Monday, April 8, 2013
What's In a Name?
“Tell me your name,” Leona whispered into Brandon’s ear. “Your real name.”
They lay together, naked, on a blanket underneath the stars. A soft breeze whispered through a nearby stand of pines. A little distance off, a stream bubbled merrily over a tumble of rocks, murmuring its secrets to itself.
Brandon realized now there could be no more secrets between them. He’d spoken the damning words himself, so he had no one else to blame. This is what love had brought him to.
“Whatever you want,” he’d said to Leona. “Your heart’s desire. Just let me know, and it’s yours.” And now she’d asked for this.
She waited, with only a minimum of thin chuffs under her breath. This was patience, for her. His fierce, fiery cat was not a patient one. Charge right in and go straight for the throat, that was her way, just as flitting unseen through shadows was his. If they were ever to meet in the middle, he’d have to bat up.
“You won’t like it,” he warned her.
“All right.” He tightened his arm around her shoulders, in case she should try to escape. “It’s Feldman.”
Leona blinked her bright green eyes. “That’s—”
“Not very manly, I know.”
“I was going to say, not what I was expecting.”
“It’s what they gave Great-great Grandpapa at Ellis Island. They couldn’t even spell ‘Fledermaus,’ let alone pronounce it. Feldman was as close as they could get.”
“Fledermaus. German for bat. We were from the Black Forest originally.”
“And who was it who decided ‘Feldman’ wasn’t a fit family name?”
“That was Grandpa. He’s the one who moved the flock to Montana. All those mountains and rugged cowboys made quite an impression on him. He wanted us to fit in. He was also a big fan of John Wayne.”
“Who was born Marion Morrison. Talk about unmanly.”
“You’ll notice he changed his name too.” Brandon brushed Leona’s dark hair away from her face, the better to look her in the eyes. “Why this sudden need to know?”
She tried to look away, but he wouldn’t allow it. “My job. I was—”
“Investigating,” she retorted. “I’m not the only one. Damien Hancock’s been poking into the public records. He’s trying to trace the Feldman Corporation that holds title to most of the land around here. And whose holdings, incidently, have Hancock’s territory neatly fenced in.”
Brandon chuckled. “That was Papa’s idea. Hancock was dead set on busting any deal with the Wayne name attached. He never realized that was the legal fiction. Feldman Corp was able to slip in and buy up quite a lot of land. It’s what helped us build our fortune, in fact.”
“You know, I never even thought of the Western actor. I only thought about that other bat named Wayne.”
“That.” Brandon snorted. “I never thought about that until the movies got popular. It may be time to retire the fiction and become who I really am.” He rubbed his finger tenderly down her cheek. “Can you live with that, Ms. Sanchez?”
She stiffened. “How—”
“I was snooping. You’ll have to forgive me. Survival in Talbot’s Peak requires a healthy amount of paranoia. Why exactly did you leave Arizona?”
Leona’s eyes flashed. “Done your homework, have you?”
“Mostly it was Andrew. He feels his job as foreman includes protecting the owner as well as the ranch.”
“And he’s never liked me. Well, I can hardly blame him. Like dogs and cats, with good reason.” He could see her struggle to keep from lashing out, keep her fiery temper under control. “In the part of Arizona where I’m from, a woman with an Hispanic name doesn’t get very far. After banging my head against that particular wall, I pulled up stakes and went Anglo. Lane opened doors for me Sanchez could never have gotten through.”
“And the legal issues?”
“I’m American,” she snapped. “Born on this side of the Rio Grande.” She swallowed and rushed out, “Mom I’m not so sure about. I prefer to keep quiet about it, and about the whole Indian thing.”
“Jaguaro Apache. We’re a small, insular clan. We’ve worked damned hard to keep our names out of the history books, and our pictures out of the papers.”
“And yet you’re a reporter.”
“It pays to keep up with current events. Immigration laws, civil rights. My people have always been fighters. I’m just doing my part.” She let a bit of a smile peek through. “I came here in the first place to investigate the shapeshifter rumors. It’s why I stayed. One less secret to keep.”
“Well well. My feisty cat has unexpected layers.” He drew her in closer, and was relieved to feel her cuddle against him instead of try to pull away. “Think you can be happy with a Feldman?”
“You’re still a creature of the night though, right? So am I.” She bit his shoulder playfully, and scraped her nails lightly along his naked thigh. Jaguar foreplay. “No capes. They get in the way.”
“I’ll have Marisol toss out every cape in my closet. How about the mask?”
“No masks, either. I want to see your face.”
“No masks,” he agreed, and kissed her. “Never again.”