6.22.2011

Lazy Summer Serial Entry #2


Title: Courting Ms. Sarah

Genre: Historical/Action/Adventure/Romance

Rating: PG

Possibility for SWP: We might catch a glimpse of Sarah's rather shapely ankles.  How scandalous!  And plenty of CBP for the ladies.

Flantering Rating: Fairly low, but it makes up for it in heart.

TV/Movie Influences: The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., Maverick

Synopsis: It's a time for railroads and ranching, for lawlessness and cowboys. Chuck Bartowski, youngest son of Stephen Bartowski, wants nothing more than to be left alone to his daydreams and inventions. But with Marshal Shaw gunning for the deed to Orion Ranch, Chuck must save his father's land any way he can.

Things only get more interesting when Chuck's older sister rolls into town with a companion in tow. Sarah Walker, born and bred in Boston, has no idea what to expect out West. She certainly never expects to be pulled in two directions by the smooth talking Bryce or his earnest younger brother Chuck. Now it's brother versus brother and lawman versus anarchy in a place where the land is as unforgiving as the locals.

Why You Want to Vote for this Story: To make mxpw have to type the absurd Bryce Bartowski name over and over again.  Also, to slowly torture Frea by making her research historical things.

Author's Notes: We promise not to copy ninjaVanish with this, though if you're going to mimic somebody, he'd be the way to go.  And we solemnly swear to show as much of Sarah's ankles as we possibly can.  Because we're generous like that.




Sarah quietly fanned herself and tried her best not to let the wagon jostle her too badly.

They were on a country road—though calling it a road might be overly generous—on the way to see Ellie’s younger brother. She had no idea why she needed to be there; she would have preferred staying back in town helping little Clara acclimate to her new home, but Ellie had insisted.

It didn’t seem proper, just the two of them riding out into God’s wilderness. She knew that the outskirts around the city of Los Angeles were relatively safe, inhabited mostly by ranchers and Californios and that there was probably nothing to worry about, but it still didn’t seem proper.

One might have hoped that Ellie’s husband would accompany them, or at least Ellie’s older brother Bryce, but Ellie had been too impatient, Doctor Woodcomb too busy getting his practice in order, and Bryce too—well, Sarah wasn’t entirely sure why Bryce couldn’t escort them. She had thought she’d overheard a comment about seeing a man about a horse during his brief argument with Ellie, but whatever the reason, he’d tipped his hat to her, made his apologies, and left.

She had been disappointed to see him go. He had seemed like such a nice gentleman, handsome and well-mannered. Granted, she hadn’t been in the West long—barely long enough to set her bag down in her new room—but men like Bryce Larkin seemed like they might be in short supply. And she honestly would have relished the chance to talk to somebody new. As much as she cherished her friendship with Ellie, after the weeks of precious few acquaintances, she might have liked a new conversational partner or two. But it was not to be: Ellie’s back was up, and she wouldn’t be stopped until she had seen her little brother. It was either let her go alone, or go along with her.

Now, she covered her face with a handkerchief as the wagon turned, kicking up more dust. She hoped that this Charles they were going so far out of their way to visit was worth it, but she had her doubts. He hadn’t even bothered to show up at the train station to greet his only sister after she had traveled for weeks across thousands of miles.

It honestly perplexed her. Ellie was one of the nicest, politest, and most respectable women she’d ever known (her sometimes fiery and impetuous disposition notwithstanding), and Bryce had seemed cut from the same cloth. It did not seem possible that this Charles could have come from the same family, but then she knew from personal experience that every family had one troublemaker in it. Perhaps Charles served that role.

The wagon abruptly dipped and Sarah found herself airborne. She landed with an oomph on the hard wagon seat and couldn’t help glaring. Her friend had the good graces to flush.

“Apologies,” Ellie mumbled out of the side of her mouth. The brunette slowed the wagon.

“I don’t understand why you’re so insistent I meet your brother,” Sarah said. She mopped her brow free of sweat. After years of Boston, the California heat, dry and relentless, was an education in itself. “Why couldn’t we have just waited for him to come to us?”

“I’m worried about him,” Ellie said. To give proof to her words, she again urged poor Marigold on. “I have never known him to be irresponsible.”

