Valentines Day Magic

By

Vera

Noah and Buck sat in the bunkhouse reading. Buck sat with his feet propped on his bunk and Noah sat on his bunk with his back against the wall. Lou and Rachel entered carrying food for dinner. "Well looks like you boys are making good use of your time stated Rachel. But, whatever you're reading must be sad. You've got some very long faces."

Teaspoon walked in and said "You boys brooding about the Valentine's Day Dance?"

"Well Valentines day won't be the same this year, responded Noah. I really miss Cassie. I'm holding a little gift for her until I go through Henderson and that makes it even harder. It's rough when your special person is away or living in another town. Usually I try not to think about it, but, Valentine's day's not going to be easy."

"I know how you feel concurred Buck. Eagle Feather, Jenny and I were just starting to connect when she left. I got a letter from her yesterday. She says she is finding her way and writing a letter is like talking to me, but it is not the same. I can't talk to a letter or dance with it. I'm also holding a little package for Jenny which I will send to St. Louis next week. She will stay on my mind until the package is mailed. Add the fact that Ike's gone and I'm not in a great mood this year."

"Cheer up guys, maybe the dance will turn out better than you think. Anything could happen," replied Lou slyly.

"Yeah, right," responded Buck and Noah in unison.

"Face it Lou, with Kid getting in today you two are the best off. You will be together and you know that's what you want" replied Buck.

"It sure is replied Lou. All right don't hold out on me Noah, I know you have something to say too."

"Well you and Kid are quite fortunate to have each other. Most of us would love to have what you two have. It's plain that you can't imagine being without each other and that kind of love seems to miss the rest of us. Or in my case at least, she isn't here" responded Noah.

Just then hoof beats sounded across the land. "Rider coming. It's Kid!" cried Lou. She was out the door like a shot. Noah and Buck looked at one another and chuckled.

Kid smiled as Lou raced toward him when dismounted from Katy. She ran straight into his open arms and Kid grinned as he hugged her close. "Now I call this a homecoming." They walked arm in arm to the barn to put Katy away.

"I'll groom her while you wash up Kid. It's almost dinnertime. I'll meet you by the shower. You know I have a couple of questions for you."

"Slow down Lou and give Katy a good brushing and some water and oats. I'll answer your questions before we go in to dinner."

Lou quickly groomed, watered and fed Katy before she joined Kid by the shower. She was clearly excited.

"Lou, Cassie and Jenny are at Thompkin's house in town. Seems he wants to have a better relationship with his daughter. Short of letting her stay there with Buck he was ready to put up with almost anything" stated Kid.

"He sure changed his tune said Lou. Now if we can just get him to treat Buck like a human being."

"Now, You're really asking for a miracle commented Kid as he slipped his feet into moccasins. Lets go into dinner. We'll take a stroll and finish talking after dinner."

"How ya doing? Did you have a good ride Kid?" inquired Teaspoon as they walked in the door.

"I'm a little tired, but the ride was quite normal, indicated Kid. I didn't experience any problems. Ran into Jimmy and Cody in Henderson. Said to wish everyone a Happy Valentines day. They figure theirs will be since they will be with the Dorsey sisters."

"They tried to get Buck and I to go," said Noah. "Cassie's away and I just wasn't up to Cody's high-jinks and usual trouble."

"Me either," replied Buck I stick out enough at home. "Wouldn't even go to the dance, but, Teaspoon is insisting."

"Feel the same way," grumbled Noah. "Seems like the ultimate insult to have to dress up for this."

"Dinner, said Rachel, "and will you two quit grumbling and make the best of it. We all have to represent the station. You know how Russell Majors & Waddell feel."

"We know," replied Buck, "blend in and become part of the town. It's a lot easier said than done. Besides the dance is the day before Valentines Day. What's with that?"

"Council voted for the day before, figuring most people already made plans for Valentines Day. They wanted the dance on the opening day for the new Hotel" answered Teaspoon.

The group ate dinner and conversed on many subjects. "Sure is quiet without Cody at the table" noticed Rachel.

"Well," said Kid, "I could eat everything in sight, talk with my mouth full and then start an argument if you'd like."

"No thanks replied Rachel. I don't miss it that much. It's just different."

After dinner, Noah and Buck ordered Kid and Lou to take their walk. "We'll do the dishes said Noah. You've been away a couple of days and I'm sure you two have a lot to talk about."

"Go on," insisted Buck. "We've got nothing better to do."

"See you later," said Lou as she grabbed the Kid's hand and headed for the door. "Kid let's head for the cave. No one will be there tonight."

"Why, Lou, are you in the mood for a little romance?" inquired Kid.

