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Mature Content: No With: Quentin Cantrell, Shade Thornton Location: Blackbird Lodge (main ranch house) When: Mid-September 1875 (just past the middle of the month) Time of Day: Late Afternoon At last! Harriet felt herself slump in the saddle as the main barn next to the lodge came into view. Without the cattle holding them back, they had made good time on the return trip to Kalispell. Still, the last thirteen miles from the ranch's border to the main house felt like it would never end. She patted Spirit's neck. Even the powerful paint was weary, although he did manage to throw up his head and whinny at the sight and smell of home. They had left the other riders at the bunkhouse, so it was only herself and Quentin arriving at the house. Now, she glanced over at him, certain that he was as exhausted as she was. The ride back from Poison had been made with Harriet very aware of what had passed between herself and Quentin. They had been careful of one another during the journey for propriety's sake. She needed to talk to him, but that would also have to wait until a more propitious time. Right now, she would have to content herself with brushing her gloved fingers over his when he reached up to help her off of her horse. Despite her best efforts, she staggered slightly when her feet hit the ground. A hand came out to greet them and take the horses. Harriet smiled, "Give him a good extra helping of feed. He worked hard and took good care of me." The man grinned and tipped his hat as he gathered the reins. Harriet walked slowly to the door and paused just outside it. Squaring her shoulders, she tossed a smile at Quentin, then pushed heavy doors open, raising her voice stridently, Harriet called out, "Shade Thornton! I need to speak to you right now!" Her eyes and her smile brightened as she imagined the younger man wincing or even trying to find a place to hide. @Longshot
Mature Content: No With: Mike Wentworth, Wentworth Brothers Location: Blackbird Lodge, front terrace When: Early September 1875 Time of Day: Mid-to-Late Morning According to some folks, Blackbird Lodge had been built backward. The courtyard and main entrance were on the side of the house that the family considered its rear. Isadora Thornton had wanted it that way, so the coming and going of horses in the courtyard would not distract from the vista of the vast crater lake and the mountains. Ranch hands and others that had had business with John Caleb Thornton could come and go without disturbing her. Isadora's husband had, at first, objected to the building site she had chosen for that very reason. She had overridden his objections by pointing out that it also meant only one main entrance to defend should the need arise. No one would be able to enter the house from the side of the house that overlooked the lake. It made perfect sense to her and, after thinking it over for a while, John Caleb had agreed with her. Shade had grown up with stories of how Blackbird Lodge came to be where it was. The house was built on a flat expanse of bedrock that jutted out from one of the lower peaks of the Chogun Mountain Range. Although technically not a basin, it had been named Moonlight Basin due to the slight concavity of the outcropping. The area was surrounded by creeks and waterfalls, all making their way down the mountain to the Chogun River or into Lost Lake, which lay far below the house's front terrace. The house had been built out of local river stone, massive redwoods hauled in from the west coast, and local oak and aspen. Shade's father had spared no expense, including having massive windows built into the front of the house so that one always had a view of the mountains, forests, and lake. The lodge was as beautiful as his mother had been and as rugged as his father. It reflected his parents' personalities perfectly. The morning had been well advanced when Shade made his way down from the office and study attached to the master bedroom. He had honestly wanted to continue living in the downstairs room that had been his when he was a kid, but Laura Hale had put her foot down. While she and her husband, Ezra, lived in the lodge, it had made sense for them to live in the upstairs master suite. Ezra often worked on the ranch's ledgers late into the night. It was easier for him to do that in the office and study that was attached to the main bedroom. It had also kept Laura near the children's room. Laura had insisted that Shade needed to take over the master suite so that he would be on the same floor as the five-year-old twins. It made sense. It had also seemed to bring home the fact that the Hales were retiring and moving away and that everything was changing. Mary Miller, the ranch's housekeeper and cook, greeted him with a bit of a frown. Her sharp eyes noted that he was leaning heavier on the cane than he had been. The repeated trips up and down the stairs required to move his belongings had left the injured leg sore. "You go sit out on the terrace, Mr. Shade. It's a beautiful day. I'll bring coffee and sandwiches." She did not scold him for coming down late since she had brought his breakfast up to his office just after dawn. "When do you think Mr. Quentin and Miss Harriet will get back?" "Not for a few days yet, Mary. I figure it'll take them longer to move twenty-five head to the south end of Lake Flathead than it'll take Sage to move the hundred and fifty all the way to Missoula," Shade replied with a chuckle. Taking Mary's advice, Shade exited the house and settled in one of the chairs on the terrace. Leaning forward, he dragged one of the smaller chairs over so that he could prop his leg up. A few minutes later, Mary came out with a tray of sandwiches and a pot of coffee. Shade poured himself a cup of coffee and picked up a sandwich. @JulieS