The Cattle Drive
Published Dec 19, 2009

Written By



Page 1 / 78

This is a story I did a while back at my blog, altered to fit the guidelines here at TSR. I left some plots open, as I will no doubt be doing separate stories on some of the characters later.
Hope you enjoy and hope everyone has a Happy Holiday!!


This is a story I did a while back at my blog, altered to fit the guidelines here at TSR. I left some plots open, as I will no doubt be doing separate stories on some of the characters later.
Hope you enjoy and hope everyone has a Happy Holiday!!

Clara Wilson was now in Chicago, interviewing the women who expressed an interest to come to Thunder Valley to live and work. It was her scheme, after all. Here in the windy city with her brother, The Reverend Dominic Wilson and two other men, Daniel Garrett and Gideon Fredericks, they hoped to bring some women back to fill some positions in town, as there was a shocking lack of females in Thunder Valley.
Clara explained the concept, and Victoria Douglas listened. But Victoria was no stranger to Thunder Valley, she was there once about 4 years ago. She didn't stay. She wished now that she did.
She escorted a toddler back to Thunder Valley who had been taken by his irate mother. She took the train trip with a Pinkerton Agent. She could not quite recall his name, but she would never forgot that face, or form.
The toddler...ah yes, Riley something, she was terrible with names.
She listened intently to Miss Wilson, perhaps answering the ad in the Tribune was going to change her life.
Victoria's mind drifted back to 4 years ago, she was hired to look after the boy on the trip...what was that Pinkerton Agent's name?
They fought they whole way from California to the Black Hills of the Dakota Territory.
Well, she might not have remembered his name, but his handsome face and form filled her dreams these last years. He had left Thunder Valley soon after he got there, she had no idea where he went, but these Pinkerton men were always on the trail, law for hire.

She had left Thunder Valley shortly there after.
Victoria snapped back to the present.

Victoria came East to Chicago thinking she would have more opportunity, she was sadly mistaken. She wound up working at the slaughterhouses down by the docks. She could smell it on herself now, the bullocks blood, it was smeared on her burlap dress. She couldn't take it anymore. She realized she hated the big city, the noise, the filth, the cold, unfriendly people. At least, that had been her experience. She listened to Clara Wilson and agreed to come back that night for the meeting.
She remembered Thunder Valley had clean, fresh air. She needed that now, more than anything.
They met with small groups of women over the last couple of evenings. Really, they had an overwhelming response.
Clara explained the jobs available, how if after this meeting they were interested, she would interview each woman and see what job she would be right for. Clara also explained the cost involved, it would not be a free trip. A couple of weeks on the trail meant food had to be bought, wagons and the like.
The woman in the wine colored worn dress got her back up about the cost. "Seems to me, you should be paying us to go to some God-forsaken frontier town. How do we know you are on the up-and-up? Why, you could be here to put us to work in saloons, to keep company with them!" The angry woman pointed to Gideon and Daniel.
Some of the ladies began to giggle and blush.
Daniel, on the right, tried to keep his face neutral.
He could not look at Gideon or he would bust a gut laughing. This was insane! He never should have agreed to it. His best friend Gideon said they would be standing at the front of the room on display like prized bulls at a fair, and they were. He could hear the muted titters of the women.
He was being looked over, quite thoroughly...maybe they would like to check his teeth.
"I assure you ladies, our quest is indeed legitimate and proper. I will be bringing out my brother, the Reverend Dominic Wilson, and he will assure you and answer any questions you may have." Clara soothed.
The woman was still wary. "I heard stories, promises of jobs to lure a woman away, for nefarious purposes!!"
All the women in the room gasped aloud, and began chattering nervously.
Clara sighed. She called out for her brother, and made a note NOT to include the obnoxious woman in the wine dress.
Edwina Paulson was late, as usual. The meeting was already underway when she slipped into the back of the room. When she saw this ad in the Tribune, it was a Godsend. A way to get out of the city, and fast.
Her wide, dark eyes scanned the room, and they locked on an imposing man standing at the front of the room. His hair was long and dark, to his shoulders. He was broad, muscular, tall and ruggedly handsome. She gulped deeply.
Gideon Fredericks saw the woman come through the door and stand at the back. He had not seen such pale, luminescent skin before, almost like the mother of pearl broach his late mother used to wear on special occasions. And the lady had large dark eyes of unfathomable depths. She seemed nervous, twitchy almost. But Gideon felt it, a sweep of emotions pored through him. Damn, he never felt that before, not at a first glance. It was unsettling.
The woman walked with a quiet dignity and took the chair right in front of him. There was heated chatter going on all around them, but they did not take their eyes off each other. Not the whole 30 minutes.
Gideon would see Clara later and find out this delicate creature's name, and if she was coming on the trip.
Two women who worked at the nearby saloon looked in through the window at the gathering.

