Indecent Proposal

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
The terms loner, tough, rancher, independent, and successful best describe Millie Shitanda. A widow and loving mother of Jamie. Jamie, her 5-year-old daughter is living proof of the impeccable love she once experienced. She wears her father’s features beautifully. It’s impossible to miss the resemblance!
Victor, just like many men, is haunted by his past. Having served time for a crime his step-brother framed him for. His young age brings with it hope for the future. He hopes working for Millie will give him the fresh start he yearns for and deserves.
Victor is the last person Millie should be with. Her daughter must always come first! But the chemistry between them is undeniable and irresistible. The timing couldn’t be any worse! Should she risk it and explore her bursting passion? Or would she rather embrace the messy love story that’s about to unfold?

Submitted: June 01, 2017

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Submitted: June 01, 2017

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AN INDECENT PROPOSAL

The terms loner, tough, rancher, independent, and successful best describe Millie Shitanda. A widow and loving mother of Jamie. Jamie, her 5-year-old daughter is living proof of the impeccable love she once experienced. She wears her father’s features beautifully. It’s impossible to miss the resemblance!

Victor, just like many men, is haunted by his past. Having served time for a crime his step-brother framed him for. His young age brings with it hope for the future.  He hopes working for Millie will give him the fresh start he yearns for and deserves.

Victor is the last person Millie should be with. Her daughter must always come first! But the chemistry between them is undeniable and irresistible. The timing couldn’t be any worse! Should she risk it and explore her bursting passion? Or would she rather embrace the messy love story that’s about to unfold?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1

The long bus ride to Shitanda’s farm 300 Kms south of Nairobi was nerve-wracking! There were only two brief stopovers along the way, where more passengers headed south boarded. Victor, who was seated at the center of the bus, had been confined to the closed space for almost four hours!
He dug out his late father’s pocket watch and checked it again. He was hating every second of the slow paced hour hand. To him, it wasn’t moving fast enough. Impatiently he put the pocket watch away and glanced at the half-filled coach. It was evident he couldn’t wait to alight!
 

How would he ever make it on the outside, if he no longer tolerated being in an enclosed place? Victor closed his eyes and took in a shaky breath. His heart was pounding and the queasy feeling of motion sickness was becoming acuter.

For a few minutes, they had been driving through a landscape with beautiful green hills. Victor assumed the farm couldn’t be more than a kilometer further. However, the relief he should have felt when he caught sight of the scrolled iron arch didn’t come. His nerves were strung too tightly. As the bus slowed down, pulling to the side of the Highway, he shrugged into his lined denim jacket, then picked up his black Stetson and reached for the strap of his overnight bag.

The bus had barely stopped before he got to his feet and put his hat over his dark hair. He was partially down the aisle to the door, when he hoisted the strap of the overnight bag to his shoulders, his eyes intent on the exit, he couldn’t reach fast enough.


 

Once outside, he felt the chill bite of cool air and took in a deep breath of spring time and freedom. He felt that maybe he would feel freedom again here. Maybe he would remember what it was like to feel calm and relaxed. To lie down in peace, come and go as he pleased. To regain the simple dignity and privacy that had been brutally stripped from him. Freedom! What a rare treat that had become. As rare and longed for as other basic needs.

He waited while the driver removed his duffel bag and suitcase from the baggage compartment. The sight of the long graveled drive did not give him any chills. It started beneath his booted feet and disappeared over the land in front of him. The fact that it didn’t, was a testament to his diminished confidence

“There they are young man,” the driver said as he nodded towards his luggage and lowered the compartment door. He glanced up the ranch road.

“It looks like you’ve got quite a walk, and there’s a bad storm coming. Were they expecting you”?

The question grated him, but he managed a polite, though untrue answer.

“Someone will be along in a minute.

“All right then,” with that, the driver climbed into the bus and closed the door. Victor listened to the roar of the bus lumbering onto the highway; the thick diesel aloud in his awake, enveloping him briefly before a gust of wind blew it away.

