Tuesday Teaser 6/24/14: Wolf’s Lady Part 23
Hello! We’re heading down the home stretch of this little short story about Sand and Amanda. I think I’ll have this rough draft wrapped up by the end of July. But we’ll see. You recall we left Amanda telling Terry Askup he wasn’t man enough to handle a woman like her, and the only man who would handle her from now on was Sand? We pick up now from Sand’s point of view. Enjoy!
Delight and elation soared in Sand. My mate, he thought. My mate is magnificent. He said, “I love you too,” but the people in the room were shouting and laughing, and she was glaring challengingly at Askup, so maybe she didn’t hear him. That was okay. He’d tell her again later. He would tell her every day for the rest of their lives.
The judge stood at his desk, face red while he banged his hammer and shouted for silence. Since his desk was at the top of a few steps, he was taller than anyone else. Sand forced himself to look away from his mate and focus on the judge.
“Order! Silence! Order! If you clowns in the gallery don’t shut up and sit down, I’ll empty the courtroom!”
The judge’s threat was effective. The room quieted. The judge cleared his throat and pointed his wooden hammer at Amanda. “You may sit down, ma’am.”
Sand heard her settle herself back into her chair. The judge remained standing at his desk.
“It is clear to this court that the discord between Mr. Askup and Mr. Wolfe stems from their ardent desire to win the affections of the same woman. She has stated before this court that her affections belong to Mr. Wolfe. Based on the evidence and testimony heard today, I find that both the plaintiff and the defendant are at fault. They will each be fined two gold strips or one hundred hours of community service.”
Two gold? Sand’s heart sank. He didn’t have any money at all. One hundred hours of labor he could do, but he wanted to take Amanda home as soon as possible. He couldn’t wait to introduce her to the Pack by Kearney, and then take her out to the Clan on the plains to meet his father and brothers.
“That ridiculous!” protested Askup. He shook off his lawyer’s hand. “I am not at fault here!”
“I say you are, and since I am the appointed judge of the court, I think my word carries a little more weight than yours.”
Askup turned his head to look behind Sand, obviously at Amanda. “Amanda, I know you’re being coerced. You can’t want to marry that filthy, longhaired—”
“Oh, but I do,” Amanda spat.
“That’s enough,” the judge said with authority.
Askup gave the man a hostile stare. “This part has nothing to do with your court, so stay out of it. Amanda, if you actually marry this Indian, I will kill him and bring you home with me.”
Sand bared his teeth at the threat. He heard Sky’s voice urging him to calm down. There was only so much he could take. Counting each breath that hissed through his clenched teeth helped. So did the expression on the judge’s face. He didn’t know the judge, but any fool could see Askup had said the wrong thing.
“This is my courtroom,” Judge Case said coolly, “and I’m raising your fine another two strips of gold, for contempt of court! And one more, for threatening the life of a man within the hearing of the court.”
Could a man’s face get so dark without harming his heart? Sand was amazed and even a little worried. If Askup dropped dead it might upset Amanda. But his worry was swallowed by anger when Askup spoke next.
“I forbid you to marry him. Do you understand me, Amanda? I forbid it! A whore should be good at taking orders; why can’t you just listen to me?”
The judge’s roar cut through Sand’s growl. He could almost taste Sky’s suppressed rage behind him. Sand subsided, holding to a sliver of his temper with great effort. The judge waved a hand at Amanda behind him.
“Stand up, my dear, stand up and approach the bench. Bring your fiancé with you, please.”
Amanda’s soft hand slipped into his. Just the scent of her calmed him. They walked the few yards to stand in front of the judge’s raised desk. The judge leaned forward to look at both of them and spoke quietly.
“Do you have enough to pay the marriage fee?”
“Yes,” Amanda answered quickly. “And enough to pay his fine.”
“Good.” The judge straightened and raised his voice to a boom. “It is the pleasure of this court to unite Miss Amanda and Mr. Wolfe in the bonds of Holy Matrimony immediately. Mr. Wolfe, please take your bride by the ha— Good God. Bailiff! Unlock the shackles on this man.”
Amanda waved a shaky hand at the judge. “Johnny, I mean, Your Honor, right now?”
Sand’s heart plummeted to his stomach. “Have you changed your mind?”
“No!” Her hand, which had released him so the handcuffs could be removed, clutched his hand again. Her eyes looked into his with a smile, and he was ready to do anything so she would keep smiling at him like that. “I will marry you this second. But I want my dad to give me away.” She looked back up at the judge. “Please, I want my father here.”
“Very well.” The judge beckoned at one of the uniformed guardsmen. “Go fetch Mr. Nelson. Waste no time. We’re starting in a half hour whether he’s here or not.”
“And my cousin, if you see her!” Amanda called at the departing man.
Askup’s face was livid right down to his jowls. “Do I have the court’s permission to withdraw?” he asked, sarcasm dripping from his voice.
“No, you do not.” The judge’s smile was anything but friendly. “You will stay and witness this marriage. That way, I and all of Omaha, will know that you cannot be ignorant of the union. And you do recall, don’t you, that the punishment for interfering with a marriage can be anything up to death?”
Terry Askup subsided, his color now sickeningly pale. But Sand couldn’t care less about that. Amanda stood at his side, holding his arm with that brilliant smile on her face. In only a few minutes she would be his wife, and nothing else mattered to him.