My Quiet Girl (by Sandy W)

Summary:
Category:  Bonanza
Genre:  Western
Rated:  PG
Word Count:  15,150


Over and over I pick the smart intellectual kind. It happens over and over. When all along, I’ve been hoping to find a different kind of girl.

I love a quiet girl. I love a gentle girl, warm as sunlight, soft, soft as snow.

Her smile a tender smile. Her voice a velvet voice. Sweet as music, soft, soft as snow.

When she is near me, the world’s in repose. We need no words. She sees. She knows. But where is my quiet girl? Where is my gentle girl? Where is the special girl who is soft, soft as snow?

Somewhere. Somewhere. My quiet girl.

(©Comden-Green-Bernstein, Recorded by Pernell Roberts)

*****

CHAPTER ONE

Regina sat in the stagecoach office waiting for her stage to Virginia City. She felt self-conscious. It was the first time in her entire life that she was wearing what would be considered by the world to be “normal” dress. Purchasing the dress had been rather scary, yet somehow a “freeing” act. She had purchased other clothes at the same time, trying to find those as conservative as possible, but all of them seemed so fancy to her compared with the style of dress that she had worn all her life.

Her dress today was gray with pink trim, a traveling suit really, the saleslady in the dress shop had told her. Buying the ticket for the stage was another action foreign to her nature. She knew the road she had decided upon for her future life was going to be a strange one for quite some time, no matter how things turned out in the long run.

She had never stopped thinking about him, not for even one hour of even one day. As busy as she kept herself, he was always in her thoughts, her first thought upon awakening every morning and her last thought before going to sleep at night. She even dreamed of him. In her life before him, she hardly ever remembered her dreams, but when she dreamt of him, she remembered.

She wanted to forget him. She tried to forget him. She kept busy with the building of their new little community in Slaterville. There was certainly plenty to do with that project. But, even with all the work, she still could not forget.

Even the memory of her father and everything he had stood for in his life, even with her faith in God and the principles of her faith that she had been taught and believed her entire life, she still could not forget.

She couldn’t forget the first kiss, the last, nor the ones in between. They were forever imprinted in her mind and the feelings they evoked in her body still remained. Every feeling, every sensation – still as fresh as if they had occurred only moments ago.

The way she felt when he had his arms around her. The roughness of the slight stubble of his whiskers against her face, the scent of him, the texture of his shirt, the warm, safe feeling – none of these feelings could she forget.

She had loved just to watch him when he didn’t know she was looking. He was handsome, of that there was no doubt, but it was more than that. She had been around handsome men before and not felt this way. It was the way he held himself, carried himself, the way he walked, the way he stood, often with his arms folded, leaning against something. Just thinking of it made her skin tingle.

It was more than the fact that he was handsome, even more than that he was a good man. She didn’t know what to call it – she had heard of something called a chemical reaction that happened with nitroglycerin to make it explode and that came the nearest to what she could compare it to. To be near to him, to see him, to think of him made her feel like she could explode – a feeling brought on by no other man she had ever met.

The first time she laid eyes on him, she knew he was a different kind of man than she had ever known before. She had heard about love at first sight prior to that, but had never believed in such things, but that first sight of him changed that belief forever. Somehow she had the feeling that it was the same for him. It certainly was only a short while before they kissed for the first time. Regina had been kissed a few times before that by a couple of different men, but never had their kisses stirred her like his – never.

If she was going to fall in love with a man, then why couldn’t it have been a man of her own faith? But it had not been – it had been him. How could she go against the faith of her fathers and everything she had been taught and believed? She struggled with that question right up until their last meeting. By that time her own father had been killed. She had begged him not to seek revenge for her father’s death, not to counter violence with more violence, but to no avail. He felt responsible for the loss of all their savings. He had been taught that you do not let someone take advantage of you and get away with it. Although he himself was not in favor of using violence to solve problems, if it came down to that in the end, and if the cause was right, then it became a necessary action.

At that time, Regina could not agree. When he had shot and killed Sam Bord, the man who he himself had introduced to their company and who had ultimately betrayed them and stolen their money, that had been bad enough, but to see him also wounded was the last straw – at least at that moment in time. How could she be with a man who used violence when he felt it was necessary? Not only did she feel that violence itself was wrong, but there would always be the fear that the violence would end in taking him away from her forever.

