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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  

Cattle Drive [Part 2]


Harriet Mercer
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Continued from Cattle Drive [Part 1]

Mature Content: No

With: Quentin Cantrell, NPCs
Location: Kalispell to Fort Poison, south end of Flathead Lake.
When: Mid-September 1875
Time of Day: Varies

 

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Harriet sat astride Shade's big paint, Spirit, that had formerly belonged to Chance Thornton. She had ridden the horse before but never in the animal's capacity as a working cow pony. None of her string of horses had the training for the task at hand. The big gelding flicked his ears, and his body tensed. She could tell the horse was ready to follow the herd of cattle that meandered slowly past. Harriet put a gloved hand on the horse's neck and muttered a few soft words to calm him down.

 

Three days ago, the San Francisco attorney had been in the office of Lost Lake Ranch's co-owner, Shade Thornton, explaining about the contract and how it had gotten lost. Somehow, it had been misfiled in with completed contracts. The ranch was in the black, but due to a judge's ruling regarding the custody of the five-year-old Thornton twins, it had to show a clear six-percent increase in profits. Losing the contract for twenty-five head of cattle would not impact the ranch's wealth. However, it might cause problems with the custody of the children.

 

Another issue was the fact that the majority of the hands had ridden south to Missoula with Sage Miller, the ranch's night foreman, to deliver the fall herd to the stockyards. That left the ranch with a skeleton crew. They could not strip the remainder of the riders off the ranch, so she, Quentin Cantrell, and two of the younger hands were tasked with taking the herd to Fort Poison. Who knew that it would be Shade Thornton's sharp eyes that would see the codicil that stated the fort's commander would only take delivery from an owner or suitably high-ranking ranch employee, such as a foreman. The fort's commanding officer required the codicil as a means of preventing fraud and possibly the receipt of stolen cattle.

 

Harriet had ridden into town with a letter written by Shade and copies of the appropriate paperwork. She had sent the telegraph on Shade's behalf and put the envelope on the next mail wagon out. It should reach Fort Poison well ahead of the drive. Now, here she sat, wondering precisely what she was supposed to do. Harriet had watched her friend, Regina Thornton, deftly ride, rope, and cut with the best of them. She felt clueless. Harriet hated the feeling of not knowing what to do and of not being in control of her situation.

 

Suddenly a big red and white heifer broke from the meandering herd and shot toward where she was sitting. Before she could gather her wits and shout "Shoo, cow" at the creature, Spirit launched into action. Harriet uttered a soft shriek and hung on for dear life as the paint zigged and zagged after the heifer finally deftly turning it back to the herd.

 

Quentin sat Paladin nearby. He brought his gloved hand up and covered his mouth to hide his wide grin as he watched the shrieking woman atop the cow pony as it herded the stray. He quickly schooled his features as her horse steadied and she shot a look over at him. "Ahem...You're doing fine, Harriet!"

 

"At least I am doing something!" Harriet snapped. She glared at the big paint gelding she was riding. "Bad horse," she muttered under her breath. At least the two hands and wagon driver were pretending to be preoccupied with the herd...or the horizon.

 

Quentin reached up and tugged the brim of his hat, then spurred off along one side of the herd. His free hand swung a coil of rope back and forth. He gave an occasional yell to keep the mass moving in the same direction. Quentin lifted his eyes up to see the other hands, seeing that they both seemed to have a handle on their side of the herd. The supply wagon was on ahead, pulling off into the distance so he could find a good spot to stop and pitch camp for the night. Another series of shrieks and yelps behind him told Quentin that Shade's horse was doing its job again while Harriet valiantly tried not to fall off. Quentin decided that discretion was the better part of valor and he continued on, ignoring the sounds behind him so the only thing Harriet would be mad at would be the horse.

