2. Sweet Temptation

Sweet Temptation

(Part Two of The Ranch Days)

By Maz McCoy

“You can kiss me, if you’d like.”

Jed Curry dropped the water pail he was carrying. He jumped back, water splashing over his boots. Emily Culver giggled as she walked up beside him. She wore her hair in two pigtails, tied with blue ribbons that matched her eyes. Her dress was dotted with little flowers and…Sheesh, she sure looked pretty. Jed fixed her with a glare.

“Don’t creep up on me.” He picked up the pail and returned to the water trough to refill it.

“You can, you know.” Jed looked up at her as he pumped water into the pail. “Kiss me. I wouldn’t mind.”

“Bet your Pa would.”

“Not if he doesn’t know.”

“You’re just longing to get me into trouble aren’t ya?”

“Do you want to?”

“What?”

Emily let out a frustrated sigh.

“Kiss me.”

Jed stared at the water in the pail.

“I guess.”

“So why don’tcha?”

“Cos right now we’re in the middle of the yard and I’d like to live to be fifteen!”

“I’d tell anyone who saw us that I was just thanking my knight in shining armour for saving me from Thunder.”

“Kinda late for that don’tcha think?”

“I was waiting for you to get better.”

Jed looked at her. How come girls always had an answer for everything? He watched as she reached up and undid a ribbon from one pigtail. She held it out to him.

“What’s that? And don’t say, a ribbon, ‘cos I know that!”

“It’s a favour.”

“What?”

“A favour. I read about them in a book. In the old days, a lady would give a knight, a favour. Then he would wear it when he fought in battles or jousts or something. And she would swoon over him when he died bravely, fighting for her honour.” She waved it in front of him. “Take it.”

Jed did so.

“You’re not expecting me to die bravely are ya?”

“Breathing my name with your last breath,” she said, dramatically, as she clasped her hands to her heart and sighed, heavily. When she looked at him he was staring at her. She gave a sigh. Men! “No, you don’t have to die for me. Just kiss me.”

Jed considered this. He tucked the ribbon in his pocket.

“I gotta water the horses.” Emily looked disappointed. “But I’ll still be here tomorrow.”

Emily smiled and watched him go.

***

“Heyes,” a voice whispered in the darkness.

“What?”

“How d’you know if you like a girl?”

Intrigued by the question, Hannibal Heyes smiled and put his head over the side of the bunk to peer down at his friend.

“Any girl in particular?”

“No,” Kid replied far too quickly.

Two socked feet swung over the edge of the bunk and Heyes dropped to the floor. He sat at the foot of Jed’s bunk.

“So this isn’t about Emily?” Heyes kept his voice low so the other hands wouldn’t hear.

Jed met his friend’s gaze.

“She told me I could kiss her if I wanted to.”

“And did you?”

“No. I mean…”

“What?”

“Well, I wanted to but we ain’t supposed to do that are we? Men, that is; kiss women? Not if we ain’t courtin’ ‘em.”

Heyes suppressed a smile.

“That’s right, Jed. Are you thinking of courting Emily?”

“No. Do you think I should?”

“Well you should if you want to kiss her. That’s what you do with nice girls.”

“But you’ve kissed a girl and you ain’t courtin’.”

“She was a different kind of girl.”

“Oh.” Jed thought for a moment. “If people are courtin’ does that mean they hafta get married?”

“They usually do.”

“I don’t want to get married yet.”

“Then you’d better not let her Pa catch you kissing her.” Heyes pulled himself back up onto the top bunk and climbed back under the covers. Jed considered his friend’s advice. He reached beneath his pillow and pulled out the blue ribbon. He ran it through his fingers and smiled. So, as long as Emily’s father didn’t know about it, did that make it all right? Her knight in shining armour. He smiled. He liked that.

***

“Jed?”

“In here!”

