|A Time for Love by Jeanette|
|Victoria awoke to strange surroundings. The last thing she recalled was being thrown off the wagon and faintly seeing a light in the distance. How did she get here? Here she was in a strange house...in someone's bed. Her clothes had been changed and her wounds tendered. She sat up on the bed taking in her new surroundings, when the door slowly opened.
"Oh good, you're awake." said the woman with the dusty blonde hair. "I'll go get the doctor."
"Wait!" exclaimed Victoria. "Where am I?"
"Why you're at the Pony Express Way Station in Rock Creek." she replied.
Victoria looked puzzled. "How did I get here?"
"You don't remember?"
She shook her head. "No." Rachel sat down next to her on the bed and held her hand. "Well don't you worry about anything. We'll fill you in after the doctor takes a look at you. By the way my name's Rachel Dunne, what's yours?"
"Victoria Sutton" she answered. Victoria was releaved she at least remembered who she was and wasn't suffering from any memory loss.
"Everything will be alright Victoria, let me go get the doctor." Victoria held Rachel's hand as she got up. "Thank you Ms. Dunne." Rachel smiled and went to get the doctor.
"Well you gave us quite a scare there young lady." said the doctor after examining her eyes and listening to her heart beat. "Lucky for you, you weren't hurt worse than you were."
"I guess so." she said solemnly. He turned to Rachel. "Make sure she gets plenty of rest."
"Don't worry, she's in good hands." she smiled.
"One of the best." he agreed.
"I can't thank you enough for all that you've done for me Ms. Dunne."
"Please call me Rachel."
"Alright. I thank you, Rachel."
"Don't mention it. You feel like something to eat?"
"I am kind of hungry...Oh my goodness!" she exclaimed. "What day is it?"
"It's Friday." answered Rachel puzzled at the girl's sudden reaction.
Victoria gave a huge sigh of relief. "Good, I haven't missed it." Then she remembered practically leaping out of bed. "My pouch! Rachel I-I had a pouch with me with an important..." Rachel interrupted. "Relax yourself before you get sick. Teaspoon has your pouch safely put away."
"He's the station master here and the town Marshal, so don't worry, you're in good hands."
Victoria felt a calmness come over her. She sensed that these strangers, these people that knew nothing of her, yet cared for her, were good people. Someone she could trust. And could she really use a friend at this moment.
Rachel nodded to a nearby chair. "There's one of my old dresses you can put on for now. Hope it fits. If you feel up to it, you can dress and join us downstairs for breakfast. Everyone's so anxious to meet you." "Alright."
The riders were all assembled downstairs for breakfast, except Noah who was out on a run; also Jimmy and Buck were not present as they had been sent out by Teaspoon to see what it is they could find. They knew for sure that this young woman hadn't gotten this far on foot or by herself. She had arrived at their door with nothing but the clothes on her back and a pouch. They figured that a woman with her kind of money, didn't travel too lightly.
Victoria was nervous as she looked in the mirror, putting the final touches on her hair. She touched the bruises on her face. "What an impression you're going to make." she said as she thought about the meeting with the all important 'banker' to close this business deal, which already was more than what she bargained for. Her thoughts quickly returned to the people downstairs and so did her nervousness. "Well I better not keep them waiting any longer." she said turning towards the door.
By now Buck and Jimmy had returned from their expedition. They entered the house and hung their hats and guns before taking a seat. "So what'd you find?" asked Lou.
Their conversation was temporarily interrupted by the presence of Victoria. She felt her heart racing and her hands were cold as ice from her nervousness.
"Teaspoon, boys, I'd like you to meet Ms. Victoria Sutton." announced Rachel.
The boys stood silently admiring the young woman who stood in their midst. Lou gave Kid a nudge with her elbow to snap him out of his trance. "You have to forgive my boys, they've seemed to have forgotten their manners. Let me introduce myself. My name's Teaspoon Hunter." The older man extended his hand to her which she took, giving him a firm handshake. "Nice to meet you Mr. Hunter." "Nice handshake." he commented looking at his hand.
"I'm Buck Cross." "Mr. Cross." she said shaking his hand.
"William F. Cody ma'am, and the pleasure's all mine." he said as he looked at her with his beautiful eyes and kissed her hand. "Point well taken Mr. Cody." she replied with a smile.
"James Butler Hickok." She raised an eyebrow at the sound of his name and extended her hand to him. "My pleasure's even greater." he greeted as he kissed her hand.
