Montana Rhapsody Pt. 03byEgmont0409©
At breakfast Hal told Annie, "Paris and I are going off somewhere today is that okay?"
"Why are you asking me Hal?"
"He's just been polite," Paris said, guessing what was on Hal's mind. "He's wishing to add to my Montana experiences."
Annie smiled and wished them a great time.
As they drove off in Hal's SUV Paris said, "Annie really did wish us well."
"Well okay she did but she has no idea what we are planning to do."
"I didn't either until you mentioned it. I'm dressed for shopping so Annie will know why we are going without her."
"To buy a ring."
"Yes, what else would we go off to buy without taking her with us?"
"Oh crap. She knows."
"Hal you know she already knows."
"Christ women. Will Bozeman do or even the Falls if you wish? You haven't been up there."
"Well normally I would be please to shop locally but Billings please."
"Hal you'd ride twenty miles to attend a sick cow. Surely going to Billings to please me is not too onerous."
"Oh yeah, Billings it is."
"I'll pay for the gas and for the ring if all this expense is biting you."
The vehicle ploughed off the gravel access road experiencing two heavy bumps but they returned to the formed road without any apparent harm done.
"When Hal Harrop says he's taking his sweetheart to Billings to buy her an engagement ring that's what Hal Harrop does and no one else pays anything."
"Oh Hal, my hero."
"Gawd shut up Paris. You've had me off the track already."
"Yes darling," Paris said giggling.
They had a great day once Hal relaxed and stopped looking at his watch. Paris looked carefully and returned to the third store they'd visited and selected a ring with small diamonds set flatly into the surface of the platinum. Hal wanted a big diamond that stood out until Paris said, "What if I decide to ride out wearing my ring? I don't want to have to take it off every time I do something?"
"Oh very practical. That ought to save insurance claims."
They returned homewards and stopped off just on dark at a restaurant in Bozeman after Paris had earlier called Alice to say they would be doing that, although she'd not discussed it with Hal. He would have only said no.
"I've had almost the perfect day," Hal said, finishing his third beer and looking at his watch.
"That's lovely Hal and don't fret, I'll have you back on to the ranch without it being beyond midnight."
The party was held two Sunday later. Paris had asked for an advanced weather report and Alice said the weather would be fine but still a little chilly.
Alice asked, "How many will I be catering for?"
"Um twenty guests, I'll ask Lisa to have the twins home. Oh plus the boys."
"Tell Lisa that and she'll know about your engagement."
Turning very bright pink Paris looked Alice directly in the eye and said, "Then I'll make Lisa promise to keep her mouth shut."
"Lady, you have become damn tough since you've been here," Alice said. "Aren't you going to tell me?"
"Damn tough. You could have earned an Academy Award for such great acting, keeping such a straight face under pressure."
"Perhaps I've learned from you when you tell me stories how wicked the Army soldiers were and how the various tribes of Indians were so gloriously brave when they sat in peaceful protests when they were confronted by sabers and rifles and artillery."
Annie roared with laughter and said, "You clever little bitch seeing through Indian propaganda. I ought to swat you."
"Not if you wish to retain your teeth and have your breasts remain on your chest."
"Oh, as I said, a tough-sounding little bitch," Annie chortled.
They hugged and kissed and Annie whispered, "Congratulations and I mean that deeply. You are so wonderful for him."
Of course everyone invited guessed what this was about. Why else would Hal be inviting people formally, in an invitation signed by Hal but in a women's handwriting to a cookout with no real warmth in the sun yet?
So they all turned up with engagement presents.
The twins arrived excitedly and grabbed Paris's hand asking to see the ring.
"Christ Lisa," Paris frowned.
"I didn't tell a soul, not even David, truly. If you wanted to keep the secret it was a dumb thing to do to have a cookout so early in the season and issuing a formal invitation with pretty spring flowers on the cover and carrying Hal's forged signature. Hal like all men around here wouldn't have a clue what a formal invitation was and even if the did they certainly wouldn't send out pretty cards smelling of a woman's perfume."
"Oh crap, I best sneak over to Hal and tell him I fouled up although he's implicated because he told me to go ahead with the invitations."
