A Time for Love    by Jeanette
Chapter 3
The sweet smell of rain still lingered in the morning air as beams of sunlight glazed over the moistened landscape, giving it a fresh new glow.  As they rode to town, Jimmy and Victoria got an opportunity to get better acquainted, even with Cody along adding his usual colorful commentary.
 
"I've never seen such beautiful land!" she said in awe.

"Don't you have trees where you come from?" asked Jimmy with a smile.  She loved Jimmy Hickok's smile.  She found it to be seductive and mischevious at the same time, but she dared not stare too long for fear of being embarrassed.

"Of course we do, but it's nothing like this...open and free.  I live in a city Mr. Hickok that's being built-up everyday; kind of suffocates the life out of you."

"Well then you'll love it out here." started Cody.  "Not a dull moment."

"How's that?" she wondered.

"Well, you have your everyday bar brawls, shootouts, indians, bank robbers, bounty hunters, law-breakers, you know, the usual."

"What are you tryin' to do?  Scare her back to Pennsylvania?" reprimanded Jimmy.

"It's okay." she said laughing.  "We have our own brand of bank robbers and law-breakers there too...we call them lawyers."

Jimmy smiled with a slight shake of his head at her sense of humor.  She didn't seem fazed by a thing Cody had said.  He liked that.  "Can I ask you something?"

"Depends." she answered.

"On what?"

"On how personal it is, I mean, I've only known you a few hours." she said with the slightest flirtatious tune in her voice.

"I'm just curious...What is it like to be rich?  And how do you like it?"

"Honestly?  It's a burden and I hate it." she replied, looking into the distance.

"Are you kidding?!" he exclaimed, not believing her.

"Why?  Do you think having money makes a person happy?" she asked noticing his belittling response.

"Well I'm not an expert, but all the rich people I've met seem pretty happy to me."

"Let me assure you Mr. Hickok that is not the case, especially for me."

Jimmy was entering dangerous territory with his next comment.  "I don't see what you people would have to gripe about.  It's not like the lot of you have had to scrape and scratch for anything you have.  I bet you've never done a hard days work in your life."  Jimmy's seeming attack on her, was not out of personal dislike.  His experiences with such people had left him with a sour taste in his mouth.  Could this one be any different?  He doubted it.

Cody attentively realized that his friend had taken what was obviously a wrong course by the look on Victoria's face.  The tension between the two had begun to brew.  Cody of course, didn't want to help Hickok not burn down any bridges between the two of them.

"I see y'all would like to finish this conversation in private so...I think I'll meet y'all in town." he said as he tipped his hat at Victoria.  "You're on your own Hickok!" he cried as he galloped away.

Victoria's face told the whole story.  The wrinkle in her brow and the fiery look in her eyes were the warning, that any one person who'd known her, would've taken as an obvious sign to back-off.  Jimmy, of course, not knowing any better, ignored them.

"How dare you make such an arrogant statement!" she said angrily.  "Am I supposed to feel regret because I was born to priviledge while others weren't?"

"So you do like being rich." he replied.

"That is not what I meant, you're twisting my words."

"Am I?"

"You're trying to lure me into this absurd conversation with your snobbish remarks!"

"Snobbish?!" he laughed.  "I've been called lots of things but a snob ain't never been one of them"

"Well you're sure acting like one.  You know, you don't know anything about me to judge me the way you are!" she said raising her voice.

"I wasn't judging you." he said apologetically.

"You may think you're not snobbish but you're just as bad as they are.  You look down on us because you feel we're so shallow, we have nothing better to do with our valueless time than to buy fancy dresses and go to tea parties, as we sit around sharing the latest gossip or engage in meaningless talk about money or some political issue.

On the other hand, you feel you live in the real world.  You work hard for what you've got and you feel you face real problems.  You elevate yourself above us because as you would say: "They live in a fantasy world.  Everything is handed to them.  What do they know about going a day without food or working under the hot brazen sun to keep one's land, to feed one's family"...and you know what?  You're right!  We may never have experienced such things, as a matter of fact, many of us are oblivious to it, but it doesn't mean some of us don't know what the real world is all about.  I don't categorize people Mr. Hickok.  I judge the  individual, I let them show me what they are.

"It's that so?" he asked.

"Yes!  If I categorized people as easily as you do, I wouldn't be caught dead being seen in public with the likes of you Wild Bill!  I've read about you."

"Well don't believe everything you read." he responded to her accusatory remark.

"Really?  Well I thought you cowboys were all the same.  Uneducated, savage, brutes." she ended with a smirk.

"You've made your point."

"Loud and clear I hope."

"Yes ma'am."  Jimmy couldn't believe the way she had exposed his every thought, his feelings.  Very few people had that ability.  Now he sensed that Victoria had that power too.


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


They finally reached town, where Cody met them at the Undertaker.  Victoria still seemed annoyed at Jimmy and Cody took the opportunity to run over and help her off the buckboard.  "Thank you Mr. Cody." 

"I see Jimmy still has his head on." he said jokingly.

"Yes, he just needed it to be tightened a bit." she said raising her brows at Jimmy.

