A Time for Love
By Jeanette
Chapter 14

The day began with an aura of great expectations and better things to come. Victoria's spirits were lifted knowing that she didn't need to carry the heavy burden of hiding her feelings for Jimmy any longer. It was out in the open, even though the two parties had not yet confessed such affection to each other. Noah had gotten the buckboard ready for Victoria who had the unpleasant obligation of keeping the lunch date she had promised to attend with Phillip Wescott and two other business men. 

"She's all ready to go."

"Thanks Noah."

"Sure you don't need some company?” asked Jimmy approaching. She smiled at the obvious concerned look on his face. 

"I wouldn't mind the company of a handsome man like yourself Mr. Hickok, but I have to do this alone." Still noticing the concern on his face she reassured, "It's only business."

"With Phillip it's never just business."

"You're not jealous are you now, James Hickok?" she asked, a mischievous grin on her face.

He shrugged. "I don't know. I just figured you had better taste in men." he replied almost in a whisper.

She took one step closer to him, smiled and flung an arm around his neck. "I do." she whispered. "I went to the dance with you didn't I?" She let out a soft, wanting sigh as she looked at him, refraining the temptation to kiss him with Noah standing there. He helped her unto the wagon and they bid good-bye for now.

                                ***************

"Ms. Sutton. I'm so glad you made it." greeted Phillip excitedly, showing her her seat. His two companions rose respectfully. "You're looking lovely as usual Ms.Sutton." added the handsomely attired Phillip. 

"Thank you Mr. Wescott." she said sitting.

"Let me please introduce you to Mr. Avery and Mr. Flynn, the business associates I spoke to you of."

"Gentlemen." she nodded.

"Have you enjoyed your stay so far Ms. Sutton?" asked Mr. Avery.

"Yes, I've actually grown very fond of this town."

"We're glad to hear it. Wine?" Phillip raised the bottle to her glass.

"No thank you." she replied, raising her small hand. "I don't drink during business."

"I'd like to congratulate you on your recent acquisition Ms. Sutton." commented Mr. Flynn, who was one of Rock Creek's most prominent businessmen. He had accumulated a hefty amount of wealth from his cattle breeding business and several gold mining ventures. He was an older man of about 60 years of old but still looked rather handsome despite his age.

"You're a very lucky young woman. I also had my eye on that property."

"Thank you Mr. Flynn, but I assure you luck had nothing to do with it. Good business is rarely dependant on luck, don't you agree Mr. Wescott?" she asked, turning her attention to Phillip.

"Most certainly." he said raising his glass of wine to her.

"So gentlemen, let's cut through the small talk. I'm a very busy woman. What is it you want?"

"You're very direct Ms. Sutton." noticed Mr. Flynn.

"I feel it's more productive getting to the point. Time is money and money is time, so what is it you gentlemen had in mind?" Victoria's father taught her it was always best to get things out in the open as soon as possible, that way everyone would know where the other party stood without trivialities obscuring the purpose.

"Well as Mr. Flynn mentioned," began Phillip leaning forward, "he had been interested in purchasing the property you have acquired and we want to offer you a substantial amount for its acquisition."

"How much are you proposing?" 

"Ten thousand dollars." interjected Mr. Avery.

"Ten thousand dollars?" she said with a slight smile."A less than adequate amount for such prime land."

"Did you have a figure in mind Ms. Sutton?" asked Phillip.

"I don't believe you gentlemen could afford it."

"Please try us." encouraged Mr. Avery.

"Now, I gather from this little meeting then, that the three of you are in this venture together?" she asked suspicious of their reasons for wanting her land.

"You're very discerning." 

"Thank you Mr. Flynn, I have to be but flattery will get you nowhere. I wouldn't want to think you fine gentlemen were trying to take advantage of a trusting woman as myself." Her direct analogy made the three men feel uncomfortable. "Here is what I propose." She continued. "I will consider selling you my land for 10,00 dollars." A smile appeared on their faces until she added, "plus fifty percent each from profits derived from the land." 

The two older men at the table were visibly stunned. Phillip on the other hand remained quite reserved. "You must be joking! I haven't that kind of money to spend on land." cried Mr. Avery.

