Wednesday, October 10, 2007
IT'S MY PARTY SO I'LL POST AN EXCERPT, TOO *LOL*
From beneath her lashes Cecile saw him approaching, though she pretended not to notice. Her breath caught in her throat as he neared.
“May I have this dance?”
His husky voice brought chills to the back of her neck, and she realized she had sprung to her feet before even accepting his offer.
Thank goodness a waltz was playing. Being held in his arms seemed like a dream; everything she had fantasized about for the past few days was coming true. She peered over to where her girlfriends gathered, hoping they’d noticed. Meanwhile her mind spun, trying to think of something to say to him, but she decided not to spoil the moment by making idle conversation. It was a struggle not to rest her head on his wide shoulder and lean the length of her body against his.
His arm tightened around her waist, drawing her close, yet maintaining a proper space between them. The ripple of muscles beneath her hand and the masculine smell of his clean, cotton shirt stirred feelings new to her—her stomach clenched with excitement when she noticed all her friends watching.
If only time would stand still. But the song ended, and they stepped apart and applauded.
“Would you mind if we sat?” she asked, feeling a little giddy and unsteady on wobbly legs.
He agreed, and placing his hand on her elbow, guided her back to her chair. “Can I fix you a plate?” he politely inquired.
She tried to read his face, tell from his body language if he liked her, but images of sitting on the sidewalk, covered in food, flashed before her eyes. Despite her stomach’s hungry rumblings, she declined with a shake of her head. “But thank you anyway.”
Walt sat in the chair next to hers. “You left so quickly the other day; I didn’t have a chance to find out much about you.”
“I think I mentioned that I’m Cecile Palmer, and if I remember correctly, you’re Walt Williams.” Her lips quivered, wanting to curl into a smile at her feigned dispassion. How could she forget his name? She’d only said it a thousand times since meeting him.
With each dance, the conversation flowed. As the evening progressed, she learned more about him. Aunt May, his only surviving relative, was helping him secure a loan to purchase the piece of land he wanted more than anything else. He intended to build his own cattle ranch and realize a life-long dream. Her mind painted pictures of the acreage he described, associating beauty, serenity and lushness with the image she saw.
The band finished the final song, the last note striking a sour note of disappointment in her chest.
Walt held her at arm’s length and dropped his hands to applaud the musicians again. When the commotion died down, he locked gazes with her. “Thank you so much for the wonderful evening. Would it be all right if I call on you before I leave town?”
“Yes, of course.” She responded quickly, then reminded herself not to appear quite so eager. It wasn’t easy given the happiness plucking at her heartstrings. She refused to think about him leaving town.
“So, Miss Palmer, after my appointment tomorrow, maybe I’ll have some good news to share with you.”
Her spreading smile faded as dread crept over her. Walt was about to discover her father ran Silver City’s bank. Notorious for his serious nature, and for glaring over his spectacles at anyone who displeased him, Harvey Palmer deemed no one good enough for his daughter. It hadn’t concerned her until now. Perhaps she should speak with him before he met with Walt. But then her father would know she had an interest in him. She grimaced at the prospective outcome. Saying nothing seemed the best option.
Across the room, she caught sight of her father motioning to her. When he looked away, she stood on tiptoes and quickly bussed Walt’s cheek. If Harvey Palmer witnessed such boldness, he would give her a lengthy lecture on public brazenness. In her opinion the kiss was worth the punishment, but there was no use putting Walt’s loan in jeopardy. She crossed the room to join her parents for the walk home.
The mild evening air smelled of honeysuckle and horse manure, but nothing could spoil the perfect evening Cecile had just spent. A million stars twinkled overhead, and her step was as light as her heart. At the hitching rail outside the hall, the horses nickered as the Palmers walked by, and Cecile paused to rub the nose of an old mare tethered to a covered buggy. Up ahead, her mother’s voice elevated in laughter and Cecile hurried to catch up.
Harvey Palmer’s heavy footsteps shivered the planks of the old walkway as the trio passed by the mercantile, heading for the end of Main Street, where they lived. Lively laughter behind them rang through the silence as the social hall emptied and others departed. A pang of melancholy plucked at Cecile, her sadness growing. The dance had ended far too soon for her liking.
“I notice that a particular young man monopolized most of your evening, Cecile. I didn’t recognize him. Who was he?” Her father halted to light a cigar.
Just as she’d expected, the conversation turned to Walt. She hesitated before answering, sure her father would find fault with his breeding. There was no use avoiding the topic. Tomorrow, when he met with Walt and his aunt about the loan, her father would learn the truth anyway. Why not show her interest in him?
“His name is Walt Williams, and he’s here visiting his aunt for a few days at her boarding house.” Cecile’s tone bordered on defensive.
She turned to her mother. “He’s really very nice. Can I invite him to Sunday supper, Momma, please, please?”
“Now, Cecile, I . . .”
“No! That wouldn’t be proper.” Her father expressed his opinion in a most resounding manner, leaving his wife with her mouth gaping. “After all, you’ve just met and we know very little about him.” The tip of Harvey Palmer’s cigar flickered deep red as he drew smoke into his mouth.
Cecile started to beg her father to change his mind, but that’s what he expected. Instead she choked back her usual emotional outburst and cast a pleading look at her mother. The trio paused inside the gate of the picket fence surrounding their house.
“Now, Harve,” Mrs. Palmer said, gazing up at her husband, “there’s no better way to get to know a young man than to invite him for a meal. What harm can come from it? After all, Cecile is nineteen and old enough for us to trust her judgment. I think it’s a fine idea.”
Mr. Palmer walked up on the porch and unlocked the door, mumbling something under his breath about Cecile being able to do much better. Usually, when she and her mother joined forces, he didn’t have a leg to stand on, but still Cecile crossed her fingers for luck as she joined him on the stoop. It only took puppy-dog eyes for him to relent.
Cecile wanted to jump up and down like a little girl; instead, she held her happiness in check. “Thank you, Father, I know you’ll really like him.” She used her most restrained voice, trying to display the maturity her mother had pointed out.
Inside, she kissed both parents goodnight and scurried upstairs. While changing into her nightclothes, she softly giggled over getting her father’s approval to invite Walt to dine. She jumped into bed and snuggled deep under the covers, almost too excited to sleep. Thoughts of dancing with him flashed through her mind, and she wrapped her arms around her body, trying to recapture the feeling of his embrace. When sleep finally came, her last conscious thought was of his deep blue eyes.