"My Stars, the men are beautiful, are they not Trixie? Not like the scum that come into the 'Glass Slipper'. I say we come to the next meeting tomorrow night, scrape off this paint, wear some calico, hear what they have to say, what do you think?" Marie whispered into the red hair of her friend.

Trixie remembered Thunder Valley. She was there over 7 years ago. Handsome men indeed. But what caught her attention was the man who came out from the back room. Him she recognized.
The pretty preacher, as some of the women who worked at the saloon in Thunder Valley called him, And here he was. Trixie had to admit she found him attractive then...and now.

"Yes..." she answered Marie. "We will come tomorrow night. Nice, normal young ladies looking for honest work..."
The pretty preacher did not like women who worked in saloons. Trixie would make danged sure he never found out that she was one. Thankfully, she never met him face to face in Thunder Valley. He would not know her. She hoped.
Victoria and Clara had hit it off, so much so, Clara engaged Victoria to help her with the planning. Silently joyous, Victoria quit the slaughterhouse and took up her first assignment, she was to make contact with the hired law man that was accompanying them back on the trip. The men were busy, so Victoria said she would do it.

So off to the Sherman Hotel. She was a little overwhelmed at the opulence, but nothing prepared her for the shock when she knocked on the door of Room 348. It was him.
The Pinkerton agent. Youngbone...or whatever. Wait! She remembered, his name was Burke Youngblood! She glanced behind him, a woman lounged under the silk bedspread.
Victoria was stunned into silence. "Lady, if you are here for my company, you will have to wait your turn, as you can see, I am still engaged."

Victoria flushed furiously. he did not recognize her. It was just as well. He had not changed, still the bored, arrogant cold look he possessed before.

"Burke sugar, are you going to stand there all night with the door open? I am catching a chill!" The female voice whined from the bed.
"Keep still, Bess." Burke arched an eyebrow at Victoria. "Well?"

She saw the glassy, disoriented look in his eye, he was drunk. "I am here to tell you the delegation from Thunder Valley is ready to pull out in 2 days time Be at the flats at 9AM on the 12th."
"Fascinating. Now if you will excuse me..." Burke yawned.
He slammed the door in her face. She could hear the woman giggling. Of course, Burke Youngblood. 2 weeks they were in each others company by stage and by train, when they were escorting the kidnapped Miller child back to Thunder Valley.
They were at it hammer and tongs the whole way. And now she was going to be thrown together with him again. Her heart fluttered, he was still devastating to look at.
Victoria high-tailed it out of there.
A soft, spring rain was falling lightly at the rendezvous point out by the salt flats on the outskirts of Chicago. The war paint scrubbed off, the elaborate hair color and styles disposed of, Trixie and Marie had passed the interview process and were signed on for the trip.

They had taken new names, to start their new lives, Trixie was now Gail Hayes, Marie was now Marie Tyler.
Trixie turned to see the Reverend walking toward the collection of wagons. She drew a sharp breath, he did not have his collar on, he looked even more enticing. He was long, lean, and utterly appealing.
She would go up to speak to him. Trixie reached back in her memory, DID she ever meet him in Thunder Valley? Would he recognize her, see deep inside her, for what she really was? A saloon girl?
"Hello, Reverend Wilson? I just wanted to tell you how much your talk meant to me the other night, it convinced me to come to Thunder Valley..."

