Summary: Adam is shot and left for dead.
Rated: K+ (16,625 words)
A/N I put a sheriff other than Roy Coffee in here only because of how old he would have to be in the story. Also, I am fully aware Candy and Adam were not on the show at the same time, only I need him in here.
His Wild Irish Rose
Adam stood outside of the Carson City Bank. He’d ridden into Carson City to do some business for his father. Simple enough only, he couldn’t believe the bank was closed. Adam didn’t like the idea of carrying a five thousand dollar bank draft on him back home, but he couldn’t stay in town either. He sighed and headed for his horse as he saw no other choice but to head back home with the draft still on him. What Adam didn’t see was a tall lanky fellow watching him from across the street, nor did he see the man get his horse and start to follow him from a distance.
The sun was unbearably hot as Clara Burr, better known as Pepper to her friends and family, and her uncle, Dr. Malachi Ashby a skilled surgeon, traveled down what seemed to her to be one extremely long and dusty road. If only it would rain, that would cool things off. The two were heading for Carson City; her uncle had accepted a job as temporary doctor until Carson’s doctor, his best friend, recovered from an accident.
When the two bedroom home came into view his friend had wired him about, Malachi turned to his niece, “Well, ’tis the place. It will make for a nice place to live. You will see…” he stopped speaking as they heard a shot ring out, seconds later a tall skinny fellow ran out of the barn that stood nearby, around the corner of it then came barreling back around on a horse. He was riding faster than a body should be.
“Something’s wrong.” without warning, Pepper jumped off the wagon, which the good doctor had stopped, and ran towards the barn just knowing what she’d find. Once inside she was not to be proven wrong. A man lay on his stomach unconscious, with a bullet in his back. She quickly ran outside, “Grab your medical bag quick!”
“What is it?” Malachi asked as he did as she asked.
“That fellow left a man in here to die.” She answered as she ran into the barn and started worked on getting the bleeding to stop. Once she had it stopped she looked up at her uncle, “We’ll have to get him into the house, somehow and into one of the rooms.”
After the two of them managed to get the stranger inside, and upon a bed, Malachi went to work getting the bullet out, not an easy task considering where the bullet had lodged itself. Hours later Dr. Ashby was sewing the stranger up. “This fellow’s lucky I’m a surgeon,” Malachi shook his head as he stepped away from the bed, “he’ll be luckier still if he ever walks again.”
Pepper’s eyes widened in shock, “It did damage to the spine?”
“Not much, but,” the good man shook his head, “Sometimes, it doesn’t take much.” He went to wash up and unload their things.
While her uncle unloaded the wagon, Pepper looked upon the unconsciousness man that lay before her. What had the other man shot him for? Who was he, and had he once had identification on him? Would he walk again? These and a thousand other questions ran through her mind.
Rain was starting to fall as Ben and Hoss stood on the porch, Little Joe and his wife, Rosa, had taken their two children and headed for home. “I don’t like this,” Ben watched the rain as he began speaking; “Your brother should have been home by now.”
Hoss stuck his hands in his pockets; he was also worried. “If’n he’s not back by the time the rain’s over Little Joe and I will go lookin’ for him, pa.”
Ben turned his head and said, “WE will go looking for him. If he’s not back by the time this storm is over, we will go looking.” He then turned around and headed back inside.
Hoss stayed standing on the porch. Where was his big brother? Adam had always been so reliable. It wasn’t like him to be late. Hoss’ mind went back in time. ‘Hey, Adam! Let’s go fishin’, chores are done!’ five year old Hoss begged his older brother, who always seemed to have a book in his hand, to take him fishing. Adam sighed, he’d just gotten to the best part of his book and didn’t really want to go, but he had to keep the child happy. After all, with Ben in New Orleans someone had to keep the child busy. “Alright,” Adam stood up, “Let’s go.”
Adam had kept him busy and even helped him adjust to the shock of his father bringing home a new mother for them, one Marie, a widow of one the men that used to work for them. It wasn’t until much later that Hoss found out just how upset Adam really was. His older brother never did show his true emotions very well. “Where are you, Adam?”
While Hoss and other others were praying for Adam’s return, Pepper was watching over their injured guest. Placing a cold damp rag upon his forehead, Pepper found herself singing a song she’d learned from her mother.
Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
From glen to glen, and down the mountain side
The summer’s gone, and all the flowers are dying
‘Tis you, ’tis you must go and I must bide.
But come ye back when summer’s in the meadow
Or when the valley’s hushed and white with snow
‘Tis I’ll be here in sunshine or in shadow
Oh Danny boy, oh Danny boy, I love you so.
And if you come, when all the flowers are dying
And I am dead, as dead I well may be
You’ll come and find the place where I am lying
And kneel and say an “Ave” there for me.
And I shall hear, tho’ soft you tread above me
And all my dreams will warm and sweeter be
If you’ll not fail to tell me that you love me
I’ll simply sleep in peace until you come to me.
I’ll simply sleep in peace until you come to me.
As Pepper finished singing, Adam stirred but did not awaken. “Yuv’ve started a wee bit of fever, sir, but please, don’t ya go dyin’ on me,” she wiped the perspiration that lay on his forehead away once more, “I’m sure ya’s got some family somewhere out there lookin’ for ya.”
The sun shone in through the window and lit up on the still feverish Adam. Pepper looked upon the gentleman wishing he’d come to long enough to talk. Oh, he’d drifted in and out of sleep but never in the condition to really talk, though she’d succeeded in getting him to swallow some water or chicken broth, but, for the most part, he remained unconscious.
“How’s he doin’ lassie?” Malachi stepped into the room; he’d just got home from Carson City and making his rounds. He had a habit of calling her lassie at least once or twice a day, if not more.
“Holdin’ his own, but his fever is still burnin’,” she sat back in the chair she was using, “did ye find out anything when ya went into town. That is, was the sheriff knowin’ anytin’?” Malachi had said he’d talk to the sheriff and tell him of the shooting, also he’d find out if the lawman recognized the man’s description.
“Aye, lassie,” Malachi put his hand on the headboard and looked upon his patient, “I tried, but the lawman’s out of town right now, and that deputy of his,” the man shook his head, “needs to find another line of business. I didn’t bother askin’ ‘im. Don’t go frettin’ yerself,” he held up his hand when it looked like his niece was going into shock, “I’ll talk to the sheriff jist as soon as he’s back.”
Silence fell in the room as Dr. Ashby started checking Adam’s pupils, pulse and other things. Pepper couldn’t help but keep her eyes on the handsome stranger in their midst. She found herself wondering what he was like, what did he like, was he married…” the thought he might be married snapped her out of her thoughts. What right did she have to even think about the man? There just might be a woman out there sick with worry, wondering when, or if, her husband was returning. Pepper stood up and excused herself. Supper needed to be cooked.
In his feverish state of mind Adam was walking around the Ponderosa laughing and talking with his brothers, only to “see” them being torn away from him by some unseen force. Adam shot straight up; his eyes glazed over and yelled, “Pa! Hoss! Little Joe! Watch out!”
Doctor Ashby grabbed him by the shoulders and began pushing him back down, not surprisingly; it was taking all his strength to do so. “Mister,” the good doctor thought, “I sincerely pray you live, and walk again, only maybe, jist maybe, I should be a wee bit grateful ya don’t have the use of yer legs right now!” Finally, he succeeded in getting Adam down. He (the doctor) was grateful when Adam settled down enough that he could let go of his shoulders. Then, not trying to be mean, but desperate to keep the patient from hurting himself, Dr. Ashby secured his arms to the bed with some very strong cloth.
Ben and Hoss stood in the front room, shock going through them as Sheriff Foster handed Ben the telegram he’d received from the Carson City sheriff just that morning.
Dr. Malachi Ashby, temporary doctor, has a badly hurt patient fighting for his life at his house. Fits the description of Ben Cartwright’s oldest son, Adam. Is Adam missing? Sheriff Lawson.
Ben tossed the telegram onto the coffee table that sent in front of the couch and sat down in ‘his’ chair, putting his head in his heads as he did so. Adam hadn’t even wanted to go to Carson City, but had relented knowing how important the business transaction was. Ben chastised himself; he told himself he should have listened; after all, more times than not Adam’s feelings had proven to be correct. “He’s got to stay alive,” Ben’s voice was raspy as he talked, “He’s just got to!” He’d never forgive himself if he didn’t.
Sheriff Foster felt drained after he finished; he was getting too old for this job. He figured, once they found Adam, he was turning the job over to his nephew. After all, his nephew was deputy and had made the name of Bryan Foster very respectable.
“I know why he went to Carson, Ben,” Foster took a deep breath, “I wired the sheriff back and asked him if Adam had anything on him when he was found; that is, if it’s him…” he paused. The pause told Ben and Hoss the reason Adam was struggling to stay alive.
“He had no bank draft on him, and it’s not in the bank.” Ben made the statement without any emotion. He could care less about the money. He wanted his oldest alive and well; that meant more to him than anything.
Sheriff Foster shook his head, “No, he didn’t, and no, it isn’t.”
Ben stood up, “Well, Hoss, seeing how Joe and Rosa took off to San Francisco to visit her relatives for a while, why don’t you go see if Candy will run the ranch while you and I go to Carson City.”
“Yes, Pa.” Hoss hurried out to the barn where he knew Candy was working.
“I’ll be more than happy to,” Candy set the pitchfork down after Hoss entered the barn and told him what was happening, “but are you sure you don’t want me to go along? I am more than willing to.”
Hoss gave him a small smile and slapped him lightly on the upper arm, “I know you would, but pa says he needs you here.”