Victoria delighted in their reaction but had to refrain from laughing. "I assure you I am not."

"I don't care how good that land is, that's outrageous." added Mr. Avery.

"Come now, Mr. Avery. I've got big plans for my land. I must be compensated for the loss I'd be taking."

"It's a bit too much compensation for me," he said. Unlike Mr. Flynn, Mr. Avery inherited his small fortune, and was much more less of a risk taker than his two wealthier comrades.

"Now, now...all of us at this table here know the value of that land right now. It could be partialed and sold easily seeing it is very fertile land for farming and great for cattle raising. My father however, had a greater vision for the changes that will be soon taking place out West. See gentlemen, we well know that when the railroad starts making tracks out West, that property of mine is one of the perfect trails it will consider taking. As a matter of fact, shortly before my father's death they had inquired of its subsequent purchase but father being the insightful man he was didn't sell for he knew the time wasn't right just yet. Now, if I were to sell you my land it would make you all extremely wealthy men; if reselling to the railroad is what you were planning on which without a doubt in my mind is exactly why you've proposed to purchase it. Now, where would that leave little 'ol me?"

Phillip remained silent throughout the conversation, listening to the maneuverings of his female counterpart and liked what he heard.

"I hope you realize that just because I'm a woman, I am neither naive or ignorant when it comes to business. My father trained me awfully well. I gather you all figured I hadn't the faintest idea of the value of my property otherwise you wouldn't have made me such a pathetic offer. Rest assured I am very well informed. Next time you gentlemen want to talk business, make sure to bring your billfolds with you." she said, as she looked each one in the eyes. 

"It was a pleasure meeting you Mr. Avery, Mr.Flynn...Mr. Wescott, it was nice to see you again." she extended her hand to him as she rose and rising from his seat, Phillip took it and gently kissed it. The other two gentlemen obliged by politely rising too.

"Enjoy your meal." she said as she turned from their company. Phillip watched her enthralled, as she left the restaurant.

"Why do you look so happy?" questioned Mr. Avery. "She practically stone-walled us!"

"Amazing isn't she?"

"One word of advice my boy, never mix business with pleasure."

"That's very true Avery but personally, I find the pleasure aspect a lot more challenging."

                                 ***************

Victoria left that meeting feeling ten feet tall. She was invigorated with power and loved the thrill of leaving such chauvinistic, unsuspecting men with their mouths wide open. 

'Ten thousand dollars. What an insult.' she thought. 

Passing by the dress shop a sudden smile appeared on her face and she entered therein.

"Pierre?" she called. 

"Ms. Sutton, how nice to see you again." he greeted, emerging from the back room.

"How are you?" she inquired with a smile.

"Busy. I want to thank you. Your gown has brought me so much business I'm going crazy." he responded excitedly.

"Don't be modest. It was your talent; I simply wore it."

"And very well I might add. So what can I help you with today?"

"I need a hat." she replied, an infectious smile appearing on her face.

Pierre showed her the assortment in the shop. She wanted something simple she could wear out in the sun. The broad rimmed straw hat tucked in the corner was perfect. She couldn't wait to see what Jimmy's reaction would be when he'd see it on her. 

Pierre refused payment for the hat, telling her, "This one's on me." and left her presence to place it in a box.

"Pierre?" called a woman's voice. There was no mistaking the shrill voice of Kate Wescott.

"The wicked witch rides again." muttered Victoria under her breath, not turning around.

"Victoria dear, we meet again." said Kate with her usual trouble-making tone as she approached Victoria.

"Lucky me. Just when I thought my day was going so perfectly well." Victoria smirked.

"Now come. I'm sure you took my comments the other day way too seriously. We are civilized people, we can get over it; we aren't children."

"Oh, I have gotten over it Kate," she stated facing the snobbishly looking woman. 

Kate couldn't resist the temptation of making Victoria's life as miserable as she possibly could and was about to interject another wry comment when she was interrupted by Pierre's return. "Oh, hello Ms. Wescott." he greeted, holding Victoria's hatbox.

"Well Pierre you never change; your timing is always so...bad."

