Copyright © 2011 Marianne Stephens
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     ROPING THE COWBOY EXCERPT -                  
              Lightning Strikes Twice
                     by Rose Anderson


Lightning Strikes Twice

Santa Rosa, New Mexico
June 1919

Valentina returned to the dining room with a pitcher of lemonade and found Isabella in tears. She noticed the opened letter from the bank man on the table. Concerned it brought bad news, she placed a comforting hand on her young mistress’ shoulder. “Why the tears, querida niña?”

Isabella stuffed the letter back into the envelope and dabbed her eyes with her napkin. “Mr. Montrose sent an unfounded condemnation of me.”

“Condemnation?” Pulling out a chair, Valentina sat down. “Tell me, what does the bank man say?”

“Remember Papa took out a loan and bought fifty heifers?”

Valentina nodded. “Sí, from a stockman in Ohio.”

Isabella tapped the letter with her fingertip. “Mr. Montrose acknowledges I am the head of the family, now that Papa and Jorge are gone. But I’m a woman. Because of this truth, he says he doubts my ability to pay the balance. The bank put a lien on our home and will foreclose if this debt isn’t paid within three months’ time.” Covering her face with her hands, Isabella’s words came brokenly through her fingers, “If I sold everything we have now, everything- including Papa’s gold pocket watch- I still wouldn’t have enough to cover this debt.”

Outraged on behalf of the girl she raised, Valentina said, “To think you will not pay because you are a woman- for that they will take the hacienda? Madre de Dios, to do such a thing.” She gathered Isabella into her arms and rocked her. The niña only just lost her papa this past winter. Such heartlessness. It was clear Señor Montrose did not know how strong and brave Isabella was, nor how bright. Señor Renaldo had done his best to fulfill his wife’s deathbed request by including his daughter in every lesson he taught his son. Sí, Señor Montrose did not know Isabella at all.

Isabella drew back and tearfully met Valentina’s eyes. “I can’t allow us to lose everything. Where will you and Hector and Tomás go without this place to call home and where would I be in the world without all of you? We are family. I’ll not see us scattered to the winds.”

Seeing hopelessness reflected in those young eyes, Valentina struggled to find an answer. Even if she pooled her small savings with that of the brothers, it would be too little to help. She tenderly brushed the wisps back from Isabella’s face. “What can we do?”

“Papa was to meet the man from Ohio at the Denver Stock Show this year-he’s bringing our fifty head with him. Our only option is to do what Papa set out to do. The cattle must be brought home. We’ll keep the ten best for our bulls and sell the rest once they’re here. It won’t bring us as much money as Papa expected, but I don’t care about that. Our home will be safe.”

“Sí, I can see that this would work. But we do not have vaqueros to drive them, niña. Nearly all the able-bodied men are gone to war or dead from sickness.” When the war with the Kaiser came, those vaqueros young and strong enough to be soldiers went to fight. Several lost their lives.

bring them home.”