Word count 5,104
Chapter 1 by Michelle Naylor
The day was sunny, bright, warm. A pleasant day, in most peoples’ opinion.
A stark contrast to the two previous days.
Spring rainstorms had brought with them a chill in the air. Johnny had spent the two damp, chilly days on the range chasing after a bunch of dumb cows with Cipriano and the other vaqueros.
He actually envied the thought of Murdoch and Scott in Stockton at a Cattleman’s meeting. Sitting inside rooms warmed by fireplaces and visiting with Victoria Barkley and her family.
Johnny smirked. Yeah, he thought. Scott was especially happy ‘visiting’ with Mrs. Barkley’s daughter, Audra. With her bright golden hair and sunny smile.
He knew Murdoch and Victoria were hoping the two would make a match of it, and he also knew Scott did not wholly oppose the idea. Johnny himself would not mind Audra as a sister-in-law. She was warm, sweet. She had a fiery temper and a wicked sense of humor.
She was a lot like Teresa in those ways, which was why the two were such fast friends, visiting often and exchanging long letters.
But Teresa did not go this time. When he has asked her why she had just grinned and said Audra would be too distracted.
Barranca nickered back at him, and Johnny patted the side of his horse’s sleek neck.
“’M okay, boy,” he said or rather rasped out of his sore, dry throat. Damn. Couldn’t even enjoy a nice day, could he?
The two, man and horse, entered the main yard and approached the barn, where a young boy
came to take Barranca’s reins.
“Give him an extra helping of oats, would you, Miguel? And some hot mash.”
“Si, Senor Johnny. Are not well, Senor?”
The young ex-gunslinger sighed. “Well enough. Sorry, Miguel, ‘m fine. Wish everyone would quit asking me that.”
Miguel looked doubtfully at his Patron’s son but said no more and led the golden palomino inside.
Johnny went toward the house. His entire body felt heavy and hot, like a weight rested on top of his head. That head also felt like someone had stuffed it with cotton.
But it was just a cold, a sniffle, really. He could work just fine. Cipriano was being a worry-wort. Johnny knew, though, that there would no arguing with the old Mexican Segundo. He’d tried that before.
Never really ended well for him. So, at Cip’s insistence, Johnny had trudged on home.
He entered through the kitchen, knowing it would be warm in there. For despite the mild temperature outside, he felt slightly chilled. Some hot coffee would be good.
Teresa looked up from the table where she kneaded bread dough to smile at him. “Johnny! I wasn’t expecting you back yet.”
“Yeah.” His voice caught and he let out a deep cough, raising a fist to his mouth as he dd so. “Me neither.”
“Oh!” Teresa was on her feet in an instance. “Are you sick?”
Great. Now he’d done it. He was about to be mother-hened to death.
“‘M fine.” How many times had he said that since this morning? Maybe if he kept saying it, he might believe it himself.
Teresa’s cool hand touched his forehead, then the side of his cheek. Johnny, despite himself, leaned into her touch and sighed at the comforting feeling.
The small, brunette girl shook her head. “You’re warm. Go upstairs right now and get into bed. I’ll bring you up some tea.”
“I want coffee, T’resa. Please.”
“And a bath. I’ve been in the rain for two days.”
“Then you’ve been plenty wet enough, I should say.”
She melted at the ‘lost, little boy’ look on his face, as she so often did. “Oh, alright. But straight to bed after that. No kidding, Johnny. You know how you are with fevers.”
“Yeh, I know.”
He made his way to the bathhouse, on the other side of the kitchen, thankful for Murdoch’s
forethought of putting in running water for the bath. It meant heavy buckets didn’t have to hauled inside or heated on the stove. Johnny still wasn’t sure how heating running water was achieved, but he knew he liked it just fine. It felt wonderful to soak away days of chilly rain.
He knew he could not stay there too long, though, for Teresa, despite his undressed state, would barge in at any moment and drag him bodily from the bath to get him into his bed.
Okay…that thought didn’t go quite where he was intending it too…but it certainly was an interesting one.
Dios! He must be sick and fever addled.
With regret, he rose from the still warm water and dried off. In the small changing room, he found Teresa had left a clean pair of his long-johns, cut off at the knees, a nightshirt, and a robe. He scowled at the nightshirt but knew Teresa would take no argument about it. So, he donned the garments and headed for the stairs, resigned to meet his fate.
