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    • "We'll have to get on over to the dinning room them. Afraid it's liable to be a bit more like Kalispell than Frisco." He said. "But it'll be good food, just not what we've been used too. Will be up on the hill, for sure.  I was told this is the best hotel because it was a ways out across the river from town, and it was solid built."   "The wealth on the hill is such that all most everything around it is growing at a fast pace. You'll really see that when we visit the Capitol, Carson City. Supposedly discovered by Kit Carson and General John Freemont on their way to Sacramento in. At least Freemont named the river after him back in '43 or '44. Nothin' was there then."   "All that made me hungry too, let's go eat an then take us a walk across the river, or along it, which ever you want." @Bongo
    • That did not take long. Cookie rang the triangle and shouted his best but in the end he sent the kid to roust all but the closest to him. Rance joined young Wheeler in the line, a bit out of the wind, but mostly in it for the moment. It seemed calmer up by the wagon.   "That had ta be bad back there. The wind drivin' the dust an' the smell, but should this wind let up you'll be on flank, left flank, then right, then back to the drag. It'll be me, Dallas, an' Dixie. eatin' dust tomorrow. But at least we got hot grub, won't always be that'a way out here though, every trip is different."   And they moved up steadily. @Bongo
    • "Nothing to discuss? I am surprised, Jonah. Why, if we have time for breakfast, there will be much to discuss regarding the hospital as well as the start of the orphanage. Hopefully that the railroad will be completed, or close to it by then." She smiled brightly. "Things will be different by then."   "My hope is that we get through all of this without my fathers interference causing delays, or real problems with the builders. You know we could get well into October before the snow flies, but I'm not counting on that. The winter will stop construction until the thaw." She stated, but the smile was still there, "But it will be well underway!" @Bongo
    • "Pleased ta meet ya, Rance."  Justus gave the man a nod, then lined up with the others for grub.  Maybe he could get some sleep despite the wind.  He surely was tired enough, and until there was something that concerned him, he didn't need to be concerned.   First, though, a full belly!  As the line progressed, he he nodded to the kid who was the cook's help.  "Times like this, I bet yer glad ya don't have ta be on th' downwind end of a herd'a cows!"   @Flip
    • "It's good to know you'll have the best working on the project, you've come this far, you don't need to risk the quality with less than the best working on it."  Even though he had no doubt that the crew would be excellent, it was reassuring to know that the man hand picked for the job would actually be on site overseeing it.  That way, too, he'd be there if Leah needed to discuss anything with him, and Jonah had a good feeling that was going to happen!   He grinned and took a sip of coffee.  "Just think, this time next year it will all be over!  We'll have a fine hospital with the best equipment...and nothing to discuss over breakfast!"   @Flip  

Three Legs Are Better Than Two!


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The festival was going full tilt by afternoon, and now plenty of games and events were underway, for all ages. The Redmond children were among the many young people trying various activities for fun. Wyatt participated in the bobbing for apples but didn't win. He told his father he didn't mind none as it was a good excuse to get all wet on this warm summer day. Clara fretted about when the pie baking contest winner would be announced and was at first in no mood for childish games, seeing herself as an adult now.  However, one event did look intriguing alright - the three-legged race. The rules announced that all contestants would be mixed - in that one male and one female must be partners. It would not do to have two strong young men partnered up, for competition sake. Aurelian waved off his participation though when Clara asked him to partner up with her, citing his old Civil War leg wound. It was more an excuse than the truth though.  Undaunted (for it look a LOT to daunt this girl) Clara now spotted none other than Shade Thornton among the waiting bystanders as contestants signed up.   Without hesitation, she marched right up to the man.

"Excuse me, I hope I am not interrupting anything," she duly announced as all eyes went to her.

"Mr. Thornton, might I have a moment with you?" was her immediate  solemn request.

Gabe, the young ranch hand that Shade had been speaking to, grinned, "No problem, Miss. Annie and I have to get ready for the race." He nodded to the pretty blond beside him.

Shade gave the young man a friendly slap on the shoulder, "Good luck," he tipped his hat to the blond, "Ma'am." As Gabe Boone and his wife walked off, Shade gave Clara his full attention. "What can I help you with, Miss Clara?" He pushed his hat back a bit and stretched. He'd managed to win a couple of the stock horse events that morning but had not fared as well in the bull riding and bronc busting.