Pierre dismissing her sarcasm gave Victoria the box and saw the opportunity to get back at Kate, seeing rumors had it she was still in love with Jimmy.

"I'm sure Mr. Hickok will love it." he said getting an inward thrill from his comment.

Victoria smiled at Pierre, discerning his wicked game. "I hope you're right. I bought it especially for him."

"He's sure a lucky man," he added smiling.

"I'll be sure to tell him you said that." she smiled at her friend as she picked up the box and turned to the door. "Oh...see you later Kate."

Kate's anger brewed fiercely inside. She knew Victoria was trying to humiliate her and successfully this time she had. Her hatred grew intensely. 

'You can love him all you want dear, but you will never have him.' she thought.

                                ***************

Victoria related to Teaspoon and the others about the lunch meeting with Phillip, Mr. Avery and Flynn at dinner that evening.

"Doesn't surprise me from the likes of Wescott. Men like him or his father as a matter of fact didn't make the fortune they have by being fair and kind. They're like preying wolves, always looking, searching for the next kill and they'd do almost anything to get it." He pointed his fork at Victoria and warned her to be careful.

"Don't worry. My father had dealt with their sort before. Besides I quoted them such an outrageous price, they won't consider it ever again...especially not Mr. Avery anyway."

"Maybe Phillip won't have to consider it any further if he sees gettin' you for a wife." said Lou.

"Excuse me?" she asked startled at the comment.

"Seems you made quite the impression on Mr. Wescott which in itself is a feat no woman in this town anyway, has been able to do." said Rachel.

"He's been asking about you 'round town." added Lou, taking a bite from a carrot.

"Well Mr. Wescott is barking up the wrong tree."

"Oh?" asked Rachel with a raised brow, glancing briefly in Jimmy's direction.

"Yes, because..." she was cut off by Jimmy who wasn't at all pleased to hear of another man trying to make way into his territory.

"Because this tree's now closely guarded." he said, looking at Victoria intently from across the table. 

A silence followed as everyone looked around the room not knowing what to say.

"I guess I better get dessert." Rachel said finally, breaking the uncomfortable silence.

"I'll help you." both of the girls said in unison as they quickly rose from their seats.

                                ***************

After dessert had been enjoyed, Jimmy and Victoria went out for an evening stroll around the homestead. "I wish I could've seen their faces when you told them that." he said.

"Serves them right. The nerve to think I would be so incredibly stupid. If I were a man, they would've never dreamt of insulting me in that manner."

"It must be hard on you being a woman, dealing with those kind of men."

"My daddy said it wouldn't be easy, but it comes with the territory. I've had to accept that. I guess it doesn't matter where a girl goes; even back home it was the same. But I'm not weak in any respect; that is their downfall if they choose to think it and I will always use it to my advantage." They looked at each other and smiled. 

Jimmy enjoyed her company more with each passing day. He knew he had to tell her how he felt about her; that he loved her, but still he hesitated. They walked along in silence, enjoying the beautiful starry night and stopped at the corral to watch the horses.

"You know," she began, breaking the silence, "I ran into Kate today."

"Did she say something to you?" he asked concerned for he knew full well Kate's past history with the other ladies he had tried to come to know.

"Kate always has something to say. Don't worry I can handle her."

"I don't know what I'm gonna do about that woman." He said, throwing his head back.

"I know." she paused before she added, "She's still in love with you, you know"

Jimmy looked down, shaking his head. "That's what I keep hearing."

Victoria looked at him, trying to make eye contact.

"Can't say I blame her." Jimmy blushed. "Does that concern you?" he asked, finally looking at her.

"Should I be concerned?"

"Not from my point of view. I've already set my sights in a whole new direction." he added licking his lips ever so slightly. That mannerism of his drove her mind wild and she smiled uncontrollably.

"Will you join me for a picnic tomorrow? At the flower field?" she invited.

"I wouldn't miss it."

"Tomorrow then."

                                 ***************

"Aren't you going to eat anything?"

"I'm not hungry," responded Kate, looking at her full plate.

"Kate, I can't believe you're letting this get to you."

"Have you ever been in love Phillip?" she asked somewhat harshly.

"Fortunately, no."

"How can you think it to be so?" she wondered amazed.

