Promises (by Tauna Petit-Strawn)

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Summary:  Adam made a promise he never really thought about during his college days. Now…he finds himself facing one fact…he has a promise to fulfill.

Rated: T (14,500 words)

Promises

Chapter One

It had been a long, frustrating day at the lumber camp, and now he’d been caught out in a storm that had hit without notice or not much of one anyway. It was all Adam could do not to let out a string of cuss words as he looked around for cover. It didn’t take long for him to see what he was hoping to see…the small house he and his brothers had built for such an emergency, along with the small shelter they’d built for their horses. A clap of thunder yelled hello, as Adam jumped off his horse and then led Sport into the shelter. “Well, boy,” Adam said as he put his horse into one of two stalls that were in the shelter, “looks like we’re stuck here until the rain stops.” As Adam ran out of the shelter and towards the house, he prayed his father and brothers wouldn’t worry too much when he didn’t show up on time.

As he ran up the sturdy, wooden brown steps that led to the porch and front door of the house, Adam was shocked to hear the sound of rocking chair going back and forth, a baby crying softly and a woman singing gently. While he had put Marie’s old rocking chair in the house, Adam wondered when someone had moved in the house he and his brothers had built. Even though he was sure they had squatters on the land and, as a part owner of the Ponderosa; his father had just made that one legal, he had every right to simply go in…Adam knocked instead. He had no reason to want to start out on the wrong foot with whoever was inside.

Adam heard the rocking stop and waited. When no one answered, Adam knocked again. This time he heard footsteps and slowly the door opened just wide enough for the woman who opened the door to see who was on the other side. He had to fight to keep from staring at the beautiful young woman before him. She stood roughly five feet four inches, had the blackest hair and brownest eyes he’d ever seen. While her skin was pure white, he couldn’t help, but wonder if she had some Indian blood in her as her cheek bones indicated the sharp angles on the Native Americans he knew.

“May I help you?” the woman opened the door wider, as she felt pity for the man who was drenched from head to toe.

Adam decided not to press the issue that she was in a house that didn’t belong to her or that she was trespassing for the moment. After all, there was always a chance he was wrong on both accounts. It’s not like he and his family had had much chance to communicate the past two weeks. Maybe they’d consented to let this family move in while he was away. “I need shelter until the rain is over. I didn’t know this small home had occupants. May I come in? I promise,” he said as he smiled wide, “I won’t harm you or your family in anyway. Though, I would like to know your name.” He figured he could ask that one first and then glean information for her as they talked.

The woman hesitated, as she glanced toward the bedroom, in which Adam assumed her husband was in, and then back to Adam. The dimples that appeared at the corners of his mouth as he smiled reached out and grabbed her. She stepped aside and replied, “Come on in, my name is Sadie Lee Anderson. Though, you should know it’s just me and my baby son. My husband is dead.”

Adam couldn’t help but frown, as he stepped far enough inside as to allow the young widow to shut the door. “Thank you.” He walked over t the fireplace and sat down on the fireplace hearth, rubbing his hands together as he did so. “How long have you lived here? May I ask?” He kept his eyes on his unexpected host as she did him.

Adam watched, as Sadie put her hands on her hips and fidgeted a bit. Adam couldn’t help but wonder if he was wrong when he wondered if his father and brothers had let the woman move in. Finally she sighed and answered him. “This isn’t my house, sir. I, like you was chased into it due to the storm. I don’t know who owns it. Though, I’m going to have to replace the little food I ate, but I had no choice. My son is not that old and depends on me to provide him milk to drink.”

Adam felt his heart go out to the woman before him, especially since he guessed she had to be an awfully young mother. Unless she was one of those woman who looked years younger than she was, she couldn’t be a day over twenty. He smiled again and introduced himself. “My name is Adam Cartwright. My father and I both own this land, and my brothers help us run it. Don’t worry about the food, you’re welcome to it. Though,” he said as he couldn’t help but chuckle at the shocked look that came upon Sadie’s face, “I would like to know what such a beautiful young widow and her infant son are doing out in the middle of the Ponderosa.” He looked towards the window where he could see the rain coming down in bucketfuls.

Sadie eyes widened, and then sat down a few feet away from him. She clasped her hands together and stared into the fire she’d built using wood that had been on the back porch, protected by a tarp and the awning that hung over the porch. She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. The very person she had been looking for was right in the room with her. It was too good to be true. “My husband died while I was only four months a long.” Sadie began talking. “My in laws never approved of me as my mother was a Cherokee Indian and only took me in out of ‘duty to their son’.” She sighed again. “As I grew closer to delivering my son I came to realize that if they could?” She turned her face and looked at Adam, “They would take him away from me. So, one night, shortly before my son was born, I snuck away with the help of a dear friend. I gave birth to my son in her grandparent’s home. Afterwards, I insisted on leaving knowing my in laws would be looking for me.” She turned back to look at the fire. “I had been given enough money and food to last me quite a spell.” She then paused and decided it was best that she see if Adam remembered her late husband before she told him the rest of the story, “Do you remember a man by the name of Robert Waters?”

Now it was Adam’s turn to stare. Robert Waters had been a dear friend of his during his college years. They’d written back and forth a number of times afterwards. One of the letters had mentioned he was in hot water with his parents because he was looking at courting a half breed. When the letters had stopped, and his letters returned, Adam knew something was up, but he didn’t know what. To hear that Robert had actually passed away was unnerving as the man would have only been thirty three if he was living.

“What’s your son’s name?” Adam asked when he heard the child begin to cry from the other room and Sadie stood up.

She smiled as she headed for the room. “Robert Adam Waters, it’s the name my husband requested when I told him I was going to have a baby, but I call him Bob.”

Adam stiffened as he recalled a conversation he and Robert had had shortly before he, Adam, had returned home.

If I ever marry and have a son, he’ll bear your name, Adam. You’re the best friend a man could ever have. Though, if my wife and child or children ever need someone to watch over them, may I send them your way?” Robert stood in their college dorm room looking at Adam. It was a request that Adam had assured him would be fulfilled if needed.

With the memory came a realization, he had a promise to fulfill.

Chapter Two

“Poor Little Gypsy” (1 Sep 1800)
A favorite Song
in the Comic Opera of the
[Review, or The] Wags of Windsor,
composed by
Dr. [Samuel] Arnold. [Mus. Doc. Oxon.] [1740-1802]
Boston,[ MA:]Printed and sold by G. Graupner at his Musical Academy, No. 6 Franklin Street, Frankl. Place; Piano Fortes for Sale, to Let and tuned in Town and Country at the shortest Notice.
[Source: LL-SSM-1-023-0004 Lilly; page nos. 77-78]

A/N I know some of the words in the song aren’t the way we would spell them, but it is how the author wrote them.

0000000

The rain was still coming down, as Adam sat on the couch and held young Robert Adam in his arms. Sadie had disappeared into the kitchen to fix something for them to eat. He ran his thumb across the baby’s forehead and down his cheek as he looked the infant over. He couldn’t help but wonder who had the roundest face at birth, Hoss or this child. With those thoughts Adam’s mind wandered back through time.

“He’s a big one, pa.” Adam was sitting next to his father, who was driving the wagon headed for the small ranch he had purchased, and looking into the back where his brother was held by his red headed nursemaid. Ben had had no choice but to find someone to help take care of his infant son. His father told Adam that someday, if they worked hard, the ranch would be much larger than it was at the present time.

Ben smiled, as he glanced over his shoulder for a moment. The six month old child was already 20 pounds, and he definitely had a solid built on him. “Yes, he is, Adam. He’ll be a big man someday too.”

“Well child,” Adam said as he smiled at the baby in his arms, “depending on what arrangements are made for you and your mother, I just might get to see if you turn out to be as fine a man as Hoss.”

Adam started recalling how the socials he had taken dates to, only to find Robert and one of his dates already there. The camaraderie the two had shared had made it feel like one of his brothers was at the college with him. He shook his head slightly at the knowledge his dear friend had left a wife and son behind. Unfortunately, a clap of thunder broke the reverent feeling that was in the room. Adam found himself pacing the living room floor and bouncing the small child carefully, who had been startled and started crying, ever so gently. He also began singing which quieted the child down.