“All right.” Candy picked up the pitchfork and went back to work. He sure hoped Ben and Hoss would find Adam awake and doing well when they got to Carson City. He’d hate to lose any member of the Cartwright family; the world needed more men with the integrity these men had.
While Ben and Hoss headed for Carson City, Pepper was relieved to find Adam’s fever had lowered, though she worried as he was still not awake. “Ya is a stubborn one at least,” she again wiped perspiration off of the man’s brow, “Uncle Malachi says yer family may very be on their way here. ‘tould be nice if ya would wake up befer they arrive.”
Adam stirred, but, once again, did not open his eyes. Pepper sighed, the man was stuck somewhere between here and there. How she wished his fever would completely break and he would wake up.
Adam looked around the room. He was confused. He could see his father, Hoss, Little Joe and…himself? He had to be dreaming; he tried shaking himself awake, but it didn’t work.
“What’s the matter?” he saw himself standing in the dining room holding his hat in his hand.
“Oh, Hank’s in love,” Hoss answered.
“Well, he’ll get over that,” Adam answered, “What’s for supper?”
“Yeah, he wants to get married.” Joe said.
“Well it happens in the best of families.” Adam looked at his brothers. Let’s eat.”
Gee, I sound like Hoss, Adam thought as he found the picture blurring and disappearing. He was shocked when he found himself looking at his father, being questioned because he, Adam, knew Bill Enders committed robbery and murder.
“…you say he killed Toby….you know he’s guilty.” Adam was confused. Why was his father questioning his word? “What do you want from me a denial? You want me to forget what I know?” “I want you to recognize the doubts that will exist in other folk’s minds.” He’d recognized them, stood by what he knew and rode like mad to prove Bill Enders had the time to kill Toby and still get to Virginia City within a time limit no one thought possible.
“This can’t be!” Adam’s cry made Pepper jump out of the chair she was sitting in and hurry over to his bed. His eyes were open, but she could tell he wasn’t looking at her. He was still stuck in between here and there.
She retrieved the rag that set on the dresser, dipped it in the basin and wrung it out, then started wiping his brow once more. When she heard footsteps, she turned to see her uncle standing in the door way.”I heard him cry out,” Malachi sighed, “I had hoped he’d woken up and was just upset about his legs.”
“No,” Pepper shook her head, “I wish ’twas the case, it’s not though. His mind is elsewhere. Best get some more ice, his fever is climbin’ once more; we have got ta get it ta break, we do.”
‘Who’s the doctor?‘ Malachi thought as he chuckled and went to get the ice.
Ben and Hoss rode towards Carson City; both prayed like mad Adam would still be alive when they got there. Hoss couldn’t help it; he started laughing. “Just what is so funny?” Ben didn’t like being left in the dark, and he was in the dark.
“I was jist rememberin’ when I was takin’ some logs up to where Adam and Little Joe were workin’, but the wagon got stuck in that mud, and I had ta get down and push on the back of it, yell at the darnblasted mules to get ’em moved. Only, after they moved, the logs slid out. I wound up carrying one log to where Adam and Joe were working…”
Ben tried not to laugh, he remember the boys all wrestling in the mud and him having to separate them. It wouldn’t have been so bad, but ornery old Jebediah Milbank had been hurt and made life a living nightmare. “I remember,” he paused and sighed, “Kind of makes you want to go through it again.”
Hoss smiled, “Remember how Mr. Norton expelled Albert Michaelson, said he was a problem only Adam got to lookin’ into it, by the time everythin’ was said and done things at the school was set right, even Mr. Norton changed his way of thinkin’.”
“I remember.” Ben sighed as his own mind wandered down through the years. Had it really been all that many years ago since Elizabeth had blessed with him with a son only to depart this life shortly afterwards? Had it really been all that long since Adam had helped take over the care of a newly born brother when his stepmother had suffered death by the Indians? Adam had been the most reliable one of all his sons. Oh, alright, he admitted they were all reliable, it was just that Adam was the oldest and he’d had his help the longest.
“He’ll be okay, pa,” Hoss could feel his father’s worry; he didn’t blame him, but they just had to keep the faith, “ya’ll see, he’ll be fine.”
Ben nodded as Buck continued carrying him down the road. “He has to be.” He feared what it would do to both his sons should Adam pass away, especially Little Joe as he, Ben, had pushed him rather hard to go ahead and make the trip with his wife and children. ‘Adam will have your hide if you break your promise to those children of yours.’ It was the sentence that finally pushed Little Joe into not cancelling the family’s trip, the idea that his oldest brother would tan his hide if he didn’t follow through on what he’d promised the children. The rest of the journey was made in practical silence, each one reliving various memories they had of Adam and all he’d done for them through the years.
While Ben and Hoss continued making their way to Carson, Adam again opened his eyes. His fever once again had lowered, and he was able to see things are they were, in the present. He felt horrible, but couldn’t move. “The dead awakens once more,” Pepper sat by his side and held a glass of broth up to his lips, “ye need to drink a wee bit at least,” she smiled, “Your body, and we, are still fightin’ an infection.”
Adam swallowed the broth down the best he could then tried to speak, only to find himself wincing in pain. “Don’t try ta talking, sir,” Pepper lay a hand on his shoulder, “You need to drink the rest of this if ya can then rest, fight this infection and get better. Talkin’ can wait.” She just hoped the right people were comin’ for him. She hated the idea of a man having no family around.
Adam might have fought her, but he was tired and he hurt, taking another couple of swallows of the broth, he let himself slip into sleep once more.
It was threatening to storm again as Ben and Hoss rode into Carson City; the streets were filled with people coming and going. They headed for the Sheriff’s Lawson office. The lawman was behind his desk as the two men entered the building.
He sighed when he saw who it was and stood up, “Hello, Mr. Cartwright,” Sheriff Lawson held out his hand, “I’m sorry to have to be the one to send that telegram.”
For a moment fear grabbed at Ben’s heart, the serious look on the lawman’s face scared him. “Adam, my son, where is this Doctor Ashby’s?” he asked, his eyes fixed on the sheriff. He had to get to his son; he had to see him.
The lawman felt horrible for the two men before him. Their love, concern and fear for their son, and brother, was evident in their pain filled eyes. “I have to go that way,” the sheriff headed for the door, “I’m hoping your son is awake and up to talking to me. I can’t go looking for the man who robbed and shot him without a solid description. The Ashby’s could only give me a vague description of the man, as they were too far away from the barn when the man ran out and rode away.”
Ben fought the anger he felt towards the stranger. If he’d needed the money that bad, he’d have given it to him personally! As it was, he followed the lawman out of the office and mounted his horse. Soon, the three men were heading to the Ashby’s.
Once again Ben found his mind wandering. He’d walked into Adam’s room, unintentionally let the door slam, put his hands on his hips and asked, “You ’bout ready?” Adam had turned, paused and said, “Come in here like that a few years, I’d figured I was in for a lecture or a tanning.” “Neither one,” he’d answered. “Just some fatherly advice?” Adam had asked. He felt bad for his son then, not knowing if he really loved Laura or was just in love with the idea of love. Ben still prayed for the day Adam would find the right woman for him for he’d seen the loneliness in his oldest son’s eyes the day Little Joe and Rosa married.
Ben was brought out of his thoughts as they drew near the home Malachi Ashby and his niece shared. The good doctor was standing on the porch, almost like a statue; it was kind of eerie.
“Mr. Cartwright?” Dr. Ashby asked as the lawman and the men with him stopped.
“Yes,” Ben dismounted Buck, “My son?”
“He’s in there, but” he reached out and took a hold of Ben’s arm as the man tried to hurry past him, “his fever is climbin’ again. My niece is with him.”
The sheriff shook his head, “I guess then he’s in no position to talk to me?”
Dr. Ashby shook his head, “I’m afraid not. Lad’s got a fightin’ spirit that’s fer sure, but no, he’s in no position to be talkin’ to anybody. You can go see him though you should know everything first.” He proceeded to tell them of the bullet had nicked the spine and that it may, or may not, have affect Adam’s ability to walk once he was healed. While Ben and Hoss were upset at the news they headed straight for the room where Adam lay.
Adam was once again in a fog, or so it seemed to him. What was going on? He looked around and saw a light shining off to his right; he started walking towards it only to hear a voice talking to him, a voice he knew well. He turned around. What on earth? He could see himself lying in a bed, his father was sitting by the side of it, Hoss was standing at the foot of it.
“Adam,” Ben was holding Adam’s motionless hand and talking, “you have to pull through this, you have to be okay,” Ben lifted his son’s hand to his chin and held on tight, “Miss Burr and her uncle say you’ve been in and out of it, that your fever seems to have quite the hold on you. Please, if you can hear me, stay with us. A lot of people praying for you, a lot of them want you to stay too.”
Hoss held onto the foot of the bed and started talking once his pa had quit. “Adam, I know I ain’t near as smart as you book wise, so my words ain’t as fancy as some of the ones I’ve heard you use, but ya gotta stay ’round. Ya just gotta.”
Adam turned and saw the shadow of a woman in the light; he heart skipped a beat. He recognized the woman’s profile from his mother’s picture. He tried to speak, but could not. The woman disappeared after a moment, but the light did not. He turned back to the view of his father holding his hand and his brother’s bowed head. He headed for the bed.
The pain Adam felt as he slowly opened his eyes was not as bad as it was before, and he didn’t feel as hot. “Adam!” Ben’s joy could be heard in his voice as he laid his hand upon his son’s forehead. He was disappointed to realize his son still had a slight fever.