He had told her he loved her; he had asked her to marry him. She loved him, but she couldn’t accept. She had asked him if he would ever visit them after they reached Slaterville, but he had said no, it would be too difficult for the both of them, and she knew he was right about that.

But life without him had been too difficult, also. She had gone on with the company. She knew it would have been her father’s wish; she knew it was expected by her friends and fellow believers, and at the time she felt it was the right thing for her.

Instead, she had been torn ever since. John Gordon had started being very attentive to her after that. She had moved in with Amos and Elsie Johnson, an elderly couple whose two children had died at a young age. They were happy to have her with them, and she was of much help to them. But John had become persistent in his courting efforts and the entire company had come to assume that she and John would marry, but Regina didn’t love John; at times she didn’t even like him. She tried to kindly resist his attentions, but he never seemed to get the hint. She was feeling the pressure from all sides on this issue, but the more they pushed her, the more her thoughts turned back to him.

She started to question her faith. She finally came to realize that, although her feelings about violence were not changed and her faith in God was as strong as ever, she loved this man with all her heart and seriously doubted that she could ever love another. She also knew that he could never join her in her life in Slaterville. So, after much prayerful thought, she came to her conclusion. She was no good to herself, her friends, her community like this. To live a lie would not be good for any involved, mostly herself.

She had struggled with the idea of writing to him first, but she was afraid to, afraid he had forgotten her, had already found someone else – that she would not receive an answer, or some gentle but negative response. So she had decided to proceed to Virginia City on her own. No one there knew her. When their wagon train came through, they had only stopped to water their animals and had spent very little time in the town itself. They were known only to the Carwrights. She thought if she asked a few discreet questions around the town, she could probably find out what she needed to know. After all, it was obvious the Cartwrights were well known, prominent ranchers in the area, and knowing small towns, she figured everyone there knew everyone else’s business. She wasn’t quite sure how she would go about her sleuthing, but she would figure that out on the way there.

*****

CHAPTER TWO

On the Ponderosa, Ben had placed Adam in charge while he spent some time in Sacramento on a business trip. As a result, Adam was left with performing a duty he didn’t much care for. Bob Trager was a fairly new hand, who had already been caught once drinking on the job. Ben had given him one more chance and now Adam and Hoss had found him out on the range reeking of liquor and half drunk.

“Bob, Pa gave you a second chance, but you threw it away. I want you off the ranch by nightfall. I’ll have your wages ready by then. You can go back to the bunkhouse now and pack your gear.”

“Look, Cartwright, your Daddy hired me and he’s the one to fire me.”

Adam got the special look in his eye that Hoss had seen before and he knew Bob better cool down fast.

But Bob saw the dangerous light in Adam’s eyes also, and knew, at least for now, he better accept Adam’s edict. He spurred his horse angrily and headed back for the ranch.

“Adam, I think you’ve mebbe made yourself an enemy with ole Bob there, but guess you didn’t have much choice.”

“Well, I’m not worried about him, Hoss, I just want him off the ranch. I know Pa didn’t want to give him any more chances. We can’t risk the safety of the other men with a drunk out here. Who knows if he might spook the herd or what could happen?”

“Yep, you’re right about that, Adam. Well, I guess I better head on into town and pick up the mail like you wanted.”

“Well, don’t enjoy yourself too much, younger brother. I imagine you’ll be stoppin’ by to pay your respects to Miss Francie at the general store.”

Hoss blushed at that. He had volunteered to make the trip to town for just that reason. He had been trying to get up the nerve to ask her to the dance in two weeks and had just about gotten his speech all figured out in his head.

“Now Adam, you quit joshin’ me, or you’ll have to make that trip yourself.”

Adam laughed and said, “Don’t worry, Hoss, I wouldn’t take that pleasure away from you for anything. You go on now and I’ll see you back at the house for supper. Maybe by that time Joe will have the yard work done there,” he laughed again.

“You better watch out older brother, Little Joe’s gonna get back at you someday for giving him the meanest chores when Pa’s away.”

Adam watched Hoss slowly set off for town and yelled, “Oh, I’m not worried much about that either,” and laughed again as Hoss turned and waved at him.

