Summary: The first in a series of four stories, this one features Adam ensnared in a number of difficult situations as his brothers try to help by playing matchmaker for him. It doesn’t go well of course as romance should never be attempted by a team.
Rating = T Word count = 17,959
First Kiss Series:
First Kiss—Book One: Adam
Riding home, Adam Cartwright thought about all the things he could have done or should have done and didn’t. He could have simply tipped his had at that infuriating woman and walked away. He could have asked where her husband was and then made some scathing remark about her driving a husband away because he had seen that she wore no band on her ring finger. He could have said something sarcastically clever to make her stop talking and walk off in a huff. Thinking about that made him forget the letter in his pocket but didn’t satisfy his need to let off some steam or assuage the embarrassment he felt at what had happened. Instead, he still felt badly for it had not gone any of those ways at all.
Furious, frustrated, or hurt and perhaps all three, Adam wasn’t sure which it was, but he had definitely been in a foul mood as he finished reading a short letter as he stepped from the general store. He had been working all day and then remembered that he had promised his father he would get the mail too so he had to make that trip to town before he could return home for dinner. With all of that and the unpleasant encounter he had had, he knew he was going to be late for dinner which meant a scolding from Hop Sing that he would have to endure as well because being late was all his fault for forgetting to do this task until late afternoon. Preoccupied with the letter and his other concerns, he had stepped toward Sport without paying close attention and banged into a woman who was walking rapidly past the general store. He nearly knocked her to the ground but managed to get an arm around her to prevent that. When he helped her to stand steady, he released her but noticed that his hand had left a print on her cream colored dress. He moved to try to brush it away but found it was more than dust and made it worse with the attempt.
“Keep your hands off me, please.”
“I was only trying to help. I’m sorry for knocking into you.”
“As you should be.”
“I’ll pay for laundering your dress.”
“You most certainly will not. I will not accept anything from you. I would prefer not to have anything more to do with you, thank you.”
“Listen, I was only trying to say I was sorry and show that I meant it. You don’t have to be prissy.”
“Is that what you do? Bang into a woman so you can grab her, and then you try to engage her in conversation with pithy insults?”
His temper rising especially because it had been on edge already, Adam was having a difficult time being civil to the woman. “I am not in the habit of banging into women.”
“I certainly hope not. Your wife would be mortified.”
“I’m not married.”
“I’m not surprised.”
“I don’t have to guess at your marital status. No man could abide that sharp tongue for long.”
Not bothering to respond to that insult, she glared at Adam for a moment longer. “Could you step aside so I could leave, please?”
The ‘please’ had been exaggerated and mocking. Adam had an inclination not to do it for this infuriating woman but instead tipped his hat and stepped to the side. He couldn’t stay silent though.
“Yes, your majesty. Anything my lady wishes is this poor servant’s command.”
That had made her pause and he had wondered if she was thinking of a retort or simply irritated that he had said something. Whatever it was, she continued on without acknowledging he had said anything. Being ignored as if he was beneath contempt was as irritating as being insulted. Being a gentleman although an angry one, he still managed to remember all that he had been taught about being respectful to women, had watched her go, tucked the letter that was still in his hand into his pocket, and mounted up on Sport to ride home.
After Adam got home and took care of Sport, he went into the washroom before going into the house. He guessed he was so dirty from clearing brush from a ravine that he was going to need to clean up to be presentable enough to enter Hop Sing’s kitchen anyway. What he saw after he lit the lantern and looked into the mirror in there gave him pause. He had gotten up a bit late that morning and hadn’t shaved. Working all day in the hot sun had left the dust caked all over him and had irritated his eyes which were reddish as a result. Looking at himself in the mirror, he thought about what the lady would have seen if she looked at him and guessed she probably thought he was a saddle tramp. It didn’t entirely excuse her rude behavior until he realized she may have been a bit frightened to be in the grasp or even the company of such a man and reacted accordingly trying to put him at arm’s length for her own safety. Much taller than her and probably quite intimidating with the scruffy look and dirty clothing and the pistol hanging at his side, he had a better understanding at this point of why she had acted the way she had. Her rudeness may have been the only way she had of defending herself, which she may have thought was necessary. In the mood he was in at the time, he might have scared members of his own family. He had acted rather boorishly under the circumstances and wished he could replay the whole thing. The letter had left him preoccupied with his own thoughts and frustration. His lack of empathy made him feel ashamed. All in all, it had been a fairly rotten day. It didn’t get any better as he passed through the kitchen getting a plate and a scolding from Hop Sing. He said he was sorry before continuing on and giving the mail to his father.
“I expected you a couple of hours ago. We were beginning to worry. Hoss and Joe were about to ride out to find you when we heard you ride in.”
“I’m sorry. I forgot to get the mail with the work I was doing and had to ride in late this afternoon, but I got it, and all’s well.” Adam was getting tired of making apologies when he was doing the best he could do.
“Are you finished with the ravine then?” Adam shook his head. “Then you can finish that tomorrow.”
“Will I get any help?”
“Hoss and Joe said they need another day to find the rest of the strays after they fixed that break in the fence.”
Looking over at his brothers, Adam could see the smiles almost breaking out. He knew they had another plan in mind and guessed it probably had to do with fishing considering where that fence break had been. He wasn’t in the mood though to make anyone else mad at him that day so he said nothing but accepted what his father had said. He knew they were shorthanded, but so did his brothers. If they were willing to let him shoulder the burden, he wasn’t about to spend the evening fighting about it. His brothers looked over at him with a bit of surprise at his acceptance of the work orders but otherwise did not respond. That was probably a lucky thing for them. Adam could not likely have maintained his façade of casual acceptance if they had done anything to irritate him. Instead, he finished his meal and went up to his bedroom early, read a little, and fell asleep. He dreamed a bit of a fiery woman in a cream colored dress. She had the most beautiful green eyes and pouty lips that begged to be kissed.
When he woke in the morning, he shaved knowing his father wouldn’t likely go two mornings without saying something about that. His brothers were up early too and seemed almost apologetic that he had to work so hard that day. They offered to help him the next day if he wasn’t finished. Their insincere concern for him almost made him lose his desire to be tolerant. Instead, he excused himself from breakfast and stomped away to the stable to saddle his horse and head out to another unpleasant day. He rather felt he deserved it after how he had treated the woman the day before because after a night sleeping on it, he had decided there was no doubt that he had acted poorly. It had been his fault after all and he had probably frightened her. He had decided too that perhaps it was no surprise to anyone that he was unmarried and alone at thirty-five. It had been a rough year and nothing indicated that things were likely to get any better soon. Working alone for a day chopping brush and throwing it on piles to be burned was as good a way as any for him to burn off his anger and frustration. He was as dirty or even dirtier than he had been the day before by the time he finished, but at least the job was done. All that he would have to do the next day was fire the stacks of brush and stay to be sure none of the fires got out of control. That he could manage by himself as well and thought it best that he work alone. He couldn’t upset anyone or disappoint anyone if he was alone. Lately it seemed to him that whenever he was with other people, things had a tendency to go wrong. As he thought that, he got a premonition that there was something more about to happen that he wasn’t going to like at all. He looked around but saw nothing amiss although on the entire ride back to the house, he had the same feeling.
Nothing happened that night, but when Adam arrived back at the house the next day equally dirty after firing all the brush piles all day, there was a carriage in the yard, and he correctly guessed they probably had guests for dinner. He groaned inwardly for it meant a cold bath. Hop Sing would be too busy and the kitchen too engaged for him to have a hot bath, which he very much needed. However he was also a bit late again having had to make sure that all the embers were watered down thoroughly in each of the fires he had started. At least he could report that the job was well and truly done. Hoss and Joe met him at the stable and neither could hold back their grins at his appearance.
“Hey, Adam, you look a little bit like a raccoon with those dark rings around your eyes.”
“Dadburnit, older brother, I almost took you for old Nathan down at the blacksmith shop, and he’s got skin the color of old leather. You are a sight.”
“I’ve been working. Now if you two could help, fine, otherwise get the hell out of here.”
“Hey, don’t bite our heads off. Pa sent us to give you a hand. I’ll take care of your horse.”
“Ya, whadya want me ta do, Adam. I cain’t git ya a hot bath, but I kin fetch some extra water fer ya and sum clean clothes ifn ya want ’em.”
“Yeah, do you think I might need clean clothes?” Hoss frowned. Adam relented. “Sorry. It’s been a long couple of days. Yes, thank you, both. That would be great.”
Later in the washroom, as Adam finished shaving for the second time that day, his brothers brought his boots back in having brushed them and polished them up a bit. He asked about their guests, and Joe enthusiastically filled him in.
“It’s Franklin Carter and his daughter Anita. He’s the new investor in silver mines who bought up that big Martin mansion on the edge of town. He’s planning on having it fixed up. Pa invited them to stay here until it’s ready. They met up in town yesterday, and today, here they are. She’s small but real pretty with green eyes and brown hair.”
“Yeah, and she shur is friendly. She was talking up a storm with me and Joe ’til Pa said we had to go help you. Now ifn you don’t mind too much, we’ll head back in. You take all the time you need.”
Pleased with his comment, Hoss grinned as he and Joe headed to the door. Both expected a smart retort from Adam but got nothing. It was another surprise from their older brother among quite a few he had been delivering lately. They had no idea the sinking feeling Adam had gotten as soon as Joe mentioned those green eyes and brown hair. Adam knew then why he had felt like something else was going to drop on him like a fifty-pound anvil. He took his time finishing with his preparations and then walked to the house with the pace and demeanor of a man going before a firing squad.
Franklin Madison Carter was effusive when he was introduced to Adam. “Yes, I’m the man with three last names. My family has had a romantic interest in history for so long and named children after our leaders as a tradition. I changed that with my daughter. I’ve also wanted to meet you. I’ve heard quite a lot about you. You have a lot of talent when it comes to engineering but choose to work on the family ranch instead.”
