Summary: Laid up for weeks with broken bones, Joe’s getting very, very frustrated. But New Year’s Eve is here, and he’s got big plans . . . if only a certain lady will cooperate.
Rated: MA WC 4100
The Best-Laid Plans
“I dunno, Little Brother,” said Hoss as he pushed a red piece to a new square. “Mebbe we just shouldn’t bother with a party.”
“Not bother? Are you nuts?” Little Joe jumped three of Hoss’s pieces and swept them off the board. “New Year’s only comes once a year. We can’t cancel the party!”
“But—Pa ain’t here, and you’re all laid up—what fun is it gonna be?”
His big brother looked so sad for him that Joe was tempted to ’fess up. In the next moment, he kicked that urge out of his mind. No way would the party go forward if Hoss knew what Joe was planning.
So, Joe laid back against the pillows, patting his brother’s large hand like a good little invalid. “Look, Hoss, it’s not that big a deal,” he said. “Besides, maybe some of the guests will come up and visit during the party. I mean, it’s not like I’m sick or something, like they could catch a disease. I’m just a little broken, that’s all.”
A little broken was an understatement. The stagecoach had come flying into town, the horses wild-eyed and the driver bellowing. Little Joe Cartwright was one of the folks who had been standing on the corner, and he was the only one foolish enough to try to stop the runaway team. He grabbed onto the harness and hung on, shouting “Whoa!” at the top of his lungs. He was just managing to slow them when somebody ran out in the street in front of them. The horses reared, throwing him to the ground and coming down on him. Doc Martin had spent hours setting broken bones, making plaster casts and calming a frantic Ben Cartwright. No question that it could have been much, much worse. Even now, four weeks later, Joe was encased in plaster from his mid-thighs to his toes, with no hope of getting out of bed before the spring thaw.
Joe knew enough to be grateful that he hadn’t been killed, but he also knew that he was going to go stir crazy if he didn’t get some relief from the tedium of spending his days in bed, alone. So, once his concussion improved, he’d developed a plan. If all went well, the New Year’s party would be the perfect antidote for what was ailing him.
What made it perfect was that Pa had to be out of town. The party was a tradition, but there was a very wealthy businessman in San Francisco who wanted to talk about buying Ponderosa timber, and he wanted to talk to Ben Cartwright himself. When Joe got hurt, Pa started making noises about cancelling his trip or sending Adam in his place. As the day came closer, though, and Joe was itching to see somebody, anybody, who didn’t live on the Ponderosa—preferably, somebody female—he started laying the groundwork to keep Pa’s trip in place. This meeting was important to the future of the Ponderosa, he insisted. And this man wanted to talk to the Ben Cartwright—it wouldn’t be right to send a mere son. Besides, with Adam and Hoss and Hop Sing at home, Joe would be well looked-after. It took enough arguing that Joe began to get nervous, but in the end, Ben Cartwright got on a stagecoach and got the hell out of there with no idea of what notions lurked in his youngest son’s head—or any of his other parts.
And now, with Pa’s chair barely empty, Hoss was talking about ruining everything. Well, that just couldn’t happen. It had been four weeks and two days since Joe Cartwright had laid eyes on a girl, and he just couldn’t wait much longer. A fellow could explode under this kind of pressure.
Hoss sighed. “You sure it ain’t gonna bother you if’n we have a party and you’re up here in bed?”
“Believe me, Big Brother,” Joe assured him. “I won’t be bothered at all. I just want you and Adam to have a good time.” Even as the last words came out of his mouth, he knew he might have overplayed his hand, but luckily, this was Hoss and not Adam. The big man looked at him quizzically for a moment, as if he knew he was supposed to find something suspicious in Joe’s attitude but he was darned if he knew what it could be. Before he could figure it out, Joe said, “It’s your move. Hurry up and do something foolish so I can win, would you?”
“Somethin’ foolish? You jest watch this one, Little Brother!” Hoss turned his full attention to the checkerboard, and Joe allowed himself a quiet sigh of relief.