As they reached their favorite spot in the cave, Lou hugged Kid. "Romance and a talk would be nice. We rented the small diningroom in the hotel and Cassie and Jenny are going to help us decorate it tomorrow. Teaspoon promised to send Buck and Noah on a short run to make a delivery and get supplies so they won't get suspicious."

"I'll be around to help with anything heavy,"said Kid.

"Okay," said Lou. "But save plenty of strength and energy. You'll need it," she said as she leaned over to put her arms around Kid and kiss him.

"Louise you're going to kill me before we get married, but boy what away to go!" responded Kid as he took his lady in his arms.

Several hours later Lou and Kid returned to the station for a nights sleep. Both were excited about tomorrow.

On Friday morning, Teaspoon sent Noah and Buck to make a short run and collect supplies right after breakfast. Rachel and Teaspoon left Lou and Kid to clear the dishes and clean up.

"May as well get used to it," said Teaspoon. "Soon you will do it all the time, especially you Kid."

"Ha, Ha, " replied Kid and Lou in unison.

"See. Just like two old married people already" said Teaspoon, ducking the spoon Lou threw at him. "Uh oh, Lets go Rachel it's getting dangerous in here."

"Lou, I'll see you in about an hour and no throwing cutlery. Kid get some rest and Louise don't make me come get you."

"You're no fun" Lou grumbled as they walked out.

"If she only knew," said Teaspoon as he and Rachel headed to the hotel.

"Now, Teaspoon you promised to keep quiet about us."

"I know, but, before their awards dinner tomorrow evening I want to spend a special afternoon with my Valentine."

"Not the cave, said Rachel. Our secret would surely get out, because, it's going to be overcrowded. The others don't know yet but Cody and Jimmy are bringing the Dorsey sisters back here with them this evening. You know Noah, Cassie, Buck, Jenny, Kid and Lou will head for that cave. It'll be near impossible to keep those young men and women apart. I don't want to even be here to try to referee any disputes or spats."

"My thoughts exactly. That's why I'm taking you shopping in Porter and out to lunch. We will get back just in time to rest before the meal and presentation by the company."

"I love it!" cried Rachel. "Oh! There are Jenny and Cassie. They are coming this way and brimming with excitement."

Smiles and greetings were exchanged. The four of them entered the Hotel to begin decorating the room. Within the hour they we joined by Kid and Lou who greeted Jenny and Cassie warmly. They hung streamers and fashioned a sign saying Happy Valentines day above the door. A place card was placed at each place on a large gaily decorated table. Teaspoon would sit at one end and Rachel at the other. The Ladies finally went to their rooms to rest.

Teaspoon said, "Kid I could use your help at my office for a while."

"Happy to oblige said Kid."

"I have a surprise for all the ladies" said Teaspoon. He pulled out an engraved bud vase for each lady.

"Perfect," said Kid. "How did you know how I was thinking? I'll be right back." Kid returned ten minutes later with six small ceramic boxes and his arms full of roses. There were two for each bud vase and two dozen extra roses. "Teaspoon, I was told I should bring you this dozen roses before they were all gone. Roses for Rachel? How romantic, said Kid as he raised his eyebrows and smiled. "I know it's a secret but Lou figured it out a while back. I promise we'll keep your secret just as you kept ours."

"Thank you son. We trust you all. We just didn't want to burden you. And we' re not sure how this will turn out. I'll always love her, but you know my track record with marriage. Dismal" he sighed.

"Hey, don't worry about it. Let's just deliver these and get some rest. I think we're going to need it" stated Kid.

They quickly placed the flowers and boxes at each place. They left the hotel and headed for the Way Station.

"Look's like Noah and Buck are back," said Kid. "Let me distract them while you take those to Rachel whispered Kid.

Kid braced himself because he knew Noah and Buck would tease him about Lou's Roses. They did not disappoint him.

Noah claimed they were getting married just in time. "No way will Lou's identity remain a secret much longer."

"Really," concurred Buck. "Roses for a boy. That's sure to blow your cover "

"Okay. I'm a goner," admitted Kid.

Buck and Noah exchanged a look. "We knew that already," teased Buck.

" Just weren't sure you knew it," added Noah.

"Oh you two are real funny," replied Kid as he put Lou's roses in water.

Lou was sitting at the table talking as Teaspoon entered the house. "Roses for Rachel? How sweet and romantic," said Lou. Both had a funny look on their face. "It's okay Kid and I figured it out a while back. We won't tell. Happy to see someone else find love too. We figured you didn't want anyone to know. So we will keep the secret."

"Thank you," replied Rachel. "We're not sure where this will go but we definitely don't want the company to find out."

"We won't tell them," said Lou. "Rachel, my dress is in the spare room. I'm going to go rest and torture Kid."

Rachel and Teaspoon laughed. " Louise one of these days you are going to drive that man out of his mind," chuckled Rachel.