"He know darling," Lisa smiled, looking behind Paris who turned and grinned, watching arriving guys slap Hal on the back and pumping his arm and women piling presents on to the table beside the beer table.
The boys trooped over and dutifully congratulated Paris who had two of the three saying 'Shucks' when she kissed them.
A couple of hours later Hal had everyone laughing helplessly when in great seriousness he stuck to his prepared speech that began, "Friends and the boys and to anyone else not thinking those two tags covered them. We are gathered here today for me to make the surprise announcement that the beautiful Paris and I have decided to marry and this occasion is to celebrate our engagement and for you all to witness me placing the ring on Paris's finger."
When he finished Merle Cook the accountant called out, "When's the wedding?"
Hal smiled, "August of course. All our hay will be in by then. It will be in New York and all of you visitors here today will be invited to attend, at your own expense of course."
"New York?" Paris cried. "But we hadn't discussed venue?"
"I asked Alice this morning where will I be married and she said New York."
Paris shrugged helplessly. "Oh, then no problem. That's where it's meant to be. My mom will have wanted it in New York anyway."
When the Withers family was leaving Lisa came up to Paris with Marcie and said, "Marcie would like a few words."
"Marcie," Paris said clutching the 19-year-old. "We are friends. You can ask me anything without having to use your mom as an intermediary."
"Well this is different. I wrote to thank you for those books that were sent to my college and we have switched to using 'Meg's Rainbow's End' in class studies and I'm so proud of you. Our instructor on fiction writing Miss Ryan wants even more. She's asked me to invite you to address our class."
"I've told Meg that that it's too much to ask because the girls go to my old university in Colorado and..."
"I'd be happy to do that Marcie. I deserve a break and would like to stay a couple of days and have a look around.
"Oh Paris thanks," Marcie said, kissing her. I will ask Miss Ryan to give some dates and times. I'm off to tell Bella."
"Why don't you come with me Lisa and be my tour guide?"
"Well I was just thinking about that. Yes this could be fun."
Hal thought it was a good idea and convinced Paris to spend a week there and get in some decent skiing. "I guess you do ski, we've never discussed it?"
"Yes I do."
"Good, Lisa will like that because she's a crack skier. Try to time your chat late in the week and get the twins released from college at the weekend to go skiing with you."
They did that and the time away brought the two women very close together, Paris discovering the older woman was missing female company now the twins were at college. Paris convinced her when her current live-in housekeeper left Lisa ought to try to get one with drive and personality like Alice.
"Yes I'd thought along those lines. But who with brains would want to come out here into the wide open spaces?"
"Perhaps a woman with brains?"
"Ah Paris, you are unflaggingly positive. I'll have to talk on the phone more with you and we must look at going shopping once a month, I mean real shopping."
David met the two women at the airport and Paris called Hal and asked him to come down to the mailbox to meet her.
"And don't you dare send one of the boys."
"Christ no. I've missed you terribly and have been a pain in the butt to everyone."
Paris smiled. They had not communicated since she'd left, at her suggestion. She lied that she wanted a real break but the truth was she wished to test Hal to allow him to think about what place she had in his life."
When they began driving towards the ranch house Paris said, "So you missed me. You missed screwing I bet? Well some of the heifers look pretty."
Hal didn't bite. He just turned and smiled and said it wasn't about sex. "It's about you. I missed you presence. Our house sings when you are around. I missed your touch, your sounds, your softness, your applied perfume, the smell of your cosmetics, your clothes over the floor, the happy sound of you splashing in the bath. Oh I missed you."
"Oh darling. Stop and we can have sex right now."
"No it's okay. Tonight will be fine. I feel ever so good having you next to me again."
"I was only away seven days Hal?"
"I know and not long enough to get over missing you."
Gawd, Paris thought. She'd uncovered a seam of sensitivity she hadn't even suspected existed.
When they went to bed that night Hal pretended he didn't want sex. Paris had lifted a bare boob and clucked, "Here boy" and her prevaricating lover claimed he was more interested in being against her warm body and hugging her. Paris didn't worry. She knew this stance wouldn't last and she smiled when Hal, kissing her hair and snuggled in against her back, had to pull a hand off her boob to attend to a growing erection doubled over against her thigh and paining him.
