Eyes-of-Silver-Eyes-of-Gold.pdf

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EYES OF SILVER, EYES OF GOLD
by Ellen O'Connell SMASHWORDS EDITION *** PUBLISHED BY: Ellen O'Connell at Smashwords Copyr !ht "#$# by Ellen O'Connell %ll r !hts reser&ed 'h s boo( s a wor( o) ) *t on+ ,ames- *hara*ters- and n* dents are the prod.*t o) the a.thor's ma! nat on+ %ny resemblan*e to a*t.al e&ents or persons s str *tly *o n* dental+ Some o) the pla*es ment oned do e/ st0 howe&er- des*r pt ons may ha&e been altered to better s. t the story+ 'h s eboo( s l *ensed )or yo.r en1oyment only+ 'h s eboo( may not be resold or ! &en away+ I) yo. wo.ld l (e to share th s boo( w th another person- please p.r*hase an add t onal *opy )or ea*h person yo. share t w th+ I) yo. are read n! th s boo( and d d not p.r*hase t- or t was not p.r*hased )or yo.r .se only- then yo. sho.ld ret.rn to Smashwords+*om and p.r*hase yo.r own *opy+ 'han( yo. )or respe*t n! the a.thor's wor(+ *** DEDICATION 'h s boo( s ded *ated to my s ster- El 2abeth- who ss.ed the *hallen!e that made me stop tal( n! abo.t wr t n! a boo(- and wr te one 3 th s one+ *** STORY SUMMARY EYES OF SILVER, EYES OF GOLD s a story o) )am ly *on)l *ts set n Colorado n $445+ %nne 6ells has embarrassed her r ! dly proper )am ly s n*e she was a *h ld w th o**as onal b.t !r e&o.s lapses )rom ladyl (e beha& or+ 'hey blame those lapses )or the d s!ra*e).l )a*t that she s a sp nster at twenty3e !ht+

Cord Bennett- the son o) h s )ather's se*ond marr a!e to a Cheyenne woman- s more than an embarrassment to h s well3to3do )am ly o) ran*hers and lawyers 3 they are ashamed and a)ra d o) the r bla*( sheep+ 6hen %nne and Cord are )o.nd alone to!ether- her )ather's ).ry leads to & olen*e+ Cord's )am ly a**epts that the )a.lt s h s+ Can %nne and Cord .se the )reedom o) be n! *ondemned )or s ns they d dn't *omm t to ma(e a l )e to!ether7 Or w ll the r d sappro& n!- nter)er n! )am l es tear them apart7 *** ANNE'S FEAR WAS ALL-PERVASIVE, mind-numbing, a greedy ser en! "#i$ed in %er s!#ma"%, %ungri$y de&#uring a$$ s!reng!% and 'i$$( I! "%anged !%e '#r$d )r#m a '#ndr#us $a"e )u$$ #) "#$#r and 'arm!% !# a "#$d, air$ess b#* d#ne in s%ades #) $i)e$ess gray( As !%e e))e"!s #) !%e $audanum '#re #)), Anne sa! in %# e$ess si$en"e, !rying !# de)end agains! %er )a!%er's !rium %an! b#as!ing 'i!% !%e s!#ny demean#r he used s# 'e$$( +,e '#n'! e&en miss y#u, y#u -n#'( ,e d#esn'! gi&e a damn ab#u! y#u( A )e' days, and y#u'$$ ne&er "r#ss %is mind again(+ Anne '#ndered i) !%e anguis% in %er m#!%er's eyes re)$e"!ed %er #'n, i) s%e $##-ed as dread)u$ as %er m#!%er, '%# %ad aged !'en!y years in !%e as! %#urs( S%e s!ared #u! !%e !rain 'ind#', 'a!"%ing !%e 'inds'e ! rairie s eeding by( .%e s#und #) !%e !rain's '%ee$s mar-ed !%e mi$es and bea! #u! a r%y!%m/ I!'s y#ur )au$!, i!'s y#ur )au$!, i!'s y#ur )au$!( +I) y#u !%in- %is )ami$y 'i$$ d# any!%ing, y#u're 'r#ng( On"e !%ey -n#' !%eir #'n b$##d isn'! in&#$&ed, !%ey '#n'! "are any m#re !%an %e d#es(+ Fear )$##ded Anne's mind again in a b$a"- !ide, bringing a! $eas! a res i!e )r#m !%e "#ns!an! barrage #) &i"!#ri#us g$#a!ing( One year( One year and a )e' 'ee-s( .%a! 'as a$$ !%ere %ad been, a$$ !%ere 'as e&er !# be( I! 'as #&er n#', ending !%e 'ay i! began, 'i!% ain and )ear and b$##d( ***

CHAPTER 1
DA0P AND S,IVERING, ANNE )o.!ht a!a nst wa( n!- tr ed to sh.t o.t the so.nds o) n *(er n! horses- low n! *ows- and pla nt &e *ats+ %s she *.rled n a t !hter ball- stal(s o) hay pr *(ed her *hee(- and the s.mmer sweet s*ent rose aro.nd her+ She *ame ).lly awa(e n a d smay n! r.sh+ Last n !ht th s barn had been a wel*ome re).!e )rom the storm- b.t she had only ntended to wa t o.t the ra n+ ,ow the !ray l !ht o) early dawn m !ht mean ha& n! to e/pla n hersel) to the barn's owner+ 8aybe- 1.st maybe- she *o.ld steal away be)ore anyone saw her+ %nne )or*ed her st )) body nto a s tt n! pos t on then !asped+ % shadowy ) !.re leaned a!a nst the wall- wat*h n! her+ Cord Bennett+ In the d m l !ht n the barn t sho.ld ha&e been mposs ble to dent )y anyone- b.t %nne re*o!n 2ed h m nstantly )rom a !l mpse o) h s eyes .nder the br m o) h s hat+ She stared .p n d sbel e)+ How lon! had he been stand n! there- wat*h n! her

sleep7 Unw ll n! to babble a ner&o.s apolo!y- %nne sat n the hay- ret.rn n! h s s lentsteady re!ard- b.t she *o.ld not stop the &o *es e*ho n! n her head+ +,is daddy %ad br#'n eyes, bu! !%#se eyes #) %is are ye$$#', ye$$#' $i-e a '#$)'s(+ +.%e "#$#r d#n'! ma-e n# ne&ermind( W%a! !e$$s y#u %e's !%e de&i$'s #'n is !%ere's n#!%ing be%ind !%#se eyes( .%ey're em !y, em !y, sa&age, and "#$d(+ 6h *h was r d *.lo.s- o) *o.rse+ 'hose !oss ps were wron!+ 8aybe Cord d d ha&e .n.s.al l !ht brown eyes- b.t %nne d d not ) nd them *old+ In )a*t- tho.!h she was *h lled to the bone- meet n! those eyes had someth n! to do w th the heat she *o.ld )eel )l.sh n! her )a*e and b.rn n! stead ly downward+ Her m nd ) lled n the )eat.res she *o.ld not d st n!. sh n the shadows+ Under the hat h s ha r was th *(- bla*(- and probably almost to.*hed h s *ollar+ 'he bron2e )a*e was all an!les and planes- honed to the po nt o) !a.ntness- w th well3ar*hed eyebrows and *hee(bones so h !h they !a&e the eyes some o) the r narrowed loo(+ 'he s9.are 1aw and ) rm3l pped mo.th *ompleted a )a*e that was not merely stron!- b.t ) er*e+ :.st loo( n! at Cord Bennett made bra&e men .neasy- b.t %nne )elt hersel) rela/ n!+ She had ) rst met Cord when they were both only ten years old- and altho.!h e&eryone she (new bel e&ed the pol te boy had !rown nto a dan!ero.s man- she *o.ld not abandon her *h ldhood mpress on+ She was reass.red by h s presen*e- not )r !htened+ 'he lon! s len*e was be*om n! aw(ward- so she &ent.red- ;<ood morn n!+; ;8orn n'+; H s &o *e was deep- so)t- and as e/press onless as h s )a*e+ ;I s.ppose yo. wonder what I'm do n! here n yo.r barn7; ;Yo. as *old and wet as yo. loo(7; <lan* n! down at hersel)- %nne *o.ld not *ontrol a sh.dder o) sel)3d s!.st- b.t she answered s mply- ;Yes+; ;Ho.se s warm+ 'here's *o))ee+; He p *(ed .p a p t*h)or( and l )ted part o) her bed+ ;Be almost an ho.r be)ore I'm done here+; Co))ee= 6armth and *o))ee= %dd a b t o) )ood to that and t wo.ld be as m.*h o) hea&en as anyone *o.ld as( )or on th s earth+ %s Cord d sappeared nto the shadowy depths o) the barn- %nne s*rambled to her )eet and h.rr ed o.ts de+ %*ross the yard a dar( red ho.se w th a roo)ed por*h tr mmed n wh te nestled amon! *ottonwoods that were now dropp n! the last o) the r sh n n!yellow lea&es+ 'he day wo.ld be br !ht and s.nny- b.t a steady bree2e e/a!!erated the morn n!'s *h ll- hasten n! %nne's dash )or the ho.se+ She halted n s.rpr se 1.st ns de the door+ 6h te walls- p ne )loors- and lar!e w ndows made a s.nny nter or that all b.t n& ted her n+ 'he )ront part o) the room was a small parlor+ % sp ndle3ba*(ed ro*( n! *ha r )lan(ed a lamp table+ % worn settee was p.shed a!a nst one wall as ) to (eep t o.t o) the way+ Boo(s that loo(ed worn )rom many read n!s ) lled shel&es bes de t+ 'he ba*( part o) the room was the ( t*hen- and the lar!e bla*( sto&e p.lled at %nne l (e a ma!net+ ,ot only was t the so.r*e o) the warmth she so.!ht- b.t the *o))ee pot sat on top+ 'a( n! o)) her m.ddy shoes- %nne h.n! her damp )as* nator on one o) pe!s by the door+ She eyed a hea&y bl.e wool sh rt han! n! there )or lon! se*onds be)ore ! & n! way to temptat on and e/*han! n! her so!!y *oat )or the sh rt+ S.rely a man who )reely o))ered hot *o))ee wo.ld not be!r.d!e the .se o) h s sh rt )or a wh le+

% moment's r.mma! n! on shel&es near the sto&e prod.*ed a th *( wh te m.!+ 6 th a s !h o) p.re pleas.re- %nne *ollapsed nto one o) the *ha rs at the table n the ( t*hen+ She wrapped the wool sh rt t !htly aro.nd her- t.*(ed her damp- sto*( n!ed )eet .p nto the warmth o) her s( rts- and too( the ) rst lo&ely swallow o) the stron!- hot brew+ Cradl n! the *.p n her hands- more *om)ortable than she had been n some t me- %nne tr ed to th n( how she *o.ld !et Cord to help her+ S.*h tho.!hts made her absently to.*h her ha r- then start as her ) n!ers )o.nd not 1.st stra!!l n! lo*(s- b.t a dry !rass stem+ Startled- she be!an *omb n! thro.!h the th *( mass w th her ) n!ers- p.ll n! o.t and po*(et n! ha rp ns and more b ts o) hay as she went+ %*ross the room %nne saw her m.ddy shoes- h !h3topped- la*e3.p- st.rdy wal( n! shoes+ Her dress was a loose3) tt n! !ray wool wrapper+ Yesterday these *lothes had seemed sens ble+ ,ow they 1.st seemed drab+ It was hopeless+ She needed a br.sh and *omb+ 8ore than that- she needed a bath and *han!e o) *lothes+ >or that matter- why was she e&en th n( n! abo.t try n! to *harm Cord Bennett nto anyth n!7 % l )et me o) !nor n! hate spew n! )rom people l (e her own )ather had .ndo.btedly le)t Cord as mper& o.s to *harm as to e&eryth n! else+ 'he merest ment on o) the Bennett name *o.ld start her )ather on a t rade+ ;I) the Bennetts weren't r *h- that mon!rel wo.ld be lo*(ed .p by now- or h.n!+; 8on!rel was one o) the n *er th n!s her )ather *alled Cord- the ) rst *h ld o) :am e Bennett's sho*( n! se*ond marr a!e to an Ind an woman+ E&en now- more than twenty years a)ter the Sand Cree( 8assa*re- hate and )ear ran deep+ Cord was the s.b1e*t o) that pre1.d *e n all ts )orms and was as *oldly nd ))erent to that as to e&eryth n! else+ He was seen n town o**as onally w th the )am ly- b.t always sl !htly apart- stony3)a*ed and eer ly 9. et+ He ra sed horses on th s *orner o) the Bennett ?an*h- l & n! and wor( n! alone- sa d to be 1.st !ett n! by as- o) *o.rse- one wo.ld e/pe*t o) a la2y hal)3breed+ %nne tr ed not to *red t most o) the stor es abo.t Cord- b.t there was no deny n! that when he was ) )teen years old- he had almost ( lled a !rown man+ He had been n 1a l )or wee(s- and the Bennetts had ndeed s.**eeded n ha& n! h m released w tho.t a tr al+ %nne's )ather wasn't the only one who e/pressed r !hteo.s sat s)a*t on when years later Cord t.rned on >ran( Bennett- *om n! e9.ally *lose to ( ll n! h s hal)3brother+ >ran( ran the Bennett ?an*h- b.t he was o)ten n town+ %nne had heard h m des*r be the n* dent one day n the !eneral store+ >ran( had st ll been an!ry- and he swore there was no reason )or the atta*(+ ;He probably l (es me as m.*h as he l (es anyone+ He 1.st *an't help h msel) 3 I !ot n h s way- and he's mean as a sna(e+; Cord's other hal)3brother- Ephra m- was one o) 8ason's two lawyers and l &ed n town- b.t he had been at the ran*h the day o) the ) !ht+ He was the one who had *l.bbed Cord o)) >ran(+ Ephra m d dn't m n*e words e ther+ ;Somet mes I wonder how Pa and Son! *o.ld ha&e prod.*ed h m+ Yo.'d th n( e&en a *o.!ar *rossed w th a she3wol) wo.ldn't prod.*e Cord+ Yo.'d need wol&er ne m /ed n+; E&en tho.!h h s own )am ly d dn't d sa!ree w th the rest o) the town abo.t Cord n any way that mattered- %nne somet mes wondered ) en&y o) the &ast a*res o) the Bennett ?an*h ).eled the tell n! and retell n! o) stor es abo.t Cord+ Be n! alone w th any man .nder these * r*.mstan*es wo.ld be h !hly mproper+ Be n! alone w th Cord Bennett at any t me- n any pla*e- sho.ld be .nth n(able+ ?o.s n!

)rom her m.s n!s- %nne po.red hersel) another *.p o) *o))ee+ Her empty stoma*h was lon! past the po nt o) !rowl n!0 t was a d.ll a*he+ Propr ety be damned+ ,o one wo.ld e&er (now she had been here- and maybe she "#u$d tal( h m nto help n! her+ She was *erta nly !o n! to try+ 1ORD WAL2ED .OWARD .,E ,O3SE w th a pa l part ally ) lled w th )resh m l( n one hand and a battered t n w th e!!s n the other- mentally berat n! h msel) )or h s own )ool shness+ It was hard to bel e&e a twenty3e !ht3year3old woman *o.ld be r.nn n! away )rom home- b.t )rom the loo( o) %nne 6ells that was the way o) t+ Last n !ht's ra n meant no tra*(s )or sear*hers to ) nd- e/*ept here n the yard- b.t ) she were d s*o&ered n h s ho.se- there wo.ld be hell to pay- and he wo.ld be the one pay n! t+ %lso !all n! was the (nowled!e that ) he had )o.nd any other woman asleep n h s barn he wo.ld ha&e wa(ed her w th a pa l o) *old water n the )a*e- )r !htened her hal) to death- and r.n her o)) the pla*e as )ast as she *o.ld !o+ B.t not %nne+ %nne was the only woman n the town o) 8ason- or )or that matter n the whole State o) Colorado- he wo.ld *ross a street to help+ 8oreo&er- somet me d.r n! the last ho.r- he'd ! &en .p try n! to pretend he )elt anyth n! b.t p.re pleas.re at the tho.!ht o) her n h s ho.se- wa t n! )or h m+ 6ell- h s )eel n!s d dn't *o.nt )or m.*h+ 'here was noth n! )or t now b.t to see that she !ot home or where&er she wanted to !o n one p e*e as )ast as poss ble+ Lea& n! m.d3 *o&ered mo**as ns on the por*h- he stepped ns de- h s eyes mmed ately drawn to herst.dy n! her+ 'he wonder o) t was that e&ery el ! ble ba*helor )or m les aro.nd hadn't *o.rted %nne 6ells+ She was taller than )ash onable maybe- b.t her sl m ) &e and a hal) )eet was .n*ommonly !ra*e).l+ Her )em n n ty *ame not )rom an e/a!!erated ).ll blown ) !.reb.t )rom s.btle *.r&es that blended one nto the other- n& t n! the eye to )ollow+ So)t brown ha r made a s l(en )rame )or her heart3shaped )a*e and h.!e !ray eyes that !a&e away e&ery tho.!ht+ O) *o.rse- t was the d re*tness o) those !reat !ray eyes that most people )a.lted her )or and blamed )or her be n! a sp nster+ %nne had always loo(ed to h m as )resh as new spr n! !rass- b.t now as she ra sed her head- ! & n! h m a tra*e o) a sm le- her *ond t on appalled h m+ % lon! wal( n last n !ht's ra n d d not e/pla n ha r dar(ened w th ) lth+ Her )a*e was so th n the ma!n ) *ent eyes were l !ht *enters n h.!e bla*( p ts+ 'he sl !htly po nted *h n that had always seemed so del *ate and )em n ne was now pa n).lly too sharp- and the smell n the ( t*hen test ) ed to her thoro.!hly .nwashed state+ ;I hope yo. don't m nd that I borrowed yo.r sh rt+; It wo.ld need one hell o) a s*r.bb n!+ ;,o+; Cord sear*hed )or an e/planat on )or the state she was n+ ;Yo. been s *(7; She loo(ed away e&as &ely+ He started to han! h s *oat and hat ne/t to %nne's th n!snearly m ss n! her low3&o *ed answer+ ;,o- not s *(- not e/a*tly+; He d d not p.sh )or a better answer b.t set the pa l and e!!s on the table- rolled .p h s slee&es- and started to wash .p n the lar!e pan near the sto&e+ Dry n! h s hands- he t.rned to *at*h %nne star n! at the m l( and e!!s w th a d st.rb n! loo( o) na(ed h.n!er+ How *o.ld her *ond t on be star&at on7 Her )am ly was well o))+ Only Edward 6ells h msel) e&en pretended pro) ts )rom h s ta lor's shop pro& ded any part o) the b ! ho.se or

other )an*y th n!s+ 8rs+ 6ells had nher ted money+ St ll- there was no m sta( n! that loo(+ 6hen %nne ) nally tore her !a2e )rom the pa l and e!!s- he sa d- ;I'll *oo(+ Yo. tal(+; 'he ho.se seemed smaller to %nne w th h m n t+ 'he )l.tters n her stoma*h were h.n!er0 they had to be+ Her m nd darted )rom one problem to another- try n! to th n( o) a way o.t o) tell n! h m what he wanted to (now+ It was not a matter o) wash n! her )am ly's d rty l nen n p.bl *+ She )elt no loyalty o) that sort to them at th s po nt+ It was more a sense o) personal embarrassment- and so she tr ed to a&o d a real e/planat on+ ;6ell- I s.ppose yo. *an tell I'&e le)t home+ I need to !et to <renerton+ I'm !o n! to ta(e the tra n )rom there and !o to my %.nt Clara n Ch *a!o+ 8aybe she'll let me l &e w th her a!a n+ 6o.ld yo. maybe *ons der ta( n! me to <renerton7; I!nor n! her 9.est on- Cord as(ed one o) h s own+ ;%re there people loo( n! )or yo.7; ;Yes- probably- b.t they *an't (now where to loo(+ I saw the Brower brothers' wa!on beh nd the saloon 3 t was empty- they m.st ha&e del &ered someth n! to town 3 and h d .nder the tarpa.l n+ I tho.!ht ) I rode there .nt l the wa!on t.rned stra !ht so.th I'd be 1.st a )ew m les )rom <renerton+; Cord stopped sl * n! ba*on and !a&e her a hard loo(+ ;Yo. ha&e any dea how m.*h tro.ble yo.'d be n ) the Browers !ot the r hands on yo. n the m ddle o) nowhere7; She (new- b.t the r s( seemed ne*essary at the t me+ ;Yes- that's why when the ra n started and I heard them tal( n! abo.t stopp n! to ) / the tarp to (eep them dry I rolled o.t o) the wa!on and h d n some b.shes by the road .nt l they were o.t o) s !ht+ 'hey a*t.ally d d stop and ) ddle w th the tarp+; She repeated her re9.est- ;6o.ld yo. help me !et to <renerton7; %!a n the answer was another 9.est on- ;How m.*h money do yo. ha&e7; Drat h m+ D d he ha&e to be d )) *.lt7 ;Eno.!h-; %nne stated ) rmly+ ;6 ll yo. help me7 Please7; He threw the ba*on n a lar!e )ry n! pan and started m / n! )lo.r- m l(- and e!!s n a bowl+ %nne *o.ld see noth n! b.t h s ba*(- wh *h was no less e/press &e than h s )a*e+ > nally- he answered- ;8aybe+ 'al(+; So the pr *e o) h s help was !o n! to be the whole .!ly story+ 6 th a res !ned shr.!she be!an to tal(+ ;8y )ather has been .pset )or years that I'm not marr ed- yo. (now+ He th n(s ha& n! an old ma d )or a da.!hter s a re)le*t on on h m somehow+; Cord d dn't t.rn aro.nd- b.t sa d- ;He d dn't want yo. marr ed bad eno.!h to )a&or Elroy '.rrell- d d he7; ;,o+ He d dn't th n( a )armer's son was !ood eno.!h- and I was only e !hteen then+ It was when I started see n! what he tho.!ht was too m.*h o) Elroy that he sent me to Ch *a!o 3 to my %.nt Clara+; 6at*h n! h m dra n the ba*on and start e!!s )ry n!- %nne was s.ddenly s.re Cord a!reed w th her )ather abo.t Elroy- altho.!h t wo.ld be Elroy's la*( o) !.mpt on and not h s prospe*ts a Bennett wo.ld )a.lt+ She d stra*ted hersel) )rom the sharp h.n!er pa ns that the s !ht and s*ent o) )ood were br n! n! on by st.dy n! Cord's ba*(- adm r n! h s easy- e)) * ent mo&ements+ It sho.ld be ).nny+ She was alone w th Cord Bennett- and %e was *oo( n! %er brea()ast+ It

wasn't ).nny0 t was h.m l at n!+ She hated her ner&es- her ) lth ness- and ha& n! to tell h m- o) all people- abo.t her tro.bles+ %nd he wasn't !o n! to lea&e t alone+ ;Yo. were en!a!ed n Ch *a!o-; he prompted+ ;Yes- )or )o.r years+ H s name was ? *hard 'yler- and he was a ban(er's son+ 8y )am ly was del !hted abo.t t+ 6hen I bro(e the en!a!ement- >ather was on the ) rst tra n to Ch *a!o to try to ) / th n!s+ I ne&er wanted to !o East to start w th- b.t >ather wanted me to !o- and I went+ I d dn't want to *ome ba*( then- b.t he wanted me to *ome homeso I *ame 3 altho.!h I don't (now why he wanted me ba*(- he was that an!ry+ He went on and on )or months abo.t what a d s!ra*e and )a l.re I was 3 am+ He hasn't le*t.red as m.*h s n*e- b.t e&ery year he's been a l ttle more desperate than the year be)ore+; She tr ed to *han!e the s.b1e*t+ ;Yo. were !one some o) those same years yo.rsel)weren't yo.7 People say yo. loo(ed l (e a w ld Ind an when yo. !ot ba*(+ 6here were yo. o)) to7; He d dn't e&en t.rn aro.nd+ ;Some people say too m.*h+ Yo. aren't say n! eno.!h+; 'hwarted- %nne wr n(led her nose at h s ba*( and *ont n.ed+ ;6ell- that's the way th n!s ha&e been- and then early th s s.mmer- e&ery t me I t.rned aro.nd I was b.mp n! nto <eor!e Detr *(+ Do yo. (now h m7; ;I'&e seen h m aro.nd+; ;He's a w dower- yo. (now- and he's older than my )ather+ H s sons are older than I am- and they're 3 lo.ts+; 6 th an e))ort- %nne lowered her &o *e- wh *h had been r s n!+ ;I (now t's a s n to 1.d!e people by appearan*e- b.t I *an't stand h m+ He's )at and !reasy and has l ttle beady eyes and he smells worse than I do r !ht now all the t me+ H s sons )r !hten me- and he's arro!ant and patron 2 n! and bor n!- and he (eeps try n! to pat my hands or arms when he tal(s to me- and t ma(es me )eel d rty++++; %nne ran o.t o) breath be)ore she ran o.t o) the l tany o) horrors+ Cord t.rned to )a*e her wh le wa t n! )or brea()ast to ) n sh *oo( n!- arms )olded a*ross h s *hest+ ;?ep.ls &e says t+; ;Yes+ 6ell+ 'he th n! s when he real 2ed how I )elt- he d dn't ! &e .p+ He 1.st went to my )ather and sa d he wanted to marry me- and >ather was o&er1oyed+ He ordered me to marry 8r+ Detr *(+; ;%nd yo. sa d no+; ;It was the ) rst t me I e&er de) ed >ather n any way+ He !ets+++- b.t I was s.re when I e/pla ned++++; Her &o *e tra led o))- b.t then she ra sed her head and met h s eyes+ ;It doesn't ma(e any d ))eren*e to my )ather at all+ 8r+ Detr *( s the only one who wants to marry meand >ather wants me marr ed- and that's all that matters+ %ll s.mmer he b.ll ed me and made the whole )am ly m serable abo.t t- b.t how *o.ld I a!ree7 8arr a!e++++; In the nstant be)ore he t.rned ba*( to the sto&e- she saw Cord's eyes t.rn *y- and the s( n aro.nd them p.ll ta.t and )lat+ H s an!er on her behal) was e&en more mort )y n!b.t t was eas er to !et the rest o.t w tho.t h m loo( n! at her+ ;6hen >ather real 2ed I wasn't !o n! to ! &e n- he 1.st *ame home )rom the shop one e&en n! and na led boards o&er the w ndows n my bedroom and lo*(ed me n+ I *o.ldn't bel e&e t+ I was s.re he was 1.st try n! to s*are me- b.t then he told my mother to ! &e me less than eno.!h to eat+ 8y mother 3 o) *o.rse she d dn't- and when he real 2ed t he

too( the bedroom (ey- and a)ter that there was less )ood e&ery day than the day be)ore+ It's been wee(s- and yesterday 'meals' were a sl *e o) bread+; %nne had re* ted these )a*ts stead ly and w tho.t emot on- b.t now her &o *e wa&ered+ ;I was be! nn n! to be really a)ra d+ People !et h.n!ry eno.!h to eat rats and sna(es+ I (new I wo.ld !et h.n!ry eno.!h to marry <eor!e Detr *(+ >ather was !o n! to w n+; 6 th the most h.m l at n! part o&er- %nne told the rest 9. *(ly+ ;I ne&er really bel e&ed they'd lea&e me lo*(ed .p l (e that )or lon!- b.t e&en so- t was bor n!- and r !ht )rom the ) rst day I spent a lot o) t me wor( n! at the boards on the w ndow o&er the por*h+ 'hey were really loose by yesterday- and I was a)ra d ) I wa ted any lon!er someone wo.ld not *e+ So I p.t all my stren!th nto !ett n! those boards o))+ I dropped to the !ro.nd by han! n! )rom the ed!e o) the por*h roo) and *l mbed nto Browers' wa!on w tho.t a se*ond tho.!ht+ ,o one n town wo.ld ha&e been able to help- yo. (now+ 'hey wo.ldn't bel e&e t to start w th+ ;%)ter I le)t the wa!on I wal(ed *ross *o.ntry .nt l I saw yo.r lampl !ht- b.t I d dn't (now who l &ed here+ I d dn't (now t was Bennett land th s )ar so.th+ 'he do! bar(ed on*e or tw *e and then ran o.t and sn ))ed me and a*ted )r endly- so I *.rled .p n the hay n the barn+ I meant to lea&e as soon as the ra n stopped- b.t I )ell asleep+; ;O) *o.rse ) yo.'d (nown who d d l &e here yo.'d ha&e *ome r !ht to the ho.se+; H s tone and the am.sement that warmed h s eyes almost restored %nne's sp r ts+ She *o.ld not help b.t respond n ( nd to s.*h an .tterly mposs ble s.!!est on+ ;O) *o.rseand as(ed ) yo.'d l (e a ho.se !.est+; %t th s po nt he p.t two plates w th hot*a(es- e!!s- and ba*on on the table- and %nne stopped tal( n! and started eat n! w th an .nmannered &en!ean*e+ %)ter wat*h n! )or a )ew se*onds- Cord sa d- ;Slow down- or t w ll *ome ba*( .p e&en )aster+; <lan* n! .p- %nne de* ded he wasn't *r t * 2 n!- b.t ad& s n!+ She )or*ed hersel) to stop sho&el n! and be!an to *hew+ 'hey ate n s len*e- and when her plate was *lean- she re!ret).lly t.rned down the o))er o) more+ ;,o- than( yo.- I'd l (e more- b.t yo.'re r !ht- t wo.ldn't stay down+ Yo. ha&e no dea how m.*h I needed that+ 'r.ly- than( yo.+; Cord leaned ba*( n h s *ha r and p nned her w th the eyes that *a.sed so m.*h *omment+ ,ot yellow- amber maybe+ He repeated h s pre& o.s 9.est on+ ;How m.*h money do yo. ha&e7; % most pers stent and e/asperat n! man- she tho.!ht- b.t adm tted- ;'wenty dollars+ It was n my room+ It's m ne+; ,ow %nne sear*hed h s )a*e n &a n )or *l.es to what he was th n( n! as he sa d- ;I'&e !ot some *ash aro.nd here+ I *an spare yo. a h.ndred and ) )ty+ I) yo.'ll ta(e t- I'll h t*h .p the b.!!y and ta(e yo. to <renerton+ I don't s.ppose yo. *an r de7; ;,o- I *an't- b.t I *an't ta(e yo.r money e ther+ Please 1.st help me w th !ett n! there+; ;% loan )rom me wo.ldn't be proper- h.h7; ;It not only wo.ldn't be proper+ It wo.ldn't be r !ht+ I) I l &e w th my a.nt- I'll be l & n! on her *har ty+ I) she's on >ather's s de and won't let me stay there- and I !o to )r ends and ) nd employment somewhere- I'll st ll ne&er be able to repay yo. a h.ndred and ) )ty dollars+ Yo. (now that+;

He stood and p *(ed .p the d rty d shes and p.t them n the d shpan and be!an *o&er n! them w th hot water )rom the reser&o r n the sto&e+ She started to r se- th n( n! to help- b.t he ordered- ;S t-; and she sat+ %nne st.d ed h m a!a n as he washed the )ew d shes+ He was probably abo.t her brother's he !ht- an n*h or so o&er s / )oot- b.t leaner and le!! er+ ?ob m !ht be as broad n the sho.lders- b.t wh le her brother was *erta nly not )leshy- he d d not taper so smoothly to s.*h a narrow wa st and h ps+ Stand n! per)e*tly st ll Cord rad ated a raw power+ Small wonder people )eared h m+ He was always pol te eno.!h to shop(eepers and others n town- b.t he ne&er o))ered an .nne*essary word- and h s )a*e was an mpass &e mas(+ %nne's own p.lse was d s*on*ert n!ly stron! and 9. *( n her throat+ > n shed *lean n! .p- Cord re) lled both *o))ee *.ps and sat ba*( down a*ross )rom her+ H s words- del berate and *ons dered- *han!ed the d re*t on o) her tho.!hts abr.ptly+ ;%ss.m n! yo.r )ol(s don't *at*h yo. and dra! yo. home- ) yo. !o nto <renerton w th only twenty dollars- yo.'ll be l.*(y to !et to Ch *a!o+ I) yo.r a.nt won't help- yo.'ll end .p whor n!+ Yo.'re pretty eno.!h- b.t yo.'re not yo.n! eno.!h+ Yo.'ll ser& *e men older- .!l er- and meaner than <eor!e Detr *(- and lots o) them+; ,e&er n her l )e had anyone spo(en to her l (e that= ;I w ll not= It's *erta nly n *e to hear yo.r real op n on o) me=; ;Yo. th n( yo. *o.ld !et h.n!ry eno.!h to marry somebody yo. hate- b.t not h.n!ry eno.!h to sell yo.rsel) to stran!ers7 6hy do yo. th n( women be*ome whores 3 be*a.se they l (e t7; 'hat was e/a*tly what she tho.!ht- b.t she wasn't abo.t to say so now+ She !lared at h m+ ;I'll ta(e yo. to <renerton ) yo.'ll ta(e the money+ I) yo. want to be st.p d- wal( there w th yo.r damn twenty dollars+ It's .p to yo.+; She stared at h m n ama2ement+ H s *ond t on was bla*(ma l n re&erse- and t was r d *.lo.s+ Be)ore she *o.ld e&en de* de how to try to ar!.e ).rther- the do! started bar( n!+ 'here had been no so.nds o) horses approa*h n!- b.t now male &o *es so.nded o.ts de+ Cord !ot to h s )eet+ ;<.ess they ha&e some dea where yo. are a)ter all+ Play yo.r *ards r !ht- and yo. won't ha&e to worry abo.t Detr *(+; He seemed .n*on*erned- b.t %nne's stoma*h *ontra*ted w th )ear that approa*hed pan *+ ;How m.*h tro.ble w ll th s be )or yo.7; she wh spered+ ;Yo.'re not *ry n!+ :.st lots o) *.ss n! and threats+ <et yo.r th n!s and *ome alon!+; ***

CHAPTER 2
O4EDIEN.LY, ANNE ROSE AND FOLLOWED h m toward the door+ %s she p *(ed .p her shoes- she saw that )or all h s *as.alness- Cord was rea*h n! )or the r )le that h.n! on the wall near the door+ 'he door *rashed open be)ore he had the weapon )ree+ ;Lea&e t+;

%nne d mly re*o!n 2ed the swarthy- b !3bell ed man po nt n! a p stol at Cord- b.t she *o.ld not p.t a name to the )a*e+ He stepped o.t o) the doorway- !est.r n! w th the !.n+ Cord wal(ed o.t w tho.t a word+ 'he ntr.der t pped h s hat at %nne+ ;Yo. better be th n( n! o) a !ood story )or yo.r daddy- honey+ He !ot more e/er* sed w th e&ery m le we rode e&en be)ore Browers started .s loo( n! here+ 6e sn.*( .p on th s pla*e l (e we were the In1.ns+ I wo.ldn't want to be n yo.r shoes r !ht now+; He ra(ed h s eyes o&er her w th del berate ns.ltthen la.!hed+ ;Or o.t o) them+; He se 2ed her by the .pper arm- ro.!hly p.sh n! her toward the open door+ %nne dropped her shoes to ) !ht h m- b.t then heard her )ather's &o *e r s n! o&er the *on).s on o) so.nds n the yard+ ;Yo. hal)3breed bastard- what ha&e yo. done to my da.!hter7 She's here+ 'hose are her )ootpr nts=; %nne stopped res st n! and let her *aptor p.sh her o.ts de+ Later she wo.ld real 2e that there were only ten men and horses n the yard- b.t r !ht then t seemed l (e a h.ndred- all m ll n! and *h.rn n! aro.nd+ Bes des her )ather- she mmed ately p *(ed o.t <eor!e Detr *(+ 'he rest o) the men m.st ha&e &ol.nteered when her )ather loo(ed )or a sear*h party to help ) nd her+ 'hree o) them had !.ns drawn- all a med at Cord+ She barely re*o!n 2ed the man stand n! )a*e to )a*e w th Cord+ 'he &ery ere*t m l tary bear n! was her )ather's- as was the dar( ha r only to.*hed w th !ray+ B.t Edward's )a*e was mottled red w th ra!e- and .nder h s pre* sely tr mmed m.sta*he- h s mo.th was a th n- tw sted l ne+ 8ore )r !htened than e&er by the s !ht- %nne ran to her )ather- rea*h n! )or h s arm*ry n!- ;,o- don't+; Edward ro.nded on her- !rabb n! her by the .pper arms and sha( n! her l (e a ra! doll+ ;D d yo. th n( yo.'d !et away w th t7 D d yo. th n( nobody saw yo. !et n Browers' wa!on7 I tho.!ht we had to sa&e yo. )rom them- b.t th s s worse= Yo. )ool- yo. *o.ldn't obey me and marry a respe*table man- yo. had to r.n o)) and !et yo.rsel) r. ned by Bennett trash=; He was sho.t n!- sp tt n! a ) ne spray o) sal &a+ ;%nyone *an tell what's been !o n! on here+ E ther he )or*ed yo. or yo. were w ll n!+ Say he )or*ed yo.=; De)y n! her )ather ).rther n )ront o) all these other men wo.ld be the worst th n! she *o.ld do 3 e/*ept )or tell n! the l e he demanded+ 6hen he stopped sha( n! her- she sa d &ery *are).lly- lo.dly- and d st n*tly- so that e&eryone wo.ld hear- not 1.st her )ather- ;He ne&er to.*hed me+; She e/pe*ted d sbel e) and more an!er- b.t ne&er the ).ll3stren!th ba*(handed blow that smashed nto the s de o) her )a*e+ St.nned- she sta!!ered ba*( a!a nst a por*h postthe only th n! that (ept her )rom )all n!+ Her mo.th ) lled w th the metall * taste o) blood+ She had ne&er been h t be)ore+ %ll %nne *o.ld see was her )ather and h s an!er- b.t she heard Cord's words *learly eno.!h+ ;Lea&e her alone- damn yo.+ She d dn't++++ 'he so.nd that stopped h s words wasn't the *ra*( o) )lesh on )lesh- b.t a d.ll th.d+ % !.n barrel %nne tho.!ht+ Her )ather a!a n se 2ed her by the .pper arms+ ;Say he )or*ed yo.=;

'h s t me %nne was ready )or h s rea*t on as she a!a n *are).lly en.n* ated- ;He ne&er to.+++-; b.t that was as )ar as she !ot be)ore the se*ond blow e/ploded on the other s de o) her )a*e+ She d dn't )all be*a.se someone had *ome .p beh nd her and was hold n! her .pr !ht+ ;I d dn't *ome alon! to wat*h anybody beat a woman+; %nne mana!ed to br n! th n!s ba*( nto )o*.s- and saw D *( Brown- a )armer who l &ed near '.rrells- mo.nt h s horse and r de away+ 'hen Cord sna(ed nto mot on- .s n! the d &ers on to d &e .nder the !.ns- ta( n! the man on h s le)t down w th h m- ( *( n! the )eet o.t )rom .nder another+ 'here were s mply too many o) them- and a ) !ht wasn't what they had n m nd+ % shot ran! o.t- and when Cord !ot slowly to h s )eet- blood soa(ed h s sh rt on one s de 1.st abo&e h s belt+ @ olen*e *har!ed the a r as palpably as the ele*tr * ty o) the storm had the n !ht be)ore+ %nne was a)ra d to loo( at Cord- *o.ldn't bear that she had bro.!ht th s horror down on h m+ <eor!e Detr *( bro(e the om no.s s len*e- ma( n! th n!s worse+ ;Ed- I'm sorry as hell- and I s.re sympath 2e w th what yo. m.st be )eel n!- b.t I *an't marry her now+; Edward's *olor had almost ret.rned to normal+ ,ow t rose a!a n+ ;It's bad eno.!h she's so st.p d she was n h s ho.se n th s *ond t on- b.t ) she says he d dn't h.rt her yethe d dn't+ <od (nows she's !ot her )a.lts- b.t ly n! sn't one o) them+ Yo. heard what she sa d+; ;I heard- and ) yo. need to bel e&e her- I .nderstand+ B.t I don't+; %s Detr *( rea*hed a p.d!y hand toward her- %nne *r n!ed away- b.t he d dn't to.*h her- 1.st pl.*(ed at her ha r- then held .p a stal( o) hay- tw rl n! t between h s ) n!ers so the seed tassle at the end dan*ed+ ;I slept n the barn-; %nne sa d ).r o.sly+ ;Cord d dn't e&en (now I was here .nt l 1.st be)ore yo. )o.nd me+; She *o.ldn't e&en hear her own last words o&er the *oarse la.!hter o) the man hold n! her+ Sam.els- she tho.!ht+ Lem Sam.els+ H s d rty loo( n! )r ends- who had the r !.ns on Cord- were the 8ee(s brothers and ?ed O'Br en+ %ll )o.r wor(ed )or the Do.ble 8 ?an*h east o) town- an o.t) t (nown to h re hands w ll n! to nt m date small land owners o&er !ra2 n! and water r !hts+ ,ow Charl e 8ee(s spo(e .p+ ;I th n( yo.'re try n! to marry the wron! *o.ple6ells+ Bennett here w ll ma(e th n!s r !ht+ 6on't yo.7; ;%bsol.tely not-; sa d Edward+ ;'here are no * r*.mstan*es .nder wh *h I'd allow++++; 8ee(s p.lled Edward away )rom the others+ %t ) rst as 8ee(s tal(ed- %nne *o.ld see her )ather sha( n! h s head stead ly- b.t then she saw a slow nod- then se&eral more+ 6hen the men ret.rned there was an .!ly sm le on 8ee(s' )a*e+ ;I rode o.t here )or a wedd n!- and I'm !o n! to see a wedd n!+ ,ow- to.!h man- yo.'re !o n! to ma(e t r !htaren't yo.7; ;'here's noth n! to ma(e r !ht-; Cord sa d )latly+ ;Oh- yes- there s- and yo.'re !o n! to do t-; 8ee(s sa d+ ;L (e hell+; 8oments later Cord sa!!ed almost .n*ons* o.s+ He had not sa d another word- b.t the de) an*e n h s eyes made t *lear 8ee(s wasn't !o n! to !et what he wanted+ 6 th the ) rst blow- %nne tr ed to *ry o.t- b.t Sam.els sh )ted h s hold on her to 1.st h s le)t hand a*ross her mo.th- p.ll n! her head & * o.sly ba*( a!a nst h s sho.lder- and

)or* n! her sp ne nto a pa n).l ar*+ She *lawed at h s hand and arm b.t only tore her ) n!erna ls on h s hea&y 1a*(et and leather !lo&e+ A *(s )rom %nne's sto*( n!3*lad )eet only !a&e Sam.els *a.se to mo*( her+ ;Yo. m !ht as well 9. t t r n! yo.rsel) o.t+ Yo. a n't h.rt n! noth n! b.t yo.r )eet+; He then p.lled h s r !ht !lo&e o)) w th h s teeth+ 8.tter n! & le obs*en t es- he be!an to paw- p n*h- and tw st at e&ery b t o) her he *o.ld rea*h+ 'ry n! to see what Charl e 8ee(s was do n! to Cord- s9. rm n! to a&o d the d s!.st n! paw n! o) her own person- %nne st ll saw stealthy mo&ement a*ross the yard+ 'he brown- )o/3)a*ed do! that had es*orted her to the barn last n !ht was stal( n! hes tantly toward Cord and the men who held h m+ 'he mo&ement also *a.!ht Charl e 8ee(s' eye- and w th a w der !r n- he drew h s p stol- boast n!- ;6at*h th s- boys+; Cord's & olent l.n!e *a.!ht them all by s.rpr se- and spo led 8ee(s' a m+ 'he so.nd o) the shot and the do!'s s*ream *ame to!ether- b.t the do! strea(ed .nder the por*h ahead o) Charl e's se*ond shot+ : mmy 8ee(s !a&e h s brother a (now n! loo( and drawled- ;'he to.!h man d dn't l (e that one b t- Charl e+ 8aybe d !! n! that m.tt o.t wo.ld !et .s some *ooperat on here+; Charl e shoo( h s head tho.!ht).lly- then t.rned to 'homas 6h te- a saloon (eeper )rom town- and sa d- ;See those horses n the *orral7 Cat*h one .p and br n! t o&er here+; %nne had been try n! to *on& n*e hersel) that ne ther her )ather nor ?e&erend Pratt (new what Sam.els was do n! to her+ ,ow- as e&eryone wa ted wh le 6h te !ot a halter )rom the barn and *a.!ht one o) the all too )r endly horses- she saw her )ather- ?e&erend Pratt- <eor!e Detr *(- and 8 *hael Benton- the 8ason b.t*her- ! &e ).rt &e loo(s her way+ 'here was no do.bt they all (new what Sam.els was do n!- saw her desperate str.!!les a!a nst h s pa n).l- n&as &e !rop n!- and 1.st loo(ed away a!a n+ ,one o) the townsmen were !o n! to stand a!a nst the *as.al & olen*e o) the Do.ble 8 men- and her )ather had *ome to some a!reement w th Charl e 8ee(s+ 6h te led the bay !eld n! he had *a.!ht to 8ee(s+ Charl e po nted h s p stol at the an mal's le)t )ront (nee and t.rned to loo( Cord n the eye+ ;6hat do yo. say- to.!h man7 I hear yo. ra se !ood horses+ How abo.t I shoot one (nee on ea*h one o) that b.n*h o&er there7; E&en Sam.els was *on*entrat n! on Charl e so ntently h s hand had stopped- and what %nne saw b.rn n! n Cord's eyes made her swallow hard- e&en as he !a&e n+ ;%ll r !ht+ Yo. w n+; 6h te dropped the rope+ 'he bay !eld n! wandered to the ed!e o) the yard- and be!an eat n! !rass there+ %nne wanted to sho.t at the an mal+ Run, run s# )ar !%ey "an ne&er "a!"% y#u again, b.t she (new that was )ool sh+ 'here were st ll hal) a do2en potent al & *t ms *on) ned n the *orral+ Charl e *alled- ;Hey- br n! the br de o&er- Lem-; and Sam.els sho&ed %nne ne/t to Cord- who was stand n! .na ded now altho.!h w th : mmy 8ee(s' !.n n h s ba*(+ 'h n!s be!an to seem more and more .nreal+ ?e&erend Pratt *ame )orward- p.lled h s prayer boo( )rom a po*(et w th a sha( n! hand- and at Charl e's d re*t on- be!an to read

the words o) the wedd n! *eremony n a sett n! that made a tra&esty o.t o) the a!es old &ows+ %nne d d not loo( at Cord- b.t heard h m sl.rr n! the words- .nable to spea( *learly ) he had wanted to w th the dama!e 8ee(s' ) sts had done to h s )a*e+ 6hen her t.rn *ame- she )o.nd she too *o.ld barely )orm words w th her swollen mo.th and spl t l ps+ She repeated e&eryth n! the prea*her told her to .nt l he sa d ;to lo&e- *her sh- and to obey+; 'hen she l )ted her head- )o.nd a small spar( o) de) an*e le)t- loo(ed Pratt r !ht n the eyes and sa d- ;to lo&e and to *her sh+; ,o one else seemed to not *e- and Pratt 9. *(ly dropped h s !a2e+ > nally- the prea*her ntoned- ;I now prono.n*e yo. h.sband and w )e-; snapped h s boo( sh.t- and h.rr ed o.t o) the way+ Lem Sam.els dra!!ed %nne ba*(ward beh nd the men all loo( n! toward 8ee(s and Cord+ Charl e sho.ted- ;%nd now )or a l ttle sh &aree-; and then %nne's own n !htmare ntens ) ed to where she was only barely aware o) 8ee(s' steady- rhythm * beat n! o) Cord+ 'he ra n o) blows *ont n.ed lon! a)ter he sl.mped nsensate n the *owboys' !r p+ Sam.els a!a n sh )ted h s hold to a*ross her br. sed and bleed n! mo.th- and th s t me she )elt h s r !ht hand r.nn n! .p .nder Cord's sh rt to the top o) the ba*( o) her dress+ ;,ow hold st ll- b t*h- and yo. won't !et *.t+; She *o.ld not see- *o.ld only )eel the (n )e *.tt n! thro.!h her dress and all her .nder th n!s- and nto her ba*(+ %t ) rst she )elt only the *y blade tsel)- then her blood welled- warm and wet- and w th t *ame ) ery pa n+ 'he b.l( o) her dress and pett *oats and the to.!h *loth o) her *orset had spared her the worst o) h s pre& o.s paw n!+ ,ow when h s hand ret.rned- .nder the sh rt and ns de her !ap n! dress- there was noth n! to prote*t her )lesh )rom h s del berately *r.el hand+ 'he steady stream o) threats and ) lthy tal( was nterr.pted only when h s mo.th *ame down on her )a*e- ne*(- or sho.lders+ 'he ) rst t me he b t her she s*reamed a!a nst h s !lo&ed hand+ He p n*hed and tw sted her breasts and n pples mer* lessly- then mo&ed down to her stoma*h and th !hs+ %s %nne str.!!led a!a nst h m w th all her stren!th- the brea()ast that had seemed so !ood a l )et me a!o started to *ome .p- so.r n the ba*( o) her throat+ She be!an to ret*h helplessly- *ho( n! .nder Sam.els' relentless hold+ He *.rsed n d s!.st- sho&ed her away- and %nne )ell to her (nees on the m.ddy !ro.nd- &om t n! .p not 1.st her brea()ast b.t t seemed the &ery l n n! o) her stoma*h+ %t the ba*( o) her m nd- thro.!h her own horror and wret*hedness- she was aware that 8ee(s and O'Br en had ) nally let !o o) Cord+ ,ot 1.st the 8ee(s brothers and O'Br en- b.t most o) the mob were now ( *( n! h s l )eless body- m ss n! noth n! )rom the ba*( o) h s head to h s le!s+ 'here was no lon!er any do.bt that they meant m.rder and that Cord had been mer* ).lly beyond )eel n! )or some t me now+ %)ter the etern ty o) pa n and terror- she heard Charl e 8ee(s' &o *e- la.!h n! as ) t had all been a ) ne 1o(e- ;:.st l (e I sa d- 6ells- a br de and a w dow n the same day+ En1oy yo.r honeymoon- to.!h man+; 'hen men were mo.nt n! the r horses- r d n! away- b.t %nne *ont n.ed to h.ddle on her (nees n the m.d- her empty stoma*h ra*(ed w th spasms+ >ootsteps approa*hed- and she heard ?e&erend Pratt- shr ll3&o *ed w th h s own )ear+

;Edward- they'&e ( lled h m+ He's dead=; Her )ather was ) lled w th & nd *t &e ).ry+ ;He sho.ld ha&e been h.n!+ H s )am ly won't b.y h m o.t o) th s+; ;B.t yo. sa d yo. bel e&ed her+; ;It doesn't matter= Yo. heard Detr *(+ ,o de*ent man w ll ha&e her+; I) Pratt repl ed- %nne d dn't hear t+ Her )ather )or*ed her head .p by the *h n .nt l she was loo( n! thro.!h swell n!- sl tted eyes nto h s enra!ed )a*e+ ;Yo. bro.!ht th s on yo.rsel)- da.!hter+ Honor n! thy )ather as *ommanded wo.ld ha&e spared .s all th s d s!ra*e+; Edward so.nded l (e an old testament prophet ).ll o) r !hteo.s wrath+ ;Yo. are ) lthy n e&ery way and I won't ha&e yo. on a horse w th me+ Yo. !et yo.rsel) *leaned .p and *ons der how yo.'re !o n! to *on& n*e me to allow yo. ba*( .nder my roo)+; Dropp n! her head- Edward wal(ed away- mo.nted h s horse- and he and Pratt rode o)) a)ter the others+ ***

CHAPTER 3
W,EN ,ER .OR0EN.ED S.O0A1, FINALLY 9. eted- %nne ra sed her head and loo(ed n.mbly aro.nd+ She saw the mo.nta ns loom n! to the west- bl.e3bla*( and wh te *apped+ 'he )all s(y was so br !ht a bl.e t hardly seemed real- and the )at- !old *ottonwood lea&es r.stled so)tly n the ba*(!ro.nd as they sw rled to the !ro.nd+ ,at.re hersel) seemed to be try n! to deny the death s*ene only a )ew )eet away+ Cord's )a*e was no lon!er d st n!. shable- 1.st a bloody mas(+ H s *lothes were soa(ed w th dar( red pat*hes- st *( n! to h s )lesh+ 'he w nd r.))led h s ha r- emphas 2 n! the st llness o) h s body+ Her & s on bl.rred )rom swell n! eyes and st n! n! tears as she *rawled to Cord's body+ She stared at h s blood ed )a*e- w sh n! she *o.ld re&erse t me- ha&e r.n )rom th s pla*e when she wo(e .p th s morn n!+ He was dead be*a.se she had as(ed h m )or help+ ,o matter how .n ntent onally- she had *a.sed h s death by br n! n! her tro.ble to h s doorstep+ % t ny mo&ement *a.!ht her attent on+ She !asped n d sbel e) as she saw t a!a n- a drop o) blood r.nn n! )rom h s nose and dr pp n! down nto a wet spot on the !ro.nd+ D d dead men bleed7 Her hand 9. &ered as she )or*ed t o.t and to.*hed h s arm+ H s body was warm and h s )lesh was not st ))- b.t elast *- al &e+ %nne )ell nto a s tt n! pos t on bes de Cord's body w th a th.mp+ 6hat on earth was she !o n! to do now7 S.rely he was dy n! anyway- b.t she *o.ldn't 1.st lea&e h m on the m.ddy !ro.nd- and how- dear <od- how- *o.ld she mo&e h m7 >or lon! moments %nne )o.!ht a!a nst ! & n! way to hyster a+ <. lt- !r e)- )ear 3 she was mmob l 2ed by her own emot ons+ 'he day was only *h lly- b.t the !ro.nd was *old and wet+ Lay n! here- the e/pos.re wo.ld ) n sh ( ll n! h m+ 8o& n! h m n any ma! nable way wo.ld ).rther dama!e h s nternal or!ans+ >ran( Bennett l &ed w th n a )ew m les o) here- b.t she had no dea n wh *h d re*t on and no stren!th to !o )or help+ She rested her )orehead on her hands- *losed her a*h n! eyes and be!an to pray+

;Dear <od- please help me-; she wh spered+ ;'ell me what to do- ! &e me the stren!th to do anyth n! at all+; Slowly %nne p.shed to her )eet+ She stood &ery stra !ht- ta( n! deep breaths o) the *lean )all w nd- wa t n! )or the wea(ness to pass- then bent- hoo(ed her hands .nder Cord's .pper arms- and be!an to p.ll+ She dra!!ed h s body a*ross the yard toward the ho.se )oot by )oot+ It was not as mposs ble as she had )eared- almost b.t not 9. te beyond her+ Her ba*( )elt as ) t were brea( n! )rom the e))ort- the aw(ward pos t onand Sam.els' earl er attent ons lon! be)ore she !ot to the por*h+ 'he two low por*h steps were more )orm dable obsta*les than any mo.nta ns+ :.st !ett n! Cord nto the ho.se was a tr .mph- b.t now what7 She *o.ld ne&er !et h m nto a bed w tho.t help+ 'he memory o) the & * o.s ( *(s to h s ba*( as he lay n the yard *ame to her- and she (new she *o.ldn't lea&e h m on the hard )loor e ther+ 'wo doorways o)) the ma n room led to bedrooms- one .n.sed and the other ob& o.sly Cord's+ %nne p.lled the mattress )rom Cord's bed to the )loor- th n( n! to dra! t to the ma n room- *lose to the sto&e- b.t the *.mbersome th n! wed!ed tsel) between the bed and the wall+ She de* ded not to waste t me or stren!th try n! to mo&e t+ Dra!! n! Cord nto the bedroom and onto the mattress was not as hard- b.t %nne *ollapsed n rel e) bes de h m when t was done+ % )a nt !.r!l n! so.nd made her s t .pp.ll hersel) to!ether- and l sten ntently+ Cord's head was stra !ht now- not bent toward h s sho.lder as t was n the yard and when she dra!!ed h m+ In se*onds she real 2ed what she had done- he was drown n! n h s own blood+ She t.rned h s head !ently- then )o.!ht another wa&e o) na.sea as a th n- steady stream o) blood be!an to r.n )rom h s nose+ ;Oh- <od- I'm sorry-; she wh spered+ ;I am so sorry++++; How lon! wo.ld t ta(e a man to bleed to death )rom s.*h a steady dr p7 >.r o.s w th her own wea(ness- %nne !r tted her teeth+ He was probably !o n! to d e no matter whatb.t she was not !o n! to be the *a.se by s tt n! here weep n!- ! & n! .p+ %nne sear*hed the ho.se )or anyth n! she *o.ld .se+ She )o.nd no med * nes b.t tore *lean sheets )or banda!es+ She wasted no t me try n! to !et Cord's *lothes o)) n the .s.al way+ She 1.st p *(ed .p the sharpest (n )e n the ( t*hen and be!an *.tt n!+ She had ne&er seen a na(ed man be)ore- and as she *.t- she *h ded hersel) )or her own r d *.lo.s )eel n!s o) embarrassment+ He was .n*ons* o.s and dy n!- and she was d ther n!+ 'he s !ht o) the body she was e/pos n! *.red that s ll ness nstantly+ 6hat she was see n! now *o.ld bear l ttle resemblan*e to a healthy- .n*lothed male+ ;I am not !o n! to )a nt+ I am not !o n! to *ry+ I am not- I am not+; She *hanted the words o&er and o&er .nder her breath- as ) eno.!h repet t ons wo.ld ma(e them tr.e+ E&ery t me her stoma*h threatened to start hea& n! a!a n o&er the s !ht o) the n1.r es- she wal(ed o.t o) the bedroom- breathed deep and *o.nted .nt l *alm a!a n+ 'hree t mes she !ot past a h.ndred+ Cord's n1.r es were so se&ere there were !reat )e&ered swell n!s+ 'he br. ses weren't bla*( and bl.e b.t an an!ry redd sh p.rple and n many pla*es blood loo(ed to be pooled .nder the s.r)a*e as ) t wo.ld po.r o.t ) the s( n were sl t+ ?aw wo.nds *o&ered h s ba*(- and there was blood n h s ha r+ I) she had not seen h m shot- she wo.ld not ha&e e&en not *ed the b.llet wo.nd+ 'he b.llet had !one thro.!h h s s de 1.st below the r bs and was at least not n h m+

%nne )et*hed a pa l o) *y *ree( water and (ept *old *ompresses on the worst o) the swell n!s as she wor(ed on the wo.nds+ She washed e&ery n*h o) h m- .s n! lots o) soap- and empty n! the bas n o)ten+ Clean n! the dr ed blood )rom Cord's )a*e she b t her already s*abbed lower l p- )or there was no 9.est on the !ash a*ross one *hee(bone needed to be st t*hed+ Be)ore her *o.ra!e )a led- she s*r.bbed o.t the *.t- sear*hed the ho.se .nt l she )o.nd a needle and thread- and p.t n a row o) .ne&en st t*hes w th sha( n! hands+ ,ot (now n! what else to do )or h m- she rolled h s nert body one way and then the other a last t me to remo&e the damp- sta ned sheet and !et a *lean- dry one .nder h mmade s.re h s head was t lted so he was *o.ld breathe- and )olded a towel o&er the p llow to absorb the blood+ She t.*(ed blan(ets o&er h m !ently and smoothed the bla*( ha r+ ;I) I *o.ld start th s day o&er- yesterday o&er++++; How .seless that was+ He *o.ldn't hear her- and she *o.ldn't t.rn ba*( t me+ In the ( t*hen- %nne tended to the sto&e- then )or*ed hersel) to dr n( a *.p o) m l(+ Her stoma*h d dn't rebel+ In )a*t the na.sea and l !ht headedness seemed to be pass n!+ Len!then n! shadows !a&e not *e the dread).l day wo.ld soon end+ 'he an mals o.ts de were obl & o.s to h.man tra!edy and had the r own needs+ 8aybe Cord ra sed horses on th s *orner o) the Bennett ?an*h- b.t t loo(ed more l (e a )arm+ 'wo *ows !ra2ed n a nearby past.re+ 'here were p !s n pens lead n! o)) the )ar s de o) the barnand *h *(ens pe*(ed aro.nd another pen+ It wo.ld be eas er to deal w th the l &esto*( n dayl !ht+ Ho.rs later- %nne tr.d!ed ba*( nto the ho.se w th the pa l on*e a!a n part ally ) lled w th )resh m l(+ 'h s t me t was m l( she hersel) had !otten o.t o) *ows made .n*ooperat &e by her *l.ms ness+ 'he lampl !ht showed Cord e/a*tly as she had le)t h m- st ll breath n! slowly and shallowly+ %)ter *o&er n! h m w th another blan(et a!a nst the *ooler n !ht a r- %nne smoothed h s ha r a!a n and stro(ed h s swollen *hee( l !htly 1.st .nder the l ne o) *roo(ed st t*hes- w sh n! desperately she (new more to do )or h m+ 6eary beyond bear n! hersel)- %nne *o.ldn't lea&e Cord alone thro.!h the n !ht+ She borrowed another one o) h s sh rts )or a n !ht!own- b.ndled hersel) t !htly n a 9. lt so she *o.ld not a** dentally b.mp h m- and lay down bes de h m+ So)t l !ht )rom the lamp she le)t b.rn n! *o.ld not stop the dar(ness n her m nd+ E/ha.st on battled w th nonstop reena*tments o) the terrors o) the day+ Enra!ed )a*es appeared and d sappeared thro.!h a red ha2e- and 1eer n! &o *es e*hoed+ %)ter a wh le she rea*hed one arm o.t )rom the 9. lt- b.rrowed t .nder the blan(ets and )o.nd Cord's hand+ 6hether she was ! & n! or ta( n! *om)ort she *o.ldn't ha&e sa d+ Soon a)ter she ) nally )ell asleep+ ***

CHAPTER
4RIG,. S3NS,INE S.REA0ING .,RO3G, .,E bedroom w ndows bro.!ht %nne awa(e the ne/t morn n!- st ))- sore- and a)ra d o) what the day m !ht br n!+ Her ) rst mo&ement bro.!ht a lo.d moan to her l ps+ %)ter a se*ond attempt- she mana!ed to s t .p+

%t ) rst t seemed there had been no *han!e n Cord's *ond t on at all+ He lay pea*e).lly n the same pos t on- shallow breaths *om n! re!.larly+ Che*( n! h m more *are).lly- she real 2ed the blood on h s .pper l p was dr ed- and there was no )resh blood soa( n! the towel .nder h s head+ Be)ore her sp r ts *o.ld l )t o&er th s mpro&ement- she d s*o&ered he was ly n! n a pool o) redd sh )l. d- *erta n e& den*e o) how terr ble the nternal n1.r es m.st be+ %s she washed and s*r.bbed and repla*ed the l nens and pla*ed *loths .nder h s h pspess m sm rose .nb dden and .nwanted+ %ll the s*r.bb n! and worry n! and pray n! n the world was not !o n! to ma(e any d ))eren*e+ He was !o n! to d e+ > n shed w th e&eryth n! she (new to do )or Cord- %nne went to the .n.sed )ront bedroom to dress+ She !lan*ed n the m rror o&er the b.rea. and mmed ately )elt worse+ ,o )or*e o) w ll was able to stra !hten her sp ne+ She was h.n*hed o&er l (e an old woman+ Bla*(- bl.e- and p.rple br. ses *o&ered her )a*e so *ompletely she d d not re*o!n 2e hersel)+ Her l ps were not 1.st swollen b.t s*abbed where they had spl t- and Cord's sh rt h.n! down on her bony sho.lders- e/pos n! s( n bro(en w th .!ly b te mar(s and more br. ses+ I) he e&er wa(es .p- the s !ht o) me w ll s*are h m to death she tho.!ht b tterly+ Stran!ely eno.!h- as the day passed- %nne )o.nd pea*e des*end n! on her+ Car n! )or the l &esto*( was eas er+ 'he do! &ent.red o.t )rom .nder the por*h and l ned .p w th the *ats )or a share o) )resh m l(+ %nne *hose to *ons der the )a*t that the do! had no wo.nds as a small & *tory+ It too( 9. te a b t o) sweet tal( n! and the l.re o) !ra n n a b.*(et- b.t n the end %nne tal(ed the horse 8ee(s had threatened to shoot nto lett n! her !et a hold o) the rope st ll dra!! n! )rom h s halter+ She p.t h m ba*( n the *orral w th h s )ellows- made s.re there was eno.!h water n the tro.!h- and ) lled the hay ra*( n the *orral+ 'he n !ht be)ore she had 1.st t.rned away )rom the s *( *olt n the barn- .nable to deal w th more m sery+ 'he yo.n! horse loo(ed *lose to death+ 'h s morn n! she mana!ed to )or*e hal) a do2en l.mps o) s.!ar down the .nw ll n! ra*( o) bones+ H.!! n!- pett n!- and wh sper n! to the l ttle an mal- she prom sed h m l )e wo.ld be !ood a!a n ) he 1.st !ot better+ It *rossed her m nd to 9.est on that hersel)- b.t she p.shed the tho.!ht as de+ She )o.nd a metal t.b lar!e eno.!h )or a bath at the s de o) the ho.se- and a )ew well worn woman's !arments )olded away n a *hest n the )ront bedroom+ 'he *lothes probably belon!ed to Cord's s ster- 8ar e- who had marr ed and le)t 8ason years a!o+ %nne la d o.t *lean .nder!arments- a dar( brown s( rt- and a pale yellow wa st+ P.mp n! water .nt l her arms a*hed and (eep n! hersel) awa(e wh le the water heated were wonder).lly worthwh le+ 'he bath and borrowed *lothes le)t her )eel n! tr.ly *lean )or the ) rst t me s n*e her )ather had lo*(ed her .p+ 'hat n !ht %nne a!a n wrapped hersel) n the 9. lt and settled )or the n !ht bes de Cord- hold n! h s hand+ She dly spe*.lated whether the *han!es ns de hersel) were )ore&er- )or she )elt d ))erent- stron!er- than two days a!o+ :.st as she be!an to )eel drowsy- the hand n hers t !htened+ Her eyes )lew open only to see Cord's head stra !htened and eyes hal) open+ Haste to !et )ree t.rned the 9. lt nto a *l n! n! trap+ %nne (nelt o&er h m at lastheart po.nd n!- b.t *o.ld ) nd no awareness n h s eyes+ 6hen she l )ted the ba*( o) h s head and t pped a *.p o) water a!a nst h s mo.th- he mana!ed three swallows- then

relapsed nto .n*ons* o.sness+ She *.rsed her own !noran*e 3 whether th s br e) nterl.de was a !ood s !n or not she had no dea+ Un*erta n she m !ht be- b.t she )ell asleep w th a sl !ht sm le on her man!led l psand wo(e at dawn to ) nd the l !ht brown eyes so *lose to her own open and loo( n! at her w th l )e ba*( n them+ 'h s t me he swallowed almost a ).ll *.p o) water be)ore lea& n! her a!a n+ On th s th rd morn n! %nne )o.nd she no lon!er )elt )r !htened and b.rdened by the respons b l ty o) *ar n! )or the an mals+ She en1oyed rest n! her )orehead a!a nst the warm- ).rry s de o) a *ow and wat*h n! the streams o) m l( be! n to )roth n the pa l+ She l (ed hear n! the e/* ted s9.eals o) the p !s settle to *ontented !r.nts a)ter she m /ed a slop w th the m l( and ) nely !ro.nd !ra n she )o.nd near the r pens+ Her heart l )ted when the s *( *olt n.22led her hand and too( the l.mp o) s.!ar she o))ered w tho.t be n! )or*ed- *hew n! and swallow n! slowly and w tho.t m.*h enth.s asm- b.t ne&ertheless w ll n!ly+ 'he *orralled horses d.! nto the r hay n an appre* at &e way- and e&en the *h *(ens *ame r.nn n! )or the r brea()ast so that the e))ort seemed worthwh le+ Harden n! her heart- she b.t*hered the ) rst *h *(en that pe*(ed at her+ %)ter all these years %nne was ) nally !rate).l to her mother's )r end- 8a.d e- who had na!!ed her nto learn n! th s nasty s( ll o&er her protests and tears many years a!o when marry n! Elroy '.rrell seemed l (ely+ ;,ow- %nne- dear-; 8a.d e had sa d- ;a )armer's w )e *an't be so)t3hearted abo.t these th n!s+ It's a )a*t o) l )e- and yo.'d better a**ept t+; 'he ne/t t me Cord *ame to- %nne was !o n! to ha&e *h *(en broth ready )or h mnot 1.st water+ She was also !o n! to ha&e bread- and there was no reason the p !s had to ha&e all that m l( w th the *ream+ >rom now on she wo.ld let t separate ) rst and sa&e the *ream )or b.tter+ She started to b.rn her own *lothes- b.t n the end she washed- repa red- and sa&ed e&eryth n! b.t the destroyed *orset+ ,o .se blam n! the *lothes )or what had happened wh le she was wear n! them+ %nne had l &ed her whole l )e )ollow n! the d *tates o) others+ ,ow all the de* s ons were hers+ 6hat to do- when to do t- how to do t- so m.*h depended on her- b.t nstead o) )eel n! we !hed down- m n.te by m n.te- ho.r by ho.r- th s new l )e wo&e a spell aro.nd her- lea& n! her )eel n! l !hter and )reer than she had e&er dreamed poss ble+ 'w *e more that morn n! she )o.nd Cord awa(e+ He spo(e not a word- b.t h s eyes )ollowed her- and ea*h t me she mana!ed to !et more water and some broth down h m+ 'hat a)ternoon he ) nally spo(e+ ;How lon!7; ;'oday s 6ednesday- the th rd day+; ;Yo. l (e *lean n! .p a)ter me- or *an I ha&e a pan7; She *o.ldn't help try n! to !r n at h m+ ;I'll ) nd a pan+; Her sp r ts soared at the s !ht o) the )ew small sw rls o) red n the )l. d+ He really was !o n! to be all r !ht+ It e&en seemed that he was now sleep n!- not .n*ons* o.s- b.t perhaps she 1.st wanted to bel e&e that+ Late that e&en n! he ns sted she strap h s r bs t !htly n sp te o) the br. ses+ She (ept her head t.rned so he wo.ldn't see her *ry+ 'hat n !ht she *arr ed the ro*( n! *ha r nto the bedroom and *.rled .p there to (eep her & ! l+ %!a n she wo(e to ) nd h s eyes on her+

'h s t me she d dn't h.rry to p.sh water or broth at h m b.t (nelt on the ed!e o) the mattress+ ;Yo. (now I ne&er meant to *a.se all th s- to !et yo. ( lled or to *a.se yo. so m.*h pa n+; He d dn't answer b.t too( a steely hold on her wr st+ ;'a(e o)) the sh rt+; On*e a!a n she had .sed h s sh rt )or a n !ht!own+ 'he stren!th o) h s !r p s.rpr sed her+ ;%re yo. *ra2y7 I w ll not+; ;'a(e o)) the damn sh rt+; It was nsane+ She wo.ldn't e&en ha&e to h t h m- 1.st p.sh ) rmly anywhere on h s torso and he wo.ld pass o.t and that wo.ld be the end o) that+ She loo(ed hard nto the amber eyes- wh *h now had a st.bborn !l nt- *ons der n!+ >or the moment they were *erta nly past all modesty- and she tho.!ht she (new what he wanted+ She let !o o) the ed!es o) the 9. lt- and t )ell aro.nd her+ 'hen she .nb.ttoned h s sh rt w th her )ree hand and p.shed t o)) her sho.lders- not loo( n! at h m- b.t )eel n! h s !a2e as he e/am ned e&ery e/posed n*h+ ;Yo.r ba*(+; She t.rned- lett n! h m ha&e a !ood loo( at her ba*(- and when he let !o o) her wr stp.lled the sh rt ba*( n pla*e and reb.ttoned t be)ore t.rn n! to loo( at h m a!a n+ He was star n! at the *e l n!+ ;Sam.els7; ;Yes- e/*ept my )a*e+; ;D d they stop h m7; ;He stopped when I bro.!ht .p the brea()ast yo. )ed me+ 'r.th).lly I don't th n( anybody wo.ld ha&e l )ted a hand or sa d a word to stop anyth n!- b.t I !.ess t was too m.*h )or h m r !ht .nder my )ather and ?e&erend Pratt's noses+ He *erta nly told me n sord d deta l what he wanted to do+; He st ll stared at the *e l n!+ ;%ny *han*e o) someth n! to eat more than that so.p st.))7; She stood and *are).lly e/am ned the ra&a!ed )a*e+ ;,o- so.p st.)) s all yo. !et .nt l yo. stop pass n! blood+; 'here was no answer- and she headed )or the other bedroom to dress- h.mm n! to hersel)+ 'wo ho.rs later her new3)o.nd seren ty was shattered nto a tho.sand p e*es+ 'he ) rst warn n! was a ser es o) h !h p t*hed bar(s )rom the )o/3)a*ed do!- and then there were so.nds o) horses enter n! the yard+ One )rant * !lan*e showed Sam.elsO'Br en- and both o) the 8ee(s brothers- d smo.nt n! and ty n! the r horses n )ront o) the ma n barn+ %nne wren*hed the r )le down )rom the wall- p *(ed .p a bo/ o) shells and the !.nbelt and p stol )rom the shel) .nderneath and ran to the bedroom- sha( n! Cord awa(e by the arm w th no re!ard )or h s )eel n!s+ ;Load one )or me+ Load one- and show me how to shoot t+ 'hey're ba*(+ Oh- <odthey're ba*(=; She was almost n*oherent w th )ear- and he d dn't e&en as( who was ba*(+ ;'hey are loaded+ 6at*h+; He too( the r )le )rom her and wor(ed the le&er- then demonstrated s9.ee2 n! the tr !!er w tho.t a*t.ally to.*h n! t+ ;Let them !et *lose and a m at the m ddle o) the body+ Aeep yo.r ba*( to a wall+; %nne ran )or the )ront door w th the r )le+ % *a.t o.s pee( o.ts de showed Sam.els emer! n! )rom the *arr a!e shed- O'Br en wa t n! )or h m n the m ddle o) the yard- and the 8ee(s brothers *om n! to!ether )rom the ma n barn+ 'hey were probably loo( n! )or

th n!s to steal she tho.!ht &enomo.sly+ La.!h n! and 1o( n!- they were now wal( n! toward the ho.se+ %nne sl pped o.t the )ront door- p.t her ba*( ) rmly to the o.ts de wall and ra sed the r )le+ Spott n! her- the men halted hal)way a*ross the yard+ On ea*h s de o) Charl e 8ee(s- h s brother- Sam.els and O'Br en be!an to mo&e s deways- p.tt n! d stan*e between themsel&es+ Charl e !a&e her the obs*ene !r n she (new only too well+ ;Hey- now- what are yo. st ll do n! here7 How abo.t we ta(e yo. home7 Yo. *an r de w th me+; %nne d dn't waste breath answer n! h m+ ;So- yo.r daddy don't want yo. no more7 6e'll ta(e yo.+ It'll be a treat )or yo.honey+ >o.r wh te men o.!ht to seem l (e a treat a)ter that In1.n+; %nne st ll sa d noth n!- d dn't mo&e+ ;Come on now+ 'hat th n! probably a n't e&en loaded- and shoot n! a man sn't someth n! a lady *an do+ 6hy don't yo. 1.st p.t that down and let's do th s )r endly l (e+; %nne had ne&er been as s.re o) anyth n! as that she *o.ld shoot Charl e 8ee(swo.ld n )a*t lo&e to see that d s!.st n!- mo*( n! !r n d sappear n a spray o) blood+ She 1.st hoped )or the l.*( to send one o) the )o.r to hell be)ore the others !ot to her+ She *o.ld not poss bly !et more than one when she had ne&er e&en ) red a !.n be)ore- b.t that wo.ldn't stop her try n!+ Sl !ht th.mp n! no ses were *om n! )rom the ho.se- b.t she d dn't t.rn to loo(+ I) more men were *om n! .p beh nd her- her *a.se was lost anyway- no .se ta( n! her eyes o)) Charl e and h s )r ends+ %ll )o.r men be!an wal( n! toward her a!a n- Charl e st ll leer n! at her+ ;%whoney- yo. *an't shoot me+; %nne heard another lo.der th.mp- and then a deep rasp n!- ;I *an-; as Cord l.r*hed nto the doorway- na(ed e/*ept )or the wh te strapp n! on h s r bs- lean n! a!a nst the )rame )or s.pport- and br n! n! the p stol to bear+ H s ) rst shot too( Charl e 8ee(s n the sho.lder- the se*ond bro.!ht a yelp o) pa n )rom Lem Sam.els+ He do.bled o&er- b.t %nne wasn't s.re where he had been h t+ ,e ther man went o)) h s )eet- and all )o.r were now r.nn n! )or the r horses+ Cord be!an to sl.mp down the door )rame- and she h.rr ed to ease h s )all+ :.st be)ore he be*ame dead we !ht- she heard h m m.tter- ;Aeep shoot n!+; So she d d+ 'he re*o l )r !htened her b.t d dn't stop her+ She empt ed the r )le- then the p stol at the retreat n! ) !.res- hop n! they *o.ld not tell t was only her w ld ) r n!+ 'he horses (ept r.nn n!+ 6hen she dropped the empty p stol- Cord was on the )loor- .n*ons* o.s- sh &er n! and *o&ered w th !oose)lesh )rom the *old )all a r- bleed n! )rom one nostr l a!a n+ She dra!!ed h m o.t o) the doorway and ran to the bedroom- ret.rn n! w th a p llow and blan(ets and wrapp n! h m where he lay+ S n( n! down bes de h m- .nable to )a*e dra!! n! h m ba*( nto the bedroom- she sat w th her (nees drawn .p to her *hest and her arms wrapped aro.nd them and be!an to ro*( ba*( and )orth- her m nd re).s n! to ).n*t on+ ***

CHAPTER !

S,ERIFF NOA, REYNOLDS DROVE A borrowed b.!!y thro.!h the *r sp- *lear a r o) a day so bea.t ).l he wo.ld .s.ally ha&e been lost n adm rat on+ 'oday- tho.!h- he h.n*hed n tho.!ht- pay n! only the a.tomat * attent on to h s s.rro.nd n!s that years o) law en)or*ement n ro.!h *o.ntry had n!ra ned+ ,oah was bo.nd )or the Bennett ?an*h- and he was st ll not s.re why+ Edward 6ells had *ome to h m yesterday morn n!- demand n! that h s da.!hter %nne be ;res*.ed; )rom Cord Bennett's- b.t almost noth n! abo.t h s story made sense+ ,oah had to test )y n *o.rt n the a)ternoon and re).sed 6ells' demands )or mmed ate a*t on- b.t prom sed to loo( nto the matter ) rst th n! today+ He had- howe&er- been )or*ed to waste ho.rs th s morn n! *alm n! an rate * t 2en who was los n! a *h *(en a wee( and s.re that her ne !hbors were help n! themsel&es to a wee(ly roast *h *(en d nner+ 6ells *la med h s da.!hter had ;st.mbled; onto the Bennett ?an*h- been beaten and raped by Cord- and that 6ells and a res*.e party had beaten Cord n retal at on and ;a** dentally; ( lled h m+ I) they han!ed the hal)3breed .nder those * r*.mstan*es- try n! to prose*.te wo.ld be a waste o) t me+ It made no sense that that was what Edward was ly n! abo.t- and there was no do.bt n ,oah's m nd that Edward was ly n!+ 6ells re).sed to l sten to ,oah's pat ent e/planat on that res*. n! *r me & *t ms was not part o) a sher ))'s 1ob- be*ame e&as &e and ab.s &e when pressed abo.t how %nne had !otten to the Bennett ?an*h n the ) rst pla*e- and re).sed to answer at all when as(ed why he hadn't bro.!ht h s da.!hter home mmed ately+ E&eryth n! abo.t the story smelled bad- and ,oah )elt .neasy+ %nne 6ells had not been seen aro.nd town )or more than a month now- and her )am ly answered n9. r es w th a story o) slow re*o&ery )rom a )e&er+ ,oah now remembered a )ew !oss ps happ ly nodd n! the r heads and mply n! that a*t.ally she was be n! held pr soner by her )am ly n the *ont n. n! e))ort to !et her to marry <eor!e Detr *(- b.t ,oah d sre!arded s.*h stor es as nonsense+ S.*h 8ed e&al happen n!s *o.ld not be o**.rr n! n h s town n th s year o) $445+ ,oah was ).rther tro.bled be*a.se o) the Bennett )am ly's n&ol&ement+ 'he Bennetts had been lon!3t me res dents o) Colorado when ,oah arr &ed- b.t the sher )) had learned the r h story n b ts and p e*es o&er the years+ :ames Bennett had *ome west w th h s three yo.n! *h ldren- Ephra m- >ran(- and Hannah- n the 'B#s+ %t ) rst he made a l & n! any way he *o.ld 3 h.nt n!- trapp n!- and trad n!+ By the t me Colorado be*ame a terr tory n $4C$- he had the bo.ndar es o) what wo.ld be*ome the Bennett ?an*h sta(ed o.t- and he set abo.t a*9. r n! t tle to the land n earnest+ ,oah (new some n 8ason rat onal 2ed :am e's se*ond marr a!e as *le&er pol t *s+ 'he land was st ll r.led by the Pla ns 'r bes- and the Bennetts had ndeed prospered w tho.t )ear o) Ind an ra ds+ Yet both Ephra m and >ran( Bennett ma nta ned that the r )ather's se*ond marr a!e was a lo&e mat*h- and .nl (e most wh te men- :am e marr ed the woman he *alled Son! be)ore a Chr st an prea*her+ ,oah also (new t was Son! Bennett's death that had *han!ed :am e )rom a & tal ad&ent.rer to an absent3m nded man who le)t both r.nn n! h s ran*h and ra s n! Son!'s son and da.!hter- Cord and 8ar e- to h s older *h ldren+ ,oah shoo( h s head+ Cord++++ How on earth *o.ld Edward 6ells and a )ew townsmen ha&e beaten Cord Bennett7 It wo.ld be ,oah's e/pe*tat on that the hal)3breed *o.ld tear

Edward and se&eral l (e h m to p e*es+ It was e&en harder to bel e&e that Cord wo.ld *omm t s.*h a *r me+ Cord had spent ten days n 8ason's 1a l when he was only ) )teen+ %t that t me- ,oah tr ed to help the boy *ome to terms w th what h s m /ed blood wo.ld mean n a wh te man's world- someth n! ,oah )a.lted the Bennetts )or prote*t n! h m )rom too well )or too lon!+ ,oah had ended .p )eel n! .neasy abo.t the 9. et boy- a d s9. et that t.rned to )ear o&er the years+ He o)ten wondered ) h s meddl n! ba*( then d d more harm than !ood+ Cons der n! why Cord was 1a led n the ) rst pla*e- t was e&en harder to bel e&e he wo.ld h.rt a woman- b.t there was no do.bt that n the years s n*e Cord ret.rned to 8ason )rom h s ne&er e/pla ned wander n!s- he !ot leaner and meaner w th ea*h pass n! season+ 'he sher )) s !hed- th n( n! that perhaps t was 1.st as well the man was dead+ He had o)ten )eared worse tro.ble than th s+ S.ddenly ,oah sat .p stra !ht- *are).lly s*ann n! the road and ran!e ahead+ Some mo&ement and tra*e o) d.st alerted h s always wat*h).l s /th sense+ % stron! *on& *t on *ame on h m that r ders *om n! th s way were a&o d n! pass n! h m on the roadsometh n! he wo.ld ha&e n&est !ated ) he weren't d.e ba*( n *o.rt a!a n th s a)ternoon+ 'he 1.d!e d dn't *ome thro.!h 8ason o)ten eno.!h to wa t hal) a day on an absent sher ))+ ,oah *.rsed the restr *t ons o) the b.!!y nstead o) a saddle horse- b.t he (new %nne 6ells had ne&er been on a horse- and the p.rpose o) h s tr p was to br n! her home+ I) he weren't so short o) t me- he m !ht stop at the ma n Bennett ?an*h and tal( to >ran(- b.t as th n!s were he'd best head stra !ht to Cord's+ %s ,oah dro&e nto the ran*h yard- he loo(ed aro.nd n s.rpr se+ It had been many years s n*e he had been on th s part o) the Bennett ?an*h- and tal( n town abo.t how poorly Cord l &ed had made h m )or!et how st.rdy and attra*t &e these old b. ld n!s really were+ 'hey all had )resh pa nt- the yard and *orrals were n !ood repa r- and the sto*( & s ble was n !ood shape+ One man d d not (eep a pla*e loo( n! l (e th s by la2 n! aro.nd+ % do! h d n! beh nd the barn bar(ed shr lly at h m+ ,oah slowed- drew h s !.n- and be!an to approa*h the ho.se w th *are as he not *ed the )ront door stand n! open+ 8o& n! 9. etly a*ross the por*h- he !lan*ed n the door and stopped n h s tra*(s at the s !ht that !reeted h m+ 'he man wrapped n blan(ets on the )loor was only re*o!n 2able by the ra&en bla*( ha r+ % woman who had to be %nne 6ells h.ddled on the )loor bes de the man's body- arms *radl n! her (nees- ro*( n! ba*( and )orth+ Close now- ,oah *o.ld hear a so)t (een n! r s n! and )all n! n a m ndless *aden*e+ Holster n! h s !.n- he mana!ed to .tter an n*red.lo.s- 9.est on n!- ;%nne7; H s s n!le word *a.sed a )l.rry o) mot on+ %nne s*rambled a)ter the r )le on the )loorrea*hed t and t.rned n a *ro.*h+ Her br. sed )a*e was *ontorted n a terr ble !r ma*eand she was a m n! stra !ht at h s m ddle )rom a d stan*e o) only a )ew )eet+ ,oah too( two steps ba*(- hold n! h s hands o.t at h s s des- wa st h !h and palms .p- and be!an .s n! h s most sooth n! tone+ ;,ow- %nne- yo. (now I'm not !o n! to h.rt yo.+ It's only me- ,oah ?eynolds- and I'&e *ome to ta(e yo. home+; ,oah had been sher )) o) 8ason a lon! t me+ He e/pe*ted her to re*o!n 2e h mhoped h s so)t tone wo.ld *alm her- b.t d dn't e/pe*t her rea*t on+ She dropped the r )le and threw hersel) n h s arms wh mper n!- ;Help me+ Please help+;

He held her n a )atherly h.! and patted her ba*(- hop n! a b t o) *om)ort m !ht restore her senses+ 6hen her sobb n! let .p- he tr ed to !. de her thro.!h the doorsay n!- ;Come on- now- I'&e !ot a b.!!y r !ht o.ts de and we'll ha&e yo. home n no t me-; b.t she p.lled loose and !ot down on her (nees bes de Cord+ ;,o+ Yo. don't .nderstand+ I'm ne&er !o n! home+ I need help !ett n! h m ba*( to the bedroom+ I) yo.'ll help me- we *o.ld e&en !et h m nto the bed+ He's all bro(en .p ns de and he's made t worse+ Please help me !et the bed ba*( to!ether and then *arry h m )or me+ I) yo.'ll (eep h s body stra !ht- I *an s.pport h s head and sho.lders+; ,oah p *(ed .p both the r )le and the nearby p stol- *he*(ed and saw they were empty- and loo(ed ba*( at %nne+ ;6e'll stop at >ran('s and send h m ba*( here to see what *an be done+ I) he's st ll al &e- he'll han! )or do n! th s to yo. anyway+; In sp te o) the bla*(ened eyes and swollen )a*e- ,oah *o.ld see ).ry sweep o&er her+ ;Yo.'ll han! h m o&er my dead body+ He's the only one who d dn't h.rt me+; ?emember n! h s m.s n!s on the tr p o.t here- ,oah (new that h s s.sp * ons had all been r !ht+ Someth n! was &ery wron!- and the only way he was !o n! to ) nd o.t was to !et %nne *almed down and tell n! her story+ ;%ll r !ht- show me what yo. need+; ,oah l )ted the mattress ba*( on the bed- and wa ted wh le %nne remade the bed- then )ollowed her ba*( to where Cord lay+ She sl d her arms .nder Cord's sho.lders- and loo(ed .p at ,oah+ ;Please7; 6 th a s !h- ,oah started to l )t the lon! body+ ;'ry not to let h m sa!+ Don't bend h m+; 'here was so m.*h *on*ern n her &o *e,oah !entled h s to.*h and tr ed to )ollow her nstr.*t ons- and to!ether they *arr ed the .n*ons* o.s man to the bedroom+ ,oah started when she p.lled the blan(et o)) Cordembarrassed .nt l he too( n the n1.r es and all other tho.!hts )led+ ;<ood Lord- s he really al &e l (e that7; ;He was- ) he d dn't ( ll h msel) th s morn n!+; She made ,oah hold Cord wh le she washed h s reopened wo.nds then *are).lly stra !htened h s senseless body- ).ss n! o&er t lt n! h s head 1.st so o&er a towel and repla* n! *lean *loths .nder h s h ps and .pper th !hs+ %t th s ,oah's embarrassment ret.rned+ ;See here- %nne- th s sn't r !ht+ Yo. *an't be do n! th s sort o) th n!+; She d dn't e&en !lan*e .p+ ;'h s s the )o.rth day I'&e been do n! th s sort o) th n!+ I stopped worry n! abo.t my sens b l t es n the ) rst ) &e m n.tes+; ,oah wat*hed her t.*( the sheet and blan(ets aro.nd the battered body w th tender *are- and then )ollowed her to the ( t*hen- where she t.rned and sa d- ;I'm sorry )or the hyster *s+ It's been a terr ble )ew days- and 1.st when I tho.!ht e&eryth n! was all r !ht- t went all wron! a!a n- and t was too m.*h )or a wh le+ S t down+ I'll ma(e .s some *o))ee- and yo. *an tell me why yo.'re here+; 'he sher )) wat*hed her b.stl n! aro.nd the ( t*hen- ob& o.sly )am l ar w th e&eryth n!- and told her how he had *ome to be there+ 6 th the pot heat n! on the sto&e- %nne sat down a*ross )rom h m and sa d- ;,oahmy )ather l ed to yo.+ He's probably real 2ed there were !.ns n the ho.se and ) he *ame a)ter me h msel) I m !ht shoot h m+ 'he only way I'll e&er !o home s ) yo. dra! me ba*( n hand*.))s- and ) yo. do that- I'll r.n away a!a n the ) rst *han*e I !et+ ,ow- am I .nder arrest7; ;O) *o.rse not- b.t yo. *an't stay here w th that man+ Yo. (now that+;

;I'm stay n! here .nt l someone else *omes to ta(e *are o) h m+ I'd appre* ate t ) yo.'d tell the do*tor to *ome as soon as he *an+ I'&e ne&er n.rsed anybody be)ore- and )or all I (now- I'm ma( n! e&eryth n! worse+ %nd h s brothers- wo.ld yo. tell h s brothers7; ;I'll tell >ran( and Ephra m- and I'll send the do*tor o.t- b.t yo.'&e !ot to *ome w th me+; ;,o+; 'he r eyes met- and ,oah was the ) rst to loo( away+ He s !hed a!a n+ ;I th n( yo.'d better tell me the whole story+; She d d+ She told h m e&ery b t o) t- start n! w th why she was there+ ***

CHAPTER "
NOA, DID NO. ,AVE .I0E to stop at >ran( Bennett's on the way ba*( to town- or to see Ephra m Bennett when he !ot ba*(- b.t he d d- as prom sed- stop at Dr+ Cra !'s+ 'he do*tor was o.t- b.t 8rs+ Cra ! sa d she wo.ld ha&e her h.sband !o loo( at Cord ) rst th n! n the morn n!- and also a!reed to !et word to Ephra m+ Sat s) ed- ,oah headed )or the *o.rtroom+ 'he de)endant n th s tr al had more money than sense and had h red a Den&er lawyer to represent h m- so ,oah d dn't *o.nt on see n! Ephra m at the *o.rtho.se+ %s t happened- 8rs+ Cra ! (ept her prom se to tell Ephra m by ha& n! the do*tor stop at the Bennett ho.se on the way o.t to the ran*h n the morn n!+ Ephra m had already le)t to meet a *l ent- so the do*tor !a&e the messa!e to Ephra m's w )e- 8artha+ B.t by the t me 8artha *a.!ht .p w th her h.sband- he had been *ornered by 8rs+ Carson- who was !ood )r ends w th 8rs+ Peabody- who had been tal( n! to ?e&erend Pratt's w )e- and Ephra m was head n! home almost at a dead r.n anyway+ 'he story 8rs+ Carson had so en1oyed tell n! Ephra m was how h s hal)3brother had ra& shed poor %nne 6ells and been ( lled )or t+ Ephra m was the oldest o) the Bennett brothers and the b !!est+ He stood se&eral n*hes o&er s / )eet- and had l !ht blond ha r and pale bl.e eyes+ Ephra m was .s.ally a slow- !entle- bear3l (e man- b.t there was noth n! slow or !entle loo( n! abo.t h m when 8artha )o.nd h m+ 'he news that Cord was al &e d d not mpro&e h s temper+ ;<ood-; he !rated- ;>ran( and I *an ( ll the son o) a b t*h o.rsel&es+; ANNE 2NEW 0ASON WAS FOR.3NA.E to ha&e a do*tor s.*h as Dan el Cra !+ %n Easterner born and bred- Cra ! had p.t n ten hard years wor( n! n the sl.ms o) ,ew Yor( C ty be)ore real 2 n! he *o.ld not end.re m.*h more str.!!l n! a!a nst s.*h a t de o) h.man m sery+ Cra ! had told %nne that n 8ason he )o.nd a pra*t *e where he )elt he was do n! some !ood+ H s sl !ht b. ld- boy sh )a*e- and *.rly l !ht brown ha r helped *on& n*e the )emale hal) o) 8ason he was as rel able as old Do* %ndrews n no t me at all+ %nne s.spe*ted t d dn't h.rt that h s w )e spared no e))ort to endear hersel) to the town+ She had hoped Cra !'s & s t wo.ld reass.re her+ It d d not+ Cord was ha& n! per ods o) l.* d ty a!a n- and the bleed n! had stopped n the n !ht+ 'he do*tor l stened *are).lly to what had happened and what %nne had done+ He ass.red her she had done noth n!

harm).l and had ndeed helped+ 'hen he told her as !ently as poss ble that somet mes the h.man body *o.ld *l n! &ery tena* o.sly to l )e- and that at s.*h t mes people s mply too( a lon! t me to d e+ ;'here's noth n! yo. *an do7 He's 1.st !o n! to d e7; %nne had made s.re Dr+ Cra ! real 2ed Cord was not the & lla n o) th s tra!edy+ 'here was sympathy n the do*tor's att t.de- b.t he answered )ran(ly+ ;I'm not say n! I (now he's !o n! to d e+ E&ery do*tor has seen h s share o) m ra*les+ He wo.ldn't be al &e r !ht now ) he weren't stron!er than most o) .s- b.t yo.'&e as(ed me my op n on- and I don't th n( h s *han*es are &ery !ood+; She had rea*hed the same *on*l.s on hersel) days a!o- b.t s n*e then hope had ta(en hold- and now she )elt despa r+ ;6 ll yo. stop by and see h m a!a n7; ;I tho.!ht Ephra m and >ran( wo.ld be here to ta(e h m o)) yo.r hands soon+ I stopped at Eph's th s morn n! mysel) to ma(e s.re the )am ly (new+; 'he tho.!ht o) help made her try to sm le- b.t that only made her )a*e h.rt+ ;6ellwo.ld yo. plan on *om n!- and ) he's mo&ed or++++; She *o.ld not say the word;Someone w ll !et word to yo.+; ;O) *o.rse- ) I'm o.t th s way )or any reason- I'll stop by- and ) not- I'll ma(e a po nt o) *om n! ba*( o.t n a *o.ple o) days+ How's that7; It wo.ld ha&e to do+ %nne *.rled .p n the ro*(er a!a n to wat*h- ) !ht n! the )o! o) m sery threaten n! to en&elop her+ I) only he hadn't made that n*red ble str.!!le to the doorway+ I) he hadn't- they wo.ld both be dead- and she (new t+ 'he bar( n! o) the do! she had be!.n to th n( o) as >o/)a*e wo(e her somet me later+ %nne loo(ed o.t the )ront w ndow- hop n! to see >ran( and Ephra m Bennett- and s.re eno.!h there were the two b ! blond men ty n! the r horses to the por*h ra l n!+ Open n! the )ront door- she be!an to !reet them- ;I'm so !lad to see yo.- we+++-; b.t both men br.shed by her as ) she d dn't e/ st- head n! )or the bedroom w th lon!- an!ry str des+ Ind !nant- %nne *hased a)ter them+ >ran( was *ons dered the handsome Bennett+ 6here Ephra m's ha r was a pale blond>ran('s was br !ht !old+ >ran( was b. lt lon! and lean- l (e Cord- and was abo.t the same he !ht- b.t h s open *o.ntenan*e- e&en )eat.res- and la.!h n! deep bl.e eyes drew people to h m nstantly+ %nne had heard that be)ore he marr ed and settled down- >ran( had been 9. te a lad es' man+ She had also heard abo.t h s 9. *( temper and was !lad he was so an!ry on Cord's behal)- b.t she d dn't l (e be n! !nored+ Cord had been asleep when the do*tor arr &ed and wa(ed only to pass o.t d.r n! the e/am nat on+ 'he so.nd o) h s brothers' an!ry approa*h bro.!ht h m awa(e a!a n+ %s they *har!ed nto the bedroom- %nne tr ed on*e more to !et the r attent on- ;He really sn't well eno.!h to tal( to yo. m.*h yet++++; >ran( t.rned on her and snarled- ;I don't need any e/*.ses )rom a woman st.p d eno.!h to s t o.t here and n.rse the son o) a b t*h who d d that to her )a*e+ Yo. 1.st sh.t .p and wa t o.ts de+ 'h s s a )am ly matter+; By the t me he had ) n shed tal( n!- h s &o *e had r sen to 1.st short o) a yell n the small room- and he d dn't lower t as he t.rned on Cord+ ;Yo. bastard- yo. son o) a b t*hI (eep th n( n! yo. *an't !et any worse- and yo. (eep pro& n! me wron!+; >ran('s &o *e lowered to a harsh !rowl+ ;Eph th n(s we o.!ht to ) n sh yo. o)) o.rsel&es and at least ta(e *are o) the )am ly's own mess r !ht here and now- and maybe he's r !ht- and I s.ppose yo.'re 1.st !o n! to lay there and p.ll that !oddamn s len*e *rap on .s a!a n+;

It was ob& o.s to %nne by now that the Bennetts had not *ome to help and that >ran( was 1.st warm n! .p+ 'h n!s were not !o n! to !et better+ She le)t the bedroom as ordered- then went and !ot the r )le she had tal(ed ,oah ?eynolds nto reload n!+ Aeep n! the r )le h dden beh nd her- she sl pped ba*( nto the bedroom+ Ephra m and >ran( were e ther too b.sy ab.s n! the r hal)3brother to not *e or d dn't th n( she was worthy o) not *e+ ?emember n! Cord's nstr.*t ons o) the day be)ore- she p.t her ba*( to the wall n a *orner away )rom the door+ On*e n pos t on- she ra sed the r )le+ >ran( halted n m d3 word- and both he and Ephra m t.rned ).ll attent on on her+ ;<et o.t+; She wasn't sho.t n!+ She sa d t n 9. te a *on&ersat onal tone+ ;,ow loo(- 8 ss 6ells- nobody meant to++++; ;<et o.t+; She sa d t more )or*e).lly th s t me+ ;I probably *o.ldn't h t yo. at any d stan*e- b.t n th s room- I'm 9. te s.re I *an blow a lar!e- nasty hole r !ht n yo.r bellyand ) yo. don't t.rn aro.nd and !et o.t o) th s ho.se n the ne/t )ew se*onds that's e/a*tly what I'm !o n! to do+ I'&e had eno.!h o) yo. and yo.r ( nd to last me a l )et me+ <et o.t=; %nne was almost d sappo nted when >ran( t.rned w tho.t another word and wal(ed o.t o) the room+ Ephra m )ollowed *lose beh nd- and %nne made s.re they (ept !o n! r !ht thro.!h the ho.se- o.t the )ront door- and !ot on the r horses+ She slammed the )ront door and ret.rned to the bedroom- *ollapsed nto the ro*(er st ll hold n! the r )le and loo(ed at Cord+ ;Yo.r )am ly s almost as del !ht).l as m ne+; She saw a loo( n and aro.nd h s eyes she *o.ld only *all a sm le+ ;>ran('s !ot a b t o) a temper+; ;% b t= 'hat was one o) the r.dest- most o))ens &e per)orman*es I'&e e&er seen+ 'hey d dn't *ome to help+ 'hey th n( yo.++++ 'hey ne&er e&en as(ed++++; She bro(e o))- .nable to ) nd words to *omplete a senten*e+ ;'hey'&e already de* ded+ 'hey don't need to as(+; He loo(ed almost !ray- drawn and t red beyond bear n!+ ;6ant some water- or some so.p st.))7; She saw the sl !ht sm le n h s eyes a!a n+ ;,o- 1.st sleep+; 'he do*tor was wron!+ He was not !o n! to d e+ Dy n! men do not sm le w th the r eyes+ So determ ned- %nne le)t )or the ( t*hen to ma(e hersel) some l.n*h- th n( n! t was *erta nly wonder).l how n *e and 9. et l )e was o.t here n the *o.ntry+ It ne&er e&en o**.rred to her that less than a wee( earl er the tho.!ht o) r.nn n! two !rown men o.t o) the ho.se w th a !.n wo.ld ha&e been n*on*e &able+ ***

