© 2005-2006

Chapter One 

Adrienne stepped off the stage, and right into the awaiting mud below that let out a wet squishing noise as her foot sunk into it.  Lifting her skirt, she looked down at her once neatly polished boot, now covered in mud, as the other foot soon joined.  She looked up at her surroundings, the dirt roads, the various buildings with people bustling in and out. 

The west was so much different from the home she’d known all her life in the city.  Alexandria had its cobble stone streets, each house and shop stood proudly in their rows and the center of town was where justice was done and a market.  Here in Colorado, things seemed so different already, as she looked to her right towards the vast mountains.

Why did I come here? She thought to herself, leaving the comforts of the home she knew to a wild untamed land.  Adrienne had needed a job, and a change of scenery from the familiar.  She was of the marrying age now and ready to be out on her own, not a home with ma and pa.

Loren and Jake stood outside watching the young woman step off the stage and stare off into the distance.  Not so long ago, another pretty lady had stepped off that stage and changed things in town.  Her lovely brown hair hung just past her shoulders, complementing her rosy skin and pale blue dress.  She had a small frame and a pretty doll-like face that was sure to catch the attention of any young man.

Just then Preston emerged from the bank, and headed straight towards the young woman.  “Good day ma’am.  Is there anything I might do for you while you’re here?” Preston asked tipping his hat before placing it back on his head.  His eyes looked her up and down, she was a vision.

Adrienne turned and blinked, and found herself staring at a well dressed gentleman with a certain air about him that she didn’t care for.  “Thank you sir for your offer, but I assure you I will be just fine.”

Preston looked hurt, he so much wanted to help the young woman and now he’d be rejected.  It didn’t help to have Loren and Jake near by watching the whole scene.  “Bummer about that luck o’ yours Preston,” Jake teased.

“Don’t mention it,” Preston replied while adding a glare in Jake’s direction.  He hated to be made fun of in front of a lady.  Straightening his jacket and hat, Preston then disappeared into the store to look for some cigars.

Adrienne turned to receive her trunk as the driver handed it down to her awaiting arms.  She’d forgotten how heavy it was, as she walked a short distance to an open porch with a small bench.  Relieving her arms of the weight felt wonderful, as she then sat down next to it surveying more of the town.

Across from her was a saloon, where outside were girls in scantly dressed clothes and a man with long hair leaning against the porch smoking.  She watched the smoke curl around him, and the expression on his face made her uneasy.  Adrienne feared he might be getting ideas and want her to be one of his girls, but she’d never conform to that life.

****

“Time ta go now.”

“Just let me finish this last sentence…..”

“It can wait.  Sides ya need ur rest.”

Michaela sighed, as she lay her pencil down on the article she was writing.  Her eyes meet Sully’s as he looked down at her with love and admiration.  “I supposed you’re right,” she whispered, her eyes never leaving his.

Sully moved to the side of her desk, leaned over and placed a tender kiss on his wife’s lips, before looking down at the life they created.

“Ready ta go?” Sully asked, still staring at Michaela’s tummy.  Michaela giggled, “I don’t think you’re going to get an answer there.”  Sully looked up, “I suppose ya’r right.”  Michaela smiled and giggled again, before getting up carefully from her chair and following Sully to the door.

****

Adrienne heard the door open behind her and nearly fell off the edge and into the street.  She turned to look and see who’d come through the door, seeing before her a well dressed lady with child and a man behind her dressed in buckskins.  Adrienne stood up to greet them, only to see them pass her by until a small dog became entangled in her skirts.

The little dog wove in and out of her skirts as if it was playing hide and seek with something.  Adrienne looked down at the little dog, “My you are quite the playful one aren’t you?”  A small delighted “arf” came in reply, before the dog disappeared underneath her skirts again.

Michaela and Sully turned, the moment they heard the dog bark, recognizing it as the little one that belonged to the sheriffs deputy.  “You’ll have to excuse the dog; he gets away from time to time.”

“Oh, it’s no bother really.  He’s such a cute little thing,” Adrienne answered without taking her eyes of her little admirer.

“I don’t believe we’ve met,” Michaela continued, wishing to extend a welcome to the young woman.

“I’m sorry I didn’t introduce myself, Adrienne Scot.”

“Michaela Quinn, and my husband Sully.”  Adrienne extended her hand in welcome to Michaela, and waved at Sully who had just put something into his wagon.

“Nice to met you, Now about the dog, who does he belong to again?”

“Lovely to meet you, Adrienne.  He belongs to the deputy in town, young fellow from up north who came out here months ago."

“Where would I find him, I’d like to return the little fellow to his owner.”