"Yeah. But, it's such fun," responded Lou as she went out the door.

"Women," muttered Teaspoon as he watched Lou walk into the bunkhouse.

"And what does that mean" asked Rachel?

"I'll never understand ya'll. But sometimes its fun trying" he replied as he gave her a kiss

"I think we best rest too before we go to far" replied Rachel.

Teaspoon gave Rachel a hug and a passionate kiss. "See you later beautiful," said Teaspoon as he headed out the door.

Rachel blushed. "Bye" she replied.
 
 
 
 

By five that evening the bunk house and Rachel's house were busy. Jimmy and Cody had surprised everyone by running in to change clothes, before heading over to the Hotel dining room. Teaspoon, Kid, Noah and Buck were all getting dressed for the evening. At Rachel's, she and Louise were getting dressed. Rachel chose a soft pink dress with lace at the collar and sleeves. Lou chose a light blue dress with pale pink lace at the collar and sleeves. Both pinned up their hair and added earrings. Lou also wore a pin Kid had given her.
 
 

When she entered the room, Rachel said, "Louise you are beautiful. Kid won't be able to keep his eyes off of you."

"Rachel, Teaspoon is in trouble. You look lovely. He won't let you out of his sight."

At that moment Teaspoon knocked on the door. "Ladies can we come in. Your escorts for the evening are here."

"Come in." replied Rachel.

The four men entered the house. All four were awestruck as the looked at the women before them. Teaspoon said "Why I am looking at two visions of loveliness. You will be the most beautiful ladies there. Let's leave for dinner."

"Dinner?" asked Buck.

"Well," responded Teaspoon, "I decided Rachel deserved to be served for a change and since our cooking skills come nowhere near hers we're all eating in a private dining room at the hotel."

The group left for the hotel. Meanwhile, at Thompkins Cassie and Jenny had dressed and were escorted to the Hotel dining room by Jenny's Father.

"You ladies look wonderful," indicated Bill Thompkins. "I hope the evening will be everything you want and more." He hugged Jenny and whispered in her ear, "I just want to see you happy. You are glowing and you didn't do that in St. Louis."

"Pa I really hope you mean that, because I know Buck Cross is part of my happiness."

Thompkins said "I know he is. He is a decent man and I have to accept your feelings. Just be happy." As they entered the dining room Thompkins indicated, "I'm going to leave you with Hickok and Cody since your step-mom is holding a special dinner for me. We will see you later this evening. Jenny I'll be looking for that sparkling glow. You too, Cassie. Have a wonderful time." Thompkins smiled "Hickok, Cody have a nice evening."

"Thanks" replied Jimmy and Cody in unison. Cassie and Jenny were brimming with excitement. Jimmy and Cody introduced them to Doris and Denise Dorsey.

Jimmy said, "Ladies why don't you step in this next room near the door. When Noah and Buck get here I'll open it and you can come in and surprise them."

"Just be gentle with them. We don't want any heart attacks or seizures," quipped Cody with a grin.

"Cody," ordered Jimmy, "Please don't help. We don't want this messed up which is your specialty. Hurry. Ladies I hear Teaspoon." Cassie and Jenny quickly followed Jimmy's directions.

When the group entered the dining room, Teaspoon admired the ladies handy work. "Certainly is festive. I think there are a few surprises in order this evening."

As Teaspoon made that statement Jimmy opened the door and Jenny and Cassie walked in. Lou just beamed as she watched Noah and Buck's faces. The normally stoic and serious riders broke into wide grins. Buck and Noah raced across the room.

Noah gently hugged and kissed Cassie as he whispered, "God just answered my prayers."

Cassie murmured with tears in her eyes "And mine. Oh, Noah I missed you so much." Out loud Noah said, "I am so glad to see you,"as he wiped her tears with the back of his hand.

Buck reached out and Jenny walked into his open arms and gave him a tight embrace and tearfully whispered, "Running Buck, I have found my way back to you, where I belong."

He whispered back "Eagle Feather, the spirits heard my voice today," as he wiped her tears gently. Out loud Buck said, "It is wonderful to see you Jenny," and he kissed her lightly.

Teaspoon rapped on the table "Ladies and Gentlemen lets take our seats and have dinner. We have the rest of the night and the day tomorrow together. The Express Riders have the weekend off and tomorrow evening in this room there will be an awards ceremony. The Express Riders are receiving commendations and a bounty for bringing in the Colton Brothers."

The ladies were all pleased with their gifts and thanked the gentlemen. During dinner Jimmy and Cody managed to persuade the Dorsey sisters to stay in town until Sunday afternoon. Noah discovered Cassie was staying through the weekend. And Jenny told Buck she was staying at least a week. Everyone enjoyed a delicious and exuberant meal. Afterward they went to the ballroom to dance well into the night.