*****

CHAPTER THREE

Regina had finally reached Virginia City after her long stage trip, spending most of that time trying to figure out where to ask about the Cartwrights. She had figured that none of them probably came into town too much, considering the distance involved and all the work that was needed to run the ranch, so she wasn’t too much afraid of running into one of them, …..or even him.

The driver helped her off the stage and had put her bags in the stage office until she decided where she would stay. She walked out the door and right into the chest of Hoss Cartwright. Hoss had accompanied Adam when he had escorted the wagon train on part of their journey until the theft of the money and the killing of Sam Bord. At that time, both Adam and Hoss had parted company with the Darien train.

Hoss had been striding down the sidewalk, still trying to put together in his head his little speech to Miss Francie and not paying attention to where he was going when he smashed right into someone. When he realized it was a lady that he had almost knocked down, he blushed, got all flustered, started apologizing profusely, but then stopped dead, grabbed her arms and said, “Regina, Regina Darien, it’s really you. What are you doin’ here…. I mean, ma’am, I’m sorry, but I’m so surprised to see you here, excuse me for askin’.”

Regina was as flustered as Hoss. She had never expected this to happen in her wildest dreams. She had always thought she would have time to inquire about Adam before ever being seen by anyone in the family. She didn’t know why she had thought that, but she had, and now here she was faced with the one Cartwright besides Adam who would remember her well.

Hoss could see the stricken look on her face. He looked around at the other people on the street who were looking at them curiously and said, “Miss Regina, can I take you into the café here and buy you some lunch so we can talk?”

“Yes, Hoss,” Regina also looked around at the people on the street, “I think that would be a good idea.”

He took her arm and escorted her into the Virginia City Café and they took a table at the back of the room. They both quickly ordered lunch, then Hoss asked, “Well, Miss Regina, you certainly could have knocked me over with a feather when I realized it was you, and you look different somehow – guess it’s the clothes,” he looked at her questioningly. “And you talk different to what you did before.”

“Yes, I’m sure you were surprised. I’m surprised at myself, Hoss. It’s a long story, but I have left the Slaterville community, and since I have decided to leave that life behind me, I have also decided to leave that manner of dress and speech behind.”

“And you came here to Virginia City?”

Regina blushed deeply and didn’t know what to say. Somehow this had not turned out the way she had planned. She had no idea how to broach the subject with Hoss.

“Well, ma’am, I know someone who is sure gonna be happy to see you – that is, if you’re wantin’ to see him,” he gave her another questioning look.

Regina was almost in tears. She was so mixed up and disconcerted by their meeting. “Well, Hoss, I guess you’ve caught me out. Hoss, how is he?” she asked. “Did he recover from his wound? Is he all right now?”

“Miss Regina, he recovered from that gunshot wound just fine, but if ya really want the truth, I don’t think he ever recovered from you.” That was true, Hoss knew. Adam had gone on with his life, but the whole family knew he was not as happy as he once was. Adam refused to talk about it period, which was his way, but they all knew he was hurting after Regina left and was probably still hurting. Adam had teased Hoss about asking Miss Francie to the dance, but the truth was Adam hadn’t sought the serious company of any woman that they knew of during the entire year that Regina had been gone.

*****

CHAPTER FOUR

“Hoss, I don’t know what to do now.” Regina had accounted to Hoss during their long lunch the entire story of her last year and why she had made her decision to leave her community. She knew the kind of man Hoss was and that she could confide in him.

“Well, Miss Regina, I think you and Adam should get together and talk some things out. How ’bout I take you to Miss Amanda’s Boarding House? It’s a real nice place and the rates are reasonable. You can get a nice room there. I can go home, talk to Adam. I know he’ll want to come right in and you and him can talk there in Miss Amanda’s parlor without anybody botherin’ you. How would that be?”

“Thank you, Hoss. That sounds best.”

After Hoss got Regina settled in at Miss Amanda’s, he then quickly picked up the mail and headed back to the Ponderosa, completely forgetting about his plan to speak with Miss Francie.

He knew his brother and that this was going to be good news for him. He couldn’t wait to see the look on Adam’s face when he told him.

He reached the ranch, tied Chubb up at the rail and almost ran into the house. Adam was sitting near the fire reading the newspaper.

“What’s your hurry, younger brother? You got a posse after you or somethin’?”