“He’ll be in the sheriff’s office.”

“Thanks,” Adrienne replied, as she started off to find the deputy with the little dog in tow behind her.  He was an adorable brown color with specks of black scattered throughout his fur and wide eyes of a deep brown color.  With her eyes watching the dog as he ran in circles around her, she almost didn’t see the young man leaving the store and heading in her direction.

Justin had just exited from Loren’s store, a new box of bullets in hand.  Since coming here to Colorado Springs, there had been more times than he thought where a gun came in handy and it wasn’t long before he was out of bullets.  He spotted his little dog running around in circles, before he noticed the young lady his dog had become enthralled with.

Bending down he whistled and called to the dog, “Here boy.”  Chip stopped in his tracks to register what he’d just heard, before he dashed off to his awaiting owner.  “Watcha doing out here in the streets?  Something catch your eye?” Justin asked of Chip, who continued to greet him with licks.

“Oh there you are,” Adrienne stammered once she realized the little dog had moved out of the street.  She thought she’d nearly lost the dog to a stranger’s whistle, only to find the dog just as playful as she’d found him earlier.  “He’s a cute thing isn’t he?”

“Sure is,” Justin replied his eyes still on the dog.  “I’m on my way to the sheriff’s; I hear this is his deputy’s dog.”

“You’d be right, mind if I join ya?”  Justin asked, this time he looked up and gazed into the most beautiful face he’d seen in ages.  “Not at all,” Adrienne replied with a sweet smile.  He sure was handsome, she thought to herself and if he kept looking at her like that she was sure to lose herself in his eyes.  Justin stood and stepped down and into the street, his eyes not wanting to leave hers; Chip followed obediently.  “This way to the sheriff’s.”  Adrienne followed him the short distance to the jail, only to find no one inside.

“Looks like the sheriff’s gone to lunch and I don’t see the deputy inside.”  Adrienne’s heart sank, what was she going do with the little dog?  She had hoped to make a good impression by delivering the dog to its rightful owner.  Justin turned to see some of the light in her eyes burn out, he almost felt sorry for her but another part of him wanted to scoop her up in his arms.  “Something wrong?”  Adrienne shook her head, not wanting to burden him with a silly problem.

Justin came closer to her, “Don’t you worry I’ll make sure the little guy is safe till his owner gets back.”  Adrienne willed herself not to look into his eyes, but her heart wouldn’t let her not listen as her eyes looked up into his.  Just the way he was looking at her make her heart flutter, and the color rise in her cheeks.  “That’s awful nice of you, sure you don’t mind?  He’s a little handful from what I’ve seen.”

Her comment sent a peal of laughter through him, “Chip sure is quite the active little dog.  He runs after the ladies in town quite a bit.  He won’t be any trouble at all.”

“Well Chip,” said Adrienne as she glanced down to face the dog, “You behave now, this nice man is gonna take care of ya till your owner gets back.”  Just then a voice cut through the air, “Looks like your dog found a real pretty one this time.”  Justin ignored the passerby hoping the young woman hadn’t heard the shrewd remark.

Adrienne’s face flushed with embarrassment at she came up to face the young deputy.  “I’m so sorry,” she stammered, “I had no idea that you were…” Adrienne trailed off.

“No need to apologize, ma’am.  It’s my fault for not introducing myself, name’s Justin.” He extended his hand to her, hoping that she would take it, but instead she continued to stare at him for a moment longer.  “Adrienne, Adrienne Scott,” she finally replied before turning to leave.  As she rounded the corner, she heard him holler, “Hope to see you around here again sometime.”  At this rate she would much rather not embarrass herself in front of a man again.

Adrienne walked back over to her trunk, which thankfully was still where she’d left it.  Back home the folks might not have been so nice in respecting others things.  She stood there for a moment contemplating what to do, where was she going to live?  How was she going to earn her keep?  Adrienne hadn’t thought much about those small things before she left.  She had been too caught up in the moment and the drive that brought her here, forgetting to think about the simple things such as a living arrangement.

Unfortunately for her, the long haired saloon man was still standing there staring at her, and after he put out his cigar, he walked over.  “Ma’am,” Hank greeted the new young woman with a small bow.  Adrienne turned; not at all impressed but to be polite she returned the greeting.  “Hello.”  Hank too a moment to stare at her, she was a vision to behold and something that he’d love to get his hands on.  But from the look on her face, she wasn’t going to be an easy one to deal with.  “What brings ya ‘round these parts?  Got family out here?”