“He wanted the money,” Adam closed his eyes and spoke, then opened them up again, “H..he got the j..jump on me, held a g…gun to to m..y ba…ck, far enough back I co…couldn’t whirl around and g…get it from h…him..” Adam struggled to speak only to find his father’s hand on his shoulder.
“Don’t talk, rest.” Ben reached behind him to get the wet rag Pepper had left on the dresser only to find Pepper picking it up. She walked around to the other side of the bed and wiped the perspiration off of Adam’s forehead.
“H..have to,” Adam didn’t know if seeing the light, and his mother, meant he would be going or if she was just watching over him; still, he had to tell them what he knew, just in case, “it was a man by the n..ame of P..Pe..Peter Bl..Black..hi..ll.”
Pepper gasped and almost dropped the rag when Adam spoke the name of his attacker. Ben and Hoss looked at her, as did Adam. “You know him?” Ben asked, as he looked upon the woman who had been spending so many hours taking care of Adam.
“Aye,” Pepper shook her head, “I wish I did not. He’s a would be miner and two bit gambler that’s startin’ ta get a name fer himself in town. If ’twas him, I am surprised he has not tried anythin’ befer now.”
Hoss headed for the door, “I’ll go talk to the sheriff.” Ben did not stop him as Adam again closed his eyes.
“F-Funny,” Adam whispered as he fell asleep, “I f-feel warm all o-over ex-except for my l-legs. Th-they don’t f-feel hot at all.” Ben’s heart felt like it someone had reached inside of him and ripped it out; he hurt for his son. Pepper hurt for the patient she and her uncle had spent hours tending to.
“There’s still hope fer him, sir,” Pepper had to say something; she could see the pain in Mr. Cartwright’s face, “Uncle Malachi even said so.” Ben only nodded as he kept his eye on his son.
Hoss left the sheriff’s office in pretty much an unhappy mood. The lawman said he’d come out and talk to Adam personally, but that Peter Blackhill was no longer in the area. Hoss didn’t like that. If Mr. Blackhill found out Adam had survived the bullet, he would, most likely, try to “finish the job”. However, Hoss understood the most the sheriff could do was to start the legal work of getting other lawman, and bounty hunters, notified that Mr. Blackhill was wanted for robbery and, at the least, attempted murder. He mounted Chubby and headed back for the Ashby’s.
Meanwhile Ben and Dr. Ashby were talking while Pepper stayed with Adam. “Mr. Cartwright,” the good doctor sat near the empty fireplace contemplating the situation before them, “It may not be the wisest thing for me to say this only,” he looked towards the window, “winter will soon be here, and I feel strongly your son needs to be at home. I dare say, that won’t happen if we keep him here even another week or two.” It wouldn’t either. The first winter’s snow was sure to fall in the next couple of weeks.
Ben was nervous about moving Adam, “His fever is still not quite gone. Is it safe to move him?”
“Many people have fought sickness while traveling with others. I’ve done everything I can do for your son. Pepper could go with you; she’s a fine nurse. Besides, truth is,” Dr. Ashby hesitated then said, “Do you really want your son in the hands of Dr. Johnson? He’ll be back to work within the next week.” He knew that wasn’t nice. The man was his best friend only, as much as he hated to admit it, the man was a lousy doctor.
Ben cringed. He knew of Dr. Johnson’s reputation. He dared say Adam would have had no hope of surviving under the man’s care. “If your niece is willing, and we can borrow a wagon someone,” Ben gave in, “my son and I will transport Adam back to the Ponderosa.”
Dr. Ashby stood up, hoping like mad the trip would not prove too much for Mr. Cartwright son; then again, at least by going home Adam Cartwright would have a fighting chance.
The wind was starting to whip through the air as Ben drove the wagon up to the house; he and Hoss had left with Adam and his nurse the moment the lawman had left the Ashby’s. Hop Sing and Candy hurried out to greet them. “How Masta Adam?” the china man had been extremely worried ever since they’d received the news about Adam from Carson City.
“He’s doing okay,” Ben climbed down from the wagon as Candy hurried to the back of the wagon.
“At least, Adam has a pretty nurse.” Candy smiled as lowered the back of the wagon and helped Pepper out. His smile quickly turned to concern as he saw Adam lying with his eyes closed.
Pepper looked from Candy to Adam then back to Candy, “He’s not completely well yet, but at least the fever has stopped bouncing up and down like it was.” She was glad since it meant his chances of survival had risen greatly.
Hoss and Candy went to working on transporting Adam from the wagon up to his room. Adam stirred, opened his eyes, smiled, then went back to sleep. “At least he knows he’s home.” Candy grinned as Hoss and he laid Adam on his bed.
“I hope so,” Hoss would have sat down by the bed, but Pepper came in.
“Ya pa wants to see the two of ya downstairs,” Pepper looked at Hoss the pulled the covers up and tucked them under Adam’s arms.
“You sure ya don’t need anythin’, ma’am?” Hoss smiled at Miss Burr, as his pa had called her.
“Aye,” she chuckled, “Don’t worry ’bout me, I’ve tended ‘nough sick folk in me life. Now shoo! Go see what yer father be a wantin’.” She felt Adam’s forehead as she talked. Inwardly she sighed, if only the fever would break for good.
“Yes, ma’am.” Hoss and Candy left the room. “Almost makes you wish you were the one shot,” Candy turned back and looked at the room before starting down the stairs.
Ben couldn’t help but smile as he heard the comment, “She is pretty, and she is here to help with Adam’s recovery. I suggest you remember that.” He said the words with a twinkle in his eye.
“Can’t wait until he’s back to work, we all miss him out there.” He nodded towards the door, not knowing any of the details, Candy assumed that Adam just needed to wake up, get his strength back and get back to work. He was shocked by the looks of anguish that came upon Ben and Hoss’ faces.
Ben slowly repeated the whole ugly story and finished, “Little Joe should be back within the week; I’m sure he’ll be more than happy to step in and help if…” his voice broke. He couldn’t bring himself to say the words. Adam just had to walk again.
Candy sat stunned beyond measure. Adam wasn’t out of the woods yet? If he survived, he might not be able to walk? This couldn’t be happening; Adam may not be the youngest man, but he was still nowhere near the grave. Well, he shouldn’t be!
Hop Sing broke the silence when he came out of the kitchen, “Table is set, food is there. Food get cold you not eat!”
Ben, Hoss and Candy walked over to the table and sat down. None of them were very hungry, but they didn’t want to offend Hop Sing either. After all, the man had gone to great lengths to make a good meal for them. As they ate, Ben glanced towards the stairs and, once again, felt someone pull on his heart strings.
Little Joe pushed his horse as hard as he dared. The moment his family had stepped off the stagecoach Sheriff Foster had grabbed him and told him the news. The lawman had then offered to take Rosa and the children home, since he had to take his daughter home anyway it was no big deal.
‘Adam’s fever won’t break for good. The two times it did break it was back within twenty-four hours. Doctor Martian has been out to see him a few times and he is, along with Miss Burr, is doing everything he knows how. They said we should be grateful the fever is not climbing like it once was.’ The sheriff’s words rang in Little Joe’s ears.
As he rode his horse memory of his oldest brother started running through Little Joe’s mind. “..long dusty ride.” Adam was over exaggerating on purpose and he and Hoss knew it. They’d been working all morning and Adam had to ride up and rub it in. Then their pa had said Adam could leave again? When Adam held out his hand to Hoss and said “No hard feelings?” Little Joe didn’t resist the urge that came upon him. He motioned, very subtle like, to Hoss to force Adam into the horse trough. Hoss had did just that. Little Joe had busted up laughing, as had Hoss, even their pa had let out a chuckle.
“Adam,” six year old Joseph climbed up next to his oldest brother, “Where is Ma?”
“She’s in heaven with my ma and Hoss’ ma.” Adam had seemed so strong at the time; as young as Little Joe had been, he hadn’t recognized the look in Adam’s eyes as one who was struggling like crazy to keep his composure, “Everyone who is good goes to heaven sooner or later, some just go sooner than others is all.” Little Joe found himself getting angry as the memory came to the front of his mind. “NO!” he found himself yelling up at the sky, “It can’t be his time yet!” It just couldn’t be.
While Little Joe was heading to his father’s home, Adam, who was getting tired of fighting the fever which had plagued him on an off for the past two weeks, was also realizing for the first time there was a real chance his legs were paralyzed, as no one had spoken of it before he had just chalked it up to the infection. When Pepper entered the room, Adam looked at her and asked very firmly, “That bullet did something that caused my legs to go paralyzed didn’t it?” A part of him was cringing as he asked the question, a part wanted to take the question back, but he had to know the truth.
Pepper sighed; she had known from the start this day would come if he lived, which she was glad he was still with them so far. “Aye,” she helped him sit up, reached behind him and straightened out the pillows with her one hand then lay him back down. She then sat down on the chair beside the bed, “but it may not be fer good,” she went on to explain everything her uncle had said, and which Dr. Martin said he agreed with, “Once that fever of yers leaves fer good, we can start exercises that will strengthen yer leg muscles and,” she shrugged, “Uncle Malachi said the bullet only barely nicked da spine. He thinks, maybe, there’s a chance what little damage was done will repair itself. It’s too early to tell.”
Adam looked up at the ceiling. He remembered one other time having to go through a period of wondering when he’d be able to walk again, but then it was just damaged back muscles he’d had to worry about, not a spine that had received even the smallest amount of injury to it as possible. “I want to be alone.” His voice was flat and without emotion.