“Adam, I’ve got some news for you, good news I think you’re gonna say.”

Adam put the paper down, leaned forward and asked, “Well, what is it, Hoss? Did Miss Francie say yes?”

Hoss stopped short and remembered that he had completely forgotten about her. “No, Adam, I didn’t even talk to her. This is about you. I ran into someone just off the stage today, someone you know and I think you’re gonna want to see.”

“Oh, well, who was it, Hoss? Couldn’t be Pa, he’s not back until tomorrow. Can’t think who else.”

“No, no, Adam, not Pa. It was Regina Darien.”

Adam sucked in his breath and asked, with a puzzled look on his face, “Regina? Regina Darien is here in Virginia City? Are you sure? I don’t get it. Did her group come back this way, but wait a minute you said stage coach. Is she here alone? What’re you talkin’ about, Hoss?” Adam had stood and was motioning for Hoss to hurry up and answer him.

“Yep, she’s here alone, Adam. She’s left Slaterville and left the group of people she was livin’ with. I reckon she’ll tell you the whole story. I helped her get a room at Miss Amanda’s.”

“Hoss, do you mean she is here looking for me?”

“Yes, she is, Adam, but first she wanted to know your circumstances, how you were, if you were okay after the gunshot wound, what you’re doin’ now, you know, all of that. She actually told me that she didn’t expect to run into any of us, and had planned to just kind of ask around to see how you were doin.'”

Adam developed a far-away look on his face with the beginnings of a smile. “She’s at Miss Amanda’s, you say?”

“Yep, that’s where I left her, big brother.”

“Hmmm. Uh, Hoss, I’m not going to be here for supper after all, would you tell Hop Sing.” He turned on his heel and bounded up the stairs, passing Joe on the way down.

Joe turned back to look at Adam, then asked Hoss, “What’s with him?”

“Well, Joe, I think he’s going up to maybe change clothes and head for town, that’d be my bet.” He then went on to tell Joe of the day’s events.

They were at the table eating supper when Adam ran back down the stairs, dressed in his suit. He started to put his gun belt on, then hesitated and left it lying on the sideboard.

“Uh, I’ll probably be late, you two. See you both in the mornin’.” Without waiting for an answer, he hurried out the door.

Joe and Hoss both watched him leave with grins on their faces.

*****

CHAPTER FIVE

Adam made the ride to town in shock. He had never expected this. When Regina had left with the wagon train, he thought he would never see her again. She had made it clear to him that their differences in faith and lifestyles could never mesh.

He had only really loved two women in his life and he had thought they were both lost to him forever. The first had been Ruth Halvorson, who he was sure had died with the Indians during the measles epidemic. The second was Regina, who was a Quaker and could never accept a life that included violence. Adam had known that he could not put his guns down forever, not in this land, not and stay alive.

The very fact that Regina had left her community shocked him greatly, much less the fact that she had come looking for him. He knew what a strong, faithful woman she was. That was what had attracted her to him in the first place. Though Ruth and Regina were entirely different women in many, many ways, they did share the common trait of being very strong personalities, which Adam realized did have great appeal to him in a woman, but both of them also shared a certain vulnerability that also appealed to him. He had never known any other women in his life with just these same traits, with the exception of his stepmother, Marie. He felt his first stepmother, Inger, probably shared these traits also, knowing his father, but he was so small when she died that most of what he remembered of her was her kindness and the love that she poured out to him, a very lonely youngster who soaked up her mother-love without question.

He realized for the first time that he and his father apparently were attracted to the same kind of woman. He had never thought about this before and found it an interesting insight into both his father and himself.

He finally reached Virginia City and tied Sport up to the hitching rail in front of Miss Amanda’s Boarding House. He was nervous, yet at the same time he felt his skin tingle. Regina had hit his heart hard the very first time he laid eyes on her. He knew just at the sight of her that she was a special woman. He hoped she was here for the reason he was thinking – he prayed she was.

He knocked on the door and Miss Amanda answered. Miss Amanda was a spinster lady, probably in her 60’s, iron gray hair done up severely in a bun, but a very merry, warm woman, whom he had known most of his life. He took his hat off to her.

“Well, hello, Adam, how nice to see you. How are you, your Pa, your brothers? I haven’t seen any of you in a month of Sundays.”

