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 The Follow Up Chapter eighteen

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Keays

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Posts : 1447
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 61
Location : Camano Island Washington

PostSubject: The Follow Up Chapter eighteen   Thu Jan 09, 2014 4:43 pm

The Follow Up                   The un-edited version is on the Adults Only link at the bottom of the page.




“That was a charming ceremony,” Miranda commented as she settled in beside Hannibal and Sally. “They were both looking so excited and so happy.” She laughed. “Even J.J. held his own and stayed the course. Though he has certainly made a fast get-away.”


“Yes!” Heyes laughed. “Everyone can loosen their ties and relax now. The serious part is over—it's time to have some fun!” Heyes looked back at his young friend again and gave her a couple of bounces in his arm. “How about you?” he asked her. “Did Sister Julia bring some play clothes for you to change into?”


“Yes.”


“Oh! You're the child from the orphanage!” Miranda made the connection. “I saw you in the house earlier but I wasn't quite sure which adult you belonged to.”


“I belong to Mr. Heyes,” came back the simple answer.

Two sets of adult eyebrows went up.


“Really?” Heyes responded. “You've decided that have you?”


“Yes.”


“My, my!” Randa commented. “I'm going to have to get in line—again! Mr. Heyes seems to have quite the following of young ladies these days.”


“There's no line-up!” Sally told her, looking at her like she was daft. “It's just you and me and we can share him.”


Two sets of adult eyebrows went up again.


“My but you're getting to be a big girl!” Heyes stated in part to cover his embarrassment. “Here, let me put you down for now. I'm beginning to realize what Kenny was talking about with Evelyn!”


He knelt down and placed the child onto her own feet and as he straightened up she promptly took hold of his left hand in one of hers and Miranda's right hand in her other. The two adults looked down at her not at all sure how to respond to this. She gazed up at them, an ecstatic smile taking over her little face.


“Come along Sally!” Sister Julia put in an appearance just in time. “Come into the house and let's get you into your play clothes. No sense keeping you all bundled up in your party dress on a warm day like this.”


“Yes Sister Julia,” Sally agreed to that and dropping the two hands she took hold of the Sister's and seemed quite content to go get into a change of clothes.


Julia hesitated a moment though and placed a hand on Heyes' arm.


“Remind me Joshua,” she said with a small smile. “I've brought a small gift for the bride and groom, of course, but I also have something for you...from Dr. Slosson.”


“Oh!” Heyes was hit with another surprise. “What....?”


Julia smiled broadly. “It seems her husband bought her a new music box, so knowing how much you enjoyed listening to the classical's, she asked me to pass the old one on to you—along with some of the music you seemed to prefer.”


“Oh....my....” Heyes was speechless—again.


“I hope it doesn't stir up too many bad memories for you,” the Sister ventured.


“Oh no! Not at all.” Heyes smiled. “I'll be sure to write her a thank you note and give it to you before you leave. I'm very honoured that she would even think to give that to me.”


“Well,” the Sister patted his arm. “she hoped that you would enjoy it.”


“Oh yes! Yes indeed. I will.”


“I will see you in a little bit,” she announced as Sally started to pull her up the stairs. “It seems that someone is in a hurry!”


Heyes turned back to Miranda, pleasant surprise still dancing on his face.


“Dr. Slosson?” Miranda asked him.


“Oh! Ah, she was the pastor out at the prison,” Heyes explained.


“Oh yes,” Miranda was impressed. “I seem to recall David talking about a woman pastor when I first moved here. Most unusual to hear of a woman taking on something like that!”


“Yes!” Heyes confirmed. “And she was a good one too. She did a lot to keep me going.” A sadness crossed over his features as some memories flooded back. “I'm afraid I wasn't very considerate towards her during the last six months or so that I was there. I'll have to apologize to her for that when I write to her.”


“I'm sure she understood what you were going through,” Randa assured him. “Well, obviously she did or she would not have sent you such a fine gift.”


Heyes nodded emphatically. “It would appear so, wouldn't it?”


“Hmm.” Randa nodded. “And what an intriguing child. I'm not at all sure what to make of her.”


Heyes grinned. “Tell me about it,” he agreed. “She's always been like that though—very intuitive when it comes to emotions. I kind of got used to it after a while. Whoa!!”


This last bit when he glanced up and saw a group of enthusiastic adults bearing down upon them, with Jed and Beth in the lead. Heyes slid an arm around Miranda's waist and directed her out of the way.


“What's going on!?” he demanded.


“Time to sign the registration and marriage certificate!” Jed announced as they swept past them. “C'mon Heyes! As Best Man you're my witness, so you gotta sign too!”


“My my my!” Heyes complained in mock indignation. “A Best Man's job is never done, it seems!”


Miranda laughed. “Well, go on!” she told him as she gave him a slight push up the steps. “Do your duty. I'll be out here getting some iced tea!”


“Yes ma'am!” Heyes accepted his obligation and with a quick smile, trotted up the steps and into the house.


Miranda stayed standing where she was for a few moments. The smile on her face faded and a thoughtful, introspective expression took it over. Yes indeed; a very intriguing child.



Twenty minutes later saw everyone exiting the ranch house along with all the younger children who had been finally released from their 'Sunday best'. They had been given permission to go play, but 'please!' came the dubious request, 'try to stay out of the creek this time!'.


Beth had removed the little hat and veil and was proudly showing off the lovely braid and hair comb that Clementine had contributed and even Jed made the appropriate noises of appreciation. Beth was relieved that the ceremony was over and done with now and so could relax and finally really enjoy her wedding day. Clementine was pleased that her handiwork was being so well received by everyone and was in high spirits herself.


The guests soon gravitated towards the refreshment table to nibble on sandwiches and cookies until such time as more iced tea and lemonade could be brought out. But now along with the milder refreshments, Jesse and Steven began to produce wine and beer and whiskey for those who wished to imbibe in something a little stronger and to toast the bride and groom on their special day.


It took a bit of time and quite a lot of shuffling and organizing but eventually all the adults and those children who would stand still for it, had a glass of something in their hands and Jesse got the attention of their guests.


“Good afternoon, everyone!” Jesse called out. “I'm pleased that so many of you were able to attend this very special day. Thank you for coming! I must say it has certainly turned out to be an interesting day for many of us!”


Some murmurings of appreciative chuckling throughout the gathering.


“I must admit,” Jesse continued. “that there were times when I wondered if this day would actually ever arrive. I've heard of long engagements before but this one pretty much had all those others beat.”

Some more laughing and comments of agreement. Beth sighed against her husband's shoulder, being in an position to fully appreciate what her father was saying.


“Still, I must admit that there was good reason for the delay,” Jesse conceded. “and both Jed and Beth stayed true to a promise even though I know there were times that it was difficult for them. Now I am sure there are no regrets and this day is all the better for their patience.”


Jed nodded and gave his partner a pat on the back. Heyes smiled a little self-consciously, knowing full well that he was the one they made the promise to. Miranda smiled at his discomfort and squeezed his hand in subtle support.


“Now I'm not going to make this a long drawn out speech,” Cheers from the crowd. “as I'm sure there are others who would like to say a piece. So I will just close off by saying how pleased we are to welcome Jed into our family.” A couple of pats on the back to Jed by those who were close enough to reach. “And how proud my wife and I are of our daughter. Not only for choosing wisely but also for sticking to her guns against all opposition because she knew in her heart that Jed was the man she wanted to marry. Congratulations sweetheart. The future lies before you and I know you'll do well as long as you face it together. To Jed and Beth!!”


All the glasses were raised in the air and the toast was repeated at the top of everyone's lungs. Beth was pleased beyond words as she held onto her husband's arm and Jed didn't know whether to laugh or try to disappear into thin air. All this attention focused on him made him feel as though a posse was on his trail again! Heyes was grinning from dimple to dimple and gave his partner another slap on the back—he was once again enjoying good spirits.


“Hannibal!” Jesse called over to the small group. “You're the Best Man—get over here and say a few words!”


Heyes' smiled dropped and he suddenly felt like he'd been caught breaking into a safe. All eyes turned towards him and he swallowed nervously.


“Oh! Ahh....”


“Yeah! C'mon Hannibal!” Jed teased him and gave him a rather solid slap on the back. “Get up there and say a few!”


Heyes sent his cousin a look, then smiled ruefully as Miranda gave his hand a squeeze and pushed him gently towards the head of the gathering.


“Yeah, yeah. Okay.” He accepted his fate and went over to stand beside Jesse.


He and Jesse shook hands and the older gentleman stepped aside so that the assembly all had their eyes on the ex-con. Heyes turned to face them and his heart caught in his throat. It'd been a long time since he'd gotten up in front of a group of people in order to give a speech, and then it was just to a bunch of uneducated outlaws! Oh, but then there were the orphans too; he thought ruefully, and that had turned out okay. He took heart and though nervous at first, when he looked out upon the gathering he saw that he knew most of the people present.


He smiled as he realized that these people weren't just Jed's friends, they weren't just Jed's family. They were Heyes' too and he felt such a kinship to these folks and to this place that he had never felt before and suddenly he wasn't nervous anymore.


“Well,” Heyes began and he smiled over at his cousin and his bride. “This is indeed a special day. And it's one, I have to admit, that I truly thought I would never live to see.” A large 'Awww' come up from the gathering and Heyes held up his arm to silence them. “No now, not because I didn't think Jed could ever attract a fine woman!” he clarified. “No. No, it's just that ten years ago I didn't think either of us would live long enough.” The group quieted, sensing that joking time was over. “Yeah. I didn't think I'd see thirty-five let alone forty. And that would have been the case too if it hadn't been for that man over there. That man and a number of others of you out there who stood by me and wouldn't let me give up.
“I stand here now, feeling that I want to thank so many of you. Jesse and Belle. Bridget and Beth. Sister Julia. Lom, David, Steven, Kenny...and Doc. Each in your own way, you got tough on us both. You offered us a way out of the dead-end lives we were leading and you showed us a better way.” He laughed, shaking his head. “Then you made darn sure that we stayed going in the right direction too! Man! It wasn't easy was it Kid? Getting from there to here.”

Jed smiled and shook his head. “No Heyes—it sure wasn't!”


“Yeah. But we did it! With the help of friends. With the help of family. We did it.” Heyes' dimples returned to the party. “Now here we are on this very long awaited day! My younger cousin—against all odds! Has beaten me to the punch and taken himself a wife! And a very lovely wife at that.” He raised his glass and the assembly followed. “To Jed and Beth; two of the best friends a man could ever hope to have!”


Everyone raised their glasses to the toast and Heyes stepped back into the gathering. Jesse stepped forward again and held up his hand to quiet the talk.


“I think it's about time we heard from the groom, don't you?” he asked the assembly.


“Yeah!”


“C'mon Jed! Get up there!”


“Well, I guess I knew this was coming,” Jed mumbled into his beer glass. Then he reminded himself of why he was here and smiling he gave Beth a kiss on the cheek and handed his beer to Heyes.


“Oh!” Heyes grinned his delight. “Thank you.”


“Yeah.”


Jed made his way over to stand beside his father-in-law and a big cheer went up from the assembled guests and everyone started clapping. Jed grinned foolishly and he looked out upon a sea of faces that were now just as familiar to him as the Devil's Hole boys had once been. He stood there quietly waiting for the cheers and clapping to settle down and then took a deep breath and locked eyes with his bride.


“Beth, darlin',” he began and Beth smiled back. Heyes had his arm around her shoulders. “Thank you for waiting for me. Thank you for giving me the time and space I needed to come around to realize something that you'd known all along. Thank you for supporting me in my endeavour and for already being there for me for better or for worse and not because of a marriage vow, but because you loved me and you loved Heyes and because you being you, you just weren't capable of giving anything less than what you did.
“I still can't quite believe that you're my wife. Like Heyes said; neither of us thought we would live long enough to see either of us get married. It was just a pipe dream, something that other people did, but not us. And now here we are, surrounded by family and friends and I couldn't be happier! Thank you darlin'.”


“Your welcome,” Beth forced out through a tight throat and an embarrassed smile.


Heyes tightened up his hug and gave her a kiss on the temple.


“Heyes! You keep in mind; that's my wife you got your arm around there!” Jed teased him.


Heyes grinned. “Oh, of course! Cousin.”


A chuckle went around the gathering but quieted when they saw Jed's expression turn serious.


“Aww, Heyes.” Jed shook his head in wonderment. “You really are one to push a man to his limits—and a woman too!” Some murmured agreements from various people in the gathering. “But I love ya' more than a brother...”


“Yeah....” quietly escaped Heyes' lips.


Miranda and Beth surprised themselves as they each leaned in to give Heyes a hug and their hands met half way behind his back. They sent laughing glances over to one another and clasped their two hands together.


“...and I know I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for you,” Jed continued.


“Yeah, likewise....” was again a quiet response.


“I know you're not sure where your life is going now,” Jed continued. “I donno, maybe ya' think that you don't have a place here anymore, that you're the odd man out. But nothin' could be further from the truth Heyes. We always talked about how we wanted to find a place to call home—a real place! Not just some hideout up in the hills, but a home! Well this is it, partner. We could search the four corners of the world and not find a better place than this.
“I guess, what I'm tryin' to say is that even though I promised you otherwise and I'll stand by that promise if you insist, but I'm really hopin' you won't insist. The only thing that could possibly ruin the happiness I'm feeling right now is for you to decide you're gonna leave. I don't want ya' to leave Heyes. I want my young'uns to know you—and your young'uns to know me! I want you to stay.”


Heyes felt like the bottom had just dropped out of his gut; just how was he suppose to respond to that? Fortunately Jed didn't expect him to respond. He grinned and changed his focus to the silent guests.


“This is the best day of my life!” Jed announced. “And I expect everybody to have a good time! There's plenty to eat and plenty to drink and we're gonna have us a party!!”


The cheer went up like a roar and the said party got into full swing. A few more individuals got up and made impromptu speeches and more toasts were made and more beer, wine, whiskey and iced tea were consumed. Everybody thought it only fitting to do as the groom suggested and a good time was determined to be had by all.



At 3:00 Joe Morin showed up with a saddle bag full of telegrams for the newlywed couple. The young deputy stood on the front porch and read them all out one by one. Many of them were from people only Heyes and the Kid would have known and chuckles from them were often the only indication of some inside joke or some long ago, nearly forgotten episode suddenly being brought into the limelight again!


