Buck had ridden into town alone, a thing I didn't do very often. But he had heard a rumor and would like to know if it was true. He was on his way to the real estate office. Somebody had said that the Wayne farm, which once belonged to Doug Wayne, was for sale again. Perhaps he could buy it, or persuade his brother to – and then give it back to its rightful owners, Derek and Mariana Wayne.
Well, you just didn't give things like that away, he knew that, but it was their moral right to own it, in a way.
'You do this for Mariana' he said to himself 'and for your conscience. But would it not be just so much easier to ask the girl to marry you?' No. He didn't want to marry, not just yet. John and Victoria had a good married life together, he knew that, especially now when they were expecting a child. But he wasn't ready for it yet. So much better if Mariana would be a wealthy woman, running her own farm, and he could come visit her whenever he wanted. Just having the best parts..
Because he appreciated her. The best moments of their relationship were when they could lay side by side, kissing, hugging, making love. When he could see her beautiful body in the moonlight, her shiny hair, and taste her soft lips. But he knew you can't have those things for free. There should be obligations too. And he didn't like the sneaking.. the stables, the saloon, a rented cottage, a hotel room in another town .. never a place of their own. If she could have her old farm back..
And what about Mariana? She did what she could, saving money. Her brother didn't seem to care. He liked his job at the Montoya estate. She had thought of borrowing money, but from whom? Her employers? Her lover? Deep inside she wanted him to offer himself to do it. She couldn't hope for him to ask her to marry him, she was too poor, too young, a nobody.. But she loved him. And she believed he loved her too.
Buck looked into the window of the real estate office – and stopped. Then he closed up, carefully. Through the window he thought he saw a person he recognized. Straight posture, an air of security, well dressed and wearing a hat. He looked again. Yes, it was she. What was she doing here? He wanted to run away, but that would solve nothing. Better to face her at once. He entered.
The office clerk bowed. "Good morning sir". "Good morning." The lady turned around when she heard his voice. Almost certainly against her will, her cheeks turned all red. "Cousin Buck, fancy meeting you again." He pushed his hat from his forehead and smiled. "Cousin Mildred. What brings you here?" Strange how well he remembered her cheeks and her sweet little mouth.. She had lost her composure, and that pleased him. "I .. I read about a farm that was for sale and I thought maybe I could buy it." – "What farm?" – "A small one, just for sale. I think it's called Waynes farm."
Mildred walked slowly along the fence of the small farm. "It looks good, doesn't it?" Buck followed her. "Is it really your intention to buy a farm here?" – "Why not?" – "Well, I thought you were a town girl. Your side of the family always lived on the east coast." – "Yes. But sometimes you want new views. Like when I was here last autumn. That turned out very nice."
She turned around and looked at Buck. "We had a good time, didn't we?" He smiled, a little embarrassed. "I can't deny that. But I hope you haven't come for my sake. We did agree it was over." – "Sadly, yes. I didn't want it to be. But you didn't want to commit yourself and you thought it would be better for me to find a suitor back home. I tried to take an interest in the men in the city. I associated with them. But they were so boring. Not at all like the tough men of the west." They stood in the shadow of a big tree, she had removed her hat and his hang on his back. "Really?" The face and the mouth he remembered were very close to him. She touched his cheek with her finger. "You know that I liked you. And you liked me too. We could pretend we didn't break up."
Buck was not a man who could say no to temptations, and when her lips were so close to his he couldn't help kissing them. She put her arms around his neck and opened her mouth for him. He felt her pressing her body against his. Then he felt the presence of another woman in his mind. He let go of her and took a step back.
"No, I can't. This isn't right." – "Suddenly a man of moral? The girl I heard about, the poor but pretty one who caught you in her net, do you feel you have obligations to her? Is she not just pleasure?" Buck breathed heavily. He looked at the house behind the fences. "She deserves respect. In a way I have made her dependent on me, I can't let her down. This is her house, she should have it back." – "Then buy it for her. Then she will forever be dependent on you and you can come and claim her love whenever you want." – "You want to make it dirty, don't you?" Mildred tried to straighten her hair. "A women scorned, you know.. Well I know when I'm not wanted." She smiled again. "You could introduce me to some of your friends, couldn't you?"
Mariana laid the red-and-white-checked table-cloth on the grass. She and Buck were having a picnic under the green trees in a grove in a distant part of the High Chapparal ranch. She took bread and butter, cheese and ham from the basket, and also some vegetables. "It was good of the cook to let me have this" she said. There were also water bottles and a jug.
Buck sat beside her and he took a piece of bread. "Yes it was. I presume she knew where you were taking it." – "Oh yes. We don't have to hide really, so many know about us already." He didn't answer. Instead they began to eat, laughing and caressing each other. After a while he took the jug. "Is this for me?" He opened it and took a pull from the whisky. "I can't have much of this in the middle of the day."
They sat side by side with their backs against a tree. "You know" she said "I could think of having my own house, just like our old farm. And it would be nice living there with a man. I can work hard but I also know how to amuse a man. Are you not interested?" Her face was close to his. Of course she was not only the soft woman with her tempting body and her ability to make him feel good. She would be a good wife, he didn't doubt that she could manage a household. But his? Perhaps she wanted children? Was he prepared for that?
She caressed his cheek. "I can see your doubts. I heard that you were looking at the farm together with a woman. Would you rather live with her? I know you had something going last year." He looked at his hands. "She means nothing to me. I admit she tried, but I didn't give in. The thought of you stopped me." He turned his face against her. Her lips were very close to his. Soon they kissed and fell down on the ground.