Authors: Elaine Coffman
For All the Right Reasons
Mackinnons, Book Two
Katherine Simon has loved Alexander Mackinnon all her life. But his heart has always belonged to her sister, Karin, in spite of the fact that fickle-hearted Karin cannot be constant or loyal with her affections. Little does it matter that Alex’s twin brother, Adrian, has always loved Katherine and hopes she will one day be his.
Following his dream to be with Karin, Alex makes a terrible mistake when he writes to propose marriage. Not knowing it will take him on a ride he never expected and down a path to love he never imagined, his journey this time is for all the right reasons.
For All the Right Reasons
The heart is half prophet.
Brownsville, Texas, 1848
The war was over.
The man sitting astride the stout little buckskin scratched the rough stubble on his face and tried to decide if he was glad. He was glad there would be an end to all the killing. But the end of this war meant there would be no need for the army that had fought so bravely under General Zach Taylor, no need for the men who had misplaced two years of their lives. For two years the Mexican War had filled the void in his life. But now it was over. What would become of him now?
His name was Alexander Mackinnon. He and his twin brother, Adrian, were the youngest of the Mackinnon brothers, who numbered six in all. There were only five of them left now, since Andrew, the oldest brother, had been killed by Comanche back in ‘36.
. Andrew had been dead for a long time. Andrew Mackinnon, the oldest and the first to die. During the two years of heavy fighting, Alex often thought he would be the next to go. He pondered upon that for a minute and shook his head sadly. It was a grim thing to admit, but he figured the only significant thing about his death would be that it would reduce the number of living Mackinnon brothers to four.
The war with Mexico had been grueling, but short, and it had occupied Alex and his twin, Adrian, for a couple of years, giving them something to do besides starve to death. But now it was over and they weren’t exactly sure what they would do next. It wasn’t that they hadn’t planned ahead, or that they were so foolish as to believe the war would never end. They simply had never given much thought to what they would do when it did.
An aimless little wind came out of nowhere, stirring up a spiraling cloud of dust—a dry reminder of how long it had been since this part of the world had last seen rain. Alex pulled the bandanna from around his neck and wiped the sweat from the inside of his hat, then stared at it for a minute, as if he were trying to place just where he’d seen that particular hat before. He pushed and poked the crown, trying a new shape or two, before he put it back the way it had been and put it on his head. He turned in the saddle to watch Adrian ride up the road toward him, his horse up to his hocks in dust. After six months in Brownsville they had been mustered out of the army and were free to go. Adrian hadn’t been in any particular hurry, but Alex had been itching to head out since the day they arrived—which wouldn’t have surprised anyone who knew them, since it was commonly known that the Mackinnon twins were rarely in agreement about anything. It was the gospel truth that Alex Mackinnon was acting as anxious as a new bride, even though he had no idea where it was he wanted to go. Only one thing was certain: Whatever it was that he was looking for wasn’t going to be found in Brownsville.
Alex shifted in the saddle, the leather creaking as he took one last look at Brownsville. He stole another look at the stubborn sun high in the sky and was thinking that for the past three hours it hadn’t moved. Adrian had almost caught up with him now, and Alex waited, his faded blue eyes staring out over the alkali flats, seeing no movement except the chalky dust Adrian stirred up and the quick, darting run of a chaparral through the sparse stand of brush. Behind them, across the Rio Grande lay Mexico and a chapter of their life that had already been written. Ahead of them lay nothing but the grassy coastal plain and beyond that Sun Antonio. And then where? He wasn’t sure, but he knew the rest of their story lay in that direction.
Alex felt tired and a lot older than his nineteen years. He looked at Adrian and wondered if he felt the same. It was hard to tell what Adrian was feeling just by looking at him. Alex knew his brother as well as anyone, knew that he had a temper hotter than a blacksmith’s fire, and it was as likely to explode as a hammer cocked back over forty grains of dry powder. Alex felt fortunate he had been spared that, for he was one of those men blessed with a sunny nature, the ability to take everything in stride, in spite of the insults life hurled at him.
And hurl them she had.
Life hadn’t been particularly kind to him and he had been forced to grow up in a hurry. None of this had been his fault. If there was blame to be laid, it would have to be on the Comanche, for they had been the ones responsible for the deaths of his mother, father, and brother, and the kidnapping of his six-year-old sister, Margery. But even as he blamed the Comanche, he knew it was somehow wrong to do so. They had killed part of his family, true—and orphaned the remaining five Mackinnon boys who ranged in age from eight to fourteen. But the Comanche had been struggling longer than he had, fighting a battle that had already been lost, just like the Mexicans had done. Somehow it didn’t seem right to whip a downed horse.
“What put you in such an all-fired hurry?” Adrian asked as he pulled even with Alex and reined in. The bay he was riding was breathing hard, his arched neck glistening with sweat. Another mile or two and he would be lathered. Alex felt his thirst return.
Alex’s silence didn’t seem to bother Adrian. “You mad about last night?”
Alex shook his head. “Nope.”
“Then why wouldn’t you loan me two dollars for that whore?”
“She wasn’t worth two dollars.”
“You ever bedded that particular whore?”
“Then how in the blue blazes could you know if she was worth two dollars or not?”
“Good Lord, Adrian, that woman was ugly enough to turn a train down a dirt road.”
“So, who’s looking at her face?”
“You couldn’t be that hard up for a woman,” he said. “Nobody could.”
“That was my decision. Don’t you think I have the right to bed whatever whore I choose?”