Edited by Stormwolfe (see edit history)
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Location: Trail from Kalispell to Fort Poison, south end of Flathead Lake.
When: Early September 1875
Time of Day: Evening

 

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Harriet felt as if she had been in the saddle for three days instead of just several hours. She was used to driving and managing a high-strung team of horses, not sitting on one for hours at a time. She guessed she was going to have to toughen up and get used to it. After all, Montana was the life she was choosing. She sat down a bit gingerly on the blanket she had spread earlier for dinner. The man driving the supply wagon agreed to do the after-dinner cleanup, but refused to cook. Surprisingly, she and Quentin had managed a good meal between the two of them. More surprising yet, no one had died. She leaned forward and grabbed the spare coffee pot that she had brought along for heating water to wash with and brew tea. She ladled tea leaves into two tea-balls, dropped them into cups, and poured hot water over them. Without asking, she handed one over  to Quentin.

 

"I don't see how Reggie did this. More than that, I don't see how she could love driving cattle!" Harriet glanced toward where the sounds of restless cows could be heard. "Stupid beasts!"

 

"Now, Harriet..." Quentin said as he took the cup of tea and sipped. "...We have spent most of the day chasing them around and wearing ourselves out...I'm not sure which is the stupid beast." Quentin shifted on his blanket as his leg muscles muttered in protest but he was not about to let on that he was sore as well. He had spent straight days in the saddle back in the war but admittedly straight riding with the occasional battle was not nearly as exhausting as herding cattle.

 

"I think Shade let that bear knock him about on purpose," Harriet stated emphatically. "He had best still be hobbling about when we get back."

 

"If he is walking around normally when we get back, you have my permission to return him to limping status." Quentin settled back more and rested his hat farther forward so it shaded his eyes as he settled back against the side of his saddle on the ground.

 

She carefully leaned back against the fallen log. "I wonder how far we got today? Do you think we will get to Poison tomorrow?"

 

The younger of the two hands had a sudden coughing fit while the wagon's driver, a much older gentleman's mustache twitched with amusement, "Ma'am, at this rate, we'll be lucky to get there within the week."

 

Quentin looked thoughtful then nodded. "That sounds about right, barring outside interference, although we might be a little slower each day if we feel like this at the end of each one..."

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  • 2 weeks later...

Location: Not too far from Fort Kilpatrick
When: Early September 1875
Time of Day: Late morning, 4th day on the trail.

 

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Harriet reigned Spirit to a stop. She spent a moment looking around and smiled. She would never be a top-hand but after three days on the trail and with the help of the big medicine hat paint she was riding, Harriet felt that she was acquitting herself reasonably well. She was even adjusting to the long hours in the saddle. Well, she might be doing pretty good now, but the morning after their first full day on the trail, Harriet had barely been able to move. At the end of that second day, she had crept off alone to the nearby creek to wash up, sat there and had a good cry due to the amount of pain she was in. Today was the fourth day on the trail and she had been told that Fort Poison was a short distance beyond the nearest rise.

 

Although the fort backed up on the lake, it was decided to go ahead and stop for their midday meal and water the stock at a wide creek. Spirit lowered his head to the water, lipping at it gently before snorting a bit. The ripples seemed to interest the horse which amused Harriet. She continued to relax and let him take a long drink. After a bit, she tugged his head up and deftly backed him up the shallow bank to wait for the signal to move the herd across. 

 

Spotting Quentin's tall figure mounted on his golden dun, Paladin, Harriet had to smile. Their squabbling and arguing had reached new heights during the journey. That was until the second night when Weems, the wagon driver, commented on the fact that they sounded like an old married couple. From that point forward, Harriet had restricted herself to the odd sarcastic comment aimed at Quentin. Spirit distracted her by tugging gently on the bit. The big gelding was anxious to get the herd moving again.

 

@Longshot

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Quentin rode Paladin in a lazy back and forth path behind the herd, not hurrying the animals but keeping them moving. They had had to slow down a bit when they realized the cattle were losing weight. Forage for them was not as plentiful as they had hoped when they set out, and the last thing Quentin wanted was the army to start whining about how skinny their cows were. The only control they had was not to work them too hard on the trail.

