Aces and Eights (by BettyHT)

Summary: A poker game leads to some dire problems for Adam, but with the family members helping, a solution is found for those problems and for the ones that led up to that situation.
Rating: T  Word count: 11,327

Aces and Eights

Chapter 1

There was a crowd watching so there wasn’t a chance that anyone at that poker table was cheating. It was a challenge for the four men to keep their cards to themselves as everyone wanted to know what they had. The stakes on the table had grown throughout the night. It was six in the morning, and one of the men was getting desperate.

“Jess, let’s end this now while you still have some money.”

“Adam, that tells me you’re bluffing. You don’t have it this time, and I know you want me to fold.”

“I want you to stop raising the stakes past where you can afford it.”

“I can afford it. I want my money back that’s sitting in front of you.”

“I tried to quit a couple of times. You said no.”

“Oh, no, you aren’t going to walk away so easy.”

For hours, Adam Cartwright had called without raising, but he had the cards and won every hand that he hadn’t folded. He had not pushed any of the men at the table into big bets, but Jess had pushed him. Not the kind of man to back down when challenged, he didn’t fold when he thought he had the cards. He had simply called any bet or raise. The other two men had lost some, but like many gamblers kept playing to try to win it back. Neither was so foolish as Jess though to try to place wild bets. They folded on what they expected to be the last hand. Jess was out of money on his last raise, and as they expected, Adam called. Jess laid down a full house with three sevens and two Kings.

“What have you got, Cartwright?”

Adam laid down two eights, and before he could do anything more, Jess began reaching for the pot.

“I knew you were bluffing.”

Then Adam laid three aces on top of the two eights. He had not bluffed all night. Jess should have been aware of that. Adam had laid every hand down every time he hadn’t folded. Each win had been solid.

“You must have cheated.”

As Jess stood, two men grabbed him before he could do anything more stupid. They tried to calm him down and reminded him that Adam had not dealt that last hand.

“Then he pulled those cards from some place.”

“Jess, we were all watching. He had his hands on the table with the cards the whole time. Nobody can cheat with everybody watching.”

Jess had no answer to that. The two men hustled him out of the saloon then guessed that if he stayed, they might not be able to prevent him from being hurt. He was likely to act out of anger. After Jess and the others were gone, Adam looked at the two remaining men at the table.

“The money is mostly a way of keeping track of who won. How much are you out?”

“I lost over a hundred.”

“I lost about two hundred.”

Pulling some money from the stack in front of him, Adam slid some bills across to the men. It was not all that they lost.

“There should be some penalty for staying when you should have left, but not as big as the losses as you had.”

“Thanks, Adam, I guess I learned my lesson.”

“I doubt it, but at least it won’t be my fault if your family goes hungry.”

The other man shrugged. He knew he would get about the same answer if he said anything so he tipped his hat in respect and walked out. Adam tossed a few silver coins to the saloon gals and to the bartender. Then he handed a wad of bills to Sam and quietly made a request.

“Sam, can you hold this for Jess. I doubt it would be a good idea for me to try to find him. It’s not all that he lost either, but it’s a lot of it.”

“Sure will do that, Adam. You get it all out of your system yet?”

“Nope, not yet. Going to get a room and some sleep, and then maybe play some billiards tomorrow or rather I guess it’s today already. Might go home for dinner tonight. Or maybe, I’ll go home tomorrow morning. And if he comes in here, we never had this conversation.”

Sam knew who he meant. More and more, when Adam had a dispute with his father, he came to town to let off some steam. Sam guessed it was so that he didn’t say something that would do irreparable harm. He wondered though if Ben Cartwright felt the same way. They would patch things up in their own way again probably, but he wondered too when the time would come and that would not be enough. Like a lot of people in town, most expected that at some point, Adam would leave. Not this time apparently, but the situation would be too much for him eventually even if no one could predict when that would happen.

No Cartwrights showed up in town that day looking for Adam so the talk was that the row must have been a big one. Ben didn’t send his younger sons to look for Adam until the next day. By then, Adam was headed home. He had stopped at the bank on his way though, and the manager asked him to do a favor for him.

“Could you stop by to talk with Jed Uriah. He’s way behind on his loan payments. He’s got wife and two children. I don’t want to evict him, but unless he shows some intention to pay, I’ll have to do something.”

“Intention to pay?”

“If he would make a payment, it would show good faith. I could give him more time if he did that.”

“That’s pretty generous of you.”

“I was thinking if you could make that suggestion to Jed for me instead of having the sheriff serve official papers, it might go better.”

“It might. He can be an ornery cuss though.”

“He can, but I hope this is a better way of doing it. If it doesn’t come from official channels, it doesn’t have a deadline on it. I want to give him every chance I can.”

“That’s more than fair.”

Jed’s place was off the road a bit so Adam’s route home wasn’t a direct one.

At the saloon, Hoss and Joe talked with Sam and mentioned that they couldn’t find Adam. Sam told them that he had seen him ride out of town.

“We didn’t see him on the way in. I wonder where he went to.”

“Hoss, if he’s still mad, he could have gone anywhere. If he didn’t go home, I don’t want to rush home to tell Pa.”

“Let’s have another beer and then lunch. We can tell Pa we looked and looked for Adam and couldn’t find him.”

“If he does ride home, it will give the two of them some time to talk too, wouldn’t it?”

“Yeah, that’s the plan.”

Then Sam told them about the poker game but nothing else. Jess had not gotten the money from him yet.

“Boy, I bet old Jess is still mad about that.”

“Yeah, he probably is.”

“I wonder if Adam went to see him.”

Sam said nothing to that not knowing how much of what Adam had done or said he should share with his brothers. They had their beers and then headed to lunch. Sam figured it was family business that they needed to work out.

Meanwhile, Adam had a most unpleasant conversation with Jed Uriah. The bank manager had thought that an unofficial reminder from Adam might be taken better than an official notice from the bank. It wasn’t.

“You’re all bloodsuckers. You rich bastards can’t wait to take every dime from hard-working men, can’t you?”

“Jed, the bank only wants you to make a payment, any size payment, to show good faith on the loan they gave you. If you want, I can loan you some money so you can make the payment and get them off your back for a while at least until your crops come in or you can sell some of your cattle.”

“You’d like that, wouldn’t you? Then, I would owe you instead of the bank and you could swoop in here and grab my ranch and take it to add to the Ponderosa. Don’t you Cartwrights have enough land yet?”