Chapter 2 by SandySha
Hearing Teresa headed up from the kitchen, Johnny hurried to his room, threw off the robe, and slipped between the cool sheets of his bed. He’d just gotten settled when the door flew open and Teresa rushed in without even a thought of knocking.
“Good, you’re in bed.”
Johnny hurriedly pulled the sheet up under his chin. “Just. You know one of these days…”
She really didn’t have a clue what she’d just done and he didn’t feel like reminding her.
Moving forward, Teresa put a hand on his forehead. “I think your fever is getting worse. Maria is bringing tea. I’m sending one of the men to get the doctor.”
“I don’t need Sam, and I don’t need to be in bed, and I don’t need….”
Maria entered the room, also without knocking. “I have the tea, nino. It will make you feel better.”
“I don’t need any tea.”
In unison, the two women blurted out, “Of course you do.”
Maria pushed a cup into his hand. Hesitating, Johnny looked up to see Maria and Teresa standing beside the bed with their hands on their hips, giving him that ‘don’t even go there’ look.
Before Johnny could complain further, a noise in the hall drew their attention. In the doorway stood the oldest Lancer son.
Finding the opportunity to draw attention away from himself, Johnny rasped out, “Boston, what are you doing here? You’re supposed…” cough, cough… “to be in Stockton.” While the women looked at Scott, Johnny reached down and poured the tea into the chamber pot under the bed.
Scott croaked out, “I’m,” cough, cough, “sick. Murdoch sent me home.” Sniffle, sniffle.
Again, moving in unison, the two women swarmed over the tall blonde. Teresa put a hand to his forehead.
“You don’t have a fever.”
“No,” cough, sniffle, “but I’m having chills.”
“Johnny’s burning up. You’re freezing.” Huffing, she shook her head, “Lucky me.”
“I’m sorry,” Scott replied in a gravelly voice.
“Well, it can’t be helped. I’ll just do the best I can.” Teresa went into battle mode. “Now, Scott, into bed. Maria, you get tea for Scott. Sam will be here shortly and he’ll look at both of you.”
Teresa glanced at Johnny and the empty cup in his hand. First, there was a faint smile that faded to a scrawl.
“Johnny, you did drink your tea, didn’t you?”
“Sure, I did.” He gave her one of his best smiles.
“If I find out you didn’t….”
Scott coughed, once again drawing attention away from Johnny. Teresa spun around, pointed to Scott’s room, and stomped her foot. “Now, mister. To bed.”
While Scott turned to his room and disappeared, Maria headed for the kitchen. Teresa stood in the hallway between the brother’s rooms, a satisfying smile on her face.
Coughs from both rooms had her shaking her head.
Chapter 3 by Ronnie
They were impossible, both of them. Between emptying chamber pots, which she was sure smelled more like tea than urine, and boiling old roosters for chicken soup, she was beyond exasperated. Pleased at first that they were totally under her control, she realized quickly that control and … control were very different things. If that made sense? Agh, they were driving her crazy. What had been fun the first couple of days quickly deteriorated into drudge and exhaustion.
She sneezed out another chicken feather. Good grief, what a time for Maria to take sick. Scorched pin feathers drifted to her nose. Gagging on the smell, she threw the dead bird into the boiling pot, feet, bill, and cluck. They’d eat it, feathers and all, or she’d ram it down their throats. At least she’d gutted it, which was far beyond the call of duty as far as she was concerned.
Take it easy, Teresa, she thought to herself. They’re just sick, and men, which made sickness twice as difficult. Babies came to mind when she thought of Johnny’s whining and Scott’s wheezing. Oh well, nothing to be done. She splashed some red wine into the bubbling pot, looked at the bottle, and tipped it to her mouth.
Carrots, onions and potatoes managed to make it into the pot between swigs from the bottle. She spied a whole onion floating in the broth. Dang. How did that little bugger get away from her? Wasn’t there a poultice made from onions that was good for a cold? She eyed the unpeeled onion bobbing up and down and up and down amidst the grey potatoes and half done carrots and belched. Yellow chicken feet popped to the surface and she backed away, deciding the onion would stay. Maybe it could be mashed up and slathered across a chest. The thought of gooey onions sticking in chest hair was too much to envision, and she gulped another swallow of wine.
When was the last time she ate? Well, wine was made from grapes, which were a fruit, so all was well although she was feeling damned hot. Must be the simmering, bubbling mass from the stove.
