~A Convenient Bride~
Published Mar 31, 2008

Written By



Page 1 / 80

Yes, another western era romance...

Emily Harding is a confirmed spinster, and an uniquely enterprising schoolmarm. Little did she know how her life would change when she entered into a business 'merger' with the handsome saloon owner, Jackson Mallery.

Yes, another western era romance...

Emily Harding is a confirmed spinster, and an uniquely enterprising schoolmarm. Little did she know how her life would change when she entered into a business 'merger' with the handsome saloon owner, Jackson Mallery.

Ignoring the trembling of her limbs, Emily Harding gathered her strength and headed for the swinging doors and smoky world of the Silver Slipper Saloon. She wanted to talk to the owner of the saloon, Jackson Mallery, she had a plan and Mallery was her only hope for success.
So taking a deep breath, she crossed the mud of the thoroughfare and entered.
The bar grew quiet as she entered, the few men sitting at the poker tables that mid-afternoon could not believe their eyes, they snickered loudly.

Emily walked right up to the bar. "May I have a word with you, Mr. Mallery?" She had never seen the saloon owner up close before, he was tall, broad shouldered and extremely handsome.
Jackson looked her up and down. "I am going to guess you are lost ma'am...maybe you are looking for the Ladies Social Club, they meet every Monday at the church."
The snickers at the nearby tables turned into hoots of laughter. Emily felt her cheeks grow hot and her limbs tremble. She found she could not speak or move, it was Jackson Mallery himself that caused these feelings, she had never seen a man so attractive in all her 25 years.
"I...I..." Emily struggled to remember what she wanted to say, her heart was pounding, she had never been so affected by a man! "I assure I am not lost," she finally said. "I wish to speak with you a moment."

"No offence ma'am, you don't look the type to be bringing good news, so I say good afternoon and suggest you be on your way." Jackson said firmly.
Emily practically sputtered. How rude! She looked into his dark, handsome face, he was smiling mockingly at her. How ungentlemanly! Though she was not surprised, good manners were rare in the West as she has learned the two years she has been in Texas.

Emily was a realist, she wasn't a pretty woman, so she had to struggle to make herself heard. Sometimes she did not bother, but not today. Today Jackson Mallery was going to hear her. "Mr. Mallery, you are going to listen to what I have to say!" Emily said loudly.
The men at the table were loud and obnoxious. "Seems real uppity to me for such a skinny homely woman!" One of the men yelled. The rest started laughing.
"She wouldn't be too bad if we were drunk enough, she's bony like an old mule!" another man cried.
The laughter gew even louder.
Jackson walked over to the table of the chortling men. "That's enough. Shut your traps or get out." Jackson said darkly. "You will not be insulting ladies in my place."

One of the men hiccuped. "You gotta admit she's got a mouth on her, which I ain't fond of on any woman, even if she is ugly."
Jackson grabbed a nearby whiskey and threw it in the man's face. "Apologize to the lady!' Jackson thundered.
Emily did not like the way this was going.
The man sputtered, the whiskey dripping down his face. He threw a punch at Jackson.
The fight was on, bodies and fists flew, men grunted, yelled and cursed. And Emily found herself in the middle of the fray. She tried to make her way toward the swinging doors, but the path was blocked by the brutal fight.
The other men at the table were soon hooting and hollering, cheering the fight on.
The dust from the saloon floor was soon kicked up, and Emily felt someone, a man no doubt, reach for her arm. She acted instinctively and grabbed a nearby bottle and brought it crashing down on his head.
When the dust began to clear she suddenly realized she had accidentally hit the local deputy.
Jackson could not remember ever visiting a woman in jail, and why he was now, he did not know. Miss Emily Harding, former school teacher and spinster was in plenty of trouble. Why this pinched-mouthed Miss wanted to talk to him had his curiousity.

