Chapter 1

 As she sat next to him with his head of flowing hair in her lap she reflected on the past 24 hours with him.  He had been so brave and she felt safe and protected in his arms.  She had never thought that someone so strong could be so vulnerable.
 The man before her had blonde hair and gentle, happy eyes.  He could tame any child and frighten any man.  He was everything she had ever desired in a man.  He had come right in the nick of time, she was as scared as a kitten at the moment he had arrived.

 “Excuse me miss, but are you alright?”  asked the handsomely fringed man approaching her.
“Y-yyy-yes, I’m fine.  Thank you.”  she said with truth but caution.

 “Are you sure?”

 “Yes, just please let me alone.”  she said as she turned to run off.

 She ran straight to the hotel she had been staying at and headed straight for the bathroom.  Her feelings were a mixture of infatuation for the stranger and fear for what she had been through.

 The young man walked away thoroughly confused.  The young woman had said she was okay, but he had his suspicions.  He decided that he would stick around the town for a little longer.  He was an easy man to concern but he was not easy to deter.  He watched her run into the hotel and waited for a while to see if she would come out.  After about 10 minutes of staring in the direction of the hotel he decided to go and try to find out who she was.
“Excuse me sheriff.” asked the young man.

 “Yes son, may I help you?” the sheriff asked questioningly.

 “I’m William F. Cody, I’m a Pony Express rider passing through town.”

 “Well Mr. Cody, how can I help you?”  the sheriff asked beginning to get impatient with the young man.

 “I saw a young woman when I arrived in town and she seemed to be scared for her life.  I was hopin’ you could tell me who she is.”

 “What did she look like, maybe I could tell you then.”  the sheriff said half paying attention.

 “Well, she sure was a pretty sight.  She had red hair, and sad looking blue eyes.  She was wearing a green dress.  But she looked like she hadn’t gotten any sleep in a few days.”

 “Oh, why she’s Mr. Teague’s daughter.  He owns the general store.  I can’t think of  why she’d be tired though.”

 “Thank you kindly sheriff.”

“Yes momma?”  the young woman called back.

 “Would you come in here please?”
The young woman came to the desk where her mother was sitting.  She was wearing a green dress with lace around the collar and cuffs.  She was a pretty girl, not quite 20, but the tiny lines around her eyes made her look a bit older.  She had lived a hard life.  Her parents gave her what they could, but her mother was never quite ever completely well.

 “What is it momma?” Lyla asked.

 “Nothing much, just wanted to see you before you went off again.  You sure do look tired baby, why don’t you take a day off and go down to the lake.  You look like you could use a day off.”  he mother said with concern.

 “I’d love to momma, but there is too much to do here, with daddy getting sick and all.”  she replied trying to think of another excuse.

 “Yes, he has been ill, but he is getting better and I can take care of the store for a day.  It is so pretty out not many people will be coming shopping, too many will be out for picnicking.” her mother said pleading.

 Lyla looked at her mother’s pleading eyes and decided not to fight her anymore.   “Okay momma, but only for lunch, I’m not gonna leave the store  for the whole day.”  she kissed her mother and went to change her dress.

 Cody had decided to let the woman alone and head back to the station when he saw her exiting the store.   “Excuse me ma’am.” he called as he closed the distance between them.

 “Yes?  Can I help you?” she asked innocently.

 “I saw you this mornin’, do you remember?”

 “Oh, yes, I’m sorry I was so rude, I was just in a hurry.” she said very apologetically.

 “Oh, well, that’s okay.  I just wanted to make sure you were okay.” he said looking at her with his caring eyes.

 “I’m fine, thanks for askin’.” she said as she began turning to leave.

 “Where ya goin’ in such a hurry?  If you don’t mind me askin’.”

 “My momma is makin me go and spend some time at the lake.  She thinks I’m gettin’ a little strung out.”

 “Would you like some company?”  he asked hopefully.

 She thought about it for a moment and decided that she liked the idea of finding out about the man who had caught her attention.

 “Sure, come on, we’ll go and get something to take with us for lunch.”

Cody offered his arm and the two walked away heading toward the store to get some supplies.