CHAPTER #
AF.ER .,A., LIFE DID 4E1O0E rather pea*e).l+ Dr+ Cra ! was the r only & s tor- and )rom h m %nne learned that wh le >ran( and Ephra m (new she was st ll at the ran*hthey weren't d s*.ss n! the r brother w th anyone+ Chatter n! town )ol( )ell s lent the moment any one o) the !r m3)a*ed Bennetts appeared+ Sher )) ?eynolds had told the 6ells )am ly that %nne re).sed to *ome home b.t that the Bennetts wo.ld help her !et to

Ch *a!o- wh *h %nne (new she had led h m to bel e&e be*a.se she had tho.!ht that was what wo.ld happen hersel) at the t me+ She tho.!ht o) the last letter she'd had )rom her a.nt- des*r b n! a planned tr p to ,ew Yor( C ty th s )all+ 'he )a*t that her %.nt Clara wo.ldn't be home was one o) the th n!s she had *o.nted on n her headlon! )l !ht to Ch *a!o+ Her a.nt's ser&ants wo.ld let her stay at the ho.se .nt l her a.nt ret.rned- and by that t me++++ Had she ment oned the news n that letter to her )ather or brother7 ,e ther one pa d m.*h attent on to s.*h th n!s+ 6o.ld her mother say anyth n!7 %nne prayed not+ She also prayed that her )ather wo.ld be a lon! t me real 2 n! that any letter he had sent %.nt Clara w th nstr.*t ons as to h s r. ned da.!hter's p.n shment and rehab l tat on was s tt n! .nread n Ch *a!o+ %nne be!!ed Cra ! not to stra !hten anyone o.t+ He a!reed w th a sympathet * sm le+ ;I) yo. th n( t w ll help- I won't say a word+; Cra ! also reported that Charl e 8ee(s and Lem Sam.els had *ome to h m and had b.llet wo.nds treated- b.t they *la med the wo.nds were the res.lt o) ro.!hho.s n! o.t at the Do.ble 8+ 'he do*tor had also heard that a )ew days later the Do.ble 8 men had drawn the r pay and mo&ed on- ! & n! no h nt as to where they were headed+ 'hey're headed stra !ht to hell- %nne tho.!ht- and I hope be n! shot at by a dead man ! &es them n !htmares e&ery n !ht t ll they !et there+ %nd so the !olden )all days passed+ %nne )o.nd hersel) more and more n lo&e w th l )e on the ran*h+ She was .p ea*h morn n! ea!erly- r.nn n! to the barn n the *old a rtal( n! to ea*h o) the an mals+ She had ! &en them all names- someth n! Cord had ne&er bothered w th+ He told her wh *h o) the past.re !ates to t.rn the *orralled horses o.t thro.!h- so she no lon!er had the r *are- and he also nstr.*ted her what- how m.*h- and how to )eed ea*h an mal+ Her mpro& sat ons n the ) rst dar( days had not been too )ar o))- and noth n! had s.))ered+ 6hen Cord as(ed her abo.t the star&ed *olt n the barn- %nne repl ed that he was now eat n! and seemed to be )eel n! better+ Cord !a&e her a stran!e loo( b.t sa d noth n!+ 6hen she as(ed what had *a.sed the *olt's *ond t on- he t.rned away and !a&e her no answer+ %nd that- o) *o.rse- was the tro.ble w th h m+ %nne m !ht be absol.tely s.re the )r !ht stor es abo.t th s man were .ntr.e- b.t the )a*t was he was more o)ten than not .nemot onal and .n*omm.n *at &e+ It was d )) *.lt to !et h m to ! &e a d re*t answer to a 9.est on+ He seemed .nable or .nw ll n! to spea( more than a )ew senten*es at on*e*erta nly .nable to *arry on *on&ersat on as she (new t+ %s a pat ent- howe&er- he was m.*h eas er to *are )or than she had e/pe*ted+ Her )ather and brother both t.rned nasty o&er a *old or *.t- b.t Cord ne&er *ompla ned- ne&er demanded- and made the many th n!s that embarrassed her spee*hless at ) rst ro.t ne by h s )atal st * a**eptan*e+ He m !ht not tal( m.*h- b.t h s o**as onal dry *omments abo.t people and s t.at ons they both (new )rom a l )et me n 8ason were so per*ept &e 3 and o)ten h.moro.s 3 that she en1oyed be n! aro.nd h m+ ,.rs n! h m- l & n! n h s ho.se*ar n! )or h s l &esto*( *han!ed noth n! )or %nne 3 she l (ed Cord Bennett+ 'he ho.se she already lo&ed+ Cord d d tell her he had been born n a *ab n on the s te o) what was now the ma n ran*h head9.arters+ 'h s ho.se had *ome later- when the ran*h be!an to pay- and the whole )am ly had only l &ed here a short t me- )or the ho.se was too small by the t me t was *ompleted+

%nne hersel) was .sed to lar!er- ) ner ho.ses+ %.nt Clara l &ed n what most people wo.ld *all a mans on- w th hal) a do2en ser&ants to wa t on one w dow+ Her )am ly's ho.se n 8ason and those o) the r )r ends were also m.*h lar!er and !rander+ 'he de*ors were somber and stately- the ).rn t.re was h !hly pol shed and e/pens &e- and nowhere %nne had e&er l &ed made her as happy as th s ho.se+ It was l !ht- br !ht- and s.nny+ :.st wor( n! n t made her happy+ %nd wor( she d d+ She ba(ed bread and the )ew s mple *oo( e re* pes she (new by heart- *h.rned b.tter- and drast *ally red.*ed the *h *(en pop.lat on+ 6hen s.ppl es ran low- she mposed .pon Dr+ Cra ! to br n! some th n!s )rom townwh *h he made *lear he d dn't m nd do n! at all+ <ett n! the money to re mb.rse the do*tor and pay h s )ees )rom the *.bbyhole Cord d re*ted her to- she )o.nd less than two h.ndred dollars+ She real 2ed then that Cord had been try n! to )or*e her to ta(e the b.l( o) what *ash he had be)ore her )ather had smashed the r l &es to p e*es+ How had he planned to ma(e t thro.!h the w nter7 %nne (new as( n! wo.ld not !et her an answer+ By the t me three wee(s had passed- Cord was able to ma(e t to the ( t*hen table w tho.t help- and the do*tor adm tted to %nne that th s was one o) the m ra*les he had ment oned+ Cra ! told her he had ne&er be)ore seen a man re*o&er )rom s.*h a beat n!+ Cra ! sa d t was 1.st l.*( that no & tal or!an had been r.pt.red+ %nne d dn't th n( l.*( had anyth n! to do w th t+ In her op n on- the *rowd o) men ( *( n! at Cord had been so lar!e that they !ot n ea*h other's way+ Dr+ Cra ! d d th n( some dama!e other than the sl !ht b.mp o) a bro(en nose and the th n- *roo(ed s*ar on Cord's *hee(bone was permanent+ %nne wal(ed nto the bedroom d.r n! what wo.ld be h s last & s t n t me to hear h m say so+ ;I s.ppose yo. don't ha&e any des re to start a dynasty anyway- b.t t's 1.st as well+; Embarrassed b.t not lea& n! the room- %nne (new e/a*tly wh *h o) the many n1.r es Dr+ Cra ! was re)err n! to+ Cord seemed .na))e*ted by th s news+ ;,o he rs- h.h7; ;6ell- I'm not say n! t's mposs ble- m nd yo.- b.t .s.ally that m.*h swell n! and )e&er++++; 'he do*tor be*ame aware o) %nne's presen*e n the room and bro(e o))+ %)ter Cra ! le)t %nne wanted to tell Cord how sorry she was- b.t *o.ldn't ) nd the words+ 1ORD ON ,IS PAR. ,AD ) rst *ome to w th an all3en*ompass n! ).ry+ >.ry at h msel) )or not strapp n! on a !.n the m n.te he )o.nd %nne n h s barn+ Had he really bel e&ed that be*a.se he was a Bennett on Bennett land a mob l (e that wo.ld l m t tsel) to threats7 He had e/pe*ted her )ather to be sear*h n! )or her w th a )r end or two ) at alland e&en a)ter hear n! %nne's story- he had .nderest mated Edward+ 'he Do.ble 8 men had t.rned the sear*h party nto a lyn*h mob- b.t t was Edward's treatment o) %nne that had spar(ed the & olen*e+ Anow n! that %nne wo.ld tell the tr.th abo.t be n! w th h m- he had bel e&ed there wo.ld be a lot .!l ness- b.t ne&er e/pe*ted anyone to try to ( ll h m+ >.rther- he had ne&er ma! ned anyone s.b1e*t n! a woman to that ( nd o) ab.se+ 6hat Edward 6ells had done to h s own da.!hter and %nne's *o.ra!e n re).s n! to bend to her )ather's w ll had almost d stra*ted Cord )rom what was happen n! to h m+ 'he hate3dr &en e))ort to !et to the )ront door w th the p stol had released some o) the ra!e- b.t he re*o!n 2ed a re)le*t on o) h s own )eel n!s when %nne dro&e >ran( and

Ephra m )rom the ho.se+ He saw the *han!es n her and tho.!ht he .nderstood them more than she d d hersel)+ She was o.t o) a *a!e and ) nd n! her w n!s+ ,o one wo.ld *a!e her a!a n- and he adm red her *o.ra!e and determ nat on+ %s her br. ses healed- the swell n! s.bs ded- and an ab.ndan*e o) de*ent )ood ro.nded o.t her )a*e and body to the way he remembered them- he also adm red the ele!ant )em n ne loo( o) her+ %nd he wanted her w th s.*h an ntens ty he *o.ld barely h de t+ It was- he tho.!ht b tterly- the most )ool sh and sel)3destr.*t &e des re he had e&er had+ He m !ht .se the )a*t that she really had no pla*e to !o to ha&e her 3 on*e- or )or a wee(- or a month+ B.t %nne was not a woman he *o.ld e&er really ha&e+ Hers was a d ))erent world- and she wo.ld ne&er be sat s) ed n h s )or lon!+ Her rep.tat on was now so r. ned as to be non3e/ stent- and she *o.ld not !o ba*( to her l )e n 8ason ) she wanted to+ 6omen wo.ld sh.n her0 men wo.ld be so d srespe*t).l as to be dan!ero.s+ 'he a.nt n Ch *a!o seemed her only real alternat &e- b.t the )a*t that the a.nt was Edward 6ells' s ster worr ed h m+ 8aybe ) he *o.ld *on& n*e her to stay t wo.ldn't be the worst th n! )or her- b.t then ) he had a de*ent bone n h s body he sho.ld tal( her nto lett n! >ran( and Ephra m help her+ Cord wo.ld as soon be t ed down )or 8ee(s and h s )r ends a!a n as to ha&e to a*t.ally e/pla n to h s brothers he wasn't e ther a woman3beater or a rap st- b.t ) that was the only way to !et her help he wo.ld+ He s.re as hell wasn't !o n! to let her !o o)) on her own w th twenty dollars+ In )a*t- t was already be*om n! .nth n(able that she wo.ld lea&e at all and he wo.ld no lon!er be able to *o&ertly st.dy the !entle sway o) her wal( or the del *ate l nes o) her )a*e+ H s p.lse wo.ld no lon!er 9. *(en wat*h n! the thr.st o) a breast- the !ra*e).l *.r&e o) her ne*(- ba*(- and b.tto*(s+ 'he ho.se wo.ld no lon!er be ) lled w th the smells o) ba( n! bread and *oo( es- the so.nd o) her la.!hter- h.mm n!- and o**as onally- when she tho.!ht he was asleep- son!+ 6hen a)ter wee(s he was ) nally able to !et o.t o) the bedroom- he sat at the ( t*hen table- (eep n! b.sy any way poss ble- peel n! potatoes- t.rn n! the handle on the paddle b.tter *h.rn- or repa r n! b ts o) harness and saddlery he had %nne br n! n )rom the barn+ 'he worn boo(s on the shel&es had been h s )ather's- and he reread parts o) themb.t they d dn't hold h s nterest+ Be n! .p d dn't help at all+ He wat*hed her wor( n! aro.nd the ( t*hen and the des re 1.st !rew l (e a w ld th n! w th a w ll o) ts own+ Lo! * was most de) n tely los n! the battle w th l.st+ ***

CHAPTER $
0ORE .,AN A 0ON., ,AD passed when Cord de* ded he *o.ld ma(e t to the barn and ba*(+ He wanted to see the s *( *olt- )or he d dn't bel e&e %nne that the *olt was al &e- m.*h less well+ It was as !ood as dead the last t me he saw t+ %nne was &o*al abo.t her la*( o) )a th he *o.ld ma(e t ba*( )rom the barn and ).r o.s that he wo.ldn't wa t a )ew more days+ By now he was .sed to her 9. *( temper o&er s.*h th n!s+ He !nored her+

;Yo.'ll ma(e t o.t there all r !ht- b.t yo. won't ma(e t ba*(- and I'm not dra!! n! yo. a!a n+ Yo. *an spend the whole day r !ht where yo. )all- so help me+; He (ept wal( n!+ ;Drat yo.- maybe I'll sho&e yo. n the wheelbarrow and 1.st d.mp yo. ba*( n the ho.se+; She was berat n! h s ba*( and ) nally !a&e .p and ran to *at*h h m+ He (new by now she wo.ldn't stay mad )or lon! and n )a*t wo.ld probably be sm l n! n m n.tes+ He s.ppressed e&ery emot on+ She s.ppressed none+ H s r bs and belly were already a d.ll a*he by the t me he !ot to the *olt's stall- and he held onto the stall part t on )or s.pport- want n! to d sbel e&e h s eyes+ ;How d d yo. do t7; ;Do what7; ;'hat *olt was as !ood as dead+ I sho.ld ha&e shot h m+ How d d yo. !et h m to eat7; 'he loo( on %nne's )a*e told h m he had ! &en away how m.*h he wanted to (nowand her words set the pr *e )or the answer+ ;I'll tell yo. how I d d t- ) yo.'ll tell me how he !ot l (e that+; Cord !lared at her- (now n! ).ll well t wo.ldn't ha&e any e))e*t+ ;%ll r !ht+; ;Come on- yo.'d better s t somewhere or I really w ll ha&e to .se the wheelbarrow+; 'hey sat )a* n! ea*h other on o&ert.rned b.*(ets- lean n! ba*( a!a nst stall walls+ %nne told h m abo.t the s.!ar- how the *olt had e&ent.ally ! &en n and eaten a b t w ll n!ly+ 'he ne/t day she had made a th n s.!ar syr.p and la*ed t n h s !ra n and po.red t n th n streams o&er the hay+ She also *on)essed )reely to the tal( n! and pett n!+ She *alled the *olt >ort.ne and wanted to (now abo.t h m+ She loo(ed at h m e/pe*tantly- wa t n! )or h m to (eep h s hal) o) the bar!a n+ Chew n! on a b t o) hay- he sa d- ;I had a deal w th %l)erd Lathr.m- o&er north o) <renerton- yo. (now7; E&eryone n 8ason (new o) Lathr.m- who ra sed 9.al ty blood horses b.t was rep.ted to be a *r.el man+ %nne nodded+ Cord *ont n.ed- ;He *heated me by sell n! me a dead *olt s all+ %nd yo. *heated h m by (eep n! the *olt al &e+; He then rose .nstead ly to h s )eet and headed ba*( )or the ho.se+ He (new per)e*tly well that %nne )elt he had bro(en the r t t )or tat bar!a n and was an!ry+ 'h s was a *old ).ry &ery d ))erent )rom the )ast pass n! l ttle d splays o) temperament+ 6orst o) all- he (new he had made her th n( ser o.sly abo.t lea& n!+ O&er l.n*h he as(ed her- ;6hen w ll yo. lea&e7; Her &o *e was *ool+ ;%s soon as yo. *an ta(e *are o) the an mals yo.rsel)+; ;8oney7; ;,one o) yo.r b.s ness+; %)ter that she was pleasant- *ons derate- and too pol te+ By the ne/t morn n! he wanted to sha(e her .nt l she be!!ed )or mer*y- b.t he had *erta nly seen that that d dn't wor(+ O&er pol te protests- he wal(ed w th her to the barn )or morn n! *hores+ He made no e))ort to try to p t*h hay- *arry !ra n or water- b.t 9. etly m l(ed the *ows- now named Da sy and ?ose+ 6hen e&eryth n! was ta(en *are o) n the barn- he sa d- ;%ll r !ht- s t down+ I'll tell yo.+; He was not .sed to story3tell n! and spo(e slowly w th many lon! pa.ses+ ;Yo. (now I was !one )rom here some o) the same years yo. were+;

%nne nodded+ She was lean n! towards h m- l ps parted- w de3eyed and ea!er to hear t all+ 8aybe tell n! th s wasn't !o n! to be so bad a)ter all+ ;I had some e/tra *ash when I ) rst !ot ba*( and tho.!ht to .se t )or a yo.n! stall on bred some better than the sto*( I'&e !ot- so I went to see Lathr.m+; %nne tr ed to h.rry h m+ ;So yo. bo.!ht a horse )rom h m7; ;,ope+ He wasn't too (een on *ompet t on+ <ot downr !ht nasty+ I heard later he was e&en ma( n! b.yers prom se not to resell to me+; Cord shr.!!ed- b.t t pleased h m that %nne's mo.th t !htened+ 'here was no do.bt whose s de she was on already+ ;,ot too lon! a)ter that word !ot aro.nd he'd had a )an*y palom no )oal born o&er there+ Yo. (now the *olor7; ;<olden+ 'hey really are pretty+; ;8m+ Un.s.al *olor o.t o) h s sto*(+ He was o))ered a lot o) money )or t r !ht )rom the start- b.t be n! a !reedy bastard he ) !.red he'd !et more when t was !rown and bro(e+; % )ew wee(s a!o %nne wo.ld ha&e had a ladyl (e ) t o&er h s lan!.a!e- b.t her att t.des had to.!hened some n the past wee(s+ ,ow she only rarely tr ed to reb.(e h m by wr n(l n! her nose or )rown n!+ H.rry n! h m w th h s tale was ob& o.sly her only nterest at the moment+ ;So7; ;So when the *olt !ot old eno.!h ?ao.l started wor( n! w th h m and *o.ldn't !et a th n! done+; ;6ho's ?ao.l7; ;?ao.l Damora- Lathr.m's head horseman+ He's !ood w th a horse- b.t he .ses Span sh methods 3 harsh 3 and Lathr.m p.shes h m to where some o) t !ets pretty .!ly+ Hate to th n( what they probably d d to that yellow horse- b.t that st.d beat them 3 they *o.ldn't !et h m bro(e+ So they as(ed aro.nd and tr ed some o) the men (nown )or horse tam n! and that ( nd o) th n!+ Horse almost ( lled a man last )all+ It was st ll w nn n!+; ;D dn't they *ons der a s.r! *al sol.t on7; Her del *ate way o) all.d n! to *astrat on am.sed h m- and her bl.sh sa d she (new tb.t she was st ll lean n! toward h m- ea!er to hear the rest o) the story+ ;<eld n! m !ht be worth two h.ndred dollars+ He was o))ered tho.sands )or that yellow horse- ent re and bro(e+; ;I see+; ;So when he'd e/ha.sted all reasonable poss b l t es- Lathr.m *ame to me+ O))ered to let me ha&e the p *( o) h s ne/t *rop o) )oals ) I *o.ld !et the horse bro(e+ He's e&ery ( nd o) mean I'&e e&er heard abo.t- b.t he has a rep.tat on )or (eep n! h s word- so I sa d I'd ! &e t a try+; %nne leaned ba*( a l ttle and t lted her head at h m- .nderstand n! at last how >ort.ne *ame nto th s+ ;'hat horse was one .seless son o) a b t*h+ I) he'd been any other *olor nobody wo.ld ha&e e&en !elded h m 3 they'd ha&e shot h m+ 'oo( all )all and w nter- b.t he was bro(e eno.!h )or a *are).l man who (new what he was do n! by spr n!- so I too( h m ba*( and loo(ed o&er Lathr.m's )oals and p *(ed th s one+; He nodded toward >ort.ne's stall+ ;It s.rpr sed me a l ttle Lathr.m d dn't try to h de one that !ood+ Seemed l (e he really was (eep n! h s word+ Sa d he weaned all the )oals n late September- to *ome ba*( n O*tober- to let them (now and they'd ha&e the *olt *a.!ht .p+ 6hat they !a&e me was

what yo. saw n the barn a month a!o+ I !ot ba*( w th h m the a)ternoon be)ore yo. !ot here+ % day earl er and yo.'d ha&e been meet n! one o) >ran('s hands o&er here to ta(e *are o) the sto*(+; 'he r eyes met- both (now n! how &ery d ))erent the r l &es m !ht be ) that had happened+ %nne *o.ldn't .nderstand or a**ept t+ ;Yo. mean they d d t on p.rpose7 6hat d d they do7; ;Lathr.m le)t ?ao.l to )a*e me- and he was so damned embarrassed he d dn't say m.*h+ Probably weaned h m too early and (ept h m hal)3star&ed r !ht .p t ll I sent word I was *om n! )or h m- then stopped )eed n! h m at all+ >elt s.re I sho.ld ha&e shot h m r !ht there o.t o) ( ndness b.t t seemed wron! to e&en lea&e them the body- so I n.rsed h m home+ 'oo( three days to *ome th rty m les+ 'he l !ht was !one )rom h s eyes+; ;I don't .nderstand+ 6hat does that mean7; ;It's a dead loo( n the eyes they !et when the w ll to l &e s !one+ 'hey don't eat e&en w th )ood n )ront o) them then+ So- yo. see- Lathr.m tr ed to *heat me- and yo. *heated h m+; ;6 ll >ort.ne be all r !ht now7; ;8 !ht ne&er be as !ood a horse as he wo.ld ha&e+ St.nted- *roo(ed le!s- someth n! l (e that- b.t t won't ma(e any d ))eren*e n what he'll be as a s re- and that's what I wanted h m )or+; %nne sat )rown n! nto spa*e- and Cord wondered ) he had *ap t.lated too late and she wo.ld not let !o o) her an!er+ She reass.red h m w th a sm le a)ter a moment- and sa d- ;It's stran!e- sn't t+ I'm ha& n! tro.ble bel e& n! a man *o.ld be so *r.el to a horseand yet loo( what men d d to .s+; 'o .s+ He hadn't tho.!ht o) t that way be)ore+ ;6 ll yo. tell me now what yo.'re !o n! to do when yo. lea&e here7; She stood- br.sh n! her s( rt+ ;Yes- b.t ns de+ It's too *old to s t here any lon!er-; and then she threw h m a 9. *( !r n and added- ; ) yo.'ll tell me how yo. were !o n! to !et thro.!h the w nter ) I'd ta(en yo.r h.ndred and ) )ty dollars+; 'hen he was wat*h n! her ba*( )or a *han!e as she *arr ed the pa l o) m l( to the ho.se+ It !alled h m to let her do t- b.t he (new better than to e&en th n( abo.t l )t n! anyth n! yet+ How- he wondered- was he !o n! to !et her to stay )or a wh le- and how was he !o n! to deal w th the empt ness when she le)t- no matter when t was7 In the ho.se- %nne sa d- ;'h s t me yo. ) rst+; She had h m- and he (new t+ ;I 1.st borrow eno.!h )rom >ran( to !et by when th n!s !et t !ht+ I'&e done t a *o.ple o) t mes o&er the years+; Her )eel n!s were n her &o *e+ ;>rom yo.r br#!%er >ran(7; ;8m- hm+ ?eally mpressed yo. d dn't he7 %)ter he stops yell n! he's a !ood manyo. (now+ Best th n! )or yo. wo.ld be to as( >ran( and Eph )or help+ 'hey *o.ld see yo. l &e de*ently wh le yo. wor( th n!s o.t+; She sat down a*ross )rom h m at the ( t*hen table and sa d- har( n! ba*( to that lon! a!o *on&ersat on- ;I'd rather whore )or stran!ers+; Cord (new t was not a !ood open n!- b.t t was t me to !et t o.t+ ;6o.ld yo. stay7; ;Yo. mean wo.ld I whore )or yo.7; ;,o- damn t- I seem to remember we're marr ed+; ;'hat )ar*e o) a *eremony d dn't mean a th n!- and yo. (now t+;

;6hat t means s .p to .s+ I) we mean to (eep those &ows- we're marr ed+; ;'hat's easy to say- b.t nobody else wo.ld )eel that way+ I wo.ld be 1.st a whore as )ar as the rest o) the world s *on*erned- and I'd )eel l (e one+; ;6e *o.ld tal( to Pratt+; ;I don't want to tal( to that yellow3bell ed holy *oward+; ;Bet I *o.ld !et a marr a!e *ert ) *ate o.t o) h m+; Her narrow3eyed loo( sa d she wo.ldn't ta(e that bet and she d dn't th n( m.*h o) a marr a!e *ert ) *ate obta ned at !.n po nt+ He hadn't really e/pe*ted her to say yes+ He ba*(ed o))+ ;%ll r !ht then- what are yo. !o n! to do- yo. and yo.r twenty dollars7; ;6ell- I *an't !o to %.nt Clara now- so I'll 1.st ) nd employment+ I'm a &ery !ood seamstress- and an e/*ellent *oo(- and most people th n( I'm way too ed.*ated )or a woman+ I *o.ld tea*h+; ;<reat+ 6hen yo.'re almost o.t o) money and abo.t to !et to the whor n!- sa&e eno.!h to send me a tele!ram+ I'd l (e to be yo.r ) rst *.stomer+; ;'hat's what I tho.!ht yo. had n m nd+ It's not e/a*tly the same th n! as marr a!e+; ;It's probably a b !!er part o) marr a!e than yo.'d l (e+; %nne !nored that+ ;Can I th n( abo.t th s romant * proposal )or a wh le- or do I ha&e to answer now7; She *o.ld th n( abo.t t )ore&er ) t (ept her )rom lea& n!+ ;'h n( all yo. l (e-; he sa d- and too( h s a*h n! belly o)) )or a nap+ Sleep d dn't *ome eas ly+ ***

CHAPTER %
ANNE DID .,IN2 A4O3. I.( 'ho.!ht abo.t l ttle else )or the ne/t se&eral days .nt l her head a*hed and she )elt d 22y )ollow n! her own tho.!hts n * r*les+ She !a&e no *ons derat on to the so* al st !ma that had only wee(s a!o (ept her )rom e&en *ons der n! Cord as marr a!eable+ 'he press.res o) the op n on o) pol te so* ety were respons ble )or almost )or* n! her nto marr a!e to a man she )o.nd rep.ls &e+ She had been *ondemned )or a s n she had not *omm tted and was s.rpr sed to real 2e t only set her )ree+ In sp te o) how d )) *.lt he *o.ld be- she l (ed Cord )ar more than she e&er had e ther Elroy or ? *hard+ He was n many ways eas er to be aro.nd than anyone she had e&er (nown+ I) she wanted help or ad& *e- he !a&e t- b.t he saw no need to )or*e her to do th n!s h s way or to dom nate her e&ery a*t on and word+ 8ore than e&er be)ore she real 2ed how m.*h ? *hard and h s )r ends had patron 2ed her+ Yet Cord was d st.rb n! n a way no other had e&er been+ 'he so.nd o) h s &o *e- the s !ht o) h m- the way he loo(ed at her- somet mes any o) these th n!s wo.ld *a.se an .nsettl n! th.mp n her *hest- a stran!e )l.tter n her stoma*h+ She wo.ld ) nd hersel) adm r n! the s( ll n h s hands as they per)ormed some ord nary tas(- the lon!- stron! ) n!ers .n.s.ally 9. *( and de/tero.s- or wat*h n! h m wal(- e&en st ll sl !htly )a&or n! h s r bs- e/h b t n! a sens.o.s- *at3l (e !ra*e+ She had been en!a!ed to ? *hard 'yler- an e/tremely !ood3loo( n! man- )or )o.r years- b.t *o.ld not remember e&er not * n! how he wal(ed- *o.ld not remember

anyth n! abo.t h s hands+ ?e*all n! ? *hard at all was d )) *.lt- b.t the p *t.re n her m nd was a pale- bland- e&en )eat.red ma!e- la*( n! the )ero* ty b.t also the stren!th*on) den*e- and *hara*ter o) the d st n*t &e bone str.*t.re and planes o) Cord's )a*e+ %nne a**epted that h s reason )or as( n! her to stay was e/a*tly what he stated+ Under ord nary * r*.mstan*es- there were no de*ent women a man l (e Cord Bennett *o.ld marry+ 'hen a!a n- %nne tho.!ht r.e).lly- no one who (new the t.rns her l )e had ta(en these last wee(s wo.ld *ons der her a de*ent woman+ She worr ed part *.larly abo.t the phys *al part o) marr a!e+ %nne's (nowled!e had all been obta ned )rom her marr ed )r end- ?a*hel 8 les ?oss+ ,e ther her mother nor her %.nt Clara had e&er been w ll n! to say m.*h on the s.b1e*t+ 6hat they d d say tended to be hea&y on words l (e d.ty and obl !at on+ ?a*hel had des*r bed the mar tal a*t to %nne n m n.te deta l+ %**ord n! to ?a*helthe ) rst t me had been so terr ble she was at ) rst a)ra d she wo.ld d e and then a)ra d she wo.ldn't+ %)ter that- ?a*hel sa d- t was merely l (e be n! torn apart+ %nne wat*hed ?a*hel *han!e )rom a ! rl so n lo&e she *o.ldn't tal( abo.t anyth n! e/*ept her belo&ed ?andal to an .nhappy woman who almost hated her h.sband and wanted to be*ome pre!nant be*a.se- ;'hen he'll ha&e to lea&e me alone+; ?a*hel's e/per en*es had made %nne .nderstand why women wh spered abo.t a woman's b.rden+ 8ost w &es- o) *o.rse- seemed to mana!e m.*h better than ?a*hel d d+ %nne had been *on) dent that that part o) marr a!e to ? *hard wo.ld be d staste).l- b.t not so dread).l as what her )r end end.red+ St ll- ?andal ?oss was a !entleman+ I) he s.b1e*ted h s w )e to s.*h a!on 2 n! m sery re!.larly- what on earth wo.ld marr a!e to a man o) s.*h raw power as Cord be l (e7 'he tho.!ht o) h m to.*h n! her l (e that !a&e her an .nsettl n! hollow )eel n! n her stoma*h+ 6hat wo.ld t be l (e be n! marr ed to a man who had to be br bed nto say n! more than a )ew la*on * senten*es7 He wo.ld not try to r.le her or *ontrol her- b.t he wo.ldn't be a))e*t onate or *ar n! e ther+ 6hat wo.ld t be l (e to l &e a whole l )et me w th a man so w thdrawn7 % man whose own )am ly bel e&ed he was a *r m nal7 'here was also what she had o&erheard Dr+ Cra ! say abo.t *h ldren+ She had ne&er en& s oned marr a!e w tho.t *h ldren+ I) she ne&er marr ed- there wo.ld be none- b.t to be n a lo&eless marr a!e and not e&en ha&e *h ldren to ).ss o&er and lo&e7 B.t there was no es*ap n! the )a*t she wanted to stay+ She lo&ed t here and lo&ed the l )e+ 6o.ld that all *han!e too ) they were marr ed7 %nd what o) the other way7 I) she d d !o o)) and ) nd a pos t on somewhere- what wo.ld her l )e be l (e7 6o.ld t be better7 6orse7 %)ter three days o) almost *onstant heada*hes- she del berately re).sed to e&en th n( abo.t t )or another day+ %)ter her day o) mentally a&o d n! the s.b1e*t- %nne wo(e n the morn n! w th the de* s on *lear n her m nd+ She really wanted to stay 3 w th th s man- n h s l )e+ I) he wo.ld ! &e her the ass.ran*es she needed- she wo.ld stay- and she wo.ld do her absol.te best to be as !ood a w )e as poss ble- l & n! w tho.t what she already (new she *o.ld not ha&e w tho.t resentment+ 'hen she approa*hed h m+ ;D d yo. mean t7; ;Yeah- I d d+;

;I need yo.r solemn word o) honor+ 6hen we !et to town we'll !et a re!.lar *ert ) *ate o) marr a!e- and we w ll (eep the &ows absol.tely as ) we made them w ll n!ly at the t me+; ;I w ll ) yo. w ll+; %nne b t her l p and too( a deep breath- ;I ! &e yo. my word+; ;%nd I ! &e yo. m ne+ S.ppose th s means I !et e&eryth n! e/*ept obey+; She !asped- ;Yo. n#!i"ed5; ;Yeah- I not *ed+ I) I *an ha&e to ha&e and to hold- yo. *an do anyth n! else yo. damn well please+ I don't need to boss yo. aro.nd+; ;I'll (eep that n m nd+; She )elt sel)3*ons* o.s and ner&o.s aro.nd h m the rest o) the day+ He had more stam na and *o.ld do more all the t me- b.t she (new h s r bs were st ll ! & n! h m tro.ble+ %ltho.!h he had *.t the strapp n! o)) h msel) days a!o and re).sed to d s*.ss the matter- d s*om)ort showed n the way he stood and wal(ed when t !ot bad+ He st ll too( a nap on*e or tw *e a day+ He adm tted no wea(ness- b.t %nne wo.ld o)ten see the s.dden onset o) the dra ned- e/ha.sted loo(+ So that n !ht when she started )or the )ront bedroom- and heard- ;6here are yo. !o n!7; she loo(ed at h m w th d sbel e)+ ;'o bed+; ;6 &es sleep w th the r h.sbands+; ;B.t yo. *an't++++; ;,o- I *an't- b.t I *an ant * pate+ Come on alon!+; ;I need to+++ ) / my ha r and th n!s+ I'll be r !ht there+; 6hat she needed was t me to ad1.st to the dea- and h s eyes showed he (new t+ In the )ront bedroom she too( down her ha r and ran her ) n!ers thro.!h t+ 'he only *omb n the ho.se was n h s 3 the r 3 bedroom+ She too( o)) her *lothes and p.t on h s sh rt that she was st ll .s n! as a n !ht!own+ It only h.n! hal)way to her (nees and was )r !ht).lly mmodest+ She s.ddenly remembered the morn n! he had made her ta(e t o)) and loo(ed at the br. ses+ Oh- Lord- what had she a!reed to- what had she done7 Stra !hten n! her sho.lders- she headed slowly )or the ba*( bedroom+ 'he lamp bes de the bed was t.rned low- and Cord was n the bed- *o&ers only to h s wa st+ 'he d m l !ht !a&e a b.rn shed !low to h s s( n- h !hl !ht n! some *.r&es o) bone and m.s*le- shadow n! others- and only emphas 2ed the latent power o) h s body- drawn th n by the re*ent llness+ One 9. *( pee( le)t her (nees sha( n!- yet she was drawn a*ross the room as ) *ompelled by some o.ts de )or*e+ He opened the *o&ers- and a)ter blow n! o.t the lamp- she sl pped .nder them+ Immed ately h s hands were on the )ront o) the sh rt- .nb.tton n!+ She 1er(ed away+ ;6hat do yo. th n( yo.'re do n!7 Stop that+; ;'a( n! the sh rt o)) yo.+; ;Oh- no- yo.'re not+ It's not de*ent+; ;> ne- yo. ta(e t o))+; She was *lose to tears already+ ;It's not proper to sleep w tho.t a n !ht!own+; ;Sh t+; He t.rned on h s ba*( star n! at the *e l n! n the dar(ness+ ;Yo. ta(e o)) that damned sh rt and lea&e t o))- or !et the hell o.t o) here and yo. *an ha&e yo.r word r !ht ba*(+; 'ears sp lled slowly a*ross %nne's *hee(s+ ?a*hel was *erta nly r !ht abo.t th s monstro.s b.s ness- and t hadn't e&en really started yet+ She too( o)) the sh rt+

6hat sho*(ed her was h s !entleness+ He e/plored e&ery b t o) her- stro( n! l !htlyh s mo.th o**as onally n.22l n! her sho.lder+ H s to.*h made her aware o) the hollows and *.r&es- d ps and swells o) her own body as ne&er be)ore+ Her s( n *ame al &e .nder h s warm hands+ Barely breath n! hersel)- %nne ) nally real 2ed he had )allen asleep*.r&ed beh nd her- one hand *.pp n! her breast and the other spread on her stoma*h+ She lay awa(e m.*h lon!er- wonder n! how he *o.ld spea( so ro.!hly and to.*h so !ently- wonder n! why ?a*hel had ne&er ment oned that some o) th s was rather n *eand wonder n! what t wo.ld be l (e when he was better+ 6 th n a )ew days Cord was almost *ra2ed w th )r.strat on+ %nne had been ra sed w th so m.*h modesty and propr ety dr.mmed nto her she tho.!ht sleep n! na(ed was a s n+ She d d her best to !et that damn sh rt on e&ery morn n! as )ast as she *o.ld so he *o.ldn't e&en )east h s eyes on her+ 'here was absol.tely no way a woman s.*h as th s was !o n! to *ooperate eno.!h to help h m ha&e the release he needed+ 'he bla*( )at !.e that h t h m l (e a hammer a)ter only a relat &ely short t me o) aro.sal and h s a*h n! r bs and stoma*h *omb ned to (eep h m )rom ta( n! what wo.ld be a&a lable ) he were healthy+ 6orst o) all- there was a war ness n %nne's eyes that had ne&er been there be)ore+ Her total la*( o) )ear o) h m was one o) the .n 9.ely attra*t &e th n!s abo.t her+ She was not yet a)ra d- b.t there was someth n!+ Probably n another wee( when he was .p to stren!th she wo.ld r.n to <renerton- s*ream n! all the way- and maybe- he tho.!ht *yn *ally- t wo.ld be the best th n! )or both o) them+ %nne (new he was an!ry w th her+ He had !one )rom short answers o) only a )ew words to barely !r.nt n! n reply to 9.est ons or *omments+ He .ndo.btedly was d sappo nted n her+ Ha& n! to.*hed her so nt mately he was probably 1.st real 2 n! her too tall body was also too sl m and shapeless+ 8en l (ed so)t- ro.nd women l (e ?a*hel+ 6ell- t was 1.st too bad+ He was st.*( w th her+ E&en ) she had marr ed the Ch *a!o ) an*e- Cord de* ded- she wo.ld ne&er ha&e been a pass onate woman+ 'he man had ob& o.sly str.*( no spar(s or she wo.ld ha&e abandoned some o) the pr.d sh modesty+ Probably !enteel people l (e that *o.pled as neatly and properly as they d d e&eryth n! else+ Howe&er- (now n! that )antas es o) her ea!er and w ll n! .nder h m were only that 3 )antas es 3 d d not ma(e h m want her less+ 'he problem was to ) nd a way to b.ry h msel) n the sl m body w tho.t h.rt n! her- d s!.st n! her- or repell n! her so thoro.!hly that on*e wo.ld be all he'd e&er ha&e+ He spent a lot o) t me th n( n! o&er the stor es he had heard )rom >ran( ba*( n h s brother's woman 2 n! days+ Sleep n! w th h m was !o n! to be one o) the best th n!s abo.t marr a!e- %nne de* ded+ She l (ed the )eel o) the wor( ro.!hened hands pett n! and e/plor n! her- l (ed )all n! asleep *.rled n h s arms and wa( n! .p a!a nst h m+ He d d th s as s lently as he d d e&eryth n! else- and she )o.nd hersel) w st).lly w sh n! he wo.ld ( ss her or m.rm.r a )ew so)t words- e&en ) he d dn't mean them+ She rem nded hersel) sternly o) her pled!e to be sat s) ed w th what she *o.ld ha&e+ She also l (ed the way h s mo.th tra*ed patterns on her ne*( and sho.lders and a*ross her *ollarbones and ha& n! h s hand *.p a breast- th.mb r.bb n! a n pple+ Howe&erwhen h s head sl pped to her breast and she )elt h s l ps and ton!.e there- s.rpr se *a.sed her to st ))en and p.ll away+ He d dn't do t a!a n- and the memory o) the se*ond o) ntense pleas.re *a.sed her m.*h re!ret- b.t she was not bra&e eno.!h to say anyth n!+

Cord was st ll ta( n! a nap n the m ddle o) the day- and %nne rela/ed n h s arms at n !ht- e/pe*t n! only the .s.al pleas.rable *aresses+ Somet mes by the l !ht o) day- she loo(ed at hersel) n the m rror and bl.shed th n( n! o) the pla*es and ways he to.*hed her+ She spent *ons derable t me daydream n! abo.t ( sses and tender words- b.t now she lay on her s de )a* n! h m n the dar(ness- eyes *losed- a sl !ht sm le on her l ps as h s ) n!ers * r*led !ently on the so)t s( n o) her nner th !h+ %ston shment d d not brea( thro.!h the lan!.or n t me )or her to rea*t when he p.shed a ) n!er ns de her- spread n! the se*ret mo st.re that h s to.*h always *a.sedand then p.lled her a!a nst h m- sl pp n! her .pper le! o&er h s th !h and thr.st n! nto her+ She )elt tear n! pa n- a d.ll br. s n! a*he as her body opened+ He p.lled away sl !htly then pl.n!ed deeper+ %**ept n! n her m nd what was happen n!- %nne was as mot onless as a )r !htened small an mal- wa t n! )or the horror to be! n- b.t e&en as he be!an to mo&e n her- the n t al pa n re*eded+ %s her e/pe*tat on o) more pa n lessened- so d d her tense st llnessand when she be!an to rela/- h s hands !. ded her h ps+ %nne tentat &ely rela/ed *ompletely 1.st be)ore Cord sh.ddered and she )elt hot wetness deep ns de- and then she was separate a!a n+ He had p.lled r !ht away )rom herroll n! onto h s ba*(- and h s &o *e was &ery so)t and low+ ;Yo. all r !ht7; ;Yes+; O) *o.rse she was all r !ht+ It %ad h.rt- b.t she d dn't )eel part *.larly torn apart+ <oodness- she *o.ld stand th s w tho.t any tro.ble at all+ He was )a* n! her a!a n now+ ;8ore7; %s( n! her 3 he was as-ing her+ 6eren't h s an mal appet tes s.pposed to t.rn h m nto a ra&en n! beast7 'h s t me he sl d eas ly nto the depths o) her that were already dren*hed w th h s seed- and there was only the shadow o) the ) rst pa n+ %nne lay 9. etly bes de h m .nt l she was s.re he was asleep- then !ently p llowed her head on h s sho.lder and *.pped her hand aro.nd h s .pper arm+ S.rely th s m.*h was her mar tal r !ht+ ?a*hel's des*r pt on o) th s a*t had been a**.rate- she re)le*ted- e/*ept )or the pos t on- wh *h she s.pposed was a *on*ess on to h s r bs+ B.t where was the .nbearable pa n- where was the h.m l at on7 It was ne/press bly nt mate- and she d dn't m nd a b t+ 6hy d d she want to la.!h o.t lo.d w th rel e)7 I) th s was her mar tal b.rden t was *erta nly !o n! to be easy to bear+ Cord wo(e ) rst+ Eyes sh.t- he *o.ld )eel her a!a nst h m- *hee( a!a nst h s sho.lderbreasts p.sh n! a!a nst h s arm- one hand a*ross h s trea*hero.s r b *a!e+ %t least she hadn't thrown on *lothes and r.n o)) nto the n !ht+ <od- he'd )or!otten how !ood t )eltblood no lon!er bo l n! thro.!h h s &e ns l (e hot a* d b.t sl pp n! alon! sweetly l (e warm honey- all the tense m sery !one- repla*ed by an ease that rea*hed to h s bone marrow+ 6o.ld she real 2e now what she had done to hersel) and lea&e7 6o.ld he loo( nto the w de !ray eyes th s morn n! and ) nally see )ear7 He wasn't s.re he wanted to (now the answers+ %s the world be!an to t.rn rose *olored w th the s.nr se- he p.lled *are).lly away )rom her- dressed- and went to start *o))ee+ L sten n! hard )or any st rr n! n the bedroom- he heard her bare )eet on the )loorthen so.nds o) a sharply ndrawn breath 3 maybe e&en a &ery so)t wa l 3 and *loth r.stl n!+

He d dn't want to (now b.t *o.ldn't help !o n! to see+ She was lean n! o&er the bed n h s sh rt- h.rr edly p.ll n! o)) the bed*lothes+ 'he s !ht o) the lon! bare le!s and ro.nded bottom ).lly *apt.red h s attent on+ S.ddenly aware o) h s presen*e- %nne stra !htened 9. *(ly- t.!! n! at the hem o) the sh rt+ 'he bloodsta n on the e/posed bed sheet made Cord )or!et e&eryth n! else- n*l.d n! h s worry abo.t whether she was a)ra d+ ;6hy the hell d dn't yo. tell me yo. were a !oddamn & r! n7; Her embarrassment *han!ed to nd !nat on n a )lash+ She snapped at h m- ;'ell yo.7 6hy on earth wo.ld I tell yo. s.*h a th n!7 Yo. (now I'&e ne&er been marr ed be)ore+; ;6hat the hell has marr ed !ot to do w th t7 Yo. were en!a!ed )or years to that man n Ch *a!o+; Her &o *e started to r se+ ;'he operat &e word there s 'en!a!ed+' 6hat ( nd o) trash do yo. th n( I am7; ;I th n( yo.'re h.man s all+ 6hat was the matter w th h m7; She tr ed ha.!ht ness+ ;'here was noth n! wron! w th h m+ He was a !entleman+; ;<entleman my ass+ He m.st ha&e had *e water )or blood+; It ne&er- o) *o.rse- o**.rred to h m to blame anyone e/*ept ? *hard )or s.*h an e/traord nary state o) a))a rs+ Her &o *e dropped- low and ).r o.s+ ;6ell- t's 1.st too bad ) yo. had yo.r heart set on a .sed- well bro(en n w )e- be*a.se yo.'re st.*( w th me+; 'he .n)a rness o) th s made Cord !rowl r !ht ba*(- ;I d dn't want a .sed w )e+ I) I'd (nown- I wo.ldn't ha&e slammed nto yo. l (e that s all+; He t.rned and stomped ba*( to the ( t*hen- start n! to ban! the *o))ee pot down on the sto&e and then pla* n! t nstead slowly and w th *are+ ,ot only was there no )ear n her eyes th s morn n!- the d st.rb n! wary loo( was !one+ %nne wat*hed h s d sappear n! ba*( open mo.thed+ Slammed nto her7 >or the ) rst t me t o**.rred to her that ?a*hel's h !hly respe*ted- m.*h adm red- and w dely en& ed h.sband m !ht 1.st be se&erely la*( n! n some re!ards+ ***

CHAPTER 1&
SO0E.I0ES ANNE ,AD .RO34LE 4ELIEVING so m.*h pa n and m sery had n the end bro.!ht her so m.*h )reedom+ Cord really d dn't boss her aro.nd+ He le)t what she d d and when she d d t ent rely .p to her+ I) she d dn't (now how to do someth n!- he showed her+ I) she made a m sta(e- he shr.!!ed and helped her ) / t+ So e&ery morn n! she )ollowed h m to the barn- the two o) them do n! *hores n hal) the t me t too( one alone+ %)ter brea()ast- %nne d d ho.sehold tas(s- ama2ed that he helped+ He d dn't seem to d & de the world nto men's wor( and women's wor(+ O) *o.rse- she real 2ed- he was .sed to do n! t all h msel)+ He be!an to wor( horses a!a n- start n! w th yo.n! sto*( that wo.ld bene) t )rom 9. et handl n!- s n*e he st ll was not ready to start r d n!+ %nne spent most a)ternoons o.ts de w th h m- try n! not to !et n the way- m tat n! the way he d d th n!s and pett n!

and br.sh n! the yo.n! horses hersel)+ Somet mes ho.rs wo.ld pass w th only a )ew words spo(en to the horses- b.t she del !hted n e&ery m n.te o) t+ 6hen Cord s.!!ested she sho.ld learn how to handle h s !.ns- %nne hes tated at ) rst- then remembered Charl e 8ee(s' leer n! )a*e and a!reed+ 8aster n! how to *leano l- and load the weapons *ame easy+ H tt n! what she a med at was a d ))erent story- b.t she *o.ld see hersel) slowly mpro& n! as the days passed- and a)ter all- she d dn't need to be a sharp shooter- 1.st *ompetent+ %)ter e&en n! *hores and d nner- %nne prepared )or the ne/t day's ba( n! or sewed loose b.ttons or l ttle rents or worn pla*es n her )ew *lothes that were wear n! o.t so rap dly+ Cord *leaned and o led harness- saddles- and br dles or made m nor repa rs to other e9. pment+ %t n !ht %nne slept *.rled a!a nst Cord's sho.lder- .tterly *ontent w th a new l )e that was better than anyth n! she had e&er ma! ned or dared hope )or+ >or Cord there was no ease+ 8ost n !hts he lay awa(e lon! a)ter %nne was asleepwonder n! how lon! she wo.ld stay- wonder n! what pr *e he wo.ld pay )or steal n! th s t me w th her+ Be*a.se he bel e&ed the ) rst t me %nne was ba*( n 8ason- she m !ht 1.st de* de to r.n home or to ?a*hel ?oss- he p.t o)) any ment on o) a tr p to town as lon! as poss ble+ He also was not s.re she really .nderstood how m.*h o) a par ah she wo.ld be now w th most o) the townspeople or how she wo.ld rea*t to the loss o) l )et me )r ends and maybe e&en her )am ly+ 'he )a*t was- tho.!h- by early De*ember they were almost o.t o) e&eryth n!- )rom !ra n )or the l &esto*(- to )lo.r- s.!ar- and *o))ee+ 8ent on n! !o n! to town as ) he e/pe*ted her to stay home !ot h m nowhere+ ;I ) !.re to ta(e the wa!on nto town )or s.ppl es ) rst th n! n the morn n!-; he sa d+ ;I) yo. )eed the sto*(- I'll do the rest o) the *hores when I !et ba*(+; She t pped her head and loo(ed at h m as ) she (new what he was .p to+ ;6hat ) I want to *ome w th yo.7; He s.ppressed a s !h+ ;6e'll lea&e a l ttle later+; ;<ood-; %nne sa d+ ;6e need to ma(e s.re we're really marr ed- e&en ) t does mean see n! ?e&erend Yellow3Belly Pratt a!a n+; % p stol was not Cord's )a&or te weapon- b.t the ne/t morn n! he strapped on the !.nbelt be)ore !o n! to h t*h .p the wa!on+ P.ll n! .p n )ront o) Pratt's ho.se- Cord as(ed- ;Yo. s.re yo. don't want to stay here7; E&ery l ne o) %nne's )a*e and body sa d she d d- b.t she shoo( her head and *l mbed down+ It was Sarah Pratt who answered the door and stood n the doorway wooden w th )ear+ Charles Pratt wal(ed .p beh nd h s w )e to see who had *ome *all n! and t.rned s *(ly pale and be!an to ba*( .p+ Cord spo(e &ery pol tely- ;L (e to see yo. a m n.te pr &ately- ?e&erend+; 6 th a sha( n! hand- Pratt !est.red to a door o)) the hall+ %nne had to abo.t p.sh 8rs+ Pratt to !et by her- b.t the woman leapt o.t o) the way as soon as Cord too( a step+ In h s st.dy- Pratt tr ed to !nore Cord+ ;%nne- what s the mean n! o) th s7 6hat are yo. do n! here w th that man7; Hoarse w th ).ry- she sa d- ;I'm here w th my %usband to !et the marr a!e *ert ) *ate yo. seem to ha&e )or!otten the day yo. marr ed .s+;

Pratt seemed to !et e&en paler and be!an to st.tter+ ;'3that w3wasn't+++ yo. *3*an't++++; Cord leaned ba*( a!a nst a wall- opened h s *oat to be s.re the !.nbelt showed- and let her &ent her an!er+ %nne was almost sp tt n!+ ;Yo. *ra&en- yellow- .seless- sad e/*.se )or a Chr st anyo. d d the marry n!- yo. *an 1.st ) nd eno.!h sp ne to wr te the *ert ) *ate+; ;%nne- y3yo.r )3)ather++++; ;Damn my )ather- and damn yo.+ >or on*e n yo.r *owardly l )e yo. *an 1.st do what's r !ht+; Pratt was be! nn n! to loo( d st n*tly ll- so Cord de* ded to ta(e a hand+ ;%*t.ally- ?e&erend- we sort o) ) !.red yo.'d be happy to ma(e th n!s r !ht+ Yo. (now- earn redempt on thro.!h a !ood deed+; Charles Pratt was a wh spy man- and Cord tho.!ht o) h m as !ray all o&er+ <ray ha r!ray s( n- ndeterm nate *olored eyes beh nd spe*ta*les 3 now as Pratt ) nally loo(ed at h m- Cord wondered ) he was r !ht abo.t the prea*her's blood slowly t.rn n! )rom red to a th n- !ray !r.el+ ;?3redempt on7; ;Yeah- yo. (now- )or! &eness+; Cord d dn't ntend the threat o) the word to be s.btleand t wasn't+ Pratt *r.mbled+ ;It needs w tnesses+; ;Benton and 6h te were both there+ 8aybe they'd be nterested n a l ttle redempt on too+; 'he prea*her was hold n! onto h s des( as ) he (new he wo.ld )all w tho.t the s.pport+ ;%ll r !ht-; he wh spered- ;I'll !et them+; ;'hat's real *ons derate o) yo.- ?e&erend+ S.ppose we meet yo. ba*( here at noon+; Pratt d dn't ra se h s head a!a n- b.t nodded+ < & n! Pratt that m.*h t me worr ed %nne+ Ba*( at the wa!on- she sa d- ;Yo.'&e ! &en h m two ho.rs to ro.nd .p help and ma(e tro.ble+; ;He hasn't !ot that m.*h sand+; %nne *l mbed ba*( on the wa!on seat- hop n! he was r !ht+ Cord stopped ne/t n )ront o) a small shop o)) o) 8a n Street+ It was %rmand LeCler*'s !oldsm th shop- she (new- b.t she d dn't .nderstand r !ht away+ 6hen the bell so.nded as they wal(ed n8r+ LeCler* bo.n*ed to h s )eet )rom the arm*ha r beh nd the *o.nter+ He was a smallro.nd- wh te3ha red man- and he sm led w dely at them+ ;6hat *an I do )or yo. two today7; ;6e need a wedd n! r n!-; Cord sa d+ %nne made no attempt to h de her del !ht- as LeCler* p.lled a tray w th &ar o.s s 2ed !old bands o.t o) a drawer+ She e/am ned them w th .n*r t *al pleas.re+ Cord wasn't as pleased+ He sa d- ;'hey s.re loo( pla n+ Don't yo. ma(e anyth n! prett er7; 'h s t me she )elt d smay+ D dn't he real 2e prett er meant more e/pens &e7 She (new e/a*tly how m.*h money they had+ Perhaps she *o.ld pretend not to l (e any o) the more e/pens &e r n!s+ LeCler* le)t the ) rst tray on the *o.nter and p.lled o.t a se*ond+ 'he problem w th pretend n! was that she wasn't &ery !ood at t+ Some o) these r n!s were de) n tely too !a.dy- some were des !ned so that they wo.ld not be pra*t *al )or ran*h l )e- b.t some were .nden ably spe* al+

;P *( one yo. l (e+; D d he ser o.sly th n( he was !o n! to borrow money )rom h s wret*hed brother to !et thro.!h the w nter n order to b.y her a )an*y r n!7 She (new better than to ar!.e w th h m n )ront o) 8r+ LeCler*+ She be!an sort n! thro.!h the r n!s+ > rst she el m nated the !a.dy- then the mpra*t *al+ She was le)t w th )o.r r n!s and hes tateds.re she pre)erred the most e/pens &e+ %rmand LeCler* spo(e as ) he .nderstood the problem+ Perhaps he d d+ He had been sell n! 1ewelry )or many years+ ;@ery w se *ho *es- my dear+ Some o) my own )a&or tesand I made them all+ 'he pr *e won't *hoose )or yo. s n*e those )o.r are all the same+; %nne sm led at h m !rate).lly and p *(ed .p her )a&or te+ 'hree sl m strands o) !old entw ned on the top- mer! n! nto one band .nderneath the ) n!er+ 'he r n! d dn't ) t- and 8r+ LeCler* e/pla ned that he had pla n bands n all s 2es- b.t ea*h o) the .n 9.e r n!s had to be s 2ed )or the person who wo.ld wear t+ ;B.t we're only n town today+; ;I) yo. *an wa t an ho.r or two- I *an ha&e t per)e*t+; She !lan*ed at Cord to see what h s rea*t on to all th s was+ ;6e ha&e noth n! to do t ll noon anyway+ 6e *an wa t+; ;In that *ase-; sa d 8r+ LeCler*- ;why don't yo. *ome to my shop and (eep me *ompany wh le I do the wor(+ I) yo. don't m nd nd.l! n! an old man and l sten n! to h m ramble on+; %nne was s.rpr sed when Cord a!reed b.t real 2ed h s d.al p.rpose when a)ter a short t me he e/*.sed h msel) and d sappeared to the barber's )or a m.*h needed ha r*.t+ He ret.rned promptly eno.!h and soon 8r+ LeCler* was enterta n n! them w th stor es o) h s boyhood n >ran*e as he heated the r n! n h s small )or!e+ %nne *o.ld ne&er de* de later wh *h was the more )as* nat n!- the wor( he d d or the stor es he told+ Be)ore the r n! was ready- Helene LeCler*- as small and ro.nd as her h.sband- was ser& n! them *o))ee- 1o n n! them )or a wh le and lett n! the shop (eep tsel)+ 'he r n! wo.ld be e&en more pre* o.s be*a.se o) the happy t me that went w th t+ Cooled and pol shed a!a n- the r n! ) t per)e*tly+ Ba*( n the shop- 8r+ LeCler* as(ed- ;%nd do yo. want a man's r n! too7; %nne (new she had not (ept her )a*e )rom show n! what she tho.!ht o) that+ She absol.tely e/pe*ted- howe&er- to hear Cord say no- and was del !hted all o&er a!a n to hear h m say nstead- ;How m.*h7; %)ter &ery l ttle d s*.ss on- they le)t the shop w th both r n!s n Cord's po*(et 3 and w th new )r ends+ P.ll n! .p n )ront o) Pratt's a!a n 1.st be)ore noon- Cord ) shed the r n!s )rom h s po*(et and sa d- ;I don't s.ppose yo. want to p.t th s on n there7; She !r nned at h m+ ;Yo. don't s.ppose r !ht+; She p.lled o)) the aw(ward !lo&e she had made )or hersel) o.t o) an old pa r o) h s and held o.t her le)t hand+ %)ter he sl pped the r n! on her ) n!er- she held o.t her hand )or the other r n! and d d the same )or h m+ She sm led at h m- )eel n! l !ht3hearted w th happ ness and saw the answer n! sm le n h s eyes+ S.ddenly she wanted &ery m.*h to throw her arms aro.nd h m and ( ss h m thoro.!hly b.t was s.re he wo.ldn't l (e t a b t and d dn't+ 'hey *l mbed down and headed )or the ho.se+ 8rs+ Pratt was nowhere to be seen+ ?e&erend Pratt answered the door h msel) and wordlessly led the way to h s st.dy a!a n+ 8 *hael Benton and 'homas 6h te sat on the

ed!es o) the r *ha rs+ Both men !ot 9. *(ly to the r )eet when Cord and %nne wal(ed n the room- loo( n! &ery m.*h l (e they wanted to d &e thro.!h the w ndow+ Pratt- e ther emboldened by the presen*e o) 6h te and Benton or ha& n! )o.nd a mod *.m o) *o.ra!e somewhere- started n- ;,ow- %nne- yo. m.st real 2e yo. don't ha&e to stay w th th s man be*a.se o) what's happened+ I'm s.re yo.r )ather wo.ld be happy to ha&e yo. home- or yo. *o.ld !o to Sher )) ?eynolds+ Yo. *an't do th s to yo.rsel) be*a.se o) an .n)ort.nate t.rn o) e&ents+; %nne had de* ded these men weren't worth her emot on+ ;It has noth n! to do w th ha&e to- and as )ar as I'm *on*erned t was a )ort.nate t.rn o) e&ents+ ,ow- ) yo. don't m nd- we'&e !ot other th n!s to do today+; Pratt sat beh nd the des( w th res !nat on and be!an to ) ll o.t the s*rolled- en!ra&ed )orm+ 6hen he ) n shed wr t n!- he t.rned the *ert ) *ate toward %nne and sa d- ;Yo. s !n yo.r ma den name+; She d d and then handed the pen to Cord+ Pratt sa d- ;I) yo. ma(e yo.r mar(- I'll pr nt t n below+; Cord d dn't e&en loo( .p- 1.st s !ned- ;Cord Bennett; n a stron! hand+ 6h te and Benton then s !ned+ Cord wasn't thro.!h w th them yet+ ;I th n( we'd all l (e to see th s wr tten n the *h.r*h re*ords- ?e&erend+; Pratt sp.ttered and delayed b.t ended .p p.ll n! o.t the marr a!e re*ords and enter n! the r names and the O*tober date+ ;Yo. ha&e a )ee )or th s sort o) th n!- ?e&erend7; ;,3no+ People donate what they *an+; ;8m+ How abo.t a )ee )or see n! that th s s wr tten down n the *o.rtho.se re*ords l (e e&erybody else7; ;'here's a small )ee+ Yo. *an ta(e the *ert ) *ate and++++; Cord threw a dollar on the des( and h s &o *e went so)ter and mena* n!- ;I s.ppose ) we *he*( at the *o.rtho.se ne/t t me we're n town- we'll ) nd t n the re*ords7; ;Yes- yes- o) *o.rse+ I'll see that t's done r !ht away+; ;<ood- be*a.se we'll *he*(+; Cord then pol tely t pped h s hat to ea*h o) the men+ ;'han( yo.- ?e&erend+ 8r+ 6h te- 8r+ Benton+; %nne saw no reason to d s!. se her *ontempt+ She !a&e them all d rty loo(s and then wal(ed o.t+ 6hen he p.lled .p n )ront o) :ames 8 les' <eneral Store- %nne e/pla ned to Cord she wo.ld l (e to !o n alone wh le he went to the )eed store+ :ames 8 les was ?a*hel's )ather and had been l (e an .n*le to her all her l )e+ She was hop n! to tal( to h m and to ha&e h m .nderstand and sell them !oods w tho.t Cord e&en *om n! n+ She sensed h s rel.*tan*e- b.t all he sa d was- ;H.rt's worse when yo.r )r ends !et mean+; ;I (now- b.t I want to try+ I) t doesn't wor(- I'll wa t )or yo. o.ts de+; 6hen :ames 8 les *a.!ht s !ht o) her- h s lon! narrow )a*e l t .p+ ;%nne- I d dn't (now yo. had *ome home+ It's !ood to see yo.+ %re yo. all r !ht7 How are yo.7; She sm led ba*( b.t as(ed 9. etly- ;8r+ 8 les- *an I tal( w th yo. alone a m n.te7; P.22led- 8 les made the )am l ar !est.re o) smooth n! h s bla*( ha r o&er the l ttle bald spot+ 'hen he !est.red to h s ass stant to ta(e o&er and led the way to the storeroom n the ba*( o) the store+ 'hey sat )a*e to )a*e on wooden *rates wh le %nne told :ames 8 les the story she had told Sher )) ?eynolds 9. *(ly and *on* sely+

She ) n shed w th- ;So- yo. see- 8r+ 8 les- I'm here w th my h.sband )or s.ppl es+ I (now I *an't e&er be )r ends w th yo.r )am ly the way t's been n the past- b.t I'm hop n! we *an st ll at least be )r ends+; 8 les tr ed to ar!.e w th her+ ;Yo. *an't be ser o.s abo.t th s+ ,o matter what's happened yo. (now yo. ha&e )r ends who w ll help yo.+ Yo. don't ha&e to l &e o.t there w th that- that++++; %nne )elt a small *.rl o) an!er be! n b.t s9.el*hed t+ She d dn't want to lose th s )r end+ ;'hat man s my h.sband- and he's a m.*h better h.sband than I e&er tho.!ht I'd ha&e+ I l (e h m+; He loo(ed at her n d smay- b.t %nne *o.ld tell her story had mo&ed h m+ ;Yo. (now ?andal w ll ne&er e&en let ?a*hel say hello to yo. n the street and a lot o) others w ll )eel the same7; ;Yes- I (now+ I'll be !rate).l ) yo. aren't one o) those others+; E&eryth n! has a pr *e tho.!ht %nne+ ;%ll r !ht- then+ Yo. ha&e a l st7; She )elt rel e) s.r!e thro.!h her- and as they wal(ed o.t o) the storeroom- stopped and h.!!ed h m+ ;'han( yo.+; He patted her sho.lder+ ;,ow- now- that's eno.!h o) that+ I 1.st hope yo. (now what yo.'re do n!+; 'he store was be! nn n! to ) ll w th women who d dn't seem to need to b.y anyth n!+ %nne real 2ed word was spread n! that she was n town w th Cord- and e&ery b.sybody was ea!er to ) nd o.t what was !o n! on )or hersel)+ 8 les be!an to p.ll the tems on the l st )rom h s shel&es- and %nne shopped aro.ndp *( n! .p other tems on the l st and- !. lt ly- a )ew that weren't+ > nally- she had e&eryth n!- and she headed )or the *o.nter wh le 8 les be!an to total the b ll+ Bes de her she heard the shrew sh &o *e o) Emma 6 l( nson- the most & * o.s o) the town harp es+ ;S.rely- :ames- yo.'re not !o n! to wa t on an In1.n's woman wh le de*ent )ol( wa t+; It was not p.t as a 9.est on+ 8 les loo(ed .p and sa d- ;,ow- Emma- there are * r*.mstan*es++++; 8rs+ 6 l( nson d dn't wa t )or h m to ) n sh b.t nterr.pted+ ;'here are no s.*h th n! as '* r*.mstan*es-' and yo. (now t+ % de*ent woman wo.ld *hoose death+; ,o one had heard Cord pad n on mo**as ned )eet+ H s &o *e was e/tra pol te b.t &ery *lear and *arr ed o&er the whole store+ ;8rs+ 6 l( nson- yo.'d ne&er ha&e to ma(e a *ho *e+ 8y !rand)ather was an !norant- ll terate sa&a!e- b.t ) he'd *apt.red yo.- he'd ha&e 1.st sl t yo.r throat+ E&en an !norant sa&a!e (nows better than to ).*( a b t*h+; 8rs+ 6 l( nson's )a*e t.rned deep p.*e and she seemed to be !asp n! )or a r+ %nne was a)ra d )or a moment that the woman wo.ld )a nt at her )eet- b.t w th a stran!led so.nd Emma ran )rom the store as ) p.rs.ed by ).r es+ 'ry n! &ery hard to (eep a ! !!le ns de- %nne pee(ed .p to see 8 les )rown n! at her+ Cord's &o *e *ame a!a n- drawl n!- b.t st ll *lear- ;I d dn't th n( a de"en! '#man wo.ld e&en (now what I was tal( n! abo.t+; St ll meet n! :ames 8 les' d sappro& n! !a2e- %nne lost *ontrol- and the ! !!le es*aped+ St ll )rown n! sl !htly- 8 les sa d- ;%nne- ! rl- I s.re hope yo. (now what yo.'&e !otten yo.rsel) nto+;

She !r nned at h m m s*h e&o.sly+ ;It's really not a problem- 8r+ 8 les+ I'm so de*ent I *an't .nderstand hal) o) what he says+; She la.!hed to hersel) the whole t me Cord pa d the b ll and he and 8 les *arr ed the s.ppl es to the wa!on+ In the street- Cord m.ttered w tho.t loo( n! at her- ;'ho.!ht yo.'d be mad+; ;6hy sho.ld I be mad7 Yo. 1.st ) /ed t so there sn't a woman n town who'd ha&e the ner&e to say an .n( nd word to me+; ;8m+ %nyth n! else yo. want aro.nd here7; ;I) t's all r !ht- the dr.!! st has some n *e lot on at h s shop- and I wo.ldn't m nd some soap eas er on my s( n than what yo. .se+; %m ably they headed to the dr.!! st's+ On the wa!on seat a!a n- Cord as(ed- ;Yo. want to !o stra !ht home- or shall we press o.r l.*( at the *a)e7 I'd s.re l (e a stea(+; %nne was )eel n! almost ! ddy w th the s.**ess o) the day so )ar+ ;Let's try the *a)e+ %ll that *an happen s Dora won't wa t on .s- and we'll s t a wh le and wal( o.t+; He dro&e .p the street+ %nne started to bel e&e her worst that *o.ld happen pred *t on was !o n! to *ome tr.e+ 'he *a)e's owner- *oo(- and wa tress- Dora Ba!ley- a*ted as ) they weren't there+ Dora was sto.t- red3)a*ed- and )orm dable- and try n! to )or*e her to )eed them wo.ld probably !et them po soned+ 'hey sat 9. etly )or a )ew m n.tes be)ore Cord rea*hed )or h s hat- s !nal n! to %nne he was ready to adm t de)eat and lea&e+ :.st then- howe&er- ,oah ?eynolds wal(ed nto the l ttle resta.rant- ar!.ed & !oro.sly w th Dora- wal(ed o&er- and sat down at the r table+ ;Do yo. m nd *ompany7; Cord re!arded ,oah tho.!ht).lly+ ;,ope- b.t ) yo.'re plann n! on eat n! anyth n!yo. won't !et t done here+; ,oah *h.*(led+ ;Dora's *han!ed her m nd+ It wo.ldn't do to re).se the town's sher )) h s p e*e o) p e 1.st be*a.se o) the *ompany he (eeps+; S.re eno.!h Dora *ame o&er- th.mped down three *o))ee *.ps and ) lled them w th stron! loo( n! brew+ ;I (now yo. want p e- ,oah+ 6hat abo.t these two7; Cord's eyes met %nne's )or an nstant- and she saw a what the hell !l nt+ He sa d only;'wo stea(s w th e&eryth n!+; Dora ne&er loo(ed at h m b.t le)t w th a sw sh o) s( rts+ Cord leaned ba*( n the *ha r- loo( n! so rela/ed as to be boneless+ ;'Pre* ate that,oah+ 6e'll treat yo. to the p e+; ,oah shr.!!ed+ ;6hen I heard yo. were here- I tho.!ht I'd better tell yo.- those Do.ble 8 8en all 9. t and mo&ed on+ 8ee(s and Sam.els were n to see Do*+ 8ee(s had a pretty !ood sho.lder wo.nd- and yo. h t Sam.els n the s de+ 'hey m.st ha&e h.rt )or a wh le- b.t they weren't n m.*h dan!er o) dy n!+ I s.ppose yo. were try n! to ( ll them- weren't yo.7; ;'ry n! to !.tshoot them- b.t I wasn't too steady at the t me+; 'he o))3hand- *as.al way he sa d t made the statement more *h ll n!+ 'he sher ))'s mo.th t !htened w th d sappro&al+ ;6ell- they d dn't say where they were headed- n *ase yo. ha&e any not on o) !o n! h.nt n!+; Cord's only answer was a sl !ht headsha(e+

,ow ,oah bro.!ht .p a se*ond reason )or h s & s t+ ;%lso- I'm here be*a.se I'm as *.r o.s as the rest o) the town+ I ) !.red >ran( and Eph wo.ld ha&e had %nne n Ch *a!o lon! a!o+ 6hat are yo. two do n! here l (e th s7; Cord 1.st loo(ed o.t the w ndow- answer n! the 9.est on n h s .s.al way+ %nne sa d;6e de* ded to stay marr ed+; S.rpr se showed n ,oah's )a*e+ ;:.st l (e that+; ;,ot e/a*tly 1.st l (e that- b.t that's how t ended .p+; ,oah was str.!!l n! )or words- at a loss+ ;B.t what abo.t >ran( and Ephra m7; ;6ell- they *ame the day a)ter yo. d d- b.t they made me an!ry- so I sent them away+; ,oah d d not .nderstand+ ;Sent them away7; Cord re1o ned the *on&ersat on+ ;?an them o.t o) the ho.se w th a r )le+; ,oah *o.ldn't ha&e shown more aston shment ) they'd sa d a mo.se had ( lled a *at+ ;Y#u ran Fran- 4enne!! o.t o) the ho.se7; %nne )elt sl !htly embarrassed and (new t showed+ ;6ell- he started yell n! .!ly th n!s- and I lost my temper+; ,oah sl.mped n h s *ha r- loo( n! ba*( and )orth between the two o) them+ 'he )ood arr &ed- and there was no more *on&ersat on wh le ,oah dawdled o&er h s p e and Cord and %nne d.! nto the stea(s+ Cord's plate was already spotless when %nne p.t down her )or( and sa d w th re!ret- ;I hate to waste- b.t I really *an't eat any more o) th s+ Cord sa d- ;,o waste-; and e/*han!ed h s empty plate )or hers w th a smooth sle !ht o) hand+ 'he .r!e to h.! h m redo.bled+ He had a dread).l )o.l mo.th- what he had 1.st done was terr bly .n*o.th- and she l (ed h m more than she had ma! ned poss ble+ 'he *a)e door ban!ed- and her brother ?obert *ame storm n! n- a p.rpose).l s*owl on h s )a*e+ ?ob had the same so)t brown ha r as %nne- b.t br !ht bl.e eyes+ %t twenty3 ) &e h s )a*e was st ll so)t and boy sh w th a spo led- .s.ally s.llen loo( n! mo.th- a s !nh s s ster tho.!ht- o) mmat.r ty+ ;%nne- t's all o&er town abo.t yo.r be n! here+ ,oah told .s yo.'d !one to Ch *a!oand we ha&en't had a letter )rom %.nt Clara+ 6hat are yo. do n! here w th that man7; 'he ne/t person who re)erred to Cord as ;that man; was !o n! to !et an ear).l+ ;6ellI sho.ld th n( yo. (now- ?ob+ >ather wanted me marr ed- so he saw that I was marr edand here I am+ Let me ntrod.*e yo. to my h.sband+; %lready pr med- ?ob let !o o) h s temper mmed ately+ ;Yo.'re not ntrod.* n! me to h m- and yo. (now per)e*tly well yo.'re not really marr ed to h m+ I) yo. weren't so p !headed- yo.'d be ) l n! *har!es a!a nst h m+ Yo.'re *om n! home r !ht now= I s.ppose yo. th n( yo.'re !ett n! e&en w th >ather )or a *o.ple o) l ttle slaps yo. absol.tely deser&ed+ Yo. (now all yo. ha&e to do s apolo! 2e+ Yo.'&e r. ned yo.rsel) )or l & n! n 8ason- b.t yo. *an !o to %.nt Clara's+ ,o one w ll (now+; ;Hell w ll )ree2e o&er be)ore I apolo! 2e to anyone or be)ore I e&er set )oot n that ho.se a!a n+ It's not my home any more+ I'm not !o n! ba*( today- I'm not !o n! ba*( tomorrow- I'm not !o n! ba*( n ten years- and I'm not !o n! ba*( to d e+; ?ob !rabbed %nne's arm- and as she p.lled away )rom h m she saw Cord loo( .p )rom the last o) her stea(- h s pale eyes loo( n! l (e !lass shards re)le*t n! the *old w nter l !ht+ ,oah set h s *o))ee *.p down hard- h s eyes dart n! ba*( and )orth between ?ob and Cord+

;I) yo.'re !o n! to a*t l (e th s I won't e&en tal( to yo.+ <o away- ?ob+; %lmost bes de h msel)- ?ob sho.ted at her+ ;8aybe >ather's r !ht abo.t yo.= 8aybe yo. are 1.st a sl.++++; He ne&er ) n shed the last word as Cord er.pted )rom h s *ha r- ba*(hand n! the other man so hard ?ob )ell ba*(wards a*ross another table+ He barely landed be)ore Cord had h m by the )ront o) h s *oat- p nn n! h m to the table as he shoo( h s head to *lear t+ ;How do yo. l (e that sample o) the 'l ttle slaps' yo.r )ather !a&e yo.r s ster7 Boyyo. l sten *are).l- be*a.se ) yo. e&er tal( to my w )e l (e that a!a n- I'll brea( yo.r 1aw n so many pla*es yo.'ll ne&er tal( a!a n+; %nne s pped her *o))ee and !a&e ,oah a hard loo(+ S.rely t was t me )or h m to start sher )) n!+ Cord slammed ?ob down on the table and ret.rned to h s *ha r+ %s ?ob be!an to !et .p- st ll ).ll o) nd !nant r !hteo.sness- ,oah !ot to h s )eet- went o&er and p.t an arm aro.nd h s sho.lders+ ;Sher ))- yo. ha&e to arrest that man+; ;>or what7 8y w )e's been dead )or three years- and ) yo. *alled her names l (e that today- I'd shoot yo.+; ;She's not really h s w )e+ He *an't (eep her o.t there l (e that+; %s ,oah h.stled ?ob o.t o) the *a)e- %nne sm led apolo!et *ally at Cord+ ;I'm sorry+ He's not really mean- he's 1.st++++; Cord shr.!!ed+ ;8aybe he's been ta( n! et 9.ette lessons )rom my brothers+; She la.!hed o.t lo.d at that and saw the s.rpr se on ,oah's )a*e as he *ame ba*( to the r table+ ;I th n( I *on& n*ed h m to head )or home and lea&e yo. be-; he sa d+ ;%nne- I'm s.rpr sed t d dn't bother yo. to see h m ro.!hed .p l (e that+; She 1.st shoo( her head+ ;'he sad th n! s t probably d dn't do a b t o) !ood+ 'he tro.ble w th my brother s he th n(s <od h msel) sho.ld *ons.lt w th >ather be)ore ma( n! a de* s on to be s.re to !et t r !ht+; Hal)way home- %nne !a&e n to the .r!e and threw her arms aro.nd Cord's ne*(! & n! h m a hard h.! and a ( ss that landed on the *orner o) h s mo.th+ ;6hat was that )or7; H s words were almost a !rowl- b.t she *o.ld see the sm le n h s eyes+ It had s.rpr sed her to real 2e today that others *o.ldn't read h s eyes+ ;I was really a)ra d I'd !et stoned n the streets- yo. (now+ I th n( I e&en )elt a l ttle b t I m !ht deser&e t+ Yo. not only made me )eel respe*table- yo. made me )eel eminen!$y respe*table+; 'hey rode the rest o) the way n s len*e- b.t t was a *ompan onable s len*e+ ***

CHAPTER 11
1ORD'S RI4S ,AD .A2EN .,E tr p to town better than he had dared hope- so the ne/t day he saddled the b ! brown !eld n! that had been h s )a&or te mo.nt )or years and tr ed th rty m n.tes n the saddle+ 'he r de wasn't a pleas.re- b.t t was bearable+ %)ter almost s / wee(s o) ne!le*t- he wo.ld start *he*( n! the horses n the )ar past.res the ne/t day+

Unhapp ness was all o&er %nne as she wat*hed h m r de o))- and Cord )elt a de* ded tw n!e o) re!ret h msel)+ He'd !otten .sed to ha& n! her nearby as he wor(ed e&ery day+ St ll- when she broa*hed her sol.t on to the problem o&er l.n*h t too( h m by s.rpr se+ ;6o.ld yo. tea*h me to r de7; H s head 1er(ed .p- and h s mmed ate no was short and *.rt+ Her mo.th and *h n trembled- and she loo(ed down at her plate 9. *(ly- swallow n! hard+ ;I see+; He had rea*ted w tho.t *ons der n!+ Years a!o >ran( had tal(ed h m nto wor( n! w th h s sons on the r r d n!+ 'he whole th n! lasted less than ) )teen m n.tes- w th the boys- who *o.ld already r de well eno.!h to !et by- nsolent- *ontempt.o.s- and smart3 mo.thed+ Cord ended t by wal( n! away- and the s.b1e*t had rema ned a sore one n the )am ly e&er s n*e+ %nne was d ))erent- tho.!h- and he (new t+ She had been an apt p.p l w th the !.nsand was st ll pra*t * n! and mpro& n!+ She was *are).l aro.nd the horses and !ood w th all h s sto*(+ He wo.ld probably en1oy tea*h n! her to r de- and now- see n! the ea!er loo( *han!e to h.rt and the bowed head- he )elt as ) he'd h t her+ He sl.n( o.t o) the ho.se- *om)ort n! h msel) w th the tho.!ht that she wo.ld as( a!a n+ H s e/per en*e w th )emales was w th h s s ster 8ar e- who when )a*ed w th a no wo.ld wheedle prett ly .nt l she !ot her own way- and w th h s s ster Hannah- who wo.ld s.l( and ma(e e&eryone aro.nd her m serable .nt l she !ot what she wanted+ He wo.ldhe &owed- ! &e n the m n.te she ment oned t a!a n+ B.t the ne/t t me he saw her she !a&e no s !n- and a wee( later she had st ll not bro.!ht t .p+ 6hen she as(ed )or a Chr stmas tree- he d dn't ma(e the same m sta(e 3 he went nto the h lls and *.t one+ He le)t early the ne/t morn n!- dr & n! the yearl n!s they had been handl n! ba*( o.t to past.re- ret.rn n! w th two3year3olds he wo.ld (eep .p and wor( w th )or the ne/t )ew wee(s- only to spot Ephra m's horse and b.!!y and >ran('s saddle horse n the yard+ He let the horses s*atter- not e&en herd n! them thro.!h the last !ate+ 'he tr p to town had p.t e&eryone on not *e o) the s t.at on o.t here- and there was no do.bt n h s m nd that h s brothers were here to tal( %nne nto lea& n!- or that she wo.ld probably !o+ 6hen >ran( Bennett was try n!- he *o.ld *harm almost any woman nto anyth n!- and he wo.ld be try n! th s t me+ Cord headed )or the door- st )) w th an!er+ >ran(- Eph- and 8artha were all seated at the ( t*hen table- and %nne was p l n! *oo( es on a plate+ 'wo lar!e *artons were on the )loor and dresses lay wrapped n a sheet a*ross the ba*( o) the st.))ed leather *ha r+ %nne treated h m to her .s.al br !ht sm le o) !reet n!+ ;Hello- there+ I told e&erybody yo.'d be ba*( soon+ Yo.r brothers bro.!ht 8artha w th them to ma(e s.re I d dn't shoot them+; %nne a*ted totally .na))e*ted by h s *old s len*e and went on n the same pleased &o *e- e/pla n n! that her mother- ) nally aware that %nne had stayed w th Cord- had bo/ed .p her th n!s and pre&a led .pon 8artha and Ephra m to del &er them+ ;I'm s.re she ne&er ment oned t to my >ather- b.t he'll ne&er not *e my th n!s are !one anyway-; %nne sa d+

;'oo bad she d dn't tell h m and sa&e e&eryone the bother+ 'hey *an 1.st ta(e t all the hell ba*(-; he sa d- w tho.t loo( n! at h s brothers+ ;Yo. don't need that st.))- and yo.'re not (eep n! t+; %nne loo(ed at the Bennetts+ ;I) yo.'ll e/*.se .s a moment- my h.sband and I need to tal(+; %s she spo(e- she headed )or the bedroom- and Cord *o.ld do noth n! b.t )ollow+ He *losed the door and leaned on t- wa t n! )or temper- tears- or e&en a rem nder o) h s earl er *as.al prom se not to ;boss her aro.nd+; 6hat he heard was the *ool &o *e o) reason+ ;Yo.'re absol.tely r !ht+ I don't need those th n!s- b.t I 'an! them- and I th n( I sho.ld ha&e them+; He started to spea(- b.t she shoo( her head+ ;,o- please- hear me o.t ) rst+ 'hose th n!s aren't some sort o) ! )t )rom my )am ly+ I'&e done wor( )or my )ather's shop at home w tho.t so m.*h as a than( yo. s n*e I was a l ttle ! rl+ Some o) those th n!s are ! )ts )rom )r ends and other relat &es- and a lot are th n!s %.nt Clara !ot )or me when I l &ed w th her- and I earned that n a way too+ 'here's also the )a*t that a**ord n! to 8artha my mother s ma( n! hersel) s *( o&er th s- and ) she )eels she's done someth n! )or me th s way t w ll ma(e her )eel better+ I )a.lt her )or be n! too wea( to stand .p to >ather- b.t 8other had noth n! to do w th h.rt n! .s+ ;St ll- ) yo. don't want those th n!s here- ) e&ery t me yo. see someth n! that *ame o.t o) one o) those bo/es t's !o n! to ma(e yo. )eel a l ttle b t an!ry- then I'd rather not ha&e any o) t+ Please 1.st th n( t o&er be)ore yo. say s all- and ) yo. really don't want me to (eep any o) t- we'll tell yo.r brothers to ta(e the bo/es ba*( o.t and not to br n! n anyth n! else- and I prom se I'll ne&er say another word on the s.b1e*t e&er+; 6hy d d she always do someth n! d ))erent than he e/pe*ted7 How d d a man deal w th a woman l (e th s7 He sear*hed her )a*e *are).lly- ) nd n! no an!er- no resentmentand no entreaty+ She 1.st wa ted pat ently )or h s answer+ He tho.!ht o) how mean he )elt o&er the r d n! lessons and (new he *o.ldn't )a*e deny n! her a!a n+ It also o**.rred to h m that 8artha and h s brothers were st ll !o n! to do the r best to ta(e her away w th them+ He *o.ld at least ) / t so they wo.ld ha&e to *arry the damn bo/es tw *e+ ;'ell them I'll help *arry t n+; He was o.t the )ront door be)ore she was o.t o) the bedroom+ %nne sm led sweetly at the Bennetts and sa d- ;Cord's !o n! to help yo. *arry those th n!s n+ 6 th three o) yo. t sho.ld !o )ast- and we *an ha&e *o))ee and *oo( es a)ter yo.'re thro.!h+; She d d not m ss the aston shed loo(s that passed between the two blond men and 8artha- b.t t.rned her ba*( to ) / the *o))ee and heard >ran( and Ephra m head o.t as Cord bro.!ht n another bo/+ ;:.st p.t t all there on the )loor- and I'll sort th n!s o.t later+; 6hen the bo/es and wrapped dresses were all n the ho.se- Cord d sappeared w tho.t a word- lea& n! her w th >ran(- Eph- and 8artha at the ( t*hen table+ Drat h s h de- %nne tho.!ht- I bet he (nows they're .p to someth n!- and he's lea& n! me to deal w th t+ She *hatted merr ly away- hop n! to d stra*t them and ha&e them lea&e a)ter a pleasant & s t- (now n! t was probably not !o n! to happen+ %nne had (nown 8artha Bennett )or many years to spea( to and was drawn now towards the woman who had be*ome her s ster3 n3law+ 'he ) rst word that *ame to m nd to des*r be 8artha was ;( nd+; 'he dar( blonde ha r was more than hal) !ray- and the

short- on*e !ently ro.nded ) !.re was )ran(ly pl.mp+ 8artha's bea.ty was o) the sp r tand t shone )rom warm ha2el eyes+ %s the men sat n !l.m s len*e- 8artha helped %nne's attempts at ord nary *on&ersat on+ ;6here d d yo. !et the Chr stmas tree7; ;Cord !ot t somewhere n the h lls+ I 1.st des*r bed what I wanted+ Isn't t pretty7 I only ha&e a )ew store3bo.!ht de*orat ons- b.t I'&e !ot pop*orn )or str n!s and I'm !o n! to .se *ed *oo( es n Chr stmas shapes on t too+ 6e *an loo( at them .nt l Chr stmas and then eat them )or wee(s+; 6 th a s n( n! )eel n!- %nne not *ed >ran( Bennett marshal n! all h s *ons derable !olden *harm- wa t n! only )or a pa.se n the *on&ersat on+ ;%nne- Eph and I both )eel that how th n!s ha&e t.rned o.t )or yo. s a !ood part o.r )a.lt+ I) we hadn't )lown o)) the handle that ) rst day- we *o.ld ha&e helped yo. then and !otten yo. o.t o) here+; Her sm le )ro2e+ ;Yo. d d me a )a&or+ I'&e been happ er here than e&er be)ore n my l )e+; >ran( was not p.t o))+ ;He's my brother- and I *an't pretend I don't ha&e )eel n!s )or h m- b.t he's also one o) the *oldest- meanest men I'&e e&er *ome a*ross and there's no .se pretend n! otherw se+ He's not *apable o) a))e*t on- and there doesn't seem to be m.*h else that he's not *apable o)+ Yo.'re a de*ent woman and yo. deser&e a de*ent l )e+ Let .s help+ 6e *an see that yo. !et anywhere yo. want to !o and that yo. ha&e what yo. need to l &e the way yo.'re .sed to l & n! .nt l yo. !et establ shed- no matter how lon! that ta(es+; I am not !o n! to sho.t and I am not !o n! to !o )or the !.ns %nne tho.!ht+ I am !o n! to handle th s n a reasonable- ladyl (e way+ She *on*entrated on >ran(- w th an e))ort (eep n! her &o *e *ontrolled and steady+ ;Yo. don't seem to .nderstand+ I am married to yo.r brother+; >ran( started to nterr.pt- and her *ontrol wa&ered+ ;Sh.t .p and $is!en to me-; she h ssed+ >or* n! a normal &o *e a!a n- she *ont n.ed- ;6hether yo. appro&e- and yo.r op n on o) h m or o) me s rrele&ant+ 6e're marr ed and that's the end o) t+ %nd let me tell yo. that ) yo. e&er a!a n try to tal( me nto lea& n! h m- o))er me money to lea&e h m- or say another .n( nd word abo.t h m to me- t w ll be the last t me yo. e&er wal( n th s ho.se+ 'oday I met yo. at the door w th a !.n and p.t t as de be*a.se yo.'re h s )am ly and t seems r !ht to try to !et alon!- b.t ) yo. e&er ra se th s s.b1e*t a!a n t w ll be the last t me we spea(+; > n shed- she !a&e ) rst >ran(- then Ephra m- and ) nally 8artha the ).ll bene) t o) her most )or*e).l loo(+ ;Understood7; Ephra m sa d- ;%ll r !ht- ) that's the way yo. want t- b.t don't )or!et that ) yo. *han!e yo.r m nd- all yo. ha&e to do s say so+ 6e'll always be w ll n! to help any way we *an+; 'here was l ttle else to say- and they le)t 9. *(ly a)ter that+ %nne st ll )elt l (e ( *( n! th n!s when Cord *ame ba*(+ ;'hey're !one- h.h7; ;Yes- they're !one-; she sn ped- ;and yo. del berately le)t me alone w th them d dn't yo.7 Yo. (new they were !o n! to start n on me abo.t lea& n! yo.- and yo. 1.st wal(ed

o.t= I s.ppose yo. hoped I'd )all )or the r prom ses o) *astles n Spa n ) I'd only lea&e here+ 'hen yo. *o.ld be )ree o) me and alone a!a n- *o.ldn't yo.7; ;Seemed l (e yo. sho.ld be able to hear them o.t and de* de w tho.t me s tt n! here+; ;De* de7 I de* ded the day I sa d- yes- we'd be marr ed+; Understand n! dawned on her+ ;'hat's not how yo. )eel s t7 Yo. th n( th s s some ( nd o) temporary arran!ementand I'll be s( tter n! o)) to someth n! else soon- don't yo.7; H s eyes )l *(ered and answered be)ore h s words d d+ ;I don't want yo. to !o- %nn eb.t I don't see yo. spend n! yo.r l )e here e ther+; Her name was so short no one had e&er .sed a d m n.t &e- b.t she l (ed t and )o.nd hersel) )eel n! appeased almost a!a nst her w ll+ It was also hard not to not *e that wh le he m !ht be s.rpr sed she was st ll here- he was thoro.!hly pleased+ ;6ell- when we're both old and !ray3ha red and yo.'re st ll wa( n! .p to the s !ht o) me e&ery morn n!- I'll rem nd yo. o) how per*ept &e yo. were+; Cord de* ded he was !lad a)ter all that she ne&er seemed to do what he e/pe*ted+ ***

CHAPTER 12
.,A. NIG,. 1ORD AS2ED IF >ran( had ment oned anyth n! abo.t bee)+ ;,o- why e&er wo.ld he7; %nne as(ed+ ;6e ha&e a deal+ I ra se eno.!h ham and ba*on )or the whole )am ly- and >ran( s.ppl es the bee)+; %nne had as(ed h m abo.t the p !s on*e when he was bedr dden- b.t he hadn't told her m.*h+ 'hey were anathema to most ran*hers- b.t Cord rather l (ed them+ L (ed them eno.!h to d sappear e&ery spr n! and )all when >ran( *ame w th men to do the b.t*her n!+ ;So yo.r dear brother 1.st welshes on h s part o) the deal e&ery t me he's an!ry w th yo.7; ;Someth n! l (e that-; he adm tted !r.d! n!ly+ ;I'm t red o) noth n! b.t *h *(en and ham+ I'll !o see ? ley tomorrow+; ? ley had ) rst wor(ed )or Cord's )ather when they were both yo.n! men+ He st ll wor(ed )or >ran(- altho.!h as a!e and rhe.mat sm slowed h m down- >ran( *ont n.ed to l !hten h s wor(load+ 'he ne/t day- Cord t ed Aeeper n )ront o) the small ho.se where ? ley l &ed be)ore the s.n was more than a prom se+ He hoped to *at*h the old man st ll warm n! h msel) at the sto&e on the *old w nter morn n!+ S.re eno.!h- ? ley answered the door- n& t n! Cord n w th a !est.re+ Small- w ry- and weathered loo( n!- w th th n wh te ha r and bl.e eyes )aded )rom too many years s9. nt n! nto the s.n- ? ley was the *losest th n! to a !rand)ather Cord had e&er (nown+ He had ta.!ht Cord to r de and shoot as a boy- and.nl (e >ran( and Ephra m- d dn't always leap to the worst *on*l.s on+ ? ley san( ba*( down n the *ha r *losest to the sto&e- e/am n n! Cord *losely+ ;Heard yo. ) nally met somebody to.!her than yo.- boy+; Cord t pped h s hat ba*( a b t and adm tted- ;'he r !.ns were to.!her+ %nd there were n ne o) them+;

;> !.red t had to be someth n! l (e that+ 6asn't too smart o) yo. to let them *orner yo. was t7; ;,ope+ Had wee(s n bed to *ontemplate how st.p d t was+; ;It was that bad7; Cord wondered why he *o.ld tal( to th s old man so m.*h more eas ly than to h s brothers+ ;Sho.ld ha&e d ed+ 6as meant to+; ;,obody here (nows+; ;,ope+; ;Yo. really h.rt that woman7; Cord met th s old )r end's eyes stead ly+ ? ley was the ) rst one to as(+ ;I'm not do n! her any )a&or (eep n! her aro.nd- b.t I ne&er h.rt her+; ;6ho mar(ed her l (e >ran( and Eph saw7; ;Her )ather and one o) the Do.ble 8 hands+; ;Boy- yo. e&er th n( o) 1.st tell n! >ran( that7 Yo. !ot any dea how he's )eel n!7; Cord shr.!!ed+ ;Hardly matters what happened+ It matters he's so damned s.re I d d t 3 ne&er e&en as(ed+ ,e ther d d Eph+ How the hell yo. th n( I )eel7; ? ley s !hed+ ;Yo. tell n! me to m nd my own b.s ness7; ;Yeah- I !.ess I am+; ;6hat d d yo. *ome )or then7; ;Bee)+; ;%h- well- that's easy eno.!h sn't t7 S.ppose I 1.st res.me del &er es- so to spea(+ %m I allowed to r de o&er and meet th s woman7; ;S.re+ Yo.'ll l (e her+ 8ore !r t than most men+; Cord rode home w th se&eral th *( stea(s- )eel n! better abo.t e&eryth n!- only to be (no*(ed o)) balan*e a!a n+ %nne was sort n! thro.!h the bo/es l ttle by l ttle+ Yesterday she had been 1.b lant a)ter d s*o&er n! one bo/ had boo(s n t+ He wo.ld be e/tremely happy abo.t t h msel) soon she told h m- be*a.se her *oo(boo( was n w th the rest+ 'here were all sorts o) wonder).l th n!s she *o.ld ma(e now b.t had been .nable to remember e/a*t re* pes )or+ %s he wal(ed n and p.t the meat pa*(a!e on the table- she held .p a h.!e p e*e o) brown *loth+ ;6hat do yo. th n( o) th s7; ;6hat s t7; ;%*t.ally- t's men's s. t n! mater al+ %.nt Clara bo.!ht t 1.st be)ore I le)t Ch *a!o+ She had some not on o) ha& n! a &ery *onser&at &e tra&el n! dress made )or me o) t+ Loo(- there's lots o) t be*a.se we !ot eno.!h )or s( rts- yo. see+; He d dn't see what t had to do w th h m- and wa ted war ly to ) nd o.t+ ;6hat I'm !ett n! at s I ha&en't been able to th n( o) anyth n! to ! &e yo. )or a Chr stmas present- and I tho.!ht ) yo.'d let me- I'd see ) I *an ma(e th s nto a s. t+ I'&e only e&er wor(ed on parts- o) *o.rse- b.t t sho.ldn't be that hard+ 'he th n! s yo.'d ha&e to p.t .p w th a )ew ) tt n!s- so t *an't be a s.rpr se- and I *o.ldn't ) n sh t by Chr stmas anyway- maybe 1.st the tro.sers+; She was loo( n! at h m almost shyly- e/pe*tat on o) a r.de no wr tten all o&er her )a*e+ Chr stmas present= 'he words bro.!ht & s ons o) oran!es n the toes o) red sto*( n!ssmall wooden horses and sold ers- a saddle spe* ally made )or h m at ten- and a br dle at ele&en+ He hadn't ! &en or re*e &ed anyth n! remotely resembl n! a present s n*e 8ar e

had marr ed and le)t+ 6hat wo.ld she *ome .p w th ne/t7 'he loo( on her )a*e made a no .tterly mposs ble+ ;8m- well- I !.ess- ) yo. want to- whate&er+; Chr stmas present= 6hat d d a man ! &e a woman )or a Chr stmas present7 He d d h s best to !nore t- b.t the tho.!ht l.r(ed n the ba*( o) h s m nd )or days+ 6hen he .sed to !o to the ma n ran*h )or Chr stmas w th the )am ly what had happened7 S.rely somebody m.st ha&e ment oned what >ran( !a&e :.d th or Eph !a&e 8artha7 He was o.t n the past.res *he*( n! on the sto*( when the s !ht o) one o) the older mares !a&e h m an dea+ 8aybe there was a way to sol&e two problems at on*e+ Cord ne&er (new what happened to h m that Chr stmas+ I) anybody had told h m what %nne wo.ld be .p to- he wo.ld ha&e sworn he'd r de away and stay away )or a wee( or two- b.t nstead he )o.nd h msel) drawn o.t o) the *old and nto the ho.se e&ery *han*e he !ot+ %nne had bo.!ht a do2en *andle holders and *andles )or the tree and a )ew sh n n!m rrored ornaments at 8 les' store+ She h.n! those on the tree ) rst+ 'hen *ame lon! *ha ns o) pop*orn+ 6hen she p n*hed h m )or n bbl n! pop*orn- he ate more+ She rolled o.t h.!e sheets o) *oo( e do.!h- and ha& n! no *oo( e *.tters- drew shapes n the do.!h and *.t them w th a (n )e+ %nne was not art st *+ Soon he was draw n! horses- sold ers- snowmen- and old3)ash oned *otta!es n the do.!h and *.tt n! them o.t )or her+ 6hen she sma*(ed h m w th a wooden spoon )or eat n! do.!h- he ate more+ %nne !la2ed the *oo( es w th *olored * n!s- and they soon )estooned the tree+ On Chr stmas E&e- Cord )o.nd h msel) stand n! n )ront o) the bedroom m rror n h s new tro.sers and a sh rt made myster o.sly )rom someth n! else that was n what %nne *alled her ;Ch *a!o dresses+; H s s ster- Hannah- who had told h m )rom boyhood ne&er to wear a wh te sh rt be*a.se t emphas 2ed h s dar(ness wo.ld ha&e a ) t- b.t h s own eyes told h m how m.*h better than anyth n! he'd e&er owned these *lothes loo(ed+ Cord let %nne tal( h m nto lea& n! the *lothes on )or d nner when he real 2ed t meant she was also !o n! to dress .p+ He loo(ed at her n the dar( red dress and wondered how s.*h a woman had e&er !otten nto h s l )e+ She belon!ed w th a ( n!- or at least a pr n*e+ He was th n( n! the dress loo(ed so !ood on her he wanted to r p t r !ht o)) her when >o/)a*e warned o) *ompany- and Eph and 8artha dro&e nto the yard+ 'hey were- o) *o.rse- on the r way to spend se&eral days at the ran*h )or Chr stmas+ In m n.tes %nne had the tentat &e 8artha and ob& o.sly rel.*tant Ephra m n the ho.se- *oats o))+ Cord wat*hed *yn *ally- ) !.r n! t ser&ed h s brother r !ht as he had to adm re the tree- Cord's *lothes- and was pl ed w th *ho *es o) *o))ee- spe* al sp *ed teaor hot *ho*olate+ 'he ho.se was ).ll o) tantal 2 n! smells o) roast n! bee) and e&ery spe* al treat %nne *o.ld th n( o)+ 8artha ) nally rela/ed and started to la.!h+ ;I made Ephra m stop by th n( n! we m !ht tal( yo. nto *om n! to the b ! ho.se w th .s )or Chr stmas d nner-; she sa d- ;b.t I see now that was )ool sh o) me+; She t.rned to Cord then- st.dy n! h m as ) she had not seen h m )or a lon! t me+ ;Yo. (now- dear- yo. really do loo( n *e ton !ht+ I'd say th s s. t s !o n! to be a &ery s.**ess).l Chr stmas present+; ;'han(s- 8arty+;