A poor little Gypsey I wander forlorn,
My Forturne was told long before I was born,
So Fortunes I tell as forsaken I stray,
And in search of my Love I am lost on my Way:
Spare a Halfpenny, spare a Halfpenny,
Spare a poor little Gypsey, a Gypsey a Halfpenny,
Spare a poor little Gypsey a Halfpenny
.


Sadie, who had also jumped when the thunder roared, turned when she heard Adam Cartwright singing. She couldn’t help but smile, even as she fought the resentment she started feeling inside. It should be Robert doing that; only it wasn’t, and there wasn’t a blasted thing she could do about it. Sighing she turned her attention back to the stove as she let one memory after another run through her mind, the memory of the moments before her husband passed on to the other side.

Robert lay in his bed looking rather pale, as Sadie sat on the side of the bed, concern in his eyes. He knew his time on earth was numbered, and feared what his parents might do. “Promise me, Sadie, after I die, go to Nevada. More specifically, go to the ranch Ponderosa outside Virginia City. Adam Cartwright is a good man. He’ll help you get on your feet, so you can raise our child without the bigotry or interference of my parents.”

They will want the child. They will follow me.” Sadie argued.

Robert scoffed and shook his head ever so slightly. He knew his parents better than that. “If you stay in the area then yes, they will make trouble for you. They might even find a way to take our child. However,” he said with disgust in his weak voice, “They don’t care enough to follow you clear to Virginia City or to the Ponderosa. Promise me you’ll go to Adam; ask him for help.”

Sadie forced her thoughts to the present. Not knowing about the promise her late husband had extracted from Adam, she prayed he wouldn’t turn her and her son away when she told him she had been heading to his home in the first place. Once she had finished in the kitchen, she set the food on the table and told Adam to put her son, who was now asleep, on the bed in the other room. It was time to eat.

After putting the infant where his mother had asked him to, Adam made his way to the kitchen table. The stew Sadie had made smelled extremely inviting. After blessings were said, and he’d begun eating, he complimented the cook. “Hop Sing couldn’t have done better.” Adam said as ate. “Of course, don’t tell him that. I don’t want to be sleeping in town for the next month.”

Sadie chuckled. “Thanks, only who’s Hop Sing?”

“Our cook.” Adam went on to tell her how long Hop Sing had worked for them and how often the man had either threatened to quit or actually done it. “I think it’s a game he plays with us at times.” Adam said as he finished his stew and sat back in the chair he was using.

“Sound like it,” Sadie said and then grew quiet. It was getting dark and, while the rain had lightened up, it had not stopped completely. She might not have been, so concerned only there was only one room in the cabin and one bed. She needn’t have worried, as Adam stood up and started helping her clear the table.

“I’ll sleep on the couch, if you don’t mind. In the morning, we can go my family’s home and talk more there.” Adam threw her another smile and, once again, his dimples reached out and grabbed her. It was something she quickly pushed aside. Her husband had only been gone six months, and her son was only a month old. In her book, it was far too soon to be thinking about any man, though it was impossible not to admire his handsome and friendly face.

More than relieved to hear that, Sadie smiled back. “Thank you. It is a relief to find you are the gentleman my late husband described.” She then finished taking care of the dishes before disappearing into the bedroom, leaving Adam to lie on the couch and ponder just what he could do for his late friend’s widow and their son.

Chapter Three

Ben was standing on the porch, when Hoss and Little Joe walked out of the house. The rain, which had lasted longer than they ever thought it would, had finally stopped. Now, Ben’s sons knew their father was looking for their oldest brother who had been expected home the day before. Without saying a word, Hoss and Little Joe stepped up onto the porch and joined their father, leaving him to break the silenced.

“I guess you think I’m being foolish.” Ben turned his head and looked at his two youngest sons. He expected them to say that was the case. Why wouldn’t they when he, himself, questioned his actions.

“Naw, pa,” Hoss answered, “I reckon yer just as worried ’bout big brother as we are. Though,” he rubbed the back of his neck and added, “It has been rainin’ pretty hard…maybe he just took shelter is all. I know I would have.” He did too. No one in their right mind would have stayed out in the storm they’d watched the night before.

Ben smiled, as he nodded and turned his face forward once more. He knew that and he prayed that was the case. Still, Adam was his son, and Ben couldn’t help but wonder what had happened. When he glanced at Hoss and Little Joe out of the corner of his eye, Ben knew they were wondering just as much.

Ben took a deep breath and smelled the fresh air and told himself to relax. “Well, what are we doing just standing here?” He said as he stepped of the porch intending to go to the barn and do some work. “The day is just be…” Ben stopped talking, and Little Joe and Hoss stepped off the porch, as they heard the sound of horses approaching. Since it sounded like more than one horse, none of them thought about Adam. This being the case, Ben, Hoss, and Little Joe were all shocked when Adam came around the corner of the barn with a young woman with a baby that was being carried in a sling that wrapped around her left shoulder and was tied around her waist.

Adam kept a straight face when he saw the looks that came into his father and brothers eyes. A part of him wanted to laugh; they looked so funny. The other part wanted to tell them to put their eyes back in their sockets and to just listen. As it was he looked at his family and introduced their guests. “I told Robert I’d help them.” He looked at his father, not surprised to see his father smiling and stepping forward as he, Adam, dismounted and helped Sadie off the horse. The whole time he was making sure the carrier stayed tied, so her son would not find himself falling to the ground.

“Welcome to our home.” Ben held out his hand and shook Sadie’s hand; she’d extended it when he held out his. “I’m Adam’s father, Ben Cartwright. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” It was a greeting that Sadie whole heartedly returned. While Hoss and Little Joe introduced themselves, and Sadie visited with his family, Adam put up their horses and then followed his family and Sadie as they headed into the house.

Once inside, Sadie begged the Cartwrights forgiveness, but explained she had not slept well and really needed to lie down. “I would like to stay up and get to know you all better first, only I can’t. I’m sorry.” Sadie’s regret could be heard in her voice.

“Nothing to be sorry for,” Ben assured her and looked at Adam. “Go ahead and show her up to the guest room upstairs. And,” he said as he looked at Hoss, “why don’t you go out to the loft and fetch the cradle.”

Due to the confused look that appeared on Sadie’s face, Little Joe explained why a house with four grown men had a cradle. “Adam made it a while back when we thought I was going to get married, only it didn’t happen.”

Sadie wanted to ask what had happened, but she didn’t. As far as she was concerned, Little Joe would tell her if he wanted her to know. Instead she followed Adam up the stairs and down the hall to the last bedroom on her left. After Adam opened the door for her, she stepped inside and looked around. It was a fairly good sized bedroom with a bed, dresses and a few decorative hooks on which to hang coats and such.

“You should be comfortable in here.” Adam smiled at her, the whole time going over the list of businesses in town that he might find employment for the young mother. He’d have to find a permanent place for her to live also. After all, staying with his family short term would be all right, but long term? He had a feeling that the woman Sadie Waters would not go for that one. If he had asked her right then, she’d have told him he was right.

“I’m sure I shall, thank you.” Sadie answered as she unintentionally yawned and then apologized for it. Once again, she was told there was nothing to apologize for, though Adam did insist on taking her son while she laid down.

“I’ll bring him to you if he gets hungry or, if you don’t object, I’ll see if Hop Sing will warm up a bottle for him. I believe my cousin accidently left one last time he and his wife were visiting.” Adam hoped he was remembering correctly. He could see how desperately Sadie needed to rest and hated the idea of disturbing her much needed sleep.

As protective of her son as she was, Sadie would have fought the idea only she couldn’t. She was too tired, and she had promised her late husband, who she was sure would be upset if he knew how long it had taken her to travel to Nevada, to trust Adam. “All right,” She gave in and crawled into the most comfortable bed she’d slept in for a long time as Adam walked out of the room with the baby in his arms.

