I thought it might be fun for fans to see the "oldies." Nobody else but readers from this blog will have that dubious privilege, so enjoy! This scene is from a nameless book, and the scene is close to the beginning of the story.
Premise: After Andi and Cory find a wounded man by the creek, they drag him to the ranch, and the Carters put him up in their guest room. Trouble is, he's been gunshot, so suspicions rise as to how and why this happened. Chad figures he's some kind of outlaw or shady character, so he insists the fellow has got to go. To make matters worse, that very night, the Carters have to attend a fund-raiser auction/dance, which Andi balks at. She despises these social gatherings but is forced to attend and behave like a young lady.
Okay, here you go:
Another Weary Night on the Dance Floor: Part 1 (of 2)
The Ladies’ Aid Society’s fund-raiser at the Fresno House was lavish and well-attended. The hall had been cleared away of the tables and chairs after dinner, the auction had gone without a hitch, and now the orchestra was playing as numerous couples moved gracefully around the floor in a waltz.
In Andi’s opinion it was high-time her family got on home. All the important things—namely the auction and the pledges for donations—were finished. There was no logical reason to hang around town any longer. In addition, the injured young man Cory and she had found this afternoon lay back home, in the Circle C’s guest room. It didn’t seem right to dump him on Luisa and Nila.
No, I found him. I want to take care of him. There was something about the young man’s haunted eyes that made Andi feel like she’d rescued a sad, hurting animal. She glanced at the clock. Ten o’clock. She groaned. Long enough, for sure.
Andi had endured Virginia’s and Patricia’s company for as long as she could and was happy to see they were off dancing to their hearts’ content with the Baldwin twins.
She knew it would be her turn soon. She paled at the thought and glanced around quickly for one of her brothers. “Traitors,” she muttered softly when she spotted them. They seemed to be having a wonderful time dancing with Fresno's numerous available young ladies. Andi watched Melinda waltz by on the arm of Jeffrey Sullivan and rolled her eyes heavenward.
“Excuse me, Miss Carter.”
Andi whirled at the voice just above her ear. She smiled grimly at the sight before her. It was Oliver Jansen, slicked up and polished, wearing a ridiculous grin on his long, narrow face. The young man attended Fresno Prep, the private boys’ school across town. Other than passing the imposing brick structure on her way north, Andi knew nothing about it. Well, she did know one thing, she corrected herself. She’d heard the boys from Fresno Prep were insufferably conceited.
She clenched her teeth, not wanting to confirm or deny this fact. “Yes?” she answered politely.
“Would you care to dance?”
“No, thank you. I’m waiting for—”
“Nonsense!” Oliver interrupted her excuse by grabbing her by the arm and leading her out onto the dance floor. She had little choice but to follow if she didn’t want to make a scene. When I get my hands on Mitch, I’m going to give him an earful!
“Well, aren’t I the lucky one tonight?” Oliver croaked in glee as he swung his reluctant partner around the dance floor. He was an excellent dancer and very proud of his ability.
“How so?” Andi asked half-heartily. She wished the music would stop so she could extract herself from this young man’s clutches.
“I do believe I’ve gotten the first dance with you, Miss Carter. Isn’t that right? Art Jennings bet I wouldn’t get the chance before one of your brothers stepped in. What is it with them, anyway? Surely they have better things to do than spend all of their time dancing with their baby sister.” He laughed, and Andi grimaced. “I wouldn’t be caught dead dancing with my sister,” he went on, rolling his eyes.
“Why not?” Andi honestly wanted to know. She knew Amanda Jansen. She was always polite and nice to Andi when she happened to meet her on the street, but a bit too giggly for Andi’s liking. Besides, Amanda was just back from finishing school and lived in town. Andi had nothing in common with her.
“Why not?” Oliver repeated, a shocked look on his face. “Why, she’s . . . she’s . . . the ugliest girl in town and rather silly, in spite of the money Father has spent on her schooling. Look at her over there, trying to be the belle of the ball, when there are quite a few young ladies much prettier than she is.”
“That’s not very nice,” Andi blurted, stopping in her tracks. She watched Amanda swirl past on the arm of Zach Morton, the son of another rancher. She looked like she was having a good time.
Which was more than Andi could say about herself.
Oliver grinned and didn’t miss a beat. He continued to propel his partner around, merrily chatting away. “Oh, Miss Carter.” He shook his head. “She’s nothing like you.”
“You don’t even know me,” Andi protested. And if you don’t shut up, you’re not going to want to know me. She glanced around, searching for any brother who could deliver her from this intolerable situation.
“That’s what you think. I do my homework. I hear you’ve got a mind of your own, and I can see for myself you’re real pretty.” He smiled. “Not to mention the fact your family is the richest in the entire valley. I’m sure we could become good friends once we get to know each other.”
“I wouldn’t count on that if I were you.”
