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Chapter 1


"You want me to what?" Buck squirmed awkwardly in his chair. Teaspoon
cocked up his left shoulder, rested his elbows heavily on the table
astride his mostly eaten meal, and squinted at Buck. He blew out what
could only be described as a whining breath, and finally repeated
himself. "I want you to look into gittin’ yerself a wife." Rachel,
disapproving of her husband’s tack, ignored Buck’s look of utter
disbelief. "Well Buck, you know we love havin’ ya here so often, but-"
Teaspoon cut her off, "Ya need to be with people young like you, not a
couple of old codgers like us." Rachel glared at Teaspoon, "Speak for
yourself you old coot!"

Buck fought down the initial irritation that was building against the
people he had grown to look on as parents. "I know you worry, but I’m
happy with my life. I have a really good business. I mean, people come
from all over the country just to buy my horses. I got plenty of money. I
just finished building my dream house on my own land. I have a good
family that I take my meals with more often than not." Buck smirked at
Rachel with his last statement, trying to allay the worry he knew she
felt for him, then plunged on. "I like my life. It’s...settled. I’m not
lonely with you two and Kid, Lou, Teresa and Jeremiah just a few miles
away." His final statement sounded forced, and everyone at the table knew
it. Rachel reached around the corner of the table, and put her hand
gently on top of his. "Honey, I know you love breedin’ and trainin’ your
animals, and I know people all over the place respect the fact that
you’re better at it than anybody else. But Buck I also know that money
don’t mean a thing to you, and I’m not dumb enough to miss the fact that
you built that house with a woman in mind." Buck’s stricken look stopped
her momentarily. "Buck...why else would a man build a house with indoor
bathrooms and two enormous closets in the main bedroom? Why would a man
who is just as happy sleeping in the barn with his horses, order all them
fancy new plumin’ things from Boston. You didn’t spend all that time
puttin’ in those indoor bathrooms for your own comfort; any fool would
know that." Teaspoon nodded appreciatively at his wife. "Yup, what she
said." He turned the wattage up on his patented Teaspoon grin.
Unfortunately, his attempt at levity did nothing to erase the frown from
Buck’s face. Buck kept his eyes centered steadfastly on his empty plate.
The only thing that gave away his tumultuous emotional state was the
agitated throttling that his napkin was receiving. Without warning Buck
turned his arresting brown eyes on Rachel. In that instant she decided
that the cliché’ about the eyes being the windows to the soul was coined
specially for Buck. She found herself adrift in a swirling maelstrom of
emotions. It pained her to know how hard he was trying to stifle those
feelings. Grinding his jaw, Buck turned to Teaspoon. "You’re right
Teaspoon, you’re always right. I don’t like that about you." He tried to
chuckle, but it came out in the form of a choked off sob. "No woman wants
a half-breed, Teaspoon. And don’t give me that load of bull about lettin’
people get to know me." Buck continued before Teaspoon could interrupt.
"A few women in this town have let me court’em a while. They got to know
me, and decided it wasn’t worth the trouble. Then, when a ‘suitable’ man
came along they’d get married to him. Not to me, never to a filthy
Ingun." Buck abruptly shot out of his chair, plate in one hand, drinking
glass in the other, and placed them gently on the counter top next to the
basin. He spun on his heel, aiming for his hat by the door, but was
brought up short by a very resolute Teaspoon who was not about to move
out of his way. "Son, I know ya been through a lot concernin’ your blood,
and I know women can be a whole heap of trouble, but I also know you got
so much to give. I always seen ya as a Daddy in your future, with a good
wife and a house full of youngin’s."

"It’s no use Teaspoon," Buck quietly countered.

"Not necessarily." Teaspoon fumbled in his back pocket a moment, pulling
out a well-worn sheaf of paper. "I was readin’ this pamphlet on mail
order brides an-"

"No Teaspoon." Buck cut him off. "I’m not coercing some poor woman into
marrying me without mentioning that I’m a breed."

"That’s not what I’m gettin’ at, Buck." Teaspoon nearly shrieked.
Lowering his rising voice, he started again. "This particular pamphlet is
for brides outside of this here United States. Ladies in other countries
won’t have any crazy notions on who ya are ‘fore they meetcha." Teaspoon
beamed, rocking back on his heels, he tapped Buck on the shoulder with
the pamphlet. "Look son, all I want you to promise me, is that you’ll at
least read the darned thing." He said, shoving the papers toward Buck.
Relenting, Buck took the pamphlet, and slid it beneath his belt. Side
stepping Teaspoon, he continued his path to the door. He grabbed his hat,
and mumbled a quiet thanks to Rachel for dinner. He was out the door
before another word could be said. Rachel looked at her husband,

"That poor boy’s been through so much, Teaspoon. Maybe we shouldn’t have
pushed him." Teaspoon put his arm around his wife, raising a thin gray
brow at her. "He’s a man now Darlin’. I know as well as you do that men
wasn’t meant to be alone. That’s why God made woman, y’see." He smiled
gently down at Rachel, his sixth and favorite wife. She wasn’t moved by
his little romp in the philosophical. She just wanted Buck to be okay.
She hoped that he knew just how loved he was, by their strange little
patchwork family.


Buck scrambled up the steps to his rather roomy Victorian style porch. He
looked up at the eaves, noting the fancy decorative woodwork that Lou had
talked him into. "What was I thinking?" He muttered to himself, stomping
loudly, to the door. Shoving open the door, he took in the huge
entranceway and hall, with the beautifully gleaming, waxed wood floors.
The floors were very noticeable, being that Buck, having not needed much,
owned almost no furniture. Cursing inaudibly to himself, he pulled the
pamphlet Teaspoon had given him from his pocket, threw it to the floor,
and stormed up the stairs to his bedroom. Upon entrance, he started
throwing off his clothes absentmindedly, as the never-ending cavalcade of
disturbing thoughts and conflicting emotions swam viciously through his
head. He strode into the attached master bathroom, one of the ones that
Rachel had spoken of, and began pumping water into a huge white porcelain
tub that was set off of the floor with gleaming, gold, claw toed feet.
Clad in only his pants, Buck worked furiously at the pump, taking out his
chaotic emotional state on the shiny gold beneath his palm.

Buck had been pumping water out of the spout with grim determination. It
shot into the tub in quick short bursts, but still the tub was only half
full. "What am I doing?" He mumbled to himself. Catching his breath, Buck
sat back on his heels. As his respiration calmed so did his outlook. He
considered what Teaspoon had said. Maybe a woman from another country
wouldn’t have any preconceived notions, of who or what he was, until she
got to know him. Buck rolled onto his feet, and with a purposeful stride,
he headed back down stairs. He told himself it was to put some water on
to boil in order to warm the bath he’d just drawn, but the thought of the
pamphlet was ever present in his mind. He reached the ground floor of his
grand, beautiful, new, and achingly empty home. He scooped the booklet
off of the floor, and began to thumb through it on his way to the
kitchen. He put some water on to boil and made his way, eyes glued onto
the brochure, to the kitchen table. Plopping into a chair, he rolled his
eyes at himself, and flung the pamphlet onto the table. It slid to the
edge of the table, and hung precariously. "Damn Teaspoon, " he grumbled.
He knew he should not even entertain the idea of taking a foreign bride.
She wouldn’t have any idea what she was getting into being married to a
half-breed. He could tolerate the public’s rather vocal disdain of him,
but what of this innocent woman and the children that were sure to come
later. How could he do that to someone he vowed to love and protect? It
was wrong to even consider it, but a terrible loneliness that had been
growing for years was twisting and gnawing at his belly. For so long, he
had wished for someone to run home to with exciting news, like the birth
of a new foal. His animals gave him so much joy, but because he had no
one to share it with it was like that joy fell into a void. It existed
only for him, and only for a moment. Abruptly, the brochure fell from the
edge of the table onto the chair opposite Buck, breaking him out of his
self-pitying reverie. Sparing a glance at the water sitting,
frustratingly quiet on the burner, Buck stomped irritably around the
table to retrieve the errant booklet. It was resting on its back,
sprawled open to a page toward the end. The bottom right hand corner of
the page was folded in on itself from Buck’s less than gentle handling of
it. The folded part of the page seemed to underline a small section
towards the base of the page in the far column. Tolerant British woman
seeks kind and equally tolerant American male. Underneath the ad was an

Buck stood motionless, staring at the ad. He gawked at the letters on the
page until they shifted into meaningless scribbles. Eyes wide, he stared
around the room, half expecting there to be some cruel God pointing his
finger and laughing at the half witted man, holding on to a piece of
paper as if his very life was drawn from it. He lifted an eyebrow at that
thought, and wondered if it was the white man’s God reading his thoughts
and showing the way just like Rachel swore he did if you just asked.
Utter silence enveloped the room as Buck replaced the pamphlet in the
chair with his backside, transplanting the closed, straightened,
unwitting voice of God back to the tabletop. Emulating Rachel’s prayer
posture, Buck placed his elbows on the table, folded his hands, and held
them close to his face. Head bowed, eyes closed, he made a simple
request, "God, please help me find the one. Soon. Uh...Amen." Buck opened
his eyes, and it seemed to him that he was coming out of a haze. Slowly
the mundane noises around him began to emerge, the light in the room
seemed to brighten, and Buck was finally aware of the water boiling on
the burner. For some reason everything seemed so much clearer. Unsettled,
he picked up his water, and lugged it upstairs to his awaiting bath.


Chapter 2


Dappled sunlight shone pleasantly on the bed in which Buck slept. The
warming rays enveloped him in a hazy warm cocoon. Yawning, he stretched
his arms around the diminutive figure stirring next to him. Gently
rubbing her slightly distended abdomen, he waited to feel movement.
"Asleep." He mumbled, burying his face in a pool of soft black curls.
Buck was warm. It wasn’t an uncomfortable sort of warm, but a gentle
comforting warm. He couldn’t discern if it was radiating from him or the
sunlight peeking in the windows. With a start, the spell was broken. The
dream faded away despite Buck’s desperate attempt to hold on to it. Fully
conscious now, he mourned the loss of the dream as he had every morning
he’d had it. It had started a month ago when Teaspoon had put that crazy
notion of taking a mail order bride into his head. It didn’t matter how
many times he had it, he always believed he was waking up to the
fulfilling life he had always wished for. That damned dream always fooled
him. He stretched out on his back staring at the ceiling. In the midst of
a bout of momentary insanity, he had written a letter to Miss Tolerant
the very night that Teaspoon had given him that silly pamphlet. It had
been a month since, and Buck was reasonably sure that he was not going to
get an answer. He understood that is took time for mail to get from
continent to continent, but he hadn’t really been pleased with the way he
had introduced himself in the letter. He had simply imparted that he was
an American half-breed with a stud farm. The description of his work was
not very accurate, but he did have stud horses amongst his horseflesh. He
had also explained exactly what a half-breed was, and the miseries
associated with it. He had acknowledged that those were the particular
reasons he had picked a "Tolerant" woman to write to. What kind of a
crazy woman would respond to that?


Celene flashed a huge grin across the counter at Kira. Unnerved by her
friend’s somewhat manic happiness, Kira continued to place the goods that
her father had requested on to the counter for Celene to check her out.
Celene made no move to tabulate the cost of the items in front of her.
Kira just stared back at her, silently questioning what on earth had made
Celene so happy. "Aren’t you going to ask?" Celene finally inquired. "Do
I have to?" Kira smirked at her only friend. "I did something." Kira’s
eyes widened. "Did you and Patrick?" She left the question unfinished,
her face coloring. After overcoming momentary confusion, Celene snorted.
"No silly, this has nothing to do with him. I did something for you. I’m
not sure exactly how you’re going to react, but I was only thinking of

"What did you do?"

"I ...well...I put an add in an American mail order bride publication for

"You what!"

"Oh, Kira don’t be mad, I just want you to be safe and happy, and you
can’t be any of those things here. Just, look." She babbled, pulling out
a scrap of paper. "This is it. I tore it out for you."

"Celene, you know I love you, but I’m so bloody furious at you right now
my head just might explode! Bloody Hell! Tolerant! I’m miss bloody
tolerant! What were you thinking? If my father finds out about this he’ll
have my hide."

Temporarily shocked by her prudish friend’s harsh language, Celene
pouted. "Oh, so you don’t want the letter that arrived today?" She
dropped the pout, and played her trump card.

"What letter? I’ve received no letter."

"That is because I put my address in the ad. I knew that if your father
found the letters, he would be furious, so I used mine." She smiled,
proud of herself.

"Letters? First you said letter then you said letters. Are there others?"

"Well, yes. But I’ve been screening the undesirable replies out."

"And how exactly do you know what I find undesirable?"

"Well, there was only one other letter, and all he talked about was how
hard life with him would be because he’s half Indian. You don’t want an
Indian. Do you know what they do to white women? They rape, pillage, and
plunder! Nasty business that. I’ve heard all sorts of awful things from
American tourists about those heathens. The letter you got today is much
more appealing. It’s from a doctor that could take good care of you."

"I want both letters, Celene. I’ll decide who I want to write back to if
I decide to write at all."


