Authors: Verna Clay
Once again, Sally found herself watching Flatfoot from her kitchen window. He was throwing a stick for Rambler, her old cocker spaniel to fetch. The dog was having a blast and it made Sally determined to play with him more.
One thing she had come to realize was that Flatfoot had a way with animals. She wondered if he came by it naturally or had been taught by his employer Dirk Branigan, a well known and respected horse whisperer. She suspected he came by it naturally.
The timer dinged on her oven and she grabbed her pot holders to remove the roast and potatoes that were now baked to perfection. She lifted the roasting pan from the oven and placed in on top of the stove. Tossing the pot holders on the counter, she then reached to turn off the oven. As she brought her hand back, she accidently bumped her thumb against the hot pan and it hurt like hell. "Damn," she shouted, and rushed to the sink to run cold water over the burn.
From the doorway she heard Flatfoot say, "What's wrong?"
Feeling foolish for doing something so dumb, she replied, "I burned myself on the pan. It's nothing serious."
Immediately, he was beside her and lifting her hand out of the water so he could inspect it before placing it back under the faucet. "I'll make a cold compress for it."
Before Sally could protest, he was gone. A few minutes later he returned with an ice pack and began loading ice into it. Gently removing her hand from the stream of water, he said, "Hold this against it and see if it helps."
Sally followed his instructions and then watched him remove a jar of honey from her cupboard. Unscrewing the lid, he reached in and scooped a little on his index finger and then began rubbing the honey on her burn. "It's a remedy I learned from my granny."
"Really? Have you ever used it on yourself?"
"Yep. And it works. The burn heals faster and has less chance of infection." Flatfoot lifted his finger to his mouth to suck off the remaining honey.
Sally watched the movement of his mouth and couldn't make herself look away. She lifted her gaze to his and held her breath. He was searching her face with such intensity she felt paralyzed. With a slight quirk of his mouth, he dipped his finger back into the honey jar and lifted it to her lips. All the fire in her finger was forgotten as she slowly opened her mouth. Now there was a total body fire that only he could quench. She sucked the honey off his finger. Their eyes never strayed from each other. He repeated the action and Sally felt like she was standing at the edge of a precipice. He removed his finger from her mouth and just watched her. Instinctively, she knew he was waiting for her to jump off the cliff.
And she did.
With lightning speed, she had her mouth on his and her arms around his neck. The cold compress fell to the ground. She had been watching this man for days and dreaming about him every night, and now that she had him in her arms, she wasn't about to let go.
And apparently he felt the same way.
His arms snaked around her waist, his mouth molded itself to hers, and his tongue did things that made her toes curl. Slowly, he began walking her backward toward the door. Once they were in the dining room, he must have decided their progress was too slow, because he reached under her legs and lifted her into his arms.
Still, their mouths never broke contact.
Sally felt the softness of a bed beneath her as flashes of their wedding night ignited the smoldering fire that had consumed her since her marriage. She just had to get her hands on Flatfoot's body and frantically began pulling his shirt out of his jeans. He speeded things up by ripping the shirt off. Finally, she had access to all those corded muscles. He was ripped, no doubt about it.
Flatfoot covered Sally's breasts with his palms and knew he'd just entered heaven. The woman was sweet, soft, sexy, and the best kisser he'd ever come across. She was driving him wild with desire because of her obvious desire for him. He moved his mouth from her lips to her ear and whispered, "I'm yours, baby. Whatever you want, you just ask."
He was rewarded when she said in a breathless voice, "Just keep kissing me like this."
"You got it." He trailed his mouth to hers following a pathway leading to bliss.
Dovie wanted to stay in the beautiful meadow with Toby all day, but he kissed the corner of her mouth and said, "Darlin' I've gotta get back to camp because there's something I have to do." She nodded and he kissed her mouth one last time before helping her up and lifting her onto Blue. During the return ride she leaned back against him and often felt him nuzzling her hair and neck. She wished she could make time stand still.
Back at her wagon, Toby dismounted, helped her down, and then bent to whisper in her ear. "Honey, we have a dinner date next Saturday night, right?"