Besides she might be the answer to his problem, but Miss Harding? He could not be considering her, could he? Jackson shuddered.
"Miss Harding? You mentioned you wanted to talk to me?"
"I have a business proposition." Emily said firmly. "I wish to speak to you about your saloon, or more precisely the rooms upstairs. I understand they are empty, I wish to change that." she cleared her throat. "I wish to open a hotel."
Jackson was flabbergasted.
"Why?" he asked simply.
"I believe a hotel would be successful. I'm a competent business woman..." Emily said proudly.

"You weren't much of a schoolteacher." Jackson replied.

"I was an excellent schoolteacher!" Emily said sharply. "I taught those children more in 18 months than they learned the previous three years with the other teacher! The families returned to their homes in Maryland which left me without a position! Hardly my fault!"
"I have to find another means of employment, the hotel is the perfect answer." she finished.

Jackson looked at her closely. Didn't she have family? He had heard she was from back East somewhere.
"You're a teacher, what makes you think you know anything about keeping a bunch of miners, ranchers and riffraff happy?"" Jackson questioned.

"Mr. Mallery, I have travelled extensively, I have a head for figures and I am not afraid of hard work. Let me assure you I will pay you a modest rent and a percentage of the profits." Emily stated determinedly.
"Generous..." Jackson muttered. He looked at her again, she was not ugly, in spite of what the miners said in his saloon. A mite plain, but she had big blue-green eyes which he liked. Her skin was pretty and clear. His gaze moved to her body. Yes, she was a little skinny. He would bet a 10 dollar gold piece there was skinny legs under that plain dress. He hated skinny legs on a woman.
But she was a single woman, which he needed right now. "I'll be right back..." he went to talk the deputy into letting her go.
10 Minutes later, they made their way to the back of the saloon to Jackson's office.
Jackson's office was surprising well furnished and comfortable. He even had coffee brought for them. "I will let you open your hotel." Jackson said.
Emily became very animated. "Mr. Mallery, I can show you figures, I can turn a profit in a month! You won't be sorry!"
"You might be..." Jackson said dryly. "You can open but you will cut me in for 50% of the profits and if you agree to marry me, I won't even charge you rent."
Emily stared at the man in front of her and she felt as if she wanted to cry. He was humiliating her for the humour it brought him. She thought he would take her offer seriously, but this!
She was determined to hide her hurt and disppointment, was he doing this because she was a woman, or a plain one? She want to scream, I am not pretty, but I have other qualities! I am intelligent, loyal and caring! Aloud she said, "I see...a proposal of marriage..."
"You could have simply told me no, Instead you choose to mock me." Emily said angerly.

"I am not mocking you, please let me explain." Jackson said lightly. "It is all because of my Uncle Josiah. My Uncle raised me, my parents died when I was very young. Anyway, Uncle Josiah has died. He left a will, my uncle is the actual owner of the saloon, as well as the ranch where I live and a mine. According to the terms of his will I have to marry within three months of his death or I lose everything."
"Why that is a ludicrious will! That can't be right!" Emily said.
Jackson shrugged. "Uncle Josiah had his reasons. He wants the family name to continue, he has waited 9 years for me to marry, I guess he has decided to force my hand. So I am serious about the proposal, you get a hotel, I keep what's mine."

"But why me?" Emily blurted. "There are other women to marry. More attractive younger ones!"
Jackson shrugged once again.
"I don't want a real marriage, I want one in name only, then in a few months I can get an annullment. A more attractive girl would tempt me into consummating the marriage, then were would I be?" Jackson pondered.

His insult was made so casually she doubted he realized the gravity of his words. She recognized the meaning and it burned. So with her he would not have to worry about temptation, her charms were so meager she would be easy to resist? She was about to refuse him when Emily realized it would help her too. She could leave town as a well-off respectable business woman!
Emily stood. "I might be interested, but I want to know what's in it for me." she said coolly.
"I told you..." Jackson stated.

"You suggested that before I knew all the facts. You need to marry me more than I need to marry you, so I will pay no rent and only 10% of the profits."