“No, I don’t.  And I don’t really see it as any of your business to know why I came out here.”  Her look was a bit cold as she still didn’t want anything to do with this man who owned a saloon and hung around colorful women.  “Why can’t a man just introduce himself to a lady?” Hank shot back, before turning back towards the saloon.  The woman was a piece of work and reminded him a bit of the stubborn doctor they had in town.

Standing there, Adrienne looked around contemplating what she was going to do.  She couldn’t very well sleep out on the porch all night, but by the looks of things there didn’t appear to be any sort of hotel in town.  Adrienne glanced towards the general store, spotting the same old man she’d seen earlier, only this time there was a woman standing next to him.  They appeared to be talking and next thing Adrienne knew, the woman was coming towards her.

“Afraid the men in this town haven’t been much of a welcome committee to ya, but I’m here to fix that.”  She studied the woman for a moment, what was she getting at?  “You’re brave to come out here all on your own.”

“I don’t know that I’d call it brave, but if you see it that way…..”

“Not many women would do what ya just did,” Dorothy interrupted her eyes never leaving the young woman.

“Maybe I’m not most women, but you sure do have a nice town from what I’ve seen.”  Dorothy nodded her agreement, but her eyes said otherwise.  No one seemed to be interested in welcoming her, then again she hadn’t had the most pleasant of welcomes herself.  What with folks wanting to make her guilty of killing her husband, when it was only out of self defense hadn’t been the warmest of welcomes.

Dorothy extended her hand in welcome, “Dorothy Jennings, I run the Gazette in town, and you are?”

“Adrienne Scot.  I don’t have a place in this town except as maybe and outsider,” Adrienne replied with a slight smile as if being that way wasn’t too much of a burden.

“Nice ta met ya.  Have you got a place ta stay?”

“No, there doesn’t seem to be a hotel nearby.”

“There’s one some miles outside of town, but I think you’d be better off here in town.”  Dorothy wasn’t about to put the young woman at the mercy of Preston.  “Come with me.”  Adrienne wasn’t left with much choice to follow with her trunk, once the older woman turned in the direction of the general store.  Dorothy had made up her mind that she was going to make sure for now that the young woman had a roof over her head and food to eat.  Adrienne didn’t even notice the deputy leaning against the post as she trailed behind still carrying her trunk.

“Dorothy what on earth….” Loren burst out as Dorothy came through the general store with the young woman behind her struggling now with her trunk.

“None of your business, Loren,” Dorothy shot back.  She was old enough to make her own choices in life and didn’t need his input on things.

“It is my business when ya bring her in my store.”

“I just wanna help her out Loren.  Is that such a crime?  She just arrived here and there’s no one here, except me that’s gonna help her out.”

Adrienne looked between the two bickering adults, wondering what was coming next.  The two didn’t seem to agree on anything and Adrienne wondered if they were married.  She didn’t care to be in the middle of any arguments, so she set her trunk down and stepped back outside for some air.

Coming to Colorado had been a long journey by train and stagecoach while watching the city disappear into an endless prairie.  The home has she knew it was so far away now, the familiar gone and before her lay a vast and untamed territory.  The west was so unlike the city life she’d know, and yet she felt a sense of peace amongst the mountains and prayed deep down that things would turn out well for her here.

           

Chapter Two

Justin had just stepped outside to get away from the racket inside, when he glanced over and saw the pretty lady from yesterday outside the store.  It looked as if Loren had put her to work or she was trying hard to pick out the best apples in the bunch.  Either way, Loren didn’t seem to be too happy with her which was of no surprise.  The man hadn’t been to terribly nice to him when he’d first gotten here, kept looking at him funny.  He wondered for awhile what it might be, till he met Preston.  A man who tried too hard didn’t seem to impress the older storekeeper at all.

Chip looked up at his owner with a whimper just has a crash was heard from inside.  “Great,” Justin thought to himself, those boys must be at it again.  The two brothers he and Matthew had caught last night trying to steel Old Man Twain’s prized pig had been nothing but trouble.

Twain’s wife had come running frantically into town, arms flying about her as she yelled “help” with each leap she took.  Those that had seen her were afraid to come up and ask what was wrong for fear they might get hit.  When she’d reached the jail, her arms rested at her sides with her breathe coming in short spurts from all the running.

Without knocking she opened the door and let herself right inside and after a moment turned towards the desk.  “You the sheriff?” She asked without as much as a hello.

“No, but I can get him for you.”  Justin studied the woman wondering what in tar nation had made her run like heck and then stand there calmly as she could.

“Would ya please?” she asked trying not to let her voice waver.