“I see,” Sarah said. She didn’t think it would be polite to point out that Ellie hadn’t seen her brother since he was sixteen, so she simply pursed her lips.

Suddenly Ellie let loose a fierce scowl. “And if he doesn’t have a good reason, I intend to give him a strong kick to his breeches and drag him into town whether he wants to go or not.”

They fell into silence; well, mostly silence, as Ellie mumbled some rather angry and inappropriate (enough to make Sarah blush) invectives against a Stephen Bartowski. It wasn’t anything she hadn’t heard before, and Sarah more than understood what it was like to feel disappointed in one’s own father, but Ellie’s antagonism toward Stephen Bartowski always surprised her with its intensity. Ellie had never forgiven her father for taking Charles to the uncivilized West before he’d seen his seventeenth birthday.

“I’m sure he’s well,” Sarah said, breaking the silence. “Charles, that is. He likely just...” She trailed off as she realized that she did not have an excuse, since she had never met this Charles. Still, it seemed necessary. For one thing, if Ellie’s nerves could be soothed, perhaps she might stop trying to kill them.

Ellie said nothing, but did again slow down. Sarah found herself breathing a little easier.

The road curved right, and they both spotted the weathered but sturdy sign declaring that they had found Orion Ranch. It took another ten minutes of travel on an even more uneven road to reach signs of an actual human presence.

Sarah squinted into the distance as they approached. It was a lone man, she could tell, zigzagging back and forth over a field around a milling group of horses. A terrier of some kind ran alongside the horse, occasionally yapping out of sheer excitement or a misguided notion that the horses would listen.

Ellie guided the wagon to a stop as the man, horse, and dog ambled over to them. The terrier decided they were completely uninteresting and flopped down into the dirt, tongue lolling. The man pushed back his hat and wiped his face with a bandana. “Good day, ma’am, and, um, ma’am. Can I help you with something?”

Ellie sat up straight. “We are looking for my brother, Charles Bartowski.”

The man, who had a full but well-maintained beard, narrowed his eyes slightly. “You’re the fair Eleanor Bartowski? Chuck talks about you all the time, but I can’t recall him ever mentioning how beautiful you are.”

Ellie gave him a tight-lipped smile. “Perhaps he also mentioned my husband Dr. Woodcomb?”

The man’s face might have drained slightly of color, but it was hard to tell since he obviously spent a lot of time outdoors. “Ah, yes, ma’am. I meant no offense.”

Ellie rolled her eyes and nodded. Sarah could recognize the signs: her friend was getting impatient. “Yes, yes, of course not. Look, if you could just tell me where I can find my brother, Mr…”

“Grimes,” the man said. “Morgan Grimes, ma’am. And you should be able to find Chuck over on the south range. At least that’s where I last saw him.”

“Thank you, Mr. Grimes. I apologize for interrupting your work.”

Mr. Grimes flashed a quick smile, and he suddenly seemed much younger than he looked. “Not a problem, ma’am. Always happy to help a member of the family. If you would be willing to wait a ways, I’ll be able to guide you. Just need to get these horses gathered up.”

Ellie smiled, but said, “That’s quite alright, Mr. Grimes. I know which direction south is. I think we can manage.”

“But—”

“Thank you, Mr. Grimes, but we’re in a bit of a hurry. We must return back to town before sundown.” Ellie paused and then nodded her head. “Good day, Mr. Grimes,” Ellie said, and there was a hint of finality in her tone.

Sarah shook her head and couldn’t help but smile at her friend’s impatience.

Soon they were moving again, Ellie heading in a general southerly direction.

“Back before,” Sarah said, looking to fill the silence, “I asked you why you wanted me to meet your brother. You never answered.”

“Ah yes,” Ellie started. They rode on, and Ellie never completed her thought. Sarah was about to ask again, when Ellie began speaking. “You are my closest friend. It is very important to me that you know my brother—both of them—and, ah, I think Charles could learn a lot from you.”

There was something about Ellie’s tone that led Sarah to believe she wasn’t talking about her knowledge of literature and the sciences. She was about to ask Ellie exactly what she meant when they finally seemed to reach Charles Bartowski.

He was tall. That was the first thing she noticed. And not wearing a shirt. That was the second thing she noticed. He was working a pickax not too far from a skinny stream, the heavy metal blade piercing the earth with fluid movements. It was obvious he had some comfort with the tool, and from the way the muscles in his back tensed and flexed, she could tell that he spent a lot of time doing such labors.