Clara rather wished he had not wished the couple good luck as - if she had her way - he and she were going to be the competition and in all things, Clara dearly loved to win.  She looked up at him then as he now faced her, obviously wondering what this was all about.

"Good day, Mr. Thornton.  I know you do not particularly like me but be that as it may , I am wondering if you would be willing to go in with me in this three legged race? Given the nature of the race I can hardly enter without a partner and you seem to be standing around available. I can almost guarantee you that we should be able to surpass your rather dreadful performance on that bull that I witnessed earlier," she got right to the point.

A derisive snort of laughter at the young lady's reference to the bull riding contest earlier that morning caused Shade to glance over his shoulder with a narrow-eyed look just as Quentin turned his back, shoulders shaking. Shade returned his attention to Clara, "First, young lady, I do not dislike you. I find you...challenging."

"You are being diplomatic, Mr. Thornton," Clara sounded very doubtful of the sincerity of the man's statement.

Shade glanced at the registration booth a few feet away. There were not many in line for the three-legged race, and he was free until the horse race later in the day. "Sure, but if we're gonna run a race together, maybe you should call me Shade?"

"Very well then, Shade. I would prefer then to be called Clara...without the Miss," the girl nodded.

Quentin leaned in a bit from behind. "Whatever she is, she's a good judge of bull riding ability..." He said quietly.

Clara smiled up at the man then remarked, "Not much talent was required to judge the obvious."

Though getting her digs in was admittedly rather enjoyable, she had gotten her wish, and now all that remained was to sign up for the event before it was closed. She gestured to her new partner with a wave of her hand to follow her and headed straight for the booth.

"Hello, we would like to enter the race....myself and this..............gentleman," she indicated her fellow constant with a glance next to her.

It was a simple enough procedure, and the only necessary equipment issued a length of strong cord handed to them and directions to tie their legs together with it around their ankles or lower legs. They were warned to make it secure too as it would be inspected by the event judge prior to running and also immediate cause for disqualification if the legs become untied. That only sounded fair to Clara who turned and handed over the cord to Shade.

"I trust you are capable of making the proper knot?"

Shade finished signing the entry form, writing his name in a flowing, easily legible script. Taking the cord that Clara handed to him, he tested it by snapping it sharply. It was flexible enough but not to the point of being stretchable. He would need to tie it so that it was secure without cutting off their circulation. Years of hobbling horses would come in handy. "Yes, I can tie the proper knots. Don't worry." He was competitive enough himself that he was beginning to look forward to the race.

Quentin stood watching the entry with obvious enjoyment. "I need to go fetch Ezra and the others in case they weren't planning to watch the race..." His grin widened, "...This is going to be great!"


Clara turned to look at the man, he was thinking that Thornton and her would make fools of themselves, she was sure of it and frowned.

Shade slanted a glance at Quentin. He had taken the ribbing about the rodeo events with good grace. Truthfully, he could not offer much in the way of self-defense when it came to his loss in that event. However, he could not resist the veiled challenge he felt he was getting from Quentin.

"Why not put your money where your mouth is," Shade said to Quentin, his deep blue eyes narrowed. "Join the race, and I'll wager you five dollars that Clara and I beat you with ease."


"Five dollars? I do not have any money, that must be your wager alone," Clara whispered to Shade but he was preoccupied listening to his friend.


Quentin blinked. "Well, as nice as it would be to take your money, I have no one to be my partner, so I will just have to satisfy myself with watching you..." Quentin's words trailed off as his gaze moved past Shade. "...Just a moment..." Quentin jogged over to a nearby table and reached, dropping a hand onto a shoulder. "Just the person I was loo..."


The hand on Harriet's shoulder startled her. Having not immediately recognized the voice, she reacted on instinct. Reaching up, she grabbed the hand, stepped back to provide additional leverage and twisted in a throwing motion. Harriet was not a large woman, but Fang had taught her well and she rarely missed working out each day. Following up the throw, she knelt on the man's chest, her right hand drawn back, ready to strike at his throat. Fortunately, she recognized the man before she could lash out with the tiny, barely seen push-style knife.


Clara blinked, she had never seen anything like that before.