He was finally alone, and the exhilaration that tumbled over in a sudden wave made his knees weak. He staid still and waited for the rumble of the bus engine to ebb into stillness. When it did, the only sound left was that of the wind blowing gray storm clouds across the sky. Tears that would never show stung his eyes.


 

Slowly he strained, letting his gaze scan the long rolling hills that were devoid of any landmark.  Beyond an occasion windmill and the four-strand barbed wire that paralleled the highway. There was no sign of human habitation, not even a horse or a single head of cattle!

The loneliness of the land reached deeply into his soul, soothing away the stifling feeling of being crowded or pressured. This was what he had hoped for, for so long. Openness and fresh air, the feel of the wind on his face, and gravel beneath his feet. He didn’t care if he never again had a roof over his head or walls around him. Even food and water were distant seconds to the craving he had just to stand again in the unbroken vastness of the outdoors as a free man!

Finally, he turned back to the long ranch road. The job, which he had been promised by his attorney Peterson, was waiting somewhere over that slow rising hill. If only he could somehow gain the approval of the owner-rancher who had the final say at the end of his two-week trial employment.

Dreading the inevitable awkwardness of his first face to face meeting with Millie Shitanda, Victor picked up his bags and started up the drive. His first glimpse of the house and ranch building situated in the wide valley beyond the crest of the hill steadied him. Though spread out in an almost random fashion, the buildings were in good repair. Most of them wearing a coat of paint that appeared little more than a season old.

The two-story log and stone ranch house that stood his side looked like a statue carved from the landscape; as tough as the element and just as permanent. The sight of it was one that surprised him with a feeling of coming home. The family main house also had been constructed of logs. Though the four extensions added through the generations to the homestead had been of clapboard, this house had the same feel of warmth and family. Victor’s spirits lifted. He sensed instantly that if Millie Shitanda were as fair-minded as his brother in law Peterson, the Shitanda’s ranch might be just a place he needed to heal from his ordeal and put his life back together again.

The walk from there to the main ranch house wasn’t over-long. Uncertain of the reception that awaited him in spite of Peterson’s assurances. Victor stowed his things at the end of the porch then approached the front door and knocked.

“Christ sake, where did you come from?” The middle-aged woman who opened the door sized him up. Her eyes perusing Victor from top to down with a tentative smile of welcome on her round face. “I didn’t hear you drive in.” The woman gaze slid past him as if to look for a car, a frown creasing her forehead when she failed to see any sign of one waiting to spare himself an explanation.

Victor quickly said, “I am Victor and I’m here to see Mrs. Shitanda about a job.” Victor relaxed a little at his success in distracting the woman. “Well then, you must be the man Petterson said was coming the first of the month. My name is Roselyn.” The woman smile widened as she held out her hand to shake Victor’s. “I’ve been taking care of everybody up here at the house since Mr. Shitanda passed on about six years ago.” Victor nodded and forced a smile to echo the housekeeper’s friendliness attracting a closer look from the woman.

Anxiety pricked at his nerves. If the woman didn't already know, would she be able to tell by looking where Victor had spent the past two years? Would he carry the stigma for the rest of his life and be so self-conscious about it? He felt as if the shameful details were stamped in large letters across his face. To his relief, the housekeeper ushered him inside and closed the door before she turned to lead Victor through the house. Victor was too preoccupied to concentrate fully on the woman’s pleasant chatter. All he could manage was a polite response now and then as he unbuttoned his denim jacket with uncooperative fingers.
 

The inside of the house made him feel comfortable and secure.  Who wouldn’t? With its heavy leather band wood furniture and American west décor

But now that he was indoors out on the fresh air and openness, he began to feel a recurrence of the stifling pressure he’d felt on the bus. It was as if he had suddenly lost the ability to tolerate being closed in ever again. The thought frightened him! The wide door the housekeeper led him down was standing open. Victor stopped inside the doorway while Roselyn announced him.