Pepper might have argued, but she knew everyone needed time to think by themselves. “Alright,” she said as she stood up and wiped down his forehead one more time, “but I’ll be back. Ya’ll not be lyin’ there feelin’ sorry fer yerself too long though,” she put her hands on her hips, “Try that one and ya’ll be findin’ out why me uncle calls me Pepper.” She turned around and walked out of the room.
“He wanted to be alone,” Pepper stopped Little Joe in the hallway, “but I think he may make an exception for you.” There was a chuckle in her eyes as she spoke. Little Joe smiled and hurried inside.
Adam felt lighter than air as he once more found himself in a fog only this time, instead of a shadow and profile, he was actually standing next to Marie, “Where’s my mother?” He wasn’t trying to be rude to Marie only, since he assumed he had just died, he wanted to see his mother, his real mother.
Marie knew what he was thinking and shook her head, “You’re not dead, Adam, but you need to stop going back and forth. I’ve been sent to tell you to make up your mind.”
“Make up my mind?” Adam’s eye brow rose, “What on earth are you talking about? It’s not like I’m doing this to myself.” He was irritated and it shown in his narrowed eyebrows and folded arms.
“Not at first Adam, but it think about it. Of the many things you’ve thought about it, one of them was how nice it would be to be rid of the burdens you’ve carried on and off though out your life. When Clara,” Marie held up her hand when Adam automatically started to correct her, “I know she is called Pepper for the most part, but her given name is Clara. Now, like I was saying, when she confirmed what you have come to realize you didn’t like the idea and once again thought about the life after earthly life.”
Adam sighed. He was guilty. “It’s up to you, Adam, but you should know, you’re family still has need of you and,” Marie looked on him with earnest as she started telling him of other things that he needed to know about, “the day still may come when you are called home no matter what, but, for now, it’s like I’ve said, it’s up to you.”
As Adam thought on it he heard an anguished cry, someone was calling his name, he turned around and saw his pa shaking him, he saw the fear in his father’s eyes and heard it in the man’s voice as he yelled, “Breathe Adam, breathe!”
“I know you can’t tell me whether or not I’ll be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of my life or not. I still have to say life in a wheelchair, for any amount of time,” Adam looked at Marie, “is going to stink.” As soon as he said the words he felt himself going backwards as everything went black.
When Adam gasped for air and opened his eyes, relief flooded over Ben and he practically collapsed on the chair next to his son. “Sorry,” Adam turned his head and looked at his father, “didn’t mean to scare you.”
Ben put his hand on his son’s shoulder, “Scared isn’t the word for it,” he smiled back, “When I walked in and saw you, lying there, your chest not moving…” he choked up and paused, then started speaking again, “my heart didn’t want to accept what my head told me,” he laid his hand on Adam’s forehead and smiled from ear to ear, “you’re fever’s gone. Let’s just hope it’s gone for good and that you stick around for a long time yet.”
“It won’t be back.” Adam said as he thought on his talk with Marie, “I may wind up leaving someday, but I’m not going anywhere quite yet. Any chance I can convince you to have me moved downstairs to the guest room? I really hate being so far away from everyone.”
Ben could tell there was something Adam wasn’t saying, but didn’t press him on the issue. He was just happy to have his son awake and talking without a problem.
Hoss, Candy and Pepper, who had all flew up the stairs the moment they heard Ben yelling, stood just inside the room grinning from ear to ear. There might be a long road ahead of them, but, for now, they were just happy Adam was still with them. “I’ll get it ready,” Hoss turned around and left the room; he was eager to do anything he could to help his brother as the man had helped him through the years.
“Anything I can do?” Candy walked over and stood at the foot of the bed.
Adam looked at their foreman and smiled, “I know you were talking about going back to California, but I don’t suppose you would reconsider. You’re like family and,” he sighed as he struggled to sit up. Ben quickly rose to his feet and helped his son sit up. Pepper, who had quickly moved to the other side of the bed, rearranged the pillows and stepped back as Ben moved Adam back up against the pillows, “well, we need you here.”
Candy smiled. He had talked about leaving more than once, but it was just that, talk. “I’ll stick around.”
Adam looked at Pepper, gratitude for the long hours she’d put in shone in his eyes as he reached out and shocked her by taking a hold of her wrist, “I may be out of danger for now, when it comes to dying, but I still need a nurse. Can I talk you into staying? I really hate the idea of breaking in a new one.”
She pulled her hand back and feigned offense, “You have not ‘broken me in’, but, yes,” she lost the battle to hide her grin as she saw the laughter in Adam, Ben’s and Candy’s eyes, “I’ll stay.”
While the Cartwrights were moving Adam downstairs, Mr. Blackhill was just outside Reno tearing a wanted posted off a wall. He stared at his picture and the words: WANTED: PETER BLACKHILL. ROBBERY AND ATTEMPTED MURDER. He swore under his breath. He’d committed robbery many times and got away with it; he’d shot only one man. How had Adam Cartwright survived?
Adam watched as his pa brought in the wheelchair into the room. Even though he knew his legs were paralyzed, it was still a shock to his system to actually see the wheel chair. Ben sensed his son’s shock right off the bat, and he felt bad for him. He said the only thing he could think of to show his support, “You got out of this thing once before; you can get out of it again.”
“Is my patient ready?” Pepper made Ben jump as she walked in the room. She had to bite her lip to keep from laughing as Mr. Cartwright jumped; she hadn’t meant to scare him.
Adam didn’t succeed in hiding his amusement though as he let out his laughter, that only served to get Pepper going. Ben looked the two of them, and then busted up laughing himself. “Well, young lady, if you would make your presence known before hand, maybe, I wouldn’t have a heart attack.” He chuckled and waved his finger at her before leaving the room.
Pepper said nothing as she wheeled the chair over to the bed. Adam sighed and pulled himself out of bed and slid into it. After getting their coats on, Adam wanted to go outside for a bit, they were soon outside and heading down the ramp Hoss and Little Joe had made the day before. “Adam, may I ask ye a question befer we start?” Pepper stepped in front of the wheelchair. She’d had something bugging her ever since they’d first arrived, but had not dared ask, feeling it wasn’t her place. Now though, she was more curious than anything.
“Ask away,” Adam leaned back in his chair, “I may not have the answer, but you can ask.”
“Ya’ll have an answer,” Pepper took a chair off the porch and sat down next to Adam, “I just don’t know that Iye really should be askin’, but I can’t stand not knowin’ anymore.” That made Adam as curious as all get out, but he waited for her to finish, “When I first got here Hop Sing said somethin’ about a ‘Teresa’ and Hoss’ daughter, and I accidently overheard ya father and brother talk about a niece a time or two but, I haven’t seen a hide nor hair of a child or wife. I know I coulda have asked befer now, I” she paused and shrugged her shoulders, “just didn’t really know if I should or not.”
Adam rubbed the side of his chair and spoke slowly, “Hoss was married at one time, and yes, her name was Teresa. They were only married two years when she died in childbirth. The child’s name was Inger, after his mother. She was weak though and died within a year.”
“’tis hard to lose someone ye love, does not matter the relation.” Pepper’s eyes grew sad as she spoke.
Adam looked at her and took a guess, as her uncle had said his niece had never even been engaged. “Your parents?”
She nodded, “My full name is actuall’ Clara Rose Burr, but papa used to say ‘Ya is me Irish Rose.’ Uncle Malachi said if he was to do that he might as well call me Wild Irish Rose, then turn turned around and started callin’ me Pepper instead. He said when I got mad it was the same as havin’ too much Pepper on yer food.”
Adam laughed, “Well, since I have the feeling I ‘m not going to get away without doing what you say during my therapy time, I’ll probably see a bit of that temper. Maybe, I’ll just call you my wild Irish Rose. It’s prettier than Pepper.” He realized the moment he said the words what it would sound like, and he was embarrassed.
Pepper grinned and stood up. “More like a taskmaster ye want to send away. ‘Tis time to stop this idle chat and get to work.”
Adam wanted to argue for that meant going back inside, but instead he turned the chair around and didn’t fight Pepper as she pushed his chair back into the house.
Pepper stood by the window looking at the snow that had fallen the night before. How she loved the snow. Well, she loved looking it and making snow angels in it; that is, if she was tending to children and they wanted to do it. She smiled as she remembered the many times she’d made snow angels while growing up. Life, to her, had seemed so simple then. She was brought out of her thoughts as Ben walked down the stairs.
“Good afternoon.” Pepper turned away from the window. She had been with the Cartwrights long enough to know something was bothering Adam’s father. She hated that; after all, she’d grown quite fond of all the Cartwrights, “May I help ye with something’?”
Ben hesitated, not wanting to give her the wrong impression about how he felt towards Adam. Nothing, not even a wheelchair, was going to change his love for his son. Still, he walked up beside the window and looked out, “Do you really think Adam will walk again?” He finally asked the question he’d been avoiding for the past seven weeks, ever since he’d found out about his son being injured.
Pepper’s shoulders slumped slightly and she shrugged her shoulders, “I do not know, but he and I are workin’ on his exercises faithfull’, but it ye think I’m doin’ no good…” Both Pepper and Ben were startled when Adam’s voice interrupted her from behind. They whirled around to see Adam sitting in his chair looking none too happy.
“Is that what you were going to tell her?” Adam turned his eyes to his father, “That her help was no longer needed?” He could hardly believe that one, and hoped Pepper had merely misunderstood why his father asked what he did.
“No,” Ben hurried to correct the misunderstanding, “I…” he looked at Adam fearing the overheard words would undermine any support Adam felt from him, “As your father, I was just concerned.”