She hoped Johnny hadn’t thrown his snot rags all over the room – again. And Scott. Good grief, was he always so dang, what was the word she was searching for? Solicitous? The man was sick, she wasn’t. If he asked her one more time if he could help, she’d dump more than soup on his clothes. Or dear, that had caused quite a commotion. No need to make a big deal out of a few soiled underthings. He still had clean socks. She giggled, thinking of Scott only in socks.
Smoke drifted across her face. The toast! She grabbed it from the stovetop, burning her fingers. The blackened bread could be salvaged, maybe. Scrapping as much of the top layer off as she could without wearing a hole through the bread, she slathered it with jam and butter. The boys wouldn’t notice. They couldn’t smell anyway, so wouldn’t taste the burn.
Okay. The tray didn’t look too bad. The teapot was steaming and ready. Granted, she may have gone overboard on the amount of leaves she dumped into the teapot, but lots of sugar would hide the bitterness and the leaves were good, wholesome fiber. The napkins looked good! Noting a few drops of wine on her blouse, she covered it with Maria’s apron. It was a tad big, especially in the bosom. She took another swig of the bottle, tucked it into the top of the apron and headed upstairs with the boy’s tray.
He was miserable. If Teresa tried to give him one more cup of tea, he’d be throwing more than piss and tea into the chamber pot. Not wanting to think about anything except death, Johnny closed his eyes and tried to sleep.
Scott had kept him up most of the night coughing up a lung, and probably a hell of a lot more. At least Johnny could say that he wasn’t coughing, but breathing was another matter. His nose was plugged. The only way he could take in air was through his mouth. He hated that, made his mouth feel drier than a Mexican desert. His head was full of God knows what and he kept waking up moaning as he tried to take a breath.
Man, Teresa was sure getting cranky. He thought the last couple of times she’d come in, she was acting tipsy, but that wasn’t possible. Teresa didn’t drink, not even a sherry at dinner time. Still, Scott’s nightshirts and underwear were all sitting in the laundry because Teresa managed to spill a whole bowl of beef broth into his dresser drawer when she was looping around Scott’s room. Johnny didn’t know how else to explain it. One minute she was offering the bowl to Scott, and the next, she was rummaging around in the drawer for a clean nightshirt and the bowl plopped into it. He had to admit, he felt sorry for the little thing as she hung over the drawer crying. Just until she spied him standing in the doorway and hollered at him to get his ‘arse’ back in bed. Gosh, he’d never heard her swear before. He moved pretty quick.
“Hey, how you feeling?”
Johnny raised his heavy head and spied his brother looking pathetic leaning against the door jamb.
“About like you look.”
“That bad, huh?”
“Damn, brother, you’d best sit down before you fall.”
“Teresa been up?” Scott asked, ignoring Johnny’s advice.
“Did she seem a bit, uhm, unsteady earlier?”
“Hell, I thought she was going to fall into your underwear drawer.”
Scott nodded. “Me too. I wonder …”
Hearing her coming up the stairs, Johnny pulled the covers over his head and hoped pretending sleep would work. He held his breath, then let it out when he heard her go into Scott’s room. He was saved, at least for a little while.
“Scott!” Johnny cringed at her screech. “What are you doing out of bed?”
A weak, “I thought I’d see how Johnny was doing,” squeaked out of his big brother.
“Well, it appears he’s thrown half the hankies in Lancer on the floor. Johnny! How in the world do you manage to get them all over the room?”
Johnny moaned and hunkered deeper into the pillow, hoping it would all go away, more specifically, little Teresa.
“What in the hell is happening?”
The storm thundered from the doorway and Johnny lifted his head. Murdoch! That’s all he needed.
“Sir,” Scott wheezed. “What are you doing home so early? (hack, hack) We didn’t expect you for several more days.
“Everyone at the meeting was sick, as well as the Barkleys. It appears I’m immune. And it also appears I came home just in time. There’s a god-awful pot of something on the stove that smells like scorched chicken feathers.”
Teresa burst into tears. Through bloodshot eyes, Johnny saw his father melt. Damn, wish he could get that reaction from his old man.
“Honey. Teresa. I meant no criticism.”
“Oh,” she blubbered. “They’ve been impossible. I’ve tried (sniff, sniff, slobber), but they don’t listen. Johnny, the tea filled chamber pot. Scott coughs and … his underwear is ruined.” She collapsed into a storm of tears and blubber and Johnny almost joined her.