“Millie, Peterson’s friend is here.” At the housekeeper’s word, the lady at the desk looked up from her papers. The stern flames of her face were anything but friendly. Victor shivered inwardly. He instantly sensed that Millie’s temperament was nothing like her brother in law. The formidable contours of her winter-tanned face, the dark brows, over intimidating blue eyes, to her unyielding cut of mouth and strong jawline. They were all indications of the kind of woman Millie was beneath her thick overly long black hair. He couldn’t believe his time at the ranch would be limited to the two–week trial!

A woman whose face had such strongly defined features might also have a strongly defined attitude, he thought!  He felt chills all over his body. What could be happening to him!!  His mind was fixed! Such a woman could have nothing to do with him!

He couldn't help but remember that the fifty dollars in cut loose money he’d been given wouldn't take him very far if she changed her mind about him. In fact, if he lost his chance at this job, there was a very real possibility that he wouldn't get hired at any ranch in the area. And if he couldn't find employment, would become of him?

“So you are a friend of Peterson's.” Somehow he had known before Millie spoke that her voice would be low and rough as if using a quiet tone wasn’t something she did often. It was far easier to imagine that deep gravelly voice raised in anger or roaring out a command! It was easier that way than to imagine what it would sound like in a casual conversation.

“Go ahead and have a seat.” She said gesturing toward the wing chair in front of her desk as the housekeeper went out and closed the door.

Millie watched Victor raise a hand to remove his Stetson, revealing braided dreadlocks drawn away from a face with bone structure that could be only considered classic. A few locks had escaped confinement at temples making him look more like a boy than a young man. Her gaze slid down over his open denim jacket and the flannel shirt beneath to his well-washed jeans and the scuffed brown leather of his boots. His well-built body revealed he could be older. She quickly yanked her gaze back to his face. He was here to work for her and she had no business taking note of anything beyond his qualifications of the job.

Victor crossed to the chair Millie indicated, unaware that she saw the way his eyes made a quick scan of the room as he did so. Normally, when she interviewed a prospective employee, there was a degree of nervousness, especially if the applicant was a green kid. But there was something different about Victor. She couldn’t pinpoint it immediately but it was there in the loose-limped, casual way he moved; a way that for some reason reminded her of a mare she had owned a few years back.

No matter how hard she tried to school it out of her, the mare had had a wild streak a yard wide. Though she could go for days and seemed like a perfect horse for working cattle, she’d had a real gift for being sedated one moment. Then exploding into a fit of bucking the next when something small spooked her. In the end, she had given up and sold the unpredictable animal. She’d been too dangerous to have around. Something about Victor gave her the same feeling. Something that went beyond a lovely face with dulcet features.

She could almost see what it was in the striking shade of his blue eyes with their thick sweep of black lashes. Almost but not quite. He’d find her staring and his gaze would flee from hers. After those few moments, he hadn’t met her eyes full on a pair. She was instantly suspicious.


 

 “So how long have you known Peterson?” Millie was leaning back casually in her chair. Victor managed to bring his full attention back to her, though he focused his gaze somewhere just over her right shoulder. “I’ve known him almost two and a half years.” He replied, resting his elbow on the palm of his chair and linking his fingers together loosely, palms down. “Then you probably know my sister, Bet?" It was an assumption that made him uneasy.

“I’ve never met your sister,” His words clearly surprised her. A sick feeling of intuition stirred. Somehow he knew the rancher would never have mentioned her sister. Had she understood that Victor’s relationship with her brother in law had been strictly attorney-client? The thought jarred him. He’d thought that Millie knew about him and had agreed to hire him on a trial basis. But now that he was face to face with her, instinct warned him that if she’d been told everything, she wouldn't have agreed to hire him. Few respectable ranchers would anyway! Why had Peterson done this? He braced himself for the worst, but caution made him go about his revelation slowly.

“I was a client of his,” he said quietly, “he represented me in court a couple of years ago.” Millie eyebrows lifted. Peterson’s usually handles criminal cases. Victor heard the unspoken question quite clearly and met her dark eyes for a brief moment. Millie went still. Giving in to the suspicion that was flaring stronger by the moment. When Peterson called, they’d had trouble with a bad phone connection. It had happened occasionally on the rural line but at that time the static had been so bad. She’d hung up and Peterson had called her back. The connections had been better at Millie’s end of the line to hear that Peterson was asking to send a man to work on the ranch. Considering Peterson was her sister’s husband, she felt she was doing Peterson a favor! That’s how she’d agreed to hire Victor on trial basis. She thought Peterson had been trying to tell her about some problem he’d be had a couple of years back but the phone connection had grown steadily worse. It had almost been impossible to hear enough of the details to have any clear idea of what kind of problem it had been.