Dominic looked at the young woman, she kept her gaze downcast, she was shy almost. She had a fresh scrubbed wholesome beauty he found appealing. "I am glad...Miss...?"
"Miss Gail Hayes. You said, if we wished, we could see you on spiritual matters. I would like that, Reverend." She said softly.
"Of course my child. Anytime, perhaps tonight, when we stop to camp." Dominic smiled politely.

Spiritual matters heck. Trixie never cracked open a bible in her life. But she sensed it was the only way to see and talk to the pious, pretty preacher man. And oh my, he was pretty. She began to imagine all sorts, and her face flushed. The droplets of rain did nothing to cool her thoughts. Trixie was scared to death, of entering into a real relationship, of falling in love...and of being found out.
Burke Youngblood arrived, albeit late. He was hungover, and feeling wretchedly sick. For over three days he did not emerge from his hotel suite, 3 days of drink...and women.

Why he agreed to be point man/scout on this wagon train was beyond him. Who traveled this way anymore, with the train connecting almost all major parts of the country now? Thankfully, it would only be for a few weeks.
Finally, the wagon train was ready to depart. All of Clara Wilson's planning had come to this. There would be 26 women on the trip westward and northward. Having it pour rain was not a good beginning. Clara hoped this was not a harbinger of an ill omen. They were already a few weeks behind from her original departure date, but finally, things had come together.
The stinging, heavy rain did not abate all day, thunder and lightning roared and cracked through the sky. So they had to make camp earlier than they had planned, already behind on the first day.

Burke looked at the sky and exhaled deeply. For all his high-toned upbringing in upper crust Boston, he actually did not mind sleeping rough if he were to be honest with himself. Did it plenty of times on jobs. But he also reveled in a luxury suite at a fancy hotel as well.
He nodded politely at the Reverend on his way to check the horses.
Victoria walked over toward the fire to get a cup of coffee. "Well, if it isn't the messenger." Burke smiled seductively."I waited for you to come back darling, but you did not. Pity." His eyes roved over her luscious curves. Pity indeed.
Dominic tsked aloud at Youngblood's crass behavior.

Victoria could not believe it. He still did not recognize her. She must have made an impression on him on that train trip, no doubt dismissed her before he was even out of Thunder Valley's town limits.
Victoria turned to face him. Now clear of eye and wretchedly sober, Burke had a good look at the woman.
Good God, it was her! That harpy from the train!
Keeping his face free of astonishment, he looked her over once again. Yes, it was her. He had a decided reaction to her on the train trip, it shook him.
He looked into her eyes, did she remember? It was hard to tell. Well, he would not let on he recognized her.
I do not believe we have had the pleasure..." He smiled slyly.
Victoria could not help but smile in return. Such a wicked, devilish grin, when he deemed to show it. "Miss Victoria Douglas. And I hear your name is Burke Youngblood."

Victoria. Yes. It was her for sure. Never had he left town so quickly as he did Thunder Valley. He had to get away from her, the feelings she stirred in him, and looking at her now, he felt the rumblings again, damn and blast!
Gideon had kept his distance that first day from Miss Edwina Paulson. But he had been watching her, quite closely. He grilled Clara about the woman, her background, but there was not much to tell. She had a certain quiet dignity about her as he observed previous, so he was not surprised to learn she would be the new school teacher.
He walked slowly toward her, she was sitting, smiling, as butterflies flitted about her...beautiful.
Edwina turned, her breath caught in her throat. It was him. The man from the meeting. He masculine a man as she had ever seen. Certainly not the type that would have coming calling at her father's posh home in Lincoln Park. Her father would refuse this man entry, maybe that is what appealed to her about him. That and that long, rich dark hair. His hair was longer than hers!
It made him look all the more...medieval. Unruly. Savage.
Oh dear.
Good Day, Miss Paulson."
Edwina looked him over. It was the first time he had spoken to her directly. That voice...she had heard it enough as he barked orders on the trail that day. Like a collection of rocks being shaken in a bucket. He also looked as solid as a slab of granite. A statue carved from polished marble.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Fredericks." She replied softly.
He asked if she needed anything, how she was handling her wagon. She replied in kind.
Gideon's eyes glittered with interest. The first interest he had felt in any woman for a very long time. Why, he was not sure. He had lived as chaste a life these last couple of years as Dominic Wilson, the prig preacher.
Death. His mother's death from the smallpox, and how it devastated his father. Gideon did not want that kind of raw, wrenching hurt. So he decided to stay away from any females.
He came on this trip because he figured he was now immune, cold, protected. Guess not.
That night, after a supper of beans and bacon, Dominic walked up to a few of the women and asked politely if he may sit down. Behind Trixie the two women whispered, "Oh great, now comes a sermon."