“What does Scott’s underwear have to do with anything?” She cried all the louder. Poor Murdoch, Johnny thought through his misery. He has no idea.
What in the world was going on? No Maria, Teresa in tears, Johnny hanging off the side of his bed, and Scott’s cover slipping with each hacking cough. Was that a bare hip?
“Scott! You have anything under that sheet?”
“Well, yeah, kinda.” Scott looked up at him, eyes glassy, wheezing, as he held a sheet tight around his waist.
“What do you mean, kinda.”
“Teresa threw it at me.”
Count to ten Murdoch, be patient, the boy’s sick. “Okay, son. What did she throw at you?”
“Murdoch, I had to give him something,” Teresa stated, a quivering chin threatening tears. Murdoch didn’t want her to start weeping again. He hated it when she cried and he’d just calmed her down.
“Darling, everything will be fine. I’m not angry so let me just talk to Scott, all right?”
Her big, brown eyes floated with tears, but she nodded. He turned to his son. “Son, what did Ter … ah, what was thrown at you.”
“My nightshirts and underwear need washing, so Teresa threw, er, I mean gave me your underwear. I’m just having a hard time keeping them up.” Scott coughed, slipped his hand under the sheet, and hitched up what Murdoch could only surmise was his waist-high long johns. He didn’t want to ask or, at this point, didn’t care how his son’s nightshirts and underwear all needed to be washed at the same time.
“Teresa, you feel feverish. You may have caught something from the boys. I want you to go to bed, now,” he stressed when she started to protest. She whimpered, handed Murdoch a cup half full of tea leaves, and shuffled down the hall to her room. He’d check on her later to make sure she was all right.
Johnny gazed up at him from the bed. Poor kid resembled a fish as his mouth hung open and he gulped for air. Scott sputtered and wheezed beside him. He once again pulled at the ever-drooping long johns, almost losing his sheet. “Can I go back to bed now?”
Murdoch took Scott by the arm. “All right, boys,” he bellowed. “I’m here to take care of you and you will do what I say.” He thrust out his chest and put his hands on his hips. A slow smile lifted the corners of his mouth. “I’m in control.”
He guided Scott back to his bed and made sure he was tucked in. Standing in the hallway, one of the first things he would do was get rid of that mass of floating soggy vegetables and rooster stinking up the kitchen. Before that, he’d check on Teresa. He frowned, scratched his head and wondered why in the world Teresa had a bottle stuffed into the front of her oversized apron.
Chapter 4 by Ronnie and SandySha
‘Cough. Hack. Sneeze.’
That’s all Murdoch had heard for the last two days. Since returning home and spending time taking care of his children, Murdoch Lancer knew why Teresa had taken to indulging in a few nips from his best red wine.
Taking a sip from the glass of Glenlivet he had in his left hand, Murdoch stirred the hot pot of chicken soup and tried hard to block out the sounds of sickness coming from upstairs.
He could handle the coughs and sneezes; what he couldn’t handle was the whining. A faint smile crossed his face as he thought about the benefits of a good Scotch. Taking another sip of his drink, Murdoch chuckled. Maybe enough of the Scotch and he’d find some humor in all of this. After all, he’d dreamed of being a father to his boys for the last twenty years.
“Murdoch!” Johnny’s croaking voice made it to the kitchen. At least he was feeling good enough to be heard from his bedroom.
Shaking his head, Murdoch took another sip. He loved his sons, but they were was getting on his nerves.
“Murdoch!!” Johnny again. He was the worst of them.
“Sir!” Maybe not. Scott had a way of being polite even while sick.
Sighing, he continued to stir the pot of soup, sip his Scotch and wondered how many bottles he had hidden away and how many he’d need before everyone was back on their feet.
‘Cough. Wheeze…. hack.’ That’s all he’d heard since coming home. And picking up the results was driving him crazy – dirty hankies, dirty linen, and even dirtier what Murdoch didn’t want to think about. Now he understood why Teresa had sobbed out something about tea in the chamber pots. If Johnny didn’t start drinking his well-made and health-inducing tea, Murdoch would watch every sip he took.
Sam had been out to look the family over yesterday. By now, half the ranch was sick. Sam said it was the flu and almost everyone in Green River was sick, including Val.
“Mr. Lancer!” That would be Val. Sam brought him to the ranch yesterday, saying he couldn’t stay by himself in town and would Murdoch mind tending him. What could he say? He couldn’t turn the sick man away, especially when Johnny had managed to crawl out of bed, stagger into the hallway, and look at him with that puppy dog expression.
