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One Fine Balance Between Sweet and Tart

Updated: May 5


“Teresa would only tell me that I’d be surprised ‘n pleased to see our visitor. She was correct!” Murdoch’s amicable greeting announced the patriarch’s presence at the corral. “Phillip didn’t insist his grandson stay close for a time?”


Scott observed the smile on his father’s face. The relaxed expression, which had taken its own extended holiday after the news of the impending Boston invasion, appeared to have made the round trip back home.


“Always a pleasure, sir.” Seth's offered handshake completed Murdoch’s warm welcome. “Grandfather did a fair share of grumbling, but an investment document arrived the other day and I thought it best for my business partner to read the information over sooner than later.”


Scott mentally applauded Westcott’s fine choice of wording to avoid any Beacon Hill references.


“Sounds to me like a young man’s excuse to pay his bride-to-be a visit.” With his attention turning to the corral’s occupants, Murdoch’s smile repacked a bag and headed off for another holiday. “Why is Kinsey’s backside in a saddle? I thought an agreement was reached on continuing the brindle’s groundwork.”


“An agreement takes two people to share an opinion.” Scott palmed his hat’s crown for use as a gestured pointer toward the source of the enlightenment. “At least that’s what I’ve been told.”


“Da!” Kinsey’s enthusiasm danced through the air as rider and horse trotted their circular path. “Isn’t D’Artagnan extraordinary?”


Murdoch’s good-natured nod of approval accompanied an acknowledging wave while his mumbled query reflected the opposite. “That little girl needs to hear the word no and have it stick. Are you saying there’s not one man here who can achieve this small task?”


“Presently?” Scott returned his hat low on the brow, hiding a questioning eyebrow to the obvious.


“I feel strongly both ways.” Seth’s deadpan neutrality emphasized non-commitment.


“I think a drink is in order for you boys.” The redirection allowed the patriarch a path of an honorable retreat. Walking away, a moment was taken to observe the sun’s noon hour place in the sky, inspiring fatherly clarification. “And Scott, when I say drink I mean lemonade.”


********


“Investment document?” Ice clinked in tumblers with their splash of Maria’s thirst quencher poured from a sparkling glass pitcher.


Seth grinned. “Reading one of my mother’s letters is an investment in patience.”


“I’m familiar with such documents, having received one myself recently from a familiar shareholder.” Sitting down opposite Westcott at the courtyard’s small table reserved for checkers, Scott further elaborated. “Not only was it an investment in patience, but influential with raising stock prices in irritability.”


“Here’s to grubstaking extended holidays.” Seth’s glass raised for a toast followed by a sip and a sentiment. “That is one fine balance between sweet and tart.”


“Didn’t D'Artagnan perform beautifully?” Swooping in, Queen Anne’s praise for the brindle quickly morphed to a tsked warning for her Musketeers. “Don’t you two buggars dare drink all the lemonade!”


“Yes she is.” Scott’s wink signaled mischief.


“Although-” Seth rubbed his chin while further evaluating the recipe with an upward discerning stare. “A bit more sugar might be necessary to redress the bite.”


Crossing his arms, Scott leaned back and scrutinized the young lady. “Astute observation. I’m confident you’ll find the right amount to apply through trial and error.”


Realization of the jest’s true subject brushed on Kinsey’s face a devilry smile to match her cousin’s wink. “Permit me to rephrase my humble request. Would one of my kind Knights of Nonsense pour me a refreshment while I change into more appropriate attire for entertaining a guest?”

Placing a palm to his chest, Seth dipped forward in a seated bow. “My lady, we would be honored.”


Queen Anne took leave with a cross-eyed curtsy as Westcott’s laughter echoed off stucco walls. “God help me. Keep Alice in Wonderland out of her hands or I’ll be traveling down rabbit holes.”


Scott grinned. You’re far too late for that important date.


Another sip from his glass turned Seth’s jovial persona to a more solemn one.


“Too many lemons?”


“Only one too many.” Westcott leaned in as he drew out the name. “Geoooorrrrge paid a visit.”


Scott’s smile faded with Seth’s prolonged handle that could only refer to one person: The proprietor of El Pinal Vineyards and Westcott Winery’s biggest competitor.


George West.


During the initial steps in assisting Kinsey with her wish to invest and someday own a vineyard producing a wine served in Boston’s finest establishments, Scott reached out to the gentleman well-known in San Joaquin’s viticulture community.


Offering his home as overnight accommodations, West provided the cousins a day-long private tour of El Pinal which he proudly narrated while suggesting Scott contact Phillip Westcott who may be seeking out investors. Yes, in the beginning, Geoooorrrrge was a gracious host and mentor, however, it didn’t take long for the man’s true colors to shine through: a braggart who enjoyed dining on smaller, less successful vineyards. Scott’s investment was meant to fatten up Seth’s family business before George West put it on his menu.


“The weasel came riding in to offer his condolences of relief after Jupiter’s wreck made the headlines. The solicitous bastard had no doubt been praying I’d been sent to hell. Obviously, our picture on the front page of the Stockton Daily Herald was quite the disappointment for him.”


Scott felt certain his name had also been on the Hades prayer list, but not Kinsey’s due to the fact George West didn’t consider her a threat. Along with being a pompous piranha, the man had proved to be a lousy judge of character. “I gather that celebrating your continued good health wasn’t the only reason for our friend’s visit.”


“An accurate assumption.” Seth’s casual smile slowly reclaimed its customary place. “It appears there’s been what my mother would call a faux pas regarding the wedding guests.”


George West knows the McGuire sisters? The ridiculous thought which popped into Scott’s head was quickly replaced with one more plausible but just as absurd, stifling his response to a single word. “No.”


“Blame John Creswell for the lost invitation. And I quote: Grant never should’ve appointed that buffoon as postmaster general. Mail service has been squatting in the outhouse ever since.


“It sounds as if West’s political views have remained unchanged.” Spying his little cousin approaching, Scott reached for the lemonade pitcher.


“West didn’t bless us with that insightful opinion. Those words tumbled out of old Leland’s mouth.”


“Stanford?” The pouring of lemonade came to a halt.


“It’s the only logical explanation why a wedding invitation reached the former governor’s humble residence and not El Pinal.”


Plopping down in a chair, Kinsey beamed. “Well gentlemen, what have I missed?”


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