"Because I see what so-called love does to people. It makes them miserable and pitiable. If it were such a wonderful thing, it wouldn't hurt so much now would it? No sister, I believe in lust. Now that feels good all the time and there are no strings attached."

"Then I pity you, for you will die a very lonely old man."

"Hmph. You know Kate, you have to accept the fact that Hickok has gone on to greener pastures; that is if you don't remember what happened at the dance. Not to make it harsher on you my sister, but I can't say I blame the man. Ms. Sutton is a very exceptional lady."

"Not you too!" she cried. "This entire town hates me and now you've turned your back on me too?"

"Don't be so dramatic Kate. I was merely making an observation. I must say she is exceptional not only because of her beauty but her mind is keen and strong...like yours. You know," he continued, " she wouldn't sell us that land of hers because she knew it'll be worth at least ten times what it's worth now in the future. They're men out there who don't possess half the business sense she showed me today. To me, that makes her a prize to be won."

"Why don't you pursue it and get her the hell away from Jimmy?" she shot back.

"Mmm, tempting but no thanks. I'm kind of partial to bullets; especially the one's coming from Hickok's guns."

"Well thank you for nothing. I guess I'll have to do it myself." She said, leaving the room angrily.

"What is that supposed to mean?" he shouted. Such comments worried Phillip. He had never seen Kate so riled up over a rival. He wouldn't put it past her to act irrationally. She had done some crazy things in the past. He would have to step in to save his sister from herself. If getting Victoria away from Jimmy would be the only thing he could do to save Kate, then he considered it as good as done.

                                 ***************

The blanket was spread, the picnic basket nicely arranged and Victoria awaited nervously the arrival of her love. Her beautiful light blue flower print dress, accented with a lacey trim on the square neck and elbow length sleeves, made her look radiant. It was Jimmy's favorite color on women, Lou had informed her, and she hoped he would be pleased by her appearance. 

She looked impatiently down the road for him. They were to meet at noon. It was now quarter past. He was late which only made her more nervous; her hands giving off their usual tell-tale sign. Glancing down the road once more, she saw a horse approaching. It was him. She quickly pinched her cheeks to make them appear rosy and checked the small mirror in her pocket to make sure she looked perfect for him. Standing, she managed a few deep breaths to relax before he came to a stop.

"Sorry I'm late." he apologized. "I had to help Rachel load the supplies in the wagon." he said as he secured his horse.

"I'm glad you made it," she greeted him with a smile.

"You look beautiful," he noticed immediately, as she stood there in front of him.

She blushed. "I'm glad you're pleased." she said shyly.

"I'm always pleased when I see you." Victoria's body felt warm all over from his flirtatious words.

"Please." she motioned for him to sit in which case he obliged, sitting next to her, the basket between them. "I thought first of all we should celebrate." she said pulling out a bottle of wine from the basket and two fancy wine glasses.

"Where'd you get that?" he wondered. 

"I've got my sources. Besides, I won't tell if you won't. Do the honors?" she handed him the bottle. Jimmy pulled the cork and served her first, then himself.

"So--what are we celebrating?" he asked.

"I don't know...friendships, new beginnings and..."

"Love?" Jimmy chimed in questioningly.

"Most definitely love." she agreed.

They enjoyed lunch together but found greater gratification in each other's company. Jimmy absorbed every inch of her. Her smile, her laugh, her voice, everything about her made him more captivated. 

"It must've been such a hard thing for you to witness. What a sad thing for a man to finally turn his life around just to be hung in the end." she commented.

"I wish he would've just ran when I gave him the chance but he felt it was time for him to die." Jimmy added, relating his experience with Elias Mills. "What really scared me Victoria is that I saw myself in him. Living the same life. Dying the same way."

She quickly jumped in. "I don't. I don't see that for you at all. I see a much better life for you Jimmy. One full of hope...love." Jimmy could see the sincerity in her eyes and allowed himself to consider such a notion about his uncertain future. When he was with her, nothing else mattered. She made him feel whole; complete. He had found a love for her that he never knew he could possibly had offered. Not even Lou stirred such deep emotions in him like Victoria. 