Dominic could not help himself, if there were a few people gathered, he felt compelled to bring the word of God to them, whether they wanted it or not.
The logs in the fire crackled and snapped, the aroma of burnt coffee grounds filled the air.
Trixie decided to speak first, maybe steer him away from another dull, boring missive on some bible quote or story. Inasmuch as she enjoyed the sound of his soft lilting voice, he did have a tendency to drone. "Reverend, where were you born? How did you get to Thunder Valley?" Trixie asked sweetly.

Dominic told them he was from Fairfield, Illinois, both he and his two sisters, Jane and Clara. How his mother died when he was 16, and their father abandoned them, gone to points unknown. Dominic was left with the care of two younger sisters. With the help of some well meaning people in town, the siblings managed to stay together, When Dominic went away to be trained as an ordained minister, Jane went out to work. It was at Dominic's insistence they headed west.
Trixie was enraptured. Guess not everyone had it easy.
Dominic stood, offering to walk her to her tent.
Trixie expressed her sympathy at the hardship he endured. Dominic stopped, placing a hand on her slender shoulder. "You are a dear, sweet girl. 'What God is to the world, parents are to their children.' Sometimes, that is not the case. But we must all strive to live in God's image, even if our own parents do not."

Trixie could hear nothing. Only feel, his touch on her shoulder. She murmured her agreement, to what, she was not sure. She looked into his beautiful brown eyes, the colour of milk chocolate.
They were still. Their hands still on each others arms, crickets and tree frogs trilled while soft voices and laughter drifted through the night air from the few campfires. Dominic was tempted, so very tempted to kiss her. But she was a innocent girl, he would not take such liberties. But he felt a definite slow roll of heat travel up his arm from her touch.

Trixie took one step closer. She wanted so much to touch his cheek, she dare not. The attraction crackled between them. She could not reconcile the chaste man standing before her, and the roar of desire she felt emanate from his very being.

"Goodnight...Dominic." she whispered.
He did not speak, his eyes did not leave her. Finally, he backed up and walked away.
Later, after most of the wagon train was bedded down for the night, Burke went for a walk. There was a nearby lake, he heard light splashing, the moonlight above caught silver-blond hair. It was her. Victoria Douglas.
It was hard to see in the dark, but he could make out her willowy form in the water. he smiled slightly. She had left on her chemise and pantaloons.
Burke lowered himself into the water making barely a ripple. He swan over to her...
He stood up behind her, and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her against him. She gasped aloud. "Do not scream, Vic. It is only me...Burke." He whispered in her ear. She smelled of fresh grass and sunshine. He took a deep breath. Having her this close was affecting him.. "Remember..." he whispered softly.

"I...I do not know what you mean." Victoria replied breathlessly.
He pulled her against him, even tighter. "I know you remember. Riley Miller? San Francisco? You wound me if you do not."
The unbearable nearness of him. Victoria pulled away. "I did not think you remembered." she whispered softly.

How could he forget? They came so making love that one night under the stars. Burke did not know how it happened, but he opened up to her, told her things he never told another living soul.

And when they began to kiss, it was if he had been transported to another place. He had thought she felt the same. But she pulled away. His pride was hurt. Never had he laid himself open so, and then been so soundly rejected. They fought and argued the rest of the way to Thunder Valley.
He turned her around, she lowered her head, closing her eyes tightly. His hand moved up and down her arm. "Can you not look at me?" He growled huskily.
Victoria did not reply.