Adam smiled, he knew full well how badly his father wanted him to walk again; he also knew his father would still love him whatever his situation turned out to be, “Then don’t go scaring her off.” There was a smile in Adam’s eyes that made Pepper blush. For the first time, Ben saw an alternative reason for keeping Pepper employed had made its way into Adam’s mind. He started grinning as he hurried to excuse himself; he and Hoss had to go into town and get some supplies.
While Adam and Pepper worked on his morning exercises, Ben and Hoss stood talking to Bryan Foster; Bryan had just become the new sheriff. Ben and Hoss didn’t like what they were hearing.
“You mean, Mr. Blackhill has been seen back in Carson City?” Hoss wanted to make sure he’d heard right; there was so much noise going on around him, what with Christmas coming up and people getting ready for it.
“No,” Bryan waited until the men behind him moved further down the street before answering, “Carson City’s sheriff said the man had been spotted outside Reno. I’m just saying keep your eyes and ears open is all. I’m doing the same.” Ben prayed like mad Adam would be fully recovered by the time the man showed back up in their lives and that they’d being able to stop him from doing anymore harm.
Adam sat in his chair as he watched Pepper and Hoss once again move the furniture around. He wished winter would just get over with, he wanted to be outside. He could handle the ranch’s business sitting at a table out on the porch just as well as he could behind his father’s desk.
“I’ll be back later,” Hoss headed for the door, “I promised Little Joe and Rosa I’d help him with a few things over at his place.”
Pepper started to push Adam’s wheelchair towards the table they used for his therapy sessions, but found herself shocked when Adam grabbed the wheels and held them in such a way as to prevent movement. “Adam Cartwright! What on earth are ye doin’?”
“I’m not doing any exercises today,” Adam gritted his teeth and glared at her, “I am going to put my coat on and sit outside.” He started to turn his chair around only to find Pepper flying out in front of him and putting her hands squarely on the arms of the chair. Her eyes turned to steel.
“Ye are not goin’ anywhere until after ye do yer exercises; stop actin’ like a small child!” Pepper glared back, “Uncle Malachi said that bullet only nicked yer spine. As long as we keep this therapy up, there’s a high chance ye will be able to walk again. Stop it, and ye’ll never will!”
Being cooped up in the house, watching his pa, Hoss and Candy coming and going, seeing Little Joe and his family doing the same, the frustration of not being able to do the same came pouring out as he raised his voice and slammed his fist down upon the arm of the chair, “I don’t really care right now! All I want is out of this house!”
Pepper dug in her heels. As bad as she felt for Adam, and wanted to give in, she knew she couldn’t afford to, not for his sake. “Ye are not goin’ outside until after yer exercise!” she let go of the chair practically pushing it into the ‘therapy table’ and planted herself in front of the door. Adam stared. The two of them had talked about her stubbornness and temper, when she was pushed too far, but he’d gotten to the point where he thought her uncle and she must have been exaggerating.
Still, he’d been known to plant his feet a time or two also; he sat as straight as he could, “It’s my life; I’ll live it the way I want to! Now out of my way! I’m going outside!” Pepper remained planted where she was.
Intending to go out the kitchen door, Adam turned around to see Hop Sing glaring at him from the dining room. “Good grief!” Adam thought, “I have two of them fighting me now!”
“Two year old child act betta than Mista Cartwright.” Hop Sing’s simple statement, along with Pepper’s determination, won over. Adam turned his chair back around.
“What do you want me to do? The same exercises we did yesterday?” Adam’s eyebrows narrowed and he scowled. They could force him into a corner and make him do the exercises, but they couldn’t make him like it.
Pepper relaxed, then looked at Adam in sympathy. She could only imagine all the different emotions he’d been experiencing since he realized what that bullet had really done. She smiled and, knowing exercising with a bad attitude did no good; sometimes, an injured man needed a different kind of “therapy”, answered, “Play chess with me.”
Shock shone on Adam’s face, since when was playing chess physical exercise? Slowly a smile spread across his face, beating her at chess was going to be fun.
The air was cold and crisp, Adam and Pepper rode their horses around the ranch, kept warm by their winter coats and gloves. Hoss had helped him mount Sport. “Never thought I’d be on top of the horse while my legs were completely useless.” Adam stopped his horse near the lake and leaned forward.
“I believe that one,” Pepper leaned forward, “but, if ye don’t like it we can always go back to playin’ chess.” Her grin was wide and the laughter in her eyes loud.
Adam shook his head and chuckled, “No, thanks. You should have warned me how good you played chess.” He said the words but his eyes laughed. He was glad she hadn’t. He had had a horrible attitude and the way she challenged him got his mind off his self-pity. Though, now he had something else on his mind. If he hoped to hide it from her though, those hopes were shredded when she spoke up.
“Naw,” she laughed as she the frozen lake before them, “I’ve got to have a few secrets now and then. Adam,” she turned and looked at him, “It’s not the wheelchair that really botherin’ you, is it? I mean, it’s more than bein’ confined in a wheel chair and watchin’ everyone else walkin’ around.” She knew it was; she could feel it.
Adam kept his eyes on the beautiful sight in front of him. The shiny, glistening ice and bright, almost blinding, white snow; soon it would be Christmas and a new year. Sighing, he slowly nodded, “Sooner or later, that Blackhill fellow is going to show back up, and then what do I do? He may hurt my family, you or myself, and how am I going to defend myself if I lose my gun?” he laid his hand on the pistol he wore constantly on his side.
Pepper knew how important it was that a man feels useful, able to take care of what he saw as his, or his to protect. She couldn’t help it; she started chuckling. “For beginners, get yourself a small derringer to hide it up yer sleeve the way some dishonest gamblers hide an extra ace. We can talk over a few other trick later. Come on, let’s finish our ride.”
Adam didn’t say anything as he rode alongside her, his mind on purchasing the derringer she suggested and, he glanced her way every now and then. He found himself wondering how it would be to hold a wild Irish rose in his arms, but quickly reprimanded himself; she was his nurse, not his girl. Within a half hour, Pepper was pushing Adam’s wheelchair into the front room.
Ben was sitting behind his desk when Pepper and Adam entered the house. While Adam was telling himself Pepper was only his nurse, his father could see what his son was denying. He just hoped it wasn’t the reason for Adam still being in the wheelchair. That is, he was hoping that Adam wasn’t, subconsciously, thinking that once he admitted to himself that he was capable of walking, he’d be losing Pepper as he had lost Laura. Then again, he’d never really had Laura in the first place.
Pepper let go of the wheelchair and gazed upon the beautiful fir Christmas tree that Hoss and Ben had set up. It was decorated from top to bottom with candy canes, beautiful painted balls and a shiny star on the top. She thought on what Adam had said. “Please,” she sent a prayer upward, “Let him and his family have a peaceful Christmas before they have to deal with Mr. Blackhill.” It was a prayer all the Cartwrights shared with her, even if they weren’t saying the prayer at the same time.
Peter Blackhill swore up and down as his horse fell down dead. The animal might have lived but the man had pushed him to his limit, in bad weather. The man had to find shelter soon. Another storm was approaching and he needed a place to hold up until it passed. So much for spoiling Adam Cartwright’s Christmas, the storm had come up unexpected and, if what he’d heard on his travels was right, it was going to be one huge storm. Why was it that fifteen miles never seemed so far?
He was beginning to think he was going to freeze to death when he saw an old shack off in the distance. He hurried, as fast as he could, to get to it. Once inside, Peter was more than relieved to find some wood in the corner of the shack, soon he had a fire going. As soon as he was warmed up, he forced himself to go outside again, gather more wood and go back inside.
He thought on the past couple of months. He had gone from starting to get a name for himself in the gambling arena and growing some roots to having to run for his life, all because Adam Cartwright had survived! He knew he couldn’t change the fact he was a wanted man now, but he could at least take some revenge.
Revenge, he sighed as he sat by the small wood stove that sat in the corner of the shack, he’d been getting that his whole life, revenge that is. Well, getting it or trying to. His father had deserted his mother when Peter was two year old and then she, his mother, had turned to the saloons to make her and her son a living. By the time he was twelve, Peter had heard nothing but bad about his father. He’d swore revenge against the man and gone after him when he was eighteen only to find out when he was twenty two that the man had died the year before. He’d been ripped off by more than once person and paid them back by turning around and ripping them off also, only worse. He’d managed to become quite the gambler and con artist along the way, he’d dreamed of being ‘the best’. Now, thanks to one man’s luck Peter’s name was indeed well known, only not in the way he had wanted it to be.
Leaving Reno, Peter had thought to make it to the Ponderosa before Christmas and give Adam a Christmas gift. Now, thanks to the snow storms, and blizzards, that had delayed him again and again, he was being cheated out of that. He cursed as he sat looking at the window. Guess, as long as he got the man eventually, he could accept it.
Hoss and Candy had finished putting up the Christmas tree, Ben and Pepper had then put up the decorations the day before. Christmas was only a couple days away. They had chastised themselves for letting time get away from them and not getting it done sooner. Now they either sat reading or doing some other small chore while Adam was working on finishing up some paper work; he wasn’t about to work through Christmas. “What do you…” Ben started to speak only to hear Adam start coughing, again. He didn’t like it; his oldest had started coughing more than usual. Before he could say anything though, Pepper hurried over to Adam’s side. She didn’t like the sound of his cough either.
When she put her hand on his forehead, Adam pulled back, “What do you think you’re doing?” he glared at her. He was afraid to admit what his head was telling him might be the case and he’d have to if she checked.