"Come on." she said rising to her feet, grabbing the straw basket and hat.

"Where are you going?" he called to her as she walked away.

"I'm going to pick some flowers." she hollered back, placing the hat on her head.

He immediately got up and ran after her catching up quickly. He noticed the addition to her outfit and felt it necessary to comment on it. "Nice hat."

"Do you like it?"

"Very much."

"Then thanks for the suggestion." she added flirtingly.

Jimmy felt a shot of confidence knowing she had taken his words to heart. 

They spent the next few minutes picking an array of flowers, Jimmy watching her closely enjoying her every graceful move. "Here are those purple ones you wanted." he said handing her the delicate flowers she had sent him to retrieve. Victoria smiled at him and placed them in the basket. After she was adequately satisfied with their selections, they headed back to the old oak.

"Tell me Jimmy; have you ever been in love?" she asked as they walked side by side.

"I have." he said simply.

"What happened?" she inquired.

"Well, it wasn't meant to be. There were just things that couldn't be overcome. Past wrongs, faith, friends. Powerful forces." The faces of Sarah, Alice, Rosemary and Lou flashed across his mind. "What about you?"

"Honestly? I don't think I ever have, sad to say."

"I can't believe that." he responded surprised.

"Don't get me wrong, there have been many suitors but never the right one. I'm not naive Jimmy, but the fact was that many were attracted to my money first, I was just an added incentive."

"How can you say that?"

"Well, confessions of love came way to quickly. I've never confessed love to any man before, not that I'm proud of it, but money does strange things to people. That I learned unfortunately to be the fact of my life."

"How's that?" he asked looking at her as they walked.

"Last year I was to be married." she informed.

"Did you love him?" he asked with a jealous look to him.

"No, I didn't. I talked myself into thinking that with time I would. I just wanted my father to go to his grave knowing I would be taken care of. That was more important to me. To make a long story short, two days before we were to be married, I received some unexpected guests at my door...his wife and two children. It was the most horrible experience of my life. You tell me," she said stopping their stroll, facing him, "what kind of man would leave his family for money?" she asked, but Jimmy didn't know how or if he could answer such a question. He simply shook his head. She gave him an understanding look letting him know that she also didn't have an answer either before she continued. "I knew after that, that no matter what, men would always love my money first and maybe if I were just a little lucky there'd be a little room in their hearts for me. Well, that's one of the reasons why I left Philadelphia. To escape my shame, maybe to follow a dream?"

Jimmy looked at her. "Well dreams do come true." He said softly as he took her hand and threaded his fingers with hers. Victoria's heart burst with love. 'Finally,' she thought, 'I am ready.' A time for love had finally arrived.

As they reached the old oak tree, Jimmy took the basket from her and placed it on the ground. He looked at her, ready to reveal all the feelings he'd had penned up for way too long.

"I ain't like those other men Victoria." he started, taking her hat off, tossing it aside. "You're one of the most beautiful women I've ever known. I knew that from the day you walked into my life you were special. I've had all these feelings for you that are driving me crazy and I don't want to hide them anymore." He confessed, touching her curly brown hair.

Victoria looked at him with a love so full it felt it could encompass the entire globe. An overwhelming sense of inner joy streaked through her at his revelation. He loved her. She hesitantly lay both hands on his chest, ready to reaveal her own. "I don't want you to hide them Jimmy because," she paused, "because...I'm in love with you." she told him looking into his brown eyes.

As that confession of love fell on his ears, those words penetrated every crevice of his being. She loved him, not Cody, not any other man; him. He held her face in his hands and gently kissed her lips once, twice, still a third time which led them to an open-mouthed kiss opening the flood of passion that they had longed to share. Their bodies relinquished all emotion as they savored the delicious taste of each other. He pulled her close, his body pressed against hers. Victoria let herself go to his mastery as he led her to where she had never been. She had found him. The man she so desperately sought. The one who was able to touch her very soul. To love her with a passion unknown to her. The passion she knew had been waiting all along. As they separated, Victoria flushed from their first intimate statement of love, rested her head on his chest. 

"I've been wanting to do that for such a long time." he said, resting his head on top of hers, his arms gently around her.