Jakson looked at Emily with fresh admiration, she was a damn fine businesswoman.
30 minutes of bargaining later, he was getting 30% of profits, no rent and a cash settlement of $500 at the time of the annulment. He should have been furious, instead he was impressed.
Emily shook his hand briefly, "I guess that's all, thank you Mr. Mallery."

"Call me Jackson or the deal is off, Ok Em?" He said.
Emily pursed her lips. "OK Jackson, however do not call me by that shortening of my name. I do not like it."
"Ok Em, I'll keep that in mind." Jackson smiled.

"When are we to get married? Can I trust you to make the arrangements?" Emily stated.

"Sure, meet me tomorrow morning at 10AM at the church." Jackson had the oddest feeling he should seal the deal, but what, handshake? A kiss? What made him think of that? It would be like kissing a block of ice. She may have a head for business, but the heart of a spinster. They said their good-byes.
Back in her room, Emily went over the last few hours in her mind. She knew she wasn't classically pretty, but there had to be something else wrong with her! Other plain girls attracted husbands, why couldn't she? A single tear trickled down her cheek. She had made peace with her life long ago, a husband and children were not for her. She had a plan and that would have to be enough. Jackson and Emily stood in front of the pastor the next morning, except for the exchange of vows, the place was eerily quiet. As Jackson promised to love and honour the stranger standing next to him he felt resentment for his recently departed Uncle. How dare he force me into marriage!
Jackson had not planned on taking a wife ever, and he did not intend to keep this one for long. Nor would this marriage be a real one, there would be no children, the name will die with him.
"You may kiss the bride." the pastor stated, bringing Jackson back to reality.
Emily quickly spoke before Jackson had a chance to respond to the pastor's request. "A handshake will suffice, Jackson." she said, primly offering her hand.

"Yes ma'am..." he murmured. He gently squeezed her fingers and stroked her hand gently.

The contact caused her insides to flutter, Emily quickly pulled her hand away from Jackson.
It was done...
Emily did not waste anytime, she went right to work on the rooms, Jackson had got some men to move some of the items he was storing in the empty rooms and move in the mattresses. By the end of the afternoon, she had cleaned and set up two rooms. She could rent them out right away!!
She was very pleased with her progress.
"Em?" Jackson called. Emily cringed at the name, but called, "Up Here!"
Jackson came in the room, it was the first time they had seen each other since they got married that morning. He looked around the room, '"Very nice."
"There are enough mattresses for 5 rooms, I will have them set up by tonight, I will order more, I also will order some more lamps and towels. I need a sign, something tasteful, Is that all right with you?"

"Order what you like." Jackson stated. He looked about at the boxes piled in the corner, she was a tough negotiator and a hard worker, she had done miracles. Again, he was impressed.
"I have a question, was a hotel your plan from the beginning, if so, why did you come to town as a teacher?" Jackson inquired.

"I had every intention of being a teacher, but it did not work out, so I came up with this plan." Her hands pointed to the boxes in the corner. "My family sent me these, my mother figured there is a shortage of women out west, she assumed I would find a husband, the bedding is being put to good use." Emily replied.
Except she hadn't found a husband, Jackson thought to himself. He didn't count.
"What about your father?" Jackson asked.

Emily was silent for a moment. "I haven't seen him since I was 10 years old, he went to California on the Overland Trail. My mother did not want to go, she took us back to Ohio to live with my grandparents. I am hoping to visit him someday, we write now and then. He has a new life, now. Once I get enough money, I may go to California."

Jackson could not fathom why he was so curious about her past, but he could not help himself. "And you never married, or came close to marrying?" he asked in a quiet, gentle voice.
"I was engaged once, years ago. But it did not work out. I found out my grandfather arranged it by offering David a part of his shipping business for marrying me. I was fond of David, I asked him to be honest with me and he was. I could not marry him after that so after we broke it off, I came west and made my way here."