Kid laughed as Lou teased him on the dance floor. Suddenly she realized his dancing had improved "Kid, your dancing is quite good. What have you been up to?"

"I took lessons from Rachel. She's very good."

"Guess, I'm reaping the benefits," Lou said as she rested her head on his shoulder with a sigh.

"Ah, me too," replied Kid. "Me too." He sighed, as he held Louise tightly.

Noah held Cassie closely as they danced. She confided to Noah that Kid and Lou had engineered the surprise. "Apparently, they wanted to share their happiness and they knew you missed me."

Buck danced closely with Jenny. She said her father hated seeing her so sad and St. Louis just didn't fit her or she it. "Dad wanted to see me happy and Kid and Lou wanted to share their joy and happiness."

Cody and Jimmy danced and conversed with the Dorsey sisters. Teaspoon and Rachel danced and conversed with other towns people, though they were never apart very long.

Rachel smiled and said, "There are three grinning young men who ride for the express and three young ladies who are glowing. Love is certainly in the air, wouldn't you say so Mr. Hunter."

Teaspoon smiled, "There is definitely love in the air tonight. It's almost magical," he said as he gazed into Rachel's eyes.

"Why Teaspoon Hunter, you are a romantic. How about taking me to get a bit of fresh air. I think these ladies and gentlemen can handle themselves."

" I'd be delighted. Actually, I think it's time for us to go home and call it a night."

Across the room Lou smiled as she watched Teaspoon and Rachel leave. She whispered to Kid "I guess we better behave, cause we're on our own."

"You've got to be joking," replied Kid. "That's no fun."

"And just what do you have in mind?" asked Louise.

"How about a little more dancing, a very private moonlight stroll and a bit of romance?"

"Wonderful," responded Louise. "We can make plans for tomorrow. We should make the best use of our time off."

"As long as I spend it with you it's time well spent," whispered Kid. Lou just blushed and hugged him.

Noah and Cassie delighted in each others company as they danced. They quietly slipped back into the dining room when Noah told Cassie he had a question to ask her. Noah dropped to one knee and took her hand in his. "Cassie, will you marry me? Please do me the honor of becoming my wife."

"Oh, Noah yes, yes, I would be delighted to be your wife. When do you want to get married?"

Noah slipped a ring on her finger and kissed her. "Marry me tomorrow at noon. I already asked Teaspoon and Rachel for help and they said just show up. I'm sure the other riders won't miss it. I sent Quinn a telegram and he'll be here in the morning."

"You're mighty sure of yourself. You knew I would say yes didn't you?" inquired Cassie, with a twinkle in her eye.

"Well I hoped so. I just couldn't wait any longer," replied Noah.

"It sounds perfect to me," said Cassie as she burrowed in his arms and kissed Noah on the lips.

"Let's tell the others and then I will walk you to Thompkin's house the long way," said Noah. "It's the perfect night for a walk. Just think twenty-four hours from now you will be my wife."

Noah and Cassie walked hand in hand to the ball room to tell the other riders they were getting married and ask them all to be there. Of course all the riders indicated they wouldn't miss the wedding. After speaking to the other riders they went for their walk. Lou and Kid left also to look for a private and quiet spot.

Jenny and Buck stayed at the dance a while longer and strolled sedately back to Thompkins' house. They stood on the porch kissing for quite a while. Finally Buck said, "Eagle Feather we must stop or your father will shoot me for trying to make love to you on his porch."

"He wouldn't dare," replied Jenny. "He would have to shoot me first. Besides, he doesn't want my heart broken."

Buck just laughed and said, "Go in Jenny. We have all day tomorrow and I don't want to destroy our truce."

She gave him a final kiss and walked into the house.

Thompkins greeted her in the kitchen and said, "I see the glow is still there."

Jenny beamed and said, "Pa I hope you really want to see me happy. I'm moving back here from St. Louis. And unless he won't have me, I intend to marry Buck Cross and spend the rest of my life with him. I am in love with him."

" I can see that you love him. If it means you will be as happy as Cassie is, you should do it," indicated Thompkins. "You must follow your heart. I have learned that from your Stepmother. She told me not to block your joy because you would only resent me for it."

"She's a smart lady," said Jenny as she hugged her father goodnight.

Louise and Kid did find their private place, a deserted cabin, where they enjoyed peace, quiet and togetherness.

Lou said, "This is so cozy, I hate to leave. I could stay here with you all night."

"Don't tempt me," said Kid. "In a month we'll be together every night. You know Rachel and Teaspoon will kill us and pile work on us to wear us out if we stay out all night."

"I know," replied Lou, "but I can still dream."

"You better have sweet dreams about me," responded Kid as he drew her close for one final intoxicating kiss.