Notable amongst the well-wishers were quick notes from Patrick McCreedy and Soapy Saunders with each including money transfers to Jed's account in Brookswood. There was also a quick note from Diamond Jim Guffy not only congratulating Jed on his nuptials but also apologizing to Heyes for not visiting him in prison. It seems the elderly gentleman had some concerns that once he stepped into the prison the authorities might not see fit to let him leave!


Heyes laughed and nodded in agreement. Kenny and Steven didn't want to know about it.


There was also a note from Jim and Clara Santana offering them congratulations not only on the marriage but also on their new lease on life. Both Jed and Heyes were very much surprised to hear from them as it'd been years since they'd had any word from the couple. Apparently all was going well.


Then Heyes felt a slight prickling of jealousy when Deputy Morin read out a simple telegram from Abi. She sent congratulations and best wishes to the happy couple. But then there was an added note; 'Thinking of you on this special day.' Heyes pursed his lips, thinking—nay; hoping that perhaps that last bit was for him. He felt Miranda lean into him closer and squeeze his hand and he smiled down at her. He raised her hand and kissed it, letting her know that everything was alright. Nothing was going to ruin this day.


And so the festivities carried on into the late afternoon when it was finally announced that dinner was ready! It became quite the showdown as everyone helped themselves to potato salads and fresh bread and juicy slices of meat from the BBQ spit. The tables that had been placed around the yard were quickly filled up and soon people were settling themselves down wherever a space could be found and tucked in to enjoy the meal.


Before too much more time had passed, those who had brought fiddles along with them brought them out from hiding and music soon filled the air and everyone anticipated a fun evening. The first dance of course was saved for Jed and Beth but Jed found himself wondering what everybody was waiting for.


“Why ain't nobody dancin'?” he asked nobody in particular.


“I believe it's because they're waiting for you,” Steven quietly informed him.


“Waitin' for me?” Jed repeated. “Why?”


“It's expected for the bride and groom to take the first dance,” Steven explained.


“Oh.” Jed paled slightly. “Ya' mean I gotta get out there and dance in front of everybody?”


“It would probably be to your advantage to take Beth with you,” Heyes told him.


“Yeah, I know...but....”


Heyes grinned. So much for the notorious gunman! Here's a man who had learned to stare down governors but he couldn't even get out and dance in front of a whole bunch of people, even if he did know them all. Beth stood by, her brown eyes sparkling with anticipation while she waited for her husband to take the lead. Heyes took pity on his partner's discomfort and standing up he offered his arm to his own lady.


“Would you like to dance?” he asked her.


Miranda smiled up at him, knowing exactly what he was up to. She stood herself and placed her hand on his offered arm. Heyes began to lead her out to the opened dance area, sending a subtle look to his cousin as he went. Jed got the hint and feeling a little more confident now he offered his arm to Beth and the two couples began the dance together.


After that number was completed, the assembly clapped and cheered and then partners were procured and the dancing began in earnest. Soon everyone was changing partners so nobody got left out and Jed was even able to convince Sister Julia to let protocol slip and condescend to dance at least one dance with the bridegroom. Heyes lifted Sally and gave her a twirl around the yard as well, much to her unending delight and excitement.


After that dance was done that group finally decided to leave the dancing to the guests for a while and they retired to various chairs located on the front porch.


“Oh my!” the Sister exclaimed breathlessly. “I haven't danced like that since I was a girl! I'm surprised I still remember how!”


“You did fine Sister,” Jed assured her. “You must have been quite the firecracker in your younger days.”


The Sister laughed. “It's so long ago I can barely remember.”


“Oh, come on now Sister!” Heyes chided her. “It can't be that long ago. I would have had a hard time keeping up with you out there.”


The Sister sent him a dubious look, knowing that he was just being kind.

Heyes gave Sally a bounce where she was perched on his knee. “And you, young lady!” he teased her. “Where do you get all that energy? You play all day and now you expect to dance all night—is that it?”


Sally giggled, pleased with the attention her chosen man was giving her. “No. Not ALL night,” she informed him.


“Certainly not!” Sister Julia seconded. “It's going to be dark soon and we need to be heading back to town.”


Sally pouted and leaned into Heyes chest, hugging him and sending the Sister a remorseful look. Heyes laughed and Sally liked the way the sound vibrated in his chest.


“Oh well, there's going to be a whole caravan heading back into town in a few of hours Sister,” Heyes pointed out. “Why don't you wait and go then? It'll be safer going with a group.”


“That'll make it awfully late for our young little miss,” Sister Julia pointed out. “I doubt she'll stay awake that long.”


“Yes I will!” Sally was quite adamant. “I'm not tired at all!”


“No!” the Sister laughed. “Not until you suddenly fall asleep on your feet.”


“A number of the younger children will be napping in the various bedrooms until it's time to go home,” Jed pointed out. “If Sally gets too tired, she can always do that.”


“See?” Sally approved the idea. “We don't have to go yet!”


“Well, I suppose that would be alright,” Sister Julia agreed. “It is a special day after all.”


Jed then noticed somebody standing on the outskirts of the dance area, looking a little embarrassed but still wanting oh so desperately to get someone's attention.


“Ah, Beth darlin'...” Jed began tentatively. “Would you mind if I had one more dance with a certain young lady?”


Beth laughed. “You've already danced with just about every woman here—even Isabelle! Why should I mind one more?”


“Well, this particular lady had her own designs on marriage at one point and I wouldn't want you to get the wrong idea and get jealous.”


Beth creased her brow and looked a question at her husband. Jed smiled and motioned over to object of their conversation. Everyone followed the gesture and while Heyes grinned knowingly, Beth simply sent Jed her own version of 'the look'.


“You silly!” she accused him and gave him a slap on the arm. “Go make your peace.”


Jed smiled and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “I'll be back.”


“I certainly hope so,” Beth teased him. “It wouldn't look good at all for you to go running off with another woman on our wedding day!”


Jed simply nodded agreement and rising from his chair he walked over to the young lady. Evelyn's face broke into a smile as Jed held his arm out to her.


“May I be so bold as to ask this pretty young lady for a dance?” he smiled down at her.


Evelyn adopted a most serious of attitudes and straightening her shoulders she gave a subtle nod of her head and placed her hand on his arm.


“Yes you may,” she told him in the most lady-like manner she could muster.


Jed escorted her over to the dancing and holding both of her hands in his he led her gracefully around the 'floor' to the accompaniment of the fiddle players. He briefly considered lifting her up and dancing with her the way Heyes had danced with Sally, but Evelyn was getting much to big to do that. Besides, she might be insulted by the insinuation that she was still a small child. The next words out of her mouth convinced him that his judgement had been correct.


“I am so glad we have the chance to talk together before I leave for the evening,” the little lady told him, quite seriously.


“Oh yes?” Jed played along. “This sounds very important.”


“It is,” Evelyn agreed. “I just wanted to be sure that you're not mad at me.”


“Mad at you?” Jed repeated as he put her into a little twirl. “About what?”


“Well, I know that we were once very close,” Evelyn explained. “But with the distance between us, it really wasn't practical to carry on with any kind of relationship. I just hope that your marriage to Miss Jordan isn't simply a reaction to the disappointment that I had moved on.”


Jed almost started to laugh, but he did an excellent job of stifling it and forced a most serious expression onto his face.


“Oh! Well, no Miss Evelyn, you needn't worry yourself about that,” Jed assured her once he was safe to talk. “Though I was certainly disappointed I also realized that it was most impractical to expect you to wait for me. I assure you that I am quite happy with the way things have turned out.”


Evelyn sent a winning smile up to him. “Good!” she exclaimed. “And might I add that I wholeheartedly approve of Miss Jordan. She appears to be a very fine match for you.”


“Well thank you,” Jed responded. “I'm very pleased that you approve.”


Back at the porch, just as Jed was asking Evelyn for the dance, Jesse approached the group and smiled at his daughter.


“Mrs. Curry,” Jesse greeted her and Beth beamed with pleasure. “Might the father of the bride request a dance with his lovely daughter?”


If Beth's grin could have gotten any bigger, it would have. As it was she simply accepted her father's arm and stood up to join him. Jesse sent a quick smile over to the others on the porch and then led his dance partner over to join the group.


“You look wonderful today,” he told her as they got in step with the horde. “This is probably a ridiculous question; but at you happy?”


“Yes Papa,” she assured him. “Very happy.


“Good. I'm pleased to hear it,” Jesse told her. “Has Jed told you where he's taking you on your honeymoon yet?”


“NO!” Beth answered with some frustration. “He refuses. Says that it's a surprise!”


“Well, as long as he doesn't take you to Devil's Hole!” Jesse teased her. “He and I might have words if he does that.”


“Oh Papa!” Beth teased him. “Why would he do that when what's left of Devil's Hole is already here?”


“Good point,” her father conceded and he smiled. “I'm sure you'll have a good time, no matter what he has in mind.”


“Yes,” Beth agreed quietly. “It really doesn't matter where we go, so long as we're together.”


“Hmm hm.”


Back on the porch, Heyes was sitting quietly with Sally slowly but surely falling asleep in his arms. His attention was focused on the Kid, watching him playfully swirl his young partner around the dance floor, nimbly avoiding collisions at every turn. Sister Julia was sitting back with a cup of tea and quietly watching the young people enjoying the evening. She herself was far too tired now to do anything more than watch them. Miranda was silently watching Heyes watching Jed.


After a few moments, she smiled and touched his arm. “What are you thinking?” she asked quietly.


Heyes was brought out of his revelry with a guilty frown. “Oh.” He acknowledged his date. “I'm sorry. I didn't mean to ignore you.”


“You're not ignoring me,” Randa assured him. “But your expression was so thoughtful. It just made me wonder.”


“Ahh.” Heyes nodded as he gently caressed Sally's hair. “Jed looks so happy today. I haven't seen him smile this much since,” he shrugged. “....well, I can't remember when.”


“That's good!” Randa pointed out. “He's suppose to be happy on his wedding day!”


“Yeah.”


Miranda and Sister Julia shared a glance across the man sitting between them.


“Is Jed right?” Miranda asked him. “Are you worried about where this is going to leave you?”


“No, not worried,” he assured her. “Just curious I suppose. Our lives are changing, that's for sure.”


“Changing for the better, don't you think?”


Heyes' brows went up with adamant agreement. “Yes! I certainly hope so! It would be about time, wouldn't it!”


“It is,” the Sister assured him. “I have a feeling this wedding is the turning point—for both of you!”


Heyes laughed quietly. “I thought this little one was the only intuitive lady in the group.”


“I think we are all intuitive to some degree,” Julia pointed out. “You just have to learn how to listen.”


Belle came out the front door with her own cup of tea and sat down in one of the recently vacated chairs. She sighed deeply and took an appreciative sip of her beverage.


“You know,” she commented wistfully. “I don't think I'll ever be able to have a cup of tea again without thinking of Amy. This is one of her own personal blends by the way. She sent it over especially for today.”


“Really?” the Sister enquired. “It is lovely—very relaxing. I was going to ask you where you got it from. Perhaps she'll sell me a small bag of it before we head for home.”


“She gave me plenty!” Belle assured her. “I'll be quite happy to share some with you.”


“Thank you. That would be lovely.”


Belle glanced over to the dancers and smiled lovingly when she spotted her husband and their daughter dancing together.


“She looks so beautiful today,” Belle commented proudly. “This really was her day to shine.” Then she spotted Thaddeus dancing with Evelyn and started to laugh. “Oh my! Mending bridges is he?”


“I think it's more the other way around,” Heyes observed. “I believe Evelyn is trying to let him down easy so he can get on with his life and be happy with Beth.”


“Oh my.” Belle smiled. “She can be such a little lady. It's hard to believe she's the same child who showed up in our front room dripping mud and wet horse manure all over the floor!”


All the adults laughed their agreement.


“Oh she was such a mess!” Miranda exclaimed. “Far worse than any of the boys!”


“Yes!” Heyes expostulated. “Nobody's ever going to convince me that girls are easier to raise than boys! I've seen that rule put to the test and squashed too many times!”


“I don't know about that, Joshua,” Belle countered him. “J.J. sure runs me ragged sometimes. Ah, but then I suppose I am much older now than when the girls were small. I just don't have the same energy anymore.”


“I can certainly relate to that!” Sister Julia piped in. “I used to be able to run circles around the children at the orphanage—but now? It's all I can do to avoid being run over by them!”


“You do a wonderful job out there Sister,” Heyes assured her. “All of you do. A loving stable environment makes all the difference with these youngsters.”


“Loving parents would be better,” Sister Julia hinted, not terribly subtle in her delivery.


Heyes sent her a knowing look and smiled. “Why is everyone assuming I'm going to be getting married soon?”


The two older ladies locked eyes and laughed. Heyes looked exasperated. Miranda occupied herself with watching the dancers.


“Why is that you're the only one who can't see it?” Belle asked him playfully.


Heyes' exasperation grew, but he took it all in the good spirit in which it was given. Sally chose this moment to wake up and squirm a little in Heyes' arms.


“Oh here, let me take her,” Sister Julia offered. “I think it is time she had a real nap.”


“Yes,” Belle agreed as she set her tea cup down. “The two younger Johnston girls are already napping in the one bedroom. But we can put Sally in Jed's room.”


The two ladies stood up in preparation of tending to the child.


“I'll take her in,” Heyes offered as he carefully got to his own feet. “She's not exactly a light weight anymore. I remember the first time I picked her up, she was light as a feather.”


“She couldn't have been any more than four or five years old then Joshua!” Julia pointed out. “They do grow you know!”


“Yes, so I've noticed,” Heyes commented. He smiled down at Miranda. “I'll be right back,” he assured her. “Don't go anywhere.”


“No, I don't plan to.”


Heyes followed the ladies into the house and on through to Jed's room. Belle got an extra blanket out of the chest while Heyes gently laid the little girl down on the bed. She squirmed again just a bit and then naturally settled into a curl and probably didn't even wake up throughout the whole procedure. Heyes smiled and stroked her long hair again, then turned only to be brought up short by two ladies smiling at him.

“What?” he asked quietly.


“Nothing.”


Heyes grinned, knowing full well what was on their minds but he made no further comment and followed them back out to the main room.


