Published on December 2016 | Categories: Documents | Downloads: 1902 | Comments: 0 | Views: 728
of 205
Download PDF   Embed   Report

historical romance



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( ***

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!+; ***

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+ ***

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+ ***

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+ ***


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+ ***

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+ ***

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+ ***

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+ ***

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+ ***

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+ ***

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+ ***

.,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+ ***

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+ ***

+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+ ***

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+ ***

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+ ***

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+ ***

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+ ***

.,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+ ***

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+ ***

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+ ***

'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+ ***


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*(+ ***

.,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 ***

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+ ***

.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+ ***

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+; ***


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+; ***

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+ ***

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+ ***

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+ ***

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+ ***


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+ ***

.,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+; ***

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( ***

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+ ***


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*(+ ***


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.+; ***

.,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+ ***

.,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+ ***

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+ ***

.,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+ ***

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+ ***

.,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+ ***

.,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+ ***

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

Sponsor Documents


No recommend documents

Or use your account on DocShare.tips


Forgot your password?

Or register your new account on DocShare.tips


Lost your password? Please enter your email address. You will receive a link to create a new password.

Back to log-in