He was not at all what she expected. From the way Ellie had talked, she had expected a bookish sort, one more comfortable in a room surrounded by books than outside working the earth. But the man in front of her, with his tanned skin, shaggy hair, and completely unkempt beard, was nothing like the intelligentsia of her home city.

He must have heard their approach, for he stopped working and set the pickax to the side. It was hard to judge his appearance, for his beard obscured much, but she could see his eyes well enough once he got close enough. They were kind.

Charles lifted a hand to his forehead to shade his eyes as he moved closer. She watched as his eyes widened and filled with delight. “Ellie?”

Ellie effortlessly climbed down from the wagon to stand before her brother. She could not see her friend’s face, but she imagined it showed the same kind of happiness as her brother’s.

“Ellie!” Charles leapt forward and wrapped his long arms around his sister, squeezing her to his sweaty and dirty chest. Sarah suddenly felt the need to turn her eyes away. She should not be looking at such things.

Charles spun his sister in a circle, both of them talking rapidly and laughing. “Set me down, Chuck,” Ellie said in an amused tone.

Chuck? Sarah rolled the name around inside her head. She decided it fit the unkempt man in front of her much more than Charles.

“I’m so happy to see you,” Charles said. “I can’t believe it’s Tuesday already.”

“You can’t…” Ellie trailed off. Then she slapped Charles on his arm. “You can’t believe it’s Tuesday? Chuck!”

Charles danced out of range of his sister’s assaults. “I’m sorry!” He held his hands up and Ellie stopped advancing on him. “Keeping accurate count of the days passing is not exactly a priority out here! Besides, I’ve been really preoccupied lately ever since Bryce—” He abruptly stopped talking.

“Ever since Bryce what?”

Charles just shook his head. “Nothing, Ellie, nothing. I really am sorry I wasn’t there to greet you like I said I would.”

Ellie just sighed and then spun around to face her. She wondered if this was the first time Ellie had even remembered she was there. Charles had certainly given no indication that he noticed her. She wasn’t sure if she should be offended or feel heartened by his obvious affection for his sister.

“Well, you’re here now, so let me introduce to you my friend Mrs. Sarah Walker from Boston.”

She watched as Charles’s eyes widened and it was almost like he became a different person. Gone was the openness in his smile, the joy in his eyes, the easy way with which he conducted himself. Instead, he suddenly seemed shy, not meeting her eyes. Sarah didn’t understand. Was she so hideous he couldn’t even look at her?

“I apologize for my appearance, ma’am,” Charles said. Finally, he managed to look at her. “I was not expecting visitors, especially from such...I was not expecting visitors.”

Sarah climbed down from the wagon, much like Ellie had, and extended her hand to Charles. She could see he was surprised by her gesture, but he quickly moved to gently grasp her hand. He started to lower his head as if he was going to kiss the back of her hand, but jerkily pulled back, like it suddenly occurred to him what he was doing.

“My apologies again for my appearance, Mrs. Walker,” Charles stammered. “If you would just give me a few minutes, I’ll get properly cleaned up.”

He seemed so awkward around her that she really wasn’t sure how to respond to him, so she said the first thing that popped into her head. “May I ask what you were doing out here?”

Again, Charles completely changed, now back to the excited person he was when it appeared that Ellie was the center of his world. “It’s a new experiment I’m testing out. One of my father’s ideas about irrigating arid terrain for better crop viability. You see…” he trailed off and she was about to ask him why he stopped, for her interest had certainly been piqued at the word “experiment,” but his attention was no longer on her.

Then she heard the galloping rider as well, and all three of them turned to face the hard charging Morgan Grimes.

Mr. Grimes pulled his horse up short, a cloud of dust kicking up into the air. The man hurriedly doffed his hat, gave both her and Ellie quick nods, but his attention was focused completely on Charles.

“He’s back, Chuck. Saw ‘im on the north road, got three men with ‘im.”

Charles’s back stiffened at Mr. Grimes’s words.

“Who’s back?” Ellie asked. “What is going on?”

“The Marshall,” Chuck said and his tone held none of his earlier friendliness. “The Marshall has come to see me.”