"If you both don't mind there's a dead man in the back we need to be taking care of." 
Jimmy headed inside.  Victoria looked at Cody and shrugged her shoulders as if to say 'fine we won't talk about it' and both followed him inside.

Victoria explained to the undertaker exactly what she wanted to be done with the body.  It needed to be interred properly, which meant having a headstone made in memory of Mr. Hawkins.  The man assured her that all would be taken care of to her specifications when she payed him a handsome sum for his services.  They would return later that day to pay their respects.


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


The three companions walked down the main street of Rock Creek.  Victoria looked around, noticing instantly how life was so different from Pennsylvania.  Most of the women were dressed rather plainly and there were no big buildings or fancy shops. Instead of paved streets the ground was a mass of puddles, wagon tracks and footprints due to the heavy rain the night before and that being the case, they resorted to walking on the wooden surfaces.  "I love it!" she exclaimed.  "This is so different from my home town.  I think I could get used to this."

"I'll believe that when I see it." said Jimmy sarcastically.

"You don't think a city girl like myself could reform to country life?  Are you saying it is too beneath me to do?  What do you think Mr. Cody?"

"I think you'd adjust mighty fine; especially with someone like myself showing you the ropes."

"Now see here Mr. Hickok, you could learn some things from Mr. Cody, like how to be a gentleman, I mean if that's not too beneath you to try."

Jimmy stopped their stride . "Okay Ms. Sutton, just to prove that I am not a snob as you accused me of being earlier today, I will take the first step."  He gave Victoria his arm but she hesitated in accepting the invitation.  "You're not afraid are you?"

"Well are you safe?" she asked flirtingly.

"No, I like to live dangerously; the question is, can you handle it?"  Victoria was always up for a challenge and Jimmy's flirtatious invitation was too good to pass up.  She took his arm.

"Lead the way." she said.

Cody was left wondering ' what the heck just happened?'  Victoria was supposed to be on his arm and not Jimmy's, but here he was walking behind them again.


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


Victoria enjoyed being on the arm of Jimmy Hickok.  There was something between them that was attracting her to him.  Maybe it was the way he wasn't afraid of speaking his mind or how he didn't treat her different because she had money; even better, he wasn't interested in her money.  At least it didn't seem so to her.

Victoria glanced across the street and saw some scantily clad women flirting with every man that passed by.  "Is that what I think it is?" she asked a little embarrassed. 

Jimmy looked. "What?"  "A brothel." she whispered.

"Why Ms. Sutton, I didn't think you knew about those kind of places." he teased.

"I don't...I've just heard of them.  Have you ever gone in there?" she asked looking at him.

"I worked in one."

His statement stopped her dead in her tracks.  "You worked in one?  Doing What?!" she cried.

"Just security." he said resuming their walk.  "Made sure everything was in line, kicking out the roudy drunks, that the gambling was fair, and no one roughing up the girls."

"It sounds like you enjoyed your job."

"It had its advantages."  "Like?" she asked.

"I don't think it proper to talk to you about it."  "Why?"

"Because I just don't."  Victoria pressed for an answer.  "Try me."

"Are you always so insistent?"

"Are you going to tell me or not?...Never mind, I think I can guess on my own."

"I don't think so." he responded with a devilish smile.

"So why'd you leave?"

"I was working undercover for the army, helping them to catch a gang stealing army weapons."

"The honorable James Hickok.  Is your life always this exciting?"

"Exciting?  I don't know.  But trouble seems to follow me around wherever I go."

She thought, "and it's on your arm right now" and actually voiced it.

"Excuse me?" he asked.

She couldn't help but feel embarrased, turning two shades of red, hoping he actually hadn't heard a word she just muttered.  "Oh nothing." she responded brushing it off.


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


Cody was still following behind consumed in his thoughts about how to get those two separated.  His prayers must have been answered when lo and behold he saw Ms. Kate Wescott, Jimmy's former love interest, standing right across the street at the dressmaker's shop.  Anticipating an opportunity, Cody runs up to Jimmy putting his arm around his friend's shoulders.

"Now Jimmy, I think Ms. Sutton has seen more than enough of Rock Creek's main street.  Wouldn't you like to take a look at the dressmaker's shop?  I understand he has some of the latest styles."  "Out here?" she asked.

"Just because we're out West doesn't mean we're not up on the latest fashions."  Cody said convincingly.

"Well, a couple of my dresses were damaged in the accident so I guess I do need a few things?  Is that alright with you Mr. Hickok?"

Jimmy looked over at the shop and knew exactly why Cody had suggested taking Victoria there.  He looked at Cody with an I'm gonna kill you later look.

"Must be your lucky day Jimmy." he said smiling wickedly.

"It's sure not gonna be yours." he replied.

Kate had spotted the threesome walking in her direction.  Jimmy tried his best not to make eye contact with her.  Their brief relationship had ended on a very bad note.  Kate Wescott was rich.  Unlike Victoria, she loved being rich and she showed it.  Her lifestyle was that of mere extravagance.  Jimmy was very attracted to Kate's physical prowess.  She was a very beautiful woman.  Her light auburn wavy hair and hazel eyes were always commented on as the most beautiful ever seen.  They had met at a dance function which Cody had talked him into attending.  It soon came to Jimmy's realization that the only beauty Kate possesed was that which was on the outside.  Her personality drove him crazy.  She was spoiled, devious, manipulative and totally self-centered. 

