tagNovels and NovellasTT2: Becky's Debt Ch.01-02

TT2: Becky's Debt Ch.01-02

bySteffiOlsen©

NOTE: It isn't necessary for you to read Texas Trio before reading TT2-- they can both stand alone-- but there ARE spoilers, so I definitely recommend reading that first. Since TT2 is already done, I'll do my best to stick to an every-other-week posting schedule. Hopefully, a regular dose of sexy cowboy will hold you over while I'm finishing up Sleeping Beast! Thank you again for the hearts, stars and comments-- those little bits of happiness are why we post! --Stefanie

REMINDER: I write long stories (this one's about twice as long as TT1!). Some chapters don't have naughty bits, but those that do will be way more fun if you read the non-naughty bits, too! (Spicy chapters may be posted in other, more relevant categories.)



✵





Chapter 1



"Colt!"

Jeremiah Wilson was going to kill his partner.

He barely made it, catching one meaty bicep as Colt launched himself out of the saddle. He got his own leg over the pommel just in time to avoid landing on his ass as he tumbled to the ground, still hanging on.

"Jem, goddam it!" Colt tried to shake him off, but Jem held on 'til the cowboy Colt was chasing was out of sight. Once freed, Colt whirled to find his prey had vanished with the herd as it surged into the gap ahead.

"Goddamn it, Jem! It's gonna take me half a day to figure out who that was." He swung back up into his saddle, scowling. "With all the goddamn new hands, I don't know half of 'em any more."

Jem mounted his own horse. "Yeah, well, that's a good thing, since you're so determined to fire every one of them."

"They're lucky I don't kill 'em," Colt muttered as they trotted toward the house in the wake of the woman causing all this trouble.

"Listen, Colt, Texas may be teeming with cowhands, but I'd rather hang onto the ones we have than spend all my time approving new ones who'll take off as soon as the roundup is over."

Like other ranchers, Colt and Jeremiah left it to the wagon bosses and trail boss to hire their own men, but they liked to meet every new hand at least once. Colt was generally mistrustful and wanted a chance to examine them himself, while Jem just thought a personal greeting might have some value as a deterrent. Maybe a troublemaker would think twice knowing that the owners of the KCW took an interest, or maybe he'd simply decide one of them was too big (Jeremiah) or too mean (Colt) to tangle with.

The chore wasn't one either of them wanted to let fall by the wayside, but it had become progressively more time-consuming as their wife's sister matured.

Colt shot a dark look his way. "Look who's talkin'! I hadta pull you offa Lem last week 'fore you killed him!"

"That was different. He wasn't just looking, he was talking about her, too."

"Yeah, well the lookin's bad enough," Colt growled. "I toldja we shouldn'ta hired him."

Jeremiah bit back his retort: if Colt hadn't fired so many hands, Lemuel wouldn't have been a necessary evil when the drovers went out to pick up strays.

They rode in silence for half a mile before Jem commented. "Who knew having a sister was going to be this much trouble?"

Colt didn't answer. It was the same question they'd been asking each other for the past five years, and there was no relief in sight.






Chapter 2



The sister in question beat them back to the ranch house by a full hour. By the time Colt and Jeremiah had seen the wrangler, the trail boss, and cast an eye over the herd, Becky was clean, clothed in feminine garb, and primly seated at the kitchen table with Lily in her lap, awaiting her lecture.

It wasn't as though she could avoid it, after all. Colt and Jem had very definite ideas about what was proper and what was not when it came to their wife's younger sister, and wearing trousers decidedly fell into the latter category.

Becky had known she was in trouble as soon as she spotted them crossing the river up ahead. She'd thought of turning back, but the trail was narrow and scattered with loose rock; she wouldn't risk the horse for the sake of her own skin. She brazened her way through it, cantering alongside the herd when their paths merged and speeding up when the trail widened into pastureland north of the house, waving casually as she passed her sister's husbands rounding the bend thirty yards in front of her.

She'd pretended not to recognize the angry stares over the hot, hazy distance between them, but she'd known, all right. She expected to be confined to the house and barnyard for the next few days, if Colt didn't finally administer the spanking he'd been threatening for so long. At best, Becky was in for a good long talking‑to.

"Papa!"

Colt and Jem stomped in off the porch, and the twins ran to greet them. Jamie got there first and Jem scooped him up, leaving Kent a clear path to Colt, who followed suit, lifting the smaller boy with a tender smile.

Everyone in the kitchen paused to watch the usual pre‑dinner ritual. Colt's Indian heritage made it easy to see that the two men weren't related, but there were similarities between them. Colt was taller than his partner by a couple of inches, built long and lean from the shoulders down. Jem, despite what Colt called his "high‑falutin' " Eastern heritage, was more muscular, but both were big. Wide shoulders and strong legs emphasized their inherent vitality: these were men who tamed the land and commanded attention wherever they went.