Ephra m sa d almost noth n! and loo(ed rel e&ed as he and 8artha le)t n a )l.rry o) the women's *hatter and 8erry Chr stmas w shes at ea*h other+ D nner was so !ood he wanted to 1.st stay at the table and th n( abo.t t- b.t %nne had another s.rpr se n store+ She too( h s )ather's old B ble )rom ts pla*e on the shel) and sat on the settee+ ;Let's s t here )or on*e-; she sa d+ Uns.re what she was .p to now- Cord 1o ned her war ly+ She be!an to read the Chr stmas story )rom Chapter " o) L.(e+ %n easy *ontentment en&eloped h m- and he l stened not to the words- b.t to the l !ht pleasant so.nd o) her &o *e+ 6hen she handed h m the B ble and sa d- ;Yo. do the rest-; he almost re).sed+ One !lan*e at her serenely happy )a*e made that mposs ble0 he be!an to read+ %)terwardsthey l t the *andles on the tree- blew o.t the lamps- and wat*hed the *andles b.rn n! n the dar(ness+ She s !hed so)tly- ;'hey're so bea.t ).l+; He *o.ld smell the sl !htly sp *y s*ent o) her+ ;8m+; He wondered what wo.ld happen ) he 1.st p.t an arm aro.nd her here and now and tr ed hold n! her+ I) she made a )a*e n the dar(ness- he'd ne&er (now+ 6hat happened was she nestled n the *.r&e o) h s arm- head on h s sho.lder and wh spered- ;'h s s the n *est Chr stmas I'&e e&er had+; It s.re as hell was+ Chr stmas Day dawned *lo.dy and *old w th an o**as onal snow *rystal )ly n! thro.!h the a r+ Cord *o.ld not tal( %nne nto stay n! n- and so t seemed as !ood a t me as any to try to tell her when she saw the mare named Lady now n a stall+ ;'hat mare wasn't here yesterday+ 6hy s she n7 Is she s *(7; ;She's one o) the horses I bro.!ht .p )rom ,ew 8e/ *o+ She ne&er was m.*h !ood as a broodmare- b.t she's pretty well bro(e+; ;B.t why s she n7; ;6ell- I tho.!ht++++; 6hy was th s so hard7 ;I tho.!ht ) yo. st ll wanted to learn to r de- yo. *o.ld .se her to learn on+; She sp.n )rom the horse to h m- solemn and w de eyed+ ;%re yo. say n! yo.'ll tea*h me to r de as a Chr stmas present7; He was probably !o n! to !et sp t n the eye o&er th s- and worse yet he probably deser&ed t+ ;Yeah- !.ess I am+; I) she ne&er learned to s t on the damned horse t wo.ld be worth t 1.st to !et h.!!ed and ( ssed the way he d d that Chr stmas morn n!+ .,E VISI. .O 1ORD'S A1.3ALLY *a.sed 9.arrel n! at the ma n Bennett ?an*h+ 8artha *o.ld not !et o&er how m.*h d ))erent Cord loo(ed than e&er be)ore 3 less hardst ll lean- b.t not so drawn and !a.nt+ 'he *lothes helped- o) *o.rse+ 'he dar( brown tro.sers and sh rt that was a*t.ally not tr.e wh te b.t a pale *ream enhan*ed h s bron2e s( n- b.t *lothes *o.ldn't *han!e those *old eyes to a warm !old+ 8artha had marr ed Ephra m be)ore Cord was born+ Her many memor es n*l.ded the bere)t ) &e3year3old boy she had held and tr ed to *om)ort when he ) rst be!an to a**ept h s mother was not !one 1.st )or a wh le b.t )ore&er+ Ha& n! lo&ed and mothered the boyt was mposs ble )or 8artha to bel e&e the worst o) the man- altho.!h she seldom ar!.ed w th Ephra m or >ran(+ 'he e& den*e was all on the r s de+

'on !ht 8artha *o.ldn't let t !o+ ;6e'&e !ot someth n! wron! abo.t them+; ;6hat do yo. mean7; Ephra m as(ed her+ ;'hat woman's no more a)ra d o) h m than I am o) yo.+ 'he ) rst t me we & s ted I e/pe*ted a *ower n! *reat.re I'd )eel sorry )or- and nstead I )elt we were all o.tmat*hed+ 6hy s she ns st n! they're marr ed7 D d yo. see the r n!s7; ;I .nderstand what yo.'re say n!- b.t I *an't bel e&e he's really dra!!ed her o)) to a prea*her+ 8ore l (ely he de* ded to brand her- and no matter what t seems l (e- she's s tt n! there play n! w )e to a man who s.re h.rt her+; ;He *alled me 8arty+; ,o one b.t 8artha saw anyth n! n that+ ;He .sed to *all yo. that all the t me+; ;3sed !#( Years a!o be)ore e&eryth n! went so.r+ 'h n!s 1.st aren't the way we all tho.!ht+ 'hey loo( happy- both o) them+ She's not a)ra d o) h m+; >ran( sa d- ;I'm not a)ra d o) h m most o) the t me- 1.st when he starts !o n! o&er the ed!e+; ;6e'&e been wron!+ Yo. are wron!+ I) yo. *o.ld ha&e seen h m ton !ht++++ I (ept th n( n! there'd be as many women r.n towards h m as away ) they *o.ld see h m l (e that+; >ran('s answer to that was a der s &e snort+ Ephra m had been a!a nst the & s t to Cord's n the ) rst pla*e and was ar!.mentat &e now+ ;'he reason he loo(ed so !ood was that poor s lly woman s ma( n! h m a s. t that wo.ld *ost a pretty penny r !ht o.t o) her )ather's shop- and what do yo. th n( she's !o n! to !et )rom o.r l ttle brother n ret.rn7 8ore !r e)- that's what+ He shames me+; 8artha sa d- ;I) he'd done what e&eryone says- she'd be a)ra d- and she's not+ She's not the ( nd o) woman to l &e w th a man n terror anyway+ %nd he loo(s d ))erent- more rela/ed+; >ran('s &o *e rose n e/asperat on+ ;I hate to be *r.de- b.t o) *o.rse he's more rela/ed+ He's !ot the woman- doesn't he7 %nd there's noth n! )or her to be a)ra d o) as lon! as she ! &es h m what he wants+; Bl.ntness had no e))e*t on 8artha+ She'd been a Bennett too lon! )or that+ ;I) yo.'d rather let th s th n! )ester l (e an n)e*ted wo.nd I *an't stop yo.- b.t yo.'re wron!+ I don't (now what the e/planat on *an be- b.t I (now there s one+ 6hate&er else he s or sn't- he wo.ldn't h.rt a woman l (e that+; ,o one b.d!ed an n*h on the r pos t on- and so 8artha *han!ed the s.b1e*t rather than *ont n.e the ar!.ment+ ***

CHAPTER 13
1ORD ,AD .,O3G,. .,A. ON1E w nter weather made wor( o.ts de e&en harder%nne wo.ld be *ontent to stay ns de+ He was wron!+ Yes- there were days when snow *ame down so hard they both d d m n mal *hores and stayed n the ho.se+ On those days%nne read the )ew o) h s )ather's boo(s she had not seen be)ore- and Cord tr ed some o) her boo(s that were not poetry+ 8ostly they both 1.st b.ndled .p and wor(ed o.ts de+

He had also tho.!ht spend n! hal) an ho.r a day tea*h n! her to r de wo.ld ma(e t harder to ) n sh wor( that had to be done+ In )a*t- the help she pro& ded w th )eed n! and m l( n! morn n! and n !ht- n load n! the hay wa!on and ta( n! w nter )eed to the past.red herds meant e&eryth n! !ot done more 9. *(ly+ Her r d n! lessons e/panded to an ho.r or more- and he ta.!ht her not 1.st to s t on a horse- b.t horsemansh p+ She absorbed (nowled!e ea!erly- and as she learned appl ed her new s( lls to help n! e&en more+ He wo.ld ) n sh r d n! one yo.n! horse to ) nd the ne/t one wa t n!- !roomed- and ready to saddle+ ,ot only was she !ood help- b.t hard- ted o.s wor( be!an to be ).n+ %nne approa*hed e&eryth n! w th 2est- ) nd n! h.mor and bea.ty n the most ord nary th n!s+ 6hen the !ro.nd was *o&ered w th snow- they had to ha.l hay to the past.red horses by sle !h+ One day he )o.nd the team harness h.n! w th bells+ %nne had !otten ? ley to br n! her an .n.sed set o) sle !h bells )rom the ma n ran*h+ 'he past.red herds be!an to *ome at a r.n when they heard the so.nd o) the approa*h n! sle !h- bells 1 n!l n! merr ly+ Or maybe- he tho.!ht- t was the so.nd o) her la.!hter that bro.!ht them+ Other th n!s d dn't *han!e+ He to.*hed her only n the dar(ness o) the n !hts- as !ently as poss ble+ He dreaded e&er see n! d staste or e&en res !nat on n the b ! !ray eyes+ It d dn't o**.r to h m that a woman who slept *.rled a!a nst h m and .sed e&ery e/*.se to throw her arms aro.nd h s ne*( and ( ss any part o) h s )a*e she *o.ld rea*h d d not ) nd h s phys *al demands b.rdensome+ % !row n! *.r os ty be!an to !naw at Cord+ He wanted to (now more abo.t h s w )e 3 what her l )e had been l (e be)ore- what she tho.!ht and )elt abo.t th n!s- and most part *.larly abo.t the Ch *a!o ) an*e that had not e&en had the !ood sense to sed.*e her+ She m.rm.red and wh spered endlessly to the an mals+ 6hen ? ley bro.!ht bee)- the two o) them wo.ld n no t me be deeply mmersed n *on&ersat on+ He had seen her o.t!o n! *hatter w th 8artha at Chr stmas+ It seemed that %nne tal(ed to e&eryone and e&eryth n! b.t h m+ 'hat was not really )a r- he adm tted to h msel)+ She tal(ed to h m pre* sely as m.*h as he tal(ed to her- )a*t.al- ne*essary spee*h that enabled them to !et the day's wor( done+ 'he e/per en*e w th the story o) Lathr.m's *olt had ta.!ht Cord that he *o.ld ) nd o.t anyth n! he wanted to (now- b.t to !et what he wanted he wo.ld ha&e to ! &e what he d dn't want to ! &e+ So he str.!!led a!a nst h s own *.r os ty )or wee(s be)ore los n! the battle one n !ht n the dar(ness- her *hee( as always a!a nst h s sho.lder+ ;'ell me abo.t that ? *hard n Ch *a!o+; %nne stret*hed a l ttle and p.t her head on the p llow le&el w th h s- lea& n! her ) n!ers *.rled aro.nd h s arm+ ;6hat do yo. want to (now7; ;6hat was wron! w th h m+; ;I told yo. there was noth n! wron! w th h m+; ;'here had to be+ 'ell me abo.t h m+; %nd so she told h m abo.t ? *hard+ 'he ne/t n !ht she as(ed h m abo.t where he had been and what he had done n the ) &e years he had been !one )rom 8ason+ Somehow t wasn't as hard as he'd tho.!ht t wo.ld be- )eel n! her *lose bes de h m n the n !ht- to tell her th n!s he had ne&er told anyone be)ore+

So as the n !hts passed- they )o.nd o.t abo.t ea*h other+ E&ent.ally the tal( be!an to n*l.de the wor( they had done that day- what they wo.ld do tomorrow- and e&en what wo.ld happen on the ran*h n the spr n! and s.mmer+ He m.st be o.t o) h s m nd- Cord tho.!ht- )or she wo.ld be !one soon- lea& n! the n !hts as empty as the days+ B.t then maybe she wo.ld stay at least thro.!h the spr n!maybe e&en thro.!h the s.mmer+ 8aybe+ ***

CHAPTER 1
+SO0E.I0ES I 3SED .O WONDER ) I was 1.st born nto the wron! )am ly-; %nne told Cord- her &o *e so)t n the n !ht+ ;'here'd be months and months when e&eryth n! was all r !ht- and then someth n! wo.ld happen l (e that t me at s*hool w th yo. and 8ar e- and e&eryone- not 1.st my own )am ly- b.t e&eryone- wo.ld be tell n! me what a d s!ra*e I was+ How *o.ld they all be wron!7 B.t n my heart I tho.!ht they were wron!and 8other was always say n!- 'Don't tell yo.r )ather-' or '6e *an't let yo.r )ather ) nd o.t-' so I (new she d dn't th n( I was wron! so m.*h as she wanted to (eep pea*e+; ;She's a)ra d o) yo.r )ather-; Cord sa d+ ;Oh- no+ 6ell- I ne&er tho.!ht so+ She's 1.st better than I am at do n! what she's s.pposed to+ >ather's always been &ery str *t+ I th n( he was happ est when he was n the %rmy- b.t he was badly wo.nded n 'CB and sent home+ 8other says he d dn't l (e ret.rn n! to * & l an l )e and that's why we mo&ed o.t here- to start o&er+; Cord l stened w tho.t *omment to %nne's des*r pt on o) a *h ldhood ) lled w th )am ly se*rets and hypo*r s es+ >rom the t me Edward 6ells had opened h s ta lor's shopLeona helped at home when there were r.sh orders or too m.*h wor( at on*e+ Her wor( sa&ed h r n! a helper who wo.ld not always be b.sy- )or money was a problem .nt l Leona *ame nto her nher tan*e when %nne was ) )teen+ By the t me %nne was ) &e- she was sew n! b.ttons on men's *loth n!- !ett n! her small hands rapped w th a r.ler ) the wor( was below 6ells' e/a*t n! standards+ %t ten she went w tho.t dessert )or a wee( when she pr *(ed her ) n!er w th a needle and r. ned the )ront o) a )an*y sh rt w th her blood+ ,oth n! *o.ld ha&e )or*ed an adm ss on )rom Edward 6ells that h s w )e or da.!hter d d any s.*h wor( at all+ %nne also des*r bed some !ood t mes+ She always lo&ed s*hool+ In :ames 8 les' ho.sehold she had seen a warm- lo& n! )am ly en& ronment+ She and ?a*hel 8 les had been best )r ends )rom the ) rst day they met- and they shared ! rl sh !ames and *on) den*es e&en a)ter ?a*hel marr ed+ 6hen the 6ells )am ly ) rst l &ed n 8ason- %nne's mother had a horse named 8oll e and a b.!!y and made del &er es )or the shop- somet mes & s t n! her )r end 8a.d e 6 nter o.ts de o) town+ 6h le h s women )ol(s' help n! h s b.s ness by sew n! at home was Edward 6ells' deep and *losely !.arded se*ret- Leona's ma( n! del &er es was not+ %nne and her mother had !rand t mes r !ht .p .nt l the old mare d ed+ 'wo .ns.**ess).l attempts to repla*e the horse had d s!.sted Edward- and he re).sed to hear o) t a!a ndepr & n! both Leona and %nne o) a treas.red re*reat on+

;I s.ppose I 1.st had o**as onal lapses that s*andal 2ed e&eryone .nt l I started see n! Elroy '.rrell-; %nne sa d+ ;%)ter that there was probably ne&er a day >ather wasn't .nhappy w th me .nt l he sent me to Ch *a!o+ He d dn't th n( Elroy was !ood eno.!h+ He d dn't th n( the '.rrells were !ood eno.!h+; ;He !ot that r !ht anyway-; Cord m.ttered+ ;Do yo. want to hear th s or not7; %nne sa d tartly+ ;Do yo. (now Elroy7; ;Seen h m aro.nd- b.t don't (now h m-; Cord sa d+ ;Seems ( nd o) sp neless to me+; ;He s not=; %nne sa d+ ;He's 3 sweet3nat.red- ( nd+; Cord- who d dn't *ons der sweet nat.re a pr mary & rt.e n a man- 1.st !r.nted+ L sten n! to %nne !o on abo.t the '.rrells- people Edward 6ells loo(ed down on as .nmannered and beneath h m- Cord real 2ed the )r endly )arm )am ly had appealed to %nne as m.*h as Elroy h msel)+ She had l (ed the r o.t!o n! ways and e&en tho.!ht be n! a )armer's w )e wo.ld be )ar more nterest n! than town l )e ) lled w th lad es' teas and *h.r*h sew n! * r*les+ ;I'm not s.re Elroy )elt stron!ly eno.!h abo.t me to r s( >ather's d sappro&al and really *ome *o.rt n!-; %nne adm tted+ ;6hen I told h m >ather was send n! me to Ch *a!o- all he sa d was- '8aybe t's )or the best+' He marr ed someone else that same year+; ;H.rt7; Cord as(ed+ ;,o-; %nne sa d slowly+ ;,ot the way yo. mean+ I !.ess t h.rt that he d dn't *are more- b.t I d dn't e ther- really+ I wanted a d ))erent l )e- b.t I d dn't want to !o to Ch *a!o+; %nne's %.nt Clara was Edward 6ells' s ster- and )rom %nne's des*r pt on Cord )ormed a p *t.re o) a woman e&ery b t as r ! d and sel)3ser& n! as Edward h msel)+ Clara 6a nwr !ht was the *h ldless w dow o) a )ederal 1.d!e+ L (e her brother- she had br !htened her own ).t.re thro.!h a *are).l marr a!e and was now a woman o) *ons derable n)l.en*e n her own r !ht+ >or %nne- l )e n Ch *a!o had been )ar worse than l )e n 8ason+ ;'here was noth n! to d#-; %nne told h m+ ;She has ser&ants to do e&eryth n!+ 'here were all these s lly teas and l.n*hes and d nners where yo. 1.st tal(ed abo.t n#!%ing )or ho.rs+ I was a)ra d I'd lose my m nd and start s*ream n! r !ht n the m ddle o) some )ormal d nner+ ;I th n( %.nt Clara ) nally real 2ed how terr ble t was )or me be*a.se when I ) rst as(ed abo.t !o n! ba*( to s*hool she wo.ldn't hear o) t- b.t n the end she d d let me !o+ 'he Un &ers ty o) Ill no s allows women now- yo. (now+ She a*t.ally let me !o- let me attend some *lasses there- and that's where I met ? *hard 'yler+; Cord l stened ntently to th s part o) %nne's story- the part he most wanted to hear+ 'he son o) a prom nent Ch *a!o ban(er- ? *hard was !.aranteed a pos t on n the ban( when he ) n shed s*hool+ %nne's des*r pt on made ? *hard so.nd l (e a better loo( n!- more ed.*ated &ers on o) Elroy '.rrell+ He was- she adm tted- l (e her own )am ly n that he *ared &ery m.*h what other people tho.!ht- b.t he told her he respe*ted her 9. *( m nd and ndependent ways+ 6 th the .n &ers ty *o.rses ! & n! her someth n! w th wh *h to o**.py her m nd- and ? *hard pro& d n! an a!reeable es*ort to dan*es- d nners- and other so* al e&ents on wee(endsl )e be!an to be 9. te pleasant+

;He as(ed me to marry h m only months a)ter we ) rst started see n! ea*h other+ I was s.re t wo.ld be a !ood l )e+ %.nt Clara appro&ed- and the whole )am ly was del !hted+ 6e (new we *o.ldn't marry .nt l ? *hard ) n shed s*hool and establ shed h msel) at the ban(- b.t we were w ll n! to wa t+; D d she so.nd w st).l- Cord wondered+ ;? !ht )rom the be! nn n! we had m nor d ))eren*es-; %nne *ont n.ed- ;b.t e&eryone does- don't they7 %nd I (new t was my )a.lt+ It was always the same ( nd o) problem I had w th my own )am ly+; ;L (e what7; Cord as(ed+ ;6ell- l (e the dress-; %nne wh spered+ ;Yo. sa d yo. l (ed t- b.t t was only here where no one saw me- e/*ept Ephra m and 8artha- b.t we d dn't (now they were !o n! to stop by+; ;6hat are yo. tal( n! abo.t7; ;Chr stmas+ 'he red dress I wore Chr stmas+; ;Yeah- I remember+ It's pretty+; ;I had t made )or a spe* al o**as on n Ch *a!o- and ? *hard made me ta(e t o))+; ;I tho.!ht he was a !entleman-; Cord sa d+ %nne p n*hed h s arm+ ;Yo. (now what I mean+ He made me !o ba*( and *han!e t 3 )or th s drab !ray one that %.nt Clara p *(ed )or me 3 he sa d that red was too bold a *olor+; ;So.nds l (e yo. had another l ttle !ray man there+ S.rpr sed yo. and Pratt ne&er !ot to *o.rt n!-; Cord sa d+ ;He wasn't l (e Yellow3Belly Pratt-; %nne snapped+ ;He wasn't !ray and he wasn't l ttle=; 'hen she sa d more slowly- ;I was .sed to t then+ 'o always be n! the one who was wron!- the *a.se o) all the tro.ble+; Cord !nored her l.(ewarm de)ense o) her old bea.+ ;So he was !ray and !.tless and he ne&er to.*hed yo.+; ;He to.*hed me+ 6e ( ssed and we held hands somet mes+ It was proper+ Do yo. th n( I sho.ld ha&e been w th h m n that way7; ;Hell- no+ He's probably not *apable+; ;He's marr ed now+ 'hey ha&e *h ldren+; ;8.st be Cathol *+; ;6hat ma(es yo. say that7; ;@ r! n b rths+; ;Do yo. want to hear th s- or do yo. want to ma(e bel ttl n! remar(s7; ;'al(+; So %nne told h m abo.t the 9.arrel that ended t )ore&er w th ? *hard 'yler+ 'hey had attended a small d nner party o) s*hool )r ends- amon! them a )r end o) ? *hard's %nne part *.larly d sl (ed+ Dan el dran( to e/*ess+ Sober he was r.de+ Dr.n( he was .!ly+ He had *ornered %nne alone on*e and )or*ed a d s!.st n!- l 9.or3laden ( ss on her+ Only m ldly t psy that n !ht- Dan el started le*t.r n! e&eryone on one s.b1e*t a)ter another+ He pompo.sly 9.oted one o) the !reat ph losophers- e/*ept he attr b.ted the 9.otat on to the wron! man+ Unable to res st a small re&en!e- %nne tartly po nted o.t the m sta(e+ 'he whole *ompany had a h.!e la.!h at Dan el's e/pense- b.t ? *hard saw noth n! e&en &a!.ely h.moro.s n the n* dent+ She l stened to a d atr be all the way home+

;He sa d maybe ed.*at n! women was a m sta(e a)ter all+ He d dn't e&en *are when I told h m I d d t be*a.se Dan el )or*ed that ( ss on me+ He d dn't *are= He sa d I had to prom se ne&er to *ontrad *t any o) h s men )r ends a!a n+ E&er+ 6e had a terr ble ar!.ment+; ;So that was the end7; Cord as(ed+ ;,o+ 8aybe+ 8aybe t was already the end- b.t he went to %.nt Clara- and she sa d I *o.ldn't !o ba*( to the .n &ers ty .nt l I apolo! 2ed and !a&e ? *hard h s prom se+ It was snea(y and *onn & n! and 3 and a betrayal+ 'hat's what made me brea( the en!a!ement+ I wrote h m a letter+ %.nt Clara was ).r o.s and o) *o.rse when >ather )o.nd o.t he was worse 3 beyond ).ry+; Edward 6ells too( the ) rst tra n to Ch *a!o b.t was .nable to repa r the dama!e+ He m !ht ha&e been able to *oer*e %nne nto relent n!- b.t ? *hard was as .nw ll n! to res.me the en!a!ement as %nne- and Edward had no le&era!e o&er ? *hard 'yler+ 6h te w th ra!e- Edward bro.!ht h s da.!hter home n d s!ra*e- not spea( n! a s n!le word to her )rom Ch *a!o to 8ason+ 'he ne/t year was absol.te hell+ ;He ra!ed at me o&er e&ery meal and e&ery other t me he saw me+ He ) nally wore down- b.t he ne&er really !ot o&er t+ %)ter that e&eryone 1.st a**epted that I was a sp nster be*a.se I was 3 d )) *.lt 3 and that was that+ Unt l <eor!e Detr *( started the tro.ble all o&er+; Cord l stened to %nne's story w th wonder+ He had always ass.med that women l (e %nne 6ells l &ed *harmed l &es- *her shed- treas.red- and prote*ted by lo& n! )am l esen1oy n! the r l &es o) le s.re and ease+ He had wat*hed her e/plore her own stren!ths and *o.ra!e n those ) rst wee(s here w th h m and tho.!ht o) her as ha& n! es*aped a *a!e- b.t he had tho.!ht t was a *om)ortable- ! lded *a!e- not a tr.e pr son+ He ) nally be!an to .nderstand that a woman o) th s m.*h stren!th and sp r t m !ht ) nd the l )e she had led restr *t &e and bor n!+ He was not ready to a**ept that h s own l )e s. ted her per)e*tly+ ***

CHAPTER 1!
ANNE WAS FILLED WI., ENVY as Cord des*r bed a *h ldhood as d ))erent )rom hers as n !ht )rom day+ 'he Bennett *lan was a ).n3lo& n!- rowdy lot+ He barely remembered h s mother- and )or the years Cord (new h m h s )ather was a &a!.e shell o) a man+ >ran( and Ephra mso m.*h older- had to!ether a*ted as )ather- and h s s ster Hannah and 8artha had d & ded the role o) mother+ Cord and h s s ster 8ar e were nseparable as *h ldren+ Ephra m's oldest *h ldren were the same a!e as the r hal)3Ind an *o.s ns- and so n those days there were .s.ally hal) a do2en yo.n! Bennetts t.mbl n! all o&er the ran*h+ 'he s.mmers were ) lled w th sw mm n! n the *ree(s- horseba*( r d n!- !ames- and ro.!hho.s n!+ 6 nters there were sle !h r des- snow )orts- snowball ) !hts- and other sorts o) !ood t mes+ 'hey all wor(ed too- o) *o.rse+ 'he )am ly wor(ed as hard as t played- b.t t was all part o) the whole+ ;%)ter that tro.ble at s*hool- the whole )am ly 1.st set themsel&es to tea*h n! .s at home-; Cord sa d+ ;It was probably a better ed.*at on+ Eph and >ran( both went to

*olle!e ba*( East+ Eph st.*( t o.t and !ot the de!ree- and >ran( d d two years- e&en tho.!h he hated t+; 'he )ew .!ly ep sodes o) pre1.d *e that o**.rred d.r n! those early years )a led to ma(e a last n! mpress on on e ther Cord or 8ar e+ 'he Bennett )am ly (ept the *h ldren n the r m dst- prote*t n! them too well .nt l what the whole )am ly *ame to *all ;the Hat*h b.s ness+; Cord's &o *e stopped n the dar(ness- and %nne wa ted lon! eno.!h to wonder ) he'd )allen asleep be)ore prompt n! h m+ ;So what happened7 6hy d d yo. atta*( h m7; ;I tr ed to ( ll h m+ I) no one had !otten there )or another *o.ple o) m n.tes- I wo.ld ha&e+; 8ar e was th rteen and Cord ) )teen that n !ht+ She had be!!ed and wheedled .nt l the )am ly a!reed to let them *ome alon! to a so* al n town+ 8ar e was w ldly e/* tedby the dan*e- by her new !rown .p dress- and by e&eryth n! to do w th the o.t n!+ Cord was not part *.larly mpressed by the *on) n n! *lothes b.t was m ldly nterested n e&ents and pleased w th h s s ster's happy b.bbl n!+ 'he two o) them were nstr.*ted to s t at the s de o.t o) the way+ 6at*h n! the women n the r best ) nery sat s) ed 8ar e )or a wh le- b.t soon she wanted to be somewhere else+ ;I) we were on the other s de we *o.ld hear the m.s * better and see the lad es' dresses .p *lose )rom near the p.n*h bowl+; ;6al( a*ross that )loor- and we'll be ba*( at Eph's ho.se n ) &e m n.tes and yo. (now t+ Yo. *an see )rom here+; Cord had no .r!e to see anyone's dress better+ ;6e wo.ldn't ha&e to wal( a*ross the )loor+ 6e *o.ld !o o.t the door r !ht here and *ome n on the other s de+ 'hey'd ne&er not *e+; ;Don't blame me when yo.'re !ett n! t.*(ed nto bed early+ I'm stay n! here+; ;Coward+; ,ame *all n! wo.ldn't mo&e h m- and 8ar e (new t- b.t she always !a&e t a try+ She was only !one a short wh le be)ore he de* ded that her *hatter n! *ompany was better than none and )ollowed her+ Unable to ) nd h s s ster- Cord started sear*h n! the s.rro.nd n! area w th n*reas n! *on*ern- .nw ll n! to !o to >ran( or Ephra m and *all attent on to the r d sobed en*e+ ;I )o.nd her be*a.se o) the so.nd+ It d dn't so.nd l (e her- t was l (e a ( tten mewl n!- b.t somehow I (new t was her and t was bad+ 'he moon was br !ht eno.!h when I !ot *lose I *o.ld see her 3 and h m+; 8ar e was sprawled sem 3*ons* o.s near a !ro.p o) low b.shes- her belo&ed new dress torn to the wa st- s( rts p.shed .p and .nder*lothes r pped o))+ :a*( Hat*h- the worst o) the town's b.ll es- (nelt between her parted th !hs- en!or!ed or!an 1.tt n! obs*enely n the moonl !ht- 1.st start n! to lower h msel) o&er the th rteen3year3old ! rl+ ;6hen people tal( abo.t see n! red yo. th n( t's 1.st a way to say an!ry- b.t t's nott really happens l (e that-; Cord sa d+ ;I *an't e&en remember parts o) t+ I was n that 1a l *ell be)ore th n!s started seem n! real a!a n+ 'he rest s red3*olored and I'm not s.re what really happened and what only happened ns de my head+; So.nds o) the ) !ht attra*ted attent on- and t was ,oah ?eynolds who *ho(ed Cord o)) :a*( Hat*h- b.t not be)ore :a*( lost *ons* o.sness and stopped breath n!+ Patr *( %ndrews- the town's do*tor at the t me- was able to th.mp on :a*( eno.!h to !et h s heart and l.n!s !o n! a!a n- b.t he had been as *lose to dead as a man *an !et and *ome ba*(+ %t ) )teen- Cord ended .p n 1a l- *har!ed w th attempted m.rder+

;'hat's when all th s de& l tal( started+ 'hey *o.ldn't bel e&e I had Hat*h down l (e that be*a.se he was so m.*h b !!er+ >a*t s I !ot a hell o) a 1.mp on h m be*a.se he was b.sy w th 8ar e- and Eph and >ran( always .sed to ma(e me m nd by !rabb n! me by the s*r.)) o) the ne*( or whate&er was handy+ 'hey ne&er tho.!ht abo.t how they were tea*h n! me to deal w th them+ 6asn't too lon! a)ter that be)ore >ran( and Eph had to !et to!ether to do m.*h w th me+ 6hen I !ot to ).ll s 2e the both o) them *o.ldn't w n a ) !ht w th me+ Eph's too * & l 2ed+ ;I was n 1a l ten days wh le the )am ly went hal)3*ra2y try n! to ma(e s.re there was no tr al be*a.se they (new the town wo.ld be happy to throw the r hal)3breed bastard n 1a l )or l )e+ Pa sold *attle )or hal) what he sho.ld ha&e !ot+ Eph and 8artha mort!a!ed the r ho.se+ >ran( and :.d th !a&e .p e&eryth n! they'd sa&ed+ Hannah's h.sband was already dr n( n! pretty bad- b.t they *ame .p w th some *ash too somehow+ 'hey pa d the Hat*hes o))+ So those sons o) b t*hes le)t town w th more money than they'd e&er dreamed abo.t be*a.se :a*( almost raped 8ar e+; ;I ne&er heard abo.t any o) that-; %nne sa d+ ;6hy wasn't he *har!ed )or atta*( n! a l ttle ! rl7; ;Be*a.se she was Ind an- and Ind ans don't *o.nt+ She was ne&er the same a)ter that+ Yo. remember how she loo(s7; ;Oh- yes- she's bea.t ).l-; %nne sa d+ ;Bea.t ).l and w th l !ht s( n-; Cord sa d+ ;So she made .p her m nd she was !o n! to !et )ar eno.!h away no one wo.ld (now abo.t her and she was !o n! to be wh te+ %nd that's what she d d+; ;6as that part o) the reason she marr ed that Den&er man7; %nne as(ed+ ;Howlett+ Pa.l Howlett+ 'hat was the only reason+ She barely (new h m and he was tw *e her a!e+ ,oth n! was e&er the same-; Cord sa d b tterly+ ;8ar e wasn't the same+ 'he )am ly wasn't the same+ 'hey almost ban(r.pted themsel&es o&er t+ Pa d ed be)ore they re*o&ered ) nan* ally+ %nd I wasn't the same e ther+; ;Be*a.se yo. almost ( lled a man7; %nne wh spered+ ;,o- be*a.se wh le I was n h s 1a l ,oah told me th n!s my )am ly sho.ld ha&e lon! be)ore that- abo.t what t means to be hal)3Ind an n a wh te man's world+ I !.ess 8ar e ) !.red t o.t )or hersel) n one way+ Some o) t I (new really- b.t the way he p.t t- p.t t all to!ether 3 they sho.ld ha&e told .s both )rom the t me we were l ttle+ I (now why they d dn't- b.t they sho.ld ha&e+; ;'hey lo&ed yo.+; ;'hey st ll sho.ld ha&e told .s+; >rom that t me- Cord )elt more and more a stran!er n h s own )am ly+ 8ar e was no lon!er the s ster who had been h s best )r end+ 8artha and Eph were l & n! n town+ >ran('s w )e- :.d th- had always been a l ttle .neasy aro.nd her h.sband's hal)3 brother- and now :.d th's )ear blossomed nto hyster a+ She was a)ra d to be alone w th h m+ She d dn't l (e h m aro.nd her *h ldren+ 6h le the boys were bad eno.!h- when the )o.rth and last *h ld- born when Cord was se&enteen- was a ! rl- :.d th's )ear be*ame .n*ontrollable+ He was not allowed near the baby- ne&er to.*hed her- ne&er held her+ %t e !hteen- hearts *( and .nable to end.re any more- he started ) / n! .p the b. ld n!s here on the or ! nal part o) the ran*h and mo&ed o)) by h msel)+ % year later- 8ar e real 2ed her amb t on o) ma( n! a new l )e+ Cord tr ed to tal( her o.t o) marry n! Howlett )rom the day o) her en!a!ement .nt l the day o) her wedd n!+

;Is she happy7; %nne as(ed+ ;Don't (now+ Ha&en't seen her s n*e she le)t+ >ran( and Eph & s t her somet mes- b.t I'd ! &e her story the l e- wo.ldn't I7; ;Yo. mean she doesn't want to see yo.7 Do yo. wr te7; ;,ope+ She wo.ldn't e&en spea( to me at the end+ 6hat I (now s what I hear )rom 8artha mostly+ She ra sed Howlett's *h ldren )rom a ) rst marr a!e+ ,e&er had any o) her own+ 'hat *o.ld ! &e her away too ) she had a baby that loo(ed l (e her own mother 3 or me+; 8ar e was !one+ 'he last o) the barns and o.tb. ld n!s on th s part o) the ran*h and e&ery p e*e o) e9. pment that had been stored n them were repa red- and Cord was be! nn n! to )eel restless anyway- when a man he barely (new stopped h m on the street n 8ason one day+ ;Hear tell they're try n! :a*( Hat*h )or m.rder n Salt La(e C ty ne/t wee(+ 'hey e&en !ot a w tness+ Yo. !o n! to !o see h m han!7; S.ddenly t seemed l (e attend n! the han! n! wo.ld be the th n! to do- see n! the end to someth n! that had done so m.*h dama!e to h m and to h s )am ly+ Cord le)t >ran( a note say n! only that he was !o n! away- pa*(ed- and le)t+ %)ter Salt La(e- there was no reason to head home- and he (ept mo& n! west- nto ,e&adaOre!on- then so.th thro.!h Cal )orn a- a*ross %r 2ona and ,ew 8e/ *o 'err tor es and nto 'e/as+ In the border *o.ntry o) 'e/as he )o.nd a whole people o) m /ed blood- people who a**epted h m as eas ly as they d d most other th n!s n the r l &es+ He wor(ed )or !ood wa!es brea( n! horses )or one o) the b ! ran*hes n the area and settled n- e&en l & n! )or almost a year w th a ro.nd- brown- la.!h n! woman named ?osa+ ;6as she bea.t ).l7; %nne as(ed+ ;,o+ Pretty maybe+ 8aybe not e&en that- maybe 1.st 3 happy- ).ll o) la.!hter+; Cord spo(e only a )ew words o) Span sh- and ?osa spo(e no En!l sh+ 'hey l &ed to!ether w tho.t really (now n! ea*h other+ He !a&e her e/tra *ash e&ery month n add t on to pay n! all the r b lls+ 6hen he )o.nd she was not spend n! the money on hersel) b.t ! & n! t to )am ly- she e/pe*ted h m to be an!ry+ He wasn't+ He 1.st !a&e her tw *e as m.*h+ Her whole )am ly l &ed well+ ;D d yo. 3 *are abo.t her7; %nne as(ed+ ;S.re+ ,ot the way >ran( *ares abo.t :.d th- ) that's what yo.'re as( n!-; Cord sa d+ ;6e spent the n !hts n the same bed- b.t what she *ared abo.t was her )am ly- and I was !one all day wor( n! horses+; 'h n!s dr )ted alon! tho.!htlessly n th s )ash on )or months- and then ?osa was pre!nant+ S.ddenly Cord )elt trapped+ He (new w th no shadow o) a do.bt he d d not want to spend the rest o) h s l )e n the border *o.ntry+ 'he people were )r endly- b.t they had d ))erent ways- d ))erent )ood- d ))erent bel e)s and lan!.a!e+ He be!an to hate the dry)lat *o.ntry w th ts sear n! heat- sna(es and l 2ards+ 6 th a s.dden a*he he (new he had always ntended to ret.rn to Colorado and to the Bennett *lan+ 6hen ?osa m s*arr ed- he )elt sad- sympathet * 3 and .nden ably- !. lt ly- )ree+ He ne&er to.*hed her a!a n+ %s soon as he was s.re she was well- he le)t her w th most o) h s sa& n!s )rom the r d n! 1ob and started north )or Colorado+

%lmost ) &e years a)ter lea& n!- Cord arr &ed home r d n! the b ! brown !eld n! he *alled Aeeper- str n! n! alon! ten head o) horses he meant to start a breed n! herd w th+ He le)t home at n neteen- a lean- 9. et boy- !ood eno.!h w th a !.n to mer t respe*ttoo !ood w th a (n )e and h s ) sts- and better than most w th a horse+ ?et.rn n! at twenty3)o.r- he was leaner- 9. eter- and had stran!e new s( lls w th ) sts- (n &es- and horses that re n)or*ed !oss p abo.t h m ha& n! the de& l n h m+ Bone3weary and e/ha.sted )rom the lon! r de .p )rom ,ew 8e/ *o w th so many horses- he slept most o) h s ) rst day home+ On the se*ond day- 1.st when he was th n( n! o) r d n! o&er to the ma n ran*h- >ran( rode .p- alerted by the smo(e )rom the *h mney o) the old ho.se+ Cord le)t th n( n! h s )am ly wo.ld not m ss h m part *.larly- wo.ld probably be better o)) w tho.t h m aro.nd+ He was wron!+ >or ) &e years not a day went by that >ran( and Ephra m d dn't wonder where the r hal)3brother was- worry abo.t how he was- and )ear )or h m+ >ran( rode nto the yard and saw Cord stand n! there w th ha r down past h s sho.lders- wear n! (nee3h !h %pa*he mo**as ns- and ) &e years o) )ear and worry t.rned nstantly to ra!e+ >or on*e >ran( was too an!ry e&en to ra se h s &o *e+ He loo(ed Cord o&er and snarled- ;So yo. 1.st rode o)) and went In1.n- yo. son o) a b t*h-; then wheeled h s horse and le)t+ In the years s n*e- the relat onsh p between the brothers had o)ten been worseo**as onally a l ttle better- b.t ne&er !ood+ >ran( and Ephra m ne&er )or!a&e Cord )or the years o) )ear and worry- and Cord resented the r att t.de and wo.ld ne ther apolo! 2e nor e/pla n+ 'he rema n n! lo&e and loyalty were not eno.!h to br d!e the deep *hasm o) estran!ement amon! the brothers+ O) *o.rse- Cord told %nne only the )a*ts+ 'he emot ons she s.rm sed )or hersel)- and she be!an to .nderstand the *omb nat on o) oppos n! )or*es that had prod.*ed th s man who was on the one hand so s lent- hard- and *old- and on the other so !entle- ( nd- and *ompass onate+ S n*e they had ) rst *rossed paths as *h ldren- she had always nst n*t &ely l (ed h m+ 6hat she was learn n! only pro&ed how r !ht she had been+ She l (ed Cord Bennett- and she l (ed be n! h s w )e+ ***

CHAPTER 1"
ANNE SLIPPED AS SO3NDLESSLY AS poss ble )rom bed n the m ddle o) the n !ht*are).l not to wa(e Cord+ Her body had ! &en the )am l ar s !ns earl er n the day- and she was already wear n! the straps that held the ra!s wh *h wo.ld soon be needed to absorb her monthly )low+ > nd n! her sl ppers n the dar( and wrapp n! her robe t !htly aro.nd her- she )elt her way to the ro*(er n the parlor+ 'he rhythm *- m serable *ramp n! n her lower abdomen had awa(ened her- and she (new she *o.ld not be st ll n the bed b.t wo.ld need to mo&e w th the pa n+ She *.rled n the *ha r- ro*( n! slowly- both hands pressed to her stoma*h+ 'he pa n- her own )at !.e- and the .nnat.ral lateness o) the ho.r *omb ned to ! &e the n !ht an .nreal 9.al ty+ She had no dea how lon! she had been there- 9. etly ro*( n!- when she heard Cord's &o *e+ ;%nn e7;

;I'm sorry+ I tr ed not to wa(e yo.+; ;6hat's wron!7; ;,oth n!+ I 1.st ha&e a )ew *ramps s all+ <o ba*( to bed+ It's all r !ht+; ;6hat ( nd o) *ramps7; She *o.ld hear the *on*ern n h s &o *e and sm led+ Propr ety was abo.t to lose a!a n+ ;8y monthly )low s start n!- and I always ha&e a )ew *ramps )or a *o.ple o) ho.rs+ 6hen t happens n the day t doesn't matter- I 1.st (eep mo& n! aro.nd- b.t at n !ht t's a bother+ I *an't be st ll n the bed yo. see+ I d dn't want to wa(e yo.+; She heard h m mo& n! away- then a mat*h )lared as he l t the ( t*hen lamp+ He was na(ed n the l !ht- and she wat*hed h m thro.!h a dreamy ha2e as he be!an to mo&e aro.nd the ( t*hen+ 'he modesty she had been ra sed w th d *tated not only that she try to (eep her own body *o&ered at all t mes b.t that she a&ert her eyes )rom her h.sband+ 'he b ! sto&e (ept the ( t*hen and parlor &ery warm b.t le)t the bedrooms *h lly th s t me o) year+ E&en sothere were t mes he wo.ld s mply stret*h )rom the bed- wal( a*ross the room .n*lothedor .nsel)3*ons* o.sly dress or .ndress be)ore her+ %nne had ta(en eno.!h !. lty pee(s to (now how d ))erent h s re*o&ered body was )rom the ra&a!ed mess she had n.rsed months a!o- b.t she had ne&er had the *o.ra!e to really st.dy h m+ 'on !ht noth n! seemed real- and she wat*hed h m thro.!h hal)3*losed- sleepy eyes+ %nne had *a.!ht !l mpses o) her brother w tho.t a sh rt- and there were stron! men at the *o.nty )a r who wore th n t !ht sh rts that d splayed the r m.s*les- b.t Cord was &ery d ))erent )rom both her brother's smooth so)tness and the stron! men's th *( b.l! n! bod es+ % memory )rom Ch *a!o dr )ted thro.!h her m nd+ She had & s ted the L n*oln Par( Doo there w th ? *hard and other )r ends+ 'hey had all a!reed that the b ! *ats were the h !hl !ht o) the r & s t 3 l ons- t !ers- *o.!ars+ Some were restless- resent).l o) the *a!es and mpr sonment and pa*ed *ont n.o.sly- smooth m.s*les r ppl n! .nder !leam n!short ).r+ %nne was drawn ba*( a!a n and a!a n+ 'he b ! *ats loo(ed dan!ero.s and .nden ably bea.t ).l+ ,ow she stared at her h.sband n wonder+ 'hose *ats were (ept n *a!es so that people *o.ld see and adm re them be*a.se they were bea.t ).l- and Cord was bea.t ).l+ He was really no dar(er than many hea& ly tanned ran*hers and )armers+ O) *o.rse- the r bod es wo.ld be wh te where the s.n ne&er to.*hed- and Cord was an e&en *opper h.e all o&er+ Bron2e s( n sl pped smoothly a*ross h s m.s*le+ 'he !a.nt loo( o) months a!o was !one- b.t there was no e/*ess )lesh and h s sp ne- r bs- and h ps were )a ntly o.tl ned .nder h s s( n+ 'he breadth o) h s sho.lders tapered !ra*e).lly to the )lat belly- narrow wa st and h ps+ %nne (new well the smooth te/t.re o) the s( n o) h s *hest- wh *h was )ree o) the mat o) *.rl n! ha r her brother had+ How *an t be a s n to adm re someth n! so mar&elo.s she tho.!ht7 S.rely t *annot be wron! )or a woman to loo( l (e th s at her own h.sband+ She was st ll star n!entran*ed- when he *ame ba*( a*ross the room to her- *arry n! a *.p- and *ro.*hed down bes de her+ ;Here dr n( th s+;

She mana!ed to tear her !a2e away )rom the neat l ne o) ha r that ran l (e a seam )rom 1.st below h s na&el to where t w dened where h s le!s 1o ned h s body+ She d dn't )eel awa(e eno.!h to be embarrassed+ ;6hat s t7; ;Herbal tea that's !ood )or some ( nds o) pa n+ 8y mother .sed to ma(e t- and 8artha st ll does+ 8 !ht not help- b.t t won't h.rt+; She s pped the hot l 9. d- wh *h was b tter- b.t not .npleasant+ ;I always meant to as( yo. abo.t some o) the stran!e th n!s n the l ttle t ns on the shel&es+ 6hy d dn't yo. tell me abo.t t when yo. were h.rt7; ;It's not that stron!+ Come on ba*( to bed+ Yo. don't ha&e to worry abo.t wa( n! me now+; She obed ently headed ba*( to the bed+ He blew o.t the lamp and *.rled aro.nd her+ ;Do yo. ha&e yo.r hands on yo.r stoma*h be*a.se the press.re helps7; ;I don't (now really+ ,ot so m.*h press.re as the warmth- I th n(+; Both h s hands *o&ered hers- and she nestled ba*( a!a nst h m !rate).lly- already )eel n! less pa n and more drows ness+ E ther the tea was wor( n! or t was t me )or the *ramp n! to stop+ :.st be)ore she dropped o)) to sleep one tho.!ht momentar ly ro.sed her+ Cord had to her enormo.s rel e) wee(s a!o ! &en .p try n! to loo( at her .n*lothed )orm+ %nne had ne&er .nderstood what seemed to her to be a per&erse des re to obser&e her n.de+ Co.ld t be that he wanted to wat*h her the way she had wanted to wat*h h m ton !ht7 6as t poss ble that he s mply )o.nd pleas.re n loo( n! at her7 Shyness made her .nable to del berately show hersel) to h m- b.t a)ter that n !ht she stopped try n! so hard to h de+ ***

CHAPTER 1#
1ORD WAS LOA.,E .O AD0I. t- b.t by late w nter all the r problems had narrowed down to money- or the la*( o) t+ %)ter that ) rst tr p to town they were always *are).l to p.r*hase only ne*essary s.ppl es- b.t e&en so h s small s.pply o) *ash was down to a )ew dollars+ %dd n! n %nne's <renerton money- someth n! he was dead set a!a nst do n!wo.ld only p.t o)) the ne& table )or a )ew more wee(s+ He )o.nd h msel) almost as a!a nst as( n! >ran( )or a loan as %nne was+ It had ne&er bothered h m be)ore+ He a**epted that >ran( and Ephra m alone had nher ted the Bennett ?an*h+ H s )ather had wr tten h s w ll that way to prote*t a!a nst los n! land to e ther o) the ! rls' h.sbands or be*a.se o) Cord's and 8ar e's Ind an blood+ It was .nderstood n the )am ly- tho.!h- that the ran*h belon!ed to them all+ ?an*h pro) ts s.pported Ephra m and 8artha n the early years be)ore Eph's law pra*t *e be!an to pay- and when Hannah's h.sband t.rned n*reas n!ly to dr n(- ran*h money (ept her and her *h ldren+ 8ar e- o) *o.rse- wal(ed away- and Cord )elt that by r.nn n! horses on part o) the land- he had h s share+ E&en so- >ran( wo.ld ha&e ! &en e/tra money o.tr !ht+ Cord was the one who had always ns sted on ta( n! only loans and repay n! them+ Ephra m's older *h ldren had all !one East to s*hool- marr ed and stayed- b.t Pete- the yo.n!est son- wanted to ran*h+ >ran('s oldest son also wanted no l )e b.t that o) a

*attleman- and the )am ly (new that someday Pete and L.(e wo.ld r.n the ran*h as >ran( d d now+ >ran('s two yo.n!er sons- < l and 8art n- were not drawn to the landand h s da.!hter- Beth- wo.ld s.rely marry and lea&e w th a h.sband- altho.!h the ran*h wo.ld always be there )or any o) them ) needed+ St ll- Cord *o.ld not br n! h msel) to see >ran( abo.t money th s year+ 'here were alternat &es- o) *o.rse- none pleasant- b.t one m.st be *hosen+ He *o.ld ro.nd .p a b.n*h o) bro(e horses that met the %rmy's spe* ) *at ons and sell them )or *a&alry mo.nts- b.t he hated the tho.!ht o) .ns( lled raw re*r. ts *l mb n! on h s horses+ He *o.ld sell Sa lor- the stall on now r.nn n! w th h s broodmares- to a Den&er man who had wanted the horse )or years- b.t Lathr.m's *olt wo.ld not be old eno.!h to ser& *e mares th s spr n! or ne/t+ 'hey *o.ld sell one o) the *ows or a *o.ple o) the p !sb.t t wo.ldn't br n! eno.!h to help )or lon!- and altho.!h he d dn't tell %nne- Cord hal) e/pe*ted that w th the way the people o) 8ason )elt abo.t the r marr a!e- m.*h less the way they bel e&ed t *ame abo.t- he m !ht not sell any horses at all th s year+ In early 8ar*h Cord ret.rned )rom a lon!- sol tary r de a*ross the ran*h to *alm a s lly )o.r3year3old to ) nd %nne almost dan* n! n the yard+ %s he .nsaddled h s horse- t too( h m a wh le to de* pher the 1.mbled- e/* ted story+ %nne was s.re the ) nan* al d lemma was as !ood as sol&ed+ ;<.ess what- !.ess what7 %bo.t hal) an ho.r a)ter yo. le)t I had a & s tor+ H s name s %damson- 8r+ Henry %damson )rom L n*oln- ,ebras(a+ He's here on other b.s nessb.t he wants to b.y a horse 3 a two h.ndred dollars horse- and++++; ;Slow down+ Yo. d dn't 1.st let some stran!e man n the ho.se- d d yo.7; ;Oh- no- I had the p stol when I opened the door- and I (ept t- b.t he wasn't that ( nd o) man+ He has s l&er ha r and stands l (e th s+ He's &ery d st n!. shed loo( n!+; Her m tat on o) a man stand n! almost art ) * ally stra !ht sho.ld ha&e been ).nnyb.t Cord was already d sl ( n! 8r+ %damson- whoe&er he was+ ;Damn t- %nn e- d st n!. shed loo( n! men aren't always sa nts+ Yo. sho.ldn't++++; She was too e/* ted to pay a b t o) attent on+ ;6 ll yo. l sten7 He wants to b.y a horse- a spe* al horse- )or a b rthday present )or h s )o.rteen3year3old da.!hter+ She's a !ood r der- and he wants someth n! pretty and sp r ted eno.!h to be ).n b.t lady3bro(e and sa)e+ He's !o n! to <renerton and he's !o n! to loo( at Lathr.m's horses and then he'll stop here on the way ba*( day a)ter tomorrow+; 'he words were 1.st b.bbl n! o.t o) her+ ;'wo h.ndred dollars+ Isn't that a !ood pr *e7 6o.ldn't that be a !ood sale7; Cord loo(ed at h s w )e- *hee(s p n( )rom the *old- eyes l t w th ant * pat on- and mo.th *.r&ed .p n the sm le he personally bel e&ed *o.ld melt ro*(+ How was he was !o n! to ma(e her )a*e real ty w tho.t *r.sh n! her *ompletely7 ;%nn e- I'&e ne&er sold a horse )or two h.ndred dollars- and ) that's the ( nd he wants- Lathr.m has m.*h better horses+ He'll ) nd what he wants there and won't stop ba*( here+; 6hat he d dn't tell her was that people !enerally bo.!ht h s horses )or hal) to two3 th rds what they wo.ld pay someone else )or the same an mal+ It was 1.st one o) l )e's .!ly l ttle real t es+ Her )a*e was already )all n!+ ;Yo. mean we don't ha&e any horses that ) t that des*r pt on7;

We 3 d d she ha&e any dea the way someth n! tw sted ns de h m when she sa d th n!s l (e that7 He s !hed+ ;'here are a *o.ple- b.t yo. ha&e to prom se not to be d sappo nted when he doesn't *ome ba*(+; ;I prom se+ Can I *an *ome w th yo. to !et them7; ;Yo. *an help *hoose+; Her eyes were already sh n n! a!a n+ Damn th s stran!er all to hell+ In the end they p *(ed three horses+ %ll were more re) ned than most o) the r herdmates and had pretty heads w th b ! eyes and sl !htly d shed pro) les+ Cord )elt they all had the bas * temperament %damson was re)err n! to+ %nne's )a&or te was a *hestn.t mare w th a lar!e e&en star on her )orehead and small ( ss3s 2ed wh te sn p between her nostr ls+ Her mane and ta l were sl !htly l !hter than her body *olor- and %nne named her 6 ld Honey+ Cord spent the a)ternoon start n! all three horses on a 9. *( re)resher *o.rse o) the r saddle lessons+ He rode the ) rst horse *arry n! an old blan(et- and when %nne as(ede/pla ned that lady3bro(e meant- amon! other th n!s- .na)ra d o) s( rts+ %s )ar as Cord was *on*erned- ) he was !o n! to bother wor( n! horses n hopes o) ma( n! a sale- he m !ht as well p.t h s best e))ort nto t+ >ar )rom d sa!ree n!- %nne ran ba*( n the ho.se and !ot h m real pett *oats+ 'he ne/t day he wor(ed ea*h horse morn n! and a)ternoon )or hal) an ho.r w th a pett *oat t ed on the saddle on ea*h s de+ 'he day a)ter he !a&e ea*h horse another short wor(o.t early n the morn n!- eno.!h to be a rem nder- not eno.!h to t re the so)t- .n*ond t oned an mals o.t+ > n shed r d n!- Cord )o.nd %nne !o n! o&er ea*h horse w th her sew n! shears+ ;6hat the hell are yo. do n!7; ;6ell- they loo( so ).22y n the r w nter ha r+ I tho.!ht I'd 1.st neaten them .p a b t+; She *.t away- ta( n! the lon! ha rs that st.*( o.t o) the ears o)) and tr mm n! the lon! *oarse ha r .nder the 1aws and on the ba*( o) the le!s+ It d d ma(e them loo( betterb.t Cord bal(ed when he )o.nd her *arry n! warm water )rom the ho.se to wash the r ta ls+ ;Damn t- %nn e- eno.!h's eno.!h+ Yo.'re !o n! to be n tears when the bastard doesn't show .p anyway+; ;I don't see how t *an h.rt+ He wants someth n! pretty )or a b rthday present )or h s da.!hter+ 6e'&e !one th s )ar+; 'he *.rdl n! d sl (e Cord )elt )or th s man he'd ne&er met was !row n! by the m n.te+ 'hey ate l.n*h n s len*e- Cord wa t n! )or the ) rst s !ns o) .nhapp ness+ By one o'*lo*( he )elt smothered and was th n( n! o) 1.st saddl n! someth n! .p and r d n! o))+ Shortly a)ter one >o/)a*e be!an to bar(+ 8eet n! %damson- Cord )o.nd t hard to s.sta n h s d sl (e+ 'he man was pleasant and b.s nessl (e+ He loo(ed at ea*h o) the three horses *are).lly- ma( n! no *omment abo.t the r neatened appearan*e or the *lean- sh n n! ta ls+ He wat*hed Cord r de ea*h one- then as(ed to r de 6 ld Honey+ He rode 9. etly and well- and the (not n Cord's stoma*h loosened a b t more+ D smo.nt n!- %damson as(ed ) the mare had e&er been r dden by a woman+ 6hen Cord shoo( h s head- %damson as(ed ) %nne *o.ld r de her+ ;Don't ha&e a s desaddle+; ;'hat's not a problem+; 8 n.tes later- %nne !ot on the pretty *hestn.t mare+

;Yo. r de her e/a*tly the same as Lady-; Cord sa d+ ;6al( her aro.nd and )eel her o.t as yo. !o+ I) yo. start to )eel .n*om)ortable- 9. t+ 'here's noth n! to pro&e- yo. .nderstand7; She !r nned at h m (now n!ly+ ;S( rts+ 'hat's what we're pro& n! sn't t7; 'he two men wat*hed her wal( the mare aro.nd the *orral- do n! all the l ttle * r*l n! and t.rn n! mane.&ers Cord had ta.!ht her and then mo& n! the horse nto a slow trot+ 6 tho.t ta( n! h s eyes )rom %nne and the horse %damson spo(e- ;I en&y yo.- yo. (now+ 8y w )e has been dead )or ) &e years now+ She d dn't loo( at all l (e 8rs+ Bennettb.t she had the same appet te )or l )e- same 1oy n l & n!+ %)ter ) &e years I st ll m ss her as ) t were yesterday+ Yo. ha&e no dea how l.*(y yo. are- to be 1.st start n! a l )e w th s.*h a woman+; Cord made no response be*a.se he *o.ld th n( o) none+ S!ar!ing a $i)e+ I) only %damson (new+ %nne ) n shed her r de- *anter n! the mare n ea*h d re*t on aro.nd the *orral+ %damson sa d noth n! as Cord .nsaddled the mare and t.rned her loose w th the other two- and then as(ed- ;6o.ld that tall bay !eld n! n the ne/t *orral be bro(e the same7; So he d dn't l (e the mare+ Cord loo(ed o&er+ ;'he )an*y horse w th )o.r sto*( n!s7 Yeah- they're all bro(e the same- b.t that's not a woman's horse+ He'd be more )or a man who l (es someth n! power).l and a l ttle *atty+; ;Can I try h m7; ;S.re+; Cord saddled the tall bay- and %damson rode h m both n the *orral and o.ts de+ On the !ro.nd a!a n- %damson sa d br s(ly- ;I don't l (e ha!!l n!- and I already told yo.r w )e I'd pay two h.ndred dollars )or the ( nd o) horse I want )or my da.!hter+ I'll ! &e yo. the two h.ndred )or the mare- and three se&enty3) &e )or the mare and the !eld n!+ 'he problem s that I need them del &ered to 8ason to sh p to ,ebras(a on '.esday morn n!'s tra n+ 8y da.!hter's b rthday s ne/t wee(+ 'hey tell me they ha&e no load n! )a* l t es and t means !ett n! them n a *attle *ar r !ht there at the stat on+ 'he tra n only stops )or ) )teen m n.tes+ %re yo. w ll n! to try7; Cord leaned a!a nst the *orral ra ls+ ;Yo. ta(e e ther- or only the two7; ;I) I *an ha&e only one I'd rather ha&e the mare- b.t I'll ta(e e ther+; ;Cash7; ;Yo. br n! b lls o) sale- and I'll ha&e *ash+; ;%ll r !ht+ 6e'll be there+; %s Cord and %nne wal(ed w th %damson toward h s t ed l &ery !eld n!- he sa d;Lathr.m told me what he d d to yo. o&er that *olt+ He's pro.d o) t- b.t the more he tal(ed- the sorr er he and h s sto*( loo(ed+ ;A nd o) e/pe*ted yo. to ) nd someth n! yo. l (ed o&er there-; Cord sa d+ ;He's !ot !ood horses+; ;Oh- they're !ood- all r !ht- b.t they way they're handled I wo.ldn't )eel my da.!hter was sa)e on one+ >ear doesn't ma(e a rel able horse+; ;S.ppose not+; Cord de* ded he l (ed the man a)ter all+ ;6ant to see the *olt I !ot )rom h m7; %damson halted- show n! s.rpr se+ ;He sa d t d ed on yo.+; ;Sho.ld ha&e+ Dy n! sn't easy aro.nd my w )e+; %damson sm led at %nne+ ;I see+ Yes- I'd l (e to see h m+;

'he three o) them loo(ed at the *olt n s len*e+ >ort.ne was st ll th n b.t no lon!er a ra*( o) bones+ E&en w th the sha!!y w nter *oat- t was easy to see 9.al ty n e&ery l ne+ ;?ao.l told me he tho.!ht that m !ht be the best *olt Lathr.m e&er bred+; Cord nodded+ ;'ho.!ht that mysel)+; ;6ell+; %damson stra !htened and headed )or h s horse a!a n+ ;I'll see yo. '.esday then+; 'hree days o.!ht to be 1.st abo.t eno.!h t me to ma(e s.re the money problem was sol&ed )or months to *ome+ ***

CHAPTER 1$
ON .3ESDAY 0ORNING ANNE RODE bes de Cord b.rst n! w th pr de+ He had warned her she wo.ld be st )) tomorrow a)ter the .na**.stomed two ho.rs n the saddle to town and two ho.rs ba*(- b.t she d dn't *are+ She sat as stra !ht as she *o.ld- try n! to remember e&eryth n! he had ta.!ht her o&er the last months and do t per)e*tly+ Cord ) nally !lan*ed s deways at her and sa d- ;Yo.'re allowed to rela/ and en1oy tyo. (now+; She la.!hed alo.d- b.t she d d rela/- and how she d d en1oy t= %damson's horses trotted alon! on lead ropes- !roomed .nt l e&en the r w nter *oats had a sh ne+ %nne hado) *o.rse- tr mmed the !eld n! w th the s* ssors and washed h s ta l too+ Cord had had to help+ 'he bay horse had needed *on& n* n! he l (ed be n! ).ssed o&er that m.*h+ %)ter days o) hard wor(- they had the n !ht be)ore d s*.ssed the r strate!y )or !ett n! the horses on the tra n and made the r de* s on+ 'hey both now )elt )atal st *+ E ther the wor( and the plan wo.ld pay o)) and the money problem wo.ld be sol&ed or t wo.ldn't+ 'he weather was *ooperat n!+ 'he early 8ar*h day was br !ht and s.nny- not too *oldand no w nd+ 6hen they were *lose eno.!h to town to see that the $$:E# tra n was not early- they ) n shed the r de at an easy wal(- ty n! the horses a*ross )rom the tra n stat on a l ttle a)ter ele&en+ %n e/traord nary n.mber o) people seemed nterested n the tra n today+ %damson sp ed them and h.rr ed r !ht o&er+ ;I (now these are ran!e ra sed horseswon't the tra n )r !hten them when t p.lls n7; ;,o-; Cord sa d+ ;I br n! all my yo.n! sto*( to town a )ew t mes+ 'hey'&e seen tra nsand they'll ta(e the r *.es )rom the saddle horses anyway+; ;I'm a)ra d I'm respons ble )or the *rowd+ 6hen I ment oned aro.nd town that I'd bo.!ht the horses *ont n!ent on the r load n!- e&eryone told me I was *ra2y- that they'll ne&er !et on the tra n n these * r*.mstan*es+ I already )eel as ) I'&e 1.st wasted a lot o) yo.r t me+ 'hese people are all here hop n! to see a rodeo+; ;,e&er try- ne&er (now+; Cord was at h s most la*on *+ ;I'&e employed Bob 6 ndon and h s ass stant )rom the l &ery to ! &e .s a hand+; % )ew m n.tes later 6 ndon wal(ed o&er- )ollowed by an adoles*ent boy *arry n! an .!ly loo( n! 9. rt+ 6 ndon was abo.t Cord's a!e- a )ew n*hes shorter- start n! to bald and r.nn n! a l ttle to )at+ He ran the town's l &ery stable and was 8ason's res dent e/pert on all th n!s e9. ne+ %nne (new Bob l (ed and respe*ted Cord- and today he wasn't try n! to h de t+

;6e !onna !et treated to a show o) In1.n ma! * today7; he as(ed w th a !r n+ Cord drawled- ;,ope+ ,o rodeo e ther- lot o) d sappo nted )ol(s+; 6 ndon's !r n d dn't )alter+ ;'hey don't need a rodeo+ 'hey'll be happy ) yo. *an't !et them on+ Yo. (now that- don't yo.7; ;Y.p+; 'he so.nd o) the tra n *ame n the d stan*e+ Aeeper and Lady barely pr *(ed the r ears as the tra n p.lled n w th *lo.ds o) steam- b.t Honey ra sed her head h !h and !a&e t a w de3eyed stare- and the !eld n! d d her one better- ) d!et n! restlessly+ Cord d dn't mo&e- lean n! eas ly a!a nst Aeeper+ %nne tr ed to m tate h m- b.t her heart was already po.nd n!+ %s the tra n *ame to a ).ll halt- men ran o.t- opened the door on the one *attle *ar and atta*hed a ramp+ Oh- Lord- d d t loo( steep and narrow+ Cord m.ttered- ;Let's ta(e a loo(+; %damson )ollowed them .p the steep ramp+ 'he )loor o) the *ar was l ttered w th straw- and the *ar tsel) was d & ded nto se*t ons by ra ls+ 'hey remo&ed the ra ls on one s de and p.t them a!a nst the ba*( wall+ O.ts de- Cord sa d to 6 ndon- ;I) yo.'re help n!- how abo.t send n! yo.r boy )or some hay and b.*(ets7 ,oth n! n there )or them to eat or dr n(- and L n*oln's a ways+; 6 ndon w ped the s lly !r n )rom h s )a*e and started loo( n! tho.!ht).l+ 'he boy was ).r o.s- b.t headed ba*( to the l &ery barn when ordered+ Ba*( at the horses- Cord loo(ed at %nne- 9.est on n!- ;?eady7; ;%s ready as I'll !et+; ;?emember- try to (eep her )rom stopp n! n the doorway+ I) she stops and he's on the ramp he's l able to !o o)) t s deways and he'll ne&er start a!a n+; She nodded- too( the mare's rope- and started )or the ramp as ) there were no do.bt n her m nd what was !o n! to happen+ She (new Cord was r !ht beh nd her w th the !eld n!+ 'he *rowd seemed to be hold n! ts breath and let t o.t n a *olle*t &e s !h when both horses wal(ed .p the steep ramp as ) they'd done t e&ery day o) the r l &es+ <r n ba*( n pla*e- 6 ndon sl d the *ar door sh.t a)ter the !eld n! *leared the doorway+ 6hen h s ass stant p.))ed ba*( w th two water b.*(ets and a b ! sa*( o) hay- he loo(ed aro.nd n d sbel e)+ ;6here'd they !o7; 6 ndon sa d- ;Ins de+; 'he boy loo(ed l (e he wanted to weep o&er the .n.sed 9. rt han! n! )rom h s belt+ ;,ow !o ) ll those b.*(ets abo.t hal)way and br n! them alon!+ 6e ha&en't !ot all day- yo. (now+; 8 n.tes later the horses were sa)e n a ra led o)) se*t on o) the *ar- m.n*h n! hayb.*(ets t ed to the wall+ Cord handed %damson the b ll o) sale )or the horses- and %damson loo(ed at t w th am.sement+ ;:.st one b ll o) sale7 Yo. (new they'd load- d d yo.7; ;Had a not on+; Cord po*(eted the wad o) b lls .n*o.nted+ %damson t.rned to %nne+ ;8rs+ Bennett- t was a pleas.re meet n! yo.- and don't th n( I don't appre* ate the way those horses loo( e ther+ 8y da.!hter w ll be t *(led w th that mare+ 6hat's her name7; ;6 ld Honey+; ;%h- and the !eld n!7;

;I'm a)ra d I'&e 1.st been *all n! h m Le!s- b.t yo. *o.ld ma(e t Capta n Le!s or someth n!+; ;Le!s w ll do ) ne+; 'hey shoo( hands a!a n- and %nne !a&e %damson a small pa*(et o) l.mps o) s.!ar+ ;'o ma(e them )eel at home when they !et there- yo. (now+; %damson sw.n! on the tra n h msel)- and h s last words were to Cord+ ;En&y+ I tr.ly en&y yo.+; %s they wat*hed the tra n p.ll o.t- Cord sa d- ;How abo.t l.n*h at Dora's7; %nne d dn't e&en try to h de her del !ht+ ;It wor(ed- d dn't t7 It was worth e&ery m n.te o) t+; 'hey were lead n! Aeeper and Lady toward the *a)e when they spotted Ephra m and 8artha stand n! n the d spers n! *rowd+ Cord an!led o&er that way and stopped n )ront o) h s brother and s ster3 n3law+ ;6e're *elebrat n! w th stea(s )or l.n*h+ Yo. want to *ome alon!- we'll b.y+; %nne hal) hoped Ephra m wo.ld say no- b.t a)ter a br e) hes tat on- he pro&ed he *o.ld re*o!n 2e an ol &e bran*h when t was thr.st .nder h s nose as well as the ne/t man and a**epted the n& tat on+ 'hey all headed .p the street to the *a)e to!ether+ ***

CHAPTER 1%
.,E 4ENNE..S ,AD NO 0ORE than ta(en *are o) the r *oats and hats and seated themsel&es n the *a)e when ?ob 6ells *ame n+ %nne (new ) her brother was here t was .nder orders )rom the r )ather- and her )am ly was not !o n! to spo l her day+ ?ob r.dely !nored e&eryone else+ ;%nne- I want to tal( to yo.+ %lone+; 'he last word )ollowed a bale).l !lan*e at Cord+ %nne ).ssed w th her *ha r- del berately a&o d n! loo( n! at ?ob+ ;I'm ha& n! a !rand day- a s.perb day- a wonder).l day+ <o away+; ;I won't !o away+ I want to tal( to yo.- and w tho.t %im l sten n!+; Cord sat ne/t to the w ndow- wat*h n! the street o.ts de as ) noth n! he heard *on*erned h m n any way+ %nne hardened her e/press on and met ?ob's !a2e+ ;I'll tell yo. what- we're b.y n! Ephra m and 8artha l.n*h+ S t down- we'll b.y yo. l.n*h too+ Yo. don't ha&e to be n *e1.st * & l- and ) yo. are- a)ter l.n*h- I'll l sten to whate&er tal( n! to yo. want to ! &e me on my )a l n!s o&er at another table )or ) &e m n.tes+ B.t ) yo. *all e ther me or Cord one nasty name- yo.r t me e/p res r !ht then+ Deal7; ;He's not b.y n! me anyth n!+; ;%ll r !ht- then- b.y yo.r own+ Or !o away+ 'hat's the only way I'm tal( n! to yo.+; ?ob sat down l (e a s.llen *h ld+ %nne pa d h m no ).rther attent on- ma( n! small tal( w th 8artha abo.t the ) ne weather and some o) the people they (new who had been n the *rowd wat*h n! the tra n+ ,ot only was ?ob beha& n! badly- %nne not *ed that Ephra m wasn't help n! 8artha *arry the *on&ersat on b.t was st.dy n! Cord as Dora bro.!ht *o))ee *.ps- ) lled themand too( l.n*h orders+ %nne tho.!ht he loo(ed only sl !htly less so.r than ?ob- b.t a)ter Dora le)t- Ephra m made an e))ort+

;I heard yo. !ot !ood money )or those horses+; Cord's l !ht eyes )l *(ed .pwards )rom a st.dy o) h s *o))ee *.p+ ;% re*ord )or me+ %nne sold them+; % warm !low s.)).sed %nne at these words+ She d d not *ome )rom a )am ly that bestowed *red t .pon ts )emale members )or help n! w th the )am ly b.s ness+ ?ob's startled loo( only n*reased her pleas.re+ Ephra m loo(ed sl !htly s.rpr sed h msel)- b.t as(ed- ;How d d yo. *ome to sell to h m anyway7; 'h s re9. red more answer than Cord was !o n! to ! &e+ He started star n! ntently o.t the *a)e w ndow- n e))e*t t.rn n! h s ba*(+ Ephra m's d s!.sted e/press on wo.ld not ha&e mo&ed %nne to try and smooth th n!s o&er- b.t she was ea!er to tell anybody e&eryth n! abo.t the sale to %damson+ She la.n*hed nto the story mmed ately- !est.r n! )or emphas s- del !hted by the n*red.lo.s loo(s on her l steners' )a*es+ %nne told o) %damson's ) rst & s t- the pett *oats- the se*ond & s t- and then the past three days o) lead n! those horses thro.!h e&ery dar(- narrow doorway on the ran*h+ O) the m tat on tra n ramp Cord b. lt and how they led the horses o&er t and o&er tmo& n! t n )ront o) the doorways- o&er a d t*h so that t wo.ld r n! hollow- and .p the s des o) the *ree( bed so that t wo.ld slant at a steep an!le n appro/ mat on o) the *l mb nto the ra lroad *ar+ She told how they d s*o&ered the mare was tr.st n! eno.!h to )ollow her almost anywhere+ 'he !eld n! wo.ld ).ss b.t wo.ld )ollow the mare ) she went 9. etly- and so they de&eloped the system o) her lead n! the mare w th Cord )ollow n! *lose beh nd w th the !eld n!+ > nally- o&er1oyed by the *le&erness o) t all- she told abo.t the three b lls o) sale n three d ))erent po*(ets- one )or ea*h horse and one )or both+ 8r+ %damson wo.ld ne&er (now that they hadn't really been all that *on) dent that both horses wo.ld load so eas lyhad 1.st tho.!ht there was a !ood *han*e they m !ht+ ?ob- o) *o.rse- 1.mped n w th *r t * sm as soon as %nne ) n shed her story+ ;'hat's dan!ero.s+ Yo. sho.ldn't be aro.nd horses l (e that+ 'he only horse yo. e&er e&en petted was old 8oll e+ Yo.'ll !et h.rt+; ;I'm aro.nd all the horses all the t me now+ I rode to town today+; ;So now he's !ot yo. on h s horses+ I bet he's !ot yo. astr de and n tro.sers- and ) yo. )all o))- all he'll worry abo.t s the horse+; S n*e %nne wasn't wear n! tro.sers and had !one to a lot o) tro.ble to d & de se&eral s( rts so that she *o.ld r de astr de w tho.t them h ( n! .p- she !nored that part o) ?ob's a**.sat ons+ ;I may not be the best r der n the world- b.t I'&e ne&er )allen o))+ 'ea*h n! me so I'm hal)way de*ent at t s Cord's Chr stmas present+; ?ob's rea*t on was to be e/pe*ted- b.t %nne d d not .nderstand why her words seemed to a))e*t 8artha and Ephra m so+ Perhaps she so.nded boast).l7 It was hard not to be pro.d o) a s( ll that had been den ed her all her l )e+ % loo( at Cord reass.red her+ 'here was noth n! b.t am.sement n h s eyes+ 6 th l.n*h ) n shed- Ephra m ordered p e and e/pressed s.rpr se Cord wasn't nterested+ ;I) yo.'d e&er tasted what %nn e *oo(s- yo. wo.ldn't want Dora's p e e ther+; ?ob a*t.ally loo(ed at Cord as he sa d nast ly- ;I s.ppose yo. (eep her aro.nd )or her *oo( n!+;

Cord sa d- ;S.re- 1.st l (e yo.'re !o n! to marry somebody )or her *oo( n!+; %nne e/pla ned to h m+ ;?ob sn't !o n! to marry )or *oo( n! or any other reason e/*ept that my )ather told h m to marry ,an*y Lee 6e nert+; ;Yo. mean he p *(ed <eor!e Detr *( )or yo.- and ,an*y Lee 6e nert )or ?ob7 Seems l (e to be *ons stent he sho.ld ha&e e ther p *(ed ?oss Chr st an )or yo. or 6 dow 'r.*(ee )or ?ob+; %nne almost sp t *o))ee on the table w th s.dden la.!hter+ ?oss Chr st an was- l (e ,an*y Lee- yo.n!- &ery !ood loo( n!- sel)3*entered- and not &ery br !ht+ 6 dow 'r.*(ee was a &ery !ood appro/ mat on o) <eor!e Detr *(- ) )ty sh- )at- d rty3loo( n!- and .npleasant+ ?ob !nored the h.mor n the *omment+ ;'hat's r d *.lo.s+ ,an*y Lee s a bea.t ).l ! rl )rom a !ood )am ly and w ll be an e/*ellent w )e- and yo. (now <eor!e Detr *( wo.ld ha&e been a de*ent h.sband+ 8aybe he sn't the (n !ht n sh n n! armor yo. had yo.r heart set on- b.t yo. sho.ld ha&e treated ? *hard 'yler better ) that's what yo. wanted+ 8r+ Detr *( s well s t.ated- respe*table- and- and++++; He sear*hed )or Detr *('s other & rt.es+ Cord ) n shed )or h m+ ;%nd wh te- %nn e+ He's wh te+; She made a )a*e+ ;I don't *are ) yo. *o.ld s*r.b h m .p and he'd p.t new )allen snow to shame and h s toena ls !row !old+ He's rep.ls &e and d s!.st n!- and I'd rather not tal( abo.t h m o&er )ood+; ?ob atta*(ed a!a n+ ;%t least he wo.ld ha&e married yo.+ S tt n! o.t there and pretend n! yo.'re marr ed 1.st to !et e&en w th >ather yo.'re 1.st h.rt n! yo.rsel)+ 6hat ) he !ets yo. w th *h ld )or <od's sa(e7; %nne sa d sweetly- ;I'd *o.nt mysel) l.*(y+ Ephra m- do yo. e&er ! &e )am ly members le!al ad& *e7; Ephra m nodded+ ;,ow and then+; ;'hen tell me+ 'hat day n the yard we were *erta nly battered and bloody- b.t we repeated e&ery word o) the marr a!e &ows a)ter ?e&erend Pratt n )ront o) e !ht w tnesses- and as soon as Cord was well eno.!h we *ame to town and !ot a marr a!e *ert ) *ate+ ?e&erend Pratt s !ned t- Cord and I s !ned t- and 8r+ Benton and 8r+ 6h tewho were there that day and were w tnesses- s !ned t+ 6e saw t entered n the *h.r*h re*ords- and t's entered n the *o.nty re*ords at the *o.rtho.se+ %re we marr ed- or do we need to !o see the prea*her n <renerton tomorrow to ma(e an honest woman o) me7; Cord m.ttered- ;E&ery word e/*ept 'obey+'; %nne wr n(led her nose at h m n mo*( annoyan*e+ ;I th n( yo.'re de&elop n! a ) /at on on that- yo. (now+; Ephra m seemed to be ha& n! tro.ble w th an answer b.t ) nally *leared h s throat and sa d- ;I !.ess I'd say yo.'re as marr ed as anybody+; ?ob leaned a*ross the table toward her+ ;Yo. *an't mean t+ Yo. signed someth n! w th that an mal7 %re yo. o.t o) yo.r m nd7 Don't yo. real 2e nobody meant t7 Yo. *o.ld ha&e wal(ed away7; ;I meant t- and that's all that *o.nts+ 8a(e .p yo.r m nd- ?ob- yo. *an't be ).r o.s be*a.se I'm a shameless h.ssy l & n! n s n- and ).r o.s be*a.se I'm a respe*table marr ed woman too+ P *( a mad+; ?ob !ot .p and wal(ed o.t+ Cord sa d- ;<.ess we're b.y n! h m l.n*h a)ter all+;

%nne la.!hed n a!reement- and then added- ;%nd I !ot o.t o) the ) &e3m n.te le*t.re+; Be)ore anyone *o.ld say more- ,oah ?eynolds wal(ed .p to the table and dropped nto the *ha r ?ob had &a*ated+ Cord sa d- ;I) yo.'&e *ome )or a )ree l.n*h- ,oah- yo.'re too late+; ;,o- I'&e eaten+ I heard yo. were n town and de* ded to tal( to yo. two+ Yo. (now there's a lot o) .!ly tal( !o n! aro.nd7; ;Heard some+; %nne as(ed- ;L (e what7; Cord answered w th h s best drawl+ ;Some )ol(s th n( I (eep yo. lo*(ed n the root *ellar most o) the t me+ Some th n( I (eep yo. t ed to the bed+ I ( nd o) l (e the bed theory better 3 warmer+; %!hast- she loo(ed ba*( and )orth between the two men+ ;How *an anybody th n( s.*h a st.p d th n!7 I'm s tt n! r !ht here aren't I7 6hat's wron! w th them7; ,oah sa d- ;Somet mes ) a woman's s*ared eno.!h o) a man- she'll ( nd o) !o alon! w th h m and not as( )or help or try to !et away+ It happens+; She sp t words at h m+ ;Do I loo( s*ared to yo.7 Yo. (now better than that+; ;S.re- I (now better- b.t these )ol(s n town don't- and they (eep ( *( n! t aro.nd+ I) yo. don't do someth n! to 9. et some o) the tal( yo.'re !o n! to ha&e a mob n yo.r yard a!a n one o) these days+ Yo. don't want that- do yo.7; ;'he ne/t mob n o.r yard s !o n! to !et shot at+ I (now how now- yo. (now+ 6hat are yo. s.!!est n! we do to 9. et the tal(- mo&e to another *o.ntry7; ,oah s !hed+ ;,ow- %nne- noth n! that drast *+ 6hy don't yo. try *om n! to *h.r*h a!a n7 Let people see eno.!h o) yo. to (now that yo.'re ) ne and nobody's )or* n! yo. to do anyth n!+; ;Be*a.se I don't *are to spend my S.ndays n *h.r*h l sten n! to ?e&erend Yellow3 Belly Pratt tell n! people how to be !ood Chr st ans- that's why= I) I sat n that *h.r*h and l stened to h m )or ) &e m n.tes I'd probably be r.nn n! .p to the p.lp t and so*( n! h m r !ht n h s sn &el n! nose+; Spo l n! )or a ) !ht now- %nne t.rned her !lare on Cord+ ;%nd how s t that yo. (now abo.t th s tal( and I ha&en't heard a word7; Cord was st.dy n! an empty plate w th !reat *are- b.t answered read ly eno.!h- ;I wal(ed nto the )eed store a )ew wee(s a!o when old Charl e Ha!!erty was !o n! on abo.t t+ D dn't see me t ll too late+; ;%nd I s.ppose yo. spo(e r !ht .p and stra !htened h m o.t+; ;%ss.m n! he'd bel e&e me- ha&e a heart- %nn e+ Poor old man probably th n(s abo.t t )or an ho.r e&ery n !ht be)ore he !ets .p the *o.ra!e to *l mb nto bed w th that pr.ne o) a w )e o) h s+; %nne lost the ) !ht to stay o))ended+ 'he *orners o) her mo.th started tw t*h n! .pward+ ,oah tr ed a!a n+ ;6 ll yo. th n( abo.t t- please7 Yo. don't need more tro.ble+; %nne sa d- ;%ll r !ht- we'll !%in- abo.t t+; Cord stood .p and be!an *o.nt n! money on the table+ %nne sa d !oodbye to 8artha and Ephra m and )ollowed h m o.t to the horses+ 'hro.!h the w ndow Ephra m wat*hed Cord and %nne !et on the r horses and start down the street (nee to (nee and )elt a sharp stab o) re!ret+ O%, $i!!$e br#!%er, %#' did

!%ings e&er "#me !# !%is ass be!'een us6 'he sher ))'s r.e).l words drew Ephra m's attent on ba*( ns de+ ;'hat woman's *han!ed a lot n the last months- altho.!h I !.ess yo. don't !et tempered steel o.t o) the ) re .nless what !oes n s steel ) rst+; ,oah ran h s ) n!ers thro.!h h s th nn n! !ray ha r and !r nned+ Ephra m as(ed- ;How m.*h o) the story o) how they !ot marr ed do yo. (now,oah7; ;I !.ess I (now abo.t all o) t+ %t least %nne sa d she told me e&eryth n!+ Her )ather sent me o.t there to br n! her ba*(+ Sa d he'd !o h msel) b.t he was a)ra d o) r.nn n! nto more Bennetts- e&en tho.!h Cord deser&ed ( ll n!+ O) *o.rse- when I !ot there- Cord was al &e- and %nne wo.ldn't *ome ba*(+; ;6ell- we don't (now what really happened- and t seems l (e h !h t me we )o.nd o.t+; S.rpr se showed on ,oah's )a*e+ ;Yo. mean they ne&er told yo.7; ;'he ) rst t me >ran( and I went o.t there we made a lot o) ass.mpt ons- wh *h t seems were all wron!+ %nne was ).r o.s- and I s.ppose she's ne&er really )or! &en .sand yo. (now Cord+ He's ne&er !o n! to e/pla n anyth n!+; ;I !.ess I ne&er tho.!ht abo.t t+ He sa d she ran yo. o.t o) the ho.se- b.t when I tho.!ht t o&er- I ) !.red he was p.ll n! my le!+ I mean- a woman r.nn n! >ran(++++; Eph *.t h m o))+ ;,oah- nobody's a better 1.d!e o) women than >ran(- and <od (nows he's had too m.*h !.n e/per en*e- e&en )or!ett n! those years n the war+ It was >ran( who de* ded to !o and !o )ast+ He sa d she wasn't bl.)) n!- )rom the loo( o) her she really 'an!ed to let !o w th the r )le r !ht there n the ho.se+ He ) !.res she's a l ttle *ra2y )rom what happened+; ;She was a l ttle *ra2y when I ) rst !ot there- b.t small wonder+ She loo(s ) ne to me now+ It's a b t o) a story- b.t I'll tell yo. ) yo.'&e !ot the t me+; Ephra m p.lled o.t h s wat*h+ ;,o- I don't today+ I'm !o n! to be late )or an appo ntment as t s+ Co.ld we tal( yo. nto S.nday d nner at o.r ho.se7 'h s s probably a story >ran( needs to hear too+; ,oah a!reed to 1o n the Bennetts )or S.nday d nner read ly eno.!h- and when the ne/t day Leona 6ells stopped Ephra m on the street- as( n! abo.t %nne- Ephra m n& ted Leona to the ho.se S.nday also+ He e&en e/tended the n& tat on to ?ob- (now n! Leona wo.ldn't *ome w tho.t an es*ort+ 8aybe hear n! what ,oah had to say wo.ld be !ood )or %nne's mother and brother too+ Ephra m (new 8artha wo.ld ha&e no tro.ble sett n! an e/tra pla*e )or the sher )) on S.nday+ >or years all the Bennetts had !athered at the r ho.se a)ter *h.r*h+ 'here had been a t me when Cord showed .p pretty re!.larly too- n sp te o) the )am ly d )) *.lt es+ 'hat had ended a *o.ple o) years a!o when L.(e and Pete- l (e >ran( be)ore themhad *ome home )rom an eastern *olle!e early and re).sed to ret.rn+ 'he problem was that the boys be!an to do e&eryth n! they *o.ld th n( o) to pro&o(e a ) !ht w th the r .n*le+ L (e *o*(y yo.n!sters e&erywhere- they were s.re o) the r own n& n* b l ty- s.re ) they had the *han*e- they *o.ld &an9. sh the )am ly le!end+ Ephra m had tr ed e&eryth n! he *o.ld th n( o) to d ss.ade Pete w tho.t s.**ess- and he (new >ran( had tr ed 1.st as hard w th both boys w th an e9.al la*( o) s.**ess+ Unable to *ontrol the r sons- Ephra m and >ran( had tr ed to tal( to Cord+ 'hat tal( had been

s.**ess).l- s n*e Cord t.rned and wal(ed away a)ter the ) rst two senten*es+ He hadn't been to a )am ly !ather n! s n*e+ Con&ersat on was *as.al and !eneral thro.!h d nner+ %s the women be!an to *lear the d shes- ?ob and Leona 6ells arr &ed- and >ran( sent h s yo.n!er *h ldren o)) to & s t )r ends+ ?ob lost no t me ma( n! h s )eel n!s (nown+ ;8y )ather told .s e/a*tly what happened+ 'here's no need )or th s+; Ephra m )elt some sympathy )or Leona 6ells- b.t wondered ) n& t n! her had been a m sta(e when t meant ?ob's an!ry presen*e+ 'hen a!a n- >ran( was 1.st as m.*h a!a nst hear n! what ,oah wo.ld say- b.t )or d ))erent reasons+ ;It's bad eno.!h ha& n! a !ood dea what happened w tho.t hear n! the deta ls+ I'd rather not (now-; he sa d when Ephra m ) rst told h m abo.t h s n& tat on to the sher ))+ B.t >ran( was at the table now- smo( n! one o) h s th n bla*( * !ars and loo( n! .nhappy+ :.d th and 8artha were also there- as were L.(e and Pete- !r nn n! and *.r o.s+ Ephra m *a.!ht ,oah's eye and nodded- lett n! h m (now t was t me to start the story he'd *ome to tell+ ,oah d dn't 1.st start n- tho.!h+ He loo(ed aro.nd the table and sa d- ;I'&e !ot to tell yo. th s sn't a story lad es *an hear+ I th n( the women )ol( o.!ht to wa t n the other room+; 8artha was ha& n! none o) that+ ;,oah- Cord s l (e one o) my own sons+ I'd ta(e t as a personal )a&or ) yo.'d 1.st tell yo.r story+ It wo.ld be eas er than ma( n! Ephra m repeat t later- and ) some o) what yo. ha&e to say s too terr ble I ha&e the sense to lea&e the room when yo. !et to t+ I e/pe*t the same s tr.e o) :.d th and Leona+; Loo( n! aro.nd at the !r m3)a*ed women- ,oah nodded a rel.*tant *onsent+ 'hen he told how Edward *ame to h m and what he )o.nd at the ran*h and most o) what %nne told h m when re).s n! to !o home+ %t ) rst he was nterr.pted )re9.ently by ?ob- sho.t n! e/plos &ely- ;I don't bel e&e t=; :.st as Ephra m had had eno.!h o) the nterr.pt ons and was ready to tell ?ob to (eep 9. et or lea&e- >ran( too( *are o) t )or h m+ ;I'm ha& n! some real tro.ble bel e& n! t mysel)-; he sa d+ ;S.ppose the two .s 1.st (eep o.r mo.ths sh.t anyway and l sten+; >ran('s loo( made t *lear that ) ?ob d dn't (eep h s mo.th sh.t he wasn't !o n! to be aro.nd m.*h lon!er to ob1e*t to anyth n!+ 6hen ,oah ) n shed the story o) what %nne had told h m- he sa d- ;,ow that's 1.st what she sa d- o) *o.rse- b.t I'&e !ot to tell yo. be n! a lawman means be n! o)) * ally nosey- and so as soon as I had the t me I d d some as( n! aro.nd+ %nne's r !ht abo.t Pratt be n! l ly3l &ered- I *o.ldn't !et anyth n! o.t o) h m- and 6h te *lammed .p on me toob.t 8 (e Benton s tear n! h msel) to p e*es w th !. lt o&er ha& n! been there and not at least r d n! o)) l (e Brown d d+ He tal(ed to me- and what he sa d tra*(ed w th %nne's story r !ht down the l ne+; Ephra m had already a**epted they were hear n! the tr.th+ >ran( was st ll ha& n! tro.ble w th t+ ;6e saw h m only a day later+ He was n bed 3 we ) !.red he'd had some r bs sto&e n 3 b.t he d dn't loo( h.rt that bad+;

;I) yo. saw h m all t.*(ed .nder blan(ets he wo.ldn't loo( too bad-; ,oah sa d+ ;H s )a*e loo(ed abo.t l (e he'd been n a bad ) !ht+ 'hey d dn't waste m.*h t me on h s )a*e+ I !ot to adm t to yo.- >ran(- I stopped on the way home )rom there and was s *( by the road+ I'&e ne&er seen a man beaten l (e that and st ll al &e+ It's hard to bel e&e all that !ot bro(e was h s r bs 3 they d dn't m ss an n*h o) h m+; ,oah made a !est.re r !ht o&er h s whole body+ ;%nne sa d t was the ( *( n! a)ter he was down- b.t t was all o&er- e&en down h s le!s and )eet+ Do* Cra ! says t was wee(s be)ore he de* ded he wasn't dy n! slow- he was !ett n! better+ B.t- yo. see- I tho.!ht he was w th yo. then+ It ne&er o**.rred to me %nne was st ll o.t there alone w th h m+ 6hen the two o) them showed .p n town to!ether yo. *o.ld ha&e (no*(ed me o&er w th a )eather+ I 1.st wo.ldn't ha&e ) !.red a woman l (e that wo.ld ha&e anyth n! to do w th h m on*e he !ot better+ S.rpr ses me e&en more they seem to !et alon! pretty !ood+ 'he way she sasses h m he don't s*are her any+; %)ter than( n! 8artha )or the d nner- ,oah too( h msel) o))+ L.(e and Pete )ollowed ,oah o.t- lea& n! ?ob and Leona and the )o.r older Bennetts s tt n! n s len*e aro.nd the ( t*hen table+ Ephra m loo(ed at h s w )e and sa d- ;Do yo. want to say yo. told .s so7; 8artha 1.st shoo( her head+ <rate).l that 8artha wasn't !o n! to r.b t n- Ephra m adm tted- ;I (new )rom what we heard n the *a)e the other day how wron! we were+ %nne d dn't .nderstand what she was really tell n! .s- b.t he d d+ How d d we e&er let t *ome to th s- >ran(7 6e too( the haters' word )or t- and we sho.ld ha&e (nown better+; >ran( b.r ed h s head n h s hands and !roaned- ;8aybe+ 8artha- s there any wh s(ey aro.nd7 I s.re *o.ld .se a dr n(+; 8artha went to a *.pboard and bro.!ht ba*( a bottle o) wh s(ey and one o) sherry and po.red dr n(s )or e&eryone+ Leona 6ells loo(ed &ery m.*h the way her da.!hter wo.ld n twenty years- b.t showed none o) the sp r t so e& dent n %nne n the Bennetts' re*ent en*o.nters w th her+ ,ow- loo( n! pathet *ally .nhappy- Leona s pped her sherry and sh.ddered+ St ll try n! to ) nd some !ro.nd )or d sbel e)- she &o *ed a trem.lo.s ob1e*t on+ ;8y da.!hter was ra sed better than that+ She wo.ldn't wal( n that man's ho.se+ 6hy wo.ld she wal( n that man's ho.se7; Ephra m had l stened to e&ery word o) the story *are).lly- not nh b ted by d sbel e)+ ;8rs+ 6ells- tell me- e/a*tly how m.*h had she had to eat- say n the wee( be)ore she !ot to Cord's7; Leona d dn't ha&e to answer n words+ 'he loo( on her )a*e was answer eno.!h+ ?ob e&ent.ally !ot h s mother *almed down eno.!h to ta(e her home- ma( n! t *lear he st ll d dn't bel e&e a word o) t+ 'hey le)t )o.r 9. et and tho.!ht).l people beh nd+ ;So what are we !o n! to do7; >ran( sa d- &o * n! what was on all the r m nds+ ;'here's noth n! we *an do-; Ephra m sa d+ ;Yo. (now ) we went o.t there and tr ed to apolo! 2e he'd 1.st t.rn h s ba*( and wal( away+ B.y n! 8artha and me l.n*h the other day was a pea*e o))er n! o) a sort+ 6e'd better lea&e t+; So they de* ded to lea&e t be*a.se they d dn't (now what else to do+ ***