Jackson suddenly felt awkward. He did not want to know that their short marriage of convenience was similar to what she was offered before. He did not know what to say about her past, so he changed the subject.
"So you won't keep the hotel once you have the funds you require to travel further west?" Jackson asked.
"No, depending on how successful I am, maybe a year to two, no more. I am an independent woman of business now and I aim to stay that way." Emily said firmly.
Jackson admired her all the more. He let his smoky eyes travel over her face, her skin was very lovely. When she wasn't standing all stiff and disapproving she was nearly attractive, in a stern sort of way. If only she wore a different type of clothes, or wore her hair different.
"Jackson, whatever are you thinking?" Emily asked. "You have the most peculiar look on your face!"

"You don't want to know," Jackson said, taking a step toward her. He was going to kiss her, he didn't know why and he should stop himself, but he did not want to. This was stupid and dangerous, however they were married and this WAS their wedding day, was it so wrong to expect his bride to offer him a chaste kiss?
Jackson leaned in and gently placed his lips on Emily's. Her eyes widened, but she was as still as a statue.
Emily was too confused to think, speak or even draw breath. She supposed she should be horrified or even insulted, but this was her first real kiss. She could smell his decidedly masculine scent, mixed with the smoky odours of the saloon. She felt herself melting...
"Stop..." she finally squeaked, her voice sounding breathless.

Jackson stepped back from her, instead of looking mortified, he was actually smiling at her! A look of male satisfaction crossed his too-handsome features. "You are something of a surprise Em, I did not expect you to be quite that tempting."
His compliment both embarrassed and pleased her.

She squared her shoulders. "I will thank you to remember this is a business relationship. You are not to intrude on my person again."

Jackson chuckled softly and winked, and headed back down to the saloon, leaving Emily flustered and pleased by her first kiss.
The next morning, Emily had a sign placed outside the saloon, she was ready to open for business! She was gratified, out of the five rooms ready, 2 were already full, businessmen from St. Louis. She sat at the reception desk and thought of yesterday. Memories of that kiss had her awake most of the night. Had he felt sorry for her? She shouldn't have spoken of her past. Face it, she was lonely, and had been for a long time. She missed her mother and brother, there was really no one in town she could confide in.
Suddenly she heard the bell outside, another customer! "Come in!" she called.
Emily gasped at the woman standing in front of her, Everything about the woman overwhelmed her, her dress, hair and makeup. "I'm Cherry," she drawled with a thick southern accent. "I heard you were opening a hotel, I'd like to rent a room."
As much as Emily wanted to rent out all her rooms, she was not going to rent to the likes of this woman.
"This is a private hotel, my guests are honest people who keep to themselves."
"That's just what I want honey," Cherry laid a handful of gold coins on the desk. "I am paying a month in advance, I want your most private room. I am here for some quiet, to be left alone."
Emily thought for a moment, then said, "If you will sign the register, Miss...ah..."
"Just call me Cherry honey, we will be seeing each other everyday in the hallway."
That evening, Lucas found Emily in the saloon kitchen. "I hear you are full for the night."
Emily gulped. It was the first time she had seen Jackson since 'the kiss'. "Yes, I am gratified."
"I was surprised to see Cherry on your register." Jackson smiled.
"I don't care if you do not approve, it is my business, not yours." she huffed.
Jackson smiled even broader. "I said I was surprised, I did not say I did not approve. Cherry is a fine lady."
Emily cleared her throat and changed the subject. "So when would you like to look at the ledgers?"
"That's not necessary, I trust you. We're married." Jackson said simply.
"You don't know me, I could be dishonest!" Emily exclaimed.
Jackson chuckled. "No you couldn't. Dishonest women don't kiss they way you did yesterday."
She opened her mouth to reply, but what could she say? Did he enjoy teasing her?
"I'm about to have a bit of supper, won't you join me?" Jackson asked.
The change in subject made her head spin. But she found her voice and said quietly. "All right."
After some polte conversation, Emily said, "This is kind of you," Emily motioned to the ham sandwiches. "I did not think we would see each other like this."
"Don't you think we would not share a meal?" Jackson questioned.
"Is that why you are here, you want people to think we have a regular marriage?" Emily declared.
"You have spent the last two nights alone here, I don't think anyone thinks we have a regular marriage, it's a small town." Jackson stated.
Emily flushed. "Oh."
Jackson wiped his mouth on the napkin and rose from his chair. "Well, I better get back to work, thank you for the meal and the company."
With that he was gone and Emily was left to stare after him. She didn't begin to understand her handsome husband, not his words, his actions or how he made her feel by just being in the same room with her. She had to admit she liked him. He was polite, pleasant , and she in turn enjoyed his attentions.
She sort of hoped he would give her another kiss when he left, but he hadn't. She sighed deeply and began to clear away the dishes.
Later that night, soaking in a bubble bath, she let her thoughts drift over the last couple of days. She had to be honest with herself, she never was anything but, Jackson married her because of his uncle's will, no other reason. She could not let herself forget that. For him the situation was to be endured until he could claim his property. And for her, it was a means to an end.

