In My Life Ch. 05

byHarddaysknight©

"You haven't beaten me yet!" he shouted as people began backing away. "Everything was going so well, until the Major laid his eyes on you! You Jezebel!"

Emerson realized that Taylor was directing his wrath at Maria. As he spoke he was raising his gun! Emerson was unarmed and totally helpless. He knew he would never be able to stop Taylor before he fired.

Maria was stunned to see an armed Tom Taylor spewing venom and pointing his gun at her. Looking at the deranged man, she knew he was going to kill her. She could neither move nor think. She simply stared, facing her fate.

Carmella knew a fear she had never before experienced. She gasped and looked on in horror. Pat Casey let out a roar, but was too far away to reach Taylor before he could shoot. Cursing, he started for Taylor. No one else made any noise, silently watching the horrible turn of events.

Emerson could see Taylor's intention. His mind raced as he considered options. Only one came to him. He would do anything to save Maria! With no regrets, Emerson turned his back on Taylor and pulled Maria to him, thus affording Taylor no target. Emerson knew this would not prevent Taylor from shooting. It would prevent the bullet from striking Maria. In the fraction of a second it took for Emerson to act, he knew he could not fail Maria. He actually felt a strange relief, thinking he had been at the right place at the right time. He had known for a long time that he would give his life for Maria.

Maria trembled as she stood in Emerson's arms. Time seemed to stand still. She waited for the gun to roar and Emerson to be hit. Then a dull thud came to her and people all around began to exhale and talk. She and Emerson slowly looked toward Taylor. He was on the floor, unconscious, with Lieutenant Andrews standing over him with a drawn pistol.

Carmella, Pat, Cathy and the others rushed to Maria, concerned about her health. She simply buried her face in Emerson's shoulder and sobbed.

"Son, I'll never forget what I just saw," Pat Casey told Emerson. "I couldn't get to Maria, or that damn Taylor. Thanks for taking care of Maria again!" Pat's voice was heavy with emotion.

Carmella was patting Maria's back. "You are fine, Maria. Emerson would never let anything happen to you. That much is obvious. Emerson, that was a wonderful thing you did! Thank-you."

Cathy pressed her face close to Maria's. "Maria, that was the most romantic thing I have ever seen! You are so lucky! Here you are, your arms wrapped around this big cowboy, who just tried to give his life to save yours. The thing is, you both are alive. It couldn't have worked out better. We have to thank Andrews. He was great!"

Emerson stood very still. Maria was safe and she was in his arms. He really didn't care much about anything else. He was content to hold her as long as she wanted.

Finally, Maria pulled her face away from Emerson's chest and turned her eyes to his. "Emerson, I don't deserve this. I have treated you so poorly, and you keep taking care of me. Thanks." As she finished speaking, Maria kissed Emerson.

Carmella and Pat exchanged glances and smiled. Molly was beaming as her son looked around at his friends. He was flustered, but looked very happy.

Without taking her arms from Emerson's waist, Maria addressed her father. "There is still one matter to clear up, Father, I fear that someone may hurt my reputation this evening and you may have to intervene," Maria told a surprised Pat Casey.

"If you're talking about that damned Michael, I'd say Emerson already took care of that," Pat Casey told his daughter.

"I am talking about Emerson Trask," Maria answered.

The entire group went silent at Maria's statement. Ellen and Cathy nodded to each other and smiled. Maria was still going to try it!

"Maria, what are you talking about?" Pat demanded.

"I would like to know, too." Emerson was stunned. "I would never damage your reputation. Pat knows that."

"I will prove it to everyone here. They can judge," Maria was now looking at Emerson, but speaking to the group.

Pat Casey attempted to speak, but Carmella pulled him aside and quietly said, "Pat, stay out of this! Maria has something in mind and you are supposed to stay silent."

Pat told his wife, "That suits me fine. I can't understand that girl!"

"That should be interesting," Emerson responded. "Do your best." He knew he had never maligned Maria. It would be one of Michael's lies and easily corrected.

"Father, this man was talking love to me all the time we were on that cattle drive. Cathy," Maria spoke to her friend while still facing Emerson, "didn't you hear him?"

"I did, Maria. He didn't know I could understand Spanish. I told Emerson later that Pat would have shot him if he had known the things Emerson was telling Maria," Cathy answered. "It was very romantic!"

"Thanks, Cathy." Maria then spoke to Billy, "Didn't Emerson talk about me all over the world? Wasn't I a topic of his conversation on several continents and oceans?"

