Chapter One

By Aimee

Copyright 1998

Gunshots rang out through the early dawn. Most of the citizens of Willow Springs were still asleep, but the shots brought them from their houses. Five men ran out of the bank, jumped on their horses, and headed out of town.

"Kid! Jimmy! Where are those boys?" Teaspoon muttered under his breath. "Kid, Jimmy! If you boys aren't out here in three seconds I'll give you so many extra chores to do, you'll wish you was runnin' from a band of Souix with..."

"Here we are Teaspoon." Jimmy and Kid came out of the barn. "Where's the fire Teaspoon?" Kid asked.

"Boys, I got a special run for you."

"Aw, Teaspoon! I just got back and...." Teaspoon interrupted Kid before he could finish. "I'm sorry Kid, but I've got no choice. Buck and Noah are out, and Cody's sick. So you are all I got. Unless of course, you'd rather I sent Lou instead?"

"That's ok, Teaspoon. I'll go." Kid cringed at the thought of Lou and Jimmy on a run together.

"I thought you might see it my way." Teaspoon to himself at Kid's obvious discomfort. "Now boys, this run might be real dangerous."

"What exactly is it, Teaspoon?" Kid asked, now even more willing to go instead of Lou.

"Important land documents that go to the bank in St. Jo. There's been a lot of bank robberies in the territory lately, and Russell, Majors, and Waddell want you boys to handle the run."

"Why is it always us!" Jimmy complained.

"Well, they know my boys will get the job done." Teaspoon was proud of his boys' reputation as good riders. "The papers should be here in about thirty minutes. Be ready to leave then."

"Hey. What's goin' on?" Lou wandered into the barn where Jimmy and Kid were saddling their horses. "Teaspoon wants us to go on a special run for him. We're leaving any minute now." Jimmy explained.

"But Kid just got back. Why didn't he tell me to go?"

"Lou, don't start. Teaspoon wanted me and Jimmy to go. I'm just sorry I have to cancel our date tonight," Kid said softly. "But stay out of trouble while I'm gone, and I'll make it up to you when I get back."

"You'd better."

"Come on boys, time to go." Teaspoon walked into the barn.

"I'll see you in a few days, Lou." Kid bent down to kiss her goodbye. "Be careful Kid. You owe me dinner."

"Don't worry Lou. Kid'll be ok. He's with me."

"That's what worries me Jimmy," Lou said with a grin. "You boys ride safe."

"They'll be ok, Lou." Teaspoon gave her a hug as they watched the two riders disappear. "I know, Teaspoon."

"Come on. Rachel said Cody's feelin' better."

"Well, in that case, we'd better get to dinner before its gone!"

"So, Jimmy. How long do you think we'll be gone?"

"Don't worry Kid. You'll get back to Lou soon enough."

Kid couldn't keep from smiling at Jimmy's comment. "How'd you know that's what I was thinking?"

"Come on Kid. It so obvious, even Cody could see it." Kid had to laugh at the thought of Cody being able to focus on anything but himself, or food.

"Well, I can just say one thing. I hope this run won't be as dangerous as Teaspoon seems to think."

"I don't know Kid. You know how we always manage to find trouble."

"Yeah, well, let's just keep it to a minimum this time."

"Sure Kid," Jimmy replied. "We'll just get lost or something."

Chapter Two

"You just had to say it, Jimmy!"

"Would you shut up Kid! Its not my fault the trail was washed out!" Jimmy was frustrated, and Kid's constand complaining was not helping matters any.

The two riders had been lost for about three hours now. The trail had been washed out, and they had been forced to take a detour. The problem was, they had somehow gotten lost somewhere along the way. Neither of them were happy about it. And neither of them were happy with each other.

"If we don't find the trail in a few minutes, we're going to have to make camp for the night."

"Just a minute Kid. Do you see what I see?" Jimmy said, shading his eyes against the setting sun.

"Is that what I think it is? Jimmy, please tell me that's St. Joe!"

"I'm not sure, Kid. Let's find out!"

The two boys headed toward the city in the distance. After five days of riding, both hoped they were finally to St. Jo.