It had taken threats of violence to get both of the letters from Celene.
Kira had pinned both letters underneath her petticoats so that her father
wouldn’t know of their existence. Then, she had raced home to prepare her
father’s evening meal. It was late, but she had to be sure he was
sleeping before she could even consider removing the letters from their
hiding place. Quietly, she unpinned the letters from her garments, and
tiptoed to the window to read by moonlight. She dare not risk waking her
father with a candle. With her forehead leaning against the pane of glass
in the bright glow of the moon, Kira read the first letter she’d pulled
out. It was the one from the doctor that Celene had mentioned. It seemed
to Kira that the good doctor was probably some old buffoon, who wanted a
nice young piece of flesh to make his twilight years more enjoyable.
Obviously, that isn’t what he wrote in the letter, but the way he spoke
of all of the things he’d acquired over the years made her believe there
had been many, many years. There was also an intangible something about
his words that sent alarm bells off in her head. She replaced that letter
to its hiding place, making a mental note to burn it in the breakfast
fire in the morning.

She opened up the second letter, and was immediately impressed with the
neatness of the masculine script it held. Upon finishing the letter, she
was surprised to find herself lamenting the end of it. She read it a
second time, and just as the first letter had seemed artificial, this one
seemed genuine. This man was being so honest, and his words seemed so
completely from the heart, that Kira had an immediate liking for him. She
wanted so badly to keep this letter, but couldn’t risk her father finding
it. She took great pains in memorizing the address on the letter
correctly, and added it to the first one to be destroyed in the morning.
Thinking very warmly of Buck Cross, Kira curled up in bed and fell
quickly into a deep sleep.

Kira woke the next morning after having the most delicious dream. In it
she had been warm, loved, and with child. Being an old maid, of twenty,
she had never put any thought into children, but waking up to find that
she didn’t really have one on the way made her chest clinch from an
emptiness she’d never even been aware of. It made her wish she could
sleep forever, and live the dream. She dragged herself from the bed,
dressed quickly, and made her way to the kitchen to prepare her father’s


Kira was thrilled. Her father had left immediately after breakfast to go
to "the club", which meant that he’d go to "the club", get sloppy drunk,
and go whoring with the other ultra-wealthy men of London. This was a
good thing for her because it meant that he’d be gone all day, maybe even
into the night. She’d have much of the day to do as she pleased, even
though she had been expressly forbidden to leave the house. He had even
been so gregarious at the prospect of his day that he had told her not to
bother with the preparation of any of his meals for the rest of the day.
She decided to clean the house to perfection first. That way, she’d have
it out of the way to write Mr. Cross back later. She was responsible for
all household duties because her father was far too covetous of his
privacy to hire help. She went about making the house just as her father
liked it so as not to tempt his temper. She never knew how he would
behave after one of his jaunts into the city, so she was very fastidious
in her work. It was important to keep him happy.

Pleasantly, fatigued from her chores, Kira sat at the desk in her
bedroom, and wracked her brain for the proper response to Mr. Cross’s
letter. It seemed to take forever, but she decided that she finally had
it right. She took out the postage that Celene had secretly given her,
and prepared the letter to be sent out. She knew that she should wait
until she had another chance to go to the market for her father to have
Celene mail it off for her, but impatience won over prudence. Shocked and
excited by her own audacity, she stole away from the house and delivered
her letter to the post office herself. Much to her relief, she saw no one
she knew on her clandestine errand. Praying feverishly, she entered her
home. Her prayers were answered, her father had not returned home yet.
Still worried that he might find out about her disobedience, she eased
her nerves by making his favorite brownies. She hoped he’d be pleasantly
surprised upon his return to find his favorite treat waiting for him.


Buck hated coming to town. People stared openly, they jeered on occasion,
and once in a while someone spat at him. He longed for the safety and
comfort of his home on the days when he had no choice but go for
supplies. He decided to make a quick stop by the Marshal’s office to say
hello to Teaspoon and Kid. They always seemed to fortify his nerves. At
his entrance he was greeted by Teaspoon with a warm smile and an offer of
coffee, which he gratefully accepted. Kid apparently was out on deputy
business. There seemed to be some kind of joke he’d missed out on that
was still hanging in the air, keeping a silly grin plastered on
Teaspoon’s face. "What?" Buck’s brow furrowed. Teaspoon grinned
enigmatically at him. "I’m just a crazy old man smillin’ at one of my

"No, Teaspoon I know you well enough to know there’s something going on."

"No, not really. Oh, well, ya know Miss Collier that works in the post
office? She gave me this letter to give to you. The odd thing is, it’s
from London, England." Teaspoon’s grin widened. Buck’s eyes got
impossibly wide, then realization dawned and his face bloomed red with
embarrassment. "She wrote back?" He asked, incredulous. "Well yes, she
wrote back. Of course she wrote back. I knew that pamphlet would work for
you, and as someone near and dear to me said, I’m always right. Now, it’s
my turn to ask questions. Why didn’t you tell me you wrote one of these
women? I been worryin’ ‘bout you all these months, thinkin’ you were
upset with me for mentionin’ it, and you done wrote one of those girls
without remindin’me how smart I am!" He teased. All of Teaspoon’s words
bounced over Buck, without him catching one. He smiled back at Teaspoon.
"She wrote back." Buck wandered out of the Marshall’s office in a daze.
He was so far-gone that he neglected to give Teaspoon so much as a
goodbye wave. The letter was the source of so many different emotions for
Buck. He was so happy that Miss Tolerant had acknowledged his existence,
even if it was just to tell him she wasn’t interested. He was nervous
because he was hoping that maybe she was interested. He was terrified
that this craziness would bring him a mate, and he was terrified that it
wouldn’t. He wandered, sightless into Thompkin’s store, and shoved the
letter in his pocket. He gathered everything he needed as fast as he
could, and silently cursed Thompkins for being too slow adding everything
up. He was fidgeting restlessly, hoping that the obnoxious storeowner
would succumb to a burst of speed. "What’s got you so riled, boy?" Buck
always tried to be as polite and friendly as possible, hoping to dispel
some of the uneasiness that folks fostered around him. He wanted to show
people that he was just as civilized as they were, and that he belonged
there just as much as they did. Unfortunately for Thompkins, his
antagonistic use of the term, boy, set Buck off. Because today, Buck was
impatient and bothered by too many conflicting feelings swarming around
in his head, he gave the hateful man a talking to that had been too long
in coming. "I am not a boy." He ground out, his voice low and flinty. "I
do not appreciate being referred to as one. Furthermore, I find it odd,
that any shopkeeper would be daft enough to irritate one of this town’s
wealthiest men. I bring you business that means you work for me. Now, if
you have a problem comprehending that, I’d be more than happy to take my
business elsewhere." Buck hated to bring up the substantial wealth he had
earned in recent years, but that was the kind of thing that a shallow man
like Thompkins could relate to. Thompkins blinked at him. Buck almost
laughed. He’d never seen the man keep his mouth shut for so long. "Good
grief, Buck. What’s got you talkin’ like you swallowed a dictionary?"

"Maybe the fact that I’m literate. By the way, you might benefit from a
dictionary of your own." With that, he began loading his purchases into
his buckboard. As Buck was finishing up his loading, Thompkins came
outside. "I didn’t mean to make you so mad. I was just funin’ ya, Buck."

"Then I guess you need help with your sense of humor as well as your
vocabulary. Just what is your problem? I have never done anything, but
try to help you. You best watch out before your bitterness gets back
around to you. Oh, but then I forgot that your only living family won’t
have anything to do with you. Your own child left this town just so she
wouldn’t have to look at you." Buck’s tirade had started out without
venom, but the misery this man had doled out to him so freely over so
many years, just poured out of him in a torrent of words that Buck could
not believe were falling out of his mouth. Thompkins paled. He deserved
every word he’d been assaulted with, but Buck felt awful anyway. Back
pedaling, Buck ran his fingers through his jet-black hair, firmly
stuffing errant strands behind his ear. "I’m sorry. It wasn’t my place to
say-" He tried to go on, but Thompkins fixed him with such a solemn gaze
that Buck was taken aback. He had never seen Thompkins without a mask of
hatred disguising the utter disappointment of a life consumed by the
idles of pride. In that instant, Buck felt so sorry for the bitter broken
man before him that he was physically pained. "The truth always hurts
don’t it, Buck." With that Thompkins disappeared into his store.

Chapter 3


Buck sat in front of his fireplace, letter in hand. He wondered if what
it contained would make his day even more abysmal. He still felt horrible
for being so mean to Thompkins. He still could not believe he had been so
hateful. He decided that all of this mail order bride business had him
off center. Tomorrow he would go pray to the rising sun to help find his
equilibrium again. Tossing all other thoughts aside, Buck concentrated on
the envelope in his lap. Taking a deep breath, he carefully opened the

Dear Mr. Cross,

I received your letter yesterday, and could not wait to get
back to you. I feel so odd writing to a complete stranger, but
it’s also a broadening of my horizons. I enjoyed your letter so
much that I read it twice. You seem a truly honest man, and I
respect that greatly. I have only one friend, and if this
letter yields nothing more than that, I shall deem it a
complete success. I should begin by informing you that I did
not write the ad you saw. My friend Celene was trying to do me
a favor. I don’t know what she was thinking she was going to
do. Maybe she though she might say, "Merry Christmas Kira, I
got you a husband." Oh, my name is Kira Kyle by the way. My
first name is pronounced with an "ear" sound after the K, if
that makes any sense at all. Anyway, back to the ad. I would
have written it much differently I believe.

You said that you ran a stud farm. I’m not very experienced
with horses. I think that they are noble creatures, but the
closest I ever get to one is being in my father’s buggy. I’ve
always wanted to learn to ride, but my father insists that it’s
not something a lady should think about. I was curious though,
what exactly makes a stud farm? What do you do with one? I’m
sorry to be so ignorant of your work, but I’m always open to
new knowledge.

If perhaps you would like to know something of me, I love to
draw. My father says that it’s a hobby only an idiot would
pursue, but I love it still. On rare occasions I’m allowed to
go to the art museum. I could stay all day, but father refuses
to "waste" more than an hour or two. There is just something
about art that speaks to me on a level nothing else can
transcend. Do you like art, Mr. Cross?

I suppose I should get to the point of this matter. I
understand that the ad that you responded to was for a mail
order bride, and while I’m available, I would still like to
hear from you again before any decisions are made. I should
warn you that I’m not pretty, but I’m a hard worker. I’m also a
good cook. Are you fond of children, Mr. Cross? I never thought
I would have the chance to marry so I never thought of children
of my own. Now, with the development of this possibility, I
find myself longing for them.

There is so much I want to ask you, but I fear if I write too
much I will never get this letter to post. I think I understand
about your ancestry, and I’m not bothered at all about it. In
fact, I’m very curious about different cultures. Perhaps we
could learn a great deal from one another. I’m not much, so I’m
not expecting much. All I ask is for a kind man who will
respect me for me. I don’t need wealth or material goods. I
don’t need placation or lies. I don’t necessarily need a man
with good looks or youth either. I don’t insist on true love. I
just need mutual consideration and true friendship. I’ve always
read that the strongest love grows out of friendship anyway. I
hope I’m not making a ninny of myself. I must leave now, or
I’ll never have the courage to send this letter. Godspeed, Kira

Curled up in bed reading by lamplight, Buck read the letter a fourth
time. He considered reading it again, but the oil in his lamp was getting
low. Kira seemed so sweet. He loved the way she arranged her words. He
wondered absently if she talked like that. She seemed perfect, but should
he marry a stranger? It was just so unsettling to promise your life to
someone you haven’t met. He also had trouble with the notion of that
promise being to a faceless entity in a letter, rather than a flesh and
blood woman he could match face and name to. Though he was loath to admit
it, he could not divorce himself from a very common male propensity to
wonder just how, "not pretty" she was. He tucked the wrinkled paper under
his pillow, and fell into a listless sleep.


Buck awoke to the dream again. Grunting into his pillow, he tried to
dispel the power the dream had over him. He hated waking to feel so
absolutely isolated. He was aware of the fact that he shouldn’t feel that
way, but it was just so hard to stand alone and watch all of his friends
either die, leave, or fall in love with one another and marry. He had
known what was coming a long time before Kid and Lou made it to the
alter, but shortly after their wedding, when Teaspoon and Rachel
announced their engagement, he almost died from the shock. It wasn’t that
he begrudged them their happiness. It was just that it was so hard to be
alone and surrounded by loving couples. During holidays and celebrations,
Buck always entertained Teresa and Jeremiah while their sister, Kid, and
Teaspoon and Rachel discussed married life. He didn’t mind playing "Uncle
Buck". In fact he really enjoyed the kids. It just seemed to suck the air
from his lungs to know that he would always be Uncle Buck and never
Daddy. Kira Kyle’s words manifested themselves in his head. She had told
him that she had a longing for children. Maybe it was the right decision
to marry a stranger. Maybe Kira could heal this terrible longing in him,
or even better, maybe she could fill it. Maybe she was just plain. He
could handle plain. With his decision made, Buck rolled out of bed. He
ignored all of his morning rituals, such as, coffee, brushing his hair,
his morning sacrament to the porcelain god. He sat at the desk in his
office wearing only his longjohn bottoms, and began another letter to
Kira. Dear Kira, he began. I want to marry you. With a derisive snort,
Buck crumpled that piece of paper, and started again.