Kid and Louise arrived at the bunkhouse at the same time as Buck. When they entered the bunkhouse Noah and Buck grabbed them and in unison said "If you two ever interfere again!" with frowns.

"Here comes a show," cried Cody. "I'm glad I didn't miss this."

"Shut up Cody!" yelled Noah, Buck, and Jimmy.

"What ingrates!" flared Lou as Kid frowned.

"As I was going to say before I was so rudely interrupted, A million thanks Kid and Lou," said Buck with a bright smile. "It seems Jenny was as unhappy and miserable as I was. Tonight was wonderful and hopefully tomorrow will be even better."

"Many times thank you from Cassie and I both," said Noah. "If not for you, I'd have waited longer to make her my wife. Life's to short not to enjoy it while I can. You all taught me that."

"Damn," said Cody. "That was disappointing. No one killed anyone else. No bloodshed and not even a respectable fight."

"Shut up Cody!" shouted five voices in unison.

Suddenly there was a thump and the door flew open. A tired Rachel stood at the door in her wrapper and Teaspoon in his robe.

"It's the middle of the night. Are you people crazy?" asked Teaspoon. "What is all this ruckus about Cody?"

"Gee," said Cody, "why is it always my fault?"

"Since they were yelling at you Cody, you must have said or done something," retorted Teaspoon.

"Everyone just settle down and go to bed," said Rachel. "We have a busy day tomorrow. I swear you all will be the death of me yet," Rachel stated as she and Teaspoon walked out and closed the door.

Morning did come early. Lou and Kid rose early to and watch the sun rise and do chores. Noah was a nervous wreck. He went into town to get wedding rings and Lou had to remind him not to forget his wallet.

"Cody," said, Lou at breakfast, "You haven't done your chores yet. If you try to get Noah occupied by doing them for you, you'll have to deal with me."

Kid said, "And you don't want to deal with her."

"You ought to know Kid," said Cody.

"At least when I deal with her win or lose, I win," said Kid with a grin.

Lou aimed for Kid's shin under the table and missed.

"Ow! hollered Jimmy, "You kicked me."

"Now don't pick on Lou," said Kid immediately entering the fracas when Jimmy threw a biscuit at her.

"Take it outside," said Rachel, "and stop throwing food."

Teaspoon just rolled his eyes and said, "Boys and girl can't we have one meal without incident?"

At that moment Noah walked in. "I'm not even going to ask who did what. But isn't this how we ended the night?"

"Where have you been?" asked Cody. "Were you having a last hurrah or trying to find someone to talk some sense into you?"

"One thing is for sure I wouldn't expect anything sensible from you," responded Noah.

"Stop tormenting each other and finish eating because we have a wedding to get ready for," commented Rachel. "After the wedding we're having a buffet here. Then everyone is on their own until eight this evening."

"Lou," said Teaspoon, "I asked Barnett to be Lou McCloud tonight if someone from the company shows up for the ceremony. He knows your secret and he can pull this off. Says it's his way of saying thanks for your help with Susie Winters. You are Louise, Lou's cousin."

"Thanks Teaspoon." replied Lou.

"You're welcome. I expect you riders at my office before twelve to pick up your share of the bounty so you can put it in the bank if you wish to." They kept their appointments with Teaspoon and most of them put money in the bank.

At twelve noon exactly Teaspoon presided over the wedding of Cassie and Noah Dixon. Cassie's brother, Quinn, did arrive from Henderson in time for the wedding. Noah wore his best suit. Cassie wore a pale pink dress and a matching hat with a veil. The Thompkins, Rachel, Lou, Kid, Buck, Jenny, Cody, Jimmy, Jesse, Quinn and the Dorsey Sisters attended the Dixon's wedding. Noah had eyes only for Cassie. Cassie had tears of joy in her eyes as she promised to commit herself to Noah and he to her. Lou, Rachel and Jenny had tears of joy in their eyes as they wished the newlyweds well. The men were all smiles as they congratulated the happy pair. The group went back to the express station for lunch.

Around Two O"clock Noah took Cassie by the hand and addressed the assembled group. "Thank you all for sharing our wedding with us. Right now we are going to leave for a while. We will see you all this evening for the awards ceremony."

"Have fun. Don't do anything I wouldn't do shouted Cody!"

"Cody!" cried Rachel, Kid and Lou simultaneously.

"Not being disrespectful just glad to see him so happy,"explained Cody.

"Actually Cody," responded Noah, "I'll make sure I don't do anything you would do. I don't want Cassie to kill me or think she married a lout." Cassie blushed as she and Noah left the room.

"Cody," asked Buck, "Do you ever think before you say things? One of these days your mouth and sense of humor are gonna get you killed."