It was the kind of statement that normally made old resentments roil to the surface like lava breaking through the dome and rising rapidly up the cone of a volcano. However Adam was ill at ease with Anita staring at him. He wondered if she had told her father of their encounter. Of course if she had, she likely didn’t know his name, but now that she did, what she would tell was an entirely different scenario.
“Yes, my family needs my help here.”
“If you have any extra time, perhaps this winter, I would certainly like to hear about your ideas of how to be more efficient in the extraction of ore from the mines here.”
“I’ve actually been more involved in making the mines safer.”
“To me, that’s one and the same. If a mine collapses, it costs money in downtime and in reopening the shafts and tunnels not to mention the equipment lost.”
“And the men hurt or killed.”
“I was getting to that. If the mines are not safe, you do not get the best miners. The way to attract the best workers is by offering a competitive wage and decent working conditions. The best workers and mines that do not shut down make for an efficient operation.”
Adam had to smile. If Franklin meant everything he said, they were certainly compatible. However his daughter might object to him working with her father after the first impression he had made with her. That remained to be seen. At some point, he was going to have to apologize but preferred that it not happen in front of either of their fathers. He didn’t want his father to know how boorishly he had acted either. Any further conversation or thinking about such things was cut off by Hop Sing’s announcement that dinner was ready to be served. As they arrived at the table set with the best china service and silver, Anita didn’t look at Adam but the comment still sailed his way and found its mark.
“And I thought perhaps we would be sitting at a Round Table.”
“Nah, Miss Anita, we ain’t got room enough here for a round table. Although it would make it a mite easier to see each another at dinner when there’s more than four of us at the table.”
Relieved that Hoss had jumped in and deflected the conversation away from him, Adam said nothing and stayed fairly quiet through dinner letting Hoss and Joe do their best to impress Anita. By the end of dinner, Hoss was fuming quietly though because Joe had managed to invite Anita on a tour of the Ponderosa the next day. Their father had endorsed the idea although he had looked at Adam as if wondering why his oldest son was saying nothing. After dinner, Hoss tried to engage Anita in conversation, but Joe was faster with the quips and comebacks to her fast paced conversational style. Adam sat in the blue chair quietly sipping a brandy while his brothers did their best to impress the lady. He hoped they would keep her occupied for the whole evening so that she couldn’t turn her attention to him. That much worked especially when Joe asked if she wanted to take a stroll outside before turning in for the night.
“It’s been a very warm day. I thought you might like a stroll in the cool evening air before you head to your room. I’d be more than willing to escort you on a walk.”
“That would be very gentlemanly of you, Joe. Thank you.”
The look at Adam when she said gentlemanly was as close to a barb as she had gotten since the Round Table comment. He counted himself lucky so far, and hoped that in fact, she would go to her room when she and Joe returned from their walk. Ben and Franklin were engaged in what seemed to be a serious conversation at Ben’s desk so Hoss was free to talk once Joe left the house with Anita.
“How come you ain’t saying nothing?”
“Why would that matter to you, and wouldn’t that make things even more difficult for you with Anita?”
“Well, I figure with a gal like that, I probably won’t be in the winners’ circle, but I wouldn’t feel so bad losing her to you. Losing her to little brother is a lot harder for me to take. It’s always easier to lose to your older brother than to your younger one.”
“It’s not a competition, Hoss. Whomever she likes best is the one she’ll choose to be with. Right now, that appears to be Joe.”
“It’s funny though ’cause I thought she was the kind of gal you’d like, and you act like you couldn’t care less about her. Course you act that way ’bout a lot of things lately.”
Adam said nothing in response because Hoss was correct in his assessment, and he didn’t want to discuss either of those points. At the desk, Franklin was discussing something similar with Ben though.
“I would have thought Adam and Anita might have been a more natural pairing than Anita with Joe, but Adam seems to have little interest. They do have quite a bit in common from what I understand.”
Ben nodded but had that resigned look. “Adam has had a difficult year. I don’t know how much you know about him, but he was engaged to be married when his fiancée fell in love with someone else.”
“Oh, that is difficult.”
“It was much worse than that. He was hurt and in a wheelchair at the time he found out that she had been seeing his cousin. They were going to tell him until he fell and couldn’t walk. His back still bothers him at times. He made two friends too, or two men he thought could be friends, and both men turned out to be murderers. Both were shot to death. One was due to be hanged but escaped and Adam was the one who shot him. His identity was used by another man and when he tracked him down, he met a woman he liked very much, but she was in love with this other man who looked like him. It’s just been a rough year for him.”
“Yes, I see, and it does take a lot of energy to keep up with Anita. She has a rather sharp tongue when she gets upset. Oh, she can be sweet and wonderful too, but don’t cross her. Oh, no, that would not be a good idea.”
“Then it’s probably a good idea that she and Adam do not get together. He can be the same. There could certainly be fireworks if they both crossed each other then, couldn’t there? She is rather young for him too. He’s had a lot of experience in the world.”
“That’s true, but sometimes I think it will take a man of experience and maturity to tame Anita.” Franklin’s wry smile made Ben glad he had sons.
When Joe and Anita returned from a short walk, Joe had mixed feelings but put on a good show that stirred Hoss’ jealousy again. “Anita is going to the church picnic with me after church on Sunday too. I told her we could take a blanket and have our lunch under that tree out behind the church by that little creek that leads down to the lake.”
“Aw, Joe, I thought I could take her to the picnic. You get to take her on a tour of the Ponderosa tomorrow.”
Anita decided that diplomacy was necessary. “Hoss, perhaps you could drive me to town on Saturday. I would like to do some shopping, and from what I’ve heard, you know all the best restaurants. We could have lunch together perhaps?”
“Aw, Miss Anita, I would shur like ta do that. You got a date fer shur.”
With her next three days booked, Anita took her leave and said she needed to get some rest. She headed up to the guest room that had been assigned for her use. Everyone bid her good night. She made sure to make eye contact with Adam. She smiled at him to more or less let him know that all was well and that she wasn’t going to bring up the incident in town and hoped he wouldn’t do that either. After she retired, the others did the same one-by-one until only Ben and Adam remained.
“You seemed rather reserved this evening.”
“I’ve been working hard the last three days. I guess I’m tired.”
“Tired yet you’re here and everyone else has gone to bed.”
“I’m tired but not sleepy. I guess that could explain it.”
“Worried about something?”
“There’s nothing new. I’m still thinking about things.”
“Still considering leaving?”
“If I had a plan, I might. I won’t go just to go. Right now I feel like that ship without a rudder that you talk about sometimes. I feel like I’m blown about by the wind and have lost control of the direction I’m going.”
“Would some time away such as a trip to San Francisco help? It might take your mind off things that are bothering you.”
“I don’t think so unless I had some work to do. Otherwise it would feel like more drifting about with no place to go.”
“I know you’ve had some difficult things happen in this past year. Yet you seem even more upset these last couple of days than you did before. Has something happened that made things worse for you?”
“It’s more like something not happening. I’ll talk more when I’m not so tired. I guess I really do need to go to bed. I can’t seem to keep my thoughts in order.” With that, Adam escaped. Ben knew it for what it was. Something was bothering his son, but nothing could ever drag something like that from Adam until he was ready to divulge it. He would brood about it until he had worked on it like a dog on a bone until he had everything worked out of it that could be gotten from it as Hoss would say. Until then, Ben was prepared to see more of his oldest son in this quiet mode.
Upstairs as Anita reclined in the bed in the guest room, she thought about the evening. It had not been at all what she had expected. She had told her father that living with a set of cowboys was not what she had envisioned upon moving to Virginia City, which she considered backward enough compared to the cities in which she had lived. However she had found the air fresh and clear upon their arrival. The quiet and peace to be found so easily was a welcome pleasure too. And now these cowboys were not at all what she expected. They were educated, polite, and quite charming. The meal had been as good or better than she was used to eating, and the accommodations although not as modern as those in cities were quite comfortable. Her thoughts though turned to Adam. When she had encountered him in town, she had found him menacing and formidable. It had frightened her and made her lash out to get him to back away. He had been uncouth, but she knew now that her behavior had contributed to that. She wondered though what else had been at work because during the evening, he had been reserved and yes, even gentlemanly. He had not risen to the bait although she had tried twice to get him to respond to her. She did not want to bring up the incident in town because she didn’t want her father to hear how she had spoken to him. Her father didn’t approve of her manner with men when she talked like that so the less he knew about that, the better. As her thoughts returned to Adam, she thought that he also cleaned up remarkably well. Shaved, in that white shirt and jacket, and standing tall and straight or leaning against the back of a chair as he had done too, he was quite remarkable and impressive. He had an easy grace about him and moved smoothly and surely. She remembered though some of the men with whom her father did business, and some of the most corrupt and immoral among them could also be the most charming and disarming too. They had a way of knowing how to approach people in a way to gain their trust, and that was how they worked their schemes. Her father was good at discerning such men. She lacked the experience he had. She knew to be careful and cautious around Adam because he was smart enough to be one of those cunning, dangerous adversaries.
The next morning, Anita put on her robe and entered the hallway intending to seek out Hop Sing and ask for an extra towel so she could do something about all the dust that had gotten in her hair during the ride to the Ponderosa the day before. As she walked down the hall, Adam stepped from his bedroom fully dressed for the day. He paused when he saw her and waited for her to say something. When she didn’t, he politely asked if she needed something.
“Yes, I was hoping to find Hop Sing to see if I could have an extra towel.”