Emily followed the sound of his voice and found Jed in the tack room, sorting out halters that lay on a wooden table. He hung one up, and then untangled the next, before searching for a place for it.

“Hi.”

Looking up, he smiled.

“Hi.”

“So, you’re still here then. Like you said.”

“Looks like it.”

Emily picked up a halter and fingered the leather.

“Did you think about what I said?”

“What?”

“You know full well, what, Jed Curry!” He looked up at her. Was he blushing? Emily moved closer. “Did you?”

“Yes.”

“And?”

Jed took a deep breath.

“I’d like to kiss you Emily, if you’d let me, but…”

“But what?”

“We ain’t supposed to, not if we ain’t courtin’.”

“Why, Jed Curry are you asking to court me?” Emily gave him her best coy smile and Jed’s moth dropped open.

“NO!” Emily didn’t look pleased. “I mean…I’d like to…I mean… I…Oh sheesh, Emily, you know we ain’t gonna do that.”

She laughed.

“Don’t worry, I was just teasing ya. Do you still want to kiss me?”

“You know I do.”

Emily smiled and stood in front of him. Dropping her hands to her side, she prepared herself, pushing her pigtails back over her shoulders, licking her lips and then puckering them. Jed took a step forward and trod on her foot.

“Ow!” Emily jumped back.

“Sorry!”

“It’s all right.” She resumed her position. Jed looked down at his feet as he stepped towards her, not wanting to repeat the foot crushing. He leaned forward and his lips touched hers. He drew back. Emily opened her eyes. “Was that it?”

“Yes.”

“I think we should try again. That didn’t seem right.”

“Okay.”

Jed stepped towards her and once again his lips gently touched hers, only this time Emily stepped closer. Their mouths pressed firmly together and Jed caught her shoulders to steady her. They broke apart, stared at each other and then broke into a silly grin.

“That was nice.” Emily looked into his eyes.

“Yeah.”

“Maybe we need to practice some more?”

“Couldn’t hurt.”

Emily stepped towards him. Jed pressed his lips to hers and she put her arms around his neck, pulling him tight against her, just like she’d seen her brother Mark do when he kissed a girl. At first Jed resisted but then…it seemed the right thing to do. His arms went around her waist as her lips crushed his. She felt a warm glow inside her. She felt safe in his arms and Jed was so…

“WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOIN’?”

Jed shoved Emily away from him and she crashed into the table. Mark Culver strode into the tack room. Jed was sure he saw steam coming out of the man’s ears.

“EMILY GET OUTTA HERE!”

“Mark, it’s not…”

“YES, IT IS!”

“Mark, we were just…” Jed tried. Mark hadn’t taken his murderous gaze off him from the minute he stepped into the room.

“I know what you were just! Emily get back to the house!”

“Mark, please…we…”

“GET!”

Emily turned and ran. Mark jerked his thumb towards the door as he met Jed’s eyes. “Outside, boy.”

Jed swallowed and followed him.

***

Jeff Collins, the Bar T’s foreman, studied his cards. Hmm. Maybe he’d finally win a hand against young Heyes. He’d never met anyone as good at cards as the dark-haired youngster sitting opposite him. And, nope, he didn’t cheat either. He’d watched enough of Heyes’ games to know he played fair. It didn’t seem right that someone so young could be so good. Now, what to do about this hand…? The door burst open and Bill poked his head inside.

“Jeff, you’d better get out here. Looks like Mark’s gonna kill Jed.”

Collins tossed his cards on the table, pushed back his chair and got to his feet. There was the sound of chairs scraping on the floor as the rest of the poker players followed him out of the bunkhouse. Sure enough Mark Culver had Jed Curry pinned to the ground in front of the barn. Jed’s face was covered in blood. Collins reached them as Mark was shaking the boy by his shirt collar. Jed’s head lulled from side to side, all his fight gone.

