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        "For now we see as if through a glass darkly, then we shall see face to face.  My knowledge now is partial, then it shall be whole..."  I Corinthians 13:12.
R ider comin’!”

 Lou heard the familiar cry from the station and smiled wearily.  Home, she thought.  She didn’t have many opportunities left to be greeted by that signal of home.  In two weeks she was getting married.  Even though she’d finally been able to put the big doubts behind her, it still didn’t seem real that she and Kid would have a chance to create the kind of home they’d never had.  She’d finally be able to keep her promise to Jeremiah and Teresa and give them the family they longed for.  A jumble of tasks and wedding preparations began to fill her head only to be pushed aside at the thought of seeing Kid again.  It had been a long, hard ride for her and Jimmy.  Lou hadn’t been so sure they were going to make it back.  But they’d again defied the odds and now all Lou wanted was to fall into Kid’s arms and feel safe and secure again.

Jimmy glanced at her as they pulled into the station.  He watched in amusement as her eyes scanned the yard, knowing she was looking for only one person.  Lou’s face was alight with happiness, the tension of indecision and doubt had somehow been erased by this ride.  At least some good came out of it, he thought sadly.  For not the first time in the last couple days, Jimmy actually turned his thoughts toward God—not something he usually did—and thanked Him for keeping the woman beside him safe.  He realized it was only through the grace of God that they’d both escaped the shootout with the gang with their lives.

Noah stepped off the porch and grabbed Lightning and Sundancer’s reins as Jimmy and Lou dismounted wearily.  “Did ya find him?” he asked of the missing rider.  Jimmy merely nodded, the look on his face saying it all.  Noah placed a comforting hand on his friend’s shoulder.  “Sorry, Jimmy.  He was a good kid.”

Jimmy shrugged.  “Would ya mind taking care of my horse, Noah?  I feel like I could sleep for a week,” he said.

“No problem.  You two go take a nap.  Ya look like hell,” Noah replied teasing gently.  He looked toward Lou and noticed her attention was elsewhere.  Noah smiled.  “Sorry, Lou, ya just missed him.”

Lou’s face fell a bit as she turned to face him.  “What do ya mean I just missed him?  Where’d he go?” she asked disappointed almost to the point of tears.  All she’d been looking forward to since they’d left Seneca was seeing the look on the Kid’s face when she told him she’d finally bought the dress and things were going to be fine.  And now he wasn’t there.

“Teaspoon needed the Kid to run to Fort Kearney on a special run,” Noah replied.  “Should be back tomorrow mornin’.”

The petite rider sighed deeply and grabbed her things off Lightning’s back including a rather large box.  “Is Rachel around?”

“She’s grading papers over at the schoolhouse.  Claimed we made too much noise, imagine that!”

“Figures,” Lou mumbled heading into the bunkhouse leaving the two men to stare at her back in confusion.

Noah jerked his thumb in the direction of the closed door.  “What was that all about?” he asked.  “And what’s in that box?”

Jimmy stripped off his guns and slung the holsters over his shoulder.  “It was a hard ride for her.  Guess she really just had a hankerin’ to see her man,” he replied with a grin.  “And that was the dress.”

Noah’s eyes widened.  “The dress?  You mean you saw her in it before Kid?”

“No, she made me go with her to pick it up and I saw it in the store.”

Noah’s eyes gleamed in curiosity.  He leaned close and whispered, “So, what color is it?”  The boys had all been teasing the young couple about what color Lou should wear to walk down the aisle.  Little went on in the bunkhouse that they didn’t all know and everyone knew just how close Kid and Lou really were.  One night at dinner, Cody’d suggested that she wear scarlett and had nearly met his maker that night.  Poor Jesse hadn’t understood what all the fuss was about, so Noah’d very tactfully whispered the explanation in his ear after both Lou and Kid had walked out angrily only to sneak back into the bunkhouse just before dawn.

“Well,” Jimmy said looking at his friend meaningfully, his brows raised, “it’s white.”

“Looks like Cody loses again,” Noah chuckled as he led both horses to the barn.