"I have thought of you often..." He spoke the truth, he did. He often regretted hightailing it out of Thunder Valley so fast. But the feelings she stirred in him disturbed him, they were disturbing him now.
Victoria smiled shyly. "And" How true, he haunted her dreams. When he reached for her that night, under the stars, she was frightened to death.

"Perhaps, we can continue what was between us...that night." Burke whispered.
Out of the blue she asked him something she meant to ask that night. "Why is your hair so long?"
Burke continued to stroke her cheek, it flushed under his touch. "Because it angers my father."
"Is that why you are a Pinkerton agent?"
The last thing Burke wanted to do was talk.
He reached out and grabbed her, he kissed her deeply. Her lips were drawn in a taught line, she would not respond. But she trembled in his arms, and not from fear. "Kiss me, Vic..." he whispered hoarsely.

Victoria tentatively responded, Burke pulled her close, crushing her to his muscular chest.
She squeaked, it was too much, too fast. The sensations were scaring her. Her pulse was skittering at a mad rate. She reached up and pushed him away. Before anything else was said, Victoria ran back to the camp.
Elsewhere in the camp area, Clara Wilson went for a short walk. She heeded Daniel and Gideon, and did not venture from the sight of the camp. She came across a small waterfall, the gentle roar of the water, sounded glorious. She reached down and stuck her hand in the water, it was cold and crisp and clean, cupping her hand, she brought some of the water to her mouth.
They would bring some barrels tomorrow morning and fill them with this water.
Clara walked back toward her tent. Victoria had returned from her walk, and was propped up on her arms, deep in thought. "Cannot sleep Vic?"

Victoria sighed. "No. Not at all. Oh Clara. It is Burke Youngblood. I did tell you we knew each other briefly a few years back. He came upon me cooling in the lake." Victoria cleared her throat. "He came in the water...and he kissed me." She whispered. "Clara...can I ask you...about men?"
Clara sat down in front of Victoria's tent. "Heavens my dear, I know nothing about men."

Victoria sighed. "I was frightened Clara, when he held me, kissed me. I pushed him away. I was frightened of what I was feeling. He is such a rogue. I have to stay away from him. Or I know I shall overcome my fright...and succumb to him."

"Take care Vic, but do not deny your heart either. If he kisses you again, do not push him away. it is the only way to overcome your fright. But do take care."
The next morning they headed out under heavy skies, more rain. They had almost reached the halfway point, with relatively few problems, weather being the chief difficulty. The food and water were holding up adequately.
Gideon and Daniel were chiefly in charge of the horses and cattle they were bringing back.
Gideon soon caught up to Edwina, he pulled up on the reigns so he was riding along side her, she looked over and nodded her head.
For claiming she never handled horses or a wagon before, she was doing remarkably well, it was obvious she was not used to work, Gideon glanced at the small delicate hands, no callous or marks, perfectly manicured and soft. Was she from a rich family, he wondered.
He could think of nothing to say, utterly tongue tied. That was strange, he never had that problem before with any woman.

It was taking all of Edwina's concentration to handle the wagon, and the nearness of Gideon Fredericks was reeking havoc on her attentiveness. She could feel his eyes upon her constantly, yet he only spoke to her the once. Strange that. Yet she was no better, she could start a conversation now...she was about to speak when he pulled back on the reigns and let her continue forward.
Gideon waited for Daniel to catch up to him. "Checking out school marm, Gid?"
Was he that obvious? "Maybe."
Daniel laughed. "No maybe about it, I know you friend."
"And what of you Daniel? No woman on this trip appeal?" Gideon snorted.