Although the bedcovers were heavy she lifted her uppermost leg and whispered, "Put it in". There was no excuse, no protest. Hal went almost straight in and with a big sigh was honest enough to confess, "I really missed this."
Afterwards as they were slipped into exhausted sleep he grunted, "I don't mind if you come off the pill."
Paris's eyes flew open.
"If you want us to start making a kid that's very okay by me. I'd like a boy first."
Swallowing Paris said then okay she'd prepare herself.
Hal slipped into sleep, leaving Paris awake with her mind in a whirl.
* * *
Paris had just lodged eleven chapters for courier deliver to Ruby Street and was walking along the short main street of their small service town when a guy fell into step beside her with a friendly greeting. To her embarrassment Paris couldn't remember Rory White's name but another name jumped at her.
"Oh hi Little Round Black Hat."
Rory looked surprised and said, "Fancy you remembering that name?"
"I'd temporarily forgotten your proper name. How's next week's Welcome to Spring festival going?"
"We're worried. Interest appears way down."
"Well people have had a hard winter."
Rory said all the more reason to celebrate it's ending.
"We have only five entries in the best decorated float competition."
"Gee that's tough. Look I'll call you later Royce."
"Oh sorry. My mind's ticking over. I've already thought of one thing that could perhaps stir interest. I'll have a real think over coffee."
The first call was to Lisa Withers and after the sorry tale was delivered Lisa's first reaction was, "We should try to help. Attendance was down last year so we could easily lose this tradition and that would be sad because we don't have much in the way of traditions around here. You are the ideas persons Paris and I'm a good organizer. Combined we could slay apathy."
"Yes, yes. I was just thinking that was a great line."
"Never mind. I'll call back when I have something to report."
Paris asked the woman who ran the diner could she look up the phone number of 'The Examiner'. The woman had the number memorized because she was a regular advertiser.
"Oh hi Paris. That was a lovely engagement party."
"Why thank you Maddie. Look, this is a business call. I'll need a big story in your newspaper."
"Paris I'm commercial manager of the company and..."
"I know but I don't want a cub reporter working on this. The honor of the town is at stake and as you said you were twenty years a reporter for Ritchie's father when he ran the business."
"The honor of the town is at stake. Oooh. I'll be on my way out to you within the hour."
"I'm in town. I'll be waiting for you in McPherson's Diner."
The two women kissed and got down to business. When Paris had finished Maddie said she was sure Ritchie would do the right thing. The story was more than good enough to go front-page lead.
For the next two days Lisa and Paris visited people and then they called on Rory at Merle Cook's accountancy offices and left him speechless except he did manage, "Jesus!"
Saturday afternoon, two weeks later, the event was held as planned with a record turnout and recorded by film crews from three TV channels.
Two Friday's earlier 'The Examiner' led with a story quoting Paris saying she was a New Yorker and had been really looking forward to the Welcome to Spring Festival only to hear an ugly rumor that it might be cancelled due to lack of support. She'd found support from people to ensure that didn't happen.
The group was adding zest to the festival by 'souping' up prizes.
Harding's Supermarket was donating a $500 pack of groceries including cans of soup in the lucky draw of ticket-holders who paid the one dollar entry donation that would be collected at both ends of Main Street, that collection money going to charity. McPherson's Dinner had donated vouchers for meals to the value of $500 for the best decorated store window in Main Street on the day. Country Gas and Vehicle Servicing would give $500 in fuel vouchers to the entrant of the Best Decorated Motor Vehicle in the street parade. 'The Examiner' would give $500 of vouchers to be spent at its bookshop or on commercial printing for the Best Decorated baby buggy, cart, scooter or bike. Paris McCoy and Lisa Withers had combined to double the prize-money pool provided by Merle Cook Public Accountants to $2000 for the three top place-getters in the 'Spring Princess' contest.
"This town's Welcome to Spring Festival is a tradition and I'm told traditions are a little thin on the ground around here, so we must keep this tradition going," Paris was quoted as saying. "My friend Lisa Withers hit the nail on the head and inspired me to get behind this even when she said, 'Combined we could slay apathy'."