“I have extras in my room. I’ll get one for you.” In a moment, he was back and handed a towel to her. As she moved to take the towel from him, he didn’t release it immediately. “I am sorry for how I acted in town. It is not in my manner to act disrespectfully to women. I have no excuse. I can only hope that you will be gracious and accept my sincere regrets for causing you any anxiety.”
“Apology accepted, but it wasn’t necessary. You didn’t bother me at all. I can take care of myself quite well.”
“I’m sure you can. Thank you. Have a good day then. I hope you and Joe enjoy your tour of the Ponderosa.”
With that, Adam turned and left, but Anita was sure that he was holding back a smile. She wondered at that. After spending an entire day with Joe though, she had a fairly good idea why he had been doing that. She did everything she could to discourage the young man who seemed intent on developing a romantic relationship with her on the first excursion they had together. She found every neutral subject to discuss that she could imagine would cool his ardor. It wasn’t easy. He was quite cute and charming, but she had looked forward to a tour and had not been in the mood for a romantic escapade. By the time they returned in the late afternoon, she was exhausted and excused herself to go to her room for a nap before dinner.
In the stable taking care of the carriage horses and putting the carriage and harness away, Joe was frustrated which showed in every action he did because of the furious way he hung things up or slammed them in place. Hoss came in and watched for a while before he said anything. He was actually quite pleased to see how Joe was acting because it meant things had not gone well in the romance department for his younger brother.
“So, Joe, was spending the day with Anita as much fun as you thought it was gonna be?” Hoss had a big smirk so Joe knew he already knew the answer.
“You could help instead of just gloating over there, you know.”
“All right. What you want me to do?”
Hoss’ easy acceptance of the request was enough to soften Joe’s response. “I could use some help hanging up the harness and pushing the carriage inside.”
Once they got that done, they began brushing out the two horses who were busy drinking from the buckets of water and piles of hay Joe had given them. They worked quietly for a short time as Hoss gave Joe time to get his emotions under control so he could speak more calmly.
“Hoss, all she talked about all day was books, and travel, and going to the theatre, and stuff like that. As soon as we got to one pretty spot, she was ready to get back in the carriage and go on to the next one. I swear, it was like being on a picnic with Adam.”
Picturing that made Hoss start chuckling which got Joe giggling and soon the two of them were having a good laugh about it all.
“So, no kisses then?”
“I told you it was like being with Adam, didn’t I?”
The two began laughing again.
“Seriously, Hoss, I never even got my arm around her. She’s faster than greased lightning. I’d go to put my arm around her, and she wouldn’t be there any more. And boy, don’t say anything that she doesn’t like. That tongue of hers can stab you faster than a Mojave sidewinder.”
“So she really is a lot like Adam.”
That got them laughing again.
“What have I been saying to you?”
“Well, you know what this means, dontcha?”
“We gotta hook her up with Adam.”
“I don’t think that’s going to work. Didn’t you see how they were last night? They hardly said two words to each other the whole time. I think the most they said was when he said he was pleased to meet her and then said good night to her. There wasn’t anything in between that I remember.”
“Ya, that was right peculiar too. I mean she is kinda short, and she’s not the most beautiful, but she is kinda pretty with them green eyes. Some might say she’s a mite wide in the hips, but that ain’t never stopped Adam before. He seems to like ’em full figured, you might say. I wonder why he wasn’t interested in her. He kinda just left her to us.”
“Well, you’ve got her tomorrow for that trip to town. At least you’ll have other people around so it shouldn’t be too boring.”
“Maybe I’ll see if Adam wants to go instead of me.”
“Go instead of you to do what?” Adam walked into the stable leading Sport. He had been riding fence lines and doing some cattle counts. All in all, it had been a much more relaxing day than he had had for the previous three days. He felt better in general but didn’t like hearing what he thought Hoss was suggesting.
“I was thinking that maybe you would like to take Miss Anita to town tomorrow instead of me.”
“No, I don’t think that’s a good idea at all.”
“Well, Joe says she likes to talk about books, and theater stuff, and traveling around and such. That shur sounds like the kind of things you like to talk about. Why don’t you want to take her to town to do some shopping and have some lunch?”
“She specifically asked you to go.”
“Aw, she don’t really know me. She was only being polite.”
“Maybe so, but I don’t want to cross her.”
“I don’t know, Adam. What if she’s the one for you?”
“She’s too young. She’s about Joe’s age.”
“Well now, I didn’t think you was that kinda man. Joe, did you think he was that kinda man?”
Sinking down to sit on a crate, Joe shook his head but actually had no idea what Hoss meant. He was as curious as Adam who waited to see what Hoss would say next. Hoss said nothing though but dropped his head and wrung his hands theatrically while sighing. Adam played along because he wanted to know what Hoss would say next.
“So, what kind of man is that?”
“You know. Close-minded. Old fashioned. Downright prejudiced maybe. No wonder you didn’t make a good first impression on her last night, and she was drawn to me and Joe. She musta sensed that in you.”
“She didn’t make a first impression of me last night.”
That got Joe’s attention too. He sat up waiting to hear the rest of that story.
“When did you meet her before she got here?”
“I didn’t exactly meet her. I ran into her in town. I mean, I literally ran into her.”
“You mean like, blam, you smacked into her?” Joe was grinning as he pictured Adam doing that to the much shorter woman.
“Yes, Joe, more or less like that.”
“Well, now, don’t make us drag every bit outta you like picking quills out of a coon dogs nose after he tangles with a porcupine. Tell us the whole dadblamed story, would ya?”
“It was when I was getting the mail. I was reading a letter from Peggy and wasn’t paying attention when I stepped from the store. I walked right into her and nearly knocked her over. I grabbed her so she wouldn’t fall, but I ended up leaving a handprint on her dress. I tried to say I was sorry, but she has a sharp tongue. When she said a few things, I got a bit surly.”
“Yeah, I said things I should never have said and insulting her. I have apologized to her, but after she saw that side of me, I doubt she’s willing to be alone with me anywhere.”
Hoss was shocked because Adam simply never talked like that to a woman. “That ain’t like you. What got into you anyways?”
“Yeah, you better be on your best behavior when Peggy comes for a visit.”
“She’s not coming.”
“So that’s what’s been in your craw. You best tell us ’bout that too. I’m guessin’ that ninny she’s got for a ma done somethin’ bad again.”
“That’s what was in the letter. Laura has changed her mind about letting Peggy visit here this summer. She told Peggy it would only confuse her. Peggy wrote that she is sad that she can’t come.”
“Aw, that makes me sad too. I guess you were feeling pretty bad about that.” Joe was sympathetic. He had been looking forward to Peggy’s visit too.
“I was, but I was angry about the other thing Peggy wrote. They’re going to put her in a boarding school. Peggy said board school, but she said it was because Will wants Laura to travel with him when he takes business trips. Based on that, I know it’s a boarding school.”
“I bet Laura was worried that if she let Peggy visit, we’d offer to let her stay here instead of going to that boarding school. Wouldn’t we, Adam?” Joe looked hopeful.
“I think we would, and I think you’re right. Anyway, I was in a pretty foul mood as I walked out of that store and into Anita’s path. I was anything but a gentleman. I doubt very much that she would want to be anywhere with me.”
“Mebbe ifn you was to try to show her more of her good side, then mebbe she might think you was worth takin’ a chance on.”
“Hoss, give it up. It’s a lost cause. Now are you two done working in here? Pa wants to talk about the work for next week, and then it’s time for dinner.”
“We’re almost done, and then we’ll clean up and be right in.”
After Adam left, Joe and Hoss smiled conspiratorially. They nodded and shook hands.
“You talk him up on the trip to town tomorrow?”
“You betcha. You talk him up at the church picnic on Sunday?”
“You bet. I may try to do better than that. I got a plan. I think she’s going to see a whole new Adam Cartwright by the time Sunday’s done.”
“What you got in mind, Joe?”
“I’ll tell ya when I get all the details worked out in my head. I got until Sunday to do that. Heck, with all that time, the plan will be perfect by the time Sunday rolls around.”
Hoss gave him a big grin forgetting for the moment how some of Joe’s so-called perfect big plans had worked out in the past.
On Saturday morning, Hoss hitched the carriage up for a trip to town. He was dreading the day considering what Joe had told him about Anita’s preferred topics of conversation. However he was willing to endure it because when he got a chance to talk, he planned to talk about Adam and try to convince her that Adam was the one for her. He thought Adam wouldn’t mind talking about books and travel and the theatre. However once they got on the road, Anita asked him about some of the things that they saw and asked if there was a different route to town than the one they had taken to get to the ranch a few days earlier.
“There shur is, but it’s a mite longer than this one. It will take us probably at least a half hour longer to get to town, but it is a prettier ride. It’s up higher so you see the lake a lot more and then you see the town before we have to ride down and then back up again.”
“Why don’t we go that way and you can tell me all about the places we pass.”
So Hoss did that and they were nearly in town before he realized he hadn’t mentioned his brother Adam at all because he had been so involved in describing his beautiful Ponderosa to Anita.
“Hoss, you really love the land. I can tell by how you talk about it. It comes through in your descriptions and the stories you tell about things that have happened in some of those places. I had a wonderful time riding into town with you. However, I would like to spend some time at the dress shop and get a few things. Could we meet at a restaurant later?”
“We shur could. I like that new one right here. It only opened up a couple of months ago. It’s a family who runs it, and they shur know how to cook. I can park the carriage right here if ya want me to, and I’ll wait for you. The dress shop is right across the street there. I’ll walk ya over there.”
“Thank you. You are a fine gentleman.”
Basking in the praise, Hoss forgot again to mention Adam. Later at lunch as Anita asked questions about the town and the ranch praising him for his wonderful answers to her questions, he noticed people looking at him sitting with a pretty woman. He sat up straighter and smiled more doing his best to look like he belonged with her. The ride home was more of the same with the afternoon sun dropping a bit lower in the sky and more animals out and about. They saw deer and even a few coyotes as well as a number of birds and rabbits. Hoss identified all the animals for her and told her about the ones she wouldn’t see because it was daylight. They arrived back at the ranch in a wonderful mood. Hoss helped her from the carriage and carried her packages inside. Joe walked back with him to the stable to ask how things had gone.