Lou didn’t even notice the large brown paper package lying on the dresser until she’d plopped down on her bunk.  Curious, she rose and padded barefoot over to the dresser.  There was an envelope on top of it addressed “To Kid and his wife to be.”  The handwriting was unfamiliar as she opened the envelope and read the message inside.

                Congratulations on your engagement.  Here is a gift for you both.
                Kid, may they bring as much beauty and joy to your home as your beautiful
                fiancee brings to your life.  They’re good luck and have been in the family for

                Best wishes, John Travis

 Taking the gift over to the table, Lou scanned the box for a return address.  Finding none, she sat down and carefully unwrapped a wooden crate.  Stepping onto the porch she grabbed a crowbar and returned to pry off the crate’s lid.  Lou brushed away the wood shavings only to find that whatever it was had been wrapped tightly in buckskin.  She gasped at what was inside.  In her hands, Lou held the most beautiful silver goblets she’d ever seen.  They’d been polished to a sheen, one side of the goblet displaying an intricately carved hunting scene.  Carefully, she re-wrapped the cup and replaced it in the crate.

Her mind reeling, Lou sat back down on her bunk and stared at the message she’d read.  Who was John Travis?  How did he know Kid?  And why would he send them a family heirloom as an engagement gift?

The next day

Kid pushed Katy as hard as possible the whole way back to Rock Creek.  Eager to please her master, the pinto was happy to oblige and ran as fast as she could, knowing that dinner and a good rubdown awaited her once they reached Rock Creek.  The same silly fear that she wouldn’t be there filled Kid as horse and rider approached the station.  He heard the familiar call and sighed in relief as a tiny figure stepped out onto the porch.

He couldn’t help the grin that crossed his face as he saw she was actually wearing a skirt.  Kid was out of the saddle before Katy even came to a complete stop.  He swept Lou up into a tight hug hearing her low laughter in his ear as he swung her off the porch.  Kid kissed her passionately as he lowered her to her feet, not caring who saw them, but gratified when she returned the kiss with equal fervor.  “Miss me?” he asked hopefully as he gazed down at her upturned face.

“I miss you more every time you ride out,” Lou replied seriously.

“Good!” he said emphatically kissing the tip of her nose.  He tossed a smile to the grinning Jesse who began leading Katy toward the barn.  Kid wrapped an arm around Lou’s waist, his other arm full of his gear, and headed toward the empty bunkhouse.

As she preceeded him through the door, he caught the faintest smell of roses.  He grinned again knowing that she’d cleaned up for him.  It was a smell that never ceased to arouse him.  Lou had used her coveted rose soap the night they’d stayed at Redfern and the scent had intensified as her skin warmed during their lovemaking.  Kid had told her that night that he loved the smell and every time they’d spent the night together she’d bathe with that same soap.  Thereafter, the scent of roses was forever linked with making love to Lou.
He dropped his gear on the table and followed her over to the nook where she slept.  Kid sat on the bed and pulled an unsuspecting Lou onto his lap.  She squirmed as he bent his head to nibble at her neck.  “What’s the occasion, Lou?” he said softly, his arms holding her tight against him so she couldn’t get away.  “Or did you miss me that much?  God, you smell good!”

Lou giggled knowing full well what the smell of roses on her skin did for him.  She turned slightly so that her legs lay across his lap and she could look him in the eye.  “No occasion,” she said huskily, her fingers caressing Kid’s face.  “I just didn’t want to be lookin’ and smellin’ like an old cowboy when my man came home.”

But Kid wasn’t listening.  He kissed her passionately, his tongue meeting hers as he pushed her back onto the bunk covering her body with his.  Knowing what she liked, his mouth wandered to lick and suck at the sensitive skin below her ear and just behind her jawline.  Her breathing became raspier in his ear and she arched up against him.  She nibbled on his earlobe basking in the attention.  When Kid’s hands began unbuttoning her blouse Lou realized it was time to end it.  She put both hands on his shoulders and pushed up into a sitting position.