Seeing such large men handle two tiny boys so gently was enough to melt the hardest feminine heart, and there were no hard hearts in Cat Connor's kitchen. As she waited her turn, Catherine smiled beatifically, enjoying the contrast between her husbands and her sons, who would no doubt grow to proportions as impressive as their daddies someday.

Even though she knew she was in for it, Becky couldn't stop herself from smiling at the loving family scene. Seeing her sister taking pleasure in such everyday events never failed to elicit a soft swelling of gratitude from her heart. Not everyone was lucky enough to get a happy ending after an experience like the ones Catherine had survived.

She turned her attention to the little girl in her lap, who was helping her peel parsnips by eating the tips as Aunt Becky snapped them off. She was falling behind, and Becky was watching to make sure Lily didn't choke. Lately her niece had been trying to keep up with her brothers at table, a near‑impossible task as they were older, bigger, and had their fathers' bottomless bellies.

Colt's glance landed on Lily in Becky's lap, and he paused, tamping down the flash of irritation which momentarily threatened his smile. While Jem moved to hug Catherine, Colt closed the distance between himself and Cat's sister, the bane of his daily existence. When he bent to kiss Lily, he exaggerated the motion and adjusted his grip so Kenny slid toward the floor, upside‑down and shrieking with glee. Colt barely got his 'hello' kiss before Lily's perfect pucker turned devilish, and she reached for the temptation of her brother's bare belly.

Becky dropped a parsnip just in time to catch Lily as she tumbled face‑first off her lap.

Colt groaned and straightened, mumbling, "I don't know which one of you is going to send me shaking to my death first, I swear."

Becky hid her grin in the silken fall of Lily's black hair, so like Colt's own. It was far less than she'd expected him to say, and not even loud enough for her sister to catch on.

With several sentences in her native Cantonese-- seemingly directed to no one in particular-- Yan came to fetch Lily for her bath, while Nanny and Jem herded the boys upstairs, and Colt lingered to greet his wife.

Becky glanced up from her parsnips at just the wrong moment: Catherine was tipping her head, encouraging Colt's kisses to wander downward onto her exposed neck. His hands slid from his wife's arched back around to her sides, and Becky lowered her eyes, but not in time to miss the subtle stroke of Colt's big hand along the swell of her sister's breast.

She bent forward, fumbling under the table for the bits of parsnip she'd dropped to save her niece, trying to slow her pulse at the same time. She might not be interested in sacrificing her freedom for the confines of marriage, but that didn't mean she wasn't interested at all. There were some fine‑looking cowboys on the ranch, and watching her fine‑looking brother‑in‑law caressing her sister . . . well, that didn't make marriage look like a bad way to spend an evening.

Everyone else-- Cook, her latest apprentice, and the stable boy who always seemed to be around at suppertime-- ignored the couple. The novelty of their three‑way union was gone, and the household long past being shocked by frequent displays of affection between Catherine and her husbands. Becky should be used to it by now, too, but rather than becoming immune, she was becoming more sensitive to their love‑play as the years went by.

Cat had wriggled free of Colt's embrace and was retying her apron strings when Becky straightened.

He snatched another quick kiss. "I better go clean up before Nanny sends the boys to fetch me."

Becky caught his eye as he turned, and Colt paused. Tight‑lipped, he returned the smile she gave him as he left the kitchen, having apparently decided against whatever he'd planned to say.

Becky let the breath she'd been holding seep out of her lungs as quietly as possible. So far, so good. If she could just avoid being alone with any combination of Catherine, Jem, and Colt for a couple of days, her brothers might forget to yell about her riding around the ranch in trousers. Her shoulders fell as she relaxed and returned to snapping parsnips. She'd barely begun to hum when she lifted her eyes to find Catherine studying her from across the kitchen, her arms folded across her chest.

Becky's faced paled and her fingers froze. When Catherine stood like that-- her arms crossed in a way that was not at all ladylike-- someone was in trouble.

Cat spoke sweetly. "May I speak to you in the library for a moment, Becky?"

So much for avoiding the lecture.

Becky deposited her bowl on the table and followed her sister from the room.



💗



"Rebecca Connor!"

Becky winced at Catherine's tone. How could anyone sound so stern without even raising her voice?

She pleaded, "Cat, I--"

Cat glared. "Becky, we've lost five hands in the past five months, and one almost got killed staring after you last week. I wouldn't be surprised if both my husbands run off to hide in a cave somewhere just to get a little rest. You absolutely must cease tramping about the hills in trousers. It is not acceptable."

Becky waited until she'd finished. "Cat, riding sidesaddle on some of those trails would be akin to suicide."

"Oh, for goodness sake, Becky, when is the last time any of us did any serious riding on a sidesaddle? No one is asking you to risk your life, but it would be nice if you'd worry about the safety of others, too. Wear a split skirt or a habit. Anything but pants."

Becky wrinkled her nose.