“So does she have a better impression of Adam now?”
“I jest never had time to talk about Adam, Joe. She had so many questions and we talked about so many things, I couldn’t squeeze it in.”
“You? You talked about books and travel and the theatre?”
“Nah, we didn’t talk about none of those things. We talked about the animals and how we settled the land around here, and how we got so much of it. We talked some about the Paiutes and all sorts of stuff. We talked about how Virginia City grew up out of nothing almost overnight when the silver strike happened. It was a great day. I ain’t had so much fun in a long time.”
“But what about our plan?”
“Oh, yeah. Well, I guess you’re gonna have to take care of that. I plumb ran out of time ta do my part.”
Disgusted and shaking his head, Joe walked back to the house mumbling. “Why do I always have to take care of things like this all by myself?”
In town while Anita was in the dress shop, Hoss had been talking to men about the church picnic. He had found out about a number of contests they planned to run as fundraisers knowing how much the men of the area liked to gamble especially on sporting contests. As they had dessert after another of Hop Sing’s wonderful meals, he told them all that he had learned.
“There’s gonna be all sorts of things you can take a chance on. There’s gonna be three-legged races, fast draw contests, rifle shooting, and horseshoes. So it’s kinda something for everybody. From what I heard, I guess they’ll run ’em as often as they get enough to compete in ’em and pay the entry fees. The prize each time is gonna be half the entry fees so that’s a mighty fine prize to win, and the church gets a big chunk of money too each time. Everybody gets to have a lot of fun. They’re gonna raffle off box lunches too so the ladies can have some fun and raise some money for the church too.”
“What’s the entry fee?” Joe was excited about that news.
“A dollar for each event is what I heard. I figure on the horseshoes for me.”
Anita thought that it was good news too as she wouldn’t have to spend time fending off Joe’s advances if he was busy showing off for her, and she had no doubt he would be. “Joe, what events will you enter?”
“Only one for me will be the fast draw contest. I should win that a few times, and that means I’ll come out way ahead.”
Adam couldn’t resist. “Spoken like a true gambler.”
That got Anita’s attention though. “What will you do, Adam?”
“You can’t do any of those things?”
Almost against their will, Hoss and Joe had to snicker about that one.
“I can. I choose not to compete. I don’t often gamble.”
“Yeah, and when he does, sometimes he loses his rifle and his horse.”
Joe giggled then even as Hoss realized they were going the wrong way and tried to kick Joe under the table. He missed though, and Joe continued on telling the story of how Hoss and Adam bought a racehorse and how Joe had raced against them and won taking Adam’s rifle and the racehorse in the bargain. It was a funny story unless you were Adam. He didn’t like being humiliated then or having his humiliation being used against him to win points with a lady. When Joe finished telling the story, Adam excused himself saying he was tired and was going up to his room to read.
Disappointed by that, Anita turned to Ben. “Is he always that moody?” She had hoped to see some passion or fire in him. If someone had done to her what Joe had done to his brother, there would have been some fire.
“He has been lately. I’m sure it will pass.” Ben had an apologetic look.
Franklin was wondering about his daughter. Hoss and Joe were clearly interested in her or so he thought, but she seemed to be focused on Adam. It was perhaps that Adam was an enigma. Franklin couldn’t figure him out either. He would have thought that Adam would have found Anita at least interesting yet he seemed to avoid her if he could. There was something going on that he didn’t understand. In business when that happened, he dug into it until he knew what was happening. He planned to get to the bottom of this too.
For Anita, the mystery had deepened. Ben was a gentleman through and through. You could tell that he had done his best to instill that in his sons. Cute Joe was the charmer though with a romantic inclination and a lot of enthusiasm. Hoss was kind and open with a heart that was warm. Adam was fire and ice. She had seen some of the fire in town but now saw only ice. She wondered if there was more to him than that. He made her curious. Quite apparently Ben did not like how the conversation had developed at dinner.
“Boys, I would appreciate it if you could hold the brotherly teasing while our guests are here.”
Both Joe and Hoss readily agreed. Joe had a rather sickly look and Ben thought he already probably felt badly enough about making Adam excuse himself. He had no idea that Joe realized he had partially sabotaged his own plan. He was going to have to work extra hard on Sunday to turn that around. Except on Sunday, he was having so much fun showing off for Anita, he kind of forgot he was supposed to be bragging up Adam and convincing Adam to participate in the contests. When he wasn’t showing off for Anita, he was escorting her to the horseshoes competition where Hoss was doing very well and enjoying himself immensely.
It was the middle of the afternoon when Anita excused herself to use the necessary and Joe had to go to the next round of the quick draw contest that Anita even saw Adam. She was on her way to the necessary and saw Adam talking with a family sitting at a table. One of the children was severely handicapped and strapped into a wheelchair. The mother sat there with her other two children who were obviously dejected at not being able to participate in all the fun. Most likely their father was off participating in all the activities with the men. She heard the mother and Adam talking.
“I can’t impose on you like that, Mister Cartwright.”
“It’s Adam, Martha. We’ve known each other for at least ten years. Now those two scamps of yours are itching to have some fun, and I could use a chance to rest out of the sun. I’ll stay here with your son and you can take the other two to enjoy yourselves for a while. We’ll be fine here.”
The two children pleaded softly with their mother to accept Adam’s offer and smiled when she accepted. They jumped up and grabbed her hands anxious to lead her away. “We won’t be that long. I’ll be back in a half hour or so.”
“That would be fine. If it’s a bit longer, don’t worry.”
With an urgent need to use the necessary, Anita continued on. She had to wait in a short line for it to be available. When she returned, she looked over to see what Adam was doing. She was surprised to see that he had put his hat on the boy’s head and was spooning cake into him. He sat on the bench beside the boy with a napkin on his knee and patiently wiped the boy’s chin of drool and any food that escaped his mouth. Then he would feed him another bite. It was clear the boy was happy to have Adam doing that for him. He waved his arms about and smiled as well as he could. She heard him making noises as Adam talked to him but couldn’t understand any of it. Anita heard Joe calling for her and hurried on more perplexed than ever about Adam. She and Joe watched the three-legged race for a bit cheering on the participants. She saw the woman who had the handicapped son looking worried and anxious as her other two children were lined up ready to race but had to wait for their turn. Anita walked over to her and whispered to her.
“Martha, he’s fine. Adam put his hat on his head and was feeding him cake as I walked by. They seemed to be getting along just fine.”
“Oh, thank you. I was so worried. Adam is a good man, but Aaron can be difficult when I’m not there. I guess he likes Adam a lot then. I’ll go back when this race is over. Thank you for telling me. I can relax a little now.”
Later when they all got together to go back to the ranch, Anita mentioned to Adam that she had seen what he had done and she complimented him on it.
“Somebody had to do it. It was nothing.”
Seemingly embarrassed that she had noticed what he had done, Adam mounted up then and rode out ahead of them. Anita couldn’t reconcile some of what she saw in him with his gruff manner and the way he acted around her. As they rode back to the ranch in the carriage, she asked Joe about Adam and why he seemed so standoffish and unhappy.
“Well, he got a letter with some bad news in it.”
“He had a letter in his hand the first day I saw him. He was not in a good mood.”
“Yes, he told me and Hoss about that. He was real embarrassed about it.”
“What did he tell you?”
“He said he was a real, well, he said he wasn’t a gentleman. He was disrespectful. Now that isn’t Adam at all. More than once he’s lectured me about being respectful to women. He was pretty upset though and he acted pretty badly from what he said. He’s real sorry about it. He said he apologized.”
“He did.” She paused then but her curiosity won out over her good judgment that said she was prying. “Why was the letter so upsetting to him?”
“Oh, he thought Peggy was coming for a visit soon, but instead he found out she’s never coming at all. That really hurt him. He thought they were going to be a family once, and now he won’t probably ever even see her again.”
“So she broke his heart.”
“Well, Laura did. But it’s really Peggy he misses.”
Frowning, Anita tried to make sense of that. “He was in love with two women. He loved Laura too?”
“Geez, I forget that you don’t know about things like that. No, you see, Peggy is Laura’s daughter. Adam was engaged to marry Laura, except what he didn’t know was that while he was engaged to marry her, Laura started seeing his cousin Will.”
“Isn’t he your cousin Will too?”
“Yes, I guess so, but after what he did to Adam, I don’t like to think of him as a cousin. He had an affair with Adam’s fiancée. It’s not exactly what a relative ought to be doing. Well they were going to tell Adam, but he fell from the house he was building for her and couldn’t move his legs. She was going to stay with him because of that, but he found out about their affair and told her to go with Will.”
“I would have kicked both of them out too.”
“He wished them well. I think he was just as happy to be rid of Laura at that point, but he and Peggy had gotten very close. Peggy didn’t want Laura to marry Will. One thing Laura promised Peggy was that she could visit Adam. The first visit was supposed to be this summer, but she kept putting it off. Now she says it won’t ever happen.”
“That’s the letter Adam got a few days ago.”
“Yes, that’s the one. Peggy says they’re going to send her to a boarding school too. I think that’s why they won’t let her visit. Adam would probably offer to let her live here instead, and Laura would not want that even if it was best for Peggy.”
“That poor little girl.”
“That’s probably what’s been on Adam’s mind a lot these last few days too.”