“Miss Andrea! May I call you Andrea?” he continued without waiting for a reply. “There are many parties going on this spring—clear up through the fall. Then there’s the governor’s inaugural ball next winter. With my father helping with the governor’s campaign—as is your brother Justin—I expect both our families will get an invitation to the ball.”
“You’re very well informed, aren’t you, Oliver?”
“I make it my business to be.” His voice dropped and he pulled Andi a little closer. “I plan on seeing a great deal of you this season. You’ve grown up. I haven’t heard you’ve been thrown in jail lately for wrecking the water trough with the town’s scruffy boys.” He grinned at Andi’s furious look. “And I heard all about how you saved your brother’s life last summer and brought home all the bank gold. Quite an adventure, yes? I think you’ve grown up enough for me.”
“You think so, huh?” What a self-centered, arrogant, boorish young man!
“Indeed I do.”
Just then, a light tap on his shoulder interrupted Oliver. It was Jason Wright, another Fresno Prep snob.
“My turn, old man,” he announced with a wide, toothy smile. Jason stood a head shorter than Oliver. His vest buttons were nearly popping with the effort to keep his generous girth tucked in.
Oliver snorted. “I don’t see how. This dance isn’t half over.”
This is a nightmare! Andi moaned quietly.
“I’m cutting in, Jansen.”
“Get lost, Wright.” Oliver steered Andi away from the chunky, fuming young man. He held her possessively and grinned at his success. From the look on his face, Andi knew he’d had his sights set on Andrea Carter for a long time. If he was persistent, he probably reasoned, he could win her over in the end.
In your dreams, Andi thought. She bit her lip from saying anything out loud. Will this dance never end?
She was beginning to think the night would never end, when another young man tried to cut in on Oliver. “May I?”
Mitch’s voice was a welcome sound to Andi’s ears, but Oliver frowned.
“No, you may not,” came his churlish response.
“I’m sorry, young man, but I really must insist,” Mitch repeated a little more forcefully. “I always dance with my sister at least once so she won’t feel lonely.” He smiled to take the sting from his words.
“Now just a minute, Carter,” Oliver snapped. “Your sister doesn’t look lonely to me. I’m keeping her company.”
“Very gracious of you. But I assure you, it is my pleasure.”
Andi reached out for his hand, and Mitch whisked her away and onto the middle of the dance floor. As she twirled, she saw a very unhappy young man staring after them in disappointment.
“Mitchell James Carter!” Andi began in a furious whisper, “Mother promised you’d look after me tonight and keep me from the Fresno Prep vultures. No sooner is my back turned and off you go, dancing with all those other girls.”
Mitch looked contrite. “Forgive me, Andi. I got saddled with Josephine March’s granddaughter from St. Louis. She talks a mile a minute and I couldn’t get away. I didn’t forget you. Honest. I came as soon as I could.”
“Well, it wasn’t soon enough,” Andi pouted. She glanced over the crowd. “That Oliver Jansen makes me ill.”
“Why did you agree to dance with him?”
“I didn’t.” Andi tossed a long, dark curl behind her shoulder. “He just . . . well, he grabbed me and off we went.”
Mitch’s eyebrows shot up. “Why, Andi! I’m surprised at you. Since when have you let something like that happen if you didn’t want it to?”
Andi favored her brother with a scowl. “Since I’ve grown up,” she said sarcastically. “Mother wouldn’t like it if I made a scene at a fancy party like this.”
“That’s true,” Mitch agreed with a nod. “Well then, little sister, I applaud your self-control.” He laughed softly at the look on her face.
“If you’re going to keep teasing me, I’m not going to dance with you anymore.”
“Sure,” Mitch replied lightly. “That will send you right back into the arms of Oliver Jansen.”
“I’m sorry, sis. Let’s go another round, then we’ll rest, okay?”
After that, there was no more trouble from the prep boys. Andi contented herself with two more dances at Mitch’s expense, two with Justin, and only one with Chad. He started in on her about the injured stranger as soon as the music began.
“So, little sister, I noticed you’ve got a real interest in our wounded stranger. Justin’s going into town tomorrow to check with the sheriff.”
“A bullet in a stranger. Seems pretty strange to me. Besides, it’s not a good idea for you to—”
“You are so suspicious of everybody,” she argued. “Why don’t you give it some time and let the poor fellow heal. Then—”
“Bringing a strange, bullet-ridden man into our home is not exactly the wisest thing I ever heard of,” Chad said, frowning. “It would be best if Mother made arrangements to have him driven to town to stay at the hotel—”
“Chad!” Andi gasped. “Who’d take care of him? I found him and I’m going to help him.”
“He’s not a stray puppy,” Chad snapped. “You’d best—”
“I’m done dancing, big brother. Thank you very much.” She rudely left him standing in the middle of the floor.