Cat sputtered. "Don't you dare say they're uncomfortable! And could you please remember to let someone know where you're going and when you'll be returning?"

Becky opened her mouth to reply, but Catherine knew her too well and got there first. "You may only have gone as far as the river today, but if you aren't here to tell me that, I'm far more likely to assume you've gone to the cliffs. Then I'll be frantic with worry until you come home. Do you want me to worry?"

"Of course not, Cat! I just want to find the shale." Becky's tone changed to one of wistfulness as her eyes glazed over. "Oh, I wish you could have seen that fossil, Cat! Imagine, an ocean where the plains are now, just like Sir Charles said! It seemed so implausible when I first read his book . . . ."

She drifted off into silence, staring through the window at the hills beyond the paddock.

Cat smiled, waiting for her baby sister to come down from the clouds.

Becky did so with a grimace. "If I hadn't lost that slab--"

Catherine interrupted. "Pshaw! If you hadn't lost it in the river, you'd have dropped it when you scrambled out of the wash. That's another thing-- those canyons are dangerous. If your horse didn't have more brains than you, you'd have drowned! You never pay attention to the weather! Please take Caleb or one of the stable hands. At the very least, someone will be there to remind you it's dinnertime!"

Becky wrinkled her nose again, keeping her comments to herself. The stable boys talked so much she couldn't hear herself think. She'd never find anything with one of them yapping along beside her.

"Becky-- "

Becky smiled apologetically and threw her arms around her sister. "I'll try to be better, Cat, I promise."



💗



An hour later, Catherine was on the other end of the lecture and not enjoying it any more than Becky had.

"We've had this conversation before." She paced in front of the open windows, keeping her voice low. "I don't know what you expect from me."

Jem answered, "Can you please just discuss her wardrobe with her, Catherine?"

Catherine frowned impatiently. "You know perfectly well she doesn't listen to me. I've asked her countless times, sweetly, not so sweetly, everything up to and including my most imperious royal command. She merely dons a skirt to hide the pants before she leaved the house."

"She's gonna get someone killed one of these days, you could tell her that."

Jem elaborated on Colt's growl. "If Colt doesn't beat some poor cowboy to death, eventually one of them will get killed, Catherine. Billy Franklin almost got trampled last week staring at her . . . staring after her," he corrected himself. "If the foreman hadn't cut him off like a stray steer, a hundred head would have run right over him."

His wife pressed her lips together. She was more than a little tired of repeating this same conversation endlessly. While she sympathized with her husbands' dual plight as ranch owners and defenders of her sister's virtue, she was less opposed to Becky wearing pants than they wanted her to be. Becky more than likely sensed her lack of zeal, and used that as rationale not to heed her request. Nine times out of ten, Becky could read her like a book. If Catherine had been personally offended by the trousers, Becky would no doubt have recognized that fact and ceased wearing them without a word from anyone.

As it was, Cat thought her husbands were being a tad provincial about this. Becky was out on the range much of the time, where even a split skirt wasn't always practical. Catherine thought she might like to try wearing a pair of trousers herself someday, though she didn't think she'd have the nerve to leave the house in them.

She changed tactics, going on the offensive. "Well, you should probably be the one to talk to her, Jeremiah. After all, she wouldn't be riding around out there if it weren't for you."

Jem's eyebrows rose, and Colt grinned at his partner's discomfort, grateful that-- for once-- he wasn't the one in trouble.

"Me! How is this my fault?"

"You know how much she respects you, Jem, and you spent so many hours together in the lab when we first moved out here that some of your theories were sure to rub off on her. That's where her fascination with rock formations comes from, you know."

Jem, about to dive deeply into defending himself, caught the twinkle in her eye. His wife was too sweet to pull off the subterfuge, but Jem had been in business with Colt Kendall for a decade, and he didn't have any trouble at all being devious. "Don't be modest, Catherine. You know how Becky looks up to you."

Catherine's lovely brow wrinkled as Jem continued, "She was obviously paying close attention back in Galveston, when you were telling Colt and me about the amazing future of the automobile, even before we married. Becky's scientific bent is a direct result of your positive influence on her."

Cat's mouth opened slightly, but no sound emerged.

Jem finished off with, "I'm sure her interest in local geology is all due to you as well, darling."

At the edge of her vision, she could see Colt grinning.

Lacking a logical reply and half-convinced Jem was seriously blaming her, Catherine whirled on her heel and flounced from the room. The loud guffaws of both men followed her down the stairs, telling her she'd been tricked by the apparent sincerity in Jeremiah's golden gaze. She stifled a smile. Oh, those two were definitely going to pay later for provoking her into a snit, but she'd enjoy every minute of them talking her around.



💟



NOTE: Real life gets complicated, so I might not always be on time, but as ever, I PROMISE never to leave you without an ending! Thanks for reading, commenting, and all that other fun stuff! I love you guys! ♡ Stefanie

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