Pulling out his wallet, Adam opened it and was going to take out some bills.

“Jed, no strings attached. No witnesses. Only between us. I’ll give you some money. How about that. An agreement between friends?”

“See, you got all that money, and I ain’t got none. How is that fair? No, you take your fat wallet and get off my land. I ain’t falling for any of your rich man tricks.”

Knowing that any more conversation was only going to make Jed angrier, Adam tucked his wallet away and turned to leave. He was worried though thinking that he might get shot on the way off the property. He didn’t relax until he got to the road and was headed home. That was a mistake.

A bullet hit Adam in the back a short time later knocking him from his horse. Sport only ran off a short distance because there was no more shooting. Adam lay still and face-down in the road. Jed rode down from the hillside then and dug out Adam’s wallet pulling all the money from it and stuffing the bills into his pockets. He reached into Adam’s pockets and got any coins he could find too as well as a pocket knife, a tin of matches, a handkerchief, and a tin of tobacco Adam had meant as a peace offering to his father. Jed never said a word knowing that if Adam lived, he might remember hearing Jed’s voice. But shot in the back, never seeing nor hearing his assailant, and laying on a public road, Adam had no way to say who had shot him. Jed mounted up and left Adam where he had fallen. He didn’t care if he lived or died. Aware of what had happened, Adam was in too much pain to move.

A short time later, Jess came upon that scene. One of the poker players had been talking with him and told him how Adam had given him money. They guessed that Adam might have left some money for Jess too, and he was going to town to see if that was true. He saw the empty wallet next to Adam and guessed he had been shot to death in a robbery. He didn’t think a robber would let him live. Then he rolled him over.

“Jess, why?”

“Adam, I didn’t shoot you.”

By then, Adam had passed out.

“Damn, everybody is going to think I did this.”

It didn’t take long for Jess to make up his mind as to what he had to do. Jess thought there was only one solution. He got Sport and put Adam on the horse draped over the saddle and led the horse to his house. He dragged Adam inside and put him on the only bed he had. Doing his best to stop the bleeding, he wrapped a large bandage around Adam’s chest with a wad of cloth pressed against the wound in his back.

“That’s the best I can do. Now I got to go put your horse in my barn so nobody can see him.”

When Jess returned to his house, Adam was still unconscious and seemed to be developing a fever. Jess guessed he would probably die. He talked to himself.

“Damn, I’m going to have to bury you with nobody knowing and get rid of your horse somehow too. They find you here and they will likely hang me. Ain’t nobody going to believe I found you shot and robbed.”

Sitting at his small table, Jess uncorked the bottle of whisky he kept for special occasions. He figured this was as special as any other day would ever be. As he sat and sipped and thought about what he should do next, Adam woke. It took him some time to realize where he was. When he did, he knew he had to be careful in what he said to Jess.

“Jess, I need help.”

“Damn, Adam, I know that. But if I go to get help for you, you’re going to tell them I shot you, and they’re gonna hang me when you die.”

“Jess, if you get some help for me, I won’t die.”

“I don’t know. You looked pretty bad. I thought you were dead when I found you.”

“Found me?”

“Yeah, I didn’t shoot you. I know you think I did, but I found you. Somebody done emptied your wallet. I figured they shot you to take your money. It wasn’t me. I ain’t got any money.”

“I’m sorry I thought it was you. I know it wasn’t.”

“You’re saying that so I’ll go get somebody. You ain’t fooling me.”

“I need a doctor, Jess.”

“I can’t do that. It’s gone too far for that.”

“Jess, Hoss is a good tracker. He’ll follow the tracks here.”

“Damn, I should have thought of that. I’ll give you some of this whisky for the pain. It’ll help you rest easy too.”

In almost unbearable pain, Adam accepted that offer. Once he had several drinks, he lay back and waited for sleep and some release from the unrelenting agony of his wound. When his eyes closed, Jess left the house to saddle his horse to go back and wipe out any tracks leading to his house. He cursed himself when he found blood drops on the way and made sure nothing like that remained to point anyone in the direction of his small ranch. Then he headed to town to complete the errand he had been on when he found Adam. He thought it might be suspicious if his friend mentioned that he had been told about the money and had not gone to find out if there was any for him. In town, he made his way to the saloon to have a beer and got the money from Sam. He did feel bad then about keeping Adam at his place and letting him die there, but he still didn’t want to hang. He decided to have a few more beers so that maybe it would all be over before he returned to his home.

On the Ponderosa, Hoss and Joe had returned home expecting Adam to be there. Instead, they found their father fuming that Adam had not yet come home.

“But, Pa, in town, they saw him ride out this morning. He should have been home hours ago.”

“Oh, he rode out of town this morning. Then what about the two of you? Why is it early afternoon before you ride out of town to come home?”

“We had to find out what happened in town, you know, what Adam was up to while he was there. Right, Joe?”

“Yeah, Pa, and by then it was close to lunchtime, so we had to eat. It would have been rude to ride in at two and expect Hop Sing to have lunch ready for us.

“If you had left at a reasonable time, he wouldn’t have had to hold lunch for the two of you.”

“Pa, maybe we ought to ride out to see what’s keeping Adam. Maybe his horse came up lame or something. You know how he hates to walk.”

“All right, Hoss, why don’t you do that. If he left town, he should be on the way home.”

“At the bank, they did say he was going to stop to see Jed Uriah. Maybe we should check along the road that goes toward his place.”

“Good idea.”

Except Ben had a nagging thought that perhaps Adam had gone in another direction entirely and not only a roundabout way home. He had said some things he wished he had not. Now he worried he might not have a chance to apologize or explain them away. Perhaps that had happened too often. He and Adam needed to work something out. That is, they needed to do that if he did in fact come home. By the look Hoss had, Ben guessed his middle son may have had that same worry.

Joe wasn’t happy about having to ride back out again, but he did think escaping his father’s sour mood was probably a good idea. Hoss never mentioned what was worrying him, and when Joe spotted Adam’s wallet laying by the side of the road, all negative thoughts like that were forgotten anyway.

“We didn’t see this on the way home.”

“Joe, we weren’t looking for anything like this and we didn’t ride this way either. We were riding to get home not find things like our brother’s empty wallet and we went the shortest way too. Hold Chubb, would you?”

Walking around the area and taking a careful look at they what was left after Jess had ridden through the spot an hour earlier, Hoss found signs that were ominous.