“Sister, could you help me put some more of these small cakes outside?” Belle asked her. “I've noticed that some of the guests are already starting to leave, but we should still have something out there for those who wish to remain and continue dancing.”


“Of course!” Sister Julia agreed. “I might help myself to one of them myself once we get settled again.”


“Would you like me to take them out?” Heyes offered. “You must be exhausted Belle. It's been a long day for you.”


“Oh I'm fine,” she assured her friends. “Though I'll probably be feeling it more tomorrow! But tomorrow we can rest. In the mean time, why don't you just go and ask Miranda for another dance? I'm sure the evening will be winding down soon so get out there and have some fun while you can!”


“Alright, I will,” Heyes accepted that. “But you let me know if you need any help with anything.”


“I will, don't worry!”


Heyes took his leave only to find himself all alone on the porch. Miranda was nowhere to be seen. He frowned and did a quick scan of the busy yard in front of him. When he finally did pick her out from the crowd he wasn't sure if he should be amused or irritated. A combination of both seemed to fit the bill.


He strode down the steps and with just a few long strides he entered the swirling mass of lighthearted dancers and quickly approached one couple in particular. He stopped and tapped Wheat on the shoulder. Wheat stopped dancing and glanced back at him.


“Oh! Ah, hiya Heyes,” he shuffled.


“Howdy Wheat,” Heyes grinned dangerously. “You mind if I cut in on ya' here?”


“Oh ah, a' course not,” Wheat quickly stepped aside. “Just keeping the lady company Heyes. Didn't want her gettin' bored on ya'.”


“Uh huh.” Heyes stepped in. “Thank you Wheat. I think I can handle it from here on.”


“Yeah, a' course.”


Heyes picked up his lady's hands and then settled in with an arm around her waist. Miranda's eyes danced with amusement.


“You could have said 'no', ya' know,” Heyes pointed out.


“But why?” She laughed at him. “I didn't want to hurt his feelings.”


“Hmm.”


Wheat found himself without a partner and he glanced around until he spotted Kyle. He grinned wickedly and stepping up behind, he tapped his friend on the shoulder. Kyle glanced back and a look of disappointment crossed his face.


“I'm cuttin' in on ya' Kyle.”


“Aw, but Wheat, we just....”


“Scram,” Wheat told him and jerked a thumb over his shoulder. “Plenty of other ladies wanting ta' dance.”


Kyle reluctantly stepped aside and Wheat smiled down at Martha Trevors before leading her off and quickly avoiding a collision with David and Clementine. Kyle looked around and grinned when he spied young Charlie Reece dancing with the eldest Johnston girl. He made his way over to the young couple and tapped Charlie on the shoulder.


Charlie moved along, quickly side-stepping Lom and Tricia and didn't feel that he wanted to challenge that particular gentleman. He smiled when he spied Deputy Morin dancing with Isabelle and thought that this was more his level. Joe Morin discreetly backed off and looked around to find Bridget Granger standing alone on the outskirts having let her husband get Rosie settled for another nap. Joe smiled and headed her way.


Heyes quickly manoeuvred his lady out of the way so they wouldn't collide with Harry and Sarah Reece and then almost bumped into Kenny who had cut in on Jed in order to have one last dance with his daughter before she was too tired to treat her old man. Jed returned to the refreshment table just in time for more cakes. He helped himself to one mouthful, then scooped his mother-in-law off to the dancing despite her playful insistence that she really shouldn't!


Sister Julia replenished her tea cup, helped herself to a cake and settled back on the porch to watch the song and dance.


“I hope you weren't too uncomfortable on the porch,” Heyes said to Miranda as they circled the other dancers.


“Uncomfortable?” Randa asked. “About what?”


“Well...” Heyes shrugged. “Belle and Sister Julia talking about marriage and all that.”


“Oh!” Randa laughed. “No, no. I realize they were just teasing you. That's what older ladies do you know. It just means that they care about you and want to see you happy.”


“Oh.” Heyes nodded and smiled at her. “You are wonderful though.”


“I'm glad you think so.”


“I do,” Heyes reiterated. “And seeing Jed so happy today, makes me want it too. It's just....”


“You're not ready yet,” Miranda finished for him. “Amy and I have been discussing you quite a lot.”


Heyes' brows went up. “Really?”


“Hmm,” Randa nodded and smiled coyly. “She's says that men are just like little boys when it comes to dealing with a woman's emotions. Any sign of a distressed woman and you all turn tail and run for the hills.”


“Is that what she says,” Heyes commented dryly.


“Yes.” Miranda was quite adamant. “That I just need to be patient. That eventually you'll get over being scared and you'll remember how to show a lady what you really feel about her.”


“Really?”


“Yes. And....”


Miranda's next words were cut off as Heyes pulled her in against him and holding her tightly he leaned down and kissed her fully on the mouth right there in front of everyone who cared to noticed. Miranda's breath somehow escaped from her lungs as the long awaited sensual contact brought back a flood of emotion. She brought her arms up behind his shoulders and held on for dear life. She returned his kiss wholeheartedly while those around them whooped and hollered and began slapping Heyes on the back.


Somewhere in that little bit that was still aware of his surroundings, Heyes could hear the Kid laughing.


“C'mon Kid, where are ya' going for your honeymoon?”


“Ahh, I don't know if I should tell ya' Heyes.”


“Why not?”


“Cause you'll probably want to come along,” Kid explained. “I know I said I love ya' more than a brother but this time you ain't welcome.”


“Well now I really gotta know where you're going!”


“Ohhh, I donno.....”


Heyes sat back in his chair on the porch and pouted. Jed's laughing blue eyes scrutinized him and then both men focused their attention across the yard where many of the ladies of their close acquaintance were gathered in a high spirited group, discussing the day's events.


“Alright Heyes,” Jed relented. “I guess I can tell ya'. Besides, Jesse knows now so you may as well.”


“Oh! Jesse already knows?” Heyes felt insulted. “You told Jesse but you couldn't tell me!?”


“Well I kinda doubt that Jesse would want to come with us.”


“I don't want to come with ya' Kid!” Heyes insisted. “I just wanna know where you're going!”


“No need to get angry....”


“I'm not getting angry!”


Miranda, Beth and Tricia all glanced over towards the porch at the sound of raised voices. Heyes sighed resignedly and sent a reassuring wave and nod over to the group of ladies.


“See? Even they think you're getting angry.”


“I swear....you can be the most contrary, stubborn man I have ever.....”


“We're going to San Francisco to see Silky.”


“Oh.” Heyes was stopped in his tracks. “I didn't think you could afford....”


“Well that was Silky's wedding present to us,” Jed explained. “Bridget went on and on so much about the dinner theatre that she and Steven went to that Beth really wanted to see that for herself.”


“Oh. So you're going to be staying with Silky?”


“Only for a few nights,” Jed informed him. “After that Silky is going to let us use his hunting cabin for as long as we like. I figure a week will be good. Then we'll head back home.”


“A cabin?” Heyes sounded dubious. “You think that's a good idea? I mean you'll be out there all alone, just the two of ya'...”


“Heyes, I'm thinkin' that's the whole idea.”


“Well, yeah I know, but....” Heyes became serious and met his cousin's eyes. “We still have this vendetta going on Kid. Do you really think it's a good idea to be out in the middle of nowhere like that? I mean, it could be dangerous.”


“Why do ya' think I'm not tellin' anybody where we're goin'?” Jed whispered back. “I'm even keeping it a secret from Beth cause I don't want her lettin' anyone else know. You know, Jesse knows and a' course Silky knows. But nobody else. It's probably safer than being in town!”


Heyes frowned. “Hmmm. I suppose.”


“It'll be fine Heyes. One whole week, all on our own. Just me and my wife.”


Jed grinned. He sat back and scrutinized his said wife and she smiled lovingly back at him. It still seemed surreal to the ex-outlaw. This was something he'd wanted for most of his adult life and had brushed it aside as a pipe dream—that it was just never going to happen. Then to have it happen with a young woman whom he'd already known for years! Someone whom he'd never even considered seriously courting because, well; she was family, and besides, she was only twelve years old.


Funny how children stay the same age as the last time you saw them. In the years that had followed their encounter with the Jordan family, Jed had often thought about them, but he never imagined the girls growing up. Now look at them!


Bridget's been married for a couple of years with a child of her own. Now Beth. Ohh Beth. Jed's heart stopped beating at the sight of her. He was looking right at her and he still couldn't quite believe it; he was a married man and he couldn't have found himself a better match, or a better family to have married into. This is what life was all about.


Heyes sat quietly, scrutinizing his cousin as a gentle smile slowly spread across his face. He knew his cousin was happy—there could be no doubt about it. Heyes drew his eyes away from his best friend and looked over to his own lady, because, he supposed; he had declared her as such here today, right in front of everyone. Yeah, when he decided to do something he didn't do it by halves, that was for sure. The only thing was; he couldn't quite remember when he had actually decided to do that.


Everyone's attention got diverted as the doors on the second barn swung open and the pair of high stepping matched greys came dancing out into the open, all harnessed and ready for the trip back to town. Everyone gasped and clapped their hands in appreciation of the fine carriage that had been decorated with flowing ribbons and spring flowers in celebration of the newly married couple.


The two horses danced and snorted with heads and tails up, wondering what those strange moving shapes were that seemed to be following them. Their ears flicked back and forth and they tossed their heads, trying to get a look at fluttering ribbons, but to no avail. Gradually, being the well-trained, sensible creatures that they were, they settled down and simply accepted it as yet another of those strange things that humans tended to get up to.


“I'm assuming it's time to go,” said David from behind the cousins.


Both Heyes and Jed jumped, not having realized that David was standing behind them. He smiled cheekily, holding a sleeping Nathan in his arms.


“You and Beth should get in first,” the doctor informed the groom.


“Aren't we all heading back to town together?” Jed asked him.


“Yes, but Beth has to throw her bouquet before we drive off so I think it's best if it's just you and her in the carriage for that tradition.”


“Oh.”


Jed sent a questioning look over to Heyes, who shrugged but stood up in anticipation.


“Guess it's time to depart Kid.”


“Yeah, I guess so.”


Down by the carriage the maiden ladies were all beginning to gather around, laughing and excited in anticipation. Beth was beaming with pleasure and was only waiting for her husband to put in an appearance before she stepped up into the carriage.


“Here you go, sweetheart.” Belle handed Beth her flower bouquet and then gave her daughter a heartfelt hug. You have fun and enjoy yourself.”


Beth hugged her back and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Yes Momma! We'll see you in a couple of weeks.”


Over on the side lines, two friends were having their own little discussion.


“You're not married—yet!” Clementine insisted. “Get over there!”


“It's just for maiden's, Clementine,” Miranda reminded her. “I'm a long ways from being a maiden.”


“So what!?” Clem insisted. “The point is; you're not married now, so get in there and catch the bouquet!”


“You're not married either!” Miranda pointedly pointed out. “If I'm getting in there, then so are you!”


“That's different!” Clem argued the point.


“How is it different?”


“I don't want to get married! You do!! Now get in there!”


Clem gave her friend a shove. Randa took a couple of steps forward but stopped and turned back to send a grumpy look back at her. Clem shooed at her and Miranda gave in. She smiled a little self-consciously but then did discreetly join the group of giggling maidens who were all awaiting their chance at married bliss.


“Well Kid, this is it,” Heyes turned to his cousin, still not looking too pleased with the situation. “At least send me a telegram when you get to Silky's and another one when you get back from the cabin. Okay?”


Jed smiled. “Yeah, okay Heyes. I will.”


“Okay. See ya' in a couple of weeks.” The two friends gave each other a quick hug and some back slaps. “You be good to your wife,” Heyes told him. “Don't you go scarein' her or nothing.”


“Me scare her?” Jed asked incredulously. “I'm thinkin' I'm the one who's gonna be havin' a hard time keepin' up! But I sure don't mind tryin'! Oh! Hi Jesse!”


“Jed,” Jesse smiled knowingly and shook the hand of his new son-in-law. “Take care. We'll see you in a couple of weeks.”


“Yeah.”


Then he turned to find himself in Belle's embrace.


“Thaddeus,” she whispered to him. “I'm trusting you with precious cargo. You bring both of you back home safe. You hear?”


Jed smiled and kissed her on the cheek. “I will.”


Jed stepped forward and taking Beth's hand he assisted her up into the carriage. Beth smiled and waved at everyone, really enjoying her time in the lime light.


“C'mon Beth! Throw the bouquet!”


“This way!”


“Throw it to me!”


“Hang on!” Beth laughed. “Let me get settled!”


“NO! You have to turn around and throw it over your back!”


“Yes, I know! Just a minute!”


Beth made a quick scrutiny of the gathering before her and made a mental note of where Miranda was standing. She had her own ideas as to who would be the lucky lady to catch the bride's bouquet! She turned around, steadied herself and took a mental aim before heaving the flowers over her shoulder and sending them airborne!


There followed high shrieks of laughter as everybody clamoured for the floral treasure! Beth's aim was dead on and the bouquet arched unerringly in Miranda's direction. It would probably have hit her right in the face if Isabelle hadn't dashed in front of her and snatched that bouquet right out of the air. There followed groans of disappointment from the unlucky ladies while Isabelle sent a triumphant look back at a rather startled Miranda, then smiled coyly over at her date.


Harry grinned and puffed himself up like a pheasant during the mating dance. He couldn't believe how lucky he was to have met such a charming young woman who actually seemed to genuinely enjoy his company. If he had known that the Kid's wedding was going to procure him such a fine prospect he would have taken more interest in the whole affair!


Heyes smiled and gave a slight groan when he saw Miranda being cheated out of what was 'rightfully her's', but clapped along with everyone else as Isabelle sashayed over to her 'man' and smiled sweetly at him. Her eyelashes were working over time.


Heyes came over to the carriage then to assist Miranda to step up into it. “Goodnight,” he said to her as he gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “I'm going to be busy tomorrow, but perhaps we can get together for lunch the next day.”


Miranda smiled. “Yes. I would like that. Thank you for a wonderful day.”


“Oh, thank you,” Heyes returned to her. “It was a good day, wasn't it.”


“Yes.”


“Move along, move along,” David teased them as he shuffled through the couple in order to hand a still sleeping Nathan up to his Uncle Jed. “Time some of us got home to bed!”