“Can’t let Val stay alone, Murdoch. Come on… Pa, let him stay. He won’t be no trouble.”
‘Pa.’ That had done it and Johnny knew it. The boy never called him Pa except when he wanted something badly.
“Alright, he can stay.”
“Thank you,” cough, wheeze, “Mr. Lancer. I won’t,” hack, hack, “be no trouble. Like Johnny said.”
To Val’s credit, that had proved true. By far, Johnny was the worst. Poor little Teresa just rolled over in bed, hiccupped, and said she was peachy. There was a strange blush on her cheek that Murdoch surmised was fever, although she didn’t feel all that hot.
And Scott, ever the proper young man. Murdoch hadn’t seen this part of his self-assured young son as he tried to keep his drawers up. Most of the ladies were too sick to wash up the broth-filled long-johns. A bit of laundry wasn’t beneath him, but Murdoch just hadn’t had the time. He’d managed to rig up suspenders to keep the too-big underwear from falling down, but they bagged both front and back. When Scott stooped over, his bottom peaked, and fortunately, he had no reason to do a backbend. Murdoch chuckled, eyed the Glenlivet bottle, and took another hardy swallow.
Feeling he was finally fortified enough to face them; Murdoch carried a tray with Maria’s largest porcelain tureen filled with soup and four bowls up the back steps from the kitchen.
Teresa’s room was his first stop.
“How do you feel, sweetheart?”
“I’m alright,” she sneezed and then hiccupped. Funny, Teresa was the least of his problems. She always seemed relaxed and a little… well, tipsy. Maybe it was different for women when they got sick.
“I brought you some soup.”
“Thank you. Just leave it on the table. I’ll get it. How are the boys and Val?”
“Don’t worry about them. You worry about yourself and get better.”
She gave him a lopsided smile.
“Teresa, are you really alright? I mean, you seem so relaxed.”
She sighed. “I’m fine,” hiccup, “really, I am.”
As Murdoch turned to leave the room, he glanced back to see Teresa take a bottle from under the sheet, lower it to the floor and roll it under the bed. There was a slight tinkle of glass. Shaking his head, he wondered how many bottles she’d liberated from the wine cellar.
“I’m coming, Johnny.” He’d deal with Teresa later. He understood, but still, she was too young to be hiding bottles under the bedding.
The next stop was Val’s room.
“Val, I’ve brought you some soup. Do you think you can manage by yourself?”
“I can handle it, Mr. Lancer.”
Murdoch put a bowl on a tray and sat it on Val’s lap.
“I appreciate it.”
Val was proving a surprise. He wasn’t as crude as Murdoch thought. His manners were very gratifying and for all his gruffness, Murdoch surmised it was just a rough cover for a kind and patient man.
“I’m gonna’ go shoot him if he don’t quiet down,” Val exclaimed, his patience obviously slipping. “I didn’t realize Johnny was such a baby. My apologies, Mr. Lancer, but a man can’t get no rest around here with him yelling for you all the time. Gunfighter, hell. He should be ashamed of all the whining he’s doing.”
“I’ll see to him next. Eat your soup. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
“Thank you kindly.”
Starting down the hall again, Murdoch drew up short when what looked to be rolled up socks flew across the hall in front of him. He stood still and waited. Coming from the other side of the hall, Johnny’s room, the ball sailed past his nose and into Scott’s room.
Murdoch heard a giggle from Johnny’s room and smiled. He was feeling better.
“I’m here, John. What’s so important?”
“You’re feeling better?”
“I guess I am.”
Hell, that was obvious, but Murdoch kept his mouth shut. He set the soup tray and the two remaining bowls on the table near the window and walked to Johnny’s bed. A soft ball of dirty, stinky socks smacked him up side the head.
From Scott’s room, he heard a croaking, “Sorry.”
Picking up the ball, Murdoch looked at it closely and shook his head.
“If you two are feeling that much better, I think I can find work ….”
“Oh no,” Johnny covered his mouth and coughed. “I’m sick… really, I am…uh, Pa.”
Murdoch knew the trick. ‘Pa’ wasn’t going to work anymore. He was too damned tired. “Alright, I’ve brought you soup. Do you want to eat in bed or at the table?”
“I can sit at the table.”
“Get over here then.”
Johnny seemed to sense the mood. He tried to throw a hang-dog smile Murdoch’s way, without success.