“Joe, this looks like blood. And there’s tracks here of another man and it looks like he dragged another one. Everything else is brushed out. It looks like somebody rode through here afterwards too headed toward town.”

“Which way did the tracks of the man dragging the other one go?”

“No way to tell. I’ll circle around here and take a look to see if they missed anything, but it looks like they brushed things pretty good. With the wind blowing, it’s not likely I’m going to find anything.”

“Is it possible somebody took him to town?”

“Why would the tracks be brushed out then?”

“I guess not. Hoss, you think they killed him?”

“I don’t know, Joe. It don’t make a lick of sense to me.”

“What do we do now?”

“After I take a good look around, I’m heading back to the ranch to get some men to help me search. Why don’t you go to town and talk to the Sheriff. I think maybe he ought to talk to anyone like Jess who maybe had a reason to do this.”

“You don’t really think Jess could have done this, do you?”

“I don’t know. People in town said he was real mad. I don’t know. Let Roy handle it.”

In town, Jess had been drinking. When Joe told Roy the story of what they had found, the two went in search of Jess and found him at the saloon where he had lost his money. When he saw Joe walk in with the Sheriff, he got scared.

“Jess, I want to talk with you. It seems somebody shot Adam Cartwright and stole his money. I was wondering if you knew anything about that.”

“I don’t know nothing about him getting shot and somebody emptying his wallet.”

“Jess, I never mentioned his wallet.”

“Oh, but I done seen that wallet when we was playing cards. I figured that was where his money was.”

Looking Jess over, Joe noticed stains on his boots, pants, and shirt. He pointed them out to Roy who had seen such stains before in his career. He knew what they must be, and his stomach turned at the thought of what they must mean.

“Jess, are those blood stains on your boots, and on your clothes?”

Looking down, for the first time, Jess realized that the spots of blood were noticeable. He had no good way to explain them away at first. Then he used the only plausible story he could concoct but knew it wouldn’t stand up to the Sheriff checking it out.

“I shot a deer this morning. You know I hunt a lot to get food. Heck, my whole cabin is decked out in horns, antlers, and bones from all the animals I’ve shot.”

“But you came back to town?”

“I heard from my neighbor that Adam gave him some of his money back. I came in hoping maybe he had left some for me. He did. Sam had some for me.”

“So you have no idea where Adam could be?”

“Nope, I don’t. He ain’t in my cabin and his horse ain’t in my barn.”

Roy thought Jess sounded too nervous about all of it and too specific in his denials.

“Jess, how about we ride out to your place together and take a look around to see if Adam found his way to your cabin?”

“No, you ain’t going to pin this on me. I ain’t no back shooter. I wouldn’t shoot a man and leave him lying in the road to die. Nope, I ain’t going to hang for something I didn’t do.”

“Jess, calm down. Come on over to my office so we can talk about this.”

Roy tried to defuse the situation except Jess drew his pistol and shot Roy who fell back against Joe who then couldn’t draw his pistol. Sam resolved the conflict though pulling his shotgun from behind the bar and shooting Jess before he could fire again. Jess was upset and never was much of a marksman. His shot had almost missed Roy but tore a gash in the lawman’s leg. Limping to Jess’ side, Roy sat in a chair pulled out by a saloon girl.

“Jess, what happened?”

In great pain and bleeding profusely, Jess told them a short version.

“I found him in the road. I thought he was dead but he wasn’t. I knew I’d get blamed. I took him to my house so he wouldn’t die in the road. He’s there. He’s probably dead by now. I never took nothing from him.”

Jess died before he could say anything more. Doctor Martin did a quick bandage of Roy’s leg while his carriage was brought to him and then followed Joe out to Jess’ ranch. Roy’s deputy Clem and a couple of men from town went with them with one man heading to the Ponderosa to tell them what had happened. What they saw as they neared Jess’ ranch made them gallop. A dark black column of smoke was rising.

Chapter 2

At Jess’ cabin, Adam had awakened and realized Jess was gone. He had heard him say that he had put Sport in the barn. Fighting the pain and weakness, he managed to get from the bed to the door using a chair like a crutch. At the door, he shoved the chair away and grabbed the ax standing by the door to use as a cane. He didn’t realize the chair hit the table knocking the lamp over and igniting the bloody cloth that Jess had used on him to try to stop the bleeding before he got a bandage around his chest. With the door open and the wind blowing, it didn’t take long for the fire to be fanned into a conflagration that consumed the cabin. By then, Adam had staggered toward the barn and didn’t care if the cabin burned. He opened the barn door and nearly fell because he was exhausted by his ordeal. As he pushed the door wide, the smoke panicked his horse who reared back and freed his reins which were loosely tied to a post. Sport raced from the barn knocking Adam into a small stack of hay. With his strength depleted, Adam gave up and fell into unconsciousness again.

Joe got to the burning cabin or what was left of it before the others. They found him standing with his head down and tears falling. There was nothing anyone could do. The doors on the barn were wide open and clearly there were no animals inside. As far as they could tell, Adam was gone, and Sport was gone.

“Paul, do you think he got his horse and rode out?”

“Joe, anything is possible, but by what was described to me, I don’t think so.”

“We won’t even have a body to bury. There won’t be anything of him left after this.”

“Maybe bury all of this here, and it will be his final resting place.”

“I guess that may be the only answer. I’ll have to tell Pa and Hoss.”

“Sooner than you think.”

Ben and Hoss came riding up then with a group of men who had been searching with them. Shocked speechless they came to stand by Joe and Paul. For several minutes, there was silence until Joe explained what had happened in town in more detail than the man who had summoned his father and brother.

“If Jess didn’t shoot him to take his money, who did?”

No one had an answer for Ben. There was a rustic bench by a tree, and Hoss suggested his father sit there. The sons guided their father there as Paul watched. He told Clem he would stay because he was concerned about Ben. Before Clem left, he issued the orders Ben had not.

“There’s nothing for us to do here. I’m heading back to town then. Some of you men go look in the barn to see if there’s some tools and such to put out any fires that the wind might start by blowing some sparks around.”

As Clem rode out with the other deputies and men from town, a couple of the Ponderosa men headed to the barn to look for rakes or pitchforks to put out any little fires that might start away from the burning cabin. As the Ponderosa hands entered the barn, they were in for a shock, and one ran out to yell to the Cartwrights.

“In here. Hurry. It’s Adam.”