"Finally," Kid sighed as they rode into town. "The bank's closed, so let's get some rooms and head there in the morning."

"Sounds good to me." Jimmy was tired and hungry. "Let's check into the hotel, and then get something to eat. I'm so hungry, I could eat almost as much as Cody!"

"Well, in that case, we'd better get you some food! You're about to starve to death!"

"Lou! Rider up!"

"Comin' Rachel." Lou ran out of the bunkhouse, pulling on her coat. "Thanks for getting Lightning ready for me Jesse. I'll see you all tomorrow!"

"Ride safe Lou!" Buck called to her as he handed her the pouch. "Hey Rachel. Where is everyone?"

"Well, Noah isn't back yet, Lou just rode out, Kid and Jimmy are on a special run, and Cody is recovering from some kind of sickness or another."

"Knowing Cody, it's probably workitis."

"You're probably right Buck." Rachel said laughing.

"Hey, I heard that you two!" Cody said coming out on the porch. "I really was sick this time!"

"That's what you say every time, Cody." At that comment, Buck and Cody began arguing loudly; but it was all in fun. Rachel listened for a few minutes, then, getting a headache from all the noise she held up her hand. "Ok, that's enough! Go wash up, lunch is just about ready."

Cody instantly stopped talking and bolted into the bunkhouse. Buck and Rachel stood there in shock, then started laughing as they walked inside.

"I don't have to be back to Rock Creek until tomorrow night. What should I do until then?" Lou wondered as she rode into Cottonwood. "Hmm...." she smiled.

An hour later a well-dressed, beautiful young lady strolled down the sidewalk, happily taking in all the sights. Lou smiled when several men tipped their hats to her as she walked by. She loved getting to dress up and act like a woman, especially because she wasn't able to do that very often.

"Oh my gosh! Louise is that you?" Lou spun around to see who was calling her name.

"Anna, Liza! I can't believe it!" Lou cried, hugging her two friends. "What are you doing here?"

Anna Stahl and Elizabeth Lindall had been friends of Lou's at the orphanage. Other than her brother and sister, they were the two people she had missed the most when she left.

"Well, we have some exciting news. We're getting married!" Anna smiled.

"To brothers." Elizabeth added. "We're in town to do some shopping for the wedding."

"Oh, I'm so happy for both of you!" Lou squealed, hugging them both again.

"We were just about to go to the restaurant for supper. Would you like to join us?" Elizabeth invited.

"That sounds wonderful. I would love to." Lou was excited at the prospect of spending time with her old friends.

"Remember that time we snuck out to go to the fair?" Elizabeth's eyes were filled with merriment.

"Yeah," Anna replied. "And when Sister Catherine caught us, we weren't allowed to leave the orphanage for a month!" The girls had been laughing over memories all through their meal.

"Well," Lou said as the waiter brought their dessert and coffee. "Enough about old times. I want to hear more about these brothers you two are marrying!"

"Oh! Their names are Michael and Giles Carter! They are so handsome! Of course, Michael is more handsome than Giles." Anna said.

"You're just saying that because you're in love with him!" Elizabeth teased. "Personally, I think Giles is more handsome!"

"Oh! Now who's talking! 'You're just saying that because you're in love with him!'" Anna mimicked.

"Well," Lou said knowingly. "Love can do that to you."

The two girls squealed. "Oh! You're engaged too! That's great!"

"No, no!" Lou laughed. "I'm not engaged! Let's just say I know what you mean," she said slyly.

"Tell us all about him!" With that, the three girls started a discussion about the men in their lives. That led to a discussion of their past crushes, and eventually more memories of their lives at the orphanage. It was late when they finally said goodnight.

"Can you spend the day with us tomorrow, Louise? Micheal and Giles should be here. We'd love for you to meet them," Elizabeth asked.

"Well, I have to leave around noon, but I could meet you for breakfast."

"That would be great. How about nine o'clock?"

"Nine is perfect! I'll see you then," Lou replied as she entered her hotel room. Little did she know, breakfast was going to be a very interesting event.

On to Chapter Three

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