The Window’s Rancher – 04

DIGGORY watched Nadia Bennett walk away, noting the angry sway of her hips as she made her way down the sidewalk, her faded green skirt swishing from side to side.

The shock of her comments burned deep into his conscience. What was wrong with a town when a woman alone couldn’t live in peace without every male propositioning her?

The thought of it made him angry, though a part of him understood their interest. Nadia’s beauty was the kind a man’s mouth yearned to taste. Her haughty attitude only made her more enticing, a challenge any male would want a chance at winning.

But it didn’t make their behaviour towards her right. They should be respecting a woman on her own, not pursuing her.

He turned and headed in the opposite direction, barely acknowledging passers-by, his mind still on the widow. Even when she had the presence of a husband in her life, she’d turned men’s heads.

The first time he’d seen her after she and her poor excuse of a spouse arrived in town, his breath had caught in his throat as he took in her shining hair and creamy skin. Lips full and rosy, juicy as sweet summer strawberries. Eyes the same shade of blue  delphinium flowers.

He glanced up in time to see the female in question ride down the street and out of town. She rode straight and natural, better than any woman he’d ever seen. Her hair drawn up in a ponytail bounced against her back, soft and shiny like a mink’s fur.

He watched until she disappeared into the distance, his lips lifting in a rare smile. He doubted many men had the strength of will or fire to match the woman. But something about her made him tempted to try. If she was that fiery over men she didn’t want, what would she be like for one she did?

The smile turned into a full grin and he crossed over the street and headed towards the barbers. Maybe he should get to know Nadia Bennett a little better.

* * * *

Nadia waited until she cleared a mile out of town before she pulled up and allowed the mixture of emotions to engulf her. She gripped the reins tight and tried to stop the quiver running through her body.

Annoying cowboys were one thing, but Diggory Rorke was a whole lot more. The man both scared and irritated her to the point she was never sure how to deal with him. He sent every sensible thought scarpering from her mind with just a glance, causing her to act like a silly immature girl.

She slumped forward in the saddle and curled her arms around her horse’s neck, seeking comfort from her only true friend.

“Oh, Joey.” She sighed, rubbing her cheek into the warm flesh. “Why won’t they leave me alone?”

The horse was now her only connection to her past. They had been together longer than her and Henry’s marriage. Her love for her equine friend never wavered, unlike her affection for the man she’d foolishly made her husband.

He was always a true, faithful companion, unlike Henry, who’d considered their marriage an inconvenience except for when she put money in his hand and food on a plate in front of him.

But Henry belonged to the past and she was relieved he was gone. She’d hated being his wife.

She straightened, and the shaking all but disappeared. Chores waited at home and if she didn’t hurry she’d still be doing most of them come suppertime.

With a gentle kick, Joey moved forward and she forced her attention on her day’s work. The future was hers to choose and follow. She might be alone, but she answered to no-one. Soon the whole of Wishbone Creek would understand that.

And men like Diggory Rorke could practise their chivalry on some young, simpering, pretty female who actually wanted it.

* * * *

“Heard you had a run-in with Widow Bennett when you were in town.”

Diggory placed his mug of coffee down on the table and leaned back in the chair. The other 12 people seated around the large kitchen table stopped what they were doing and stared at him.

“Mrs Bennett?” Toby’s wife Hester quizzed as she plonked some fried potato on to her husband’s plate. A tall, slim girl, barely out of school, she’d married Toby a year ago and Diggory suspected his friend already regretted taking her for a bride.

“You know her?” Diggory asked, his curiosity in Nadia Bennett and her predicament still on his mind, despite the passing of a full day. In between hard work and sleep, his thoughts kept spinning back to the woman.

“Absolutely not,” Hester said with a dramatic shiver. “Why, that woman scares most people. They say she’s rude even when she’s in a good mood.”

“Yeah, she’s one tough lady,” Ed, Diggory’s youngest son, agreed. Seventeen years old and a chatterbox, he was eager to prove himself an adult whether in conversation or work. “I saw her once in the feed store. She grilled Jackson over why he charged her twice as much for her animal feed as he did everyone else. By the time she had finished he promised to sell her it at less than half the price for the next year.”

Hester tutted and took her place at the table, her lips pinched with distaste.

“If Jackson was cheating her, she was right to complain,” Diggory said as he speared two rubbery pieces of beef on to his plate. “Seems like half the men around here think she’s an easy target.”

“I find that hard to believe,” Hester scoffed, jogging her husband’s elbow as she reached for the water jug. “It will be a brave man who takes on that woman. Why, they say she terrified her dead husband so much, it’s the reason he ran into the arms of other women.”



Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, Tracey has found her perfect place on The Friend as she’s obsessed with reading and never goes anywhere without a book! She reads all the PF stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!