“The Rich Lady Over the Sea”
(circa 1775-1783, from the American Revolution)
[aka “Revolutionary Tea”]
Words and Music – anonymous (I used three verses of the song)

Chapter Four

Ben stood at the top of the stairs looking down at Adam. His oldest son was sitting in his chair with Bob in the crook of his left arm while holding the bottle Hop Sing had prepared in his right hand. It looked like the boy was drinking the milk down as fast as Hoss had done when he was a child. Only difference was Hoss had been a tad bit larger than Bob. Watching Adam with Sadie’s son brought a lot of memories back for Ben; it also brought a lot of concerns.

Slowly, Ben made his way down the stairs and across the living room floor to his chair. Once he was sitting down, Ben looked at Adam and asked, “Have you thought what keeping your promise to this Robert Waters will entail?”

Adam didn’t answer, as he set the bottle on his footstool and held Bob against the rag that hung over his, Adam’s, shoulder. As he began to pat the child’s back, Adam sighed and finally looked at his father. “More than I can tell you,” he said and glanced over his shoulder and up towards upstairs, and then looked back at his father. He wasn’t blind. He could see Ben was concerned that his promise to Robert would interfere with his life as it was now….which meant having to explain to Mary Ellen Johnson, the schoolteacher he’d been courting, just why he was helping Sadie and her infant son. That is, helping them on what could be a long term basis. “What do you want me to do?” Adam asked rather exasperated when the look of concern he saw in Ben did not disappear. “A promise is a promise. Robert trusted me to keep my word to him. It’s not like he asked me to marry her and be a father to their son.” Adam stood up and began walking the floor as the infant in his arm was still fussing a little.

Ben was aware Adam was under no obligation to actually provide for the woman or her son. He also knew his oldest well enough to know that’s exactly what he’d be doing. That is, he’d drop in and make sure she had enough food for her and the boy and, if she had any trouble with anyone for any reason, he’d be the one she’d automatically turn to. He couldn’t help but wonder if Mary Ellen would see it as simply keeping a promise or a convenient excuse not to make a commitment to her. Though, knowing Adam always kept his word, Ben decided the best he could do was help Adam look out for Sadie and her son. He was sure he could get Hoss and Little Joe to do the same. “Well, daylight is burning, and I have things to do. When you’re free, I need you to look over the army contracts I received yesterday.” Ben pointed to his desk as he headed for the door.

“I’ll get to them as soon as this baby’s asleep.” Adam told his father as Ben opened the door and disappeared outside. Once he was alone with the baby, Adam began to sing softly.

There was a rich lady lived over the sea,
And she was an island queen,
Her daughter lived off in the new country,
With an ocean of water between.
With an ocean of water between.
With an ocean of water between.
The old lady’s pockets were filled with gold,
Yet never contented was she,
So she ordered her daughter to pay her a tax,
Of thruppence a pound on the tea.
Of thruppence a pound on the tea.
Of thruppence a pound on the tea.
Oh mother, dear mother, the daughter replied,
I’ll not do the thing that you ask,
I’m willing to pay fair price on the tea,
But never the thruppenney tax.
But never the thruppenney tax.
But never the thruppenney tax.

Adam couldn’t help but smile as he looked down and saw Robert’s son close his eyes and lose the battle he’d been having with the “Sandman”. It had been too many years since he’d held an infant in his arms and felt the total dependence they had when it came to the adults in their lives. He found himself wandering over to the desk and looking at the pictures. When he looked at Marie’s picture, a long forgotten memory came back.

“Please, Adam,” Ben sighed as he held his infant son in his arms, “Marie is weak, but the doctor says she’ll be fine. We just need to help with Little Joe for a short while. I’ll take the night feedings, if you’ll take care of the morning ones.”

Adam wasn’t thrilled with the idea, but what could he do? His baby brother did need to eat, and his stepmother needed rest. “All right, Pa.” Adam took Little Joe from his father, along with the bottle his father handed him. “I’ll do it.” He then sat down, sighed, and began the chore of feeding his new baby brother.

Adam, who was still holding Bob with one hand, walked around the desk, sat down in the chair behind the desk and picked up the first army contract. He began reading. He was still reading when Ben walked in the front door.

Ben couldn’t help but frown slightly when he saw the young infant still in Adam’s arm and his head upon Adam’s shoulder. Only when Adam put down the paper he’d been reading and looked up did Ben’s frown vanish. The last thing Ben wanted was to have a disagreement of any kind with Adam when a sleeping child was present.

Adam, who had caught sight of the fleeting frown, couldn’t help but sigh inwardly. He knew he should have put the infant down when he fell asleep, but it had brought back so many memories. He hadn’t been able to put the child down. “The first contract looks fine.” Adam told his father as he stood up. “I think I best put this child in its cradle.”

“Might be wise,” Ben smiled and agreed, as Adam disappeared up the stairs and around the corner. Afterwards, it was he who found himself looking at the pictures on his desk and picking up Elizabeth’s picture. He shook his head and said softly, “I hope he knows what he’s doing, dear.” He put the picture down and went about his business. What else was there for him to do? It’s not like he could tell Adam what, or what not, to do. He just hoped Adam would not come to regret the promise he had made.

Chapter Five

Adam was sure the sun was hotter than it had ever been, as he rode down the streets of Virginia City. He was heading towards Flowers Café, the newest establishment in the town. He had seen a sign that read Cook Wanted in the window before he’d left for the lumber camp. Since Sadie was taking care of her son who was running a slight fever, he had told his father he would see if the café still had an opening when he went to town.

Upon arriving at the livery stable; he had no intention of worrying about his horse while he checked on the job, he paid the boy inside to care for Sport. The café had no hitching posts in front of it. Like many of the other businesses in town, they insisted horses be kept away from their buildings…as they didn’t want to have to deal with the clean up that would be necessary afterwards.

“Hello, Adam!” was something he heard more than once as he walked down the sidewalk. Naturally, he smiled and acknowledged the greetings. Just as he arrived at the Flowers Café, Adam saw Mary Ellen hurrying towards him and he groaned. He had hoped to talk to the manager or owner of the café before he had to speak with Mary Ellen or anyone else. As it was, he stayed where he was. Moments later, Mary Ellen was standing in front of him.

“I thought you said you’d stop by the school house the first thing after returning home.” Her blue eyes were full of hurt and there was some pain in her voice.

If Adam could have kicked himself, he would have. He’d let his promise to Robert and the obligation he now felt towards Sadie and her son push everything else aside. That is, while had still intended to see Mary Ann, he hadn’t put her on the top of the list. The one consolation he had was that he hadn’t promised to stop by the school house on his immediate return. “I’m sorry.” Adam fidgeted ever so slightly and explained everything. “I didn’t know about Robert’s death or that his widow and infant son needed help. I was coming by the moment I was through here.” Since it was the truth, and he was sincere in his words, Adam hoped Mary Ellen would understand and forgive him. After all he was human…and humans make mistakes. Thinking he had taken time to really get to know Mary Ellen, Adam was shocked beyond measure when she showed a side of him he’d never seen before…and it wasn’t a very nice one.

“Why on earth did he marry a half breed in the first place? Couldn’t he find anyone better?” The moment the words were out of her mouth, Mary Ellen saw Adam stiffen and a look that she, like many others in town knew all too well came into his eyes. No one had to tell her she’d just cut any ties of romance between her and Adam; she knew. Still, she hurried on trying in vain to repair the damage.

“I’m sorry,” she said, having the decency to look uncomfortable, “I’m sure she is nice enough, really. I…well…” She could see the look in Adam’s eyes growing harder.

Adam listened as Mary Ellen continued to fumble with her words and tried to justify her opinion. He felt a range of emotions raging through him. Anywhere from disgust towards an attitude he’d not realized the woman had, to pity that she, and those like her, cut themselves off from people ‘like Sadie’. The moment Mary Ellen had finished speaking Adam, who remained stiff, answered with the tone he always used when he was fighting to control a temper that many did not realized he had in him, “I think it best if you go your way and I go mine.”