Shocked, the Cartwrights and Paul ran to the barn to find Adam flat on his back on a stack of hay. He was feverish, gray, and unresponsive. Paul knew how dire the situation was and began giving orders. Using boards and posts from stalls in the barn, a makeshift operating table was assembled up against the outside wall of the barn. Hoss had wanted to use a barn door, but Paul refused that offer.

“We’re going to need this barn for a hospital. After the surgery, he’s going to need shelter and it’s the closest we have.”

“My son isn’t going to stay in a barn.”

“Ben, he isn’t in any shape to be moved. Now let me do my job.”

Paul was in conflict within himself already and didn’t want any more from others. He worried that Adam had lost too much blood and suffered too much shock already to undergo an operation to remove the bullet. On the other side though, he considered that he wouldn’t regain much strength with the bullet in him and causing pain and some blood loss which a future surgery would aggravate. All he could hope was that he could remove the bullet quickly. Ben had sent for Hop Sing and supplies. While the table was constructed and they waited for Hop Sing, they used water from the well and washed Adam’s upper torso after removing his shirt. It was still warm enough to do that without causing a problem. His boots and belt were removed too. Paul had a blanket in his carriage. Adam lay on half of it and after he was bathed, they pulled the other half up and over him.

When Hop Sing arrived, a sheet was draped over a padding of blankets on the table, and the men lifted Adam to the table. A sheet and then a blanket were draped over him as well. Paul asked if they could hang a couple of blankets for a shield against the wind. When that was done, he was ready to proceed. Hop Sing remained to assist him and the other men were told to withdraw until they were called back to help. They used the time to move other supplies into the barn and set up a cot and other necessities hopefully to be used for Adam’s recuperation. In only a half-hour, Paul called for the men to help.

“I don’t want him moved from that table, but can you move the table inside? I think he will be warmer out of the wind.”

Carefully, the men lifted the table and carried it with Adam on it into the barn. Paul followed behind wiping his hands and arms with a wet towel. No one wanted to look at all the blood he was wiping from himself. He dried his hands and arms before he moved to Adam again to check him. Facedown on the table, Adam almost appeared not to be breathing, but Paul’s mirror showed that he was.

“I only put a loose bandage on him. I didn’t want to disturb him too much by trying to wrap a bandage around him at this point. Be aware though if he’s moved from the table, someone will have to hold that bandage in place. That won’t be for a while though. I want him breathing stronger before we make any attempt to move him.”

“I go back to make food now. Pack up more supplies too.”

“Hop Sing knows what I need. I’ll stay here with Adam. We don’t need all of you here. Decide who is going to stay so Hop Sing knows how many bedrolls and other things to send back please.”

Hoss and Joe were surprised how their father was letting Paul run things and not saying anything. Joe volunteered to go back with Hop Sing to pack up supplies and bring them back. Hoss would stay with their father because with Paul, they would be able to take care of Adam at least until Joe got back. The other hands were sent back with instructions of what ranch work needed to be done the next day and thanked for their help. They reminded Hoss of the fire danger.

“Dang, we forgot about that. All right, two of you should stay. First two who volunteer get a bonus for night watch for fire danger. Joe will bring back whatever you need.”

Still Ben said nothing. He stood by Adam and stared at his son so still on the makeshift table and the sheet stained with blood. Paul saw that and pulled the blanket up and over Adam not only to keep him warm but to cover the blood-stained sheet. It helped snap Ben out of his mute stare.

“It’s my fault. I kept after him all the time. I gave him no peace. I’m the one who drove him to town. If I hadn’t done that, he wouldn’t be here in a barn fighting to stay alive because someone wanted his money.”

“Pa, it could have happened anytime to any one of us. We don’t know who done it.”

“But it happened to him. A father should not have to bury a son.”

“Pa, he hasn’t died yet. Adam is a strong man.”

Paul intervened at that point.

“I want you to stop talking like that in here. I don’t know how much he can hear or understand, but that kind of talk isn’t helping him. You want to talk like that, get out of here.”

Shocked into silence by what Paul had said and by being addressed that way, Ben was quiet. Then he started to get angry, and Hoss escorted him from the barn. Once outside, he tried to reason with him.

“Doctor Martin is right, you know. Adam don’t want to hear talk like that. You making it sound like he’s dying ain’t going to help him fight to live.”

“But it is my fault.”

“You can have that conversation with Adam when he’s strong enough to talk with you about it. Until then, how about we don’t talk like that. How about we talk to Adam about pulling through and getting on home.”

“You’re right. Let’s tell him good things. Did I tell you we found Sport?”

“No, you didn’t, but see, that’s the kind of thing to tell him. If he can hear us, that will make him feel better. Maybe make him get his mind off the pain and such at least a little.”

“Do you suppose Paul will let me back in there now?”

“Pa, I’ll go in first. Why don’t you take a little walk around first and then come back in. Maybe you could check on our two men watching for fires. You know, make sure they got a good vantage point.”

“I understand, Hoss. I know what you’re doing, and thank you.”

A short time later, food was delivered. Bringing that into the barn seemed to stimulate Adam’s consciousness. He stirred a little and Paul was at his side. His questions only got low moans for answers but with his experience, it was enough.

“Adam, if you have to relieve yourself, go ahead. The receptacle is in place.”

“Yes, your family is here.”

“We’ll get you into a cot soon and prop you up a little. Once you recover from being moved, we’ll try spooning a little water or broth for you.”

“I have more blankets if you’re chilled. We’ll make sure you’re warm enough.”

The cot was ready, so the four men lifted Adam and turned him to place him on the cot. Hoss did most of the work with the others helping as needed. The bandage had been secured to Adam’s arms, but with the move, Doctor Martin could finish securing the bandage around Adam’s chest. The move with all that it entailed was exhausting to Adam and he was asleep again in minutes.

“We should go ahead and eat. It’s going to be a while before he wakes again.”

“Paul, that was all a good sign, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, Ben, he’s doing better than I expected. I’m relieved that he was conscious so soon. Now, he’s likely to get feverish so we’re not out of the woods yet with him, but it doesn’t look nearly as bad as it did a few hours ago.”

It was three days before Adam was fully awake and coherent enough to speak. Hoss was at his side.

“I really messed up this time.”

“Damn, Adam, you’re doing all right. Why do you think you messed up?”

“I’m in a barn, and it’s not even our barn.”

“How much do you remember about what happened?”

“About what?”

“Getting shot.”

“I got shot? Who shot me? Why?”

“We’re going to have to skip that part. Do you remember being in town playing poker?”