“Good evening, Miss Amanda. It’s very nice to see you again. My family is just fine. Pa’s in Sacramento, but we’re expectin’ him back tomorrow. Uh… is Miss Regina Darien here by any chance this evening?”

“Well, yes, Adam, she is. As a matter of fact, we just now finished dinner and she is in the east parlor – I believe she’s alone in there. Why don’t you go on in. I’ve got to see to the dishes.”

“Thanks Miss Amanda. It was nice to see you.” She backed off towards the kitchen and Adam made his way, a little hesitantly, toward the east parlor.

She was sitting by the fire reading a book. She was as lovely as he remembered, blonde hair, blue eyes, soft, gentle features, but she was dressed as he had never seen her before. She was wearing a blue and white sprigged muslin dress and looked beautiful to him in the soft glow from the lamplight and the fire. She looked up at him as he entered. Her heart jumped up into her throat. He looked the same. Her heart now started racing. What on earth could she say to him?

“Good evening, Regina,” he broke the ice, “it’s wonderful to see you.”

She stood up looking into his warm brown eyes, “It’s good to see you, too, Adam. It’s been a while.”

Yes, it certainly has. It’s been a long time, much too long.”

They both looked into each other’s eyes and what they were seeking in those looks, they both found. They couldn’t break the gaze, nor could they say anything more. Adam walked over to her. He laid his hat on the nearest table, never taking his eyes from hers.

Finally, he reached out for her and pulled her into his arms. She responded and he bent to her and kissed her lightly on the lips, then held her more tightly and kissed her deeply.

It was everything she remembered and more. It was like walking on clouds. Could heaven be any better than this, she wondered, then immediately put that thought out of her mind. They mutually broke the kiss and he hugged her closely and whispered in her ear, “I’ve missed you so much. I’ve missed you every day. I couldn’t even think of anyone else. So many times I almost got on my horse and rode to Slaterville to snatch you away from there, or join you, whatever was your wish, but I didn’t think you wanted me.”

“Oh, Adam, she breathed, “I never stopped wanting you, never. I tried to stop. I tried not to think about you. I tried to go on with my life as my father would have wished, but it just didn’t work. I wasn’t the same person anymore. You had changed me forever, Adam. I still believe the things I always have, but I couldn’t stop thinking of you.”

“Oh, Regina, darling. I love you so much, with all my heart. I want you, Regina. I need you. I want you to be mine forever and ever. Will you marry me now? Please say yes. I couldn’t take if you left me again.” The fresh scent of her was intoxicating to him.

Regina was swept up in emotions she had never before experienced. “Yes, Adam, I will marry you. This is why I returned, but I didn’t dare hope you still felt the same. I know I’m being terribly forward….”

“You are just being you, Regina Darien, the woman I have loved for a year now. My quiet, lovely, wonderful Regina. You have finally made me a happy man.” He kissed her deeply again, coincidentally deepening his intoxication. He didn’t want to wait longer than he had to. He didn’t want to risk losing her again.

“Regina, may I pick you up tomorrow morning and take you to the house, reintroduce you to my family, announce our marriage plans?”

She looked up into his heated eyes, eyes that made her spirits soar. “Yes, Adam, yes.”

“Good, he said, I’ll bring the buggy in and will be picking up Pa off the stage at 10:00. I’ll explain things to him and we can pick you up together about 10:30 – would that be okay?”

“Yes, Adam.”

“Regina,” he searched her blue eyes, “You’re sure this time – no regrets, no looking back. I still have my guns. I haven’t changed from the man you walked away from a year ago.”

“Adam, I’ve had a year to think, and to pray about this. Instead of my feelings fading, they just became stronger. I am sure.”

Adam was taken with her honesty. There was no guile in Regina Darien and that was part of the reason he loved her.

He hugged her tightly, gave her a parting kiss, and said, “Tomorrow, Regina, tomorrow our life starts over again. I love you with all my heart.”

“And I love you Adam.”

They parted at the door and Adam went home. He didn’t ride home on his horse – he soared home on eagles wings, he danced on clouds. He never remembered being this happy before. Joe and Hoss were asleep when he arrived back home, and Adam went off to his room, but sleep did not come easily that night, though dreams were many.