“Yes David. Goodnight,” Heyes told him, then he smiled back at his date again. “Good night. I'll see you in a couple of days.”


“Goodnight, Hannibal.”

Heyes offered his hand and she got settled in the carriage. He stepped aside to allow David to assist Tricia up and then the good doctor followed suit.


“Goodnight Hannibal,” he said. “Keep up the stretching.”

Heyes groaned. “Yes David!”


He gave one more final wave to that party only to turn around and find that Sister Julia was settled into her surrey and Jesse was just about to hand in a sleeping Sally. Heyes hotfooted it over to the group before they got underway.


“Sister!” he called to her. “You didn't think you were going to leave without a hug did you?”


“Well no,” she admitted with a smile. “I knew you'd get to me eventually.”


Heyes pulled himself up onto the foot step and leaned in to give the Sister a hug. “Be sure to thank Dr. Slosson for the music. That was very thoughtful of her.”


“I will Joshua,” Julia assured him. “It was very nice to see you again. Please come and visit us when you can. I know Laramie isn't exactly your favourite place to be, but we would all love to see you.”


“I will Sister,” Heyes promised her. “There are enough people in Laramie who I do enjoy visiting with so it's hardly an imposition.”


“Good.” Sister Julia smiled at him. “And by all means, bring your young lady. She and Sally really seemed to hit it off.”


Heyes laughed. “Yes! I'm sure they did.” But he glanced back at the sleeping child and his smile softened. He gently stroked her hair and said a quiet 'goodnight' to her. “Goodbye Sister. Say 'hello' to everyone back at the orphanage for me.”


“I will,” the Sister agreed. “Goodbye Joshua. Goodbye everyone!”


“Goodbye!”


She clucked to the little harness horse and he eagerly picked up the trot in order to catch up with the carriage ahead of him. Everyone was heading for home and he for one was ready for it.
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Keays

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Posts : 1447
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 61
Location : Camano Island Washington

PostSubject: The Follow Up   Thu Jan 09, 2014 4:47 pm

A number of other carriage and buckboards and surreys, and gentlemen on horseback began to make their departures. Everybody waving and hollering 'goodbye's' and 'Had a great time', 'Let's get together for tea sometime!' Etc. Etc.
Harry's surrey trotted by next with Isabelle waving her bouquet and Harry looking pleased as punch.


“See ya' later Heyes!” Harry called out to him. “Fine party—yessir!”


Heyes waved back to them and carried on down to the next group who were preparing to leave.


“Lom,” Heyes greeted him. “I'm glad you could make it.”


“Yeah,” Lom agreed. “Good to see the Kid settling down.”


“Yup.”


“How are you doing Heyes?” Lom asked him. “You settling down now too?”


Heyes shrugged a little self-consciously. “I donno Lom. Maybe.”


“Uh huh. Well, you be sure to let me know what your plans are.”


“Yeah, I will.” Heyes smiled and shook his friend's hand and then tipped his head to the lady. “Martha, it was a real pleasure to meet you, ma'am. I can see why Lom finally decided to tie the knot.”


Martha smiled. “It was fortuitous for both of us,” she said. “I hope you'll come and visit us at some point. And bring your young lady with you.”


Heyes smiled. This seemed to be the on-going theme. It appears he had created a monster. “Yes ma'am, I'll do that.”


Lom climbed aboard and with a final nod to his friend, he slapped the horse's rump with the lines and the surrey jolted into motion and followed in line with the other departing guests.


“We're gonna head out too there Heyes,” Wheat announced as he and Kyle rode up to him. “We got us our own little party goin' on in town. Don't we Kyle!”


“Yeah!” Kyle ginned. “Our night's jest beginnin'!”


“Oh,” Heyes looked a little disappointed.

“Oh, not that this wasn't fun too!” Wheat quickly added on. “Real nice shindig.”


“Yeah,” Kyle agreed. “Everything was reel purdy!”


“Yeah, okay,” Heyes accepted that. “You fellas gonna be in town for a few days?”


“Ahh, well, ah I donno,” Wheat shifted uncomfortably in his saddle. “Depends on when Lom's goin'.”


“Oh?” Heyes asked, his brow creasing.


“Yeah, ah we're gonna be heading back with Lom and his wife to Porterville,” Wheat explained. “We still got some jobs ta to fer him—until you need us, that is.”


“Oh. Well that's fine,” Heyes assured them, though at this moment he was starting to feel a little abandoned. “Lom's keeping you busy is he?”


“Well, yeah.”


“An' Ms. Trevors is teachin' me ta' read!” Kyle announced with a grin.


“Yeah, I know Kyle,” Heyes reminded him. “That's good.”


“So...we'll be seein' ya' around Heyes,” Wheat assured him. “You just let us know when you're ready.”


Heyes smiled. “Yes I will fellas. Thanks for coming.”


“Yeah. Be seein' ya'!”


The two partners nudged their horses into a gallop and they headed off for town, soon leaving the slower moving vehicles in their dust.


“Well Heyes, I finally got the brood settled into the wagon.”


Heyes smiled and shook the warden's hand. “Kenny. I'm glad you could make it.”


“Me too. It was quite an experience for everyone.”


Heyes laughed. “Yes! It was, wasn't it!”


“So I'll see you tomorrow, around 11:00?”


“Yeah. Sounds good Kenny. I'll look forward to it. I think you'll be impressed.”


“Well, if they're anything like that mare of yours, I think I will be,” Kenny agreed. “Take it easy.”


“Yeah.” Heyes smiled over at Sarah who was sitting on the seat of the wagon with a sleeping Evelyn in her arms. “Goodnight Sarah. Glad you could make it.”


“Goodnight Hannibal.”


“Fellas, take it easy.” Heyes waved at the boys sprawled out in the bed of the wagon. “I'll see you again soon.”


“Goodnight, Mr. Heyes.”


“Thanks for all the outlawin' stories!”


“Bye!”


Last but not least, Sam got his family ready and settled in for the trip home. Jesse and Belle came out to see them off just as the sun was setting and the day was winding down.


“We'll see you day after tomorrow, Sam,” Jesse reminded him. “You worked really hard today and I think we all could do with a day to recuperate.”


“Oh, yessir, Mr. Jordan.” Sam smiled tiredly. “That'll be real nice.”


“Goodbye Merle, Maribelle.” Belle waved to them. “Thank you for all your help today.”


“Goodnight!”


“You did a wonderful job today Carol,” Belle told the young lady. “I know Beth was very happy to have you here.”


Carol smiled through tired eyes. “Yes Mrs. Jordan. Thank you,” she mumbled sleepily. “I enjoyed myself as well.”


Belle was about to say 'goodnight' to Todd but noticed that he was already asleep; it had been a very exhausting day for the children!


Jesse, Belle, Bridget, Clementine, Steven and Heyes all stood and waved goodbye to the last departing wagon and then all of them let loose a big relieved sigh at the same time.


“Oh my goodness,” Belle exclaimed as she leaned into her husbands arms. “What a day!”


“I think it went well though, didn't it?” Jesse commenting, nodding at everyone to agreed.


“Oh yes!” Heyes was quick on the uptake. “It went very well.”


“Not a single glitch,” Bridget commented.

“And the children were all so very well behaved,” came Steven's contribution.


There was a beat of silence as they all exchanged glances and then everyone broke out laughing.


“Tea anyone?” Belle enquired.


“YES!”



The carriage ride back into Brookswood was anything but sedate. Though most of the revellers were tired by this time, Beth and Jed's exuberance was infectious. The laughing and joking carried on all the way to town while shouts and comments got tossed back and forth between the various vehicles.


Eventually Beth looked over at Miranda who had settled into a quiet smile and the two friends locked eyes. Beth smiled over at her.


“I'm sorry you didn't catch the bouquet,” Beth told her. “I tried to aim it towards you, but....”


Miranda's smile grew into a grin. “That's alright. It's just an 'old wives tale' anyways. And perhaps Isabelle will get married before me. And that's alright too.”


“But still, now that you know Hannibal's true feelings, don't you want things to move ahead?” Beth couldn't understand the other woman's lack of urgency.


“I'm not in any hurry,” Miranda assured the young bride. “You forget Beth; I've been married before. It's not the same thing the second time around. It's still thrilling when you find new love, but it's more relaxed; you're not in such a hurry. Hannibal may have simply got caught up in the day and didn't really mean anything by it.”


Jed snorted while Beth and Tricia both rolled their eyes.


“What?” Miranda asked, innocently. “He did say that seeing how happy you were Jed, made him want it himself but that he wasn't ready, so I don't mind waiting until he is ready. What's wrong with that?”


“Nothin',” Jed agreed. “But Heyes don't usually do something that drastic if he ain't ready. Even if he don't know he's ready.”


“Well, I did kind of trick him into it,” Miranda admitted with a coy smile. “Told him that he was just afraid of committing and that he would get around to showing his true feelings when he was ready.”


“Yup,” Kid agreed. “And obviously he did.”


“Yes, alright!” Miranda laughed. “Maybe I'm just still is shock. We're getting together again in a couple of days. I'll have a better idea then just how serious he was. Will that satisfy you all?”


“Yes, I suppose.” Beth sighed. “But that means I have to wait two whole weeks before finding out for sure! That's not fair!”


“I have a feeling you're going to be busy enough Beth,” Tricia pointed out. “Those two weeks are going to go by fast enough.”


“Well, not too fast!” Jed commented.

“No,” Beth agreed quietly with a shy smile. “Definitely not too fast.”


David swung the team of greys around to Miranda's residence first and dropped her off at her front steps.


“Good night everyone!” she declared as Jed gave her a hand out of the carriage. “You two have a good time, wherever it is you're going! And don't worry about Hannibal, I'm sure I'll be keeping him busy.”


“I'm sure you will,” Jed teased gently as he gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Goodnight.”


“Goodnight, Miranda,” Tricia said. “I'll look forward to lunch with you and Amy tomorrow—so don't you go telling her everything tonight! I want to be a part of that!”


“Don't worry about that!” Miranda assured her cousin. “Even if Amy isn't asleep by now, I'm dead on my feet. We can both fill her in on the day's events tomorrow.”


“Good!”


Next stop was the Gibson residence itself. Jed took over the lines while David carried Nathan into the house. He returned a few moments later to drive the newlyweds on to the the hotel and then return the rig to the livery.


The way to the hotel was anything but quiet as the various townsfolk who were out and about spied the decorated carriage and yelled and waved their greetings and congratulations to the couple. Beth was beaming with such joy and pride and she returned the waves with youthful exuberance. Jed just tended to smile and tip his hat. He had other things on his mind as he watched his beautiful bride rejoice in her new status.


By the time David pulled up in front of the hotel, all the other guests who were staying there had already arrived and retired to their own rooms. This of course had been part of the plan so that the young couple would have privacy and discretion upon their entrance.


David tethered the team and removed their luggage from the boot while Jed helped his wife out of the carriage.


“Okay.” David smiled at his friend. “Need any help?”


Jed grinned. “No David, I think I can handle things from here.”


“Alright, just asking.”


“Yeah.”


David grinned and shook Jed's hand. “Goodnight,” he said. “Have a good time on your vacation and don't worry about anything here. Just have fun.”


“We will,” Jed assured him.


David kissed Beth on the cheek. “Congratulations Beth. See you both in a couple of weeks.”


Jed picked up their bags of luggage, nodded a farewell to his friend and followed his wife into the hotel lobby.

They approached the check-in counter to find Albertto still recovering from the influx of guests and looked up not at all surprised at the arrival of the married couple.


“Ah, Mr. and Mrs Curry, I take it?” he tried to be elegant.


“You know who we are, Albert,” Jed reminded him, but Beth grinned her pleasure. She was never going to get enough of people referring to her as Mrs. Curry. “You remember to reserve that room for us?”


“Nope,” Albertto admitted.


The Kid's expression turned dangerous. “What do you mean 'Nope'!? You better not be telling me that you don't have a room for us!”


“I ain't tellin' you that at all!” Albertto assured the ex-outlaw. “I got a room for ya'--just not the one you reserved!”


“Well what in tarnation room is it then!?”


“306,” Albertto informed him. “Top floor, at the back. Looking over the pastures.”


Jed did a quick calculation in his head then he frowned. “That's the best suite you got in this place! I can't afford that.”


“You ain't payin' for it!” the hotel clerk informed him.

Kid looked at him with a certain amount of exasperation. “Well then who is payin' for it!?”


Albertto opened up his ledger and did a quick scan. “Ahh, let me see here. Ah, Dr. Gibson, Mr. Heyes and Mr. Granger all had a hand in reserving and paying for that room for you and your bride for tonight.”


Jed was taken aback, his frustration instantly disapating. “Oh,” he commented. “Well why didn't ya' say so?”


“I just did!”


Jed leaned in towards the clerk, trying to be discreet. “There ain't no surprises waitin' for us up there, is there? Nothin' going to jump out from behind the wardrobe or anything?”


Albertto looked insulted. “Of course not! You will find some flowers and a nice bottle of champagne waiting up there for you and breakfast in your suite tomorrow morning has also been ordered and paid for by your friends.” He raised his eyebrows pointedly. “And that's all!”


“Oh, how lovely!” Beth exclaimed. “Champagne! And a private breakfast! How sweet of them!”


“Yeah, okay.” Jed let down his guard. “That does sound nice.”


“Indeed,” Albertto agreed haughtily. “Shall I have your bags taken up?”


“Please,” Jed nodded.



Twenty minutes later the couple were tucked nicely away in the privacy of the very elegant 'bridal suite', and as far as they were concerned; the night was still young.


Jed had one moment of uncertainty as they followed the 'bell hop' down the hallway towards their suite door. He knew it was traditional to carry his bride across the threshold, but was it the threshold of the hotel suite, or the threshold of their home? He decided to play it safe and do both if needs be. It wasn't as though Beth was a heavyweight after all so it would hardly be an imposition.


The young lad who was carrying their luggage stopped at the door to their suite, put his burdens down and unlocked the door. He quickly stepped inside and placed the luggage back down again on the floor
and then turned in anticipation of a tip. Young Mr. Albertto Jr. found himself alone in the room and stepped back out into the hallway and quickly looked away with embarrassment.


