Hope you like it!
Notes: A story in the 'Echoes the Sea' AU series, Chris Larabee/OFC. This is a bit of an interlude between 'Too Young for Heaven' and strangevisitor7's story, 'Each Must Know His Part'.
Characters: Ezra Standish, Charlotte Sparrow.
Summary: Even if it means a shotgun wedding, Ezra is determined that Chris do right by Charlotte. But the truth of the situation can often be the opposite of what you believe.
Ezra reached over, pulling on the reins of Charlotte's horse, bringing both of their mounts to a halt. "We need to discuss this," he told her firmly.
"I am not having this conversation with you," she said in a voice that brooked no opposition.
"Whether we have it now or later is immaterial, but we are going to talk about it," he replied, not about to be gainsaid.
Dismounting, she walked over to the riverbank, staring at the water. "Say what you need to," she said tonelessly.
Joining her, he placed a gentle hand against the back of her neck. "Someone will discover your affair; dearest Charlotte, it almost happened today. You are a mother, you have standing in the community, and you cannot continue to risk your reputation in this fashion.”
"It's my reputation to risk, Ezra, and is none of your concern!"
"That is not true, on either count, and you know that very well," he countered reprovingly. "It is not just your reputation, but that of your children as well. As for it not being my concern; need I remind you that you were the one that insisted I take up my responsibilities as head of the family?"
"For the children!" she snapped. "You are not my father, Ezra, so I would appreciate you not acting as if you were!"
Laughing softly, he replied, "If I were your father, I'd be locking you in your room and fetching a shotgun and a minister."
She pulled away from him, walking farther along the riverbank.
"You deserve better than an illicit affair, Charlotte! And I intend to see that Mr. Larabee does right by you. After three months, it is time for him to declare his intentions." Ezra was determined in this. He would not allow the man to continue to disrespect Charlotte in such a manner. If Chris refused to behave as a gentleman should, then Ezra would force the issue.
Whirling, she looked at him with narrowed eyes. "You’ve known all this time?"
"Of course I have!” he told her in exasperation. “My dearest cousin, you wear your emotions plainly on your face for all to see. Anyone who knew you well would realize there was something between the two of you. And Chris has been happy, something so rare an occurrence during our acquaintance that the meaning was obvious to anyone with eyes."
"Who else knows?" she demanded.
"Buck, of course, realized when I did, for much the same reason. And I am certain Vin knows." Actually Ezra believed that most of the men he rode with suspected there was something between Charlotte and their leader, except perhaps for JD.
Sighing, she didn't look at him when he came to stand in front of her.
"If you have any trepidation about Buck knowing, you shouldn’t; he is thrilled at the prospect of Chris finally being happy after so long. Though, like me, he had hoped that a proposal of marriage would be in the offing."
"There was," she said so softly that he barely heard her. "He broached the subject weeks ago; I refused him."
Ezra was not expecting that and found himself momentarily taken aback. Finally, he said, "I admit that I find myself at a loss, Charlotte. I know you are not one for casual dalliances, so I had assumed that you loved him. Was I mistaken?"
"No, you are not mistaken. I do love him, and that is why I cannot marry him!" It was obvious from Ezra's expression that he was baffled by her response. She elaborated, ”He deserves a wife who can give him children, someone he can grow old with. I can't give him any of those things."
"And does he get any say in this? Or have you decided you know what is best for him and his life?"
"That's not fair!" she cried, clenching her hands into fists at her sides.
"And you think you are being fair?" he asked with a note of censure.
She shook her head, angrily pushing past him. "This conversation is over!"
"Not quite yet," he contradicted, taking hold of her upper arm, stopping her. "You told me that you loved me as if I were a child of your own body. Was that a lie?"
"Of course not!"
"Then don't you think Chris is just as capable of loving children who are not his?"
Shoulders slumping, she stopped trying to free herself from his grasp, instead leaning against him wearily. "It's not that easy," she whispered brokenly. “I don’t know if I can bear to lose anyone else I love. It is so hard, watching as they slip away from you in what seems like the blink of an eye, Ezra, so very hard.”
"I know." He put his arms around her, holding her close. "I know."