*****

CHAPTER SIX

Adam watched the stage drive in at a fast clip, with the driver reining in at the last minute. Adam opened the door of the stage and helped the ladies out, then shook his father’s hand as he climbed off. Ben took Adam by the shoulders and said, “It’s good to see you, son. Have to say I’ve missed all of you boys.”

Well, it’s good to see you, too, Pa. Uh… can we sit over here on the bench and talk for minute. The driver had put Ben’s bags down by the bench.

“Sure son, what’s going on? Anything I need to worry about?”

“No, Pa, nothing like that at all. Actually, it’s good news.” They both sat down.

“Well, tell me then, son,” Ben asked, seeing excitement in Adam’s eyes, something not seen there much in a long time.

“Well, Pa, I know you are going to find this hard to believe, but Regina Darien has left the Quaker community in Slaterville, and she has come back here to Virginia City. She and I are going to be married, Pa, as soon as possible. We’re going to pick her up from Miss Amanda’s and take her out to the Ponderosa today to talk with you all about our plans. I’ve already told Joe and Hoss this morning, but I want all of you to meet Regina again and get reacquainted with her.”

Ben found this news more than hard to believe – he was shocked. He knew Regina to be a fine woman, as fine a woman as any man would ever want for his son, but he knew there were possibly some problems ahead. She was a Quaker. She didn’t believe in violence of any kind. That was the reason she had turned Adam down a year ago – she could not accept that he sometimes had to use violence. He wondered why the change.

But he took Adam by both shoulders again as they both stood up, then pulled him into a hug, even though he knew it would probably embarrass his son out in public, yet

Adam didn’t act embarrassed at all this time. “Son, I simply couldn’t be happier for you. I knew how much you loved her. I wish for you what your own mother and I had together. If you have that, you will never need anything else.”

Adam’s eyes showed a hint of mistiness as he replied. “Thanks, Pa. That means a lot to me to have your blessing.”

They turned, Adam picked up his father’s bags and they headed for the buggy.

*****

CHAPTER SEVEN

The day at the Ponderosa was a wonderful one for Regina. The family was just as she remembered them, kind, loving, hospitable to her, happy for their news. Ben was already calling her daughter and asked her not to call him “Mr. Cartwright.” She had called her own father “father,” so she decided to call Ben “Papa Cartwright,” which pleased him immensely. Adam and Regina set their wedding date for a month hence. Adam would have preferred even sooner, but Ben talked them into waiting that long so they would have time for the wedding preparations. He wanted to do well by his first son’s marriage. Regina begged to keep it as simple as possible, though, and Ben felt inclined to comply with her wishes.

So on June 15, Adam Cartwright and Regina Darien were married at the Ponderosa itself. There was a wonderful reception afterwards and then they traveled into Virginia City to spend their wedding night at the Hotel International. The next morning they would leave for a short honeymoon in San Francisco. Adam had wanted to take her anywhere in the world she dreamed to go, but she told him that she was aware of the need for him at the ranch and that the only thing that mattered was that they were finally together – it didn’t matter where.

When they entered their room at the hotel in Virginia City, the first thing Adam did was to loosen his tie, the second was to kiss Regina. He looked deeply into her eyes, and she into his. She had some inkling of what was to come that night and her skin tingled in anticipation.

Another kiss. “Mmm…. sweetheart, I love you so much, Regina. You have made me so happy, happier than I have ever been before.”

“I feel the same, Adam.”

He kissed her again, then moved his lips to her ear, her neck. She shivered slightly. His lips were so warm on her skin. She, on the other hand, could feel goose bumps run down her arms as he continued to kiss her neck. She was wearing a lovely pink traveling suit that he had helped her pick out. He slowly helped her out of the jacket of the suit. She was wearing a ruffled white blouse underneath it. He kissed her shoulder though the soft fabric. Every time he touched her or kissed her, she felt herself shiver with desire.

Adam wanted to be slow and gentle with her. He wanted this first time for her to be wonderful. He knew it would be for him, but his thoughts were of giving to her. He knew that although she responded passionately to his kisses, she would have a certain shyness on this first night. He didn’t want to frighten her or make her uncomfortable in any way. He just wanted to show her how much he loved and adored her.

All Regina was thinking of at the moment was how wonderful it felt to be this close to him, and that she could touch him anytime she wanted to, that they were man and wife; she was his, he was hers. They were married, they were free to do anything and everything she had ever secretly dreamed of. It felt so good. This was how it was meant to be. She knew that now. Nothing could feel this good and not be right.