CHAPTER 2&
ANNE 4RO3G,. 3P W,E.,ER .,EY sho.ld attend *h.r*h se&eral t mes n the r n !ht tal(s+ In the end- they de* ded to !o+ She ne&er ment oned her real reason )or p.rs. n! the matter 3 she wanted to see Cord dressed .p n h s new s. t- wh *h he had not worn s n*e Chr stmas+ She )elt t m !ht be n *e to let h m !et a !ood loo( at her all dressed .p too+ Cord *learly wasn't enth.sed abo.t spend n! t me at the ser& *e- b.t sa d he d dn't m nd S.nday as a day o) rest+ He was also bl.nt abo.t not want n! another mob n the yard+ I) ,oah ?eynolds tho.!ht *h.r*h m !ht pa* )y the town- he was w ll n! to ! &e t a try+ 'he ) rst problem was that %nne d dn't th n( Aeeper was a s. table b.!!y horse+ She tr ed to dan*e s.btly aro.nd the po nt- b.t Cord went r !ht the heart o) the matter+ ;,ot pretty eno.!h )or yo.- h.h7; ;6ell- he's pretty eno.!h- b.t he loo(s l (e what he s- a man's saddle horse+ % b.!!y horse sho.ld be more- more++++; ;Pretty+; ;,o-; she sear*hed )or the r !ht word- ;8ore ele!ant+; She h.rr ed on to ta(e the st n! o.t o) her words+ ;Don't yo. ha&e a horse that's 1.st a l ttle more re) ned or someth n! that sn't a &ery !ood saddle horse anyway7; %t her words- Cord !rew tho.!ht).l+ 'he ne/t day he too( %nne o.t n the past.res and po nted o.t a !ro.p o) horses he sa d were d sappo nt n!ly small and short3str ded+ He had *.lled the mares that prod.*ed them- l (e Lady- )rom the broodmare band- b.t there were st ll hal) a do2en o) the small- rather pretty an mals on the ran*h+ ;E&ery year I th n( I sho.ld ro.nd them .p and r.n them thro.!h an a.*t on- b.t I hate to see them end .p as meat+ 6o.ld one o) them do7; ;Oh- yes- that's e/a*tly the r !ht ( nd o) horse+; ;Choose+; She *hose a bla*( mare w th &ery low almost mat*h n! wh te so*(s beh nd and named her S l&erheels- S l& e )or short+ ;6 ll t ta(e lon! be)ore she *an p.ll the b.!!y7; ;,o- they're all already saddle bro(e+ 6ee( or so w ll ma(e a b.!!y horse+; Cord be!an wor( n! the l ttle mare )or harness- b.t they d dn't !o to *h.r*h the ne/t S.nday a)ter all+ %nne )elt espe* ally pretty n a dar( bl.e dress w th l !hter bl.e tr m and a rather pert hat that went well w th the o.t) t- and Cord loo(ed e&ery b t as !ood as she had ma! ned n the s. t+ :.st as they were almost ready to wal( o.t the door- howe&er- he s.ddenly !a&e her a hard loo(+ ;6hat the hell ha&e yo. !ot on7 Yo. loo( d ))erent+; H.rt- she repl ed- ;It's one o) my best dresses )or *h.r*h+ 6hat don't yo. l (e abo.t t7; ;'he dress s pretty+ Yo. loo( stran!e+ %ll s9.ashed n and hard+; % lon! nde/ ) n!er po(ed at her r b *a!e+ Ind !nant now- and .nderstand n!- she answered lo)t ly- ;I ha&e a *orset on+ I *an't !o to *h.r*h w tho.t wear n! a proper )o.ndat on+;

;Yo.'re sl m eno.!h yo. loo( 1.st ) ne w tho.t that th n!+ 6hat ) yo. *an't breathe and yo. pass o.t n *h.r*h r !ht n )ront o) the whole town7 'hey'll th n( I d d someth n!+; ;It's not e&en la*ed t !htly+ I *an breathe 1.st ) ne+ Yo. 1.st don't want to !o+ 6hy d dn't yo. say so be)ore we went to all th s tro.ble7; ;I'm w ll n! to !o+ :.st ta(e that th n! o))+ It's probably bad )or yo.r nnards to be all tr.ssed .p l (e that+; She had- n )a*t- a)ter months o) not wear n! one- )or!otten how m serably *on) n n! the !arment was- b.t she wasn't !o n! to tell h m that+ He was the same as e&ery other man she'd e&er (nown- tell n! her how to dress+ >.r o.s- she sa d- ;>or!et t+ I'm not !o n! to *h.r*h loo( n! l (e a trollop+ ,o *orsetno *h.r*h+; She stormed ba*( to the bedroom and be!an to *han!e to e&eryday *lothes+ Lean n! n the doorway wat*h n! her- he drawled- ;'rollops wear those th n!s- yo. (now- bla*( ones 3 or red+; 8adder than e&er- she snapped- ;It's *erta nly n *e to (now my h.sband s s.*h an e/pert on trollops+ 8aybe yo. o.!ht to start ta( n! one to *h.r*h+; She p.shed past h m and ban!ed the (ettle down on the sto&e+ 8aybe a *.p o) tea wo.ld help *alm her down+ Her tea was made and she was s pp n! t when t *ame to her that Cord's pre)eren*e )or her nat.ral shape was not really a *r t * sm 3 t m !ht e&en be *onstr.ed as a *ompl ment+ Perhaps she really had !otten too an!ry too )ast+ 'hen t o**.rred to her that he was ta( n! m.*h lon!er than t wo.ld ta(e h m to *han!e h s *lothes+ C.r o.s- and th n( n! she m !ht e&en apolo! 2e- she went to ta(e a pee( n the bedroom+ <aw( n! at the s !ht that met her eyes- she told hersel)- I sho.ld be an!ry+ I m.st be an!ry+ B.t t too( all her stren!th not to do.ble o&er w th la.!hter+ He had ndeed *han!ed h s *lothes- and then had !one thro.!h her th n!s and )o.nd her other *orset+ 8ade espe* ally to !o .nder )an*y !owns- t was ed!ed all aro.nd w th la*e- and b ts o) la*e were now )loat n! thro.!h the a r as Cord &ery method *ally .sed the (n )e he always had somewhere on h m to *.t the two *orsets nto t ny p e*es+ It was *erta nly )ort.nate that the dress she had *hosen )or *h.r*h- altho.!h )ash onably draped at the ba*(- was not b.stled+ 8ost o) her wardrobe was !o n! to need mod )y n! be)ore she *o.ld wear t w tho.t pro&o( n! mayhem+ %nne wal(ed ).rther nto the room- ! & n! .p the ) !ht to stay an!ry+ 6hat she wanted to do was start p.ll n! the small b ts o) la*e o.t o) the bla*( ha r- smooth them o.t o) the w n!s o) h s eyebrows- s t down on the bed bes de h m and ha&e h m hold her and ( ss her- b.t she (new that wasn't !o n! to happen+ Instead she sat a *are).l d stan*e )rom h m and sa d- ;%ll r !ht- yo. w n+ I'll ne&er e&en th n( abo.t wear n! a *orset a!a n- to *h.r*h or any pla*e else- b.t yo. remember n ten years when I'm not so sl m and yo. start to th n( maybe I'd loo( better all tr.ssed .pyo.'re !o n! to ha&e to re9.est me to wear one- *omplete w th please+; Cord wat*hed her wal( o.t o) the room and tho.!ht in !en years+ I '#nder i) I'$$ e&en -n#' '%ere s%e is in !en years( 'he ne/t S.nday they made t to *h.r*h+ S n*e the p.rpose o) attend n! ser& *es was to pa* )y the townspeople- Cord de* ded no matter how th n!s stood w th h s brothers- )ol(s m !ht as well be rem nded that he was part o) a lar!e and *lann sh )am ly+ He made s.re that they arr &ed early eno.!h S.nday morn n! to 1o n the rest o) the Bennetts as they wal(ed )rom Ephra m's to the *h.r*h+

He was spared ntrod.*t ons+ %nne was not only already a*9.a nted w th all the Bennetts- she had told h m that >ran('s w )e- :.d th- was one o) the women her )am ly re!.larly held .p to her as a model o) all she sho.ld be and wasn't+ E&en )eat.red- st ll sl m a)ter bear n! >ran( three sons and a da.!hter- the pale blonde bea.ty .s.ally had a serene a r abo.t her+ Cord- howe&er- had o&er the years end.red 9. te eno.!h o) the hal)3*ra2ed beha& or h s mere presen*e o)ten pro&o(ed n :.d th+ He had stron! deas abo.t wh *h woman o.!ht to be em.lat n! the other and had told %nne so+ %nne's 9. *(- m s*h e&o.s sm le at h m a)ter she !reeted :.d th told h m she was remember n! what he had to say on the s.b1e*t+ >ran( and :.d th's three yo.n!est *h ldren- < l- 8art n- and Beth- were properly pol te- b.t Cord d d not m ss the *ontemplat &e way L.(e- >ran('s oldest at "$- and Ephra m's son- Pete- who was the same a!e- re!arded %nne+ 'hey were wonder n! ) there was a way to .se her to pro&o(e the ) !ht they were spo l n! )or+ %nd damn themthey m !ht be r !ht that they now had a le&er they *o.ld .se to !et what they wanted+ %nne loo(ed s.rpr sed to ) nd hersel) sandw *hed amon! Bennetts n a pew *lose to the )ront o) the *h.r*h- b.t t wasn't lon! be)ore she )o*.sed s.*h an .n)or! & n! !lare on Pratt that he started st.tter n!+ >or the ) rst t me n h s memory- Cord )o.nd the ser& *e enterta n n!+ %s they le)t the *h.r*h- Cord heard a moan- and Leona 6ells en&eloped h s w )e n a h.!- weep n! .n*ontrollably+ 8aybe ?ob *o.ldn't !et her home yell n! at her- b.t th s 1.st m !ht do t+ %nne !ot her mother seated on one o) the ben*hes n the *h.r*hyard and he heard her say- ;,ow- 8other- e ther yo. stop *ry n! r !ht now- or I'm 1.st !o n! home w tho.t e&en tal( n! to yo.+ Come on now- I'm ) ne- !et hold o) yo.rsel)+; >eel n! de) n tely better- Cord headed )or the b.!!y- only to ) nd %rmand and Helene LeCler* pett n! h s new b.!!y horse+ ;8orn n!- 8r+ LeCler*- ma'am+; ;%rmand- *all me %rmand- and my w )e Helene+ >rom a man whose w )e wears one o) my prett est r n!s I want no m ster+ 'h s s yo.r horse- yes7; ;Yeah- %nne had a not on what ( nd o) horse sho.ld p.ll a b.!!y- so she p *(ed her o.t+ 'oo small )or a saddle horse anyway+; %rmand's ro.nd *heer).l )a*e )ell+ ;'hen she's not )or sale7 8y w )e and I .sed to ha&e a b.!!y horse+ 6e spent many a happy ho.r dr & n! aro.nd+ 6e had no part *.lar pla*e to !o+ It was 1.st )or ).n- b.t we *o.ld ne&er ) nd another one l (e h m when he !ot too old+ I *o.ld pay yo. a h.ndred and ) )ty dollars )or a horse l (e th s+ 6e're not horsemen+ 6e need someth n! that doesn't )r !hten .s on the !ro.nd or n the b.!!y+; See n! LeCler*s tal( n! to Cord- %nne almost dra!!ed her mother o&er as )ast as she *o.ld and heard th s last+ ;6hy- 8r+ LeCler*- 8other had e/a*tly the same problem a)ter o.r old 8oll e d ed+ Yo.'re r !ht- S l& e wo.ld be 1.st per)e*t )or yo.+; ;S l& e7; ;Her name s S l&erheels- b.t we *all her S l& e+; ;%h- s.*h a pretty name )or s.*h a pretty mare+ 6ell- ) she's yo.r own spe* al horse++++;

%nne w n(ed at h m+ ;:.st a m n.te+; She p.lled Cord to one s de+ ;6o.ld t be aw).l to let them ha&e her7 'hey were so n *e to .s+ I l (ed that bay w th the narrow bla2e too+ Co.ldn't yo. 1.st wor( h m )or .s7 Is a h.ndred and ) )ty dollars a terr ble pr *e7; ;It's h !hway robbery )or a horse l (e that+; ;B.t t's worth t to them+ She'd sui! them+; ;I) one o) the others w ll s. t y#u- sell her+; %nne t.rned ba*( to the elderly *o.ple+ ;8r+ LeCler*+; ;%rmand- %rmand and Helene+; ;%rmand- why don't yo. and Helene ta(e a dr &e aro.nd town w th Cord and ma(e s.re S l& e s really 1.st what yo. want- and ) she s- yo. *an ha&e her )or a h.ndred and ) )ty dollars+ 'here's a bay !eld n! I almost p *(ed he's !o n! to ) / )or me 3 .nless yo.'d rather *ome to the ran*h and *hoose )rom se&eral+; ;,o- no- we *an't bel e&e yo. ha&e anyth n! n *er than th s lady+; %rmand and Helene were st ll stro( n! the so)t m.22le+ Cord dro&e the l ttle mare thro.!h town w th %rmand- then wat*hed as the LeCler*s too( t.rns dr & n!+ On the r ) nal swoop past the *h.r*h- Helene had the re ns- and the two were la.!h n! l (e *h ldren+ Cord t.!!ed h s hat down lower o&er h s eyes+ S.*h .nrestra ned merr ment embarrassed h m+ St ll- he dro&e LeCler*s to the r doorstep and prom sed to del &er the mare the ne/t S.nday and stay )or d nner+ %nne wo.ld en1oy & s t n! w th the *o.ple a!a n+ %nne le)t her mother and brother n the *h.r*hyard as he halted the horse n the street+ It appeared that Leona 6ells had ne&er stopped *ry n!- and ?ob was st ll !lower n! at them both+ On the way home Cord probed a l ttle+ ;How was yo.r mother7; ;6eepy+; ;%nd yo.r brother7; ;Sel)3r !hteo.sly d sappro& n!+; She d sm ssed the whole s.b1e*t as .n mportant+ ;Do yo. s.ppose n add t on to 6 ll e yo. sho.ld harness brea( another o) those l ttle horses to sell7; ;6 ll e7; ;Sweet 6 ll am- the bay !eld n!+; ;8m+ 8aybe+; Cord wondered ) he o.!ht to warn Bob 6 ndon that he was n dan!er o) be n! p.t o.t o) b.s ness soon+ EDWARD WELLS ,AD 4EEN ANGRY when he'd real 2ed h s da.!hter wo.ld not *ome home+ 6hen he real 2ed she was not n Ch *a!o as e&eryone s.pposed- h s ).ry (new no bo.nds+ In Edward's op n on %nne needed to spend the rest o) her l )e l & n! l (e a re*l.se n Ch *a!o to m t !ate the d s!ra*e she had bro.!ht on the )am ly+ %t ) rst- Edward- l (e h s son- had ma nta ned that %nne was not really marr ed+ %)ter ?ob reported the *on&ersat on o&er l.n*h w th Ephra m and 8artha- and a)ter a ra! n! *on)rontat on w th ?e&erend Pratt- 6ells adm tted to h msel) that h s da.!hter was ndeed marr ed to the re!rettably st ll al &e hal)3breed+ Ha& n! )or years been obsessed w th see n! h s da.!hter marr ed- Edward was now obsessed w th see n! her marr a!e ended+ He wo.ld ha&e l (ed to 1.st r de o.t to the

ran*h w th another mob and ta(e her- b.t Edward (new that when the Do.ble 8 men le)t town two o) them had !.nshot wo.nds+ He had heard r.mors abo.t how they !ot those wo.nds+ 'h n( n! Cord *o.ld ha&e shot two men so soon a)ter a beat n! that sho.ld ha&e ( lled h m d st.rbed Edward- so he p.shed the tho.!ht o.t o) h s m nd+ %nd he (new the hal)3breed was ne&er !o n! to be *a.!ht .nawares l (e that a!a n+ Edward only attended *h.r*h on Easter and one or two other o**as ons a year+ ?obhowe&er- d.t ).lly reported %nne's presen*e at S.nday ser& *es- and ).rther that she had tal(ed to Leona and to h m wh le Cord was o)) sell n! a horse+ Hear n! th s- Edward d dn't bother *on*eal n! h s sm le+ I) h s da.!hter was !o n! to be n town .nder s.*h * r*.mstan*es- t sho.ldn't be too d )) *.lt to !et her ba*( .nder h s *ontrol a!a n shortly+ %*t.ally- t wo.ld ta(e Edward se&eral wee(s to ) nd the ( nd o) man he wanted and to ma(e arran!ements )or what he wanted done+ ***

CHAPTER 21
ANNE WAS DELIG,.ED .O FIND that beh nd the ho.se near the *ree( there was an or*hard o) )r. t trees+ Cord's )ather had planted them many years a!o- and they had not been tended s n*e the )am ly mo&ed to the b ! ho.se+ %pple- pea*h- pl.m- and *herry 3 all were st ll prod.* n! to some e/tent+ Cord helped h msel) to )resh )r. t when t was n season b.t d d noth n! abo.t the or*hard+ %nne be!an plann n! p es- *obblers- 1ams- and a w nter s.pply o) preser&ed )r. t+ E&en better was her d s*o&ery o) a pat*h o) w ld strawberr es- also a le!a*y o) :am e Bennett's early years on the ran*h+ ,ear the strawberr es was a re*tan!le o) !ro.nd that showed s !ns o) lon!3a!o *.lt &at on- and she be!an to ma(e plans )or a lar!e !arden n the same spot+ Cord seemed nd ))erent to all these plans e/*ept )or a sardon * remar( that ) she were !o n! to (eep hand )eed n! the horses she sho.ld plant the whole th n! w th *arrots+ 'hey were better )or the horses than the s.!ar she ) lled her po*(ets w th e&ery morn n!+ %nne p.r*hased small 9.ant t es o) all the seeds she wanted and ten t mes more *arrots than sho.ld be ne*essary )or two people at 8 les' store+ 'he ne/t day she ea!erly sear*hed the *arr a!e shed- )o.nd a sho&el- and started )or the !arden spot+ Cord *a.!ht her hal)way+ ;6hat are yo. do n! w th the sho&el7; ;I'm !o n! to start d !! n! .p the !arden+; ;Yo.'re not d !! n! anyth n!+; ;Yo. *an't !arden w tho.t t.rn n! the !ro.nd-; she sa d reasonably+ ;I'm !o n! to ta(e se&eral days and do t l ttle by l ttle+; ;,o- yo.'re not+; She thr.st the sho&el at h m+ ;%ll r !ht- then yo. do t+; ;I'm not d !! n! .p anyth n! that s 2e w th a sho&el e ther+; Her temper too( mmed ate )l !ht+ ;'hen why d dn't yo. say so yesterday nstead o) a*t n! l (e t was all r !ht and lett n! me waste money on all those seeds7 Damn yo.why *o.ldn't yo. 1.st open yo.r mo.th and say someth n! )or a *han!e7; H.m l ated to ) nd she was sobb n! by the end o) th s- she t.rned and ran )or the ho.se+

Cord wat*hed her )lee n! ) !.re w th a s n( n! )eel n!+ 'h s was not at all what he had ntended- and he had no dea how to .ndo t+ 6 th a s !h- he ret.rned the sho&el to the shed and saddled .p one o) the three3year3olds he was now wor( n! )or a lon! r de+ %nne was an!r er than she'd e&er been be)ore- not e/a*tly re).s n! to spea( b.t *oldly d stant+ 'hat n !ht there was no *hee( a!a nst h s sho.lder- no ) n!ers *.r&ed aro.nd h s arm m.s*les- b.t a spa*e between them and her ba*( toward h m- a**.s n!+ 'he ne/t morn n! thro.!h the ( t*hen w ndow he not *ed a small pat*h o) t.rned earth n the !arden area+ On h s way to the barn he !athered .p e&ery mplement that m !ht be .sed )or d !! n! and b.r ed them n the hay n the hay barn+ He was now )eel n! as st.bbornly ).r o.s as she was+ 'wo days later they were st ll stal( n! aro.nd ea*h other n almost total s len*e+ Cord wa ted )or the )atal words 3 I'&e had eno.!h o) th s- I'&e had eno.!h o) yo.- I want to !o to <renerton- I want to !o home- I want to be anywhere b.t here+ H s mood d dn't mpro&e when >o/)a*e so.nded an alarm- and >ran( rode nto the yard+ He had arr &ed at l.n*h t me- and %nne pol tely n& ted h m to eat w th them- b.t t was only m n.tes be)ore >ran( sensed the an!ry *.rrents sw rl n! aro.nd the room+ ;I'd say yo. two aren't !ett n! alon! too well-; he sa d+ %nne showed no more n*l nat on to respond to th s than Cord+ >ran('s sympath es- o) *o.rse- all went n one d re*t on+ ;%nne- ) yo. want help to++++; He !ot no ).rther+ %nne's ) sts ban!ed on the table- ma( n! the d shes rattle- then she was on her )eet- absol.tely s*ream n!- days o) pent .p ).ry e/plod n! all at on*e+ ;Don't yo. say t+ So help me ) yo. say t- I won't 1.st r.n yo. o.t o) the ho.se- I'll s%##! yo.+ 6e're ha& n! a ) !ht- and t's none o) yo.r b.s ness+ Don't yo. tell me n o&er twenty years o) marr a!e yo. and yo.r w )e ne&er had a mar tal 9.arrel+ I'm so mad at h m I'd l (e to beat h m worse than 8ee(s d d+ I'd l (e to shoot h m so ).ll o) holes he *o.ld be a s e&e+ I'd l (e to *.t o)) h s head and b.ry t somewhere )ar away )rom h s body- b.t I'll !et o&er t+ 6e'll wor( t o.t and l )e w ll !o on- and n the meant me- t's none o) yo.r business+; >eel n!s &ented- %nne ran o.t the )ront door- slamm n! t so hard the whole ho.se seemed to 9. &er+ >ran( a*t.ally loo(ed sha(en as he as(ed- ;Does she !et l (e that o)ten7; ;,ope- yo. seem to r le her+; Cord (new 9. te well how &ery )ew women had e&er d s*on*erted h s brother+ ;I r le her7 She wants to ( ll yo.- d smember yo.- and d sperse yo.r body parts- and I r le her7; ;Yo. ( nd o) r.b her the wron! way+; <lan* n! at h s brother now and then as ) to (eep alert )or ).rther l.na* es- >ran( !ot b.sy ) n sh n! h s l.n*h+ Cord ate the rest o) h s )ood w tho.t tast n! t- h s sp r ts r s n! stead ly+ 'hese past days o) hell were not the end o) e&eryth n!- they were a ;mar tal 9.arrel-; and they were !o n! to wor( t o.t+ He wanted to say the words alo.d and taste them+ He had &a!.e re*olle*t ons o) :.d th wal( n! aro.nd the b ! ho.se loo( n! st )) and steely3eyed and >ran( ban! n! and *.rs n!- o) 8artha and Ephra m a*t n! the same way+ % mar tal 9.arrel+

>ran( !ot aro.nd to what he had *ome )or+ ;Loo(- Cord- yo. (now Eph and I wo.ld l (e to ha&e yo. *ome to the ho.se S.ndays+ Yo. (now why yo. *an't+; Cord )elt rr tat on at ha& n! to th n( abo.t someth n! else r !ht then+ ;Yeah- I (now+ Don't worry abo.t t+; ;'hey're o.r s#ns+; ;I) they want t bad eno.!h- they'll !et t sooner or later- no matter what yo. do+ Yo. (now that+; ;8aybe not+ I'm not !o n! to s t by and wat*h yo. beat my son to death- brother or no+; ;I'm not !o n! to ( ll yo.r damn son- >ran(+ I) yo. don't (now t- yo. sho.ld+; >ran( stood .p- *on)l *t n! emot ons show n! n h s )a*e+ ;I don't (now t+ I don't bel e&e t+ I w sh I d d+; Cord shr.!!ed and d dn't reply as >ran( wal(ed o.t+ 'here was no s !n o) %nne anywhere as he wal(ed to the barn+ He d dn't loo( )or her b.t 1.st threw wor( harness on Aeeper and headed )or the *arr a!e shed- start n! what he had ntended to do days a!o+ %nne was s tt n! beh nd the barn w th >o/)a*e *.rled bes de her and a lap ).ll o) barn *ats+ She had stopped *ry n!- and her an!er was be! nn n! to d ssol&e+ Ha& n! >ran( Bennett o) all people *at*h her ) !ht n! w th her h.sband and lett n! h m !oad her nto los n! *ontrol made e&eryth n! worse+ She was ready to p.t t all as de and try to )or!et abo.t the !arden+ She wo.ld ! &e the seeds to her mother ne/t S.nday and be done w th t+ 'he tro.ble was that as the months passed- she l (ed Cord more and more- and th s was spo l n! th n!s+ She wo.ld ne&er l (e h m 9. te so m.*h a!a n+ I) he'd sa d someth n! when she ) rst ment oned a !arden- b.t to wa t and then p.ll what she *o.ld only see as an e/er* se o) power o&er her+ She really had been )ool sh to bel e&e he wasn't l (e that+ 6ell- as her mother sa d- t was her bed o) thorns+ 'he shadows were len!then n!+ She *o.ld hear no ses n the barn that told her he was be! nn n! e&en n! *hores- b.t she went ba*( to the ho.se- a&o d n! h m as she had )or the last se&eral days+ 'omorrow morn n!- she tho.!ht- I w ll !et .p and a*t as ) t ne&er happened and t doesn't matter+ 'here w ll be other t mes l (e th s o&er the years- and I'm !o n! to learn to handle t+ %nne was alone n the bed when she wo(e n the morn n!+ She (new Cord d dn't e/pe*t her to *ome to the barn w th h m anyway and had not bothered to wa(e her+ B.t today she was !o n! to stop the *h ld sh d splay o) temper+ So determ ned- she went o.t to the ( t*hen and started prepar n! brea()ast+ <lan* n! thro.!h the ( t*hen w ndow- she *a.!ht s !ht o) the !arden area+ >or the past days the s !ht had been an a!!ra&at on- b.t now she stared .nbel e& n!+ 'hen she wal(ed slowly o.ts de to stand at the ed!e o) the plot+ It's not 1.st plowed- she tho.!hthe's done someth n! more+ I *o.ldn't ra(e t any ) ner+ She swallowed hard- )eel n! all at on*e &ery small+ Cord was almost ) n shed n the barn- po.r n! m l( nto low pans )or the *ats+ He be*ame &ery st ll as %nne approa*hed+ >or on*e she was ha& n! tro.ble meet n! h s eyes+ ;Cord7; He leaned o&er and ) lled another pan- not answer n!+

;I don't blame yo. ) yo.'re not )eel n! &ery )or! & n!+ I d d the same th n! yo.r )am ly always does- d dn't I7 'oo( a )ast loo( at th n!s and 1.mped to the &ery worst *on*l.s on poss ble+; ;I *o.ld ha&e e/pla ned+; ;8aybe yo. wo.ld ha&e ) I hadn't been so b.sy *all n! yo. names+; %nne's &o *e was a h.s(y wh sper+ ;I'm sorry- really+ I w sh I *o.ld prom se t won't e&er happen a!a n- b.t I *an't e&en do that+ I'll try+ 'r.st n! seems to be the hardest part+; ;:.st !row someth n! worth eat n! n the damn th n! a)ter all th s- w ll yo.+; She !a&e h m a small watery sm le+ ;%re yo. st ll an!ry7; ;,o- I'm not an!ry+; Her sm le broadened a b t+ ;'here m !ht not be room )or anyth n! )or .s to eat a)ter I plant all the *arrots+; 'hey wal(ed to the ho.se to!ether- at pea*e )or the ) rst t me n days- both *on& n*ed they were ne&er !o n! thro.!h anyth n! l (e that a!a n+ ***

CHAPTER 22
'HE ,EF' SU,D%Y CO?D 6%'CHED %nne's .n)or! & n! !lares ha&e the .s.al e))e*t on ?e&erend Pratt w th am.sement+ 8aybe he o.!ht to po nt o.t to her that the st.tter n! meant the ser& *e too( lon!er- more t me ha& n! to pretend to l sten to Pratt's hypo*r t *al plat t.des+ 6hen *h.r*h ) nally let o.t- he headed ba*( to where they had le)t the b.!!y- lea& n! %nne w th her mother .nder ?ob's s.rly !.ard and the Bennetts wat*h n! o&er L.(e and Pete as ) they were baby *h *(s and a haw( was & s ble n the s(y+ He p.lled o)) h s 1a*(et and t e and )olded them a*ross the b.!!y seat- dr n( n! n deep breaths o) the spr n! a r- adm r n! the pale yellow3!reen halos on the trees that were 1.st be! nn n! to lea) o.t+ 8aybe today they'd stop somewhere on the road on the way home to eat the l.n*h %nne pa*(ed nstead o) eat n! n the b.!!y as the horse *l pped alon! the way they had been do n!+ 'he day was too pretty not to ta(e t me and en1oy t+ % short s*ream )rom Leona bro.!ht h m o.t o) th s re&er e+ % 9. *( !lan*e n that d re*t on had h m trans)err n! the (n )e n h s boot to the ba*( o) h s belt- and start n! ba*( toward the *h.r*h+ 6hen the b ! man p.shed her mother to the !ro.nd and * r*led her throat w th a d rty arm- a wa&e o) )ear so ntense her & s on bl.rred swept thro.!h %nne+ She str.!!led )or breath- the memory o) Lem Sam.els' assa.lt lea& n! her )ro2en and .nable to rea*t+ 'he br.te dra!!ed her .p onto the wooden s dewal( n )ront o) the ) rst shops *lose to the *h.r*h+ He stopped by two other b ! stran!ers- and sa d- ;He's *om n!+ He heard the mother+; 'he men stood there- wa t n!- and then %nne saw h m+ Cord+ %t the s !ht- she )o.nd hersel) able to breathe a!a n+ He wal(ed to the *enter o) the street- then stood sto*(3st lld dn't mo&e e&en when the man hold n! her p.lled a (n )e and .sed t to r p her hat o)) and loosen her ha r .nt l t )ell aro.nd her sho.lders+

%s %nne's pan * re*eded- she real 2ed the man hold n! her had started to breathe hard and )ast- as ) he had e/erted h msel)- b.t he had not+ He's a)ra d- she tho.!ht- and he sho.ld be+ Cord's st llness was that o) a *ro.*hed predator+ 'he hard- )lat loo( that *ame aro.nd h s eyes when he was rr tated or an!ry was a**ent.ated a h.ndred3)old- lea& n! the s( n stret*hed too t !htly o&er h s bones- h s mo.th a th n- stra !ht l ne+ H s eyes b.rned l (e l &e *oals+ Her *aptor be!an wa& n! the (n )e- ta.nt n!- ma( n! the same ( nd o) threats Sam.els had abo.t what he was !o n! to do to a ;In1.n's whore+; He pressed the (n )e blade a!a nst %nne's mo.th- then wa&ed t to the s de as ) to ma(e s.re t *o.ld be seend d the same th n! on one s de o) her )a*e- then the other+ 'he th rd t me he stret*hed h s arm to the s de- wa& n! the (n )e- Cord's arm bl.rred w th mot on+ %nne ne&er saw Cord's (n )e n h s hand or n the a r- only heard the th.mp as t b.r ed tsel) n the )leshy part o) the b ! man's )orearm+ 'he )or*e was so !reat h s arm th.dded ba*( a!a nst the wooden )ront o) the store beh nd h m- held there by the blade thro.!h h s m.s*le embedded n the wood+ He be!an s*ream n! and loosened h s !r p on %nne+ She stamped on h s booted )oot as hard as she *o.ld- tw sted away and ran towards Cord+ %s she ran- she heard Cord- yell- ;Ephra m=; %nd s.ddenly Ephra m had her by the arm and was p.ll n! her away- p.ll n! her nto the m ddle o) the whole Bennett )am ly+ %nne t.rned ba*( and saw the two stran!ers who weren't wo.nded- stepp n! nto the street- p.tt n! d stan*e between themsel&es so that they *o.ld *ome at Cord )rom oppos te s des+ P.ll n! a!a nst Ephra m's t !ht !r p on her wr st- she tr ed to !et away )rom h mdesperate to !et to Cord or to !et h s damned )am ly to help h m+ ;S%##! them=; she be!!ed+ ;Do someth n!= Don't 1.st stand here+ Help h m=; ,one o) the Bennetts seemed e&en *on*erned+ >ran( sa d- ;I sent < l and 8art n ba*( to Eph's )or !.ns+ Calm down- %nne+ Yo. don't need to worry abo.t h m+; >ran( mo&ed beh nd L.(e and Pete- who were wat*h n! what was happen n! n the street a& dly- and sa d- ;L sten yo. two+ Yo. *an wat*h what happens w th one eye b.t start r !ht now sear*h n! the *rowd w th the other+ 'h s s a set.p ) I e&er saw one+ Loo( )or another stran!er+ 6hen we ) nd h m- we ma(e s.re there's no ba*(shoot n!+; Ba*(shoot n!= %nne started to s*an the *rowd hersel)- then !asped as she saw that the two men were *los n! n on Cord n the street+ He d dn't wa t )or them+ He *har!ed the man on h s le)t+ Anow n! she *o.ldn't help h m hersel) n th s ( nd o) ) !ht- %nne stopped p.ll n! a!a nst Ephra m's hold+ %ltho.!h the other men both had an ad&anta!e n he !ht and we !ht- she *o.ld see that Cord was m.*h )aster and m.*h more a! le+ Beh nd her she heard < l and 8art n's &o *es and (new the men were all arm n! themsel&es+ She !lan*ed aro.nd )or a se*ond and saw L.(e and Pete mo& n! thro.!h the *rowd w th p.rpose b.t wasn't w ll n! to ta(e her eyes o)) Cord lon! eno.!h to see where they went+ Both hea& er men wanted to *lose n on Cord- b.t the best they *o.ld do were o**as onal !lan* n! blows+ He .sed )eet- ) sts- and open hands n stran!e ways+ 6hen he slammed both (nees nto one opponent's *hest- the )or*e o) the blow too( the man o.t o) the ) !ht lon! eno.!h )or Cord to *on*entrate on the se*ond man w th de&astat n! e))e*t+

'he man )ell w th one le! an!led between the road and the s dewal(- and Cord la.n*hed h msel) at the barely r s n!- w nded ) rst opponent o)) the se*ond man's (nee+ 'he le! bent ba*(ward as t was ne&er meant to do w th s *(en n! popp n! no ses+ % *h ll n! wa l rent the a r- )all n! to a th n moan that pro& ded ba*(!ro.nd )or the rest o) the ) !ht+ 'he man who had started t all had )reed h s arm and was wrapp n! t w th a d rty hand(er*h e)+ %nne wat*hed >ran( wal( o&er to h m- th n( n! he was !o n! to (eep the man o.t o) the ) !ht- b.t >ran( 1.st p *(ed .p both (n &es+ He !r nned *heer).lly at the br.te and sa d- ;I) yo. want to let my brother *r pple yo.- !o r !ht ahead- b.t I'll (eep these+; 'he b ! man !rowled- ;I'm !o n! to smash that damn In1.n to p e*es+ Yo. wat*h+; >ran( t pped h s hat- ;Yeah- s.re yo. are+; %nne *o.ldn't bel e&e what she was see n! and hear n!+ 6hat was the ma!!er w th these people7 'he monster was barely o)) the s dewal( be)ore the se*ond o) h s )r ends was o.t o) the ) !ht )or !ood+ He went down a!a n w th the breath (no*(ed o.t o) h m+ 'h s t me se&eral hammer l (e blows o) h s elbow a!a nst the ro*(3hard *lay road s.r)a*e prod.*ed the same heart3stopp n! wa l h s )r end had made 3 .nt l he passed o.t+ Cord rolled o.t o) the way barely n t me to a&o d the ( *( the th rd man a med at h m+ 'he two men * r*led slowly- the d ))eren*e n s 2e ma( n! a Da& d and <ol ath p *t.re+ %nne had all b.t ! &en .p tho.!hts o) !ett n! o.t o) Ephra m's !r p+ ,ow she heard ,oah ?eynolds' &o *e- ;Yo. )ellas !ot any dea how we're !o n! to stop h m7; >ran( was stand n! bes de her now+ He sa d- ;'he only way s w th a r )le- I !.ess+ He'll st ll be beat n! on the poor )ool an ho.r a)ter he's 1.st meat ) we don't+; ;It's dan!ero.s+; ;Yeah- I don't l (e t m.*h e ther- b.t t's the only way w tho.t ta( n! a *han*e o) !ett n! ( lled o.rsel&es+ I'll do t+; %nne l stened w th d sbel e)- ne&er ta( n! her eyes o)) what was happen n! n the street+ She saw the th rd man almost )all n! stead ly ba*(ward- Cord dr & n! h m ba*( w th & * o.s- *ra*( n! blows+ He seemed to re*o&er and smashed Cord tw *e- on*e n the body and on*e n the )a*e- throw n! h m thro.!h the a r and slamm n! h m on h s ba*(b.t when the h.!e man tr ed to *lose a!a n- Cord's boots 1abbed nto h s m dse*t on and rolled h m n a *rash n! somersa.lt+ 'hen t was all o&er- Cord on h s (nees ro*( n! the man w th blow a)ter blow+ 'he men beh nd her were 9. et now+ %nne too( a 9. *( loo( o&er her sho.lder and pan *(ed at the s !ht o) >ran( he)t n! h s r )le tho.!ht).lly+ I) she *o.ldn't p.ll o.t o) Ephra m's !r p- there were other ways+ She p &oted to )a*e h m and bro.!ht her (nee smartly nto h s !ro n+ He released her wr st and do.bled o&er towards her w th a stran!led so.nd+ %nne t.rned and ran- *ry n!- ;Cord- Cord+; She ran to h m and !rabbed h m by the arm- p.ll n! and !asp n!+ ;Stop- stop+ 'hey're !o n! to shoot yo.+; Cord *ame to h s )eet as ) she were another enemy- one ) st st ll p.lled ba*(- then re*o!n 2ed her+ ;6hat the hell are yo. do n! here7;

6 tho.t wa t n! )or an answer he too( her .pper arm n a & se3l (e !r p and mar*hed ba*( to the Bennetts+ ;6hat the hell's the matter w th yo.- Eph7 Yo. too old- too slow- and too so)t to (eep hold o) one damn woman )or the spa*e o) a ) !ht7 I'm ta( n! her down to yo.r pla*e to *lean .p+; %nne noted w th sat s)a*t on that Ephra m was only 1.st barely stand n! .pr !ht a!a n and not *apable o) a reply- b.t Cord had a harder hold on her now than h s brother had had+ He sho&ed her .p the street toward the ho.se+ She str.!!led a!a nst h s .nrelent n! !rasp+ ;Let !o o) my arm+ Yo.'re h.rt n! me+; 'here was no answer+ He (ept r !ht on wal( n!+ ;Cord- yo.'re h.rt n! my arm+ Let !o+; St ll no answer+ >.r o.s- she stopped wal( n! and bra*ed her whole body- d !! n! n and absol.tely oppos n! h s )orward p.sh+ He *o.ld e ther dra! her o)) her )eet or stop+ He stopped+ ;Yo. *an e ther dra! me or yo. *an let !o o) my arm and as-- and I'll !o anywhere yo. want+; Cord d d loo( l (e the de& l some *alled h m+ One eye was be! nn n! to bla*(en and swell+ 'here were th n l nes o) blood )rom ea*h nostr l and one s de o) h s mo.th- and h s *hee( had spl t a!a n r !ht where %nne had sewed t the pre& o.s O*tober+ >or the ) rst t me she *o.ld .nderstand someone des*r b n! h s eyes as wol)3l (e+ Cord !lared ba*( at her )or se&eral se*onds and then let !o o) her arm+ ;<et yo.r ass down the street to Ephra m's $ease+; Ch n n the a r- she t.rned and went+ Cord )ollowed- and she was aware o) the rest o) h s )am ly and her own mother beh nd h m be*a.se she *o.ld hear the m.rm.r o) the r &o *es+ %t Ephra m's ho.se- Cord wal(ed r !ht n and (ept !o n! thro.!h the ( t*hen towards the ba*( o) the ho.se+ ;6here are yo. !o n!7; %nne as(ed+ ;'here's m rrors and st.)) n the spare bedroom+ I'll !et 8artha to br n! yo. what yo. need+; %nne stopped n the m ddle o) the parlor+ ;6hat I need s to !o home r !ht now+ I don't want anyth n! )rom 8artha or any o) the rest o) them+ 'hey were !o n! to shoot yo.+; ;,o- they weren't+; H s att t.de was the last straw+ %nne lost the last shreds o) *ontrol+ ;%ll r !ht- don't bel e&e me= It m.st be terr ble to th n( yo.'re marr ed to a d m3w tted l ar+ I'm tell n! yo. I heard them tal( n! abo.t shoot n! yo. 1.st to (eep yo. )rom beat n! on that d s!.st n! p e*e o) ) lth n the street+ B.t o) *o.rse yo.r )a th n yo.r damn )am ly s *omplete+ S n*e we'&e been marr ed not one o) them has e&er sa d a ( nd word to yo. or abo.t yo.+ 'hey 1.st stood there and d dn't e&en try to help- b.t they wo.ldn't h.rt yo. wo.ld they7 6hy waste yo.r l )e be n! marr ed to me7 L & n! w th me7 6hy don't yo. mo&e ba*( to the b ! ho.se so yo. *an be *lose to yo.r pre* o.s- damn- .seless )am ly7 6hy not mo&e here7 6hy n++++;

He *.t her o)) w th h s hand a*ross her mo.th and held her pressed a!a nst h m w th one hand n the small o) her ba*( and the other a*ross her mo.th+ %nne only str.!!led br e)ly be)ore ! & n! n to h s s.per or stren!th and stand n! 9. etly- smolder n!+ He spo(e &ery so)tly+ ;S.ppose yo. ta(e a deep breath and *o.nt to ten and l sten to me+ It's not that I don't bel e&e yo.+ I bel e&e yo. heard someth n! that yo. tho.!ht meant they were !o n! to shoot me- b.t I (now that's not what they were !o n! to do+ 'hey wanted to stop me be*a.se they'&e !ot t n the r heads on*e I start beat n! on a man I won't stop t ll a)ter he's lon! dead- and they th n( ) I beat a man to death n )ront o) the whole town- I'll han!+ ,ot m.*h sense sa& n! me )rom a han! n! by shoot n! me- s there7 ,ow th n( hard- e/a*tly who sa d what7 'ry to remember the e/a*t words+; He remo&ed h s hand+ %nne was n *ontrol a!a n+ She &ery *are).lly related e/a*tly what had been sa d+ ;Yeah- well- when they sa d .se a r )le- they meant *l.bb n! me w th t- not shoot n! me+; ;B.t they *o.ld ( ll yo. that way too=; ;8m+ Less l (ely+; ;6hy do they th n( yo.'d ( ll that man a)ter he was .n*ons* o.s7; ;6ell- there was Hat*h- and then a wh le ba*( I 1.mped somebody pretty bad- and >ran( !ot n the way+ I was *ho( n! >ran( a b t- and Eph *l.bbed me o))+ 'hey th n( I'd ha&e ( lled >ran( and the man I started on+; ;6as that Bo!!s7; ;Yeah+; 6 th all her an!er !one- there was noth n! le)t b.t the )ear+ %nne b.r ed her head a!a nst h s *hest+ ;I'm sorry- s*ree*h n! at yo. l (e that n )ront o) e&erybody+ I was so a)ra d- and then yo. were mad at me+; ;%nn e- I was mad be*a.se yo. *o.ld ha&e !otten h.rt+ I) I h t yo. a** dentally I *o.ld brea( yo.r 1aw 3 or yo.r ne*(+ It s*ared hell o.t o) me to ha&e yo. r.n o.t there l (e that+ Don't *ry+ Come on- don't *ry+; ;I'm not *ry n!+; ;Yes- yo. are+; H s mo.th was a!a nst her temple- tra* n! her *hee(bone- s pp n! the tears )rom her eyes+ He ( ssed !ently a*ross her *hee(s- alon! her 1aw- down her throat+ %nne stopped sobb n!+ She too( a deep sh.dder n! breath- wh spered- ;'hat's n *e+; >rom the ( t*hen- %nne heard her mother's ra sed &o *e+ ;I don't *are+ 'hat's my da.!hter=; Cord p.lled away )rom her so )ast he was almost a*ross the room by the t me Leona h.rr ed nto the parlor+ %s he d sappeared toward the ( t*hen- %nne !lared at her mother+ 'he only reason the Bennetts were worse than her own )am ly was that there were more o) them+ 1ORD WAL2ED IN.O .,E 2I.1,EN to ) nd h s whole )am ly s tt n! aro.nd the b ! table- as was ?ob 6ells+ >ran( was the only one who wo.ld e&en loo( at h m- altho.!h the loo( was a s n!le d s!.sted !lan*e+ E&ery member o) the )am ly had nterpreted %nne's s.dden s len*e n the same way- he real 2ed+ Oh- hell- what d d t matter7 ;8artha- wo.ld yo. ta(e some water to %nne7 She's !ot blood on her )a*e+;

8artha d dn't waste her s*orn- merely d pped water nto a bas n and le)t+ Cord dropped nto one o) the ( t*hen *ha rs- s.ddenly )eel n! &ery t red and h.rt n! worse 3 and n more ways 3 than he wanted to th n( abo.t+ ,o one sa d a word+ ,o one seemed to mo&e+ %)ter lon!- .n*om)ortable m n.tes- the women ret.rned+ Leona- sl !htly shame3)a*edwent to s t ne/t to ?ob+ 8artha set the bas n o) blood3sta ned water ne/t to the sto&e w th a th.mp- and %nne- ha r redone- )a*e .nmar(ed- and w th a loo( on her )a*e that d dn't bode well )or the Bennetts- )a*ed Ephra m and >ran(+ ;I apolo! 2e )or most o) the terr ble th n!s I (now yo. *o.ld hear me say abo.t yo.+ Cord e/pla ned yo. d dn't mean yo. were !o n! to shoot h m- b.t h tt n! h m w th a r )le sn't a whole lot better+ I) th s e&er happens a!a n- yo. need to lea&e h m alone+; Ha& n! !otten e&eryone's attent on w th th s remar(able non3apolo!y- %nne t.rned to Ephra m and added- ;%nd Ephra m I'm sorry ) I h.rt yo.- b.t yo. wo.ldn't let !o- and I had to !et loose+ I d dn't .se all my stren!th and p.t my ).ll we !ht beh nd t the way he sa d to+ St ll- I (now t wasn't &ery n *e- and I'm sorry+; S.ddenly Cord real 2ed he was the only one who hadn't (nown how %nne !ot away )rom Ephra m- b.t her apolo!y spelled t o.t )or h m and l )ted h s mood+ ;Yo. mean yo. (need Eph n the pr &ates7; ;I only !a&e h m a l ttle tap+ 'o ma(e h m let !o+ It really d d wor( a treat- 1.st l (e yo. sa d t wo.ld+; %nne !r nned at h m- not really the sl !htest b t sorry- then *ont n.ed+ ;I'&e been th n( n!+ ,one o) the rest o) yo. are w ll n! to shoot men l (e that- b.t I *o.ld+ 'hey atta*(ed me- and ) I shot them nobody wo.ld th n( t was wron!+ 8aybe I sho.ld ha&e a !.n o) my own+ I *o.ld++++; 'hat was as )ar as she !ot be)ore Ephra m was on h s )eet- !entle Ephra m- 9. et Ephra m- bellow n! as lo.d as >ran( e&er had+ ;So yo. ta.!ht her that *.te tr *(- brother7 I sho.ld ha&e (nown+ By all means- !et her a !.n o) her own+ 8a(e s.re yo. !et someth n! w th !r ps she *an *.t not*hes n+ Better yet- ha&e the th n! en!ra&ed+ On one s de they *an p.t 'Ephra m' and on the other s de they *an p.t '>ran(+' 'hat woman's a mena*e+ She was probably dan!ero.s e&en be)ore yo. started 'ed.*at n!' her+ B.y her a !.n= B.y her a (n )e= One th n! I'&e !ot to adm t- l ttle brother- ) yo.'re bra&e eno.!h to sleep .nder the same roo) as that womanm.*h less n the same bed- yo. deser&e a !oddamn medal=; Cord *o.ldn't remember see n! Eph n s.*h a ra!e- and *o.ldn't res st ma( n! t worse+ ;% 'l ttle tap' n the stones s.re ma(es yo. *ran(y- Eph+; He !ot the tone 1.st r !ht- and *o.ld a*t.ally see Ephra m's *hest e/pand w th the deep breath he too( to s.sta n the ne/t roar+ He was )orestalled- howe&er- by a (no*( on the door+ L.(e- lean n! a!a nst the wall ne/t to the door- 1.st sw.n! t open- too en!rossed n th s enterta nment to sh )t h s eyes+ It was ,oah ?eynolds who wal(ed n+ 6 tho.t be n! n& ted- ,oah sat a*ross )rom Cord+ ;Loo(s l (e the poor bastards a*t.ally h t yo. on*e or tw *e+; Cord rea*hed o&er to >ran('s sh rt po*(et and helped h msel) to one o) the l ttle bla*( * !ars- l !ht n! t be)ore ra s n! h s head+ ;Yo. here to arrest me7; ;,o+ Hard as t s to bel e&e hal) a do2en people *ame .p to me to ma(e s.re I .nderstood yo. were pro&o(ed+ %ny man sho.ld de)end h s w )e .nder s.*h * r*.mstan*es they told me+ O) *o.rse t d dn't really ha&e anyth n! to do w th %nne- d d t7 Yo. (now those men7;

;,o+; >ran( sa d- ;It was a set.p- ,oah+ 'here was a !.nn e n the *rowd+; ;Yo. s.re7; ;I'm s.re- b.t I *an't pro&e t+ 'he boys !ot beh nd h m and let h m (now they were there- so he ne&er made a mo&e+; ;6ell- I !ot a )alse *ompla nt th s morn n! that !ot me o.t to the so.th ed!e o) townso I'd say yo.'re r !ht+ O) *o.rse- t's not l (e a !entle so.l l (e Cord here wo.ld ha&e any enem es who'd want to sp t on h s !ra&e+; ,oah t.rned ba*( to Cord then+ ;Yo. (now- a)ter that wee( yo. spent n my 1a l I had a n !htmare )rom t me to t me+ ,oth n! to t b.t yo.r eyes loo( n! at me o.t o) the dar(and I'd wa(e .p n a sweat )rom head to toe+ D dn't happen all that o)ten- maybe on*e a year- b.t yo. (now when t stopped7 It stopped the day I real 2ed I d dn't need to worry abo.t e&er try n! to arrest yo.+ 'he day e&er *omes yo. need arrest n!- I'm 1.st !o n! to throw the bad!e down on the des( and wal( o.t+ 6hen I de* ded that- that n !htmare ne&er *ame a!a n+; ;Sorry yo. )eel that way-; Cord sa d+ ;I always ) !.red I owe yo.+; ;It's what yo. ) !.re yo. owe me that s*ares me+ I *ome )rom Do* Cra !'s+ He says that one man- he's 1.st !ot to de* de the best pos t on )or that arm to be n )or the rest o) h s l )e+ 'hat elbow's !o n! to heal sol d and ne&er bend a!a n- so the way he sets t s the way t's !o n! to be+ ;,ow the one w th the smashed (nee- he's better o))+ 'he (nee won't bend m.*h e ther- b.t he'll be able to !et aro.nd w th a st *(+ O) *o.rse- the th rd one- he's downr !ht l.*(y+ I) h s 1aw heals a l ttle *roo(ed- so what+ He wasn't pretty to start w th- and he'll probably be able to *hew a!a n e&ent.ally+ He'll 1.st lose a lot o) we !ht the ne/t e !ht wee(s or so wh le he heals .p+; Cord shr.!!ed- smo(e s.rro.nd n! h s words+ ;'hey sho.ld ha&e (ept the r hands o)) my w )e+; ,oah shoo( h s head+ ;6e all (now t wo.ldn't ha&e mattered any how they started t+ Yo.'d ha&e ) n shed t the same way+ 'ell me- yo. !ot some theory t sn't eno.!h to wh.p a man- yo. !ot to ( ll or *r pple anybody )ool eno.!h to ) !ht yo.7; ;I !.ess t's a theory+ % man I '1.st wh.pped' down n 'e/as shot me n the ba*( the ne/t day+ <a&e me a not on ) I ha&e to ) !ht I m !ht as well ma(e s.re t's only on*e+; ;Yo.'re st ll al &e+ 6hat happened to the ba*(shooter7; ;He sn't+; ;Don't s.rpr se me somehow+ How many n that ) &e years7; ;>o.r+ O) *o.rse- s n*e only wh te men *o.nt- I !.ess yo.'d say two+; ;>o.r+; %ltho.!h he'd as(ed- the answer made ,oah st ))en+ ;I ne&er saw anyth n!+ ,e&er saw a poster or anyth n!+; ;Yo.'re ass.m n!+ ,o one tho.!ht posters were *alled )or+; ;I heard one th n! I tho.!ht was yo.+ It was )rom a lawman who was there when they h.n! :a*( Hat*h+ He sa d :a*( was ta( n! t real well- a*t n! bra&e and p.tt n! on a !ood show+ % lot o) )ol(s were say n! how they sho.ldn't han! a man l (e that o&er a prost t.te+ 'hen when he !ot to the )oot o) the !allows sta rs- he went *ra2y+ 'hey had to dra! h m .p the steps+ 'h s marshal- he told me :a*( was s*ream n! the de& l *ome to !et h m+ Yo. happen to be there when they h.n! :a*( Hat*h7; ;Yeah+ Yo.r )r end had t *lose+;

,oah stood and stared at Cord )or a lon! moment+ ;Yo. (now I'&e been law n! )or almost th rty years- and I'&e (nown 9. te a )ew men who s*ared me- !.nmen mostly+ B.t n all the years I'&e ne&er (nown anybody s*ared me l (e yo. do+; ,oah d dn't waste t me w th so* al n *et es w th the rest o) the )am ly a)ter that- 1.st repla*ed h s hat and wal(ed o.t+ %nne was st ll on emot onal ed!e- and she had had 9. te eno.!h o) the Bennetts and )or that matter o) the sher ))+ ;I wonder what he th n(s yo. sho.ld ha&e done 3 t ed a bow aro.nd me and let them ha&e me7 Or maybe they'd ha&e let me !o ) yo.'d 1.st sa d please n the r !ht tone o) &o *e7; She !ot to her )eet e/pe*t n! Cord to !et .p too+ ;6e'd better !et to Dr+ Cra !'s o.rsel&es+ Yo. need st t*hes a!a n- and yo.'re s tt n! e/a*tly the way yo. d d last )all when yo.r r bs were bother n! yo.+; Cord d dn't mo&e+ ;Bet Cra !'s ( nd o) b.sy r !ht now+ How abo.t yo. st t*h t .p when we !et home7; ;6e're two ho.rs )rom home- and I ret*hed and *r ed the whole t me I d d t when yo. were .n*ons* o.s- and I p.t n *roo(ed st t*hes+ S.rely Dr+ Cra ! *an lea&e those *r m nals lon! eno.!h to p.t a )ew st t*hes n yo.r *hee( and strap yo.r r bs+; 8artha sa d- ;I) %nne doesn't want to st t*h t- I w ll+ Yo.'re r !ht- Dr+ Cra ! w ll ha&e other th n!s to tend to r !ht now+ :.d th- s.ppose yo. and Beth start sett n! the table )or d nner+ P.t n the e/tra lea) and ) / e/tra pla*es+ Leona- *an yo. and ?ob stay7; Leona st ll loo(ed sl !htly embarrassed+ ;,o- I'd better !et home and !et Edward's d nner+ 'han( yo.- 8artha+ %nne-+++; %nne had also had 9. te eno.!h o) her mother and brother+ ;I'll see yo. ne/t wee(8other-; she sa d sharply+ 8artha re) lled the bas n w th warm water and p.t t and soap n )ront o) Cord+ ;6ash .p and *lean that *.t o.t thoro.!hly+ I'll !et a needle and thread+; 8artha *losed the *.t w th )o.r neat st t*hes+ ;Yo.r sh rt loo(s r. ned+ 'a(e t o)) and yo. *an borrow one o) Pete's to wear home+; He remo&ed h s sh rt- and %nne e/am ned t sadly+ ;I don't ha&e any more o) th s *ream3*olored mater al+ I'll ha&e to ma(e yo. a pla n wh te one+; She !ot a !ood loo( at h m be)ore he mana!ed to !et Pete's sh rt on+ ;Oh- no- yo. don't+ Loo( at yo.+ Yo. need yo.r r bs strapped+; ;8y r bs are ) ne+ I'll be a l ttle sore tomorrow s all+; She opened her mo.th to ar!.e ).rther- and he *.t her o))+ ;%nn e- we're s tt n! n a room ).ll o) people a)ra d to open the r mo.ths )or )ear I'll !o berser( and *.t them to p e*es- and the sher )) o) the damn town th n(s I ma(e :ohn 6esley Hard n loo( l (e a sa nt+ %re yo. !o n! to (eep sass n! me abo.t my r bs7; He p.t the sh rt on- !rowl n! at her- b.t h s eyes were la.!h n!+ ;Dr+ Cra ! says yo.'re the only pat ent he e&er treated who (ept say n! noth n! h.rt when he e/am ned yo. r !ht .nt l yo. passed o.t+ Yo. th n( I be$ie&e yo.r r bs are all r !ht7; ;' 3!ress- ) yo. don't slow down- I'm !o n! to lea&e yo. here and Ephra m *an (eep yo. n %is root *ellar+; ' !ress+ ,ot only d d she l (e t- she l (ed the way he sa d t- as ) t were two d st n*t words+ ;Yo. ha&e already noted yo.rsel) that yo.r brother s too old and too slow to (eep a hold o) me+;

Ephra m m.ttered- ;I'd sooner ( ss a rattlesna(e than hold yo. a!a n+; She tho.!ht she saw a sl !ht 9. r( at one *orner o) Cord's mo.th )or a se*ond+ He sa d- ;Yo.'re tell n! me I'm st.*( w th yo. be*a.se I'm the only one to.!h eno.!h7; ;6ell- yo. are most de) n tely st.*( w th me+; 'here was no *on&ersat on thro.!h d nner e/*ept o) the please pass the potatoes type+ >ran( handed o&er Cord's (n )e w tho.t *omment when as(ed and also made no reply to the br e) than(s )or stopp n! the )o.rth man+ 6hen %nne tr ed to help w th the d shes- 8artha shooed her away+ ;Don't worry a m n.te+ I (now yo.'re worn o.t and want to !et home- and we'd all 1.st !et n ea*h other's way+ I also th n( yo. ha&e a stand n! n& tat on to S.nday d nner w th the )am ly )rom now on+ %t least I th n( the reason we *o.ldn't n& te yo. be)ore has ta(en *are o) tsel)+; 8artha !a&e her son a hard eye+ Pete loo(ed a l ttle embarrassed+ ;%h- 8a-; he sa d- ;I !.ess I'&e !ot eno.!h sense not to try to wrassle a !r 22ly on*e somebody's pro&ed t's a !r 22ly+; ;L.(e7; L.(e !a&e Cord a *o*(y- .nrepentant !r n+ ;I'&e de* ded to wa t a wh le- %.nt 8artha- l (e ten years- maybe e&en twenty+; ;Cord7; ;6e'll see- 8arty+; %nne *o.ldn't !et o.t o) that ho.se )ast eno.!h+ AF.ER 1ORD AND ANNE LEF., 8artha t.rned to ) nd e&ery eye n the room on her+ ;6hat n hea&en's name has !otten nto yo.7; Ephra m sa d+ ;He's ab.s n! that n*red ble woman r !ht n o.r own ho.se- and yo.'re st t*h n! h m .p and ! & n! them a stand n! n& tat on )or S.nday d nner7; ;He d dn't ab.se her- dear+; ;8aybe noth n! showed- that was bloody water yo. bro.!ht ba*(+ She probably bled )rom her nose or mo.th+; ;She d dn't bleed at all+ It was h s blood+; ;How *o.ld t be h s blood7; ;I d dn't as(- b.t she *erta nly l t nto her mother )or th n( n! he h.rt her+ 8y !.ess wo.ld be he ( ssed her+ It's one o) the best ways to 9. et .s women down- yo. (now+; >ran('s )a*e set n hard l nes+ ;Cord -iss her7; he sa d+ ;8artha- yo.'&e ta(en lea&e o) yo.r senses+; 8artha pressed her l ps to!ether )or a moment- then sa d- ;>ran(- yo.'re the one who !oes on abo.t the *arnal aspe*ts o) the r marr a!e+ %re yo. *la m n! now yo. th n( he ne&er to.*hes her7; >ran( p.shed ba*( h s *ha r and headed )or the parlor and an a)ter3d nner * !ar+ ;6hat I th n( s that Cord's mean as a sna(e- and any to.*h n! he does has noth n! to do w th ( ss n!+; On*e the men were !one- 8artha stopped hold n! her )eel n!s n and be!an la.!h n!+ :.d th's n*red.lo.s loo( only made her la.!h harder+ ***

CHAPTER 23

ON .,E WAY O3. OF town- Cord stopped the b.!!y n )ront o) the sher ))'s o)) *e+ ;I) I were to !o ha&e a tal( w th ,oah )or a )ew m n.tes wo.ld yo. stay here7 ;Yes+; He loo(ed .p and down the empty S.nday a)ternoon street+ ;%nd ) yo. saw anybody *om n! who wasn't ob& o.sly )r endly- wo.ld yo. 1.mp down and *ome ns de7; ;Yes+; ;%nd ) somebody s.rpr sed yo. wo.ld yo. yell7; ;% ) rst3*lass lady n d stress s*ream+; ;'he r )le's .nder the seat++++; ;Cord- stop )rett n!+ I r#mise+ % stran!er appears- I'll wh s( ns de+ Somebody drops )rom a roo)top and !rabs me- I'll s*ream ) rst and shoot se*ond+ I prom se+; ;%ll r !ht+ I won't be lon!+; ,oah was s tt n! read n! some sort o) poster when Cord wal(ed n+ He wat*hed w th re!ret as the older man's )a*e paled- then he lowered h msel) nto one o) the *ha rs n )ront o) the sher ))'s des( 9. *(ly- hop n! to loo( as non3threaten n! as poss ble+ ;I s.ppose I sho.ld ha&e (ept my mo.th sh.t today-; ,oah sa d+ ;6 sh yo.'d sa d someth n! years a!o+ 6hen I sa d I ) !.re I owe yo.- I meant t n the ord nary way+ E&en a)ter the Hat*h b.s ness- >ran( and Eph wo.ld ne&er ha&e bro.!ht themsel&es to tell me what yo. d d ba*( then- and I needed to (now t+ Aept me al &e a )ew t mes s n*e+; >or a )ew se*onds- ,oah's mo.th wor(ed- no words *om n!+ In the end- he mana!ed;I'&e ne&er not *ed yo. ta( n! any o) that ad& *e+; ;I'm not m.*h !ood at that s*rap n! and bow n! st.))+ 6or(s o.t that most people ta(e one loo( and de* de to lea&e me be as lon! as I don't p.sh- and I don't p.sh+; ;%ll r !ht- I'll ! &e yo. that+ Yo. don't p.sh+; ;S n*e we're ha& n! th s l ttle tal(- ,oah- tell me someth n! I'&e wondered abo.t o&er the years+ Yo. e&er sorry yo. p.lled me o)) Hat*h7; ,oah ) nally rela/ed- lett n! the paper n h s hands )all on the des(- and lean n! ba*( n h s *ha r+ ;'hat's a hard 9.est on+ Yes- I !.ess I'&e been sorry+ 'here were three other ! rls n th s area- yo. (now+ 'hree dead ones- that s- that I always tho.!ht were :a*(+ 'hen there was the Peabody ! rl+ She's a woman now and she's ne&er sa d a word a)ter what happened to her- 1.st s ts there n a *ha r n her )ol(s' ho.se and stares at the wall+; ;I ne&er (new that-; Cord sa d+ ;Yeah- well+; ,oah shoo( h s head+ ;I heard there were a *o.ple o) others n Utah they tho.!ht were :a*(- e&en tho.!h they only had a w tness )or the one they h.n! h m )or+ B.t the )a*t s I d dn't (now all that the n !ht I arrested yo.+ I'd ha&e let yo. ( ll h m 1.st o&er what I *o.ld see he d d to 8ar e ) t was .p to me- b.t that's not the way t wor(s- and yo. s.re *an't w sh t+ 'hey wo.ldn't ha&e h.n! yo.- yo. (now+ 'hey'd o) thrown yo. n 1a l and thrown away the (ey+ I) I had to *hoose between twenty years n pr son and han! n!- I'd *hoose han! n! mysel)+; ;8aybe yo.'re r !ht+; ;Yo. (now I am+ I tal(ed to %nne abo.t br n! n! *har!es a!a nst Sam.els+ Yo. (now how t s+; Cord )elt a s.r!e o) the old an!er+ ;Yeah+ ,obody'd *on& *t h m o) anyth n! when they )o.nd her w th me+;

;It s.rpr sed me yo. d dn't try to !o a)ter them+; ;,e&er *rossed my m nd t ll yo. ment oned t that day at the *a)e+ Shoot n! 8ee(s and Sam.els ( nd o) let o)) a lot o) steam- and I !.ess I ha&e t n my m nd they d d me a )a&or n the lon! r.n+; ;% )a&or- h.h+; ,oah sa d- sha( n! h s head+ ;6ell- ) we're answer n! to.*hy 9.est ons- I'd be nterested n (now n! what happened o.t there+ How'd yo. two end .p stay n! to!ether7; Cord *ons dered tell n! ,oah t was none o) h s b.s ness 3 or wal( n! o.t+ B.t ,oah had not only helped h m those many years a!o- he had ! &en %nne help and *om)ort when she needed t- and he'd *ome here to ma(e pea*e w th the sher ))+ So a)ter a pa.se he answered+ ;<.ess yo. *o.ld say I too( ad&anta!e+ She d dn't want to as( >ran( and Eph )or help- and I d dn't try &ery hard to tal( her nto t+; ;%nd her7; ;I don't (now+ I th n( she needs 3 some t me to heal and ( nd o) !ather hersel) be)ore she !oes on+; ;Yo. mean yo. th n( t's temporary7; ;Yo. th n( a woman l (e that's !o n! to l &e the rest o) her l )e w th me7; ;I wo.ldn't ha&e tho.!ht a woman l (e that wo.ld wal( n yo.r ho.se to start w th- or weep o&er yo. when yo. loo(ed worse than any p e*e o) meat I'&e e&er et- or stay ) &e m n.tes a)ter yo. *o.ld !et aro.nd+ I wo.ldn't ha&e tho.!ht she *o.ld r.n >ran( o)) w th a !.n- or do.ble Eph o&er w th her (nee- so I don't th n( my op n on on the s.b1e*t s worth m.*h+; ;8aybe not+; Cord rose and headed )or the door+ ;%nd I !.ess I'd better !et ba*( o.t there- or she'll !et r led and dr &e o)) w tho.t me+; ;Yo. want me to let yo. (now ) any o) those men show .p n these wanted posters7; Cord t.!!ed h s hat lower o&er h s eyes be)ore he answered+ ;Sher )) n!'s yo.r 1ob,oah+ I !ot all I *an handle 1.st be n! the meanest son o) a b t*h n the world+; NOA, ,AD LA3G,ED O3. LO3D a)ter Cord le)t h s o)) *e+ E&eryth n! that happened that day made h m more determ ned than e&er to (eep any o) the *ontro&ersy sw rl n! aro.nd town abo.t Cord and %nne )rom brea( n! o.t n more & olen*e+ %s he made h s ro.nds thro.!h the town- ,oah stopped and *orre*ted the most )la!rant and r d *.lo.s m s*on*ept ons abo.t the *o.ple- b.t he )eared he was ma( n! no dent n p.bl * op n on+ H s dea that ha& n! them *ome to *h.r*h wo.ld *alm the tal( wasn't wor( n! e ther- and t worr ed h m+ One n !ht n 'homas 6h te's saloon- ,oah had another tho.!ht+ So nstead o) 1.st tell n! a !ro.p o) *ard players who were ( *( n! aro.nd a &ers on o) the root *ellar theory that they were wron!- ,oah sat down at the r table and told them the whole story+ H s l steners were- o) *o.rse- d.b o.s+ 'hey ar!.ed and tr ed to po(e holes n the story .nt l one sa d- ;Yo. say n! 'om was there7 8aybe we o.!ht to as( h m+; ;He wo.ldn't say a word abo.t t to me- b.t maybe yo. o.!ht to try h m+; 'hey d d- and 6h te's !. lty re).sal to d s*.ss the matter *on) rmed the sher ))'s tale+ He le)t a tho.!ht).l !ro.p o) po(er players s tt n! at the r table+ 'he ne/t day ,oah & s ted both Dan el Cra ! and :ames 8 les+ He proposed to both men that they be! n to spread the tr.th aro.nd whene&er the opport.n ty arose 3 )or

%nne's sa(e+ 'o h s s.rpr se- both a!reed t was a !ood dea and both made t *lear they were w ll n! to help not 1.st )or %nne's sa(e- b.t also )or Cord's+ %s Cra ! e/pla ned to ,oah- ;Yo. (now I ne&er e&en met h m .nt l I treated h m last )all- b.t I saw eno.!h o) h m then to !et to (now h m a l ttle- and I l (e h m+ 6hat's more I ha&e (nown %nne )or a lon! t me- and there's no do.bt n my m nd he's )ar better to her than anybody !.esses+ She's happ er than I'&e e&er seen her+; ;D dn't the mess he made o) those three men last wee( bother yo.- Do*7; ;'hose men were s*.m+ 'hey meant to ( ll h m- and t's hard to !et .pset abo.t a )ew bro(en bones on the r ( nd+ It w ll probably (eep them )rom ( ll n! somebody else on down the road+; :ames 8 les sa d more or less the same th n!+ ;S.re I'll tell anybody I *an+ I don't (now why I ha&en't be)ore+ %nne loo(s happ er e&ery t me she wal(s n here+ I w sh my ?a*hel was do n! hal) as well+; So the three men be!an tell n! the whole story at e&ery opport.n ty- and to ,oah's rel e)- they be!an to ha&e an e))e*t on op n on n the town+ It helped that D *( Brownwho had r dden away- was 9. te w ll n! to adm t what he had seen and heard be)ore he le)t+ 8 *hael Benton- r ddled w th !. lt- also *on)essed to what he had seen- altho.!h ,oah not *ed Benton's story was l !ht on adm tt n! what he had d#ne+ <eor!e Detr *(- ) nally real 2 n! that by be n! too 9. *( to 1.d!e he had m ssed h s opport.n ty to !et h s hands on the woman he had wanted so m.*h- !ot ma.dl nly dr.n( one n !ht and not only *on) rmed the story- b.t made t only too *lear to anyone l sten n! what had been done n the attempt to )or*e %nne to marry h m+ %nd he le)t l ttle do.bt what her l )e wo.ld ha&e been l (e ) the attempt had s.**eeded+ ;'hat .pp ty b t*h tho.!ht she was too !ood )or me- b.t I'd ha&e had her shaped .p be)ore the ) rst wee( passed+ 'hat ( nd 1.st needs a )ew hard whollops to tea*h them proper respe*t s all+; In the end the sher )) de* ded h s *ampa !n to 9. et the b. ld n! o.tra!e n the town had been pretty s.**ess).l+ Edward 6ells was one person the sher ))'s *ampa !n only made an!r er+ 'he more people 9.est oned h s treatment o) h s da.!hter- the more Edward's obsess on w th eras n! the d s!ra*e he bel e&ed %nne had bro.!ht on h s )am ly !rew+ On the s.r)a*e he rema ned *alm- repeat n! h s standard answer to the *r t * sm .nt l he was !r tt n! h s teeth+ ;I'm sorry abo.t all o) t- altho.!h yo.'&e heard some real e/a!!erat ons+ 'he Do.ble 8 hands 1.st !ot *arr ed away+; %s )ar as Edward was *on*erned- the only poss ble resol.t on to the s t.at on was to !et %nne away )rom Cord+ It d d noth n! )or h s state o) m nd that h s ) rst attempt to do 1.st that had been a s n!.lar )a l.re+ 'he !.nman who had been n the *rowd wat*h n! the ) !ht was named I(e Handler+ Handler had been re*ommended to Edward as someone who *o.ld arran!e what he wanted 3 Cord Bennett dead and %nne sa)ely lo*(ed .p at home a!a n+ Edward had pa d the !.nman three h.ndred dollars and a!reed to pay se&en h.ndred more when the 1ob was done+ ,ow Edward had no ntent on pay n! Handler the balan*e o) the money )or the bot*hed 1ob- b.t he e/pe*ted the man to be w ll n! to ma(e a se*ond try n order to !et t+

%s a!reed- Edward and ?ob met w th the man the n !ht a)ter the ) !ht n the ba*( o) the shop+ Handler d d e/pe*t more money- b.t not )or ) n sh n! the 1ob+ ;Yo.'re the one who told me the 'breed wo.ld be alone+ Yo. sa d nobody wo.ld ba*( h m .p or *are what happened- and that a n't the way t was+ 'hem boys- h s nephews- I !.ess- had me dead to r !hts- and they let me (now t+ %nother two h.ndred and we'll *all t e&en+; Edward was only too aware what had !one wron! w th what had seemed l (e a !ood plan- b.t d dn't *ons der t h s own )a.lt+ ;Yo. sa d yo. *o.ld !et the 1ob done- and yo. d dn't+ I don't need e/*.ses+ Yo. d dn't earn t- and I'm not pay n! t+ 8aybe ) yo. ha&e another way to !et the 1ob done- we *o.ld ne!ot ate+; ;,ot me-; Handler sa d+ ;'ry t a!a n and the law won't bel e&e I shot h m be*a.se I was a)ra d )or my men+ I) I was yo.- I wo.ldn't !o stra !ht at t ne/t t me+ 8aybe there's some way to ma(e the In1.n bel e&e yo.r da.!hter 1.st r.n o))+ 'hat's what I'd do+; %)ter see n! Handler and another h.ndred dollars o.t o) the shop- ?ob- who had been apolo! 2 n! almost non3stop s n*e the ) !ht- started n a!a n+ ;I'm sorry- >ather+ Honestlythey all a*t as ) they wo.ldn't ! &e h m water n the desert- and t's not l (e they 1.mped nto the street to help h m+ %nne's n a sn t o&er that+ I d dn't th n( they'd++++; Edward *.t h m o))+ He d dn't want to hear any more e/*.ses )rom h s son e ther+ ;Eno.!h+ :.st be more *are).l n the ).t.re+ It wo.ldn't be so bad ) t weren't )or the t me )a*tor+ It's ama2 n! he hasn't started h s bastard !row n! n her yet+; ?ob *leared h s throat and sh )ted ner&o.sly+ Edward not *ed mmed ately and bar(ed- ;6hat s t7 Sp t t o.t+; ?ob a&o ded h s eyes+ ;I'm not s.re t's tr.e+ ,an*y Lee heard t )rom some o) the other women and s.pposedly t was 8rs+ Cra ! who started the tal(- b.t- well+; Edward )rowned at h s son mpat ently .nt l he went on+ ;'hey say there won't be any *h ldren 3 some o) the dama!e )rom that beat n! 3 yo. (now+; Edward sm led n sat s)a*t on+ <ood news at last+ ;6ell- well- well- maybe 8ee(s d d someth n! worthwh le a)ter all+ In that *ase we'll 1.st ta(e the t me to plan *are).lly and *ome .p w th someth n! !.aranteed to wor(+; ?ob also sm led- try n! to share h s )ather's pleas.re o&er th s t db t- try n! to !nore the *rawl n! )eel n! n the p t o) h s stoma*h+ H s )ather's ready a**eptan*e o) th s n)ormat on meant Edward had ndeed *ondoned the nh.mane dama!e done to a man who had *omm tted no wron!- who was .nder !.ns- held down- and .nable to ) !ht ba*(+ ***

CHAPTER 2
.,E 0E0ORY OF .,E WAY Cord had ( ssed her a)ter the ) !ht le)t %nne hop n! )or more ( sses- more *aresses- b.t as the days passed w th no *han!e- she res !ned hersel) to th n!s *ont n. n! as they had been+ So more than a wee( later- when she )elt the .ne/pe*ted warmth o) h m pressed *lose beh nd her as she wor(ed n the barn- her ) rst rea*t on was s.rpr se+ H s hands sl pped alon! her r bs- *.pped her breasts- p.lled her ba*( a!a nst h m+ H s *hee( was a!a nst her ha r- h s l ps !ently n.22l n! below her ear and down her ne*(+ She t.rned n h s armss.rpr se t.rn n! to del !ht as she real 2ed h s ntent ons+

He sear*hed her )a*e ntently- as ) try n! to ) nd the answer to some terr bly mportant 9.est on+ ;Cord7; %nne !ot no ).rther be)ore h s mo.th met hers n a *are).l- e/ploratory ( ss+ 'hey had been marr ed s / months- and t was the ) rst t me he really ( ssed her+ Hope and ant * pat on be!an to ta(e w n! n her heart as he led her aro.nd the stall part t on and !. ded her down on *lean straw+ Cord was abo&e her- the ntent 9.est on n! loo( st ll n h s eyes when a mo&ement d stra*ted her+ 6 th horror she saw a )at brown sp der only a )oot away- b.mbl n! a*ross the straw stra !ht )or her+ She rea*ted the way she had rea*ted all her l )e- *ra2y w th .nreason n! )ear- p.sh n! a!a nst h s *hest and almost sobb n!- ;Let me .p= Let me !o=; By the t me she !ot to her )eet Cord was !one- b.t n her pan * she d dn't e&en not *e .nt l she *he*(ed her *lothes and ha r *are).lly- sha( n! w th the a)ter e))e*ts o) her )ear+ Be! nn n! to *alm down- she loo(ed aro.nd n wonder+ 6here *o.ld he ha&e !one so )ast7 Cord had started mmed ately )or the *orralled horses w th e&ery ntent on o) saddl n! the ) rst one he *a.!ht and r d n! o))+ He was slowed by a wa&e o) s *(ness so power).l t le)t h m hold n! the )en*e )or s.pport+ 'h s was m.*h worse than anyth n! he had e&en worr ed abo.t+ Cra2ed )ear and re&.ls on had e/ploded )rom her+ How *o.ld she ha&e h dden )eel n!s l (e that n the n !ht7 How was he e&er !o n! to )a*e her a!a n7 It was o&er as o) now+ E&eryth n! was o&er+ He d dn't hear her wal( .p beh nd h m+ ;Cord- I'm sorry- I++++; Her &o *e stead ed h m and he t.rned and strode away+ She )ollowed a)ter h m*at*h n! .p a!a n as he opened the *orral !ate+ ;6 ll yo. let me e/pla n7 It was 1.st++++; ? ! d w th h s own & olent emot ons- w tho.t t.rn n! aro.nd he snarled- ;Yo. don't ha&e to e/pla n+ Yo. don't want me ta( n! yo. n the barn+ Yo. don't want me any t me any pla*e- and yo. don't ha&e to worry abo.t t a!a n+; He (ept h s ba*( to her- *a.!ht one o) the three3year3olds and started saddl n! t w tho.t e&en br.sh n! the d.st o)) ts ba*(+ %nne wal(ed .p *lose beh nd h m+ ;'.rn aro.nd and l sten to me+; He ) n shed t !hten n! the * n*h and ty n! t o))+ ;Please- t.rn aro.nd and let me e/pla n+; He remo&ed the br dle )rom where t h.n! on the saddle horn and rea*hed )or the b.*(le on the halter- then st.mbled nto the horse as %nne's ).ll we !ht h t h m n the ba*(+ She started po.nd n! h m between the sho.lder blades- yell n!- ;'.rn aro.nddamn yo.=; %s the horse s dled away ner&o.sly- st ll .nder the tattoo o) blows- Cord *a.!ht h s balan*e and t.rned on her+ He *a.!ht her wr sts- )or* n! her arms beh nd her and threw her ba*( a!a nst the *orral )en*e- p nn n! her w th h s h ps+ It was as *lose as he wo.ld e&er *ome to h tt n! a woman- and she sho.ld ha&e been a)ra d+ Instead %nne !a&e h m her sweetest sm le+ ;6ell- now that I'&e !ot yo.r attent onw ll yo. l sten7 It was a sp der+;

Cord had e/pe*ted e/*.ses+ I'm sorry+ It won't happen a!a n+ I don't (now what *ame o&er me+ It sn't proper n dayl !ht+ He )elt l (e sha( n! h s head to *lear t+ 'he !ray eyes n*hes )rom h s own were w de and *lear+ %nne loo(ed as ) she tho.!ht those two words ) /ed e&eryth n!+ % sp der+ Somehow he .n*len*hed h s 1aw m.s*les eno.!h to )or*e spee*h+ ;Yo.'re tell n! me there was a sp der n that stall and t s*ared yo.+; ;Yes- that's what I'm tell n! yo.- and ) yo. hadn't d sappeared l (e that yo. *o.ld ha&e ( lled t or someth n! and yo. *o.ld ha&e helped me ma(e s.re noth n! *rawly was on me+ 6hat on earth s the matter w th yo.7; 6 th a 9. &er he )elt h msel) draw n! ba*( )rom some emot onal abyss deep w th n+ He let !o o) her wr sts and stopped *r.sh n! her a!a nst the )en*e b.t d dn't ba*( o))+ ;How b ! was th s sp der7; Her eyes dropped and he saw the e&as &e loo(+ She loo(ed .p at h m a!a n and be!an to t.rn sl !htly p n(+ > nally- w th a s !h- %nne mar(ed o)) the len!th o) the na l on her th.mb+ %t ) rst he tho.!ht she was !o n! to l e- b.t then he real 2ed she was embarrassed+ She *rossed her arms de)ens &ely .nder her breasts+ ;% sp der the s 2e o) yo.r ) n!erna l had yo. n a s*ream n! pan *7; ;I (now t's st.p d+ I'&e been hear n! how st.p d t s all my l )e+ I *an't help t+; %nne wo.ldn't meet h s eyes now+ ;8m+ 6hat else are yo. a)ra d o)7; ;Loo(- Cord- th s sn't ).nny+ I) yo. were to br n! one o) those th n!s n the ho.se and try to tease me w th t or someth n!- we'd ne&er be )r ends a!a n+; Friends again+ He swallowed hard+ ;I'm not !o n! to tease yo.+ 6hat else are yo. a)ra d o)7; ;%lmost anyth n! *rawly+ Other b.!s+ Sna(es- l 2ards- )ro!s+; ;<.ess I better ne&er tell Ephra m+; %nne's eyes )lew .p then- and she p.t one hand on h s sho.lder- tentat &ely+ He bent to her mo.th slowly- eyes ne&er lea& n! hers- ! & n! her all the t me and e&ery opport.n ty to *han!e her m nd- ob1e*t n any way+ %s h s l ps to.*hed hers she sl d both arms aro.nd h s ne*(- ar*h n! a!a nst h m+ He p.lled her harder a!a nst h m- p.sh n! one th !h between hers+ He sl d h s ton!.e slowly alon! the nner s.r)a*es o) her l psn9. s t &e- tast n!+ %s he be!an to deepen the ( ss she responded h.n!r ly- *aress n! h s ton!.e w th her own- ar*h n! nto h m+ Cord ended the ( ss as he had be!.n t- sear*h n! her )a*e- read n! the emot ons so pla n to see there+ He ran a th.mb l !htly a*ross her 1aw+ ;,ow that I'&e saddled h m- I'd better r de h m+; ;6e *o.ld !o to the ho.se+; ;,ot now+ I'll see yo. later+; Cord rode away be*a.se he was st ll too near the ed!e o) the abyss+ He needed to !et away- to be alone to sort o.t the sw rl n! emot ons and re!a n h s shredded *ontrol+ He rode the *olt to one o) h s )a&or te spots n the h lls+ >rom here he *o.ld see the ran*h b. ld n!s )ar below- loo( n! l (e a *h ld's toys+ He *o.ld dete*t no mo&ement- no s !n o) %nne n the yard+

'he s(y was a *lear a2.re today- the new spr n! !rass st.dded w th w ld)lowers+ Here and there a lone p ne mo&ed sl !htly n the so.therly bree2e+ 'he pea*e o) the pla*e be!an to seep slowly thro.!h h m- eas n! the ra! n! *on)l *ts+ He st.d ed the )araway b. ld n!s- the past.res- the s(y- del berately loo( n! only o.twards- not nwards+ It was some t me be)ore he was ready to )a*e h msel)- b.t he *ame to t+ He was n lo&e w th h s w )e 3 probably had been hal) n lo&e w th her s n*e the ) rst day he met her+ He adm tted t to h msel) and e/am ned the dea *are).lly+ It seemed- n the end- t d dn't really ma(e m.*h d ))eren*e+ >rom the be! nn n! he had (nown that there wo.ld be a hea&y pr *e to pay )or ha& n! her- )or whate&er t me he was ! &en+ %dm tt n! lo&e d d not *han!e that+ 'he pa n o) loss l.r(ed n the ).t.re+ It wo.ld be h s and he wo.ld ha&e to bear t n whate&er way he *o.ld when the t me *ame+ B.t what d ))eren*e d d t ma(e now 3 n the wee(s- months- e&en a year she m !ht stay7 I) she (new that h s world was al &e and ).ll o) l !ht w th her n t- hal)3dead and dreary w tho.t her- she m !ht stay e&en when she no lon!er wanted to+ He d d not want to trap her- *a!e her when she was ready to !o+ He had hoped that she m !ht a**ept h s to.*h- b.t had ne&er bel e&ed she m !ht ret.rn h s ( ss or show the be! nn n!s o) pass on+ ,ow there was no way he wo.ld not try to steal a l ttle more o) someth n! he ne&er e/pe*ted to ha&e+ Cord had spent a l )et me h d n! )eel n!s+ S.rely he *o.ld let !o a l ttle- lo&e her a l ttle- and (eep her )rom re*o!n 2 n! anyth n! b.t l.st+ 8aybe t wo.ld e&en be poss ble n whate&er t me there was to store .p eno.!h memor es to help h m thro.!h the lonely years to *ome+ 6 th a s !h he let h s restless- mpat ent *olt head )or home+ FA1E WE. WI., .EARS, FEELING thoro.!hly re1e*ted- %nne dra!!ed hersel) nto the ho.se and *.rled .p n the ro*( n! *ha r+ How *o.ld he ( ss her l (e that and 1.st r de o))7 'hat ( ss had made her lose all sense o) t me and pla*e- )eel l (e the )l.))y seed o) the *ottonwood trees- )loat n! abo&e the !ro.nd w th no d re*t on or s.bstan*e+ How *o.ld he7 %ll *r ed o.t- she be!an to re*ons der the a)ternoon's e&ents+ She tho.!ht o) the words Cord had h.rled at her n an!er- and !rad.ally she real 2ed he had not been an!ry- b.t h.rt+ 'he dea was so stran!e- so )ore !n to her *on*ept o) what men were l (e- she *o.ld not a**ept t at ) rst+ L ttle by l ttle she be!an to see that ) he bel e&ed h s own words t e/pla ned many o) h s a*t ons+ B.t how *o.ld he bel e&e s.*h a th n!7 >rom the be! nn n! she wanted more- not less- o) h m n e&ery way+ It doesn't matter- wh spered an nner &o *e- he st ll bel e&es someday yo.'ll 1.st !et t red o) th s l )e and wal( away+ Yo. (now that+ 6hy sho.ldn't he bel e&e all sorts o) other th n!s that aren't tr.e7 She loo(ed aro.nd the *heer).l l ttle ho.se she lo&ed so m.*h+ S / months she tho.!ht+ It's been 1.st s / months- and we'&e already *ome so )ar+ 'wo people who barely (new ea*h other thrown to!ether n & olen*e and .!l ness+ She s !hed- a deep sha(y breath+ Lea&e h m alone her nner &o *e sa d+ < &e h m room- ! &e h m t me+ 6ords won't *han!e h s m nd abo.t th s any more than abo.t yo.r lea& n!+ He has to *ome to t all by h msel)+

Cord d dn't ret.rn .nt l almost t me )or e&en n! *hores- and t seemed he had de* ded to pretend noth n! had happened- to re&ert to the way th n!s had been+ I *an stand t )or a wh le- she tho.!ht- not )or lon!- b.t )or a wh le+ Only a )ew days passed- howe&er- be)ore %nne loo(ed .p )rom prepar n! l.n*h to see h m stand n! wat*h n! her w th s.*h a loo( o) na(ed des re her stoma*h d d a !entle )l p+ She sm led .n*erta nly at h m+ ;Do yo. (now that e&ery t me yo. loo( at me l (e that yo. erase the h.rt o) at least a h.ndred t mes someone sa d I wasn't ladyl (e eno.!h7 Yo. ma(e me )eel so 3 )emale+ I th n( to mysel) that m.st be the way a h.n!ry wol) loo(s at a lamb+; He mo&ed then- wal(ed to her+ She )o.nd hersel) th n( n! maybe topa2- maybe h s eyes are l (e smo(ed topa2+ 'h s ( ss was not tentat &e- b.t s.re and *erta n+ >or months she had dreamed o) ( sses- b.t the sens.al ma! * o) the ) rm l ps was sweeter than anyth n! she had (nown to dream abo.t+ %ll her senses were already on ) re as h s ton!.e teased and tasted+ H s hands *.pped her b.tto*(s- p.ll n! her a!a nst h s !ro n so that she )elt the e))e*t o) her body on h s+ She ar*hed nto h m- try n! to rel e&e the a*he n her breasts and n pples by press n! them nto the sol d m.s*les o) h s *hest+ %s %nne sa!!ed ba*( a!a nst the ed!e o) the wor( table- he l )ted her- and nst n*t &ely her le!s lo*(ed aro.nd h s h ps- her hands went ) rst to h s wa st- then h s r bs- then h s ba*(- )eel n! the s newy r pple o) m.s*le as he mo&ed+ He ( ssed h s way slowly down her throat+ So)t wh mpers o) pleas.re be!an to & brate )rom her w th ea*h breath+ He .nb.ttoned ) rst her blo.se- then the )ront o) her *otton .nder&est- )ree n! a breast and r.bb n! the n pple w th one th.mb- ( ss n! the .pper s.r)a*e- then be! nn n! to taste h s way ba*( a*ross her *ollarbone e&er .pwards+ She *o.ld barely moan words+ ;Please- I ne&er meant- ne&er meant yo. sho.ldn'tplease++++; <l tter n! eyes met hers )or a moment be)ore he *.t her o)) a!a n w th h s mo.th+ He ( ssed her .nt l she was )loat n!- wonder n! ) she wo.ld )a nt )or la*( o) breath- then p.lled away and )astened on the e/posed n pple+ 'he nstant o) pleas.rable sensat on she remembered was noth n! *ompared to th s+ %s h s ton!.e * r*led the already ere*t t p) ery 9. &ers ra*ed o.twards+ %ll her ns des were t.rn n! to molten l 9. d+ 'he need )or h m was a throbb n! &o d between her th !hs+ %nne .nd d h s belt- )reed h m+ 'he )eel o) h s ere*t or!an pressed a!a nst a th !h or her stoma*h n the dar(ness was )am l ar- b.t now her tentat &e ) n!ers e/plored the hotp.lsat n! len!th+ She s*ooted )orward- ar*hed a!a nst h m- b.t was thwarted by her own .nder!arments- a problem Cord sol&ed w th a s n!le r p+ %s h s ) n!ers e/plored- and he )o.nd how ready her body was )or h s- he made a low so.nd- hal) !roan- hal) !rowl+ He )astened on her eyes- wat*hed as he entered her+ She *o.ldn't bear more- h d her )a*e a!a nst h m- e&en as she lo*(ed her le!s t !hter aro.nd h m- mo&ed w th h m+ %nne had ne&er ma! ned mortal h.mans were allowed to )eel l (e th s+ S( mm n! wa&es o) pleas.re started deep ns de where h s body so rhythm *ally stro(ed- and .nd.lated thro.!h e&ery part o) her+ She *o.ldn't (eep hersel) 9. et- *o.ldn't++++ %n e/plos on o) sensat on ro*(ed her- sent a)tersho*(s .p her sp ne- thro.!h her belly and breasts- r pped a so.nd )rom her she d dn't (now she *o.ld ma(e+ H s release bro.!ht

another sh &er o) sensat on- then t was o&er yet he was st ll ns de her- her le!s and arms were st ll t !htly lo*(ed aro.nd h m as he sl.mped a!a nst her- *hee( a!a nst her *hee(+ Pan * d spersed the last o) the erot * m sts+ %ll %nne's deas o) what passed between h.sband and w )e n the n !ht *entered aro.nd a totally pass &e woman+ 'he ) rst t me she sl pped her hands onto h s ba*(- en1oy n! the )eel o) h s m.s*les mo& n!- she had worr ed what he wo.ld th n(+ %nd now 3 now= How *o.ld she bear t ) her wanton response made h m ashamed o) her- ) there was *ens.re n h s eyes7 Perhaps he )elt the *han!e- )or he st rred and stra !htened+ %)ra d to meet h s !a2e d re*tly- %nne pee(ed 9. *(ly )rom the *orner o) her eyes+ 6hat she saw sent her heart soar n!- )or n h s eyes was not a sm le- b.t a !r n+ H s &o *e was throaty+ ;So what do yo. th n(- lamb *hop7; Ho.rs later- ta( n! dr ed la.ndry down )rom the *lothesl ne- la.!hter st ll b.bbled to the s.r)a*e+ %nne tho.!ht as she had so o)ten n the past months- I l (e h m so m.*h+ 6ho e&er wo.ld ha&e tho.!ht I'd l (e h m so m.*h7 Her hands went st ll on the l ne+ She d d l (e h m- b.t that wasn't all+ 6hen had she *rossed the l ne and started to lo&e h m7 It was not- she (new- 1.st today+ 'oday wo.ld not ha&e been poss ble ) she d d not already lo&e h m+ 6as t the n !ht he made the tea to ease her pa n7 3 when he str.!!led to the por*h and .sed the only two shots he had stren!th )or to h t 8ee(s- who had h.rt h m- and Sam.els- who had h.rt her7 3 when he tr ed to )or*e her to ta(e almost all o) h s *ash n an e))ort to prote*t her )rom an .n*erta n )ate7 Or had the small seed o) )r endsh p planted when they were both only ten years old !rown slowly o&er all the years thro.!h the )ew en*o.nters a)ter that .nt l t had ) nally )lowered n these past months7 She sat on the ba*( steps o&er*ome by her d s*o&ery+ He'll ne&er lo&e me ba*( she tho.!ht+ 6as that tr.e- or was she merely a**ept n! the att t.de o) h s )am ly and others7 ,ot lon! a!o she had tho.!ht h m hard- *old- and nd ))erent+ He was really none o) those th n!s+ It had only been s / months+ %nne s9.ared her sho.lders and headed ba*( to her wor(+ I) he ne&er lo&es melo& n! h m w ll ha&e to be eno.!h- she de* ded- b.t who (nows what another s / months may br n!7 ***

CHAPTER 2!
W,EN 1ORD PROPOSED .A2ING 0AR.,A .p on her n& tat on )or S.nday d nner%nne (ept her )eel n!s to hersel) and a!reed+ In tr.th ne&er spend n! another moment anywhere near any o) h s )am ly a!a n wo.ld ha&e been ) ne w th her+ E/*ept maybe 8artha+ St ll- *ons der n! what her own )am ly was l (e- try n! to !et alon! w th Cord's )am ly was the least she *o.ld do- and t was n *e not to dr &e two ho.rs to town- l sten to ?e&erend Pratt !o on )or another *o.ple o) ho.rs- and then dr &e r !ht home a!a n+ %lso- her )ather had s.rpr sed e&eryone by ! & n! her mother perm ss on to & s t at Ephra m's a)ter the 6ells )am ly's S.nday d nner was ) n shed- so lon! as ?ob

a**ompan ed her+ Leona d dn't e&en wash her own d shes- 1.st le)t them soa( n! and r.shed down the street+ %s soon as ?ob and Leona appeared- Cord d sappeared+ He too( a ;wal(-; wh *h %nne (new n*l.ded & s ts w th Bob 6 ndon- ,oah ?eynolds- and others l (e the LeCler*s+ She en& ed h m the es*ape- be*a.se her mother and brother d d not want to tal( abo.t the wonders o) her new l )e- news aro.nd town- or the world n !eneral+ 'hey barely l stened to the stor es o) the new )oals that were now be n! bornen*hant n!- wh s(er3*h nned l ttle *reat.res that %nne *o.ld not see eno.!h o)+ ,or were they mpressed w th the des*r pt on o) ?ose's new *al)- :asm ne- an e9.ally endear n! l ttle *harmer that made t hard to lea&e the barn a)ter *hores+ ,o- her mother and her brother only wanted to tal( her nto ret.rn n! to a ;de*ent; l )e+ She stopped the worst o) t by n)orm n! them she wo.ldn't l sten to anyth n! ne!at &e abo.t her h.sband the ) rst S.nday+ 'he se*ond S.nday- she pa.sed only lon! eno.!h to say * ly- ;H s parents were marr ed-; then wal(ed o.t o) the room when ?ob *alled Cord ;that mon!rel bastard+; Yet the press.re was always there as her mother des*r bed ;per)e*t; mat*heswedd n!s- and marr a!es- and her brother pra sed almost e&ery other )emale n town as a ;real lady+; 'he Bennett )am ly was always n the ba*(!ro.nd- and n %nne's op n on- the r s len*e was e& den*e o) the r *on*.rren*e+ Us.ally- Cord and %nne were hal)way ba*( to the ran*h be)ore she stopped !nash n! her teeth+ Cord let her (now n the be! nn n! t was her *ho *e+ ;6e don't ha&e to !o- yo. (now+; ;Yo. l (e be n! aro.nd yo.r wret*hed )am ly- don't yo.7; ;Yeah- I do- a l ttle+ ,ot eno.!h )or yo. to be .nhappy o&er t+ Seems yo. need to ma(e pea*e w th yo.r )am ly too+ Yo.r mother and brother anyway+; She s !hed- b.t a!reed- ;I (now+ 8aybe they'll *alm down ) I ! &e them a wh le+; So they *ont n.ed the S.nday & s ts and )o.nd an .ne/pe*ted d & dend+ Anow n! where to ) nd h m- people be!an to see( Cord o.t at Ephra m's to as( abo.t horses )or sale+ 6 th %rmand and Helene LeCler* *orner n! e&ery l stener- w ll n! or .nw ll n!- to s n! the pra ses o) S l& e the bea.t ).l and S l& e the per)e*t- they sold two more o) the l ttle b.!!y horses n the ne/t )ew wee(s+ Cord re).sed to sell Sweet 6 ll am+ 'hey had to *hoose )rom the others+ ;I) I sell h m- I'll be dr & n! someth n! named Pet.n a or ?oseb.d+; He so.nded d s!.sted when he sa d t- b.t %nne (new the real reason was that he )elt she l (ed 6 ll e more than the others+ Some S.ndays they wo.ld br n! two or three saddle horses n beh nd the b.!!y )or people to try+ Somehow b.yers also seemed to be pay n! de*ent pr *es )or the horses+ Cord was almost !ett n! .sed to ner&o.s b.yers (no*( n! on Ephra m's door and as( n! )or h m on S.nday a)ternoons- b.t when 8artha answered the door one S.nday n early 8ay and !ot )l.stered be*a.se t was @ r! n a Stone *ome to *all- he was s.rpr sed+ He (new )rom %nne that 8rs+ Stone was another o) the women n town who had been *onstantly held .p to her as a model o) what she sho.ld be l (e+ %nd so )ar as he was *on*erned- l (e all the others- she wasn't n %nne's *lass+ She was always t.rned o.t n )an*y *lothes that loo(ed hard to breathe n- and her redd sh ha r was always so per)e*tly

tamed Cord wondered abo.t !l.e+ 'he only reason he (new so m.*h abo.t 8rs+ Stone and her h.sband :ohn was that 8rs+ Stone's pass on was her horses- and she had some en& able 'horo.!hbred sto*(+ ,ow he wat*hed w th am.sement as the woman sat n 8artha's ( t*hen- ) ddled w th a *.p o) *o))ee and wor(ed hersel) .p to try n! to tal( h m nto do n! someth n! she m.st (now he wo.ldn't want to do+ ;I ha&e a 'horo.!hbred stall on I need help w th-; she sa d+ ;I p.r*hased h m n Aent.*(y last year- and s n*e he's been here he's be*ome n*reas n!ly d )) *.lt+ %t least one horseman has labeled h m a ro!.e- b.t he was wonder).l when I saw h m ba*( East+ He's bea.t ).lly tra ned and he was e/*ept onally b ddable )or s.*h a h !h bred stall on+ 8r+ 6 ndon s .nw ll n! to ta(e h m on- b.t he sa d yo. *o.ld help me+; Cord wondered ) the woman had e&er sat n a ( t*hen be)ore or e&er addressed anyone who wasn't p.re wh te e/*ept to ! &e an order+ 'hen a!a n- maybe he sho.ld ! &e her *red t )or do n! those th n!s on behal) o) one o) her horses+ Her !lo&ed hands were ).ss n! at the r m o) her *o))ee *.p+ She p.t the *.p down- h d her hands .nder the table- and *ont n.ed+ ;8y stableman s no lon!er w ll n! to deal w th > rebrand- and last n !ht my h.sband told me .nless I *an ) nd someone to handle the horse- he's !o n! to ha&e h m shot+ He's so an!ry he won't e&en d s*.ss lett n! me sell h m+ 6o.ld yo. please ! &e me an op n on+ I'll pay yo. )or yo.r t me+; Cord was pol te b.t ) rm+ ;I'm sorry- 8rs+ Stone+ I ra se and tra n my own+ I don't ha&e t me to wor( spo led sto*( )or other people+; ;He sn't spo led-; she ar!.ed+ ;'here was no problem w th h m n the East- and someth n! was wron! )rom the m n.te he arr &ed here+ ,o one has been able to do more than try to r de h m a )ew t mes+ 6e e/er* se h m by t.rn n! h m o.t n a lar!e paddo*( )or se&eral ho.rs- and by lead n! h m between two saddle horses- b.t t's hard to do e&en that when e&eryone's a)ra d o) h m+; Cord's last e/per en*e w th th s ( nd o) th n! was w th Lathr.m's .seless yellow horse- and he wasn't !o n! to be drawn n+ ;I'm sorry- ma'am- b.t no+; 8rs+ Stone then played what she ob& o.sly tho.!ht was her tr.mp *ard+ ;I .nderstand yo. wor(ed a d )) *.lt horse )or %l)erd Lathr.m last year- that yo. a!reed be*a.se yo. wanted to mpro&e yo.r sto*( w th some o) h s Eastern breed n!- and that he *heated yo. so that yo. don't ha&e the yo.n! stall on he prom sed+ 6o.ld an o))er o) breed n! one o) yo.r mares to th s horse *han!e yo.r m nd7 I wo.ldn't *heat yo.+; Cord had seen the b ! red horse n the d stan*e on*e or tw *e and tal(ed to 6 ndon abo.t h m+ He tho.!ht the horse was probably the best loo( n! an mal he had e&er la d eyes on+ He was tempted- b.t he had been b.rned badly last )all+ ;'hat's !enero.s o) yo.- 8rs+ Stone- b.t the *olt I !ot )rom Lathr.m s do n! ) ne+ 8y w )e d d some n.rs n! on h m and bro.!ht h m aro.nd+ I don't++++; ? !ht then he made the m sta(e o) !lan* n! at %nne+ He *o.ld see her )a*e )all n! as ) he were tell n! her no+ Oh- hell- he sho.ld ha&e (nown+ I) they were !o n! to shoot the damn horse ) nobody *o.ld do anyth n! w th t- she'd be hellbent )or sa& n! t+ 6hen he hes tated- 8rs+ Stone pressed her ad&anta!e+ ;Please+ He's s.*h a bea.t ).l an mal+ 'here 1.st has to be someth n! wron! no one has )o.nd+ He's been *he*(ed )rom head to toe 3 teeth- e&eryth n!- b.t there m.st be someth n!+ 8r+ 6 ndon told me++++; Her &o *e tra led away+