25 comments:

  1. What a way to get a girl's attention: Chuck Bartowski, sweaty and topless. ;)

    Seriously, seems fun with some juicy drama and action. Looking forward in reading on why Shaw makes Chuck so tense- what their beef is, what Bryce has done, and especially seeing Sarah being pulled between two brothers. :) This entry is giving all the others a run for my vote. Thanks for sharing. :)

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  2. WOW!

    I don't if it was your intention or not but this felt like the opening chapter. I loved Morgan's introduction and Chuck having to clean up himself.

    With the Why You Want to Vote for this Story and slightly longer excerpt it's easier to get the feel of the story and god did it left me wanting for more. Besides, we didn't get any glimpse of the ankles yet.

    -SH

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  3. Nice set up. As with yesterday's, a lot going on under the surface. You've already set tone - Shaw as the evil lawman, Ellie being fiercely independent, Sarah being a very prim Boston College woman, Bryce being - well - Bryce, and I'm not really sure what to make of Morgan. And Chuck, well, being Chuck. With Maverick as an influence, I imagine he will survive by making his own rules - and wonder if the fair Mrs. Walker is really what she portrays herself to be - or not.

    And about that - did you really mean Mrs. Sarah Walker - as in married? You guys don't usually make mistakes like that so, what's up with that?

    So two down, both intriguing, yesterday's growing more and more on me as I thought about it - I am doomed.

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  4. Anonymous22.6.11

    Minimal SWP and no sign of Badass Sarah? Pass.

    This reads more as straight-up genre romance (not that there's anything wrong with it). Just not my cup of tea. My vote's staying with #1 so far.

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  5. Thank you, Catherine and SH! I'm glad you both enjoyed it. Feel free to speculate on what you think is going to happen. The more comments the better!

    @Peter - You're right, we don't make mistakes like that. :)

    @Anonymous - Straight up genre romance? Haha. I take that as a compliment. Clearly I need to change my focus as a writer. :P

    I just want to say, there are many ways of being a badass and not all of them involve shooting people or fighting. Sarah is a product of her times, but that doesn't mean she isn't strong.

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  6. Anonymous22.6.11

    Certainly not an insult on the genre romance comment. Just saying I want my summer serials with more guns, spies, intrigue, action, and Sarah shooting people and fighting. And SWP.

    Which isn't to say I'm not curious how this plays out. Too bad we only get to pick one.

    Incidentally, Marshall is a last name, Marshal is a title. Mistake or intentional?

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  7. @Anonymous - Heh, yes, it would seem that was a typo. Ah well.

    Also, while I'm not going to tell you what happens (as that would defeat the purpose of this whole exercise), I will tell you that if you vote for Courting Ms. Sarah you may be surrprised by what you get.

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  8. @mxpw Can you be even more of a tease!? Heh. I'm excited for the romance for sure- this story has potential to make me swoon, , but I'm very amp'd for the action. That's what has captured my attention with this Serial. I mean Sarah is always bad ass, but Chuck sounds kick ass and very hero-like. :) I want to see Marshall Shaw fail in whatever it is he does.

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  9. First, um, Bryce Bartowski? Is he really their brother, or has he been adopted or something?

    Ellie hasn’t seen Chuck since he was 16. Bryce is apparently older than Chuck, but he can’t be that much older, can he? Did Orion only take Chuck with him when he went to the West, or was Bryce with them at the time?

    Ellie and Devon are now married and Clara’s born. They’re apparently moving to the West and opening a practice. How long has it been since Ellie and Chuck have seen each other?

    Sarah blushing at Ellie’s cursing is an hilarious image. :)

    Ellie isn’t happy with her father. Where is he by the way? And why did he leave? Was he running from something? He may not have taken Chuck with him if he had been running. No mention of their mother either.

    I liked Morgan’s introduction and Ellie’s “Perhaps he also mentioned my husband Dr. Woodcomb?” LOL.

    “I think Charles could learn a lot from you.” What does Ellie mean by that?

    CBP? Yes, please! ;-)

    What did Bryce do? Does this have something to do with Shaw? Are Chuck and Bryce not agreeing on what they should do with the Orion Ranch, or is this something else entirely?