Seeing Anita looking so concerned for Adam made Joe feel better about the day. He had intended to get Adam into the quick draw contest or the rifle contest to show off his skills. Instead, he had gotten so wrapped up in the competition and winning that he forgot all about that part of the plan until he couldn’t even find Adam and wondered where he had gone. He hadn’t seen him again until Hoss was competing in the three-legged race. There Adam had been in the crowd with their father, and then it was time to head for home. When Joe and Anita arrived back at the ranch in the carriage, Adam was already done taking care of Sport and was walking to the house. Anita took advantage of the moment to talk to him.
“What you did with that little boy was sweet of you no matter what you say, and now I know you must want to do things like that because you miss little Peggy so much. I don’t blame you for being in such a foul mood after what her mother did to you. You’re a true knight, Sir Adam or perhaps Sir Galahad.”
Stopping and staring at her, Adam couldn’t believe his family had confided so much of his private life to a virtual stranger. He exploded.
“I am no knight, and you are no lady to pry into my private life. You don’t have to deign to bestow pity on me. I’m not your subject.”
Instead of going into the house then, Adam stormed off.
“I should have called you Mordred.”
It was all she could say before he disappeared around the corner of the house. Anita would have followed him except the others were there and asked what had happened. She told them. Ben asked what she had learned about Peggy, and she repeated what Joe had told her.
“My son is a very private person. He had not told me that news about Peggy, which must be very upsetting to him. That must be why he has been so moody since he got the mail last week. I guessed there was something there but didn’t know what it was.” Ben gave a glare to his younger sons. “It seems that Anita expressed her condolences to Adam about Peggy not coming for a visit and about his failed engagement to Laura. He was, shall we say, less than pleased to find that a brother had confided in Anita some things that he had yet to tell his father.”
Pursing his lips, Joe looked at the ground as Hoss looked at him because he knew he hadn’t broken Adam’s confidence. “Aw, Joe, you shouldna oughta not done that. You knew how upset he was about it and how I had to practically force it outta him.”
“I know, but Anita was worried about him, and she seemed to care, so I thought she would understand better if she knew why he was acting the way he was.”
Adam walked back then. “I don’t have to guess why you all stopped talking. I’m heading out. I’ll start riding fence lines in the high pastures tomorrow. I’ll be back by the end of the week.”
“Son, the sun will set in a few hours. You won’t get far today.”
They followed him into the house. A short time later, Adam was back downstairs with his saddlebags packed. He headed to the kitchen to get provisions. They didn’t see him again. At the dinner table, things were quiet for a while.
It was Joe’s turn to make an apology. “I’m sorry I made such a mess of things. All I really wanted to do was to have Anita like Adam more. I didn’t mean to get Adam so upset.”
“I’m the one who ought to apologize. I shouldn’t have pried.” Then Anita thought about what Joe had said. “Why was it so important that I like Adam more?”
“Well, it seemed the two of you are a lot alike, and after what happened in town between the two of you, we thought we could help make things better between you two.”
Suddenly Franklin was very interested in the conversation and Anita wanted to kick Joe but her legs weren’t long enough to reach him under the table. Hoss’ were though and he didn’t miss this time. Joe yelped in pain so that made Ben much more curious about what had happened in town. So Anita was forced into telling the story. She sugarcoated it as much as she could but couldn’t lie either so neither she nor Adam came out looking good after that encounter.
“I thought I taught my son to treat women better than that.”
“See, Pa, that’s why I told Anita about the letter. That’s what had Adam not acting like himself. It all makes sense now, doesn’t it?”
Ben’s lowered eyebrows said it wasn’t all right. He apologized to Anita for his son. She said he had already apologized quite well. Ben was somewhat mollified by that. Franklin asked if she had apologized to Adam for her remarks and got a shrug in response. He was not happy. He wondered how she would ever marry. Here on the Ponderosa were three very eligible men and she had managed to alienate all three or at least convince them that they didn’t want to be married to her.
“Perhaps, Ben, under these trying circumstances, we should find other accommodations until our house is ready. I’m afraid we have caused turmoil in your family.”
“Franklin, it is up to you. You are welcome to continue your stay here.”
When Adam returned on Friday, the house was quiet as the guests were gone and Ben and his brothers had helped them move their things to town that day. He didn’t know what to do. He had dreamed of the infuriating woman with the brown hair and green eyes for five nights. She had invaded his thoughts during the day too. He owed her an apology again, but he wondered if she even would consent to see him. Of course, at least now, she owed him an apology too or at least he thought so. After pouring a brandy, he sat in the blue chair drinking it as he waited for his family to return.
Sir Galahad is Sir Lancelot’s son and is pure and gallant. He was successful in the quest for the Holy Grail.
Mordred was King Arthur’s illegitimate son and was evil. He usurped the throne and was killed by his father whom he also killed.
When Ben walked in the door, he greeted Adam warmly, but Hoss and Joe were less welcoming. Adam had a good understanding of why that might be. He apologized again.
“I’m sorry my behavior has deprived you of the company of a new friend. I will go to town tomorrow and eat some crow. I know I was out of line in what I said and how I acted. I’ve had five days to think about things, and I know I’ve been out of line a lot. I don’t know how to stop myself sometimes. It all seems to come rushing out.”
Understanding the situation perhaps better than Hoss or their father, Joe stepped forward. “You may not like hearing what I have to say, but I have to say it. You’re letting your feelings run your life. I know all about that. You’re wallowing in the hurt you’ve felt. Let met tell you that the only way out of it is to laugh, have fun, do things with people, and stop hiding away from life. Of course we talk about you. I’m sorry that I talked to Anita and I apologize for not respecting your privacy on that, but she was concerned about you too. We’re worried about you, and I guess I let that affect my judgment. All we were doing was trying to help. Somebody has to do something. You’re not doing anything to help yourself. So you can get mad at me if you want, but I had to say this.”
“I’m not going to get mad, Joe.”
“You’re not?” It seemed Joe’s voice had gone up an octave. It wasn’t easy to challenge Adam even if he was sitting down and looking calm. Joe knew how easily that could change, and if Adam stood and started advancing on him, he wasn’t exactly sure what he was going to do. However Adam sounded so calm. “You’re not?” He worked at getting his voice to sound normal again.
“No, because you’re right. I’ve been a jackass, and I think you all know it.”
“So you’re going to try it my way?”
“We’ll see, but I do know I have to make a change. Going along like I have isn’t working now, is it?”
“No, no, it sure isn’t.” Slowly Joe was getting his nerves back under control. “That’s right, Pa, isn’t it.”
Relieved at how well that had gone because he had expected something quite different, Ben agreed. Then in order to relieve some of the tension in the room asked how the five days of riding the fence lines had gone.
“Not bad except up on the northwest plateau, we’ve had some rock slides. We’ll need to send a crew up there to clear them or we won’t be able to move the herd well when we get to roundup. They’re fine for now but the easiest pass through to the lower pastures is blocked twice.”
“Roundup is coming up soon. We need to get a crew up there soon.”
“I thought as long as the weather is so good, I might head back tomorrow. We can have it done in a week or even five days if all goes well. I know we’re short-handed but it’s work that has to be done.”
Putting together what Joe had said with what he had planned for the next day, Hoss had an idea. “Adam, you’ve been gone for five days. It don’t seem fair for you to have to be gone again. I’d be willing to go except I got an outing with the children from the orphanage tomorrow.” Ben began waving his arms and mouthing ‘No’ as he stood a couple of yards behind where Adam sat. Hoss ignored him. He liked his plan and was going to do it. “I said I’d take a wagonload of ’em down to my favorite fishing pond and we could have a picnic, do some fishing, and maybe skip some rocks and such. Now ifn you was willing to do that, I’d be free to take over clearing out those rocks.”
“Is there a catch there somewhere that I’m missing?”
“Nope, older brother, I’m just trying to do you a favor. It’s one day of having to watch over probably ten or twelve boys from the orphanage. Well maybe there’ll be some gals along too. I rightly never did ask ’em who was gonna be going. They said it was gonna be the ones old enough to take care of themselves, but I could show ’em how to do things and make sure they stayed safe.”
“That sounds fair. All right, Hoss. It’s a deal. Thank you. What time do I have to be there?”
“I was supposed to be there with a wagon by ten. Hop Sing is making up a basket of sandwiches for me to take along. Then you’re supposed to have them back around four or five.”
“That’s doable.” Then to try to mend fences at home a bit, Adam asked them what they had been doing all week. They spent the evening talking about the activities including things that had happened with Anita and with Franklin. They enjoyed telling Adam about Hoss trying to teach Franklin to shoot the Sharps rifle and how he ended up on his backside not aware the gun had such a kick. Joe had given Anita a few riding lessons too in how to ride with a western saddle and astride wearing a riding skirt.
“It sounds like you had fun.”
Adam had smiled then and got the same in return. Peace had been made at home.
That night when Hoss was packing up saddlebags with what he would need, his father stepped into his room.
“You thought that was wise?”
“Pa, he was gonna go see her anyways.”
“Yes, but she’s probably still angry with him for how he talked to her, and he’s feeling bad about that and wants to apologize. It is hardly something for him to accomplish with ten or twelve children around. I don’t want there to be a scene in front of those children.”
“Pa, I think we can trust the both of them to do what’s best for the children. Maybe having a day together helping others is what they need to see the best in each other.”
“I hope so. I’m going to have a difficult time waiting for him to come home tomorrow.”
“Pa, it’s only an outing with some children, and Anita will be there to help. It ain’t gonna be that bad even if things don’t work out that well. It’s only one day.”
“Hoss, he’s been thinking about leaving again. It could go either way. I don’t want anything to tip the scales.”
“Lordy, I didn’t know that.”
“Yes, he shares some things with you, some things with me, and some things he keeps to himself.”
“Yeah, sometimes I wish I could read that journal he writes in. I’d like to know what he says to himself.”