<ood old Bob- Cord tho.!ht a* dly+ He'd probably ) lled her ).ll o) ma! * stor es+ He sa d- ;%ll r !ht- 8rs+ Stone- I'll *ome loo( at the horse- say '.esday morn n!+ I) I *an ) !.re o.t someth n! so yo. don't ha&e to destroy h m- I'll e/pe*t the breed n!+ I) I *an't help yo.- yo. don't owe me anyth n!+; Her )a*e l )ted n a !en. ne sm le+ ;'han( yo. &ery m.*h- 8r+ Bennett+; She s.rpr sed h m a!a n by hold n! o.t a !lo&ed hand- and solemnly sha( n! hands to seal the bar!a n+ Leona and ?ob had *ome n d.r n! th s d s*.ss on and were as awed by @ r! n a Stone's presen*e as 8artha+ %s soon as the door *losed beh nd her- ?ob sa d- ;,ow there's a rea$ lady+; %nne 1.st made a )a*e at her brother+ ;6h *h mare w ll we ta(e to h m7; Cord )elt l (e la.!h n! at her- b.t d dn't let t show+ ;Damn t- %nn e- 9. t+ Probably the horse needs to be shot+; L.(e bro(e n to share what he (new on the s.b1e*t+ ;Boy- are yo. r !ht+ He too( the last *o.ple o) bron* b.sters tr ed to r de h m stra !ht thro.!h a )en*e+ Bro(e one man's le!+; 'h s slowed %nne down )ast eno.!h+ ;Cord-; worry was wr tten all o&er her- ;yo. won't++++; He stood .p and headed )or the parlor+ ;,o- I won't+ I'&e had eno.!h o) yo. n.rs n! me and po.r n! so.p st.)) down my throat )or a l )et me+; O&er %nne's sho.lder- Cord saw >ran( s*owl+ H s brother and the rest o) the )am ly *o.ld ta(e the words anyway damn way they wanted+ %ll that mattered was allay n! %nne's )ear- and her sm le told h m he'd s.**eeded at that+ ***

Ch'()e* 2"
.,E PEOPLE OF 0ASON REFERRED to :ohn and @ r! n a Stone's property as an estate- and as she rode .p the w nd n! dr &eway bes de Cord- %nne *o.ld see why+ 8aybe the ho.se wasn't 9. te as b ! as her %.nt Clara's mans on n Ch *a!o- b.t set on a h ll w th a*res o) land on all s des- t loo(ed e&en more mpress &e+ 'he barn had also been b. lt as m.*h to mpress as )or .t l ty+ E&eryth n! was wh te w th !reen tr m+ 'wo lon! rows o) stalls were separated by a w de *enter a sle- and the hay lo)t abo&e !a&e the barn more he !ht than a two3story b. ld n!+ E&en tho.!h she had ne&er been to the Stones' be)ore- %nne was str.*( by the )am l ar ty o) the s*ene+ %s on the day they del &ered %damson's horses to the tra n- there was an .ne/pe*ted *rowd o) *.r o.s towns)ol( already lean n! a!a nst most o) the pretty wh te )en*e s.rro.nd n! the r d n! areas+ 6hen they were *lose- she *o.ld see Ephra m and 8artha- >ran(- Pete- and L.(e n the *rowd+ >ollow n! Cord's lead- she !nored them all- and they rode r !ht to the barn and t ed Aeeper and Lady o.ts de+ :ohn and @ r! n a Stone and her stableman- ntrod.*ed only as Lenn e- were wa t n!+ :ohn Stone was as ele!ant as h s w )e- a sl m man o) moderate he !ht w th dar( ha r )rosted w th s l&er on the s des and a sharply tr mmed short beard+ He and Lenn e seemed

to be ha& n! a *ontest to see who *o.ld loo( more bored by ha& n! to p.t .p w th th s hopeless- last d t*h e))ort+ @ r! n a Stone was .pset and more than sl !htly embarrassed+ ;I'm so sorry+ I d dn't ment on th s to anyone- b.t t seems my h.sband has+; :ohn Stone was not apolo!et *+ He 1.st leaned a!a nst the barn wall and *rossed h s arms+ Cord !nored them all and wal(ed o&er to loo( at the horse thro.!h the barred top o) the stall+ Bes de h m- %nne *a.!ht her breath+ 'he horse was a !low n! deep red w tho.t a s n!le mar( n!+ G.al ty showed n the shapely ears- the broad- )lat )orehead- small m.22le and tra* n! o) &e ns & s ble .nder the sat ny *oat+ E&eryth n! abo.t the an mal seemed to )low smoothly to!ether+ He loo(ed power).l- yet re) ned+ ?estlessly pa* n! the stall- > rebrand !a&e e& den*e o) the 9.al ty and athlet * ab l ty that had l.red @ r! n a Stone to b.y h m- and also o) the )o.l- dan!ero.s att t.de that made :ohn Stone want to see h m shot+ %nne was ready to lea&e r !ht then- b.t Cord mo&ed to the D.t*h door to the stall and opened the top hal)+ 'he stall on mmed ately *har!ed at h m- not 1.st w th teeth baredb.t w th h s whole mo.th !ap n! w de eno.!h to se 2e a man's sho.lder and *r.sh t+ Cord e&aded the *har!e eas ly- then le)t the top door open and leaned a!a nst the oppos te wall o) the a sleway+ ;'ell me abo.t what he was l (e ba*( East n a stall and what he was l (e when he ) rst !ot here+; ,er&o.sly- 8rs+ Stone sa d the horse was do* le and !ood nat.red n the stall when she ) rst saw h m+ 'he breeder *la med he had an .n.s.ally ) ne nat.re and t had seemed so+ 6hen he had ) rst arr &ed n Colorado last ,o&ember- the horse was restless and ner&o.s- as m !ht be e/pe*ted- b.t he only started b t n! and ( *( n! wee(s later+ H s stall manners de!enerated parallel to the d )) *.lt es .nder saddle+ %t ) rst he was .n*ooperat &e- then totally .nw ll n!- and ) nally he be!an to ) !ht a r der & olently and a!!ress &ely+ ;8m+ ' ll he too( two men thro.!h yo.r )en*e+; 8rs+ Stone had the !ra*e to loo( ashamed+ Cord a!a n wal(ed to the open stall door- and the horse *har!ed a!a n+ He h t the horse w th a hard ) st r !ht n the so)t s( n o&er the teeth at the s de o) the m.22le w th s.*h )or*e the horse ro*(ed ba*(+ 'he stall on retreated to the ba*( o) the stall and stood wor( n! h s l ps and th n( n! t o&er+ %nne )elt s *( w th )ear+ I) Cord were h.rt by th s monster- t wo.ld be all her )a.lt+ ;Cord7 8aybe++++; He 1.st loo(ed at her- and she stopped+ %t a 1er( o) h s head she )ollowed h m down the barn a sleway o.t o) hear n! o) the others+ ;I) yo.'re !o n! to ).ss- we'll wal( o.t r !ht now+; ;I don't want yo. h.rt s all+; ;%nn e- I'm not !o n! to !et h.rt o&er a damn horse+ I) yo. *an't bel e&e that- let's !o+; She b t her lower l p+ 'r.st n! s the hardest part+ ;I bel e&e yo.+; ;%ll r !ht then+ 6ant to help7; She nodded- .nable to see how she *o.ld help+ 'hey ret.rned to the horse's stall- to :ohn Stone's sar*ast *- ;Strate!y all planned7; %nne *ontrolled an .r!e to slap h m+ Cord d dn't seem to hear+

'he horse was st ll stand n! alon! the ba*( wall o) the stall- mot onless- ears sl !htly ba*(+ Cord's nstr.*t ons horr ) ed %nne- b.t she too( the pos t on he nd *ated- as d d 8rs+ Stone+ ;,ow- I'm !o n! to stand w th my ba*( to h m+ 8rs+ Stone- yo. start tell n! me e&eryth n! yo. *an remember abo.t when yo. saw h m ba*( East+ E&ery deta l+ He's !o n! to *ome at me- and yo. do yo.r best to 1.st (eep tal( n! when he does n a normal &o *e+ Don't 1.mp+ Don't s*ream+ Doesn't matter what yo. say r !ht then+ 'ry to (eep t *on&ersat onal s all+ %nn e- (eep yo.r eyes on h m+ He's !o n! to p n h s ears when he *omes+ ,ot 1.st a l ttle- they'll )latten r !ht o.t on h s head+ 6hen yo. see that- yo. mo&e yo.r hand- l (e th s+; He demonstrated+ %nne heard 8rs+ Stone's &o *e dron n! on and on and *o.ldn't .nderstand a word+ She stared at the b ! red monster .nt l her eyes h.rt- and then the ears went= She wa&ed her hand nstantly- *lamp n! down on her already a*h n! 1aw e&en harder to (eep )rom *ry n! o.t+ Cord was pos t oned n the doorway so that the horse *o.ld only *ome at one s deand he wh rled and smashed the stall on n the mo.th a!a n- w th the same res.lt+ %nne *o.ld see 8rs+ Stone trembl n! and (new she was do n! the same+ Cord sa d- ;'hat's !ood+ ,ow we do t a!a n+ 'h s t me he's probably !o n! to mosey o&er loo( n! as nno*ent as he *an and ta(e a !ood loo( at me+ He'll !et *lose and then try t a!a n+ 6at*h h s ears+; 'he women wat*hed w de3eyed- 8rs+ Stone no lon!er ma( n! !ood sense n her ner&o.s attempts at ord nary so.nd n! spee*h+ 'he horse meandered *loser and *losernos n! the bedd n! and try n! to loo( .n nterested n the man+ ,ear the stall door h s nostr ls d lated as he too( deep s.sp * o.s breaths+ 'hen the ears p nned+ Cord d dn't ha&e t me to t.rn+ He smashed the horse w th an elbow n abo.t the same pla*e+ %nne 1.st mana!ed to s.ppress a moan+ ;,ow what-; she wh spered+ ;'ry t a!a n+ 6e'll ! &e h m hal) an ho.r+ I) he *omes a!a n- 8r+ Stone s r !ht 3 best th n! s to shoot h m+; 8rs+ Stone too( .p her ner&o.s re* tat on a!a n- stead ed by 9.est ons )rom Cord- and ) nally- he 9.est oned Lenn e abo.t the horse's beha& or+ Yo.n! and *o*(y- Lenn e was not pleased to see th s man .na)ra d o) the horse that terr ) ed h m+ He was s.llen and .n*ooperat &e- ! & n! monosyllab * answers- b.t the hal) ho.r passed+ 'he horse had mo&ed .p beh nd Cord and was loo( n! h m o&er and test n! h s s*entb.t made no ).rther mo&e toward h m+ Cord wal(ed n the stall and atta*hed a rope to the horse's halter w th no ).ss+ 6hen he t ed the an mal and be!an r.nn n! a br.sh o&er h m8rs+ Stone sa d- ;He ( *(s+; ;Bet not+; He was r !ht+ 'he horse l )ted a h nd le! se&eral t mes b.t ne&er tr ed a ( *(+ 8 n.tes later Cord had h s saddle o)) Aeeper and on the stall on+ He re1e*ted the br dle Lenn e held o.t and as(ed )or one as s m lar as poss ble to what the horse was r dden w th ba*( East+ 6 th th s on the horse's head- he be!an to !ently play w th the re ns+ In se*onds the horse's ears were p nned )lat to h s head and ).ry was n e&ery l ne+ 'he br dle *ame o))+ ;%nn e- !et the br dle n the saddle ba!s- w ll yo.7; Cord's saddle was str pped down n ant * pat on o) r d n! the stall on+ 'he only saddle ba!s were on Lady+ She ran+ 'he *rowd o.ts de was restless and no sy- b.t had !rown- not d m n shed+ 6 th h s own br dle on the horse- Cord be!an to play w th the re ns a!a n+

8rs+ Stone ob1e*ted- ;B.t that's a *olt br dle+ He's !one thro.!h the )en*e w th 9. te se&ere b ts+ Yo.'ll ne&er hold h m w th that+; Cord d dn't e&en answer+ %lmost r !ht away %nne *o.ld see a d ))eren*e+ 'he horse's ears were )l *( n! .n*erta nly- b.t he was no lon!er harden n! h s 1aw and st *( n! h s nose stra !ht o.t w th e&ery to.*h o) a re n+ ;How many people were aro.nd the day yo. saw h m r dden7; %nne (new he was wonder n! abo.t the e))e*t o) the *rowd on the horse+ 8rs+ Stone sa d- ;G. te a )ew- really+ 'here was a h.nt that morn n!+ %nd they were &ery no sy+ It was a *old morn n! and there was some brandy passed aro.nd+; ;Let's !o see+; He wal(ed the horse o.t o) the barn and headed )or the smallest o) the )en*ed r d n! areas+ %s he wal(ed o.t w th the horse- the no se o) the onloo(ers s.bs ded+ %nne )ollowed alon! w th the Stones- ta( n! .p a pos t on r !ht bes de the !ate+ She wat*hed Cord wal( alon! bes de the horse- st ll !ently tw t*h n! and )eel n! the re ns as the an mal wal(ed aro.nd+ S.ddenly she was s.rro.nded by Bennetts+ ;'hat too( a wh le+; >ran( was loo( n! not at her b.t at h s brother+ She needed to tell somebody+ ;It was aw).l+ 'hat horse really s & * o.s+ I w sh I *o.ld !o ba*( and rel &e last S.nday- and we wo.ldn't be here+; >ran( sa d- ;'he th n! yo.'&e !ot to learn s that Cord's meaner than most o) what he *omes .p a!a nst+ Yo. were worr ed abo.t h m the day he hal)3( lled those poor yahoos too- ) I remember+; %nne *lamped her mo.th nto a hard stra !ht l ne+ >ran( probably wo.ldn't be bothered a b t ) the damn horse stomped h s brother+ S.rely the Bennetts *o.ldn't be any more a!!ra&at n!- b.t then L.(e pro&ed her wron!+ He sa d- ;8ost people are bett n! he won't e&en ha&e the ner&e to !et on that ( lleryo. (now+; %nne )or*ed words thro.!h t !ht l ps+ ;6hat do yo. mean- 'bett n!'7; ;'he real th n!+ 'here's a lot o) money !o n! aro.nd+ 8ost people th n( he won't e&en try to r de the horse+ Some say he'll try and !et thrown+ 6 ndon says he'll !et t done+ Personally- the way he ) ddles aro.nd w th horses- I ) !.re he w ll r de t 3 someday+; %nne t.rned to >ran(- do n! her best to h de an!er beh nd a pol te sm le+ ;6hen I le)t home I had twenty dollars- b.t I don't ha&e t w th me+ 6o.ld yo. loan me twenty dollars .nt l S.nday7; >ran( p.lled twenty dollars )rom h s po*(et and handed t to her w tho.t a word+ ;'han( yo.- >ran(+ ,ow- L.(e- I'&e ne&er pla*ed a bet+ 6o.ld yo. or Pete bet th s )or me7 Bet t that he'll r de that horse+; ;%h- *ome on- to w n the bet he has to really r de t- not 1.st be on t when t !oes thro.!h the )en*e+; Be)ore %nne *o.ld draw breath to answer- >ran( nter&ened+ ;:.st !o bet the money )or her- son+; L.(e !a&e h s )ather an .n*erta n loo(+ ;<o+; Sha( n! h s head- L.(e went and !ot Pete )rom a )ew )eet o))- and the two d sappeared nto the *rowd+ %nne *o.ld see that Cord was no lon!er 1.st wal( n! bes de the horse b.t d re*t n! t+ 'hey stopped- be!an a!a n- t.rned ea*h way+ ' me passed+ 'he *rowd was bored and !ett n! lo.der on*e more+ 'he horse halted- as t had a do2en t mes- b.t th s t me Cord eased nto the saddle so smoothly some o) the wat*hers- n&ol&ed n the r own *on&ersat ons- d dn't mmed ately not *e+

Soon all eyes were on the b ! red horse and the l the ) !.re n the saddle+ 'he horse *ont n.ed to wal( 9. etly- )ollow n! the same patterns t had w th Cord on the !ro.nd+ 8oments later he eased nto a trot and be!an to e/e*.te more l ttle * r*les- t.rns- and patterns- the same ones he had %nne p.t Lady thro.!h+ 'he horse dropped ba*( to an easy wal( then was o)) a!a n aro.nd the pen's per meter at a rela/ed *anter+ %)ter a )ew small * r*. ts o) the pen's per meter- the horse !l ded thro.!h the *enter o) the pene))ortlessly *han! n! h s lead n! le! as he *han!ed d re*t on+ %nne lo&ed to wat*h Cord r de+ He was stra !ht n the saddle- not n a st )) m l tary )ash on b.t n a rela/ed- easy way+ ,o matter how *ompl *ated the mane.&er he p.t a horse thro.!h- h s *.es were almost too s.btle to be seen+ He was always st ll and 9. et&ery m.*h one w th the horse+ She )elt the tens on dra n away+ He was r !ht+ He wasn't !o n! to !et h.rt+ He bro.!ht the horse ba*( to a wal( and stopped n )ront o) the Stones+ :ohn Stone d d not loo( part *.larly happy at the s.**ess o) th s &ent.re+ @ r! n a Stone loo(ed e*stat *+ Lean n! one arm *as.ally on the saddle horn- Cord !nored :ohn and addressed @ r! n a+ ;8a'am- ) yo.'&e been e/er* s n! th s horse eno.!h he's m.s*led .p- I'd s.re l (e to r de h m o.ts de+ 'h s s the best horse I'&e e&er been on+; 8rs+ Stone's sm le )altered- and she loo(ed ner&o.s a!a n- b.t she nodded 1er( ly+ >ran( sw.n! the !ate open+ Cord too( the horse to the b ! open area where the Stones and the r )r ends played polo and be!an to e/per ment w th what the stall on *o.ld do+ %nne wat*hed lead *han!es- s de passes- hal) passes- and p ro.ettes w th !row n! del !ht+ Con*entrat n! on the !ra*e).l ) !.re n the saddle- she d dn't real 2e >ran( was bes de her a!a n .nt l she heard h s &o *e+ ;Ha&e yo. see h m r de l (e that be)ore7; ;Yes+ He's shown me th n!s on both Aeeper and Lady- b.t th s horse s so bea.t ).l+ It's mpress &e w th Aeeper- b.t not l (e th s+; 'he patterns were be! nn n! to )low to!ether .nt l t loo(ed as ) the horse were dan* n!+ >ran( spo(e a!a n- ;'hat's two th n!s he !ot a lot better at those years he was away+; %nne d dn't mo&e her eyes b.t as(ed- ;6hat's the other7; ;> !ht n!+; %nne too( se&eral steps )orward then- lett n! >ran( (now she wasn't p.rs. n! the s.b1e*t and !ett n! *loser to adm re both the horse and her man+ Cord was on the )ar s de o) the !raded area now and t.rned the horse stra !ht towards her+ Ba*(l t by the s.n- he was an ere*t dar( shadow on the red horse w th ts halo o) ) re+ H s eyes were n& s ble b.t she *o.ld )eel them )astened on her- *ompell n!+ Breathless- %nne wat*hed the horse bear n! stra !ht towards her- *han! n! lead n! le! e&ery other str de+ It was the most d )) *.lt mane.&er he had e&er demonstrated )or her- and she (new th s was )or her- a ! )t+ 'he stall on t.rned only )eet )rom her- *antered by+ It ended too soon+ %ll at on*e he was on the !ro.nd- wal( n! toward her- as *at3l (e as the horse n h s own way+ ;Come on- ' 3!ress- we'd better tell 8rs+ Stone what's wron! w th her horse+; %nne had no dea what was wron! w th the horse- b.t wal(ed bes de h m- st )l n! an .r!e to s( p+ He wasn't h.rt- he'd r dden the horse- and all these )ool people were d sappo nted on*e more+

She l stened to Cord e/pla n to 8rs+ Stone that the sellers had m sled her as to the horse's b tt n! and how he tho.!ht they'd done t+ E/*ept onally sens t &e- the horse )o.!ht- and when they tr ed to *ontrol h m w th more se&ere b ts- he )o.!ht harder+ ?esentment e&ent.ally a))e*ted e&en h s att t.de n the stall- and when people who were a)ra d o) h m be!an p.sh n! h m aro.nd w th a broom or sho&el- e&eryth n! es*alated+ He ne&er !lan*ed at Lenn e as he sa d th s+ 8rs+ Stone was not happy+ ;B.t I r de all my horses n do.ble br dles w th *.rb b ts+ % pla n sna))le s too *r.de )or the ( nd o) r d n! I do+; %nne almost nterr.pted to po nt o.t that *ons der n! the demonstrat on she had 1.st seen- th s was patently r d *.lo.s- b.t mana!ed to b te her ton!.e+ O) *o.rse- Cord d dn't po nt t o.t+ He sa d- ;6ell- ma'am- the horse s to.*hy- and he's always !o n! to be that way+; ;Co.ld yo. !et h m to !o properly w th a *.rb b t7 I'll pay yo. well- or yo. *an ha&e add t onal breed n!s ) yo.'d pre)er+; ;Yeah- I *an- b.t yo. sho.ld real 2e he's always !o n! to be an e/tra sens t &e horse+ He m !ht not be someth n! yo.'re !o n! to want to bother w th+; ;I see+; She was )rown n!- ob& o.sly not happy w th any o) th s+ ;6ell- s.ppose yo. ta(e h m and at least !et h m to where he *an be sa)ely r dden- and then ) I don't l (e h m )or mysel)- I'll be able to sell h m+ I *erta nly *an't do that the way he s now+; Cord !lan*ed at %nne- who w !!led her eyebrows n a ;whate&er yo. want; ( nd o) way+ ;It w ll ta(e abo.t two months-; he sa d+ ;S.ppose we breed one mare )or ea*h month+; @ r! n a Stone held o.t one sl m !lo&ed hand- and they a!a n shoo( hands+ :ohn Stone loo(ed absol.tely d s!.sted as they rode o.t- Cord lead n! the b ! red horse bes de Aeeper+ 'he whole Bennett *lan was wa t n! )or them at the end o) the dr &eway+ ;How abo.t l.n*h at o.r ho.se7; as(ed Ephra m+ Cord had ment oned a stea( at the *a)e to %nne earl er- b.t then they hadn't e/pe*ted to be br n! n! the stall on home w th them+ He sa d- ;Yeah- so.nds !ood- ) we *an p.t the red horse n a stall n yo.r barn+; %nne (new r !ht then that Cord was no more !o n! to re)er to th s stall on as ;> rebrand; than he wo.ld *all 6 ll e ;Sweet 6 ll am+; So t was o)) to Ephra m's )or l.n*h+ 6hen they were all n the r )am l ar pla*es aro.nd the table- L.(e p.lled a small shea) o) twenty3dollar b lls )rom h s po*(et and presented them to her w th a )lo.r sh+ ;Here's yo.r ll3!otten !a ns- ma'am+; %nne had )or!otten the bet+ ;B.t I only bet twenty dollars+; ;'he odds were ) &e to one+; She had only the &a!.est *on*ept o) odds- and L.(e happ ly enl !htened her+ %t the end o) h s e/planat on- she heard Cord drawl n a way she d dn't l (e the so.nd o) at all;6here'd yo. !et twenty dollars- %nn e7; ;I borrowed )rom >ran( 3 a!a nst my <renerton money+; ?em nded by her own words- she handed one o) the twent es to >ran(+ 'here was a lot o) *hatter o&er l.n*h- b.t t was mostly Pete and L.(e re& ew n! the morn n!'s happen n!s+ %nne was as 9. et as Cord- and when 8artha and :.d th re).sed

her help w th the d shes- they le)t mmed ately+ In the barn- Cord t.rned on her as she'd (nown he wo.ld+ ;6hat the hell wo.ld yo. .se to !et to <renerton ) yo.'d lost yo.r twenty dollars7; 'he ta.t s( n aro.nd h s eyes told her he was an!ry- b.t she *o.ld not )or the l )e o) her de* de why+ ;Yo. (now as well as I do I'm ne&er !o n! to <renerton- so what's the d ))eren*e7; ;,e&er's a lon! t me+; ?eason wasn't !o n! to !et her )ar+ Perhaps th s was as !ood a t me as any to ment on someth n! that was bother n! %er+ ;Yo. (now- I'&e be!.n to wonder lately+ %re yo. so determ ned that I'm !o n! to lea&e sooner or later be*a.se that's what yo. want7 Do yo. ) !.re yo.'re !o n! to !et t red o) ha& n! me aro.nd- or are yo. )eel n! that way already- and yo. want to ma(e s.re yo. don't ha&e to )eel !. lty when yo. throw me o.t n a snowdr )t when the t me *omes7; He st.d ed her )a*e *are).lly- and she *o.ld see the t !ht loo( d sappear n! )rom aro.nd h s eyes+ ;Yo. (now better than that+; ;6hy sho.ld I (now better than that7 I) yo. *an n.rse abs.rd not ons- why *an't I7 8aybe yo.'d 1.st better )a*e the )a*t that yo.'re st.*( w th me+ 6hen yo.'re n nety years old yo.'re !o n! to wa(e .p n the morn n!- and there I'll be 3 w th wh te ha r and wr n(les 3 and yo.'ll st ll be st.*(+; She *o.ld see the sm le start aro.nd h s eyes+ He d dn't really answer her+ ;I s.ppose yo. d d all r !ht today anyway+ ,ow yo.r <renerton money w ll !et yo. to Den&er+; Drat h m+ He really was st.bborn+ .,E FRIENDS W,O ,AD 73IE.LY snooped aro.nd and as(ed 9.est ons abo.t the Bennetts on Edward 6ells' behal) all reported pretty m.*h the same th n!+ ,o matter how the )am ly )elt abo.t ts bla*( sheep- yo. *o.ldn't *o.nt on them stand n! as de ) he was n tro.ble+ In )a*t t wo.ld be more l (ely that any threat to a member o) the )am ly wo.ld ha&e the whole b.n*h o) them stand n! sho.lder to sho.lder a!a nst the o.ts der+ One o) Edward's )r ends had (nown old :am e Bennett h msel) and n)ormed Edward sa!ely- ;:am e d dn't ra se no wea(l n!s+ People are all a)ra d o) that 'breed- b.t e&en the lawyer son- yo. ma(e h m p *( .p a !.n- and he'll remember how to .se t+ >ran( nowhe was the ne/t best th n! to a !.nman be)ore he settled down+ 'hey say those two yo.n! ones- L.(e and Pete- are almost as bad+ E&eryth n! I hear- yo.r da.!hter ( nd o) l (es that In1.n- Ed- maybe yo. o.!ht to 1.st let t be+; Edward's )r ! d !lare *.t th s l ne o) *on&ersat on dead- b.t the )a*t had to be )a*ed- a d re*t )rontal assa.lt was o.t+ I(e Handler had been r !ht- the th n! to do was to *on& n*e the damn Ind an and h s )am ly that %nne had wanted to ret.rn to her )am ly and had done 1.st that+ It sho.ldn't be hard to )ool an !norant sa&a!e+ Some *are wo.ld need to be ta(en be*a.se o) h s ed.*ated wh te relat &es+ Edward be!an an n&ol&ed *orresponden*e w th h s s ster Clara n Ch *a!o+ ***

CHAPTER 2#
.WO WEE2S LA.ER VIRGINIA S.ONE was ba*( n 8artha's ( t*hen on S.nday a)ternoon+ 6hat she wanted th s t me was 1.st pla n mposs ble- b.t %nne (ept 9. et(now n! Cord wo.ld t.rn her down )lat+ ;I'&e de* ded to sell > rebrand as soon as he yo. th n( he's pro!ressed eno.!h-; she sa d+ ;8y h.sband really wants that- and he wants h m n the :.ly ra*e+ I) he *an w n the ra*e- or e&en ma(e a !ood show n!- we'll !et a m.*h better pr *e+ :ohn hopes we *an !et as m.*h as I pa d+; %nne e/pe*ted Cord to 1.st say no- b.t nstead he made a br e) attempt at reason n! w th her+ ;8rs+ Stone- that ra*e s des !ned to *r pple or ( ll+ It won't help yo. sell h m ) he's lame )or the rest o) h s l )e 3 or dead+; 'he woman d dn't loo( happy- b.t she was ob& o.sly determ ned to do what her h.sband wanted+ ;:ohn doesn't bel e&e the r s( s that !reat *ompared to the poss ble !a n+ I'&e ! &en h m my word+ I w ll sell the horse to the ) rst person who o))ers at least what I pa d+ 6e'd l (e yo. to r de h m n the ra*e s n*e yo. !et alon! w th h m so well+; ;8a'am- people br n! some o) the )astest horses n the state to that ra*e- and yo.r horse sn't as )ast as some o) what w ll be here+ He wasn't bred )or speed- was he7; ;He was bred as a h.nter- b.t he's )rom e/*ellent l nes- and :ohn bel e&es++++; Her &o *e tapered o)) as she wat*hed Cord 1.st !et .p and wal( o.t+ '.rn n! to %nne- 8rs+ Stone sa d- ;Is he always that r.de7 I *an't bel e&e s.*h beha& or- and a)ter all- he owes .s++++; %nne *.t her o)) sharply+ ;6e don't owe yo. anyth n!- and he wal(ed o.t to a&o d say n! someth n! &ery r.de+ Yo.r ears wo.ld probably b.rn+ 6e're both &ery )ond o) that horse already- and yo.'re as( n! h m to p.t h msel) and the horse n dan!er o&er a )ool sh not on+; ;I bel e&e yo. do owe me+ O.r a!reement was that yo. wo.ld .se > rebrand )or one mare )or ea*h month yo.r h.sband wor(ed my horse- and yo.'&e already done thatha&en't yo.7; ;One mare+ 6e .sed h m )or one mare- and Cord earned that r !ht the day he ) rst rode the horse+ He's been adamant abo.t not .s n! the horse )or the other mares .nt l a)ter the r !ht s earned- and I tho.!ht he was be n! too *are).l+ S lly me+; Bal(ed at .s n! what she had tho.!ht was a weapon to !et her own way- 8rs+ Stone tr ed honey+ ;6ell- I (now yo. *an tal( to h m+ It's really &ery mportant to :ohn and me+ 6on't yo. help pers.ade h m- dear7; ;I'm not !o n! to try to pers.ade h m to do anyth n! that he )eels s wron!+ He'll th n( t o&er )or h msel)- b.t yo.'d better *o.nt on ha& n! the horse ba*( n yo.r barn ne/t S.nday- ) not sooner+; 8rs+ Stone opened the o.ts de door and loo(ed ba*( )rom the doorway+ ;8y h.sband th n(s we *an *ont n.e to e/er* se the horse the way we ha&e been- between two saddle horses- and a !ood r der w ll be able to 1.st !et on h m the day o) the ra*e+; ;<ood l.*(+ I bet that w ll do.ble h s &al.e all r !ht+; 'he door sh.t almost hard eno.!h to be a slam- b.t not 9. te+ @ r! n a Stone was a)ter all- the 9. ntessent al lady+

Leona *hast sed her da.!hter+ ;%nne- dear- yo. sho.ldn't be spea( n! that way to someone l (e 8rs+ Stone+; ;%nd what does that mean- 8other7 Perhaps I sho.ld only be ma( n! respe*t).la!reeable *omments n between l *(s at her boots7; 'h s bro.!ht ?ob to h s )eet+ ;Don't yo. dare spea( to 8other l (e that+ Yo. (now per)e*tly well yo. sho.ld spea( to a lady l (e 8rs+ Stone w th respe*t- and yo. (now why+ S n*e yo.'&e been l & n! w th that de!enerate yo.'&e lost all s !ns o) a de*ent .pbr n! n!+ Yo. a*t and tal( l (e a !.ttersn pe+ Someone needs to ta(e yo. n hand and rem nd yo. o) yo.r manners=; Cord wore hard soled boots on S.ndays- b.t he st ll mo&ed so 9. etly he had the door open eno.!h to hear ?ob be)ore anyone (new he was ba*(+ ;I hope yo. don't th n( yo. m !ht be that 'someone-'; he !rowled+ ?ob paled and sp.n to )a*e h m+ ;I s.ppose yo. th n( t's ).nny- don't yo.7 ,ot only ha&e yo. r. ned her so she *an ne&er l &e w th de*ent people here n 8ason a!a n+ By the t me yo.'re ) n shed she'll ha&e the spee*h and manners o) a *ommon saloon ! rl and won't ) t n anywhere+; Cord leaned ba*( a!a nst the wall bes de the door+ ;%nn e- why don't yo. wa t )or me n the barn+ I th n( t's t me yo.r brother and I had a tal(+; She wal(ed o.t w tho.t a m.rm.r+ ?ob too( an n&ol.ntary step ba*(wards- and e&eryone started loo( n! .n*om)ortable+ ;I sa d tal(- boy+ :.st *alm down+; ;I'm not a boy- and I don't want to tal( to yo.+; ;'oo bad+ L sten+ I (now the sher )) told the b.n*h o) yo. what happened last )all- b.t he *o.ld only tell what he (new and the lad es made h m ( nd o) shy- so I'm !o n! to ma(e s.re yo. .nderstand what happened to yo.r s ster+ 'he lad es *an lea&e+ Yo.'re !o n! to l sten+; Aeep n! h s &o *e )lat- he threw the )a*ts at ?ob l (e stones+ ;Yo.r )ather beat her t ll she was han! n! almost .n*ons* o.s n Sam.els' arms+ Her )a*e was so swollen yo. wo.ldn't ha&e re*o!n 2ed her- and she was r.nn n! blood )rom the nose and mo.th+ Yo.r )ather wanted an e/*.se so he *o.ld st ll )or*e her to marry Detr *(- and the rest wanted an e/*.se to han! me- b.t she wo.ldn't tell the l e they needed+ So they all loo(ed the other way wh le Sam.els pawed her- too( a (n )e and *.t her dress open+ She's !ot a s*ar down her ba*( )rom her ha rl ne to her wa st+ Cra ! sa d t sho.ld ha&e been st t*hed- b.t there was no one to st t*h t- was there7 'he bastard b t her all o&er the )a*e- ne*(- and sho.lders 3 her s( n was bro(en+ She had br. ses )rom her ne*( to her (nees+ He e&en tr ed to 1am a *o.ple o) ) n!ers++++; ;Stop+; ?ob's 1aw was *len*h n! and .n*len*h n! n r d!es+ ;I'm not thro.!h yet+ Sam.els ) nally stopped be*a.se she was &om t n! .p the ) rst )ood she had n days+ He threw her away )rom h m on her (nees n the m.d- and she was st ll there when yo.r )ather p.lled her head .p and told her he was lea& n! her there to 'repent+' Yo.r n *e neat m l tary )ather d dn't want her r d n! do.ble on a horse w th h m l (e that- bloody and st n( n!+; ?ob loo(ed pasty wh te and h s hands were sha( n! sl !htly+ He d dn't answer- b.t then Cord d dn't e/pe*t h m to+

;So they le)t her there w th what was s.pposed to be a dead man- and when she )o.nd I was al &e- she !ot me nto the ho.se somehow+ Yo. ha&e any dea what that was l (e )or yo.r lady3ra sed s ster7 I was .n*ons* o.s )or days+ She was spoon n! l 9. d n me- and *lean n! .p the mess when t *ame o.t+ 6ant to hear abo.t the bloody pools I'd wa(e .p n7 'wo days later they *ame ba*( to steal what they *o.ld th n( n! I was dead and the pla*e was empty+ 6ant to hear what 8ee(s sa d they'd do to her when they )o.nd her there7; ;Cord- please- please- stop+; It was the ) rst t me Leona e&er addressed h m+ He d dn't e&en !lan*e at her+ ;>a*t s she )o.nd all those tea and *r.mpet lady manners d dn't spare her a lot o) m sery she d dn't deser&e- and they wo.ldn't ha&e (ept her or me al &e e ther+ So she threw them away+ So ) she doesn't ) t some dea yo. ha&e o) how she sho.ld a*t any more- that's too damn bad+ I) she wants to yell and *.rse or 1.mp .p and down or do anyth n! else- she earned the r !ht+ %nd yo.'&e earned noth n!absol.tely noth n!- so yo. (eep yo.r mo.th sh.t aro.nd her or I'll sh.t t )or yo.+; 'hen he was !one as so.ndlessly as he'd *ome- lea& n! a room).l o) st.nned- 9.easy people+ Leona was *lose to tears+ ;?ob- ta(e me home- please+; 6hen they were !one- >ran( ran h s ) n!ers thro.!h h s ha r and sa d- ;'hat e/pla ns some o) t+ He th n(s he owes her+ I'&e ne&er heard so many *onse*.t &e words o.t o) h m n h s l )e+; Ephra m sa d- ;8aybe he does owe her+; ;She bro.!ht the tro.ble to h m+; ;'hat's not )a r- >ran(+ It was more l (e a ro*(sl de that *a.!ht them both+; ;8aybe+ It's a lo.sy bas s )or a marr a!e+; ANNE ,AD S.AR.ED ,ARNESSING WILLIE as soon as she !ot to the barn+ 'hey *o.ldn't start home soon eno.!h )or her+ By the t me Cord 1o ned her- the horse was ready to p.t to the b.!!y+ He sa d- ;I'm sorry- %nn e- I *ame ba*( be*a.se I real 2ed I le)t yo. n the m ddle o) t+; She tr ed to sm le at h m- b.t t was a )eeble e))ort+ ;I sho.ld ha&e had the sense to lea&e w th yo.+; Cord wal(ed o&er to her- and she b.rrowed a!a nst h s ne*(+ He held her hard- and she *a.!ht the s*ent o) h m- o) soap- and the )resh S.nday sh rt- )elt the warm sol d stren!th o) h s *hest and sho.lder and was *om)orted+ H s &o *e r.mbled .nder her ear+ ;<a&e yo. a ro.!h t me- d d they7; ;,ot that bad- really+ It .psets me what she's !o n! to do to ?ed- and I was short w th her- and ?ob started n on how a so* al )a l.re l (e me sho.ldn't be r.de to a para!on l (e 8rs+ Stone+; H s l ps were !entle at her temple+ ;I don't (now m.*h abo.t lad es- %nn e- b.t seems l (e t's s.pposed to be more what's ns de yo. that matters- and yo.'&e !ot more *lass than that poor woman w th all her )an*y a rs w ll e&er (now abo.t+; % *ontented s !h es*aped her+ ;8aybe yo. sho.ld ha&e been a do*tor+ Yo. really (now how to ) / the h.rt+; ;8m+ Yo.'re the only one e&er tho.!ht so+ Come on- let's !et 6 ll e h t*hed and !et o.t o) here be)ore they all *ome bo l n! o.t o) the ho.se- s.re I'm tort.r n! yo.+;

%nne mana!ed a real la.!h at th s- b.t as soon as they were *lear o) town she rode the rest o) the way home w th her head on h s sho.lder+ >or two days- ne ther Cord nor %nne ment oned the )a*t that the red horse m.st !o ba*( to h s owners+ Cord had de) n te- and to %nne h.moro.s- theor es that most horses! &en a *ho *e- pre)erred women to men+ She .nderstood when he sa d women were l !hter and not be n! as stron! were less l (ely to try to .se br.te )or*e- b.t when he started n on how women were so)ter and smelled better- she ne&er *o.ld smother the ! !!les+ So- th n( n! @ r! n a Stone wo.ld want to r de the horse hersel) when t was ret.rned to her- s n*e the be! nn n! o) the stall on's stay w th them- Cord wor(ed the horse )or an ho.r or so and then p.t %nne on h m )or her r d n! lesson+ By the th rd r de all her reser&at ons abo.t the *opper3*olored horse d ssol&ed+ I) he had spro.ted the w n!s o) Pe!as.s she *o.ld not ha&e tho.!ht he was more wonder).l+ 'he tho.!ht o) ret.rn n! ?ed to the Stones .nder these * r*.mstan*es made %nne m serable+ She (new Cord was no happ er- b.t on '.esday n !ht he set the t me+ ;S.ppose tomorrow morn n! we ta(e h m ba*(+; ;,ot S.nday7; ;,o .se p.tt n! t o))+ 8aybe t wo.ldn't h.rt to !o ta(e a loo( at that ra*e *o.rse ) rst tho.!h+; %nne b t ba*( the protest that *ame mmed ately to her l ps+ She d dn't want h m to ha&e anyth n! to do w th the ra*e+ 'r.st h m she tho.!ht+ ;8aybe t wo.ldn't h.rt+; 'hey were n town be)ore ten the ne/t morn n!- %nne r d n! ?ed- Cord lead n! a )o.r3year3old he wo.ld let see a l ttle o) the town be)ore !o n! home+ > rst- they p *(ed .p a *opy o) the ra*e entry )orm and r.les at the )eed store+ I sho.ld ha&e (nown %nne tho.!ht ho.rs later+ Cord had p.lled all sorts o) str n!s and meas.r n! de& *es o.t o) h s saddle ba!s+ He e9. pped her w th a pen* l and paperand she wrote down meas.rement a)ter meas.rement+ 'hey had 1.st *ompleted two to.rs o) the ) &e3m le ra*e *o.rse+ He ne&er d d anyth n! by hal&es+ 8any people n 8ason *ons dered the ra*e the town's !reatest asset+ 'here was no deny n! that e&ery year the town's e*onomy was ! &en a !reat boost as *ontestants and spe*tators )looded the town )or days be)ore ra*e day- some *om n! )rom !reat d stan*es+ 'he b.s nessmen o) 8ason *ontr b.ted ) )teen h.ndred dollars ea*h year- wh *h was awarded one tho.sand dollars to the w nner- three h.ndred to the se*ond pla*e horse- and two h.ndred to the th rd pla*e horse- a *ons derable draw+ Lar!e s.ms *han!ed hands n wa!ers+ 'he whole town too( on an e/* ted )a r3l (e atmosphere )or the e&ent- b.t %nne wasn't the only one who a&o ded e&eryth n! to do w th the ra*e- )or there was no 9.est on Cord was r !ht+ 'he *o.rse was o&er s.*h se&ere terra n and )or s.*h a !reat d stan*e that more than a )ew horses had been *r ppled by t+ 8ost years o) the ten to twenty horses that started the ra*e one or two were ne&er o) any .se a!a n+ In the ) )teen years o) the ra*e there had been one r der ( lled and se&eral who been h.rt badly+ 'he ra*e was ro.!hly a ) &e3m le * r*le- start n! and ) n sh n! at a po nt that had on*e been o.ts de the town b.t wh *h now was a roadway w th a )ew ho.ses s*attered alon! t+ 'he .n 9.e )eat.res o) the ra*e were pro& ded by a sandy wash- *.t thro.!h w th a stream+ In :.ly- the wash was .s.ally almost dry- b.t n the spr n! the r.no)) )looded the whole area and had *.t a deep- w nd n! !.lly+

'he *o.rse was mar(ed w th permanently set )o.r3)oot posts wh *h were ! &en a new *oat o) br !ht red pa nt ea*h year+ %)ter a stra !ht m le and a hal) r.n nto the wash- the *o.rse ) rst led thro.!h an area strewn w th downed trees- bro(en l mbs- and other ha2ards that *.t and tore at the th n s( n o&er ) ne e9. ne le!s+ 'hen the horses had to ne!ot ate the *ree( bed tsel) )or more than a 9.arter o) a m le+ 6al( n! a horse thro.!h the debr s3) lled water was tr *(y+ 'a( n! the *ree( bed at a dead r.n was dan!ero.s+ 'he *o.rse then looped away )rom the *ree(- ret.rn n! to t n an area o) less sand) rmer !ro.nd- and more trees+ Here the water had *.t deeper+ 'he ra*ers had to *ross the *ree( at a po nt where the ban(s dropped almost &ert *ally twel&e and ) )teen )eet on ea*h s de+ >rom ban( to ban( was only abo.t ten )eet- wh *h m !ht ha&e tempted some to try to 1.mp the d stan*e- b.t both ban(s o) the *ree( were hemmed by trees w th low3 han! n! bran*hes+ ? ders wo&e and d.*(ed amon! the trees- ra*ed headlon! down one ban(- a!a n r s(ed sl m le!s n the *ree( bed- and pl.n!ed .p the )ar ban(+ %)ter that- mar(er posts were set 1.st be)ore the open n! to a narrow !.lly that wo.nd trea*hero.sly )or almost a m le+ Steep ban(s on e ther s de )or*ed the horses to stay n the order n wh *h they had entered the ra& ne+ 'he )loor o) the !.lly was l ttered w th eno.!h )lood debr s to ma(e the !o n! dan!ero.s- and !narled tree roots were e/posed n ea*h ban(- seem n! to rea*h )or the horses and r ders to r p at the )lesh o) the .nwary or *areless+ Emer! n! )rom what those )am l ar w th the ra*e *alled ;the ,arrows-; there was st ll a br.tal m le and a hal) stra !ht- sl !htly .ph ll r.n to the ) n sh l ne+ %nne had wat*hed the ra*e on*e as a ! rl+ E&er s n*e- she had )o.nd somewhere else to be on ra*e day+ ,ow here she was- st.dy n! e&ery n*h o) the dread).l *o.rse+ %)ter the se*ond t me aro.nd- they rode to the *a)e+ Dora had lon! s n*e de* ded they were a**eptable *.stomers- and o&er l.n*h %nne wat*hed Cord draw a map o) the ro.te) ll n! n the r meas.rements here and there+ 6hen he was done- he e/pla ned to her what he had n m nd+ She stared at the paper and tho.!ht o) what they had seen and meas.red th s morn n! and loo(ed at Cord w th d sbel e)+ ;Can that be done7; ;'hey h.nted that horse ba*( East+ It's what he was bred )or+ 'hat means 1.mp n! stone walls- hed!es- !ates- *h *(en *oops- th n!s l (e that+ It's no s.re th n!- b.t t's poss ble+; ;I) Stones (new- t wo.ld be all o&er town+ 'hey'd ) / t so yo. *o.ldn't+; ;Can't tell Stones+ :.st that we'd try the ra*e+; She tho.!ht o) n1.r es she'd heard o) r ders !ett n! n that ra*e+ Stones wo.ld say no and (eep h m sa)e+ ;Let's !o do t then+; It was as %nne hoped+ Cord told Stones he wo.ld r de the horse n the ra*e ) they wo.ld a**ept that he wo.ld do t w th (eep n! the horse sa)e as h s pr mary *on*ern and w th do n! well se*ondary+ 'hey wo.ld not a**ept that+ 'hey wanted a *omm tment to r de the horse all o.t to w n- and Cord wo.ld not ! &e t+ In the end- Cord and %nne le)t the red stall on n the stall they had ta(en h m )rom only a )ew wee(s be)ore and headed )or home- Cord r d n! the )o.r3year3old- and %nne on Aeeper+ %nne was try n! hard to *on*eal her .nhapp ness b.t (new she had )a led abysmally when Cord m.rm.red- ;Sorry- babe+;

;It's not o.r )a.lt they're )ools+ It's 1.st too bad ?ed's !o n! to pay )or the r )ool shness+; ;8aybe not+ 'hey st ll ha&e to ) nd somebody who *an r de h m+; ;I *an r de h m+ %nybody *an r de h m now yo.'&e ) /ed h m+; ;8m+ Better ! &e yo.rsel) more *red t+ Ba*( w th Lenn e- yo.r lesson horse may start s*ar n! them all sp tless a!a n+ Hal) hope he does+; 6hen S.nday rolled aro.nd a!a n- Cord's words were pro&en prophet *+ 'h s t me t was :ohn Stone *a.s n! a )l.ster n the Bennett ho.sehold- and Cord saw no reason to pretend a respe*t he d dn't )eel+ He sa d- ;'oo( somebody thro.!h a )en*e a!a n- d d he7; :ohn Stone held h msel) st ))ly- ob& o.sly hat n! ha& n! to as( anyth n! o) Cord+ ;,o- as a matter o) )a*t he hasn't+ 'hat boy o) 6 ndon's ass.red .s he *o.ld handle the horse+ 6hen he *ame to loo( at the an mal- t *har!ed h m- and he lashed o.t w th h s 9. rt and *a.!ht the horse near the eye+ ,o one has been able to do a th n! w th the an mal s n*e- not e&en do*tor the wo.nd- altho.!h t really s m nor+; ;So yo. want me to *ome do*tor h m+; ;'hat's not the problem+ 'he n1.ry s m nor+ 8y w )e and I ha&e d s*.ssed th s at some len!th+ 'he dea s to *on& n*e potent al b.yers the horse has some worth+ In* dents s.*h as th s w ll not a**ompl sh that+ 6e wo.ld l (e yo. to ta(e the horse a!a n- do the wor( or ! nally a!reed .pon on the a!reed terms- and ra*e the horse on the terms yo. o))ered+ %s n*ent &e- we w ll t.rn o&er to yo. any pr 2e money the an mal may w n n the ra*e+; Cord made a so.nd *lose to a *ontempt.o.s snort+ ;<enero.s+ I told yo. he m !ht be dead last ) that's what t ta(es to (eep h m n one p e*e+; ;Be that as t may- that s o.r o))er-; Stone sa d+ ;'he whole town s tal( n! abo.t the )a*t that yo.r w )e rode the horse to town the day yo. ret.rned h m to .s+ Is that another e/ample o) yo.r 'Ind an ma! *7'; Cord t pped the *ha r ba*( sl !htly and e/am ned the man *losely+ So that was t+ See n! %nne on the horse had already started to 9.ell some o) the stall on's o.tlaw rep.tat on+ He sa d w th del berate o))ens &eness- ;Yeah- s.re- I spr n(le her w th rattlesna(e d.st ) rst then throw her .p there+; %n an!ry )l.sh spread a*ross Stone's )a*e+ Stand n!- he sa d- ;6hen may I ha&e yo.r answer7; H s tone ne!ated the pol te words+ ?eady to tell h m to !o to hell- Cord on*e more made the m sta(e o) !lan* n! at %nne+ Her head was bowed and her hands were !r pp n! ea*h other so hard her (n.*(les were wh te+ ;I'll *ome !et h m n a wh le-; he told Stone- who !a&e a tr .mphant l ttle sm le and str.tted o.t+ %nne ra sed her head- eyes mo st and sh n n!+ ;Yo. don't ha&e to++++; ;Yeah- I (now I don't+; %s he !ot to h s )eet- she started to r se too- b.t he shoo( h s head+ ;Yo. stay here and & s t w th yo.r mother+; ;B.t- I++++; ;I) the eye's a mess- I don't need to l sten to yo. abo.t t+ Stay here+; He e/pe*ted her to ar!.e- b.t she sm led at h m and sat ba*( down+ L.(e then s.rpr sed h m by as( n!- ;Can Pete and I *ome alon!7;

He shr.!!ed- (now n! h s nephews wo.ld ta(e t as perm ss on- and wal(ed o.t w th them on h s heels+ ***

CHAPTER 2$
FRAN2 WAS .,E 4ENNE.. W,O a!!ra&ated %nne the &ery most- altho.!h there were days when Ephra m or the boys were n the r.nn n!+ %nd she hadn't e&en seen :.d th n ).ll hyster a mode yet+ %nne was aware that someth n! had been bother n! >ran( )or some t me- b.t d dn't really e/pe*t h m to e&er *ome o.t w th t+ 'oday- tho.!h- as she *hatted w th her mother- >ran( made no mo&e to retreat to the parlor )or whate&er men d d when they le)t women w th the d shes+ He and Ephra m both stayed p.t- b.t t was >ran( who (ept !lan* n! at her- ob& o.sly !ett n! ready to say someth n!+ 6hen there was a pa.se n the *on&ersat on- she e/pe*ted h m to say someth n! so obno/ o.s that she'd ha&e to lea&e and wa t )or Cord o.ts de- b.t he s.rpr sed her by p.ssy)oot n! aro.nd+ ;%nne- wo.ld yo. answer a 9.est on that's been t*h n! at me a wh le7; She loo(ed at h m w th s.sp * on+ ;S.*h as7; ;I don't want yo. to !et yo.r ba*( .p and ta(e t wron!+ I'd really l (e to (now- ) yo. (now yo.rsel)- that s+ 6hy aren't yo. a)ra d o) h m7; She )rowned and )elt her mo.th t !hten n! already+ ;6hy sho.ld I be7 He's ne&er done anyth n! to ma(e me a)ra d+; Ephra m sa d- ;He hasn't done anyth n! to any o) the women n th s town so )ar as I (now- b.t any other one o) them wo.ld ha&e r.n o)) s*ream n! ) they wo(e .p n that barn and saw h m stand n! there+ I'm *.r o.s mysel)- %nne+ 6ere yo. a)ra d and yo. !ot o&er t n.rs n! h m l (e that7 Or were yo. ne&er a)ra d7; %nne loo(ed ba*( and )orth between the two brothers- her )rown slowly d sappear n!+ 6hy not tell them7 ;6e'&e been )r ends n a way e&er s n*e I ) rst met h m 3 when we were both ten+; %nne en1oyed the loo( on >ran('s )a*e+ Hadn't t e&er o**.rred to h m that she and Cord wo.ld ha&e *rossed paths n a town the s 2e o) 8ason lon! be)ore last )all7 %)ter a loo( aro.nd at all the *.r o.s )a*es- %nne !a&e n- )olded her hands on the table and be!an to tell the story+ ;It was when we ) rst mo&ed here- my ) rst wee( n s*hool here+ 'hat's when yo. sent Cord and 8ar e to the s*hool n town+; ;It d dn't wor(-; >ran( sa d+ ;'hey only went )or a )ew days+; ;'hat's be*a.se the tea*her we had that year was small m nded and e& l-; %nne sa d an!r ly+ ;She d dn't 1.st !nore what happened- she en*o.ra!ed t+; ;6e (new there'd be some teas n! and test n!-; >ran( sa d+ ;6e tho.!ht t wo.ld wor( o.t and be better )or them n the end+; ;It wo.ld ha&e ) yo.'d p *(ed a year when 8 ss Str (er was !one-; %nne sa d+ ;She was as bad as my )ather+ Yo. see t wasn't 1.st teas n!+ 'he boys all !ot to!ether and really tr ed to beat Cord to a p.lp+ 'he problem was they *o.ldn't+ He always mana!ed to !et one o) them alone lon! eno.!h to ma(e h m sorry he'd tr ed- so they !a&e .p on h m+

B.t then the ! rls started+ Somehow I always tho.!ht 8 ss Str (er !a&e them the dea+ 'hey p n*hed- they h t- they sp t- they ns.lted+; >ran( shr.!!ed+ ;%nd he !nored them+; ;Yes-; %nne sa d- ;b.t 8ar e was only e !ht and not that stron!- and they t.rned on her ne/t+; ;Damn t-; >ran( sa d+ ;6hy d dn't they tell .s7; ;'he same reason most o) .s don't tell o.r parents th n!s at that a!e- I !.ess-; %nne sa d+ ;%nyway- on >r day t really !ot o.t o) hand+ I don't (now ) they planned t or notb.t the boys went )or Cord a!a n and !ot h m away )rom 8ar e- and then the ! rls started p.sh n! 8ar e ba*( and )orth .nt l she )ell+ Pr s* lla Carson a*t.ally sat on 8ar e and slapped her and was sp tt n! on her and *all n! her names+ Cord !ot away )rom the boys b.t then he 1.st stood there+ He says he d dn't (now what to do+ Yo.'d always ta.!ht h m he wasn't s.pposed to h t ! rls no matter what+; ;Dear Lord-; 8artha sa d+ ;D d the tea*her stop t then7; ;,o-; %nne sa d+ ;I d d+ I !rabbed Pr ssy by her p !ta ls and p.lled her o)) 8ar e and so*(ed her r !ht n the 1aw and *alled her e&ery bad name I (new and some I d dn't really (now- 1.st had heard+ .%a!'s when 8 ss Str (er *hose to not *e what was !o n! on+ %nd !.ess who was n tro.ble7; 6hen s*hool let o.t )or the day- Cord approa*hed %nne- 8ar e by the hand+ H s e/a*t words always st.*( n her m nd+ ;'han( yo.- 8 ss 6ells- )or help n! my s ster+ I d dn't (now what to do+; %nne was at the a!e when all boys seemed to her d rty- mean *reat.res- and she wal(ed home )rom s*hool that day m.ll n! t o&er n her m nd+ I) they were all l (e thatshe de* ded- boys wo.ldn't be so bad+ ;I (now ?ob was too yo.n! to remember- b.t I'm s.rpr sed yo. d dn't- 8other+; Leona had l stened to %nne's tale as ntently as the Bennetts+ She sa d- ;Yo. were n that ( nd o) tro.ble so m.*h n those days- and we were so new n town we d dn't really (now anyone+ I'm not s.re I e&er (new why yo. d d t+ 'he tea*her sa d yo. atta*(ed another l ttle ! rl )or no reason+; ;,o one wo.ld e&en let me tell my s de o) t-; %nne sa d+ 8artha sa d- ;6ell- at least Cord than(ed yo.+ It's a bless n! yo. were there+ 8ar e !ot hyster *al that wee(end and sa d she'd rather d e than !o ba*(- and Cord sa d he'd !ob.t we sho.ldn't ma(e 8ar e !o+ So we !a&e .p and (ept them home+ I w sh we'd (nown all th s ba*( then+; %nne was sad at the memory+ ;It wo.ldn't ha&e made any d ))eren*e+ 8 ss Str (er was there another two years+; 8artha be!an to re) ll *o))ee *.ps- and t was she who sa d- ;So yo. were )r ends a)ter that+ 6as that all7; %nne sm led m s*h e&o.sly .p at 8artha+ ;,o- there were two other 'en*o.nters+' 'he se*ond t me I !ot n 1.st as m.*h tro.ble+ ?ob sho.ld remember that one- b.t maybe 8other's r !ht+ I was n tro.ble so o)ten- no one b.t me remembers ea*h n* dent+; ;I remember+; ?ob sa d s.ddenly+ ;I was st ll n s*hool and I !ot n ) !hts w th some o) the other boys o&er what they sa d abo.t yo.+; ;I d dn't th n( yo. e&er de)ended me+; %nne sa d+ ;I tho.!ht no a**.sat on was too he no.s+; ;Yo.'d be s.rpr sed-; ?ob sa d s.llenly+

She rea*hed o&er and !a&e h m a h.! and ( ss on the *hee(+ ;6ell- than( yo.- years too late+; %nne went ba*( to the story then+ ;I) ?ob was st ll n s*hool- we m.st ha&e been n neteen that w nter+ 'here was snow on the !ro.nd+ I had been shopp n! and was on my way home+ 8y arms were ).ll o) par*els- and I *.t thro.!h the alley beh nd Elm Street+ I t.rned aro.nd the ba*( o) 8 les' store to !et ba*( to 8a n Street- and Cord was *om n! the other way- and we *rashed nto ea*h other+ I sl pped n the snow and went down on my ba*(- the pa*(a!es went e&ery wh *h way- my s( rts were all r.*(ed .p- and Cord ( nd o) 1.st )ro2e there star n! at me+; ;'han( <od nobody (new abo.t that part-; ?ob m.ttered+ ;8aybe so-; %nne adm tted- ;b.t I tho.!ht t was ).nny+ I remember try n! to tease h m and as( n! h m ) he was !o n! to stand there l (e a )en*e post or help me .p+; Cord d d help her .p- a*t n! as ) he e/pe*ted to be b.rned by the *onta*t+ Only nowyears later- had she )o.nd o.t )rom h m that he e/pe*ted her to start s*ream n!- a**.s n! h m o) del berate assa.lt- ) not worse+ 6hen she started to la.!h- he re*o!n 2ed her and real 2ed she wasn't !o n! to ma(e a**.sat ons- b.t he was st ll leery+ Obl & o.s o) what Cord re*o!n 2ed as a st *(y s t.at on- she p led hal) the pa*(a!es n h s arms+ ;'he least yo. *an do )or (no*( n! me o&er s to help me home w th all these+; Short o) dropp n! her par*els ba*( n the m.d and snow- he had no *ho *e- b.t he re).sed to wal( thro.!h town bes de her and )ollowed a )ew steps beh nd+ 6hen they rea*hed the 6ells ho.se- he depos ted the pa*(a!es on the ed!e o) the por*h- t pped h s hat- and d sappeared l (e smo(e n the w nd+ ;8y )eel n!s were hal) h.rt be*a.se I always tho.!ht o) h m as a )r end s n*e that b.s ness n s*hool+ I'd sm le at h m when I saw h m n town- and he'd always t p h s hat or nod at me or someth n!- b.t the ).ss e&eryone made abo.t that wal( thro.!h town made me real 2e he was 1.st smarter than I was+ I mean t was broad dayl !ht- we were n the m ddle o) town- and he 1.st *arr ed some pa*(a!es )or me- b.t the town b.sybod es *o.ldn't tell 8other and >ather abo.t t )ast eno.!h+; Leona sa d- ;8y !oodness- I do remember that+ Yo.r )ather was &ery .pset- and he was already worr ed abo.t Elroy '.rrell+ >ran( !nored Edward 6ells' worr es and Elroy '.rrell+ ;So what was the other t me7; he as(ed+ Into the sp r t o) the story tell n! now- %nne made a wry )a*e and *ont n.ed w th the ) nal en*o.nter w th Cord be)ore last O*tober+ It was the only t me she d dn't !et n tro.ble- be*a.se no one e&er (new+ ;I too( a short*.t thro.!h that same alley a!a n- and there was a hal) !rown ( tten 1.st h.ddl n! ba*( there+ He d dn't e&en try to !et away when I p *(ed h m .p+ One h nd le! had a horr ble wo.nd that loo(ed all n)e*ted- and he seemed 1.st s *( and d.ll+ I (new I *o.ldn't ta(e h m home+ >ather doesn't bel e&e n pets+ I *o.ldn't th n( o) anyone n town who m !ht help- and I was really .pset- when all o) a s.dden there was Cord- want n! to (now ) I was h.rt+; ;He probably l.r(ed n that alley e&er s n*e the ) rst t me- wa t n! to (no*( yo. o&er a!a n-; ?ob sa d+ ;Don't be s lly+ 'h s was years later+ %)ter I !ot ba*( )rom Ch *a!o+ He'd been !one )or years too+;

Cord had e/am ned the l ttle *at w th !entle hands and then told her he wo.ld ta(e t home and ) / t+ She !a&e the ( tten to h m- not (now n! anyth n! better to do+ She o)ten wondered n the years s n*e ) he had l ed to her- told her he wo.ld ) / t when he *o.ldn't or wasn't !o n! to bother 1.st to ma(e her )eel better 3 had wondered .nt l last )all- when she saw the same *at n the barn- easy to re*o!n 2e by the .n 9.e wh te mar( on ts )a*e+ ;I *all h m Paddy be*a.se he's oran!e and loo(s sort o) Ir sh to me-; she told them ser o.sly+ ;Cord sa d he tho.!ht abo.t try n! to tell me Paddy healed and was ) ne- b.t he (new ) he tal(ed to me and anybody saw t wo.ld *a.se tro.ble a!a n+ He (new abo.t the other t mes- yo. see+ 'here's so m.*h !oss p n the town+; >ran( pressed )or more n)ormat on+ ;Do yo. (now where he was those years he was !one )rom here7 6hat he d d7; ;Yes- I do- b.t those are h s stor es+ I) yo. want to hear them- yo.'ll ha&e to as( h m yo.rsel)+; ;He'd ne&er tell .s a word- yo. (now+ 6e d dn't (now he'd been n Utah or 'e/as .nt l that day ,oah was here a)ter the ) !ht+; ;8aybe yo. ne&er as(ed h m n *ely+; >ran( started to ar!.e- b.t r !ht then L.(e *ame n- want n! hot water )or *lean n! ?ed's wo.nd+ %nne rose )rom her *ha r+ ;I'll *ome help+; L.(e !a&e her h s en!a! n!- teas n! !r n+ ;,o yo. won't+ Cord says ) yo. don't stay here and m nd yo.r own b.s ness- he'll tell Un*le Eph how to (eep a hold o) yo.+; She shot r !ht ba*(- ;Yo. tell h m ) he tells Ephra m anyth n! o) the sort- t w ll be the last t me %e (eeps a hold o) me-; b.t she sat down+ It was not- L.(e ass.red her- a bad or dan!ero.s wo.nd- 1.st .!ly )rom ne!le*t- and the horse seemed 9. te happy to be res*.ed )rom Lenn e's *are+ % short wh le later- Cord and %nne started )or home n the b.!!y- ?ed tra l n! alon! beh nd w th no ).ss at all+ 'he Bennetts d s*.ssed what they had learned abo.t the r brother+ >ran( )elt h s att t.de was & nd *ated+ ;I (new he'd ne&er ha&e n& ted her n or tr ed to help her that day 6ells )o.nd her there .nless there was a reason+ E&en then- he ) !.red he owed her 3 )rom way ba*( when they were ( ds+; Ephra m loo(ed at t d ))erently+ ;It so.nds l (e he $i-ed her 3 )rom way ba*( when they were ( ds+; >ran( sa d *yn *ally- ;%s m.*h as he l (es anyone maybe+ Yo. hear the way he tal(s to her+ Does t so.nd a))e*t onate to yo.7; Sha( n! h s head- Ephra m had to *on*ede the po nt+ ;,o- t s.re doesn't so.nd a))e*t onate- b.t I don't (now- >ran(- that woman s++++ 6o.ld she stay w th h m .nless he's be n! de*ent to her7; >ran( had a ready answer to that- one wh *h Ephra m *on*eded had mer t+ ;'h n( abo.t how she !rew .p w th 6ells )or a )ather+ She probably has no dea o) how a de*ent man a*ts+; ***

CHAPTER 2%

EVEN .,O3G, .,E VERY .,O3G,. o) the ra*e made her stoma*h *len*h- %nne adm tted to hersel) she was loo( n! )orward to the wee(end o) the ra*e l (e a *h ld does a b rthday+ >ran( had a!reed to send a yo.n! *owboy who *o.ld m l( *ows to stay at the r ho.se and *are )or the sto*( )rom >r day a)ternoon .nt l S.nday e&en n!+ B lly :ames showed .p r !ht on t me- lea& n! Cord and %nne )ree )or a le s.rely r de to town+ %nne rode ?ed+ Cord rode Aeeper and led Lady- pa*(ed w th e&eryth n! they'd need )or the wee(end- n*l.d n! %nne's dress )or the post3ra*e dan*e+ 6hen 8artha showed them to a spare bedroom w th two narrow beds- both )reshly made .p- %nne w n(ed w *(edly at Cord+ It was a !ood th n! they were both th n- or they'd ne&er ) t to!ether n one o) those s( nny beds+ 'he ne/t morn n!- Cord ate no brea()ast- dran( only one *.p o) *o))ee+ %s %nne re) lled her own *o))ee *.p at the sto&e- 8artha wh spered her ama2ement+ ;,oth n! e&er a))e*ts h s appet te+ S.rely he's not ner&o.s abo.t th s- s he7; %nne d dn't answer b.t ntended her pat on 8artha's arm to reass.re the older woman+ It d dn't+ 8artha be!an to loo( ner&o.s hersel)+ Soon a)ter- the rest o) the Bennetts be!an arr & n!+ L.(e and Pete had r dden to town w th ? ley+ >ran( bro.!ht :.d th and the yo.n!er *h ldren n the *arr a!e+ E*ho n! Cord's br e) !reet n!s- %nne p.t them all o.t o) her m nd and )ollowed her h.sband to the barn+ She told hersel) the s.nny- *lear day was a !ood omen- then real 2ed the horse h msel) was a better one+ %)ter two months o) 2ealo.s !room n! and *are).l *ond t on n!- ?ed was all b.t b.rst n! o.t o) h s !leam n! h de w th !ood health and ener!y+ %nne d d the ) nal br.sh n! as Cord b.*(led prote*t &e leather boots on all )o.r le!s+ Close to the start n! l ne- w th hal) an ho.r le)t be)ore the ten o'*lo*( start t me- %nne held ?ed wh le Cord wor(ed h s way thro.!h the *rowd+ 'here were ) )teen horses entered th s year- and he obser&ed ea*h be)ore ret.rn n!+ She 9.est oned h m w th ra sed eyebrows+ ;>o.r- I th n(+ Lathr.m's sent two really !rand loo( n! bay stall ons+ 'here's a !ood *hestn.t !eld n! )rom the Bar S and a *lassy brown mare )rom 6yom n!+; 'hese were- %nne (new- the )o.r he )elt wo.ld ha&e the speed and end.ran*e )or th s !r.el n! *ontest- the ones that- barr n! an all too l (ely .nhappy tw st o) )ate- had the best *han*e o) w nn n!+ %s the t me )or the start !rew *loser- the )am ly be!an to show .p- s.rro.nd n! them w th part san !ood w shes- ob& o.sly bel e& n! that Cord planned a slow- sa)e r de thro.!h the *o.rse- and was only !o n! thro.!h the mot ons+ ?e*o!n t on that someth n! else was !o n! on be!an to dawn on them when the Bennetts saw one o) the Stones' En!l sh saddles on the stall on+ It was < l- too yo.n! )or *a.t on- who as(ed- ;6hat's the p mple )or7; %nne (new Cord was less l (ely to nd.l!e n small tal( than .s.al- and < l's dero!atory re)eren*e to the small saddle d dn't help+ She d d the e/pla n n!+ ;8ost o) the other horses are be n! r dden by boys or small- l !htwe !ht men+ 'hat saddle ta(es more than twenty po.nds o)) ?ed+ He'll st ll be *arry n! *lose to two h.ndred po.nds+; >ran( and Ephra m stared at her- .nderstand n! spread n! a*ross the r )a*es+ <o n! thro.!h the mot ons d d not re9. re l !hten n! the horse's load by twenty po.nds+ 'he r *on*erned e/press ons sharpened a)ter Cord mo.nted and trotted ?ed toward the start n! l ne when %nne p.lled a small shea) o) b lls )rom her po*(et and sa d- ;L.(e- do yo. th n( yo. and Pete *o.ld bet th s )or me7 On ?ed to w n7;

'he two yo.n! men had learned the r lesson the last t me %nne bet on Cord and the red horse+ %s they wal(ed toward the tables where most o) the bett n! was ta( n! pla*ePete *o.ld be heard as( n! L.(e- ;How m.*h spare *ash yo. !ot on yo.7; >ran( as(ed no one n part *.lar- ;6hat the hell s !o n! on7; %nne !a&e h m what she hoped was an nno*ent sm le+ >or spe*tators- the best )eat.re o) the ra*e was that )rom a pos t on near the start n! l ne- one *o.ld loo( down nto the wash where the worst o) the ra*e too( pla*e and see e&eryth n! e/*ept parts o) the ,arrows+ %nne wor(ed her way to a !ood &anta!e po nt and then t.rned to wat*h the start+ 'he )am ly 1o ned her- a small *rowd w th n the *rowdand then the Stones p.shed the r way to her s de too+ >or a seem n! etern ty- ) rst one horse and then another bro(e )ormat on at the start n! l ne- .nt l ) nally all ) )teen were al !ned )or the se*onds ne*essary )or the starter to ) re h s !.n+ 'hey bro(e towards the wash n a herd- an nd st n!. shable bl.r o) sh n n! bay- *hestn.t- and brown+ Slowly- o&er the ) rst m le- the !ro.p be!an to str n! o.t+ %s Cord had pred *tedLathr.m's le!!y bays led the pa*(+ E&en as %nne spotted the pretty brown mare and the Bar S *hestn.t- the mare passed two other horses+ ?ed was de) n tely last- r.nn n! se&eral len!ths beh nd the last o) the ten horses n a pa*( beh nd the leaders+ He seemed to lose e&en more !ro.nd as the an mals ahead o) h m be!an to r.n thro.!h the o&ert.rned trees and deadwood *o&er n! the ) rst part o) the wash+ By the t me ?ed *ame to that part o) the *o.rse- the pa*( had streamed thro.!hlea& n! h s way *lear+ He p *(ed h s way neatly thro.!h the l tter strewn tra l+ One o) the horses n the pa*( ahead was already p.ll n! .p lame+ 'he leaders were now splash n! thro.!h the trea*hero.s stream bed+ 'he ne/t *as.alty was the brown mare+ She was r dden o.t o) the stream- o.t o) the way o) the on*om n! r ders- barely p.tt n! we !ht on one h nd le!+ %nne *o.ld not stop a moan )rom es*ap n!+ ;Poor pretty brown lady+; :ohn Stone's &o *e *ame sharp and sar*ast *+ ;Sa&e yo.r sympathy+ 6e're !o n! to need t+; 'he Stones m.st ha&e really bel e&ed the l.re o) (eep n! the pr 2e money wo.ld ma(e Cord )or!et any s*r.ples he had and p.sh the r horse thro.!h the *o.rse ).ll t lt+ Cord p.lled ?ed down to a wal(+ 'he horse p *(ed h s way alon! the stream as ) he had all the t me n the world and ra* n! was the ).rthest th n! )rom anyone's m nd+ %nother o) the pa*( beh nd the three leaders p.lled o&er- also l mp n! badly+ :ohn Stone's &o *e dr pped w th s*orn+ ;Does he ha&e a theory he *an w n by attr t on7; %nne pretended not to hear+ 'he three leaders were o.t o) the part o) the *o.rse that re9. red stay n! the streamr.nn n! the r mo.nts a*ross ) rm !ro.nd ba*( to the steep ban( that des*ended to the water a!a n+ 'hey *rossed the stream and were start n! .p the steep ban( o) the )ar s de be)ore Cord ) n shed !. d n! ?ed *are).lly thro.!h the water3*o&ered ha2ards+ O.t o) the stream and away )rom the dan!ero.s )oot n!- he let ?ed e/tend nto a ).ll r.n- st ll )ar beh nd all the other ra*ers+ 'he other r ders had all slowed the r horses *om n! nto the trees be)ore the des*ent to the stream bed+ Cord d d not+ He d sappeared )rom s !ht on the horse's s de- Coman*he style- as the horse ran .nder tree l mbs that barely *leared the saddle+ He re!a ned h s seat only 1.st n t me- as ?ed la.n*hed )rom the ban('s ed!e n a smooth broad 1.mp+ He

landed on the )ar ban( w th )eet to spare- and Cord d sappeared )rom the saddle a!a n .nt l they were past the last o) the low3han! n! trees on the )ar ban(+ 'he 1.mp made .p hal) the d stan*e between ?ed and the last o) the ele&en horses st ll n )ront+ 'he leaders were now enter n! the ,arrows+ > rst Lathr.m's dar(er bay horse d sappeared )rom s !ht- then the *hestn.t !eld n!- then Lathr.m's l !hter bay+ 'o enter the ,arrows- the horses had to slow *ons derably- )or the *o.rse headed between two mar(ers stra !ht )or a &ert *al- .nder*.t ban(- then swer&ed abr.ptly to the le)t+ 'he horses st ll t !htly !ro.ped as ) n a se*ond ra*e beh nd the leaders slowed and a!!ress &ely 1o*(eyed )or pos t on head n! nto the t.rn+ One was p.shed o.ts de the *o.rse mar(ers+ 'h s was a d s9.al ) *at on .nder the r.les and le)t only se&en n the !ro.p st ll n the ra*e+ 'he d s9.al ) ed r der d smo.nted and ( *(ed at the *o.rse mar(er n d s!.st+ Cord had a!a n lost !ro.nd between h s horse and the pa*( ahead+ 'h s t me the onloo(ers *o.ld see t was del berate+ 'here was no m sta( n! the t !ht re n- the horse's sha( n! head as he )o.!ht the restra nt+ %s the last horse ahead o) ?ed d sappeared nto the ,arrows- nstead o) stay n! slowed to ma(e the t.rn- Cord !a&e the horse more re n+ He a**elerated smoothlyhead n! stra !ht )or the mass &e ban( at a ne&er sla*( n! pa*e- an!l n! n to pass between the re9. red *o.rse mar(ers+ 'he .nder*.t ban( loomed l (e a *l )) as the horse *ame n .nder t w th no loss o) speed+ %nne *len*hed her ) sts- lean n! )orward as ) she *o.ld help- not *ar n! who heard her wh sper- ;,ow- lo&e- now=; 8.s*les b.n*hed and stra ned n the red horse's ha.n*hes as he leapt .p n what seemed an mposs ble 1.mp+ Cord's hands- %nne (new- were wo&en n the mane 1.st beh nd the horse's ears- h s body )lattened o.t alon! the horse as st ll as poss ble+ ?ed's )ront le!s landed well .p on top o) the ban(0 h s h nd le!s s*rambled )or nterm nable se*onds- loos n! showers o) d rt be)ore he !ot ) rm p.r*hase+ 'hen he was .p top- n balan*e a!a n- !allop n! stra !ht a*ross the platea. that the ,arrows wo.nd tort.o.sly aro.nd+ >ran('s hand was on her sho.lder- and there was awe n h s &o *e+ ;%nne7; ;6a t and see+ 'he worst part s yet to *ome+; ;How h !h s that ban(7; ;:.st .nder s / )eet+; D )) *.lt- b.t not mposs ble )or a !ood 1.mper- and ?ed was a &ery !ood 1.mper+ 'he )ar s de o) the platea. was the same as the s de they had *ome .p+ 'he ban( on that s de was a*t.ally h !her- almost se&en )eet+ :ohn Stone as(ed the ob& o.s 9.est on as Cord headed )or the oppos te ban(+ ;How's he !o n! to !et down )rom there7; %nne d dn't bother respond n!- as e&eryone saw the answer+ 'he horse la.n*hed o)) the )ar ban(- des*end n! at a s *(en n! loo( n! an!le- and almost went to h s (nees on land n!- b.t the !ro.nd there was- %nne (new- )a rly so)t sand+ ?ed re*o&ered and was o)) a!a n+ It was another h.ndred yards ba*( to the part o) the *o.rse where the other horses wo.ld emer!e )rom the ,arrows+ Between Cord and ?ed and that path was an almost mpassable tan!le o) hea&y br.sh and dead trees+ ?ed 1.mped the one open n! n the otherw se mpenetrable wall- a )allen tree that had *a.!ht so m.*h

debr s t made a sol d )o.r3)oot by )o.r3)oot obsta*le+ He landed only a )ew str des be)ore the *o.rse mar(ers end n! the ,arrows+ In what %nne (new Cord *ons dered the most d )) *.lt mane.&er o) all- he stra !htened n the saddle- mana! n! to slow the horse and e/e*.te the ne*essary n nety3 de!ree t.rn to pass between the mar(ers+ He then p.lled the horse down to a wal(+ ?ed ambled alon! w th h s ne*( stret*hed and lowered- sha( n! h msel) sl !htlyloo( n! )or all the world l (e a horse thro.!h )or the day+ 'here was a m le and a hal) o) .ph ll r.n le)t to the ) n sh l ne+ Stone almost s*reamed at %nne+ ;6hat the hell's the matter w th h m7 S.rely he d dn't !o thro.!h all that 1.st to 9. t now7 She wo.ld not ha&e de !ned to answer Stone- b.t the 9.est on n! loo(s )rom the Bennetts and >ran('s repeated- ;%nne7; made her e/pla n+ ;He says those three horses n the lead are all )aster than ?ed n a stra !ht r.n+ ?ed's e/erted 1.st as m.*h e))ort n those 1.mps as they ha&e r.nn n! the lon!er d stan*e- so the d ))eren*e w ll be that r !ht now ?ed's !ett n! a )ew l.n!s).l o) a r and h s heart s !ett n! a l ttle rest+ He st ll sn't s.re he *an beat them- b.t he sa d ) he had th s m.*h lead at th s po nt he tho.!ht he *o.ld+ >rom here on t's 1.st a horse ra*e+; %s she spo(e ?ed mo&ed nto a trot- Cord (eep n! an eye beh nd h m+ 6hen the lead n! horse *ame nto s !ht emer! n! )rom the ,arrows- Cord leaned )orward and almost d sappeared n the )lame3*olored mane- and ?ed too( o))- r.nn n! )lat o.t+ 'here was less than a m le and a 9.arter to !o )rom there to the ) n sh l ne+ See n! the red horse ahead o) them- the three lead n! r ders !a&e ).r o.s *r es+ %ll rea*hed )or 9. rts and be!an rhythm *ally lash n! the r horses on+ ,ear the ) n sh l ne- the *rowd wat*hed n s len*e as the three !a ned on the strea( n!- ) ery stall on+ 'hen Lathr.m's l !ht bay be!an to )ade as ) t had h t a wall+ 'he dar( bay stall on and *hestn.t !eld n! relentlessly *losed the d stan*e+ 'he p.rs. n! r ders wh pped the r mo.nts w th e&ery str de+ 'here was no mo&ement at all )rom ?ed's ba*(+ 'he Bar S *hestn.t s.ddenly stopped !a n n! !ro.nd+ It wo.ld ) n sh th rd- slow n! all the way+ 'he dar( bay stall on was all *o.ra!e- head e/tended- eyes roll n! wh teteeth bared+ ?ed *rossed the ) n sh l ne not 9. te two len!ths ahead- w nn n! on a )ew l.n!s).l o) a r+ 'he nstant Cord *rossed the ) n sh l ne %nne too( o)) r.nn n! to the pla*e beh nd one o) the ho.ses l n n! the road where he had prom sed to wa t+ He was *he*( n! the stall on )or *.ts or n1.r es as she )lew aro.nd the *orner and headed stra !ht )or h m- *all n! h s name+ 'he heady w ne o) & *tory )or these )ew m n.tes d ssol&ed all h s reser&e+ He l )ted her r !ht o)) the !ro.nd n an enth.s ast * h.!- ret.rn n! her e/* ted ( ss+ ;It was bea.t ).l to wat*h- 1.st bea.t ).l+ 6as t as bea.t ).l to r de7; 'he momentary absen*e o) the mpass &e mas( le)t h s )a*e almost boy sh+ ;,o- not bea.t ).l- s*ary+ 6e went nto that ban( and all I *o.ld th n( was we meas.red wron!+ Loo(ed more l (e s /ty )eet than s /+ I (ept th n( n! t was the st.p dest th n! I'd e&er done+ 'hen we were .p top and 1.mp n! o))- and I (new- no- !%a! was the st.p dest th n! I'd e&er done+ I) I'd had brea()ast I'd ha&e lost t all r !ht then+ 8y stoma*h was ten )eet beh nd the rest o) me+;

H s eyes were al !ht w th the tr .mph- warm and ).ll o) l )e+ ;Yo. 1.st saw my deb.t and ret rement as a ra*e r der- babe+ 'hat's t+; 'he steely sel)3*ontrol sl d ba*( nto pla*e almost w th an a.d ble snap+ ;6e'd better !et ba*( o.t there so they *an tell .s we *heated and d dn't really w n+; She !a&e h m a last h.!+ ;Yo. d d w n+ Yo. (now t- I (now t- and so w ll they- no matter what they say+; ;S.re+ How abo.t yo. lead h m ahead- and I'll wat*h how he !oes+; %nne led the horse ba*( to the roadway that was st ll ) lled w th m ll n! *ompet tors and spe*tators+ Cord wal(ed beh nd the horse- wat*h n! )or any s !ns o) lameness+ <ro.ps o) *hatter n!- !est.r n! people )ell s lent at the r approa*h+ Ob& o.sly they were debat n! the o.t*ome o) the ra*e+ 'he Stones )ell on them almost at on*e+ :ohn had been e/.ltant when the ra*e endednow he was n a ra!e+ 6ords bo led o.t o) h m+ ;Yo. real 2e yo. d dn't w n that+ Yo. *heated+ E&eryone says so+; @ r! n a Stone p.t her !lo&ed hand on her h.sband's arm- and t.!!ed sl !htly- ;:ohnI th n(++++; Stone t.rned on h s w )e+ ;Sh.t .p- < nny+ Yo. don't th n(+ 'hat's yo.r problem+; 6h te3)a*ed w th h.m l at on- @ r! n a Stone dropped her hand )rom h s arm and stood r ! dly- ma( n! no ).rther attempt to part * pate n the *on&ersat on+ Cord !nored the byplay between the *o.ple and answered the a**.sat on thrown at h m+ ;,o- 8r+ Stone- ) yo. read the r.les- I d dn't *heat+ Yo. ha&e to pass thro.!h all the mar(ers and yo. *an't t.rn ba*( and p *( them .p ) yo. m ss them+ 'here are no mar(ers n the ,arrows+; ;I s.ppose yo. e/pe*t me to !o .p to the ra*e *omm ttee and try to *on& n*e them o) that and !et yo. yo.r tho.sand dollars+; Cord's &o *e was so so)t t was almost na.d ble+ ;,o- I e/pe*t yo. to a!ree w th them that Lathr.m's bay won+ 8aybe they'll let yo. ! &e h m the *he*(+; He t.rned to 8rs+ Stone and nodded sl !htly+ ;%nn e and I'll ta(e *are o) the horse and lea&e h m n yo.r barn- ma'am+ Loo(s l (e he won't e&en be sore n the morn n!+; 8artha and Ephra m- >ran( and :.d th had arr &ed n t me to hear e&eryth n! Stone had to say+ Ephra m wat*hed h s brother and %nne 1.st wal( away- one on ea*h s de o) the horse+ Cord had r dden that ra*e (now n! th s wo.ld be the o.t*ome and done t anyway- and %nne had helped h m+ Instead o) lett n! her temper loose- she had t.rned her ba*( on both the Stones and her h.sband's )am ly as 9. etly as Cord had- (now n! there wo.ld be ne ther s.pport nor *on!rat.lat ons )rom e ther+ Ephra m )elt an .ne/pe*ted o.tra!e+ He t.rned on Stone+ ;:ohn- )or a so3*alled !entleman- yo. are a ) rst3*lass bastard+; Ephra m h.rr ed to the wooden stand draped n !a.dy red and wh te b.nt n! where the ra*e *omm ttee had wat*hed the ra*e+ He wasn't e&en *lose when he heard sho.t n!+ :owly- pa.n*hy- and bald n!- %l)erd Lathr.m wasn't an attra*t &e man .nder any * r*.mstan*es+ ?ed3)a*ed and sho.t n! at the *omm ttee members at the top o) h s l.n!s he was downr !ht .!ly+ %s Ephra m wal(ed .p- he real 2ed that ) the *omm ttee had been n*l ned to award Lathr.m the ra*e at ) rst- they 1.st m !ht be ha& n! se*ond tho.!hts by now+ See n! Ephra m approa*h n! and re*o!n 2 n! Cord's brother- Lathr.m *han!ed tar!ets+

;'hat reds( n brother o) yo.rs *heated-; he s*reamed+ ;He bro(e the r.les+ He d dn't )ollow the *o.rse+; Ephra m d d h s lawyerly best to pro1e*t *alm and reason+ ;'he r.les are &ery *learand t's ob& o.s to anyone who *an read he d dn't brea( any o) them- 8r+ Lathr.m+ %re yo. try n! to nt m date the *omm ttee w th th s per)orman*e7; 'he *omm ttee had- n )a*t- had 9. te eno.!h o) %l)erd Lathr.m+ 'he mayor- who was *ha rman o) the *omm ttee- ) nally ) nd n! room to !et a word n- asserted h s a.thor ty+ ;Pre* sely- 8r+ Lathr.m+ I) yo. wo.ld 1.st lea&e the stand- perhaps we *an re& ew the )a*ts and *ome to a de* s on+; %t th s po nt :ohn Stone p.t n a belated and tr.*.lent appearan*e+ Pr 2e money or not- the le! t mate w nner o) th s ra*e wo.ld be eas er to sell than a d s9.al ) ed also ran+ St ll st )) w th an!er- and a&o d n! loo( n! at Ephra m- Stone arro!antly stated h s *ase+ ;<entlemen- I ha&e 1.st re& ewed yo.r r.les- and I see no bas s )or d s9.al )y n! my w )e's horse+ I) yo. do- perhaps 8r+ Bennett here wo.ld a!ree to represent my w )e and me n a laws. t a!a nst the *omm ttee+; 'he mayor ra(ed h s ) n!ers thro.!h h s ha r+ ;8r+ Stone- 8r+ Bennett- 8r+ Lathr.m) yo. wo.ld please lea&e .s )or a )ew m n.tes- we need to d s*.ss th s- and then we'll anno.n*e o.r de* s on+; 6al( n! away bes de Cord- %nne heard her name and Cord's and t.rned to see 8artha h.rry n! a)ter them+ %)ter *at*h n! her breath- 8artha sa d- ;6hy don't yo. wa t a m n.te and see what happens+ Ephra m's !one to tal( to the *omm ttee+; %nne !lan*ed at Cord and saw he was as s.rpr sed as she was+ 'hey had ne&er *ons dered s.pport )rom h s )am ly+ %s they t.rned and wal(ed ba*( to the rest o) the )am ly w th 8artha- the mayor anno.n*ed the res.lts o) the ra*e thro.!h a b.ll horn+ 8rs+ :ohn Stone's horse- > rebrand- was the w nner+ %nne la.!hed- and s n*e h.!! n! Cord n )ront o) h.ndreds o) people was o.t- h.!!ed 8artha- then the horse+ Lenn e appeared o.t o) the *rowd+ ;'hey want that horse to p.t a wreath aro.nd+ 'hey're e&en !o n! to ta(e a photo!raph+; ?ed was b.sy e/plor n! %nne's po*(ets- loo( n! )or *arrots- and happ ly m.n*hed away when she prod.*ed one+ Cord handed Lenn e the re ns+ ;'a(e h m on .p there then+; Lenn e showed ) rst s.rpr se- then .n*erta nty as he )o.nd h msel) hold n! h s old enemy- b.t he led the stall on towards the stand and a share o) !lory+ >ran( *h.*(led and sa d- ;Don't want yo.r p *t.re ta(en7; ;,ope+; Cord leaned a!a nst a low )en*e )ront n! the ho.se they had stopped by+ 'hey were s.ddenly s.rro.nded by an enth.s ast * !ro.p o) ra*e wat*hers+ %rmand and Helene LeCler* arr &ed ) rst+ ?ea*h n! only m dway on Cord's *hest when he was stand n!- Helene too( ad&anta!e o) h s hal)3s tt n! pos t on a!a nst the )en*e and too( h m by the sho.lders and ( ssed h m on both *hee(s+ Emer! n! )rom %rmand's bear h.!%nne wondered ) her h.sband *o.ld poss bly be bl.sh n!+ Cord also re*e &ed *on!rat.latory handsha(es )rom ,oah ?eynolds- ? ley- :ames 8 les- Dr+ Cra !- and se&eral people who had bo.!ht horses )rom h m n the last year or two+ Bob 6 ndon was there- !r n ) rmly n pla*e- )ore!o n! any remar(s abo.t ma! * )or on*e+

%nne re*e &ed a h.! )rom her mother- who a&o ded Cord+ ?ob was es*ort n! h s mother as .s.al- b.t h.n! s lently n the ba*(!ro.nd+ 'he no sy *rowd 9. eted as a tall- spare man- dar(er than Cord- w th a lar!e droop n! m.sta*he- and dressed n d st n*tly Span sh style *lothes approa*hed+ 'h s was ?ao.l Damora- %l)erd Lathr.m's head horseman+ Damora stopped n )ront o) Cord- nodded h s head sl !htly- then e/tended h s hand+ %s he shoo( hands- ?ao.l sa d- ;E&er s n*e yo. rode the palom no horse ba*( to the ran*h- I wondered+ 'oday- I (now+ It was an honor to w tness s.*h a r de+; Cord t.!!ed an ear- a !l nt n h s eyes+ ;I) that 1o*(ey o) yo.rs had la d o)) the 9. rtyo.r bay horse m !ht ha&e *a.!ht .s+; ?ao.l made a d sm ss &e !est.re w th both hands+ ;>ew men ha&e yo.r *ontrol+ It s too m.*h to e/pe*t+ 'oday was yo.rs+; Cord 1.st nodded+ ?ao.l t.rned hal) away then ba*(+ ;I hear the *olt s st ll al &e+ Is th s tr.e7; Cord nodded a!a n+ ;8y w )e tal(ed h m nto l & n!+ %nne- meet ?ao.l Damora+ ?ao.l- th s s my w )e- %nne Bennett+; 'he almost bla*( eyes st.d ed her+ ;8rs+ Bennett+ %nother honor )or me today+; He !a&e a small bow n her d re*t on- then addressed Cord a!a n+ ;'he dar( bay horse s a ).ll brother to yo.r *olt+ Yo. m !ht l (e to (now that+ Yo.r *olt s better+; He was !one then- d sappear n! nto the *rowd+ %nne wat*hed h m !o+ ;6hy does a man l (e that wor( )or Lathr.m7; ;He's !ot a w )e and s / ( ds- and they all l (e to eat+ ,ot too many r d n! 1obs aro.nd pay that well+; ;Does he mean >ort.ne s a ).ll brother to the bay that wo.ldn't 9. t7; ;Y.p+; 'here was a !r n n h s eyes+ ;L (e an e/tra Chr stmas present n :.ly- sn't t' 3!ress7; 6hen Lenn e ret.rned w th ?ed- happy to lea&e the wor( o) tend n! to the sweat soa(ed and t red horse to someone else- the small & *tory party bro(e .p+ AN ,O3R LA.ER, 1ORD WAS ma( n! .p )or the m ssed brea()ast o&er l.n*h at Ephra m's- and 8artha was la.!h n!+ ;I was worr ed when yo. d dn't eat th s morn n!yo. (now+ It's not l (e yo.+; ;6o.ld ha&e lost t *om n! o)) that ban(- 8arty+; ;I (now that's what t was now+; ,ot loo( n! .p )rom h s l.n*h- Cord sa d- ;'Pre* ate yo.r tal( n! to the *omm tteeEph+ D dn't ) !.re on *om n! o.t o) that the o)) * al w nner- b.t people wo.ld (now that's a hell o) a n *e horse anyway+; ;I s.ppose yo. pra*t *ed e&ery one o) those 1.mps and mane.&ers somehow+; ;S.re- started w th l ttle two )ooters months a!o+; ;%nd how d d yo. appro/ mate that ban(7; ;>o.nd someth n! *lose o&er on the ma n ran*h+ 'oo( a l ttle d !! n! here and there s all+; ;'hat's all-; e*hoed Ephra m+ ;It m.st ha&e ta(en a lot o) t me e&ery day then+; ;,ot too bad+ %nn e d d all the !room n! and p.t the )lat m les on wh le I rode *olts+ Aept me )rom !ett n! beh nd w th the yo.n! sto*(+ She helped !et the t m n! on ta(eo))s r !ht too 3 I'&e ne&er done m.*h 1.mp n!+;

Cord loo(ed .p to see Ephra m loo( n! at h m ntently+ ;It s.rpr sed me how an!ry I was at the tho.!ht o) them !ett n! away w th *heat n! yo. o.t o) the w n-; Ephra m sa d+ ;Damora was r !ht- t was an honor to wat*h that r de+; Cord loo(ed at h s brother war ly- re*o!n 2 n! the ) rst tentat &e step toward a ma1or rappro*hement+ Ephra m dropped h s eyes+ ;%nyway- I probably wo.ldn't ha&e done m.*h !ood w th the *omm ttee ) Stone hadn't *ome r !ht beh nd me+; He *h.*(led+ ;He threatened to h re me to s.e them+; Cord ret.rned to h s l.n*h+ ;I) yo. hadn't !one o&er there ) rst- he ne&er wo.ld ha&e+ 'han(s+; ? !ht then L.(e and Pete b.rst nto the ( t*hen+ ;Boy- I hope yo. sa&ed some )or .s+; 8artha sa d- ;Yo. (now I d d+ 6here ha&e yo. two been7; ;Oh- here and there+; 'hey'd been sampl n! dr n(s at some o) the post3ra*e !et to!ethers and e&eryone (new t+ ;Oh- yeah- be)ore I )or!et+ I don't want to *arry all th s aro.nd any more+; L.(e be!an p.ll n! !reat wads o) b lls )rom h s po*(ets and throw n! them on the table n )ront o) %nne+ %nne wat*hed the !row n! p le o) b lls and re*o!n 2ed tro.ble+ ;63what's that7; she as(ed+ ;Yo.r ta(e+; ;'a(e7; ;>rom yo.r bet+ Yo. !a&e .s a h.ndred dollars+; ;B.t that's 3 that's tho.sands+; ;>or !osh sa(es- %nne- we e/pla ned abo.t odds last t me+ 'he odds were twenty to one+ Yo. won two tho.sand dollars+ 'h s t me Pete and I !ot smart+ 6e ea*h bet twenty dollars- and I happen to (now Sher )) ?eynolds d d too+ LeCler*s bet ten- and so d d 8r+ 8 les+ E&erybody had a !reat day *o.rtesy o) o.r .n*le+ %nd the horse- o) *o.rse+; L.(e was sl !htly t psy and en1oy n! h msel) e&en more than .s.al+ %nne was a)ra d to e&en loo( .p+ ;Yo. s3sho.ldn't ha&e done that-; she sa d+ ;I tho.!ht ?ed wo.ld probably be d s9.al ) ed- and t wo.ldn't ha&e mattered ) I lost the money+; %s a matter o) )a*t she had tho.!ht los n! her <renerton money m !ht be a !ood th n!+ L.(e 1.st la.!hed- b.t %nne's heart san( as she heard Cord drawl- ;6ell- sn't that !reat- ' 3!ress+ ,ow yo. don't ha&e to stop n Den&er- yo. *an head stra !ht )or Par s 3 or where&er+; He was ).r o.s- and what m !ht ha&e *ome o) t she was 1.st as !lad not to (now- )or m ss n! the .nder*.rrents- Pete spo(e .p+ ;6e heard that poor horse sn't !o n! anywhere as n *e as Par s+ Lathr.m's !o n! to b.y h m+; %nne 1er(ed her head .p and met Cord's eyes+ 6hat she saw there only re)le*ted her own pa n+ Lathr.m was a *r.el man e&en w tho.t a reason- and he had a reason to &ent h s spleen on ?ed 3 he wo.ld see the horse as the weapon .sed to best h m+ %nne was a)ra d she was !o n! to *ry r !ht here n )ront o) e&eryone+ Loo( n! down- try n! to (eep the tears )rom start n!- she saw the bl.r o) !reen+ ;Cord- *o.ld we+++7; ;E&en ) t's eno.!h- they won't sell that horse to .s+;