But even though it had only been two days, she liked being married to Jackson, she enjoyed his company, the way he teased her, the way he made her limbs tremble. If! She said firmly to herself. It was a marriage of convenience nothing more.
At least, nothing more to him.
Much later that same night on his ranch, Jackson thoughts ran in the same vein. His marriage to Emily was strictly about the will. He would admit to liking her a lot more than he thought he would. She was kind, smart and kissed finer than a skinny spinster school teacher had the right to. The kiss had left him shaken, which is why he had not done it again. He would have to be very careful, and keep his wayward thoughts under control. Jackson sighed and continued with his sponge bath. Over the next several nights, Jackson and Emily shared their meals together. They learned a great deal more about each other, she was surprised to hear Jackson had been in the war, he fought for the Union, he must have been very young, she surmised. It also had an impact on him, she could tell, was that why he did not marry as his Uncle had wished him to? Is that why he was distant emotionally? Emily was cleaning the rooms, when Jackson walked in. She usually did not see him during the day, only for their evening meals. "Good Morning, I was looking for you all over, thought maybe you left town." He teased. "Anyway, I hope you don't mind, I found you some help, a young girl, thought she could clean the rooms and what not."
Emily was genuinely touched by his thoughtful act, and she told him so.
"Coming up to three weeks of marriage, I thought you might be having second thoughts." Jackson teased good-naturedly.
If only that were true, she told herself. If only he was physically unappealing or annoying. However she found her husband charming, caring and totally irresistible. Thoughts of him haunted her sleep, she longed for him to repeat 'the kiss' but to no avail. He remained friendly, but distant.
"While you are here, this would be a good opportunity to go over the books." Emily said primly.
Jackson shrugged. "I trust you, you are making regular deposits in my account."
"I would feel better if you checked my numbers." She said through pursed lips.
"Are you cheating me?'' Jackson asked matter-of-factly.
Emily began to sputter. "Sir, I resent the implication!"
Jaskson laughed. She had spunk. "I wasn't implying anything, as I said, I trust you. Why do I need to waste time looking at books?"
He was frustrating her, but that was nothing new. He made her long for impossible things, all the while he remained completely unmoved by her presence.

"Fine," she snapped irritably. "I suppose it is your descision to trust me. I assure you I am not cheating you even 1 penny. I am providing you with a good income."

Jackson looked at her quizzically. "Is that all you imagine me thinking, all I want from you is my share of the profits?"
Jackson stepped in closer. "You have more to offer than your income or the terms of the will. Did I ever mention you are a damn fine kisser?" he said huskily.

Emily's heart began pounding so loudly, she had trouble hearing him speak. "You might of mentioned it.."