"Keep it up," said Jimmy, "and one of us may kill you yet."

"You people have no sense of humor," grumbled Cody.

"Billy," said Doris, "give up while you're ahead. Let's take that stroll and have tea as we planned. Jimmy are you and Denise coming?"

"We'll see you all at eight," said Jimmy as the two couples departed.

Jesse and Quinn left to explore the town. Noah and Cassie spent a blissful afternoon in Rachel' s house, never leaving the bedroom until time to attend the evening ceremony.

Cassie looked at Noah as she lay in his arms and told him, "I couldn't be any happier than I am right now. It just wouldn't be possible."

Noah replied, "I know how you feel. I wish we could stay this way forever and keep the rest of the world out."

Teaspoon and Rachel had tea in Porter and spent the afternoon shopping.

Kid and Louise took a ride on their horses and spent the afternoon making love and cuddling before a fire in the cabin planning their wedding and lives. Kid gave Lou a cameo and matching earrings. "Just a little something to remember me by," said Kid.

"As if I could ever forget you," replied Lou as she handed him an engraved St. Christopher's medal. The medal read To My beloved Kid, I will keep you ever close to my heart, Love Louise'.

Kid said, "Thank you Louise. I will always wear it close to my heart." He leaned in for a long leisurely kiss.

Buck stopped at the Thompkins home to speak to Bill Thompkins before having tea with Jenny. "Mr. Tompkins I know we are not the best of friends and have been adversaries, on occasions, but, for Jenny's sake I hope we can try to tolerate each other. I really don't want to hurt her by fighting with you."

"Buck I know we have our differences and a lot of it is my fault. It takes two to fight. Right now, I just want to see my daughter happy and she has found that with you. I won't stand in the way or antagonize you. We probably won't be best friends but we can try to get along."

Buck breathed a sigh of relief and tugged slightly at his collar. Bill Tompkins smiled, because he knew what was probably coming next. "Mr. Thompkins," said Buck, "I would like to ask for your daughter's hand in marriage. I know this a little old fashioned and Jenny is a progressive lady, but this is the right thing to do."

"Yes, you have may permission to marry my daughter. One thing I admire about you is your sense of right and your courage. It took a lot of courage to stand up to me over the years and even more to ask me to marry my daughter."

Just then Mrs. Thompkins entered the kitchen with a cheerful smile.

"Linda," said Bill Thompkins, "Buck just asked me to marry Jenny and I said yes."

"Welcome to the family," said Linda. "I just know Jenny won't turn you down."

"Thank you," responded Buck. "Oh it's getting late. I promised to meet Jenny in the Hotel diningroom at two-thirty."

"Have a good time," replied Bill Thompkins.

"Thank you."

Buck walked away with a lighter step. He simply could not believe his discussion with Bill Thompkins had gone so well. As Buck entered the nearly deserted dining room, his eyes lit up as he saw Jenny waiting for him at a table by the window. He strode purposefully toward the table as Jenny gave him a captivating smile. "Hello Eagle Feather," said Buck. "I'm sorry if I am late. I stopped to speak to your father."

"You two didn't have an argument did you? What has he done or said now?"

"Everything is fine," Buck assured her. "We just talked. There is something I need to ask you and I wanted to talk to him first."

"You did? What did you want to ask me?"

Buck dropped to one knee and took her hand in his. "Eagle Feather, Jenny Thompkins, will you marry me."

"Yes," cried Jenny, "Yes! Yes! Oh I am so happy." She instantly began to cry as Buck slipped a ring on her finger.

He held her close and wiped her tears away. The few other patrons in the diningroom applauded. "Jenny, I know you probably have things you must do in St. Louis, but as soon as you can get back I want you to marry me."

She said, "It will take me two weeks to tie up lose ends there and pack everything to be shipped here. I had planned to leave St. Louis anyway. I wasn't happy there without you. I shouldn't be gone more than a month if the weather holds. We can get married in April."

"Perfect," responded Buck.

At that moment Jimmy, Cody and the Dorsey sisters walked over to the table.

"Let me guess," said Cody looking at Jenny's hand. "You're getting married." Buck and Jenny smiled and nodded in affirmation.

"Congratulations!'" said Cody and Jimmy together.

"I hope you will be very happy," said Cody.

"Stop there Cody before you put your foot in your mouth again,"said Jimmy. Jimmy hugged Jenny and gave Buck a pat on the back and said, "Best wishes. Wait til the others find out."

"What a Valentines day. Love birds everywhere," crowed Cody as Doris pushed him toward the door.

"Come on before they kill you Billy."

"What are we going to do with him?" asked Jimmy.

"Hey, don't ask me. My hands are already full," said Buck.

"You're no help," said Jimmy. "Let's go Denise."