If Hoss could have read it the next night, he would likely have been confused. Although Adam had a good time with the children from the moment he greeted them until he had to say goodbye when he delivered them back to the orphanage at five, in between, he had some exchanges with Anita that were less than pleasing to him. He had been surprised to see a carriage at the orphanage when he arrived with the wagon, and then he was first shocked and then angry to realize how he had been set up. He hid it well, but he knew that Hoss had maneuvered him into the situation, and he didn’t know if Anita had been part of the plot. He didn’t like the manipulation at all. If his brother had been honest with him, he might have refused but thought he should have at least been given that option. His first foray into apologizing didn’t go well either. Perhaps she sensed the underlying hostility under his words.
“Once again, my lady, I must apologize. I am sorry for my rude and inappropriate comments on Sunday.”
“You don’t have to keep referring to me as if I am some member of royalty.”
“But you are, aren’t you? Soon you shall be living in the largest and finest mansion in all of the realm. Your father is the wealthiest man here.”
“You’re not jealous of that, are you? I mean, your family has an empire here already.”
“We have a large ranch we have to work. It is hardly an empire.”
“I think others here might disagree, but it doesn’t matter, does it? We’re here to help the children have a good outing today. We don’t need a Sir Nimbus leading the way. Could you at least try to smile for the children?”
As Anita turned to the children seated on benches in the back of the wagon, Adam seethed but managed to keep his temper from exploding. Once more she had acted as the adult telling him what to do. It was highly irritating, and calling him Sir Nimbus was doubly irritating. Then he realized she had not actually accepted his apology either so he was going to have to do that again as well. He breathed deeply and as slowly as he could. At least it turned out that she had a beautiful singing voice. He was reminded of a line from Tennyson. In a break in the singing, he quoted the verse.
Hears her ever chanting cheerly,
Like an angel, singing clearly,
At least it made Anita smile although she had a question. “I hope you’re not wishing on me the same fate as the fairy, Lady of Shalott.” Adam was quiet. “Or perhaps you think that I live with little joy or fear and She hath no loyal knight and true. That part is truly sad too and hits rather close to home.”
“I didn’t mean to make you sad.”
“Then perhaps you could take a turn at leading the children in song. I’m afraid I don’t know any that they seem to know.”
Turning back to the children briefly, Adam asked a question. “Do you all know Sweet Betsy From Pike?”
The children cheered for that one and Adam told them he would have to face forward but that they would likely hear him anyway and that they should join in. They did and it was a rousing rendition. As Anita listened and watched, she remembered another verse from the poem.
His broad clear brow in sunlight glow’d;
On burnish’d hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flow’d
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
The children begged Adam for another turn with the same song and he obliged them. By the time they finished singing, they reached the fishing spot and the children helped unload the wagon. There wasn’t much to unload. A few blankets, the picnic basket, and a box of plates, cups, and utensils, and of course, a stash of fishing poles, string, and a can of worms. Adam had a box of hooks up front with him and soon was tying them on lines for the children and helping them bait hooks. Anita took charge of the blankets and baskets setting up a lunch area under a large tree. She watched from the shade as Adam helped first one and then another toss out a line. There were calls to him for the next couple of hours to bait hooks, help pull fish from lines, and help some catch a fish. Finally it was time that Anita thought they had been in the sun long enough and should take a break to have lunch. They looked to Adam who said they had to obey the queen. He saw the flash of anger in those eyes directed at him, but she remained pleasant even when the children asked if they could have fish for lunch.
“I’m sorry. I don’t have any fry pan or any pot to cook the fish.”
“I could cook them on sticks by a campfire if you can wait to eat long enough, and I’ll need some help.”
The children were more than willing to help gathering the firewood, stones, and green sticks Adam requested as he quickly cleaned the fish to prepare them for roasting. Anita didn’t like the idea, but it was too late to stop it. She thought it was a waste of food to let the sandwiches go uneaten. It was another hour before they had their lunch and all the children pronounced the meal the best they had ever had. They did a little more fishing before they left and had fish to bring back with them especially as Adam helped making sure there was a thick stringer of fish by the time they finished. More songs were sung on the way back, and when they arrived at the orphanage, each of the children thanked Adam enthusiastically and thanked Anita as well. They marched back inside with their fish and the leftover sandwiches. The head administrator was very pleased.
“Oh, Adam, those sandwiches are going to be wonderful for the younger children. It will be a special treat for them to get some of Hop Sing’s food. I’m sure the other children enjoyed being able to provide for themselves too. It is such a boost to their morale to be able to do things for themselves like that. I see you brought more fish back. They can have another nutritious meal by their own efforts.”
Reaching under the seat of the wagon, Adam pulled out a brown paper sack. “I picked up some hard candy today. I thought that if I needed it, I wanted to have it.”
“Bribery sometimes is a useful tool.” The administrator smiled.
“Well, you can use it now, but be generous too.”
“Oh, I will. Oh, butterscotch!”
“Treat yourself too. Perhaps everyone can have one tonight.”
“I think that might be a fine idea. Thank you, Adam. I look forward to the next time you can help out.”
After she went inside, Adam turned to Anita. “This morning, you never did accept my apology. Need I make another one, my lady, or will you accept that one.”
“I thought I had. Oh, I do. Now it is my turn to apologize. I am sorry for leaving the impression that I had not accepted your apology. Please forgive me.”
“Well, that is a peasant surprise.”
Shaking her head, Anita had to roll her eyes as well. “Do you ever quit?”
“I wouldn’t be a dark and stormy knight if I did, would I?” With his reference to her earlier comment about Sir Nimbus, he climbed up into the wagon with a grin and drove off toward the Ponderosa waving without turning around. He was a little worried about what gesture she might make if he did turn around.
Anita wasn’t going to make a gesture though. She couldn’t be mad at him when she saw the grin he had as he turned to leave. He was having fun with her. She started to think of how she might tease him back next time she saw him. Seeing that grin and those dimples would be worth it.
Lines of poetry are from The Lady of Shallot (1832) by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
With the Territorial Enterprise in hand, a brandy on his side table, and his pipe in his mouth, Ben was doing everything he knew how to do to appear relaxed. However when Adam came through the door that Saturday, he saw his father looking like he was awaiting an execution. He guessed that he knew why and sought to relieve his worries somewhat.
“You can relax. I’m not angry. I will have a few words with Hoss when he returns. There will be no more manipulation. If there is, there will be consequences.”
Joe was walking out from the kitchen at that point and wanted to walk back in, but it was too late because Adam had seen him. He smiled half-heartedly and swallowed down his nerves. “Hello there, Adam. How was your day?”
“It could have been better. If I had known who would be working with me today, I could have been spared quite a surprise this morning. I do not want any more such surprises. Is that clear?”
Gulping and nodding, Joe agreed. Ben smiled. Apparently the day had gone far better than he had expected. He waited for Adam to say more. When the didn’t, he thought he might probe a bit especially as he had not been part of the manipulation even if he knew about it.
“Did you and the children catch many fish?”
Settling into his favorite chair, Adam told them about catching fish, roasting them over a roaring campfire, and the singing as well as the donation of the sandwiches to the orphanage on their return. He didn’t mention the candy he had purchased that morning. What was missing too was any mention of Anita, good or bad. Neither Ben nor Joe knew what to make of that but weren’t about to ask as Adam had made it clear that he didn’t want any more prying into his life. They would have to wait until he was ready to say something. Of course, both of them thought that if anything bad had happened, he would likely have said something, so they were optimistic that perhaps the two had made some progress in their relationship.
It was a reasonably pleasant week of work on the Ponderosa preparing for the roundup and getting everything ready that they would need. On Thursday, Hoss arrived home, and Adam went to the stable to have a talk with him. It proceeded much like his talk with Joe had gone earlier that week. It was short and to the point with him doing the talking except for Hoss agreeing. Adam wasn’t in the mood to hear any reasons for their actions. All he cared was that they would stop their plotting.
The next day, everyone got a surprise when Franklin drove a carriage into the yard. Ben came out to greet him as it was nearly dinnertime. Franklin looked quite serious and had a request to make.
“I have gotten an urgent request to go to my holdings in Denver. I will have to travel rapidly and then head out to some fairly rough country. Our home is not ready here. I was hoping that I could impose on you once more and have Anita stay here for a few days. She can make arrangements on Monday to return to our home in San Francisco then if she wishes. We still have a caretaker there and she could rehire some of the staff if she went back. Apparently there is no passenger service on the spur line until Monday and I do not want her traveling by stagecoach alone. Now that was quite a speech for me. I know we haven’t been friends long, but your sons have been very kind to my daughter.”
“I can take her luggage to the guest room.”
Adam’s offer was a surprise but a pleasant one. Anita smiled. Ben thanked him. Adam responded with a few lines of poetry with which Ben was unfamiliar.
Penance, father, will I none;
Prayer know I hardly one
So speed me my errand, and let me be gone.
Anita was pleased. “Scott. You shortened it though.”
“Don’t you think it needed it? I mean the whole thing needed it. Five cantos were ridiculous.”
“Yes, that is much too long. I got it wrong too. I should have called you by the name of Scott’s epic hero.”
“Ivanhoe?” Anita smiled in agreement. “Now that one I do like. It is much better than Lancelot or especially Mordred.”
The others were left with quizzical expressions as Adam and Anita went into the house and up to the guest room. Hoss looked to his father.
“Pa, sometimes, do it seem Adam is talking some other language or maybe like he got hit in the head too many times and it’s all gibberish?”
It was Franklin who replied though. “If he is, my daughter seemed to understand him completely. She responded accordingly. That is a worrisome thought.”
He chuckled then which caused the others to laugh. Ben wished him well on his trip and told him that they would make sure that Anita was safe. After he thanked them, he drove the carriage back to town so he could catch the last stagecoach out of town that evening.