“Sure thing, ma’am.  I’ll go fetch him, why don’t you have a seat while I’m gone.”  She nodded, but remained standing as if sitting wasn’t an option.  Justin quickly exited the jail hat in hand hoping that Matthew wasn’t too far off.  Any more time with this lady and she was gonna dry him up the wall with her act.

Rounding the corner, Matthew was just hitching up the wagon to head home when Justin appeared.  “Sheriff.”

“Ya, what is it?”  Matthew asked after turning to face his deputy.  The man was still clutching his hat in his hand.

“Got us old man Twain’s wife in the office.  She wants to see you, won’t say what’s going on.”

“That so?”

“Yep, she comes in and asks if I’m the sheriff and when that gets a negative I ask if she’d like me to get you.”

Matthew waited a moment before answering. There were stories around the territory that old man Twain’s wife had some loose ends that needed tied.  No one really knew what they were and hardly anyone saw her.  Matthew half expected it to be one of her hair brained schemes that he’d heard about.  But with the way Justin was looking, it seemed the better thing to go and see what she wanted.

Justin followed Matthew back to the jail and inside, where old man Twain’s wife stood right where he’d left her.  Still out of breathe and cheeks that were a little rosy from all the running.  “Ma’am, I’m the sheriff.  Is there something I can do for ya?”

“I need ya to come with me.  We can’t let them take Lucy.”

“Lucy?”  Matthew question her remark, who was Lucy and what did this half to do with him.

“Twain’s prized pig, a really beaut she is.  She’s won him some nice ribbons too.  Thing is some boys got it into their heads that snatching up the prize would be a great idea.  I’d like ya ta come make sure they don’t do that.”

Matthew was about to question her remark about the pig seeing has how she wasn’t quite all there.  But when of old man Twain’s trusty hands walked in with the same story; Matthew didn’t have much choice but to go and follow them.

Sure enough the woman’s story was true.  Two young burly fellows were trying to wrestle with Lucy a fine specimen while she squealed and kicked.

“Dammit, why didn’t ya get her?”

“Me?  She’s on your side of the pen not mine”

“Oh hush up, she’s right in the middle of us.”

“Then how come we don’t got her?”

Peter shot him a nasty glare; his younger brother could be quite the pain and today was no exception.  They had been starving for days and now this pig sure looked too good to pass up.  Problem was neither of them knew how to catch a pig, as she kept slipping through their fingers or trying to kick them.

Matthew’s voice cut through the air, “Why don’t ya both come outta there and leave the pig be.”

The fellows froze in their tracks, which wouldn’t have let them far as they were still in the pen.  “Who are you?” Peter asked.  “Sheriff, now you gonna come outta there?”  Matthew replied and then questioned them again.

“I think we better do what he….”

“Shut up Jack, I didn’t ask for your opinion.”

“Why don’t you both shut up and come slowly out of the pen.”  Again Matthew’s remark was met by dead silence.  That is until the crazy woman that had brought them out here when after them with a large pitchfork.

“My god the woman is crazy.” Justin thought to himself as he watched her come right at them and sending each flying out.

All the way home the two boys had bickered and argued till no end and still hadn’t let up today.  Justin was coming close to finding a gun barrel and giving each of them a sound whack on the head.  The crash just added to his frustration; as Chip looked at him with some sympathy.

Justin left his dog sitting on the porch as he opened the door and stepped inside the jail.  He wasn’t too prepared for what he saw; both of them had managed somehow to bend the iron bars in their cell and upturn the bed.  The cell appeared to be covered in a dusting of white feathers, no doubt from the mattress.

Peter and Jack had done a number on the cell’s interior and by the looks of things the young deputy wasn’t thrilled with them.  “Don’t you boys ever quit bickering?”

“What’s it to ya? Got something against us?”  Peter glared at him clearly showing his dislike of the young man.  There wasn’t anything more he didn’t like than others invading his space.

“You two have caused nothing but trouble since you got here.  Is there any end to this?  Sooner or later you are going to end up driving the townsfolk up the wall with your constant racket.”

“Ain’t no end,” Jack replied with a grin that showed just how unkempt his teeth were.  By the looks of things they were spotted with cavities and yellowing in places.

“That so?  Well maybe I ought to wire the Marshall in Denver and have him come and get you boys.  I would be more than happy to let him deal with your racket.”

“You tell ole Bob we said hi.” Peter remarked, grinning.  The way he saw it, he’d prod the young man but deep down he figured the boy was too chicken to actually follow through with his threat.

“Sounds like you are acquainted with him.  I will be sure to let him know you both said hello and that you look forward to spending a visit with him.”