Dear Kira,

I’m wondering if I’ve lost my mind. I don’t know you. I know very little
about you, and still I find that I want to make you my wife. I’m alone.
I’m surrounded by a wonderful group of people who chose to love me, but
I’m alone. If you give your consent, I’ll buy you a ticket to a boat
headed for America, and I’ll by a train ticket to get you here to Rock
Creek where I live. I’ll also send, with them, the marriage license that
needs only your signature. I think it would be so odd to be a husband,
and not know the exact moment you became one. I should also put some of
the worry you must be feeling to rest, and say that I’m not offering
marriage just for the sake of marriage. I read your letter so many times
that I have it mostly memorized. You have the sweetest nature, and I want
to explore that. I want you to show me museums and the colors and
pictures trapped in your head, just waiting to be released onto a canvas.
Do you talk the way you write? Do you like books? What is your family
like? Why is your father so ornery? There is so much I want to ask you. I
know I’ll want to kick myself as soon as I mail this letter because I’ll
have thought of so many more questions and so many better ways to phrase
what I’m asking you for. I just need a companion, an equal. I truly hope
that we have the right pieces to make each other whole. Sincerely, Buck

PS Kira, please take some time to make absolutely sure you want to do
this. It won’t be easy being a half-breed’s wife, and I can’t take
another heartbreak.


Kira held the letter over her heart. She had read it twice already, and
still didn’t believe it’s content. She had a chance at freedom. Hopefully
even a chance for happiness. Celene had not been pleased to find that she
had written to Buck, and rejected the doctor, but Celene was happy to do
anything to get Kira out of her father’s home. It was such a huge
decision to make. Would she end up a prisoner in her home again? Did this
man hit? What did "it’s not easy to be the wife of a half-breed," mean?
Did he scream and throw things when dinner wasn’t hot enough or good
enough? She prayed not, because the decision had already been made. If
she stayed here, her father would eventually kill her. She did not want
to live, precariously teetering on eggshells any more. She stared up at
the moon. Her future husband was sitting beneath this same glowing orb,
and she had not even the vaguest notion of what he looked like. She
wasn’t sure what age he was, and she wanted to kick herself for not
asking in the last letter. Celene said that some American tourists said
that Indians were ugly, dirty, dark brutes with black hair, and dark,
beady eyes. She was hoping that their perception was skewed, but for now
she forced that though out of her head. She had had the forethought to
"forget" one of the items her father wanted from the store today, when
she’d received the letter from Celene, so that she could mail a new
letter tomorrow when she went to retrieve the item. She had paid a hefty
price for it too. Her throat was so black with bruises that she had to
wear a dark colored blouse that stretched up to her chin to cover the
angry color of it. It would be worth it though when she was free of the
tyrant that spawned her. She made plans to go to the market early, as
she’d promised her father, to give Celene the affirmative answer to
Buck’s proposal. She wished so desperately to keep his letter, and use it
to remind herself that becoming a wife was a good decision.
Unfortunately, she knew that was far too risky. She was almost free, and
she would not jeopardize that for a girlish whim.


Buck could barely stand. He had no idea how he made it home from the post
office. He was wandering around his house, looking at the utter emptiness
of it, trying to decide whether or not he should fully furnish it before
his wife’s arrival. His wife. He was going to be married in a matter of
weeks. He would be legally married in a few weeks anyway. As soon as Kira
signed the certificate he would be a husband. He would be able to meet
his wife on October fourth. At least that was when the Rock Creek bound
train ticket said she would be there. Of course, that was only if the
boat was on time. He had so much to worry about, so much to do, and
people to tell. He was going to be a husband, and maybe even in the next
year or so he would be someone’s father. That thought sent shivers of
unadulterated joy coursing through his body. He was going to be the best
husband and father that he possibly could. He was going to give his
children the father he never had. He was going to make sure that Kira
never regretted leaving her home, and everything she had ever known to
marry a foreigner. He decided that she must be an extraordinarily brave
woman. His life was about to change completely. He was exultant, and
utterly petrified. Giddy, he decided write everything he was feeling down
just like Lou did with her journal.


Kira stood quaking, holding, with trembling fingers, her future. True to
his word, Buck had sent boat and train tickets, as well as a marriage
certificate that needed only for her to sign it. He also sent a good deal
of money. He had written that she should spend it to make her trip
smoother or more enjoyable, or whatever she wanted to spend it on. She
looked up at Celene; the warring emotions clear on her face. Celine took
her hands. "Look love, there is no going back now. You can’t burn these
tickets like you did those letters, and you know your father is
constantly digging in your personal things. You can’t go home now. Use
that money to buy whatever you need, and I’ll hide you in my room at the
boarding house until Tuesday, when the boat leaves." A fat tear made its
way down Kira’s face. She was considerably pale, and Celene was beginning
to worry. She didn’t think that any fate could be worse that what awaited
Kira at her father’s house. Kira placed the marriage certificate gently
on the counter, and signed her name to it. She gathered the things she
needed from the store, and paid Celene for them all without a word.
Celene grabbed a thick ugly shawl, and wrapped it about Kira’s head to
hide who she was. She then gave her terrified friend explicit directions
to the boarding house for women where she lived, as well as the key to
her room. "I’ll meet up with you there tonight at six. You’ll see Kira,
everything will be all right," Celene cooed.

Chapter 4


Celene, lacking her key, knocked on her door. Kira opened it a peek, and
upon seeing her friend in the threshold, she took an audible breath. She
had not even noticed that she had been holding it since she heard the
soft tapping. Celene rushed into the room, locking the door immediately
behind her. "Oh, my good gracious. We have stirred up a hornet’s nest.
Not twenty minutes after you left your father stomped into the store
demanding to know where you were! I told him that you’d come in to get
his supplies, and left a good while before. Let’s just hope he isn’t
smart enough to figure out that you’ve made at least one friend in your
life." Celene stopped at Kira’s panicked expression. "Oh no, Celene what
if he finds out you helped me? What if he comes after you? He would hurt
you to find out where I am. He thinks I’m his possession, and he’s going
to be enraged to find that I ran away." She was absolutely horrified to
realize that she was putting her dear friend in danger.

Celene’s face blossomed into a smile. "Well, there is something I’ve been
meaning to mention to you my dear." Kira waited expectantly. "Well, you
know how I’ve wanted to marry Patrick so long, but his family wouldn’t
have it because I’m just a shopgirl? We decided that if you had the guts
to go off to the other side of the world, to spend the rest of your life
with a man you don’t even know, we could elope, and go off to America!"
Kira was absolutely speechless in her joy. Celene took this as a cue to
continue. "We’re leaving two days after you, and I have your new address
memorized. So, as soon as we find a place to stay I’ll write you, and if
you can’t tolerate your new life, well then, you can just come live with
us!" Kira knew nothing else to do; she grabbed her friend in a tearful

A bit goofy though she was, Celene always came through for her. The day
they met, Kira had come into the shop in so much pain that she could
barely stand. The night before she had possessed the audacity to cough
during a conversation her father was having with an acquaintance on the
street. Her father was unappreciative of the interruption, and
illustrated his point by taking a frying pan to her ribs and back. He was
always very careful not to leave marks on her face, arms, or anywhere
anyone might notice them. It had been Celine’s first day working in the
shop, and she was trying to introduce herself when Kira just keeled over.
Celene had brought her a cold compress, and done what she could to help
her. Kira had never known any simple act of kindness such as that, and
was from that moment Celene’s confidante, supporter, and dearest friend.
Kira’s mind was much less burdened because of the knowledge that her
friend would not be too far.


Tuesday came wrought with a flurry of activity, a storm of nerves, and an
arduous journey to the docks dressed in disguise as a pregnant woman.
Kira and Celene parted with an abundance of tears and well wishes. Kira
watched as the boat floated further and further from the dock. When
England was finally a dot on the horizon, she screamed in the salty mist,
"You can not hurt me anymore Richard Kyle, you misogynist bastard!" She
was emotionally drained, and had no idea how she would be able to prepare
herself to meet her husband. She though back to the night before. She and
Celene had stayed up all night discussing the marriage bed. They were
both at a loss to figure out exactly what it was that would soon be
happening to them as wives. Celene had a few ideas, but Kira was at a
complete loss. She had been so sheltered in regard to the matters of
husbands and wives that the things Celene was imagining to be the way of
it were fundamentally dismaying to Kira. She did not know how she would
endure a virtual stranger touching her in such a way, or seeing her
without dress. She was even more fearful of her future now, but she had
heard about the search parties and such that her father had digging about
for her. She couldn’t just go home, and ask to be forgiven now. He would
kill her, that she knew beyond a doubt. Experience had been a strict
teacher. That thought shook her, and she looked about the deck of the
boat. Some of the crewmen were looking at her funny. She decided to keep
up the pregnancy charade until she was in America.


Buck stared at Lou, waiting to hear the verdict. He stared at her
profile, growing impatient. In her last letter, Kira had asked if it
would be possible for a preacher to be made available upon her arrival,
to make their joining official in the eyes of God. She had also mentioned
that her favorite flowers were roses, and that she hoped perhaps she
might have some for the ceremony. He had gone a step farther. He knew he
needed to buy her a wedding ring, so he went to a jeweler in St. Joe that
specialized in original jewelry. He discussed what he wanted with the
man, and had used Lou’s ring size thinking that all women had little
hands like Lou’s.

As soon as he arrived home with the ring, he rushed it to Lou to get a
woman’s perspective on it. Lou looked up at Buck with a huge smile on her
face. "Buck if her favorite flowers are roses she is going to love this
ring. I just wish you had gotten her ring size. Not all women have the
same size fingers, you know." Actually, Buck didn’t think about that. He
supposed that intellectually he knew that, but he’d had so little contact
with women in a personal physical context that he was clueless as to how
their hands differed. He stared at the delicate ring of roses sitting in
Lou’s palm, and hoped very much that it would fit Kira. A bolt of
nervousness shot abruptly through his system. It was October first, and
he had very little time to speculate on anything about Kira. Soon she
would be there in the flesh. He had put a lot of thought into that flesh.
He had spent the last few months daydreaming about what it would be like
to enjoy all of the physical pleasures marriage brings. Considering
Kira’s long journey, and the fact that they had no tangible knowledge of
one another at all, Buck decided that he would give her time to get used
to him, and her new home before he tried to bring her into his bed. He
could not imagine relations so intimate with a woman he had just set eyes
on. He was certain that he would be content, at first, to just get to
know the woman he would be spending the rest of his life with. There was
plenty of time for lust later, he assured himself.


Kira stared sightlessly at the scenery flying by. She was approaching her
new life with a great deal of trepidation. Her discomfiture had wreaked
havoc on her appearance. She had been mostly unable to eat throughout the
entire trip, and had lost a good bit of weight. Her clothing hung oddly
askew off of her bony shoulders, her face was gaunt and pale, she wore
gray marks beneath her eyes, and her fingernails had been gnawed to the
nub. She half expected Buck to send her back home as soon as he set eyes
on her. Her father had always reminded her that she was far too skinny,
her hair far too wild, her features far too weak, and her coloring far
too strange for any man’s taste. It was, her father insisted, because of
those many attributes of ugliness she would never find a husband. She was
so close to the moment she had been dreading, fantasizing about, and
entreating to occur, that she was shaking quite obviously. The train
attendant had asked her four times already if she was all right. She
prayed silently for strength and for enough blessings so that she
wouldn’t need it.

Chapter 5


Buck paced the platform where the train was to arrive momentarily. He was
so nervous he could barely keep his legs from shaking. He was dressed in
his best suit with his hair combed neatly into a long, black ponytail. He
had Teaspoon, Rachel, Kid, Lou, the kids, and the town preacher waiting
at Teaspoon’s house for a very informal wedding. He absently sniffed at
the huge bouquet of roses he held, as he thought back to the day that he
had approached the minister. He seemed so surprised to see Buck striding
up to him, but he had been agreeable and willing to perform a marriage
for Buck and his bride. A noise caught Buck’s attention. The train was
pulling up next to the platform. Buck’s heart was in his throat. He was
pretty sure that as soon as she spoke to him he would transform
immediately from a well read self educated man, into a stuttering idiot.
He worked his tongue around desperately in his mouth, trying to find so
much as a hint of moisture, but it seemed to cleave thickly to the roof
of his mouth. He watched as people piled out of the train and began to
mill around, waiting for relatives, or luggage, or both. He eyed a young
woman walking uncertainly from the train. She was rather tall, with lank,
straw blonde hair, spectacle-enlarged, blue eyes, and a completely
unremarkable appearance. She was very, very plain. Buck started to make
his way in her direction, but a startling visage came into view. The
owner of the stunning face was a woman of about twenty. Buck gawked
unabashedly at a mane of wild black curls that swarmed in a magnificent
torrent down her back. A pair of huge luminous emerald eyes, so rich in
their color that Buck could have sworn actual jewels, peeked out from
beneath a fringe of thick, black lashes. Her skin had no equal, with its
flawless expanse of ivory softness. Her movement drew his gaze down. She
was tiny, too tiny. She was emaciated. Her clothes looked to be ready to
fall off of her narrow shoulders, and her lack of height just added to
the illusion of a hapless waif. This certainly could not be his wife. She
carried only one small bag, and Kira would surely be bringing all of her
worldly possessions with her. He knew he should be searching the crowd
for Kira, but he could not take his eyes off of this jewel-eyed beauty.
Without preamble, those extraordinary eyes met his. A tentative smile
emerged, and her lips formed a one-word question, "Buck?" Buck was
stupefied. There was no god, white or otherwise, that was that good.
There was no way this angelic creature could be his Kira. She made her
way through the bustling crowd toward him. She appeared to be gliding
gracefully as if caught by a light wind. "Buck Cross, is that you?" Her
mellifluous voice seemed to lilt and fall with the fluttering of his
heart. That accent of hers was real easy on the ears, Buck decided. How
he managed to stammer an affirmative answer to her question was beyond
him. "Kira?"