"Okay, down boys." remarked Teaspoon.
"Lou McCloud." Victoria shook hands with Lou and immediately sensed something different about her from her very business-like greeting.
"They call me Kid." he said shaking her hand sternly with Lou staring right at him.
"Nice to meet you Mr..." she paused briefly, "...Kid."
"Have a seat." motioned Rachel.
"Did you find Mr. Hawkins, my driver?" This had been the pressing question in her mind.
"I'm sorry but we found him dead." lamented Buck. Victoria covered her face, not believing that the good man was dead. "Oh Mr. Hawkins, what have I done?" she said feeling the guilt of her actions that led to his death.
"Now don't go blamin' yourself Ms. Sutton. You were in an accident, you both could've been killed."
"Teaspoon's right. We found your wagon, it's in pretty bad shape. Looks like you lost a wheel." added Jimmy trying to relieve some of her guilt.
"I still have myself to blame. If I hadn't been so insistent on getting to Rock Creek right away this wouldn't have happened. He was such a good man."
"Was he a close friend of yours?" asked Rachel.
"I only knew him briefly. I met him at Fort Laramie on my way out here. He was highly recommend to me, as one who knew this territory like the back of his hand. So, I hired him to bring me to Rock Creek."
"We'll be taking his body to the undertaker in town after we're done here." said Jimmy.
"Can I go along with you? I feel it's my responsibility to see that he gets a proper burial."
"Are you sure you're up to that? The doctor said you needed rest." said Rachel.
"The boys will gladly take care of it for you." added Teaspoon.
"I appreciate the offer but I have to do this."
"We got the horses and your luggage from the wagon. You sure travel lightly." commented Jimmy.
"Well, my stay here was going to be brief." She lied. "I only travel with what I need."
"Well if I may be so blunt to say, not too lightly from what we've seen." said Teaspoon as he put the pouch on the table.
"So you know why I'm here then?"
"You come to claim that land up on Murphy's Canyon." he responded.
"That's correct." she said sternly.
"This situation could become very troublesome for you Ms. Sutton."
"How's that?" she asked.
"The family living on this land is disputing your claims on it." he responded.
"And they ain't much too friendly either." said Cody.
"I'm very well aware of this dilema Mr. Hunter, but it won't change my mind. I promised my father."
"Well how come your father didn't come to close this deal himself?" asked Lou with apparent suspicion and untrust in her voice. The riders at the table turned their attention in her direction, surprised by her attacking mode of questioning. "Why'd he send you?"
"LOU!" reprimanded Rachel, for such lack of human compassion.
Victoria felt Lou's dislike towards her. She didn't know if it was resentment at her presence, utter suspicion, for heavens knows what reason or jealousy. Maybe one, maybe all. All she could feel, was that the smallest rider didn't care much for her. Victoria turned to Lou with an almost retaliatory look and sternly said "Because he's dead!" The spectaled rider felt immediate shame, looking down and away from her. Her father was dead. Lou wanted to find the smallest crack or hole in the room to hide in, to escape, but no such place could even hold the feelings of pure foolishness she had. "I'm sorry." she finally said.
"That explains why she was wearing those clothes." whispered Cody to Jimmy.
"It was one of my father's last wishes before he died. He wanted me to have it as part of my inheritance. I'm the only surviving member of my family, I couldn't let him down. You must understand; I loved my father very much. He did so much for me. I could only repay him with my love and undying loyalty. So after he passed, I left my home in Pennsylvania and made the very long journey that has brought me here."
"You don't need to explain yourself to us." said Rachel.
"Yes, I do. I don't want you all to think that I'm some spoiled little rich girl, that's come to town throwing her money around to get what she wants. I'm just claiming what is rightfully mine."
"We understand where you're comin' from Ms. Sutton." started Teaspoon. "The ties between kin; between a father and a daughter can be especially strong, but the way folk out here handle things, is different from where you come from."
"Yeah, they shoot first and ask questions later." commented Cody.
"The Adams boys are nothing more than a bunch of low-life bushwhackers." said Jimmy.
"With a hair trigger for trouble." added Lou.
"And they ain't very happy about this situation." continued Teaspoon. "My feeling's they won't stop at nothing to keep what they feel is theirs. That is why we're gonna make sure that this little transaction of yours, goes through without incident, right boys?"