Chapter 2
 The two walked arm in arm to the store and gathered some things for lunch and then proceeded out of town.  Unbeknownst to them they were being watched by a man standing in the doorway of the saloon.  The man was clean shaven and dressed in black from head to toe.  He did not look like someone out of place, he seemed to belong to the frame of the saloon’s doorway.  No one around the stranger seemed to notice him, they just walked around him and went about their business.  The patrons of the saloon and different things on their minds, not the man hugging the door.
 “So tell me Mr. Cody, what are you doing here in this little bitty town?” she asked with pure curiosity.

 “Please, call me Cody, all my friends do.  I’m a Pony Express rider and I’m passin’ through your “little bitty town”.  That’s all.  What do you do here?”  he asked trying to start a conversation.

 She smiled at the attempt and decided to keep the conversation going, it would be pleasant and safe.   “Well, my father owns the general store and he just recently got ill so I’ve sort of taken it over.  Nothing too spectacular, I had wanted to leave and become a dancer, but that doesn’t look like it’ll happen anytime soon.”  she answered with a degree of sadness in her tone.

 “A dancer huh?”  he asked becoming even more interested.

 “Yes, I’ve always loved to dance, and I’ve read about people that go all over the world and dance for money.  It has been a dream, except it’s gonna have to stay that way.”

 “That’s too bad.”  he said feeling sorry for his new companion.

 “Oh, it’s not as bad as all that, I love being here with my parents, and I don’t know if I’d be able to handle all that traveling.  It would be nice to see the world though.” she paused while in thought and Cody looked at her, wondering what to say next.  He was at a dead end, so he just walked on hoping that she would begin the conversation again.  He seemed to be in luck when she began to talk again.

 “So tell me Cody.  Do you like ridin’ for the Pony Express?  I’ve heard it can be quite dangerous.”

 “Yeah, I like it all right, and it can be dangerous.” he answered getting that touch of suave in his voice, that seems to bring women to his side.

 “I noticed you carry a gun, is that all you’ve got for protection?” she asked looking towards his pistol resting on his hip.

 He fumbled a bit knowing that she was looking at him and answered, “No, I’ve got my rifle too, I’m the best shot in the territory!”  A gloating grin spread across his face.

 “Really?”  she asked not completely paying attention to the answer.  She had taken in enough to know that this man could help her.

 The two new acquaintences kept up a steady pace and they were easy to follow.  The man from the saloon had quickly mounted his horse when he saw them leaving the town limits.  He was following them, he wanted to get ahold of that girl, and nothing would stop him.  He had a score to settle and if the boy in the fringe with the stupid girn wanted to interfere, well, so be it, he would have to be disposed of.

 When the two young people reached the lake it seemed to be almost empty, but then they heard the happy screams of children running into the water.  The two decided to stay out of sight of the children, besides they’d stay dry if they were out of the way.  The blanket was spread and they sat down to have lunch.

 “Can I ask you somethin’?” Cody asked cautiously.

 “Sure, I have nothing to hide, besides I feel safe around you.” she answered with too much truth.  She realized what she had said after the words exited her mouth.

 “Why were you so scared when I first saw you this morning?  Had somethin’ happened to you?”

 She didn’t quite know how to answer this question, but she felt she should, if she didn’t he’d know she was lying.   “Well, when you first saw me this morning I had just gotten a telegram.  It was a telegram from a man we knew when we lived back east.  He said he was coming here to “claim his property”.”


 “Yes, apparently when I was very young my parents promised me to him.  They had forgotten all about it, and so had I.  When I asked my mother about it, she didn’t remember even knowing the man.  I wasn’t going to ask my father, he is a very sick man after all.”  she looked at Cody who was both listening intently and eating heartily.

 “Anyway,” she continued, “ after asking my mother about it, I was on my way back to the telegram office to send a return note saying that we didn’t know who he was, and therefore would under no circumstance honor his “request”.  Just as I reached the door, the stage came in and a man got off and called my name.  I turned and recognized him, but couldn’t put my finger on who he was.”

 “Who was it?” Cody asked getting caught up in the story.

 “It was the man who had sent the telegram.  John Williams.  He didn’t look particularly dangerous so I approched him and asked him how he knew me.  He simply grinned and grabed my arm.  He lead me to the hotel and told the manager he wanted a room.  When he got his room he took me up to it, and began to........” she began to cry, but tried to hide it from Cody.