Upstairs outside the guest room door, Adam paused after depositing Anita’s luggage inside. He wanted to say something but wasn’t sure how to start. She took the initiative then which gave him more time to think.
“My father gave me some instructions. He questioned me quite thoroughly about my behavior lately and found me lacking in several regards. First of all, I need to apologize for my words in our first encounter in town. I was scared and didn’t want to show that, so I was rude and tried to make you leave that way. It was wrong for me to do that.”
“I understand. It’s what I thought happened, but you at first denied it.”
“I guess I ought to apologize too for lying about it then. Next I should apologize for being angry at you and calling you a name. How you felt was understandable. Joe did mean to help, and I didn’t think about it as prying at the time, but it was. We were gossiping like two old ladies, and I am sorry we did that. Even though we did it out of concern and not curiosity, it was inexcusable. So, have I apologized enough to clear the air between us?”
“Yes, I think we’re good. Friends?”
With a smile that got a grin in return, Anita agreed to that wholeheartedly. “So we can have discussions about books and things, and perhaps take a walk or ride?”
“Perhaps. Let’s see what happens. We’ll do what friends do.”
“Father told me to try to hold my tongue and not say the first thing that pops into my head. I’m going to try that too. Please try to be tolerant though if I slip into my old bad habit and know that I want our friendship to continue.”
“I can do that. Now if you would like to put your things away, Hop Sing will have dinner in less than an hour. You already know that we don’t want to upset him.”
“Thank you, Adam.”
“You are most welcome, Anita.”
After Adam left, Anita busied herself with putting her things away in the room. She was a bit disappointed that Adam hadn’t agreed to going on walks or rides with her, but he had not said no either. Her father’s advice rang in her ears.
“Adam is not a man who can be pushed. If you try, you will push him away. Try to be a softer version of yourself. He likes you, I think. But your words are too harsh. He needs to be pulled not pushed.”
So she had made the apologies her father had strongly suggested needed to be made. However she didn’t know what to do next, and her father wasn’t going to be there to help. Joe and Hoss definitely were not going to be helpful. She guessed that perhaps she was going to have to work this out for herself. She did have a couple of allies in the house though who could be subtle in their help. They were going to be important over the next couple of weeks or at least she hoped so. With no intention of going to San Francisco, she was going to make an effort to see if she could follow her father’s advice. She never had done that before when it came to men, but there had never been a man who she wanted to impress like she wanted to impress Adam. She took special care in dressing for dinner.
During dinner, it was clear that Anita was working to improve her relationship with Adam. She didn’t challenge his statements and was polite in her responses. More than once, Ben saw his oldest son’s eyebrow rise a bit as he was surprised by the change in their guest. After dinner, when Adam sat down on the settee because Joe had inexplicably claimed the blue chair, Anita sat beside him. He sighed a little in response to their rather simple game but accepted that it didn’t matter much. All he had to do was relax. He had worked at the forge that day and his shoulders and neck were a bit stiff. He reached up to rub his neck and right shoulder causing his father to ask what was wrong.
“Nothing is wrong. I was swinging the hammer on the forge for a long time today, and I haven’t done that in a while.”
Anita got up and went behind him and began massaging his shoulder. Not only was Adam momentarily stunned into silence, no one else said anything either. Adam wanted to tell her to stop, but it actually felt quite good and there wasn’t anything that was wrong about her massaging his neck and shoulder. Well, except those small warm hands touching him started him thinking about other things, which did begin to create a problem. He stopped her hands.
“Ah, that’s not necessary. It isn’t that bad.”
“Nonsense because I can feel how hard these muscles are. I can help make you feel better.”
Joe and Hoss who were setting up the chess board nearly snickered out loud at that comment. Hoss had to turn to Adam and make a face when Anita wasn’t looking.
“No, really. That’s enough!” His voice had gotten a bit sharper than he intended and Anita stepped back as if slapped.
“I’m sorry. I only meant to help. I do that for my father after he has a hard day. I guess I’ll go take a walk.”
With that, Anita escaped into the cool evening. She hadn’t realized that she had gone too far and had thought she was being helpful. Even in trying to be nice, she realized she had antagonized Adam, which was the last thing she had intended to do. Adam dropped his head and rubbed his neck as the door closed.
“You gonna go after her, ain’t ya?” Hoss guessed the only one who could make things right with Anita at that point was Adam.
With a deep sigh, Adam stood and nodded heading to the door without saying anything. He grabbed his coat and her shawl before he went out the door. He guessed that perhaps they might be outside talking for a bit, and talking was all that he had in mind. He found her standing at the corral fence with her arms wrapped tightly around herself. He wrapped her shawl around her.
“I thought you might need that.” She said nothing. “I’m sorry I was sharp with you in there. You did nothing wrong and I should not have spoken to you like that. I know you were only trying to help. It was my brothers’ reactions that made me respond like that.”
“Your brothers’ reactions?”
“They were snickering and Hoss made a face at me, and well, I reacted as a boy which is what they were being. It was silly, and I’m sorry that our boyish silliness hurt you.”
“Why were they snickering?”
“They’re boys.” Up close to her in the moonlight, Adam could smell the faint scent of rose oil in her hair. The moonlight shone on her hair too and outlined her full figure. She shivered though in the cool air. “You’re cold. Perhaps we should go back inside.”
“I’d like to stay out here a little longer. I’m not that cold.”
Opening his coat, Adam stepped closer to her and wrapped his arms around her from behind to warm her. “Just friends, though. I only want you to be warm.”
Her thoughts were on anything but friendship though feeling his muscular body along the length of hers and the heat of him warming her. She hardly heard what he said next until he spoke more poetry.
“The stars are especially beautiful tonight with the sky so clear. I love nights like these. Sometimes the northern lights are visible. It’s probably too early in the year to see any.
Then into the night he looked forth;
And red and bright the streamers light
Were dancing in the glowing north.
He knew, by the streamers that shot so bright,
That spirits were riding the northern light
It’s like someone in heaven is speaking to you when you see the northern lights.”
“Who do you know in heaven?”
“Quite a few, too many actually.”
“I mostly miss my mother. Otherwise, I haven’t ever lost anyone.”
Anita turned to Adam who was very quiet. They were in each other’s arms then and she did what she thought was natural. She moved to kiss him, but he pulled away.
“Is something wrong?”
“We’re friends. When I wish to kiss someone, I will when I want to and if she’s willing.”
Adam said nothing more about that letting her know where he stood by using silence. She was going to get used to that response as she got to know him better. Instead, he had another idea.
“Will you attend the performance at Piper’s with me?”
“I would love to do that. When is it?”
“Tomorrow. I’m sure I can still get tickets.”
So Anita stayed on the Ponderosa. She and Adam went to Piper’s and then she accompanied the family to church services on Sunday. Over the next few weeks, when Adam could, he took her riding or to an event in town. When roundup began, Adam and his brothers left for a week to ten days. Franklin was still gone so Anita had time to spend with Ben. She finally got enough courage to ask him about his son and if he thought that she had a chance at a romance with Adam.
“Too many women think they can push their way into Adam’s life. He’s been hurt so many times, he has walls up around his heart now. I’m sure you have seen that. Pushing only makes him more defensive. He doesn’t respond well to pushing and shoving. Now a gentle nudge now and then, that could just make those walls crack open. I think you’re doing that. But you’re going to have to be patient. However, know that when you have opened that heart of his, he is a passionate man with a big heart.”
“I’m doing the right thing then?”
“Be yourself. It’s what attracted him to you in the beginning.”
“He’s attracted to me?”
“Oh, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. What happens next is what’s important.”
That night, Anita slept very well smiling as she dreamed.
Lines of poetry are from The Lay of the Last Minstrel by Sir Walter Scott
In the midst of events in town and rides around the Ponderosa with Anita, Adam also penned and posted a letter to Peggy. Now that he had gotten his emotions under control about that situation, he tried to be upbeat and positive in the letter thinking the little girl had more than enough worries in her life and didn’t want to add any. He did mention that they had a houseguest, but something in the way he wrote it must have triggered an idea in Peggy’s mind. When her mother and Will were out for a long evening and left quite early, she was ready. She had managed to pilfer some money from Will’s wallet and her mother’s purse over a period of several weeks. Leaving a brief note, she headed out of town buying a ticket first on the steamboat going upriver and then the stagecoach out of Sacramento. She remembered making the trip and which towns she had to go through to get to Virginia City. She was determined to get there and the safety and happiness she thought she could find with Adam. What she didn’t know was how much it cost to make such a trip. She ran out of money before she got to Placerville.
As friendship grew between Adam and Anita, both Hoss and Joe took separate and quiet times to apologize to both of them for interfering in their lives and in divulging Adam’s past to Anita acknowledging that was something that was up to him to do. They had meant to help but admitted they shouldn’t have done what they did. Adam accepted the apologies but with a warning that he wouldn’t accept any additional scheming by either of them. They wholeheartedly agreed grateful that he was so gracious. Ben noted that Adam was back to being in his usual role of older brother. As a result, even though it was a busy time on the Ponderosa, there was peace in the house and more mellow times than Ben could remember for some time. All of that came to a screeching halt with the arrival of Will and Laura one afternoon.
“Will! Laura! I’m surprised. I had no idea you were coming.” Ben stood in shock at the door as his nephew and Laura were there on his doorstep without an invitation and with no warning. “Is something wrong?” Their expressions were hostile.
“Of course something is wrong. We’ve come for Peggy.”
“Peggy’s not here.”
“Ben, don’t lie to me. She told us she was coming here and took money from us to buy the tickets.”
“She traveled alone?”
“Of course. We wouldn’t have let her come. She did it on her own.”
As Laura talked, Will looked embarrassed. “Uncle Ben, we simply want to get Peggy and go home.”
“I told you she isn’t here. We haven’t seen her.”