“Get off him, Mark!” Collins yelled as he grabbed a handful of the young man’s shirt, but Mark Culver wasn’t listening. “MARK! ENOUGH!” He hauled the boss’s son to his feet. Jed lay on the ground; blood ran from his nose and mouth and from a cut above his left eye. “What the heck’s going on?”

“Ask him what he’s been doing with my sister!” Mark spluttered, and then spat out a mouthful of blood. It seemed Jed hadn’t gone down without a fight.

“Go get yourself cleaned up, we’ll discuss this later.”

“NO! I wanna finish it now!”

“He’s had enough”

“Not by my reckoning, he ain’t!”

The foreman pushed Mark towards the main house.

“Ask him what he was doing!” Mark glared back at the boy lying on the ground.

“Get outta here, Mark!”

“This ain’t over between us.”

“GET!”

Mark gave Jed another murderous glare and then walked away. Collins stood over Jed.

“How bad you hurt?” Jed sat up and held his jaw. He didn’t say anything. “I asked you a question.”

“I’m okay.” Jed looked anything but. His entire face hurt. Collins held out a hand.

“Come on, let’s get you inside.”

Jed took hold and Collins hauled him, none too gently, to his feet. When Jed’s knees buckled, Collins grabbed a hold of his shirt, keeping him upright.

“What was that all about?” Heyes asked.

Bloodied eyes stared back.

“Something to do with Emily, right, Romeo?” Collins stated.

Again Jed didn’t reply. Heyes looked at his friend.

“I want to see you both when he’s cleaned up,” Collins instructed as he handed Jed over to Heyes.

“Yes, sir.”

The foreman strode off towards the main house and Heyes’ grip tightened on Jed’s shirt and he helped him back to the bunkhouse. When he reached his bunk Jed sat down heavily on the thin mattress, blood still running down his face. He looked dazed. The eyes of several ranch hands were on him. He looked down at the floor. He hoped they weren’t about to be fired. Heyes would hit him too if they lost their jobs. Henry, the cook, appeared at his side with a basin of water and a clean cloth. Taking it from him, Heyes sat next to his friend and placed the wet cloth on the cut above Jed’s eye. Jed flinched.

“Hold still.” Jed did as he was told. “You gonna tell me what happened? What does Mark think you did?”

The blond boy remained silent.

“Come on it’s all gonna come out eventually, so you might as well tell me now. It’ll save me having to beat it out of you.” Jed shot him a glance through bruised eyes. “All right, I wouldn’t, but are you going to tell me or what?”

Jed gave a heavy sigh.

“He found us…together.”

“Together?”

“Yeah.”

“Together, how?”

“Together.”

Heyes, swallowed. Please don’t let him mean, together. He’d hoped Jed was still too young for that.

“How were you when he found you? I mean what were you doing?”

Jed looked at the floor. Heyes didn’t want to know but he had to. He had a feeling they’d just lost their jobs, but if Jed and Emily had been…well Jed was about to lose more than that.

“Kissing.”

“What?”

“We were kissing.”

“Just kissing?”

“Yes.”

“And Mark saw you?”

“Yeah. I didn’t mean for it to happen. I mean she found me in the tack room and…we just…it was nice and so we did it again and then Mark’s yellin’ at us, tells Emily to get back to the house, then he hauled me outside and began beating the life outta me.”

Heyes placed the cloth on Jed’s nose and the boy took it from him. Jed closed his eyes. He felt so tired.

“And you did nothing more than kiss her?”

“I swear to you, nothing more.”

“All right. We’ll try and sort this out.”

“I don’t know how.” Jed lay back on his bunk. “I just lost my job didn’t I?”

Henry approached and took the basin from Heyes.

“If you kissed Culver’s daughter, you shouldn’t worry about your job. You’ll be lucky to escape with your life.” He chuckled as he headed towards the door.

“Heyes?” Jed looked at his friend in with fear in his eyes. “He’s jokin’ right?”

“I don’t know, Jed, I don’t know.”

