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Luna hovered over the Sonoran desert. Her pale glow washed over the countryside. A gentle breeze rustled leaves. It stirred the heart.

Pleasant feelings lurked under even the hardest of veneers…..




Manolito sat by the riverside. Concern weighed upon him. Normally on such a night, he and Makadoo would traipse across the desert. He’d hit a few cantinas. He’d serve Desire as her willing thrall without compunction or remorse. Then he’d return to the Chaparral. He’d deal with Victoria’s nagging; the arguments between them ringing about the rancho angrily yet soon fading away. Perhaps Buck and he would share a drink.

That had worked in the past. Funny how things could change….

Manolito cast his eyes skyward. The pale light glistened in his dark eyes. The breeze rustled his hair. His mouth curled into a whimsical smile. “One day’s work leads to the next day’s work and so on.” He sniffed almost indignantly at Memoria’s reminder.

Work flowed from one day to the next. Amor, it seemed, did as well.

He coughed. “You are such a tease.” He recalled the interrupted cattle drive. It seemed a simple scouting mission until he came upon a carriage surrounded by comancheros. He scattered them easily enough. Pity a pair of soft eyes enticed his heart.

Those eyes…and the gentle yet impetuous soul behind them….

Do you not know me? When I used to visit as a child, there was this boy named Manolito. We’d play by the river bank. I used to climb the tree. He’d chase me.

He nodded. Mercedes. He envisioned the young noble woman. Much like himself, she wanted Amor’s choice for a partner not her parents’. She would travel until she found that special man. Then her eyes would linger into his. Her skin seemed to glow at those times.

And it was in those times that the world turned upside down…

I have never wanted these things, he heard himself say. When I am with you though, I do. I want them for the first time. He sucked in a deep breath. He slowly stood and walked several steps away. There he spied the gnarled and twisted tree in question. He ran his hand across its rough bark.

Child’s play had turned to adult dreams.

Purpose had caught him. Whereas Tragedy had cost him at other points, this time Fate kept him on his current path. Because of a stolen horse, an intervention with Federales and a haircut, he’d helped John and Blue to find love with Victoria and Penny. Perhaps he’d get to help Sam with his own sorrow.

Amor used him for that purpose. Now she guided him toward the future.

We shall take our children to play by the river bank. We will watch them very carefully, he heard her say in his mind’s eyes.

He grinned. “Ah how you turn the world so quickly. I never wanted any of this. I was content to be a simple man. Now you bring me to this purpose. Hopefully Papa will treat us honestly for once.” His smile broadened. A dreamy sigh escaped his lips.

Tied to the other side of the tree, Mackadoo whinnied.

Si. Si. I go on. I know. All right?” Manolito inhaled deeply of the air. Nuestros niños…our children. I never would have believed. He wondered if indeed little feet might pitter-patter across the bark at some point in the future. Could the blanket rustling on his horse’s back might serve for a family picnic?

Amor did want increase and profit for her investment after all….

Tragedy stabbed at his heart. He frowned recalling Mercedes’ kidnapping. Desperation pushed him out of his sick bed. He pushed Makadoo over the landscape to reach his beloved’s side. He’d cradled her head in her lap.

Chaos broke out around them. Horses and cattle stampeded around them. The Chaparral crew rounded up the kidnappers. The shelters and supplies collapsed under the hooves’ assault.

Still Manolito heard none of those things. He’d brushed the soft brown hair. He’d leaned close to her face. His eyes searched for any reaction in hers. Tears streaked down his cheeks. His ears tuned into her every tortured breath. His mouth murmured a prayer. His lips implored God to give her another chance. His heart seized in mid-beat.


His mind snapped back to reality. His ears harkened to the voice’s gentle tones. He relaxed. “I was dreaming our dream.”

Mercedes shrugged. Mischief sparkled in her eyes. Her dark skirt billowed in the breeze. She practically glowed in the moonlight; the dust leaving a fairy aura around her. “You were? Do we have a goal now?” She picked up her skirt and waded across the rushing waters.

“Mmm…yes. I believe I do. I was thinking about children, trees to play in and picnics here.” He raised an eyebrow. “And you ride by yourself at this time of night?”
She rolled her eyes. “Buck and Blue wait on the other side. Victoria sent us.”

“Victoria.” Manolito shook his head. “She does mother me. Nag, nag, nag.”

“She loves you, Manolo. So do I. One cannot live for the moment forever.” She embraced him. “You dream of our hopes. I approve.”

“Oh you do?” Manolito supposed.

Si, Manolo. I do.” She giggled. “I said that our children will play here. Did I not?”

“You did. We have to believe.” He kissed her hand right beneath the new diamond ring glittering there. “My lady.”

“Mi Manolo.” Her cheeks blushed. Joy sent her heart soaring. “I love you. We should not keep our friends waiting.”

“It is tempting.”

“Manolito, please. They do care. Besides…” She smiled. She motioned back down the trail. “We do need a start toward this. Don’t we?” She squeezed his hands in hers.

“I am at your service.” He took her hand with one of his. In the other, he grasped Makadoo’s reins. He led them back toward the trail and their dream.

A dream to build on indeed….