* * * * * * * * * *
The last day of 1858 dawned bright and clear. Downstairs, Joe’s brothers and Hop Sing scurried around, moving furniture, yelling back and forth, and doing all the things that came before a good party. Hoss snuck upstairs a couple times with a bottle, and Adam snuck upstairs a couple other times with another bottle, and so by the time the guests started to arrive, Joe had already had a fair bit to drink. All the better, he reflected as he listened to the door opening and the laughter floating up the stairs.
A slightly shrill voice signaled the arrival of the guest he’d hoped for. His mind had no sooner registered the identity of the guest than his body followed suit. “Stop that!” he hissed at his lap. The last thing he needed was for anybody to come into his room and see the unmistakable evidence of his plan. He tried to think of smelly stalls and old schoolteachers, without success.
He’d never sparked Barbara Fuller, of course. At almost-eighteen, she had nearly two years on Joe, and he didn’t tend toward older women. Besides, the girls he sparked were always pretty, and Barbara was—well, not pretty. She had a long, narrow face that looked somber even when she was smiling, and her teeth stuck out just enough to keep her from completely closing her lips. Her eyes were a strange gray-green, with sparse, no-color lashes, and her lips were pale and thin. Her hair was mousy brown, tightly curled in the morning and straight as string by lunchtime. Mitch Devlin said she was as homely as a mud fence, which was only a slight exaggeration. Normally, Joe wouldn’t have thought twice about her.
What Barbara lacked in above-the-neck beauty, however, she more than made up for below. She had the roundest, most luscious pair of breasts on the Washoe. Rumor had it that she didn’t need a corset, because her waist really was that trim and shapely. Her hips were gently rounded, and every boy in the Virginia City school had fantasized at some point about what lay beneath her bustle.
The best part about Barbara Fuller was that, eventually, most of them wouldn’t need to guess. The older boys had told stories about being with her, and what they’d had to tell would make a fellow’s eyes bug out. By the time they finished recounting their tales of Barbara, everybody else had to make a sudden trip to the privy or into the woods.
For tonight, Joe had chosen carefully. No nice girl would ever, ever come into a boy’s bedroom, even if he was dying. Certainly, they wouldn’t come upstairs to that bedroom during a party, even if they were chaperoned by his pa, her parents, the sheriff and the preacher. The notion of doing so when the boy in question was actually in the bed, wearing nothing but a nightshirt, would shock their sense of propriety beyond all hope of recovery.
And so, Joe had chosen the one girl for whom such notions as his bed and his attire would not be alarming, but alluring: the infamous Barbara Fuller.
As the music started downstairs, Joe settled back against his pillows. He could picture the young ladies dancing, their skirts swishing, their dimples barely showing. He allowed his mind to picture Barbara in someone’s arms—Adam’s, maybe. He frowned slightly as, in his mind, Adam’s hand moved up from Barbara’s waist toward her curvaceous bust. Firmly, he pushed Adam’s hand back where it belonged. For tonight, Barbara Fuller belonged to Joe.
Joe was jerked out of his fantasies by Mitch Devlin and Johnny Chapman at the doorway. “Hey, fellas,” he said. For a second, his stomach dropped at the idea that his buddies were coming up to spend the evening with him. Frantically, he tried to sort out how he could work this to his advantage. “How’s the party going?”
“It’s a great party,” said Mitch. He slipped a bottle from under his jacket and took a swig before handing it to Joe. “Since you can’t get to the punch, we figured you oughta get a little something else.”
Joe took a drink and handed the bottle to Johnny. “So, who’s here?”
Johnny took a long swallow. “Amelia Murray,” he said with a broad wink. “Frances Baldwin. Sarabeth Walker. Clarice Spencer.”
Joe snorted and held out his hand for the bottle. “At least you all will have a good time,” he said. “It’s not like any of them would ever come up here to say hello.”
“I know one girl who might,” said Mitch.
Joe forced himself to look skeptical. “Sure,” he said. “Like there’s any girl at that party who’d have the nerve to come up here and say hello to me. I’m never gonna see anybody prettier than you two until Doc takes this blasted plaster off my legs.”
Mitch and Johnny exchanged a long, slightly drunken look. Clearly, they’d been dipping into the punch before they came upstairs. Joe suppressed a grin. As the most sober one of the group, he could make this work.