Buck and Jenny spent the remainder of the afternoon at the cave near the express station. They spent the afternoon kissing and cuddling before a roaring blaze.

"Jenny I really want to love you, but we must wait," said Buck. "We can't have you leave here expecting a little Cross. If the weather keeps you in St. Louis longer than we planned, by the time you get back it would be obvious. Your Father, Teaspoon and Rachel would kill me and then where would we be?"

"At a swift, shotgun wedding with a very pleased Buck Cross and a fat, happy Jenny Cross," she replied as she caressed his chest.

"Eagle Feather, behave, before I lose my head," murmured Buck, as he leaned in for a final kiss. "We will find time alone. Kid and Lou always do."

"Oh, all right," said Jenny as she took the hand he offered.

He walked her back to the Thompkins' home, where they were congratulated, and stayed for a chat about their wedding. When Buck returned to the bunkhouse, all the other Riders except Noah were there dressing. All set upon Buck to congratulate him.

"Well, another one down," said Teaspoon. "This has really been an eventful Valentines day. A wedding and a second engaged couple. Looks like you all are growing up. Cody and Jimmy you are next."

"Not me," replied Jimmy. "Haven't met the woman I can live with longer than a week yet."

"Me either," stated Cody. "I'm having too much fun playing the field. There are too many women I haven't met yet."

"You mean too many women you haven't irritated or tormented yet," teased Lou.

"Lets go before another fracas starts and everyone gets wrinkled and messy," intoned Rachel.

The awards dinner was a smashing success. Teaspoon presented commendations to the riders since no one from the company was able to make it to Rock Creek. Noah and Cassie were beaming and had eyes only for each other. Lou and Kid and Jenny and Buck were equally mesmerized with one another. Their evening ended around 10 O"clock.

The riders headed to various places with their dates. Noah and Cassie immediately returned to Rachel's. Jimmy and Cody took a stroll before dropping the Dorsey sisters at the Hotel.

"We will pick you up to drive you to Henderson tomorrow around nine," said Jimmy. "We would like to treat you ladies to breakfast before we leave."

"We accept," said Denise. "See you in the morning."

Buck and Jenny spent time in the cave again.

Lou and Kid returned to their deserted cabin. Lou noted that it had been one of the best Valentines Days ever.

"Yeah," replied Kid with a passionate kiss. "It was because I spent it with you, Valentine."

"Why Kid! There is a bit of romance in your soul."

He hugged Lou and replied, "Only where you're concerned."

Rachel and Teaspoon sat quietly on her porch watching as a light snow began to fall.

He smiled as he took Rachel in his arms. "It really was a lovely day," he noted with a kiss. "Especially since I spent it with you. You know one day I do want to marry again. I just want to be sure, because it'll be the last time and I don't want to ruin your life."

"It's Okay. I understand and I'm not going anywhere. I'm staying even when the Express closes. I'm going to be the new teacher."

"I'm not sure I like that. I'll have to keep a close eye on you. I 'll probably have to fight off all those young boys with crushes." Rachel just laughed. In the distance they saw Cody and Jimmy walking along arguing. "Well looks like life is returning to normal around here."

Life did return to normal. The Express folded and the war came. The riders went in many directions returning to Rock Creek and their family when they could. They all fondly remembered Valentine's Day, 1861. The memories would sustain them in dark and sad times to come.

Noah Dixon was killed a month later, before he could move to Henderson. Cassie was devastated. Her only consolation was she'd told Noah on his last trip to Henderson he would be a father. Seven months to the day Noah died, Cassie gave birth to a little girl she named Sarah Dixon. Sarah would be cherished by Noah's Express family.

Rachel and Teaspoon kept up with all the former Riders and their families. Rachel did stay on as Teacher and Teaspoon as Marshall. He was sometimes assisted by Buck, Jimmy and Cody.

Jenny Thompkins and Buck Cross were married on April 15. All the ex-express riders were in attendance. It would be their last day together for quite a while.

Cody left with the union army and returned as often as possible. Jimmy left to fight for the union also. Both hoped and prayed he would never meet Kid at the opposite end of a gun. After the war, Jimmy worked in many western towns as a Marshall or Deputy. He returned to Rock Creek as often as possible.

Buck stayed and took over the Rock Creek station turning it into a horse ranch. It was co-owned by the Crosses, McClouds and Hunters.

Kid and Lou stayed long enough to get the ranch running. Kid and Louise moved to Virginia in early 1862 as war was starting and remained there until 1867 when reconstruction got under way. They had two sons James Noah and Jed Adrian. Louise said the memory of Valentine's Day 1861 helped her deal with long, frightening separations and Valentine's Days without her beloved Kid.