With a frown, Adam began to try to put together his jumbled memories of what had happened. Hoss had given him a clue so he got the first part.

“Yeah, I was playing poker and it turned into a long night because Jess wouldn’t quit. It really began to irritate me. Then he lost all his money and had to quit, but he was mad.”

“Do you remember what happened next?”

“Yes, but a gentleman doesn’t talk about those things.”

Hoss grinned.

“You didn’t leave town until the next day.”

“Yeah, I stopped at the bank, and they asked me to stop by and talk to Jed Uriah.”

“They did?”

“Ornery cuss. I left his place and then I don’t remember much of anything. Wait, except Jess was there telling me he didn’t shoot me. Yeah, I was shot. It hurt like hell. There was a fire. Damn, it’s all kind of mixed up after leaving Jed’s place.”

“Now that you’re doing so much better, Doc will let us take you home.”

“Where am I?”

“This is Jess’ barn.”

“Why am I in Jess’ barn?”

“I guess I can fill in the parts you don’t remember so well and tell you the stuff you don’t know. Joe or Pa will be here soon. Your fever broke last night, so we kind of figured you might come out of it pretty soon. We were darn worried about you. When we found you in here, you were in tough shape. Now what we know is this.”

Hoss told Adam the whole story as far as he knew it. He had not known the details about the trip to the Uriah place and thought Roy would be interested in that news. Adam was upset to find out what had happened to Jess but wasn’t too surprised either.

“I guess he was sure I was going to die and he would hang for it after he threatened me. Poor damn stupid fool.”

“Yeah, the only money they found on him was the money Sam had given him so we knew he didn’t rob you.”

“I guess he didn’t think that through.”

Sounds of a carriage and a wagon signaled the arrival of Doctor Martin and Ben Cartwright. They came in and sported big smiles to see Adam conversing with Hoss. Ben could hardly contain his enthusiasm.

“It’s so good to see you getting back to normal. I felt so awful seeing you laying there. I felt it was all my fault. I can put that behind me now.”

Confused by those remarks, Adam looked to Hoss.

“We’ll talk more later. You know how Pa gets when one of his sons gets hurt.” Turning to Doctor Martin, Hoss wanted to know what to do next. “How are we going to manage this, Paul?”

“I think if we back the wagon in here, we can get the cot mattress in the back of it, and then help Adam to get in and lay on it. That should be comfortable enough for the ride to the house and not take too much effort on his part.”

Once the wagon was in the barn, Hoss pulled the blanket from Adam. They had a robe for him and planned to put it on him when he stood. The problem with that plan became apparent right away. Adam tried to swing his legs over the side of the cot and could not.

“Hoss, he hasn’t been moving his legs at all. You lift his legs while I help him turn his body toward you.”

By the time they finished that, the two men saw a sheen of sweat forming on Adam because of the great effort he had expended to get that far. It shouldn’t have been so difficult but was. Adam was worried. When he went to stand, he was scared. He couldn’t do it at all. Hoss and Paul lifted him and held him while Ben transferred the mattress. Then Hoss picked Adam up to lift him into the wagon. Paul climbed into the wagon to help Ben take Aam and get him on the mattress. When that was done, and Adam caught his breath, he looked to Paul.

“Am I paralyzed?”

“No, there is feeling and movement. The bullet didn’t hit your spine but it was close enough. There must be swelling that is pressing on the spine or on nerves or even on both. Things should be better as the swelling subsides.”

“I hope so.”

Adam said it, but they were all thinking it.

The hope was partially realized. Feeling came back and enough strength to stand and walk, but every effort to get back to normal work and activity was met with failure. When Adam tried to chop some wood, he had to stop after several swings of the ax because his body protested. He tried the saw and got a little more done before having the same reaction. The next two days, he was too sore to try anything physical. Once he felt strong enough, he tried working on the forge. He was able to do more there but only lasted a little over an hour before having to quit.

There was some good news of a sort in the midst of all of this. Jed Uriah went to the bank and paid off half of his loan. The bank manager notified Sheriff Roy Coffee of that rather unusual transaction. A man who had no money about a month earlier suddenly had enough to pay half of his mortgage. Then a few days later while sitting with a small group of men, Jed began whittling. First one man and then another noticed the initials AC scratched into the small pocketknife Jed was using. Roy was informed of that too. He told Clem to ride out to bring Jed in to answer some questions. Fear over the possibility of being arrested and guilt that had been a constant companion for over a month was too much for Jed. He admitted what he had done to Clem. Roy rode out to the Ponderosa to tell the story to Adam and the rest of his family. By Adam’s reaction, Roy could tell he had suspected that to be true.

That news though did nothing to help with the continuing problem of Adam’s weakness. Paul suggested to him that he needed to see a specialist in San Francisco or maybe more than one.

“I may have missed a piece of that bullet. Or there could be a bone fragment pressing on a nerve or your spine. I don’t know. If not, you may need some special therapy. There are doctors there who can help and you won’t be tempted or pushed into trying to do things that you can’t. Physical activities at this point are likely only to aggravate the situation. Every time you try something, you’re going backwards in your recovery.”

“Discussions with my father aggravate the situation more.”

“I was afraid of that. He can’t seem to break this habit of arguing with you and acting like a father to a boy.”

“You nailed that on the head. Spending some time apart will probably be the only thing that can break that pattern. It will have to be a long time apart too. If I only take a short vacation, he will resume the pattern when I return. No, I have to move to the city and set up residence there. I can do ranch business and other things.”

“I’m sorry to say that I agree with you. For your health and well-being, it has to be done.”

When Adam proposed going to San Francisco for the reasons he and Paul had discussed, it was not a surprise that his father objected. He had all sorts of reasons, but the main one irritated Adam more than the others.

“You are not responsible for my actions. I am not a child. I make my own decisions and I take the consequences of them.”

“Maybe, but this time it was my fault for making you go to town. I pushed you into that situation that got you hurt.”

“If you’re responsible for me going to town and playing poker and getting this whole thing started, then you’re responsible for Jess being stupid and foolish and for Jed Uriah being a God damn son-of-a-bitch.”

Ben raised his hand in preparation to say something.

“And don’t you dare tell me not to swear. He shot me in the back and left me to die so he could take the money I had offered to give to him less than an hour earlier. If that isn’t a God damn son-of-a-bitch, I don’t know who is.”

“Are you through?”

“For now, I guess. I had to get that out.”