“Not with my two dollars.”
“I would’ve paid you back. You know that.”
“Now you don’t have to.”
Adrian knew it was pointless to continue this discussion. “I still say we should’ve lit out in the morning instead of leaving at midday. It’s too hot to breathe.” He eyed the parched country around him and dusted the alkali chalk from his thigh with his hat. “We seem to be the only fools out and about. It’s a sad thing to admit, but I think horned toads and scorpions have more sense than we do.” He cast his eyes over to where Alex sat still and quiet in the saddle.
Alex was thinking about something else and didn’t say anything for a spell. He was thinking in reverse, reflecting on how he and Adrian had campaigned with General Taylor back before the war with Mexico was officially declared. It was May of ‘46 when they crossed the Rio Grande and occupied Matamoras after the battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma. By the following February they had marched nearly three hundred miles into Mexico and won the Battle of Buena Vista against overwhelming odds.
And now a year later the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed, giving the United States Texas, California, and the territory of New Mexico. At last the war was over and they could go home. Problem with that was, they weren’t sure exactly where home was—unless they considered it to be the old Mackinnon homestead over in Limestone County. Best anyone could recollect, there wasn’t much there to draw them back.
Nothing except the Simon sisters.
The whore in San Antonio wasn’t worth two dollars either. But she was a damn sight better looking than the one Adrian wanted to bed in Brownsville.
It was early evening and still hotter than a burning stump. Alex was thinking it was too hot to breathe, let alone talk, but the whore next to him had her pump primed. He couldn’t understand it—wholesomes or whores, they always wanted to talk afterward.
“During the war I could get five dollars without even trying,” the whore called Lily said, giving Alex her never-fail petulant look.
Lily yawned and Alex looked at her lolled back on the bed, calm as a brood sow in mud. He slapped her on the fanny. “You should still be getting five dollars,” he said dryly, “because you still aren’t trying.”
Lily gave him a sly look and said nothing. Lord have mercy, but he was a looker. Enough to make a woman sit up and howl. She had forgotten how beautiful a young man’s body was—the smooth, taut skin, the absence of flab, the tight muscles. Lord! Was there anything that felt any better than to run your hand over the smooth curve of a tight butt, or to feel a hard, flat stomach, or to know the strength of strong thighs? Of their own accord her eyes moved reflectively over his splendid body and she gave her undistracted attention to his smooth chest and slim hips as he lay on his side facing her. Yes, he was as splendid a specimen of manhood as she’d ever seen, and she’d seen plenty. Her gaze lingered on that part of him she found the most splendid of all. He was so big. But a lot of men were big. The difference here was, this young, healthy animal knew what to do with it. That was the difference. He not only had one as straight and hard as a bullet, but even now, after the way he’d satisfied her like she could never remember being satisfied, he still wasn’t flat. It wouldn’t take much, she speculated, to have him raring to go again. The thought of making love with him again curled like a clenched fist low in her belly. She reached over and took him in her hand. “Honey, you shore look like you’re ready to sprout again.”
She had no more than finished what she was saying when his hand shot out and clamped around her wrist and she released him, looking as peeved as all get out but saying nothing.
“What makes you think I want another poke when I didn’t get my money’s worth on the first one?” He released her and rolled to his back. When he stretched his legs out the bed creaked. He folded his arms behind his head and stared at the water spots on the ceiling.
“How ‘bout I give you a free poke this time?” Lily rolled over beside him and draped herself across his chest, one finger lazily tracing the outline of his lips. “Whadda ya say?”
“I say the last one should’ve been free.”
She was feeling a little guilty, but she wasn’t up to letting him know that. She had simply forgotten herself. She couldn’t remember that ever happening to her before. She had been whoring since she was sixteen and for twenty years she had always been able to separate herself from what she was about. A man’s body was like a map. There were places to take it slow and easy, others to take off like a scalded cat, and a few places you could stop and dally along the way. But she had forgotten she was supposed to pleasure him, that she was supposed to know when and where to dally and when to forge ahead. This time it had been pure pleasure for her. “Wasn’t all my fault. A woman needs a
cooperation,” she said, “besides a battering with
“I didn’t hear you complaining a minute ago.”
“That was a minute ago.” Her fingers trailed lower, touching him.
He pulled her hand away. “If I’m going to do all the work you should be paying me two dollars and you damn well know it.”
And she did. But being found out didn’t sit too well with Lily. A minute ago she had been itching to get him aroused again simply because she had enjoyed his particular brand of lovemaking. But it had moved past that now, past desire and on to determination. She wanted him and she was going to get another poke or die trying. There were other ways for a woman to get what she wanted.
Alex could see she was in a good pout now and he wondered why he was being so hard on her. He reflected on that for a moment. He had had worse looking women, and a lot less talented, too. He remembered their shared passion of a moment ago. Maybe she was right. Maybe he hadn’t been as cooperative as he could have been. Fact was, he didn’t really have his mind on sex right now—at least not the way the whore wanted. It was something he had learned to do without really thinking about it; something he did by rote, just as a man can button his shirt without giving much thought to what he is doing, if he’s had enough practice. The whore had satisfied him. He had found release. Wasn’t that enough? Why should this time stand out as different from any of the other of a hundred or so pokes he’d had in the past? He couldn’t seem to get his mind on what he’d come in here for. It wasn’t that he was bored. It wasn’t that the woman was a whore. It was simply that she wasn’t the woman he wanted. She wasn’t Karin.