“Tryin’ ta make sure ye are not running a slight fever with that blasted cough!” Before he could stop her, Pepper put her hand on his forehead again. She was relieved he had no fever, but still didn’t like his cough. She headed for the kitchen.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Adam didn’t like the look that had come upon Pepper’s face. It always meant he was going to wind up taking something, and it was usually bad tasting! Ben and the others just grinned as Pepper answered over her shoulder, “Doing my best to keep you from spoiling Christmas!”
Hoss couldn’t help it; he busted up laughing. The look that had come upon his brother’s face reminded him of a small child who had just been told they had to take the worst medicine that had ever been discovered. Then again, maybe that’s what he felt like. While Adam was doing his best to stifle any cough that wanted to come, a knock came on the door.
“Dr. Ashby!” Ben was delighted to see Pepper’s uncle on the other side of the door. Having received the man’s telegram a few days before, the Cartwrights were not surprised to see who their guest was, “Come on in.”
“Where’s Pepper?” Malachi looked around the room for his niece.
Adam failed to hold back another cough and answered, “She went into the kitchen to get some cough medicine for me. I would have told her not to bother, but I doubt she’d have listened.” He coughed again.
“Landsakes, lad! I wouldn’t blame her, I wouldn’t either.” That got a grin out of Hoss and Candy. Ben could tell, by the way the good doctor was fidgeting that he had another reason besides Christmas for coming, but he didn’t ask as no one needed their Christmas spoiled by anyone, family or not.
Adam sat in his wheelchair looking into the fireplace watching the flames inside dance around. Pepper walked up and stood beside him, “Hop Sing cooks a fine Christmas dinner.” She’d rather enjoyed the way Hop Sing had chased her out of the kitchen saying, “Miss Peppa, you nurse not cook!” Besides, she liked cooking; she loved living better.
“Yes, he does.” Adam continued to stare into the fire.
Pepper pulled a chair over and sat down next to Adam. “What’s wrong, Adam?” She looked at him, genuine concern in her eyes.
“Away in the manager no crib for his bed…” Ben, his sons, Little Joe’s family, Candy, Dr. Ashby and Pepper had all gathered around Adam and sang Christmas Carols while Adam played his guitar.
“Look what grandpa gave me!” Joseph Jr. had practically flown ten feet in the air when he saw the small tool set Ben had given to him. His sister, Amanda, had been just as thrilled with her gift. Then Ben and the good doctor had slipped out the front door. Adam, curious to what was going on, had wheeled himself into the kitchen.
‘I saw a bounty hunter I know on my way here,” Dr. Ashby had been standing outside talking to Ben, both men were unaware Adam was on the other side of the kitchen door, and that the door had been slightly opened, “Mr. Blackhill is definitely near Virginia City. I just know he’s after Adam, why is another story. It’s not like killing Adam now is going to stop the law from looking for him. I’d be careful, if I were you. I don’t think he’ll care if he has to kill more than one of you to get to your son. I am going to try and talk Pepper into going back to Carson City with me. I don’t want her in the line of fire per se. Maybe, your family should take a vacation until the law can catch him.”
Ben had stood erect, appalled at the idea of running and answered, “We’re not going to run away from a fight if it comes to that, and I doubt Adam would want to run either. He’s not that kind. I thank you for the genuine concern and for not bringing this up in front of the others today.”
Adam hadn’t, until he’d heard the doctor talk about Pepper, realized how badly he wanted her in his life, but did he have the right to ask her to stay when the danger was so high? “Has your uncle talked to you yet?” Adam answered after what seemed like an eternity.
Pepper sighed. She had never found herself in a position where she had to make a choice between her uncle and someone she’d grown to care about deeply, no loved. “Aye, he just talked to me.” she sat back in the chair, “Do ye want me ta leave with him tomorrow?” When she felt stressed her Irish accent was extremely strong; it was strong at that moment.
He turned and looked at her. “It’s not a question of what I want,” he did his best to hide the feelings that he’d developed for her, “it’s a question of what is best for you. When Mr. Blackhill gets here, he’ll not care who he has to go through to get to me. That is, if someone should be in the way.”
Pepper shook her head and took a hold of his hands, “I am fully aware of the danger Mr. Blackhill presents, but ye be wrong if ye think it’s not a question of what ye wants. Tisn’t so.” She slid off the chair and knelt by his side, “It’s all about what ye wants. Tell me if ye be wishin’ me to go or to stay.” She didn’t even try to keep how she felt for him out of her eyes.
Adam told himself he had no right to ask her to stay, not with the danger that was coming. “He might wind up killing you.”
“Adam Cartwright,” Pepper raised his hands to her chin, “call me forward or anything ye wants to, but I have go ta know where I stand with ye.” She did too. As much as she’d fallen in love with him, she wasn’t putting her life on hold for him either.
Adam sighed. She’d stood by him from day one. Okay, at first it was simply as his nurse, but somewhere along the way things had changed. Maybe, it had something to do with the way she’d plant her feet and push back when he pushed. Whatever the case was, he took a hold of her arms and pulled her to him, “I want you to go,” he paused and added as he started kissing her, “and I want you to stay.”
“Be patient,” Peter had met up with an old friend of his, one Thomas Kyle. The men were now sitting outside the shack Peter had been using, and Thomas was doing his best to get his longtime friend to see the reasoning behind his thinking, “Hold off until after spring hits, and I’ll go with you. Right now, you need to stop and think. With winter and all, his father and brothers will be around, but springtime will have everyone hopping and we’ll have a better chance.”
Peter stood up, he was cold and his coat was no longer doing much of a job, “Come on inside. We’ll talk more about it in there.” Once inside the shack Peter stoked the fire, and Thomas sat down next to the table thinking about the Cartwrights. It’s not that he really liked the idea of going after any of the Cartwrights, even one in a wheelchair. He knew full well ‘that family’ was known to have the darnest luck, and Adam surviving Peter’s bullet only cemented that fact in for him. Still, Peter was his friend.
Peter was mulling his friend’s offer over. Winter time did have a way of keeping men on a ranch close to home; maybe, Thomas’ idea wasn’t a bad one. “Yer actually willin’ to come with me if I wait until spring?” the extra help would come in handy.
Thomas gave him a glare, “I said I would.” Thomas considered himself a man of his word and did not appreciate it, his word, being questioned.
Peter stood up and shut the door to the woodstove, “All right,” he walked over to the table and sat down, “I’ll wait. Hope Mr. Cartwright enjoys his last few months on earth.” While Peter and Thomas were talking, Adam was talking to his father. Ben was working behind his desk.
Ben wasn’t surprised by what his son was saying, just how fast he wanted it done in. “If the two of you love each other,” Ben smiled, “I’m happy for you, but why not wait until Spring? Why the rush?” He knew better than to think there was a possibility his son and Pepper ‘had’ to get married; the woman would have sent Adam’s wheelchair flying if he’d even suggested such a thing. That being the case, Ben was confused.
Adam wasn’t going to go into all the reasons they had, so he just stuck with the one he figured his father would have the least amount of problem with, “Dr. Asby is needed in California in a few weeks and, like it or not, he won’t be able to come back until the summer. We don’t want to wait that long.”
Ben might have argued with his son, but all he could remember was just how fast he and Marie had married. “All right son, I’d say we best get to planning that wedding then.”
The night air was crisp, but the fire inside sent its warmth throughout the house as the guests smiled and visited off to the side of the living room and dining room as Pepper in her beautiful white lace gown sit on Adam’s lap as he turned the wheelchair around in various circles “dancing”. Ben couldn’t help but sigh; he had hoped Adam would be walking by now. He comforted himself by telling himself at least his son had a good wife and was doing great with the paper work connected to the ranch.
Sheriff Foster had stood off in the corner doing his best to enjoy the scene before him. He had missed the wedding, apologized to Adam saying he had some urgent business. Truth was, not knowing Peter had joined up with Thomas, the sheriff was afraid, due to reports he’d been receiving, that Peter Blackhill might try and show up to ruin the wedding. He’d been relieved when that had not been the case.
He made his way over to Ben. “They make a nice couple.” It was the one thing he could think of to say without bringing ‘it’ up. Ben saw through him anyway.
“It’s Mr. Blackhill,” Ben lowered his voice so only Bryan could hear, “He’s been spotted again, hasn’t he?”
Bryan nodded. He hated it. Ben should be enjoying the fact that he Adam was finally married not worried for the man’s safety. “Sightings have been reported, but none of them can be verified.”
Ben found himself furious with the stupidity Mr. Blackhill was showing. He was going to gain nothing by coming after Adam, or any of them. He was already a wanted man; this behavior the man was choosing wasn’t going to change that. “He’s not going to kill Adam without a fight.”
That didn’t surprise the sheriff in the least. If Ben had said anything different, Bryan would have been shocked. “We’re all keeping our eyes and ears open Ben; none of us want to see Adam killed.”
While Bryan and Ben were talking Adam was doing his own thinking as he “danced” with his bride. More than ever, he wanted to walk again, not because he thought he was any less of a man because he was in a wheelchair, but because without a gun and bullets he would be helpless to defend anyone, and guns did have a habit of running out of bullets.Still, he didn’t let his worry about Mr. Blackhill ruin what was the best day in his life.
“They sure do make fer a fine couple,” Hoss looked at his oldest brother and new sister in law, then back at Little Joe and Candy, “I just wish he’d walk again.”
“I do too,” Little Joe shrugged, “but at least he’s alive. We just have to keep it that way.” He didn’t have to say why he said that; it was unnecessary.