Impatient with the phones annoying static, she figured the problem in Victor’s past was nothing to send him to the ranch. She remembered thinking it odd for Peterson to thank her for giving him a break, but she’d dismissed the remark at the time. Now as he sat before her, she wondered what Peterson had been trying to say.

There wasn’t a lot she could discern from Victor’s closed features but she could sense a coldness and aloofness, almost a self–protective aura. There was a toughness about the way he held himself, a hint of defiance in her angle of his chit-chat mingled strangely with the tiniest glimmer of uneasy in his eyes. She‘d seen something like that before; twice to be exact. She hadn't liked seeing it then and she wasn’t eager to repeat the hard lessons in spite of granting a favor to her brother in law. If her instincts were any to go by, she wanted no part of Victor.

“Are you saying, that my brother in law, who only handles criminals cases had you as a client once?” Millie’s voice had become rougher, the harshness telling him she hadn’t been aware of his conviction at all! With his chin lifted and eyes squarely, his mouth squeezed out a yes!
“Did he win the case?” Twisted with faint insolence, and her brows lifted, she waited and answer she was already dreading.

Suddenly he found the room stifling! Millie would be the first person outside prison he would have to tell about his conviction, and it was harder to do than he imagined. “No.” The word sounded just as choked and forced as he felt it coming out. “I served two years.” Millie’s face hardened. “For what”? The question was a mere formality–perhaps mixed with a little curiosity before she turned him down for employment. It crossed his mind to insist he was innocent of the charges but few people gave credence to the claims of a convicted felon. It would be no difference with Millie. “Livestock theft.” The words hung in the air. A ruddy flush came to Millie’s winter–tanned face but still she didn’t explode as he expected, but her words would have if she’d shouted.

 “I’ve had a couple of unpleasant experiences with ex-cons before,” she began her dark expression growing more formidable by the moment. “That experience alone would make me turn you down for a job. But hiring an ex-con convicted of rustling would be just plain stupid on my part. “With all the trouble I’ve been having these past years, the only kind of rustler I want in my land is one with handcuffs”.

“What if I told you the details Mrs. Shitanda?” Victor’s calm question was as much a test of her sense of fairness as it was his last chance.

The skeptical twist of her lips gave him her answer before she spoke. “The evidence against you have much been conclusive. Peterson’s is too good at what he does to let an innocent client go to prison. Millie pushed away from her desk and stood, her height as intimidating.

“Then why do you suppose he’d recommend me to a member of his own family?” He tried again. “If he believed I was guilty wouldn’t that be a little like sending a fox to guard the hen house?” Victor got to his feet too, his eyes stubbornly slow to leave hers as he stoically accepted her dismissal. He would never beg for a job, even if meant going back into the pre-release program. Pride kept him from showing any trace of the disappointment he felt as he nodded his acknowledgment and turned to walk from the room.


 

“I think you’ll find the other ranches in this area have the same attitude.” She added once his back was turned. At least she had given him fair warning. Though he knew she hadn’t meant to be helpful, he appreciated the information as he had only so much money and so much time.

Victor was almost all the way down the hall to the living room and the front of the door, when a young girl with short blond pigtails came tearing around the corner from the kitchen. Startled, Victor had no time to step out of the path of the child’s headlong rush. The sudden impact of the small body against his, made them both lose balance for a moment, but Victor’s quick reflexes prevented them from falling as he caught the child’s narrow shoulders.

 “Excuse me,” The little girl whom Victor judged to be about seven or eight was looking up at him with brown eyes, her amber brows scrunched together with undisguised curiosity. “Who are you?” Taken aback by the little girl’s righteousness, Victor hesitated as he gently set the child away from him.