Harriet had moved so fast it had been impossible for Shade to follow the action. In almost an instant, Quentin had gone from reaching for their attorney's shoulders to laying on his back in the grass with Harriet poised to strike. As soon as he realized his friend was not in serious danger, he grinned. He couldn't wait to see Quentin's response.


"Quentin!" Harriet's gray eyes registered the identity of her opponent.


Quentin's arms had come up in an X in front of his face. After a few moments he peeked over the junction of his arms at Harriet. "Good Lord, woman..." He said around a cough. "...What the Hell was that?"


Quentin grunted a bit as the ground reminded him of how hard it was. He was still a little hazy on how he got from on his feet to flat on his back but he was fairly sure Harriet had done it.  His current emotions ran from surprised to angry to impressed. Somehow embarrassment had gotten lost in that particular race.


Unintentionally, Harriet kneed Quentin in the chest as she moved to stand up. Her expression was calm and her voice was cool as she responded to his question, "You startled me." With the onlookers staring at them, she chose not to explain why someone's hand landing on her shoulder might startle her into such a reaction. "What is it that you needed me for? I assume you cannot have gotten entangled in something here that requires my legal expertise?"


Quentin slowly got to his feet. "No, just your running expertise..." He saw her expression and held up his hands. "Easy...I challenged Shade to the Three-Legged Race but without a partner. I was hoping you might be willing to enter the race with me." Quentin paused then grinned wider. "You can beat Shade at something that won't get you in trouble."


Harriet narrowed her eyes. She knew that the two men had probably wagered on the race which she totally disapproved of them doing. She considered declining but her sense of fun exerted itself and she smiled. "At least it is something that is unlikely to get me shot," Harriet stated, a sardonic note to her voice. "Very well. Let's sign up. If we win, I expect you to buy me lunch."


Quentin nodded and gestured toward the sign up table. "I will buy you lunch either way, but I'll spend more if we win." Quentin grinned leaving out that he planned to spend Shade's money on their lunch if he won their bet.

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Hoping that Shade would not expect her to fork over any of her meager funds to cover this bet he had just made, she listened as Quentin and that woman decided to team up for the race. Obviously both of them really wanted to best Shade in something like this. While those two went over to sign up, there remained their own preparation for the race. Their legs needed to be tied together. Going over to the starting line, the pair sat down on the grass.


"I trust you have seen a lady's bare leg before," Clara declared then lifted up her voluminous skirt enough for him to see a pale leg. Now some old biddy might find her showing some skin to be scandalous, Clara actually found it quite exciting although also a bit scary too. Would he like what he saw or did she have ugly legs? She had no idea.


Shade grinned at the girl, "Once or twice. Yours are quite nice."


"Oh? Well....."and for once Clara had nothing further to say, at least outwardly as she was recalling the time her mother, God rest her soul, assured her that she was quite the pretty girl. She had been dubious being the assessment came from a rather biased source.


"Be sure to tie it tight enough so it doesn't loosen and fall off, I do not want us to lose because you were worried about being too gentle. You have money on the line here, need I remind you?" she pointed out as she watched him begin the task.


Taking the short length of rope from her, Shade measured her leg length against his with his eyes. It would probably be best to fasten it at their ankles. He could put his arm around her to keep them close during the run. Shade scooted closer to Clara and then paused, "Are you right or left handed?"


"Shade....I am not doing this event with my hands you realize," she looked puzzled but did answer him, "I am right handed if you must know."


Shade chuckled, "Yes, I realize we're not runnin' this race on our hands. Just askin' so I know which of our legs to tie together. We're both right-handed, but I am comfortable using my left. It's like training a horse to change leads." He gave her a friendly wink as he leaned across to slip the rope around their ankles. He slipped two fingers beneath the cord to make sure it was snug but would not cut off the circulation.


Clara almost spoke up with a protest but understood his point so dismissed it. He probably was not comparing her to training a horse. He better be. She then watched him in action, he was good with knots she decided. He had such big strong hands too she noted then mentally chided herself not to get caught up in such nonsense.


"We should practice a bit," Shade said once he was satisfied with the knot.


"Very well," Clara nodded affirmatively.


Slipping an arm about Clara's waist, he took her weight and pulled them both smoothly to their feet.


