man to be my husband. If it was up to you, I’d never get married!”
“Do you think dad would decide something like that without good reason? Huh?” Eagle was every bit as angry as she was. “Trust him on this.”
She was glad of her height. If she was one of Stone and Sara’s daughters, she never could have glared right in her brother’s eyes. “He’s so overprotective I can barely walk across camp without a guard. And you’re no better. Who you think would be good enough to be my husband? Maybe that little runt Jon Allerton?”
“No,” Eagle began, sounding horrified, but Victoria cut him off.
“I’m the oldest virgin in thousand square miles. And I’d like to lose that title sometime before I die.”
They all swung around when the door opened. Sand stepped out of the way for Hawk to come in. The eldest of her uncles looked at her with a severe expression. “Do you realize that everyone downstairs can hear your little discussion?”
Victoria froze with horror. “Marty?”
Hawk his head. “No, he went out to buy more bacon for breakfast. The little runt is out too. And I exaggerated slightly. You can be heard but many of your words could be understood.”
She let out a quick breath with relief.
“Your father does have his reasons for not wanting you and Marty to be together.” Hawk shook his head. “If you want to spend some time with him while we’re here in Omaha, you can. But never alone. Do you hear me, Victoria? Don’t forget you’re not here for romance. You are representing the clan to the Omaha Legislature. That has to come first.”
Chastened, Victoria nodded. “I know.” A hot thread of shame worked its way down her back. She had manipulated her way into being the clan’s delegate in order to see Marty. But she would do her best to speak for the clan. “I’m sorry.”
Hawk nodded and held a hand out palm down to indicate the subject was closed. “Breakfast should be ready in a few minutes. Let’s go grab a table.”