***

Collins scowled as Heyes and Jed entered his office. They stood in silence before his desk, like school boys summoned before the headmaster. Heyes’ eyes scanned the pile of ledgers on the desk. Collins sat back in his chair and studied them; his eyes homed in on Jed’s face and the bruises.

“You okay?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I spoke to Mark.” Jed swallowed, waiting. “He says he caught you kissing his sister. That right?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You two done anything else?”

“No.”

“You didn’t take any other liberties with Emily?”

Jed looked shocked.

“NO, SIR!”

“Good, or I’d be telling you to get your butt off this ranch.”

“Sir, Jed didn’t mean any harm, I’m sure it’s all just innocent…”

“Shut up, Heyes!”

“Yes, sir.” Heyes sighed. Well he had tried. He’d always…well usually…been able to talk their way out of trouble, but not this time. Jed was on his own with this one.

“Emily’s quite a handful ain’t she?” Collins eyes softened when he looked at Jed this time.

“Yes, sir, she sure is.”

“I don’t imagine you kissing her was all your idea, was it?”

“I don’t think I should say.”

“Protecting the lady’s honour?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good for you.” The two young men were somewhat surprised by the foreman’s response. Collins pushed back his chair and stood up. “I don’t expect this to be a surprise to you but you’re to stay away from Emily. If Mark finds you with her again, I won’t be able to intervene. Understand?”

“Yes, sir.”

“To help keep you out of the way, I’m sending you out to the line shacks.”

“But, I…”

“No arguments!”

“No, sir.” Jed’s head drooped.

Collins turned his gaze to Jed’s friend.

“Heyes, you’ll go with Nathan into town to collect supplies. When you get back you’ll both accompany him to go restock the line shacks.” He looked from one to the other. “Any questions?”

“No, sir,” Heyes stated.

“What do I do while I wait for them to get back?” Jed asked.

“I reckon we’ve got more than enough work in the barn to keep you out of trouble. Now, both of you, get outta here.”

Turning, they left the office.

***

“Will you be all right?” Heyes asked, looking down at Jed from where he sat on the seat in the wagon.

“I’ll be fine.”

“Stay out of trouble and away from her.”

“Han, I know what…”

“Just do it!”

Nathan left the bunkhouse, tossed a bag in the back of the wagon and climbed up beside Heyes. Picking up the reins he glanced down at Jed.

“Keep your hands off the boss’s daughter, Jed. I don’t want to come back and see your hide pinned to the barn.” He adjusted his hat and flicked the reins, the horses moved off and Jed watched them go.

“Stay out of trouble!” Heyes called.

“You too!”

***

Claremont was a growing town, medium size for the district, with a school, two saloons, a bank, hotel and various stores. There was the usual daily bustle as Nathan pulled the wagon to a halt in front of the general store, run by Marcus Bradley. He put the brake on and jumped down.

“Stay here until I’ve seen Marcus,” he said looking up at Heyes.

The young man nodded, only too willing to watch the townsfolk going about their business. He smiled and tipped his hat to two particularly charming young women walking by on the boardwalk. The smiled at the young man with dimples in his cheeks then giggled and scurried on their way. Heyes eyes drifted across the street to the saloon. The sound of a piano drifted from inside along with laughter and a few raised voices. He wondered if they had enough time to pay a visit before they left town. He sure would like to see if there were any poker games going on and he wouldn’t mind seeing if Susanna was still working there. He smiled. She was a very sweet girl, very sweet indeed.

“You getting down or what?” Heyes snapped out of his daydream to see Nathan looking at him from the doorway. The man followed the direction of Heyes’ gaze and smiled. “If we get these supplies loaded fast enough I reckon we’ll have time for a beer or two.”

Heyes smiled back and jumped from the wagon.

***

“Hi,” Emily said as she entered the barn. Jed looked up to see her silhouetted in the doorway. Ignoring her, he continued to clear the hay out of the empty stall. Emily drew closer and stared at him. She bit her lip when she saw the cuts and bruises on his face.

