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Authors: Melanie Jackson

6 The Wedding

BOOK: 6 The Wedding
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The Wedding

by

Melanie
Jackson

 

Version 1.1 –
March, 2012

 

Published by
Brian Jackson at KDP

 

Copyright ©
2012 by Melanie Jackson

 

Discover
other titles by Melanie Jackson at
www.melaniejackson.com

 

This book is a work of fiction.
 
Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the
author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
 
Any resemblance to actual events or locals or persons, living or dead,
is entirely coincidental.

 

All rights
reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

 
 
Prologue
 

Chuck was not on bended knee. We were ice fishing and
sitting on campstools with tennis balls on the feet, which Big John swore was
safest when the ice began to show signs of weakening and could be punctured
with sharp implements. Not that the ice was weak—of course not. But just in
case, we should stay near shore and put tennis balls on our stools, eh.

I wasn’t supposed to be there at all, since this was a
father-son outing, but Horace had been delayed in Seven Forks and Chuck had
asked me specifically to come. We hadn’t seen as much of each other as we would
have liked since he had become a roving agent for the RCMP, so I said yes even
though ice fishing held all the appeal of a bath in snowmelt.

Chuck may not have assumed the classic position, but I
recognized the look in his eyes. The last time I had seen this, it had caused
terror in my heart. This time I was calmer. My Mountie was handsome, sober—mostly—and
solvent. He came with a quirky father, but Horace was usually more blessing
than curse. True, Chuck did work for a governmental agency we did our best to
avoid, but as baggage went, he was traveling lightly compared to most of us in
McIntyre’s Gulch.

Usually I am risk-averse, but Chuck and I had been to hell
and back in the course of the last year, and he’d spent much of that time defending
us—even at the cost of his position of trust—and I was confident that he could
handle anything that life, or the Gulch, might throw at him.

Also, I was tired of being alone. There would never be a
perfect situation for me to get married and have a normal life. Fugitives don’t
get perfect situations and normal lives. But Chuck was the perfect partner for
the life I had to lead, and if he needed to be married in order to feel
comfortable then married we would be.

Besides, I was pretty sure that our wedding wouldn’t
actually be legal.

“Butterscotch,” he said softly, reaching into his pocket for
a small velvet box. “If you don’t say yes this time I’m going to drown you in
the lake.”

I started laughing.

“How could I possibly refuse an offer like that?”

 
 
Chapter 1
 

“Patience, Max. We’ll go soon. You know I can’t let you out
when the Bones is smoking his venison. Remember what happened last time.”

My wolf sighed heavily in reply. I felt like sighing, too,
and not because I was missing a meal of half-smoked deer. My woes were not many—really
just two. But they were an important two and causing me a lot of heartburn and
headaches.

It was sweet of Madge to lend me her wedding dress, especially
since all the ones in the magazine the Braids had given me were so expensive.
But the dress was … big. The Madge Brightwater we knew now was a lean, mean
mushing machine, but once upon a time she had been more full figured and given
to girlie tastes in clothing.

My own body is built along less belligerent lines with fewer
aggressive curves, and so many lacy ruffles just look silly. The Flowers had
pinned the gown carefully after we plucked away the stitching that held the bodice’s
appliqued lace in place. After much strategizing, we had agreed on how to best
take it in and it seemed straightforward enough at the time. But now there
seemed to be acres of slippery satin spilling all over the bed and miles of
stitches that needed to be laid on the jumbo-sized bodice before the lace
appliques could be reapplied. It was enough to cross the eyes and bruise the
fingers.

I couldn’t give up though. I respected Madge, who had once
saved one of her dogs during a sled race by giving it mouth to mouth and CPR
and then carried it to town. She had worn this dress on the day that she had
married her only true love. His name was Tennyson—Tennyson what, I didn’t know
since Madge was reticent—but he had been her husband for only seven months when
he died somewhere in Africa. Madge made it sound like a tragic Red Cross
incident that sometimes happens in war zones, but I didn’t think it was. One
did not move to the Gulch, change one’s name, and take up dog racing because
one’s husband had died doing charitable work in the Congo. At a guess, I would
say he had been gunrunning. It might also explain the scar in Madge’s leg, the
one shaped like a bullet hole.

I glanced at the battery-powered wall clock. Chuck had
insisted that we needed one so I had given in and gotten one, though I hated to
hear its ticking. Most days I never looked at it, but today I needed to keep
track of the time. I had an interview with John
McNab
at three. I say interview because I was by no means certain that I wanted him
to officiate at our wedding. I had not forgotten the recent funeral for the
hand of Janet Dee (eaten by bears) and how Reverend
McNab
had gotten lost in one of his interminable,
unamusing
stories which he indulged in whenever he had a captive audience.

There was also the little matter of his being willing to
marry us without a marriage license. Somehow, I didn’t think that this proposal
was going to go over well. Not that Father White was a much better choice. He was
grumpy, older than dirt, and given to name-calling of his erring parishioners.
This was woe number two, and Chuck was not there to support me in choosing the
lesser evil because he had been called away on a case. The screw-up of choosing
a bad officiant would be
mine
alone.

“Okay, okay,” I said to Max, who jumped to his feet at my
tone of resignation. “We’ll go for a short walk before the reverend comes. But
I expect you to stay far away from the Bones’ smokehouse.”

Max’s big eyes said that he promised. I didn’t put much
stock in this though. Oh, Max meant his pledge in that moment, but the smell of
venison did something to his short-term memory. I would have to watch him like
a hawk.