Kira stepped toward her new husband. She had assumed that any man as kind
as Buck’s letters made him seem would already be wed unless he were
terribly unattractive. She realized with profuse delight that her
assumption was entirely erroneous. The man standing before her was
beautiful! He towered probably a foot above her, with broad shoulders set
out from a perfectly erect spine. His features were strong, exquisitely
chiseled, and covered in smooth bronze skin. His hair was brushed away
from his handsome face, giving him the look of a boy whose mother had
just groomed him for church. He was a sun bronzed Adonis, but the
physical beauty of him was not what was making her weak in the knees. She
hated being trite, but she was weak in the knees. She felt as if she were
about to drop to the ground, due to the jelly her legs had suddenly
become, and it was those eyes that had done the jelly making. They were
endless. She looked at his noble face, and she simply fell into those
deep, liquid, brown eyes. Not only were they deep, but there was a
solemnity in them that made Kira wish deeply to bring him joy. She
dropped her eyes from his, hoping to be able to speak with some
intelligence, but that just made things worse. She found herself staring
at his very broad, very male chest, which was still quite obvious even
under his suit. Her gaze roamed out to his shoulders and down his arms,
to his entirely masculine hands, that were clasped around a huge, sweet
smelling, bouquet of red roses. Kira’s face lit up. "Are those for me?"

"Naw," Buck grinned. "I thought I’d walk around town with these just to
see how silly I’d look." Buck noticed the color rising in her cheeks.
"I’m kidding. Of course they’re for you." Taking the flowers, Kira beamed
at him. Buck had never seen anything so lovely. He also realized
belatedly that no one had ever smiled at him like that. He could
definitely get used to that smile.

They stood, awkwardly staring at one another when Buck broke the silence.
"I got the preacher like you asked. He’s at my friend, Teaspoon’s house
waiting for us." Kira reveled in the sound of his voice. It was deep,
quiet, resonant, and utterly sensual. She decided that if she had heard
that voice instead of reading its owner’s letters, she would have leapt
in the ocean to swim to America for a quicker arrival. "Teaspoon?"

"Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot to tell you about him in the letters. He’s like
a father to me."

"Indeed, you mentioned no family at all. Will there be anyone other than
this Teaspoon there?" She queried, raising an eyebrow at the peculiar

"Yeah, there’s Rachel, that’s Teaspoon’s wife. Then there’s Lou and Kid.
They’re married. They’re like a brother and a sister to me. Then there
are Lou’s little brother and sister, Theresa and Jeremiah. And of course
the preacher you asked for is waiting for us."

"Well, we shouldn’t keep everyone waiting." Her pallor as well as her
excessive slenderness was concerning to Buck. She looked so frail, and so
lost. He wondered if maybe she was having second thoughts. Maybe he
wasn’t so lucky after all. Maybe she saw him, and for the first time
actually comprehended that she’d married a "savage". "Uh, Kira? Are you
okay? You look awfully pale. Are you sure you want to do this?" He asked
gravely. "If you want to call off the ceremony, and annul the
certificate, I’ll understand. I’ll even pay for you to go home. I know I
rushed you."

Kira’s eyes grew impossibly wide. "Oh heavens, I knew it!" She wailed. "I
knew once you saw me you wouldn’t want me. I’ve no other choices here,
Mr. Cross. I’ve nowhere else to go." The roses that had been wrapped in
her arms were shaking wildly, matching the frantic pace of Kira’s words.
Buck was jarred by her words. Stepping forward, he took her by the
shoulders to stop the quaking of her body. It seemed a pointless pursuit
for the fact that Buck was beginning to do a little trembling himself.
This was it. He was getting married today. "I’m just making sure that
you’re sure. I don’t want you to be unhappy with a decision that you
might have made in haste. I’ve been ready to do this since you told me
how you felt about art, because I feel the same way about books. It just
seemed so right to me." His face brightened with the most sincere smile
Kira had ever seen. The warm intensity of it surged through her. She
calmed visibly. "Well then, Mr. Cross. Let’s do this." He took her roses
in one of his large hands, took her bag, and offered her the opposite
arm. "All right…Mrs. Cross. Let’s go make it official."

Chapter 6


Richard Kyle stood at the core of the wreckage that was his home. This
was all her fault. His thankless little bitch of a daughter had deserted
him. He had heard rumors, since her disappearance, of her befriending the
little trollop that works at the market. Well, she used to work at the
market. He’d gone to the women’s boarding house to have a little chat
with her only to find that she’d run off with some man. He was positive
that Kira had gone with them. He only had to figure out where and then
they would pay. Daddy’s little girl should have learned not to betray him
years ago. It was just his misfortune that cliché’s sometimes rang true,
like mother, like daughter.


Kira stared at the house. She was worrying her lower lip, staring down at
Buck with her brows knitted into an apprehensive knot. "What if they
don’t like me?" Buck tightened his grip on her waist and helped her from
the buckboard. "They’ll be crazy about you. Teaspoon was the one that
gave me the booklet with your ad in it. So this was really all his idea,
well, his and Rachel’s. So they’ll be thrilled to meet you. Kid and Lou
are just happy I won’t be alone anymore. Lou’s my… our neighbor, and
she’s bursting at the seams to have another woman close by. I’m sure you
won’t have any problems with them. They’re real good people." Squaring
her shoulders, she nodded, and walked by Buck’s side to the front door.

Teaspoon was a bit of a shock for Kira. No sooner did Buck open the door
for her than, Teaspoon charged across the room, gathering her in a
friendly embrace. "I’m so glad to finally meet ya darlin’. We’ve been
rootin’ for our Buck to find him a good woman for years. This here’s my
wife, Rachel." He gestured toward a lovely blonde woman who smiled and
waved. This is Lou, otherwise known as Loise, and this is her husband,
Kid. These two little’uns are Lou’s sister Theresa and her brother
Jeremiah. The small family greeted her warmly with hugs, and she even
earned a kiss from little Theresa. "You’re real purty. I bet Uncle Buck
is happy you ain’t ugly. We were kinda worryin’ for him." Kira held back
the snort of laughter that threatened to explode from her. She kissed the
little girl back and turned her head to wink at Buck.

A steady heat was rising from Buck’s toes. The wink she sent him from
across the room had his entire body enflamed. He had never seen another
woman so beautiful, and this particular one was momentarily to be his
wife. He just hoped he could stick with his decision to give her some
time before he asked her to consummate the marriage. His nerves all
seemed to be electrified just because he was near her. What was he going
to do when they were alone at home? He supposed he would be neglecting to
heat any water for his baths for a while. Looking at her though, he was
absolutely certain that she was worth it.

Teaspoon had introduced Kira to the Minister, and she was engaged in an
animated conversation with him. Buck only caught snippets of the
conversation, but he deduced that Kira would be a regular in the pews of
the church the minister presided over. That suited Buck just fine. He
would never tell anyone that his or her beliefs were somehow inferior to
his own. Too many people had hurt him by doing that in the past. He had
decided in the beginning to be a supportive husband, no matter what. Even
though the vows he was about to make were not from his religion’s
teachings, they were vows none the less. He resolved to follow them as
the honorable Kiowa man he was. Buck’s thought process came to an abrupt
halt as soon as he spied Kira making her way from the minister to him.
"Mr. Martin wanted me to ask you if you’re ready to begin." Buck wasn’t
sure what it was about her that took his voice from him at that moment.
It could have been the sweet smile on her lips, or the glittering green
eyes that shared her mouth’s mirth. He didn’t really care. Speechless, he
took her small hand, placed it in the crook of his arm, and stepped
gamely forward into his uncertain future.

Kira was so weak that she had to lean heavily on Buck through most of the
ceremony. She considered herself in good form when she actually managed
to speak the words, "I do." What she didn’t realize was that her resolve
was going to be tested again sooner than she’d assumed. When Mr. Martin
asked Buck if he had a ring for the bride, she was shocked to find that
he’d had the forethought to buy one. When she saw the ring, however, she
realized just how much forethought that he had put into her preferences.
On her trembling finger, Buck placed a gold band that was made of wee
overlapping roses. It was small enough not to look odd on her delicate
hand, but the detail of the roses was still astonishing. The artfulness
with which the ring was crafted made the curves and points of the petals
look real, yet they were not sharp or bulging into her other fingers.
Even more intriguing was the fact that it fit perfectly, when she was
sure Buck did not know her ring size. She didn’t even know her ring size.
A familiar burning emerged in her eyes, and tears began to run in thin
rivulets down her cheeks. The strange part of the experience was that the
tears were not of pain, but joy.


"Your family is so kind! The cake Rachel made was so beautiful that I
didn’t even want to cut it. I’ll admit, though, it was delicious. I would
have liked to chat with them a bit more, but they seemed to be shooing us
away." Kira blanched at the most likely reason Buck’s friends had sent
them on their way so early. She hoped Buck hadn’t seen her expression.
She certainly didn’t want to make him angry on their wedding day. She
changed the subject quickly, hoping he wouldn’t notice. "Your Teaspoon is
quite a character. " Kira had to yell over the noise of the hoses drawing
the buckboard. "Lou asked me to go into town with her and Rachel for
lunch one day soon. Would that be all right?"

"Of course. I’m glad, they really liked you. Believe me, they did." He
replied to her dubious expression. "No one you met today, with maybe the
exception of Mr. Martin, is ever inclined to keep their opinion to
themselves. They all liked you." Still in shock, Buck couldn’t believe
that the lovely woman sitting beside him was his wife. He kept waiting to
wake up and find himself alone in his bed, cursing that damned dream. We
are almost home. I need to warn you that I don’t have much furniture. I
don’t need much, so I never bought any. I mean I have a bed, but…" Buck
tried to reroute the conversational direction he’d clumsily taken as soon
as Kira’s face became even more pallid. "I have a dining table too," he

"As I said in my letter, I’m not demanding much. Whatever you have will
be just fine with me."



"Whatever we have." He grinned at her, and she felt a wave of fondness
for this good-hearted man. She had been born in her father’s home, and
yet everything there, including the clothes on her back, he insisted were
his. He’d said once that she was his possession, and she had been forced
even before her mother’s death to ask his permission to eat his food. She
was growing in the certainty that Buck was a man entirely unlike her
father. Which is to say, he was a man.

Buck watched Kira’s face as they neared the house. He had to let out a
little laugh when her countenance changed. She was gawking open mouthed.

"Home sweet home," Buck grinned at his bride. He seemed to be doing a lot
of that today.

Kira couldn’t find any words. For some reason she had assumed that Buck
was not a wealthy man. She had no knowledge that a stud farm, whatever
that was, could be so lucrative. When she really thought about it, she
should have known it when he paid for her passage to this country. He had
made sure that all of her accommodations were first class. Thinking of it
now, she couldn’t believe she hadn’t caught on. She supposed that she had
just been so worried about what would become of her that she hadn’t given
it any real consideration. She was astonished now, to believe she would
be living in this gorgeous home. It was enormous and lovely, with yellow
paint and white trim. It had shutters and decorative woodwork all over
the porch, all painted in a pristine white. She could see a big porch,
replete with a wooden swing hanging serenely from the ceiling.

Kira climbed up the front steps to the porch, her eyes wandering from the
flourishing potted plants to the etched glass in the door. She was
already overwhelmed, and she wasn’t even in the house yet. Buck opened
the door for her, but before she had time to step in, he’d swept her up
in his arms. "I’m supposed to carry the bride over the threshold, right?"
She blushed deeply. "O-of course," she stammered. She couldn’t think
straight. She could feel the heat of him, the strength of his limbs
wrapped around her back, and under her legs. He set her down with a
flourish, "Your new home, my lady." She gaped, turning in a circle.
Empty, glossy, wooden floors surrounded her. "I lost track of what I was
saying on the way here. I was going to tell you that I was thinking we
could go to St. Joe for a honeymoon in a few weeks, and that you could
pick out whatever you wanted to decorate with. I didn’t know what kind of
furniture you like, and Lou insisted that every woman wants to decorate
her own home. I also thought we could visit the art museum they have
there. I’ve never been there, but it’s big, so they must have something
interesting in there."

"You’re going to let me decorate the whole house?"

"Well, I was hoping we would agree on most things, but yeah. That’s been
my plan. You can spend what you want to on it. I don’t much care for
money, and I’ve got too much of it. I think we’ll have fun. I know most
men gripe about it, but I always said that if I were lucky enough to get
married one day, I’d enjoy going shopping with my wife. I’m pretty sure
I’ll enjoy the museum too, and I’m dead sure I’ll enjoy showing you off."

"What do you mean by that?"


"The last part, about showing me off?"

"Do you think it’s wrong that I’d want to show off my beautiful new

Kira blinked at him. "Beautiful? Buck please don’t make fun of me." She
looked at her feet uncertainly.

"I’m not, Kira. I don’t know who told you that you aren’t pretty, but
they must have been blind. I ‘m having the worst time keeping my eyes off
of you," he confessed.

"You really are serious. I don’t know what to say." She was sure she
looked like a beet. She could feel her cheeks flushing red-hot.

"How about a tour of your new house?"