Jed had already scooped his bride up into his arms and they were involved in a rather passionate kiss before even stepping across the threshold.


“Oh! Ah....I'll....” the young man stammered. “Oh, never mind. Ahh....have a nice evening....”


The kiss carried on as Jed brought them both into the room and he used his foot to deftly shut the door behind them. He made his way over towards the large canopied bed and set his bride upon it as they both allowed their passions to rise up and finally be allowed free rein.


They laid down on the bed, their hands desperately holding and caressing one another while their kisses became more intense and demanding.


Finally though, Beth was noticing some discomfort and had to break away from her husband.


“No, wait a minute,” she told him. “The hair comb in digging into my head!”


“We can't have that,” Jed whispered seductively, kissing her gently on the forehead.


He took the opportunity then to step off the bed and pull his lady up with him and they stood for a moment, just staring at one another.


Finally Jed smiled and he reached his hands around behind her head and removed the rather worn out looking comb.


“I don't think we're going to be needing this anymore tonight anyways,” he predicted.


He set the comb aside and turned Beth around so that her back was to him. He slowly began to let down her chignon until the french braid hung straight down her back and he leaned in and began to kiss the back of her neck. She cringed and giggled with the ticklishness of it and smiling, Jed began to gently work the braid out until Beth's long blonde hair came loose and fell over her shoulders and down her back.


“How's that?” he whispered in her ear while he slowly ran his fingers through her locks, caressing her while he pulled out what as left of the braid.


She smiled and sighed. “Better.”


“Good.”


He gathered the long tresses into one hand and softly draped them over one of her shoulders and slowly began the intricate task of unfastening all those small white pearl buttons that ran down the back of the wedding dress. He continued to kiss the back of her neck throughout this whole endeavour and Beth sighed, her body trembling as her passion started to rise—they'd waited so long and now Jed was forcing her to wait longer but she was enjoying every minute of it.


Finally Jed reached the last button and sliding his hands back up to Beth's shoulders he slid them under the material and gently pushed the dress off so that it fell in a soft rustling to the floor. Jed allowed his hands to carrying on off her shoulders and down to her breasts and cradled them in his hands, feeling their fullness through the material of her undergarment. She groaned and leaned back into him, feeling his arousal and wanting him to hurry up but at the same time not wanting to leave this over-whelming moment......




Three hours later, the bed was in total disarray. Two naked bodies sat with their legs stretched out before them, their backs propped up against the head board with pillows supporting them there. They both held a glass of champagne and sat staring straight ahead with mildly dazed expressions on their faces.


“That was amazing,” Beth quietly commented as she took a sip of champagne.


Jed simply nodded.



Knock! Knock! Knock! “Good morning!” came the cheerful greeting from out in the hallway.


Jed groaned and stretched, then groaned again. He blinked his eyes open and looked blearily towards the door of their suite.


“Good morning! Breakfast!” came the muffled greeting again.


Jed groaned a third time and dropped his head back down on the pillow. He glanced over at his wife but she was still sleeping soundly. He wondered foggily as to what time it was.


“Good morning!”


“Just a minute....” Jed slurred. “Just...give me a minute....”


Jed rolled himself off the bed and stood up. Oh my goodness—his legs felt like wet noddles! He ran a hand through his curls and scratched his scalp. A big yawn emerged from his lungs. He looked around and grabbed one of the sheets that was strewn across the floor to wrap around himself and cover his nakedness.


He stumbled over to the door and opened it a creak. He was met with the smiling face of Albertto, who grinned even wider at his guest and indicated the tray beside him, laden with covered dishes, and a coffee pot.


“Breakfast!” he announced.


Jed moaned again. “Are you related to Heyes, by any chance?”


Albertto looked confused. “Mr Heyes? I do not think so. Why would you think I am related to that outlaw?”


Jed sighed and rubbed his hands across his eyes. “Never mind,” he mumbled. “What time is it.”


“It is six o'clock in the morning!” Albertto announced proudly.


“What!?” Jed exclaimed quietly. “What are you wakin' me up so early for!?”


“Your friend, Mr. Heyes said to,” Albertto explained happily. “He said you have a busy day today, you must be up early. I have breakfast for you!”


Jed groaned yet again but the smell of fresh coffee was beginning to make its way through his senses.


“Okay,” he mumbled. “Just leave it out there will ya'?”

“I should bring it in and pour your coffee for you!”


“Look, my wife ain't even up yet!” Jed almost yelled at him. “You ain't comin' in. Just leave the tray and I'll get it.”


“Oh.” Albertto smiled. “As you wish. Enjoy!”


“Yeah, uh huh.”


“Who was that?” Beth's mumbled enquiry came from the bed.


“Heyes,” Jed grumbled as he closed the door on the hotel manager.


Beth stretched and rubbed her eyes as she tried to wake up. She looked at her husband with a confused expression. “Hannibal is here?”


“No,” Jed assured her. “Just his ghost.”


She smiled at him. “You make it sound like he's dead.”


“He's gonna be the next time I see him.”


Jed re-opened the door and peeked out just to make sure the manager was gone, then he opened it wider and pulled the breakfast laden trolley into the room. He shut the door again and pushed the trolley over to the table beside the bed.


“Want some coffee?” he asked.


“Ohh yes.” Beth stretched again and Jed smiled as he watched her from the corner of his eye. “I'm starving!”


“Well, now that you mention it, I guess I'm kinda hungry too.”


She sat up and pulled the remaining blanket up around herself to ward off the early morning chill. Jed handed her a cup of coffee, poured one for himself and then went back around to his side of the bed and settled in beside his wife again. They smiled at each other and taped cups.


“Good morning,” Jed said to her.


She smiled shyly. “Good morning.”


Heyes was in the barn helping Sam put away the next weeks worth of feed when they heard the horse and carriage coming into the yard. Both men stopped heaving sacks of grain onto the pile and headed outdoors to greet the visitors.


Kenny spotted them and turned the horse's head towards the barn so Sam could get hold of the bridle to help steady the vehicle so the small party could disembark. Heyes approached them, all smiles and dirt, pulling off his work gloves to shake Kenny's hand.


“Hey Kenny! Just in time!” Heyes greeted him.


“Morning Heyes,” Kenny returned it as he helped Sarah to step down.


“Hello Sarah, oh and Miss Evelyn.” Heyes smiled at them. “The boys not join you?”


Sarah gave a long suffering sigh. “No. It seems they'd rather spent their time roaming the streets and shops of Brookswood that come a visit with fine folks.”


Heyes' only comment was a smile. A secret rendezvous with certain Johnston ladies was more likely their motivation for having the day to themselves.


“I know Belle has a nice lunch ready.” Heyes changed the direction of the conversation. “Why don't we all head into the house.”


Sam led the team and carriage into the barn while the company made their way across the yard.


“Did Jed and Beth get away alright?” Sarah asked. “We didn't see them in the hotel restaurant for breakfast.”


Heyes' smile held a wicked tint to it. “Oh, I'm sure they caught their train with plenty of time to spare, ma'am.” His smile broadened. “Actually I'm quite positive of it.”


Lunch was quickly taken care of with left-overs from the day before making up most of the fare and the conversation tended to lean towards the previous day's events and speculation as to where Jed was taking his bride for the honeymoon. Jesse and Heyes smiled quietly but played along with the deception that they were just as much in the dark as everyone else. Not that they thought that anyone at the table this day would cause any trouble for the newlyweds, but casual comments can lead to problems, so best to just keep quiet.


“Which horse is Kenny going to ride today Sam?” Heyes enquired as lunch wound down. “I know there's a couple out there with nothing to do.”


“I was going to give him Berry,” Sam informed him. “Spike needs new shoes and I'll be tending to that this afternoon. Berry hasn't been out for awhile so it'll be good for him.”


“Hmm, yeah,” Heyes nodded agreement.


“How long do you think you'll be?” Belle asked.


Heyes and Jesse exchanged looks.


“If they're where I expect them to be you fellas should be back in time for supper,” Jesse speculated.


“That's what I figure,” Heyes agreed.


“Wonderful!” Belle exclaimed. “That's give us ladies plenty of time to visit!”


“Well, I'll go out and get the horses saddled up for you,” Sam announced as he excused himself from the table. “Thank you for lunch Mrs. Jordan.”


“You're very welcome, Sam.” Belle smiled after him as he left. “He has certainly turned himself into a fine young man.”


“Hmm,” was Heyes' only comment to that.


Jesse sent him a suspicious look. Belle was more forthcoming.


“Oh come now Joshua!” she admonished him. “You can't still be holding a grudge!”


“No, no!” Heyes insisted with a hint of moodiness, but then he smiled. “No. You're right. He's a decent enough fellow. I don't blame him anymore.”


“For what?” Sarah asked, totally confused. “Belle is right; he seems a fine young man.”


“Sam was part of the operation that ended up sending Han to prison,” Jesse explained. “But he has long since made amends for that—hasn't he Hannibal.”


Heyes' smile broadened. “Yes Jesse, he has! Shall we go?” he quickly added as an attempt to get himself out of the hot-seat.


Jesse and Kenny exchanged smiles.


“Yes,” Kenny agreed. “I'm looking forward to seeing this herd.”


Sarah rolled her eyes. “Experience tells me that you two will be gone for hours!” She leaned over to Belle conspiratorially. “Once he gets talking about horses he looses all track of time!”


Belle laughed. “Yes, tell me about it! Beth is the same way.”


“Then it's best we get started!” Heyes announced. “We'll see you folks around supper time.”



“Your boss has some fine looking horses here,” Kenny commented as they surveyed the small group of bachelor colts that was grazing down on the mesa.

Heyes smiled and gave a small chuckle.


“What?” Kenny asked, confused as to why Heyes would think that compliment humourous.


“Oh, just referring to Jesse as my boss,” Heyes explained. He sighed and contemplated that term. “I think of Jesse in a lot of different ways; friend, benefactor....” he chuckled again. “...surrogate father. I never really thought of him as my boss before though.”


“I'd say he's all of the above,” Kenny surmised. “Like all of us though, he's committed to helping you to succeed and he's not a man you would want to disappoint.”


“No!” Heyes agreed to that whole-heartedly. “He's brought me to task more than once—funny thing is; I don't resent him for it. Hmm, come to think of it, David as let me have it a few times too and I've not only put up with it but actually try to abide by what they're saying. Used to be anybody challenge me like that it would end up in a fist fight. I must be getting soft.”


“Or growing up,” Kenny surmised. “You're not dealing with outlaws anymore Heyes; you're dealing with honest, hard working folks who are expecting you to measure up.” He smiled. “Being the intelligent man that you are, you're reaching for the level that's been raised. You're always going to feel out of sorts when you step out of your comfort space but it's a positive thing.”


Heyes contemplated that explanation for a moment and decided that it sounded better than his surmise that he was going soft. “Jesse Jordan is a good man and I'm proud to be a member of his family.” He grinned. “And he does have some fine horses!”


“Yes.” Kenny picked up the conversation back where it had started. “My father would have been envious.”


“Oh, that's right,” Heyes recalled. “You did say your father raised the finest horses in all the southern states!”


Then both men voiced together; “According to him!”


They laughed and then settled down to quietly watching the herd as they grazed and mingled about with one another. Karma and Berry were both taking advantage of the respite and had lowered their heads to join their equine soul-mates in a grazing frenzy. The two men sat quietly, enjoying the warm sunny day and the soft breeze that played gently with the horses' manes.


“I'm glad we got some time here in private Heyes,” Kenny finally commented. “I wanted to talk to you about something.”


“Oh?” Heyes furrowed his brow; Kenny never wasted words on things that weren't important so the younger man instantly sat up and took notice. “What about?”


Kenny sighed deeply as though the subject he was about to bring up wasn't an easy one for him, but that had never stopped him in the past and it wasn't going to now. “It's about your parole. I want to be sure you understand why the governor didn't see fit to lift it.”


“Oh,” Heyes mumbled. He couldn't help but hang his head as the hurt of that news hit him afresh. He set his jaw and absently began to play with Karma's mane. “They still want to make me pay. I suppose I can't blame them for that.”


“No Heyes,” Kenny assured him. “That's not the reason. I went to speak to Mr. Ludlow to see if I could persuade him and the governor to reconsider.” Heyes watched him intently, but Kenny just shook his head and shrugged. “I'm afraid he was adamant and would not back down. And I'm sorry, but in some ways I can see his point.” Kenny returned Heyes' gaze, trying to judge the man's mood. “We all want you to succeed but after what happened in Joplin Mr. Ludlow just doesn't think you're ready to be totally on your own yet.”


Heyes sat back and took a deep breath, feeling as though he's just been slapped in the face.


“I know you're probably feeling angry right now,” Kenny continued. “Maybe you feel like we've all betrayed you, but believe me Heyes; nothing could be further from the truth.”


Heyes sat silently, staring out at the herd of horses while he struggled to keep his emotions under control. Karma tensed slightly when she felt his stress but she continued to graze as he stroked her neck and distractedly ran his fingers through her mane.


“Why?” he finally forced out. “How could you side with them!? You knew how important it was to me.”


“Yes, I did know,” Kenny admitted. “And I'm not siding with them Heyes. If Mrs. Stewart had been willing to stay here to be with you and to allow you to be a father to your daughter, no one would have been more pleased than me. But my priority is to you. Not to Mrs. Stewart and not to your daughter—but to you.
“In the long run the governor and Mr. Ludlow may have saved your family more heart-ache and unhappiness by refusing your request. You're not ready yet Heyes. There's just something in the way your mind works—I suppose because you never really developed that inner voice that told you right from wrong. During those important teen years when the brain should have been developing that sense all you could think about was survival; right and wrong didn't play into it.
“Now it's just not there. You need guidelines placed onto you in order to help you develop that sense. You can't do it on your own. Somebody pushes you too hard and you don't stop to consider, you just instantly push back without any thought to the consequences. You need support from the people around you, people who know you, people who will let you know when you're on the wrong track. And even more to the point; you need to learn how to listen to them.”


“Who better than Abi to do that?” Heyes asked, not being able to hide his bitterness. “Dammit! She was a Pinkerton's! She was always after me to stay 'legal'! Who better than her to keep me honest!?”