“We know him real well.” Jack went on, “If you see him ask him how the little lady is doing,” which sent both Peter and Jack into a fit of laughter. Both remembered little Layla in the way she walked and flirted with the men.  She was quite a site to see and the poor Marshall was always trying to keep her under control, but that seemed to fail.

Justin didn’t hear much of their last remark as he put his hat back on and exited the jail.  He fully intended to follow through with his threat; both needed more than just a good straightening out.  On the way to the telegraph office, he turned and spotted Adrienne who was still standing over the fruit where she had been earlier.  He smiled softly at her when she turned to look in his direction.

****

“You gonna keep lookin’ at that apple?”  Grace asked after what seemed an eternity.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Adrienne replied in a fluster.  She gave the apple another good look, before dropping it in her basket.

“It’s alright, don’t you worry.”  Grace smiled and went around to the potatoes.  Grace had seen the young deputy catch her eye, which she suspected was the cause of studying the apple to long.

Adrienne turned to Grace, “Being out here on my own is so different from the life that I knew my whole life.  At the market the venders were quick to help and some even gave me the best of what they had.  Here there seems to be a peace about things, not the bustle of city life.”

“Colorado Springs sure ain’t the city, ya’re right about that.  Out west it’s every man for himself, although you will find some folks willin’ ta help ya.”

“Miss Dorothy’s been kind enough to see that I have a roof over my head.”

“Bet that didn’t come without some reluctance from Loren.”

“Loren?” Adrienne questioned unsure of whom the woman was referring to.

“He owns the store, and used to be married to Dorothy’s sister Maude,” Grace replied in a whisper.

Adrienne wanted to ask her more questions, but at that moment the lovely woman she’d seen yesterday suddenly appeared drawing a large smile from the woman she’d just been talking with.

“Morning Grace.”

“Mornin’,” Grace replied and then headed inside to pay for her goods.

“How are you doing this morning?” Michaela asked Adrienne as she began her shopping.

“Just fine thank you.  Life out here sure is different from the city.”

“That it is.”

“Have you lived in a city before?” Adrienne asked with a sudden interest feeling for the moment as if she wasn’t totally alone in the world.

“I came out here all the way from Boston to be the town’s doctor.”

“You’re a doctor?” Adrienne asked her eyes wide with interest.  She’d never known a lady doctor before; most of the ones she knew were men.

“Yes I am,” Michaela replied with a smile.  “You found my clinic yesterday after you arrived and then little Chip found you.”

Adrienne smiled and blushed a little, the doctor remembered her.  Slowly she began to feel a sense of warmth and friendship towards the doctor. Not many in town had bothered much with an introduction, and here the doctor was being so nice to her.  “Oh that’s right.” Adrienne’s cheeks turned a deeper pink at the mention of the dog; he surely was a cute little thing.

Michaela on the other hand suspected the coloring came from more than just the little dog, but decided it best to keep that comment to herself for now.

****

“What can I do for ya?” Horace asked politely after Justin entered the telegraph office and lay his hat down on the counter.

“I would like to send a wire to the Marshall in Denver.  Those fellows in the jail are causing me too much trouble.”

“I’m sorry ta hear that,” Horace replied with some sympathy as he readied his pencil and pad of paper.  Justin then dictated a short message to the Marshall in Denver, which Horace then promptly sent.

As he turned to leave, another loud crash was heard coming again from the direction of the jail.  Justin muttered his disproval under his breathe as he walked briskly back towards the source of the noise.  He was afraid of what he might find there and worried that if Matthew saw things were unattended, well he didn’t want to think about that.

Justin reached the jail, at the same time Hank was rounding the bend.  “Heard a noise, figured I’d come investigate.”  He wasn’t too fond of the saloon’s owner, but having an extra hand nearby calmed him some.  “Those fellows have been nothing but trouble and I hate to think what they’ve done now.”

“Don’t you worry; I’ll talk care of ‘em.”  Hank replied with a grin that told Justin he would gladly teach them a lesson they’d never forget.  When the door was opened, neither man was prepared for what they saw.

Sure the place had been a mess before, but now it was even worse as if that could be possible.  Peter and Jack had “tried” to get the keys by throwing a rope across the room which failed miserably.  When that didn’t work and they tried to pull it back, it caught on the desk which they plowed right into the cell bars.  Papers were strewn everywhere although with the feathers.  Justin was none too pleased and wanted at the very least to give each man a sock in the face.  Hank however didn’t waist any time with teaching them a lesson.  Before Justin knew it, both fellows were laying unconscious on the floor.

“You sure that was such a good idea?” Justin asked thinking Matthew was going to have his hide when he came in.

“Don’t matter; it got them to stop didn’t it?”