Billy was obviously nervous. "Well, yes, but never with disrespect."

Maria questioned Ellen next. "Ellen, didn't Emerson tell you about me?"

"Maria, that man wouldn't give me a second look, because of you. I could tell you were the one he wanted. He was in love with you. That was clear."

"Mother, weren't we approached by two men in the hotel that thought Emerson and I were married?"

Carmella was not anxious to get involved in Maria's scheme. She gave a short response. "Yes, we were."

"Cathy, didn't Major Reynolds seem to think there was something between Emerson and me?"

Cathy was smiling as she answered, "I should say so! It was pretty clear that Emerson had talked a lot about you to them, and to who knows who else!"

Emerson broke in. "None of that hurt Maria's reputation, Pat. I don't know what is wrong here." Emerson addressed Pat but never took his gaze from Maria. He was getting an uncomfortable feeling that he had no chance to win this discussion.

"I am not finished. I have a few questions for you and I would like simple yes or no answers. Will you humor me?" Maria was still close to Emerson as she spoke. Her lips were close to his and her eyes shone. It was as if the others weren't there. She had eyes only for Emerson.

Emerson felt like he was a man under a spell. He could not, or would not move back from Maria. He held his ground as she kept moving closer to him. He felt totally under Maria' power.

When Emerson nodded assent, Maria went on. "Father, listen to this man and decide if he has been playing fast and loose with me."

Everyone had drawn closer, trying to catch this strange drama as it unfolded. Pat never answered Maria, nor did she seem to expect it. Molly and Carmella held each other's hands as they watched, not knowing what to expect, but knowing something was happening.

Cathy and Ellen stood together, with Tom at Cathy's side. Both girls were in complete awe of Maria and her sudden courage, especially with such a large audience.

Cathy whispered to Ellen, "I can't believe this! Maria is so bold! She has nerve. I hope this works!"

"Emerson, did you tell me I was the most beautiful girl you had ever seen?"

"Yes," was Emerson's response. He was lost in Maria's eyes. All control was gone.

"Did you mean that," Maria asked.

Again Emerson responded, "Yes."

"Did you tell Major Reynolds, Ellen Lander, her father, and God knows who else, all about me while you were in South America, and didn't they seem to think there was something between us?" Maria questioned Emerson.

Emerson was looking hard at Maria, trying to guess where she was headed with her questions. "Yes, I led some people, including Major Reynolds to believe that I cared for you, but had lost your trust."

"Isn't it true that even my cousins think there is something between us?"

Emerson knew that was true, but not his doing. Still he answered, "Yes. Although you know I was not to blame for that."

"Didn't you fight with Michael last night because he said he was my lover, and you would not allow him to damage my reputation?"

Emerson was becoming uncomfortable with Maria's line of questioning, and did not want to discuss what Michael had been saying.

"Maria, that's enough! Yes, I fought with him over what he said about you."

"Emerson, you still don't want anyone to hear the vile things Michael said, not even me." Maria smiled as she spoke to Emerson. "I have more questions. Didn't you tell me that you bought a ring for me while you were traveling, although you never showed it to me? Is there a ring?"

Emerson was beginning to feel trapped. Breathing seemed to becoming more difficult. He looked away and answered, "Yes."

"Emerson, have you talked to Billy about the possibility of going back to sea?" Maria was still watching Emerson.

Emerson turned his stare on Billy, who was intent on looking at his hands. "We discussed it, yes."

"Didn't you step between Tom Taylor and me when he threatened to shoot me? Weren't you willing to be shot in the back rather than see harm come to me?"

"My life for yours, Maria. I would make that trade when necessary."

"I have one last question and then I'll make my point, if it isn't clear to everyone by now."

Maria knew she could not turn back, although she was very nervous. The answer to her next question would forever affect her life. Maria moved even closer to Emerson. Her lips were almost touching Emerson's.

Carmella marveled at Maria's boldness. She had never seen her anything like this before. Both Carmella and Molly were breathing heavy with the emotion they felt.

Ellen and Cathy pushed closer to hear and see everything that was going on. The men stood silent, Maria's intent lost to them.

"Emerson Trask, are you in love with me?"

Pat Casey groaned and several of the women gasped as Maria asked her last question. Everyone watched Emerson as he struggled to answer.

Emerson no longer cared what anyone else thought. He had blocked out everyone. There was only Maria, the loveliest thing he had ever known.