Daniel thought for a moment. "No. Not one. Too bad, there are a few pretty ones."
They road in silence for awhile. Daniel wondered if he was ever going to meet a woman that not only appealed to him, but wasn't already spoken for.
About noon, the train stopped for a rest, after seeing to the horses, and having a quick bite of lunch of beef jerky and an apple, Gideon sought out Daniel.
"Dan, I think we are being followed. I have had that feeling for two days now, I can't put my finger on it..."
Burke Youngblood walked up to the two men. "You are quite correct gentlemen, we are being followed. I went back and checked, I found 2 sets of tracks, they are at least a few hours behind us."
Daniel sighed. "Why?"
Burke shrugged. "Any number of reasons, the horses, the cattle...the women, or all of the above."
"Damn..." Gideon hissed.
"They are probably lookouts. There maybe more of them. I will take the rear when we start up again, you two ride point." Burke said firmly. "I wonder if any of these lovely ladies can shoot? Or the Reverend? We may need their assistance if we are attacked."
"Do you think that likely??" Daniel questioned.
Burke looked off. "Yes, it could be very likely."
Spencer Tyrell leaned back on the log he was sitting on. Nearby, his horse ate the tender grass, nickering softly.

He was waiting, as patiently as he was able, for his men to come back and report.
Spencer was all that was left of the legendary Tyrell gang/family, he was a cousin to Charles, the leader, and too young to ride with them during their hey-day, but Charles had promised Spence could join, but then it all went to pieces.Texas Rangers had caught up to the gang. Spence's family all but wiped out, except for some cousin, Charles brother, a lawyer living in the Black Hills.
Finally, he heard the thunder of hooves ride up to him. he stood and faced them. "Well?" He barked.
Jess spoke first. "It is a wagon train alright, some horses and cattle, and get this, Spence, nothing but women! I saw only four men, they look like they are no pushovers, though. But a whole passel of women, young too!"

Spencer turned to the Indian. "Well, Proud Eagle?"
"Yes, it might be worth a night raid, good horse flesh, the cattle would slow us down. I would forget them. I say take the horses only." Proud Eagle said firmly.
"Good...we will make plans..."
They had sent up camp for the night. Burke insisted they pull the company together tighter, no spreading out, the wagons circled as a protection. He walked about the perimeter of the camp, looking out for any disturbances.
When he came upon Miss Douglas in front of the waterfall.
He felt it, that slam to his mid-section. Enough of these games. It was time for them to admit what they were feeling. No reason this trip could not be pleasurable.
He sauntered up to her. "Miss Douglas, you should be in your wagon or your tent." Burke murmured huskily.

Ok. If he kissed her, she would do as Clara said, not fight it, but take care. take care. Do not get carried away.

She watched as his eyes darkened, the pupils were fully dilated...she had seen that look in his eyes before.
He moved toward her and was kissing her soundly. Deeply. This time, she did not resist, she overcame her fright rather easily, she found. Take care...
He lowered her onto a nearby bed of leaves. He had a quick look around, no one near, could they steal a few moments?

Victoria did not fight it this time,. "Burke...I...."
He smothered the rest of her sentence with his kiss, a kiss that went on and on and on.
Victoria did not know it could feel so wonderful!

He began to whisper things in the ear, He murmured in a voice so deep, Victoria was stunned into silence. The things he was saying!!
She laughed nervously. "I...I am not sure what you mean..."

Burke was beginning to get exasperated. "That is enough of your innocent maid act, it grows tiresome." His voice had turned cold.

She tried to back away from him on her elbows, her feet were slipping on the leaves. What did he think of her? She ran off into the woods.
Burke did not follow her. He did not lie that night 4 years ago, he told her things, private things, about his background and life...why, he still did not know. He was beginning to wonder if the innocent act was indeed, not an act at all.
Victoria ran. How far she was not sure, but far enough away that Burke Youngblood would not hear her cry. She let it all out, sobbing quite piteously. She thought he really cared. When all he wanted.. Horrible!
So engrossed in her hysterical sobbing she did not hear the man walk up to her.
"Well, well, what have we here?" Spencer hissed.
They rode all night, they headed in the opposite direction as the wagon train. Victoria was taken along with Miss Tyler. Also 18 prime horses. Spencer and his men were good, they sneaked into camp and left without raising any alarm.

Spencer figured they had a few hours head start, they should not have taken the women, the men from the wagon train would follow for sure, now. But when Spencer came upon the woman crying.... Being a Tyrell, he did not always think with his brain.
Spencer liked the look of the blond one, though she was trembling, regardless, he had no time to steal a kiss, they had to keep riding.