“You two will have to do all the dancing for me,” he said, allowing a slightly plaintive note into his voice. He held out his hand for the bottle again, but this time, he only pretended to drink. He passed the bottle to Johnny, who wasn’t just pretending. Joe shifted slightly to hide his anticipation. “I’ll tell you something—at this point, I’d give pretty much anything if I could just see a girl,” he said. “Only people I’ve seen for weeks besides my family are the doctor and you two. If I could just see one trim little waist, a few curves—” He was careful not to mention wanting to see a pretty face.
“I’ve got it!” Mitch crowed. “We’ll send Barbara Fuller up here!”
“Oh, come on, Mitch,” said Joe. “Barbara Fuller would never come up here. This is my bedroom—and I’m in bed!”
“I don’t reckon that would matter to Barbara,” said Johnny. “In fact, I’d bet she’d be happy to come on up and see you.”
“You think so?” Joe held out his hand for the bottle one more time. Another round, and it was settled. Mitch and Johnny would send Barbara up. A good look at her lovely body, and their friend would be a happy man.
Joe watched as they stumbled from his room. Look, my eye, he thought.
As Joe waited for his guest, it occurred to him to wonder how they were going to get her up here. Knowing those two, they might just try the direct route: poor Joe is up in bed, and he’s really lonely—maybe you could go up and say hello? Of course, Barbara might ask why she should be the chosen one, seeing as how she and poor Joe had never had done more than exchange “hellos” on the street, and it was anybody’s guess what Joe’s drunken friends would say then. He just hoped that they didn’t say that their friend was dying for a look at her breasts. On the other hand, this was Barbara Fuller—that might just work with her.
A gentle tap at his door broke into his reverie. “Uh—Joe?”
Joe smiled his most beguiling smile. “Hello, Barbara,” he said. “Won’t you come in?”
She looked rather perplexed, but she entered the room. “Mitch Devlin said you wanted to see me.”
Joe nodded. “Please, sit down,” he said, gesturing to the bedside chair that he’d had Mitch move right next to the bed. “I’m so glad you could come up and visit.”
“Really? Why?” Barbara might be plain, but clearly, she was no fool.
“Because I’ve been lying in this bed for the past month, and I’ve found myself thinking about you,” said Joe honestly. “When Mitch and Johnny said that you’d come to the party tonight, I—well, I probably shouldn’t have, but I asked them if they thought you might be willing to come up and say hello. I know it’s not something most girls would do, but you’ve never struck as the type who lets silly rules get in the way of what she wants.” He’d held her gaze as he made this speech, and while he couldn’t quite read everything in her eyes, he knew desire when he saw it.
“Oh, I’m not,” she said. She rested her hand on his. “But why me? Why not Amelia Murray or Clarice Spencer?”
Joe dismissed them with a wave of his free hand. “They’re just girls,” he said. “They’re nice enough, but—you’re a woman, Barbara. And I guess I just wanted to see a lovely woman instead of a pretty little girl.”
She looked as if she wasn’t certain whether she believed him. Joe turned his hand over so that he could hold hers. “I’m so glad you came up here,” he said in a softer, more intimate voice. “Just to be here with you, like this—you’ve made my night complete.” He lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it ever so gently. Then, he allowed a look of consternation to cross his face. “I’m so sorry,” he said. “That was terribly presumptuous of me. I should never have done that. Please forgive me, Barbara.” He let his voice linger on her name, looking up at her as if he didn’t believe he had the right.
“You have nothing to apologize for,” she said. She looked at him for a long minute. Then, she rose and headed toward the door.
“You’re leaving?” he asked, the consternation genuine this time.
“Don’t be silly,” Barbara said. “I’m just closing the door.” She latched it and turned back to him, a smile playing on her lips. “I’m not as dumb as you think I am, Joe Cartwright,” she said.
“I don’t think—” he began.
“There’s only one reason you would want me up here,” she said. She pushed the chair away and sat on the edge of the bed. “But that’s all right with me. Because there’s only one reason I’d want to be here.” She leaned over and kissed his lips. “The question is how we keep anyone else from walking in on us,” she added, resting her hand against his chest.