    So what’s up with the “Mrs.”? Especially since the title is Courting Ms. Walker. Is this a cover? How come she seems to be well educated and stuff? Her father apparently disappointed her too? So is there something more to it? Is she hiding something? Does Ellie know? Why is Sarah coming with Ellie to the West by the way?

    What is Shaw after? Is this just about the land or is there more to the Orion Ranch? Is there an Intersect in that story?

    I have no idea what to expect with that story. I'm not all that excited about Sarah being torn between Bryce and Chuck. It has nothing to do with Bryce, I'm not a Bryce hater ;-), just, I like CS stories... I just can't help myself! At the same time, the rivalry between Chuck and Bryce, whether it's about Sarah, their family, or whatever is going to happen sounds exciting. And I have no doubt you guys will make it interesting...

    So, three more stories to come? This is going to be torture! :)

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  10. Is this a veiled attempt to make me excited about finishing Chuck vs. the frontier? Because it's working.

    Always room for more Brisco County/Maverick inspired Chuck stories.

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  11. MRS. Walker?! MRS. Walker?! So are Mrs. Walker and Ms. Sarah different people? Is that the twist? If so, did I give it away? Hehe

    I'm glad, even if Frea is assisting you, that you are back to writing Chuck fic, I mean, serial, again. It was a fun read, Maximo the Awesome-o!

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  12. A well-crafted start!

    It was also very clever to hint that something unexpected was coming if the story is voted in, considering the seemingly orthodox start to the story.

    Promise me a spectacularly violent end for Marshal Shaw and it'll weigh heavily in my vote. ;)

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  13. @Catherine - Yes, yes I can be more of a tease. :)

    @Crumby - As usual, all excellent questions! Unfortunately, it will have to win for any of them to be answered. I guess you know what to do. ;-)

    @NV - Veiled or not, I'm glad to hear it has made you more excited to finish Frontier!

    @Tally - Thank you, my friend. And I would like to tell you what the deal is with MRS. Walker, but I can't. You will have to vote for this entry to find out!

    @Aardie - Unfortunately, such a promise cannot be made. That would be cheating. I mean, who is to say Shaw even has an end? Maybe he emerges victorious? Bet nobody would expect that!

    Okay, okay, Shaw does meet some kind of end. I believe it involves a t--

    @Everyone - Brisco County Jr. is listed as an influence. It's listed for a reason. :)

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  14. Anonymous22.6.11

    Really enjoyed it. Looking forward to more.

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  15. Brisco County Jr. was like Chuck in many ways - used his head instead of violence, a mix of the old west and science fiction, and odd ball group of people around him. It was a fun show.

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  16. coffeegirl22.6.11

    the first one was more interesting for me but this has a chance of CBP! :p

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  17. I normally don't like the very AU stories. They seem like original stories (not fanfic) which use a familiar cast as a crutch. I prefer fork-in-the-road AU's. However when the story has very good writer(s), it can still be a fun read. This is a good start.

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  18. Damn tanned, sweaty, shirtless Chuck I'm intrigued. If you promise just a little more sexy time moving this PG rated story to more a R rated one, you've got my vote ;)

    Really enjoyed it...this is going to be hard.

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  19. I just saw that I wrote the title wrong in my comment. Least I could do is to get it right: Courting Ms. Sarah. *facepalm* Sorry about that.

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  20. Speedhoven23.6.11

    What happens to the stories that don't get picked?
    I'm hoping you would atleast let us know what you had planned for them. It's kinda cruel of you to make us choose which 4 stories never get finished :(

    -SH

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  21. I believe Frank Sinatra put it best, Speedhoven, when he said, "That's life."

    One story goes on. The rest go in the vault.

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  22. Big Kev23.6.11

    Damn you guys are good. But you already knew that. Just enough of a tease, just a tiny sip of wine - but enough to make you want to buy the bottle. Yesterday's was probably more intriguing - but today's is more instantly hookable, if that makes sense. Like PeterOInNJ, I'm doomed. Love your work.

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  23. I really, really like this. Especially the CBP... I just wish Sarah's a closeted badass or something :P

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  24. I have some difficulty believing this was from you a) not enough sarah b) sarah had too many clothes on and c) did I mention sarah had too many clothes on? :)

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  25. I really liked this one. Lots of great possibilities. I also liked your comment Frea about them going into a vault. Doesn't necessarily mean they can't come out of the vault in the future.

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