She nodded and he kissed her forehead before reaching for her cane leaning against the side of the wagon. He handed it to her and then placed his index finger under her chin and lifted until her eyes met his. The tenderness in their blue depths almost made her cry. He lowered his voice and said, "God, you're beautiful," before mounting Blue and trotting away.
Dovie hadn't responded and she wanted to cry out, "You're beautiful, too, Toby," but of course, she didn't. Never, even in her dreams, had she felt such love and passion for a man. Oh, she'd imagined what it might be like, but nothing came close to what she felt for Toby Tanner. Was she about to have her heart broken?
Glancing across the camp, she saw Sean and Tessa surrounded by children and adults. The famous couple was signing autographs and laughing with their admirers. Roxy was among the group and looked up to see Dovie and waved. The girl's transformation was amazing. Dovie only hoped it continued after the Trail Blaze was over.
Suddenly, everyone stopped what they were doing when several whoops and the sound of thundering hooves were heard. Cowboys wearing bandanas over their mouths and with their hats pulled low were barreling down the dusty road toward them.
Beaner, who was standing in the center of camp yelled, "It's the Walton Gang come to rob us blind! Everybody, hurry to your wagons and hide yer valuables!"
For a moment, no one moved, and then pioneers scattered in every direction.
Roxy moved faster than Dovie had ever seen and the girl was laughing by the time she reached their wagon. "Oh man, I can't wait to see what happens now!"
Dovie said, "Let's hide behind the wagon."
Both women made for the backside of their wagon and peeked around it. The leader of the gang was now in the center of camp and his horse reared up on two legs. He yelled, "We're the Walton Gang and I'm Ron-Boy, the leader! Don't think you can hide from me!"
Four more cowboys on large steeds halted behind him and Dovie held her hand over her heart. Even though it was all pretend, her heart pounded as fast and hard as when Toby had kissed her.
Suddenly, another voice yelled, "Ron-Boy, I can't let you rob these innocent pioneers!" Toby had stepped from behind the chuck wagon wearing a low-slung gun belt and holding a large pistol trained on Ron-Boy. The band of bandits each drew their weapons, but Ron-Boy called out, "Holster your guns, men!" The men mumbled, but obeyed. Ron-Boy dismounted. "Well, well, if it isn't Butch Rhapsody. I was wondering if we'd ever meet up again."
"So now you know," Toby, or rather Butch, retorted.
The two men faced each other from a distance of about twenty feet and then Ron-Boy yelled, "I say we settle this once and for all with a shoot out. If you win, my men will load me onto my horse and leave. If I win, I get all the valuables on this train and I'll let you go in peace."
Butch lowered his gun into his holster. "I think that's fair enough." He glanced at Ron-Boy's gang members and shouted, "Do you men agree?"
One by one, they called out: "Yeah." "Yep." "Alrighty." "Don't want to but I will."
Butch Rhapsody and Ron-Boy faced each other with their hands hovering above their holstered guns.
Dovie held her breath and Roxy grasped Dovie's good arm. The entire camp was silent and fixated on the gunfight in their midst.
Both men circled each other. Suddenly, they made their moves. Loud pops broke the silence. Ron-Boy's face went from cocky to surprised, and then he dropped his gun and clutched his heart, stumbling backward until he finally fell to the ground.
One of his men dismounted and rushed to bend over him. He felt for a pulse in his leader's neck, lifted his head and yelled, "He's gone to meet his maker!"
Butch kept his gun trained on the man beside Ron-Boy. His voice sounded ominous when he demanded, "Now uphold your end of the bargain and get this outlaw out of our camp."
The cowboy nodded, motioned toward another outlaw who dismounted, and together they lifted Ron-Boy across his saddle until his head dangled on one side and his feet on the other. With a final glare at Butch, the men galloped out of camp with one of them holding the reins of Ron-Boy's horse.
Every eye watched the bandits leave and then turned back to their fearless leader. In a magnificent display Butch twirled his gun and smoothly holstered it. He grinned and called out, "Let's move 'em out, Pioneers! We got a lot of ground to cover before nightfall!"
No one moved, and then suddenly, someone started to clap. Soon, everyone was clapping and hooting for Butch Rhapsody.