Dear heaven, he was going to kiss her again, how she had longed for this the last few weeks.
He might of said something else, but she did not care, nor was she listening. Instead she was feeling. Feeling the tender caress of his lips. It was as wonderful as she remembered.
Jackson pulled her even closer, her eyes flew open in shock.
His kiss deepened, and she returned it.
Jackson groaned, then backed away. There was a smouldering darkness in his eyes, in the way he was looking at her. "Who would have thought you would be like this?" He breathed softly.
Emily looked puzzled. "Like what?"
"You really don't know, do you? Which is why I should not be here." Jackson walked away without a backward glance.
Emily stared after him, confused but tingling all over, not sure if their situation had improved or been made worse.
Jackson stalked downstairs to the saloon and poured himself a drink. What the hell was he doing? He couldn't go around kissing Emily like that. She was too innocent, worse she was his wife. If he did not get control of himself, he would not be able to get the marriage annulled. Consummating the marriage would complicate everything. He sighed. The speech wasn't working. He found himself wanting Emily with a desperation he had not experienced before. He cared for Emily, she's begun to matter, that was the difference. He tried to think about something other than the way Emily felt in his arms. Two days went by, Emily decided to seek out the only woman in town who may be able to help her, give her advice. Despite the way Jackson had kissed her, he now seemed determined to avoid her, he even made excuses not to dine with her the last two nights.

If Cherry was surprised to hear a knock at her door and find her landlady there, she did not show it. "I take it you wish to speak to me, should I be concerned?" Cherry asked.
"This is difficult for me..." Emily began her face flushing.
"Take your time, maybe it would be better if you sat down." Cherry motioned to the chair next to her.
"It's about Jackson..." Emily began. "I want you to be honest with me, I want him to notice me, I want to look more attractive, but I...I don't know how. If you think the task is impossible, tell me."
Cherry thought a moment. "Honey no it's not impossible at all, you have lovely hair and eyes, you could be very pretty. Why you think you're not is beyond me. I would be very happy to help you."

"Do you know why he married me?" Emily asked in a quiet voice.
"Yes honey, I do. Jackson and I are friends. He told me." Cherry said softly.
Emily took a deep breath. "Am I a fool for trying to capture his attention?"
Cherry smiled. "Honey, actually I think you are very smart and brave. Jackson won't make it easy, but I suspect he is one of the few men who is worth the trouble."
Later that afternoon, Jackson was doing a little paperwork at the hotel's reception desk when a woman entered the room. She was at once familiar and a stranger. Attractive, slender and her green dress accentuated her eyes....
"Emily??" he asked in disbelief. "Emily?"
"Good afternoon Jackson, I stopped by to say hello." She smiled.
How could Emily look so different? He told himself it was just the dress was much more attractive than the usual grey or brown garments she wore. But it was more, he studied the softer hairstyle and the long golden brown curls tickling her cheek. Her glorious skin glowed, she was beautiful.
"Are you done avoiding me, I thought we would share supper tonight." Emily said, the smile still on her face. Jackson looked flustered, and she was pleased.
"I haven't been avoiding you..." he sputtered.
"Why Jackson, you look different! You shaved off your whiskers! I must say I prefer you without them! Supper will be at six, I will see you then." Emily gave Jackson a winsome, pretty smile and walked away.
Jackson watched her leave the room. He wanted her, that wasn't anything new, he had from the first moment he kissed her, his attempts to stay clear had only increased his she went and got herself fussied up...he scowled outwardly, this situation was getting impossible!!
Jackson joined Emily for a steak dinner, they exchanged pleasantries, discussing their day, but something had changed. There was an undercurrent in the room, and both felt it.
"Tell me Jackson, why is it you never married?" Emily blurted suddenly.
"I never planned on marriage because I am not the marrying kind of man, this is only temporary, so it is easier." Jackson said plainly.
His words scorched away her good mood and humor and set up an aching region deep in her heart.
"Yes, I know, the will and the income, nothing more." She studied his face. "What else is there Jackson, what secret are you hiding from me?"
She waited for him to deny and laugh off the notion of any secret, or perhaps confess one.
What she did not expect was for him to toss his napkin on the table, rise and walk away without saying a word.
Emily paced her room that night, awash with worry and concern. Something had happened at supper, and not just Jackson's confusion over her appearance, she thought the transformation as miraculous. No, it wasn't that, she replayed the conversation in her mind. Was it the fact she mentioned a secret? She had been only guessing, trying to figure out what kept him from marriage, why would he resist an institution that could bring him happiness and children? Had she innocently touched an open wound? The next morning, Emily marched into the saloon and demanded Jackson talk to her, he followed her upstairs to her room. "Well, what is it? I have a saloon to run." Jackson said coolly.