“She wasn't able to keep you honest in Joplin,” Kenny quietly pointed out. “You lost control Heyes, you threw everything to the wind all for revenge. You're damned lucky you didn't end up killing Mitchell because your friends wouldn't have been able to cover that up quite so easily.”


“Cover what up? I didn't....”


“Oh Bullshit!” Kenny's voice rose in his anger and both horses jumped and stopped grazing for a millisecond. Heyes had enough decency to look contrite. “You and I both know that when you take a shot at something, even a moving target—you don't miss! You might not be as fast as Jed but you are damned accurate, so don't give me this crap that you didn't do anything!
“Mrs. Stewart I can understand covering for you—but Mr. Atwater!? He seemed a very competent agent when I spoke with him and goodness knows that Sheehan is no dope and yet you got away with it.”


Kenny sat quietly for a moment collecting his thoughts. Trying to find a way to explain things in such a way that his friend would understand.


“Even with your friends around you, trying to help you, it wasn't enough,” Kenny continued. “I know you're trying; I saw that at the prison and I see it now and when things are running smoothly you seem to be able to judge the situation alright. But as soon as you're put under pressure you push through all the barriers and charge head-long into a wreck. The only thing that scared you, the only thing that made you stop and think that maybe you had stepped too far was the realization that you could be heading back to prison.
“Don't you see Heyes? If your parole was lifted and you were free too disappear you would have nothing to keep you honest. You still need to have that solid structure around you; that knowledge of dire consequences if you stray from the path. Something that is going to force you to stop and consider what you're doing before you do it; it's going to push you to really consider right and wrong and then act accordingly. That's why such a strict parole was placed on you in the first place.
“It takes a long time to change the way a person's mind works, but hopefully in time and with the right incentive you'll start to recognize right from wrong in your own mind and you won't need these guidelines placed on you anymore. Where you won't even have to think about it; you'll just know. It will have become ingrained in your subconscious mind.
“Then and only then can you reach your potential as a husband and a father. How can you expect to teach a child right from wrong when you don't know the difference yourself?”


Heyes felt his resentment growing, felt that Kenny was talking down to him as though he were still an inmate at that insufferable prison!


“Abi and I love each other,” Heyes sniped, feeling his bitterness. “I love my daughter and I would never do anything to hurt her. Did it ever occur to the parole board that being with my family; that the love for my wife, for my daughter would have kept me honest!? Those high and mighty officials snatched that opportunity away from me without even giving me the chance!”


“You had the chance Heyes,” Kenny pointed out to him. “Not only with Mitchell, but with Carson as well. You had the chance on both those occasions to show that you could respect authority and play according to the rules, but you didn't. You ignored advice from your friends and orders from officials and simply went ahead and did what you wanted to do.”


“But I realized the mistake I made!” Heyes insisted, feeling like he was going to strangle his saddle horn and even though Karma continued to graze her ears repeatedly flicked back towards her human in some uncertainty. “I regretted what I had done—it was stupid, I know that now!”


“I can appreciate that,” Kenny agreed. “Which is why when Mr. Ludlow asked my opinion about easing up on the parole conditions so that you could open up a detective agency, I told him I was all for that. You'll still have restrictions on you; you'll still have to report in to Sheriffs Jacobs and Trevors—and to me! But as I told you before; I think it's a good idea.” He chuckled. “It'll give that brain of yours enough of a challenge to make it think it's up to no good but you'll still have the support of your friends to keep you honest.”


Heyes sighed and still didn't look too pleased with the things Kenny was saying to him. “Abi and Anya will still be gone,” he mumbled.


“You keep saying that like it's forever,” Kenny pointed out. “You don't know what the future holds. I told you that in prison and you didn't believe me but look where you are now. It might not be exactly where you want to be but it's a helluva lot better than where you were then.”


Heyes made no comment but just continued to play distractedly with Karma's mane.


“I doubt very much that you have lost your daughter completely,” Kenny continued. “It may not happen over-night, but I suspect you'll see her again.”


“Well what's to stop me Kenny!?” Heyes finally asked, still feeling resentful at others having so much control over his life. “What's to stop me from taking Abi and my daughter and simply disappearing!?”


“Nothing,” Kenny quietly admitted. “Other than the fact that I think Mrs. Steward is too sensible a woman to let you do it. And again Heyes, stop with the knee-jerk reaction and think about what you're saying. If you were to turn your back on all your friends, throw your parole out the window and run away, what kind of a life would that be for your family? What kind of an example would that be for your daughter?
“No matter where you went you would be in a strange land with no prospects to help you get a foothold. You'd fall back onto your old ways and sooner or later you would end up in trouble again. And don't even think for a minute that the law in this country would simply stop looking for you, because they won't. You were too high profile a criminal Heyes; the law isn't going to just let you disappear, especially if you throw egg in their face by breaking your parole.
“If you go south, you don't know the language and you wouldn't stand a chance of simply blending in with the locals. If you headed back to Mrs. Steward's homeland, well I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want to have Scotland Yard on my trail.”


Despite Heyes' simmering anger a sudden memory of Mr. Finney flashed into his mind. A quiet, unassuming man; someone who could be easily over-looked as not being of any importance. Until you got to know him a little bit and you realized that underneath the soft-spoken manner was an intelligent and tenacious law officer. No, Heyes thought. Not at all someone who he'd want on his trail.


“There's also one other reason why I hope you won't make that choice Heyes,” Kenny continued on. “Running away is how you and Jed used to deal with the difficulties that came up in your lives. Jed has learned how to stand his ground and face those difficulties now—he's not running anymore. I had hoped that was a choice you would also come to make.
“You gave your word Heyes. You promised to abide by the conditions of your parole in order to get out of prison. You knew what those conditions were—nothing was held back from you and you agreed to accept them. We; your friends also signed that contract in solidarity and in good faith of your determination to turn your life around.
“If you run away again, you're not only letting yourself down but you'll be letting your friends down too. And what do you think the governor will do the next time a long-term inmate comes up for a parole? The first thing he's going to think is; 'Look what happened with Heyes! He agreed to the conditions. He signed the contract and he had friends who also signed and agreed to stand by him. Then the first time things get rough he knifes everybody in the back—again! And disappears!'” Kenny snorted sardonically. “You'd not only be destroying your own chances at a good life, but the chances of every other possible parolee coming up behind you.
“I hope you're not the kind of man who would do that Heyes. I signed that contract in the belief that you're not the kind of man who would do that.”


Slowly but surely, Kenny's words were beginning to sink in and the memory of that night in Cheyenne when Wheat had been awarded his amnesty floated into Heyes' recollection unbidden. There it was; just another example of Heyes over-reacting and if it hadn't been for the Kid stopping him from shooting Morrison he would have ended up back behind bars—or at the end of a rope.

A realization of his true situation was coming home to him. Mr. Ludlow was right, and Kenny was right! Was he never going to be able to adjust to a decent life? He was bound hand and foot by invisible shackles; he couldn't legally disappear with his wife and daughter and nor could he ask them to live a life on the run. Even if he did ask Abi to do that he already knew that she wouldn't. How could she? And how selfish of him to expect her to!


And now too; how selfish of him to betray his friends. He hadn't even thought of that! The only one he had been concerned about was Jed and he had agreed to help if that was what Heyes decided he really wanted. Although Jed's declaration at the wedding made it pretty obvious he wouldn't be helping willingly. And what about Lom and Steven, and Kenny himself? Even Sheriff Jacobs had been willing to put his job and his reputation on the line to help Heyes start a new life, and all Heyes had been thinking about was how to break away and leave them all stranded.


Anger at Kenny turned inward and he fought bitter tears; heartache and loneliness washing over him like a heaving ocean, taking him back to that Christmas Eve night not so many years ago. That cold dark night laying on his bunk in his cell wrapped up in every stitch of clothing, every bit of blanket he could find in a vain effort to get warm. Feeling the crushing weight of despair and helplessness in the assumption that his cousin had forsaken him.


The darkness of that time settled over him like a black cloud and the warm sunny afternoon turned to ice on his skin. Kenny nudged his horse to step in closer to Karma and he took hold of Heyes' arm, feeling his heartbreak but also knowing that his words had finally sunk home.



“I've lost her,” Heyes muttered, barely more than a whisper but filled to the brim with so much hurt. “You have a wife who loves you and you have a fine family.” Heyes gasped, trying to keep his emotions in check. “I came so close to having it too. And now it's gone—you don't know what that feels like....”


“You're right, I don't,” Kenny told him and Heyes looked over at him, his eyes red and threatening to over-flow. “I can't imagine what it must have been like for you to lose your eldest daughter and now you're faced with losing your second one as well, even if is just temporarily. I know it must be very hard and I can understand you feeling angry and resentful about it. But as I said, you have a lot going for you here; a lot of people who will help you to start over.
“When I was a young man I had everything handed to me on a platter. I worked hard, sure but I was born into wealth and status and respectability. I was engaged to a beautiful woman. The sun rose and set in her eyes and I saw no reason to ever doubt that I would spend the rest of my life with her.
“Then the war came. I lost everything; our home gone, our properties destroyed, our wealth stolen. I lost both my parents. Here I was the one going off to war thinking I was protecting my loved ones, keeping them and our home safe but I'm the only one of our family to come out of it alive.
“Even my beloved fiancee, who had sworn that she loved only me and that she would wait for me to return, even if it was until hell froze over.” Kenny gave a sardonic little laugh. “Two years seemed to be the extent of her patience and our devastated properties weighed the value of her love. I returned from war to find that she had married a senator's son, a young man who's father's influence had kept him and his inheritance out of the war.
“I had nothing left. I drifted as though in a fog. I had never felt so....disconnected in my life. I had to re-invent myself but when you have no more passion left it's impossible to think ahead to what you want your future to be. So you drift. I made my way west, scraping out a living by running cattle or breaking horses and slowly the pain dissipated and I began to think clearly again. I began to feel alive again, and slowly but surely things got better.
“You're miles ahead of where I was Heyes. You have so many good solid friends around you, who want to help you if you'd only let them. Of course you're going to miss your family and you're going to be feeling the pain of that loss for some time to come. But it will get better, and you will move on.” Kenny smiled and gave Heyes' arm a gentle shake. “And you can't tell me that you weren't enjoying the company of that very attractive young woman who was on your arm all day.”


Heyes couldn't help but grin then and his dimples danced through his hurt. “Yeah,” he agreed. “She is lovely, isn't she?”


“Uh huh. Is she that rich widow whom Jed told me about way back when?”


“Yeah,” Heyes nodded again.


“So you've known her for awhile now,” Kenny deducted. He sighed and became reflective. “So here we are. On one hand you're threatening to throw everything away and disappear in the wind. And on the other? Well, you opening and rather passionately declared to Mrs. Thornton that you're ready to move your relationship with her beyond just friendship.
“You're at a crossroads here. Although I believe that you have already decided which path you're going to take, but the outlaw in you is still rebelling against anyone in authority trying to tell you what to do. I suppose that little bit of wildness is always going to be a part of your personality but as I said before; you're going to have to learn how to control it.”


Heyes smiled and nodded, his previous anger slipping away. “My folks used to say that they shouldn't have named me 'Hannibal' because I always seemed to be trying to live up to it.”


Kenny laughed. “Or maybe they saw that tenaciousness in you and named you accordingly.”


“I suppose.”


“It's time to let go of the past Heyes,” Kenny continued on a serious note again. “You need to look to your future. I quite like Mrs. Thornton, right from the moment I bumped into her. I think she makes a good match for you.”


“Do you?” Heyes asked quite honestly. “What happened yesterday wasn't planned—it just happened.”


“I don't believe that!” Kenny teased him. “You just think you didn't plan it! You allowed yourself to not think it to death and you simply followed your instincts. Sometimes when you feel unsure, that's the best way to handle it. Just remember how you felt about her before Mrs. Steward came back into your life. You'll find your way back there again.” He smiled wickedly. “Jed tells me that most of the fellas in town had bets going as to who would get married first; you or him.”


“Really?” Heyes asked, somewhat incredulously. “Kid never told me that.”


“No!” Kenny agreed adamantly. “He knows how competitive you are! He said he was afraid that if he told you that you'd probably go and do something stupid like marrying 'Isabelle' just to win the bet!”


“Ohh!” Heyes groaned. “I think he exaggerates!”


“Probably,” Kenny agreed. “She seems a pleasant enough young woman but not your type. Harry appears smitten with her though.”


“Harry would be smitten with a horse if she batted her eye lashes at him,” Heyes prophisized, conveniently forgetting about his own attachment to Karma. “Still, if she latches onto Harry hopefully she'll settle down and leave the rest of us alone!”


“No doubt,” Kenny agreed.


Heyes sighed and became reflective again, his anger having dissipated but still leaving him with a dull aching in his heart. “I know I do care for Randa—a lot!” He smiled ruefully. “Obviously more than I was allowing myself to believe. Afraid, I suppose. Afraid of opening up again, of loving again and have it all fall apart again. I suppose I did make a declaration there yesterday, didn't I? I just hope I can live up to it.”

“You will,” Kenny assured him.“You're just still too wrapped up in all that other stuff to be able to see it for yourself. Give it time—you'll get through this, of that I have no doubt.”


“Yeah—time,” Heyes repeated reflectively. “Time heals all wounds.”


“So they tell me,” Kenny mused. “Nobody tells you about the scars though.”


Heyes smiled at his friend. “Yeah.”


“So...” Kenny felt it was time to move on. “Which one is Karma's colt?”


“Oh,” Heyes pulled himself out of his musings. “Ah....that one there,” he said, pointing to a group of two year olds. “The liver chestnut with the bit of white.”


“Oh yes.” Kenny gazed upon the grazing animal with open admiration. “He has your mare's stamp all over him. I can see why Jesse is so hopeful. Will he be standing at stud?”


“I donno,” Heyes shrugged. “I asked Beth the same thing but Jesse's not sure. He might make him available for his maiden season just to see what quality of foal he puts on the ground.” He sent a suspicious smile over to his friend. “Why? You thinkin'?”


Kenny shrugged. “I donno. I don't have any brood mares and don't really have time to start doing that. Still.....perhaps Jesse would be willing to sell me one of his get,” he smiled broadly. “at a reasonable price?”


Heyes laughed. “Well he just might do that for you Kenny! C'mon, we've got some time yet. If we give these horses a good stretch we can get over to JohnnyBoy's gang and see how many new foals we have!