 

*
 
*
 
*

 

Anatoli pulled his Kawasaki trail bike to a halt at the bend
in the uneven dirt path. The Mountie slid awkwardly to a halt beside him,
adding to the dirt in the air. They each removed their dust-covered riding
goggles so they could see more clearly. While Chuck used the pause to survey
the beauty of their surroundings, Anatoli consulted his portable GPS and map.

“Still on course?” the Mountie asked.

“We make, how do you say, beeline for Soda Springs,” Anatoli
replied.

“Good. I’d like to arrive tomorrow morning if we can manage
it.”

“Is good chance, if luck will shine on
us.

Both men removed the scarfs from their faces that they’d
used to keep the dirt and bugs out of their mouths during the ride. They used them
to wipe the sweat and dirt from their goggles and necks. They were fully
clothed in parkas, jeans, boots, gloves, and helmets which protected their
bodies from the filth of the trail, but their clothes were covered in grime
from the long ride. Chuck used his gloved hand to swat the worst of the filth
from his riding outfit. Anatoli smiled at him and shook his head, choosing
instead to let the filth remain until the ride was over for the day.

“I don’t know about you, but I could use a short break,”
Chuck said.

“Water and stretch of legs would be good,” Anatoli agreed.

Chuck was thankful that the younger, more athletic man had
agreed to the break. He suspected that Anatoli had agreed solely for Chuck’s
sake. So far it had been a challenge keeping up with the Russian who was by far
the more experienced rider. In fact, though Chuck refused to admit it, even to
himself, the speeds at which they traveled had almost caused him to ride off
the trail several times. Laying his helmet and gloves on a bed of pine needles,
Chuck stretched his sore muscles while running his fingers through his sweaty
hair.

Looking out over the misty valley that lay before them,
Chuck felt yet another pang of regret at the way he’d been forced to leave
Butterscotch. The call had come in on the radio at the store. The Braids had
rushed to get him, and he had taken the assignment even though they were
getting awfully near their wedding day.

“It sounds like there’s trouble at Soda Springs,” the Braids
had announced.

The Mountie had looked to Butterscotch with concern in his
expression, then grabbed his parka and left her cabin to take the call. It was
a shaky voice that greeted him on the other end of the line.

“Mountie, we have trouble here,” a man announced. “Old Woody
has gone plumb loco. He’s come out of his cabin in the woods and into town to wreak
havoc. We need help and fast.”

“Hold on now, whom am I speaking with?” Chuck replied.

“This is Andy Smith,” the voice replied, and there was a
wheeze that almost sounded like a laugh. “Oh no, here he comes again.”

The radio went dead. Chuck had no way to make a call back. He
consulted a map provided by the Braids and found that Soda Springs was a
secluded community two days’ drive into the woods in rough terrain. There was
no airfield at which to land. Chuck knew the Russians had had some dealing out
that way and he went to the Moose and called Anatoli to see if the Russian was
available to guide him to the remote village.

Then he was forced to face Butterscotch with the bad news. He
could see the tears welling in her eyes as he announced his need to leave. That
they were as much tears of frustration as sorrow hadn’t helped.

“Look, it should only take a few days. If all goes well,
I’ll be back in plenty of time for the wedding. So, there’s no need to change
our plans.”

“I don’t feel good about this,” Butterscotch replied. “Did
the man add any details about the trouble they were in?”

“None, but I have to go anyway. It’s my duty,” the Mountie
concluded.

After that there was nothing left to do but pack and kiss
the love of his life goodbye. She’d felt good in his arms the last time he’d
held her. He could almost feel
her,
smell her,
standing next to him that moment as he stared off into the woods. He’d hitched
a ride with the Braids from the Gulch to Seven Forks and from there Anatoli and
he had ridden off into the denseness of the Manitoba wilderness.

Now, more than ever, he was regretting his decision to
leave.

“You miss the woman, don’t you?” Anatoli prompted.

“I pray you’ll never know such longing,” the Mountie
replied.

“She is good woman. Good hips for making babies.
Will make good wife.”

Chuck had to laugh at Anatoli’s evaluation. The Russian
clapped a hand on his shoulder which produced a cloud of dust.

“Come, the trail waits.”

They rode until it was nearly nightfall. Chuck found that
the longer he rode the more adept he became at handling his machine. By the
time they dismounted their bikes, it was obvious that they’d arrive in Soda
Springs the next day. The Mountie was sore as he laid out a blanket amidst the
pine needles so he could lie down and rest his weary bones. Meanwhile, Anatoli
gathered wood and laid a fire to use in preparing their evening meal.

Anatoli roused Chuck from a light sleep so that he could
share in the goulash the Russian had somehow concocted over the campfire. The
Mountie ate ravenously, both servings, and cradled more than one steaming mug
full of coffee in both hands against the cold. It was now fully dark outside. By
the light of the fire, Chuck could see that Anatoli had placed his sleeping bag
beside the blanket on which he lay and set his rifle next to the bag. Chuck
assumed that Anatoli had already hoisted the pack with the remaining food high
into a distant tree to discourage bears.

Chuck rose to unroll his sleeping bag out on his blanket. He
grunted loudly when he had to bend to unlace his boots. Removing all his
clothes, all except for his long johns, the Mountie slipped into his sleeping
bag and lay on his back contemplating the multitude of stars lighting up the heavens.

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