Feeling his hand around her waist then practically being lifted up to her feet, she couldn't help but think how strong he was too. She truly began to ponder why this man was not married yet? Surely, he was impressive with the superficials? Was it his personality?  He did not seem grumpy in her opinion. But the woman attorney wanted very much to best him and Deputy Cory seemed to detest the man. While she placed no stock at all in a lawyer's opinions she did like Hannah so that held some weight with her. No matter, they had a race to win. It's not like she was marrying the man! Although, other than the fact he was so...well....old, she could certainly do worse. Her whimsical journey vanished as it came time to practice now.


"So...we must agree which leg do we start with?" she looked up and asked.


"If I remember correctly, it's always best to lead with the tied legs. Let's try it. See if you can slip your arm around my waist for balance. Keep us from tugging at one another as much." Shade grinned at the girl, finding that he was enjoying the idea of the race, her spunk and gaining a new respect for her. Clara was somewhat pushy and very much a know-it-all but she also was exhibiting a fair amount of grace and reticence in respect to her unfamiliarity with the competition. "We should try walking first. Get comfortable with that and then speed up." He glanced at the event booth. People were still straggling in and signing up so they had some time.


"Sounds logical," Clara nodded after hearing him out. With only the slightest hesitance, she placed her arm around his waist as directed. Even as a child Clara had never been a hugger, she was always somewhat uncomfortable with human contact. She did not even know why, it was just her personality. But now she imagined this must be what it was like when a beau and his fiancee strolled along on a romantic walk. Vastly overrated was her immediate judgement.


"I am ready.......now......step!" she gave the order this time, she had a real tendency to take charge but there was definitely a background explaining it. Her father depended on her to run the household, to be responsible for young Wyatt, in effect be everything her mother was.


They moved then in unison and it went smoothly. A bit of a pause then they did it again, also smooth. Well, if nothing else they proved they could at least walk but walking wouldn't win the race. Clara was pleased though and looked up at Shade as she remarked, "We make a good team."  Goodness, she even flashed a bit of a smile there!


"So far, so good," Shade smiled in return, tightening his arm a bit around her waist in a sort-of hugging gesture. "Okay, time to try it a little faster," he told her and lengthened his stride marginally. A glance back at the sign-up booth told him that couples were still arriving and getting situated. They had time to practice a bit more.


Clara was game, but then she was always game, very little gave this young lady pause, "Sure."


They took a few more steps, picked up the pace some too, and while it was a bit awkward, there was no collapse and fall. Running wouldn't be the easiest but Clara was confident they could do it and win. Sizing up the competition, she assessed none of those other teams were that great.


"I think we are ready," she announced, then out of the blue asked, "Why does that woman not like you?"


Shade glanced sharply at Clara when she asked about Harriet's antipathy toward him. He felt like, despite the age difference, he was establishing a friendship with Clara. How would the girl react to knowing about his shady past? Of course, she was already aware of some of it, having seen that old wanted poster on the frame-up in Willow, Colorado.


"Miss Mercer was the attorney for my late brother and his estate," Shade told her, deciding to lead with the truth, if not all of his past indiscretions. "She was not happy about Chance and Regina choosing me and Quentin as guardians for their children. Our pasts are a concern for her." He paused and because he was a fair man, he added, "Harriet Mercer is a fine woman, a good lawyer, and has the best interests of the twins at heart."


"You seem to be quite sure of that I suppose," Clara shrugged, eying the fancy woman again, "My father has no use for lawyers, says they are always looking to profit over other's misfortunes."  Left unsaid Clara obviously agreed with her father's prejudices.


"Did you not tell her that wanted poster was all a mistake?  That is if you were honest with me about that?" she pursued. It would be very disappointing if the man had been lying to her just when she was becoming more......well......not fond, that would be silly but.....favorable to the ruggedly handsome cowpoke.


Shade sighed and ran a hand through his wavy dark hair. He wasn't sure why the girl's opinion of him mattered so much, it just did. "Thing is, Clara, I messed up when I was a kid. I killed a man in self-defense and in defense of my future sister-in-law. My father disowned me and I left Montana. After the war, I got into trouble in Texas. Eventually got myself cleared and straightened out, but the fast gun reputation followed me. That wanted poster from Colorado was a frame-job, but I got into other trouble over the years." He paused and looked her straight in the eyes, unflinching, "There are no current warrants against me and the old ones have been cleared up. For the past five years, I've been living and working in Laramie, Wyoming - shotgun guard for a stage coach line and on the Sherman Ranch and Relay Station. I have never killed for money or for bounties."