“Sounds good!”


Heyes turned Karma's head and gave her a nudge. Always up for a good gallop, she flicked her tail and powered off, sending clumps of turf flying into Berry's face. Berry pulled up a little, but taking exception to the insult he dug in himself and the race was on!
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Keays

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Posts : 1447
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 61
Location : Camano Island Washington

PostSubject: The Follow Up   Thu Jan 09, 2014 4:51 pm

The following day Heyes finished up his chores quickly and headed into town at a gallop. Karma was enjoying it and now that she was back into running shape again after having her two babies, she really knew how to turn on the speed. Heyes just barely had to touch her sides with his heels and she had dug in her hind feet and caused her human's eyes to water before the ranch house was out of sight.


These wondrous flights were an undeniable pleasure for the ex-con. It hadn't been that long ago that he thought he would never see his mare again, never gallop full speed across the open country—his own neck be damned, never feel the wind in his face like this again! He was feeling good!


The talk with Kenny the previous day, though painful at first had actually had the effect of lifting such a weight off his shoulders! Perhaps it had been mostly an obligation he had felt in his desire to go after Abi; that if he truly loved her then that's what he should do. And once again, yet again, always it seemed, Kenny was right. The mere thought of anybody official telling him what he could and could not do was all it took to cause him to over-react. To instantly feel that he had to do the exact opposite of what he was being told.


He'd given his word. He'd signed the documents and he'd been happy to do so. Anything to get out of that suffocating prison. But it sure hadn't taken him long to forget what it had been like in that place and it had taken a real sharp slap in the face reminder for him to realize how much he was taking his conditional freedom for granted.

That had to stop. He had a real chance here; a real home. He had family, opportunity and support to get an exciting and challenging career going for himself and Jed, not to mention Wheat and Kyle too.
Abi had said it already. They both needed to move on, to take advantage of those opportunities that came their way now and not keep pushing them aside in the hopes of a pipe dream coming true. He and Abi had given it their best shot and it still wasn't going to work. They both needed to move on and to give each other the freedom to do so.


Despite the exhilaration of the gallop Heyes felt a twinge of regret hit him as he came to not only realize but to truly accept this slice of reality. He missed his family so much but he knew that if he went after Abi all he would be accomplishing is to push her further away from him. She would go deeper into hiding, taking Anya with her and he might never see them again. He couldn't risk that so he'll let them go in the hopes of one day having the chance of really getting to know his daughter.
He'd rather have Abi and Anya far away but still his friends than continue on with his stubborn pride and lose them altogether.


He smiled to himself then, as Karma galloped on. Thoughts of Miranda coming to mind. What was he going to do about that? He was so looking forward to seeing her today and was very much enjoying her company again. But what was she going to be expecting now, after his rather public display of affection? Would she be expecting a proposal, an engagement ring? Or at the very least, an indication of courting?


It's not that he didn't want to. All of a sudden now he wanted to have what Jed had. He wanted to have a family of his own; someone to build a life with, a future with. He hadn't realized how important that was to him until he'd had it oh so briefly with Abi and Anya, and then had it snatched away from him. Now he craved it like a man dying of thirst who'd only been allowed a few sips; just enough to wet his tongue and remind him of what was missing in his life.


But as much as he wanted it, he was afraid of it too. He admired Jed and Beth both, for going ahead with their wedding plans despite the danger that still lurked over-head. But maybe Heyes just had too vivid an imagination because he couldn't help but see the pitfalls that could lay ahead of them once he declared his intentions.


He thought at first that this was working out just fine. Set back and see if everything went smoothly for Jed and Beth and if the road remained safe then Heyes himself could set up and proceed with the courting. Two seconds after having that thought he hated himself for even thinking that way. Set his two friends up as bait and see what happens? What a cowardly thing to think! Is that what was happening? Was he becoming a coward as well as a killer? He certainly hoped not!


No, he thought as Karma started to slow down her gallop. He wasn't a coward, he was just doing what he always did; seeing a problem from all sides, looking ahead at all the possible things that could go wrong with a plan and then solving them. So that's what he had to do here; see the problems and the dangers ahead and take the necessary precautions against them.


The plan itself was still sound. They could still rob the bank, blow the safe, stop the train....date the lady but just be aware of the dangers around the corner. Be aware of them, side-step them and get the job done.


Then Heyes disgraced himself by almost having to make a grab for the saddle horn when Karma suddenly put on the brakes and made a sharp pivot to the right.


“Karma! What the....!?”


'I saw a snake! I know I did! You can't tell me I didn't!'


“Whoa Karma! C'mon! I thought we were past all this stuff! It's just a branch!”


'No it's not!”


“C'mon Karma! I thought having babies would smarten you up! It's just a....oh! No that is a snake!”


'Told ya'!'


“Yeah, yeah okay.” Heyes patted her arched neck and turned her to the side to take a wide circle around the hissing reptile. “Let's just go this way. That's what we get for galloping across country rather than sticking to the main road.”


Karma blew and pranced while Heyes tried to calm her down. He turned her head towards town again and asked her for a lope. She bucked in order to relieve some of the stress and then picking up the gait they circled around the bushes and made their way back onto the road and on into town.



Heyes dismounted in front of Miranda's bungalow and tied Karma to the hitching rail. He gave the mare a quick pat on the neck and then trotted up the steps and knocked on the front door.


“Come on in!” came the muffled response from inside.


Heyes nodded to himself and opening the door he entered the small alcove and made his way into the kitchen. Amy was sitting at the kitchen table surrounded by feathers and ribbons and lace and of course, hats. She smiled up at him from the midst of her colourful disarray, looking as pleased as a horse turned loose in a mercantile.


“Good morning Hannibal,” she greeted him as she wiped glue off her fingers. “You recovered from the big day?”


“I believe so,” Heyes grinned. He was having a hard time keeping a straight face at the sight of this little woman practically buried inside her creative endeavours. “How are you feeling today?”


“Wonderful!” Amy announced. “I will be forever thankful to Randa for pushing me into getting back to work. I love creating these hats for the ladies and the ladies all seem to love wearing them!”


“They're beautiful hats, Amy,” Heyes reminded her. “And even if you couldn't put in an appearance at the wedding, well your hats certainly made their presence known!” He couldn't help it then and he laughed. “I think just about every lady who was there was wearing one of your hats!”


“That's wonderful!” Amy smiled broadly, the happiness in her countenance shining through what was left of the injuries from her ordeal. “I'm so looking forward to getting back into my shop. There's so much to be done.”


“Just remember to take it easy at first,” Heyes cautioned her. “We don't want any relapses.”


“Yes, yes.” Amy rolled her eyes at all this hovering that people were doing. “I'll be careful.”


“Where's Miranda?” Heyes finally asked.


“She just went over to the livery to get her horse,” Amy informed him. “She decided that a picnic lunch would be the ticket for such a fine day as this.”


“Oh.” Heyes nodded and figuring that he might be here a while he pulled out a chair and sat down across the table from the milliner. “We did have a good day for the wedding. I'm sorry you didn't come.”


“I'm not,” Amy assured him. “It would have been too much for me and besides, it was great fun hearing all about it over lunch yesterday!” She twinkled a smile at him. “I understand you made quite a declaration! You don't do anything by halves do you Han?”


Heyes groaned. Was the whole town going to hear about this? Oh what was he thinking!? Practically the whole town was there to witness it!


“If it will make you feel any better, Miranda didn't say a word about it,” Amy assured him. “Tricia was the one who spilled the beans.” Big sigh. “She doesn't seem to be one who can keep a secret!”


Footsteps were heard on the porch followed by the hurried entrance by the mistress of the house. Heyes quickly stood up to greet the lady.


“Hannibal, I'm sorry.” Randa placed a hand on his arm but with a smile on her lips. “I hoped to be back here by the time you arrived.”


“Oh, no worries,” Heyes assured her, his heart once again doing a flip at the sight of her. “Amy and I were just talking.”


“Oh good!” Miranda was all a bluster, still trying to catch her breath. “I hope you don't mind; I thought that a picnic would be fun today.”


“That's fine,” Heyes assured her. “Anything is fine.”


Amy and Miranda shared a smile and Heyes felt as though he was getting himself in deeper with every word he said.


“Ahmm, were you able to get Percy again?” he asked, just for something to say.


“Oh yes!” Randa smiled with delight. “No question of that now, since I went over and bought him yesterday. So you see; we have to go for a ride today—my horse needs the exercise!”

“Ohhh!” Heyes nodded playfully. “Is that why we're going on a picnic!”


“Of course!” Randa teased. “What other reason could there possibly be?”


Heyes grinned. “I can only think of one or two other reasons....”


Miranda smiled cheekily. “Let me get the lunch,” she said. “I put it in the pantry for when we were ready to go.”


An hour and a half later the couple arrived at what was quickly becoming their favourite picnic spot and Heyes got busy un-tacking the horses and putting them out on tethers to graze while Miranda got the lunch unpacked. It really was a beautiful day and considering that the weather was quite changeable this time of year it was wise to take advantage of the sun when it did put in an appearance.


Heyes was feeling more relaxed as is usually the case when he was out in the open and not crammed into a noisy cafe where conversations can be easily overheard. He and Randa could talk here and it was important that they both feel comfortable and free to speak openly about how they felt and what their expectations were.

Neither one of them tended to beat around the bush and Heyes was tired of playing that coyish game with the ladies. Miranda was not a frivolous relationship, she was not one of his 'loves' for the night—or the hour. She was long-term. She was possibly the rest of his life. She deserved honesty.


They settled down under the tree where Miranda had spread the picnic blanket and began to partake of the sandwiches and iced tea that had been brought along with them.


“I suppose Jed and Beth are well on their way to San Francisco by now,” Miranda ventured. “That must be such a lovely train ride. Some of the scenery they'll be going through will be beautiful.”


Heyes snorted, almost choking on his sandwich.


“What!?” Miranda laughed but almost looked insulted that he would find what she said to be humorous.


“Oh, sorry.” Heyes got his breath back. “Just this assumption that they're going to be looking at the scenery.”


Miranda laughed again. “Well, there's not too much else they can do surrounded by other travellers.”


“I suppose,” Heyes relented. “Though you would be surprised at how resourceful Kid can be when it comes to getting what he wants.”


“I'm sure he'll be a little more discreet than that!” Randa surmised. “They have a whole fortnight ahead of them, with half of that in total seclusion! I'm sure Jed will wait until the time is right.”


Heyes suddenly became serious as a realization struck him. “How did you know that?” he asked her. “I thought Jed was keeping their destination a secret.”


“Oh.” Miranda suddenly looked like the cat who'd swallowed the Christmas pudding. “Oh dear. I did kind of let that slip, didn't I?”


“No one was suppose to know where they were going.” Heyes was worried. “They're going to be out in the middle of nowhere all on their own—anything could happen!”


“My but you're a worry wart,” Miranda accused him. “It's not as though the whole county knows. Beth just happened to come across the train tickets in the hotel room, along with the telegram from your friend in San Francisco offering them the cabin for a week. She happened to run into us having lunch yesterday and she was just so excited about where they were going that she had to share the news with us. No one else knows Hannibal. It'll be alright.”


Heyes sighed. “I donno,” he mumbled. “Even Amy knows that Tricia can't keep a secret...”


“She's not going to tell anyone. We all agreed,” Randa assured him and reached over to put a placating hand on his arm. “We're all very much aware of the dangers, Hannibal. Nobody's going to say anything.”


Heyes bit into his lower lip. “Hmm.”


“Speaking of which....” Miranda became serious herself. “I don't want you feeling as though you've trapped yourself into something. I'm aware of how emotions can run high at an event like that and I'm not going to hold you to anything.”


“Oh.” Heyes wasn't sure if he was relieved or disappointed. “I really shouldn't have done that. I don't know what I was thinking!”


Miranda's expression dropped and she lowered her eyes, disappointment hitting home. “Oh.”


“Oh damn!” Heyes was instantly contrite. “I didn't mean it that way! See? You're not the only one who can put their foot in their mouths!”


Miranda smiled and looked up to meet his gaze, but the hurt in her expression still lingered.


Heyes gave a deep sigh. “I've told you that I love you and I mean that,” he began. “It's just that...right now, it's not....”


“Good timing?” Miranda finished for him.


Heyes cringed. “No, not...well, yeah.” Somebody was feeling confused. “I guess I'm afraid for you. Look what happened to Amy just for being my friend?”


“We don't know if that's why it happened,” Miranda reminded him. “It could be any number of reasons.”


“Yeah, but the most obvious one is because of me,” Heyes commented. “She's quite right to want to keep her distance—just like Abi....”


Miranda shuffled in beside her man then, wanting to give him comfort. Lunch was forgotten about for the time being. “Hannibal, both Abi and Amy have suffered hurts that don't just go away. Both of them reacted to those past injuries and felt the need to have to protect themselves from being hurt like that again.
“Amy and I have talked a lot about how she feels. This incident with the shelving just brought back such a flood of painful memories for her that her first instinct was to throw up the barriers! That reaction had more to do with her history than it did to anything concerning you.
“I wouldn't be surprised if that's exactly what Abi was having to deal with as well. I've never had a child, but the hurt caused by the loss of one must be devastating....” Heyes hung his head and nodded. “....I'm sorry,” Randa continued. “I know you lost a daughter too. In a way you've lost two daughters, but at least you know that the one is alive and safe. That must mean something.”


Heyes nodded again. “Yes. It means a lot. It means—everything. Knowing that Anya is safe.”

“It's just bad timing, like you say,” Randa pointed out. “That you should care for two different women at the same time and both are so wounded that neither is willing to take a chance on being hurt again.”


“Yes. I know.” Heyes smiled and hugged Randa closer to him. “But not you? Are you not afraid of what could happen if we begin to court?”


“Well...” Randa contemplated that. “I've never been hurt like that, so I suppose I'm not as afraid to take the chance. Much like Beth. Beth has never had her heart broken so to her there is nothing worse than being without Jed. I hope she never discovers that pain. But we all must carry on, no matter what. We all just do the best we can.”


“But you've been hurt before too,” Heyes pointed out. “You said yourself that you were devastated when your husband died.”


