Authors: Angel Wolfe
By Angel Wolfe
Copyright 2015 by Naughty Angels Bedtime Stories
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously by the author and are not construed to be real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or actual events is entirely coincidental. Author has taken literary license with some aspects of the time period. Extensive research went into the writing of this book but in some instances, timelines were changed to make the book more interesting.
All rights reserved. With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may not be reproduced or used in any part by any means existing without written permission from the author.
WARNING: This story contains adult situations including sex and strong language. It is not intended for use by minors.
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~~Even the most damaged heart can be mended~~
Darcy - Dead Man Down
Southwest Colorado, Late Spring 1893
Kaitlyn sighed deeply as she leaned against a fence post. As she gazed out across the fields, her long blonde hair blew softly against her face. She couldn’t believe that in just five short years all of this had become her haven. It was a long, hard battle but definitely worth the fight. All three-hundred fifty eight…wait; make that fifty-nine acres were now officially hers. In this last year and a half, she finally acquired the rights to that last acre that should have been hers to start with. That one acre with all the water was what made her mind up to purchase the property to begin with. Now as she looked out at the small herd of horses dotting the landscape, she knew she had made the right choice; it was time to start building again.
She wandered slowly down the fence line to the corral where she kept the riding horses. Sensing her pensive mood GoldDust, her huge palomino stallion bobbed his head and whinnied his greeting to her. He stomped his hoof twice as if telling her to hurry his way, eager for the treat he knew she carried. Reaching up, she mindlessly stroked the stallion’s neck and offered him the apple. The mares in the next paddock crowded the fence jealously wanting their share of the treats and attention. Giving Dusty a final pat, she stepped over to dole out their share of the fruit. If nothing else, the animals were good company and they returned her love without reservation. A lot could be said about the horse’s habits; at least they weren’t judgmental about looks, body shapes or sizes.
A stud found himself a mare in season and took control of the situation; eleven months later a foal was born. She just didn’t bother to remind herself that after the stud had done his job, the mare didn’t see him until she went into season again.
Shaking her head to clear her thoughts she went back to looking over the mares. Each and every one had been hand-picked keeping only the ones that had certain traits that she wanted to breed into a strong, perfect herd. All of her careful planning had almost been for naught though; if it hadn’t been for Rick buying most all of her Angus herd she would have lost everything; ranch, home, horses and cattle.
She still wasn’t totally happy that she lost CoalDust and all the rest of the good stock but there was no way she would have sold the horses first. Plus, it wasn’t like Rick didn’t welcome her with open arms every time she asked for the use of Coal. It just burned to admit that she needed anyone…..Most of all, that handsome, black haired, steel-eyed cowboy.
“Well, time to get to work,” She turned and headed back to the stallion’s paddock. On the way, she took a side trip into the barn and emerged carrying her saddle. Heaving it up on the fence, she went back and got the saddle blanket, lead rope and a pair of reins. After tossing the blanket and reins up onto the fence near the saddle, she took the lead rope and entered the paddock clicking. The horse, being just as eager as she was to begin the day, sidled up next to her playfully tugging on her braid as she clipped the rope to his halter. She led him carefully out of the paddock and tied him to the fence so she could saddle him.
Grabbing the saddle blanket, she tossed it up on his wide back and carefully smoothed it out making sure there were no wrinkles. Next, she pulled the saddle off the fence staggering a little from the weight of it before hefting it up on top of the blanket. The horse stood perfectly still as she lined it up and pulled the cinch strap tight before flipping down the stirrups and checking their length. Finally, she checked and adjusted his halter.
Even though Golddust was a stallion, she chose not to use a bit and instead just clipped the reins to the halter before tying them to the fence. She unclipped the lead rope and hung it on its peg near the paddock as she went back into the barn emerging seconds later with a small pick.
Reaching the horse, she started with the left front foot; picking up his foot, she wedged it between her knees so she could use the tool to pry out any small stones or debris that may have become lodged between his hoof and shoe. After checking each one, she was content that her horse was ready. Kat untied the stallion and backed him from the fence. As she swung up into the saddle, she marveled to herself that she still owned the best stallion in the territory. She situated herself, took up the reins, and clicked to let him know she was ready.
Starting off with a couple prancing steps, they wheeled around and took off, quickly moving into a ground eating gallop. Soon, they approached the spot she had ended with the day before. Kat slowly pulled the horse up and let him walk the last little bit to cool him down before sliding down to check out a section of fence that was severely damaged.