She pulled slightly back as she looked up at him once again, slipping her fingers through his long hair. "Me too." she admitted and engaged his mouth in a second full, determined kiss. A flood of sensations ran through Jimmy's body too as he kissed her fully, his mind still not quite believing what he was doing. He had daydreamed of this moment so often and now here he was, his mouth with hers as he expressed his love through his slow, wet kiss. Victoria didn't hold back from expressing the passion she felt for him but readily joined him as their souls began to intertwine, one with the other, through such a deep, sensuous display of a love they had kept hidden; a love they had now begun to share.

They spent the remaining time in each others’ arms. Jimmy found the spot against the tree trunk adequate enough to lean against as he sat on the blanket, Victoria nestled between his legs. She voiced her concern about Cody's return in two days and inquired what were they going to do? Jimmy told her not to worry for he would handle the situation. Victoria though, convinced him to allow her to speak with him, hoping the blow wouldn't be as severe if it came from her.

They finally had the courage to speak of the events of the dance and the day at the homestead where she spilled her lemonade on him and were pleasantly surprised at their confessions. In between their intimate conversation they shared two more full kisses, Victoria's head spinning each time he engaged her mouth as she tilted her head back against his shoulder, pulling his head towards hers. His kisses were deep and ardent, conveying his burning love for her as he administered his special touch, his fingers caressing her neck and the line of her jaw. Victoria's heart raced wildly and she had to disengage from him to catch her breath. 

The time for the meeting with her friend was soon to come. Jimmy talked her into letting him accompany her only after he promised to keep an open mind and not get overly upset with her for it. He couldn't wait to see what all the secrecy was about. They packed up, tied his horse to the buckboard and headed to the creek to meet Taylor. 

They arrived to see the young boy already waiting with books in hand. Jimmy was indeed surprised. He shot Victoria a quizzical look which she caught out of the corner of her eye, but said nothing giving her the benefit of the doubt. Taylor was nervous at the sight of the gunfighter but his fears were soon quelched when Victoria mentioned Jimmy's agreeableness to their secret, though he hadn't actually voiced such an opinion and wasn't too thrilled at the fact she had been coming all this way by herself. 

Taylor could see the obvious bond that had been formed between his teacher and the gunfighter. He now realized why she wouldn't declare a love for Cody. She loved Hickok instead. Jimmy waited nearby as Victoria instructed Taylor ever so patiently. Seeing her in this manner, so loving, so tender; he loved her more now than he had an hour ago. He looked at the woman he couldn't and wouldn't want to live without. Finally he had a purpose in life, something more than himself to truly live for. He would live for her.

                             ***************

"Oh Louise! It was the most wonderful thing!" she exclaimed as she fell on her bed clutching a pillow against her chest. 

"Jimmy is...a very special man." said Lou with a smile.

"That he is. He makes me feel so..."

Lou interrupted. "Alive." 

"Yes." agreed Victoria

"And beautiful and womanly." Lou added as images of her relationship with Jimmy passed as cherished memories in her mind.

Victoria looked at Lou's analysis of Jimmy with a puzzled look. "Yes. How do you know that Louise?" she asked as she sat up on the bed.

Lou knew she needed to cover her tracks immediately. Jimmy and Lou had both agreed never to let anyone, especially those closest to them know about their brief relationship. It was the best for all. It would cause too much hurt if anyone, especially Kid were to find out about it. Now they had someone else to consider. 

"You hear things you know." Victoria simply nodded figuring Lou was speaking of Jimmy's former girlfriends, and Lou figured, that by the statement on Victoria's face, that she had done an adequate job of keeping the secret. "I've known Jimmy a long long time. He has a special way with women but with you; I ain't never seen him like that. He is so in love with you. One thing about Jimmy, he has never given his heart to any woman 100 percent. It's not that way with you. The way he talks about you, the way he looks at you, the way he lights up when he sees you; like I said, I ain't never seen him like this. You're special. Make him happy."

"I will Louise. I will." she stated happily.

Louise was sincere. Even she could see that she had never induced such a deep ocean of feelings from Jimmy but, Victoria had. Such a discovery made her feel she had made the right decision in choosing Kid.
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