“Are you all right? I mean does your face hurt?” Jed dragged the rake towards him. “I said are you all right?”

Drag, drag.

Emily stepped closer.

“Can you hear me?”

Still Jed didn’t answer.

“Oh, no! Did Mark hit you so hard it’s made you deaf?”

“No, of course not!” Jed snapped and then kicked himself for speaking.

“So you can speak.” She stepped in front of him, hands on her hips. “Why are you ignoring me?”

“I have to stay away from you.” He didn’t look at her, studying instead, the soiled hay. “Emily, please go.”

“Who told you to stay away?”

“Mr. Collins.”

She laughed.

“Oh I’ll talk to Jeff, I can wrap him around my little finger.”

“I got the feeling it didn’t come from him.”

“You think my father ordered him to?”

“I don’t know, but maybe.” He risked a glance at her and she smiled. A beam of sunlight fell on her hair and…Jed smiled back.

“I’m sorry, you got hurt.” She stepped closer.

“It wasn’t your fault.” Drag, drag, drag.

“Mark’s an idiot.”

“He’s just trying to protect his sister. I’d have done the same for mine.” Drag, drag, drag.

“I didn’t think you…”

Jed looked up at her.

“If they’da lived.”

“Oh.”

They were silent for a while. Then he returned to his job. Drag, drag.

“Jed, come and sit with me.”

“I gotta get this stall clean for when Collins brings in the new horse.”

“Please?” She sat down on a bale of hay and patted the space next to her.

Jed, sighed.

“Emily, I can’t. If anyone finds you here or me talking to you, I’ll lose my job. Please don’t ask this.”

“Just for a minute. That’s all.” Her eyes met his, pleading with him and something inside Jed Curry turned to marshmallow. He rested the rake against the wall of the stall.

“I can’t sit for long. I don’t want them to find us together. Your brother would…”

“Jeff spoke up for you. I heard him. He said you were a good, hard working kid.” She smiled and Jed sat down next to her. “Then Pa gave me a real talking to about boys and what girls should and shouldn’t let them do. Sheesh, was that embarrassing! I’ve already had that talk from my Ma more than once. I told him that I kissed you and not the other way around and that was Mark’s fault because I saw him kissing Louisa Sutcliffe when we were at the fair last summer and he said…Well Pa laughed.”

“I kissed you back. It wasn’t all your doing.”

“Apparently nice girls don’t do things like that. So I guess that means I’m not a nice girl.”

“You are nice.”

Jed placed his hand on hers and squeezed it.

“I’m being sent away.”

“WHAT?” Jed stared at her.

“Pa says I’m getting too wild. I need to be taught to be ladylike.”

“You are ladylike.”

“Not enough for my Pa. Kissing you wasn’t ladylike was it?”

They were silent for a moment.

“I’m going to school in Denver. I have to stay with my aunt.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Will you miss me?”

“Yeah.”

Two pairs of blue eyes met.

“It won’t be for a while yet. School doesn’t start for months.” Emily smiled, then looked at the bruises on his face. “You sure that didn’t hurt?”

“Maybe a little.”

She smiled.

“I like you, Jed Curry.” She stood up and Jed watched her go. He had a heavy feeling in his chest as she headed back to the house.

“Good job it was me in here and not her brother.”

Jed leapt from the hay bale at the sound of the man’s voice. He stared into the shadows as Marty stepped into view, carrying a halter. Jed gave a sigh of relief.

“You won’t tell will you?”

“Nothin’ to tell, Jed. She came to find you, not the other way around.” Jed picked up the rake and looked at the hay. Marty stepped closer. “You like her a lot don’tcha, boy?”

“Yes, I do.”

“It’s gonna be hard keeping away from each other.”

“Collins is sending me and Han out to the line shacks with Nathan.”