“There’s a lot we should get out, but it seems we can’t get it out without arguing. I think you’re right. Spending some time apart is a good idea. We could write. Maybe we could have visits?”

“I think that could be arranged.”

With that small smile that women found endearing and men sometimes found irritating, Adam responded favorably to his father’s request. Ben knew his son had softened his attitude after blowing off some steam.

“You’ve given me a lot to think about.”

“Thanks, Pa. I hope my brothers understand too. I can’t keep trying and failing here. I need to get some help, and we know where that is.”

Then Ben asked the question to which he feared to hear the answer because he knew the answer could be great news or devastating.

“When you get that help, will you come back?”

By the answer he got, he knew Adam had been thinking about it.

“I don’t know.”

Leaving was a quiet affair.

“You come back, you hear.”

“Someday, I will, Hoss, I promise.”

“You better, or I’ll hunt your sorry ass down and drag you back.”

Joe’s response hid his emotions.

“You’re finally getting out of all the jobs you hated and leaving them to me.”

“I wouldn’t go if I didn’t think you could do it all.”

“Thanks, Adam. You remember what Hoss said.”

Then the stage driver said they had to go, and he was gone. Three men rode back to the ranch that day with no idea how long that would be the case.

Chapter 3

Walking out of the surgeon’s office in a bit of shock although he had half expected what he had heard, Adam walked into a young woman and knocked papers from her hands. He bent down to help her pick them up but his back was uncooperative, and she helped him to sit in a chair.

“Coming out of my brother’s office, I should have known you had a medical issue. I’m sorry I let you try to help.”

“I’m not an invalid.”

Surprised by the vehemence of his response, she looked at him with more interest. She saw how he was dressed, the tan of his face and hands, as well as the look he had of a man who was physically fit even if he had a problem at that moment. Smiling, she couldn’t help herself.

“You’re not from around here, Mister, are you?”

Adam had to smile. Although spoken with her best imitation of a Texas drawl and sounding like a line from a dime novel, she had done a fair impression of a western cowboy.

“No, Miss, I’m from Nevada. I came here because I needed a doctor who can fix my back.”

“You came to the right doctor. My brother is an excellent surgeon.”

“That may be true, but the odds he gave me didn’t paint the best picture.”

“What does he think your problem is?”

“A piece of bone near the spine. It’s moving around causing bleeding which puts pressure on the nerves and the spine.”

“A hematoma can be a problem, but if he doesn’t fix it, then what are your odds?”

She could tell he had not asked that question.

“Just a moment. I’ll be right back.”

She entered her brother’s office without knocking, and he heard some discussion about that before both of them came into the hallway.

“You’ll continue to have problems like you have been having. However if that bone spear should slide into your spine at some point because of a fall or a physical exertion, it could seriously damage your spine or even sever it causing paralysis. I can’t give you odds on that because I cannot predict your behavior.”

“I can. My brother doesn’t want to say it, but I can tell looking at you that you won’t be sedentary. It’s why you came here. At some point, you will be too active and take risks. You will paralyze yourself partially or completely when you do.”

Waiting for the doctor to disagree, Adam was disappointed. All the doctor did was to explain his sister’s qualifications to state her opinion.

“My sister, Ina, is an experienced surgical nurse. She has worked on almost as many cases as I have, and has worked with my patients through their rehabilitation so she knows more about that than I do.”

“So for me, even though the surgery could do some damage, it would be less of a risk than not having the surgery at all.”

“That was what I was trying to explain to you when you walked out.”

A little sheepish at that point, Adam had to admit to being upset and letting that affect his judgement.

“It is understandable. It is your future. Now, do you wish to come back in and talk about what we’re going to do?”

Once all the details for the surgery were worked out, housing for recuperation and rehabilitation were next.

“You’ll stay at our house.”

“Nonsense. I can afford to pay for my own housing.”

“It will be part of your fees to us, and we have everything set up at our house for what has to be done including rehabilitation, and our staff can give round-the-clock nursing care. It is the most convenient for all of us. You should get your things and move there by tonight or tomorrow. That way the staff can get to know you before we do the surgery in three days. They will learn some of your likes and some of what you dislike. That will help them accommodate your needs after the surgery, but there may still be times there are things you do not like. Now, do you wish your family to be here when you have the operation?”

“No, I’ll tell them after the surgery and how it went.”

“They would be of no comfort to you?”

Silence was his answer so they understood.

That night, Adam moved into the Gaylord home. His room was on the first floor and the one he would occupy after the surgery. It was a little unnerving to him to see all the things that would be necessary for his care after surgery, but he was assured by Ina that it was better that he be prepared for the sights and smells before the surgery.

“The surgery will be here?”

“Yes, we can control the cleanliness better, and we then have our own facilities for patient care after the surgery. My brother does routine surgeries at the hospital, but all difficult ones are done here at our facility.”

“That’s why he said three days.”

“Yes, he has commitments for other surgeries at the hospitals. Are you sure you do not want any of your family here? It is usually a comfort to patients to have family present.”

“I wouldn’t mind having my brother Hoss here. He would be a comfort, but if I tell him, then my father and others would know. I don’t want the pressure of the whole family here.”

Using the word ‘pressure’ communicated quite a lot about his family situation.

“Your father is domineering.”

Adam snorted.

“That is a mild way of putting it. And I am at fault for letting him do it for too long.”

“We do things for love that are not always wise.”

Sitting in the garden as the sun went down and the shadows grew, Adam found himself quite attracted to the lady next to him. As the air chilled, she slid closer to him and leaned against him.

“It’s getting a bit cool out here.”

Resisting the urge to wrap an arm around her and draw her close, Adam instead asked about her unusual name.

“Oh, it’s an unusual name, but my parents named me Regina Kristina Martina Gaylord after the queen and my two grandmothers. Now that led to all sorts of nicknames being applied such as Gina which I disliked and Tina which I thought sounded like a painted lady. I shortened it to Ina which recognized all three and seems to suit me.”

“It does. It is unique, and so are you.”

He had to turn and look up at the stars to avoid wrapping an arm around her and kissing her. She put her hand on his thigh though and nearly broke his resolve. Her brother arrived in time to solve the problem for him.

“Ah, there you are. I wondered where you were. Ina, we have a long day tomorrow with patients.”

“Yes, I suppose it’s time to retire for the night. Adam, are you coming in?”

“No, I think I’ll sit out here a while.”

Once inside, Thomas Gaylord chastised his sister for being cruel.