 

He angled his horse away from the herd and circled around the edge closest to Harriet. Quentin reached up and tugged his bandanna from his neck and used it to wipe at the sweat on his face. As he pulled the cloth down his eyes caught motion past Harriet in the brush on the other side of the creek. Normally he might have brushed it off as an animal, but most game animals and even predators tended to stay farther away from a herd on the move. Quentin saw no flashes of reflection so figured it was Indians instead of rustlers. He smiled and nodded to Harriet as ht wheeled Paladin around to sit his mount beside hers with their backs to the water.

 

"Harriet..." Quentin said in a steady tone without changing his expression or looking back in the direction of the creek, "...Do not look or react, but we are being watched from the other side of the creek."

 

Harriet was able to do as Quentin said. His quiet tone had been the first hint that something was not quite right. It was far different from the querulous one that both used to speak to one another. Her many years of training with Fang had taught her how to be still and not react automatically. This meant she was able to prevent herself from looking around. However, her heart did speed up. She had little experience with Indians beyond the members of the Crow nation that were both friends and blood kin to the Thorntons.

 

"My guess would be Indians, because I think one picked the wrong moment to move or I still would not know they were there..." Quentin said as they slowly began to walk their horses back toward the herd. "You need to ride over and let them know what's going on, and tell Weems also..." Quentin suddenly reared upright in his saddle. "I don't CARE what you want, woman!..." He roared. "I told you to go let the others know when I plan to camp! Now do as I say!"

 

This time Harriet could not prevent herself from reacting instinctively. Her usual indignation was sublimated by the rampant memories of her childhood and her father's frequent anger when she did something he disliked. It gave her time to gather her wits and although she glared at Quentin, promising retribution at some point, Harriet whirled Spirit around and sank spur.

 

Quentin watched her ride off. He knew his little show was so she could get started back without the indians suspecting she was going to warn the others, but he also had seen her expression as she reacted to his words. As long as she had a chance to get back to some relative safety, Quentin figured he could live with some anger down the road. Quentin reined Paladin around in a leisurely fashion so he stood sideways to the river. Quentin reached into his jacket and tugged out the small leather holder and extracted one of his cigarillos. He bit off the end and stuck it in his mouth as he pulled one of the lucifers from the small tin he kept in the leather holder. Quentin struck it off his belt buckle and held it to the end of the cigarillo, puffing it a few times to make sure it was burning. He then shook the match out and let it fall. He lifted his head and blew out a cloud of smoke as he let his gaze drift along the far bank. Quentin hoped that his staying where he was would make them wait.

 

After about two minutes had passed, Quentin let out a smoke tinged breath he did not realize he had been holding. Maybe this would work...Maybe...

 

A puff of white smoke from the far bank cut off his musing and a bullet passed within a few feet...the hiss and snap was something you never forgot after the first time it happened. "Well, Hell..." Quentin muttered as he wheeled Paladin around and spurred him so the horse sprung into motion, galloping hard after Harriet in the distance as the rising sound of yelps and gunshots rose behind him.

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Although Harriet had no experience with hostiles, she easily recognized the sounds as the Indians broke from cover. She had barely gotten word to Weems and the other two men when it happened. Harriet reined Spirit in so hard that he slid to a halt on his haunches, rearing slightly and tossing his head. She turned in the saddle and a wave of relief swept over her as she saw Quentin riding hard in their direction. With some luck, the Indians were after the cattle although it was equally likely that they wanted the horses and weapons too.

 

Whirling Spirit around again, Harriet set spur to the horse's flanks and the big paint leaped toward the herd. After all of the hardships on the trail, she flat refused to lose the cattle to a bunch of Indians. She had been told that Fort Kilpatrick was a mile or two over the rise. She had no idea if they could keep the herd in a flat run and on-target, but she was going to give it her best try. Besides, if the hostiles were after the cattle, they would be hard-put to get ahead of them and turn them. She doubted they had much experience with rounding up a terrified mob of cows that were half-wild on a good day.