"Certainly, lead the way." She smiled, still fighting the blush she felt
on her throat and face. Buck lead her into a roomy kitchen that was full
of the usual paraphernalia, as well as a nice, simple, dining table and
chairs set. She was shown a dining room. Buck showed her his office. It
had a full wall that was dedicated to bookshelves which were so packed
with books, kira was sure that not one more book could be forced to fit
in. There was a worn desk that housed many drawers, and next to it sat an
even more worn chair covered with cracking green colored leather. There
was a door in the back wall, and she was shocked to find that Buck had an
indoor toilet, and sink behind it. She’d taken for granted that she’d be
moving to the backwoods, somewhere where there were no creature comforts,
and this home was much more luxurious than her father’s had been. There
was another door that lead out of that bathroom to a huge empty room Buck
didn’t want to explain. "Well, what is this room for?" She persisted.
Kira noticed a bright blush rise in his cheeks. "I was hoping that it
would be something along the lines of a children’s play room. I was
thinking that if it was raining or something and I ever had kids of
course, that they would need a place to play. So, I made sure it was off
my office so I could watch them." He directed his entire statement to the
top of his boots. Feeling saucy, Kira reached up to cup one of his
burning cheeks in her hand. "You are the most thoughtful man, Buck
Cross." A palpable tension rose in the room. Clumsily, Buck took her hand
from his face and pulled her upstairs by it. There were several empty
rooms that Buck explained were bedrooms and one fully furnished bedroom
that Buck promised to explain later.

She came to another door, and Buck took her hand from the knob. "This one
is for last." She nodded, and followed Buck to the master bedroom. It was
cavernous with a high ceiling, and two huge closets. There was an
enormous picture window to the left of the bed, and to her shock, there
was a fireplace on the wall across from the foot of the bed. There was
another door in the room that led to a private bathroom complete with a
basin and bathtub with water pumps, and another indoor toilet. It had
plenty of shelving space for any woman’s needs, as well as linen closets
to fill with nice sheets and things. Coming out of the bathroom, Kira
noticed the bed. It was huge. The headboard was carved out of wood, and a
simple patchwork quilt was spread over it. The carving made the bed look
as if a tree were sprouting up above the bed. Buck caught her looking at
it, and admitted to carving the bed himself, adding that Rachel had made
the quilt for him. There was just no ending, when it came to the pleasant
surprises Buck had for her.

Finally, he led her to the door he had saved for last. He opened the
door, and stepped aside for Kira to go in. "This is for you. I mean, it’s
your room." It was a corner room, and the dying ebbs of sunlight poured
through the picture windows, touching lightly on the objects that rested
in it. In the corner, was a large desk covered from edge to edge with
every kind of canvas and drawing paper she could have ever imagined.
There was a long table in the middle of the room that was topped with
boxes that held every kind of pencil, paintbrush, paint, chalk, or any
other medium she could have ever imagined. In the corner opposite of the
desk was a freestanding easel, waiting for a canvas. Sitting away from
the veritable art supply store was a rocking chair, carved with the same
design as the bed. Dumbfounded, Kira threw herself into Buck arms,
forgetting herself long enough to rain feathery kisses all over his face.
He eagerly returned her embrace, and basked in the glory of her

Chapter 7


Friction between chain links caused a hypnotizing squeaking noise as Kira
and Buck drifted back and forth on the porch swing. He’d long since
retrieved her bag and roses from the buckboard. Her bag had been
deposited in the master bedroom, and the flowers lovingly put in a
water-filled vase and placed on the dining table. It was dark, and the
night creatures had begun to serenade the nervous couple swaying slowly
on the swing. Kira stared at the man she had joined her life with that
very day. She started giggling uncontrollably. Buck shot her a curious
look, but that just made it worse. Tears were streaming down her face by
the time she got her laughter under control. "I’m so sorry," she barely
choked out. "I’m such a ninny sometimes." Buck was just glad that the
strange silence had been broken. "What did you find so funny?" He asked,
pulling the leather thong from his hair, and running his long fingers
through it. Kira could only look at him for a moment with his hair
falling straight and glossy around his dark face. "I like your hair down
better," she blurted. Her eyes widened, and she slapped a small hand over
her mouth. "Please tell me I didn’t say that out loud." Laughing, Buck
could only nod his head. Switching the subject back to his earlier
question, he asked, "What was so funny before?" He waited for her answer,
but she wouldn’t look at him. "I don’t know if I should say. I don’t want
to make you cross with me." She furrowed her brow realizing too late, the
pun her words made with his name. "Lowest form of humor," she muttered
under her breath. "What?" Buck looked at her, expectant.


"Why would you think I would be mad at you? I’d really like to know what
you found so funny."

"It’s silly really. I was just thinking that well... you should be a
toad." Buck stared at her, uncomprehending. She shrugged.

"Well, I was expecting a toad anyway. I thought that since you seemed
nice, and since you were employed, that you were unmarried because you
were ugly. Isn’t that awful of me?"

"But you came to marry me anyway."

"There was a kindness in your words that drew me all the way from
England. I figured that your sweetness would overshadow outward

"I still don’t see the humor." His brows furrowed. She snorted.

"The humor? Your bloody beautiful!" Her hand shot up to her mouth again.
"I think perhaps I’m in need of a gag tonight. My mouth is running away
with me."

Blushing to his roots, Buck had absolutely no idea how to counter that.
No one had ever confessed to finding him physically attractive at all,
certainly not beautiful. He was more pleased than words could relay that
it was Kira who said what he’d wished most of his life to hear. He had
long ago given up on ever hearing such sweet words, as well as ever
having a partner in life. Buck took her hand, brought it to his mouth,
and gently kissed it. "I hope your mouth runs away with you a lot for the
next fifty years or so." With her hand so close to his eyes, Buck noticed
that chill bumps had appeared over her exposed skin. "It’s getting chilly
out here. I should get you inside before you catch your death. How about
I start a fire in the bedroom to warm you up?" She stiffened at the
mention of the bedroom, and Buck realized that he’d forgotten to inform
her of his decision to give her some time before any physical aspect of
the marriage was expected. "I made up that other bedroom, the only other
one with furniture, for me to use for a while. I was thinking you might
need some time to uhm…get used to things. I’ll get a fire started for
you, and then you can get your things put up. The empty closet is yours.
If you have knickknacks or anything you want to put out, go ahead. I’ll
start some water to boil for a bath if you like. You can use the pump for
water, but it’s not hot…" He was babbling, and he knew it. Unfortunately,
he didn’t know how to stop himself. "I was hoping you might want a tour
of the barn tomorrow. Would you maybe, like to meet the horses?"

Kira’s face brightened with the mention of the horses. "That would be
lovely. I was hoping that maybe I could learn to ride one." She noticed
his expression harden. "Would that be too much trouble?" Buck tried to
remind himself that she was his wife, not some conniving little rich girl
using him for her entertainment. "That would be fine. Maybe we’ll get to
start as early as tomorrow evening. Is that all right with you?"

"That sounds wonderful." She paused, not quite knowing how to phrase what
she wanted to say. "Uh…um…thank you… for…uh…giving me some time. Well
actually, I should thank you for everything." She craned her neck up, and
gently kissed him on the cheek. "You’re a blessing Buck Cross. I’m so
thankful for you."


Friends in low places had eased the rough spots in Richard Kyle’s life.
Luckily, he had plenty of them, as well as plenty of cash to keep them
friendly. He knew the men he was dealing with were good at keeping their
mouths shut. They had helped him out many times over the years, including
that nasty business with his wife a bit more than a decade before. His
irritation at being dragged to the United States to retrieve his errant
daughter was growing steadily with each breath he took. She was going to
learn her lesson, and he was happy to be the one to teach her. He’d
gotten reliable information that promised the end of his journey to be in
the city of Boston. He had arrived the day before, and was vaguely
impressed by the wealthy city. Now all he had to do was find the shopgirl
and get his daughter back.


Kira relaxed in a pool of hot water. True to his word, Buck had lugged
several pots of boiling water from the kitchen to warm up the water she
had already pumped. She wanted so much to write Celene to tell her how
handsome her husband was, but she couldn’t until Celene wrote her with a
return address. She wished she could be able to see Celene’s face when
she finds out that her assurance that Buck would be ugly, was totally,
undeniably wrong. She smiled at the thought of him. He was the kindest
soul she had ever met. He put so much thought into what other people were
feeling. She had been so anxious worrying about what it would be like to
be forced for duty’s sake, in to a bed with a man she barely knew. After
seeing Buck she was no longer nauseated by the thought of it, but she was
still uncomfortable with being naked and completely at the mercy of
someone she hardly knew, doing something to her that she didn’t entirely
grasp. She supposed it was just a fear of the unknown. It was good of him
to give her some time. His face floated into her mind. He was physically
perfect, she mused. Finishing up her bath, she toweled off, and dressed
in her nightdress and robe. She tiptoed into her new art room, grabbed a
large tablet and some charcoals, and set every light source she could
find ablaze. She drew eyes. She drew cheekbones, a chin, a nose, a mouth,
and framed it all with hair. Drifting out of her art saturated immersion,
she realized two things. First, it was very late into the night. Second,
Buck’s exquisite face had emerged, wearing a smoldering grin. His gentle
eyes bore into her with a mischievous glint. A strange heat spread over
her skin. If a drawing of him was enough to do this to her, what would
she have done if he were looking at her like that in the flesh? Flesh,
that was an ironic word. She decided that she’d never get to sleep with
her thoughts drifting in the direction they were, so she turned to a
clean sheet of paper. Two drawings, and many hours later, Kira cursed
herself for the ninny she was. She placed her drawings neatly across the
table, so as not to smudge them, and marched to her room to clean up and
go to bed.


"Mummy!" The shriek sent Buck shooting out of bed, too disoriented at
first to comprehend that Kira was the one doing the screaming. He was
wearing only longjohn bottoms, but chose the welfare of his wife over
modesty. Grabbing his gun, then racing to the main bedroom, he burst
through the door, only to see his tiny woman curled up in a tight ball,
her body so wracked with sobs that Buck feared she would come apart.
Frozen, Buck whispered, "Kira?" She tried desperately to repress her
hysteria, but she only managed in making it worse. "Kira, what’s wrong?"
Buck, lacking a better place, put his gun down on the floor, and made his
way to the bed. Sitting at the edge, he reached out to put his hand on
her back, but she flinched so powerfully that she almost threw herself
off of the bed. He pulled his hand back, cradling it against his chest as
if it had been wounded. "I can’t make it better if you don’t tell me what
it is." Buck knew he sounded ridiculous, but it had always been in his
nature to want to help the people around him. He tried another strategy.
"Do you want me to leave?" His answer was instantaneous. She latched hold
of his arm with a strength her smallness concealed. She was taking in
huge sniffling draughts of air, and Buck knew her incapable of speech at
this point. He gathered her to him, and like a pair of spoons they rested
until her breathing leveled out enough to talk. He began to gently rub
her shoulder, his hand slid down her arm, and he laced his fingers in
with hers. Even in the darkness of the room, he could tell the difference
between the darkness of his skin and the lightness of hers. "You want to
talk about it?" He was met with silence. Kira went still against him. "I
didn’t mean to wake you," she murmured. "I’m sorry." Buck wouldn’t be
derailed. "Why did you flinch when I touched you?" Her crying began anew.
Wishing he were in a position to kick himself, he pushed his left arm
beneath her head, and wound it around her until his hand rested on her
shoulder. He pulled his right hand from hers, and began lightly peeling
tear soaked curls from her face. "You don’t have to talk about it if you
don’t want to." She nodded silently. He made a move to leave, but she
hooked her hands over the arm he had wrapped around her. He took his left
hand from her face, wrapped it around her waist, and pulled her more
tightly to him. "Everything will be all right. You’ll see. It’ll all be
okay. Just go to sleep. I’ll still be here when you wake up." Buck had no
idea how he was going to manage to spend a night curled around a
beautiful woman that just happened to be his wife, and keep his hands to
himself. The clean smell of her hair drifted to him. The thinness of her
nightdress beckoned to him to notice her delicate feminine curves. He was
continuously reminded of her breast resting against the crook of his arm
as he cradled her. His entire body was screeching at him for the
inactivity of a moment perfect for action. Buck steeled himself for a
very long night. When that didn’t work, he tried picturing Teaspoon in
his longjohns.

Chapter 8


Kira awoke to the strangest sensation -contentment. She blinked her eyes
eliciting a horse giggle. She was sprawled across Buck’s naked chest,
with her head resting on his shoulder, and her hand resting on his
smooth, hairless, bronze skin. She was quite shocked at herself, but was
loath to remove her body from his. She inhaled the clean, male scent of
him. Remembering his kindness the night before, she closed her eyes and
prayed silent thanks for the divine man over which she was draped. She
opened her eyes again, and again was met by Buck’s laughter. She peeked
up at him through disheveled black curls, and rested her chin on his
chest. "Is somebody ticklish?" She smiled wickedly, bending her head back
down to subject him again to her fluttering eyelashes.

Buck decided that he’d died in the night, and managed to make heaven
because there was an angel atop him tickling him playfully with her
eyelashes. He moved his hand to cover hers, and she settled into his
chest. He was blissfully happy just to lie there and hold her. Last night
had been difficult as well as wonderful for him. He’d had the worst time
trying to leave her be and let her sleep, but he had also never been able
to hold a woman all night long, and he never wanted to live without that
again. He found himself fighting sleep because he wanted to revel in the
extraordinary sensation of having Kira so close to him. He knew he was
going to owe Teaspoon for this one for the rest of his life, maybe
longer. He thrust his other hand into her wild mane feeling the silken
texture of it. His mind began to wander in directions he didn’t want to
deal with for the moment, especially considering what a tough night his
new bride had endured. "How are you feeling this morning?"

"Better, thanks to you. I’m sorry about waking you. I just had a bad

"That’s okay. I’m here anytime you need me. That’s what husbands are for.
I was wondering if you might like to go to town to pick up some things
today. I noticed that you didn’t bring much with you. I was thinking that
we could go pick up some dresses that fit, and whatever else you need."