Joe swallowed hard. “Turn down the lamp,” he said. “They’ll think I’m asleep.”
Barbara smiled as she turned down the lamp so that only a soft glow lit the room. “Now,” she said. “Where were we?”
“Right here,” said Joe, patting the bed.
He drew her close and kissed her. Her buck teeth made the kissing a trifle awkward, but it had been so long since Joe had kissed a girl that he was willing to make allowances. He started to smooth her hair back, and she said, “Be careful! If you mess up my hair, everyone’s going to know what happened!”
“Sorry,” he whispered.
He caressed her soft neck as he kissed her. He nibbled just under her jaw, and she whispered, “Don’t leave marks.”
Fine, Joe thought irritably. He’d focus his attention on less-obvious places. He ran his hands down her back and up again, sliding them around to cup her delicious breasts. Not only did she not complain this time, but he felt her unbuttoning her bodice. His manhood was standing at attention as he slid her dress off her shoulders and unlaced the ribbons of her chemise. In the dim lamplight, her breasts were perfect—creamy white globes with pert rosebud nipples that demanded his attention. She leaned back to allow him access, and his tongue played with the erect tissue. She was moaning now, and he shushed her quickly. All he needed was for Adam or Hoss to come in before they were finished.
Barbara slid her arms out of her sleeves so that she was naked above the waist. Joe caressed her lovely breasts, and now, she didn’t object to his nibbling. Instead, she pushed back the bedclothes and straddled his lap. “Ow!” she said as she came in contact with the casts.
“Up here,” murmured Joe, pulling up her higher on his lap. He reached beneath her skirt and cupped his hands around her buttocks. They were firm and round, everything he’d imagined. Best of all, she wore those two-piece pantalets that he’d heard about. He kissed her breasts as he untied her pantalets and reached between her legs.
“Oh, Joe!” She arched her neck as his fingers explored her most private parts. She reached down, tugging his nightshirt out of the way, and began to stroke his hardened manhood. “Well, would you look at this,” she murmured. “I don’t why they call you ‘Little’ Joe!” She slid back a bit and reached down to kiss his member, and it was all Joe could do to keep from exploding right then and there. Her hands, her lips, her tongue—oh, her tongue, fluttering in the crease on the underside of the head—he was throbbing with anticipation, and he knew he couldn’t wait much longer.
“Come here,” he whispered, pulling her up so that he could reach her wetness. She put her arms around his neck and slid herself onto him. She took his full length into her, squeezing him tightly. Just as they began to move together, he heard a voice above their moaning.
“Hey, Cartwright! Happy new year!”
Joe and Barbara froze. “What the—” They stared at each other. “Quick!” Joe hissed. “Under the bed!”
There wasn’t time to argue. Barbara slipped off Joe and off the bed, her beautiful breasts bobbing as she ducked down. Joe slid down and closed his eyes, reaching under the blanket to try to keep his still-erect penis from making a tepee of the bedclothes.
The door opened, and his brothers came in, followed by a fairly drunk Mitch and Johnny. “Oh, hi, fellows,” said Joe in his best imitation of a groggy voice. “Guess I dozed off. Is it midnight yet?”
“I told you he’d probably be asleep,” said Adam. “Sorry to wake you, Little Brother. Happy new year.”
“Wait a minute.” Hoss peered at his little brother. “You feelin’ all right?”
“Who, me? I’m fine.” Joe tried to turn away from the lamp.
Hoss rested his massive hand against Joe’s cheek. “You’re pretty warm,” he said. He turned up the lamp’s flame, adding, “An’ your color’s high. I think you’re runnin’ a fever. Adam, what do you think?”
“I’m fine,” said Joe with a touch of desperation. The thought of half-naked Barbara in the dust under his bed, just a few inches away, was almost more than he could stand.
Adam came closer and held his hand against Joe’s face. “Hoss is right,” he said. “You’re definitely warm.” He turned to the others. “We should let Joe go back to sleep. Let’s go back downstairs.” He was shepherding Joe’s buddies into the hallway when a delicate sneeze came from under the bed.