The way he said it, the look in his eyes was such she could not break eye contact, Clara parsed every word and it sure seemed to her that he was telling the truth. Or...he was one of the best liars ever. When he finished, she slowly nodded, considering her reply first.


"I believe you, Shade. I do. I believe you to be a good man," she solemnly stated.


Coming from Clara, that was high praise indeed.


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This wasn't exactly the sort of thing that Addy would normally do...she didn't mind having fun and she certainly didn't mind making a fool of herself, but she was still fairly new to town and didn't know many folks here, and not any who would agree to something like a three-legged race.  But Cody and Nettie had been so earnest that she sign up, and even after she tried to hold them off there had been that harmony of, "Pllllllleeeeeeeaaassssseeeee!" that had finally broken her.  And those cute little faces...


Come to find out she wasn't the only one who didn't have a partner, so she added her name to the list, and when race time came, she discovered that she was paired up with a man called 'Robert'.  She just hoped he wasn't six feet tall...that could really prove amusing!




Robert had been approached by a woman who straight out of the blue asked him if he would be willing to volunteer for a race event that was due to begin very soon. They needed one more person to even out teams. Robert didn't get it at first about the teams but as he asked, the woman became a bit less ....well friendly.


"You're Irish? You from around these parts, never saw you before," the woman declared more than asked.


" Aye, I happen to be Irish but that be no crime," Robert just grinned, he'd heard it before and long as it wasn't been said by a mob with clubs or a rope, he let it slide, "I work outside of town. Now what about this race a yers?"


She then filled him in that each team needed one male and one female and involved tying legs together for a three-legged race it was called. They had one woman who was willing to participate but still needed the male.


"You would have to do I suppose," she conceded a bit reluctantly.


"I be your boyo," he nodded.



So it was that young Robert was literally marched up then to his sudden unknown teammate and the woman announced, "Here is your partner if you'll have him?"


"I don't bite, miss," Robert quipped.

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Harriet walked with Quentin to the area where the other contestants were getting ready and practicing. She eyed everyone, taking note of body-type and heights. Most of the pairs were somewhat disparate in height. That was good considering her five foot five inch frame versus Quentin's six foot height. It meant that they were on an equal playing field against the others. Harriet was competitive enough to not want to be left in the dust. Besides, beating Shade Thornton had its allure.


Handing the short length of rope to Quentin, she asked, "Have you ever competed in this sort of thing before?" Ascertaining his level of expertise was essential for planning out their strategy


Quentin looked at the rope then at Harriet. "Absolutely not..." He said, figuring honesty would be better than anything else he could say, "But how hard can it be?" He bent and measured the length of rope around his leg and then held it up against Harriet's leg. "...so what about you? Ever been tied to someone before?"


"Have I..." Harriet shot a look at Quentin, her gray eyes narrowed as she sought to fathom if his question was completely innocent or loaded with double meanings. "No, I have never been tied to anyone before...figuratively or literally." She turned her gaze to where Shade and the Redmond girl were making good progress...albeit in circles. "We should practice?


Quentin nodded and tied the rope in a few loops above both their knees. He snugged the knot and stood up. "Hmmm...Okay, so we both move the middle legs then the outside?" He put an arm around Harriet's shoulders since any lower made him bend slightly.


Harriet straightened as Quentin did and slipped her arm around his waist for support and to help keep them close together. She nodded at his query, "That makes sense. Go!"


Quentin sped up and they made a good pace over the short distance they tested their setup. Quentin finally slowed and stopped to prevent any sudden moves. "Well, I think they don't stand a chance..." He bent and untied the length of rope. "...all we have to do is wait for the race and collect our bragging rights." He smiled and tucked the rope at the back of his belt. "And before I forget, thank you for agreeing to this."


A smile lit Harriet's usually stern features, "I just hope you have not wagered more than you can afford with Shade!" Harriet nodded toward where Shade and the homesteader's daughter were making good progress. "It looks like everyone is gathering at the start. Shall we head over there?"


"Oh, just the usual...eternal torment if he wins, nothing I am not already learning about, although you might not enjoy that part." Quentin held out an arm for Harriet, then they both began walking toward the starting point. Quentin inhaled deeply and smiled. This was probably the first day in a very long time when he felt at peace with the world in general.