"Wish we had more time...but we don't. Tonight, when we camp, you will be keeping me company, Missy." He looked up at the sky, it was starting to rain.
He reached out and grabbed her arm. "Now get over to those horses, we are getting out of here and quick."
They rode back east, hard and fast all day. Finally, when it got too dark, they made camp. Marie looked over at Victoria, she looked frightened to death. In a low voice so the nearby Proud Eagle would not hear, she whispered, "The leader has his eye on you..."

Victoria shuddered. "Won't the men from the wagon train be tracking us?" she whispered.

"Yes, I am sure of it, let us hope they catch up to us and quick..."
Proud Eagle snapped, "Stop talking!" The women quieted their whispers immediately.

He had a bad feeling about this, they never should have taken the women, they still should be riding, not stopping to make camp at all. The men might catch up.
Big mistake.
Victoria lost all track of time, and as Proud Eagle predicted, Gideon, Daniel and Burke did catch up with them.
Proud Eagle and Willett took off into the woods, with Gideon and Daniel in pursuit.
Burke ran over to the women. "You are alright, both unhurt?" His eyes were firmly on Victoria, she saw the worry reflected there, maybe he did care!
They nodded.
Burke went right to Victoria, drawing her up into his arms. "Did they touch you?" he whispered. Never had he felt such shame for treating Victoria so. With such disrespect. He would never make that mistake again.

She laid her head on his shoulder and began to cry softly. "I...I am alright, Burke..."
Burke kissed her forehead gently. "Shhh. It is alright. How many where there?"

"There...were 3 of them.." her voice was quivering, she was trembling in Burke's arms. "The other, the leader, I don't know what happened to him. They didn't use names...I don't know who they were."

Burke felt a red-hot rage pour through his body. Stealing horses was bad enough, but to snatch these women...
Daniel and Gideon came back out of the woods, after seeing Marie was all right, they walked over to Burke. "We caught two of them, they are tied up over there, but the leader and the horses are gone, got a few hours head start...should we follow him?"

Gideon shook his head. "To hell with it, the women are more important. Let's get back to the train."
Hours later, back at the camp, Burke and Victoria stole a few moments alone. He pulled her close. "Can you forgive me, Vic? I treated you abominably. I am afraid I have not been around a real lady in a very long time. And you are know."

"I am not any rich lady, just a poor orphan. I was looking for work when I answered the ad to look after the child Riley on the trip back East, Then I met you...I"

"You seem to bring that out in people, Vic. The need to protect you. The need to...bare their souls." Burke whispered.
Burke brought her in closer and kissed her forehead tenderly. "What I told you that night, about my sister being kidnapped and lost to me forever, I never told another living soul. Only you. You made me...feel things...then I reached for you. I wanted you, maybe I thought you would help heal the gaping wound. For that, I am sorry."

"I was frightened, not just by you, but by what I was feeling. What I feel every time I am near you." Victoria whispered.
Burke walked away. This was getting much too serious. Too intense. He did not want to feel...anything.
But he was.
Victoria walked up behind him, laying her head on his broad, muscular back. "You are frightened too Burke, I understand. really I do. What you told me, about your poor sister...moved me deeply. It explains a lot. Why you are so determined in your job, to find people that are missing for whatever reason." Victoria gulped deeply, it came out as almost a sob. "I care for you Burke...very much."

Burke smiled. That pleased him, deeply. But now was not the time, for him and Victoria. "I will be in Thunder Valley a few weeks Vic, but then, I will be moving on. A new job."

She felt as if she wanted to cry. He would never settle down, not until he pursued his demons.
"Will..will you come back? I will be Thunder Valley. Say you will come me." she whispered, the desperation and need in her voice, she did not hide.
Burke was silent for several moments, reveling in the nearness of her. "I...I will try. I really will."
Finally, they all made it to Thunder Valley. Dominic took 'Gail' over to his small church, to show her where he will be, should she need any further spiritual guidance.

Be damned if Trixie was going to leave it there. "I will be there," she pointed toward the hotel. "I will be working in the restaurant. Do you come in for meals, Dominic?"
"Not that often, no. But...I can." He stated.