“What was that?” asked Adam as everybody turned back.
“I sneezed,” said Joe innocently. “Maybe you’re right. Maybe I’m coming down with something. I should go back to sleep. Good night, everybody.” Please, good night, he begged silently. His throbbing member couldn’t take much more waiting.
Adam and Hoss exchanged looks. Joe held his breath. Just as they turned to leave again, Mitch called, “Hey, Joe, where’d old Horseface Barbara go? I ain’t seen her since she came up here!”
“What? Who? I don’t know what you’re talking about, Devlin. You’re drunk. Now, let me go back to sleep.” Joe pulled the bedclothes up to his ears with one hand, the other keeping his manhood as flat as possible.
“Mitch, what are you talking about?” asked Adam in that even tone that always meant trouble.
“Me an’ Johnny sent old Horseface Barbara up here ages ago,” said Mitch. He belched loudly. “An’ we ain’t seen hide nor hair of her since. You don’t reckon somebody hitched her to a wagon and drove her away, do you?”
“That’s not nice,” said Joe hotly.
Johnny snorted. “Oh, like you ain’t said worse,” he said. “You’re the one who said she’d be the prettiest gal in town if’n you could put a sack on her head!”
“I never said anything such thing!” Joe protested. Believe me, Barbara, believe me, he thought as hard as he could.
“Joe, what are they talking about?” asked Adam. “Has there been a girl in your room tonight?”
“A girl? What decent girl would come into my bedroom?” The words were out before he could stop them.
“Joseph, has Miss Fuller been in here tonight?” Adam’s voice was getting that icy edge.
“Well, sure—she came up to say ‘hello,’ but—I mean—”
Adam turned to Mitch and Johnny. “Will you excuse us, please?”
Without waiting for an answer, Hoss hauled them out into the hall and closed the door. “Come on, you two,” he said. Joe could hear them trying to make excuses as Hoss dragged them away. He wished he was with them.
Adam crossed his arms. “Now, Joe. Where is Miss Fuller?”
“What makes you think I know where she is?”
“Oh, you know where she is,” said Adam. “And you’re going to tell me, now. Because if you don’t, and she’s within earshot, she’s going to hear my belt on your backside until you tell me.” Joe’s eyes grew round, and Adam nodded. “I’ll give you the count of three. One. Two—”
“She’s under the bed!” Joe blurted.
“You little weasel!” came Barbara’s voice. She got herself out from under the bed and knelt on the far side from Adam. “You could at least turn your back!” she snapped to the elder Cartwright.
“My apologies,” said Adam, turning around.
Barbara stood up, her glorious breasts beckoning. Joe felt himself harden even more. Helplessly, he watched as she lifted her skirt to tie her pantalets, allowing him the briefest glimpse of her most private place. Then, she pulled up the shoulder straps of her chemise, taking her time before lacing it closed. She slipped her arms into the sleeves of her dress, and slowly, tantalizingly, she buttoned it. Then, with a glance at Adam’s back, she leaned over Joe and slipped one hand under the covers. She massaged his scrotum, and his jaw dropped. Then, she ran her fingers up the shaft of his penis, rubbing her fingertip lightly around the head. She leaned over, her lips next to his ear, and whispered one word that was more breath than sound.
Then, she straightened and marched out of the room, turning back at the door. “Good night, Mr. Cartwright. Thank you for inviting me to your lovely party.” She tossed her head and pulled the door closed behind her.
She stood in the hallway, listening with satisfaction as Joe tried to explain. Her grin grew broader as she heard the unmistakable smack of Adam Cartwright’s belt on his brother’s backside. That would teach him. Old Horseface Barbara, indeed.
She allowed her mind to drift over the past hour as she listened to the slap of leather against her would-be lover’s bottom. Maybe she should come back in a few days. After all, it wasn’t fair to leave without giving the boy a chance to make it up to her. Her body began to hum at the thought. She smoothed her bodice, her hands lingering on her famous breasts.
Yes, Joe Cartwright definitely deserved a chance—or perhaps several chances—to make amends.
Preferably when his family wasn’t at home.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.
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