“You eat this. All of it. And don’t think you’re fooling me. I know where the tea has been going and if I find anything other than piss in the chamber pot, you’ll be drinking it. Understand!”
“Ah. Yes, sir.” Johnny immediately started spooning the soup into his mouth.
“Good. I’m going to check on your brother.”
Picking up the tray, Murdoch headed for the door only to have another ball of socks fly by. “Scott!!!!”
“Johnny started it. They’re his socks.”
“Are not,” Johnny yelled back.
Murdoch turned on Johnny, pointed to the bowl and hissed, “eat.”
Johnny bobbed his head above the bowl and filled his spoon. As Murdoch started for the door, he heard a mumbled, “Are too” come from behind him. He hesitated a moment, counted to ten, and continued across the hall.
Scott was next in line.
Entering the room, Murdoch found his oldest son out of bed, bent over, and seemed to be retrieving something under the bed.
The boy bumped his head at Murdoch’s growl and came up holding his hand against the back of his head.
“Why are you out of bed?”
The suspenders were a bright red and Murdoch held back a chuckle, recalling they were a gift from his old friend Joe Barker. Joe had tried to lighten Murdoch’s somber mood after his trip from Boston had failed to bring Scott home. When Murdoch had returned to Lancer, he found an empty home with Maria gone and Johnny with her. At a life-time low, Murdoch had been forced to take a supplemental job as Joe’s deputy.
It seemed appropriate that Scott was using them now, and ironic. For a brief moment, Murdoch bottomed out with sadness until Scott crawled up from the floor and stood before him, a vision of much too large underwear, skinny legs and hands clutching the plentiful waistband.
“Did you find gold?”
Scott’s befuddled look almost made him laugh out loud.
Then Scott quirked his head and with the most serious expression, replied, “No sir, only the most dangerous dust bunnies. But I think they have been subdued.”
“As well as dirty socks?”
“Yes, well, I think the socks were the reason for their, ah, subduing. They are Johnny’s, you know.”
“I’m sure they are. After all, they do smell like Johnny’s feet.”
Setting the soup tray on the side table, Murdoch turned in time to see a flash of white sail into the room. Raising his right hand, he caught a ball of smelly socks before they landed in the tureen.
From across the hall, a chuckle was quickly followed by a slight cough.
Turning back to his oldest son, Murdoch said, “You boys seem to be feeling better.”
Scott blushed and it wasn’t due to a fever. “Much, thank you.”
And he looked better. There were shadows under his eyes, but with Scott, they would take time to diminish. There were no spots of red, except the suspenders, of course.
“I’ve brought some soup.”
“Thank you. I am hungry.”
“Good. Eat it, and then go back to bed.” When Scott started to protest, Murdoch overrode him. “I don’t need a relapse from either you or your brother. Take another day—Val’s feeling better as well as Johnny. I’m not sure about Teresa, but she had you two to take care of. It may take her a while.”
With all the dignity Scott could muster, he clutched the ever-drooping drawers, made his way to the small side table, and sat down. “Thank you, sir.”
Eyeing the pair of socks in his hand, Murdoch smiled as he left the room.
Finally. Finally, everything seemed to be under control. His sons were on the mend, as was Val. He wasn’t sure about Teresa but thought if he could wrestle the wine bottles away from her, she’d be back to normal pretty quickly. Yes, indeed. He had his grandest wish fulfilled. His sons were happy and healthy, or at least on their way to recovering. And they were home, his grandest wish come true.
A soft wad sailed through the air and a pair of dirty, rolled-up underwear reeking of God only knew what smacked him in the middle of his forehead. He could hear Scott’s snort of delight on one side of the hallway and Johnny’s subdued laughter on the other.
Count to ten and take a deep breath. Then maybe not. Wrinkling his nose, he held the foul smelling underwear at arms length with one hand and the socks in the other.
Retracing his steps along the hallway and down the stairs to the kitchen, their voices stopped him mid-step.
“Murdoch!!!” Whining Johnny.
“Sir!” Scott’s polite whine.
“Mr. Lancer!!” With Val’s fed up voice, he could have sworn he heard a gun being cocked.
Waiting for a fourth voice, Murdoch smiled. Nothing. Yes, Teresa was the least of his problems.
Stopping at the bottom of the steps, he longingly eyed the near-empty bottle of Glenlivet near the stove.
Murdoch looked to the heavens. “And I wanted them back. What was I thinking?”
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