"Jackson, I want to talk about what happened at supper last night, that was rude leaving me like that, it is so unlike you." Emily whispered.

"We have known each other for 3 weeks only, you don't know me at all..." Jackson saw the hurt look on Emily's face, he did mean to sound so cold. He sighed, "You asked me why I did not marry, I will tell you..."
Emily listened as Jackson told her about his experiences in the Civil War, how barely out of his teens, he fought for the Union, how in 1863 he found himself in a small Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg, how in the confusion and chaos he accidently killed his best friend. How the ceaseless carnage around him and his friend's death changed him forever. How he did not want or deserve happiness.
Jackson remembered the horror and tasted the rising bile, just as he did that long-ago July day.
Emily could feel his pain, his anger and his guilt.
Emily wanted to tell him that she loved him. For the act of telling her his darkest secret had allowed her to see the truth about her own feelings for Jackson Mallery. But despite those emotions welling up inside her, she knew Jackson would not want to hear those words right now, he probably would not have believed them. So instead of speaking, she wrapped her arms around her husband.
He started to resist, but Emily would not let go.
Jackson kissed her desparately, stealing her breath and igniting her heart. nothing else mattered, their 'business' arrangement, Jackson's secret, her love.
She only wanted to be in his arms.
How she had longed for this.
Jackson carried her over to the bed and continued his passionate kissing. Emily felt as she was being carried away on a wave, she really should stop this, but she did not want to. She wanted to be Jackson's wife in every sense of the word.
Nor did Jackson stop it. He had wanted this from the first time his lips touched hers. He wanted to claim her as his own.

Hours later, Jackson awoke at looked at Emily sleeping contentedly next to him. In one instant he had changed Emily, he had taken her innocence and now made an annullment impossible. He had seen the light burning in her eyes, he knew she had come to care for him. But he wasn't worthy of her. Telling her the truth and have her still want him did nothing to assuage his sins, now they were greater.
Jackson dressed quickly and left the room.
Emily awoke later to find herself alone. Nevertheless, she dressed and started about her day. Cherry came into the reception area. "Good afternoon, I know that look honey, so Jackson finally gave up trying to resist you, congratulations."
Emily smiled, her cheeks flushed.
"You love him, don't you?" Cherry asked.
Emily felt a few tears form in her eyes. "Very much, I haven't told him yet."
Emily got up and went over to Cherry. "Listen to me honey, I got the feeling Jackson is haunted by the past, but I don't know exactly what, but hold him and tell him you love him, defeat those ghosts, don't let them win, whatever they are."
"Did he tell you what happened in the war?" Emily asked.
"He never speaks of it, it must be bad..." Cherry stated with a sigh.
Somehow that pleased Emily, her husband had confided to her his secret. Emily was glad she was the only one he shared that with.
That evening, with the newly arrived telegrams in his pocket, he knocked on Emily's bedroom door. He took a sharp intake of breath, she looked very fetching in her nightgown...
"I can't stay long," he began. "I got a telegram, the terms of Uncle Josiah's will have been fufilled, the deeds are now mine."
Her expression did not change, but Jackson saw a wariness in her eyes.
"You must be relieved, I know you were concerned about your inheritance." Emily said softly.
He cleared his throat, this was more difficult than he imagined. "Once I have title of the properties, I will move to the ranch permanent, I will no longer need the saloon."
"I see..." Emily murmured, sounding somewhat stunned.
"I have been in touch with a man from Chicago," he touched his pocket where the telegrams were. "He will be buying the saloon from me."
All the colour had drained from Emily's face, her eyes wide in shock.
"I also have the lawyers preparing the papers for us, we will be getting a divorce." He concluded.
She felt as if she had been stabbed. Divorce? The man standing in front of her, her HUSBAND, could not be saying these things!
"It's time," Jackson said softly. "You always knew we married because of the will."
"At first, but not now! Not after...after we...Jackson, I love you!" Emily stated, her voice trembling.
Jackson clenched his fists. "Don't say that, don't ever say that...!"
"I will! I will say it over and over until you understand, I don't want a divorce, I don't want our marriage to end!!" Emily cried.
"I don't want to be married to you. You can keep your hotel, I made arrangements with the new owner."