“Let’s have fun,” Candy stepped away from the wall, “or haven’t you heard? There’s a wedding going on.” That brought laughter from Little Joe and Hoss, as Little Joe went to get Rosa and Hoss went to find a dance partner.
Thomas sat down at one of the corner tables the saloon in Virginia City. He’d told Peter that it would be safer for him to go into town and look meet the men he’d sent for as he, Thomas, was not a wanted man. He watched as the men he knew only as Michael and James entered the building and walked over and joined him. Thomas never asked their last names, only where to get a hold of them when he needed them, and he never offered them his; every one of them were better off that way. In their line of business it was safer that way.
“Glad you’re here,” Thomas waved to of the waitresses, “bring me two more drinks, for my friends.” The young red haired waitress did as she was told and received a generous tip for her service.
“So, Peter Blackhill actually let you convince him to let you bring help into this, thought that man worked alone.” Michael kept his voice low; the last thing any of them needed was to have their conversation overheard.
“He has another fellow he pulled into this,” Thomas’ eyes laughed, “you might have heard of him, one Tyler Moore.” He couldn’t have said any other name that would have gotten them more interested.
“Tyler Moore is joining him in this?” James stared at him in disbelief. Tyler Moore had made himself a name as a gambler, con artist and a man who had his hand into more dirty deals than a body could shake a stick at. Lawmen at all levels had tried to catch him for years.
“Peter says the man owes him a favor over something, and he’s calling him on it.” Thomas paused, “Which one of you wants to get the other matter taken care of and join us as soon as possible?” He didn’t have to spell it out for them, when it came to the ‘other matter’; they knew.
“I’ll do it, but it will have to wait until tonight. I can’t risk being seen going there in the daytime.” Michael answered; after all, Tyler Moore wasn’t the only one with a debt to pay.
Peter sat on a chair outside the shack looking at the last of the winter snow, another month and it should be gone. In his opinion, it couldn’t melt fast enough. He was counting his ‘blessings’, when it came to the help he was getting. Thomas had connections, he (Peter), had connections to Tyler. He told himself there was no way that Adam Cartwright was going to live past spring.
Pepper sat on the porch and watched her father in law, Hoss and Candy disappear. Spring time always had everyone around the Ponderosa jumping; even Adam was behind the desk looking over contracts. She wished she could feel as relaxed as they all seemed to be. She couldn’t get herself to do that though, something was amiss; she could feel it, and she didn’t like it.
Putting her things down, Pepper went inside and found Adam still at work behind the desk. He looked up when he heard the door open. He smiled at the woman who had, more than once since the wedding, proved a man didn’t have to have the ability to walk to have a woman satisfy his every need. “You look troubled; what is it?”
“What is goin’ on, Adam? Yer pa is hidin’ somethin’; I can feel it.” Her ability to feel things never ceased to amaze him. When she had ‘them’, Adam had a hard time covering anything up. But, this time, for her sake and his, he had to.
“I’m sure he’ll tell us what it is, if he thinks it’s our business. Tell you what,” he looked at his papers, “as soon as I’m done here we can go on a ride. I can still set a horse; okay, you might have to help me up on it, but since when did that matter?”
“Okay.” Pepper still didn’t like the feeling she was getting, but she turned and went back outside to retrieve her things. Maybe, if she found things to do it would take her mind off the uneasy feelings she kept getting.
While Adam worked, and Pepper brought her things in and forced herself to keep inside the house, Hoss was talking to his father. “Think we oughta told Pepper what was goin’ on?” Hoss looked at his pa as he and Candy followed Ben onto a trail that led back to the house. Hoss wished Little Joe hadn’t had to go down to Salt Flats. He’d have preferred for his little brother to be with them.
Ben sighed, “I pray everything goes the way it’s supposed to, and that she’ll forgive us. For now, she has to stay in the dark. It’s safer for her this way.”
Hoss still couldn’t believe what his father had told him the night before; he was also wondering how his pa could be so sure of the plans he’d talked about. Hoss had wanted to question his father about it, but hadn’t. Ben Cartwright had never, purposely, led any of his sons astray.
Candy was having pretty much the same thoughts as Hoss, “If what you were told is true, why are we doing this?”
Ben gave the man a look of disbelief, “IF is the key word. I’d rather be prepared for the fact that I may have been lied to, though I admit the chance of that is low, than to find it out with no extra help.” Ben had a point there and they all knew it. That being the case, they continued riding the alternative route back to the house.
The sun was sending its warming rays down upon the five riders. Peter was on the left; next to him were Michael, then Tyler, then Thomas and James. “You know,” Tyler looked at Thomas and spoke up, “There’s one thing I don’t understand. If it’s only going to be Adam, the wife Thomas says he’s taken and that cook of theirs, why do we need five men?”
Thomas answered, with disgust in his voice, “I told you before. We have another job after this one. We hit the Cartwrights before they see it coming, then get out of there and go to the next job; which will require five of us and, no, we wouldn’t have time to meet up afterwards.”
Peter, thinking only to make sure they got Adam, turned on Tyler, “I told you that when I wrote you. Look, we’re all here paying debts, of some kind of another, so why worry about anything else?”
Tyler didn’t have to be reminded of that. He was just eager to get ‘it’ over with; after all, he had other things to do. As it was, he was just glad he’d be out of Peter’s debt after this. Following Peter around was not something Tyler exactly enjoyed.
When they drew near the house Thomas, Michael and James dismounted their horses, “Once Michael and I get in the house, and James gets up in that loft give us five minutes, then come.” The idea being that James would keep an eye on things while Michal forced Hop Sing and the woman upstairs while Thomas kept his gun on Adam. Peter wanted, for whatever reason, to come in afterwards and take care of things. Tyler was supposed to stand beside the house and help keep an eye on things.
“Are you sure this is going to work? What if he gets the drop on you?” Tyler still wasn’t sure of this plan of theirs.
Once again Thomas made himself sound disgusted, “Do we really need to go over this again? Maybe,” he looked at Peter knowing full well what his and Tyler’s reaction to his next words would be, “you pulled the wrong man into this job.”
Tyler exploded, and Peter’s face showed his agitation, “He got the right man! Just get moving!” Within minutes, James was up in the loft, Peter was on the right side of the house, Tyler on the left and Michael and Thomas were standing at the front door.
When the knock on the door came Adam glanced up and looked at Pepper then asked, as he looked back down at the papers before him, “Would you please get that? I’m almost finished with this and need to get it done.”
“Sure.” Pepper put down her things and went to the door. When she opened it, she let out a gasp as Thomas pulled his gun and grabbed her arm as Michael held his gun on Adam and shut the door.
“Take off your pistol and get rid of the derringer up your sleeve.” Thomas said as he held his pistol to Pepper’s head. His words sent shock waves through Pepper; how did he know about that?
“Where’s your cook?” Thomas forced Pepper into a position where he could see the kitchen.
“He’s in the kitchen.” Adam answered slowly as he kept an eye on the men, “What do you want?”
Thomas’ chuckle was filled with an eerie, almost maddening sound, “a friend of ours has business with you. Call your cook out here,” he cocked his pistol, Pepper fought the fear she was feeling, “or she gets it.”
“Hop Sing!” Adam called out. In a matter of seconds Hop Sing came out only to find Michael waving his gun at him.
“Upstairs, move it. Here,” he took Pepper’s arm, “I’ll take her up there with the cook.” Pepper started to move as if she meant to fight only to hear Adam bark, “Don’t fight him, Pepper, please. Just go up with Hop Sing and be quiet.” His voice was harsh, but his eyes pled with her to please listen. Pepper had never felt so much torment in her life as she fought the tears that wanted to come, but did as he husband asked.
Once Michael had Hop Sing and Pepper upstairs, Adam lowered his voice and asked, “Who’s all out there?”
Thomas answered back in just as low of a tone, “As long as Peter hasn’t pulled in anyone but Mr. Moore, it’s just Peter, Mr. Moore and James is up in the barn. Do you have the extra…” he started to ask only to hear footsteps approaching and hurried to over behind Adam, just in case.
“Thought they weren’t supposed to move for five minutes.” Adam whispered.
“They’re not, but Mr. Tyler was pretty antsy when we got here.” Thomas answered, “I…” before he could answer the door opened and sure enough Tyler and Peter were standing in the doorway.
From where he was watching, James about had heart failure as he saw Peter and Tyler move too soon. He could also see Ben and the others coming. He swore, the two men’s early movement was going to rob Ben and the boys of the time they needed. He had no choice but to fly down the ladder and towards the kitchen door, which Hop Sing had started to open until Adam called for just prayed he’d be in time.
By the time he ran into the dining room, Thomas was pushing Adam’s chair down as Peter went to shoot him. That tipped him and Tyler off that they’d been set up, “You son of…” Peter went to shoot Thomas only to find James’ bullet entering his back, Tyler turned and shot James then fled out of the house. The firing got Michael flying out of the bedroom, down the stairs and out the door when Thomas yelled, “Go after him!”
He looked over at James, the man had managed to roll onto his side; he smiled at his longtime acquaintance, “Told you I wasn’t going to get out of this business alive, make sure Tyler is caught. Too many have died because of him.” The man then lay down and died.
Pepper, and Hop Sing, both confused, started hurrying down the steps as they saw Thomas kneeling over an unconscious Adam; he’d hit his head on the desk as he fell out of his chair. “What did you …” before she could say another word Ben rushed in, saw the two dead men then about had heart failure as he saw Adam on the floor.