"Oh no." she objected. "You've already done more than enough for me. I don't want to get you involved in my problems."
"Too late for that!" exclaimed Teaspoon. "We was already involved before we met ya. Of course," he continued as he stretched his suspenders, "we wasn't expecting the person we would be protectin', would be a pretty lady like yourself."
Victoria embarrased by the comment, gave a shy smile and touched her face. "You're too kind." Rachel lifted Victoria's chin, looking at the bruises on her caramel colored face.
"Just a little brusin'. You'll be back to your old self in no time at all."
"I do have a question. How did you find me?"
"The question is how'd you find us?" asked Buck.
"What do you mean?"
"Don't you remember?" asked Kid.
"Everything happened so quickly. The storm worsened," she recalled with a wrinkle in her brow. "we were about to stop, when lightning struck a tree and the horses started to run off. I was sitting in front with Mr. Hawkins. I remember he needed help with the lantern, then all of a sudden he was knocked off the wagon. I tried to get a hold of the reigns but then I found myself on the ground, seeing the wagon speed off; a light in the distance, then everything goes blank. I can't remember anything after that."
"Well, last night during the storm," said Kid "we heard noises outside the bunkhouse and when Jimmy opened the door, there you were and you passed out."
"In my arms, to say the least." Jimmy said smiling at her. Victoria blushed.
"I'ts the only way Hickok can get women to fall for him." said Cody. Victoria gave out a slight chuckle.
"You're funny." he replied looking at Cody.
"Okay boys. You must forgive them; they're good most of the time." said Rachel.
"You boys finish up. You have chores to do. Jimmy, Buck, make sure you take good care of Ms. Sutton here while you're out in town." said Teaspoon.
"We'll do." said Jimmy as he stood up.
The table sooned cleared of its occupants as they headed outside. Victoria stayed behind to help Rachel clean things up. "You don't have to do that."
"I know, I want to...You sure have a wonderful group of friends Rachel." she said as she looked out the window at the boys tending to their particular chores.
"They've become more like family now."
"Then you're the luckiest person in the world." she stated longingly at the fact she wished she had such a family. Rachel felt compelled to hug the sorrow stricken girl. She felt an instant attachment to Victoria. This young woman, out here in a strange, dangerous land.
No friends, no family, trying to make her way the best she could. Rachel realized the allure she possessed due to her wealth. It could easily make her a target for many. Looking out for Victoria would be the right thing to do.
Buck was busy in the stable getting his horse ready to head into town with Jimmy and Victoria. Cody rushes into the stable, an anxious look in his eyes.
"Buck, you gotta let me go with Jimmy."
"No way!" he responded.
"Please Buck!" he pleaded. "This is my chance to get to know Victoria."
"You can get to know her when we get back." he said unsympathetically.
"Well you know how it is with women Buck...timing is everything. If I don't make my move now..."
Buck interrupted. "What you mean is that you want to beat Jimmy to her first. Am I right or am I right?"
"You know me too well Buck and I know Jimmy. I can't give them too much of a chance to spend a lot of time alone or I won't have a chance in Hades."
"I don't know." Buck was actually holding out for a better deal.
"Oh come on Buck, help me out here!" persisted Cody. "It's only right! I seen her first!"
"Since I see this means so much to you Cody, I'll let you go instead, if..."
"If what?" he asked reluctantly.
"If you care for my chores."
"But you have to start on that roof !" he protested. Buck shrugged his shoulders which told Cody this was the deal, take it or leave it. Cody quickly changed his tune.
"Alright, alright. I'll do it...for love" he said putting one hand over his heart. Buck smiled and gave his friend a pat on the back and headed out of the stable to make better use of his now spare time. "Have fun." he shouted as he disappeared.
The wagon was ready to go with the body of Mr. Hawkins laid in the back. Victoria stood solemnly looking at the covered body of her now deceased companion. "You ready to go Ms. Sutton?" asked Jimmy. She nodded and he helped her up on the wagon. Jimmy sat next to her, taking hold of the reigns. "I wonder what's taking Buck so long?" he asked. Cody came galloping on his horse next to them. "What are you doing here?" he asked surprised at Cody's presence.
"Buck decided to stay and finish his chores."
"Yeah, I bet." he answered wryly.
"I'll be accompanying you instead." he said tipping his hat to Victoria.
"Just make sure you stay out of trouble."
Cody gave a wide smile. "Trouble? Me?"
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