;I) we ne&er try++++; ;Stone won't 1.st say no+ He'll r.b o.r noses n t+; % s n!le tear sl pped a*ross her *hee(+ Cord *on*eded de)eat by stand n! and start n! )or the door+ ;%ll r !ht- money ba!s- !ather t .p and *ome on+ 6e'll ma(e them say no+; %nne !athered .p the b lls and tr ed to smooth them o.t and roll them neatly then h.rr ed a)ter h m+ :ohn Stone was not at home+ % ma d es*orted them nto the l brary where @ r! n a Stone wa ted+ ;I s.ppose yo.'&e *ome )or yo.r pr 2e money+; 'here was a re*tan!.lar3 shaped p e*e o) paper on the des( be)ore her+ %nne po(ed a ) n!er n Cord's ba*(- want n! h m to do the tal( n!+ He shot her a hard loo( b.t answered+ ;,o- ma'am+ 6e heard 8r+ Lathr.m was try n! to b.y yo.r horse and wondered ) yo.'d sold to h m+; ;,o- as a matter o) )a*t+ He *ame here and d s*.ssed t- b.t I'&e prom sed :ohn to sell the horse to the ) rst person who o))ers what I pa d- wh *h s twenty3) &e h.ndred dollarsand 8r+ Lathr.m o))ered *ons derably less and wanted to ne!ot ate+ I told h m he wo.ld ha&e to spea( w th :ohn 3 who s n town '*elebrat n!' w th )r ends+; ?esentment was n her &o *e and aro.nd her mo.th+ ;8r+ Lathr.m went to loo( )or h m+ I ma! ne :ohn w ll a**ept someth n! less n the end+ He really hates that horse+; She pressed hand to her )orehead+ ;I bo.!ht h m when :ohn wasn't w th me- yo. (now+ He *an't )or! &e that+; She 1er(ed .pr !ht- as ) rem nded o) what she was say n! and to whom she was say n! t+ ;6ell- that's ne ther here nor there+ I'll endorse th s *he*( to yo.+; Cord sa d- ;8rs+ Stone- wo.ld yo. sell %nne the horse7; Someth n! that loo(ed remar(ably l (e re!ret *rossed her )a*e+ ;I'm sorry- 8r+ Bennett- I *an't ta(e th s *he*( and yo.r note+ 8y h.sband has spe* ) ed *ash- yo. see+; ;6e had n m nd that *he*( and ) )teen h.ndred dollars *ash+; 6 de3eyed w th d sbel e)- the 9. ntessent al lady *rossed the bo.ndar es o) propr ety a se*ond t me+ ;6here on earth wo.ld yo. !et ) )teen h.ndred dollars7; %nne m !ht ha&e repl ed that they had 1.st robbed the lo*al ban(- b.t Cord's sel)3 restra nt was m.*h better+ He sa d- ;%nne bet on the ra*e+ 'he odds were twenty to one+; 8rs+ Stone dropped to the *ha r beh nd the des(- a !en. ne la.!h r n! n! o.t+ ;Ohmy- :ohn's !o n! to lo&e t+ :.st lo&e t+ 'he b ll o) sale )or the horse s n my name alone+ I'll 1.st wr te another and atta*h t+ H s ped !ree s w th t+ Yo. *an ha&e the lot+; ;6e wo.ldn't want to *a.se yo. any tro.ble- ma'am+; %nne *o.ld ha&e wr.n! h s ne*( )or that+ ;Oh- no- I !a&e :ohn my word to a**ept the ) rst o))er o) as m.*h as I pa d+ One's word s one's bond- yo. (now+; 'he opport.n ty to sp te her h.sband was ma( n! her almost ! ddy+ %nne *o.nted ) )teen h.ndred dollars )rom her po*(ets onto the des(- and then spo(e )or the ) rst t me+ ;Please ma(e the b ll o) sale o.t to Cord and %nne Bennett- 8rs+ Stone+; B.sy wr t n!- @ r! n a Stone m ssed the hard loo( Cord !a&e %nne+ He sa d noth n!1.st )olded the papers and b.ttoned them n h s sh rt po*(et+ St ll happy o&er her domest * re&en!e- @ r! n a Stone shoo( both the r hands+ ;It's been a pleas.re+; She la.!hed a!a n+ ;% real pleas.re+;

Cord and %nne wal(ed n s len*e to the barn+ 'here was no s !n o) Lenn e+ ;6hat are yo. !o n! to .se )or <renerton money- %nn e7; She p.t her hands on h s sho.lders and e/am ned h s )a*e b t by b t+ H s eyes were as de&o d o) e/press on as h s )a*e tsel)+ ;I) I e&er de* de to !o to <renerton- I'll 1.st as( yo. to ta(e me+ 'hat way yo.'ll be r !ht there- ready to ta(e me home when I'&e seen eno.!h+; H s hands t !htened on her wa st+ He sa d noth n!+ ;Yo. (now I'm ne&er !o n! there or anywhere else as well as I do+ Yo.'re 1.st not ready to adm t t+; ;<.ess yo.'&e st ll !ot ) &e h.ndred le)t- and yo. *o.ld always sell yo.r horse+ Yo. *o.ld probably !et to San >ran* s*o+; He too( h s hands away+ 'hey wal(ed thro.!h the town as be)ore- wordlessly- one on ea*h s de o) the horse+ %)ter see n! to the stall on- sa)e n Ephra m's barn- %nne a!a n p.t her hands on h s sho.lders+ ;6 ll yo. do me a )a&or- please7; She *o.ld )eel w thdrawal n h s e&ery m.s*le+ ;L (e what7; ;I bet on that ra*e th n( n! the money probably wo.ld be lost- and that wo.ld be 1.st as well be*a.se t bothered yo.- b.t I also (new how m.*h wor( we d d- and I tho.!ht ) I d d w n- that was ) ne too be*a.se I was bett n! on us+ 6 ll yo. stop re)err n! to 'my money-' and 'my horse7' Please7 Co.ld yo. mana!e 'o.r money' and 'o.r horse7'; She )elt h m rela/ .nder her hands+ ;%ll r !ht+ Let's !o tell them abo.t o.r new horse+; ***

CHAPTER 3&
1ORD ,AD NO. 4EEN INSIDE the 8ason town hall s n*e he had )ollowed 8ar e o.t one o) ts doors the n !ht she was atta*(ed years a!o+ ,ow he was do n! the same th n! he had been do n! that n !ht- s tt n! alon! one wall wat*h n! others dan*e+ 6hen %nne had as(ed h m abo.t attend n! the so* al- w th her own des re to attend wr tten all o&er her )a*e- he had been .nable to say no- a m sta(e )or wh *h he was now pay n!+ She had *hosen a pale yellow !own tr mmed w th !reen )rom her Ch *a!o dressesand was ha& n! a !rand t me dan* n! w th what seemed to Cord to be e&ery man n the pla*e+ 'he whole th n! was absol.tely h s own )a.lt+ He had answered her n9. ry w th- ;I don't dan*e+; He had told her to !o ahead and ha&e a !ood t me- he was ) ne where he was+ %nd a)ter e&ery dan*e she *ame to s t bes de h m )or a wh le- altho.!h her happy *hatter had ta led o)) more 9. *(ly d.r n! ea*h & s t+ He (new h s own bla*( mood was a))e*t n! her- (new he was be n! .nreasonableand *o.ldn't stop h msel)+ 6at*h n! her now her as she sp.n ro.nd- la.!h n! .p at ,oah ?eynolds- he !lared at the sher ))'s hands on her and wanted to h t someth n!+ %nne loo(ed l (e s.nl !ht dan* n! on water 3 dan* n! w th another man+ 8 ss 8a!! e Powers- whose p ano pro& ded the m.s *- was a romant * at heart- and she had been end n! the town's the dan*es w th a lon! walt2 e&en when Cord was a boy+ ,oah ret.rned %nne to h s s de- and Cord (new that last walt2 was not )ar o)) and (new he was not wat*h n! her dan*e t w th someone else+ ;S.ppose we lea&e now be)ore the *rowd7; he sa d+

%nne was more than happy to lea&e early+ 'he e&en n! had been pleasant eno.!h- b.t dan* n! w th )am ly and )r ends wh le wonder n! why her h.sband was be*om n! ston er by the m n.te was not e/a*tly what she had hoped )or+ 'o her s.rpr se- o.ts de the hall she )elt h s hand on her elbow- !. d n! her not .p the street towards Ephra m's b.t aro.nd beh nd the hall where a )lat !rassy area separated the hall )rom the *emetery and the *h.r*h beyond+ 'hro.!h the open w ndows she *o.ld hear the ) rst notes o) 8 ss 8a!! e's last walt2+ ;Dan*e w th me- %nn e7; D d he want to learn here and now7 Uns.re- she pla*ed a hand on h s sho.lder- and then Cord !athered her .p and swooped her away+ I sho.ld ha&e (nown she tho.!ht+ ;Yo. sa d yo. *o.ldn't dan*e+; ;I sa d I d#n'! dan*e+ Hannah and 8artha .sed me to tea*h 8ar e- b.t I ha&en't tr ed t s n*e 8ar e's wedd n!+ Yo. (now what wo.ld happen ) we dan*ed n there+; He !. ded her thro.!h the &el&ety s.mmer dar(ness n s len*e+ 'h s was dan* n! as she had ne&er be)ore e/per en*ed t+ %nne )loated e))ortlessly thro.!h the warm n !ht- *arr ed by raw male power and !ra*e+ 'h s was not 1.st a dan*e- b.t a prel.de- and the heat o) h s hands on her )lesh was b.t a h nt- a prom se o) ra! n! ) re to *ome+ Her p.lse 9. *(ened- breath n! )elt e/a!!erated+ She br.shed a!a nst h m w th e&ery step- lea& n! ner&e end n!s t n!l n!awareness he !htened+ 'he new moon was only a sl &er o) l !ht- and *lose as they were she *o.ld hardly d s*ern h s )eat.res+ He was a sens.o.s !host- yet he was her h.sband- her lo&er- her )r end+ %nne wondered ) he (new- )elt any part o) what she )elt+ %s the last notes )rom the p ano d ed- she was answered when he p.lled her ).ll a!a nst h m and le)t her wea( n h s arms w th a sear n! ( ss+ 'hey wal(ed thro.!h the n !ht hand n hand- b.t arr &ed at Ephra m's only m n.tes be)ore the rest o) the )am ly+ %n ho.r later- %nne was n one o) the narrow beds n 8artha's spare room- alone- b t n! her lower l p- .ns.re whether she was stopp n! hersel) )rom *ry n! or shr e( n!+ 8artha had e/pla ned the rearran!ed sleep n! arran!ements w th no s !n that she real 2ed she was r. n n! anyone's n !ht+ ;,ow that the whole )am ly's here- I'&e p.t a *ot )or Beth n yo.r room- %nne+ :.d th w ll be n the other bed+ >ran( and the boys w ll share the other spare rooms+; ;6hat abo.t Cord7; %nne as(ed+ ;Oh- he *an't stand to be s9.ee2ed n w th the rest+ He always ma(es a bed )or h msel) n the parlor+ D dn't he tell yo.7; 8artha sa d bl thely+ ,o- he hadn't- and )rom the loo( o) h m- %nne (new he hadn't been th n( n! abo.t the *han!ed sleep n! arran!ements ton !ht and wasn't any happ er abo.t t than she was+ Cord lay w de awa(e n h s ma(esh )t bed on the parlor )loor n s.*h a ra!e he was only barely *ontroll n! an .r!e to smash th n!s+ I) he had any sense o) h.mor le)t at allthe *om *al d smay on h s w )e's )a*e when she saw the sleep n! arran!ements m !ht ha&e am.sed h m- b.t he was 9. te beyond h.mor+ How the hell had he let h msel) )or!et abo.t how m.*h s9.ee2 n! t too( to ) t the whole )am ly n here o&ern !ht7 He had slept on th s )loor many t mes o&er the years- and t had ne&er be)ore seemed so hard or so .ny eld n!+ He wondered ser o.sly what wo.ld

happen ) he stormed .psta rs- snat*hed h s w )e )rom her narrow- pr st ne bed and *arr ed her o)) nto the s.mmer n !ht+ He o.!ht to !et .p- ma(e h msel) some *o))ee- read someth n! o)) o) Ephra m's shel&es- pass the n !ht somehow+ Instead- he lay per)e*tly st ll- l sten n! to h s own blood po.nd n! n h s ears- se/.al tens on and ).ry *reat n! a more and more &olat le m /t.re+ He *o.ld !et .p and wal( thro.!h the town+ O) *o.rse- he'd !et nto the ) rst ) !ht he *ame a*ross 3 start one probably+ Sl !ht r.stl n! so.nds )rom the sta r*ase *a.!ht h s attent on+ % wh te appar t on mo&ed slowly towards h m+ She was )eel n! her way *a.t o.sly )rom one p e*e o) ).rn t.re to another+ %nne's bare )eet were at the ed!e o) h s blan(et bed be)ore he was s.re who t was- and e&en then he st ll tho.!ht h s heated ma! nat on m !ht ha&e *on1.red her .p+ He saw the wh te n !ht!own r se then )l.tter to the )loor+ Cord d dn't mo&e- was not s.re he *o.ld .nt l he heard the so)t words- ;Cord7 %re yo. awa(e7 Please be awa(e+; %nne be!an sl d n! .nder the blan(ets bes de h m then- and as her s l(en le! sl d alon! the ta.t m.s*les o) h s- Cord *ame to l )e w th all the bottled .p ).ry o) the last ho.rs- se 2 n! her- roll n! her .nder h s we !ht- h s mo.th h.n!ry- demand n!+ %nne was s.rpr sed- b.t only )or an nstant+ %s t me had passed- she had la n awa(e n the narrow bed .psta rs- a*h n! )rom head to toe )or h s to.*h- wa t n! )or :.d th and Beth to stop tal( n! and !o to sleep so that she *o.ld snea( o.t o) the bedroom and down the sta rs+ She be!an to be a)ra d that he wo.ld be asleep- that she wo.ld ha&e to end.re the )e&er o) the n !ht alone+ By the t me the ho.se was 9. et- her s( n was on ) re0 her &ery bones a*hed+ She *rept to the sta rs on r d *.lo.sly sha(y le!s- .ns.re ) she *o.ld ne!ot ate the steps+ 'he so)t *loth o) the n !ht!own tort.red her sens t 2ed s( n+ ,ow she ( ssed h m ba*( w th an e9.al abandon- wh mper n! w th rel e) at ) nd n! a need as !reat as her own+ She lo&ed the )eel o) h s hands and mo.th on her- o)ten tho.!ht she *o.ld ne&er !et eno.!h o) the !entle *aresses- b.t not ton !ht+ 'on !ht her need was mmed ate and *ons.m n!+ She *o.ld )eel h m hard and ready a!a nst her th !h+ Her le! sl pped .p- lett n! h m )eel her own swollen- mo st warmth+ %nne heard a deep throaty so.nd )rom her always s lent h.sband- hal) !roan- hal) !rowl- as he responded by sh )t n! h s body and enter n! her+ In all the r months to!ether he had ne&er been anyth n! b.t !entle- b.t th s *o.pl n! wo.ld ha&e been too ro.!h- too ) er*e- ) she were not as )ren2 ed as he+ He dro&e nto her- and she met ea*h thr.st w th all her stren!th+ 6 th le!s- arms- and mo.th she tr ed to hold and en&elop as m.*h o) h m as poss ble- ar*hed .pwards )rant *ally- try n! to ta(e h m deeper w th e&ery stro(e+ She lo*(ed her le!s aro.nd h m- d.! her hands nto h s s.r! n! ba*( m.s*les and )elt h m p.ll n! her breath away+ She tr ed to smother the so.nds o) pleas.re she *o.ldn't s.ppress a!a nst h s )a*e and ne*( as a *l ma/ as & olent as the r *o.pl n! swept thro.!h her+ She heard another low !rowl as he sh.ddered- then her name+ She held h m n her as lon! as she *o.ld- s !hed so)tly when he sh )ted h s we !ht )rom her+ ,e ther o) them mo&ed a!a n .nt l the *ool n! s.mmer n !ht made %nne sh &er sl !htly+ Cord *radled her a!a nst h s *hest- p.lled the blan(et o&er her and t.*(ed t .nder her *h n+ ;Yo. all r !ht7;

;8ore than all r !ht+ Lo&ely+; %nne br.shed her ) n!ers o&er h s *hee(bone- a*ross h s mo.th+ He ( ssed her palm+ ;I tho.!ht they'd ne&er !o to sleep+ I wanted yo. so m.*h t %ur!+; H s arms t !htened aro.nd her- hold n! her hard+ %)ter the lon!- ).ll day- %nne dr )ted o)) to sleep moments later+ Cord )o.!ht sleep- want n! to sa&or th s moment and the memor es o) the day+ %nne's breath )anned a*ross h s throat sweetly+ I 'an!ed y#u s# mu"% i! %ur!+ She made h m )eel l (e the ( n! he was s.re she had been born )or+ He tho.!ht o) her )a*e as she ran nto h s arms a)ter the ra*e- the )eel o) her n h s arms dan* n! n the s.mmer n !ht+ Perhaps there wo.ld ne&er a!a n be s.*h a day- b.t he had th s one+ %nd he had her 3 now+ %s he ) nally stopped ) !ht n! sleep- he wondered ) maybe 1.st o**as onally the !ods des !ned a woman ) t )or a ( n! or a pr n*e and then !a&e her to an ord nary man+ 8aybe they d d s.*h a th n! on*e n a wh le- (now n! an ord nary man wo.ld treas.re her morelo&e her better+ 8aybe they e&en let h m (eep her 3 )or a wh le+ ***

CHAPTER 31
S,APES AND O3.LINES WERE ONLY 1.st appear n! n d ))erent shades o) !ray w th the ) rst pre3dawn l !ht when Cord awo(e+ 'he *ontentment o) the n !ht be)ore st ll !r pped h m- b.t the s !ht o) %nne's bare sho.lders- hal) *.rta ned w th s l(y strands o) brown ha r- ban shed the ease mmed ately+ 'here were other early r sers n th s ho.seand he d dn't want them ) nd n! her here l (e th s+ I) she wo(e- she wo.ld ).ss or e&en re).se to !o+ He .ntan!led h msel) )rom her and p.lled on h s tro.sers+ >or* n! h msel) not to h.rry- he eased her n !ht!own ba*( on+ Pett n! her and m.rm.r n! so)tly to (eep her l.lled n sleep- he s*ooped her .p and headed )or the sta rs+ She nestled a!a nst h s sho.lder- wh sper n! h s name n her sleep+ 'he door to the bedroom she was s.pposed to be n was a1ar+ He p.shed t slowly w de and *arr ed her n+ % 9. *( *he*( showed :.d th n the se*ond bed and Beth n her *ot- both st ll asleep+ ?ela/ n! a l ttle- he lowered %nne to the bed- stro( n! her )a*e and m.rm.r n! so so)tly the words were mere & brat ons n h s throat+ '.*( n! the sheet .p aro.nd her- he *o.ld not res st one last *aress- and slowly ran h s ) n!ers alon! the *.r&e o) her *hee(bone and then ba*( aro.nd the del *ate- *lean3*.t 1awl ne+ %t last he stra !htened and t.rned to lea&e- only to see that :.d th was now awa(e and star n! at h m w de3eyed+ He st ))ened and )ro2e n pla*e+ :.d th's )ear was ntense and totally rrat onal+ He wa ted )or a s*ream or )l !ht+ ,e ther o) them mo&ed or bl n(ed )or lon! tense se*onds+ He bro(e the tablea. by )or* n! h msel) to ta(e a *are).l s destep toward the door+ % )a nt sm le appeared on :.d th's pale )eat.res- totally d s*on*ert n! h m+ He !a&e her a 1er(y- respe*t).l nod and !ot the hell o.t o) there+ Ba*( downsta rs- he too( se&eral deep- slow breaths be)ore h s heart be!an to slow to normal+ Imposs ble that he had wal(ed o.t o) that room w tho.t a s*ene- b.t he had+ O) *o.rse- she wo.ld probably re!ale the whole ho.se w th the n* dent o&er brea()ast+

%)ter see n! to )eed and water )or all the horses- Cord wal(ed ba*( nto the ho.se to the smell o) )resh3brewed *o))ee and the s !ht o) >ran( at the ( t*hen table read n! one o) Ephra m's papers+ He helped h msel) to the *o))ee and sat down a*ross )rom h s brother+ >ran( p.t the paper as de and loo(ed .p+ ;Yo. )eed e&eryth n!7; ;S.re+; >ran( st.d ed h m a wh le- a rare .n*erta nty on h s )a*e+ Cord (new someth n! was eat n! at >ran(+ It had been wr tten all o&er h m yesterday+ He wa ted+ ;%ny *han*e ) I as( yo. someth n! I'd really l (e to (now- yo.'d ta(e the tro.ble to answer7; Stran!e way to start+ ;Depends on what- I s.ppose+; ;Bo!!s+ I'd really l (e to (now what happened+; %)ter all these years+ It m !ht ha&e mattered- m !ht ha&e made a d ))eren*e 3 on*e+ ;Lon! t me a!o- *an't matter m.*h now+; ;It matters to me+ I'd really l (e to (now+ 8aybe a !ood part was my )a.lt+ I sho.ld ha&e ) red h m the day I real 2ed he was a hater- b.t I was st ll so damn mad at yo. )or 1.st show n! .p l (e that a)ter all those years- loo( n! l (e that- a*t n! as ) t d dn't matter- as ) yo.'d only been !one days or someth n!++++; >ran( too( a b ! !.lp o) *o))ee and !ot .p to re) ll h s *.p- the mo&ement a patent e/*.se to re!a n *ontrol+ H s &o *e had been r s n!+ It d d st ll matter to h m+ Cord s !hed+ ;>ran(- we weren't !ett n! alon! be)ore I le)t+ Seemed at the t me yo.'d all be better o)) w tho.t me aro.nd+ I ne&er tho.!ht t wo.ld bother yo. that m.*h+; ;Bother .s7 >or ) &e years there wasn't a t me Eph and I tal(ed- a letter )rom 8ar e or Hannah that we d dn't wonder where yo. were- how yo. were- ) yo. were dead and n an .nmar(ed !ra&e and we'd ne&er (now+ D d yo. really th n( we d dn't *are7; ;I (new yo. *ared- 1.st seemed t wo.ld be eas er o&er a d stan*e+ 8aybe t e&en was+ Yo. *an't say I'm not a *onstant so.r*e o) a!!ra&at on l & n! *lose e ther- *an yo.7; >ran( stared- *ons der n! the tho.!ht+ ;,o- I s.ppose I *an't- b.t at least we'll (now where yo.'re b.r ed+ 'here are e&en t mes I *an hardly wa t+; 'h s last was sa d w th a wry hal) sm le p.ll n! at one *orner o) h s mo.th+ ;6hy'd yo. t.rn In1.n when yo. were !one7; ;I d dn't+ I l (e the mo**as ns s all+ 'he ha r 3 the only way to !et a ha r*.t most o) the t me was to st *( a !.n .nder some barber's *h n- and I !ot t red o) t+ '.rner here n town only *.ts my ha r be*a.se o) the )am ly- yo. (now+ He hates e&ery m n.te o) t+; Cord &ol.nteered no more+ 'he ( t*hen wo.ld soon be ).ll o) people- and he hoped >ran( wo.ld let t !o- b.t the need to (now was b.rn n! n >ran(+ He as(ed a!a n- ;6 ll yo. tell me abo.t Bo!!s7; In tr.th Cord had a deep lo&e and *ons derable respe*t )or h s brother- e&en ) they *o.ldn't !et alon! well eno.!h to e/*han!e more than two *onse*.t &e * & l senten*es+ 6 tho.t loo( n! .p- he answered n a low &o *e- ;Yo. remember what he was on abo.t that day7; ;,o- he was always r d n! yo. abo.t someth n!+ I remember we were p.tt n! n the )en*e between yo.r pla*e and m ne- and t was hot+ 6hate&er he was !o n! on abo.t d dn't seem to be any worse than .s.al+; ;It wasn't- the tal( part anyway+; ?es !ned now- Cord be!an to tell h s brother what he d dn't (now abo.t the Bo!!s ) !ht+

;He started n that day abo.t how the Coman*he sl t the nostr ls on the r best horses be*a.se they th n( they *an breathe better at a r.n that way+; ;How the hell wo.ld yo. (now abo.t that7; >ran( as(ed+ ;'hat wasn't the po nt- and yo. (now t+; ;,o- t wasn't-; >ran( adm tted+ ;8aybe now that yo. say that- I do remember some o) t+ I !.ess I )elt l (e yo. deser&ed t+; ;8aybe I d d- b.t Aeeper d dn't+ 6hen I went to ! &e h m water at noon he was t ed there hal) *ra2y- w th both nostr ls sl t to the bone+ 'he blood was dry n! so he *o.ld barely breathe- or maybe t was the n*h3th *( layer o) )l es he *o.ldn't breathe thro.!h+; ;:es.s+; ;Yeah+ I *leaned h m .p eno.!h w th *anteen water so he *o.ld breathe a!a n+ He was so bad I *o.ldn't r de h m+ Had to t e my sh rt o&er h s head and wal( h m home- and then had to throw h m and s t on h s head to do the st t*h n!+ He was a)ra d o) me )or months a)ter+ St ll doesn't l (e anybody to.*h n! h s nose- e&en %nne+; ;E&en so+ Yo. *an't th n( t's worth ( ll n! a man o&er+; ;I wasn't !o n! to ( ll h m- b.t that day I was as *ra2y as the horse+ 8aybe l sten n! to h m )or those wee(s nstead o) sh.tt n! h m .p at the be! nn n! was part o) t+ 6hen I went ba*( and yo. were both !one t 1.st made me madder+; ;So yo. *ame loo( n! )or h m at my pla*e- hal) ( lled h m- and when I tr ed to stop yo. )rom ) n sh n! h m o))- yo. t.rned on me+; ;I was 1.st !ett n! yo. o.t o) the way+ I wasn't !o n! to ( ll h m- b.t I wasn't ) n shed w th h m e ther+ %)terwards- I was !lad Eph showed .p and b.))aloed me+ Yo. weren't n any real dan!er- b.t I m !ht ha&e !one too )ar w th h m- and he s.re wasn't worth han! n! o&er+; >ran( had a blan( loo( on h s )a*e- eyes t.rned nward- remember n!+ ;Yo. e/pe*t me to bel e&e yo.'d ha&e la d o)) me7; ;,o- I !.ess I don't e/pe*t yo. to bel e&e t- b.t that's the way t was+ Yo. wo.ldn't ha&e )elt too !ood )or a wh le- b.t then I !.ess yo. d dn't anyway+; @o *e )a nt and st ll w thdrawn- >ran( sa d- ;I w sh I *o.ld bel e&e that+ I w sh I d d bel e&e t- b.t I !.ess I don't+; On h s )eet- hal)way to the door- Cord )elt an .n.s.al s.r!e o) an!er and )a*ed h s brother a!a n+ ;D d yo. e&er th n(- ) what yo. bel e&e abo.t me s tr.e- yo. o.!ht to do the world a )a&or and p.ll yo.r damn !.n and blow my bra ns all o&er th s ( t*hen7 I) %a$) what yo. bel e&e s tr.e- yo. o.!ht to (eep me n a *a!e and sell t *(ets+; He was !one then- as 9. et as always- b.t somehow >ran( )elt as ) he'd slammed the door lea& n!+ 6 th h s head b.r ed n h s hands- >ran( d dn't real 2e Ephra m was n the ( t*hen .nt l he spo(e+ ;>or a m n.te there- I tho.!ht yo.'d ha&e h m yell n! l (e a real Bennett+; >ran( wat*hed Ephra m help h msel) to *o))ee+ ;How m.*h d d yo. hear7; ;%ll o) t- I th n(+ I *ame when yo. were tal( n! abo.t h m be n! !one those ) &e years+ It wasn't that I wanted to ea&esdrop- b.t I ) !.red he m !ht *lam .p on yo. ) I st.*( my nose n+ He's !ett n! pos t &ely *hatty lately- don't yo. th n(7; ;Do yo. bel e&e t7; ;Yes- I do+; ;6hy7 Yo. d dn't )eel that way at the t me or yo. wo.ldn't ha&e *l.bbed h m o)) me+;

;I !.ess t was the ) !ht th s spr n! that *han!ed my m nd+ %nne 1.st p.lled on h s arm and he stopped+ It too( h m a wh le to *alm down- b.t when I tho.!ht t o&er- he d dn't seem m.*h l (e a *ra2ed ( ller that day+ 6e all made .p o.r m nds years a!o o&er Hat*h- and maybe we were wron!+ D d yo. e&er th n( what yo. wo.ld ha&e done to Hat*h- or what I wo.ld7 I) we hadn't had a !.n handy- that s7; >ran( ran h s ) n!ers thro.!h h s ha r- .nable to answer+ ;I'll tell yo. someth n! else I spent some t me th n( n! o&er a)ter that day- and that's some o) the th n!s %nne sa d+ I) someone !rabbed :.d th l (e that- or 8artha- we'd ha&e all ta(en a hand- b.t be*a.se t was h m- we stood and wat*hed l (e t was a * r*.s or someth n!+ 6hy d dn't we help h m7 So what ) we (new he *o.ld handle them7 So what ) yo. (ept h m )rom !ett n! shot 3 that's all we d d+ 6hy'd we ma(e h m ) !ht them alone and then a*t d s!.sted be*a.se he d d some permanent dama!e7 I'&e been do n! a lot o) th n( n!- >ran(- and maybe he's wron!- he won't e/pla n- won't tal(- b.t we're wron! too 3 abo.t a lot o) th n!s+; 8artha *ame nto the ( t*hen then- and a)ter one 9. *( !lan*e at her h.sband- mo&ed 9. etly aro.nd- start n! brea()ast+ :.d th and Beth weren't lon! beh nd- b.t >ran( d dn't *are what they o&erheard+ ;Yo. th n( he's *han!ed- don't yo.- Eph7 'h n( he's !entled w th ha& n! the woman7; Ephra m ) ddled w th h s empty *.p- then sa d- ;,o- a*t.ally- I don't+ I th n( that be*a.se she's aro.nd we're see n! more o) h m and more o) other s des o) h m that ha&e always been there+ Somet mes yo. !et so wrapped .p n the ran*h yo. don't pay m.*h attent on to what's !o n! on aro.nd yo.- and yo. aren't n town all the t me l (e we areso maybe yo. don't hear some th n!s+ D d yo. (now that the day o) the ) !ht he stopped and tal(ed to ,oah on the way home- that e&er s n*e he stops by the sher ))'s o)) *e on those wal(s o) h s- and ) ,oah s aro.nd they s t and 1aw a wh le7 ,oah e&en told me he's stopped by the ran*h a *o.ple o) t mes when he was o.t that way+ He's had d nner w th them on*e or tw *e+ LeCler*s ha&e been o.t there too- and 6 ndon ta(es h s )am ly alon! when he & s ts now %nne's there+; >ran( (new ) Ephra m sa d so- t was tr.e- b.t he *o.ld barely *red t h s ears+ ;,o 3 the way ,oah tal(ed that day- that's pretty hard to bel e&e+; ;,oah told me he hasn't *han!ed h s m nd abo.t how dan!ero.s o.r l ttle brother s1.st abo.t who he's dan!ero.s to+ %nd ha&e yo. not *ed any *han!es n Pete and L.(e n the last month or so7; ;S.re+ 'hey're ) nally show n! some s !ns o) sense- !row n! .p as hard and slow as I d d- I !.ess+; ;'here's probably some tr.th n that- b.t they'&e also been spend n! *ons derable t me aro.nd Cord+ 'hat means nstead o) head n! o.t o) here S.ndays )or a ba*( room po(er !ame and boo2e- they're play n! w th 6 ndon )or penn es and dr n( n! water or *o))ee+ Yo. (now Cord's a pr.de abo.t l 9.or+ Pete told me he's de* ded he's not play n! h !h sta(es po(er any more .nt l he *an ) !.re o.t when Cord's bl.)) n! more than hal) the t me+; Eph !r nned s.ddenly+ ;'hat means he'll ne&er play )or more than penn es a!a n n h s l )e+; 'h s n)ormat on .nsettled >ran( so m.*h he *o.ldn't answer .nt l a)ter he !ot .pwal(ed the len!th o) the room and ba*( and sat down a!a n+ > nally- ;I'm not s.re I l (e those two aro.nd h m that m.*h+ I s.ppose that's why they're snea( n! at t+;

;'hey're not snea( n!+ 'hey'&e wal(ed o.t o) here bold as brass on h s heels most S.ndays s n*e that ) rst t me they went a)ter Stones' horse w th h m+ 'hey'&e been & s t n! the old ho.se too+ Pete told me a *o.ple o) wee(s a!o he's not !ett n! marr ed .nt l he *an ) nd somebody as sp.n(y as %nne+ I told h m he'd better re*ons der that one+; ;8y <od+ Yo. (now she's n lo&e w th h m- or th n(s she s+; ;It's wr tten all o&er her+; ;He treats her l (e d rt+; ;Yo. e/a!!erate- and ) she's happy- why ar!.e w th t7 She's not the only woman who e&er lo&ed a man who doesn't lo&e ba*(+; ;She deser&es better+; ;It's not l (e he stole her )rom someth n! better- or l (e there's someth n! better wa t n! )or her+ Yo.'re probably r !ht- she's a *on&en en*e to h m- b.t she's *ontent- and I *an't br n! mysel) to be!r.d!e h m whate&er *om)ort she br n!s+ D d yo. e&er th n( abo.t how alone he's been7; >ran( was st ll 1.st sha( n! h s head when L.(e and Pete wal(ed nto the ( t*hen- and h s 9.est ons abo.t the r re*ent a*t & t es ended the *on&ersat on between the brothers+ ANNE WAS .,E LAS. 3P and dressed+ 'old only that Cord had ;!one o.t-; she went to the barn loo( n! )or h m- ) nd n! h m !room n! ?ed+ Her *heery- ;<ood morn n!-; bro.!ht only a !r.nt+ ;I *ame o.t here hop n! )or a !ood morn n! ( ss+ I s.ppose I'm o.t o) l.*(+; ;S.ppose yo.'ll pester t ll yo. !et what yo. want+; ;%re yo. an!ry w th me be*a.se I d dn't wa(e .p and yo. had to ta(e me ba*( to bed7; H s hands stopped mo& n!- so she d.*(ed between h s arms and )a*ed h m+ ;Yo.'re r !ht+ I) yo. want r d o) me- the )astest way wo.ld be to ! &e me my ( ss and send me on my way- e&en ) yo. are mad+; ;I'm not mad at yo.+ >ran( and I had words s all+; ;%h- so yo. and >ran( ar!.ed- and he's n the ho.se loo( n! as *are)ree as e&erwrapped aro.nd a *.p o) *o))ee- and yo.'re o.t here by yo.rsel) n a temper+; 'he )lat- t !ht loo( be!an to lea&e h s )a*e+ ;8m+ He's n the ho.se wrapped aro.nd a *.p o) *o))ee- and I'm o.t here- wrapped aro.nd yo.+; H s arms t !htened- *a.s n! a l ttle sh &er o) del !ht as her stoma*h met h s- breasts )lattened a!a nst h s *hest+ :.st be)ore h s l ps to.*hed hers- she heard h m m.rm.r- ;Pore ole >ran(+; 6hen h s mo.th le)t hers and be!an n.22l n! below her ear and down her throat- she la.!hed and tr ed to m tate h s bar tone drawl- ;Yes- pore ole >ran(+; 6hen he )a*ed her a!a n the hard loo( had totally &an shed+ ;,ow that I'&e !otten what I wanted- I'll !o-; she o))ered+ ;,ow that yo.'&e r. ned my mad- how abo.t st *( n! aro.nd and lead n! th s horse o.t )or me+ Let's see ) there's any st ))ness or soreness+; Pleased at ha& n! ent *ed h m o.t o) h s dar( mood- she happ ly *ompl ed+ %nne en1oyed the rest o) that S.nday more than any pre& o.s t me aro.nd Cord's )am ly+ 6 nn n! the ra*e- b.y n! ?ed- and her se*ret t me w th Cord last n !ht were the only reasons she told hersel)+ She was help n! w th the d nner d shes when 8artha answered the door and her brother b.rst nto the ( t*hen- ob& o.sly n*ensed o&er

someth n!+ %nne de* ded to !nore h m+ 8aybe he wo.ld say someth n! so o))ens &e Cord wo.ld p *( h m .p and throw h m o.t+ 'he &ol.me and tone o) ?ob's ) rst words made that l (ely+ ;Is t tr.e7; ?ob yelled at Cord+ ;Is t tr.e what I heard7; Cord had been lea& n! the ( t*hen and stopped n the doorway+ ;I) t's abo.t me- and ) t's !ot yo. that r led- t's probably tr.e-; he sa d+ ;I heard my s ster won !%#usands o) dollars on that ra*e- and yo. spent t to b.y that horse )or yo.rsel)+ Yo. *o.ld ha&e b. lt a de*ent ho.se nstead o) ha& n! her l &e n that ho&el o) yo.rs+ Yo. *o.ld ha&e !otten de*ent ).rn t.re- or let her spend t on *lothes- or (eep t )or hersel)+ D dn't t e&er o**.r to yo. to let her (eep t7; %s Cord )olded h s arms a*ross h s *hest- ?ob threw %nne a )rant * loo(+ She &ery del berately t.rned her ba*( and p.t the plate she had been dry n! away+ I) ?ob wanted to *ont n.e be n! so p !headed- he *o.ld 1.st pay the pr *e+ By the t me she t.rned ba*( aro.nd- howe&er- she *o.ld see that Cord wasn't !o n! to throw ?ob o.t+ He was !o n! to ! &e her brother a d ))erent ( nd o) hard t me+ ;I'&e !ot to tell yo.- ?ob- t d d *ross my m nd-; Cord sa d+ ;'here were all those p les o) b lls on the table- and I tho.!ht- I *o.ld b. ld a de*ent ho.se nstead o) ma( n! %nn e l &e n my ho&el0 I *o.ld b.y all sorts o) )an*y ).rn t.re )or the ho&el nstead o) lett n! her !et spl nters n her ass )rom what's there+ I *o.ld let her b.y another ) )ty dresses to help the ones already there b.l!e thro.!h the doors on the ho&el+ 'hen I tho.!ht- what do I *are ) that woman's !ot spl nters n her ass7 %nd I too( the money and went and bo.!ht me a r *h man's horse+; ?ob stood n the m ddle o) the ( t*hen- h s mo.th hal) open+ %nne de* ded to *h me n a)ter all+ ;%*t.ally- ?ob- o.r ho.se s the n *est pla*e I'&e e&er l &ed- and ) he wanted to b. ld someth n! else- I'd ar!.e+ %nd o.r ).rn t.re m !ht not be )an*y- b.t t's st.rdy and attra*t &e- and I don't want anyth n! else+ I'&e !ot better th n!s to do nowadays than spend my t me pol sh n! ant 9.es+ %nd he's r !ht- I ha&e more dresses than I'll e&er wear )or the rest o) my l )e+ I'm the one who wanted to b.y the horse+ Yo. see- the problem I had was that e&er s n*e we'&e been marr ed he's wanted to send me o)) as )ar as I had money to !o+ 6hen I had twenty dollars- he (ept tal( n! abo.t <renerton+ 6hen I had a h.ndred dollars- he started n abo.t Den&er- and there I was w th tho.sands- and he started n abo.t Fran"e+ I ) !.red ) I *o.ldn't !et r d o) that money )ast- he'd start n abo.t Ch na- or %)r *a or somepla*e+; Cord wal(ed ba*( to the table- t.rned a *ha r aro.nd and straddled t- *ross n! h s arms on the ba*(+ ;Been ! & n! t some more tho.!ht+ 'he best pla*e to send yo. wo.ld be somewhere where they (eep women n walled !ardens w th !.ards- where women ha&e to wear &e ls all the t me- and where e&ery man !ets a h.ndred w &es+ Yo. *o.ld be some man's h.ndred and ) rst w )e- ' 3!ress+; ;Oh- my- how abo.t ) I 1.st prom se to be !ood7; He loo(ed at her ntently )or a moment- ;6hy don't yo. 1.st !o o.ts de and sp t n the w nd7; Uttered w tho.t e/press on- t so.nded .!ly- and %nne saw the )rowns on Bennett )a*es- b.t as Cord le)t the ( t*hen- she met ?ob's eyes and saw .nderstand n! there+ Her brother m !ht be st.bborn- b.t he wasn't st.p d- and he (new her better than her h.sband's )am ly d d+ ?ob had 1.st real 2ed that Cord had ) rst teased h m abo.t the horse and then teased her abo.t the money and any prom se she m !ht ma(e to be ;!ood+; She

(new ?ob's deas abo.t her h.sband and her marr a!e had 1.st been sha(en to the *ore and wondered ) t wo.ld e&er ma(e any d ))eren*e+ ***

CHAPTER 32
ANNE 3NDERS.OOD .,A. .,E 0OS. mportant wor( o) the year on the ran*h was hay n! n late s.mmer+ I) e&ery a&a lable noo( and *ranny o) the ran*h b. ld n!s were st.))ed w th hay !o n! nto the w nter- there was eno.!h to ens.re that the horses had s.pplemental )eed on the poor w nter past.re and *ame thro.!h the snows )at and sassy+ It !.aranteed that the broodmares were stron! n early spr n! )or )oal n! and that they *o.ld prod.*e healthy )oals and lots o) m l( to (eep them healthy+ She also (new the season only lasted a )ew wee(s- start n! when the !rasses n the h ll meadows on the ran*h were r pe eno.!h to *.t- and end n! when they mat.red to o&err pe- tasteless stal(s+ 'hat meant there wo.ld be no *h.r*h on S.nday- wh *h was more than all r !ht w th her+ In )a*t a )ew wee(s w tho.t any a!!ra&at on )rom her )am ly or )rom the Bennetts and w tho.t ha& n! to *ontrol hersel) aro.nd ?e&erend Yellow3 Belly so.nded more than all r !ht+ So at ) rst %nne *ooperated w th Cord's plans )or hay season+ She stayed home- too( *are o) the l &esto*( and d d the m l( n! and other *hores+ Howe&er- a)ter three days o) wat*h n! Cord r se n dar(ness st ll st )) )rom the pre& o.s day's wor( and *ome home at n !ht a)ter dar( almost too t red to wash n the *ree( and eat be)ore )all n! nto bed- she had had eno.!h+ On the )o.rth day she rode ?ed to the hay meadows+ 'here had to be someth n! she *o.ld do+ ;6hy *an't I dr &e the hay ra(e7; she as(ed+ ;'hat loo(s easy+; ;I) yo. )ell o)) and the t nes !ot yo.- they'd r p yo. to p e*es+; ;6hy sho.ld I be s lly eno.!h to )all n )ront o) the t nes7 I) y#u )ell o)) that way y#u'd be r pped to p e*es+; Cord !a&e n as she'd (nown he wo.ld+ By the end o) the wee( they had a ro.t ne establ shed+ He rose be)ore ) rst l !ht and was n the ) elds by daybrea(+ %nne too( *are o) the l &esto*(- d d anyth n! else that *o.ldn't wa t n the ho.se or !arden- pa*(ed a l.n*h- and )ollowed h m to the ) elds on ?ed+ He d d the *.tt n!+ She dro&e Aeeper and d d the ra( n!+ %nne )o.nd she *o.ld p t*h hay h !h eno.!h to help load the ) rst 9.arter o) the hay wa!on- and ) she dro&e the loaded wa!on to the barns- Cord *o.ld start later- r d n! ?ed- and arr &e when she d d to .nload the hay nto the barn+ C.tt n! was the slowest wor(- and %nne's help !a&e Cord more t me )or t e&ery day+ >or l.n*h they ate the sandw *hes she pa*(ed w th pea*hes or apr *ots- then lay s de by s de on the blan(et she spread )or a table )or hal) an ho.r- star n! at the s(y- too bone weary to do more than breathe+ %t n !ht they shared the m l( n! and )eed n! *hores- then bathed n the *ree(+ %nne spared an o**as onal r.e).l tho.!ht )or her oh so proper .pbr n! n! as the last o) her nh b t ons d ssol&ed- & *t m o) m nd3n.mb n! )at !.e+ D.r n! the day she wore a m n m.m o) the l !htest *otton *loth n! w th a w de3 br mmed straw hat and th n wor( !lo&es )or prote*t on+ 8ore o)ten than not she *oo(ed

d nner *lad only n one o) Cord's sh rts+ He seldom bothered w th *lothes at all a)ter the r bath+ %nne )elt no shyness o&er an o**as onal pat on the bottom- or !entle r.bb n! o) her stoma*h or a breast- and no hes tat on o&er to.*h n! Cord the same way- r.nn n! her hands a*ross )lat *hest m.s*les or tra* n! the *.r&es o) h s ba*( or arms+ 'hey wor(ed to!ether n an easy!o n! nt ma*y- b.t l ttle des re )lared n those wee(s+ It was not so m.*h the ab.s &e wor( o) the day past as the (nowled!e that tomorrow wo.ld be the same+ It ra ned tw *e- on*e an a)ternoon th.nderstorm that *ost a whole day's wor( 3 the a)ternoon o) the storm and the ne/t morn n! wh le the ) elds dr ed 3 and one ent re day3 lon! ra n that *ost a day and a hal) n dry n! t me+ 'hey a**epted the brea(s !rate).lly- b.t on those days Cord *he*(ed the horse herds and )en*es- and %nne *a.!ht .p on ba( n!- la.ndry- and the !arden+ 'hey had been dr & n! themsel&es th s way )or three wee(s when he told her+ ;6e *o.ld 9. t today+; ;6hat do yo. mean- *o.ld7; ;By the end o) today we'll ha&e the barns ).ll+ It's eno.!h to !et o.r horses thro.!h a hard w nter n !ood shape+; ;%nd ) we (eep !o n!7; ;Only abo.t another wee( be)ore e&en the h !her meadows w ll be too r pe 3 or there'll be a ser o.s ra n+ %nyth n! else we har&est- we'd ha&e to sta*( o.ts de+; ;'hen what7; ;6e'd sell t+; ;How m.*h7; ;8aybe the pr *e o) a horse+; ;'hat's a lot o) money )or a wee('s wor(+ Let's (eep !o n!+; ;8m+ S.re7; Stret*hed bes de h m on the l.n*ht me blan(et- %nne nodded as & !oro.sly as she *o.ld mana!e+ So they went ba*( to wor(+ E/a*tly one wee( later- as they a!a n lay s de by s de- Cord s !naled the end+ ;%nother *o.ple o) ho.rs and we're done- babe+; She t.rned to loo( at h m+ ;Yo. (now- I'&e ne&er done anyth n! l (e th s be)orene&er been so t red- b.t I'&e ne&er )elt so !ood abo.t anyth n! e ther- l (e t really matters+; He was .p on one elbow now- )a*e shadowed by the s.n beh nd h m+ %s always- h s eyes drew all l !ht a&a lable- and n the !olden !l nts was a be! nn n! )l *(er o) des re+ ;' red7; %nne to.*hed the spr n!y bla*( ha r at h s temple+ ;,ot that t red+; He drew her *lose and ( ssed her mo.th- )a*e- and eyes- lea& n! a tra l o) awa(ened ner&e end n!s down her throat and a*ross her *ollar bone+ %nne lay pass &e and a**ept n! .nt l he be!an .n)asten n! the b.ttons o) her wa stb.t then stopped h s hands- !ot to her )eet and .ndressed )or h m+ 'he mas( was !one0 he leaned ba*( and wat*hed w th .nd s!. sed appre* at on .nt l she ) n shed and was stand n! na(ed be)ore h m+ %s %nne p.lled the p ns )rom her ha r and shoo( t down n a s l(en *lo.d aro.nd her sho.lders- she *a.!ht a h nt o) someth n! n h s )a*e and eyes she had ne&er seen be)ore-

b.t he nstantly lowered h s !a2e- stood- and remo&ed what l ttle he had on- )or h s sh rt was han! n! )rom the hay wa!on where t had been s n*e m d3morn n!+ 'he past wee(s had also honed Cord down to th nness- and m.s*le- bone- and tendon showed n sharp rel e) .nder warm *opper s( n- emphas 2 n!- not detra*t n! )rom- the e&er3present a.ra o) power aro.nd h m+ %s she ra sed a hand to to.*h h m- he *ame to her- t pped her *h n .p )or the ) rst ( ss+ 'he taste o) h m always made %nne )eel l !htheaded and 1oy).l+ 'h s t me when she be!an to sa! a!a nst h m- *l n! n! )or s.pport- Cord lowered her to the blan(et- )ollow n! her down w tho.t stopp n! the ( ss+ On*e a!a n she s mply a**epted h s *aresses n an almost tran*e3l (e state+ ;'.rn o&er+; Dr.!!ed w th the ( ss and the sensat ons t pro&o(ed now spread n! thro.!h her- she obeyed- p llow n! her head on *rossed arms- eyes *losed+ He p.shed her ha r as de and teased the so)t spot beh nd and below her ear w th small n pp n! ( sses- tra led a*ross her sho.lders- made her sh &er w th pleas.re as he wor(ed on the nape o) her ne*(+ H s ) n!ers drew tantal 2 n! patterns o) pleas.re on her s des as he ( ssed h s way down her sp ne- tra* n! the th n l ne o) the (n )e s*ar as ) he *o.ld heal t st ll+ 'hen he (neaded the *hee(s o) her bottom and ba*(s o) her th !hs as he wor(ed h s way ba*( to the nape o) her ne*(+ %nne t.rned onto her ba*(- wr !!l n! w th del !ht as he a!a n tasted h s way downward- then be!an to n.22le and n.d!e at so)t breast )lesh+ %s he spread a hand )lat a*ross her belly- her m.s*les r ppled w th b. ld n! des re+ He )astened on one already hardened n pple- then the other- s.*( n! and n pp n!- send n! hot spar(s o) pleas.re ra* n! e&erywhere+ H s hand mo&ed rhythm *ally on her belly- sl pped down to stro(e her nner th !hs- and ) nally e/plored the swell n!- dampen n! )lesh h dden by *r sp dar( *.rls+ She *o.ld no lon!er be st ll b.t p.shed .p a!a nst h s hand moan n! so)tly+ S.ddenly e&eryth n! stopped+ 'he po nt o) h s *h n on her breastbone p nned her to the !ro.nd as she )o*.sed w th bew lderment on eyes .n9.est onably !old n the s.n+ ;8aybe I'm too t red+; ;Yo. wret*h=; % hard p.sh on h s sho.lders- and Cord let her roll h m r !ht o&er+ She ( ssed h m as he had her- b.t he was not as pass &e- h s ) n!ers tra* n! patterns alon! her sp ne as she ( ssed h m+ He st lled as she tasted her way )rom the hard )lat n pples alon! ea*h r b down to the be! nn n! o) the seam3l (e l ne o) ha r+ Her *hee( rested there- as she tra*ed l !ht teas n! * r*les on the lean belly- down *orded th !hs- ret.rn n! to stro(e the &el&ety s( n o) h s now r ! d sha)t+ She heard a hal)3smothered !roan- then h s hands *lasped her aro.nd the wa st- and she was aston shed to ) nd hersel) astr de h m- mpaled+ <a2 n! down she was *apt &ated by th s & ew o) her h.sband+ Eyes hal) *losed)eat.res so)tened and bl.rred w th pass on- emot ons were )or on*e easy to read on h s )a*e+ She mo&ed sl !htly and saw h s pleas.re+ Con*entrat n! totally on the e))e*t she was ha& n!- she be!an a slow roll n! rhythmalmost nto/ *ated w th her own power+ So en!rossed n h s rea*t ons was she that a spasm *o.rs n! thro.!h her own body- *a.s n! an ar*h n! brea( n the easy *aden*ebro.!ht a !asp- hal) )rom the ntens ty o) the sensat on- hal) )rom s.rpr se+

He ro.sed then )rom 9. es*ent a**eptan*e- p.ll n! her down t !ht a!a nst h mre&ers n! the r pos t ons- dr & n! nto her+ She heard her name- low and throaty- then a so.nd that seemed torn )rom h m+ ,o )am l ar s( mm n! wa&es o) pleas.re *ame0 nstead her body was shattered w th an nward e/plos on that ).sed them+ %s ) )rom a !reat d stan*e she heard a woman's drawn o.t *ry+ S.rely that *o.ld not be her+ 'he emot onal *ata*lysm le)t her sha(en and .n*erta n .nt l her eyes lo*(ed on Cord's+ 'he words were there )or her to read- re)le*ted n h s eyes- wr tten on h s )a*eand she *o.ld )eel them po.nd n! thro.!h her w th ea*h heartbeat+ She to.*hed h s )a*e and wh spered- ;I lo&e yo.+; He d d not p.ll away- b.t sa d noth n!+ 6hen he *losed h s eyes and p.lled her a!a nst h s *hest- she (new he wo.ld not spea( the words- b.t wo.ld not deny them e ther+ It was eno.!h )or now+ 'hey ) n shed wor( n dayl !ht )or the ) rst t me- and t was only ).ll dar( as %nne be!an prepar n! d nner+ Us.ally Cord was bes de her- help n!- b.t ton !ht he sat at the table- ) ddl n! w th a b t o) harness- a&o d n! her eyes- as he had all e&en n!+ 6hen he spo(e- h s words were .ne/pe*ted+ ;How do yo. )eel abo.t my mother- abo.t the Ind an blood7; %nne b.s ed hersel) *he*( n! the )ood on the sto&e- try n! to th n( o) an answer that wo.ld be honest b.t not too re&eal n!+ ;,e&er m nd+ <.ess I don't really want to hear t+; 'he b tterness o) h s tone 1olted %nne o.t o) her re&er e as she real 2ed what her delay had led h m to *on*l.de+ ;Oh- no- that's not t 3 t's 1.st that the tr.th so.nds so sel) sh+ I don't want++++; She was trapped now+ He wasn't !o n! to let her tell less than the whole tr.th+ ;'ell me+; ;I'm !lad o) t+ I (now t's always made yo.r l )e harder+ 'hat's what so sel) sh o) meb.t ) t weren't s.*h a+++-; she sear*hed )or the r !ht words- ;so* al hand *ap- yo.'d ha&e been marr ed years a!o to somebody l (e ?a*hel- and yo. wo.ldn't ha&e been here when I needed yo.+ ,ot 1.st today 3 I mean- e&en at the be! nn n! 3 I d dn't want yo. to be h.rt so or ha&e yo.r l )e *han!ed l (e that- b.t I *an't e&en w sh n my heart t d dn't happen be*a.se ) t hadn't I'd be 3 I don't (now e&en 3 maybe l & n! n hell- or maybe really dead+ I tho.!ht abo.t ( ll n! mysel) on*e- yo. (now- b.t I d dn't want to be dead+ I 1.st d dn't want to be marr ed to <eor!e Detr *(+; Cord totally !nored the part %nne )o.nd so e/*r.* at n!ly embarrass n!+ ;6hy wo.ld I marry somebody l (e ?a*hel7; ;8en always *hoose women l (e ?a*hel+ She's pet te and )em n ne and so)t and ro.nd+; ;%nn e- do yo. see me r d n! do* le )at pon es7; She ! !!led at both ma!es h s words bro.!ht to her m nd+ ;6ell- ) yo.'d been able to *hoose- yo. wo.ld ha&e- and yo. wo.ldn't ha&e been .nmarr ed at twenty3e !ht+; ;I) I'd !otten to *hoose- I m !ht ha&e been marr ed to yo. at twenty- b.t yo. probably wo.ldn't ha&e been too re*ept &e to the dea+; Her heart be!an to th.d a!a n+ ;'hat's n *e to say- b.t t's not really++++; ;Yes- t s+ Yo. were the ) rst ! rl I e&er really l.sted o&er- yo. (now+ I mean not 1.st a boy's des re to do th n!s to a woman- any woman- b.t a part *.lar des re to do *erta n th n!s to a *erta n woman+;

;Yo.'re say n! that to ma(e me )eel !ood+; ;Yo. remember the day I (no*(ed yo. o)) yo.r )eet 3 w th the pa*(a!es7; She nodded+ ;Be)ore I re*o!n 2ed yo. I was wa t n! )or the s*ream n! and tro.ble- b.t when I saw t was yo.- I started to not *e the shape o) yo.r le!s and the way the la*e on yo.r .nder*lothes loo(ed so m.*h better than the st.)) on my s sters'+ %nd how !ood yo. loo(ed lay n! on yo.r ba*( loo( n! .p at me+; ;Yo. mean I was mpressed w th how pol te yo. were- and !%a!'s what yo. were th n( n!7; ;Yo. sho.ld be more mpressed w th how pol te I was now yo. (now what I was th n( n!+; 'here was a w *(ed !r n n h s eyes now+ ;B.t I ne&er had the same e))e*t on yo.- d d I7; ;,o- b.t nobody d d+ I ne&er (new women had )eel n!s l (e that .nt l the ) rst t me yo. ( ssed me+; ;Come on- yo. were !o n! to marry that ? *hard person+; ;I) I'd marr ed ? *hard- we *o.ld ha&e been marr ed ) )ty years- and I'd st ll ne&er ha&e (nown women had )eel n!s l (e that+ He d d ( ss me- yo. (now+ So d d a )ew others+ It was 1.st 3 l ps+ I was so ns.lted be*a.se yo. were s.rpr sed I hadn't 3 been w th h m that way+ I *o.ldn't .nderstand- b.t I d d later+ >o.r years 3 ) I'd been en!a!ed to yo. my & rt.e m !ht ha&e lasted )o.r days- b.t ne&er )o.r wee(s+; She !r nned at h m+ ;One ( ss- and I'd ha&e been lost+; ;6o.ldn't ha&e helped m.*h that I'd ha&e spent e&ery wa( n! ho.r plott n! ways to besm r*h yo.+; ;B.t n the be! nn n!- when we were ) rst marr ed- yo. d dn't e&en 3 I mean 3 b.t yo. d dn't+; ;I tho.!ht yo. wo.ldn't l (e t+ I tho.!ht yo. wo.ldn't l (e t a lot+; ;Oh+ I tho.!ht I wasn't s.pposed to l (e t+ I tho.!ht there was someth n! the matter w th me be*a.se I d dn't dis$i-e t the way I was s.pposed to+; She la.!hed o.t lo.d+ ;I'm s.re !lad we both !ot older and w ser+; She a*t.ally saw one *orner o) h s mo.th *.rl .pwards+ ;8m+ 8e too+; Later that n !ht h s &o *e p.lled her ba*( )rom the ed!e o) sleep+ ;I'&e been th n( n!+; ;Umm+; ;'omorrow I'&e !ot to ) / the that*h on those hay sta*(s a!a nst the ra n and *at*h .p on some other th n!s- and I !.ess yo. do too+ How abo.t a)ter that we ta(e a some t me to o.rsel&es and do whate&er we )eel l (e7 Seems we wor(ed hard eno.!h we're ent tled+; It was a !rand dea- and she told h m so+ ***

CHAPTER 33
ANNE .,O3G,. OF EA1, ONE o) the r ten days o)) as a separate !old and bl.e treas.re+ Somet mes a sl !ht bree2e st rred the trees and !rass- b.t t ne&er be*ame a ).ll )or*e w nd+ 'he temperat.re was ne ther too hot nor too *old- and only an o**as onal )at)l.))y- wh te *lo.d s*.dded a*ross *lear s( es o) the deepest bl.e+

Cord showed her all o) the Bennett ?an*h+ 'hey loo(ed o&er the b ! ho.se )rom a d stan*e- b.t a&o ded other people+ 'hey played !ames on horseba*(- swam and bathed n the *ree(- la2ed o&er p *n * l.n*hes- and made lo&e n one se*l.ded spot a)ter another+ 'hey *ame to!ether w th smolder n! ntens ty and w th teas n! la.!hter- ea*h t me d ))erent- ea*h t me !lor o.s+ She lo&ed h m openly and w tho.t reser&at on+ She (new he wo.ld ne&er be so openb.t l ttle by l ttle the mpass &e mas( sl pped )or lon!er and lon!er+ La.!hter m !ht st ll only be n h s eyes- b.t tra*es o) e/press on be!an to an mate h s )a*e+ 'he terr )y n!- bloody day o) the r marr a!e was less than a year a!o+ I) they had *ome so )ar n th s t me- %nne bel e&ed she wo.ld n the end hear the words she- l (e all women- lon!ed to hear- b.t ) he ne&er spo(e o) t- she wo.ld be *ontent w th th s+ He lo&ed her- and she (new t- and he was *apable o) s.*h tenderness t le)t her trembl n!o&erwhelmed by her own lo&e )or h m+ 6hen the morn n! o) the ele&enth day dawned .nseasonably *old w th nterm ttent dr 22le- they rel.*tantly ret.rned to the demands o) e&eryday l )e+ Between the showers- %nne *leaned all the o&err pe- rott n! and to.!h )r. t and &e!etables )rom the !arden+ 'he p !s wo.ld )east )or days+ She be!an har&est n! the last o) the r pe prod.*e )or preser& n!- and t.*(ed &e!etables l (e s9.ash away n the root *ellar+ E&en w th the wee(s o) ne!le*t- there sho.ld be more than eno.!h o) the !arden's bo.nty to pro& de )or a &ar ed d et thro.!h the w nter+ Cord spent the day br n! n! n the two3year3olds to start wor( n! and *he*( n! )en*eb.t when the weather pers sted dreary and *old on the ne/t day- started help n! w th mo.nds o) )r. t and &e!etables n the ( t*hen+ Shortly be)ore noon >o/)a*e so.nded a warn n! and >ran(- L.(e- and Pete rode nto the yard+ Soon the pe!s by the door were *o&ered w th sl *(ers and b ! blond men seemed to ) ll the ( t*hen+ %nne (new that Cord hadn't sa d more than hello and !oodbye to h s brother s n*e the morn n! a)ter the ra*e- and he barely loo(ed .p )or a !reet n! now+ She wasn't any happ er to see >ran(- b.t she was !row n! )ond o) L.(e and Pete+ So she !a&e all three o) them a warm wel*ome+ She *o.ldn't !et any o) them to s t down .nt l they bro.!ht the ro*( n! *ha r nto the ( t*hen and she per*hed on t )or a )ew se*onds- b.t then she hopped .p and went ba*( to what she had been do n!- altho.!h she *hatted w th the & s tors o&er her sho.lder+ >ran( e/pla ned the & s t+ ;Yo.r mother (new yo. wo.ldn't be n town d.r n! hay n!- b.t t's been almost s / wee(s now+ She's worr ed- and I prom sed her I'd stop by and *he*( on yo.+ 'he boys are !o n! to town tomorrow )or s.ppl es- so they'll let her (now yo.'re all r !ht+; ;Pete and I stopped by a *o.ple o) t mes- b.t nobody was here+; L.(e ob& o.sly d dn't want anyone th n( n! th n!s had !otten to the o)) * al n9. ry sta!e w tho.t an e))ort on h s part+ %nne t.rned sl !htly and sm led at them- hands b.sy+ ;'he hay n! too( almost )o.r wee(s s all- and then we too( some t me to o.rsel&es+ 6e'll be n ne/t S.nday 3 ) t sn't st ll so m serable o.t+; ;6e'll ma(e s.re yo.r mother !ets word-; prom sed Pete+ Cord saw no reason to be so* able w th h s brother- and the way >ran( and the boys were star n! at h s hands as he *.t the &e!etables wasn't so)ten n! h s att t.de+ 'he

( t*hen table was p led h !h w th !reen beans- and he was *.tt n! them to the len!th %nne wanted+ He !nored h s nephews and h s brother and (ept the (n )e )lash n!+ %s )ast as %nne ) lled a !ro.p o) preser& n! 1ars- he had another p le o) beans ready )or her to s*oop .p and start a!a n+ 'he .n*.t p le d m n shed stead ly+ 6 tho.t ra s n! h s head- Cord wat*hed >ran( wat*h n!+ He wondered what >ran( wo.ld *ome .p w th to e/pla n the s !ht o) a (n )e n h s hands and no dead men n e& den*e+ 'ear n! h s !a2e )rom the table- >ran( addressed %nne a!a n+ ;S.re smells !ood n here+ 'hat *an't be beans+; ;,o- be)ore any pea*hes went nto 1ars- I ) lled a p e w th them+; %nne po nted to the 1ars o) pea*hes on the )loor+ ;I) yo.'d l (e to stay )or l.n*h- t's almost done and sho.ld be *ool eno.!h )or dessert+; L.(e and Pete a**epted w th enth.s asm- lea& n! >ran( t !ht3l pped w th d spleas.re+ He t.rned to Cord+ ;How *ome yo. sta*(ed hay o.ts de th s year7; Cord wasn't any more pleased abo.t the a**epted l.n*h n& tat on than >ran( was+ ;Barns are ).ll+; ;>.ll o) what7; ;Hay+; ;How the hell d d yo. mana!e that by yo.rsel)7; ;D dn't+ %nne helped+; It was *ommon eno.!h )or w &es o) small )armers and ran*hers to help w th anyth n! they *o.ld+ It 1.st was not *ommon )or Bennett women+ Cord wa ted )or >ran( to ma(e a *r t *al remar(+ 6 th any l.*( %nne wo.ld lose her temper and r.n the lot o) them o.t o) the ho.se+ B.t >ran( pa.sed and !a&e %nne a *ons der n! loo(+ %s Cord ) n shed w th the last o) the beans- L.(e and Pete be!an re!al n! %nne w th stor es o) the r e/plo ts on the ran!e and n town and as( n! her op n on o) one ! rl a)ter another they )an* ed or tho.!ht they m !ht+ >ran( was st.dy n! %nne *o&ertly o&er the r m o) h s *o))ee *.p+ 'he d smal !ray day made the l !ht poor n the ( t*hen- b.t %nne !lowed w th her own nner l !ht+ >ran( Bennett (new better than most men what made a woman loo( l (e that- b.t there was only a p.22led )rown on h s )a*e+ St ll- >ran( loo(ed ba*( at Cord and made an e))ort+ ;Yo. m.st be low on s.ppl es+ Yo. want the boys to p *( yo. .p anyth n! n town7 'here'll be room n the wa!on+; Cord's rr tat on w th h s brother was )ad n! to am.sement almost a!a nst h s w ll+ He sa d- ;%nn e7; ;'hat wo.ld be n *e+ I .sed almost the last o) the )lo.r n the p e *r.st+; O&er l.n*h Cord 1o ned the *on&ersat on to some e/tent+ 6hen e&eryone was replete a)ter sandw *hes and p e- he wordlessly ) shed a * !ar o.t o) >ran('s breast po*(et+ >ran( ) nally rela/ed then too+ ;6hy the hell don't yo. b.y yo.r own7; ;> lthy hab t- hate to start+; Cord l t the l ttle bla*( * !ar and leaned ba*(+ It was a *om)ort n! ro.t ne that went ba*( o&er a de*ade+ It wasn't a pea*e treaty- b.t t was a tr.*e- and t was a start+ ***

CHAPTER 3

4Y EARLY O1.O4ER ANNE ,AD been (eep n! a se*ret )rom Cord )or almost a month+ She 1.st wanted to be absol.tely s.re she told hersel)+ %)ter all t wasn't s.pposed to happen+ In a t ny *orner o) her m nd- howe&er- she (new she was a)ra d o) h s rea*t on+ She (ept remember n! what he had sa d abo.t )eel n! trapped when ?osa had *on*e &ed h s *h ld when he was n 'e/as+ > nally- *.rled on h s sho.lder one n !ht a)ter part *.larly sweet lo&ema( n!- she s.mmoned her *o.ra!e and sa d the words+ ;Cord7; ;8m+; ;6e're !o n! to ha&e a baby+; H s sho.lder t.rned )rom a warm p llow to a hard ro*( n the spa*e o) those words+ Her heart leapt to her mo.th+ ;Yo. heard what Cra ! sa d- %nn e+ It *an't be+ Yo.'re ma! n n! someth n!+; ;I ha&e e&ery s !n I'&e e&er heard women tal( abo.t+; ;L (e what7; ;I ha&en't bled )or three months+; ;6e'd better !o see Cra !+ 8aybe there's someth n! wron!+; ;%nd I )elt s *( e&ery morn n! )or almost two months+ I ne&er really !ot s *( be*a.se we !et .p and do *hores ) rst and then eat- and t wo.ld pass be)ore brea()ast- b.t t was there- and my breasts )eel the way they do be)ore my t me o) the month all the t me- and I started *ry n! )or no reason when I was *lean n! o.t the !arden- and la.!h n! hyster *ally )or no reason when I was ba( n! the other day+ 'hat happens too- yo. (nowstran!e emot ons+; He p.lled away+ ;Sh t+; Obs*en ty had been rare )rom h m )or some t me now- and t )elt l (e a blow+ > !ht n! tears- she adm tted to hersel)- all r !ht- I (new he wo.ldn't l (e t+ ;So t wasn't that yo. weren't n lo&e w th ?osa or d dn't want to stay n 'e/as+ Yo. )elt trapped when she was w th *h ld be*a.se yo. d dn't want to be st.*( n a marr a!eand yo. )eel 1.st as trapped now+; ;8e trapped7 %re yo. *ra2y7 Yo.'re the one th s traps+ I ne&er meant to do th s to yo.+ I wo.ldn't ha&e as(ed yo. to stay last year e/*ept I tho.!ht t *o.ldn't happen+; %nne sat .p- !roped aro.nd )or mat*hes and l t the lamp so she *o.ld see h m+ ;6e are married- not trapped+ %re yo. l sten n! to me7 I'm not !o n! anywherepre!nant- not pre!nant- w th a *h ld or w tho.t a *h ld+ I am n#! g#ing any'%ere5 %nd yo. *o.ld at least pretend to be happy abo.t t+ ;Happy7 %re yo. *ra2y7 Do yo. ha&e any dea what the hell yo.'re tal( n! abo.t7; %nne stopped ) !ht n! tears+ She had ne&er ma! ned anyth n! th s bad+ C.rl n! n a ball w th her ba*( to h m- she !a&e n and wept+ Instantly she was n h s arms+ ;Don't *ry+ >or <od's sa(e- don't *ry+ It )eels l (e a (n )e n my !.t+ Damn t- %nn e- stop+; %nne made no e))ort to stop *ry n!+ ;I !.ess I am *ra2y-; she sa d- h **.pp n!;be*a.se I was happy abo.t t+ I am happy abo.t t- and ) yo.'re not that's 1.st too bad+; She tr ed to p.ll away- b.t he d dn't let !o+ ;Stop *ry n!- and we'll tal( abo.t t+; He t.rned her towards h m and held her a!a nst h s *hest- stro( n! her ha r- as her sobs dw ndled+ ;I d dn't tell yo. wee(s a!o be*a.se I (new yo. wo.ldn't l (e t-; she adm tted+

;Ha&e yo. really tho.!ht abo.t th s yo.rsel)7 Yo.'re not tal( n! abo.t some pretty p n( and wh te baby the world's !o n! to h.! and adm re- yo. (now+; 'he last tra*es o) sobs &an shed as her temper )lared+ ;Do yo. th n( I e/pe*t o.r *h ld to loo( l (e >ran( and :.d th's7 Do yo. th n( I'm an d ot7; ;6hat e/a*tly do yo. th n( t's !o n! to loo( l (e7; ;6ell- I don't (now- o) *o.rse+ Somewhere between the two o) .s+ I) I had my *ho *e I'd l (e a boy to loo( l (e yo.- only w th one )eat.re that was ob& o.sly )rom me- so I *o.ld see .s both- and I'd l (e a ! rl to loo( 1.st l (e 8ar e+ She was the most bea.t ).l l ttle ! rl and yo.n! woman I e&er saw+; Cord swallowed to *ontrol the l.mp n h s throat se&eral t mes be)ore r s( n! spee*h+ I) he l &ed to be a h.ndred and tr ed e&ery day o) the t me he'd ne&er deser&e to ha&e th s woman- not )or an ho.r- day- or wee(- m.*h less th s whole past year+ %nd ha& n! lo&ed her was !o n! to *a.se her .ntold pa n+ ;'here are people n town who tolerate .s be*a.se they (now how t happened and )eel some sympathy )or yo.- b.t th s s !o n! to ma(e them downr !ht .!ly-; he sa d+ ;Yo. m.st (now what yo.r )am ly s !o n! to be l (e- and m ne++++; ;6hy sho.ldn't yo.r )am ly be happy )or .s7 'hey ra sed yo. and 8ar e and lo&ed yo. dearly+; ;'a(e my word )or t+ 'hey're not !o n! to l (e t- and they (now t wasn't s.pposed to happen- wh *h 1.st ma(es t worse+; ;6hat do yo. mean- they (now t wasn't s.pposed to happen7; ;:.st that+ 'he whole town (nows+ Let t a Cra ! went and shot o)) her mo.th at some lad es' meet n! n town+; %nne !asped+ ;B3b.t that's not r !ht+ P3people sho.ldn't (now that abo.t .s- that's not+++ oh- damn=; she wa led+ ;How do yo. (now7; ;I *ome .p on people when they don't (now t and they're tal( n! s all+; ;So yo.r )am ly (nows- yo.r br#!%ers (now- and my )am ly (nows++++; ;Yeah- they do+ %nybody not dea) who l &es aro.nd here (nows+ Loo(- babe- !o to sleep+ Let's lea&e t )or now+ 6e'll !o see Cra ! tomorrow and worry abo.t t then- yes7; ;'ell me 1.st one th n!-; %nne wh spered+ ;I) we were the only two people n the whole world- then wo.ld yo. be happy abo.t t7; ;6e're not+ 'here's no .se e&en th n( n! abo.t t 3 we're not the only two people n the world+; She )ell asleep a!a nst h m 9. *(ly a)ter that- b.t Cord lay awa(e star n! nto the dar(+ It wo.ldn't be tr.e+ 'here was someth n! wron! was all+ Oh- <od- he d dn't want anyth n! wron! w th her e ther+ Someth n! small- maybe- someth n! Cra ! *o.ld ! &e her a ton * or a p ll )or+ He sho.ldn't ha&e let her wor( n the hay ) elds l (e that+ Deep ns de he already (new t was tr.e+ 'hro.!h a sleepless n !ht he wrestled w th t+ I) t !ot bad eno.!h he *o.ld ta(e her so.th to l &e amon! more tolerant people+ Down alon! the border 3 real 2at on *ame n a r.sh+ %mon! the m /ed blood people to the so.th- he was a**epted- as the *h ld wo.ld be+ %nne was the one who wo.ld be the o.ts der there+ He *o.ld ta(e her nto the )ar terr tor es where there were )ew people- b.t n those pla*es l )e was *onstant dan!er+ He *o.ld th n( o) no sol.t on to sa&e her the hearta*he- no way to spare her the pa n+ 'he ne/t day Cord sat per)e*tly st ll n one o) the hard- stra !ht3ba*(ed *ha rs n the small room o.ts de Cra !'s e/am n n! room+ 'he do*tor had been n when they arr &ed

and no one else was abo.t+ Cord had been wa t n! )or some t me now- and the *old stone n h s stoma*h was !ett n! lar!er and *older by the m n.te+ 6hen the o.ts de door opened- he mo&ed only h s eyes+ ?a*hel 8 les ?oss stood n the doorway- )ro2en w th s.rpr se and no l ttle )ear+ Cord (new ?a*hel and %nne had been best )r ends s n*e they were l ttle ! rls and that ?a*hel and her )am ly had pro& ded %nne *ons derable *om)ort thro.!h hard t mes+ He also (new ?andal ?oss was a sel) sh bastard who had )orb dden h s w )e to so m.*h as nod to %nne on the street+ %ltho.!h ?a*hel was alone- w tho.t e&en one o) her !row n! yo.n! brood to tell tales- he wondered ) she had the *o.ra!e to !nore ?andal's orders+ She d d+ She wal(ed nto the room and sat n a *ha r as )ar )rom Cord as she *o.ld !et- then *leared her throat ner&o.sly+ ;Is there anyth n! wron!7 Is %nne all r !ht7; ;> ne+; 'otally ne/per en*ed w th the ( nd o) del *a*y the s t.at on *alled )or- Cord *o.ldn't ha&e e/pla ned the p.rpose o) the r & s t to ?a*hel ) he wanted to+ %nd he d dn't want to+ 'hey sat n s len*e .nt l Cra ! st.*( h s head thro.!h the door to the treatment room+ ;6hy- hello- ?a*hel- we'll be thro.!h here and I *an see yo. n 1.st a m n.te+ I'&e !ot that *o.!h med * ne )or : mmy all ready )or yo.+ Cord- why don't yo. *ome on n+ %nne th n(s t wo.ld be eas er ) yo. heard th s too nstead o) her try n! to repeat t+; %nne was s tt n! n another .n*om)ortable loo( n! *ha r- p n( )a*ed+ :.st what e/a*tly d d a do*tor e/am ne to de* de ) a woman was pre!nant- Cord s.ddenly wondered+ Cra ! was beam n! at h m- loo( n! &ery pleased+ ;%nne's e/a*tly r !ht+ %bo.t three and a hal) months we est mate+; He *h.*(led w th what loo(ed l (e !en. ne pleas.re+ ;I'm s.rpr sed yo.'re w ll n! to *ome see me abo.t t tho.!h+ Last year I was s.re yo. were !o n! to d e- and th s year I'd st ll ha&e bet a!a nst yo.r be*om n! a )ather+ I seem to ma(e a hab t o) .nderest mat n! yo.+; Cord sa d noth n!- wondered ) Cra ! (new abo.t the sneer n! remar(s abo.t steers and !eld n!s that had been made n h s hear n! n pla*es l (e the )eed store .nt l one day Ed Bentley had *rossed the l ne and ment oned %nne's name+ Cord had le)t Bentley on h s ba*( n a lot o) pa n w th a wet sta n spread n! a*ross the )ront o) h s tro.sers and le)t e&ery townsman present that day w th no do.bt that ment on n! %nne's name was *ross n! a l ne better not *rossed+ E&en so- p.tt n! .p w th that be*a.se Cra ! and h s w )e had b ! mo.ths d dn't ma(e Cord )eel l (e respond n! n ( nd to Cra !'s l !ht treatment o) the s.b1e*t+ Cra ! !nored Cord's att t.de and la.n*hed nto deta led nstr.*t ons on what he *ons dered proper prenatal *are+ Pre!nant women sho.ldn't *oddle themsel&es he sa d+ He emphas 2ed proper d et- plenty o) non3stress).l e/er* se and o.tl ned a )ew dos and don'ts+ 6hen he be!an del *ately nd *at n! *ont n.ed mar tal relat ons were poss ble w th *erta n 9.al ) *at ons- %nne's *olor- wh *h had )aded- rose a!a n- and Cord was s.ddenly s.re he was bl.sh n! h msel)+ He *len*hed h s 1aw+ S.rely h s s( n was too dar( )or t to show+ 6hen the do*tor ) nally wo.nd down and as(ed ) they had any 9.est ons- Cord as(ed )latly- ;%nne !o n! to !et to tell people th s hersel)- or w ll t be all o&er town be)ore we lea&e here7; Cra !'s sm le and 1o( n! manner d sappeared+ ;%ll I *an tell yo. s that ) t's all o&er town )rom here- yo. *an *om)ort yo.rsel) at my han! n!+ I'll ha&e m.rdered my w )e-

yo. see+; %)ter a pa.se- he added- ;I really am sorry+ So s my w )e+ ,oth n! l (e that w ll e&er happen a!a n+ Yo. ha&e my word+; He e/tended h s hand+ ;%nd *on!rat.lat ons- I'm !lad I was wron!+; Cord relented and too( the o.tstret*hed hand+ ;Doesn't ma(e m.*h d ))eren*e nowdoes t7; ;,o- t doesn't+; 'he do*tor es*orted them to the door- and sa d w th no l ttle .nderstand n!- ;?a*hel- why don't yo. 1.st *ome n when yo.'re ready+; See n! the two women stand n! loo( n! at ea*h other so tentat &ely- Cord m.ttered;I'll wa t o.ts de-; and d sappeared+ %nne had o)ten w shed she *o.ld spend 1.st a )ew m n.tes w th ?a*hel a!a n+ ,ow here she was- and no words were ne*essary+ She met ?a*hel n the m ddle o) the roomand they )ell nto ea*h other's arms- h.!! n! hard+ ;Oh- %nne- I *an't tell yo. how m.*h I'&e worr ed abo.t yo.- how o)ten I'&e prayed )or yo.+ Daddy says yo.'re all r !ht- b.t that man s so )r !hten n!+ 'ell me tr.ly- are yo. really all r !ht7; ;?eally all r !ht-; %nne sa d+ ;In )a*t I ne&er (new l )e *o.ld be so !ood+ 'hat )r !hten n! man s the best th n! that e&er happened to me+; ?a*hel stra !htened and sear*hed %nne's )a*e+ ;Daddy says 3 s t tr.e7 %re yo. n lo&e w th h m7; ;%ny r !ht3m nded woman wo.ld lo&e h m a)ter abo.t ) &e m n.tes+ He s so !ood+ Somet mes I wa(e .p n the n !ht- a)ra d- and I real 2e what I'm a)ra d o) s what *o.ld ha&e happened and d dn't+ 6hoe&er wo.ld th n( I'd !et so l.*(y7; ;L.*(y7 Oh- %nne+; ?a*hel shoo( her head- almost la.!h n!+ ;Yo. do loo( !ood+ Daddy m !ht e&en be r !ht+ He says yo. !low+; Be)ore %nne *o.ld answer- she heard the so.nd o) the door open n!+ '.rn n! away )rom her )r end be)ore they *o.ld be seen to!ether- she )or*ed a ne.tral e/press on on her )a*e and wal(ed o.t as soon as the yo.n! mother enter n! had her three *h ldren all ns de+ I) only she *o.ld ha&e had a l ttle more t me w th ?a*hel+ I) only+ ***

CHAPTER 3!
.,E S3NDAY AF.ER .,E VISI. to Cra ! dawned !ray and w th the threat o) ra n+ Cord wo.ld ha&e re).sed to ma(e a tr p to town e/*ept that %nne really wanted to !o+ She wanted tell her mother abo.t the baby+ She wanted to tell e&eryone and wo.ldn't l sten to anyth n! he had to say on the s.b1e*t+ ;Yo.'re not happy abo.t t- so yo. don't th n( anyone else w ll be-; she sa d- and a)ter that re).sed to d s*.ss t+ E&en so- he tho.!ht he had *on& n*ed her to tal( to her mother ) rst and then 8artha+ 8aybe the two older women *o.ld *ontrol the )am l es' n t al rea*t ons- or at least (eep %nne )rom hear n! the worst o) t+ Howe&er- when Leona 6ells showed .p n 8artha's ( t*hen an ho.r earl er than .s.al w th ?ob r !ht beh nd her loo( n! as s.llen as e&er- Cord wat*hed h s worst )ears play o.t+

8artha was !ra* o.s- and Leona apolo!et *+ ;I'm so sorry to be mpos n! l (e th s+ Please )or! &e me- b.t I *o.ldn't *at*h %nne at the *h.r*h and I need to tal( to her+; Leona t.rned to %nne- ;It's s.*h a rel e) to see yo.+ ?a*hel *ame to see me yesterday and told me she saw yo. at the do*tor's+ I'&e been )rant * that one o) those horses h.rt yo. or yo. were ser o.sly ll+ % two3ho.r tr p 1.st to see the do*tor++++ ?a*hel as(ed Dr+ Cra ! why yo. were there- and he not only wo.ldn't tell her- she sa d she's ne&er (nown h m to be so r.de+ She was almost n tears tell n! me abo.t t+; ;I'm ) ne- 8other-; %nne sa d+ ;Yo. *an see )or yo.rsel)+ I'm not h.rt and I'm ) ne+ %)ter d nner we *an ha&e a tal(+; By now 8artha had e/tra pla*es set at the table and Leona and ?ob s tt n! on e ther s de o) %nne+ ;Yo. two !o on nto the parlor and tal( now-; she sa d+ ;:.d th and I don't need help here+ I'm !lad t's not ser o.s- b.t I (now mysel) how mothers worry+; %nne hes tated )or a moment- !a&e Cord a de) ant loo(- and sm led at 8artha and at her mother+ ;I'm !o n! to ) nd o.t abo.t that mysel) soon+ 6e're !o n! to ha&e a baby+; Leona !asped and lost *olor+ 8artha )ro2e w th a plate n her hand+ %s the aw(ward s len*e stret*hed o.t- %nne's sm le slowly )aded+ 'hen ?ob 1.mped to h s )eet- wh te3)a*ed and hoarse w th ).ry+ ;So 1.st l & n! o.t there w th that de& l tell n! e&erybody yo.'re better o)) now than yo. were when yo. l &ed a de*ent l )e w th de*ent people wasn't re&en!e eno.!h )or yo.7 Yo. had to stay there and let h m ) ll yo. w th h s ) lthy- sa&a!e seed .nt l t too(+ Ha&e yo. e&er *ons dered )or a m n.te the one yo.'re p.n sh n! the most s yo.rsel)7 How are yo. !o n! to )eel w th some dar( mon!rel s.*( n! at yo.r breast- s ster dearest7 :.st how are yo. !o n! to )eel then7; Cord was slowed by the e))ort to *ontrol a ( ll n! ra!e+ H s hand a*t.ally *losed aro.nd the (n )e n h s boot be)ore he 1er(ed t away- and he was only hal)way to h s )eetst ll .ns.re what he was !o n! to do- when %nne h t her brother+ 'he slap had all the stren!th earned w th months o) hard wor( beh nd t+ 'he *ra*( reso.nded thro.!h the ( t*hen- and ?ob sta!!ered ba*(- (no*( n! o&er h s *ha r- the br !ht red mpr nt o) her hand o.tl ned on h s l & d )a*e+ %nne leaned toward h m- sha( n!- low3&o *ed w th ).ry+ ;Yo. th n( abo.t th sbrother- dear- that ) lthy sa&a!e at my breast ma(es me s*ream w th 1oy+ I'm s.re I'll l (e h s *h ld there 1.st ) ne+; She t.rned then and )led nto the *old ra n- not e&en *los n! the door beh nd her+ Cord mo&ed towards the door wooden w th the e))ort at *ontrol- p *(ed .p the r *oats and ra n sl *(ers and went a)ter her+ She was at the ba*( o) the barn- )a* n! the wall- and )or the ) rst t me when he to.*hed her- she shr.!!ed h m o))+ ;<o away+; ;%nne- %nn e+; He heard the brea( n h s own &o *e- (new she heard t too when she t.rned and threw hersel) at h m+ Her ) n!ers were d !! n! nto h s ba*(- and he held her 1.st as hard- b.r ed h s )a*e n her ha r+ She was sha( n! b.t not *ry n!+ ;Damn them+ Damn yo.+; ;Ssh+ Ssh+; 'he l.mp n h s throat was so pa n).l he *o.ldn't ha&e sa d anyth n! e&en ) he (new what to say+ 6hen 8artha's &o *e e*hoed thro.!h the barn- Cord p.lled away )rom %nne- then *.rsed h msel) )or do n! t+ %nne was )a* n! the wall a!a n as 8artha *ame nto s !ht+

;Yo.r mother and brother are !one- %nne- and I told yo.r brother he's no lon!er wel*ome n my ho.se+ ,ow s.ppose yo. *ome ba*( n+ Yo.'re soa(ed to the s( n and sho.ldn't be !o n! home wet and *old and h.n!ry+; %nne's &o *e was barely a wh sper+ ;I *an't- 8artha+ I'm too ashamed+ People don't tal( l (e that+; 8artha went to her and p.t an arm aro.nd her sha( n! sho.lders+ ;I'&e been pro&o(ed nto say n! some pretty e/traord nary th n!s mysel) o&er the years+ %nd no one has e&er *ome *lose to be n! as o))ens &e as yo.r brother+ It w ll be m.*h eas er to *ome n now than ne/t wee(- yo. (now+; %nne h.n*hed o&er ).rther toward the wall- sha( n! her head+ Cord ) nally mana!ed words+ ;%nn e- please+; %nne stopped res st n! then and let 8artha wrap a sl *(er aro.nd her sho.lders and lead her ba*( to the ho.se+ 'he e/tra pla*es set )or ?ob and Leona had d sappeared as ) they ne&er were+ 8artha !. ded %nne ba*( to her *ha r and be!an to b.stle abo.t+ 'he people n the room were so 9. et e&ery so.nd o) *.tlery- d shes- or a *leared throat was ma!n ) ed+ Cord wat*hed only %nne- who stared at her hands n her lap and h.ddled m serably n her *ha r+ It was L.(e- .s.ally nsens t &e and rre&erent- who bro(e the spell+ He !ot .pwal(ed aro.nd beh nd her and w th hands on both her sho.lders leaned o&er and ( ssed her on the *hee(+ ;Yo.r brother's a )ool- %nne+ He deser&ed e&eryth n! he !ot+ Con!rat.lat ons abo.t the baby+; Pete was r !ht beh nd h m- also bestow n! a pe*( on the *hee(+ ;Yes- *on!rat.lat ons+ I) yo.'d l (e .s to !o (no*( h s head n )or yo.- 1.st say+; Her &o *e so.nded l (e a l ttle ! rl's+ ;'han( yo.- L.(e+ 'han( yo.- Pete+ ,o- t's all r !ht+; Cord saw a tear land w th a splash on the ba*( o) one hand and wanted to *arry her o.t o) there- hold her and ne&er let !o- b.t she was soa(ed 3 *old- d stra.!ht- and wet 3 ta( n! her home l (e that was as( n! )or tro.ble+ %nne !lan*ed .p- and what no amo.nt o) ( ndness )rom 8artha- L.(e- or Pete *o.ld a**ompl sh the an!. sh n h s eyes d d+ She l )ted her *h n- stra !htened her sp ne- and )or*ed a watery sm le+ ;I'm ) nereally+; It wasn't ) ne- b.t they !ot thro.!h the meal somehow+ 6hen d nner was o&er- 8artha pla*ed a *ha r near the sto&e )or %nne and ).ssed o&er her there+ She also made t *lear she wanted the men o.t o) her ( t*hen+ Uns.re what else to do- Cord )ollowed h s brothers to the parlor- wal(ed o&er to a w ndow and stared o.t at the blea(- wet day+ Com n! to town today had been a m sta(e n e&ery way0 t wo.ld be a m serable tr p home n the ra n+ He )elt a hand on h s sho.lder+ Ephra m- he s.pposed+ %nother hand o))ered a small bla*( * !ar+ >ran(- not Ephra m+ 'hey stood there- smo( n! s lently- s de by s de- wat*h n! the ra n 1.mp n the p.ddles n the yard- dr p o)) the ea&es- splash on the !lass+ > nally- >ran( spo(e- ;How do yo. )eel abo.t t7; ;,ot !ood+ She's been h.rt eno.!h+; ;I d dn't mean that really+ How do yo. )eel abo.t a baby7; Cord shr.!!ed+ ;Doesn't seem real+ :.st words+ I'&e ne&er had m.*h to do w th one+;

It wasn't an a**.sat on b.t a s mple statement o) a )a*t >ran( (new+ :.d th's obsess &e )ear had (ept Cord )rom e&er !ett n! near any o) her *h ldren when they were small- and her hyster *al beha& or a)ter Beth's b rth was what had dr &en h m o.t o) the ma n ran*h )or !ood+ ;Yo. (now I'd ha&e *han!ed that ) I *o.ld+; Cord made no answer+ ,e&ertheless- >ran( stayed there beh nd h m- h s s lent presen*e a *om)ort o) sorts+ St ll- he was !lad to hear %nne's &o *e- ;I'm dry now+ Can we !o home please+; He helped her nto her *oat and sl *(er and they le)t w tho.t another word+ ON1E 1ORD AND ANNE WERE !one- 8artha stopped b.stl n! aro.nd and lowered hersel) hea& ly nto a *ha r+ 6hen :.d th po.red her a *.p o) *o))ee and 1o ned her8artha started to l )t her *.p and p.t t down a!a n+ Her hands were sha( n!+ :.d th not *ed+ ;It's been an aw).l day+ %re yo. !o n! to be all r !ht7; she as(ed+ ;Yes- I 1.st need a l ttle more t me+; Anow n! how :.d th )elt abo.t Cord- 8artha almost d dn't !o on- b.t then de* ded :.d th sho.ld (now+ ;6hen I went o.t to !et themthey d dn't hear me *om n!- and I saw++++ I went ba*( o.t and then *alled them so they'd (now I was there be*a.se I saw++++; 8artha too( a swallow o) *o))ee and started a!a n+ ;It's been almost th rty years s n*e o.r baby d ed+ : mmy+ :ames+; She sm led at the so.nd o) her ) rst son's nameremember n!+ ;'he pa n s st ll there b.t most o) the t me now t's 3 so)tened by t me- and I *an remember the !ood th n!s too now+ B.t when t happened 3 the pa n was so terr ble I'd hold on to Ephra m so hard 3 be*a.se somehow the two o) .s *o.ld bear what ne ther one o) .s *o.ld alone+; 8artha p.lled o.t her hand(er*h e)- mopped her eyes- and blew her nose+ ;'hat's what I saw today n the barn 3 two people try n! to bear a !r e) too !reat )or one alone+ It bro.!ht t all ba*(+ 6e saw her h.rt and re*o!n 2ed t- b.t be*a.se he doesn't show anyth n! we th n( he doesn't )eel t e ther+ 6hat ?ob sa d was really d re*ted at h m+ 'he 6ells )am ly doesn't th n( t's a tra!edy that she's marr ed and e/pe*t n! a baby+ 'hey th n( t's a tra!edy that she's marr ed to %im and e/pe*t n! %is baby+ I'&e a!reed w th Ephra m abo.t them- b.t now I don't (now+ ,o one *an h.rt that m.*h .nless they *are+; ;6hat does Ephra m th n(7; ;%bo.t the same as >ran( 3 that she's stron! w lled and temperamental and s n lo&e w th h m or th n(s she s be*a.se he's so nd ))erent he lets her ha&e her own way+ 'hat he )eels he owes her and ) nds a w )e a 3 *on&en en*e 3 and doesn't really *are m.*h so lon! as t's not too m.*h tro.ble+; :.d th nodded her head+ ;'hat's abo.t what >ran( says all r !ht- b.t 8artha++++; :.d th told 8artha abo.t what she had seen the morn n! a)ter the ra*e+ ;Ha&e yo. told >ran(7; ;,o+ He'd say I may ha&e seen someth n! l (e that b.t I was read n! th n!s nto t that weren't there+ 'he stran!e th n! s- a)ter all these years 3 noth n! e&er helped the way I )elt abo.t h m+ It was 1.st terror- and now I *an't e&en see why I )elt l (e that+ It's hard to be a)ra d o) a man who's *apable o) that m.*h tenderness+ %re yo. !o n! to say anyth n! abo.t what yo. saw7; 8artha was tho.!ht).l+ ;,o- I'm not+ Yo.'re r !ht+ ,e ther o) them w ll bel e&e .s 3 at least o.r nterpretat on+ I) we're r !ht- they'll *ome to t n t me themsel&es+ In the

meant me- so )ar as I'm *on*erned a baby s !ood news- and anyone who doesn't th n( so had better (eep 9. et aro.nd me+; ***

CHAPTER 3"
RO4 WELLS 2NEW W,A. ,E had sa d to h s s ster was nde)ens bly- .n)or! &ably wron!+ H s .!ly atta*( on %nne d s!.sted e&en ?ob h msel)+ 'he 1oy that shone so br !htly )rom her )a*e and wh *h seemed more ob& o.s e&ery t me he saw her had not es*aped h m+ It was also be*om n! more and more d )) *.lt )or h m to pretend to h msel) that he d d not )eel a !r.d! n! adm rat on )or the 9. et man who so a))e*ted her+ Unl (e the Bennetts- ?ob (new h s s ster wo.ld not tal( hersel) nto lo& n! a man w tho.t reason+ Somehow- n sp te o) the nd ))erent )a*e he showed the world- Cord Bennett was meet n! some deep- bas * need n %nne- and ?ob (new t+ %ltho.!h %nne's slap had been no l !ht blow- ?ob )elt as ) he had ! &en- not re*e &ed- a beat n!+ 'he memory o) the l !ht )ad n! )rom her eyes- e&en as the sm le )aded )rom her l ps- made ?ob )eel tr.ly .!ly+ 'he worst o) t was that he had not meant h s own words+ 'hey were h s )ather's words- s mply pl.*(ed )rom memory and parroted n the heat o) the moment 3 be*a.se %nne's news had ro.sed someth n! approa*h n! pan * n ?ob+ He had a &ery !ood dea o) how h s )ather wo.ld rea*t to the news that %nne was- a)ter all- *arry n! the hated hal)3 breed's *h ld+ ?ob also was pr &y to- and more and more a)ra d o)- h s )ather's latest plan to r p %nne )rom the m sall an*e he had *a.sed and now )o.nd so .na**eptable+ %t last ?ob had be!.n to th n( )or h msel)- at last he d sa!reed w th h s )ather o&er more than a m nor matter- and at last he had *ome to the *on*l.s on that h s )ather was totally- tra! *ally wron!+ B.t ?ob st ll *o.ld not oppose Edward more than m ldly and st ll d d not *ompletely bel e&e Cord's and %nne's &ers on o) the e&ents at the Bennett ?an*h the pre& o.s year+ In the end- he de* ded that ) h s )ather went ahead w th h s latest plan to !et %nne away )rom her h.sband so that she wo.ld ;*ome to her senses-; at worst t wo.ld *a.se e&eryone some temporary .nhapp ness and n*on&en en*e- b.t t wo.ld all *ome r !ht n the end+ ?ob 6ells la*(ed the mat.r ty to 1.d!e h s )ather a**.rately and the *o.ra!e to oppose h s )ather openly- b.t he was *.rsed w th an ns !ht that sent dread *o.rs n! thro.!h h m when h s )ather !reeted the news o) %nne's pre!nan*y not w th the e/pe*ted ra!e b.t w th a sel)3sat s) ed sm le+ ;6ell- well- now sooner or later that damn In1.n w ll *ome nto town w tho.t her+; .,E LA.E NOVE04ER 0ORNING WAS hea& ly o&er*ast w th a sharp- *.tt n! w nd o.t o) the north and the smell o) snow n the a r when >ran( Bennett p.lled nto the yard w th the team and wa!on+ %nne and Cord had not been to *h.r*h or to the Bennetts on S.ndays s n*e the terr ble s*ene wee(s a!o+ %nne !reeted >ran( war ly+ ;6here's Cord7; >ran('s en!a! n! !r n meant he was at least !o n! to start the & s t on h s best beha& or+