Justin could agree with that, but he still didn’t feel it was the best measure to have taken.  Thankfully Matthew entered moments later a bit taken aback by all the damage.

“What in the world…”

“Seems as if you little friends tried to escape,” Hank chimed in still a bit pleased with himself.

“And they did all this from inside there?”  Matthew asked in disbelief.

“Sure did,” Justin replied, “But don’t you worry.  I wired for the Marshall in Denver to come get them.  From what they revealed the fellows and the Marshall are old friends.”

Matthew turned to face his deputy who was still sweating in his shoes.  “It’s alright,” he said as he lay a hand on the young man’s shoulder.  I’d have probably done about the same in your shoes.  And Hank maybe ya outta stick around case those fellows wake up.  In the meantime, we outta put this place back in order.”

Hank readily agreed and while the two men slept the three began to pick up the pieces of the tattered office.

 

Chapter Three

Adrienne was exhausted by the end of the day feeling as if she’d carried a ton of apples across the vast prairie.  Miss Dorothy had been nice to her and told her to enjoy the day, but Loren had other ideas.  He made use of having an extra hand and sent her straightening up and doing things that were hard for him.

Loren had first wanted her to pull out any fruit that was rotting, which Adrienne found to be a silly task.  All the fruit looked fine to her, but she did admit to spending too much time studying the fruit.  Then next came the dusting of the shelves.  She couldn’t believe the amount of dust she found and just watching it blow through the air made her sneeze numerous times.  However Loren didn’t let up and had her moving some heavy boxes around and unloading some crates.  Adrienne was thankful now that she could collapse on her bed and not have to worry about running around doing someone else’s chores.  Coming here to Colorado showed her just how much people worked each day and how living in a small town most people knew everyone else.  She wasn’t quite used to all the work, and having everyone know everyone was something she’d get used to.

As Adrienne lay there staring up at the ceiling, realizing that she couldn’t stay here above the store forever and get worked each day like a poor horse.  She needed to find a job somewhere where she could earn her keep.  Adrienne hoped that there was someone nice like Miss Dorothy who would give her a good job.  It wasn’t long before coming to that realization when Adrienne fell fast asleep.

****

As the train rolled into town, young Thomas stared out the window at his new surroundings.  His hometown in Missouri didn’t have a train station nor as many buildings as Colorado Springs.  Kansas City was the place to go with its endless streets of shops, restaurants and theatres.

Thomas had nearly become of age over night blossoming into a young man, leaving the little boy behind.  His light brown hair was feathered around his face with grey eyes that had a softness about them, and a face showing signs of manhood.  No longer did he have the baby soft skin if a boy, but the ruff stubble of a man.

When the train came to a full stop, Thomas nearly lost the materials on his lap from the lurch.  He had been too caught up in the scenery outside to even notice the station was moments away. Thomas gathered up his things before making his way out of the train.

He must have looked like quite a site as he stepped off, with a satchel over his shoulder, easel in one hand and a box of paints and brushes.  Thankfully most of the townsfolk didn’t seem to notice him, as they went about their daily business.

Thomas made his way through the crowd and into the open street looking around him.  A part of him was a little nervous about starting a new life on his own while the other was glad to get away from the home he’d known all his life.  He stood for a moment taking it all in before beginning to walk towards the center of town.

Moments later Thomas walked into the general store hoping to find a few needed materials for his painting.  He’d neglected to bring linseed oil with him and his supply of canvas was running low.

Loren spotted the young man as soon as he entered the store; awkwardly carrying his belongings.  Coming over to the counter, “Anythin’ I can do for ya?,” he asked.

Startled, Thomas nearly dropped his paints at the sound of the older man’s voice in his ear.  “Oh, I’m sorry I didn’t see….” Thomas trailed off.  After regaining his composure, “You wouldn’t happen to have any linseed oil and or canvas?”

“I reckon there might be some canvas around here somewhere.  As for the linseed oil, that will have to be ordered.”

“Very well then,” Thomas nodded his approval and minutes later he emerged adding canvas to his load.

****

Adrienne had just finished taking a sip of her tea, when she spotted the strange young man carrying an armload of what appeared to be art supplies.  He was a site to see as every few paces he’d have to adjust and move on till something would start to slip and the process repeated.

By the looks of things he was having some serious trouble, yet not about to ask for any help.  Men were like that, Adrienne thought to herself, stubborn and unwilling to ask for help when they clearly needed it.  She did wonder why he was here in town; until she was momentarily distracted by the young deputy walking by with a small smile on his face.  Adrienne wondered who he could be making eyes at, when Miss Dorothy showed up.