Before Mary Ellen could say another word, Adam had disappeared into the café. Not knowing how long he would be in the establishment, she turned and walked away.

~oOo~

Sadie was sitting in a rocker on the front porch knitting. She’d walked outside after her son had fallen asleep, and Ben had assured her if there was a problem he’d come and get her. For a few moments, her mind went to the talk she’d had with Adam’s father when she’d talked to him, once she had settled young Robert Adam.

“He’d done what?” Sadie stared at Ben after hearing where Adam had gone.

“You’ll need a way to provide for you and your son.” Ben stated matter of factually. “He knows the owner well; he thought he might be able to secure a job for you.” When he was through, Hoss and Little Joe had thrown comments in; unfortunately, some of the comments were totally off the mark, which was something Ben was quick to point out.

Sadie felt resentment once again growing inside her, though she told herself she had no business feeling it. Adam was only thinking about the promise he made to her late husband, along with the fact that she had told him about Robert’s dying words.

“Are you all right?” Adam asked as he dismounted and looked upon Sadie, who was looking at him with a look that was a mixture of gratitude and anger. It confused him. That is, he was confused until she started talking.

“Mr. Cartwright, I want you to know I do appreciate that you’re willing to keep your promise to my late husband. And,” she said as she set the knitting aside and stood up straight, “I realize there’s nothing wrong with you keeping an eye out for potential jobs.” Her voice grew firm and her eyes bore a hole through Adam as she continued. “However, I am fully capable of applying, and interviewing, for a job myself. I do not need you to get someone to feel sorry for me in order to get one.”

That statement alone told him that she must have talked to more than his father. He walked up to her and, keeping his eyes on hers, he replied in just a voice that was just as firm as hers, “I am fully aware you are not incapable of such things. I have not tried to make anyone feel sorry for you, nor have I begged anyone to give you a job.”

He was not surprised to hear that Hoss and Little Joe had said he was. “I got you a couple of job interviews; that is all.” Adam explained about the café and the local dress shop. “Whether you get one of them or not will depend on two things.” He stepped up onto the porch and pulled his father’s chair closer to the rocking chair. Sadie sat down and waited for him to continue.

“If you go to the interviews and,” Adam said as he leaned forward slightly and looked at Sadie, “if Bill Flowers or Anna Diamond decide to hire you.” Anna Diamond was the owner of the dress shop he had stopped at after talking to the owner of Flowers’ Café.

Sadie was a bit embarrassed that she’d gotten upset with Adam before checking out what Hoss and Little Joe had said, though Adam didn’t appear upset with her. “Thank you, I’ll have to do just that, go to the interviews that is.”

The rest of the day Adam either worked around the house or out in the barn while Sadie continued to look in on her son and help Hop Sing around the house.

Chapter Six

With the summer days drawing close to an end, Adam had loaded his wagon with yet another cord of wood and driven it into town; more specifically, he’d taken the wood to Sadie. Over a period of time he had delivered countless cords of wood to her home, so to be prepared for the coming winter. He’d also brought a few new blankets and some material over the same period. After all, she needed it to make new clothes out of, for both her and her son. She’d fought him at first, but eventually given in and accepted the items graciously.

Sadie stood on the front porch with six month old Bob in her arms and watched as Adam stacked the wood inside a shed that stood ten feet away from her the side of the house. As she watched, Sadie looked back over the past five months. Her work at the café was going well, and she didn’t have to worry about Bob while she was cooking the customers their meals. Adam had been kind enough to give her the names of a few young women who were excellent with children and had, to his satisfaction, proved they would not hold her mixed blood against her. With that being the case, she’d hired a young red headed girl by the name of Laura Pierce. Sadie had also spent countless hours at the Cartwrights eating supper with them and getting to know them. Their friendship was something she cherished dearly, among other small parcel of friends she had made.

“That should do it.” Adam threw the last of the wood into the shed, shut its door and walked over to, and climbed, the stairs that led to the front porch. “No need for you to be cold this winter.” He smiled as he spoke the words.

Sadie went to thank him and Bob started wiggling furiously and trying to get to Adam. She laughed, as did Adam, as she handed the child to him. When Bob laid his head upon Adam’s shoulder and stuck his small fist into his tiny mouth, they both chuckled. “I’m afraid he’s teething.” Sadie gave her son a sympathetic smile, as Adam sat down on one of the two chairs she had set out on the porch. “He’s not very happy right now.”

Adam felt bad for the child as he remembered how it had been when Hoss, then Little Joe, had started teething. He was sure his father and their mothers must have lost many hours of sleep over it. He sat down on the rocking chair she’d pulled out onto the porch and began to rock the child; Sadie sat down in the only other chair that set a few feet away.

Sadie, who had gone from thinking of Adam only as her late husband’s friend and then to her dear friend, had small thunder bolts go through her as she found herself seriously wondering if something more could come from their friendship. She quickly tore her eyes off Adam and gazed at the backyard, only to realize Adam and her handprints were all over it too; remembering how the two of them spending countless hours working on the landscaping with the permission from her landlord.

“Are you all right?” Adam asked as he turned his head when she, without realizing it, let out a sigh. He worried something was majorly wrong that he didn’t know about. That thought disturbed him, as he’d told Sadie a number of times to come to him if there was a problem.

“Huh?” Sadie snapped out of her thoughts and blushed as she looked at Adam, who was chuckling when he realized she had simply let her mind wander to daydreaming of some sorts. “Sorry,” she said as she stood up, “I didn’t mean to let my mind wander. May I get you a bite to eat before you leave? A couple of sandwiches, maybe,” It was just past noon; he would need something to eat. The last thing she wanted was to send him away hungry.

Adam told himself he shouldn’t bother her only he was hungry, and any food she fixed tasted good. “Sandwiches sound fine, thank you.” He replied and began bouncing Bob up and down upon his knee as Sadie walked through the front door and into the house. The young child giggled, laughed and clapped his hands; it was obvious he was enjoying the attention he was getting from his mother’s close friend.

As Adam bounced the boy upon his knee, as he watched people walking up and down the street. Sadie’s home sat on the corner of the main street that ran through Virginia City. She had flat out stated she didn’t care to live right in town; however, it did make it easy for her to get to the café and her work, and be close by if an emergency should arise with the baby. He had to silently smirk and chuckle as he saw more than one head turn his way…even for a split second. He would never understand the need some people had to look for something to gossip about…and he was sure that’s what they were doing now. Though, he didn’t let him bother him or chase him away from where he was. He was only keeping a promise to a dear friend. At least, that’s what he told himself until he had the shock of his life when, at the tail end of that thought came the question ‘Are you sure it hasn’t become more than that?’ It was a question he quickly pushed aside, not ready to admit the question was a justified one.

“Here you go,” Sadie brought him out of his thoughts when she arrived with a small plate full of sandwiches and some apples which she’d had sliced. She sat them upon a small table that set between the chairs. She then took her son from Adam. He would have asked how hungry she thought he was only saved him the trouble when she added, “We can share the sandwiches. I’ve already fed Bob. He can play with his rattle here on the porch.” She sat Bob on the porch floorboards and handed him his rattle. She then took her sandwich off the plate and sat down.

“Thank you.” Adam said as he smiled and picked up one of the sandwiches. At that moment, he was sure the finest restaurant in the state wouldn’t be able to hold a candle to anything Sadie fixed, no matter how simple the meal.

Chapter Seven

Adam was sitting behind the desk in the corner of the living room when his father walked in. As Adam had his eyes on the various papers he’d been working on most of the morning, Ben said nothing at first. He was still running the conversation he’d had with Sheriff Coffee in town through his mind; one that had him greatly concerned. He sat down in his red chair and once again ran everything though his mind.

Roy stood outside his office talking with Ben. He’d stopped his friend who had been heading for the bank and, quite innocently, joked that if Adam kept going the way he was, Ben would finally have a wedding in the family.

“What are you talking ’bout Roy?” Ben put his hands on his hips and asked the question a second time, with a tone that told Roy he hadn’t been joking when he asked the first time.