"Dominic, I want to see you again, and not for spiritual guidance or your blessings or bible readings. I want us...I want you, to court me." Trixie said softly.
She waited, what would he say? Go to hell? Not him. No doubt dismiss her politely. She steeled herself for his response, to her surprise, he agreed.
He reached for her hand, and held it, squeezing softly, his thumb brushing over the top of her hand like a caress. The sparks between jumped and sizzled. He began to lead her toward the hotel. "You will have a room there?" He asked.

Trixie sighed. Could things be anymore wonderful? "Yes...I do Dominic."
"I will call on you tomorrow, perhaps go for a buggy ride..."

Things were looking up, a fresh start, at last. Trixie smiled.
Victoria Douglas sat outside the General Store where she worked, taking a break. This spot, out back, was a favorite of hers, the nearby flowers helped mask the smell of pickles, meat and chickens. As always, when she was alone like this, her thoughts drifted to Burke.
He was gone again. The two weeks he was in town after the cattle drive were some of the happiest of her life. He was attentive, kind, gentle and affectionate, as much as he was able.
Then he was gone, like a puff of smoke.
And was gone now close to 5 months.
Lost in thought, Victoria did not hear Burke lead his horse into the back of the store.

He did not write her saying he was coming back, in truth, he was only back for a few weeks. But seeing her now...if he was half a man, he marry her and settle down. But he wasn't, not even half a man. He was not good enough for her.
Victoria turned, she could not believe her eyes, she ran right to him.
It was if her thoughts had conjured him up. Her hopeful thoughts prayed he came back to her, and her alone. To declare his love, and commit to a life with her. "Have...have you come back to me?" She whispered, her voice full of love and hope.
That did it. His wanderings were over, for good. His heart swelled to twice the size.
He loved her, and missed her terribly.
"Yes...I have come back to you. For good, if you will have me."

Victoria jumped into his arms. "Yes Burke, Oh yes. I love you so much."

He held her tight. Her love would heal him, he knew that now. "I love you too, Vic."

Thanks for reading!

More to come later, did Daniel ever find a woman to suit him? Did Gideon and the new school marm with the mysterious past find their way to each other? Will Trixie be able to keep her secret from the pious, pretty preacher? LOL! ~Cheers~

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#28fredbrennyDec 23, 2009

WOW! I'm in awe! The screenshots are perfect! The men a little muscular but handsome! Trixie is NOT going to get the priest lying thru her teeth...LOL...Wonderful story! You're the best!

#29StoryDec 25, 2009

drewsoltesz, you are truly one of a kind. That was great, awesome, and well done in every way. You write so eloquently and your Sims and scenery are always gorgeous! I have also read your other stories on your blog, and just wanted to say whenever you post a new chapter or story, I jump for joy. Awesome, awesome, and more awesome. \:\)

#30eviDec 25, 2009

Amazing story and amazing CC and pics! You have done a wonderful work!

#31mnlynnDec 27, 2009

Wow, this is one of the best stories I have read here.   Awesome.........thanks.

#32omik79Dec 28, 2009

I so LOVE your stories.  Your westerns, everything I have read.  Im going to have to catch up on your blog \:\)  Hope you had a great Christmas!  Thank you for sharing \;\)

#33PulsatillaDec 28, 2009

\:rah\:  That's a great story with awesome pictures! The landscaping and poses are excellent. You spent a lot of work and time on it, I guess.

#34stephyslayerDec 29, 2009

in all honesty, this is one of the greatest stories i've read here, well done!

#35jsfJan 7, 2010

Loved it, loved it, and can't wait for part two. It looks like I need to do a little shoping for western wear for my dudes, I can't thank you enough for the links you gave me. I love to be left hanging and wondering  \;\)  \:D \:confused\:, OKay, I'm hooked....

#36YrS92Jan 10, 2010

Loved this story\:wub\:

#37kittydiva_2017Oct 7, 2010

AMAZING to say the least. I normally ignore the long ones but I'm glad I didn't because this was just superb! BRAVO! Working with the sims 3 anytime soon? Oh and how did you get the pictures edited like that? \:rah\:

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