 

The two hands intuited her plan and also circled to the outside, whistling and whooping. They needed the delay to allow Weems to mount one of the second string of horses they had brought with them. The wagon would be too slow even with a strong pair of horses pulling it. Hopefully, they could recover it later, the team, and most of the herd later. Right now, their lives were more important and the best way to stay alive was to get to the fort!

 

Harriet brought Spirit alongside the startled cows, sighing in frustration as the herd tried to stop at the creek and drink. She held the reins in one hand as Shade had taught her and drew her rifle from its saddle scabbard. Making sure she aimed it in the clear and would not hit Quentin or the hands, she fired two shots in rapid succession low over the cattle's heads. The sound of the gunfire did the trick. The herd's leaders bolted across the creek, bellowing in terror. Harriet balanced her rifle across the saddle and war-whooped, driving Spirit toward the flanks of the herd that was now galloping madly across the water, up the bank, and flat out on the plains beyond. She dropped low over the saddle's horn making herself less of a target as she yelled let Spirit run flat-out with the herd.

Edited by Stormwolfe (see edit history)
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Quentin heard the occasional snap as a round came near, but with him riding hard and the Indians also mounted and galloping, the chance of getting hit by a bullet was like getting hit by lightning...it might happen, but it wasn't something you could spend time worrying about. Quentin looked ahead and realized that Harriet and the hands were up to something, and as he drew still closer Quentin could see Weems working to get mounted. Realizing what was going on and knowing from his own experience that the Indians were bearing down far too quickly to give them the time they needed, Quentin reached down and yanked his Winchester from the saddle scabbard, flipping it up and into his hand in a better grip before he leaned up and back, left hand pulling rein to slow Paladin and turn him around to face the oncoming scatter of hostiles. Paladin reared then came back down, freezing as much as a horse could as Quentin's boot toe bumped his foreleg.

 

Quentin worked the lever and brought the rifle to his shoulder. He aimed at the closest mass of horse and rider and his finger curled on the trigger. The rifle (Quentin carried a full 24 inch barrel unlike most with 20 inch carbines), barked and the horse in the distance reeled as the rider went flying from inertia. Quentin was already working the lever and aiming again, firing at another Indian, levering, then firing with an economy of motion as he took the leading riders under fire. Paladin shivered a few times and his muscles twitched in reaction to Quentin's firing and the oncoming attackers. Quentin himself would probably have been terrified if he took the moment to think about what he was doing, but he had a lot more on his mind. Once the Indians closed to under a hundred yards, Quentin reined Paladin around and let his horse run as it must have wanted to. He only caught a glimpse of three or four Indians down or on foot after losing horses, but that was better than he hoped for when he had stopped.

 

@Players

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Harriet felt her heart drop like a stone when Quentin whirled his horse around to face the hostiles. She only had a second to think on it though. She and Barnes, the younger of the two hands riding with them, had bought enough time for Weems to get sorted. He had given up trying to snag one of the second string. Instead, he'd unhooked the team from the wagon and vaulted onto the back of the wheeler. With the wagon driver safely mounted, Harriet and the two hands made a last charge, firing a few shots in the direction of the milling cattle. With loud and frantic bellows, the animals finally scattered, many of them running toward the group of Indians. It would buy them a little more time...

 

Wheeling the big paint in next to Quentin as he caught up to them, Harriet turned long enough to fire off two more shots. She had been stingy with the ammunition in her Winchester. She had come a long way with her marksmanship since Quentin's first lessons, but she was a long way from being able to reload while on the back of a running horse. She had seen Shade do it, holding the reins in his teeth and managing his horse with his legs. 

 

Yelling and screaming like an Indian herself, Harriet drove Spirit at the cattle, pushing the horse and the beef to go faster and faster. She kept low in the saddle, making herself as hard to hit a target as possible. Harriet trusted Quentin to guard her back while she concentrated on the cattle. At the same time, as gunshots rang out, she prayed that he was unharmed. 