After closer inspection it was as she suspected, the wire had been cut. “Not again! Why won’t you just leave me alone?” She screamed uselessly at the top of her lungs. Looking even closer at the many hoof prints in the immediate area, she figured most of her remaining cattle were gone. What she didn’t understand though was why.
Her land bordered Rick Jamison’s on this side but after selling him a majority of her stock already, she knew that he wouldn’t have bothered with what was left, even if he had been the dishonest type. With only a slim chance that any of her cattle was still there, she made a temporary fix anyway before cussing herself for being an absentminded fool. Climbing back up on Dusty, she backed him up a bit and let him take her sailing over the fence. Why she didn’t think of walking him through to the other side before she fixed the fence was beyond her. Obviously, her mind was too busy processing the information about the cut fence and missing herd to think clearly. Determined to get to the bottom of it, she turned the horse towards Ricks place. Maybe he could shed some light on the situation.
She rode just a short distance before giving the stallion his head and threw hers back letting the breeze cool both her temper and her body. If nothing else, maybe Rick could help her make sense of what was going on with the fence. She made the hour-long ride in just forty-five minutes and was almost happy to see that Rick was outside the barn as she flew across his pasture and brought her horse to a skidding stop at his open gate. Well, she was happy that is until he opened his mouth.
"Kaitlyn!” He scolded her; hands on his hips refusing as always to call her by her nickname like everyone else. “What in the world are you doing riding like that? What the heck is wrong with you.”
"Well if something was wrong, I sure must have come to the wrong place.” She countered, her eyes flashing fire in irritation. “You know on second thought, I shouldn’t have come here at all. I am so very sorry to have bothered you"
As she started to swing back up on Golddust, she felt his strong hands close around her waist and pull her back to the ground. “What’s wrong, and don’t say nothing.” Rick whispered into her ear causing her to shiver slightly. “It’s not like you to leave a horse standing here hot without walking him and taking him to the water. I’m sorry I snapped at you but you really do have me worried."
Not knowing what else to do, Kat loosened the cinch on the saddle and began walking the horse to cool him down. “You’re right Rick” She replied, refusing to look up at him. “There is something wrong but I didn’t expect the third degree as soon as I slid outta the saddle.”
"I already said I’m sorry; now out with it. What’s got you running Golddust at full speed right into my front yard, and why didn’t you take the road?”
"If you’re just going to continue to act like this, I may as well go give my report to the Sheriff and then go home. If I wanted this kind of treatment, I could have already been to see him. It’s not like reporting it will do me any good. With my luck, it’s probably him trying to ruin me again anyway.”
"Ok, ok. Trading insults isn’t going to get whatever problem you’re having fixed now is it?” He removed his hat and slapped it against his thigh causing dust to billow from it. Running his fingers through his already disheveled hair, he attempted to lower his voice. “What’s going on and what can I do to help you fix it? That is why you came here, right? I know it wasn’t for the sheer delight of my company.”
Taking a deep breath to steady her nerves and to stall for just a second longer so she could think of where to start, she finally decided that the beginning would be best.
"So let me get this straight.” Rick took a deep breath in attempt to moderate his voice to a dull roar. “First, your water holes were poisoned, then someone started shooting your herd, and someone set your house on fire, then you had to sell off your breeding stock so you could make the tax payment, and now your fence is cut and most of your remaining cattle are gone? Wow Kaitlyn, it really sounds like you made someone mad along the way."
"And don’t forget that wonderful mix-up on my land boundaries and water rights that took all that time to get fixed which put me in the tax payment situation to begin with." She stated bluntly. “As for your question about who I pissed off lately, it could be anyone but I’m still laying odds on it being my father.”
"Why didn’t you just tell me about all that before I bought Coaldust and most of your herd?” Rick released a frustrated breath. “I could have helped you instead of taking what you worked so hard for.”
"Well, what would you and Matt do with all your spare time if it wasn’t for my cattle?” She attempted to joke. “At least I know you’ll treat them well, you know what you’re doing and plus I can see them from time to time while I’m fixing fence."
Ignoring her comment, Rick strode off towards the barn before stopping abruptly. “Let’s go take a look at this fence and see what we can figure out. If the cattle were moved across my land, maybe we can find them." He turned back to the barn to saddle Magyc, one of the first palominos that Kat had sold.
When he came out leading the young stallion, he asked jokingly, his earlier moodiness behind him. “Soooo, where’s your hat? You never seem to go anywhere without it and....." he leaned closer to her running his finger down her nose before tapping the tip of it and whispering "Your nose is sun burnt."