“Victor.”

“Victor who?” came the response. At the same moment, Victor heard a movement behind him in the hall.

“Never mind young lady”. Millie’s voice rumbled with quiet authority. Victor instantly let go of the child. He didn't have to see Millie’s face to know she was furious that he was even touching the girl, much less speaking to her.

“Oh, mom you always say that!” The girl chided the woman whose look loomed threateningly over both of them. The exasperation in the high voice might have struck Victor as comical at any other time but underneath the circumstances, he only felt apprehension.


 

A quick look at the iron set of Millie’s features confirmed that Victor had every reason to feel apprehensive. Cold fury snapped in her blue eyes as she reached out and pulled her daughter away from him.

Victor could only stare! Stricken by the action that suggested Millie considered his brief contact with her daughter contaminating. Would everyone react to him like this? His answer was in the harshness of Millie’s face. He faltered a moment until pride stiffened his spine. He had suffered too much the past two years to let the kinds of Mille make him duck his head in shame.

Shielding his thoughts behind a brittle façade, he turned and made a dignified exit through the living room to the front door, where he let himself out. Outside in the cool air, he buttoned his coat and gathered his thongs from the end of the porch. A spring snowstorm was brewing, he could smell it in the air. The overcast sky was dark gray now. Victor was too sad to consider if he’d make it to town before the snow.

Millie watched from the front windows as Victor headed to the crest of the hill that stood between her house and the highway, she’d never been deliberately cruel to anyone in her life. Harsh maybe, or stern. But as she watched him walk away, loaded down with what looked like all he owned in the world, she felt like she had literary kicked a stray dog for coming to her door for scraps.

It was a hell of a way to feel! Especially when she was right not to hire someone like him. A rustle, so fresh from prison. The ink on his release papers wasn’t even dry!

Nevertheless, the moment he was out the door, she’d call her brother in law’s office. She’d been eager to ask Peterson about what he had meant when he had hinted that Peterson didn’t belief he was guilty. She had however figured she could at least hear what Peterson had to say about it. Considering he had put her through hell for sending him away.

Unfortunately, Peterson was out of town, until the end of the month. Millie hadn't reckoned the call important enough to have the secretary track him down which was alright with her she told herself. Her mind was already made up, by the time she had the opportunity to talk to Peterson she’d be lucky to even remember Victor’s name.

A gust of cold air rattled the windows in front of her. She watched the lone figure in the distance with his load. Trying to reach up a bare hand and tag his hat lower against the wind. It was going to snow by nightfall, a real howler, if the weather reports were accurate. The boys would be bringing the heavy cows in the closure to the calving sheds. Someone should be getting the hay weapons loaded to take out to the feed ground on the range by morning. Every animal with any sense would be looking for shelter.

Millie’s conscience prodded her and made her more uncomfortable as Victor disappeared over the crest of the hill. It hadn't occurred to her that he’d come here on foot .If she had known, she would have offered him a ride to town. He was in for a long, cold walk back to green hills and when he got there the only place he’d get shelter was at the back seat of the county Sheriff’s car. She swore softly as a burst of wind driven leaves hit the front windows.

 He could however also hitch a ride with someone once he got to the highway.  Unfortunately, he wasn't dressed warmly enough to walk until some Good Samaritan happened to come along.  Considering the weather conditions the Good Samaritan would be hard to come by. Millie hesitated only a moment more. She had to go after him! Someone had to!  She had to at least ensure he got safely to town, ex-con or not. But that was as much as she was willing to do. What would become of him after he got to town was his problem.

Millie turned to get her back porch hat and parka when the phone rang. She entered the kitchen as Roselyn quickly said, “I’ll tell her!” and hung up the receiver.


 

“Marks wants to know if you've got a spare thermocouple to fit the furnace down at the bank house. He just got in, and he figures the heat's been off most of the afternoon, by the feel of it”.