%nne 1.st !est.red+ >o/)a*e had so.nded a lo.d alarm- and Cord was already on h s way a*ross the yard towards the ho.se+ 6arm n! h msel) n the ( t*hen o&er *o))ee- >ran( e/pla ned h s p.rpose+ ;E&erybody else seems to ha&e someth n! mportant to do-; he sa d- ;so I'm the one ele*ted to !o )or s.ppl es today n th s damned *old w nd+ 'ho.!ht I'd see ) I *o.ld tal( yo. nto s.))er n! alon! w th me+; He loo(ed at Cord 9.est on n!ly+ %t th s t me o) year no one w th any *ommonsense tra&eled w tho.t e9. pment that wo.ld allow them to s.r& &e s.dden se&ere weather+ 'ra&el n! w th *ompany was better than tra&el n! alone )or the same reason+ E&en so- %nne now (new eno.!h abo.t the operat on o) the Bennett ?an*h to be absol.tely s.re that there was no way >ran( Bennett wo.ld e&er be !o n! )or s.ppl es n any weather .nless he wanted to+ 6hat >ran( wanted was to start pat*h n! th n!s .p w th h s brother- and %nne wasn't s.re how she )elt abo.t that+ Cord re!arded >ran( tho.!ht).lly+ ;? ley7; ;? ley !ot ban!ed .p a *o.ple o) days a!o+ ,oth n! bad- b.t h s old bones wo.ld a*he worse than .s.al o&er a wa!on r de to town and ba*(+; Cord ra sed h s eyebrows sl !htly at %nne+ St ll .ns.re o) her own )eel n!s and (now n! ).ll well Cord pre)erred a d )) *.lt relat onsh p w th h s )am ly to none- she repl ed w th a t ny shr.! o) one sho.lder to let h m (now the de* s on was h s+ ;%ll r !ht+ I'm not wor( n! horses n th s w nd anyway+; 6hen >ran( started )or the wa!on- Cord held ba*( a m n.te- !a&e her a 9. *( ( ss+ She went ba*( to her wor(- h.mm n!+ .,E .RAIN WAS NOW SPEEDING a"r#ss dar-ening )$a! rairie( .%e '%is!$e s#unded, )#r"ing Anne a'ay )r#m !%e "#m)#r! #) !%e as! ba"- in!# !%e !err#r #) !%e resen!( ,er )a!%er %ad n#! ye! )inis%ed %is se$)-"#ngra!u$a!#ry s ee"%( +,e '#u$dn'! $e! ,and$er and %is men u$$ y#u #)) !%e s!ree! under %is n#se be"ause i! '#u$d %a&e #))ended %is ride( I r#bab$y s%#u$d %a&e %ad !%em 8us! !ry !# buy y#u( Reds-ins se$$ !%eir '#men )#r a b#!!$e #) '%is-ey(+ S# Fran- %ad si9ed u !%e si!ua!i#n er)e"!$y !%#se many m#n!%s ag#( .%e )ig%! 'as a se!u ( Am#ng !%e !errib$e mis!a-es s%e %ad made 'as underes!ima!ing !%e de !% #) %er )a!%er's %a!e, !%e s!reng!% #) %is #bsessi#n( And be"ause #) %er mis!a-es - %er mis8udgmen! - !%e )u!ure 'as n# $#nger !# be )i$$ed 'i!% $aug%!er and $#&e( Ins!ead !%ere '#u$d be #n$y $#ng, %#$$#' years e"%#ing 'i!% grie) and regre!( O) 1#rd's $#&e s%e %ad n# d#ub!, bu! !%e $ying n#!e 'en! rig%! !# !%e %ear! #) %is inabi$i!y !# !rus!( F#r !%e res! #) %is $i)e %e '#u$d a""e ! !%a! s%e 'as s# )ai!%$ess, s# s%a$$#', s%e %ad been ab$e !# 8us! 'a$- a'ay( +S#me #) my )riends !%#ug%! I 'as "ra9y !# 'ai! s# $#ng, bu! a g##d mi$i!ary mind -n#'s !%e &a$ue #) a!ien"e( .%ere's n#!%ing any #) !%em "an d# n#', e&en !%e $a'yer br#!%er( I) 'e'd %ad !# %ide y#u in !#'n un!i$ 'e "#u$d ge! !%e !rain, bu! n#, i! 'as Friday, Friday( .'# !rains #u! #) !#'n a 'ee-, and i! %a ened !%e day #) !%e a)!ern##n !rain( .%e s!#rm 'as $##-ing m#re and m#re $i-e a b$i99ard by !%e !ime 'e $e)!( We 'ere $u"-y !# ge! a'ay '%en 'e did( N# #ne "an )#$$#' us un!i$ .uesday, and !%ere may n#! e&en be a !rain #n .uesday( .%a! E %raim, %e's n# )##$: %e '#n'! ursue i!( O) "#urse, !%a! ign#ran! sa&age "#u$dn'! )ind !%e 1i!y #) 1%i"ag# 'i!% a ma i) %e 'an!ed !#( I %# e

!%e #!%er br#!%er read !%e n#!e !# %im( .%en %e didn'! e&en b#!%er R#ber!(+ ,e ga&e an ug$y $aug%( Anne said n#!%ing, a!e n#!%ing, dran- $i!!$e( 1%i"ag# "ame !## s##n( ***

CHAPTER 3#
1ORD E;PE1.ED .,E .RIP .O town to be aw(ward- hoped t wo.ldn't t.rn downr !ht .npleasant+ 'o h s s.rpr se- on*e they were .nderway- >ran( be!an tell n! h m the news n the latest letter )rom the r s ster- Hannah+ %)ter the death o) her al*ohol * h.sband- Hannah's l )e had be!.n to mpro&e dramat *ally+ 'he *han!es n Hannah's l )e were an easy s.b1e*t+ Cord was as pleased w th the news as >ran(+ %)ter that- >ran( as(ed abo.t Cord's plans to *ross >ort.ne on ?ed's da.!hters and perhaps & *e &ersa- .p!rad n! h s whole herd n a relat &ely short t me+ >ran( had s m lar deas abo.t mpro& n! the Bennett *attle+ Con&ersat on wasn't d )) *.lt a)ter that- and the s len*es were *om)ortable+ By the t me they were almost home- Cord wondered ) there was a*t.ally some small *han*e that th n!s m !ht someday *ome r !ht between them a)ter all+ >ran( seemed to be th n( n! alon! the same l nes+ ;Yo. (now- t o**.rs to me that ) I !ot to (now yo.- I m !ht l (e yo.-; he sa d+ 'he words were l !ht+ 'he sent ment was not+ ;Hea&en )orb d-; Cord sa d dryly+ >ran( la.!hed+ <ood )eel n!s e&aporated the m n.te the ho.se *ame nto s !ht+ In the b tter *old- no smo(e was r s n! )rom the *h mney+ Cord was o.t o) the wa!on be)ore >ran( !ot t stopped+ %nne wasn't n the ( t*hen+ By the t me he had *he*(ed both bedrooms and beh nd the ho.se- >ran( was ns de- stand n! at the ( t*hen table hold n! a p e*e o) pale bl.e paper+ ;It was on the table- .nder that *.p-; he sa d- hold n! t o.t+ %s Cord read the short note penned n bl.e n(- he )elt a pa n so ntense- h s & s on bl.rred )or a se*ond+ He *r.shed the paper- let t drop to the )loor+ ;Cord7; He loo(ed at h s brother- )eel n! a yawn n! empt ness that made t d )) *.lt e&en to th n( what needed to be sa d+ ;Send ? ley o&er here n the morn n!- w ll yo.- >ran(7 I'll lea&e yo. a s !ned a.thor 2at on+ Ha&e h m ta(e *are o) the sto*( t ll yo. *an sell e&eryth n!+; He headed )or the bedroom+ Desperat on la*ed >ran('s words+ ;Damn t- Cord- don't do th s a!a n+ Yo. *an't ha&e e&er tho.!ht she'd stay anyway+ Yo. *an't be st ))3ne*(ed eno.!h to throw yo.r l )e away 1.st be*a.se she's wal(ed o.t+ 6hat abo.t the baby7 6e'll ra se t- b.t t's st ll yo.rs+ Don't yo. e&en *are abo.t that7; Cord sp.n aro.nd at the bedroom door+ ;Lea&e t alone- >ran(+ :.st !o+ 'h s t me I'll send word+; >ran( met h s eyes )or lon! moments- the des re to ar!.e wr tten all o&er h m- b.t n the end he t.rned and le)t- *.rs n! .nder h s breath w th e&ery step+

Cord be!an pa*( n! )or w nter tra&el on horseba*(+ It was only m d3a)ternoon now+ He wo.ld )eed the sto*( early and lea&e be)ore dar(+ So.th a!a n- he tho.!ht &a!.ely+ He'd on*e tho.!ht he m !ht l (e to see the *o.ntry to the north- b.t not th s t me o) year+ Chores done )or the last t me- he reentered the ho.se+ Aeeper wo.ld need t me to eat and then he'd saddle .p and !o+ He sat n.mbly n the *old+ E/*ept )or that one stab o) ntense pa n- he )elt only an empty d sbel e)- and as he wa ted )or the t me to pass- t *ame to h m that that was 1.st what he )elt 3 d sbel e)+ 6hen e/a*tly had he stopped bel e& n! that she wo.ld lea&e7 6as t the n !ht she had t.rned e&eryth n! .ps de down and a**.sed h m o) )eel n! trapped by the *om n! *h ld7 %n ma!e )lashed thro.!h h s m nd o) s l&er eyes and so)t parted l ps- o) her )a*e la.!h n! .p at h m )rom a blan(et spread n the hay meadow+ %ll r !ht- damn t- he *.rsed h msel)- yo. wanted to bel e&e she'd stay and yo. *on& n*ed yo.rsel) o) t- and now yo. *an't a**ept yo. were r !ht n the ) rst pla*e+ She's !one+ <one l (e a th e) n the n !ht- steal n! b ts and p e*es o) yo.r heart and so.l+ <one w tho.t the *o.ra!e to )a*e yo.- !one lea& n! a damn note++++ %nd that- o) *o.rse- was the hardest part to swallow+ E&en when he'd bel e&ed she wo.ld !o- he had p *t.red her loo( n! h m r !ht n the eye 3 I'm t red o) yo.- t red o) l & n! here- I'm lea& n!- !o n! ba*( to a better l )e- my own ( nd o) people+ She was not a *oward- not a)ra d o) h m- wo.ld not 1.st *reep away+ He p *(ed the *r.mpled note .p o)) the )loor- smoothed t o.t- and read t a!a n+ ;Cord 3 6e both always (new t was a m sta(e- and I am ) nally adm tt n! t+ I am !o n! ba*( to my )am ly+ 8y )ather w ll tal( to Ephra m abo.t the baby+ %nne+; 'hree senten*es+ 'hree senten*es that *o.ld destroy a man+ I) he bel e&ed them+ He had only seen her handwr t n! on s.pply l sts and re* pes- b.t s.rely t was hers+ 'he *oo(boo( was open on the shel)- and he went o&er to *ompare the wr t n! a!a nst a handwr tten re* pe t.*(ed ns de+ It loo(ed dent *al+ In h s m nd he heard her la.!h n!re)err n! to the *oo(boo( as her most pre* o.s possess on+ ,.mbness d ssol&ed as Cord loo(ed aro.nd the ho.se w th !row n! awareness+ ,oth n! was !one- not e&en a *oat+ He st.d ed the note a!a n+ 6as there bl.e paper l (e th s and bl.e n( n w th her th n!s7 'he only paper he (new o) n the ho.se was the wh te tablet he (ept )or b lls o) sale+ 'he n( was bla*(+ She somet mes .sed that paper and a pen* l )or l sts+ 'he bl.e note had been )olded he real 2ed 3 as ) to ) t n an en&elope+ He re)olded the note alon! the same l nes and po*(eted t+ Earl er he had d str b.ted all the *ash n the ho.se- e/*ept the ) &e h.ndred dollars he *ons dered %nne's- n se&eral d ))erent po*(ets+ ,ow he went ba*( to the h d n! pla*e .nder a )loor board and too( the rest+ 'hen he p *(ed .p the saddleba!s- *anteens- and bedroll he had pa*(ed earl er and headed )or the barn w tho.t loo( n! ba*(+ By the t me Cord rea*hed 8ason- snow was be! nn n! to )all n small- *y )la(es+ He tethered Aeeper n the lee o) the barn beh nd the 6ells ho.se and threw h s sl *(er o&er the horse to (eep as m.*h o) the saddle and the horse as dry as poss ble+ 'hen he be!an a *are).l re*onno ter o) the ho.se+ >rom the o.ts de- the two3story )rame ho.se loo(ed s m lar to Ephra m's- b.t he (new )rom %nne the nter or was 9. te d ))erent+ 6here Ephra m's ho.se had a h.!e ( t*henhere t was a small room where no one spent t me e/*ept to prepare the meals that were always ser&ed n the )ormal d n n! room+ 'he ho.se was dar( e/*ept )or a s n!le l !ht n

a room toward the ba*(+ 'he ba*( door was lo*(ed+ 'he )ront was not+ Bedrooms ) rst- he tho.!ht- sl pp n! no selessly towards the sta rs+ RO4 WELLS WAS 3NA4LE .O ma(e h msel) e&en s t down anywhere n the ho.se e/*ept the ( t*hen+ 8aybe be*a.se t was the only pla*e he *o.ldn't remember e&er ha& n! had a d s*.ss on w th h s )ather+ So he sat there- dr n( n! *o))ee and star n! at the bottle o) wh s(ey he had set n the m ddle o) the table w th lon! n!+ ?ob's hero worsh p and .n9.est on n! bel e) n h s )ather had d ed a hard death that a)ternoon- b.t he was !o n! to )ollow Edward's nstr.*t ons to the letter ton !ht one last t me+ H s *ont n!en*y nstr.*t ons- he tho.!ht- w th a b tterly+ H s )ather really bel e&ed Cord was !o n! to a**ept that note and shr.!+ %ll Edward was worr ed abo.t was what Ephra m and >ran( m !ht do be*a.se o) the baby+ ?ob (new absol.tely h s )ather was wron!+ He (new he was !o n! to ha&e to )a*e Cord ton !ht as s.rely as he (new the s.n wo.ld r se n the morn n!+ 6hat ?ob wanted most n the world was to be! n dra n n! the wh s(ey bottle+ He wanted to dr n( .nt l !. lt and memory were obl terated- .nt l the ma!es ra! n! n h s m nd d sappeared- b.t be)ore ! & n! n- he was !o n! to pass on h s )ather's l e+ %nd so he sat wa t n!- ha.nted by memor es o) h s s ster+ He saw her as a ! rl- then a woman- saw her la.!h n! and happy- sad and *ry n!- b.t saw her always w th her *h n .p- sp ne stra !ht- ta( n! whate&er d sappo ntments or *onstra nts l )e o))ered w th *o.ra!e and pr de+ 'hen s *(ness )lowed thro.!h h m as he *o.ld not stop the p *t.res )rom th s a)ternoon r s n! n h s m nd+ 'hro.!h t all- nterspersed w th the ma!es o) %nne- was the p *t.re o) a lean- ) er*e man on a )lame3*olored horse- head n! w th n*reas n! speed stra !ht at the mposs bly h !h .nder*.t ban(+ O&er and o&er- ?ob saw a!a n the man )latten n! o.t a!a nst the horse's ne*( and ba*(- the stall on's m.s*les b.n*h n! and stra n n!- )elt a!a n the awe he had )elt that day as the horse landed atop the ban( and went on+ Cord wo.ld *ome- and ?ob wo.ld tell h m what h s )ather had nstr.*ted h m to say+ %nd then ?ob was !o n! to tell h m the tr.th+ Cord *ame o.t o) the dar(ness o) the ho.se the way the tort.r n! p *t.res *ame o.t o) ?ob's memory- ) rst 1.st a presen*e )elt- then one shadow dar(er than the others ta( n! )orm- *om n! to l )e+ He mater al 2ed l (e a !host- eer ly- w tho.t so.nd+ 'he hat (ept all b.t the )lat planes o) h s lower 1aw h dden+ L !ht re)le*ted )rom the lamp o)) the snow melt n! on the dar( wool *oat+ % r )le dan!led loosely )rom h s r !ht hand+ %s ?ob !aped- .nable to de* de ) th s was the real man or another ) !.re )rom h s m nd- Cord mo&ed sl !htly and the )lame )rom the lamp !l ttered )rom h s eyes w th a )eral l !ht+ Cold ) n!ers *lawed ?ob's sp ne+ 'h s was the s !ht that had destroyed :a*( Hat*h's bra&ado and sent h m to the !allows ! bber n!+ Indeed th s appar t on m !ht be send n! ?ob h msel) to hell be)ore ton !ht was o&er- and (now n! that- ?ob st ll wel*omed the & s on+ I) there was a way to ) / what he had helped h s )ather do th s a)ternoon- th s man *o.ld do t+ Cord wal(ed nto the l !ht- *han! n! )rom de& l to man+ ;6here s she7; ?ob (new then that Cord had already sear*hed the ho.se- and he answered w th the words he had prom sed to spea(+ ;She's on her way to Ch *a!o w th my parents+ She doesn't want to see yo. a!a n+ 8y )ather w ll tal( to Ephra m abo.t the baby when he !ets ba*(+;

'he words had no e))e*t on Cord+ ;Yo.r %.nt Clara7; ;Yes+; ;< &e me the address+; ?ob too( a pale bl.e en&elope w th Clara 6a nwr !ht's ret.rn address on t o.t )rom .nder the wh s(ey bottle and handed t o&er+ He wat*hed Cord ) t the mat*h n! p e*e o) stat onery nto the en&elope then p.sh both deep nto a *oat po*(et+ ;So yo.r a.nt wrote the note-; he sa d+ ;Yes+; Cord helped h msel) to a *.p o) *o))ee and sat down oppos te ?ob at the table+ ;Yo.'d better tell t+; ?el e) sl. *ed thro.!h ?ob- yet the )ear and !. lt were not d m n shed+ H s mo.th mo&ed- b.t no words *ame+ 'he amber eyes narrowed+ ;She's all r !ht sn't she7; ?ob st.ttered- ;,3no- yes- well- mostly+; D d he really see ra! n! *ontempt n those terr ble eyes- or was t h s own op n on o) h msel) re)le*ted ba*( )rom an *y &o d7 Cord snarled- ;'ell t=; %)ter a )ew )alse starts- ?ob told t+ >or months- Edward 6ells had all h s )r ends alert- wa t n! to see Cord n town w tho.t %nne+ 6hen t ) nally happened today- Edward sh.t h s shop and he and ?ob h.rr ed home+ Edward told Leona that the tho.!ht o) a !rand*h ld had made h m real 2e he was wron! and want to re*on* le w th %nne+ %s %nne had (nown she wo.ld- Leona had tho.!ht o&er the prospe*t o) a !rand*h ld hersel) a)ter that terr ble day at Ephra m's+ %ltho.!h .nable to see %nne a!a n- she & s ted 8artha d.r n! the wee( to tell her that she d d not share her h.sband's or son's )eel n!s abo.t the baby and wanted %nne to (now+ Leona had adm tted as m.*h to ?ob- b.t ne ther one o) them sa d anyth n! to Edward+ ,ow Leona was mo&ed to tears by Edward's *han!e o) heart- nno*ently bel e& n! e&ery word+ She d dn't seem to *ons der the appearan*e n the street o) a team and *arr a!e owned by Edward's )r end .n.s.al+ Edward- Leona- and ?ob dro&e to the ran*hLeona happ ly ant * pat n! her )am ly re*on* led a!a n+ ?ob rode n !r m s len*e(now n! and d sa!ree n! w th what he tho.!ht was h s )ather's plan+ 'he ) rst d )) *.lty was %nne's att t.de- )or she *ame to the door w th the Colt re&ol&er n her hand+ ;Yo. ha&e no b.s ness here+ <o home+; Leona tho.!ht a s mple e/planat on wo.ld mo&e her da.!hter- b.t t d d not+ Unl (e %nne- Edward *o.ld l e *on& n* n!ly when he wanted to- b.t noth n! he sa d alle& ated %nne's s.sp * on or .ny eld n! att t.de+ ;I don't *are ) yo.'&e had a *han!e o) heart+ I ha&en't+ Yo. *an !o to hell and so *an ?ob+ I) yo. want to a*t de*ently )or a *han!e- let 8other & s t me here and n town w tho.t ?ob s.l( n! aro.nd n the ba*(!ro.nd all the t me+ ,e ther o) the two o) yo. are wel*ome n my ho.se or n my l )e+; 'he ar!.ment went on and on .nt l Leona was sha( n! w th the *old+ %nne was w ll n! to ha&e her mother *ome n and warm .p- b.t Edward saw h s wed!e and .sed t+ ;Yo.r mother's e ther !o n! ns de w th all o) .s or stay n! o.ts de w th all o) .s+ 'here's no reason we *an't at least d s*.ss th s rat onally+ I ne&er real 2ed yo. had s.*h an .n)or! & n! nat.re+ Don't yo. th n( t wo.ld be better )or e&eryone *on*erned ) we be!an to wor( th n!s o.t7;

;Yo. and yo.r )r ends tr ed to m.rder Cord r !ht here n th s yard+ 'here's noth n! abo.t t we *an wor( o.t+; B.t n the end her mother's m sery- stand n! n the b tter w nd- mo&ed %nne to let them n the ho.se+ ?ob st ll hoped that her s.sp * on wo.ld pre&a l- )or she d d not p.t the p stol down+ She let down her !.ard )or se*onds to rea*h )or the *o))eepot- howe&erand Edward 1.mped her- (no*(ed the !.n a*ross the room and be!an to str.!!le w th her+ Part o) ?ob's !reat !. lt was that he (new w tho.t h s help h s s ster m !ht ha&e been able to ) !ht )ree- b.t he helped h s )ather s.bd.e her+ Edward e&en had len!ths o) rope ready n h s po*(et and soon had %nne's hands t ed beh nd her ba*(- and when she *ont n.ed res st n!- her an(les+ Her ).ry sho*(ed ?ob+ She *.rsed and swore n ways he ne&er bel e&ed a woman *o.ld+ So Edward !a!!ed her+ 'he or ! nal plan was to pa*( eno.!h o) her th n!s to he !hten the ll.s on o) her lea& n! w ll n!ly- b.t %nne's s.sp * on had *ons.med a lot o) t me+ Leona was too d stra.!ht to be b.ll ed nto pa*( n!+ ?ather than ta(e a *han*e on Cord and >ran( *at*h n! them at the ho.se or on the road- Edward settled )or merely p.tt n! the p stol away and lea& n! the note+ 'hey p.lled nto another ran*h road to wa t and a*t.ally saw Cord and >ran( ret.rn n! be)ore head n! ba*( to 8ason on the ma n road+ Leona wept and protested and ?ob a!a n tr ed to ma(e h s )ather see the ).t l ty o) the plan as he (new t- b.t to no a&a l+ Ba*( at the ho.se- Edward )or*ed Leona to pa*( ba!s )or the tr p to Ch *a!o+ He p.shed %nne nto a *ha r n the parlor- and ne&er too( h s eyes o)) her+ ?ob had ne&er ma! ned hate *o.ld rad ate )rom a person as t d d )rom h s s ster that a)ternoon+ 'he a r n the room seemed smo(y w th t+ 6hen e&eryth n! was ready )or the r depart.re- Edward po.red a dose o) la.dan.m nto a small !lass and remo&ed the !a! to )or*e %nne to dr n( t+ ' ed and helpless )or almost three ho.rs at that po nt- %nne had had plenty o) t me to th n( o) what she wanted to say to her )ather+ She sp t the l 9. d n h s )a*e+ He h t her w th the same ( nd o) blow he had .sed o&er a year be)ore+ Leona tr ed to stop her h.sband- and he ba*(handed her so hard she was (no*(ed a!a nst a wall and )ell+ ?ob was help n! h s mother .p when the words be!an- &enomo.s and hate3) lled+ ;Yo. .nnat.ral- m serable- mean3m nded- son o) a b t*h- yo. *an't (eep me n Ch *a!o )ore&er+ 6hen Cord ) nds o.t what yo.'&e done I hope he ( lls yo. the way h s mother's people ( ll the r enem es- w th a (n )e- n*h by n*h+; %nne *.rsed her )ather n e&ery way *on*e &able+ She &erbally assa.lted h s Chr st an ty- h s h.man ty- h s morals- eth *s- san ty- and h s manhood+ In the end Edward was dr &en to s.*h ra!e he h t her a se*ond t me- and so )or!ot h msel) he told her 3 and th.s ?ob and Leona 3 what h s real plan was+ ;Yo. th n( yo.'re 1.st !o n! to Ch *a!o .nt l yo. *an r.n o)) a!a n- don't yo.7 ,ot th s t me- da.!hter+ %s soon as we !et there we'll *omplete the paper wor( and ha&e yo. n a pr &ate asyl.m+ It w ll all be absol.tely le!al n *ase 8r+ Ephra m Bennett tr es to ma(e tro.ble o&er h s brother's whelp+ Yo.'re !o n! to stay r !ht there- lo*(ed .p and .nder !.ard w th the other l.nat *s .nt l we see some real nd *at ons yo.'re ready to re1o n the h.man ra*e- and as )or that mon!rel yo.'re *arry n!- they'll ha&e t *.t o.t o) yo. be)ore yo.'re there a day+; %nne's )a*e had been )l.shed w th an!er+ ,ow she went wh te+ ;Yo. *an't do that+;

;Yo.r a.nt *an+ 'he arran!ements ha&e already been made w th her )r end :.d!e Da& s+ %nd as soon as I'&e been appo nted yo.r !.ard an- yo.r marriage s !o n! to be ann.lled+; ?ob tr ed to ar!.e w th h s )ather- b.t that only bro.!ht o.t more horr )y n! deta ls+ Clara 6a nwr !ht had made all the arran!ements+ 'he day a)ter the 6ells )am ly arr &ed n Ch *a!o- %nne wo.ld be e/am ned by do*tors who wo.ld s !n the re9. red le!al do*.ments+ 'he ne/t morn n! there wo.ld be a short- predeterm ned *ompeten*y hear n!and she wo.ld be *omm tted to a pr &ate asyl.m+ 'he do*tors at the asyl.m were not .n)am l ar w th *har!es who *on*e &ed .nwanted *h ldren+ >am l es o) pat ents (new abort on *o.ld be obta ned 3 )or a pr *e+ %nne wo.ld be )ree o) Cord's *h ld be)ore that n !ht )ell+ %t ) rst Edward wo.ld tal( to Ephra m as ) the *h ld wo.ld be ! &en to the Bennetts to ra se a)ter t was born- b.t a)ter a month or two- he wo.ld tell the Bennetts that %nne had m s*arr ed+ Edward bel e&ed Cord wo.ld be nd ))erent abo.t %nne and the baby and that h s )am ly wo.ld lose nterest as soon as they (new there was no Bennett blood n&ol&ed+ %s ?ob spo(e- Cord )elt the room be! n to sp n+ He wondered w ldly ) t were poss ble )or a man to d e o) )ear 1.st s tt n! n a *ha r+ It had seemed merely a matter o) !o n! a)ter her- br n! n! her home+ 8aybe some .!l ness n *on& n* n! Edward 6ells he no lon!er had any say n h s da.!hter's l )e+ De) n tely .!l ness ) he had dared to h t her a!a n+ B le rose n the ba*( o) h s throat+ ;Yo. mean he'd r s( ( ll n! her 1.st to ( ll the baby7; ?ob wo.ldn't meet h s eyes+ ;He says the do*tors do t a lot+ He says there no dan!er to her+ She m !ht not be able to ha&e any more *h ldren s all+ He doesn't th n( that matters+; ;It's a whore's operat on+ 'hey d e )rom t 3 bleed to death 3 or s*ream the r l &es away )rom the n)e*t on a)ter+; ?ob sh.ddered as ) he had been str.*( b.t made no answer+ Cord hated l 9.or- hated the taste- the smell- and the e))e*t t had on men- b.t now he rea*hed o.t to the wh s(ey bottle- tw sted o)) the *ap- and po.red a meas.re nto h s hal) empty *o))ee *.p+ He too( a swallow o) the )o.l m /t.re- see n! h s own hands as ) )rom )ar away+ 'he wh s(ey le)t a ) ery tra l )rom h s mo.th to h s empty stoma*h- b.t the room swam ba*( nto )o*.s+ ?ob loo(ed deathly ll 3 !ray and sha( n!- *o&ered w th a ) lm o) persp rat on that shone n the lampl !ht+ He sa d- ;I d dn't (now+ I tho.!ht he was 1.st !o n! to ta(e her to Ch *a!o and try to *han!e her m nd- and I (new he *o.ldn't+ I ) !.red he *o.ldn't (eep her+ It's not l (e when he lo*(ed her .p o&er Detr *(+ She has yo. now- yo.r whole )am ly+ I (new t was wron!- (new t wo.ld ma(e a mess- b.t I *o.ldn't br n! mysel) to stand a!a nst h m+ It d dn't seem l (e t wo.ld do any real harm+ I ne&er bel e&ed what yo. sa d t was l (e 3 last year+ He sa d those other men !ot o.t o) hand and he *o.ldn't stop them- sa d yo. e/a!!erated anyway+; ?ob's &o *e 9.a&ered+ ;I d dn't mean what I sa d that day at Ephra m's+ It *ame o.t be*a.se I was a)ra d+ I (new how he'd be abo.t a baby- b.t then he d dn't seem too .pset abo.t t+ Oh- <od- I (now she's happy w th yo.+ I'&e (nown t )or a lon! t me+; St ll str.!!l n! )or *ontrol- Cord mana!ed only to !r t o.t- ;> n sh t+; 'here was no *om)ort n the rest o) ?ob's story+ Edward's words seemed to destroy %nne be)ore the r &ery eyes+ She sl d )rom the *ha r to her (nees- be!!ed+ I) he wo.ld let

her !o- Cord wo.ld ta(e her )ar away+ Edward wo.ld ne&er ha&e to see her or the baby+ I) he wo.ld 1.st let the *h ld l &e she wo.ld swear to stay n Ch *a!o )or the rest o) her l )e and ne&er d sobey h m n any way a!a n+ ?ob )elt he was wat*h n! h s s ster d ssol&e+ She had always been so pro.d- no matter what *r t * sm or d s* pl ne she had been s.b1e*ted to n the past+ 'hro.!h the ) !hts w th her )ather o&er marry n! <eor!e Detr *(- she had ne&er on*e seemed *owed+ ,ow she be!!ed- weep n! hyster *ally+ Edward )or*ed the la.dan.m down her- stand n! o&er her ).ll o) sel)3sat s)a*t on+ Later ?ob wo.ld real 2e he sho.ld ha&e tr ed to !et to Sher )) ?eynolds- to Ephra m- to anyone who m !ht stop the madness+ He sho.ld ha&e !otten a p stol and tr ed to stop t h msel)- b.t that a)ternoon he )ollowed h s )ather's orders l (e a m ndless ma*h ne+ %s the dr.! too( e))e*t- %nne sobbed hersel) to sleep- *ry n! Cord's name+ 'hey *.t the ropes+ Her wr sts were torn and bloody )rom str.!!l n!- b.t Edward re).sed to let Leona ta(e t me to do*tor them+ 'hey had wrapped %nne n a *arr a!e robe )or the tr p )rom the ran*h+ ,ow Edward p.t one o) Leona's *oats on her and *arr ed her to the *arr a!e and the tra n+ Edward told the stat on master that h s da.!hter was ll and had ta(en la.dan.m- and no one 9.est oned h s e/planat on+ ?ob ret.rned the *arr a!e to the )r end who had lent t and *ame ba*( to the ho.se 3 to wa t+ ;I (now there's no way to sa&e the baby-; ?ob sa d+ ;'he '.esday tra n sn't soon eno.!h- b.t s.rely yo. *an !et her o.t o) there+ Ephra m *an do someth n!- *an't he7 I'm a)ra d- Cord+ 'he way she was 3 I'm a)ra d she sn't !o n! to be %nne any more+; Cord sa d noth n!- rose and headed )or the )ront door+ ?ob )ollowed+ %s he opened the door- ?ob pleaded- ;Please- tell me what yo.'re !o n! to do+ Can Ephra m !et her o.t7; Cord t.rned then+ He had l ttle )eel n! to spare )or ?ob- b.t t ran thro.!h h s m nd that a)ter th s- ?ob 6ells wo.ld e ther ) nally mat.re nto a man w th the sense and *o.ra!e to th n( and a*t )or h msel) or )ore&er be*ome a .seless wea(l n!+ One way or the other there was !o n! to be some well3deser&ed s.))er n!+ @ * o.sly- he t.rned on the other man+ ;Yo. a!reed w th yo.r )ather )rom the be! nn n!+ I'm 1.st a r.tt n! sa&a!e who en1oyed yo.r s ster )or a wh le when t was *on&en ent+ 6hy the hell sho.ld I *are what happens now7; Stand n! n the open doorway- ?ob wat*hed the tall )orm d sappear w th n a )ew )eet n the sw rl n! snow o) the e&er3 n*reas n! storm- then stood there star n! as ) Cord wo.ld ma! *ally mater al 2e a!a n w th a d ))erent answer+ 'he *old e&ent.ally bro(e thro.!h h s tran*e+ He sh.t the door- t.rned and went ba*( to the warm ( t*hen- sh.))l n! l (e a &ery old man+ He *ollapsed nto h s *ha r- too( a lar!e !.lp o) wh s(ey stra !ht )rom the bottle- then another+ Unt l the wh s(ey bro.!ht a ( nd o) pea*e- he rema ned ha.nted by s*enes o) h s s ster n h s memory- b.t the p *t.res o) the lean dar( man on the br !ht red horse were !one+ ***

CHAPTER 3$

GEN.LY R344ING 2EEPER 4E,IND .,E ears n the dar(ness- !nor n! st n! n! snow)la(es n.mb n! h s )a*e- Cord )or*ed h msel) to *almly *ons der h s opt ons+ 'here wo.ld be other towns to the east- north- and so.th w th tra ns r.nn n! tomorrow or the ne/t day- b.t he d dn't (now the s*hed.les+ %ny attempt by h m or e&en by someone o.ts de the )am ly l (e 6 ndon m !ht res.lt n a tele!ram to Ch *a!o+ I) 6ells had any n(l n! anyone wo.ld *ome )or %nne- he *o.ld ma(e t almost mposs ble to ) nd her- and t so.nded as ) he had )r ends spy n! )or h m all o&er town+ Den&er lay s /ty m les to the so.th and east+ 'ra ns wo.ld lea&e there da ly+ 6 tho.t the storm s.*h a r de wo.ld be .npleasant b.t not d )) *.lt0 w th t- t wo.ld be hell- and ) the threat o) bl 22ard mater al 2ed- mposs ble+ 'he w nd was howl n! o.t o) the north now- ma( n! see n! more than a )ew )eet d )) *.lt+ 'he de* s on was h s- and he wo.ld ha&e to l &e w th the *onse9.en*es o) a wron! *ho *e+ He stopped r.bb n! the !eld n!'s ears- p.lled h s sl *(er )ree and shr.!!ed nto t+ It wo.ld help brea( the (n )e3l (e w nd+ In se*onds he and Aeeper were swallowed by the storm- head n! o.t o) 8ason 3 so.th+ E&en tho.!h the threatened bl 22ard ne&er 9. te mater al 2ed- t was early a)ternoons /teen ho.rs a)ter lea& n! the 6ells ho.se- when Cord rea*hed the sl.shy streets o) Den&er+ He had p.shed the b ! brown !eld n! to the l m ts o) h s stren!th- b.t the snow and ( ll n! w nd had not let .p .nt l dawn+ In pla*es the dr )ts were so h !h the horse had had to l.n!e thro.!h+ Snow and *e had en*ased them both- ma( n! 1.st breath n! an e))ort+ %ltho.!h the road was well tra&eled- t had o)ten been hard to ) nd t- )or & s b l ty d dn't mpro&e .nt l the snow stopped+ Aeeper was barely able to hold h s head at (nee le&el and was st.mbl n! o)ten+ Cord had been on the !ro.nd )or o&er an ho.r+ 6hen he ) rst d smo.nted he was so st )) he almost )ell+ ,ow the *omb ned e))e*ts o) h.n!er and e/ha.st on were almost p.ll n! h m o)) h s )eet+ H s bones )elt l (e sp (es o) *e embedded n h s )lesh- and wal( n! had not stopped h s sh &er n!+ He had as(ed d re*t ons three t mes and was now wal( n! so.th on Sherman Streetloo( n! )or a part *.lar nterse*t on and a part *.lar ho.se+ 'he area was ) lled w th stately homes on well3tended !ro.nds+ S.rpr s n!ly- no one had r.n )rom the s !ht he and the horse presented+ On*e a!a n he *o&ered the spent !eld n! w th the sl *(er as he stopped n )ront o) one o) the b ! ho.ses+ H s (no*( bro.!ht a ma d *omplete w th bla*( .n )orm- wh te *ap- and apron+ She was *ontempt.o.s+ ;'he l (es o) yo. sho.ldn't be here at all- b.t ) yo. ha&e someth n! to say- !et aro.nd to the ba*( door+; Cord sw.n! the r )le stra !ht .p at her *hest+ He had to try tw *e be)ore he *o.ld !et the words o.t+ ;<et Howlett+; 'he woman ran ba*( nto the ho.se as Cord wal(ed nto the entran*e hall+ 6 th any l.*(- Pa.l Howlett wo.ld be at home- not at h s law o)) *e- on a Sat.rday a)ternoon- and he wo.ld not ha&e to deal w th 8ar e+ It was ndeed Pa.l who r.shed to the hall to see what the tro.ble was+ Cord had seen Pa.l only a )ew t mes many years a!o- b.t wo.ld ha&e re*o!n 2ed h m nstantly n sp te o) the s l&er now n h s brown ha r and e/tra l nes aro.nd the brown eyes+ Pa.l also re*o!n 2ed h s w )e's brother nstantly+ ;I don't bel e&e t= Cord=; Be)ore e ther man *o.ld say another word- 8ar e was there+ 'he years had been ( nd+ ,o one meet n! the lo&ely 8rs+ Pa.l Howlett wo.ld e&er s.spe*t she was hal) Cheyenne+

>rom 8ar e there was no wel*ome+ ;<et o.t- or I'll ha&e yo. thrown o.t+; Cord had had lon!- *old ho.rs to de* de how to )or*e what he wanted )rom h s s ster+ ;Yo. don't (now anyone who *o.ld throw me o.t+ I need help- and yo.'re !o n! to ! &e t+ I) yo. don't- e&eryone n th s whole damn town w ll (now e/a*tly who and what yo. are be)ore another ho.r passes- so help me <od+; Br !ht red spots appeared on 8ar e's *hee(s+ Be)ore she *o.ld spea( a!a n- Pa.l la d a !entle hand on her arm+ ;6hat do yo. need7; ;I need to be on a tra n to Ch *a!o 3 yesterday+ <ot a horse o.ts de all .sed .p and need n! help+ He may not ma(e t anyway- b.t I want yo. to try- and to !et me to the tra n stat on+; Pa.l loo(ed at Cord- *ons der n!- then t.rned to h s w )e+ ;Yo. !o *alm the ser&ants down+ I'll ta(e *are o) th s+; She opened her mo.th as ) to ar!.e- tho.!ht better o) t and went+ Pa.l went and !ot h s *oat and )ollowed Cord o.t+ Loo( n! at the trembl n!- barely stand n! horse- he sa d- ;'h s m.st be hell shly mportant+; ;It s+; ;%ll r !ht+ Br n! h m aro.nd to the stables+; Beh nd the ho.se n the spa* o.s- a ry barn- Cord !nored the s*orn o) the stableman and told h m what he wanted done )or Aeeper wh le a stable boy helped Pa.l h t*h a )an*y *hestn.t horse to an e&en )an* er phaeton+ In m n.tes they were trott n! towards Den&er's Un on Stat on- the boy dr & n!+ Cord had a !ood dea how Pa.l m.st )eel abo.t ha& n! a brother3 n3law he hadn't seen n ten years show .p on h s doorstep- threaten n! 8ar e and ma( n! demands+ %nd he (new ) h s normal appearan*e nt m dated people- r !ht now- w th the tw t*h he *o.ld )eel spasm n! alon! one *hee(bone- h s 1aw *len*hed nto r d!es- and st ll sh &er n! )rom head to toe- he'd probably s*are the de& l+ 'oo bad+ Pa.l and 8ar e *o.ld damn well deal w th t+ %)ter openly st.dy n! h m )or the ) rst part o) the dr &e- howe&er- when Pa.l spo(e t was w th sympathy+ ;Can yo. tell me anyth n! abo.t t7; ;8y w )e's people *ame to the ran*h yesterday when I was !one and too( her 3 to Ch *a!o+ She d dn't want to !o+; Cord (new t wasn't eno.!h o) an e/planat on )or the horse3( ll n! h.rry- )or not ta( n! the ne/t tra n o.t o) 8ason- b.t the mass &e ar*hes o) Un on Stat on were now n s !ht+ Pa.l sa d- ;I'&e been tell n! 8ar e )or years she needs to tal( to yo.+ Yo.'ll ha&e to !et the horse anyway+ Stop ba*( on yo.r way home+ I'd l (e to hear the whole story+; <ett n! ready to 1.mp o.t o) the phaeton- Cord )or*ed h msel) to say more+ ;'han(s )or the help+ 'ell 8ar e I'm sorry+; %s he t.rned and started wal( n! to the stat on- he heard Pa.l sho.t a)ter h m- ;'h n( abo.t t+; He p.shed thro.!h the stat on doors w tho.t loo( n! ba*(+ ***

CHAPTER 3%

1,I1AGO WAS WORSE .,AN ANY n !htmare Leona 6ells had e&er dreamed+ %nne was lo*(ed n a bedroom that had been prepared as a pr son- e&en to metal !rates bolted o&er the w ndows+ Leona hersel) was also a pr soner o) sorts+ She was not allowed to see %nne w tho.t Clara or Edward present- and an attempt to lea&e the ho.se .nobser&ed had had Clara's b.tler pol tely es*ort n! her ba*( to Edward l (e an errant *h ld+ Leona tr ed a!a n to reason w th her h.sband- and he slapped her *r.elly a!a n+ Lon! a!o she had a**epted that the handsome yo.n! man who had seemed so *harm n! when she marr ed h m was an arro!ant- sel) sh h.sband- b.t Edward had ne&er been phys *ally ab.s &e to her or the r *h ldren+ He had *rossed some emot onal l ne last year n the yard o) the Bennett ?an*h+ Leona (new now he wo.ld ne&er *ross ba*(+ 'he do*tors *ame to the ho.se the morn n! a)ter they arr &ed n Ch *a!o to e/am ne %nne and le)t sm l n!+ 'hey were .s.ally *alled 3 and pa d the r he)ty )ees 3 by )am l es that wanted nsan ty *ert ) ed n tro.blesome b.t healthy relat &es+ %nne's deathl (e st llness- wh te )a*e- and re).sal to meet anyone's eyes le)t the do*tors w th *lear *ons* en*es+ She made no response to the r !entle- prob n! 9.est ons- only h.ddled w th her arms aro.nd hersel)+ Helpless .nder Edward's hard !lare- Leona wat*hed her da.!hter thro.!h a ha2e o) pa n+ Clara 6a nwr !ht d d not phys *ally resemble her brother+ She was a short- sto.t woman w th ha r already t.rned !ray- b.t her n)le/ ble sel)3ass.ran*e was &ery l (e Edward's+ Her s ster3 n3law had ne&er been more than *oldly pol te to Leona- b.t now Clara was the only hope le)t+ She mana!ed to see Clara alone a)ter the do*tors had !one+ ;Please- Clara- l sten to me+ Edward sn't tell n! yo. the tr.th+ Her h.sband s a de*ent man )rom a !ood )am ly+ She lo&es h m+ It's a !ood marr a!e+ Please don't do th s+; Clara was no lon!er e&en pol te+ ;Yo. (now- I told Edward years a!o he sho.ld ne&er ha&e marr ed yo.+ I) he'd 1.st wa ted- w th the shorta!e o) men a)ter the war he *o.ld ha&e had h s *ho *e+ Yo. d dn't nher t )or years anyway+ Yo. were a s lly- s mper n! ! rl- and now yo.'re a s lly- s mper n! old woman+ It's probably yo.r n)l.en*e that's led to th s mess- altho.!h I wo.ldn't e/pe*t e&en yo. to de)end that wret*hed ! rl *all n! hersel) marr ed to some abor ! ne sa&a!e+ Don't yo. ha&e any pr de7; Clara !nored the s len*e that )ollowed her ns.lts+ ;6hy don't yo. do someth n! .se).l and *ome .psta rs and help me see ) we *an't do someth n! w th yo.r da.!hter+ It's t me she a*(nowled!ed we're a*t n! n her best nterests+ I th n( d nner n * & l 2ed *ompany ton !ht m !ht ma(e her stop th s s.l( n!+; Clara's att t.de d dn't so)ten one ota address n! %nne+ ;'h s ( nd o) beha& or sn't !o n! to ma(e any d ))eren*e- yo. (now+ Yo.'ll 1.st ma(e th n!s harder on yo.rsel) and all the rest o) .s+ I'm !o n! to allow yo. to ha&e d nner w th the )am ly and my !.ests ton !ht- b.t only so lon! as yo. beha&e properly+ %ny ).ss )rom yo. at all- and yo.'ll be r !ht ba*( here .nt l we lea&e )or the *o.rtho.se n the morn n!+ Do yo. .nderstand7; 8ent on o) )reedom )rom the lo*(ed room bro.!ht %nne's head .p+ Her throat wor(ed *on&.ls &ely- b.t she sa d noth n!- 1.st bobbed her head+ Clara sa d- ;I *an't bel e&e how th s has t.rned o.t+ Yo. (now I see ? *hard and h s w )e 9. te re!.larly+ She doesn't hold a *andle to yo. n any way e/*ept *ommonsenseb.t they already ha&e two *h ldren and another on the way+ He dotes on them- and t *o.ld ha&e been yo.+ 6e'&e allowed yo. to ma(e too many m sta(es- and t's t me t stopped+ ,ow yo. p.ll yo.rsel) to!ether and we'll ha&e a n *e d nner+;

Clara then d re*ted the ma ds to bathe %nne and dress her n one o) her own dresseswh *h wo.ld be too short b.t wo.ld ) t o&er her enlar!ed wa stl ne+ 6hen a ma d reported that %nne's pass &e a**eptan*e had er.pted nto a ra! n! ) t at the s !ht o) the *orset- b.stled dress- and a**essor es they had bro.!ht to her room- Leona )eared e&en more .!l ness+ B.t- o&er Edward's ob1e*t ons- Clara merely wa&ed her ma d away and d re*ted her to let %nne ha&e her way n th s+ ,o e/tra&a!an*e o) !room n! or dress- she sa d- *o.ld t.rn %nne o.t properly ton !ht .nder any * r*.mstan*es+ 'he d nner !.ests were the Honorable Bertram Da& s h msel) and Clara's attorneyBr.*e %bbott- who had prepared the paperwor( demanded by Edward and Clara+ Da& s was a well3padded s l&er3ha red man w th an a r o) sel)3ass.red a.thor ty+ %bbott was bald n!- short and th n- w th 1er(y- ner&o.s manner sms+ Leona ate noth n! hersel) and wat*hed %nne p.sh )ood aro.nd on her plate w tho.t e&en pretend n! to eat+ Clara's ll3) tt n! dress was a !reen sh *olor that only emphas 2ed %nne's pallor+ 6hen d nner ended e&eryone ret red to the l brary+ Brandy was po.red )or the men- w ne )or the women+ %nne d dn't to.*h the sherry e ther+ Leona wondered ) %nne had had anyth n! at all to eat or dr n( s n*e be n! dra!!ed o.t o) her own home+ 'he ser&ants le)t- sh.tt n! the door beh nd them+ %bbott then !a&e Clara a letter and be!an to re& ew the po nts he had made n t+ He wanted- he sa d- to be absol.tely s.re e&eryone .nderstood he was ad& s n! a!a nst the a*t ons they were ta( n!+ ;Yo. need to read that *are).lly- 8rs+ 6a nwr !ht-; he ad& sed+ ;I (now yo.'re s.re no one s e&er !o n! to (now- b.t what ) yo.r !randda.!hter ) nds a sympathet * ear at the hosp tal7; Clara *.t h m o))- threw the letter on the *o))ee table+ ;Stop a*t n! l (e the *oward yo. are- Br.*e+ 'he ears at the hosp tal are all atta*hed to !reedy heads and hands that ha&e been well pa d not to l sten to her+; Edward 1o ned h s s ster n s*o)) n! at the lawyer's reser&at ons+ 8ore do*.ments were la d o.t on the table+ %)ter a d sda n).l !lan*e at %bbott- :.d!e Da& s sa d- ;Perhaps we sho.ld 1.st s !n some o) these now and sa&e t me n the morn n!+; Edward se 2ed on th s remar(- bro.!ht pen and n( )rom the des(- and the two men be!an to s !n do*.ments+ > n shed- they ra sed brandy sn )ters to ea*h other n a *ord al sal.te+ %nne hadn't mo&ed s n*e she was p.shed nto the *ha r+ ,ow she rose sha( ly to her )eet+ In a )or*ed &o *e that d dn't so.nd l (e her own- she re terated the o))ers she had made her )ather n hyster a at the ho.se n 8ason+ I) they wo.ld let her !o- she wo.ld d sappear+ ,o one n Colorado wo.ld e&er see her- the baby- or Cord a!a n+ I) they wo.ld e&en 1.st let the *h ld l &e and ndeed ! &e t to the Bennett )am ly she wo.ld l &e n any way they w shed- wo.ld !o or stay here- wo.ld obey e&ery *ommand+ Edward !rowled- ;I don't want to l sten to th s dr &el a!a n+ Call the ser&ants and ha&e her ta(en ba*( .psta rs+; %bbott- howe&er- saw an opport.n ty to dr &e home h s po nts+ ;Yo. really sho.ld l sten- yo. (now+ %mon! other th n!s- the asyl.m s e/pens &e+ How lon! do yo. th n( yo.'ll ha&e to (eep her there to ens.re the obed en*e she's o))er n! )reely now7; %s Clara !a&e an am.sed- (now n! la.!h- Edward *ondes*ended to e/pla n to the attorney+ ;One o) the )ew & rt.es my da.!hter has reta ned thro.!h all th s s her nab l ty to l e *on& n* n!ly+ I) yo. (new her- yo.'d real 2e t's wr tten all o&er her )a*e that ) we

a!reed to th s o))er o) eternal de&ot on o) hers- as soon as h s )am ly had the whelp- she'd be r.nn n! ba*( to that sa&a!e the ) rst *han*e she !ot+ In add t on to be n! .n*ommonly st.p d- she's .n*ommonly st.bborn+; Leona *o.ld no lon!er bear to see her da.!hter's br. sed )a*e+ She )or*ed her eyes away- loo( n! &a*antly aro.nd the room+ 'he l brary was paneled and ).rn shed n dar( wood+ 'he lamps and ) re *ra*(l n! n the hearth !a&e the room a warm !low- b.t to Leona the room )elt l (e an o&en+ 'r *(les o) sweat ran down her s des and beaded on her l p+ Hell wo.ld be l (e th s room+ ?est n! her head a!a nst the ba*( o) her *ha r- Leona be!an to pray+ She hoped <od was not t red o) her entreat es- )or she had prayed w th an ntens ty she had not (nown she was *apable o) e&ery *han*e she !ot s n*e those terr ble moments n her da.!hter's home+ She prayed that there was some hope n the )a*t that her h.sband ns sted on .nderest mat n! a man l (e Cord Bennett so badly+ On*e Leona hersel) had hated and )eared Cord as a monster and a demon+ ,ow she prayed that <od wo.ld ! &e h m stren!th- ! &e h m w sdom- ! &e h m w n!s+ % t ny mo&ement *a.!ht her eye+ 'he door(nob was t.rn n! &ery slowly e&en as Clara's attorney *ont n.ed ar!. n! w th Edward and Clara+ Leona *losed her eyes- a)ra d to hope+ ;B.t yo. *an't (eep her lo*(ed .p )ore&er-; %bbott sa d+ ;I) noth n! else- she'll o.tl &e yo.+ How lon! are yo. plann n! on (eep n! her there7; ;%s lon! as t ta(es to be s.re she's ! &en .p any dea o) !o n! ba*( to that reds( n+; ;%nd how lon! do yo. e/pe*t that to be7; 'he door sw.n! open- and Cord's &o *e ) lled the room+ ;She'd st ll be sp tt n! n yo.r eye when hell )ro2e o&er+; 'ears s*alded down Leona's *hee(s+ Somet mes <od l stens+ Somet mes He sends a m ra*le+ 'h s was her own+ 'he so.nd o) the words t.rned the room's o**.pants to stat.es+ He was there bes de the door- ba*( to the wall+ Dar( )rom head to toe n the shadows- Cord was almost nd st n!. shable a!a nst the wall- b.t the threat o) h s presen*e *h lled the room+ > rel !ht re)le*ted o)) the metal o) the r )le po nt n! stra !ht at Edward 6ells+ Cord so)tened h s &o *e as he addressed %nne+ ;'ho.!ht I'd see ) yo. want to *ome home w th me- babe+; She *rossed the room n two leaps and threw hersel) at h m+ Cord (ept the r )le tra ned on 6ells- b.t he *a.!ht %nne w th h s le)t arm and *r.shed her to h m+ He b.r ed h s mo.th and nose n her ha r and breathed deeply o) her+ Unt l th s moment there had been no room )or any emot on b.t )ear n Cord+ ,oww th %nne sa)e n h s arms- ra!e seared thro.!h h m+ I) they d d not !et o.t o) here 9. *(ly- he wo.ld lea&e the room dren*hed n blood+ Cord started %nne toward the door 1.st as the Honorable Bertram Da& s made a ).rt &e mo&ement- try n! to sh eld the papers on the *o))ee table )rom & ew+ P.sh n! %nne !ently ba*( a!a nst the wall- Cord wal(ed nto the *enter o) the room+ ;< &e me the papers+; Da& s no lon!er loo(ed sel)3ass.red or a.thor tat &e+ St ll- he d dn't 1.st hand o&er the papers+ ;'hose don't mean anyth n! to yo. or yo.r w )e now+ 'here's no reason )or yo. to want them+;

Cord en1oyed sho& n! the r )le barrel a!a nst the man's teeth+ % dar( spot appeared on the 1.d!e's lower l p and t.rned nto a th n tra l o) blood+ ;< &e+; 6 th sha( n! hands Da& s !athered the papers and handed them o&er+ Cord st.))ed them n h s *oat po*(et- then .sed the r )le barrel to l )t the ed!es o) the 1.d!e's s. t *oate/pos n! more do*.ments n the nner po*(ets+ ;< &e+; ;'hose ha&e noth n! to do w th yo.+ So help me+ Please- lea&e them+; 'h s t me Cord slammed the r )le nto the 1.d!e's d aphra!m- (no*( n! h s breath o.t n one .!ly !asp+ ;6ant to d e )or those papers7; 6hee2 n! as he drew a r pa n).lly ba*( nto h s l.n!s- Da& s s.rrendered the last o) the do*.ments+ ,ow Cord was .nable not to )a*e Edward 6ells+ 6hate&er h s )a.lts- Edward was no *oward+ He met Cord's eyes w th an .n)l n*h n!- mat*h n! hatred )or lon! se*onds+ > nally- stra n n! w th the e))ort- Cord )or*ed h msel) to ba*( away+ He t pped h s hat towards Leona- then p.lled %nne o.t o) the room+ Leona ne&er real 2ed her last prayer was o.t lo.d+ ;Dear <od- than( yo.+ 'han( yo.+; ***

CHAPTER &
.,E ,ANSO0 DRIVER 1ORD ,AD ! &en a wee('s earn n!s and prom sed a wee('s more wa ted n the street+ In less than an ho.r they were on a tra n a!a n- headed west+ E&eryth n! sho.ld ha&e been ) ne- b.t t was not+ %s the m les passed- Cord's *on*ern deepened to worry- then to )ear+ ?ob 6ells' words re&erberated n h s m nd: ;I'm a)ra d she sn't !o n! to be %nne any more-; )or the woman w th h m was not the *reat.re o) ) re and sp r t he tho.!ht o) as a t !ress+ In her a.nt's too b ! dress and the shabby ma d's *oat Cord had s mply stolen o)) a pe! n Clara's ( t*hen and repla*ed w th a ten dollar b ll- she loo(ed small- th n- and *olorless+ One s de o) her )a*e was br. sed and swollen+ 6orse- she *l.n! to h m l (e a )r !htened *h ld+ She as(ed no 9.est ons- answered h s only n l )eless monosyllableswo.ld not let h m !o- yet wo.ld not meet h s eyes+ Coa/ n! only !ot a )ew b tes o) )ood down her+ 'he e/tra money he had spent )or the sleeper *ar on the two3day tr p was wasted- )or %nne wo.ld not sleep+ She 1.st leaned a!a nst h m w th blan( eyes- star n! nto spa*e+ He had had no ntent on o) stopp n! ba*( n Den&er+ I) Aeeper l &ed- he wo.ld !et the horse later or ha&e someone else do t+ ,ow he be!an to re*ons der+ :.st as tra ns only le)t 8ason tw *e a wee(- they also *ame n only on '.esdays and >r days+ 'hey wo.ld ha&e to lay .p somewhere- and n Den&er there wo.ld be no r s( o) a stran!e do*tor+ Howletts' do*tor *o.ld be loo( n! at %nne days be)ore they *o.ld !et ba*( to 8ason+ 'here was also the )a*t that he was now a ).! t &e+ Both Clara 6a nwr !ht and Edward 6ells wo.ld ) le e&ery *r m nal *har!e they *o.ld th n( o)- and Cord *o.ld th n( o) 9. te a )ew h msel)+ 'hey weren't !o n! to be able to 1.st p *( .p the r l &es a!a n+ %s de )rom tro.ble w th the law- Edward 6ells was not !o n! to let !o o) h s obsess on+ It had *ome down to ( ll n! 6ells or el.d n! h m- and Cord had n Clara 6a nwr !ht's

l brary )a*ed the )a*t he *o.ld not del berately ( ll %nne's )ather+ 'hey'd stop n Den&er he de* ded+ 8ar e wo.ld 1.st ha&e to l &e w th t+ %t Un on Stat on Cord loo(ed aro.nd .n*erta nly+ 'ransportat on m !ht be a problem here+ % yo.th).l &o *e *alled o.t )rom beh nd+ ;8r+ Bennett- 8r+ Bennett-; and Cord t.rned n s.rpr se to see the stable boy who had helped Pa.l ready the phaeton approa*h n!+ 'he boy d dn't loo( too s.re o) h msel)+ ;8r+ Howlett sa d th s a)ternoon was the earl est yo. *o.ld !et ba*( and sent me to wat*h )or yo.+ He sa d to br n! yo. ba*( to the ho.se+; 'he yo.n!ster eyed them ner&o.sly+ Anow n! the p *t.re they presented- Cord )elt some sympathy- b.t all he sa d was;Obl !ed+ 6e'll )ollow yo.+; 'here was no *on&ersat on n the *arr a!e- and the boy let them o)) at the )ront o) the ho.se+ It was st ll dayl !ht- b.t what warmth there had been n the day was )ad n! as the s.n lowered toward the mo.nta ns+ H s (no*( bro.!ht the same ma d to the door- b.t th s t me she was pol te+ ;:.st one moment- please+; Pa.l strode ea!erly to the )ront hall- 8ar e )ollow n! more slowly and w th ob& o.s rel.*tan*e+ 'he w de sm le on Pa.l's )a*e )aded )ast- b.t Cord had more to worry abo.t than Pa.l's )eel n!s+ Pa.l as(ed w th *on*ern- ;6hat *an we do7; ;6e *o.ld .se a bath- maybe some hot )ood- sleep+; ?emember n! %nne's wr stsCord added- ;%nd o ntment )or b.rns ) yo. ha&e t+; 8ent on o) a do*tor had had her d stra.!ht on the tra n+ 'hat *o.ld wa t .nt l a)ter some sleep+ Howletts had a bea.t ).l- deep batht.b- and when %nne showed her ) rst s !ns o) an mat on- *l mb n! n w th ala*r ty and be! nn n! to wash w th & !or- Cord be!an to )eel better .nt l he real 2ed th s was not normal bath n!+ She was s*r.bb n! as ) to remo&e her &ery s( n and !a&e no s !n o) stopp n!+ In the end he had to l )t her- str.!!l n! a!a nst h m- o.t o) the t.b and wrap her n towels+ 6hen ser&ants empt ed the t.b and re) lled t )or h m- and he t.rned h s ba*( )or se*onds to ta(e o)) h s own *lothes- she was n the bath a!a n- s*r.bb n! e&en more ).r o.sly+ It *ame to Cord that he had heard 8artha and Hannah tal( abo.t 8ar e wash n! l (e th s a)ter almost be n! raped+ He p.lled her o.t o) the water and wrapped her n towels a se*ond t me+ ;Stay there or I'll ho!t e yo.- .nderstand7; She t.rned her head+ He wa ted .nt l they were ba*( n the bedroom- )ood had been bro.!ht- and they were alone )or the n !ht be)ore ta*(l n! the problem+ %nne wo.ld only ta(e a )ew swallows o) so.p- b.t Cord's appet te was ba*( w th a &en!ean*e+ He *leaned the plates+ 6 th the *omb o.t o) h s saddleba!s he .ntan!led her ha r- then dressed the wo.nds on her wr sts and )a*ed her+ ;Yo. told me yo. were all r !ht- b.t I'&e heard abo.t that wash n! b.s ness be)ore+ 6hat d d they do to yo.7; She loo(ed stead ly at the sheets+ ;,oth n!+ I'm ) ne+; ;'he hell yo.'re ) ne+ 'ell me+; 8.te- she 1.st shoo( her head+ He rea*hed )or her- th n( n! to hold her- try to !et a response w th a ( ss- b.t she )o.!ht h m+ ;,o- no- don't+ Yo. *an't- yo. *an't to.*h me l (e that+ It's no !ood+ 6e're o&er+; He d dn't )or*e her *lose b.t d dn't let !o e ther+ Hold n! her ) rmly by the lower arms- he wa ted .nt l she stopped str.!!l n!+ She st ll wo.ld not loo( at h m+

;I) we're o&er anyway- what's the d ))eren*e ) yo. tell me7 Don't yo. th n( I deser&e to (now why7; She started trembl n! then- b.t d dn't answer+ >rant *ally sear*h n! thro.!h e&eryth n! he (new had happened- ?ob's words *ame to h s m nd a!a n- and w th them a t ny !l mmer o) l !ht+ ;8.st ha&e been someth n! n Ch *a!o+ ?ob told me e&eryth n! happened ba*( home+; Pan *(ed eyes met h s )or an nstant be)ore 1er( n! away+ ;,o- not e&eryth n!+; ;Yes+ E&eryth n!+; She bro(e then- sobs sha( n! her- and d dn't str.!!le when he p.lled her a!a nst h s *hest+ 'oo m.*h stren!th *o.ld be a *.rse- lea& n! a person .nable to bend- only brea(+ Don't let t be that way )or her- he prayed+ Let her be whole a!a n+ ;It was my )a.lt+ I sho.ldn't ha&e let them n+ %nd then- then- when he told me- I t.rned to 1elly ns de+ I (new t wo.ldn't do any !ood- b.t I be!!ed h m- be!!ed- on my (nees+; 'he sobs were sha( n! her so hard he was a)ra d she wo.ld tear apart+ ;%nn e- %nne++++; ;I (new t was no !ood- (new t wo.ldn't help- and I d d t anyway+; He wondered whether anyth n! he *o.ld say wo.ld help- ) there were words that *o.ld ease her pa n- and (new he had to try+ ;8y lo&e- l sten to me++++; He held her hard .nt l the !reat !.lp n! sobs lessened to smaller sh.dders+ ;Lett n! them n was a m sta(ebabe- 1.st a m sta(e+ ,obody !ets thro.!h l )e w tho.t 1.d! n! wron! somet mes+ It's a matter o) whether yo. *an ) / th n!s and !o on- and we'&e ) /ed th s+ 6e're all r !ht a!a n- so t's o&er+; She 9. eted a l ttle more a!a nst h m- and he (new she was l sten n!+ ;Yo. d d do some !ood+ ,ot w th yo.r )ather- b.t w th ?ob+ 6hen I !ot there he was so *ra2y w th !. lt he told me all o) t- and t was be*a.se o) yo. that he )elt that way 3 told me+ He *o.ld ha&e l ed- told me only what he had to+; ;Yo.'d ha&e )or*ed h m to tell+; ;I'd ha&e )or*ed h m to tell where yo. were- b.t I d dn't (now to loo( )or more than that+ I) he hadn't told me all o) t- I wo.ldn't ha&e (nown I had to h.rry- that t me mattered so m.*h+; Her )a*e was wet a!a nst h m and her breath n! ra!!ed- b.t the sobs had almost stopped+ She was l sten n! ntently now+ ;%nn e- last year++++ 'hat day n the yard++++ I made a m sta(e not strapp n! on a !.n the m n.te I )o.nd yo.- and t wasn't that I was a!a nst marry n! yo.- t was that I was a!a nst lett n! them ma(e me do anyth n!+ So they almost ( lled >o/)a*e and threatened to shoot the horses- and I !a&e n+ B.t they *o.ld ha&e shot e&eryth n! n ) &e m les to p e*es and *o.ldn't ha&e made me *rawl+; % tremor passed thro.!h her- b.t he *ont n.ed+ ;'hat was last year+ ,ow ) somebody po nted a !.n at yo.- really *o.ld h.rt yo.- I'd *rawl on my belly or my (nees or do anyth n! else+ 8aybe that's part o) why lo& n! s )r !hten n!+ I'd rather pay the pr *e and ha&e yo. than be n& n* ble be*a.se I ha&e noth n!+; He held her away )rom h m+ 'ears sl pped down her *hee(s- b.t she met h s eyes stead ly+ ;6hen ?ob told me- I tho.!ht maybe I'd d e o) )ear s tt n! there+ Be!! n! to try to sa&e the baby sn't yo.r shame- t's the rs 3 )or do n! that to yo.+; She wh spered- ;It wasn't 1.st the baby+ It was yo.+ 'o ne&er see yo. a!a n- ne&er to.*h yo.- ne&er be to.*hed- (now n! yo.'d th n(- yo.'d th n( 3 t wo.ld be worse than

be n! dead+ E&en ) I !ot away )rom them- how *o.ld I *ome home7 How *o.ld I 1.st *ome ba*( and say I let them do that b.t now I want yo. to lo&e me a!a n7; He shoo( her !ently+ ;L sten to me- l sten- there's noth n! anybody *o.ld do to yo. that wo.ld ma(e me not want yo. 3 no h.rt- no s*ar- n#!%ing+ 'hese past days I'&e been a)ra d they bro(e yo.- r. ned all the ) re+ I'd mo.rn- %nn e 3 I don't want yo. d ))erent 3 b.t I'd st ll want yo.+ I lo&e yo.+; Her hands rea*hed )or h s )a*e then+ ;I tho.!ht yo.'d bel e&e the note+ I tho.!ht yo. wo.ldn't *ome+; ;I don't e&en (now when I stopped bel e& n! yo.'d !o+ 8aybe n the hay meadowmaybe a)ter the ra*e when yo. were sass n! me abo.t t+ I always (new yo. wo.ldn't snea( away l (e that+ Yo.'d tell me to my )a*e+; ;I bel e&ed them 3 that e&en ) yo. wanted to yo. *o.ldn't !et there n t me+ 'he storm- the tra ns+; He sm led at her then- a real sm le he let l )t the *orners o) h s mo.th+ ;Yo. sho.ld ha&e (nown better than that+; ;Yes+ I sho.ld ha&e (nown better than that+; Her tears had stopped- b.t he ( ssed e&ery b t o) her )a*e anyway+ ;How abo.t I !et some more )ood )or yo.7 8aybe so.p st.))7; ;,o- I *an't++++ ,ot yet+; ;'hen w ll yo. stop ) !ht n! t and sleep7; ;Yes+ I prom se+; He spooned her t !htly a!a nst h m and )ell asleep almost nstantly h msel)- (now n! she was at least on the way to heal n!+ > rst l !ht was only t.rn n! the room )rom bla*( to !ray when someth n! wo(e Cord+ %nne was not *.rled a!a nst h m b.t wat*h n! h m- her )a*e only n*hes )rom h s on the p llow- her eyes h.!e n the d m l !ht+ She st ll loo(ed ha!!ard and drawn- a lon! way )rom r !ht+ ;D d yo. sleep at all7; ;I only wo(e .p a )ew m n.tes a!o+; ;It's not eno.!h+ <o ba*( to sleep+; She rea*hed o.t to h m then- )eel n!s *lear n her mob le )a*e- re)le*t n! and re n)or* n! her words+ ;I *an't+ I need yo.+; D smay bro.!ht h m all the way awa(e+ ;,o- t *an't be r !ht+ Yo. need more rest- a do*tor++++; ;,o- I need yo.+ Please- Cord+; He wanted to hold her- prote*t her- *her sh her- b.t there was no phys *al des re n h m+ She loo(ed so )ra! le+ She needed h s lo&e- not h s body- and that he *o.ld ! &e her+ He sl d !entle ( sses a*ross her )a*e- )elt the del *ate s( n o) her eyel ds- tasted the honey o) her mo.th+ >or lon! se*onds he s mply pressed h s l ps to the )l.tter n! p.lse po nt o) her throat- !rate).l to ha&e her there- warm and al &e a!a nst h m+ He to.*hed as l !htly as he *o.ld- try n! not so m.*h to spea( w th h s hands as to wh sper+ Her )a*eher throat 3 he p.shed her ha r as de- t.rned her on her s de and sl d ( sses aro.nd to the nape o) her ne*(- down her sp ne- a*ross the sens t &e s( n .nder her arms- bes de her breasts+ She !lor ed n the sensat ons- s !hed h s name- soa(ed n h s to.*h- as he *ont n.ed try n! to lo&e ea*h n*h o) her s( n separately+ He tasted her here and there- r.bbed ) rst

h s *hee( then h s )orehead a!a nst her e&er so l !htly+ By the t me he was on*e a!a n at her )a*e- he )o.nd t stream n! w th s lent tears+ ;Don't *ry+; He tr ed to ( ss away the tears- b.t they *ame too )ast+ He l *(ed aro.nd her eyes then- wash n! away the hot wet drops+ 6hen he ( ssed her- the taste o) her tears t.rned )rom salty to b ttersweet+ He *.pped her )a*e n h s palms and be!an to tell her- to tell her 1.st how m.*h he lo&ed her- how l )e w tho.t her wo.ld be 1.st a pr son senten*e to ser&e- one 1oyless day a)ter another to be !otten thro.!h somehow+ He told her how she ) lled h s l )e w th *olor- l !ht- and warmth- w th the m.s * o) her &o *e and la.!hter- the !ra*e o) her mo&ement+ 'oo m.*h o) h s l )e had been l &ed n a w thdrawn and s lent way- b.t now he let !o o) the last o) h s reser&e w th her )ore&er+ %s he wh spered o) lo&e- the to.*h o) her- taste and s*ent o) her- so.nd o) her- e&en her need- !n ted the ) re he tho.!ht he *o.ld not )eel+ He sl d nto her !ently- dr n( n! n the lo&e she !a&e so )reely as he possessed her+ %)terwards- as he lay bes de her- he *o.ld see n her )a*e that he had n the end )reed hero) the pa n- o) the shame- and o) the ra!e+ Spent- they lapsed almost mmed ately ba*( to sleep and d dn't wa(e a!a n .nt l a)ternoon 3 )o.rteen ho.rs a)ter they sh.t the bedroom door on the world+ ***

CHAPTER 1
.,E ,OWLE.. ,O3SE WAS AL0OS. as lar!e as the 6a nwr !ht mans on- yet when Cord le)t the bedroom and made h s way downsta rs he d dn't hear or en*o.nter a s n!le ser&ant+ 'he s len*e s.rpr sed h m be*a.se last n !ht the pla*e had teemed w th them+ On the ) rst )loor he t.rned down the hall at the )oot o) the sta rs toward the so.nd o) &o *es+ Close eno.!h to o&erhear the *on&ersat on- he .nderstood why ser&ants had been ban shed+ Pa.l and 8ar e spo(e n the d.lled- weary tones o) people who had ea*h been ma( n! the same ar!.ment ).t lely )or some t me+ 'he ) rst *lear words were 8ar e'sed!ed w th e/asperat on+ ;I mean t- the sher )) wo.ld only ma(e t worse+ Yo. ha&e no dea what he's l (e+; ,earer now- Cord *o.ld also hear all o) Pa.l's answer+ ;Darl n!- we ha&e to do someth n!+ I'm tell n! yo. I (now what I saw+ 'hose are r# e burns on her wr sts and her )a*e s swollen 3 br. sed+ %nd I don't bel e&e the ser&ants are ma( n! t .p+ He threatened to %#g!ie her r !ht here n o.r ho.se+ 'he way she loo(ed last n !ht 3 we ha&e to help her+; Cord rarely too( ad&anta!e o) h s own s lent ways to ea&esdrop- b.t wa t n! )or a pa.se n the *on&ersat on be)ore wal( n! nto the room had to be the lesser e& l now- and 8ar e was already spea( n! a!a n+ ;It sn't 1.st a matter o) my se*ret+ Yo. ha&e no dea how t wo.ld be+ People wo.ld !et h.rt- and yo. or I m !ht be amon! them+ 6hen we were *h ldren he was ne&er mean n any way- b.t he's always been 3 .nstoppable+ 'here's no way we *an help that woman+ ,obody *an .nt l he's thro.!h w th her- and that's that+ 8artha sa d she seemed happy eno.!h w th h m all told- and try n! to nter)ere w ll ma(e t worse+;

;8y dear- he's 1.st a man+ 6e ha&e to do someth n!+ Yo. *an't e/pe*t me to allow th s n my ho.se+; It was n *e to (now Pa.l wasn't b.y n! any ( ller demon theor es >ran( or Ephra m had passed on anyway+ 6hen the .nhappy s len*e stret*hed o.t- Cord wal(ed nto the room+ Pa.l !a&e a start and loo(ed d s*om) ted- aware they had probably been o&erheard+ 8ar e m !ht bel e&e e&ery .!ly story the rest o) the )am ly told- b.t she d dn't pretend a personal )ear she d dn't )eel+ She sa d a* dly- ;<ood a)ternoon+ Yo. *erta nly m.st ha&e needed a rest+; Cord d dn't see any reason to e/pla n h msel)+ ;Been a lon! t me s n*e e ther one o) .s !ot m.*h sleep+ Is there a pla*e n town I *an !et %nne some *lothes7 She won't wear what she had on last n !ht a!a n+; 8ar e's eyes narrowed- and she e/*han!ed a br e) !lan*e w th Pa.l+ 'hey m !ht s.spe*t an e/*.se to (eep them )rom see n! %nne- b.t Cord was more than w ll n! to let h s s ster try to !et %nne nto one st t*h o) Clara 6a nwr !ht's *loth n! a!a n+ 'he hollow3eyed stran!er he had bro.!ht here last n !ht had d sappeared- and the t !ress was ba*(+ She'd *ome down here na(ed sooner+ He wa ted- hal)3e/pe*t n! 8ar e's rea*t on+ ;She m.st be h.n!ry+ Can she wear some o) my *lothes and *ome down and eat7; ;8 !ht not ) t+ Last year she wore th n!s yo. le)t at the old ho.se- b.t she's more than ) &e months w th *h ld now+; S.rpr se erased some o) the an!ry loo( )rom 8ar e's )a*e+ She d dn't as( ).rther perm ss on- 1.st !a&e a t.! on a bell *ord and told the ma d who answered the s.mmons;Send El se n- please+; 6hen another woman n .n )orm appeared- 8ar e !a&e deta led nstr.*t ons+ ;Do yo. remember the *lothes that were del &ered a year or so a!o that were all too b !7 I had some redone- b.t some were 1.st p.t away+ <o thro.!h those th n!s and ! &e 8r+ Bennett *loth n! )or h s w )e+ Choose th n!s that wo.ld ) t me loosely or be lar!e+ She needs e&eryth n! 3 e&eryth n!- yo. .nderstand7; ?emember n! %nne's stor es abo.t l )e n Ch *a!o- Cord wat*hed th s ro.ndabo.t way o) !ett n! th n!s done w th nterest- then )ollowed the openly *ontempt.o.s ma d .psta rs+ I) her nose were any h !her n the a r- she'd tr p and )all+ El se stopped at the bedroom door+ ;Yo. wa t here+; Cord leaned a!a nst the hall wall- loo(ed at the many doors open n! o)) t and )elt no en&y+ %nne had l &ed th s way on*e and d dn't want to a!a n- and he a!reed w th her+ El se ret.rned w th a p le o) *loth n! )olded neatly n her arms- topped w th a ha rbr.sh and e/tra ha rp ns+ Her s*owl was ) anyth n! more d sappro& n! and p.rpose).l than be)ore+ ;I'll 1.st ta(e her these+; Eno.!h o) th s nonsense was eno.!h+ ;'he hell yo. w ll+ < &e me that st.)) and !o s*r.b a *hamberpot+; 6hen Cord ret.rned w th %nne to the s.nny l ttle room 8ar e had re)erred to as the brea()ast room- Howletts were warned- )or %nne had (ept her shoes+ She !lan*ed ba*( at Cord .n*erta nly o&er her sho.lder as she entered the room- worr ed abo.t her wel*ome+ He n*reased the !entle press.re o) h s palm n the small o) her ba*( 1.st a l ttleen*o.ra! n!+ Pa.l started to r se- saw %nne- and )ell ba*( n h s *ha r- too aston shed to spea( or mo&e a!a n+ 8ar e str.!!led 1.st as openly to a**ept the trans)ormat on+ Pa.l showed s !ns o) re*o&er n! ) rst- !lan* n! sharply at Cord- then ba*( at %nne- and at Cord a!a n+

'he ma d had *hosen a deep w ne *olored s( rt and a *ontrast n! p n( wa st+ 'he swell n! was all b.t !one )rom %nne's )a*e- and the *olors only emphas 2ed her & bran*ythe !low o) her s( n+ 8aybe some wo.ld ar!.e she was not really bea.t ).l+ 'hey m !ht say the b ! !ray eyes too( .p too m.*h o) her )a*e or that her nose was a l ttle lon!- her mo.th a l ttle w de- b.t men wo.ld t.rn n the street to loo( a!a n+ Only a &ery )ew women e&er loo(ed the way %nne loo(ed now- and they had to be lo&ed to a*h e&e t 3 to be lo&ed and to (now they were lo&ed+ Pa.l was see n! what >ran( had on the ra ny day when %nne l t .p the ( t*hen as she wor(ed o&er beans and pea*hes+ >ran( had re).sed to a**ept what h s own eyes saw- b.t a slow .nderstand n! was repla* n! Pa.l's n t al ama2ement- help n! h m re!a n h s *ompos.re and remember the manners o) a l )et me+ 'h s t me Pa.l made t to h s )eet+ ;8y dear- do s t down+ It's !ood to see yo. loo( n! so m.*h- so m.*h++++; He )altered- and %nne !a&e a so)t- throaty la.!h+ ;'he &ery loo( on yo.r )a*e tells me how horr ble I loo(ed last n !ht+ Yo. probably were wonder n! why Cord wo.ld !o a)ter s.*h a dread).l p e*e o) !oods+; Pa.l loo(ed momentar ly lost a!a n- b.t then s mply !nored her *omment and sa d;Yo. m.st be )am shed+ D nner w ll be ready soon- b.t wo.ld yo. l (e brea()ast nstead7; ;%*t.ally- we're so h.n!ry anyth n! so.nds wonder).l+; She sm led sweetly- her )a*e l !ht n! .p e&en more+ ;'han( yo. )or help n! .s+ 6e were so t red we m !ht ha&e passed o.t n the street+; On*e they were seated- Cord pa d no ).rther attent on to Pa.l or 8ar e- 1.st leaned ba*( and wat*hed h s w )e+ 'here were st ll tra*es o) the emot onal ordeal o) these last days- b.t she was hersel) a!a n+ Both the ) re and sweetness were ba*(+ 'he r l &es were !o n! to be t.rned .ps de down o&er th s- b.t noth n! else mattered+ She was whole a!a n+ He real 2ed Pa.l was address n! h m+ ;'he horse sn't do n! well+ B.rt seems to th n( t wo.ld be a ( ndness++++; Cord *losed h s eyes- )eel n! sadness wash thro.!h h m+ He had tr ed to stay on the r !ht s de o) the l ne and tho.!ht he m !ht ha&e s.**eeded and Aeeper m !ht re*o&er- b.t he had ne&er r dden a horse l (e that be)ore+ He opened h s eyes and met %nne's+ ;Aeeper7; ;%)ra d so+; ;'hey told me t was *om n! on a bl 22ard that n !ht+; ;,e&er !ot that bad+ Stopp n! snow n! by dawn+; ;How lon! d d t ta(e yo.7; He hed!ed+ ;L ttle lon!er than !ood weather+ I was .p here by one+; She wasn't lett n! h m !et away w th t+ ;How lon!7; ;S /teen ho.rs+; ;'wo to 8ason and then s /teen here7; ;8m+; ;6e'd best !o see h m as soon as we'&e eaten+; 'here wo.ld be no way to ma(e her stay here and let h m ta(e *are o) t+ He wat*hed her ta(e .p the *on&ersat on w th Pa.l and 8ar e a!a n+ She s( ll).lly t.rned as de

se&eral n9. r es abo.t what e/a*tly had happened+ She wasn't ready to tal( abo.t t yetand no one was !o n! to h.rry her+ Aeeper d dn't loo( any better than he had the morn n! Cord ) rst wal(ed nto Den&er+ B.rt- the stableman- a.tomat *ally loath n! anyone who wo.ld so .se a horse- was .nsympathet * o&er the *o.ple's *on*ern now+ ;Best to shoot h m+ He don't dr n( m.*h and don't eat at all+ :.st stands l (e that all the t me+; %rmed w th se&eral l.mps o) s.!ar *ad!ed )rom 8ar e's *oo(- %nne was not l sten n! and was already n the stall pett n! and h.!! n! the b ! !eld n!- e/pla n n! to h m as ) he were h.man+ ;Poor Aeeper- yo. don't .nderstand why th s happened- do yo.- b.t I was n so m.*h tro.ble- and I needed help r !ht away- and be*a.se yo. !ot Cord thro.!h the storm e&eryth n!'s all r !ht a!a n+ %ll yo. ha&e to do s )or! &e .s and !et better and yo. *an *ome home w th .s+ I) yo. don't start to eat- yo.'ll ha&e to stay here- yo. (now+; 'he horse d dn't a*(nowled!e her presen*e w th so m.*h as a )l *( o) an ear- b.t B.rt !a&e Cord a spe*.lat &e loo(- stopped )rown n! at h m- and d sappeared+ In the end they spent more than an ho.r n the barn- *.rry n! and br.sh n! the horse .nt l the ro.!h and star n! *oat la d a b t- lean n! a!a nst the man!er and tal( n! n low &o *es+ %nne bel e&ed both a so)t to.*h and reass.r n! presen*e helped and saw no reason not to spend some t me here+ Cord sa d- ;Co.ld be noth n! w ll wor( th s t me+ I .sed h m hard- and I (new I was do n! t and went ahead+; ;I (now+ I) I had to *hoose between o.r baby and a h.ndred horses- I'd *hoose the baby- b.t that doesn't mean we *an't spare some t me to *om)ort an old )r end now+; ;So lon! as yo. *an handle t ) t's no !ood+ He doesn't loo( any better than he d d when I !ot here+; ;6ell- loo( at t )rom h s po nt o) & ew+ Yo. d d that to h m )or no reason he (nows o) and then le)t h m n a stran!e pla*e w th stran!e people+ 8aybe he 1.st needs a l ttle lo& n!+; ;8m+ C.re me o) pla!.e that way+; %n mp sh !r n *rossed %nne's )a*e+ ;Yo. mean I sho.ld be wa t n! .nt l yo.'re s *(7; ;Hell no- I'm all )or pre&entat &e med * ne+ Spea( n! o) wh *h- let's as( Pa.l abo.t a do*tor++++; She nterr.pted- ;,o+ I'll see Dr+ Cra ! when we !et home ) t w ll ma(e yo. happyb.t I'm not ha& n! somebody I don't (now to.*h n! me now+; Her 1aw st.*( o.t st.bbornly+ See n! Cra ! ) the law was a)ter h m m !ht ta(e some do n!- b.t they wo.ld mana!e t somehow+ ;,o ).ss abo.t Cra ! when we !et home7; ;I prom se+; %)ter a d nner that Cord *ons dered n)er or to %nne's *oo( n!- n sp te o) the n.mbers o) ser&ants re9. red to prod.*e t- and a)ter m.*h ).ss n! be*a.se Cord *o.ldn't be tal(ed nto brandy nor %nne nto w ne- e&eryone settled down n a wood3paneled boo(3l ned room n deep leather *ha rs+ Pro& d n! tea )or %nne and *o))ee )or Cord be)ore d sm ss n! ser&ants )or the n !ht had ) nally sat s) ed Pa.l+ He rela/ed n h s *ha r o&er brandy+ 8ar e d dn't loo( any happ er than she had all day+ Cord had de* ded to tell h s s ster they'd lea&e n the morn n! and let her at least !o to bed w th that m.*h pea*e o) m nd when Pa.l spo(e+ ;I *an tell yo. two are rel.*tant to

spea( o) what bro.!ht yo. here- and I want yo. to (now I'&e p.t my *.r os ty as de+ 6e won't ment on t a!a n- b.t tell .s- how are >ran( and Ephra m and the rest o) the )am ly7; %nne had abandoned any ladyl (e poses and *.rled .p n the b ! *ha r l (e a *ontented ( tten+ She !a2ed at Pa.l solemnly- her eyes st ll loo( n! lar!e n her )a*e+ ;Yo. don't ha&e to *onta n yo.r *.r os ty- Pa.l+ I'm w ll n! to tell the tale now+ I 1.st needed some t me+ 'o .nderstand t yo. ha&e to (now how we !ot marr ed ) rst+ D d 8artha wr te yo. abo.t that7; Pa.l e/*han!ed a 9. *( !lan*e w th 8ar e+ ;% l ttle+ Somehow I th n( there's more to t than what she wrote+; ;Let me tell yo. abo.t that ) rst then+; 'hro.!h hal)3*losed eyes Cord wat*hed them- 8ar e st )) and .nhappy- Pa.l ea!erly l sten n!- and %nne w th e/press ons )l tt n! a*ross her )a*e as she tal(ed- hands )l.tter n!- &o *e r s n! and )all n! n what seemed to h m a m.s *al l lt+ She told t well+ Lea& n! o.t a lot o) the .!l est deta ls- she st ll !a&e them a )eel o) what t had been l (ethe seem n! ne& tably o) death- the worse pa n o) not dy n! b.t l & n!+ 'here were o**as onal e/*lamat ons )rom Pa.l- b.t 8ar e sa d noth n! .nt l %nne !ot to >ran( and Ephra m's ) rst & s t+ S.ddenly 8ar e was .pr !ht n the *ha r- w de3eyed.nbel e& n!+ ;Y#u ran Fran- o.t o) the ho.se7; ;>ran( and Ephra m+ 'hey made me so an!ry+ Yo. sho.ld ha&e heard them+ I was try n! to e/pla n- and they told me to sh.t .p I was too st.p d to l sten to+ 'hey're probably l.*(y I d dn't shoot them+ I was that mad+; 8ar e started to la.!h then- no pol te t tter- b.t a real la.!h that soon had her hold n! her s des+ ;Oh- my- I'd ! &e anyth n! n the world to ha&e seen that+ >ran(++++; She d ssol&ed nto more paro/ysms o) la.!hter+ Cord had ne&er e/pe*ted to see 8ar e a!a n- m.*h less hear her la.!h+ It so.nded !ood- &ery !ood+ %nne ) n shed that part o) her story w th the ) rst tr p to town- and then ment oned the ) !ht n the spr n!+ She loo(ed at Cord- ;D d yo. (now my )ather pa d those men7 'hey were s.pposed to ta(e me and ( ll yo. or lea&e yo. n no *ond t on to do anyth n! abo.t t+; He shoo( h s head+ ;He adm t that to yo.7; ;Boasted abo.t t+ %bo.t how t made h m real 2e he had to do t d ))erently+ He was so- so smug- so s.re o) h msel)+; ;8m+ She who la.!hs last+; She sm led )or an nstant b.t then sa d- ;6e're not !o n! to be la.!h n! are we7 'hey'll ha&e ) led *har!es a!a nst yo. be)ore we were o.t o) Ch *a!o+ 6e're !o n! to ha&e to r.n- aren't we7; He'd hoped t wo.ld ta(e her a wh le to *ome to that- b.t sho.ld ha&e (nown she'd ) !.re t o.t pretty 9. *(ly+ ;6e'd ha&e to !o anyway+ It's e ther ( ll yo.r )ather or !oand ) I d dn't ( ll h m o&er th s I'm not !o n! to+; She *losed her eyes and too( a deep breath and be!an tell n! Pa.l and 8ar e the story+ 6hen she !ot to where they were all n the l brary n Ch *a!o- she stopped+ 6 tho.t .r! n!- Cord told o) ret.rn n! )rom town w th >ran(- !ett n! >ran( to a!ree to send ? ley- and then real 2 n! the note had to be a )or!ery+ He told o) h s tal( w th ?ob

o&er the wh s(ey bottle and o) the de* s on to r de to Den&er+ 'he r de tsel) he !lossed o&er n a senten*e+ In Ch *a!o t had been easy to ) nd a *ab dr &er to help )or eno.!h money+ In )a*t the man entered nto the sp r t o) th n!s and ad& sed Cord to enter the ho.se )rom the ba*(+ He sa d the w ndows and doors the ser&ants .sed m !ht not be se*.red- and s.re eno.!hthere had been an .nlo*(ed w ndow o)) the ( t*hen+ Cord had e/pe*ted %nne to be *on) ned n a bedroom- att *- or basement- b.t heard &o *es n the l brary as he stole thro.!h the ho.se+ He stopped there- ! & n! %nne a nod that told her to ) n sh the story- wh *h she d d n a )ew senten*es+ 8ar e was no lon!er loo( n! w thdrawn and an!ry+ Pa.l was pla nly nd !nant on the r behal)+ ;%nd yo. th n( now they'll try to ha&e yo. arrested7 'hey won't be able to ma(e *har!es st *(+; Cord drawled- ;Don't ha&e to+ Probably wo.ldn't be too sa)e n pr son wa t n! )or tr al ) 8rs+ 6a nwr !ht and 6ells p.t me there+; Pa.l sat )rown n!+ ;6hat were the papers the 1.d!e d dn't want yo. to ha&e7; Cord shr.!!ed+ ;,e&er loo(ed at them+ I only too( them be*a.se he seemed so )ond o) them+ 'hey're st ll n my *oat+; ;Do yo. m nd ) I loo( at them7; %)ter Cord )et*hed the papers- Pa.l read them all be)ore loo( n! .p+ ;Small wonder he was )r !htened+ Yo. aren't !o n! to ha&e to worry abo.t arrest or anyth n! else )rom these people+ I) yo. want to- yo. *an ha&e the lot o) them n pr son )or the rest o) the r nat.ral l &es+; %nne .n*.rled and sat on the ed!e o) her *ha r+ ;E/pla n please+; ;<ladly+ > rst- there's a letter )rom 8rs+ 6a nwr !ht's lawyer- a Br.*e %bbott+ It sets )orth e/a*tly what she d re*ted h m to do and ad& ses her o) e/a*tly how t's lle!al and what the *onse9.en*es wo.ld be ) they were *a.!ht+; ;She'll say she ne&er saw the letter+; ;Yes- b.t %e'$$ ha&e to test )y to the tr.th to sa&e h msel)+ 'hen they ha&e all the do*.ments 3 to ha&e yo. *omm tted- to ha&e the marr a!e ann.lled+ 'he most damn n! th n! s they s !ned these do*.ments+ 'here has to be a *o.rt hear n!- %nne- and there wasn't- and the 1.d!e s !ned these papers already+ Yo.r )ather s !ned an ann.lment pet t on as yo.r !.ard an- b.t there hadn't been a hear n! appo nt n! h m yet+; ;Can't they 1.st say there was a *o.rt hear n!7; ;,o+ 'here are too many people n&ol&ed 3 *o.rt *ler(s- se*retar es+ 'hese papers are pretty *lear e& den*e that they were *onsp r n!+ %nd ) yo.r mother- yo.r brother- or %bbott wo.ld tell the tr.th 3 they ( dnapped yo.- and what they were !o n! to do to yo.++++ 'here sn't a 1.d!e or 1.ry n the *o.ntry that wo.ldn't want to han! them and end .p throw n! the boo( at them+; Pa.l loo(ed )rom one to the other+ ;8y s.!!est on s that yo. allow me to p.t these n my sa)e and that tomorrow morn n! we send some tele!rams+ I) they were worr ed abo.t Ephra m- t wo.ld be !ood )or them to hear )rom another lawyer- and we m !ht as well let them (now as soon as poss ble that yo. (now what these papers represent and what yo. *an do w th them+;

Cord e/*han!ed a lon! loo( w th %nne+ 'hen he t.rned to Pa.l- ;6e aren't !o n! ba*( to Ch *a!o )or a tr al- so t sn't a matter o) !ett n! them 1a led+ Can yo. .se those papers to !et any *har!es a!a nst me dropped7; Pa.l nodded !r mly+ ;Yo. bet I *an+; Stand n! then and stret*h n!- Cord sa d to 8ar e- ;I (now yo. don't want .s here+ 6e'll see abo.t a hotel tomorrow and ta(e a tra n home as soon as we *an+; She !a&e h m a !en. ne sm le+ ;I) I had a !.n- I'd ha&e shot yo. that ) rst day- b.t t seems the ser&ants are a**ept n! yo.'re the son o) an old )r end o) Pa.l's+ I'd l (e yo. to stay a wh le 3 really+; She s.rpr sed h m- b.t e&en a)ter all the years he (new her well eno.!h to see she meant t+ Be)ore they went to bed- %nne ns sted on & s t n! Aeeper on*e more- hold n! the s.!ar n the horse's .nw ll n! mo.th .nt l t d ssol&ed+ %s they le)t the barn Cord loo(ed ba*( and saw the horse's ha!!ard- droop n! o.tl ne n the moonl !ht+ 'omorrow he wo.ld ha&e to ) nd a way to & s t the barn by h msel) 3 w th a !.n+ ***

CHAPTER 2
1ORD ROSE A. .,E FIRS. SIGN o) l !ht the ne/t morn n!- sl pp n! no selessly )rom %nne's s de+ Somet mes he was !lad %nne slept more so.ndly than he and awa(ened more slowly+ He padded so)tly o.t o) the room- r )le dan!l n! )rom h s r !ht hand a!a n+ 'here was already a*t & ty n the barn- n *(ers and ban! n! as B.rt )ed ea!er horses+ Stand n! n a shadow- Cord wat*hed B.rt d.mp a meas.re o) !ra n nto the )eeder o) the )an*y *arr a!e horse Pa.l had dr &en h m to the tra n stat on w th+ %s the barn 9. etedCord stepped o.t o) the dar(ness- startl n! the old man sl !htly- b.t then B.rt !r nned+ ;I) yo. bro.!ht the r )le )or yo.r horse- yo.'re too late+ Sho.ld ha&e done t yesterday+; It made no sense+ 'he horse was bad o))- b.t not eno.!h so to d e o&ern !ht by h msel)+ ;Don't bel e&e me7 Come on and see+; 'he two men wal(ed down to the )ar end o) the barn- b.t be)ore they *ame to the last stall Cord *o.ld see Aeeper's !a.nt shape+ 'he b ! !eld n! was b.sy l *( n! the last !ra ns o) oats )rom the )eedbo/+ B.rt was as pleased as a do*tor show n! o)) a m ra*le *.re+ ;Loo(ed n on h m ) rst th n! th s morn n!- and e&eryth n! n the stall was !one 3 hay- !ra n- water 3 he was start n! on the bedd n!+ I h.n! an e/tra water pa l n there+ ,eeds as m.*h as he *an !et I ) !.re+; Cord wal(ed *loser- lean n! o&er the open .pper hal) o) the door+ 'he b ! horse spotted h m and le)t the )eedbo/ to *ome o&er and ! &e h m a hard n.d!e n the sho.lder+ ;Loo( n! )or s.!ar- I e/pe*t+; ;I'm not the one n the )am ly that *arr es s.!ar+; Cord !a&e the !eld n! an a))e*t onate r.b beh nd the ears+ ;,e&er tho.!ht m.*h o) t mysel)+ ,e&er tho.!ht m.*h o) tal( n! to a horse l (e t was h.man e ther+ 'hat lady o) yo.rs m !ht ha&e *han!ed my m nd+ 'hat tr.e what she sa d yesterday abo.t her be n! n tro.ble7;

;Yeah- t's tr.e+; ;I owe yo. an apolo!y then+ I !.ess that lady's worth r d n! down a whole b.n*h o) horses+; Cord loo(ed nto the seamed old )a*e and nodded+ ;Yeah- she s+; H s !a2e ret.rned to the horse+ ;I )eel l (e the people n the B ble m.st ha&e when La2ar.s !ot .p and wal(ed o))- b.t I don't (now why I'm s.rpr sed+ She's done t be)ore+; B.rt *h.*(led and started to ret.rn to h s wor(+ ;She m.st be pretty handy to ha&e aro.nd+; 'he ho.se was be! nn n! to st r as he headed ba*( )or the bedroom+ So.nds o) ser&ants *hatter n! and la.!h n! *ame )rom the ( t*hen+ He was lean n! the r )le ba*( a!a nst the wall when %nne's &o *e *ame+ ;I d dn't hear a shot+; S tt n! on the ed!e o) the bed loo( n! down at her- he too( her hands n h s+ ;'hat's be*a.se there wasn't one+ Damn horse s *how n! down e&eryth n! he *an !et h s mo.th aro.nd+ Only problem w ll be ) he !oes nto another de*l ne be*a.se I d dn't ha&e any s.!ar )or h m+ 6hat are yo. !o n! to do the ) rst t me t doesn't wor(7; ;>eel terr ble and *ry+; 6hate&er he m !ht ha&e sa d ne/t was lost when he )elt a d st n*t )l.tter a!a nst the ba*( o) one o) h s hands where they rested a!a nst her stoma*h+ He started a l ttle+ ;Is that t7; ;,o- that's not ' t'+ 'hat's o.r son or o.r da.!hter+; He )reed h s hands then and spread one r !ht a*ross her belly- *entered where the mo&ement had been+ Intent and st ll- he was rewarded by another l ttle ser es o) )l.tters+ ;He stopped+; ;She stopped+ Yo. *an't e/pe*t her to e/er* se to e/ha.st on 1.st to enterta n yo.+; ;8ade .p yo.r m nd th s s a ! rl7; ;,o+ I don't want to *all my own baby ' t' s all- so one day I th n( he and the ne/t day I th n( she- and that way I'll be r !ht hal) the t me+ 'oday s a she day+; >or the most part- they had a&o ded the s.b1e*t o) how e ther o) them )elt abo.t the *om n! *h ld these last wee(s+ He p.lled her to a s tt n! pos t on now- hold n! her t !ht a!a nst h m- one hand st ll spread a*ross her stoma*h+ ;I (new t wo.ld be hard- b.t I d dn't e/pe*t t to be th s bad+; ;'hey already had t planned+ It had noth n! to do w th the baby really+; ;8aybe not- b.t t's st ll !o n! to be hard+ Pa.l's probably r !ht abo.t them ba*( n! down on the *r m nal *har!es- b.t yo.r )ather's not !o n! to ! &e .p+ 6e're st ll !o n! to ha&e to lea&e+; ;I (now+ B.t ) we're not ).! t &es- at least we'll ha&e t me to pa*( and ta(e th n!s we want+ 8aybe t w ll be eas er w tho.t both o.r )am l es at .s all the t me+ Do yo. real 2e that o.r )r ends ha&en't sa d anyth n! e/*ept they're happy )or .s 3 t's o.r relat &es that ha&e *a.sed all the tro.ble7; It was tr.e+ %s word o) %nne's *ond t on spread thro.!h 8ason- Cord had had h s hand sha(en more t mes n the last wee(s than e&er be)ore n h s l )e+ %nne was ).ssed o&er by people as d &erse as Helene LeCler* and @ r! n a Stone+ In the m ddle o) her )ather's store- ?a*hel ?oss had p.bl *ly de) ed her h.sband by h.!! n! %nne+ 'here were also a lot o) d rty loo(s and low3&o *ed s*ath n! remar(s- o) *o.rse- b.t the people ma( n! them seemed .n mportant- 1.st the .s.al haters+ She was r !ht abo.t that 3 the r )r ends were happy )or them- and the rest d dn't matter+