“I saw what you were doing. Poor man has enough problems walking. With what you did, he may have to sit out in the cold for an hour before he is comfortable walking in here.”

“Thomas, I like him.”

“I gathered that, but you hardly know him.”

“I’m going to get to know him better.”

“Yes, I know that too. I hope he knows what he’s in for.”

Two days later, at dinner, Adam was having a light meal at the request of his host and hostess. There was the sound of the door knocker and the butler brought a guest to the table surprising Adam.

“Well, older brother, I’m going to be here for you whether you let me know or not.”

“Hoss, how did you know?”

Except Adam didn’t wait for his answer but turned to Ina and knew by her look.

“I sent him a telegram that I needed help. He was kind enough to respond and come to assist me. By what you told me about him, I guessed he would be able to read between the lines of my message.”

“Yeah, I told Pa it was a gal I knew and she needed me to come help her. And I told him I’d stay at your place if I could find you. I kinda figured Ina would know, and here you are.”

“So Pa doesn’t know except of course he’s rather good at reading between the lines too.”

“Nope, he doesn’t know nothing outright though, and really, neither do I. I came cause I figured there was a good reason this gal was asking me to come.”

Thomas looked at Adam and shrugged.

“It’s the way she is, Adam. I should probably have warned you.”

“It’s all right, Thomas. I kind of guessed she might do something. I didn’t expect her to be so sneaky about it though.”

Hoss grinned about that and waited to hear the rest of the story. They filled him in on what was to happen the next day and why.

“So, I guess I’ll be the one to let Pa and Joe know how things go.”

“I would do it, but it will be a longer wait for them if I do it. They’ll be expecting to hear from you.”

“That’s all right. I figure they’re gonna like hearing that Thomas here got you all fixed up.”

“It could be a few days before we get that final answer.”

“I know that, Doc, but I know it’s going to be the good answer. I got a good feeling in my gut about this.”

The next day, the surgery took almost two hours longer than Hoss had been told it would. Starting to think his gut feeling might have failed him, he almost forced his way into the surgery when noon struck on the clock and no one came out to tell him anything. Then thankfully, Thomas walked out looking exhausted but not upset.

“Hoss, it was difficult, but it was a success. I found scar tissue from what appeared to have been a previous injury. I had to work around that, and we had to bring him around so that he wasn’t anesthetized too long. Once we were sure he could tolerate more, then I did the extraction of the offending piece of bone and cleaned out the mess it had caused. I had to make sure the area was clean before closing up. He’s going to be on his stomach for some time but not as long as he told me he was with the original wound.”

“Can I see him?”

“In a few minutes. Let them clean up the area. How about some coffee? I could use some.”

As if by magic, a tray of coffee and sandwiches were brought in to the waiting area. Thomas cautioned Hoss to eat lightly because the smells in the surgery area were going to be strong.

“Eat enough to settle your stomach but not so much as to tax its limits.”

“I understand.”

“I would like you to sit at Adam’s side and talk to him. He won’t likely understand what you say nor remember much of it, but your familiar voice will help soothe and calm him.”

“Wouldn’t Ina be able to do that?”

Thomas grinned.

“I’m afraid that Ina’s influence on your brother is neither soothing nor calming.”

Hoss grinned.

“I was kind of thinking she had him on the run. It’s going to be interesting for sure.”

For three days, Adam was too weak from the surgery and in too much pain for it to be interesting. On the fourth day when he began to want to move, that changed. The staff propped Adam up at a slight angle. Ina came in to shave him, but he had other ideas.

“I can shave myself.”

“You cannot sit up any more than what you are right now. Thomas wants you like that for a day and then we’ll get you more upright if all goes well.”

Although Adam conceded on the shaving, he wouldn’t concede on the eating and drinking. As a result, he made a bit of a mess on his chest and neck with his breakfast. Ina brought in cloths, soap, and water to bathe him. He wanted to do that too, but she insisted she could do that better without wetting the sheets.

“You have made quite enough trouble for us already today. It would be nice if you would agree not to force us to have to put clean sheets on again.”

So Adam conceded that point, but he got irritated by Ina taking the liberty of pulling the sheets and blanket down to his waist and bathing him. Her hand with the warm cloth sliding down from his chest across his abdomen toward his lower parts had the ability to awaken parts of him that showed how attractive he thought she was.

“Stop that.”

“You need to be bathed. Why should I stop? I have bathed other men after surgery. I’m being careful not to make any part of the bandage damp.”

“You haven’t bathed me.”

That was delivered so vehemently that Ina paused. She looked down and realized why he was upset. She reached to a shelf, took a blanket and only partially unfolded it placing it over his hips.

“There, that should take care of that.”

“It doesn’t. You stopping what you are doing would take care of that.”

“No, you still need to be bathed.”

“I think you have done enough.”

Ina didn’t answer but moved to his legs and pulled the sheets and blanket up there too so she could bathe his legs and feet. After three days, they needed the attention which was quite apparent when she pulled the bedclothes away. Adam wanted to object more but it did feel good and he did like the attention from her despite his helpless state and the reaction she had seen. If Hoss had not walked in with Thomas at that point, he might have forgiven her sooner. As it was, he was embarrassed, and Hoss teased him about it for only a day until he realized how much of a problem it was. Then it was the little quirk or an upturned eyebrow of Thomas or a staff member that let Adam know his predicament had been the talk of the house.

The teasing that had accompanied that first session also cooled Adam’s feelings for Ina. When she came in to ask if he wished to play a game of chess or talk, he was too tired. For the first two days, she accepted that answer. After three more days, she knew he was avoiding being with her except for the necessary exercises and care she insisted he had to have. Thomas and Hoss had seen it immediately but had not interfered. Hoss had to be honest with her though when she asked him about it.

“My brother is a proud man. I guess all of us Cartwrights carry a bit of that. He’s a strong man too and real good at a lot of things. I guess you took it as a win to do what you did. But you see, you won when he couldn’t fight back. There was nothing he could do that day to stop you. Now he don’t trust you.”

Ina pursed her lips and dropped her head. When she looked up, Hoss could see the sadness in her eyes.

“And without trust, there’s nothing.”

“See, now there, you sound like him when you talk like that, but you got to do better when you’re with him. I think the two of you got a lot in common if you could find a way to get along.”

“I suppose it didn’t help when I said he was too touchy about being teased a little.”

Hoss winced at that one.

“He’s been told a little too often how he’s supposed to feel and how to think?”

Hoss shrugged.