“Oh there you are,” Dorothy exclaimed in the little breath she had left from searching frantically for the young woman.

Adrienne looked at Miss Dorothy with a puzzled look a part of wondering why she’d been looking for her.  After all Adrienne had told her where she was going before she left.  “Is there something you need?” Adrienne asked not wanting to get into the meaning behind her remark.

“Oh, no no I’m fine.  Just was worried about ya, being new in town and all.”

“Why are you worried?”

“A young thing such as yourself out here all alone without a family or a husband…” Dorothy trailed off with Adrienne even more puzzled by her remarks.  She began to wonder what had gotten into Miss Dorothy and why she was acting this way.  In her mind something wasn’t right nor was it making any sense.
”Miss Dorothy,” Adrienne paused before continuing wanting to make sure that she at her undivided attention.  “I understand your concern for me as being a woman out in the wild would cause some to be worried sick.  But I’m not one of those weak souls who can’t survive on their own. I’m strong willed and there isn’t anything that’s going to stop me from leading a new life out here in Colorado.

Dorothy started to tell Adrienne that she hadn’t come running after her because of that, when suddenly a cough came over her.  Adrienne and Grace were at her side immediately trying to make sure she was alright.

“Miss Dorothy?”  Adrienne asked a look of concern on her face.  She’d never seen anyone look like this before, flushed from a cough and holding their chest.

“Oh lordy,” Grace breathed, she’d seen this kind of thing once before.  “We better get her to Dr. Mike.”

Both women each took a side and helped Dorothy out of her chair and walked slowly with her to the click.  All the way there she tried to tell them that she was fine, but Grace especially wouldn’t hear of it.

“I’m…..fine…” Dorothy stated, trying hard to force each word out, but they just wouldn’t come.  “No you ain’t, and quit arguing.”  Grace wasn’t going to let Dorothy get away with not seeing Dr. Mike and acting like she was “just fine.”

Grace knocked on the clinic door with her free hand then tried her best to balance herself with Dorothy leaning on her right side.  She hoped Dr. Mike came soon, before they dropped her.  Adrienne wasn’t having an easy time either, being as small as she was. 

A moment later Grace reached up to knock again, when the door was opened.  “Finally,” Grace muttered to herself as she and Adrienne led Dorothy into the clinic and on to the examining table.  “Dorothy ain’t doin’ too well, got that cough an trouble breathin’.  I seen it before, ain’t a pretty site.”

“Pneumonia,” Colleen breathed to herself as the weight sunk in as she stared across the room at Miss Dorothy.  Grace was right; Miss Dorothy wasn’t looking good at all.  Her face had flushed pale and her hand was still clutching her chest.

“Aren’t ya gonna give her somethin’?” Graced asked, bringing Colleen out of her trance.  “Oh right, I think there’s something in the cupboard that Dr. Mike uses for this sort of thing.”

“Has she got a fever?” Colleen asked when she found the quinine, thinking that might help some.  As for the rest, she’d have to keep looking.  Minutes later Colleen found something that appeared to treat Pneumonia and gave Miss Dorothy some of that, along with the quinine.  “It’d be best know for her to stay in bed and rest.”

Grace nodded her approval, and then with help gathered Dorothy and helped her up the stairs to one of the rooms.  Colleen followed, leaving Adrienne standing there wondering what she was supposed to do.  Being new in town often left her out of place in situations of which she hoped wouldn’t stay that way for long.  Her heart was very kind and she didn’t hesitate to help others out.

Michaela arrived just as Grace and Colleen entered the examining area.  In an exchange of glances, Michaela easily picked up their worry and inquired as to what was wrong.  While Grace filled Michaela in on what had happened, Adrienne slipped out and walked off towards the meadow, stopping on the bridge to look out at the mountain peaks.  The Colorado scenery was beautiful.

****

Thomas trudged through the meadow and then disappeared into the tall trees.  He was anxious to find some breathe taking subject matter to paint, but so far all he had before him was a town, meadow and a lot of unexciting trees.  His load wasn’t getting much easier to carry either, as it became more awkward with each step he took.

“Oh bother, might as well just stop here,” Thomas muttered to himself when the load got to be unbearable. He did his best to set everything down gently, but his arms wouldn’t let him do that.  All fell to the ground in heap on either side of him.

When Thomas looked up to survey his surroundings, he found himself staring at two mountains that appeared to overlap.  Between the mountains were the most beautiful blue sky and spotless white clouds.  He’d never seen anything like it, least not in Missouri.