Roy had a hard time believing his friend was unaware Adam was spending so much time at Sadie’s; still, he replied, “Well, Ben, what do you expect me to say when Adam stops by her place at least two or three times a week? People are starting to talk.”

“Something wrong, pa?” Adam pushed the papers aside and looked up when he realized his father, who usually said something when he walked in the door, remained silent. It made him concerned that something was wrong, or that someone was causing them problems again. Although, that last one hadn’t happened for a while.

“I had an interesting talk with Roy while I was in town.” Ben answered, as he stretched his legs and looked at his son.

Adam didn’t have to ask what the conversation had been about. If Adam could have, he’d have stitched up every gossipy mouth in Virginia City. So what if he was picking up a few extra groceries for Sadie, or fixing things around the small two bedroom home she’d moved into, once she’d started working at the café? If he wanted to relax and “play” with his namesake, that was his business. After all, Sadie had no problem with it. Besides, it’s not like he was leading her on. They’d already had a number of conversations and she knew why he was so involved in their lives. She had thanked him for his friendship more than once. “Has me walking down aisle does he?” Adam wasn’t shocked when Ben started and began lecturing him.

“Right or wrong, people talk, Adam.” Ben was more than concerned that Adam wasn’t taking “this thing” seriously. “From what I’m hearing, you’re over there two to three, sometimes four, times a week. And then it’s not just for a few minutes.” Ben leaned forward and spoke even more seriously. “You can keep your promise to your late friend without making it look as if Sadie and you are serious about each other.”

Adam went to tell his father he didn’t care what people thought, only a knock came at the door. He stood up and, crossing the floor, opened the door. Both and he were surprised to see one very upset looking Sadie on the other side of the door with her son in her arms.

“Come on in,” Adam stepped aside and let her in. Once she was in and the door was shut, he turned to look at Sadie. “What’s wrong?” He asked as he took Bob from his mother; the child was stretching his arms out, trying to get to Adam.

Sadie, who wanted to talk to Adam privately, glanced in Ben’s direction, and then back to Adam. She didn’t want to offend his father and was trying to think of a polite way ask the gentleman to leave. She needn’t have worried. Ben, who had seen the glance she had thrown his way, stood up and excused himself and then disappeared upstairs.

“What is it, Sadie? What’s wrong?” Adam asked, as he and she sat down on the couch.

For a moment, Sadie did not answer. She kept her eyes on her son, who was patting Adam’s face and giggling as he did so. Finally she turned to look at Adam, who was shocked to see sharp pain in her eyes. “We have no place to live. The house we were living in burned to the ground in the middle of the night.”

Shock waves ran through Adam. “How did the fire start?” He asked and found himself holding little Bob closer before laying his hand upon her shoulder. He expected to hear that it was a chimney fire, or that a lamp had been knocked off a table or something. However, he had more shock waves run through him when she told him the cause.

“I had gotten up to get a bottle for Bob. I was in the kitchen when I thought I heard my bedroom window being lifted up. I always sleep with my window open, but only slightly,” she explained. “Before I knew it, I was smelling fire. I ran to the room.” She started sobbing again. “The curtains had been set on fire and the flames had jumped onto my bed. I ran into Bob’s room, grabbed him and ran out.” While she’d kept it together from the moment she had to talk to Roy and then traveled out to the Ponderosa, Sadie now broke down and started crying even more. Without half thinking, Adam laid Bob down on the rug at his feet, and then pulled Sadie into a firm embrace.

While she cried, he ran his one hand across the top of her head and down the back of it more than once. The gossip he could handle, but this? Who on earth hated Sadie so bad that they’d attempted to kill her and her son through a house fire? And that had to have been their intent. If it wasn’t, why set the fire in the cover of darkness. “You and Bob are staying here until we find out who’s behind this. And don’t argue with me please. I…” he paused as he shocked himself by admitting losing her or Bob would tear him in pieces. “I won’t have a chance of protecting either one of you if I’m here on the ranch and the two of you are elsewhere.”

Sadie knew what he said was true and, at the moment, she’d do anything he said if it meant protecting her son.

Chapter Eight

“He was what?” Adam stood in the living room with the rest of his family, who were either sitting or standing, and looking at Sheriff Coffee. Adam was seething inside at what he’d just heard.

Roy didn’t want to repeat himself only he knew, by the looks on all the Cartwrights faces; he would have to reiterate the details. “Mrs. Simms thinks she saw Matthew Johnson running away from Sadie’s home the night of the fire.” Mrs. Simms was a woman who lived a block away from where the burned house used to stand; Matthew Johnson was Mary Ellen’s oldest brother. Roy emphasized the word ‘thinks’ in hopes of making sure Adam and the rest of the Cartwrights understood there still wasn’t any solid evidence when it came to the fire.

A part of Adam wanted to tell the lawman just to arrest the man; the other part, the larger part, remembered all the times he, or one of his family members, had been falsely accused. Whether it was on purpose or not didn’t matter, he couldn’t go after a man who just might be innocent.

“I suppose you’ve talked to the man?” Ben asked the sheriff, but kept his eye on Adam.

Roy nodded and replied, “Yes. He says he never left his house. Unless we can find someone who can give a more positive identification, I doubt we could prove it was him. After all, asking him if he had witnesses that he was in his own house at three in the morning is a bit insane. Mrs. Simms said the Widow Waters and her son could have a room in her house if she wanted it.”

Ben had to agree when it came to asking Mr. Johnson for witnesses… that time of night the majority of people were in bed. He looked over at Adam and sighed. From the look in his son’s eyes, Ben knew that his previous concerns…the ones that told him Adam would find himself so entrenched in Sadie and her son’s lives that any previous plans he’d had would disappear, had been well founded. His thoughts were only verified when Adam chose to reply to Roy and his statement when it came to Mrs. Simms and the extra room.

“She and her son are staying here until we find out who did this.” Adam looked at his father and brothers as if to dare them to contradict what he had just told the good sheriff. None of them did as they were just as concerned as he was.

~oOo~

Adam sat on a boulder looking at Sadie holding eight month old Bob’s small hands while he stood on his wobbly legs. Wanting to help her relax after the nightmare of watching her home burn, Adam had brought her and her son out to the lake for one last picnic. With the autumn days growing to a close, he was sure it would be the last until spring time. He couldn’t help but chuckle as Bob let out a giggle and moved his small, sturdy legs back and forth. While Adam watched the woman who had fast worked her way into his heart, even if he was telling himself it was only as a dear friend, playing with her son, his mind wandered over the past few months. He was trying to come up with who might have started the fire and endangered the Waters lives.

Adam stood in front of the general mercantile talking with Sadie. After they were finished she walked away. He would have headed home himself only Matthew Johnson walked up. The look of lust in the man’s eyes disgusted Adam, but the words that came out of his mouth totally appalled him. “So that’s the half breed that turned you away from my sister. She must be real good in bed for you stop courting other women.” The words were no sooner out of the man’s mouth than Adam’s one fist flew across his face and the other into his stomach.

“Sadie Waters is a lady not a whore!” Adam glared at Matthew as the man struggled to his feet. “You will not talk about her that way. At least not in my presence you won’t!”

Matthew knew Adam well enough to know what the look that was in his eyes meant; he was in more than a little bit of trouble. He scrambled to his feet and apologized and then left, though he maintained that Adam was laying claim to the best cook the café had ever hired. After Matthew had disappeared, Adam went back into the store; bought some a couple of items and headed to Sadie’s home.

Adam should have told Roy all about it at the time of Mrs. Simms sighting, but Sadie had been in the room and he didn’t want her knowing such meanness or the reasons for his breaking up with Mary Ellen. Besides all that, he wasn’t convinced that the altercation would have enough motivation enough for Matthew to commit such a crime. He was also concerned that his father reaction should he find out about the incident, seeing how he was already keeping an eye on him when it came to Sadie and Bob.

Adam came out of his thoughts for a moment as Sadie handed him Bob, who was desperately trying to get to him. “I think he knows you.” She laughed as she watched her son touch Adam’s mouth and giggle.