Emily stared at Jackson, she thought she had understood him, but the man in front of her was a stranger. "So you have secured my finances, too bad you were not as concerned for the state of my heart."

Jackson flinched. "I'm sorry, I did try to warn you away."

"So you thought telling me about your past I would turn away from you, well you were wrong. I could love that man because he is honest. But the stranger in front of me...NO! I am sorry I married you, I am sorry I ever met you!" Emily ran from the room, right into Cherry who had heard every word from the hallway.
Cherry immiedately stormed into the room and slapped Jackson soundly on the cheek.
He rubbed his cheek. "Why'd you do that??"
"You miserable cur! How dare you! Oooh, if I were only a man!" Cherry cried angerly.
"You don't understand..." Jackson said wearily.
"I understand perfectly! You are a selfish idiot and I am sorry you are my friend!"
"Don't you realize that Emily is perfect for you? She's the best person you will ever know, she loves you, and you are throwing her away?" Cherry narrowed her gaze. "Go and claim her, find the think you are the only one with secrets from their past? You fool! I tell you this, you will never survive without her, and you will never be able to stand seeing her with someone else...think on that!" Cherry flounced out of the room. Jackson stood. Cherry was right, he would never survive, nor be able to see her with another.
He could hear Emily's voice, breathless in his mind saying 'I Love You'...why did he do it? Why did he spurn her?
He felt the words embrace him, heal him.
It was time to put the past behind him, and learn to live again.
Jackson ran after Emily.
Jackson flew down the stairs, through the saloon into the kitchen. There she was. He ran over and embraced her. He buried his face into her soft brown locks. "Don't leave, you are better than I deserve. Forgive my idiocy, just don't go!"
"I never wanted to leave, you are the one who wants the divorce." she said in a steady, quiet voice.
"I just was afeared I would disappoint you, not be the man you deserve. I love you Em."
Emily felt her heart stop. It is the words she longed to hear. "If you do not want to disappoint me, then stop talking about divorce."
"I'll keep the saloon if you like, or we can move to the ranch and work it, whatever you want, I don't care, I just want us to be together...married." Jackson said huskily.

Emily threw herself in Jackson's arms. She would thank Cherry later for whatever sense she talked into him.
She was a convenient bride no more...



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#106wickedgoddess_athena711Oct 31, 2008

Finally. Jackson has set himself free. I loved the last sentence. It was the perfect way to end the story! great job!\:D \;\)

#107JediZarrTanDec 2, 2008

This is a wonderful story! I haven't read very many stories on here yet, but so far this is the only one that I've really enjoyed! Keep up the good work!

#108KvetoslavaMar 16, 2009

<p>\:rah\: \:rah\:</p>

#109omik79Mar 29, 2009

<p>Very very nice!&nbsp; Thank you so much for sharing! \:D&nbsp; \:rah\:</p>

#110MangioMay 31, 2009

Amazing story. I love it. Excellent screenshots and im glad that were together in the end.

#111fabrizioammolloJun 16, 2009

The story is so moving, and really well written... Excellent job!!!

#112TigerpitchergalSep 28, 2009


#113lish300Sep 14, 2012


#114divs5Apr 28, 2014

\:rah\: \:wub\: \:\)

#115lekunzeMar 9, 2019


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