“Oh, Kid,” she groaned, “we can’t do this here.”

Abandoning the buttons, Kid untucked the blouse, his fingers creeping up her bare sides eliciting soft giggles as she squirmed to get away.  “So, let’s go somewhere else,” he whispered.

“Kid, you promised,” she complained.  “You made me promise!”
“You ain’t exactly makin’ it easy for me to keep that promise, Lou,” Kid groaned trying to kiss her again.

Lou cupped his cheek in her hand and spoke to him as if he were a child.  “None of that until after we’re married.”  She maneuvered herself out of his arms and crossed to sit at the table giggling as Kid groaned melodramatically and fell back against the bed.  Lou noticed the crate resting on her trunk and remembered about the gift.  “Kid,” she asked softly, “who’s John Travis?”

Kid’s entire body stilled and tensed at the mention of the name.  Slowly he sat up to face her, his eyes narrowed slightly in suspicion.  “Why?” he asked softly.  “Where on earth did you hear that name?”

Lou shrugged and indicated the crate watching him closely.  “I thought he might have been an old friend or something.  He sent us an engagement gift.”

Kid’s expression was guarded as he crossed to inspect the crate’s contents.  He stared wide-eyed at the silver goblet he held in his hand, his brow furrowing in recognition.  In the space of seconds he was eight years old back in the small farmhouse in Virginia.  Before his eyes, Kid could see the goblets as they sat in the china cupboard that housed them.  He was forced back into the present as he felt Lou’s small hand on his back.

“They’re beautiful, aren’t they?” she said resting her chin against his arm.  “The note said they’d been in the family for generations.  I figured this Travis guy must have been a friend of yours but I don’t understand why he’d send us his family heirlooms.”

“How did the box get here?” Kid asked turning to look at her.

Lou was disturbed by the hardness in his normally gentle blue eyes.  They’d turned distant and cold like ice and Lou could swear there was hatred in them.  “I don’t know how it got here,” she replied.  “It was on the dresser when I got back yesterday.  Noah said they’d found it sitting on the porch yesterday morning.  There was no return address anywhere, not even the stamp from where it was sent.”

“Where’s the note?”

Lou crossed to the dresser she shared with him and wordlessly handed him the note.  She watched him read it beginning to worry as his body tensed even more.  Kid reread the note twice, the anger rising with each reading.  “It’s him,” he mumbled.  “But how did he know about us unless….”

“Kid, who is he?” Lou asked again placing a gentle hand on his arm hoping to draw him into conversation.

“Lou can we talk about this later?” he asked, his voice snapping in irritation.  He glanced down at her and saw the flash of hurt in her eyes she quickly tried to cover up.

“Fine,” Lou said shortly turning her back to him and crossing her arms over her chest.  He wasn’t going to talk about it she knew.  More importantly he wasn’t going to trust her with this and that hurt more than anything.  But she’d be damned if she was going to let him see just how much it hurt.

Her silence only added to his guilt.  With a deep sigh he crossed to her and tentatively wrapped his arms around her waist immensely grateful when she didn’t pull away like she did when she was really mad at him.  “I’m sorry, angel,” he whispered kissing her shoulder.  “Travis isn’t an old friend but he is someone I know, or knew actually—someone from my past that I thought was long gone and I’d never hear from or see again.”

Lou shuddered knowing full well that ghosts from their respective pasts had a tendency to be malevolent.  “Can he hurt us?” she asked shakily.

Kid tightened his arms around her.  “He can’t hurt you, Lou.  No one is ever going to hurt you, not as long as I live.  But I am going to find out how he knows about us and how he found me.  It’s time this ghost was laid to rest,” he said firmly. No, Lou, he thought, he can’t hurt you, but he sure as hell can hurt me even after all these years.