Adam smiled as he replied, “I think you might be right.” As Bob touched him and giggled, Adam let his mind wander again.

“I said I was sorry, Adam Cartwright!” Mary Ellen had stopped him as he rode past the schoolhouse. “Miss Waters is a very nice woman. Why can’t we see each other again?”

By the tone in her voice and the look in her eye Adam, who had remained on his horse, could tell Mary Ellen was sincere enough in her apology, but he could also see what the woman was denying to herself. She still thought being of mixed blood made Sadie inferior somehow. He couldn’t help but feel sorry for the woman. “I never hated you, Mary Ellen, but there will never be anything but friendship between us. Why see each other when that is the case?” He wasn’t surprised when Mary Ellen made a sharp turned and disappeared back into the schoolhouse.

“Adam?” Sadie tapped him on the shoulder. “This was your idea. I mean coming out here for a picnic and such. If your mind is going to be elsewhere, why do this at all?” She was speaking kindly, even if her voice still held a tone of reprimand in it, as did her eyes.

Adam realized he’d let his mind wander to the point where he wasn’t listening; he was embarrassed. “Sorry,” Adam said as he stood up, walked over to the blanket they had on the ground and sat Bob on it. Then, to entertain the child, Adam picked up the child’s rattle they’d brought and gave it to him. “I was just thinking is all.”

Sadie didn’t have to ask what he had been thinking about. Since there was another boulder that sat right next to the blanket, she sat down upon it and looked over the sparkling blue water. When she spoke, her voice was barely above a whisper. “Maybe I should leave Virginia City.”

Adam was shocked not only by her words, but also by the panic that filled his entire being at the thought of her and Bob leaving the area. “Don’t,” he said putting his hand on her shoulder, “don’t let other people’s attitudes drive you away. After all, plenty of people have accepted you and Bob and treated you well. Though,” he shocked both himself and her even more when he added, “if you insist on doing so, I’ll go with you. It won’t be safe for the two of you to travel by yourself.” Adam, who could still see the lust in Matthew’s eyes, a lust that had caused him to put a lock on the front and back doors of Sadie’s home before it had been burned down. He wasn’t going to let her go anywhere by herself.

Sadie’s eyes widened as she looked at Adam. The look in his eyes told her how serious he was. “You would uproot yourself just to follow us and protect us? Why? Robert never asked you to go that far.”

Without thinking, Adam raised his hand, touched her cheek and said in a low voice as he started moving his face towards hers, “Who said I’d be doing it for Robert?”

Sadie’s heart skipped a beat, as Adam’s mouth covered hers and he pulled her to him. The taste of his lips on hers and the feel of having him so near was intoxicating. She ran her hands up his back and, for a small moment, allowed herself to forget where she was as his hands wandered up and down her back. Only the sound of Bob beginning to crawl away brought her, and Adam, back to reality. They quickly let go of each other and stepped apart as she hurried to stop her son from getting away from them, especially with the pond so close.

“Sorry,” Adam apologized, as Sadie quickly sat down and picked up her son. “I shouldn’t have done that.”

Sadie, who could see he was looking at Bob as he spoke, couldn’t help but smile a little. While he had not said it, she could see what he was not saying…he was only sorry for kissing her when they needed to be keeping an eye on Bob. Right or wrong, she found herself half way wishing she’d taken Hoss up on his offer to watch her son while she and Adam went on the picnic. The other half, which was more than grateful she hadn’t.

The Cartwrights were once again allowing her and her son to live with them and it would be rather difficult to face his father had they slipped up and allowed themselves to go any further. “I think we best get back to the house before your father and brothers come looking for us. Then we need to talk.” They, like Adam, had been quite upset when they learned of what had happened and would worry if the three of them weren’t home on time. Sadie was sure of that.

Adam didn’t argue with her as he knew she was right, both about his family and the need to talk. That being the case, he began putting things back into the picnic basket.

Chapter Nine

Mary Ellen stood in the washroom of the home she shared with her brother, William, doing two things: one, going through the clothes she needed to wash in order to make sure everything was out of the pockets and, two, going over the conversation she’d overheard the sheriff having with her brother. While she did not like it, something was not sitting right, but she didn’t know what.

“Where do you think I was? At three in the morning, I was the same place most people would be.” William answered roughly when he was asked his whereabouts. “I was in bed sleeping! And if you want to ask me for witnesses…who do you want me to get? Mary Ellen was here, but she was asleep too!”

Roy felt rather frustrated. Mrs. Simms had only said she thought, not that she was sure. With that being the case, the man had a valid point. “I still had to ask.” Roy replied and then excused himself.

William had gone to bed at his normal time that night, as had she. He was right when he said most people would be asleep that time of day. Yet….Mary Ellen stiffened when she realized one thing, something she admitted she’d probably not recognized out of a great desire for her brother to be telling the truth. He’d been pausing a lot when he talked and, from the sounds of it, pacing quite a bit. He never did those two things when he was telling truth….but he always did them when he was either nervous, or lying. Since there’d be no reason to be nervous in this case unless he was guilty, her brother was lying about being in bed! The moment she realized this Mary Ellen put down the laundry and left the house, for while she held mixed blood against a person, she’d not knowingly bite her tongue when it came to attempted murder.

Mary Ellen didn’t know that Roy could do anything with only her instincts that she just knew her brother was lying…only he still should know. If nothing else, it would give the lawman and the Cartwrights a reason to keep their eyes on William. For her part, she’d have to stress the fact that she didn’t want her brother to be told she’d said anything. After all, she had to live under the same roof as the man.

~oOo~

The wind was blowing through the air, and it wasn’t exactly warm. Sadie was grateful for the good heavy coat Adam had insisted on helping her buy; he’d paid part of the bill while she’d paid the other half. He sat next to her as they drove through town. She felt a bit odd without Bob on her lap. After pointing out that the cold air would not do the child any good, Adam had asked his father and brothers to keep an eye on the lad while he took Sadie into town to see her good friend, Elisa Whitman, who had traveled to Virginia City to see her. It was Elisa who had helped Sadie leave her former in-laws.

“It will be good to see Elisa again.” Sadie smiled, as she turned away from the scenery she’d been watching pass by and looked at Adam. “She’s one of the best friends I ever had.”

Adam chuckled. “I thought you said she was the best friend. That is, alongside Robert.” He made the remark jokingly; however, he was shocked beyond measure when she picked up her hand and laid it on the top of his arm telling him that she was ninety-nine percent sure her best friend list had expanded over the past ten months.

Adam, who had gone back into denial after kissing her by the pond, found ‘that wall’ falling completely down. While it was cold, he found himself stopping the buggy he was driving and turning to Sadie. Nothing was said as they went from looking each other in the eye to holding onto each other tightly as he lowered his head and they started kissing.

A small portion of Sadie told herself they were crazy and that if they were going to kiss there were better places to do it at. The larger portion held Adam tightly and allowed the kiss they were sharing to deepen. It had been ages since either one of them had kissed another person with so much feeling. Before she was half aware of it, Sadie was leaning backwards while Adam’s lips went from her mouth to her check and then found their way to her neck. The feelings he was arousing both delighted and scared her. However, it wasn’t until his hands ran up her sides and brushed against her chest causing her to let out a gasp that she pulled away and sat up straight.

Adam kicked himself as, while he’d finally admitted he had fallen in love with Sadie months ago…this wasn’t exactly the time or place for such a display of affections. Now, looking at the troubled look in Sadie’s eyes, he wondered if he had acted on the feelings that had emerged when they were near the pond too soon. He went to apologize only to find Sadie covering his mouth with her fingers.

“Stop apologizing for something that I allowed you to do. For that matter, for an action I was returning as well as receiving.” She then sighed, lowered her hand and stated bluntly, “We need to get to town. It’s too blasted cold to stay here.”

Adam couldn’t help but smile, even if the romantic feeling that had existed but a few moments was now gone. She had a point. No one in their right mind would say outside on a day like this unless they had to. He picked the reins back up and started the buggy down the road once more. Only this time, Sadie’s hands did not rest on her lap…one was wrapped around his right arm and, he noticed, she sat just a little bit closer than before.