Standing there for a while, Thomas let the beauty of nature sink in around him, feeling the air around him hearing the noises that were so natural to the forest.  He closed his eyes, tried to envision the scene before him in his mind, before he got out his easel and paints.  The scenery he saw in his mind was breathtaking, even more so than the one in front of him.

With each stroke of his brush, Thomas painted the beautiful mountains before him as he saw them in his mind.  Their lush green trees, the brown of the tree branches, the blue of the sky, and the white of the clouds was all so beautiful.  Thomas watched the mountains take shape from simple outlines to the majestic ones he’d created in his mind.  They were tall and stately with trees that tried to reach the sky.  The clouds looked like puffs of cotton floating in the wind on a summer’s breeze.  And for a final touch, Thomas added a bald eagle.

Thomas stood back to admire his work hours later when he was finished.  The sun was beginning to set, but the beauty of nature shone through in his beautiful painting.  He smiled to himself, “Yes it was perfect,” before packing up some of his things and finding a place to rest for the evening.

****

Justin had just received a telegram from the Marshall in Denver, saying that he’d be on the train tomorrow morning to collect the prisoners.  He couldn’t be happier with the news.  After the two men had woken up, they turned their destructiveness into complaining left and right about how badly their heads hurt.  The bickering had been enough to drive a sane man crazy.  Thankfully that was all about to end, otherwise Justin was going to go over the edge and Hank might follow through with his threat to shoot them.

Justin rounded the corner by the clinic, folding the telegram and placing it in his pocket as he walked.  He was now on his way to Grace’s for a nice hot meal and some quiet, before subjecting himself to the bedlam that lay inside the jail.

As he got closer to the meadow, he noticed a small figure standing the bridge looking off into the distance.  Justin wondered who might be out at dusk admiring the scenery from a bridge, when he soon realized who the figure was.  The young woman, who had delivered his dog to him a few days before, was now letting the evening breeze play with her long brown hair and the skirts about her feet.

Justin’s breath caught in his throat, she was a beautiful woman who as he thought more about it probably had a special someone.  He tried to dismiss thoughts of her standing there as he walked, but it just wasn’t done as his feet led him to her side.

“Sure is a pretty sunset tonight.”

Adrienne nearly jumped out of her skin at the voice interrupting her thoughts.  She turned to face the owner of the voice and knew him right away as the deputy she’d the day she arrived.  “Pardon me, you startled me a bit.  And yes it is a lovely sunset,” Adrienne replied as she moved her eyes back to the lovely view.  “The colors are all so beautiful, how they blend together in the sky.”

Justin glanced up at the sky a moment to take a peek at the colors, before fixing his eyes back on her.  The way her hair blew in the breeze every so often, teasing her skin, made Justin want all the more to run his fingers through it.  She smelled divine, like a freshly picked rose something he could lose his mind over.

Adrienne turned back to face him, and caught his eyes looking softly at her.  She met his gaze for a moment, feeling deep down something stir inside of her that she hadn’t felt in months.

“I’d best go,” Adrienne blurted out a moment later as she felt her cheeks grow warm.  She didn’t give Justin much chance to reply as she made her way back to the general store.

Justin turned watching her walk out of sight taking her scent of roses with her as she walked.  He stood there till he couldn’t see her anymore and then turned towards the café; dinner was calling out his name.

****

Adrienne was just closing up the store for the day, when she heard footsteps on the porch.  She glanced up from behind the counter to find the young deputy standing there, his figuring casting a shadow in the open door.

“Hello,” Justin spoke softly.  “Hope I’m not disturbing anything, just came to get a piece of licorice.”

“Hello,” Adrienne replied.  “No you aren’t disturbing a thing, and do help yourself to the candy.”

“Thanks, don’t mind if I do.”

Adrienne went back to what she was doing, putting some new figurines in the case, while Justin studied the candy before making his choice.  A moment later he appeared at the counter announcing he’d found something and was ready to pay.

“Be right with you,” Adrienne replied as she put the last figure in its place and came up to help him.  On the way up she nearly bumped her head on the glass when her mind drifted off the task at hand.

“You ok?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Adrienne announced, feeling a little embarrassed by what had just happened.

“Good, here’s the money for the licorice.”  Justin placed the money on the counter, his eyes never leaving her as she counted it to make sure he’d given her the right amount.  He smiled to himself as he walked out; she sure was cute when caught off guard.

Adrienne couldn’t believe what was happening to her, the deputy was a handsome fellow whom she never dreamed would lay eyes on her and sent a new wave of anticipation through her.  “Months ago a moon had set, maybe now the sun was beginning to rise again,” she thought to herself as she finished closing the store for the night.

Chapters 4-6