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"Of course!"  Addy grinned widely and almost laughed as she looked up at Robert.  "Name's Addy."  She stuck out her hand.  This should be interesting!  "We got a minnet 'er two ta practice.  Reckon we oughta let th' lass hobble us tagether an' see how it goes?"


cullen.jpgShe'd never done anything like this before, but she wasn't shy around strangers and she was game for just about anything!


The woman huffed, "I have better things to do than tie ....your sort up. Do it yourself. And hurry, the race is going to start soon." And with that helpful comment the woman turned to place a cord in the Irishman's hand then headed back to the sign up table. The new teammates were on their own.


"Charmin' that one," Robert shrugged then looked at the other contestants for a visual check on how they were tied.


"So let's sit down then? Next to each other and I will tie us up...I mean our legs...you know," he did not want that to taken wrong.

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Addy shrugged as the woman left them alone, then sat beside the kid.  "Guess it don't much matter which legs we tie, so long as we're facin' th' same way."  She chuckled.  "'Course, ain't never done this before, so I can't really say."


"That makes two of us, lass," Robert chuckled, "Have watched one once though. Seemed as much floppin' as runnin."


Scooting closer, she put her right ankle next to his left.  "Tie 'er good, don't need it slippin' off."  Especially with her boots on, the tie would have to be tight so it didn't slip.  "Ya think we oughta try it bare foot?"


Robert checked out the competition, they all had their footwear on.


"I dun know...we could....my feet are tough, went enough times without shoes durin' me childhood, couldn't afford none it was," he explained then shrugged and proceeded to pull off his worn boots then socks. Just to be silly he wiggled his toes and grinned at her.


"Here goes then," he had waited til she had done the same then tied the rope as securely as he could make it without cutting off circulation, "Let's be hopin' we can get up now."


@Adelaide Chappel


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The pair managed to get up and make their way over to the starting line, some of the other contestant couples were already lining up and where you stood on the line apparently was first come first served. Robert was pleased they hadn't fallen down but had adjusted to the unusual gait quite rapidly. Of course it still remained to be seen how fast they could run. However there was another factor in this.


"I was thinkin'...ye know we don have to be the fastest as long as we don't go fallin' down. If we stay on our feet, I think we got us a fine chance," the young man informed her.


"Sounds like a reasonable choice."  Addy nodded, looking up at him and grinning.  Despite their height differences he had adjusted his stride, and that was really going to be critical.  If he took long steps he'd end up just dragging her along, and that wouldn't be good.


"Hope ya don't mind..."  Her arm was already around his waist, and now she slipped her hand inside his belt to give her a better grip.  "All right, then, one step at a time an' stay upright..."  As good a strategy as they were going to have!


He felt what she was doing alright but didn't mind in the slightest, if it helped keep them upright it was the right thing to do. He shrugged, "Yer fine, lass.   Though if ye have to take a tumble kindly don pull me pants down in front of all these good people."

He was kidding...mostly.


They took their place then on the far outside of the lineup of six couples. Next to them was a cowpoke he had worked with earlier laying down the dance floor, nice enough sort but couldn't recall the man's name. That man was partnered up with a teenage girl with long ponytails and he was  suddenly taken aback when the girl turned to glare at him. Oh well, someone was taking this all quite seriously. Robert turned address his own partner, "See ya at the finish line."

He flashed a goofy grin at Addy.


"Make sure I don't fall'n yer pants'll stay up!"  Addy grinned at him, setting herself for the race to begin.  When she noticed the girl glaring at them, she shrugged.  This was supposed to be fun, and there was nothing really at stake, but then, the kid was young and competition was winning or losing, and losing was no fun.


"Hey," she murmured to Robert, "we startin' with outside or tied feet."  It would be good to know which foot to lead off with rather than get tangled from the start!


Robert was watching the official standing off to the side, he was bringing his pistol up to fire off in the air announcing, "Ready then.....get set..."

No time to think it over, Robert snapped, "Outside" just the instant before the crack of the gunshot began the race in earnest. He lunged forward with the right leg and hoped she matched him. The entire line began to move as the crowd began clapping and calling out. The entire line began to move as the crowd began clapping and calling out.