“Yes,” Miranda admitted to that. “But I wasn't angry or bitter. Well, actually I was for a while, but not at William. I was angry at life itself, for taking my husband away from me. I know he didn't want to go. I know he loved me. So losing William was a whole different kind of hurt than what Amy experienced. And what Abi experienced. I'm not carrying around those scars. I'm ready to take a chance on love again—to take a chance on you.”


Heyes smiled. “Thank you,” he told her, and meant it. “But I'm not ready to put you at risk. Not yet. Not until we have a better idea of what is going on.”


“I know,” she assured him. “In a way, it's flattering that you care about me that much, that you feel the need to protect me. I know that you love me. You have told me that you do and you have shown me that you do. In the mean time, as far as the rest of the world in concerned, we can just pretend.”


Heyes smiled over at her. “Pretend that we don't love each other?”


“Yes.”


“It'll be the biggest con I ever pulled.”



“Hey Silky!” Jed greeted his long-time mentor. “It's good to see ya'! How are ya' doin'?”


“I'd be doing a whole sight better if you'd take that gun off!” the elderly gentleman retorted. “You know I don't like guns in the house—take it off!”


“Yeah, yeah a'course, Silky. Sorry.” Kid was quick to appease the cranky old man. “I forgot, that's all.”


“Yeah, well don't be forgettin' again!”


Jed quickly unstrapped his gunbelt and handed it to one of the innumerable servants who were always hovering around the vicinity. He felt Beth take a tentative step back, suddenly feeling a little afraid of this intimidating man who had invited them into his home. Jed smiled and taking her by the elbow, helped to steady her trepidations.


“Ah, Silky; I'd like ya' to meet my wife, Beth.”


Silky's expression instantly softened and with a genuinely warm smile on his face he stepped forward to kiss her hand.


“Well I never thought I'd see the day that one of my boys would actually shackle themselves to a lady!”


“Oh. I....”


“No, no young lady...don't you go payin' me no mind,” Silky assured her. “I'm mighty pleased to meet you. You certainly are a pretty little thing.” Silky's expression turned hard again as he sent his attention back to the Kid. “What are ya' doin' just standin' there like a lump on a log? It's hot out here! You're wife would probably appreciate a nice cool drink!”


Jed started to laugh. “Yeah, yeah. C'mon darlin', he won't bite.”


Half an hour later Silky and his guests were in the parlour enjoying some nice cool drinks as they awaited the lunch that was being prepared for them. Beth stood in absolute awe of her surroundings. She had never been in home that was so elaborate and elegant. She'd heard of hotels that were this opulent but she had never, in her wildest dreams ever imagined someone's home would come up to that standard.


She had finished her drink and was looking for an appropriate place for the glass when suddenly a servant was there with a tray. He accepted the empty glass and without a word supplied the surprised young woman with a replenished one. He then discreetly disappeared into the woodwork.


“How's Heyes doing?” Silky was asking when Beth was able to bring her focus back to the conversation.


“He's fine, considering,” Jed answered.


“What the hell is that suppose to mean?” came the crotchety response.


“He went through a lot, even more than you know about,” Kid explained. “It's been a tough adjustment. But he's gettin' there. Ain't he darlin'?”


“What?” Beth was taken by surprise. “Oh! Yes. Joshua is such a dear.”


Silky's eyebrows went up. “A dear!?” He looked back at the Kid. “You sure she knows who we're talking about?”


Jed grinned and nodded. “Yeah, she knows. He's a changed man Silky. He wants to settle down now, have a family. Have a good life.”


“Good life!” Silky snorted. “I taught him a good life! Then he had to go run off and become a common bank robber! I blame you for that, ya' know!”


Kid pointed his index fingers at his own chest and raised his eyebrows innocently. “Me?”


“Yeah—you!” Silky reiterated. “Heyes was on his way to becoming the best grifter we ever had in the circle! We all had real high hopes for him. Then you had to go run off! Heyes lost his focus after that!”


“Oh now Silky, you can't....”


“Yeah, yeah....” Then Silky noticed that Beth was looking a little uncomfortable with this old familiar squabble between the two friends and decided to soften his approach. “Well, tell me young lady, just how did you get Kid Curry to settle down and marry you?”


“Oh Well, it's rather a long story, so.....”


“Lunch is served, sir,” came the welcomed interruption from the doorway.


“Oh well fine!” said Silky as he stepped forward and offered Beth his arm. “You can tell me all about your romance over a chilled pheasant salad.”


Beth accepted the offered arm but sent a quick shy smile back to her husband. Jed grinned at the old flim-flam man stepping in and taking control. He stepped in behind them and followed along to the day time dinning area. It was lunch time after all.


An hour later, the two men were enjoying an after lunch sherry while Beth announced a preference for tea—orange pekoe if they had any. Much to her surprise and delight a small personal tea pot was set on the table beside her along with a very delicate tea cup and saucer. She could tell by the aroma that it was indeed orange pekoe and was about to pour herself a cup when the servant beat her to it and then caused her a moment of confusion when he asked her if she preferred milk or lemon in her tea.


“That's real nice of ya' to offer us your cabin for the week,” Jed was saying. “Things have been so crazy back home that a week in the mountains sounds just right.”


“I had to get ya' out from underfoot somehow!” Silky complained. “Next thing I know Heyes'll be wantin' to come here with his new Mrs.!”


“Yeah, he just might.”


“I got your tickets for the dinner theatre tomorrow night,” Silky continued. “Real nice table too. Should be a good show. Ah, you both got appropriate apparel?”


“Yeah, we do,” Jed assured him. “We're good.”


“Well fine.” Then Silky caused both his guests to jump when his strident tones went up a few notches. “Harold!”


Harold instantly put in an appearance. “Yessir.”

“Go get that....you know....” and he gave a dismissive wave of his hand. Harold gave a slight bow and disappeared.


Jed smiled suspiciously. “What are you up to?”


“Nothin'!” Silky snapped. “Can't a man give a pretty young bride her own weddin' present?”


“Aw jeeze, Silky. You've already given us so much.”


Silky snarled and waved away the protest. He stood up as Harold re-appeared carrying a small oblong box which Silky promptly took from him and set on the table beside Beth. Beth just sat and looked at it, not quite sure what to do.


“Well, open it!” Silky commanded her.


“Oh! Yes.” Beth smiled over at Jed, then gently opened the box. The gasp she sent forth was one of pure delight.


Jed took a look and an appreciative grin spread across his face.


“It's beautiful,” Beth whispered. “Are those real diamonds?”


“Of course they're real diamonds!” Silky sounded insulted. “And those pale blue stones are aqua-marine. Not easy to come by, those. Here, let me put in on.”


The old gentleman picked up the necklace and draped it around Beth's throat. She pulled her long hair out of the way and smiled with pleasure as her hands reached up to caress the precious stones. Silky clasped it at the back and then sat down in his own chair again.


“It's beautiful,” she said again, her smile taking over her face. “Thank you so much.”


“Silky, ya' shouldn't have....”


“Ah, don't you go tellin' me what I shouldn't a' done!” Silky cut him off. “I havta spend my money on something and I'd rather spend it on a pretty young lady than have it go that no good nephew of mine!”


Jed laughed. “Ya' alright. Thanks Silky.”


Silky's expression softened again. “You young people should have a real fine time at the theatre tomorrow.



Later that evening Beth stood in front of the full length mirror that was in the plush guest room that their host had set aside for them. She was stark naked, staring at herself—or, more appropriately, staring at the necklace which still adored her delicate throat. Her right hand came up to caress it again, hardly daring to believe that she had been given such a fine gift.


Jed came up to stand behind her, his hands also coming up to caress but they stopped at something a bit more opulent than the necklace. Beth sighed deeply and leaned back into him.


“What a strange man,” she said as she closed her eyes in bliss. “He took you and Hannibal in when you were teenagers and gave you a home?”


“Hmm. One of them,” Jed mumbled as he started to kiss the back of her neck. “Diamond Jim was another—you know about him.” Beth nodded. “And then there's also Soapy Saunders. You don't know him.” Beth shook her head.  “They all knew one another and each had their own special abilities and cons that they became known for.  So...” Jed continued between kisses. “we spent time....living with each one...of them so they could teach....us their own special con.....That way, me and Heyes.....got a real well rounded....education.”


“That certainly makes sense.” Beth moaned as she squirmed in his embrace as they continued to kiss.


“But you....ran...away...?”


“Yeah.....”


“Oh....”


Conversation was soon abandoned as erotic pleasure took over.




The week up in the cabin could not have been filled with more bliss. The cabin was just as basic and rustic as Silky's home had been exquisite and elegant and they loved every minute of it. The days were warm and sunny with birdsong greeting them every morning and the yapping of coyotes settled them in every night.

It became a ritual to open the door in the crisp morning air to find deer grazing in the fields surrounding the cabin and since Beth wouldn't let Jed shoot any of them, they soon relaxed in the presence of the humans and would graze well into the morning. The couple ate a lot of rabbit stew along with the stores that they had hauled in there on the mule they rented along with the riding horses for the duration.


Both Jed and Beth relaxed in their little hide away. The stresses and anxieties back home were all left behind and they glowed in the pleasure of just being in one another's company and not having any demands placed upon then other than to eat and sleep and make love.


On the evening before their last day Beth sat out on the front step, watching the summer day gradually roll into evening dusk and she sighed just a little regretfully. Jed came up behind and sat down beside.


“What's the matter, darlin'?” he asked her as he put an arm around her shoulders.


She smiled and leaned into him. “Oh nothing,” she assured him. “This has just been so wonderful, I'll be sorry to leave here tomorrow. I almost feel guilty because I don't miss anyone back home, I could just stay and live here forever!”


“You say that now,” Jed told her. “Just wait until winter sets in. This might be California, but way up here the winters can get pretty hard.”


“Oh I know,” she assured him. “It's just a fantasy.”


“I know what you mean though,” Jed commented. “This has been real nice. We'll have to try and get back up here again sometime.”


“Do you think Mr. O'Sullivan would let us use the cabin again?” she asked hopefully.


“Sure,” Jed told her. “It's not like he gets up here anymore. Ha, if he ever did! I think he just had it here in case he had to make a run for it one day.”


Beth smiled. “Is he always so cranky?” she asked. “I still feel a little afraid of him.”


“No, you don't need to be afraid of Silky,” Jed assured her. “That's just his way. Takin' in stray boys, I suppose he had to scare the bejezus of 'em to get 'em to behave.” He grinned. “Goodness knows me and Heyes ran him ragged more'n once.”


“Hmm,” Beth smiled. “You and Hannibal have some very interesting friends.”


“Yup!” Jed agreed with a grin. “And you ain't even met 'em all yet!”


Beth sighed again and leaned even deeper against her husband. “What are we going to do when we get back?” she asked him. “Are you going to continue working for Papa?”


“Well, maybe for a while,” Jed admitted. “but not forever. I like Heyes' idea of opening up a detective agency. I think we'd be real good at that. I'll probably continue to work for your father until we can get that up and running but I hope that eventually it'll be a living. I don't mind ranching, but if Heyes wants to become a detective—hey, I'm all for it!”


“Yes, me too. It'll be fun!”


“Really?” Jed queried. “And you think you're going to be running around solving cases like Abi did? Even she stopped doing that when her children came along.”


“No,” Beth assured her husband. “My one undercover stint at the prison was enough for me. But I can help in other ways. I can still help Papa with the ranch's finances and do the same for you and Hannibal.” She smiled. “Until I get too busy raising your children!”


Jed laughed and hugged her close. “Our children, darlin'.!” Then his smile dropped and he gazed out upon the meadow that was slowly fading into the gloaming. A lone coyote wailed its evening cry across the wilderness. He was so happy, he'd never felt so content in his whole life. A subtle smile returned to his lips and he kissed his wife upon her forehead. “Our children.”



To Be Continued.
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Stepha3nie

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Posts : 5043
Join date : 2014-07-12
Age : 49
Location : Scotland

PostSubject: Re: The Follow Up Chapter eighteen   Mon Aug 04, 2014 5:55 pm

Another delightful chapter with the rest of the wedding, the wedding night, a visit to the horses, a picnic with Miranda and glimpses of the honeymoon.
Again, there was so much to love, Sally working on "her" family, Heyes' gift from Dr. Sossen, the speeches (how come Jed managed to borrow the silver tongue for this?), musical chairs on the dance floor, Heyes' declaration to Miranda, the scenes with Albertto (totally enjoyable character, who in my minds eye looks like Manuel from Fawlty Towers), Heyes' evil practical joke, Heyes and Karma galloping to town ('Told ya'), seeing Heyes getting called a "worry wart", an appearance of Silky, and so much more. You sure had this lovable, grumpy man down to pat with his mixture of griping and being lovely.
There were grave moments as well, Kenny having another word with Heyes most prominent among them. Even though I still think he is a little hard on Heyes, I am starting to get the point he is making. And it looks to me that Heyes now has what he needs to grow and heal further. A sign for this are his reflections about Abi later on.
What made me feel really uneasy was the fact that the secret location of the honeymoon was revealed. Jed had been so careful, but Beth found out and had to let the ladies know. I suspect one of them to plan to do something with this knowledge. No wonder, Amy was in such a good mood when Heyes came to visit Miranda.
I think my "This made me cry the most"-award in this chapter goes to Jed's speech. You really had me blubbering there. A wonderful declaration of love to Beth and Heyes.
And my "This is so very true"-award goes to the lines:

“Yeah—time,” Heyes repeated reflectively. “Time heals all wounds.”
“So they tell me,” Kenny mused. “Nobody tells you about the scars though.”

_________________
"I can resist everything - except temptation"  Oscar Wilde
For me temptation is Hannibal Heyes, especially in chaps!
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Keays

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Posts : 1447
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 61
Location : Camano Island Washington

PostSubject: Re: The Follow Up Chapter eighteen   Mon Aug 04, 2014 11:28 pm

You've got Alberto pegged pretty well at least from my point of view. He was Sk's character but I kind of saw him as a Manuel type as well.

Enjoyed writing Silky. What a hoot and an old coot! Pleased to hear that I got his character down.

Yes, Kenny is hard on Heyes, but who better to bring him to task and force him to see the big picture? Kenny is serious when he says that he does not want to see Heyes back at the prison. At least, not as an inmate.

Loving your comments. Carry on!
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The Follow Up Chapter eighteen
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