“Well, she’ll still be here when you get back.”

“I know.” Jed’s shoulders drooped. “Sheesh, Marty, what am I supposed to do? I didn’t know girls could do these things to a man.”

Marty chuckled.

“Oh, they do a lot more than this boy. You ain’t even started yet.” He headed for the doorway but then stopped and turned. “Can you dance?”

“What?”

“You heard me, can you dance?”

“No.” Jed had a worrying thought. “You ain’t asking me to are ya?”

Marty let out a belly laugh.

“Heck, no, son. You ain’t my type!” Jed tried not to look too embarrassed. “But I think you’d better learn. I don’t think anyone would complain if you danced with Miss Emily Culver in view of everyone at the Fourth of July celebrations.”

Jed considered this, trying to remember what day it was and how far away the Independence Day celebrations were.

“I mean you couldn’t possibly get up to any mischief in public could you?”

Jed smiled and Marty left. He’d ask Emily to dance. That was brilliant. Then a thought struck him. He couldn’t dance and how was he gonna learn?

***

“Easy, son, we got time,” Nathan said and Heyes lowered the glass. He let out a contented sigh and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. The alcohol tasted so good; cool and whoowee…it was already making him feel better. He smiled at Nathan and then his gaze drifted across the room to where Susanna sat next to a scrawny, long-haired man. Heyes smiled at the dark-haired young woman, in the low cut dress and too much make up. She wasn’t much older than him but she had a lot more experience in…well, in some things. Susanna smiled back, then gave him a cheeky wink. Heyes swallowed. Nathan followed the direction of his gaze and laughed.

“We don’t have that much time.” He slapped Heyes on the back. “Although I can remember when I was your age, it didn’t take that long.” He signalled to the bartender ordered another drink.

Reluctantly, Heyes turned away from temptation.

“Have we got time for something to eat?” he asked.

“Sure, if you’re not planning on a sit down meal.”

Heyes’ eyes fell on a plate, at the end of the bar, piled high with pies. His stomach rumbled.

***

“Henry, do you know how to dance?”

Frying pan in hand, the cook turned to look at Jed as the boy walked towards his bunk.

“What kind of question’s that?”

“Just curious.” Jed sat down heavily.

“Hmm. I’ve never known any boy to be ‘just curious’. There’s always something behind it.” Jed tried his best to look innocent. “So you wanna learn to dance?”

“I didn’t say that!” Jed’s reply was too quick and he knew it. He sighed. Henry smiled.

“You’re not thinking about asking Emily to dance are you?” The boy was silent. “Cos if you are, you’re either the bravest man I know or the biggest fool.” He eyed Jed. “Which is it?”

“The biggest fool, I guess.”

Henry chuckled and walked over to the bunk. He leaned against it, looking down at Jed.

“And just when would this dancing take place?”

“I heard there was a dance at the Fourth of July celebrations in town.”

“There is.”

“And I heard that most of the hands get to go.”

“That they do, ‘cept the ones on watch.”

“And it wouldn’t be wrong if I danced with a girl or two in public would it?”

“I guess not.”

“And just supposing a certain girl was there, well then it wouldn’t be wrong if I asked her to dance would it? I mean we couldn’t do nothin’ wrong with everyone watching could we?”

Henry studied him.

“Is this your idea or Heyes’?”

“Mine.”

“Hmmm. Sounds a mite risky to me.”

“You don’t think they’d let me dance with her?”

“Well, I hate to disappoint you boy, but no, I don’t think they would. Least not if they knew you were planning to.” Henry headed back towards the door to the cookhouse. Jed followed him.

“But if I could dance, at least I’d have a chance, right?”

Henry saw the hope in Jed’s eyes. The kid had it bad for that girl. The cook softened.

“I guess you would. So, we’d best arrange some dancing lessons.”

Jed beamed.