"It's now up to the townspeople and people in the hinterland to come to town tomorrow week and show that when we say we have a spring festival we mean just that and pile out to support it just by being there. I'm so excited at the prospect of seeing the joy of spring being celebrated at this year's festival. It's a time when we can resolve to cast away the depression of winter and never be grumpy again. The festival organizer has invited me to lead the horse parade. Golly I hope I don't fall off. My horse is lame so I'll be riding Prairie Queen who is part-Mustang. Until I arrived here I though Mustang was a car."
"Oh don't tell anyone but because I've never seen Indians in ceremonial dress, a small party of them led by a guy who jokingly calls himself Little Round Black Hat will parade immediately behind me. Oh what a great afternoon it will be."
A photo of Paris, dressed in a skimpy blue dress and holding a flag leading the horse parade featured in several newspapers around the country including in New York. The caption read:
'New York romance writer Paris McCoy went out West to gather background for her next novel. Since then a small part of Montana is still recovering from the impact, wondering how such a feminine person can make such a big noise and do so much. But on Saturday she was honored, being invited to lead the parade at the local Welcome to Spring Festival. The festival appeared in danger of going under this year because people were weary and apathetic after a very severe winter. But Paris and best friend Lisa Withers breathed fresh life into its preparation. Paris became engaged to a local rancher recently and they plan to marry in New York in August.'
Paris, Annie and the boys gathered around Hal to look at the photo and Annie, with her glasses on, read the caption.
"You are showing way too much breast," Hal observed.
Larry said, "Isn't what they say if you're got it you flaunt it?"
Hal was the only one who didn't laugh.
"Well here comes the first call," said Alice, perceptively. "I'll man the phone today. Stick around Paris."
As she reached the phone it rang.
No one in the room looked surprised.
"Why would people want to talk to be because I rode a horse in a street parade," Paris said as she was called to the phone. "Oh god, that stupid piece about the engagement and wedding."
"Say boss I didn't know you regarded your wedding as stupid," Larry said, edging out of reach of Hal.
One of the early callers was Ruby in New York.
"Thanks for not telling my about the engagement you bitch."
"I posted a letter to you yesterday inviting you to be one of my bridesmaids."
"Ohmigod, Paris. I didn't mean to be bitchy to you."
"I'm calling to offer congratulations after calling you a bitch and to say an independent TV crew has called us, saying you are becoming a big name and they want to film you doing something on the ranch to flog off to one of the big networks."
"Castrating bull calves."
"Oh god Paris, I'm almost vomiting."
"Oh sorry. What about Nurse McCoy attending to sick cattle in the barn?"
"Darling I think they'd be wanting to film you amid real ranch action."
"Oh, I know. We go up every few days to move herds on summer pastures. We go in a couple of days to move steers such higher up the mountain."
"Ohmigod that will be up in really grand country. I'll call you back. The crew will need a few days to prepare and get to you."
"That's fine. I know you only want this to happen because you wish to sell books."
"Well bitch, don't let this go to your head. The big boss has authorized a print run of 75,000 all in paperback and the executive committee believes we'll probably have to have 125,00 printed. Our record print for a single romance novel is 105,000, so guess what."
"I told you not to let that go to your head."
"I won't, I promise. Ohmigod."
Annie was the only one in the house so almost in a faint Paris told her the news. Annie smiled and said that was great news, particularly as Paris had said her best sales to date for a book were 11,300.
But as Paris watched Annie's smile disappeared and her face seemed to freeze and her eyes darkened. Annie intoned. "Your Montana novel will sell almost 650,000 copies." And then it was gone in a flash and Annie was smiling again.
"What's wrong darling?"
Paris groaned and collapsed into Annie's arms.
Gently slapping Paris's face Annie crooned, "Come on Paris, there is no need to prolong your faint. You have no audience."
Slowly Paris got to her feet.
Annie guessed what this was about. "Did I tell you something?"
"Yes about sales of my Montana romance paperback."
"Yes, I won't tell you because I don't want people ridiculing you."
"That's why I usually don't discuss with them what they allege I've said."
"I mean even my editors."
"Well say nothing. What have you to lose?"
"Um nothing but I'd like to tell you what you said."
"It's your decision."
"You said this paperback would sell almost 650,000 copies."
"Big cheese huh?"
"If it did and they sold fast those sales would put my novel on best-seller lists."
"Well let everyone wait to find out huh?"