;%nn e- on the tra n- there was too m.*h t me to th n(+ 8ostly I was s*ared o.t o) my m nd what they'd do to yo. ) I *o.ldn't stop them- b.t there was someth n! else too+ I )elt l (e they were steal n! more than 1.st yo. 3 someth n! else that mattered+ It s.rpr sed me+ It 3 she 3 sn't hardly th *(en n! yo.r wa st m.*h yet- b.t I already )eel someth n! 3 possess &e- prote*t &e 3 I don't (now+; Her hands *.pped h s )a*e- th.mbs *aress n! h s *hee(bones+ ;I lo&e yo.- 8r+ Bennett+; ;<ood th n!+ Hate to be the only one a))l *ted+; Se&eral ( sses later- she at last as(ed h m+ ;6hat's wron! w th yo.r )am ly7; ;%h- well- my )am ly th n( they're !o n! to ha&e to ra se o.r da.!hter themsel&es+ >ran( and Eph aren't !ett n! any yo.n!er+ 'hey'd probably rather not+; ;6hat= 'hat's abs.rd+ 6here are we !o n! to be7; ;I ma! ne there are se&eral theor es+; ;L (e what7; ;On*e yo. !et b ! and )at and not so m.*h ).n- or on*e the baby *omes and d st.rbs my sleep- I'll stop be n! merely o**as onally mean to yo. and t.rn nto a real bastard- and yo.'ll lea&e me- and yo.r )am ly won't let yo. (eep my *h ld- so++++; ;I sho.ld ha&e shot them when I had the *han*e+; ;8m+ %**ord n! to that note- yo.r )am ly m.st ha&e had the same not on+ %nd theno) *o.rse- ) yo.'re st.bborn and don't let me dr &e yo. o.t- I *o.ld 1.st !et so )ed .p I'd throw yo. and the o))spr n! o.t n that snowdr )t yo. ment oned on*e+ Ha&e abo.t the same e))e*t+; ;Ephra m m.st be a dread).l lawyer ) he ns sts on *l n! n! to nsane not ons n the )a*e o) so m.*h e& den*e+; 'hen she 9.est oned one th n! part *.larly+ ;How are yo. !o n! to )eel when I'm b ! and )at and not so m.*h ).n7; ;Don't s.ppose I'd l (e t m.*h permanently- b.t I th n( yo.'ll loo( ( nd o) *.ddly when yo. waddle+; ;I w ll not waddle=; ;%ll women waddle at the end+; ;Yo. rat+; She bel ed her words by sn.!!l n! a!a nst h m- ( ss n! h s ne*(+ ;Do yo. s.ppose they'll adm t they're wron! be)ore she's e !hteen7; ;6o.ldn't bet on t+; ;8aybe l )e w ll be eas er )ar away )rom them all+; It damn well wo.ldn't- and Cord (new t- b.t he d dn't say so+ %)ter brea()ast Cord and Pa.l le)t )or the tele!raph o)) *e- and %nne spent some t me w th 8ar e+ In sp te o) w dely d sparate & ews o) almost e&eryth n!- %nne )o.nd she l (ed the other woman+ 8ar e told %nne she *o.ld hardly bel e&e she was the same %nne 6ells who had on*e p.lled Pr s* lla Carson o)) her+ %nne sa d- ;It's a *o n* den*e o) sorts- b.t I don't see why yo. ) nd t that ama2 n!+; ;>rom the story o) how yo. !ot marr ed- I don't see how Cord *o.ld ha&e arran!ed tb.t somehow I bet he d d+; ;6hat on earth are yo. tal( n! abo.t7; ;>or wee(s a)ter that b.s ness n s*hool all he tal(ed abo.t was yo.+ 'hat !oodbra&e- ( nd- pretty 6ells ! rl+ I ) nally !ot so 1ealo.s I told h m I d dn't e&er want to hear yo.r name a!a n- and so he stopped tal( n! abo.t t- b.t that doesn't mean he stopped

th n( n! abo.t t+; 8ar e st.d ed %nne w th ).rrowed brows+ ;It's 1.st too m.*h to be a *o n* den*e+; 'h s t db t )rom lon! a!o del !hted %nne+ ;6ell- I always rather l (ed h m a)ter that too- yo. (now+ I ne&er bel e&ed hal) the th n!s people sa d abo.t h m+; .,A. NIG,., ALONE IN .,EIR bedroom- Pa.l and 8ar e d s*.ssed the r & s tors as they prepared )or bed+ Pa.l sa d- ;Darl n!- I ha&e to tell yo.- all the stor es- all the letters- I tho.!ht yo.r brother was a *ross between L.* )er and one o) those rene!ade Ind ans the !o&ernment s always a)ter- b.t I $i-e h m+ I rea$$y l (e h m+ Yo. sho.ld hear some o) h s stor es abo.t %nne+ He *alls her the ' !ress and ma(es t so.nd as ) %t lla the H.n sho.ld be a)ra d o) her- and then t's *lear he )eels sorry )or the rest o) the world be*a.se she's h s+ I ha&en't la.!hed so hard n years+ Do yo. (now that ) the baby's a ! rl she hopes t loo(s l (e yo.7; 8ar e loo(ed at Pa.l's ( nd )a*e w th a))e*t on+ She )elt l ttle pass on )or th s !entle man who had res*.ed her )rom a l )e she was desperate to lea&e- b.t she had *ome to lo&e h m dearly n other ways+ ;,o- she d dn't tell me that- b.t she told me she wants a boy to loo( l (e Cord+ She th n(s he's beau!i)u$5; :.st say n! th s started 8ar e la.!h n! a!a n+ ;I th n( she probably bel e&es he *an wal( on water+ I *o.ldn't e&en p *t.re n my m nd a woman that wo.ld s. t h m+ I d dn't bel e&e there was s.*h a th n!- and today I real 2ed he's probably been n lo&e w th her s n*e they were ten years old+; She e/pla ned abo.t Pr s* lla Carson+ Pa.l !r nned at her+ ;E& dently >ran( and Ephra m don't e&en th n( he l (es her+ 'hey th n( he p.ts .p w th her be*a.se she's handy+ He's so h.moro.s abo.t t I tho.!ht I'd )all o.t o) the *arr a!e+; ;Yo. (now th s s the way he was years a!o+ ,ot the last years be)ore I le)t- b.t when we were yo.n!+ ?ela/ed- easy+ 'oo 9. et )or most people maybe- b.t ).n to be aro.nd+; ;Yo. really need to !et o)) by yo.rsel&es and tal(- sweetheart+ It's lon! past d.e+; 8ar e loo(ed away+ ;He probably hasn't *han!ed h s m nd+ It w ll 1.st open all the old wo.nds+; ;I *an't )or*e yo.- b.t I th n( yo.'re wron!+ Yo. sho.ld try+; ;6e'll see+; In the end Cord and %nne stayed )o.r days w th the Howletts+ 8ar e was totally )r.strated by her e))orts to ta(e %nne shopp n!+ %nne always r *o*heted o)) n some other d re*t on be)ore they made t to the dressma(er's or the m ll ner's+ 'he ) rst t me t was a men's shop- where she happ ly p.r*hased yards o) an ele!ant bla*( s. t n! mater al )or another s. t )or Cord and eno.!h mater al )or se&eral wh te and *ream *olored sh rts+ She made no ment on o) the )a*t that her own )am ly- n the b.s ness- wo.ldn't e&en sell her s.*h !oods+ 8ar e e/*han!ed a (now n! loo( w th Cordth n( n! o) what the r s ster Hannah wo.ld say abo.t h m dressed e ther n bla*( or wh te+ 'he se*ond shopp n! tr p halted when %nne sp ed a small boo(shop+ 6hat asto.nded 8ar e was that her brother d dn't 1.st p.t .p w th th s- he part * pated+ 'he two o) them loo(ed o&er e&ery boo( on the shel&es be)ore p.r*has n! two ne ther had read be)ore+ Cord was only a!a nst ;more poetry st.))+; %nne ob1e*ted- ;Sha(espeare s poetry- and yo. read that+;

;'hat's not that romant * )ool shness l (e the rest o) what yo.'&e !ot+; She t.rned aro.nd- held o.t one hand- and sa d: ;''a(e h m and *.t h m o.t n l ttle stars%nd he w ll ma(e the )a*e o) hea&en so ) ne 'hat all the world w ll be n lo&e w th n !ht++++'; It sho.ld ha&e had h m so embarrassed he'd be wal( n! o.t o) the shop+ Instead he loo(ed her r !ht n the eye and repl ed- ;Yo.- woman- are 'Past hope- past *.re- past help='; 8ar e had done almost no read n! s n*e her marr a!e- b.t Ephra m- >ran(- and Hannah had dr.mmed the *lass *s nto her as well as her brother- and she re*o!n 2ed both 9.otes )rom R#me# and <u$ie! read ly eno.!h+ She also .nderstood now what Pa.l was tal( n! abo.t+ She la.!hed so hard her stoma*h h.rt+ On the last day- she went )or a wal( alone w th Cord+ %)ter a *ons derable amo.nt o) mean n!less small tal(- they *ame to the heart o) t+ Cord sa d- ;I was wron!+ I) yo.'re happy- that's all that matters+; 8ar e was s.rpr sed by h s adm ss on+ ;I d dn't th n( yo.'d really *han!ed yo.r m nd+; ;<.ess I d d years a!o+ Ha& n! %nne made t e&en *learer+ I) pretend n! wo.ld (eep her sa)e- I'd do t n a m n.te+; ;B.t not )or yo.rsel)7 I) yo. had the )a*e- the s( n- and *o.ld- wo.ldn't yo. rather *han!e th n!s )or yo.rsel)- !et o.t o) that hell7; He bro(e o)) a tw ! )rom a w nter3barren tree- and *hewed t tho.!ht).lly+ ;I ne&er tho.!ht o) o.r l )e as hell+ It seemed !ood to me- and I ne&er .nderstood why yo. wanted someth n! d ))erent so m.*h+; ;How *an yo. say that7 'he letters I'&e been !ett n! )or years- the way >ran( and Ephra m tal( when I see them 3 why do yo. th n( I ne&er *ame ba*( e&en )or a & s t7 %)ter I !ot o&er )eel n! an!ry at yo.- e&en ) I'd bel e&ed yo. wo.ldn't st ll be an!ry- they made t so.nd so aw).l- !o n! on and on abo.t how bad yo. were 3 b tter- w thdrawnmean+; ;'hey'd probably wr te those same letters a!a n today+ 6e !ot ( nd o) *rossways+ It's a l ttle better now- b.t there are st ll some th n!s they *an't see+; ;How *an they st ll th n( those th n!s7 I )eel l (e a )ool )or bel e& n! them mysel)+ %nybody *an see t's not tr.e+; ;Yo. (now how t s+ Yo. ma(e .p yo.r m nd abo.t someth n!- and then yo. stop see n! anyth n! that doesn't ) t the way yo. already th n( th n!s are+ D d the same th n! mysel) )or a lon! t me 3 w th %nne+; ;8aybe t's t me to tell them they're wron!+; ;Pretty hard th n! to tell+ 6hat do I do- s t them down and tell them I'm not really a mad do! ( ller- not really the meanest son o) a b t*h al &e- that I'm smart eno.!h to *are abo.t my w )e7 'hey're !rown men+ 'hey'd better ) !.re t o.t )or themsel&es+; ;6hat ) they don't7; ;<.ess they won't ha&e a *han*e now anyway+ 6e're !o n! to ha&e to lea&e Colorado+ Pa.l may ha&e ta(en *are o) the law- b.t 6ells sn't !o n! to ! &e .p+ H s ne/t mo&e may be a b.llet n the ba*( )rom a roo)top- and %nne's as l (ely a tar!et as I am+ I sho.ld do someth n! abo.t h m- b.t I *an't see e/pla n n! to th s baby someday that I ( lled h s !rand)ather+;

;He m.st be *ra2y+; ;8aybe+ %nne says t's not 1.st e&en he's one o) the haters+ It's that she de) ed h m and !ot away w th t+ He *an't stand los n!+ Probably t's some o) ea*h+; ;6here w ll yo. !o7; He shr.!!ed+ ;Ha&en't e&en started tal( n! abo.t t yet+; 'hey wal(ed slowly ba*( towards the ho.se- b.t 8ar e stopped and threw her arms aro.nd h m n a hard h.!+ ;I am so !lad to be )r ends w th yo. a!a n+ ,o matter how m.*h I told mysel) t d dn't matter- t d d+ 'he hearta*he was always there+; He h.!!ed her ba*( e9.ally as hard+ Be)ore they !ot ba*( to the ho.se she sa d- ;I s.ppose yo. aren't !o n! to tell me how yo. mana!ed to end .p marr ed to the 6ells ! rl a)ter all th s t me7; Cord a*t.ally sm led at her- ta( n! 8ar e ba*( to that lon! a!o s mpler t me o) *h ldhood when sm les hadn't been rare- then he sa d- ;:.st !ot l.*(y+; 8ar e shoo( her head+ Only her brother *o.ld almost !et ( lled and *ons der h msel) l.*(y+ On the morn n! o) the ) )th day Cord and %nne started )or home n a *o2y- *o&ered b.!!y that Pa.l swore he ne&er .sed+ St ll !a.nt and loo( n! hard3.sed b.t w th a resol.te !leam n h s eyes- Aeeper headed o.t at a !ro.nd *o&er n! trot+ 'hey too( three days to !et home be*a.se o) the horse's *ond t on- and the only n* dent was that n order to !et a room the se*ond n !ht Cord had to p.ll a !.n on the hotel owner+ B.t that was all r !ht+ 'here was no sher ))- and the n !ht passed pea*e).lly+ ***

CHAPTER 3
.,E 1LOSER .,EY GO. .O home- the more an/ o.s %nne be*ame abo.t what they wo.ld ) nd+ She (new that when Cord had le)t more than a wee( earl er- he had told >ran( to sell o)) all the sto*(+ How many o) the an mals wo.ld be !one already7 %s the b. ld n!s *ame nto s !ht- her heart l )ted+ Da sy and ?ose were !ra2 n! beh nd the barn+ >ort.ne )la!!ed h s ta l and b.*(ed h s way a*ross h s own past.re at the s !ht o) the b.!!y+ >o/)a*e only !a&e a )ew bar(s be)ore re*o!n 2 n! Aeeper and *om n! r.nn n! to es*ort them the last o) the way to the ho.se+ ;It doesn't loo( l (e >ran( sold anyth n! yet- does t7; %nne sa d as Cord p.lled .p n )ront o) the ho.se+ ;,ope+ He wasn't too happy abo.t the whole th n!+ Probably p.t t o))+; He !a&e her a sympathet * loo(+ ;6e're !o n! to ha&e to sell them o.rsel&es- yo. (now+; ;I (now- b.t we'll try harder to ) nd de*ent b.yers than he wo.ld+; %nne was already wonder n! abo.t the *han*es o) *on& n* n! Cord to stay- at least .nt l spr n!+ %)ter all there was all that hay n the barns they'd wor(ed so hard to p.t .p+ %nd s.rely they *o.ld stay home and !.ard a!a nst her )ather )or a )ew months- *o.ldn't they7 L.(e and Pete wo.ld be happy eno.!h to br n! anyth n! they needed )rom town+ %s Cord l )ted her down )rom the b.!!y- ? ley *ame o.t o) the ho.se- then stood there as ) t.rned nto another post on the por*h as she wal(ed .p to h m and threw her arms aro.nd h m n a b ! h.!+

;How are yo.- ? ley7; she as(ed+ ;Cord says yo. were h.rt- and here yo. are- ta( n! *are o) th n!s )or .s+ %re yo. all r !ht now7; ;I ne&er been h.rt so bad I *o.ldn't m l( a *o.ple o) *ows and )eed some p !s and *h *(ens-; the old man sa d nd !nantly+ 'hen he t.rned to Cord+ ;>ran('s been hal) *ra2y- boy+ He needs to (now yo.'re ba*(+; ;Yo. *an tell h m-; Cord sa d+ ;'Pre* ate yo. stay n! here and ta( n! *are o) th n!s+; ;It's >ran( yo. owe the than(s-; ? ley sa d st ))ly+ ;I'll be on my way now+; %nne loo(ed at Cord and saw h s sl !ht shr.!+ ;Yo. !o lay down+ I'll help h m saddle .p+; ;I *an saddle my own damn horse=; ? ley !ro.sed+ %nne went ns de *h.*(l n! to hersel)+ Babys tt n! m l( *ows- p !s- and *h *(ens had s.re made the old man !r.mpy+ AF.ER ,EARING W,A. RILEY ,AD to say- >ran( Bennett )elt someth n! *lose to despa r+ He po.red h msel) a do.ble shot o) wh s(ey- t.rned h s des( *ha r aro.nd so that t )a*ed the w ndow and stared o.t nto the yard- see n! noth n!+ 6hen :.d th *ame .p beh nd h m and pressed a ( ss on the top o) h s head an ho.r later- she p.lled h m away )rom h s own dar( tho.!hts+ He t.rned ba*( aro.nd and p.t the empty !lass on the des(+ ;6hat's wron!7; :.d th as(ed+ ;8y br#!%er s what's wron!-; >ran( sa d+ ;It was st.p d o) me to e&er th n( th n!s *o.ld be better- b.t I d d- and that's when he t.rned h s damn ba*( and wal(ed away+ So now t's been lon! eno.!h to !et .sed to that dea- and he's ba*(+ ? ley says he dro&e .p to the ho.se bold as brass w th %nne bes de h m+ Dro&e .p n some *o&ered b.!!y ? ley's ne&er seen w th Cord's saddle horse loo( n! hal) dead b.t p.ll n! t+ 'here are )resh s*ars on %nne's wr sts 3 rope b.rns he says+ ? ley's seen eno.!h rope b.rns n h s l )e- he sho.ld (now+ He always st.*( .p )or h m- yo. (now- thro.!h all the rest o) t+ He loo(s l (e an old man ton !ht+ % beaten old man+; Someth n! .n*erta n )l *(ered a*ross :.d th's )a*e )or a se*ond- b.t all she sa d was;So what are yo. !o n! to do7; ;I don't (now+ 8y br#!%er told ? ley to tell me to lea&e them alone )or a *o.ple o) days+ 'hey're t red he says+ Damn h m+ Damn h m to hell a tho.sand t mes+; ;'here's not m.*h we *an do anyway- s there7; ;,o- not e/*ept to tell h m we don't e&er want to lay eyes on h m a!a n+; ;'hat won't help her- and the baby++++; ;He'll let her !o on*e there's a baby spo l n! h s ).n+ 6e'll end .p w th the baby anyway+ Yo. (now that+; >ran( saw the .n*erta n loo( on h s w )e's )a*e a!a n- b.t ).r o.s as he was at Cord and m.*h as he lo&ed h s w )e- he d dn't want to l sten to her rrat onal )ears+ 'he tr.th was bad eno.!h+ He !ot .p+ ;I *an't stay here and let t eat at me+ I'm !o n! to r de n and tal( to Eph+ %t least t w ll be a m sery shared+; ;I) yo.'ll ta(e the b.!!y- I th n( I'd l (e to *ome too+; In the end L.(e and Pete rode alon!- .n.s.ally 9. et and s.bd.ed+ Hear n! what l ttle >ran( had to tell- Ephra m was )r.strat n!ly pra!mat *+ ;%ll r !ht>ran(+ Let's ass.me the worst+ She le)t+ He !ot mad and went a)ter her+ 6e all (now she'd

p.t .p one hell o) a ) !ht ) she d dn't want to *ome ba*(- so he )or*ed her- t ed her .pdra!!ed her ba*(- and she's !ot s*ars to show )or t+ ,ow- what *an we do abo.t t7; ;,ot m.*h- b.t I'm not !o n! to pretend t d dn't happen or that t's all r !ht+ It won't ma(e a damn b t o) d ))eren*e what we say or how we )eel- b.t I !.ess I'm !o n! to ha&e to tell h m 1.st how ashamed he ma(es me+; ;Yo. want to !o r.nn n! o.t there l (e we d d last year7; >ran( !r ma*ed+ ;,o+; ;6hat do yo. bel e&e- >ran(7 6hat do we all bel e&e7; Ephra m loo(ed aro.nd the table+ 8artha answered ) rst- *alm and s.re+ ;I don't th n( he'd h.rt her+ I'm !o n! to ha&e to see proo) that he d d+; 8artha's att t.de m !ht be no s.rpr se- b.t :.d th's was+ ;I a!ree w th 8artha+ He wo.ldn't h.rt her+; >ran( was asto.nded+ ;%nd when d d yo. *ome to that7 >or <od's sa(es- :.de- yo.'&e always tho.!ht++++; He *o.ldn't ) n sh+ :.d th was ) rm+ ;I *ame to t th s s.mmer+ He wo.ldn't h.rt her+ I (now he wo.ldn't+; >ran( (new L.(e and Pete had spent a lot o) t me n Cord's *ompany th s s.mmer and )all+ ,ow he saw the ).ll e/tent o) the *han!e n the r att t.de towards the r .n*le+ L.(e sa d- ;Pa- I'&e !ot to tell yo.- all the th n!s yo.'&e e&er sa d abo.t h m 3 he's not l (e yo. say+ He's a*t.ally eas er !o n! than Un*le Eph+ %ll those t mes Pete and I tr ed to start a ) !ht 3 we real 2ed th s s.mmer the only way we'd ha&e e&er !ot h m to ) !ht was to 1.mp h m- and e&en then he m !ht ha&e wal(ed away+ He's 1.st not++++; >ran( nterr.pted- ;'hat's not tell n! me what yo. th n( abo.t th s+; Pete sa d- ;Yes- t s really+ 6hat L.(e's try n! to say s not only that we don't th n( he'd h.rt her l (e that th s t me- b.t that t's not n h s nat.re to h.rt her 3 e&er+; Ephra m sa d- ;I !.ess yo. and I are the do.bters )or s.re- >ran(+ I th n( he's *apable o) t- b.t I s.re as hell don't want to bel e&e t- and I !.ess I'm not !o n! to .nt l I hear her say t or someth n!+ I'm not 1.mp n! the !.n l (e last year a!a n+ I mean t seemed what we tho.!ht had to be tr.e then too- d dn't t7 'here wasn't any other e/planat on+ Only there was+; >ran( adm tted- ;I don't want to bel e&e t e ther+ I don't want to bel e&e t so m.*h I *an't e&en de* de what I do bel e&e- b.t now what do we do7 H re P n(ertons7; ;I (now pat en*e sn't yo.r )orte- >ran(- b.t I say we wa t the *o.ple o) days and then !o tal( to them- and we don't !o *har! n! n name3*all n! l (e last t me+; Ephra m was r !ht+ >ran( wasn't a pat ent man- and th s d dn't s t too well w th h m at all+ 6hen the boys de* ded to shore sa!! n! sp r ts w th a & s t to the r old saloon ha.ntshe was tempted to !o w th them- b.t n the end he stayed at the ho.se and *hased h s own tho.!hts n pa n).l * r*les all n !ht+ Brea()ast was a 9. et a))a r+ >ran( *o.ld tell he wasn't the only one who hadn't slept well+ ,obody had m.*h to say+ 'he (no*( on the door o))ered a wel*ome d &ers on .nt l >ran( saw who wal(ed n+ ,oah ?eynolds ntrod.*ed the sto*(y- m ddle3a!ed man w th h m+ ;'h s here s 8arshal :ess.p+ He's a )ederal marshal- and he's !ot a warrant )or Cord+ 6e (now Cord a n't been o.t at the ran*h lately+ Yo. (now where he s7; 6 tho.t stopp n! to th n(- >ran( sa d- ;,o- he le)t more than a wee( a!o+ <a&e .s the mpress on he d dn't plan on *om n! ba*(+ Yo. (now %nne le)t h m+;

;Yeah+ E&erybody n town (nows that+ Le)t )or Ch *a!o on the tra n w th her )ol(s+ 'hat's what th s warrant's )or+ Brea( n! and enter n!- assa.lt- ( dnapp n!+ He too( %nne o.t o) her a.nt's ho.se n Ch *a!o- bro(e nto the ho.se- beat .p some 1.d!e wh le he was at t+ It's bad- >ran(- real bad+ I) there's any way yo. *an help !et h m n *.stody w tho.t people !ett n! ( lled t wo.ld be a bless n!+ 'hey'll !et h m n the end+ Yo. (now that+; ,o matter h s pr &ate op n on o) anyth n! Cord had done- >ran( wasn't ! & n! h s brother .p to the law+ ;6e don't (now where he s+ S t down and ha&e some *o))ee wh le yo.'re here- ,oah+ 6hat else do yo. (now7; ,oah d dn't e&en *ons.lt the marshal- 1.st lowered h msel) hea& ly nto a *ha r+ ;'hat's all I (now- and I'm ha& n! a lot o) tro.ble w th t- I don't m nd tell n! yo.+ Seen a lot o) them two th s past s.mmer- and I *an't bel e&e she le)t h m to start w th- and I *an't bel e&e he d d what they're say n! to ) n sh w th+; ;She d d lea&e h m+ I saw her note+; ;6ell- I 1.st pla n ha&e tro.ble w th t+ I'd ha&e bet yo. *o.ldn't dra! her away w th a team o) horses+; L.(e l )ted t red eyes )rom h s empty brea()ast plate+ ;Pa7 Last n !ht when Pete and I were tal( n! aro.nd- we heard some th n!s+ Stran!e th n!s+ %nybody nterested7; Anow n! L.(e wo.ld not ! &e away h s l e- >ran( nodded+ ;6ells' shop hasn't been open s n*e the day %nne d sappeared+ 8r+ and 8rs+ 6ells went to Ch *a!o w th her- b.t ?ob's n town+ 'hey say he was dr.n( )or days+ ,obody saw h m e/*ept when he went o.t )or another bottle- and a)ter that he st ll d dn't lea&e the ho.se+ 8rs+ 6ells *ame ba*( on the tra n two days a!o by hersel)- and she and ?ob were n 8 les' store b.y n! !ro*er es+ He loo(ed l (e hell b.t he was sober- and she loo(ed l (e an old lady- l (e she *o.ld hardly wal( w tho.t lean n! on h m+ 8aybe t wo.ldn't h.rt to tal( to 8rs+ 6ells+ She'd (now what really happened- wo.ldn't she7; 8arshal :ess.p's &o *e was so)t and pleasant- b.t no3nonsense+ ;I'm not here to n&est !ate- 1.st to ma(e an arrest+ 'here's a warrant- yo. .nderstand+; Ephra m was already on h s )eet+ ;Yes- we do .nderstand- b.t yo. *an't arrest h m ) nobody (nows where he s now- *an yo.7 I th n( I'd l (e to tal( to 8rs+ 6ells+; Se*onds later the whole )am ly was !ett n! ready to !o+ >ran( loo(ed aro.nd n d smay+ ;,ow wa t a m n.te- we loo( l (e an n&ad n! army+; 8artha was ha& n! none o) that+ ;I'm not s tt n! home wa t n! to hear se*ond handand Leona has *erta nly re*e &ed eno.!h hosp tal ty n my ho.se to ret.rn a b t o) t+; % *he*( o) all the Bennett )a*es showed no one was w ll n! to wa t to hear se*ond hand+ 6 th a res !ned !r.nt- >ran( !a&e n- and he and Ephra m led the way .p the street+ In the end- the two lawmen tra led a)ter them+ ***

CHAPTER
FRAN2 4ARELY RE1OGNI=ED .,E WO0AN who answered the door as Leona 6ells+ She had ndeed a!ed twenty years s n*e he'd last seen her+ Deathly wh te s( n loo(ed l (e par*hment and was only emphas 2ed by the bla*( dress+ Stand n! beh nd h s mother w th a *om)ort n! hand on her sho.lder- ?ob also showed s !ns o) *han!e+ 'he so)t- boy sh loo( was !one+ H s s( n was !ray sh and eyes loo(ed ha.nted+

Leona d dn't e&en ! &e a !reet n!- 1.st started sp ll n! one 9.est on a)ter another w tho.t wa t n! )or answers+ ;Ha&e yo. seen them7 Is %nne all r !ht7 I'&e been a)ra d+ %)ra d she'd lose the baby a)ter all+ D d they !et ba*( sa)ely7 Please tell me what yo. (now+; 6 th the marshal beh nd h m- >ran( told only the l teral tr.th+ ;,o- we ha&en't seen them+; He let Leona see the marshal+ ;'h s s a )ederal marshal- 8arshal :ess.p- and he's here to arrest Cord 3 ( dnapp n! and a b.n*h o) other *har!es+ 6e'd l (e to (now what happened+; ;,o= 'hey w thdrew the *har!es+ I (now they d d+ 'hat's why Edward ( lled h msel)+; >ran( st ))ened w th s.rpr se and heard a startled !asp beh nd h m+ ?ob sa d- ;Yo.'d better *ome n- >ran(- Ephra m+ %ll o) yo.+; 'hey were barely all seated aro.nd the d n n! room table- when ?ob started the story+ ;I'll tell yo. what happened-; he sa d+ ;I was there )or most o) t anyway+; ?ob narrated the e&ents n a low monotone+ 'he deadness o) h s &o *e seemed to add to nstead o) detra*t n! )rom h s tale+ ,o one else sa d a word+ ,o one as(ed a 9.est on+ I!nor n! the presen*e o) the women- ?ob told t all- e&en Cord's last .!ly words as he wal(ed away- and t was then that ?ob lost *ontrol o) h s &o *e and pa n sl pped thro.!h+ ;I sho.ld ha&e (nown better than to bel e&e h m+ I did (now better- b.t I )elt so !. lty all I wanted was to *l mb nto that wh s(ey bottle- and that's what I d d+ 'hen 8other !ot ba*( and told me he'd !otten there n t me somehow+ He was less than twenty3)o.r ho.rs beh nd them+ How the hell d d he do t7 Can yo. tell me that7 How d d he do t7; ?ob sear*hed >ran('s )a*e as ) the answer wo.ld be there- b.t >ran( 1.st shoo( h s head+ Leona then be!an des*r b n! the e&ents n Ch *a!o n a stra ned b.t steady &o *e+ ;'hey s.mmoned the a.thor t es that n !ht- o) *o.rse+ 'hat's when they ) led *har!es+ 'hey were n a pan *+ Clara had her ma d sleep n her room that n !ht and )rom then on r !ht .nt l I le)t+ Edward wo.ldn't adm t the e))e*t t had on h m- b.t yo. see t seemed almost s.pernat.ral+ 'hey were s.re t *o.ldn't be done- and yet he was there- and he was 3 yo.r brother s++++; >ran( almost )elt sympathy )or the people who had been n that room 3 almost+ ;6e (now+ 6e (now what he *an be l (e+; ;Yes+ 6ell- the 1.d!e was worr ed abo.t the papers they too(- b.t Edward and Clara were s.re he 1.st too( them o.t o) sp te and ne ther he nor %nne wo.ld real 2e what they had+ 6hen the tele!ram *ame )rom 8r+ Howlett- Clara was st.nned- 1.st st.nned- and Edward was *ra2ed w th ra!e+ 6 th n an ho.r a)ter the w re was del &ered- :.d!e Da& s was at the ho.se- and then 8r+ %bbott+ 'hey had tele!rams too+ 'hey were s*ream n! at ea*h other+ In the end- Clara and the 1.d!e sa d they wo.ld w thdraw the *har!es and do noth n! more+ Edward wo.ldn't a!ree+ He sa d he wo.ld prose*.te- and then Clara and the 1.d!e told h m they wo.ld ) / th n!s so he *o.ldn't+ 'o ha&e h s s ster .se her n)l.en*e on h s behal) was one th n!- b.t to ha&e t .sed a!a nst h m was someth n! else+; Leona's &o *e )ell to a wh sper+ ;I really th n( my h.sband was nsane at that po nt+ 'hey ar!.ed and )o.!ht all day+ 'hat n !ht a)ter we were all asleep he too( a p stol and++++; Leona pa.sed- then be!an a!a n w th more stren!th n her &o *e+ ;It was the *omb nat on- I th n(- o) Clara t.rn n! on h m- and Cord and %nne w nn n!+ 'hat's how Edward loo(ed at t 3 they won+ He le)t a note blam n! all o) .s+;

?ob too( hold o) her hand+ ;8other++++; ;,o- I'm all r !ht+ Let me ) n sh+ Clara arran!ed to ha&e h m b.r ed n Ch *a!o+ S. * des- yo. (now 3 well- I tho.!ht t best to let her do that- s n*e she *o.ld+ I !ot on a tra n to *ome home r !ht a)ter the ).neral+; Leona loo(ed now at the sher )) and the marshal- ;So yo. see- I -n#' the *har!es were w thdrawn+ 'hey were all l es anyhow+ Someone's made a m sta(e+; 'he marshal rose and p *(ed .p h s hat+ ;8aybe s n*e there were se&eral days between the ) l n! o) the *har!es and when they were dropped- word hasn't *ome down+ I th n( I'll !o o&er to the tele!raph o)) *e and see what I *an ) nd o.t+ ,e&er h.rts to be s.re+; He t pped h s hat to Leona+ ;Sorry to ha&e to meet yo. n s.*h tro.bled * r*.mstan*es- ma'am+; ,oah le)t w th the marshal+ ;6e'll let yo. (now as soon as we hear someth n!-; he sa d as he wal(ed o.t+ 6hen the two lawmen were !one- >ran( *o.ld ) nally reass.re Leona+ ;I'm sorry we *o.ldn't tell yo. be)ore- b.t we d dn't want that marshal to (now+ ,one o) .s ha&e seen them- b.t they *ame home yesterday a)ternoon+ One o) my men was at the ho.se ta( n! *are o) Cord's sto*(- and he saw them+ %nne loo(ed ) ne+ 'hey sa d they were three days !ett n! home by b.!!y )rom Den&er+; ?el e) )looded a*ross Leona's )eat.res- and >ran( t.rned to ?ob+ ;'hat's how he d d t+ ?ode to Den&er that n !ht and too( a tra n )rom there+; ?ob d dn't want to bel e&e t+ ;B.t the storm 3 the w nd 3 t blew all n !ht and dr )ted+ He *o.ldn't++++; >ran( !ot to h s )eet- b.tton n! h s *oat and p.ll n! h s hat down low+ ;I) he *o.ldn't !et thro.!h and he had to lay .p- t wo.ldn't ha&e been any worse than s tt n! here wa t n! )or a tra n- wo.ld t7 Yo. and yo.r )ather ne&er .nderstood what yo. were .p a!a nst )rom the be! nn n!+ % r de thro.!h hell wo.ldn't e&en ! &e h m pa.se ) he wanted someth n! on the other s de+; >ran( wal(ed o.t then )ollowed by the rest o) the )am ly- only 8artha l n!er n! to ! &e Leona a 9. *( h.!+ >ran( and Ephra m wal(ed s de by s de n the lead+ ;?em nd me ) anyth n! l (e th s e&er happens a!a n to real 2e the answer s probably someth n! totally beyond my l m ted ma! nat on to *on*e &e o) w ll yo.- Eph7; ;Do yo. need rem nd n!7 Yo. were ly n! thro.!h yo.r teeth )or h m th s morn n!+; >ran( shr.!!ed+ ;I d dn't hear yo. ! & n! h m .p+ It *omes to me ) I saw h m *omm t a m.rder mysel)- I'd st ll be there try n! to stop the han! n!+ It's not e&en r !ht- b.t t's the way t s+; ;He m.st be )eel n! a l ttle o) that ( nd o) th n! h msel)+ I wo.ldn't ha&e e/pe*ted h m to rea*t that stron!ly to a threat to the baby+ Yo. weren't wron! n what yo. sa d to ?ob abo.t a r de thro.!h hell+ I remember what t was l (e wor( n! *ows n storms+; ;Yeah+ I'd say we're not !o n! to ha&e to worry abo.t ra s n! the *h ld o.rsel&es a)ter all 3 and maybe that's 1.st as well+ I'm too old to deal w th whate&er Cord s res o.t o) that woman+ It s*ares me+; Ephra m la.!hed o.t lo.d+ ;It's probably !o n! to s*are all o) .s+ I) he's as nd ))erent a )ather as he s a h.sband- %nne's !o n! to ha&e to deal w th t hersel)- and she may be to.!h- b.t she's not that to.!h+;

;Odd th n!- he bel e&ed that note when I was there- and he was !o n! to 1.st wal( away+ 8aybe he doesn't *are that m.*h abo.t her- b.t nobody s !o n! to h.rt her or steal her+ I s.ppose the day he ) rst sa d 'my w )e-' yo. *o.ld ) !.re on that+; ;He's always had a possess &e strea(+ I !.ess that's why I d dn't ) nd t that hard to bel e&e he'd !o a)ter her and dra! her ba*(+; L.(e's &o *e bro(e n- e/* ted+ ;Pa- loo( at that+ 'hat's 6 ll e+; ;6hat are yo. tal( n! abo.t- son7; ;'here- by Dr+ Cra !'s o)) *e+ 'hat's a stran!e b.!!y- b.t the horse s the one %nne *alls Sweet 6 ll am- yo. (now- 6 ll e+; >ran( !a&e 9. *( orders+ ;E&erybody (eep wal( n!+ ,o matter what that marshal says abo.t send n! tele!rams- ) he ) nds them r !ht here n town he may *han!e h s m nd+ L.(e- when we !et .p near the do*tor's- yo. and Pete sl p o&er there+ Yo. !et hold o) Cord and %nne and !et them o&er to the ho.se as 9. et as yo. *an+ 'ry not to tell h m abo.t the marshal+ 6e don't need h m on a rampa!e+; ANNE ,AD 2EP. ,ER PRO0ISE to see Dr+ Cra ! w tho.t a ).ss- b.t she *o.ldn't help )eel n! t was only )a r when L.(e and Pete showed .p at the do*tor's+ I) she had to p.t .p w th Cra !'s e/am and the way a)ter say n! she was ) ne he started n w th all sorts o) *a.t o.s hed! n! abo.t ta( n! t easy )or a *o.ple o) wee(s- Cord *o.ld 1.st p.t .p w th h s wret*hed )am ly+ E/*ept o) *o.rse ) he de* ded to p.t .p w th them- she wo.ld ha&e to also+ %t least there weren't !o n! to be more a**.sat ons o) the ( nd >ran( and Ephra m had made last year+ %lon! w th e&eryth n! else L.(e and Pete were spo.t n! to try to *a1ole Cord n a!ree n! to a & s t at Ephra m's- they ment oned ha& n! tal(ed to her mother 3 and ?ob+ ;Is my mother all r !ht7; %nne as(ed+ She d dn't l (e the loo(s the two o) them e/*han!ed be)ore L.(e sa d- ;S.re+ She loo(s a l ttle 3 stra ned 3 maybe- b.t she's ) ne+ ?ob sa d++++; ;I don't want to hear h s name-; %nne snapped+ ;I don't *are what he sa d+; L.(e and Pete ) nally )ell s lent- and %nne saw the way Cord was loo( n! at her+ ;Oh- no-; she sa d+ ;I'm )ine+ Let's !o home r !ht now+; ;% l ttle rest at Eph's wo.ldn't h.rt+; ;,o+ I'm++++; Be)ore she *o.ld be! n ar!. n! ser o.sly- L.(e and Pete had her by the arms- tal( n! o&er her- es*ort n! her o.t o) the do*tor's and .p the street+ ;,o- we *an't 1.st lea&e 6 ll e here+ I'm++++; Cord wal(ed o&er to 6 ll e and s mply led h m alon! beh nd them as L.(e and Pete *ont n.ed !ently !nor n! her protests+ On*e at Ephra m's- %nne stopped res st n!+ She hadn't seen 8artha- :.d th- or Ephra m )or almost two months- and the r wel*ome h.!s and worr ed 9.est ons erased a lot o) her reser&e+ Emer! n! )rom Ephra m's bear h.! la.!h n!- she sa d- ;I'm ) ne- really+ 6e'&e been to Dr+ Cra !- and he says I'm ) ne and the baby's ) ne+ He says e/pe*tant women are to.!her than anybody real 2es+; Ephra m ( ssed her *hee(+ ;6ell- ) #rdinary e/pe*tant women are to.!h- that probably means yo.'re rawh de+; >ran( was the only one not shar n! n the !eneral wel*ome+ In )a*t- he was )rown n!+ ;>or <od's sa(e- s t down- Cord+ 6e'&e !ot some ser o.s tal( n! to do+;

%nne was barely seated ne/t to Cord at the ( t*hen table- when w tho.t warn n!- the door opened beh nd them- and >ran('s r !ht arm bl.rred w th mot on+ He was )o*.sed on whoe&er had wal(ed nto the ho.se- and the loo( on h s )a*e *han!ed h m nto a )r !hten n! stran!er+ '.rn n! to loo(- %nne saw ,oah ?eynolds and another man w th a bad!e and her heart leapt to her mo.th+ 'here *o.ld only be one reason the lawmen were here- and %nne )rant *ally tr ed to th n( o) a way o.t o) what was *om n!+ 'ense s len*e stret*hed o.t .nt l ,oah ?eynolds spo(e+ ;Seems l (e yo.'&e lo*ated h m a)ter all- >ran(+; >ran( sa d noth n!- d dn't mo&e+ 'he marshal loo(ed only at >ran(+ ;8r+ Bennett- yo. wo.ldn't by any *han*e be do n! someth n! as )ool sh as po nt n! a p stol at me .nder that table wo.ld yo.7; >ran( !a&e what sho.ld ha&e been h s .s.al *harm n! !r n- b.t th s t me t d dn't rea*h h s eyes+ 'he stran!er he had be*ome had a re*(less- dan!ero.s loo(+ %nne real 2ed she was ) nally see n! why people who (new >ran( Bennett had tro.ble bel e& n! she had r.n h m o.t o) the ho.se last year+ >ran('s so)t &o *e was a star( *ontrast to h s .s.al manner and to the loo( on h s )a*e+ ;I) yo.'&e !ot any not on o) arrest n! anybody aro.nd here who doesn't want to be arrested- then I 1.st m !ht !et downr !ht st.p d+; Cord sa d- ;I) t's me yo.'re start n! a !.n) !ht o&er- yo. want to tell me what the hell's !o n! on7; >ran('s *on*entrat on d dn't wa&er and he d dn't seem n*l ned to spea(+ Ephra m e/pla ned- end n! w th- ;He sa d he was !o n! to send a tele!ram ba*( East to *he*(- b.t I s.ppose he's here th n( n! to arrest yo. now and worry abo.t the tele!ram later+; ,oah sa d- ;Damn the lot o) yo.+ I *on& n*ed the marshal ) we saw Cord and he !a&e h s word to st *( aro.nd wh le we !ot th s stra !htened o.t- he'd (eep t+ ,ow the whole b.n*h o) yo. are a*t n! lo*o+; Cord sa d- ;'hat m !ht be a hard prom se to ma(e- ,oah+ 6ells sn't !o n! to lea&e t .nt l I'm dead or %nne s+ 6e ) !.red to rest .p a wh le and then pa*( and d sappear+; 'here was an .neasy s len*e a)ter these words+ %nne *o.ld tell there was someth n! else no one wanted to tell them+ It was :ess.p- t !ht3l pped o&er the *.rrent state o) a))a rs- who ) nally sa d- ;6ells s dead- 8r+ Bennett+; Cord's eyes narrowed+ ;'hese *har!es o) yo.rs n*l.de m.rder7; ;,o+ He *omm tted s. * de n Ch *a!o a *o.ple o) days a)ter yo. le)t+; ;%nn e7; ;I'm ) ne+ 8y )ather d ed )or me a lon! t me a!o+; 'he l.mp n her throat bel ed her words and s.rpr sed her+ On*e she was alone she wo.ld ha&e t me to mo.rn the !ood th n!s she remembered )rom her *h ldhood+ 'here had been !ood th n!s- hadn't there7 Cord !ot to h s )eet and )a*ed the marshal+ ;'hen there's no problem+ I) we don't ha&e to worry abo.t 6ells *om n! a)ter %nne a!a n- we'll stay and ) !ht the *har!es anyway+ 6e don't want to lea&e here+ Yo.'&e !ot my word+; 'hey shoo( hands- and :ess.p sa d- ;Yo.r sher ))'s been tell n! me arrest n! yo. wo.ld be a lawman's n !htmare- b.t when I wal(ed n here I tho.!ht he was worr ed abo.t the wron! member o) the )am ly+ It always ama2es me how o)ten two l (e yo. *rop .p n the same )am ly+;

Cord sa d- ;O.r )ather on*e remar(ed on the same th n! 3 sa d we were )l p s des o) the same bad penny+ Happened he was more than a l ttle pee&ed at .s both at the t me+; 'he hard l nes o) the marshal's )a*e rela/ed nto a sm le+ ;Yo.r )ather m.st ha&e been a per*ept &e man+ Sher )) ?eynolds and I ) !.re yo. !ot a tra n o.t o) another town that n !ht+ %re we r !ht7; Cord nodded and sa d only- ;Yeah- yo. are+; >ran( eased the hammer on h s p stol down and added n the st ll too so)t &o *e+ ;Den&er+; :ess.p sa d- ;Doesn't s.rpr se me somehow+ I )eel I'm wal( n! o.t o) a wol) den n one p e*e by the !ra*e o) <od+; He !lan*ed at %nne+ ;:.st what yo. need to be do n!add n! to th s )am ly+; ;8y n)l.en*e w ll be !entl n!+; 'here were at least three der s &e snorts aro.nd the room- and :ess.p la.!hed o.t lo.d+ ;6e'll !et t wor(ed o.t-; he sa d+ ;I'll let yo. (now as soon as I !et an answer to my w re+; 6hen the lawmen le)t- tens on seemed to dra n )rom the room+ ;'oss me one o) those l ttle * !ars- w ll yo.7; ;6hy the hell don't yo. b.y yo.r own7; ;> lthy hab t- hate to start+; Cord pl.*(ed the * !ar o.t o) the a r as >ran( threw t+ 6 th the * !ar n the *orner o) h s mo.th- he sear*hed h s po*(ets )or a mat*h- and ) nd n! t sa d- ;Yo. s.rpr se me- >ran(+; ;L (e the marshal says- I !et )ool sh now and then+; Cord str.*( the mat*h- then pa.sed+ ;<ot to tell yo.- >ran(- o&er all the years- yo. ne&er str.*( me as part *.larly )ool sh+; He bro.!ht the mat*h to the * !ar t p+ ;Yo.'&e !ot a )o.l temper yo. *an't seem to !et a hold o)+; He shoo( o.t the mat*h+ ;Yo.'&e !ot a re*(less- *ra2y strea( that wo.ld s*are hell o.t o) a sane man+; He too( a p.ll on the * !ar and let the smo(e o.t- and then one s de o) h s mo.th p.lled nto a sardon * hal) sm le;and- o) *o.rse- yo.'re mean as a sna(e+; >ran('s 1aw dropped open as %nne !a&e a hal)3smothered ! !!le+ 'hen Ephra m !a&e a sho.t o) la.!hter+ Soon the whole room was ro*( n! and howl n!- e/*ept )or Cord- who la.!hed only w th h s eyes- and >ran(- who was too red3)a*ed to !et past a !r n+ ***

CHAPTER !
.,EY ALL WAN.ED .O 2NOW abo.t Den&er then- abo.t 8ar e and Pa.l+ Cord let %nne do the tell n!- b.t Ephra m as(ed h m d re*tly+ ;Does th s mean yo. and 8ar e b.r ed the hat*het7; ;Yeah- yo. *o.ld say so+ 'hey tho.!ht we'd be lea& n! here- b.t she sa d ) we weren't she'd l (e to & s t- see the baby+ 8aybe n the spr n! or s.mmer+; 8artha sa d- ;% letter s o&erd.e anyway+ I'll wr te and let them (now 3 on*e e&eryth n!'s settled+; 'he men headed )or the parlor- and Cord sa d he'd !o let Leona (now %nne was all r !ht+ %s he e/pe*ted- %nne showed no des re to see her mother ) t meant !o n! ba*( to

the 6ells ho.se+ He t.rned at the door+ ;%nn e- why don't yo. !o lay down7 Yo. won't m ss anyth n!+; ;I'm not t red+; ;Ind.l!e me+; He (new at on*e he'd made a ta*t *al error+ 8aybe she'd (ept her prom se to see Cra ! w tho.t a ).ss- b.t she tho.!ht he was be n! o&erprote*t &e and was abo.t to say so+ ;I) I nd.l!ed yo.- I'd spend the ne/t )o.r months wrapped n someth n! so)t and ).22y be n! *arr ed ba*( and )orth between the bed and the ro*( n! *ha r+ I ma! ne )or e/er* se yo. wo.ldn't m nd ) I *oo(ed a l ttle- so lon! as I d dn't do anyth n! really stren.o.s 3 l (e beat an e!!+; He toyed w th the br m o) h s hat+ It was a matter o) whether he wanted to do what was ne*essary to !et her to ta(e a nap+ Cra ! m !ht ha&e sa d she was all r !ht- b.t he also sa d t wo.ldn't h.rt to be e/tra *are).l )or the ne/t *o.ple o) wee(s+ 6hat the hell+ He (ept h s )a*e and eyes *are).lly e/press onless+ ;I happen to (now my da.!hter s t red+ Been bo.n* n! aro.nd n a b.!!y too many days n a row and !ot .pset o&er Cra ! po( n! at her l (e that+; I) they were home she wo.ld .ndo.btedly t lt her head and tell h m he *o.ld ha&e h s own way ) she *o.ld ha&e a ( ss- and ) she p.lled that here and now- he was !o n! to !rab her and ( ss her .nt l she passed o.t+ Perhaps she saw the determ ned !l nt n h s eyes+ She re!arded h m stead ly- also po(er3)a*ed+ ;Yo. two *erta nly establ shed an nstant rapport+; ;Blood t e+; ;%ll r !ht- drat yo.+ Yo.r hal) o) th s baby *an ha&e a nap+ 8y hal) sn't so del *ate+; She was !one w th an e/a!!erated sw sh o) s( rts+ 8artha sa d- ;Do yo. ha&e any dea o) the ( nd o) s.rpr se yo.r brothers are n )or sooner or later7 Or are yo. do n! t on p.rpose7; Cord p.t h s hat on and p.lled t low- h d n! h s eyes+ ;<rown man wal(s aro.nd w th h s eyes sh.t t !ht- he sho.ldn't be s.rpr sed ) he b.mps nto someth n! he d dn't see+ Yo. aren't try n! to *on& n*e anybody o) anyth n! they don't want to bel e&e+; 8artha la.!hed+ ;Yo. w n+ I 1.st hope I'm there when the bl nd men h t the wall+; RO4 ANSWERED .,E DOOR A. the 6ells ho.se+ He a&o ded Cord's eyes- and h s only !reet n! was- ;6hy bother (no*( n! th s t me7; Cord d dn't reply- 1.st )ollowed ?ob to the ( t*hen- where Leona was try n! to start l.n*h w th sha( n! hands+ See n! Cord she san( to a *ha r at the same table where he'd sat w th ?ob what seemed l (e a l )et me a!o+ Loo( n! .p at h m w th sw mm n! eyes- she as(ed- ;Is she all r !ht7; ;> ne+ 6e *ame n to see Cra !- and he says she's ) ne and so's the baby+; ;'hat marshal++++; ;Yo. slowed h m down+ He's *he*( n! ba*( East to see what's what+; ;D d they tell yo.7; ;Yes- 8rs+ 6ells- I'm sorry t *ame to th s+; Leona seemed to !ather stren!th )rom these words+ ;Yo. d dn't *a.se any o) the tro.ble r !ht )rom the be! nn n!- and ne ther d d %nne+ I *hoose to bel e&e that my h.sband was s.))er n! th s last year and a hal) or so )rom a bra n d sease- or a !rowth- or

someth n!+ B.t howe&er yo. loo( at t- yo. and %nne ha&e done the s.))er n! and bear none o) the blame- and I (now that+; ;6 ll yo. be all r !ht7; ;Yes+ ?obert w ll open the shop a!a n 8onday- and ) nan*es are no problem+ 6e'll be ) ne+; Her &o *e th *(ened+ ;Can I see her7 How does she )eel7; ;8aybe not today+ 'here's been eno.!h e/* tement )or a wh le- b.t ne/t t me we're n town- s.re+ She (nows whose s de yo. were on+ >a*t s we were a l ttle worr ed abo.t lea& n! yo. there+ 'ho.!ht later maybe we sho.ld ha&e bro.!ht yo. o.t w th .s+; ;'hey were too b.sy tear n! at ea*h other to bother w th me+; ;<lad to hear t- ma'am+; ;6o.ld yo. *all me Leona7; ;<.ess I m !ht mana!e t+; ?ob had been l sten n! 9. etly- b.t now he as(ed- ;'ell me one th n!+ 6hat yo. sa d when yo. le)t here- were yo. 1.st !ett n! e&en- or were yo. a)ra d I'd send a w re7; Cord e/am ned ?ob *are).lly- not n! part *.larly the new ) rmness aro.nd the mo.ththe loss o) the pet.lant loo(+ ;L ttle o) both- I !.ess+ I) yo.'d had another *han!e o) heart t m !ht ha&e ta(en me years to tra*( her down 3 ) she l &ed thro.!h t+; 'h s seemed to sat s)y ?ob- b.t he as(ed then- ;%nd how does she )eel abo.t me now7; ;She won't spea( yo.r name and doesn't want to hear t+; ?ob's throat mo&ed *on&.ls &ely+ ;%nd yo.7; Cord shr.!!ed+ ;Yo. d dn't ha&e to tell me the whole tr.th that n !ht- so I !.ess as )ar as I'm *on*erned we're e&en+; ;I) yo. *an ma(e her l sten at all w ll yo. tell her how sorry I am7; ;%lready ha&e+; Cord started to lea&e then- and Leona rose- s.rpr s n! h m w th her hands on h s arms+ ;Be)ore yo. !o I ha&e to tell yo. someth n!+; He wa ted- loo( n! nto the pa n3) lled- pale )a*e+ ;In all my l )e I ha&e ne&er been so !lad to see any h.man be n! as I was to see yo. that n !ht+ >rom here to the !ra&e- I'll ne&er )or!et how I )elt+ I am pro.d that yo. are the )ather o) my ) rst !rand*h ld+; 'here was no answer to that+ ;'a(e *are o) yo.rsel)- Leona+; He let h msel) o.t+ ***

CHAPTER "
.,E NEW RELA.IONS,IP 4E.WEEN ,ER h.sband and her mother had %nne almost !r tt n! her teeth w th en&y- )or Leona adopted Helene LeCler*'s ways and tho.!ht noth n! o) !reet n! her son3 n3law w th a ( ss e&ery t me she saw h m+ It was also no t me be)ore %nne learned )rom L.(e and Pete- who (ept no se*retsthat when they a**ompan ed Cord on h s S.nday & s ts- her brother was now n*l.ded+ In )a*t t so.nded as ) the )o.r o) them were ha& n! S.nday a)ternoon po(er !ames wh le she & s ted w th her mother- :.d th- and 8artha+ She )elt no )or! &eness toward her brother- b.t sa d noth n! to Cord e ther+ ?ob was st ll (eep n! *ompany w th ,an*y Lee

6e nert- and the whole town e/pe*ted an en!a!ement to be anno.n*ed a)ter an appropr ate lapse o) t me a)ter Edward 6ells' death+ 'h n!s were also better w th the Bennett )am ly+ 'here was .n9.est onably a new ease amon! the three brothers- and ) >ran( or Ephra m o**as onally made remar(s that showed they had not *han!ed the r att t.de abo.t the marr a!e- %nne was ) nally able to adopt Cord's way o) handl n! t 3 she !nored them+ Cord s.!!ested they ! &e Leona a b.!!y horse )or Chr stmas+ %nne tho.!ht t was a !rand dea and threw hersel) nto the pro1e*t w th enth.s asm+ She *hose a *hestn.t !eld n! she named ?eynard )or her mother+ 6hen she real 2ed ?ob was !o n! to ta(e part n the ! )t by snea( n! 8olly's old harness o.t o) the barn )or nspe*t on and repa r and !ett n! the b.!!y to the *arr a!e ma(er )or a !o n! o&er and spr.* n! .p- she almost bal(ed- b.t n the end she sa d noth n!+ 'hey de* ded to present the horse to Leona on the morn n! o) Chr stmas E&e+ Cord told %nne that ?ob had prom sed to ma(e h msel) s*ar*e that morn n!+ She ass.med that meant he wo.ld & s t the 6e nerts+ 'hey de* ded Chr stmas E&e and Chr stmas morn n! wo.ld be the r own+ %nne had bl thely a**epted :.d th's n& tat on )or Chr stmas d nner at the ma n ran*h w tho.t e&en th n( n! Cord m !ht d sa!ree+ He sa d noth n!+ 'he two Bennett boys- Cord- and ?ob were ndeed dese*rat n! S.nday a)ternoons w th po(er !ames+ Pete and L.(e were enthralled at the prospe*ts o) the *om n! Chr stmas d nner+ 'hey proposed ta( n! bets as to the .lt mate w nner o) the ne& table *on)rontat on+ ?ob 9.est oned Cord+ ;6hat *on)rontat on7 6hat are they tal( n! abo.t7; Cord *on*entrated on h s *ards- !nor n! the 9.est on+ He )o.nd the prospe*t blea( and wasn't drawn n by the boys' !lee).l ant * pat on+ L.(e sa d- ;O.r %.nt Hannah s *om n! to & s t )or two wee(s- and she'll be there+ 6hen %nne and %.nt Hannah meet- there's !o n! to be ) rewor(s+; Pete added- ;%.nt Hannah has a ton!.e the %rmy sho.ld rent 3 as a weapon+; ;%nd Cord's her )a&or te tar!et+; :oy).l ant * pat on was all o&er L.(e's )a*e+ ;Can yo. ma! ne what yo.r s ster's !o n! to do when %.nt Hannah starts n7 I ) !.re less than ) &e m n.tes )rom ntrod.*t on to e/plos on+; ?ob had ndeed mat.red a lot lately+ %)ter another 9. *( loo( at Cord- he be!an st.dy n! h s own hand *are).lly and dropped the s.b1e*t+ Other than the d nner at >ran('s- Cord was loo( n! )orward to Chr stmas l (e a small boy+ It seemed mposs ble that anyth n! *o.ld be as !ood as he remembered )rom the year be)ore- b.t t was+ It was better+ 'hey bro.!ht ?eynard to town the morn n! o) Chr stmas E&e- h t*hed h m w th Leona's own harness to her newly re) tted b.!!y at Ephra m's- and dro&e to the 6ells ho.se+ %s prom sed- there was no s !n o) ?ob+ Leona was e*stat *+ >or the ) rst t me Cord saw s !ns o) %nne's sp r t n her mother+ %)ter two blo*(s thro.!h town at a 1er( n! all o.t !a t- he *o.ld ta(e no more+ Leona's Chr stmas present was !o n! to ha&e to n*l.de a )ew dr & n! lessons+ ;B.t- Cord- dear- t's no ).n to !o so slow+; ;8ore ).n )or the horse than all that wh p wa& n! and re n slapp n!+; In the end they went to an empty ) eld- he des !nated *erta n ro*(s and trees as mar(ers- and showed her how to do smooth t.rns and stops and starts+ ;I s.ppose I do see how a m n! )or s.*h 3 pre* s on 3 s an ad&anta!e+; ;8m+ ,ot only that- yo. won't t p o&er and *r.sh my w )e and yo.r !rand*h ld+;

% 9. *( *he*( on %nne n the ba*( showed her hold n! on )or dear l )e- sl d n! )rom one s de o) the seat to another aro.nd the *orners- and ha& n! a !rand t me+ ,ow she leaned o&er h s sho.lder- ra s n! her &o *e to be heard o&er the so.nds o) the horse's hoo&es and b.!!y wheels+ ;I'd ha&e warned yo.- b.t I )or!ot what t was l (e+ 8other always dro&e l (e th s+ 8oll e 1.st !ot .sed to r.sh n! e&erywhere+; 'hey sp.n ba*( thro.!h town- Leona dr & n! and speed n! .p a!a n- wa& n! and hallo n! to e&eryone she saw whom she (new+ 'he two women la.!hed !a ly- and ?eynard was de*(ed o.t n )low n! red and !reen r bbons )rom )oretop to ta l+ Cord t.!!ed h s hat down so low he *o.ld barely see+ It was as embarrass n! as hell 3 and ).n+ 'hey .nh t*hed and p.t the horse .p n h s new home n the l ttle barn beh nd the 6ells ho.se and headed n )or *o))ee- Leona h.!! n! them both l (e a happy *h ld+ 'hey s.rpr sed ?ob h.n*hed o&er *o))ee at the ( t*hen table+ He stood .n*erta nlyd s*om) ted by the da!!ers n h s s ster's !lare- and 9. *(ly d sappeared+ %nne sa d- ;I tho.!ht he'd be o&er at 6e nerts' or someth n!+; Leona sa d- ;%*t.ally- dear- I don't th n( yo.r brother w ll be see n! any more o) 8 ss 6e nert+; ;6hy7; ;I ha&e no dea+ He won't tell me+; ;Hmp+ He probably d d someth n! o.tra!eo.s- l (e tr ed to ( ss the pr m l ttle b t*h+; ;%nne=; Leona !asped+ ;8other- ha&e yo. not *ed that whene&er I say someth n! l (e that yo. ha&e a ladyl (e *onn pt on- and when my h.sband says someth n! tw *e as bad- yo. sm le nd.l!ently7; ;6ell- no- dear- I ha&en't+; ;Stran!e+ E&eryone else )or twenty m les n all d re*t ons has+; Leona sm led at them both+ She loo(ed more l (e her da.!hter all the t me Cord tho.!ht+ Chr stmas E&e was one o) th n!s e&en better than he remembered+ O) *o.rse- th s year when %nne t.rned her )a*e .p towards h m n the l !ht o) the *andles on the tree he had no reser&at ons abo.t ( ss n! her thoro.!hly+ He as(ed- ;,e/t year w ll we need a )en*e aro.nd the tree7 Be*a.se o) the baby- I mean+; ;,o- I don't th n( so+ 'he year a)ter that w ll be a problem- I th n(+; Year a)ter ne/t+ Last year he had hoped )or another )ew months w th her+ ,ow he *o.ld really bel e&e n year a)ter ne/t+ He )elt a )leet n! p ty )or e&ery other man n the world+ ANNE ,AD 0ADE .,E S3I.ING mater al she had bo.!ht n Den&er nto a bla*( s. t )or Cord that loo(ed e&ery b t as !ood as she had ma! ned+ So d d the snowy wh te sh rt that went w th t+ 'he s. t and sh rt weren't h s Chr stmas present th s year- tho.!h+ % bla*( Stetson and s l&er hatband were+ Leona had also ! &en h m a s l&er belt b.*(le- and as they dressed )or Chr stmas d nner w th the Bennett )am ly- %nne *o.ld tell he was hal)3embarrassed by the ab.ndan*e o) ) nery+ He had ! &en %nne a broo*h made espe* ally )or her- a !old t !ress w th eyes o) s l&er+ %rmand LeCler*'s s(et*hes that were part o) the present en*hanted %nne as m.*h as the p n tsel)+ %rmand had started by *opy n! a draw n! o) a t !er )rom a boo( and

wor(ed )rom that .nt l he *ame .p w th a &ers on that was )em n ne and yet st ll ob& o.sly a t !er+ She had mod ) ed a dar( !reen dress w th wh te la*e nserts to ) t o&er her e/pand n! wa stl ne- and loo(ed at Cord shyly when she was all dressed+ ;Do yo. l (e t7; ;Yo. loo( l (e yo. sho.ld be !o n! to some pala*e )or d nner w th a pr n*e- not to >ran('s w th me+; %nne loo(ed at h m- *ons der n!+ ;Come here+; She too( h s hand and p.lled h m o&er n )ront o) the m rror on top o) the b.rea.+ ;Loo(+; He d d stare nto the m rror- b.t at her- not h msel)+ ;Yo. loo( !rand- %nn e+; ;,ot me+ Yo.+ Us+; He loo(ed a!a n and so d d %nne+ She was more than a l ttle pleased at what she saw+ Her *olor was st ll h !h )rom h s o.tra!eo.s *ompl ments- and all the wor( she had done on her dress had been worthwh le+ Somet mes she e&en adm tted to hersel) she saw !l mpses o) what made some )r ends ns st she had a !low to her these days+ %nd Cord= ,o matter what h s s ster m !ht say abo.t bla*( s. t and wh te sh rt- he loo(ed so handsome she was !lad the only other women who wo.ld see h m today were )am ly+ H s eyes met hers n the m rror+ 6arm- l !ht brown eyes that re)le*ted noth n! b.t lo&e+ %)ter a 9. et moment- he sa d- ;%ll r !ht- I see t+ 6e ( nd o) ) t- don't we7; ;A nd o)+ ' !er and ' !ress+; %nne t.rned n h s arms )or a ( ss then h d her )a*e a!a nst h s sho.lder+ ;I was wron! to a**ept the n& tat on w tho.t as( n! yo.- wasn't I7 'hey're all s.re there's !o n! to be another terr ble s*ene- and I'm !o n! to r. n Chr stmas )or e&eryone- aren't they7; She p.lled o.t o) h s arms and went and sat on the bed+ ;8aybe yo. sho.ld !o and & s t w th them a wh le and I sho.ld stay here+ Yo. *an tell them I don't )eel well+ 'hey'll bel e&e that+; Cord leaned ba*( a!a nst the ed!e o) the b.rea.- *rossed h s arms- and !a&e her a hard loo(+ She'd been ).ss n! o&er the r *lothes and e&eryth n! else to do w th th s & s t )or wee(s+ ,ow she loo(ed l (e a *h ld o))er n! a )r end her only p e*e o) *andy and *la m n! she d dn't l (e sweets anyway+ He sa d- ;6hat the hell ha&e they been tell n! yo. abo.t my s ster7; ;6ell- yo. (now+; ;,o- I don't+ 'ell me+; ;'hat her marr a!e was .nhappy and t made her b tter and that she has a sharp ton!.e and yo.'re her )a&or te tar!et+; ;8m+ Yo. tho.!ht abo.t what they're probably tell n! her abo.t yo.7; She stared .p at h m- the d smay on her )a*e almost *om *al+ ;She had a damn !ood marr a!e )or o&er twenty years 3 only the last )ew were bad+ 8aybe : m ?ead n! wasn't one o) the stron!est men e&er born- b.t he was one o) the n *est+ 'hey l &ed here on the ran*h t ll I was more than hal) !rown- yo. (now+; %nne shoo( her head+ ;She !oes at me abo.t the same as >ran(- and )or abo.t the same reasons+ 6hate&er the whole b.n*h o) them ha&e been tell n! her e&er s n*e she !ot here w ll ha&e her wonder n!- and when Hannah wonders- she *omes .p w th better answers than >ran( or Eph+

He wal(ed o&er and sat ne/t to her on the bed+ ;8artha wasn't the only one who mothered 8ar e and me- yo. (now+ %)ter my mother d ed- Hannah d d a lot o) the *om)ort n!+ She banda!ed *.ts and s*rapes- n.rsed .s thro.!h s *(nesses and d d most o) the s*hool n!+ Hannah was the one ) !.red o.t how I )elt a)ter the Hat*h b.s ness 3 the whole )am ly almost ban(r.pted themsel&es to b.y me o.t o) that mess+ Sa d when I had *h ldren o) my own I'd .nderstand 3 e&eryth n! wo.ldn't ha&e been too m.*h+; He r.bbed her swollen belly !ently+ ;'oo( a lon! t me- b.t I .nderstand now what she meant+ 'here's no reason yo. sho.ldn't l (e ea*h other- %nn e+ Yo.'re both pretty l (able+; ;Yo. don't m nd that she s*olds7; ;Doesn't *.rse as bad as >ran( or Eph+; She !a&e h m a real sm le then- and he (new he'd a**ompl shed h s p.rpose+ %nne h.!!ed h m+ ;%ll r !ht- Dr+ Bennett- yo.'&e ) /ed me+ Let's !o meet yo.r s ster+; ANNE S.ILL FEL. A LI..LE ner&o.s as Cord dro&e to the ma n ran*h+ He d dn't stop near the entran*e to the ho.se b.t n )ront o) the barn+ He !ot o.t and opened the b ! doors and *losed them a!a n a)ter she dro&e 6 ll e ns de+ %nne wore a hooded !ray wool *ape+ %s he helped her down )rom the b.!!y- Cord sa d- ;6e may ne&er !et to the ho.se the way yo. loo( n that hood th n!+; Se*onds later %nne had lost tra*( o) where they were and why they were there+ 'he stron! De*ember w nd made the loose barn doors *rea( and !roan so lo.dly so.nds o) the doors a*t.ally open n! and *los n! were lost+ She m !ht not ha&e *a.!ht the sl !ht so.nd o) a *leared throat e ther- b.t Cord st ))ened and stra !htened nstantly+ St ll sl !htly da2ed )rom the ( ss- %nne t.rned n h s arms to see L.(e and Pete lean n! one on ea*h s de o) the barn doors- !r nn n! l (e a mat*hed pa r+ L.(e was as rre&erent as e&er+ ;<osh- %nne- hasn't anybody told h m he *an stop bother n! w th that ( ss n! and h.!! n! st.)) .nt l a)ter the baby *omes7; 'he two o) them always made %nne )eel l (e la.!h n!- b.t she tr ed not to show t+ ;,o- and ) yo. *on& n*e h m o) any s.*h th n! I'm !o n! to stop pra*t * n! my shoot n! on nan mate ob1e*ts and ta(e .p an mate ones+; Pete's !r n was )ad n! as he eyed h s .n*le ner&o.sly+ ;6e 1.st *ame to h.rry yo. alon! be*a.se %.nt Hannah's abo.t to *hew the )ront door down she's so ea!er to meet yo.+ ,e/t t me we'll (no*( or someth n!+; %nne )elt Cord rela/ ) nally+ He let her !o and headed )or 6 ll e to start .nh t*h n!+ ;8 !ht not do m.*h !ood+ 6orld ( nd o) narrows down somet mes+; >or on*e h s nephews had eno.!h sense to let a s.b1e*t !o+ L.(e sa d- ;6e'll .nh t*h and p.t the horse .p+ I) yo. don't !et n the ho.se soonshe's !o n! to (no*( Pa and Un*le Eph o.t )or try n! to (eep her )rom *om n! o.t here to !et yo. hersel)+; 'he two !ot b.sy w tho.t wa t n! )or perm ss on- and w th a ) nal !lare Cord p.t an arm aro.nd %nne and led her towards the ho.se+ %nne and Cord were only 1.st ns de the door when L.(e and Pete *ame n- o.t o) breath )rom ra* n! a*ross sl ppery- )ro2en !ro.nd Cord had !. ded %nne a*ross *are).lly+ 'hey weren't !o n! to m ss anyth n! ) they *o.ld help t+ L.(e sa d- ;6ow- %nne- yo. loo( l (e a Chr stmas 1ewel+ Yo. loo( )antast *- really+;

Pete added- ;Cord yo. don't loo( l (e a ran*her- yo. loo( l (e a ri"% ran*her+ 6here'd yo. !et that b.*(le7 Is the hatband a Chr stmas present7; 'he r bo stero.s enth.s asm le)t %nne breathless w th la.!hter by the t me she was ntrod.*ed to Hannah+ Hannah Bennett ?ead n! was a stron!3loo( n! woman w th dar( blonde ha r barely to.*hed w th !ray and br !ht bl.e eyes+ She )a&ored >ran( n her loo(s and !reeted %nne w th a )emale &ers on o) >ran('s best sm le+ 8artha was the one who had adm tted to %nne how m.*h *on*ern there was n the )am ly o&er Hannah's & s t+ %nne tho.!ht that 8artha m !ht e&en ha&e told her the story n hopes that she wo.ld de* de to a&o d the )am ly Chr stmas d nner+ 8artha also *on) ded that :.d th was rr tat n! the whole )am ly w th her .nsha(able *on& *t on that e&eryth n! was !o n! to be 1.st ) ne+ She emphas 2ed the !ra& ty o) the s t.at on by report n! that >ran( and :.d th had 9.arreled o&er t+ E& dently that was a rare e&entaltho.!h %nne pr &ately tho.!ht anyone marr ed to >ran( Bennett o.!ht to be n a *onstant state o) war+ %)ter her ntrod.*t on to Hannah- %nne went alon! to the ( t*hen w th the other women- not n! 8artha's worr ed )rown+ %s she be!an help n! w th the last o) the d nner preparat ons- %nne answered Hannah's prob n! 9.est ons w th !ood nat.re- b.oyed by Cord's words be)ore they le)t home and the ( ss n the barn+ Soon Hannah ) n shed her rather !entle 9.est on n! and le)t the ( t*hen- m.rm.r n! someth n! abo.t ;a *hat w th Cord+; 8artha had a t !ht loo( on her )a*e as she wat*hed Hannah d sappear thro.!h the doorway+ She sa d- ;%s soon as she real 2ed :.d th and I don't a!ree w th >ran( and Ephra m abo.t yo.- she stopped l sten n! to .s+ She's always sa d I ha&e no ab l ty to see any o) my own e/*ept thro.!h a m.sh3m nded ha2e o) emot on+; 8artha d d not o)ten so.nd *ran(y+ %nne loo(ed at her w th s.rpr se+ ;She m.st ha&e a way w th words all r !ht+ B.t she *an't say that abo.t :.d th+; :.d th t.rned )rom the sto&e and sa d- ;'he whole )am ly has been say n! that abo.t me lately 3 s n*e I be!an to a!ree w th 8artha+; %nne as(ed *.r o.sly- ;6hen d d yo. be! n to a!ree w th 8artha7; :.d th told her+ %nne was ama2ed+ ;He ne&er told me=; ;He was worr ed abo.t what I m !ht do when t happened- b.t later 3 he's embarrassed that I *a.!ht h m so we're pretend n! t ne&er happened+; %nne !r nned at her s sters3 n3law+ ;L.(e and Pete *a.!ht .s ( ss n! n the barn- and he wasn't embarrassed+ He was an!ry+; She sobered then- )eel n! almost w st).l+ ;Do yo. th n( he'll e&er !et o&er that7; 8artha's .nhappy loo( had been repla*ed by her more .s.al *alm- pleasant e/press on+ ;8y dear- he's already ha& n! tro.ble h d n! how he )eels abo.t yo.+ It's only a matter o) t me .nt l he real 2es he doesn't ha&e to h de t+; 'hen she sa d- ;,ow tell me why yo.'re here w th .s nstead o) o)) de)end n! h m )rom Hannah+; %nne mana!ed an nno*ent loo( and sa d- ;He says he doesn't need de)end n!+ H s s ster s a n *e woman and I'm !o n! to l (e her and she's !o n! to l (e me- and there sn't !o n! to be any ).ss+; %nne d dn't m ss the loo( o) absol.te tr .mph :.d th !a&e 8artha- or 8artha's r.e).l headsha(e n response+ 'he three o) them *ont n.ed wor( n! n )r endly s len*e- %nne re).s n! to show *on*ern+

%)ter the !reet n!s n the hall- Cord sat on a small so)a n what the )am ly *alled the ;!reat room+; H.!e- h !h *e l n!ed- w th a )loor o) pla n p ne boards and p ne panel n!the room *o.ld ha&e seemed *old and star(+ Howe&er- br !htly *olored bra ded r.!s on the )loor and wall de*orat ons o) *owh de- brand n! rons- and sp.rs !a&e t a *as.al warmth+ 'he rest o) men n the )am ly stood n a !ro.p on the other s de o) the room- as )ar )rom Cord as they *o.ld !et+ 'he tens on was so th *(- Cord almost w shed he had someth n! at hand he *o.ld drop on the )loor 1.st to wat*h them 1.mp+ 'hey were all wa t n! )or Hannah- and they all (new t+ 6hat Cord told %nne be)ore they le)t home was the tr.th- b.t t was an n*omplete tr.th+ 6hen he ret.rned )rom ,ew 8e/ *o he d dn't see h s s ster .nt l a)ter the Bo!!s ) !ht- and .nt l a)ter >ran( and Ephra m !a&e Hannah the r &ers on o) that ) !ht+ 'he ) rst t me he saw h s s ster a)ter o&er s / years- she wal(ed .p to h m- slapped h m hard- and sa d- ;I ne&er tho.!ht I'd l &e to see the day I'd be ashamed o) yo.- b.t I am ashamed+; Cord wal(ed o.t o) Ephra m's ho.se that day w tho.t a word and n the years s n*e had a&o ded Hannah w th !reat s( ll whene&er she & s ted+ On the )ew o**as ons she *a.!ht h m- she s.b1e*ted h m to n*reas n!ly & t.perat &e atta*(s n what he re*o!n 2ed was an attempt to pro&o(e a rea*t on+ O**as onally she s.**eeded+ On*e he sa d- ;Yo.'re t.rn n! nto a & per3ton!.ed shrew-; be)ore wal( n! o.t+ %nother t me he had m.ttered- ;% sa nt *o.ldn't stand th s-; and le)t+ In the past wee(s- howe&er- Cord had ! &en h s s ster some pa n).l tho.!ht+ %s de )rom the )a*t he was not lett n! %nne !et n the m ddle o) another emot onal d saster- ) he was now !ett n! alon! w th both h s brothers )a rly well t was more than t me to stop be n! st.bborn abo.t Hannah+ He was s.re Hannah *o.ld be 1olted o.t o) the destr.*t &e pattern o) the r re*ent relat onsh p ) he wanted to ma(e the e))ort+ S.rpr s n!ly- he d d want to+ So now he wa ted- and t wasn't lon!+ Hannah's )a*e was set n !r m l nes as she approa*hed- and Cord d dn't ma(e the m sta(e o) lett n! her !et the ) rst word n+ ;So- Hannah- how are yo.7 >ran( says th n!s are better+; It was a 1olt all r !ht+ Her )a*e *ontorted- and she sat 9. *(ly on the so)a+ %)ter a lon! pa.se- she *hose to respond to th s ord nary *on&ersat on n the same way+ ;I'm ) ne+ 'h n!s are better+ 'he store s do n! better than e&er now w th Carol ne's h.sband mana! n! t+; : m ?ead n!'s )eed and mplement store had always made a !ood pro) t- b.t he dran( .p and !ambled away so m.*h money those last years >ran( had s.pported Hannah and her *h ldren- n*l.d n! Carol ne's h.sband+ Carol ne was the oldest da.!hter+ Cord let all that pass+ Hannah's mo.th was trembl n!- b.t she had ne&er been one to a&o d hard tr.ths+ ;Cord+ >ran( told me what yo. sa d 3 abo.t that ) !ht+ I) there was any way to ta(e ba*( that slap or the words++++; She stopped- too emot onal to *ont n.e+ ;<.ess yo. 1.st d d+; Hannah was st ll sha(y- b.t she had her own r ! d sel)3*ontrol+ ;%nd s n*e yo.'re s tt n! st ll )or a m n.te- I'&e ne&er than(ed yo. )or what yo. d d abo.t Carnes and those other !amblers+ Ephra m's letter had no e))e*t on them- and I was a)ra d to tell >ran( the tr.th+ Carnes *a.!ht Carol ne alone one day and )r !htened her hal) to death+ 6e ne&er

heard another word )rom any o) them a)ter the day yo. were there+ It m.st ha&e ta(en yo. at least a wee(- what w th the r de down and ba*(+; %)ter ?ead n!'s death- >ran( pa d all the debts he *ons dered le! t mate+ 'hree !amblers n the so.thern Colorado town had notes )or h.!e s.ms- s.pposedly !ambl n! debts- that d dn't loo( r !ht to >ran(- and he re).sed to pay them+ %ll three men *ont n.ed to harass Hannah and her )am ly- and Ephra m wrote ea*h a letter- threaten n! le!al a*t on ) they d dn't stop+ Cord o&erheard >ran( and Eph d s*.ss n! t one day and h s assessment o) the s t.at on had been *orre*t 3 !ambl n! men weren't !o n! to ba*( down o&er a !entle threat l (e Ephra m's- and ) >ran( lost h s temper and !ot n&ol&ed there was l able to be ( ll n!+ Cord had a 9. et tal( w th ? ley and then d sappeared )or e !ht days- r d n! so.th and spend n! a )ew m n.tes w th ea*h o) the three men n t.rn+ It ne&er o**.rred to h m that Hannah wo.ld ) nd o.t+ ;6hat ma(es yo. th n( I had anyth n! to do w th yo.r !amblers7; ;% )r end o) m ne saw yo. !o nto one saloon+ Yo.'re rather d st n*t &e- yo. (now+ Yo. and that b ! .!ly horse yo. ns st on r d n!+ 'here was ne&er another threat a)ter that day+; Cord !nored the sl !ht to Aeeper+ ;Yo.r )r ends (now abo.t me7; ;Yo. don't ser o.sly th n( a woman who has a brother who *an throw a (n )e a**.rately o&er a d stan*e most men *an't handle w th a p stol doesn't boast o**as onallydo yo.7; He made no response- so Hannah made her last *on)ess on o) the day+ ;I don't l (e adm tt n! I'm wron! any more than anyone else- b.t I ha&e to tell yo. a)ter all my assert ons to the *ontrary- yo. loo( &ery d st n!. shed n that s. t+; Cord )elt a stron! s.r!e o) the old a))e*t on )or th s s ster+ ;Yeah- I do- don't I7; Hannah rela/ed too+ ;,ow tell me the tr.th abo.t th s w )e o) yo.rs+ She seems l (e a rather del !ht).l *reat.re- b.t >ran( and Ephra m ha&e told me some o) the stran!est stor es+; ;8m+ 'hey'&e been tell n! her stor es too+ Had her so s*ared o) yo. I had to tal( her o.t o) stay n! home today+; Cord )elt noth n! b.t the p.rest pleas.re at the tro.ble he (new these words wo.ld *a.se h s brothers+ He basely hoped she ra(ed them o&er *oals )or ho.rs+ Hannah st ))ened per*ept bly+ ;6ell- I'm !o n! to ha&e to ha&e 9. te a tal( w th those two- b.t that *an wa t+ D d she really r.n them o.t o) the old ho.se w th a !.n the ) rst t me they tr ed to & s t yo.7; ;?an them o.t all r !ht+ So.nds l (e they le)t o.t a )ew deta ls+ %)ter d nner why don't yo. as( her to tell yo. the whole story o) how we !ot marr ed7 She ma(es a !ood tale o) t+ Bet 8artha and :.d th ne&er heard t all e ther+; ;%ll r !ht- I w ll+ How abo.t her 3 assa.lt 3 on Ephra m7; ;'hat+ Her )ather h red some th.!s+ S.pposed to beat me .p and dra! her home+ 6hen t !ot down to the last one >ran( and Eph !ot n the .s.al pan * abo.t me beat n! the )ool to death and started tal( n! abo.t stopp n! me w th a !.n+ Eph was hold n! %nne to (eep her o.t o) t+ She'd ha&e been r !ht n the m ddle try n! to help otherw se+; Hannah nodded+ >ran( and Ephra m had probably told her a )a rly a**.rate &ers on o) the story- 1.st p.t the r own tw st on th n!s+

;She tho.!ht they were !o n! to shoot me+ I) she'd .nderstood what they were tal( n! abo.t t wo.ldn't ha&e made any d ))eren*e+ She's not n )a&or o) ha& n! my s(.ll spl t w th a r )le b.tt e ther+ So she (need Eph- ran o.t- p.lled me o))+ I !ot mad- !rabbed her and dr.! her o&er to Eph and reamed h m o.t )or lett n! her !o+ ;I ( nd o) not *ed he was red n the )a*e and h.n*hed o&er at the t me b.t d dn't pay m.*h m nd+ I) yo.'d been there yo.'d ha&e been la.!h n! so hard yo. *o.ldn't stand+ Best part was when she apolo! 2ed+ Sa d she only !a&e h m 'a l ttle tap+'; Hannah d d la.!h at th s+ En1oy n! the *on&ersat on thoro.!hly now- she as(ed abo.t the last n* dent+ ;L.(e and Pete *la m yo. told them she beat yo. on*e+ Po.nded yo.r ba*( w th her ) sts+; H s nephews were o&erd.e )or a hard lesson n d s*ret on Cord tho.!ht+ 'hen a!a nthere was no harm tell n! Hannah as m.*h as he'd told L.(e and Pete+ ;Yeah- she d d+ I t.rned my ba*( on her on*e too o)ten+; ;So what d d yo. do7; ;'.rned aro.nd+; She la.!hed a se*ond t me- then leaned )orward and ( ssed h s *hee( and h.!!ed h m+ ;6ell- dear- one th n! I (now already+ 'hat woman has to ha&e someth n! to do w th the )a*t yo.'re s tt n! there loo( n! l (e a *at w th *ream on h s wh s(ers- and I'm !o n! to lo&e her l (e a da.!hter e&en ) she po.nds on me+; She went ba*( to the ( t*hen then- sm l n! broadly+ Be)ore any o) the n*red.lo.s w tnesses s.mmoned the *o.ra!e to approa*h h m:.d th *ame to anno.n*e d nner was ready- and %nne was on her heels+ She sat ne/t to h m- al !ht w th pleas.re+ ;Yo. were r !ht+ She's &ery n *e+ I do l (e her+; She t pped her head at h m n the way that be!!ed )or a ( ss+ ;D d she yell at yo.7 6e d dn't hear anyth n! n the ( t*hen+; ;,ope+ <ot mysel) some more h.!! n! and ( ss n!+; ;?eally7 8aybe >ran( and Ephra m sa d n *e th n!s abo.t .s a)ter all+; ;S.re- babe- maybe they d d+; >ran( was ! & n! :.d th a thoro.!h ( ss a*ross the room .nder some !reenery the )am ly *alled m stletoe- and Cord )o.nd h msel) wonder n! why he *o.ldn't 1.st .se the same e/*.se+ Or *arry her nto an empty room and ) n sh what they'd be!.n n the barn+ He de* ded a!a nst t- and they started sedately )or the d n n! room- b.t he *o.ldn't th n( o) one !ood reason why he *o.ldn't 3 or why he sho.ldn't+ ***

CHAPTER #
FRAN2 AND EP,RAI0 ,AD 4O., been born n >ebr.ary- abo.t a wee( apart- so the )am ly always had one b ! *elebrat on+ 'h s year the day *hosen was the day o) the town's @alent ne's Day dan*e+ 'here wo.ld be d nner and *a(e at Ephra m and 8artha'sand then the Bennett *lan wo.ld attend the dan*e+ 8ore than se&en months pre!nant- %nne )elt shy abo.t the party and dan*e+ Perhaps she was not yet waddl n!- b.t she was )eel n! hea&y and less than !ra*e).l+ %ny e/*.se at all was eno.!h )or Cord to re).se to let her ta(e the two3ho.r b.!!y r de to town+ He was *oddl n! her so mer* lessly t was o)ten hard not to la.!h at h m- b.t n the end she

too( the t me to alter another o) her Ch *a!o dresses+ It was a deep bl.e3!ray &el&et- and el m nat n! the b.stle pro& ded eno.!h e/tra mater al )or a ) t+ 'he >ebr.ary day was *lo.dless w th no w nd and .nseasonably warm- pro& d n! Cord no reason not to ma(e the tr p+ ? ley wo.ld ta(e *are o) the r sto*( or send someone+ D nner was *on!en al+ 'he *a(e was a s*r.mpt o.s s.**ess+ ,ot .nt l a)ter the )east d d the Bennett men str.!!le nto s. ts and t es- and the women p.t on the r )an*y dresses )or the dan*e+ Cord and %nne dressed n the l ttle bedroom 8artha had ass !ned to them a!a n+ Her e/*.se was that a)ter all these years t was ) tt n! that < l and 8art n do the sleep n! on the )loor )rom now on- b.t :.d th !a&e a (now n! sm le as 8artha spo(e the words+ %ss.ran*es as to how n *e she loo(ed d d not lessen %nne's worr es abo.t attend n! a dan*e th s hea&y w th *h ld+ She *o.ld not e&en ) n sh b.tton n! the ba*( o) her dress+ Cord made her )eel better when he .nb.ttoned nstead o) b.tton n! three t mes- b.t t was h s words when they were a l ttle apart )rom the others on the wal( to the town hall that reass.red her *ompletely+ ;Yo. (now- ' 3!ress- t's a !ood th n! the whole town's a)ra d o) me- or the men wo.ld r ot when they saw yo. ton !ht+; ;Do yo. lay awa(e n !hts th n( n! o) th n!s to say to ma(e me )eel !ood7; ;Lay awa(e a lot lately+ 'hat baby ( *(s l (e a w ld man+; It was- o) *o.rse- a son day+ E&en ) they d dn't ment on t )or a wee(- he always (new+ %nd he *o.ld a&o d the baby's ( *( n! merely by p.ll n! away )rom her n the n !ht b.t was too pleased w th the whole pro*ess to do anyth n! o) the sort+ By the t me they !ot to the hall %nne was beam n!+ She *o.ld dan*e only the slow dan*es- b.t dan*e she d d+ People seemed to be stopp n! by where Cord rela/ed n a *ha r 9. te )re9.ently whether she was !one or there+ %s 8art n es*orted her ba*( towards Cord- the *rowd h d h m )rom & ew .nt l they were on top o) h m 3 and ?ob+ %nne stopped dead barely aware o) the pol te words 8art n spo(e be)ore d sappear n!+ Her brother rose .n*erta nly to h s )eet and started to t.rn away- then & s bly stra !htened and )a*ed her a!a n+ ;I don't s.ppose yo.'d dan*e w th me ) I as(ed+; ;6hy don't yo. as( and ) nd o.t7; ;8ay I ha&e the honor o) the ne/t dan*e 3 the ne/t slow dan*e7; ;Yes+; S.ddenly Cord de* ded he was th rsty and headed )or the p.n*h bowl+ She !lared at h s retreat n! ba*(+ Drat h m+ ;Can we tal(7 Unt l the ne/t slow dan*e7; Seat n! hersel)- she t.rned sl !htly on the *ha r to )a*e h m+ ;%ll r !ht- ?ob- we'll tal(+; ;Yo. ha&e to (now how sorry I am+ How ashamed I am that I e&er++++; ;I do (now that+ B.t t's o&er- sn't t7 How do yo. )eel now7; ;Yo. (now I'&e been see n! h m+; ;L.(e and Pete tell all+; ?ob told her then how Cord had s mply shown .p at the 6ells ho.se one S.nday a)ternoon- how he as(ed ?ob ) he wo.ld help w th a Chr stmas present )or Leona+ ;I told h m I d dn't th n( yo.'d !o alon!- b.t he sa d we'd only do t ) yo. a!reed- and he tho.!ht yo. wo.ld+;

Cord t.rned .p a!a n .ne/pe*tedly w th Pete and L.(e the ne/t S.nday+ ?ob had been n& ted to 6e nerts' )or a )ormal d nner that n !ht and was home alone at loose ends+ 'hey had ndeed played po(er+ ;I ( nd o) l (ed h m anyway- yo. (now+ I 1.st *o.ldn't adm t t e&en to mysel) be*a.se 3 well- yo. (now why+ 'hat S.nday++++; ?ob !a2ed a*ross the room- see n! someth n! not there b.t ns de h msel)+ ;I ha&en't had so m.*h ).n s n*e I was a l ttle ( d- %nne+ 'he teas n!- the stor es+ 'hey're so d ))erent )rom .s- )rom o.r )am ly+ It made me start to th n(+; ;Is t be*a.se o) .s yo. aren't see n! ,an*y Lee any more7; ;Yes and no+ 'hey ne&er sa d anyth n! abo.t yo. when I was aro.nd+ 'hey a*ted l (e I d dn't ha&e a s ster+ 'hen that same n !ht a)ter we played po(er the ) rst t me- there I was+ 'hey had a lot o) !.ests and some o) them started n abo.t yo.- abo.t h m+ 'hey d dn't say anyth n! as bad as I sa d mysel)- nowhere near t+ It wasn't that+ It was++++; He str.!!led to ) nd words+ ;I tho.!ht 6e nerts were e&eryth n! I wanted+ 'hat's the way I wanted to l &e- to be- and all o) a s.dden I was loo( n! aro.nd and *ompar n! how- how #m #us they were w th the way the Bennetts were that a)ternoon+ I *an't be l (e the Bennetts- and I (now t- b.t I don't want to be l (e the 6e nerts 3 or l (e >ather e ther+ 'here has to be someth n! n between )or me+ 8aybe not- b.t at least I'm !o n! to loo( aro.nd a l ttle and see+ So I ha&e to adm t- t wasn't that what they sa d made me so an!ry I )lew o)) the handle or anyth n!+ I d d what I d d be*a.se I (new t wo.ld end t w th ,an*y Lee- and I wanted o.t+; He told them he *o.ldn't .nderstand why they )elt that way abo.t h s brother3 n3law+ He adm red Cord and hoped he and ,an*y Lee *o.ld spend as m.*h t me w th h s s ster and her h.sband as poss ble+ ;Yo. sho.ld ha&e seen the loo(s on the r )a*es+ 8r+ 6e nert p.))ed .p l (e a toad and sa d I had to prom se ne&er to e&en ntrod.*e ,an*y Lee to !%a! man+ I sa d I *o.ldn't do that- and that was the end o) t+; ?ob loo(ed away a*ross the dan*e )loor+ ;Does that ma(e yo. an!ry7 I .sed h m to !et o.t o) any *omm tment to her+; ;,o- I ne&er l (ed the tho.!ht o) yo. marr ed to her+ It d dn't seem )a r to w sh yo. on somebody ni"e- b.t I wanted somebody better )or yo. anyway+; ?ob met her eyes a!a n+ ;8aybe by the t me I !et aro.nd to t a!a n yo.'ll th n( I deser&e somebody n *e+ 'he way L.(e and Pete analy2e e&ery ! rl n town- I o.!ht to be able to ) !.re someth n! o.t+; 'hey wa ted- sm l n! sl !htly- )or a )ew m n.tes .nt l a slow dan*e be!an and wal(ed o.t to the )loor+ %)ter the dan*e ended- they were almost ba*( to where Cord was a!a n wa t n! when ?ob stopped to ! &e her a h.!- then started and p.lled away as ) he'd been b.rned+ ;6hat on earth was that7; ;'hat's yo.r nephew+ He's !ett n! 9. te ramb.n*t o.s lately+; He was loo( n! at her stoma*h as ) t had 1.st spro.ted w n!s+ %nne *o.ld )eel an embarrassed )l.sh start n!+ ;I d dn't (now they d d that+; He )or*ed h s *.r o.s !a2e ba*( to her )a*e+ ;%nne- I'm !lad++++; She !a&e h m a 9. *( ( ss- ;I bel e&e yo.+ ,ow !o loo( )or yo.r n *e ! rl+; %s she sat down bes de Cord- she sa d- ;I) yo.'re smart- yo. won't a*t sm.!+; ;,ow- %nn e- wo.ld I a*t sm.!7;

'hey wat*hed the dan*ers stomp thro.!h a reel and a pol(a- and she heard h s &o *e&ery so)t and deep+ ;6hat do yo. th n( wo.ld happen ) yo. and I 1.st wal(ed o.t there and dan*ed7; 'here was no .se try n! to *on& n*e h m o) less than the tr.th+ ;6ell- a )ew people wo.ld lea&e+ 6al( r !ht o.t o) the hall+ 8ore wo.ld !et o)) the dan*e )loor and stand and stare+; She loo(ed s9.arely at h m then+ ;%nd e&erybody who matters wo.ld (eep on dan* n! or wat*h and sm le+; 'here was no answer- and she de* ded he had *han!ed h s m nd+ 6hen the ) rst notes n a slow tempo *ame o)) 8 ss 8a!! e's p ano- she heard h s &o *e a!a n+ ;Dan*e w th me- %nn e7; 'he l.mp n her throat almost b.t not 9. te (ept her )rom answer n!+ ;I'd l (e thatlo&e+; Hand n hand they wal(ed amon! the dan*ers+ I) the r &ery presen*e d dn't s*andal 2ethe way he p.lled her *lose a!a nst h m wo.ld+ ,ot )or the ) rst t me she p *t.red the r *h ld be n! born w th a *lear mpr nt o) h s )ather's belt b.*(le somewhere on h s small person+ %ll n !ht she had )elt b ! and almost *l.msy- b.t now the ma! * be!an a!a n+ >rom the s.mmer .nt l now- she had )or!otten what t was l (e+ She was l !ht as a r!ra*e).l as a *lo.d )loat n! a*ross a s.mmer s(y+ 'he power o) h m l )ted her+ Better m.s * than 8 ss 8a!! e's was n h m- and t e*hoed n her heart+ 'al( n! to )r ends near the p.n*h bowl- >ran( )elt Ephra m's hand on h s sho.ldert.rn n! h m+ ;Loo(+; 'hey wat*hed n s len*e+ Se&eral nd !nant *o.ples h.stled o.t o) the hall+ 8ore le)t the dan*e )loor w th o))ended loo(s- b.t e&en as they le)t others too( the r pla*es+ ,oah ?eynolds !nored Leona's w dow's weeds- and she made no protest+ 6hen a )ast loo( aro.nd showed L.(e no ! rl he *o.ld *o.nt on- he h.rr ed h s s ster Beth to the )loor+ 'he LeCler*s- the 8 leses- and s.rpr se o) s.rpr ses- the Stones- who had ne&er be)ore dan*ed at a 8ason so* al b.t o**as onally de !ned to drop by )or a )ew m n.tes to !ra*e an a))a r w th the r presen*e+ In no t me at all there were as many *o.ples dan* n! as there had been+ >ran( )elt :.d th's hand on h s arm+ ;Sho.ld we7; ;,o+ I th n( when th s s o&er yo. and 8artha are !o n! to !et to say yo. told .s soand I'm !o n! to stand here and wat*h and en1oy e&ery m n.te o) t+ I th n( th s m !ht be someth n! I'&e wa ted years to see+; >ran( !lan*ed s deways at h s w )e+ ;6hen are yo. !o n! to tell me what happened last s.mmer7; :.d th !a&e her serene sm le+ ;'on !ht- I th n(+; 'he two tall blond men stood s de by s de- the r w &es' arms t.*(ed n the rs+ Ephra m sa d- ;He dan*es l (e he does e&eryth n! else+ He ma(es e&erybody else o.t there loo( *l.msy+; ;L.(e tells me lately hal) the ! rls he sees are *.r o.s abo.t h m+; Ephra m la.!hed+ ;'oo late+ E&en ) they *o.ld !et past the t !ress- I don't ma! ne anyth n! else wo.ld nterest h m m.*h+; 6h rl n! n Cord's arms- %nne was aware o) noth n! b.t the )loat n! sensat on and the eyes o) !old so *lose to her own and so somber+ ;Yo. (now- %nn e- a lon! t me a!o an old man told me bea.ty doesn't mean m.*h n a woman+ It d sappears w th a!e+ B.t he sa d some women ha&e someth n! better+ 'hey ha&e a spe* al !low that lasts all the r l )e and 1.st !ets r *her+ Yo.'re l (e that+ Yo. really sh ne+;

She *o.ld )eel her eyes !row n! mo st+ ;Don't *ry+; ;I'm not+; Her hand sl pped )rom h s sho.lder to h s )a*e w tho.t *ons* o.s tho.!ht+ He r.bbed h s *hee( l !htly a!a nst her ) n!ers and ( ssed her palm+ 'he s*andal wo.ld last a h.ndred years- she tho.!ht- and w lled her hand ba*( to h s sho.lder+ 'he sm le started then- a real sm le- teeth )lash n! oh so wh te n h s bron2e )a*e+ Her heart soared- and n tr.th- that n !ht %nne 6ells Bennett was not the only one who saw bea.ty n her ) er*edar( man+ *** A+o,) )he A,)ho* Ellen O'Connell l &es n Do.!las Co.nty- Colorado+ She ra sed- tra ned- and showed ,at onal Champ on 8or!an horses )or o&er twenty years as Serend p ty 8or!ans+ She st ll (eeps a 8or!an mare- Serend p ty B 6 *h n- altho.!h she now *on*entrates on rally*art n!- and dra)t n! *ompet t on w th her do!s+ Eyes o) S l&er- Eyes o) <old s her se*ond no&el+ Her webs te s www+o*onnella.thor+*om+ Al-o +. Ellen O'Connell ?ottwe ler ?es*.e- a mystery )or do! lo&ers

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