"I thought you were to give me a tour of the barn today."

"That can wait. I figured we could go out to lunch too, you know, make a
day of it. Then, later this afternoon, if you’re not too tired, I’ll
start giving you riding lessons. How does that sound?"

"It sounds wonderful, but you needn’t spoil me so. I’ll be unfit to live
with if you keep this up."

"That’s the point."


"I want you so spoiled and happy that you won’t even notice other men."
He had said it in a joking tone, but Buck was dead serious. There was no
way he could handle loosing this sweet woman. He hadn’t even known her
for a full twenty-four hours yet, and he was hopelessly attached to her.
He already had so much affection for her that his heart seemed like it
would burst. There was no doubt in his mind that given just a bit more
time, this woman would be the love of his life.



"Seriously, you don’t have to do this."

"I want to. I’m going to enjoy every second of it too. Anything you want
today, I’ll buy it for you. I want you to be comfortable. I want you to
be happy." I want you to love me, Buck continued silently.


Richard kicked over a small chest of drawers. Nothing. There was nothing
here. Apparently, the newlyweds had lit out already. Richard had searched
the room for some clue of where, but to no end. He kicked the upended
chest again, for good measure. He noticed a clump of paper hanging out of
a previously ransacked drawer. He had not considered it a clue then, but
now, he grabbed the paper. It had once been a pad, but in his rage he’d
torn it into clumps. He took the front page of the cluster, flattened it
out, found a pencil, and lightly traced it over the page. Nothing. He dug
up another clump, and tried again. Nothing. He took yet another, and
repeated the procedure. There was an address for a town called Rock
Creek. This had to be were Celene, her husband, and Kira had moved to.
Triumphant, he shouted, "I’m coming for you, Darling. Daddy’s right on
your heels!" He gave a manic peal of laughter, and headed out of the
destroyed hotel room.


Still settled comfortably in bed, Buck ran a finger tenderly over Kira’s

"Tell me about your family, Buck."

"Which one?"

"Well how may do you have?" She wondered, confused at the odd question.

"My white one and my Kiowa one."

"Which one would you prefer to tell me about?"

"Which one do you want to know about?" He grinned slyly.


Taking a deep breath, he told the long horrible story of how he was
brought into this world. "My brother, Red Bear, never seemed to notice
that I was his half brother. He loved me like I was no different from
him. I haven’t seen him in years. I miss him, but I know if I go looking
for him I’ll only bring him trouble." He stared sightlessly at a dark
curl wrapped around his finger. "I miss Ike the most, though. He was by
best friend. We might as well have been brothers. I knew what he was
thinking before he thought it." Buck smiled at the memory. "Sometimes
it’s so hard to work with my animals because he was better with horses
than anyone I’ve ever known, and if he were alive we would be partners."

"What happened to him?" Kira gazed at Buck, quietly chewing her lip.

"He fell in love."

"I don’t understand."

"Can we talk about something else?"

"Of course. How did you meet with Teaspoon and the rest?"

"I met up with them when I joined the Pony Express. It was tense at
first, but we all turned into a real tight family."

"I noticed. I didn’t know you rode for the Pony Express. I’ve read about
it. Was it terribly exciting?"

"Most of the time it was way too exciting. We were always in some kind of
bind. You haven’t met the rest of the riders. Jimmy went off to do I
don’t even know what, and Cody’s running some kind of traveling show.
Noah died shortly after Ike…" Feeling his discomfort, she made a quick
subject change. "How did Lou and Kid meet?"

"Pony Express."

"How did they meet through the Pony Express?" Buck couldn’t suppress his

"Lou was a rider. She dressed up as a boy to get the job."

"Surely you jest!"

"Nope, she was always just as tough as any of us. We had to keep it a
secret from Teaspoon, but after a while he found out."

"Well who told?"

"Lou did."

"Why on Earth would she do that?"

"Well, she didn’t tell him on purpose. She was swimming and he decided
he’d join her." Buck laughed out loud at the memory of Lou screaming her
head off, and all of the boys running to her rescue only to see a
dismayed Teaspoon shout, "Lou!"

"How awful! Poor Lou!"

"Everything turned out okay. Teaspoon didn’t fire her. In fact he was
relieved that it was a girl Kid had been making googoo eyes at for so
long. Tell me about your family."

"There’s really nothing to tell. The only family I’ve ever known were my
parents. My mother died when I was nine, and I’ve lived with my father
ever since."

"I only know what you wrote about your father. He sounds like a difficult

"He’s a monster," she bit out. Brightening, she looked up at Buck. "Well
enough with being lazy. What would you like for breakfast?" Buck was
thunderstruck with the turn of the conversation, but he didn’t know what
to say. He lifted his head to look out the window. Checking the position
of the sun, he told her, "It’s getting on toward ten o’clock. We might as
well get dressed and go out for an early lunch. We can stop by the
Marshal’s office to visit Kid and Teaspoon if you like."

"Sounds fabulous to me."

"Well then, let’s go."

Chapter 9


This was the proudest moment in Buck’s life. He was strolling down the
boardwalk with a beautiful woman on his arm, and that beautiful woman was
his wife. He took her to a dress shop first, because when he met her in
the foyer he realized she only had that one ill fitting dress she’d worn
the day before. They picked out four dresses, and Buck secretly ordered
two more. She picked a spectacular forest green one to wear out of the
shop. She was exquisite with her green dress and even greener eyes. Buck
puffed out his chest a bit when he noticed the jealous looks the local
men were sending his way.

Their next stop was lunch. They sat and chatted quietly, getting to know
one another. Buck’s feelings for his new wife were deepening with every
word out of her mouth. He could listen to her speak all day. He realized,
much to his delight, that they had a great deal in common in the way of
thoughts and goals. Kira was talking animatedly about a painting she had
once seen in a museum, and he couldn’t take his eyes from her. She was
perfect. He would have laughed at anyone who said they had a perfect
spouse, but she was. She was beautiful, bright, playful, and his wife. He
was wondering if maybe he should ask for someone to pinch him. She
couldn’t be real. Too late, he realized she had stopped speaking. She was
looking at him curiously. He reached across the table to rest his hand
atop hers. "I’m listening." There were no more words between the two.
They just gazed at one another, faces heating, heart rates accelerating.
The arrival of their lunch brought the young couple out of their stupor.
They laughed shakily, both keenly aware of where things were heading.
They finished their meal in companionable silence. Buck really wanted to
discuss her father some more, but he was afraid to upset her. He was
wondering if the nightmare the night before could be attributed to her
father. He fervently hoped he was wrong, but he was afraid that her
father had hurt her. The very thought sent a rage-fueled fire through his
veins. It made since though. Abuse would explain why she was constantly
apologizing for nothing, as well as why she constantly asked if it was
all right for her to do even little things. He had first attributed it to
nerves, but her behavior made more sense now. She must have been treated
terribly by her father. That would also explain why she was constantly
thanking him for his kindness and his gifts, and why she seemed
uncomfortable with both. He resolved to ask her about it later. "Do you
mind if we stop by the post office before we get back to our shopping?"

"No, of course not."

"I wanted to see if I got a reply from Emma and Sam. Did I tell you about
them this morning?" When she nodded in the affirmative, he went on. "I
wrote them to tell them I was getting married, and I haven’t heard
anything. So, I’m kind of hoping I’ll get something soon."

"You don’t have to explain anything to me."

"Yes, I do. You’re my wife, my partner. I plan on sharing everything with
you. Even say…" He lifted one thin black brow at her. "A piece of
chocolate cake?"



"You’re not afraid I’ll get fat, or that it will make my skin break out?"

"Is that you father talking, Kira?" Saying nothing, she fiddled with her
fork. He continued. "Is he the one that told you that you were ugly?"
Buck worried that the venom in his voice would frighten her, but the
thought of a man treating his own child in such a way infuriated him. Her
luminescent green eyes locked into his deep, rich, brown ones. She seemed
to consider him, then came her solemn nod. "If I have to spend the rest
of my life working at it Kira, I’ll prove to you how wrong he was."

"How do you know he was wrong?"

"Because I’m not a blind man. You are so beautiful, Kira. You could have
had any man you wanted, but your father lied to you. He made you think no
one would have you but him, didn’t he." It wasn’t a question. "Now you’re
bound to a half-breed because of how he made you feel, less than what you
are. Kira, you’re perfect." she just stared back at the intense man
across from her. "You could have had any man." He reiterated.

"But I want you." Buck stopped cold. He looked into her eyes. There was
no uncertainty there, only a fire that burned with conviction. "I
traveled across the world for you, Buck, not just any man. If that is the
fault of my father, then it’s the one truly good thing I’ve received from
him. I do not, nor will I ever, regret this union. I can’t understand why
you keep expecting me too. You are the kindest, gentlest, most handsome
man I’ve ever known." Her eyes bore heavily into his, and her voice took
on a strong edge he didn’t recognize from this meek woman. "I will not
have you belittling yourself, Buck Cross, do you hear me! If I have to
spend the rest of my life proving to you how desirable you are…well,
that’s just fine with me." She sputtered, "but know it!" Buck’s eyes were
huge, mahogany, saucers. He blinked at her, speechless. A tentative smile
played at the corners of her mouth. "Well, are we having cake or not?"

Kira was on cloud nine. She was leaning on the arm of her husband with a
belly full of chocolate cake, something she hadn’t had since she was
nine. Her father had not allowed her sweets. She was a bit frightened
that she’d overstepped her boundaries at lunch with Buck, but he’d simply
grinned back at her and ordered the cake. Buck was such a wonderful man;
she couldn’t imagine anyone not liking him. She had already decided that
he was going to make an incredible father, now she just wanted to make
him one. He’d shared with her that morning about what it was like growing
up without a father, and he wanted so badly to play that role for a child
of his own. She was so giddy at the though of having Buck’s babies that
she hadn’t even realized they were at the door of the post office. Buck
was looking at her strangely, holding the door open for her. She shook
her head at herself, and preceded him in. They walked up to the desk and
waited a bit, but no one showed. Buck sighed. "Oh well, we can come back
after we’ve got our shopping done." Back on the boardwalk, Buck slipped
his arm around Kira’s waist. She leaned into him, and laced her slender
fingers in with his. They walked into the mercantile like that, and
immediately caught Thompkin’s eye. "Hey there Buck. Who’s the pretty
lady?" Buck strode up to him to introduce his new bride. "Mr. Thompkin’s,
this is my wife, Kira. Kira, this is the shop owner, Mr. Thompkins."
Thompkins looked at them, bewildered. Kira stuck her hand out, "How do
you do." Taking it, Thompkins asked, "Where you from, girl, you talk
funny." Catching the dangerous look on Buck’s face, the old man amended.
"I didn’t mean nothing, ma’am, I just wondered where you were from to
have an accent like that." "I’m from England, London specifically." She
replied politely. "Well, if that don’t beat all. Buck, I didn’t even know
you were courtin’ anyone. Congratulations," he added warmly. Buck had to
hand it to him he was trying. "Thank you." Buck beamed back at his former
nemesis. "We just came by to get a few things to make Kira a little more

"Go ahead. I have some new bath waters that smell real nice." With that
he went back to work. Buck followed Kira around the store. She’d made a
complete circuit of the shop, and had not picked anything up. "Kira, get
anything you want."

"There’s just one problem with that."


"I want everything." Buck had to laugh at that. He held his arms out to
her. "Well then, honey, load me up." Kira chuckled at his antics. "Well
all right, you asked for it." Buck arms were thoroughly laden with
everything from shampoo, to men’s overalls in Kira’s size, by the time
Kira lead him to check out. "What are the overalls for?" Buck smirked at
the thought of her in them.

"Well I don’t want to ruin my new dresses painting, now do I?"

"I guess not." Buck looked at Thompkins waiting for him to tell him the
damage, and the number he uttered made Kira gasp. "Oh, I think I got a
little too carried away. I’ll put some of it back."

"Absolutely not. Anyway, you’re going to look too cute in those overalls
to put them back!" Blushing deeply, Kira slapped him lightly on the arm.
She couldn’t even look him in the eyes. Thompkins was amused by the
newlyweds’ antics. "You two have fun now," he said, giving Buck his
change. Buck loaded the items into the buckboard, and headed to the
Marshal’s office.

Buck and Kira were greeted by Barnet, who refused to take his eyes off
Kira. Buck shot him a warning glare. "Where are Teaspoon and Kid?"

Some crazy man set his mind to tearing up the saloon. He did a number on
one o’ them saloon girls too. Doc said he don’t know if she’ll ever wake

"That’s just awful, Kira cried, sympathizing with the girl. Buck didn’t
want Kira in the jail when they brought the madman in, so he aimed to
beat a hasty retreat. "Barnet, we need to get on home. Could you tell
Teaspoon and the Kid we came by?"

"Who’s we?" Barnet inquired, still staring at Kira. Buck was about to
teach him not to gawk at another man’s wife with that look in his eye,
but Kira beat him to it. "Sir, I am Mrs. Cross, and I would like remind
you that staring is rude." Barnet, being too thick to realize he’d been
insulted, said a simple farewell.

As they walked from the Marshall’s office Buck grinned at Kira, "You sure
told him."

"I did, didn’t I?" She looped her arm around his. "Back to the post
office now?"


"I hope you have a letter from your friends."

"That makes two of us."

They entered the post office, and were immediately greeted by Miss
Collier. Hello, Mr. Cross, I’m sorry, but your letter didn’t make it in
yet. There is something odd though. A letter came in this afternoon for a
Mrs. Cross, but there isn’t one, so I don’t know what to do with it."