The man watched the town of Rock Creek from his window like he'd done every day for the last six weeks.  Suddenly as he watched, a young man hurried out of the bunkhouse at the Express station across the street.  He allowed the curtain to shut and stepped back from the second story window as the young man’s blue gaze wandered up toward the man’s room.  Apparently not seeing anything, the young man turned away and entered the barn.  The man ran a hand over his grizzled face wondering if the express rider would have even recognized him after all the years.  His sandy hair and the beard he'd adopted in Fort Bragg had grayed long ago.  His face, lined and dark from twelve years of hard labor, looked much older than it had at the age of forty which was the last time the young man had seen him.

It wasn’t long before the man saw the rider dash out of the barn on a painted mare.  Rides like a Travis, he thought bemusedly, even if he don’t remember he is one.  His thoughts were interrupted by the opening of the door.

“Hey Jack, thought you’d like to know they got the package.”

Jack turned to address the older black man.  Usually the man was sitting in his chair across from the marshal’s office whittling.  Most of Rock Creek’s inhabitants ignored him when in fact no one knew more about the town’s goings on than Old Thomas.  Ever since Jack had come to Rock Creek to search, Old Thomas had proved invaluable in acquiring information about what happened at the waystation.  “I know,” he replied.

Old Thomas sat in the armchair in front of the small fireplace.  “You been starin’ out that ole’ window again, ain’t ya?  When are you gonna stop watchin’ his life and try to become a part of it?”

Jack sighed, his blue eyes weary as he moved to sit on the edge of the small bed against the wall.  “I can’t just barge back into his life, Tom,” he replied.  “It’s been too long and he doesn’t know why I had to leave.  My sister told me they’d all thought I’d just abandoned them.  If that’s the case and I try to become part of his life he may just as well rid me of mine.”  He chuckled.  “Both my boys carried the Travis temper well enough, though Jed’s was a little more explosive than that one’s.”

“The boy deserves to know the truth,” the black man said firmly, “and you deserve to be a part of his life.  You ain’t the man he thinks you is.  It’s time for you both to clear up the muddy water you done found yourselves in.”  Old Thomas’ eyes lit up mischievously.  “He’s a good boy, but, well, now maybe it ain’t him you should approach.”

“What do you mean?” Jack asked curiously.

Thomas scratched thoughtfully at his gray chin.  “If there’s anyone who holds that boy’s heart it’s the little one.  Maybe you should talk to her, explain everything to her and let her approach him.  I’ve watched the two of them since they all came here.  She’s a spitfire and more stubborn than any mule when she gets somethin’ in her head.  She can at least find out how he feels about you or help you come up with a way to see him without anyone dyin’.”

“What if he’s told her about me?” Jack said softly trying not to get his hopes up too far despite his thudding heart.

“Not likely.  Overheard one of them say that she still don’t know his real name.  She don’t care though, she loves him just the same.”  With difficulty, Old Thomas rose from his chair muttering about “these old bones of mine.”  He shook his friend’s hand.  “Just think on it Jack.  It bothers me to see a good man like yourself, who’s been through hell and come out a better man for it, have such a hard time with your own kin.  You of all people should get a second chance.”

Jack’s smile lit up his face making it look younger than its fifty-two years.  “Thanks for everythin’ Tom and I’ll think about talkin’ to her.”

“You do that.  Come on down to the saloon sometime and I’ll buy ya a drink,” Thomas chuckled.

Jack laughed aloud at the old joke as his friend left the room.  “Now Thomas, you know I don’t drink nothin’ but milk and water these days,” he called down the stairs before closing the door to his room and returning to his post by the window.

He watched as the young woman he’d watched for weeks stepped out of the bunkhouse and gazed in the direction the young man on horseback had taken.  Her shoulders slumped as she realized he was gone.  With a deep sigh, she sat on a bench on the porch and settled in to wait for him.  Before he even realized what he was doing, Jack had grabbed his old brown coat and left the room.  As he walked out onto the boardwalk that ran in front of the building that housed his room, he began to secondguess the logic of his actions.  If he was ever going to try to reenter Kid’s life, however, the first step was to speak to his fiancee--something he definitely wanted to do without having to worry about Kid interrupting them.  Jack took a deep breath, squared his shoulders and began walking toward the forlorn woman across the street.

Chapter 2