There was barely a breath's span for Addy to register what Robert had said, and she almost started with the bound foot, but caught herself at the last instant and started off on the right foot (which was the left for her!)


There was a slight stumble, but her grip on his waist gave her the support she needed and soon she was galloping in time with him.

For just an instant Robert thought his partner was going to go down right at the start but she managed to keep upright and even better, matching his pace. Out of the corner of his eye one couple on the far side of the line had already taken a full forward pratfall much to the crowd's amusement. One couple down but for the rest it was still a competition. Now the race was never meant to be a marathon, it was hard enough to do this sort of thing short term so the length of the course was but fifty yards, no curves or turns. One might call it a sprint but with legs tied together runners did not sprint. It was proving to be a close race alright, first one couple then another taking just a fractional lead as they closed in on the finish line, a ribbon held out the width of the course by two lads.


Robert thought about encouraging Addy but that was just using up valuable breath, instead he concentrated on keeping their gait matched. One misstep and they could easily go down in a heap. But the finish line beckoned ever closer.


Once they got moving they seemed to be doing all right, and Addy just concentrated on what her feet were doing and on the ground ahead of them.  They were doing passing well, and as long as she didn't start laughing as other teams went to the ground in a flurry of skirts and boots, they might just do all right!


It all came down to three teams as the finish loomed, they were neck and neck and any of them could eke out a win. Suddenly there was some sort of collision and their competition went down in tandem. Taking advantage of their good fortune, Robert chuckled as he and Addy hit the ribbon, sending it out of the holder's grasp and could finally come to a blessed halt as they had won, applause ringing in their ears.


It wasn't until the finish ribbon actually tugged on her chest that Addy realized that they had actually won, although she had the good sense to keep moving the  extra few paces with Robert, waiting until he stopped to stop as well.  "We won?"  Her smile was bright as she looked up at him.  "Never would'a guessed we'd do that!  Good job, partner!"  Extricating her hand from his belt she stuck it at him to shake, promptly losing her balance and falling back!


"That we did, lassie," Robert exulted but he didn't get a chance to say more as she tumbled backward taking him with her onto the grass. Least they waited til AFTER the race to fall. As he rolled off her he did manage to inquire, "You alright?" Just before breaking out into laughter...

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Shade got himself and Clara to the starting line. He looked around at the other contestants, recognizing the young Irishman from the previous day's work crews - Cullen, he thought the name had been - and, of course, Miss Chappel. He could not help noticing Clara's menacing glare as she also surveyed their competition. He nudged her slightly and grinned, "Don't scare the fish, girl."


"Let's hope they run like fish," Clara could get a wee bit competitive at times.


Everyone was lined up now, all eyes on the race official as he raised a starters pistol, "Ready, set..."


The gun went off and the contestants launched forward. Clara was elated they had gotten off to a smooth start, out of the corner of her eye she had noticed one couple on the far end of the line face plant to the ground. She grinned.


The sound of the gun startled Harriet and she lurched into the start, nearly knocking herself and Quentin to the ground. A glance showed her that Shade and the Redmond girl - Clara - were ahead by a few feet. Another couple that she did not know was ahead of them. "Put some muscle into it, Quentin or Shade's going to win." Harriet's competitive spirit was taking hold!


Quentin windmilled his free arm to try and balance as the gun went off and Harriet nearly dragged him off his feet. He watched the other two pairs shoot ahead and his eyes narrowed. He shifted to match Harriet's stride so their legs were working together. "I'm trying!" Quentin realized he didn't have to hold back for Harriet and increased his speed, noting that the two of them were actually beginning to gain on the others.


Shade risked glancing around to try and see where Quentin and Harriet were. It was somehow a matter of honor that they at least beat them if no one else. He took better hold of Clara and matched his stride to hers. At the same time, he encouraged her to try to stretch a bit more, keeping her snugged tight up against him so they weren't pulling on the cord tied about their legs. "You're doing great, girl. Come on..." He narrowed his eyes as the Irishman and Addy took an easy lead.


It didn't stay a comfortable lead long though as the other two couples adjusted to how this worked and both sets closed. It was still anybody's race. Clara was fired up, exhilarated too by the applause and cheering of the crowd. She liked to think it was all for her and Shade but of course it was not. As the trio of couples closed in on each other, the distance tightened amongst them too, not necessarily a good thing. Clara paid no attention to Harriet and Quentin as her eyes were on the lead which meant redoubled effort was needed to get neck and neck then pass.