"Actually, Miss Collier, there is. This is my wife Kira."

"Oh. Well, it’s nice to meet you, young lady. I’m Miss Collier, and this
is yours." She handed Kira a thin white envelope. Kira was thrilled to be
hearing from Celene so early. She was hoping maybe she could talk Patrick
into moving Celene to Rock Creek to be nearer to her. Now that she had an
address she could start on that mission, but looking closely at the
envelope she noticed there was no return address. She hoped Celene had
written it inside. Buck interrupted her thoughts. "Are you already that

"It seems so. I’m sorry you didn’t get your letter, but I’m thrilled that
I’ve already received word from Celene."

"I need to thank her."

"For what?"

"Setting up that ad for you." He took her hand, and led her across the
street to the waiting buckboard. Kira couldn’t stand the suspense. As
soon as Buck had her seated comfortably, she tore open the letter. It
wasn’t what she’d expected. She had assumed Celene would have wedding
stories to tell, and pages and pages worth of things to say. But there
was only one sheet of paper. Disappointed, she carefully unfolded the
single sheet of paper.

Dearest Kira,

As soon as I arrived in the room I wrote down your address so that I
wouldn’t forget it, so you should receive this well enough. I don’t know
how he did it, but he found us. There was word about town that he knew
we’d become friends, so Patrick traded our tickets in and we wed and
boarded the boat a day earlier. When we ported in Boston, I thought we
were home free, but I was walking past a hotel (not ours) and I heard him
yelling at the proprietor about finding the three of us. He thinks we are
traveling together. He gave her a description of us all. I rushed back to
our hotel to tell Patrick, and we fled. We are headed to you. But this is
to warn you. If he found us in Boston, he might find you in Rock Creek.
Please be well my friend. I will soon see you.

Be careful, Celene

An odd sensation washed over Kira. She knew she wouldn’t be able to
describe it if she wanted to. It was sort of like being blasted by a
powerful furnace with, heat, terror, and anger, all mixed into one
terrible weakening concoction. The letter fluttered from her hands. The
sky grew dim.

Chapter 10

Teaspoon and Kid stomped angrily into the Marshal’s office. They both
knew that there were pieces of a puzzle to put together, but they weren’t
sure what the puzzle was supposed to look like. They knew that the
mystery man was nowhere to be found. He’d disappeared after he’d beaten
the saloon girl. They also knew from witness reports that he talked
funny. Teaspoon knew that could mean a lot of things. It could mean he
wasn’t right in the head, other than being meaner than a hungry bear,
anyway. It could mean he had an accent. He was leaning toward the accent
explanation for the simple fact that he’d just met someone with one,
Kira. Teaspoon was further disheartened by the tales about him looking
for a runaway daughter whose description was very similar to Buck’s new
wife. Teaspoon knew his old bones were trying to tell him something, but
if his theory held water he just didn’t know how he would tell Buck.
Teaspoon’s heart didn’t seem to understand that Buck wasn’t his own son.
It overrode his head more often than not, and right now it said that if
that girl were to cause his boy pain, she’d have hell to pay. He wasn’t
sure how close Kid was to his own deduction, but he talked him into going
on home to his wife. Teaspoon wanted to take care of this himself. He
went to go chat with the newlyweds. On his way out he noticed that,
Barnett had left him a note tacked to the door frame. He was relieved
after reading it. Now he had a good excuse to show up unannounced on a
pair of newlyweds. Heaven only knew what he’d be interrupting. He set off
to drop by his own home to tell Rachel where he would be. He knew that
the only hard part would be getting her to let him go alone.


Kira’s letter fluttering in the wind caught the corner of Buck’s eye. He
had already started slowing the horses in order to retrieve the letter
before he realized the reason the letter was floating lazily on the
breeze. Quickly trying to halt the horses, Buck watched helplessly as
Kira slid, as if boneless, to the floor of the buckboard. The second they
were stationary, Buck leapt from the wagon, and ran to Kira. He pulled
her from the floor, carried her to the back of the buckboard, and gently
placed her there. He cupped his hand to her cheek. "Kira?" He patted it
lightly. "Kira, honey, please wake up." She opened her eyes, stared
blankly at him for a moment, and promptly began to babble frantically.
Buck could catch little of what she said, and could comprehend nothing.
He kept hearing "letter, letter" so he went to grab it. He walked back to
her with it in his hand, but she just stared at him with wide, terrified
eyes, as if he held a snake instead of a benign sheet of paper. "Honey
what’s wrong?"

"He’s going to kill me. He means to kill me. He will, Buck. He will.
He’ll hit me until I don’t move anymore, just like he did my mother. I’m
sorry. I’m so sorry." Her words broke down into sobs. She wouldn’t take
her eyes from Buck’s. She wanted to plead with him to understand why she
hadn’t been completely forthcoming with him. She wanted to tell him how
much he meant to her, but the more she tried to force out the torrent of
words that besieged her overwrought mind, the more hysterical she became.
She actually let out a few manic giggles at the realization that she was
more afraid of disappointing Buck than she was of being beaten to death
by her father.

Buck struggled to digest what she was saying. He stared at the paper in
his hand, understanding that it was the catalyst to this insanity. He
didn’t want to read it. He wanted to go back to the perfect day he’d been
sharing with his wife, but he needed to understand, so he read the

She’d used him. She’d used him to come to America. He’d let another white
woman take advantage of him. He’d given her his heart, and she lied to
him. Buck fought desperately to bite back the rage that was boiling up,
threatening to explode in a torrent of hateful words, just like he’d done
with Tompkins months ago. He wasn’t that kind of man. He didn’t want to
let other people’s treatment of him turn him into one either, but he just
hurt so much. He wanted to just shake her until she understood how deeply
his feelings ran for her, how deeply she’d hurt him. "You lied to me," he
ground out from between clenched teeth. He balled up the letter, and
threw it. He lurched quickly forward to put Kira back into her seat in
the front of the buckboard, but when he stepped toward her, Kira pulled
her body into a tight ball, crossing her slender arms over her face to
ward off blows. Her crying took on a heightened mania. Shocked, Buck
stepped back. There were too many things fighting for dominance in his
head. He was angry at being used. He was fighting the love he felt for
her, he was injured that she’d think he was the kind of man who would hit
a woman, he was furious that she had ever had to learn to take a beating
wrapped up on herself to protect vital organs. He took a deep breath,
stepped slowly forward, and picked her up. "I don’t hit, Kira," was all
he said as he placed her in her seat. He had some thinking to do. He
decided to drop Kira off at the house, and go to Teaspoon for advice.


Richard took his time looking around the house. It was a huge sprawling
thing. Odd, he thought that Patrick’s family had disowned him without a
dime. How they afforded this home was beyond him. He didn’t really care
either; he was very calm after releasing some pinned up aggression at the
saloon. The whore he’d worked over was a surprising pleasure. She had
quivered, cringed, and cried. Kira never screamed and whined. She just
took it. Leave it to Kira to suck the fun out of everything.

He went upstairs, taking everything in, looking, but not tearing anything
apart. After all, the happy little threesome shouldn’t know they had a
guest. He peeked into yet another room, and found it was an art room.
Simpering brat finally conned someone into letting her play out a foolish
whim. On closer inspection, he noticed three drawings on a table, of a
man he didn’t know. Well, well, his little whelp had a crush, how quaint.

Richard came to the last unexplored room. It was the largest yet, and the
one with the most furniture. He supposed it to be Patrick and Celene’s
room. He walked through it, peeking in the bathroom, and the closets.
There was something odd here. He recognized one of the dresses in one of
the closets as Kira’s. The other closet was full of men’s clothes. What
was going on? He decided that it merited a closer search. He dug through
shelves, looked under the bed, dug through drawers, and on a whim he
pulled up the mattress on the bed. He found a couple of letters. He
settled himself comfortably on the bed to read the letters.

"Bitch!" He screeched. Not only had she run off, she’d run of to marry a
savage. This just kept getting better. He needed to find the wedding
certificate, and destroy it. She was his property, and he was about to
teach her the lesson of her life. He stopped searching almost
immediately. He heard the door open and close, and the sound of a woman
crying. There were no more voices, no other people. He was almost sure
that was the sound of his daughter’s crying. He’d heard it often enough
through the walls of his own home. She was alone. He quietly chuckled.
This was going to be fun.


Buck caught sight of Teaspoon before Teaspoon noticed him. "Teaspoon!"
Buck stopped the horse at Teaspoon’s side. "I need to talk to you about
something. You’re the only one that might be able to help me."

"Is this about your wife, son?" Buck nodded. "Well, I have some suspicion
of what you might want to talk to me about. I just hope I’m wrong." Both
men dismounted their horses, and began to walk side by side. Buck
started. "She lied to me Teaspoon. She conned me into bringing her to the
U.S. I’m so hurt. I don’t know what’s the truth and what’s not."

"Well son, I have some bad news for you, and some worse news." Buck
stared at Teaspoon waiting for him to continue. "Her pa’s after her.
Did’ja know that?"


"He’s here. He attacked a saloon girl today. We don’t even know if she’ll
pull through. I don’t know what to tell you about the way she got here to
you, but I can say that we need to get straight on to your place to make
sure he ain’t there too."

The color drained from Buck’s face. Some of what Kira had said today at
last clicked in Buck’s anger addled mind. "He’ll hit me until I don’t
move anymore just like he did my mother." He hadn’t even listened to what
she was saying. He’d heard all right, but he hadn’t listened. He’d spent
so much time telling himself what a good husband he would be to her, but
when she’d needed him, he abandoned her. Another horrible thought struck
him. "Oh, no! I didn’t even check the house, and I never lock the…" Buck
didn’t bother finishing his statement, he just mounted his ride, and took

Teaspoon followed at a fast clip. He worried the inside of his cheek.
This could be bad. This could be very bad. Teaspoon wasn’t at all sure
that Kira had lied to Buck, although he considered Buck very justified in
being angry. He had likely been a victim of a lie by omission. He still
thought a lot of the girl, though. He’d had a good feeling about those
two. He was old enough to trust his feelings. He just hoped Buck wasn’t
too late to see what his own feelings were.

Chapter 11


Kira blinked her eyes. It couldn’t be. She was dreaming. She had to be.
There was no way her father was making his way down her staircase, in her
home. He had a malicious smile plastered on his hateful face. She was
paralyzed. She knew she should be running out the door, but she was
completely immobilized. She stayed in a pile on the floor just inches
from the front door. A profound terror had stopped the torrent of tears.
She gulped in huge draughts of air, knowing they would likely be her

"Well, well, well, look what we have here. I’ve been searching all over
for you. You’ve been very hard to track down. You didn’t think you could
get away from me did you?" His face changed from a forced amiability to
that of a rage filled monster. She knew it well. His countenance was a
mottled red. His eyes were dark and cruel. "I own you girl! You’re mine!
Do you hear me, mine! You like being an Indian’s whore? A savage was the
only one that would have you, yes? I’ll show you how much fun it is to be
a whore!" His voice had reached a crazed crescendo that Kira had never
heard before. He leapt at her. Before she could even react, he’d back
handed her with the inhuman strength only the insane possess. She was
thrown against the door, but she didn’t flinch. She just looked up at him
while a livid mark grew dark on her face. He saw it for what it was, a
challenge. Kira got to her feet, leaning against the door for support. "I
am a wife, not a whore. I am not your property, nor am I my husband’s. I
am a person, and you no longer have power over me. I am Kira Cross, Kira
Kyle is dead." She didn’t know how she spoke without exhibiting the
quivering that ran through her entire body, but words said, she shot out
the door. She made it from the porch, but then Richard was on her. He
tackled her to the ground, rolled her onto her back, took her by the
hair, and began slamming her head against the hard packed earth. Kira’s
world went black.


Buck flew up the porch steps through the open front door, screaming
Kira’s name. He was greeted by a deep silence. It was a wrong silence.
There were no night sounds, no crickets, no nocturnal animals, there was
only a thick absolute silence. He ran through the house screaming her
name. The only signs of her were some drawings on the table in her art
room. They stopped him dead in his tracks. They seemed to have their own
gravity that pulled him to them. They were three drawings of him. Every
line of his face had been lovingly drawn in such a manner, that he seemed
to be alive, and looking out at himself. He felt sick. He felt like he’d
been kicked in the stomach by an angry horse. He dropped to his knees,
gasping for air.



"Son, I found somethin’ you need to see."

Wracking shakes took control of Buck’s body. He turned to look at
Teaspoon, searching for the knowledge he didn’t really want. "Did you
find her?"

"No son, but I found a sign of her."

"He has her doesn’t he?"

"Yeah, come on. I need to show you." Buck obediently followed Teaspoon

Buck stared at the red patch of earth. It began to swirl around like a
hazy kaleidoscope. It was fresh enough that he could still catch the
metallic tang of blood in the air. The smell combined with his swimming
vision and spinning emotions was too much. Buck’s stomach lurched. He’d
seen, and been involved in the bloodiest of gunfights and knife fights
alike. He’d killed men, and walked around covered in their blood, but
today a small patch of blood on the ground had him on all fours, retching
like he’d never known any form of violence at all.

"You okay, son?"


"So are we gonna go find her, or are you gonna stay here and blame
yourself awhile?"

"We’re going. I’ll track him."

"Want me to get Kid for back-up?"

"No time."

"What are you going to do when we find them, son?" Buck didn’t answer the
question. He was on the move, already on his father-in-law’s tracks.