"Oh you!" she blushed embarrassingly. "If nothing else, you flatter me beyond all reason."
He slowly looked her up and down taking in her tight, worn denims, which she insisted on wearing; a button up chambray shirt with the top three buttons open, a bandanna tied around her neck, scuffed boots, and a tight braid that her hair had already tried to escape from. He swore she’d never know it but for as much hell as he gave her, he thought she looked hotter than a jalapeno starved of water the when she wore those britches. Yes, she had some extra padding here and there but that just added to her allure in his eyes. He never really liked his women to be skin and bones. "You do know Kaitlyn, if you tried dressing a little more like a female, people in town might not give you such a hard time.” He swung up into Magyc’s saddle in a single fluid motion. Knowing he had sparked that fire in her yet again, he kicked the horse to a gallop and left her to mount up, cool down, and follow on her own.
"You do know Rick,” She said in voice like raw honey once she had caught up. “If you gave a little less attitude and a little more sugar, you might already be married again. Morgan and Ali could use a female at home from time to time I’m sure.” With that, she kicked Dusty into a gallop again, this time leaving Rick to eat her dust for a while.
Wow, he thought to himself watching her move expertly in the saddle. What a seat! Crazy enough, what he liked the most about her was what everyone else shied away from. She sure was one to talk about having an attitude. He laughed as he kicked Magyc up to a quicker pace. He still wasn’t ok about buying up all her cattle but something had to be done to help her when she couldn’t help herself. She was right about one thing though, his girls definitely needed a mother and tomboy or not, Kaitlyn was a perfect fit for the job. She just didn’t know that she had applied.
They rode up to the spot where the fence had been cut and both swung down and dropped the reins, ground tying the horses. Rick walked slowly towards the fence looking carefully at the tracks, every now and then kneeling down to examine something a little closer. Seeing the prints where she had jumped her horse over the fence made him chuckle.
“Well, they sure did a number on you didn’t they?” He finally stated. “Want to see if my opinion matches yours?”
She rolled her eyes before replying “That’s why I went to your place to begin with. Whatcha think?”
“And here I thought you came to my place because of my wonderful sense of humor and my devilish good looks” he muttered under his breath, continuing before she could reply. “From what I see, there were probably four to five riders pushing your cattle. It looks like one stayed here at the fence on lookout while the others went to gather up your herd. Sometime after the herd passed, a single rider came up and managed to trap themself on the wrong side of the fence after repairing it.” Fighting to keep a straight face, Rick waited for the explosion first then her opinion of the details after.
Refusing to take the bait, Kat skipped over his assessment of her jump and went straight to the rustling. “I agree with you on the four to five guys idea but I don’t think the one by the fence was just look out. I figure I know you well enough to know you saw the print with the starred shoe. I figure you also saw where the prints went off in another direction towards town after my cattle came across and were moved off in the direction of Sunnyside Canyon,” She stopped and took a deep breath. “On top of all that, I know you know that shoe as well as I do and know what horse it’s nailed to.” She turned and gazed in the direction that the herd had gone, deep in thought about what to do and how she was going to get her stock back.
After angrily kicking a few rocks as she paced one direction, she slowly worked her way the other idly following the single set of prints that veered off in the opposite direction.
“I think you’re right,” he walked up to her after looking further at the tracks near the now repaired fence. “You sure are quiet though, what’s going on in that quick mind of yours?” His voice barely above a whisper, he added, “I know better than to think you are going to take all of this lying down.”
“You’re right about that Rick. I’m plenty steamed that someone had the gall to march right on to my land and take the cattle right out from under my nose, but what makes me even hotter is that I know exactly who did it. The supposed Law.” she growled. “The horses are probably rested by now, let’s go let Angel know what’s going on and get your brother. Maybe between the four of us we can figure out where those cattle went; after all, I know better than to just run off chasing them without help.”
They grabbed the reins and swung up onto their respective mounts; Rick nudged Magyc closer to Golddust. “Don’t worry, we’ll find the cattle and get them home; but after we do the two of us have some serious talking to do.”
Ignoring his final comment, Kat rode a short distance from the fence before turning the horse back sending him over the obstacle. Gradually she eased him into a ground-eating canter then after letting him run a bit, slowed him down again.
By this time, Rick had caught up and they made small talk as they rode along. Amazingly, Kat learned a lot of things she’d never known about him. Of course, they both loved the ranching lifestyle and were both used to the hard work; but as they talked, she learned that like her, Rick’s favorite time of day was early morning when the sun was first coming up. He liked his coffee mild and black where as she like hers strong with lots of cream. He liked to eat a big breakfast while she would normally settle for a pot of coffee and maybe some toast. There were many things that she would have never thought about that just came up in their conversation.