Will knew Ben wouldn’t lie about something like that. “Where could she be?”
Suddenly all three of them were very worried. Laura’s suspicious mind though went into overdrive.
“Where’s Adam? He probably knows where she is.”
“Adam has been home or on the roundup for the past week. He hasn’t been to town. He couldn’t know about this.”
Walking into the great room from the kitchen then to see what the commotion was all about, Anita was seen by Laura who immediately focused her wrath on her.
“It’s her fault. Adam mentioned her in his letter to Peggy. We read it after we read her note to us. She has this silly idea that Adam might marry her, and then they could all live happily ever after.”
“Adam is not responsible for the fantasies a little girl might have about being happy.”
“Are you implying that I do not make a happy home for my daughter?”
“I didn’t say that.” Ben was thinking it though as he compared the two women who were there and was so grateful that Adam had not married Laura.
Will intervened. “Laura, this isn’t getting us anywhere. We should go back to town. Maybe she isn’t here yet. We did take the train from Sacramento. If she took the stagecoach, she could still be on her way.”
“Maybe, but Ben if we find that Adam has hidden Peggy away somewhere, I’m going to have him charged with kidnapping. Make sure he knows that.”
Laura turned to leave then as Will apologized for her statements to Ben and left with her. Anita was quiet until Ben closed the door.
“Adam considered marrying her? I think he ought to thank his deceitful treacherous cousin for taking her off his hands. My Lord, that is a harridan.”
“You are too kind.”
Ben tried to hold a serious expression but couldn’t as he broke into loud laughter with Anita. Both of them couldn’t stop laughing for a couple of minutes even if there was concern for Peggy. Outside Laura heard the laughter through the open window before she left because Will asked a hand a question before he snapped the reins to get the horses moving. The hand had confirmed what Ben had said about Adam. So now they had a mystery as to where Peggy was.
That night at dinner, all three sons were home having finished the roundup. They were tired and had only a few days before the drive to Reno would begin. They talked about how it had gotten so much easier now that the rail lines could carry their beef anywhere from there. There weren’t adequate stockyards so they might have to hold them there or nearby for a time, but they didn’t have to make the arduous trek over the mountains any more. However all talk of that was suspended as they talked about Peggy and what might have happened. Without more information, there wasn’t much they could do. Adam planned to go to town the next day to talk with Laura and Will to see how he could help. Joe and Hoss volunteered to go with him. After dinner, Adam went outside alone. Anita watched him go.
“Go ahead. He probably needs some company, but he won’t ever ask.”
Joe handed Anita her coat as he said it. She had gotten it at Adam’s insistence because he told her that her shawl was woefully inadequate for the temperatures at night and in winter in the Sierras. She wondered if that meant anything more, but he never elaborated. She had also bought some riding skirts and blouses with vests finding them warmer and more appropriate to being on a ranch. Outside, she found him where she usually found him when he was troubled. He was sitting on a bench in the back of the house staring at the stars. She sat beside him and said nothing. He looked over to see she still wasn’t wearing gloves and touched her hands, which were already getting cold. As he often did now, he put an arm around her and pulled her close so she could put her hands inside his coat and warm them.
“I think you don’t wear your gloves on purpose just so you can do this.”
“I think you might be right.” She could feel the slight rumble of a chuckle in his chest as she leaned against him.
“I’m very worried about Peggy. She’s only a little girl, and she’s out there on her own.”
“Maybe you should go look for her. It seems you may know her better than anyone and have the best chance of finding her.”
Smiling, Adam looked down at Anita resting on his shoulder. He liked that she focused on Peggy and not herself. She knew he was going to be gone for weeks and was telling him to leave for the few days they were going to have together before he left on the drive. She had said it with no regret too.
“Thank you. It means we won’t be going to the performance tomorrow.”
“I know, but that’s nothing compared to a little girl’s life. There will always be other performances. I’d say I’d go along and help, but you already know that I don’t ride that well.”
“I was thinking that if you were willing, perhaps you and I could take the stage. We could check in towns along the way to see if anyone had heard anything. Two of us asking would be better than one, and sometimes people are more willing to talk to a woman than a man.”
“I could do that.”
“We should turn in early tonight then. It’s not that easy to get sleep along a stage route. I’ll ask Hop Sing to pack some food too because the food along the way is less than the best.”
If the circumstances had been anything but something so serious, Adam thought he might have kissed her right there. He knew the gossip in town practically had them betrothed already. However there were too many other things going on and he wanted to have that first kiss be something special and memorable for he knew now that he was falling in love and guessed she was too. They walked back into the house to announce their plans. Hoss and Joe said they might do some investigating too and offered to go to town to see what Roy might advise them to do first. Everyone turned in early even if sleep was elusive at first.
The next day, Adam took the carriage to town while Hoss and Joe rode ahead. While Adam was buying tickets, Anita went to give their tickets for that night’s performance away to Doctor Martin and his wife. They were happy to get them, but on her way back to the stage station, Anita was accosted by Laura who was in a similar mood to the day earlier.
“It’s your fault, you know. It’s been less than a year since Adam broke his engagement to me, and he’s already taken up with a trollop like you.”
“Yes, you’re living out there with him, aren’t you? I mean, you’re probably doing all those things he always wanted me to do, but I wouldn’t.”
Laura’s loud accusations drew the attention of a number of people who could hardly ignore what she was saying. Of course, such a confrontation was going to draw a crowd regardless and to have it centered on a Cartwright was golden.
“No, you were engaged to marry him, but you preferred to do those things with his cousin behind Adam’s back. I can’t imagine you calling any other woman a trollop. For your information, and it’s not like you deserve to know, but I’ll tell you anyway: Adam hasn’t even kissed me. We’re friends. He is a wonderful man, and he is so very lucky that he saw what you were and packed you off like so much dirty laundry.”
Furious, Laura moved to push Anita, but Anita had been riding and doing things on the ranch while Laura had been her usual self. Laura never moved Anita at all, but she did make her mad. Anita pushed back, and it was a hard shove. Laura stumbled backwards and fell full length into a horse trough. She gasped and sputtered but seemed unable to extricate herself from the water that soaked her clothing and made her even heavier. The spectacle had of course drawn quite a large crowd by then, and Adam as well as Will had been drawn there too to see what was happening. When they heard the voices, they knew to push through to the women. They got there about the same time to see the push and then the shove but had heard most of the conversation as they pushed through the throng. Will helped pull Laura from the horse trough before he turned to Adam.
“I demand you have that vile woman apologize to Laura. We have enough to worry about without her acting like a thug and speaking like one.”
About then, Adam heard his name called and turned to see Hoss and Joe. Hoss was there with Peggy in his arms. Joe was beside him. “Hey, Adam, look who we found. Some hiders brung her inta town jest a little bit ago. Said she bin a ridin’ wit ’em for days now. We shur did like the show here, didn’t we, Peggy?” Peggy smiled broadly. “We’re gonna take her out to the house. She needs a bath real bad like. Kin ya handle things here?”
Nodding, Adam turned to Will and shoved him into the horse trough. “Cousin, you’ve had that and a lot more coming to you for a long time.”
The crowd broke into raucous laughter and some cheering. Will struggled from the horse trough, and then he and Laura hurried off to their hotel. They didn’t want to be in public any more. Some of the crowd left, but others remained wondering what Adam and Anita would do as he turned to her, and she looked a bit worried.
“I am sorry I lost my temper, but she made me so mad.”
“I hope you don’t make it a habit.”
“I promise I won’t. I won’t ever push anyone into a water trough.” Then she paused and a wicked grin grew. “Except for Laura. Lord, that was fun.”
“You are incorrigible. However, I think we are more than friends now.”
“Yes, we are. I think it’s time to end the gossip.”
“Yes, it is.”
Touching her cheek with his hand, Adam wrapped an arm around her pulling her close. He kissed her other cheek first before brushing his lips over her lips and then pressing more firmly against her lips until she responded. Her arms went up and around his neck as they kissed, and both literally forgot where they were. Remembering though when they heard Roy clear his throat, Adam broke the kiss. There was some applause embarrassing the couple a little, but Roy was all business.
“Now, I have it on good authority that the two of you pushed two folks into the horse trough there. Is that true?”
“I cannot tell a lie, Roy. Yes, we did.”
“Now, Adam, I rightly ought to charge the both of you with disorderly conduct for that. I can’t have people shoving other people into horse troughs, now can I?”
“No, Roy, you surely can’t. What’s the fine?”
“Usually that’s about a two dollar offense.”
there’s no guarantee we won’t do it again. That’s payment in advance.”
“Now you can’t go around and plan to break the law. That’s not something I can accept.”
“Of course you could use the four dollars as a fee to tell them that their presence on the Ponderosa would be considered trespassing, and they could be arrested for that. I’m sure they dripped water all over the hotel carpet. Isn’t that damage to property that they ought to pay. Oh, and their daughter was allowed to come all the way from California unattended. I think you have a case against them for harm to a child too.”
“Perhaps your lawyer best handle that last one.”
“Good idea, Roy.”
Within a few minutes, Adam was at Hiram Woods’ office giving the family lawyer instructions as to what he wanted him to do. Then he and Anita headed back to the Ponderosa. By the time they arrived to find a clean and smiling Peggy, Anita had lost count of the kisses, but he had made sure that she and many other people too would never forget that first kiss.
Next Story in the First Kiss Series:
Tags: Adam Cartwright, Ben Cartwright, Hoss Cartwright, Joe / Little Joe Cartwright
Other Stories by this Author
- First Kiss—Book Two: Hoss (by BettyHT)
- First Kiss–Book Three: Joe and Ben (by BettyHT)
- First Kiss Again — Book Four (by BettyHT)
- A New Bonanza (by BettyHT)
- A New Angle (by BettyHT)