Millie released an impatient breath as she crossed to the pantry of the east side of the house. It’s a damn inconvenient time for that furnace to act up. “It’ll be even more inconvenient if you don’t have a spare part to fix it”. Roselyn pointed out before she returned to her meal preparations. Millie rummaged through the assortment of replacement parts she kept. She finally found what she was looking for. She’d just stepped into the kitchen when the lights flickered, dimmed, then came back on.

“Looks like we might have to start up the generator. “Roselyn commented. “If you do and I don’t get back right away, call down and get one of the men to start it for you”. She said as she headed for the porch, the furnace part in hand.

“I reckon it can wait till you get back.” Millie tossed the part onto a bench along the outside wall of the porch. “No telling how long I’ll be, Roselyn. As I get this down to Mark, I’ll be going to town.”

Roselyn’s brows raised at that, “Have you looked outside lately?” “That’s why I have to go,” she said briskly as she reached for her scarf and parka. “The boy Peterson sent must’ve walked all the way out. He was walking back last time I looked”. “You didn’t hire him?” Roselyn asked surprised. “Nope,” Millie’s stern manner indicated she didn’t care to elaborate.

As she put the parka on and zipper up to her chin, she caught sight to Roselyn‘s curious look. Well aware she was capable of pestering her half to death for the details. Tugging her brim down to a determined ample over her eyes, she grumbled a low” forget about him, Roselyn he’d be nothing but trouble.” The housekeepers eyes twinkled at that. “Trouble for the ranch...or trouble for the boss?”


 

Millie’s lips thinned as she turned away, grabbed up the part and opened the door. “Same difference.” Roselyn chuckle followed her out into the storm. As she stepped away from the protection of the house, the first gust wind caught her breath and peppered her face with bits of ice. Had someone come along and picked him up before the storm had turned this bad? The question hugged her and increased her sense of guilt as she reached up to pull the brim of her head lower to shield her eyes. No matter how hard she tried to resist, she couldn’t forget the sight of Victor walking over the hill.

She also couldn’t forget the way he had sat across the desk from her and let her know upfront that he was a man with a past; the kind of past that would cost him his job! It had taken him a fair amount of honestly to do that. She didn’t want to dwell on the thought that he might have some character. He had a criminal record and though he couldn’t be more than twenty three or twenty four hours outside, not to mention very handsome, she had trouble believing prison could truly rehabilitate anyone. Besides weren’t young criminals the worst kind?

Then came the unwanted thought “she’d over reacted to his accidental meeting with Jamie in the hall though he’d quickly shuttered the hurt behind an aloof mask, she’d seen it clearly. Remembering that, she felt even more guilt! Not for refusing to hire him, but for standing at the window and waiting to see how fast the weather would turn bad before she made the decision to go after him and offer a ride.

Damn! Her brother in law had gotten her into this. What the hell was Peterson thinking of anyway, sending her a convicted rustler? Especially now that Jamie was old enough to spend loads of time down at the barns. The last thing she wanted around was an ex-con. Millie wrestled with her thoughts all the way to the bunkhouse and back. She passed through the barn harvest to the house then ambled towards where she’d parked her truck. The ground was already dangerously slick and she was forced to cover the remaining distance to the pickup truck with care.

Was he still afoot, or was he someplace warm by now? She wondered, as she opened the truck door and dug out an ice scraper to clear the windshield. The time and effort it took to chip away the ice only increased her sense of urgency. She’d never have peace until she caught up with victor and drove him as fast as possible to Tillie’s café or found he’d already made it safely to the town.

She was probably making the trip for nothing. She consoled herself! If he hadn’t hitched a ride with someone surely he’d have some sense enough to come back to the ranch to seek shelter when the freezing rain started, wouldn’t he?

She stopped scraping a moment to glance down the driveway as she considered the possibility. Hell why would he? She groused when she could see no sign of him in the icy twilight she hadn’t exactly given him a reason to think he was welcomed there under any circumstances.

With a last angry swipe of the scrapper, she finished with the windshield. Millie wrenched open the door and climbed in, slamming it hard enough to send a small avalanche of ice clattering from the side window. She twirled the key, barely giving the empire a moment to catch before she eased the big vehicle down the driveway.


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