 

They were on the fort almost before she knew it. Now began the job of slowing the frenzied cattle down...

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  • 4 weeks later...

Quentin reined around and swung his rifle back up, firing and levering steadily even as his brain screamed to fire as fast as he could. The dust from the cattle and the terrain masked a lot but he felt pretty confident about some hits on the shapes of mounted Indians. Quentin yanked the reins with his left hand to spin Paladin and he spurred him back into motion, holding the Winchester by the grip as he took off once more. He could see the fort ahead and now a few scattered puffs of white from among the buildings and he thought he could hear a faint bugle sound from that direction.

 

The mass of cattle, riders, and wagon burst into the central parade ground of the open plan fort. Soldiers were coming out of every building. Some were armed, some were not but all were racing out in response to the bugle sounding "Assembly" over and over. Quentin kicked off the saddle as Paladin slid to a halt and he ran back to the corner of a building. As he reached the corner and looked along his rifle sights, Quentin was surprised to see the Indians had wheeled about and were racing the for the nearest terrain while being chased by random rounds from the soldiers that had been running out from the fort to form a makeshift skirmish line.

 

Figuring the soldiers had everything well in hand, Quentin turned and walked over to Paladin, catching the reins and began leading him back toward the fort so he could rest. On the far side of the parade ground, he could see a man with a small group of troopers standing beside Harriet as she sat her horse. He was mostly listening to her as his men moved about, chasing down the last of the cattle and keeping an eye out from the fort for any new attacks.

 

Harriet broke off in mid-sentence as an instinctive awareness made her turn in her saddle. Seeing Quentin leading Paladin prompted her to fling herself off Spirit's back and head at a run in his direction. She stopped just in front of him to peruse him critically searching for bullet holes and blood. Seeing nothing of that kind, she uttered a little cry and flung her arms around him, "Thank God you are safe. I couldn't have..." she buried her face in his shoulder rather than give voice to what she was feeling.

 

Quentin blinked, rocking back on his heels as Harriet's sudden embrace almost put him on his back. He staggered a step and his hand dropped the reins to wrap around her. Quentin held her tight as he felt her trembling and he smiled as he felt the warm rush inside from the sensation of her concern. He dipped his head a bit to inhale her scent, enjoying it regardless of the trail dust and days without a bath.

 

After what felt like a while but was probably only a handful of seconds, Quentin opened his eyes and saw several sets of boots. He tilted his head back to see the group of troopers standing behind Harriet on either side of a tall man with blonde hair and a sculpted beard. All were in various degrees of smiling or chuckling. Quentin felt himself flush and nodded. "Thank you for the assistance, Colonel..."

 

Harriet looked up as Quentin spoke and turned her head to see the group of men gathered around them. She blushed, but only pulled slightly away from him, still keeping close, "Colonel MacKenzie, this is Quentin Cantrell, one of the owners," she explained, her voice sounding far calmer than she actually felt. "I explained that Mr. Thornton was injured and unable to travel," she told Quentin, "and what happened back there with the Indians." Harriet gestured toward the direction they had ridden in from. 

 

The officer smiled wider and extended a hand. "Lieutenant Colonel Wellington MacKenzie...I believe it should be I who is thanking you and your outfit. My men were about to stage an insurrection if they did not get some meat on the table soon..." He glanced past Quentin into the distance. "I will send out a patrol, but I doubt your new friends will stick around for long now that they have failed to take your cattle for themselves." MacKenzie turned his gaze back to the two. "Please allow me to offer you the hospitality of the fort before you have to head back. I suspect you both could use some rest and the chance to clean up."

 

Harriet glanced up at Quentin and smiled before answering the fort's commander, "Yes, Colonel, thank you. It is far too late to start back for Kalispell today. We could use a chance to rest and let our mounts rest too." It was then that she realized just how incredibly bone-weary she felt. Even so, the hard physical labor of the last few days had felt good. Harriet had thought that doing the routines that Fang had taught her kept her in good shape. The drive had taught her different. Once they got back to Kalispell, she would ask Shade to let her spend some time on the range to stay in practice.