February 14, 1867, the McClouds returned to share the prosperous Rock Creek Ranch with Hunters -- Teaspoon and Rachel-- and Crosses -- Buck and Jenny. They stepped off the train filled with excitement.

Teaspoon and Rachel met them at the station that morning. "We know you are tired," said Teaspoon, "but you know its Valentine's Day and we have something special planned this evening. We rented you a room at the Hotel tonight. You can move to the ranch tomorrow."

Kid smiled and looked at Louise. "Maybe we can recreate a little magic tonight."

"I bet you will," said a familiar voice.

"Theresa!" cried Lou as she hugged her sister tight. "When did you get here?"

"Rachel and Teaspoon said you were coming back so I took a teaching job here about a month ago. Tonight you have a special baby-sitter. I'm going to watch all the children in a dining room at the hotel."

Jamie smiled and took Theresa's hand. "Hello Auntie, this is my little brother Jed."

"Hello. Wait until you meet your cousins, Buck and Jenny's Ike and Mary, and Cassie and Noah's daughter Sarah." said Theresa.

"Well," said Lou, "it is good to be home." She hugged Kid and whispered in his ear, "And good our next two will be born here, in September or October."

"Two. Twins Louise?" gasped Kid as he turned visibly pale.

"Happy Valentines day Kid," she said with a laugh.

"Okay," said Rachel. "What's wrong Kid?"

Kid replied, "My crazy, adorable wife just gave me a heck of a Valentine's Day gift. She told me we're having twins."

"My goodness!" said Teaspoon. "Some things don't change."

Lou smiled "Yes, you are right. Alright lets get some rest we have a magical evening coming."

Kid went to see Teaspoon after his family was settled. He met Jimmy, Cody and Buck in the office. They all exchanged hugs and smiles.

"It's good to see you all together," said Teaspoon

"It's good to be home," said Kid. "Okay how many vases and roses do we need this year. Lou and Teresa are two."

"Jenny and Amanda, Jimmy's date make it four and Rachel makes it five,"said Buck.

"My wife Louisa makes it six," said Cody.

"Your wife?" said Kid, Jimmy, Buck and Teaspoon in unison.

"Who was crazy enough to marry you?" inquired Jimmy.

"She must be a saint or a glutton for punishment," responded Buck.

"Or, did you kidnap her and hold her hostage til she said yes?" inquired Kid.

"I give up," said Cody throwing his hands in the air. "Louisa, Isa, and I got married ten months ago. I also have a baby daughter named Arta," he said with a twinkle in his eye. "You'll meet them this evening."

"Will wonders never cease? Cody actually got married. You all are just full of surprises aren't you?" asked Teaspoon. "Gentlemen -- it feels funny calling you all men but you are -- please be there at eight sharp tonight. Let's join our ladies and rest."

That Valentine's evening they recreated some of the magic from that Valentine's weekend in 1861. Rachel and Teaspoon became husband and wife at 8 o'clock sharp and the festivities began. Louisa and Arta Cody were introduced to all and immediately drawn into their new family. Often Louise and Jenny looked up at the door.

With a tear in her eye Lou finally confided to Jenny, "I keep expecting Noah and Cassie to come through that door even though I know it isn't possible. They should be here with us."

"I know," replied Jenny. "It feels like their spirits and hearts are here with us. Buck really misses Noah and I miss Cassie. She lived with us for a while and we grew close before she died of scarlet fever four years ago. She was absolutely lost without Noah. She lived for little Sarah and finally that wasn't enough. Cassie knew she was dying. She asked us to help Quinn raise Sarah in her last lucid moment. They still live at the ranch." Jenny sighed wistfully. "That last night Rachel and I were with her we did everything we could but her fever wouldn't break. It was as if Cassie wanted to end her pain and go to Noah. She clearly said 'Noah, my heart is in pieces. I can't live without you any longer. Please come and get me. It's time for me to come home to you.' Suddenly, there was a swift and gentle breeze and I could almost feel Noah in the room. With her last breath she beamed and reached her left hand out and called Noah's name. She died with a gorgeous smile on her face. It was so sad and eerie, but, beautiful." A tear trickled down Jenny's cheek.

"Buck says Noah came to escort Cassie home. They will be together forever now. "He said their spirits, hearts and souls are forever joined like ours, The Hunters' and yours and Kid' s."

Lou smiled, "Buck is right about joined spirits, hearts and souls. He was always the wisest one of us. I am happy to hear that Cassie loved him so much. Noah really wanted that kind of love and it seems he found it. Come on, Jenny let's find our husbands and dance the night away."

They did. The group recreated a great deal of Valentine's Day magic that night. Most of express the family remained in or near Rock Creek. Those that did not returned as often as they could. Through the years, the former express riders would always make an annual date to celebrate and create a little Valentine's Day magic together.
 
 

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