One of the many lies Kate had told him almost got him killed, so he decided for the sake of his sanity and life, he would need to get away as far as he could from her.  That meant ending their relationship.  Besides she had grown weary on him.  They had not shared any real intimate moments except for a couple of kisses and was he glad when he looked back on this nightmare of a woman.  He could never come to love her no matter how much money she had.  Jimmy's coolness towards her didn't seem to deter her from trying to win his affections again.

Victoria sensed something wasn't quite right between the boys and this woman.  As they got closer, Jimmy took Victoria and gave her to Cody.  "Take her straight inside." he ordered.  Before Victoria could say a word, she was up the stairs and in the store.  Jimmy tried to get by Kate but she skillfully blocked the entrance of the shop with her parasol.

"Why James Hickok!  Were you going to pass right by me without saying hello?"

"How are you Kate?" he asked, politely facing her.

"I guess I'm doing alright.  How are things at the Pony Express?"

"Fine." he answered cooly.

"Oh Jimmy," she started, touching his shoulder.  "You could do yourself a better service by coming to work for my father.  The offer still stands.  The pay is so much better and... so are the clothes." she said looking disdainfully at his attire.

"I'm happy with what I've got, thank you."

"Happier than you could be with me?" she said reaching to touch his face which he promptly moved.

"I have business I have to get to."

"Is it with your new friend?  The one you didn't want me to meet?" she said harshly.  "Sort of plain looking isn't she?" she said derrogatoraly as she looked at Victoria through the window.  "Funny, I didn't realize you had taken a step down and lowered your standards Jimmy."

"Actually Kate, my standards are as high as they've always been.  You just were never able to meet them.  Have a fine day."  He turned around and walked inside.  Kate raised her brows and pointed  her nose upwards as snobbishly as she could at Jimmy's comment and proceeded to be on her way. 


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


Victoria had gone in the dressing room to try on a dress Cody had chosen for her, when Jimmy rejoined them.  He sat down next to Cody and looked him square in the eyes.  The blonde headed rider turned to his companion and asked innocently, "What?"

"You ever pull a stunt like that again, you won't live to regret it."

"I was just having a little fun Jimmy.  Besides, all's fair in love and war."

"I'm telling you Cody..." Hickok's sentence was interrupted midway as Cody cleared his throat announcing Victoria's return.

"What do you think Mr. Cody?" she asked standing before them.

"You make that dress look even more beautiful, right Jimmy?"

"Nice." he replied, just briefly glancing at her.

"Nice?  Is that all?"

"It looks nice..." he paused, "...on you." he lied.  He thought she filled it out quite nicely.

"Why you haven't even looked at it long enough." she said not letting him off the hook.

Jimmy felt a flash of red appear on his face.  "You look very, very nice." he finally said as he took in two eyefuls of the fair Ms. Sutton.

"Thank you.  You and I have something very important in common Mr. Cody." she said as she looked in the mirror.

"What's that?"

"We've got excellent taste in clothes."  Her comment induced a flirtiatious smile and a wink from Cody.  "I'll take it."


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

After the selection of a couple other dresses, they left the shop and headed back to finish business with the undertaker.  Cody had to leave to purchase some items for Rachel at the General Store much to his dismay.  He didn't want the connection he had just established with Victoria to be lost by his absence, so he quickly headed off to finish this unpleasant task.

Jimmy was carrying a couple packages for Victoria as they walked and couldn't help to think of this woman next to him.  How did she get him to admit things he didn't want to?  How could she see through his pretenses?  Victoria was also involved in thoughts of her own.  She wondered who that woman was outside the dress shop?  She had noticed him engaged in conversation with her and it had been apparent to her that they had been close at some point.

'She's so beautiful.' she thought.  Her beauty was accentuated by the dress she wore. 
A pale yellow flowered print dress, fitted at the waist and slightly flared.  Victoria could see money the minute she saw her.  Feelings of jealousy started to swell in her.
'Does he think I'm pretty at all?' she pondered.  She thought her thoughts silly, but couldn't help but think them.  He had been a polite escort for most part, but the thruth of the matter was that they had been clashing heads for most of the day. 
'Is that a good or bad sign?' she thought.  'It must be bad...this is stupid...no, it isn't.  I'm just kidding myself!  Why can't Jimmy be more like Cody?' her thoughts frustrated her.
She knew she had Cody's interest from the beginning but Jimmy's was the one she wanted.  Getting a clue about him and this woman was imperative.  Was there something going on between them?

"You know Mr. Hickok," she said breaking their silence, "if you don't want me to meet your friends all you have to do is say so."

"Why?  Are you jealous?"

"Of her?!" she cried.  "Don't be ridiculous."  Jimmy sensed he had hit a nerve.

"So why're you getting so excited?"

She started defending herself excitedly.  "I'm not exci..." she paused.  "I know what you're trying to do."

"See, two can play the same game."  She had been caught red-handed.
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