 By now Cody was both concerned and angery.  How could any man do that to a woman, he would never understand.

 “Are you alright?” Cody asked, his voice full of concern.  He leaned towards her and her head fell into his arms and rested on his shoulder.  He let her cry into his shoulder and forgot completely about the food.  He could hear the children, but wasn’t concerned with them.

Chapter 3
 The man approached to two sitting so closely together he had to search for the woman.  He finally saw her wrapped up in the young man’s arms, he thought he heard crying, but dismissed it as the children screaming playfully.

 Cody didn’t hear or see the man approaching them until it was too late.  He had been too concerned about Lyla.

 “Get up.” the man demanded of the two as he shoved his pistol into Cody’s back.

 The two froze, they weren’t sure of what was going on.  They slowly rose and turned to face their captor.

 “Williams.” Lyla muttered under her breath.

 “Yeah, that’s right, it’s me.  Why’d you run out on me like that?  You belong to me, I don’t know why you won’t accept that.”  he answered never taking his eyes off of Cody.

 “Maybe you should rethink your approach to a lady, it might work better for ya.” Cody broke in, he knew this man was dangerous, but wasn’t quite sure of how to handle it yet.

 “This is none of your concern boy.”  Williams answered back, wavering for a moment in his aim.

 “Well, now, I’m afraid it is.  See this young woman and I were having a nice lunch together and you came and interupted it.  Now I don’t know where you learned your eatin’ manners, but that is just rude.”

 “Awe, a smart mouth huh?”

 Lyla just stood there, she knew if she ran that she would never make it.  If she screamed maybe the children would hear, but she didn’t want them coming over.  She was petrified.  Williams walked up, keeping his pistol on Cody and grabbed Lyla’s arm and began to drag her away.  Cody began to follow, but a shot was fired at his feet.  The children’s laughter stopped at the sound of the shot.  Lyla gave Cody a look that said it was better if he let her go.  He wasn’t pleased by it, but he had nothing else to do.  Williams mounted his horse and pulled Lyla up, he quickly rode away just as the children were entering the scene.

 As Cody watched the two speed away he began to realize what was going on.  The man had not actually been able to do anything to Lyla, she was too smart for him and was able to get away.  Cody knew though that if the man had another chance, he might succeed.  When he stood up he realized that the children were standing around and he turned to them.
“Hey kids, do any of you know the sherrif?”  he asked very bluntly.

 “Yeah,” one small child spoke up bravely, “he’s my pa.”

 “Good,  I need you to go and get him.  My friend is in trouble.  Tell him to go to the hotel and ask for a man named John Williams.”  he explained to the boy urgently.

 “John Williams?”

 “Yes, take some of your friends with you, and run fast!”  he said as the children began to run towards the town.

 After the children had disappeared, Cody decided he’d better go to the town and do what he could, he would develop a plan on the walk back.  By the time Cody reached the hotel, the sherrif was already there and talking to the man behind the desk.

 “Howdy sherrif.  I take it you got my message?”  Cody said half asking, half stating.

 “Yes, now, why am I looking for this man?” the sherrif asked straightforwardly.

 “He’s kidnapped Lyla Teague.  He claims that she belongs to him, but she said that she didn’t even know the man until earlier today.”  Cody began to explain.

 “Now wait just one minute now boy, you say she’s been kidnapped?”

 “Yes, sir.  We - Lyla and I had gone on a picnic this afternoon and he came up and held a gun on us and took her away.  She had told me that earlier he had tried to.....”  Cody tried to explain as his eyes fell to the floor.

 “What? Tell me what she said, what did this man try to do to her?” the sheriff asked beginning to get more worried about Lyla.

 “He...... um...... tried to have his way with her.  But she got away, that was when I first saw her, I ran into her in the streets.”  Cody continued.

 “You say, you just met her today and she told you all this already?” the sheriff asked getting thouroughly confused.

 “Well, yeah.”  Cody answered honestly.

 “Okay, lets see if we can find Lyla.  What’s this man’s name again?”

 “John Williams.”

 The two headed out the door looking as if they were about to go and save the world from a fate worse than death.  Indeed, they were on there way to save one person’s world  from that horrible fate that everyone had nightmares about.  They were on their way to save Lyla from being forced to marry a man she didn’t love and didn’t even know.

Part 2 coming soon!

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