"Maria, you have asked the question, although I would hope you already know the answer. Yes, I love you and have for years."

Cathy was near tears as she spoke, "Maria, for God's sake, you have his answer! Can't this game end?"

"Not yet, Cathy." Maria was becoming emotional herself, but she was determined to see it through. "I want to explain to everyone what the problem is."

"All kinds of people think Emerson and I are sweethearts, or even lovers. Yet tonight, he dances very close with other women and is even talking of going back to sea. What will people think? I'll tell you how it will look. It will appear that I have been jilted! Even my own cousins will believe it."

"Emerson can go on to more conquests and my reputation will be in shambles, because he left me. It just seems that a man who is supposed to be so honorable, is treating me badly. The only way I can think to make it right, is for me to have the option of ending it. Then Dad would not be forced to flog this man!"

Pat Casey tried to speak, but Carmella pinched his arm hard. Her look told him to remain still.

"Pat, I don't understand what Maria wants me to do. I certainly wouldn't want to be flogged, especially by a friend." Emerson faced Maria as he spoke to Pat.

"Emerson, I want you to give me the chance to decide if this romance we supposedly had, is going to end." Maria went on, "You will be gone anyway, and it isn't any disgrace for a man to be spurned by a woman. I will be left to live with it over my head, if you are the one to end it."

Maria looked into Emerson's eyes, "I want you to do the honorable thing. You have a ring. Why don't you just ask me one question and that will make everything right again?"

Emerson could not believe what he was hearing. She expected him to propose! If he did, she could reject him and save her reputation. His feelings would be crushed, but she was right. It was better that way than to hurt her.

Since Emerson was wearing new boots for the dance, he had removed the ring from its hiding place and carried it in a pocket.

"All right Maria, I will do it." Emerson no longer hid his feelings. Maria had exposed him totally, and he felt only relief. Slowly, he reached into his pocket and produced the ring. "Maria Casey, I am in love with you and I am asking you to marry me."

"Emerson Trask, I am flattered that you would ask." Maria was very close to Emerson. "You have gambled your life for me a few times. How about taking a chance one more time? If that ring fits, I will become your wife, with all that it means, to be with you the rest of my life. If that ring doesn't fit, you will go back to the sea and never return to Morgantown. Will you risk it?"

This time Carmella groaned as Maria stated her terms. The entire group seemed to have stopped breathing as they watched Emerson and Maria.

"Maria, that is more of a chance than I had ever hoped for. Hold up your finger and let's see if it fits." Emerson was no longer nervous. It would soon be over and he would know.

Maria's hand was shaking as she held it up for Emerson. Slowly, gently, Emerson started the ring down Maria's finger. It held up slightly as it came to her knuckle. Carmella squirmed as the ring stopped. She could barely endure the drama to which she was witness. Had Maria gone too far?

Then, the ring slid into place.

Everyone let out their breath at the same time. Laughter and tears were mixing as hugs were exchanged and men slapped each other on the back. Still standing in the center were Emerson and Maria.

"Maria, I won't hold you to this, I don't want to have you because you lost a bet. You can still back out." Emerson spoke softly as the others celebrated.

Maria held her face very close to Emerson, "Emerson, I didn't lose! I won! You never had a chance. I planned this whole thing."

"What would you have done if the ring didn't fit? Wasn't that a gamble?"

"Emerson, I tried it on when you were in that fever. I knew it would fit. I was just testing you a little to see how you'd react. You passed," Maria's voice trailed off as Emerson's lips met hers.

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by Anonymous

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by Anonymous06/10/18

Brings back so many memories....

I grew up reading all of Louis L'Amour and Max Brand books as a child and still have everyone of their books in my collection! This is as good as any of them! The story was very good and Emerson is onemore...

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by Anonymous03/12/18

I agree with most of the comments here. Maria was a spoiled little girl and not a woman. Emerson deserved better!

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by Anonymous03/08/18

Very good western read.

You wrote this some time ago. It is probably one of the best stories you’ve written ( that includes LIR). It had action adventure and romance. I could visualize the story with out effort. No many authorsmore...

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by Anonymous02/27/18

Bad ending

It would have been much more interesting if he had left and gone back to sea without telling her. There is no doubt that she deserved to be alone after all the doubts, accusations and criticism as wellmore...

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by Anonymous02/19/18

The ends don't justify the means. In this case, Emerson should go back to sea. Maria will make his life a living hell if he stays.

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