“By your father?”

“Pa can be a little strong in his opinions sometimes.”

“Not to me really, but it riles me up sometimes how he rides Adam and even Joe once in a while. He wants them to do things perfect like and never make mistakes, well at least Adam. He forgives Joe just about anything pretty darn fast. Part of Adam coming here was to break free. I reckon he done it because Pa is talking a lot different than he used to now that Adam ain’t there and he ain’t so sure he’s coming back anytime soon.”

“Not going back? Where would he go?”

“Here for now, but I got a feeling my brother may have some other plans in his head. Now that his back is fixed up, there won’t be anything holding him back.”


“Oh, he’s talked about traveling and seeing places.”


“Oh, France and Italy, and the Sandwich Islands some sailors talk about, and of course, China that our cook talks about so much.”

Ina got a dreamy look hearing the list. Hoss shook his head as she looked up apparently unaware he was watching her. He guessed she was lost in dreams too.

That afternoon, Ina talked with Thomas’ personal attendant about taking care of Adam too. Thomas had agreed it was a workable solution and presented the idea to Adam.

“I didn’t mean to be a difficult patient.”

“You may be, but this part was not your doing. My sister created an uncomfortable situation and now has devised this solution. She will be better able to supervise your rehabilitation if you are more comfortable in her presence. I was most concerned that you would leave these premises at the first opportunity because of what happened. Now I think you should consider staying for the time period we had originally agreed was necessary.”

“I wasn’t going to run away.”

“I know that, but any man with pride would not tolerate what Ina did.”

Adam was quiet.

“Ina has always tested men and found them too weak to stand up to her. I think she had no idea what to do when she found a man who would not tolerate her behavior. Shunning her was a good way to teach her some proper manners. I have tried for years to lecture, berate, scold, and otherwise try to mold her into a more proper lady, and all was to no avail. You have done more in a few days than I managed in years. Your brother’s quiet counseling has helped too. You two are quite a pair, so different, and yet you are so much the opposite sides of the same coin.”

“That was quite a speech.”

“What can I say. I like to talk, and I wanted to bear witness for my sister and hope the two of you could find a way to be friends again.”

“Or you wish it would be more than friends?”

Thomas shrugged. He and Hoss had talked and found they were in agreement on this issue, but it was up to Adam and Ina.

“We’ll see.”

Over the next few weeks, Hoss spent as much time with Adam as he could because he fully expected that his brother was going to leave on his dream travels. It was difficult though because Thomas was trying to do the same with Ina expecting her to leave with Adam. What made it the most difficult was that Adam and Ina became nearly inseparable after she apologized and asked him how he wanted to proceed in his rehabilitation. Hoss sent progress reports home and knew his father and Joe were going to be reading between the lines well before he sent them the news of the wedding and the travel plans. At least he hoped they were because he didn’t want either one showing up and trying to throw a wet blanket on what seemed to be the best chance at happiness his older brother had in a number of years.

There was nothing to fear. Ben and Joe showed up at the wedding with gifts suitable for travelers as well as some important guests. Roy Coffee, Paul Martin, and Hop Sing came along to celebrate with the couple.

“Pa said it would be difficult to get any kind of surprise gift for Adam for his wedding, but I said I could manage a surprise. Pa said as long as there wasn’t going to be a disaster so I told him what it was and got his approval. I had to throw in that I wanted to invite Clementine Hawkins to see his reaction. It was the most fun of all. But once he calmed down, he knew I hadn’t been serious about that.”

“Hoss, I’m not so sure he wasn’t serious about it, but at least he didn’t insist. This is a good wedding. I hope all goes well for Adam.”

“I got a good feeling about this, Pa. I think he got a winning hand this time.”

“I thought he had given up on playing cards.”

“Nope, Ina has talked him into teaching her how to play poker. She got him to tell her that story about Jess. Then she had to know why his aces and eights beat Jess’ hand. From then on, it was all so many questions until he said he would teach her the game. I figure it was what she wanted anyway. She has her ways of getting what she wants from him.”

“He’s all right with that?”

“He knows she’s doing it, but she does it in such a way that he gets to decide what happens next. It works out for the two of them. You’ll see. They find a way to make things work.”

The day after the wedding, the wedding guests gathered at the dock to see them off. Adam and Ina waved from the railing as the ship pulled away. As they turned to walk along the deck, Ina put her hand on Adam’s backside. Hoss and Joe snickered. Adam pulled her hand away and swatted her on her backside before offering her his arm so they could walk like a proper couple to their cabin.

“That wasn’t nice spanking me like a recalcitrant child.”

“You will not do that kind of thing in public especially in front of sailors on a ship.”

“Or what?”

“Or you’ll get more of the same.”

“All right.” Then Ina smiled. “What about in our cabin?”

“There are no rules except you have to be quiet. The walls are too thin to make much noise.”

“You have a lot of rules.”

“They all make sense though.”

“Yes, they do. Let’s go make some sense.”

“Ina, we could be making more than sense.”

“I know, but you promised Hoss you would come back so that would be a good reason if it happens.”


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Author: BettyHT

I watched Bonanza when it first aired. In 2012, I discovered Bonanza fan fiction, and started writing stories as a fun hobby. I have hundreds of stories now. If I am unavailable and anyone needs permission to post one or more of my stories on a site such as Bonanza Brand, AC1830 and/or Mo1427 are authorized to give permission in my absence.

6 thoughts on “Aces and Eights (by BettyHT)

  1. Adam certainly went through the ringer on this one but with the problems at the beginning it allowed him to make the one break he needed to make. I think that trip at the end is going to be very interesting and enlightening. Thanks for leaving some lines to read between.

    1. Thank you so much. I left the door open too, but the way things are, I don’t know if I ever will write the sequel.

  2. So glad Adam was able to find happiness. Hoss got the chance to spend some meaningful time with his brother before he left on a marvelous honeymoon. So happy for that.

    1. Thank you so much. A tough start to the story, but as you noted, a good way to end it. Now others can discover everything that happened in between and there is that promise too.

  3. What a beautifull story . Love the romance twist and that Adam knows how to handle Ben and what the trouble was between the two of them. Adam had a lot of inside in this story. He was right in the assumtion that he led Ben treat him this way to long. And i love especially the end with the promise to return. Also that it is published on Pernells birthday. Thank you for this lovely present.

    1. Thank you so much. It took quite a while to write this one, but I managed to put Adam through it all again, but I got him to the ending just in time.

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