Then, not knowing that Mary Ellen was at that moment talking to the sheriff came a realization…they had to try harder to find out who had made the attempt on her and Bob’s life. He wanted so much to ask her to marry him without having to worry about another attempt being made on her life and destroying their future together.

Chapter Ten

Matthew sat on his horse on top of a ridge that over looked one of the roads that led to the Ponderosa. He was madder than a wet hen, though he told himself to be grateful Mrs. Simms had not gotten a better look at him when he’d disappeared out of view. If someone had asked him why he had burned Sadie’s home and attempted to kill her and her son in the process, he wouldn’t have been able to give any reason that society would have accepted as even remotely close to understandable. The truth was…he’d lusted after her for months and, when it came apparent that she had eyes for no one but Adam Cartwright, he’d swore; then no one would have her. Also, in Matthew’s eyes, his sister could step in and ‘console’ Adam and marry him…thus giving him, Matthew, “easy access to some extra cash from the Cartwright family vault, if he needed it” later would simply be a side benefit.

As he saw the buggy Adam was driving, and in which Sadie once again sat in, headed towards him, Matthew dismounted his horse and knelt down. He rested his bad elbow on his knee which would enable him to shoot his rifle. He was at the point where he didn’t care his bullet hit…as long as it hit one of “those miserable fools”.

Adam didn’t know what made him look up only he did. The sun hit the barrel of the rifle Matthew held, thus revealing the man’s whereabouts. Before Sadie knew it Adam was pulling the reins with one hand while pulling her in a downwards position. If she was going to ask why he was doing such a thing, she didn’t get a chance, as a bullet whizzed over their heads and ripped through the buggy’s canvas. Sadie screamed as the horses went wild.

Adam didn’t know if it was divine intervention, or just pure dumb luck only the horses ran past a clump of trees. He grabbed Sadie, and the two of them managed to jump out of the buggy and behind the trees. While the horses continued running. Adam wasn’t too worried; they’d been heading home, and the horses knew the way home. Having pulled his pistol out, Adam was more concerned with keeping himself and Sadie alive. He looked in the direction the shot had come from when another bullet whizzed by. Adam saw the shooter well enough to be pretty certain as to who it was.

“Who is it?” Sadie asked when Adam insisted she stay down and not even try to get a glimpse of their attacker.

“Don’t know for sure, only I think it’s Matthew Johnson,” Adam replied with contempt in his voice, as his eyes darkened and remembered Roy’s visit from the day before.

Sadie, Adam and his family all stood, or sat, in the living room staring at Roy. They couldn’t believe what they were hearing. “Are you serious?” Adam asked, not sure what to think of what Roy had just told them.

“Very serious,” Roy answered as he looked around at the family. “Mary Ellen figures her brother has to be guilty since she just knows he’s lying. She just can’t give us his motivation. Personally,” Roy added slowly as he, like Adam, remembered the way the man had continued to look at Sadie and the few things he’d overheard the man say, “I think the man may very well be obsessed with making sure that Mrs. Waters never becomes Mrs. Cartwright. Well, I think that might very well be the case anyway.”

Adam, who had crouched down behind the tree, stood up, making sure he was still protected by the trees. Another bullet whizzed by and Adam, seeing enough of the shooter to take a chance, pulled his trigger once more. This time he saw their attacker grab his arm and pull back. “Looks like I hit him.”

Sadie started to rise only to have Adam kneel back down, putting his hand on her shoulder as he did so. “No, we need to remain here for a bit. I might have hit him; I might not have. However, he might still be in a position to shoot us.” As bad as Adam wanted to go see if he had indeed injured the man, he wasn’t going to take any chances with Sadie with him. For Sadie’s part, she didn’t fight Adam as she thought of her son; she was glad Bob was again being watched by Ben.

It seemed like forever before Adam stood up and held his hand out to her. They both looked in the direction that the shooting had come from. Neither one had to ask the other one what they were thinking; they knew. “Should we go up and look around?” Sadie asked hesitantly. “Maybe you actually killed him.”

As much as Adam hated killing, he found himself wishing that was the case. He might have said as much only he heard horses coming in the direction behind them and quickly put himself in front of Sadie. He was more than relieved to see Hoss and Little Joe behind them. From the looks of relief on their faces, Adam guessed they’d found the runaway horses and buggy.

“What happened?” Hoss asked as he leaned forward in his saddle, revealing they’d come across their brother’s lost transportation. Transportation they’d sent back to the house with one of the ranch hands that had been with them at the time.

Adam explained everything as Hoss held out his hand to Sadie and helped her up onto his horse, while Adam was soon sitting behind his baby brother. “If I’m right, Matthew will have to get medical help from someplace. We need to go tell Roy what’s happened and start asking questions.”

Hoss and Little Joe agreed whole heartedly; still, they pointed out they thought they needed to tell their father what was going on, and get Sadie back to the house and to her son, before they did anything else.

Adam and Sadie couldn’t have agreed more as Hoss and Little Joe turned their animals around and headed back to the Ponderosa.

Chapter Eleven

Adam, who had ridden into Virginia City alone, walked out of the sheriff’s office after informing him of what had happened, along with the fact that he meant to ask around, find Matthew and then question the man. Roy’s words were still ringing in his ears.

You won’t have to go very far.” Roy sounded more than disgusted as he told how the doctor had stopped him on the streets minutes before Adam’s arrival. “He said he took a bullet out of Matthew’s right arm; man claimed he and his friend from California had had a hunting accident. The man is probably home by now, doc told him to rest up. Until now,” Roy said, as he leaned against his desk and looked at Adam. “I had no reason to doubt him, as he does have a friend visiting from California. Though, Adam, if you corner him, he could get dangerous; maybe even try to shoot you. Let me finish up here and then I’ll go question him.” When Adam turned to leave, Roy asked him where he was going the lawman was told Adam meant to go to the saloon.

Adam started down the street. While he had not lied to Roy; he was going to the saloon, Adam kept an eye wide open. If he had wounded Matthew in his right arm, the man was still able to shoot, and Adam doubted the man would let anything rest. The more he thought about it, the more he wished Matthew would try something. At least then Adam knew he would have the law on his side when he drew his own gun. Of course, Sadie would probably have his hide if she knew he was half way wishing for that.

Be careful; don’t go playing hero for my sake. As matter of fact; why do you have to go at all?” Sadie had wrapped her arms around Adam’s waist and laid the side of her face against his chest. She had never expected to find love with her late husband’s best friend. And, she didn’t want to lose it now, either.

The feel of Sadie pressing herself against him was almost too much for Adam. It took all he had in him to take a hold of her arms and step away from her. He had to go to town; he had to protect her, for he no longer looked at her as his late friend’s widow. No, once this matter was laid to rest, he meant to make her his wife. If she’d have him, that is.

As he started to cross the street, Adam saw Matthew Johnson stepping out of the saloon, his arm in the sling the doctor had given him. The man was obviously ignoring Dr. Martin’s orders. Even though Adam was a good fifty to sixty feet away, he could see the hatred seething out of Matthew’s eyes. Adam looked over the shirt the man wore and felt a rage begin to burn through him; it was the same shirt he’d seen while he and Sadie were under attack. It had been Matthew up on the hill shooting at them, Adam had no doubt. With that being the case, Adam wasn’t surprised when Matthew stepped off the porch and hollered for him to stop where he was.

The sound of Matthew’s voice told Adam that the man had been drinking and, while he didn’t appear stone drunk, Adam was sure the man was a little impaired at the moment. Trying to bide time until the man had no alcohol in his system, or until Roy got there…Adam had seen someone running towards the sheriff’s office…he turned around and hollered back. “Any quarrel we have with each other can wait until later, Matthew!” By the time Adam had finished speaking the men, women and children who had been in the vicinity had disappeared off the streets and sidewalks.

If Matthew had had any sense in his head, he would have turned around and left. As it was, his brains had never been in his head in the first place. “You and that half breed, ya ruined Mary Ellen and any chance she had at a good life!”