An awful smell dragged Kira back into consciousness. She opened her eyes
only to find herself upside-down. She was hanging off of her father’s
shoulder. He was talking, but she couldn’t make any sense of what he was

"I’ll start the bidding at five dollars." Bidding? She wondered fuzzily.
She was in a room full of men. They stank. Dirty. Yes, they were dirty
men. Her head pounded from the effort of trying to string together
coherent thoughts. Suddenly, the fog cleared from her mind. She came
alive, kicking and screaming. She was in a saloon, and her father was
trying to sell her as a whore. She was hanging helplessly against her
father’s back. Her protestations seemed only to amuse the surrounding
men. She could see nothing but the floor and a multitude of scuffed,
dusty, worn-out boots. "Help me! Please, someone, help me," she pleaded.
"Dear God," she wailed. "Please help me now!" Kira could hear the
bidding. Her mind was a crazed haze. She could only repeat one thought,
this isn’t happening, this isn’t happening.

"I got five dollars here mister," someone shouted.

"Yeah, well I got seven!"

"I have twenty dollars, right here in my hand mister." Everything went
silent, then a disembodied voice rang out. "You could get a decent horse
for that. Are you crazy?" Kira heard her father utter words that she just
could not process; "You can have her for an hour. Be back here promptly.
I’ll need to get her to the next customer."

"Yes, sir."

All reason left her, Kira began to scream.

Chapter 12


All sorts of awful scenes played out in Buck’s mind. He knew that if
something terrible had befallen Kira it was his fault. As if on cue
Teaspoon yelled over the roar of hooves slamming rhythmically into the
ground, "It ain’t your fault son."

"Yes it is. I vowed just yesterday to love and protect her. And the very
next day what do I do? I desert her. I don’t deserve her, Teaspoon."

"You care for her already don’t you son."

"She’s my dream woman."

"How can you know that after one day?"

"I mean she’s literally my dream woman. I’ve been having the same dream
off and on since the night you gave me that mail order bride booklet. In
it there’s a woman with black curly hair. I just realized that it’s been
her all along. We were meant to be together. She was a gift to me from
your white God, and I squandered it."

"I wanna hear this whole story, but you can tell me when we have your
wife back safe and sound." The resoluteness in Teaspoon’s voice gave him
comfort. Maybe he could still make things right. Maybe he could live the


She was dragged from her father’s shoulder by the twenty-dollar bidder
she assumed vacantly. He set her on her feet with her back to him, all
the while keeping a firm grip on her waist. He shoved her out the door
without her even getting a glimpse of his face. As soon as she was out of
her father’s earshot, she pleaded. "Please, I’m a married woman. I beg
you don’t do this. That man in there is crazy. He stole me from my home
while my husband was away." She began to babble as tears cascaded down
her pale cheeks. She decided that she wasn’t above begging to protect her
virtue. It was so ironic that Buck’s thoughtfulness in giving her some
time before marital consummation would make this predicament all the more
horrifying. "Hush and hurry, Mrs. Cross. We don’t have much time to get
you back to Buck before that man figures out what’s going on." Kira spun

"Mr. Tompkins! Oh, thank the heavens it’s you!"

"Do you know how to ride?"

"I’m afraid not."

"Well, the buckboard is too slow. We’ll have to double up." With that he
heaved himself up onto his horse, and gave her a hand up.

"Do you know the man that tried to sell you?"

"Unfortunately, yes. He’s my father. He’s not taking the news of my
marriage well, I’m afraid." Having no idea what to say to that, Thompkins
remained silent. He was vaguely amused by the fact that Buck would be
amused to see him with his trap shut.

Thompkin’s horse loped quietly around the back of the saloon, but as soon
as they had cleared it they went racing toward her new home. She couldn’t
take her mind off of Buck. She hoped desperately that he wasn’t so angry
that he wouldn’t forgive her. She felt so much for him already. She could
not have imagined that any man could be so kind, intelligent,
considerate, and not to mention handsome beyond reason. She wanted to
spend this night in his arms as she had done the night before. She wanted
to know his kiss, his body, his secrets, his everything.


Richard lined up customers enough to occupy Kira for another six hours.
He had every intention of utilizing every second of it. He exited the
saloon, and headed for the house he’d found his wayward daughter in. He
was going to take care of the husband so that his new business wouldn’t
be ruined. It was so funny that for so many years he had not been able to
make Kira scream no, matter how hard or how often he hit her, but the
prospect of a night of pleasure had her howling like an alley cat.
Strange girl he had. A huge smile split his face. He’d intentionally
picked the roughest looking characters he could find to take care of her
tonight. She’d be returned bloody, broken, and completely compliant to
him, and he had not even had to dirty his own hands.

Kira spied something moving in the distance. She strained her eyes to see
what it was, then the sound of hoofbeats reached her ears. She recognized
Teaspoon’s white hair glowing in the moonlight. Quickly she looked to his
side to see her husband. "Buck!" She yelled, trying to dismount before
Thompkins could reign in the horse. He snatched her arm to keep her on
the slowing horse. Dismounting fluidly, Buck ran toward Thomkins and
Kira. "What happened? Kira, honey, are you okay?" As soon as the animal
stopped Kira lurched off of him, and ran to her husband. She was so
relieved to see him, to hear him call her honey, that she couldn’t even
speak. She stood clinging to him as if she drew her life’s breath from
him. Buck kept trying to examine her face. It was swollen, and even in
the darkness, he could see a dark bruise on her jaw. "Honey, let me see
your face." She burrowed deeper into his chest. Thomkins hated to
interrupt, but he knew that Kira’s father was probably on their tail. "I
hate to be the one to tell you, but we need to move out. Her Pa is likely
right behind us." Buck lifted his wife into the saddle without so much as
batting an eye. Without preamble, he joined her in the saddle, and led
the foursome back to his house. Kira wrapped her arms around Buck’s
waist, pressed her face against his back, and inhaled the fresh scent of
his hair. She was home. Where ever he was, she was home.

Buck didn’t know the whole story yet, but he knew that if Kira’s father
was indeed on their trail, they needed to get to his house quickly. He
didn’t like not knowing if he had men with him, or what exactly he
intended to do. Buck figured that any man crazy enough to hit his own
child would likely be out for blood, so he spurred his mount on.

Chapter 13


Buck led the small group up the stairs into his home. He locked the door
behind them, and led them toward his dining table. Buck scooted two
chairs together so that he could be nearer to Kira. Thompkins and
Teaspoon sat on the opposite side. Taking Kira’s hand, he looked solemnly
into her jade eyes. "What happened?" He asked quietly. Tears rolled down
her pale cheeks. She cursed herself for them. She’d done nothing but cry
since she got there, and she didn’t want Buck to think she was whiny. She
straitened her shoulders, and opened her mouth. Nothing came out. The
absolute heinousness of what her father had done to her hit her full
force. "I-I need a moment." She directed her statement to the two men
across from her. She looked to Buck. "May I speak with you privately?"
Buck nodded. He could understand that Kira wanted to tell him what
happened alone, but her need for privacy put him more on edge. Did her
father do more then beat her tonight? Her entire face was swollen, and
her jaw was a deep purple where she’d been backhanded. He wanted to know
what she’d endured tonight, but the utter devastation written on her face
gave him pause. Maybe he didn’t really want to know. He took her hand,
and led her upstairs to their room. Before comprehending that he never
shut interior doors, Buck opened the bedroom door. A deafening crack
echoed through the house. Simultaneously, Buck fell. Kira stood mute
staring at the blood spreading on Buck’s shirt. She wavered, then dropped
to her knees. She spared a glance at her father, who smiled triumphantly.
Her mind went blank, and her body began to function of its own volition.
Deftly, she slid the knife Buck always had tied to his boot from its
sheath. Now understanding what she was doing, and realizing that it had
to be done, she tested the weight of the weapon in her hand. She ignored
her father’s laughter and taunts. He did not think she would do it. He
laughed at her; he always laughed at her. He laughed at her pain. He
mocked what gave her joy. Looking again at her husband crumpled on the
floor, she quickly prayed for accuracy. With all of her might, she threw
the knife. It planted itself squarely in his chest. He stood there for a
beat, confused, staring, uncomprehending. Then, he dropped in a dead
heap, with a solid thump, on the floor. Kira took Buck’s head into her
lap. Buck?" She cried. "Buck! Please answer me." Buck looked lazily up at
her. "Remind me not to make you mad at me, okay." Kira took his face in
her hands, leaned over him, and kissed him firmly on the lips. "A place
to start not making me angry is to refrain from getting shot!"

Teaspoon and Thompkins stared at the tableau. "We can’t be that late. The
party’s already over?" Teaspoon quipped, bending down to check on Buck.
"It’s just a flesh wound Teaspoon. I was turned sideways to let Kira in
when he got me." Teaspoon inspected the long furrow in Buck’s chest.
Relieved, he agreed with the young man. "I told ya women are a whole heap
o’ trouble." He lifted his eyebrow and smirked at the couple on the
floor. Thompkins went to drag the corpse from the bedroom as Kira and
Teaspoon helped Buck to his feet. "I’m going to take out the trash,
Teaspoon, and then I’ll go get the doctor to check Buck out," Thompkins
called from down the hall. "Mighty obliged," Teaspoon yelled back.
Placing Buck gently down on the bed, Kira went to go grab a clean towel
and some water. In her absence Teaspoon sat on the corner of the bed next
to Buck. "You got a mighty fine wife there, son."

"Tell me something I don’t know, Teaspoon."

"While you two were headed upstairs, Thompkins told me a little o’ what

"Is it bad Teaspoon?"

"Worse than bad, son, and on top of it, she killed her father tonight. He
might o’ been no good, but he was her pa. She’s bound to be upset when
things settle down, and she realizes what she done."

"I know. I’ll be here for her, Teaspoon."

"I know you will son."

Kira bustled into the room. She crawled onto the bed opposite Teaspoon.
She gently unbuttoned the buttons of Buck’s shirt, and opened it up so
that she could clean his wound. She grimaced. "This will likely be quite
painful." Kira looked into his eyes. Momentarily forgetting herself, she
leaned in to kiss him. Still holding his gaze, she hovered above his
mouth for an instant. Slowly, she smiled at him, meeting his lips with
hers in a feathery light caress. Teaspoon chuckled, and mumbled something
about waiting for Thompkins down stairs. She ran her fingers down his
cheek, and traced the line of his lips. Gently, she covered the path her
fingers had traveled with tender, warm kisses. "Please don’t scare me
like that again." She whispered her voice husky. "Only if you do the
same." He stared into the emerald depths of her eyes, gently reaching out
to run his hand through her hair. He felt a knot hidden beneath its
satiny layers. She flinched. "Buck knit his eyebrows together in a
painful looking grimace. Kira thought she was hurting him, and sat back
from him. "Am I hurting you?" She queried. Tears shimmered in his eyes.
"Kira what did he do to you?" Kira stared blankly back at him.

"He sold me," she stated matter-of-factly, dabbing gently at his chest
with a cool rag.

"What!" Buck shot up in a sitting position, the fire in his chest
spurring on his rage.

"He took me to the saloon, and he sold me." There was no emotion on her
face. There were no tears, no anger, nothing, and that worried Buck
tremendously. "Luckily, Mr. Thompkins was there. He bought me, with
twenty-dollars, no less, and brought me to you." Still fretting over
Kira’s lack of reaction in the matter, he’d never wanted to thank anyone
so much in his life, the way he wanted to thank Thompkins. Buck didn’t
really know how to phrase his next question. "Kira did… he…hurt you?"
Kira tilted her head, looking at him strangely. Suddenly his meaning
dawned on her. "Oh! Oh, no. I’m still…you know…" She left her statement
dangling. Buck was so relieved, he couldn’t even express what he felt.
There were no words made for that kind of relief. "I won’t ever let you
down again, Kira. I’m so sorry I got angry."

"Do you still want me?"

"More than ever."

"Looks like you have a wife then."

"No, looks like I found the love of my life." That’s when the tears
started in earnest. Kira cried for joy, for relief, for helplessness,
anger; she cried for every emotion known to man. Buck was there through
it all. He held her when she wanted to be held. He left her alone when
she needed it. He gave her everything he knew how to give, including his


Thompkins, who had been thanked so many times he’d lost count, watched
the young couple mill around the boardwalk waiting for the train. Buck
had told him that they were going on a belated honeymoon to St. Joseph.
He wished them well. Those two had been through so much. He smiled; never
in a million years did he think he’d ever be fond of a half-breed. He had
finally realized, though, that Buck wasn’t just an Indian, he was a man,
a good man.

Celene looked around her best friend’s new house. It was absolutely
cavernous. She was thrilled to be house sitting for Buck and Kira while
they went on their honeymoon. She was hopeful that she and Patrick would
be able to find a house in Rock Creek before her friend’s return. She
wasn’t sure she would ever recover from the shock at finding Buck to be a
terrific and even attractive man. Kira talked of nothing but him.
Celine’s heart filled with joy. Her friend at last had what she deserved,

Kira and Buck were oblivious to all things around them. They were aware
only of one another. Buck had given her time to acclimate herself to her
new life, to mourn her father, to deal with her actions, to heal. She was
certain that the waiting had been torture for Buck. It had been difficult
even for her, but the waiting was at an end. They had a honeymoon suite
in St. Joe waiting for them, and she intended to put it to good use. She
smiled up at him. Leaning into his, now completely healed chest, she
whispered, "I love you, Buck Cross." Practically glowing with joy, Buck
kissed her on the nose. "I love you too, Kira Cross."


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