Kat had known of Rick most of her life, but they had only gotten close a few years ago when his wife had passed away. Being mostly a loner, she had never really had many friends and had always stayed to herself. Other than her sister, not many people knew anything about her that wasn’t made up and spread around in rumors.
Rick on the other hand was well known and well liked throughout the county and his family had been there for generations. His father was the county judge and his mother, a prominent member of society. What Kat didn’t know was that Rick knew a lot more about her then she would have liked.
He remembered back when she was a kid in the schoolroom, she was always quiet and withdrawn but intrigued him even then. He used to follow her and her sister home from time to time just to make sure they were ok and then later to see where she and her sister had moved to. He knew she grew up dirt poor and abused after her step-father and mother had died when she was only thirteen. He just didn’t know her worst deep, dark secret and she wasn’t offering to tell it; at least not yet.
It took over an hour to ride back to the house. Once they got there, he was impressed again as he always was by the fact that she had worked so hard to get the land, build the house, and to build two separate but totally amazing herds; the palominos and the angus. Her pride and joy, Golddust was named after her ranch, or vice versa. He would have to remember to ask her some day when they didn’t have more pressing matters to deal with.
They eased out of their saddles, loosened the cinches, and walked the animals until they had cooled down enough to turn out into separate corrals to drink and rest. The horses got along fine while being ridden due to the good manners Kat instilled in all her animals; but both being stallions, they wouldn’t stand for sharing the same space alone with each other for very long.
As they headed up the packed dirt walkway, Kat stumbled over an unseen rock. Rick quickly grabbed her to save her from the fall. They both felt the spark shoot through them as his hand accidentally brushed her breast. She chose to ignore it for the moment and tucked the memory away to savor later. He on the other hand jerked his hand away as if she had burned him with the slight contact.
As they got to the porch, he opened the door for her, suddenly remembering that he wanted to keep her on her toes enough to think about him even after he left for home later. She gave him an odd look but didn’t say anything as she accepted the gesture and went in first. As he followed her though the door, he was awed by all the intricate work that he saw in the ceiling tiles and on the trim throughout the entry room. Without a word, she grabbed her forgotten hat off the entryway table and slapped it on her head before heading back towards the kitchen and pouring a couple glasses of lemonade. Handing him one, she walked out the back door and onto the porch that wrapped around from the front. Sighing dejectedly, she slid down onto the hand-hewn bench that was built onto the back of the house.
“What’s the depressed sound for?” Rick asked as he dropped his imposing frame onto the edge of the bench next to her.
“Well, how would you feel if after all the blood, sweat, and tears you put into a place; someone, possibly your biological father, decided to come steal what was left of your herd before you could build it back up?” she answered sadly. “I sold you all but thirty head and now twenty of that is gone. The only reason I still have the ten left is that I separated the older heifers out yesterday so I could go see you about borrowing Coal for a few days next month. Those cows and heifers are going to be ready to cover before too long. As it stood, I was already going to have to wait until next year to see if what I got from the breeding would even begin to measure up to what I sold you.”
“You know you can use him anytime you want Kaitlyn. In fact, I seem to remember something crazy like that in the sale papers that some very smart business lady had drawn up.”
That almost caused her to crack a small smile. She remembered how they had gone back and forth on the bill of sale arguing the finer points of what she wanted and the conditions that she had agreed on before letting him take possession of the herd. She hadn’t come out so bad as far retaining breeding rights but she was still miffed that she’d had to sell them at all.
Each animal retained the name it was given at birth and all the breeding records and future plans had gone to Rick along with the animals. He had even gone so far as to agree to let her have some say in future breeding plans.
They lapsed into a companionable silence and sipped their lemonade; each lost in their own thoughts. Kat was thinking about what she was going to do if they didn’t find her cattle and Rick was contemplating how long he should or could wait before attempting to convince her to marry him and start adding to their family.
Seeing dust kicked up on the road, Kat shook the thoughts from her head, rose, and headed for the corral with Rick following closely behind her. Moments later, Angel flew into the yard on Stardust with Wolfe, their Australian Shepherd running right beside her. Her face broke into a smile seeing Rick. Unlike her older sister, Angel had a cute little figure and a personality to match. To top it all off, Angel had never known a stranger. Kat had made sure that her sister led as much of a normal life as she could give her, one that wasn’t even close to the kind she herself had led.