Butch lifted a hand, waved, glanced in Dovie's direction, winked, and then disappeared behind the chuck wagon.
Roxy loosened her grip on Dovie's arm and breathed, "That. Was. Awesome!"
By the third day of the trail blaze, Toby could see that the pioneers were growing weary, as was always the case by the time they reached the end of the trail—the barns of
Most of the group had dressed back into their 21st century clothing. Toby was both sad and happy that this year's Trail Blaze was over. He'd been working the wagon train adventure since childhood and always looked forward to it. Over the past five years, his father had gradually taken a less prominent role and handed the reins over to his sons. The brothers had always worked together, but now that they had the vet clinic, one of them would have to stay behind. Toby already missed the days when he and Preston would ham it up as Old West cowboys.
He smiled as he watched the comradery between the pioneers. It never failed to happen that lifelong friendships were formed and bonds were sealed.
Everyone was now pitching in to unload the wagons so they could head to their rooms and collapse or just hang out together. Hank was already in the kitchen with his helpers unloading supplies.
Toby assisted Skipper in unhitching the horses from the wagons and caught a glimpse of Dovie carrying her backpack and a bundle of blankets toward the dorm. Something had happened to him during their time in the meadow and he knew he'd never be the same. He'd fallen hard for Dovie and the thought of being with another woman simply did not compute. He was looking forward to their date and subsequent conversation. She was complicated, intelligent, fascinating, and sexy as hell. She stopped before entering the dorm and glanced around. He tipped his hat when she saw him and waited to see her reaction. She smiled shyly and then hurried through the door.
Skipper said, "She's one fine lady, boss."
Toby returned his attention to the horses. "You got that right, Skipper."
Dovie turned in front of the mirror and asked Roxy, "Do you think the skirt hangs right? It seems to droop on one side."
Roxy, who was sitting on Dovie's bed, replied, "Dovie, it's gorgeous. It's supposed to have kind of a floppy look."
"Well, what about the blouse? Do you think I should change into the white one?"
"Heck no. That would be boring. The green one is really pretty and brings out the green in the skirt. Geez, you're really nervous about this date, aren't you?"
Since returning from the Trail Blaze the previous weekend, Roxy had been hanging out with Dovie and surprisingly had not displayed a rotten attitude. Just as Dovie had predicted, the wagon train adventure had changed the girl. In fact, it had changed Dovie, too. She felt happier, not that she had been unhappy before, but this new happiness came with a peacefulness that had always eluded her—except that she wasn't feeling peaceful right now. She was so nervous she was sweating. Entering the bathroom, she applied more deodorant.
Roxy started laughing. "You'd think it was your wedding day. Of course, that may not be too far in the future the way Toby's panting after you."
Dovie shook her head. "You have a vivid imagination, child. He's just being nice. Have you seen some of the cowgirls that stop by the ranch? He's probably dated every one of them. They're pretty and they know all about horses, cattle, ranching, and cowboy stuff."
"Yeah, but they're not
And Toby wants
Dovie decided that arguing with Roxy was pointless and went back to messing with her skirt. There was a knock on her door and she inhaled sharply, glancing at Roxy.
Roxy grinned. "He's heerreee."
Dovie took several deep breaths and then walked to open her door. On the other side, Toby had his hat in his hand and a smile on his face. Dovie's heart collided with her breastbone. The man was tall, lean, tanned, and gorgeous dressed in crisply pressed black slacks, a white button-down shirt with shiny cuff links, and ostrich boots. She wished she'd changed into another skirt.
In her living room, Sarah peeked through a crack in the drapes. "They're leaving now," she reported to her husband.
Leaning back in his recliner and resting after a long day in the saddle surveying his herd, Sage said, "Honey, are you going to relax now that they're gone?"
She closed the drapes. "I guess so. But you know Dovie's time with us will be over in two weeks. What are we going to do?"
Sage lifted his eyebrows. "Do I detect a note of manipulation in your voice?"
"Damn straight, you do."
"Hmm. Do you have any ideas?"
"Well, since you asked…" She grinned at Sage.
He laughed, placed his chair in the upright position, and patted his lap. "Come sit on my lap and tell me what that pretty head of yours is conjuring up."