Now Adam knew the man was drunk. He’d never laid an inappropriate hand on the man’s sister, and everyone knew it. And, from what he could see, Mary Ellen was doing just fine. “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Adam replied, as turned and faced the man directly.

“Yes, you do!” Matthew then started rambling on making no sense at all, especially when the man again stated Adam had ruined Mary Ellen and any chance his sister had of marrying a decent man. Adam knew he’d had done nothing to Mary Ellen’s good name. They had just starting courting when Sadie and her son needed his help. Perhaps if the girl had opened her heart to the plight of others he may have seen it all differently back then, but she hadn’t and Adam had decided that Mary Ellen would not be the girl for him. By this time Roy had appeared on the scene was trying to talk some sense into the man. Of course, it did no good.

“Stay out of this, Roy!” Matthew hissed as he looked at Adam. “He’s gonna pay!” With that, before anyone could bat an eye, he went for his gun. Adam didn’t want to shoot; however, he had no choice. Before Matthew knew it, his body was jerking backwards from the force of the bullet hitting him.

“You chose a half breed over my sis…” Matthew inhaled sharply, before falling to the ground.

Adam and Roy hurried over to where the man lay, not quite dead, though his face was deathly pale and his eyes glassy. . “Had to be whore…” the man’s words turned both men’s stomach. While he would never admit it to anyone, when Matthew spoke those words, Adam was glad the man was dying. Sadie didn’t need him around to make her life miserable.

“I didn’t want to kill him.” Adam said as Matthew’s eyes closed, and took his last breath. ‘Though, I can’t say I’m sorry I did’ was a thought he spoke only to himself.

Roy didn’t have to be told that. He knew Adam well enough to know he spoke the truth. Adam Cartwright might be wrong at times; he was human after all, only he was an honest man. “I know. Let’s get him to the undertaker.” Roy shook his head as he walked around the man and, with Adam’s help, picked up Matthew’s limp body and started moving him off the street.

As they did so, Adam realized he’d have to go with Roy and talk to Mary Ellen. She needed to know the whole story. Afterwards, there was one wedding he wanted to have as soon as he possibly could.

Chapter Twelve

Adam and Roy had visited with Mary Ellen. It had not been an easy or pleasant task; sadly, it was necessary though. They weren’t surprised when Mary Ellen broke down crying; however, they were shocked to hear Mary Ellen pretty much curse her brother’s name. She’d then said he’d cheated death too many times to expect to continue holding the winning hand. After the visit Adam had went straight home.

Adam and Sadie were now at the lake; he stood behind Sadie, his arms wrapped around her waist holding her close to him. Bob, who was now walking while holding onto things, was attached to their legs and making circles around them. Adam was sure the lad would make them dizzy as he’d been doing it non- stop for a good three minutes. However, he had to check his ears when the young child titled his head upwards and said, “Mama… Dada.”

Sadie felt awkward as she heard the words come out of her son’s mouth, and turned to face Adam. She meant to apologize only to find Adam grinning from ear to ear, letting go of her and bending over to pick Bob up. “Out of the mouth of babes,” Adam winked at Bob and then turned to his left. Hoss and his girlfriend, a young red headed gal named Teresa (the two had agreed to go on a double date to celebrate Matthew being out of their lives) were now fishing far enough away they had not heard what Bob said…but close enough for Adam to holler and be heard without a problem. “Hoss, Teresa! Would you watch Bob for us? Maybe, even take him home with you when you leave?”

Hoss and Teresa started smiling at each other and doing their best not to laugh. They’d had a private bet on how long it would take his brother or Sadie to ask them such a thing. Within minutes, Bob was with Hoss and Teresa, while Adam and Sadie disappeared through the trees. After they’d walked for quite a ways, Adam and Sadie stopped. From where they were they could see still see the lake; they could even see Hoss and Teresa playing with Bob…though they looked like moving dots more than people.

Adam finally broke the silence that had fallen between them the moment the two had walked away from the trio. “Marry me, Sadie.” Adam took a hold of her shoulders and looked into her eyes. He could see how nervous she really was. He asked again, only this time he pulled her a little bit closer. “Marry me and be my wife.”

Sadie felt her heart pounding and her head swirling. Ever since Adam had kissed her in the buggy, she’d known she’d wanted to hear those words. Only problem was, now since she had, she found herself unable to speak. Maybe, because a part of her thought, he was only asking because of her son and his promise to Robert.

When she didn’t answer, Adam seemed to look into her eyes and read her concerns. Adam whispered as he kissed her forehead, “I’m not asking because of Bob, Sadie.” He then moved his mouth to her cheek, sending slight tremors down her spine. “And, I’m not asking because of the promise I made to Robert.” He then moved his hands upward and placed them on each side of her face and tilted her head backwards, and growled softly, “I’m asking because I’m hopelessly in love with you and want to share my life with you. Say yes; say you’ll marry me.” He covered her mouth with his and kissed her slowly and gently, though the kiss deepened as time passed by.

“A…Adam, I…” Sadie swallowed hard when Adam pulled away and repeated his statement. “I think we need to go back.”

Adam was crestfallen. She wanted to go back without answering him? In his eyes that could only mean one thing…she wanted to say no, but couldn’t bring herself to do it. He forced a smile upon his face, determined to continue courting her, and get her to agree to be his wife someday.

However, his heart skipped as beat and soared when Sadie smiled, winked and explained. “Bob won’t like his stepfather being gone too long.” She laughed when Adam realized what her comment meant. Adam smiled, taking in her scent before pushing her gently up against the tree.

“My stepson will be just fine.” Adam whispered low, as he lowered his mouth and began kissing Sadie with more passion than he’d allowed in the past. The sounds of the birds started fading away as he allowed his hands to wander and caress Sadie’s body.

When it came to Sadie, she was fighting with herself. As before, Adam awakened feelings in her that she thought for sure would never see the light of day again. She didn’t want it to stop, but she also had her standards; the ones she’d always lived by. The fight inside might have continued, only she felt Adam’s hand move from her sides to her abdomen and then make its way up to her chest. She knew if she they didn’t stop things that very moment they’d be getting better acquainted sooner than either one of them needed too. “P…pl…please, A…Adam,” She forced herself to let go of him and slid her hands between herself and the man she intended to marry. “N..not now, n..ot like th…is.” She was trying to talk in between her quickened breath; it wasn’t easy.

Adam let out a small groan and stepped away. She was right. They needed to wait. Getting a hold of himself, he took her hand and started back in the direction they’d come. Though, this time he and Sadie began tossing wedding dates around, along with the act that neither one of them thought it would be wise to wait too long. They were both sure that if they tried that one they would slip up, and Ben Cartwright would be holding a shotgun wedding for both of them.

Epilogue

Adam and Sadie laughed as they raced towards the cabin Adam and built; it sat not two hundred yards from the lake. They’d been married that morning and made yet more promises to each other. They then had a reception a few hours after. Now, after leaving Bob with Adam’s family, they would be spending two weeks out by the lake. Sadie, who had beat Adam to the cabin, acted as if she was going to leave again only to find Adam by her side and holding her up against the cabin. He was still smiling as he chided her for starting the race before he’d counted to three. “So, punish me.” Sadie quit laughing as she looked at Adam; a look of seduction was in her eyes.

With that one look, Adam found someone reaching in and turning the heat up. “I think I shall.” He growled loudly as he lowered his head and let his hands wander. This time Sadie wasn’t arguing in the least. By the time the two lay down upon the porch, lost control of themselves and began riding the waves of passion that engulfed them, Sadie was more than grateful she’d listened to Robert, traveled to Nevada and found Adam…and Adam would be forever glad he’d kept his word to his friend. Their promises were something neither Adam or Sadie would ever regret keeping.

 

2 thoughts on “Promises (by Tauna Petit-Strawn)”

  1. Don’t know how I missed this story. Very glad I found it tonight. I enjoyed it so much. A very sweet love story. Nice insight into the softer side of Adam.

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