In the scene below, Don Miguel Navarro has completed a cooling, restful swim in pond after a tiring day on his vast rancho. He joins his land manager for the ride back to the hacienda.
“I am not anxious to return to the house. Let’s take it at a walk,” Miguel said.
Stalking Elk nodded.
Riding side by side, they traveled in silence for a time, and then the older man, who had worked for Miguel’s father, spoke, his voice tinged with disgust. “I caught Señorita Valdez trying to peek, Jefe. I sent her away.”
Stalking Elk always called him Jefe—chief—rather than don.
“Ah, Señorita Rosita Valdez,” Miguel replied.
Shaking his head, he sighed at the thought of the hot, turbulent méjicano. Peeking was so like her. Inwardly he smiled, but it was a dry smile. Even when he was younger, and free, he hadn’t sampled what Rosita had hinted he could have. Although he admitted he’d come close once, in the days after his parents, aunt and uncle had been massacred in a raid by marauding Indians three years earlier. Led by a rogue Paiute warrior named Red Hawk, the group of outcast Indians and whites had swept down through the mountain pass to the north, stealing cattle and horses, slaughtering men and women in their path.
Miguel had been in El Pueblo, and the shock of returning to find his parents dead had cloaked his mind in a miasma of anger, pain, and helplessness. The burden of running the ranch had settled with sudden heaviness on his young shoulders, and he had almost, but not quite, yielded to Rosita’s charms.