“I had to push his wheelchair down,” Thomas quickly explained what had happened.
“Pa,” Pepper was furious, she knew something had happened, but what was the question, “what’s going on?” She hated being kept in the dark.
Ben hurried to help Thomas move Adam into his bedroom, “I’ll explain as soon as we get Adam into bed,” when Candy appeared in the doorway, he too about had a heart attack, “Go get Dr. Martin!” Ben barked. Candy did as he was told.
While Ben was moving Adam, and Candy was going for the doctor, Michael and Hoss had cornered Tyler, who wasn’t going to give up without a fight, “Who the blazes are you?” he yelled as he hid behind a tree and fired at the two men who were behind a huge boulder.
“I gave you the only name I’m giving you.” Michael hollered as he took a shot at the man he, and others like him, had been hunting for a good two years.
“Keep him busy,” Hoss whispered as he slipped away. Fortunely for him, Tyler did not see him leave.
“You’re a sheriff, ain’t ya?” Tyler took another shot and came close to hitting his mark.
Michael knew he had to keep the man talking, give Hoss enough time to get in a position to stop the man from escaping, “I’m on the law’s side!”
Tyler was furious. “Thomas and James, they’re lawmen too aren’t they?”
Again, Michael took another shot, this time he hit Tyler in the left arm. The man cursed as Michael shouted back, “They’re on the right side!”
What kind of answers were these? Law’s side, right side. If the men weren’t sheriffs, maybe they were marshals or… his eyes widened as his own words from a couple years ago came back to him. ‘No one can get me, even a Pinkerton couldn’t find me’ The shock the realization that Peter’s ‘best friend’ was really an agent with the Pinkerton’s made Tyler insane with fury. He came into full view and took a shot at Michael, his bullet missed its mark but Hoss’ did not. Tyler stiffened and fell down dead.
Hoss hurried over to where Michael was now standing. “Let’s get back to the house.” Michael didn’t argue as he and Hoss quickly mounted their horses and headed back.
Pepper sat on the side of the bed looking down at Adam. She had cried until she had no more tears, then some. “Ye got ta wake up, Adam. I, none of us can go through this agin. I’m sorry ’bout bein’ upset with ye. Ye gotta unde’stand; I is not the kind to sit in the dark well. Told that to yer pa too, told him, ‘Aye, I’d have been a wee bit upset, but I’d have handled it fine.” She laid her head upon his chest, “ye got ta wake up, man. I’m a carryin’ yer child. I know what some cruel folks will say, but I ain’t been nothin’ but faithful to ye, so I know the child’s yer’s. Tain’t my fault if some folks refuse to stop and take the time ta think. Ye have to live, Adam. Ye may be a thick headed Englishman, but yer my wild Irish Rose. Come on, if I’m yers, then you can be mine, right?” The last sentence was barely above a whisper.
Ben, who had just stepped into the room, caught his breath as he heard his daughter in law’s last words. “He’ll be okay.” When she said nothing he sat down and looked upon his son, “Guess we should have told you he knew Michael and Thomas, and we should have told you about the night visit we were paid and the information we received. He was afraid something would go wrong though, and figured it would be best if Hop Sing and you didn’t know the truth.”
Pepper looked up and saw the look of torment in Ben’s eyes. Somehow, she knew what he wanted, but dared not voice. She stood up, “You can have time with him. I’ll leave.” Ben started to protest, as she was his wife, but she only held up her hand and walked out. He moved to his son’s side.
“Adam,” he took a hold of his son’s hand, “lf you can hear me, listen to me. Please, don’t go yet. I know things have been rough for you in that wheelchair, not being able to do everything you did before, but you have a wife, unborn child, brothers, friends and,” he choked up, “a father who still needs you. As much as I’d like to see the day come you walk again, I’ll accept what is and just be grateful you’re still alive. Please come back to us.”
Just as Ben was finishing talking, Little Joe stepped into the room. “Rosa wants to see you, pa.” He spoke quietly, his own eyes showing he’d been crying himself. Ben held onto Adam’s hand for a few seconds longer, then slowly rose to his feet and left. Little Joe took his place.
Little Joe could hear the crickets begin to sing outside, evening was starting to make its appearance, “As much as I enjoy the crickets singing, Adam,” Little Joe laid his hand on his brother’s shoulder, “I would enjoy your guitar picking a whole lot more. Please, come back to us.”
Candy stood in the doorway watching the scene. He hated to be the one to disturb it, finally he did just that, “Your needed outside. Don’t ask me what for, your pa just sent me in to get you. I’ll sit with him until one of you come in to relieve me.”
Like Ben, Little Joe took his time in leaving his brother’s side, almost afraid it would be the last time he saw the man alive. Once he was gone, Candy sat down. For a few moments he said nothing then, when Adam stirred just a tiny bit, Candy just had to try, “Adam, please, wake up. This isn’t acceptable. I don’t care what people say, I didn’t come here to take your place. No one can do that; your shoes are too big to fill. You have to come back.”
Hoss stepped into the room and stood at the foot of the bed, “I’d listen to him if’n I was you, Adam. Yer a hard act to follow; I should know. Oh, I’m not jealous of you,” he paused then chuckled, “well not now, I ain’t. I used to be, when I was just startin’ to notice the gals, and they’d be trippin’ all over their own two feet to get ta ya, and me? Yeah, right. They’d jist keep on a goin’, like I twern’t there. But, it don’t matter none now, really. I had a good woman for a while, maybe I will again someday, maybe not. Don’t really matter none, jist long as yer here with us.”
Again things fell quiet as the two men looked down; Adam just had to be all right. Did he know how much he was needed? If he did, would it be enough to pull him back from wherever he’d been for the past three days?
Their heads shot up when a voice, they’d almost come to believe they’d never hear again, said, “Doesn’t anyone around here know how to let a man sleep in peace?”
Adam made his way outside; sure enough his seven year old daughter Clara Elizabeth was standing in the front yard staring at the scenery before her. Her eyes were still wet from crying. As soon as she realized her father was next to her, she wiped her eyes and tried to act as if nothing was wrong; he knew better.
“Come here, Clara,” he held out his arms as his young daughter climbed up on his lap, and continued talking as she laid her head against his shoulder, “Miss your mother?” He knew it was a stupid question, but he asked it anyway.
“Huh huh,” Clara started sobbing, “Why did she have to go to heaven? Why couldn’t she stay here with us? I need her and you do too.” She didn’t understand why her mother couldn’t stay with them, where she belonged.
Adam sighed as he held his daughter with one arm and rubbed the arm of his wheelchair with the other one. Nine years, not long compared to most people, a lot of years compared to his father’s luck. “Your mother was a good woman, Clara,” he looked at his daughter, who looked so much like her mother it was almost scary, “she was a strong one too. She gave me the strength to accept what I didn’t want to, the strength to make something of my life even though I could no longer walk. The most important thing she reminded me of was how important it is to look on the sunny side of life, even when those of us are being cruel or unkind. But, sooner or later God calls us all home, some sooner than others, but we all get called home.” His heart broke once more as he said the words, but he knew he had to go on, if not for his own sake, for the sake of his daughter.
Clara pulled back and looked at her father, “When you say mean things, you mean like Mr. Mitchell refusing to put in a ramp at the store for you even though Grandpa Cartwright offered to pay for it, or the Jensen’s refusing to put in a wider doorway at the social hall even though you offered to pay for it, mean things like that?”
Adam nodded, “Too many folks say they have compassion for others problems, but they really don’t, not when it comes right down to it. Oh, they may feel bad to a degree, but not enough to go out of their way to make a difference. Your mother wasn’t like that though. She fought for me more than once, okay, most of the time I found out afterwards, but she did it.”
Clara put her head back on her father’s shoulder, “Want to know what I miss the most about her?” she asked the question as she stared up at the stars that had begun to appear in the night sky.
Adam smiled and asked, even though he figured he pretty well knew, “What?”
“Her stories and her cookies,” Clara replied softly, “she’d bake cookies and we’d eat them while she read me bedtime stories.” The young child started crying again; it had been six months since her mother had fallen ill and passed away, but she was missing her tremendously, “when does it stop hurting?”
Adam closed his eyes, his own pain still strong, slowly he answered, “Your grandfather says it takes time, that the pain never really goes away, but it becomes more bearable, and not so bad as time goes by.” His head accepted what his father had told him; his heart wondered.
Clara pulled back, shocked to see tears flowing down her father’s face. He’d appeared so strong, and she even at her young age, she realized she’d gotten it into her head, somehow, her father was no longer grieving for her mother. “Oh, Pa,” she threw her arms around his neck, “you miss her too!”
Adam held onto his daughter tight, not fighting the tears that came. He felt her tears on his neck, and he replied, “Yes, Clara, I do. I miss her a great deal and, to some degree, I always will. She was my wild Irish rose. She’ll live forever in my heart.” A breeze softly blew by and, for a small moment, Adam could have sworn Pepper was standing next to him, and then she was gone.
A/N My apologies to anyone who knows how to put the Irish accent into the written word. I am doing my best to write according to the way it sounds to me, and I’ve been known to be wrong before.
Included memories from The Pressure Game within this story.
I do NOT own Bonanza or any of the original Cartwright characters. One of Little Joe’s memories is from The Toy Soldier (I am pretty sure it is anyway).
Other Stories by this Author
- His Choice (by Tauna Petit-Strawn)
- His Legacy (by Tauna Petit-Strawn)
- Marcy (by Tauna Petit-Strawn)
- Cassie (by Tauna Petit-Strawn)
- Mariah (by Tauna Petit-Strawn)