***

The last line shack was re-stocked; the wagon almost empty. Nathan held a bucket of grain for one of the horses to feed as Heyes sat in the shade of the line shack and watched Jed. The blond boy had no idea he was being watched. If he had there was no way he would have let them see him dancing. For that was clearly what he was doing. A frown of concentration on his face, he stepped backwards with one foot, then brought the other back and then…Sheesh that wasn’t right. He tried to recall how people did it.

Nathan looked across at Heyes, who nodded in his friend’s direction. Seeing the boy lost in his own world, Nathan smiled. The tall, brown haired man didn’t mind when Jeff Collins had sent him off with the boys, even when some of the hands teased him about his baby sitting role. In truth he liked the pair. They were hard workers and keen to learn. Heyes had a real skill at cards and Jed…well he was Jed. They’d both had a pretty rough few days and a break from the confines of the bunkhouse would no doubt do them good. Nathan smiled as the boy stepped backwards and tripped over his own feet.

“Whatcha doin’, Jed?”

The blond lad spun round.

“Nothin’!”

“Looked like you were dancing to me.”

“No.”

“What d’you think Heyes? Did it look like he was dancing to you?”

“Sure did.”

Jed shot his friend a glare. Wasn’t he supposed to back him up?

“Why you dancing?” Nathan wanted to know.

“I wasn’t…I…” He could tell from their faces it was pointless to protest. He sighed. “I want to learn to dance for the Fourth of July celebrations.”

The two older men exchanged a look.

“Fourth of July, huh?” Nathan mused.

“Yeah.”

“Got anyone in mind to dance with?”

Jed didn’t reply. He knew, they knew, who he wanted to dance with but he wasn’t about to give them the satisfaction of telling them.

“I reckon I have an idea,” Heyes stated.

“That wouldn’t be Miss. Emily, would it?” their companion asked.

“Nathan, I do believe you’re right.”

“Okay, okay!” Jed snapped. “All right I want to dance with her, but she won’t dance with me if I can’t dance.” He sat down heavily on a nearby boulder.

“Why don’t you teach him, Heyes?”

“Cos he can’t dance neither!” Jed informed him.

“I can!”

“No you can’t”

“I can!”

“Well then why won’t you teach me?”

“Cos I only know the man’s steps. If I teach you one of us would have to be the girl and that ain’t gonna be me!”

Nathan stepped between them, his palms held out to placate them.

“Hold up fellas, hold up.” He looked from one to the other and finally his eyes settled on Jed. “How ‘bout I teach you?”

“You would?” Two blue eyes grew wider.

“Why not. We’re miles from anywhere, who’s gonna see two men dancing out here?”

Jed suppressed a laugh.

“No one, I hope.”

“Feelin’s mutual, Jed, feelin’s mutual.” He held out his arms. “So?”

Jed looked passed him to Heyes.

“Don’t laugh!” he ordered.

“I wouldn’t dare.”

“Hmph!”

“Come on Jed, take my hands.” Jed eyed the man. “What’s wrong?”

“I feel kinda silly.”

“How d’you think I feel? I’m the one dancing with a kid!” Nathan smiled and reached forward, taking Jed’s hand in his while keeping their bodies an acceptable distance apart. “Now, I’ll show you how I dance first, so you’re doing the girl’s steps.”

“But I don’t…”

“Then you can lead, that’s what we call it when the man takes control.”

Jed looked sceptical. Heyes tried his best not to look amused.

“Don’t you say anything about me being the girl!” Jed warned.

“My lips are sealed.” Heyes drew an imaginary line across his mouth to prove it.

“You ready?” Nathan asked.

“I guess.”

“So…side step, then bring your other foot like this…” Nathan demonstrated and Jed copied. “Then back and…No wait! Watch again. This foot here, then side step and…” So it went on. As fluffy white clouds drifted across a blue sky Nathan braved trampled feet and Heyes’ laughter in an effort to teach Jed Curry how to dance.

To be continued…

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