 

Quentin turned long enough to slide his Winchester back into its saddle scabbard, then he nodded to MacKenzie. "That sounds fine to me, Colonel." He looked over at Harriet and genuinely smiled.

 

MacKenzie clapped his hands together. "Excellent!..." He turned to an officer beside him. "Maxwell, please show these two to the Executive Officer's house. He and his family are back east visiting relatives. Then detail some men to settle in their riders and mounts so everyone can come to the mess hall tonight for a celebration." Men nodded and scattered in different directions as the young captain gestured to lead them across the parade ground toward a nondescript structure on one edge of the cleared area.

 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Harriet took her time washing up. While she was at it, she did her best to rinse her trail-weary clothing and laying them out to dry. She then changed into a clean split riding skirt, blouse, and vest. Unfortunately, there was nothing she could do with her hair except tie it back with a ribbon borrowed from the lady-of-the-house. Feeling as presentable as possible, Harriet admonished herself for the slight fluttering of her heart at the thought of Quentin and how terrified she had been for his safety. Of course, they had hugged and held one another for a moment after what had happened. It did not mean that he had feelings for her...or her for him. Still, her spirits lifted at knowing she would see him in a few moments.


Once downstairs, she went to the home's well-kept little parlor to wait on Quentin. Harriet was capable of finding the mess on her own, she was just waiting for him to help her thread the maze of military protocols...at least that was what she was going to tell herself.

 

Quentin stood in front of the mirror mounted on the dresser in the small bedroom. He finished combing his hair back with some product he found on the dresser. He could use a haircut but if he tried to give himself one the result would probably be laughable. He set the comb down and looked at himself in the mirror. He had also enjoyed a bath and the shave did more than anything else to make him feel human again after the time on the trail. He stepped back a bit and smoothed out the black bibbed shirt. He nodded and looked down at the clean pants he had found in his gear. Quentin was also proud that he had managed to clean the trail dirt off his boots and even accomplished a reasonable shine with some time and polish. His hat was a lost cause and would have to serve only in the field until he could get back and buy a new one.

 

Quentin put everything away and back into his saddle bags and then buckled on his gunbelt. He tied the holster to his right thigh and left his hideout Colt with his gear. Quentin then headed downstairs and set his personal gear beside Harriet's before he stepped into the parlor and came up short. "Oh, I apologize...I was looking for my trail partner, not a lovely lady..."

 

Harriet blinked at Quentin for a second before realizing that he was teasing and complimenting her in the same breath. No wonder Regina had often talked about how charming her brother could be. It was not a side of him that Harriet had seen much of as they tended to rub one another the wrong way. The smile she offered in return actually reached and warmed her twilight-colored eyes, "Why, thank you, Quentin. You are a bit unexpected as well." She moved closer to him and her voice was a bit husky when she spoke, "Now that we do not have an audience," Harriet touched his arm gently, "I am very glad you were not shot. I was frightened for you." There! She had admitted it. Being forthright was one of her hallmarks.

 

Quentin heard her words as he watched her face change from her smile. He reached a hand up and lightly cradled the side of her face and her neck. "I really did not care what happened to me as long as I knew it meant you were safe..." He leaned over and very lightly kissed her and let it linger across several heartbeats before he leaned back. "...Um...I guess we should get to dinner..." He straightened and offered his arm to Harriet. "Shall we?"

 

Her heart danced in her chest as Quentin's lips met hers and she felt her eyes glisten. Harriet had never expected this...this feeling. It was new and unknown and heady. She smiled at him and took his arm, leaning into his side and squeezing his arm gently where her hand rested on it, "We shall." Her gray eyes flew up to meet his dark ones. She wanted to voice how she was feeling, but they could not keep Colonel MacKenzie waiting. There would be time to talk later...

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