That's when disaster happened. Clara had no idea how it happened, it just did. There was a jostle, knocking the pair of couples off their stride, even worse off their balance. Oh no! They were going down, crashing onto the grass.!


Clara grabbed with both arms for her partner, like that would help any, "Shade!"


Shade hadn't seen it happen and could have sworn they were well ahead of Quentin and Harriet. Yet somehow, they had not only caught up, they had also lost their balance and fallen talking Shade and Clara with them. Clara called out and grabbed for Shade, trying to keep her feet, to no avail. He felt them falling. In an effort to protect Clara and still salvage something from the race, Shade threw them both forward and twisted, hoping to land on his back and pull Clara on top of him to cushion her fall.


They had been doing so well, almost neck-and-neck with Shade and Miss Redmond. Their downfall was sudden and quite jarring! Harriet felt her foot - the one attached to the leg that was tied to Quentin - slip on the grass. She skidded and clutched Quentin for support, managing to knock him sideways in the process...into Shade and Miss Redmond!


Quentin yelped as Harriet rebounded off him and he glanced at her, feeling the two of them reeling off balance and then he collided with Clara and Shade, Quentin knew everyone was going down so he automatically reached and turned his back to hit the ground while his arms grasped Harriet to keep her from hitting fully. Shade and Clara were ahead so he figured they should land out from under Harriet and himself. Quentin felt his breath whoof out as the two of them hit and slid to a stop on the grass.


Shade clutched her even as they both fell forward, at the last second the man twisting them in such a way Clara ended up on top of her larger heavier partner, obviously for the best. Fortunately the recent rains had left the ground with some give though Clara managed to hit the top of her head on Shade's chin.  None the worse for wear, she looked around. Sure enough they were down, that infernal woman lawyer and Shade's friend were down and the crowd was acclaiming the winners, that other couple whom she did not even know. A second look though and she realized they too had just managed to sprawl across the ribbon on the ground.


"We came in second!" Clara announced rather mournfully, she had really wanted to win. And they would have to if it not for that lawyer! 


That's when the full awareness hit her, she was lying on top of Shade and their faces were like an inch apart. Oh dear! Quickly she rolled off of him.


"Are you hurt?" she certainly did not want that.


Shade let out a muffled oomph as Clara rolled off of him and her knee impacted a sensitive area, "I wasn't..." he muttered. He angled a look at the pile of torsos and limbs that was sorting itself out into Quentin and Harriet. "At least we beat them." His deep blue eyes glinted fiercely and he stretched out a hand, "Pay up," he said to Quentin.


Quentin still lay on his back, arms out to each side as Harriet climbed off him. His eyes closed at the sound of Shade's self-satisfied voice. "Well obviously I died in the fall and this is Hell..." He finally looked over at Shade. "...you just couldn't wait, could you?"


"Nope," Shade grinned as he untied the rope from around his and Clara's legs, "I was always told to not let wagers lay whether I owed on one or someone owed me." He had every intention of offering the second-place prize to Clara and also a part of the wager. He would do that privately though. He did not want to embarrass the young lady.


Harriet gave a slight snort of derision as she finished extricating herself from Quentin, "Being gracious to your competition is considered good manners, Shade Thornton. You might need my legal services someday." She managed a grin and her normally cold gray eyes sparkled with humor. The truth was that she had actually enjoyed the race. As a child, such games had been frowned on by her strict mother.


Clara allowed Shade to untie their legs then stood up, given the man's wince of pain just a moment before she was afraid she might have done him some injury though certainly not on purpose.  Well, he claimed he was fine so she let it go. Standing up, she brushed some grass and dirt from her dress as she listened to Shade talk to his friend and that..........lawyer.


"I certainly hope you are a better lawyer than a runner. Shade and I would have won if SOMEONE hadn't crashed into us," Clara declared, the glare she was giving Harriet made it quite clear who she thought that someone had been.


Harriet returned the girl's look steadily and without rancor, "I am a very good lawyer, young lady." Giving Quentin and Shade a critical look, Harriet turned and walked off into the crowds. Shade simply shook his head and grinned.

Edited by Shade Thornton (see edit history)
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