Adam slipped out of his own suit jacket, finished taking off his tie and unbuttoned his collar button and the next button down. Her hands reached up to him, her palms flat against his chest hair peaking out of his crisp white shirt. The feeling made a thrill of desire run through her body. She felt a stirring in her loins that she had never felt before. It made her want to be closer and closer to him, to touch his bare skin. She brazenly unbuttoned two more buttons on his shirt and ran the palms of her hands further inside his shirt. He shuddered at that touch and pulled her even closer, all the while looking into her eyes, which he could see were filled with as much desire as his own must be.

He asked her a question with his eyes and she answered him with hers.

Oh, Adam, Adam…..I love you so much. I never dreamed it could be like this.”

“It’s this and much more my darling.”

“Oh, Adam………”

*****

CHAPTER EIGHT

She woke before him, lying in his arms, her head on his shoulder, her arm across his muscular chest. She knew the dictionary definition of ecstasy, but now she knew the real meaning. She never wanted to let him go away from her, not for a minute. She wished they could stay in this room forever, just like this. How did she become so lucky, lucky that this man, Adam Cartwright, loved her, Regina Darien – now Regina Cartwright. It was so unbelievable to her. Regina knew she was not a beautiful woman and that he could have any woman he so chose, then why her? She couldn’t fathom it, but he had chosen her. True, she had come back seeking him instead of the other way around, but she knew deep within her that he did love her, as unbelievable as it was – she did believe it. Her spirit soared with the wonder of it.

She had been looking at his chest, but now she looked up to his face and saw his eyes looking back into hers, the warmth of them reflected in a small grin as he gazed at her.

“What?” she asked.

“Nothing, except that it was so wonderful to wake up and find you in my arms – it makes me happy, sweetheart.”

“Oh, Adam, I love you so very much. You have filled me with such joy. I cannot imagine my life without you. Can you ever forgive me for staying away so long?”

“Regina, I would forgive you anything in this world,” he answered as he turned her slightly away and traced his fingers lightly down her stomach.

She felt the desire burn brightly within her again, as it had last night.

“Oh, Adam, my darling, I need to be as close to you as I can. Please, please hold me closer.”

He knew what she meant and fulfilled her wishes, bringing her to an even greater bliss than he had achieved the night before. This time, her shyness of the night before gone, her full participation had done the same for him and they both were weak and gasping for breath when their mutual love had been satisfied.

Afterwards, he teased her, “My quiet little Regina has turned into quite a fiery young woman of the world.”

She blushed, “Oh, Adam, now don’t you tease me….I can’t help myself when I’m in your arms.”

“I can’t help myself either, sweetheart,” and he kissed her passionately.”

*****

CHAPTER NINE

They spent three weeks in San Francisco on their honeymoon. Adam showed her all the beautiful sights that he had been seeing since he was a teenager, but it was interesting for him to be seeing them through her eyes, almost as if for the first time. However, if the truth be told, they tended to spend a great deal of time in their hotel room. Regina was a generally reserved, shy woman, but her love for him seemed to know no bounds and their physical intimacy had grown almost obsessive on both their parts.

Too soon, the time came to return home to the Ponderosa and to take up their new lives there. They both became quite caught up together in planning a house about two miles from the main house itself. As fall was soon approaching, Adam decided they would start the building of it the following spring, which would give him plenty of time to design it and merge both of their dreams into it.

In the meantime, they inhabited his old bedroom, which was quickly becoming quite a different room than the one he had always known. Regina incorporated some of her femininity into the room, but that didn’t bother Adam. He wanted her to feel at home. She was terribly interested in his collection of books and delved deeply into them and was taken into other worlds by everything there that she read.

She made good friends with Hop Sing and though he still did most of the cooking, she was eager to help him and to share in the housework. It wasn’t long, though, before Adam made her back off on the heaviest of the work as very soon after their honeymoon Regina was with child. His brothers smirked as they saw him go about his work every day with a huge grin on his face, but it warmed Ben’s heart to see his oldest son this happy. Actually, Joe and Hoss were extremely pleased and happy for their brother, also, and worked together on fashioning a beautiful cradle for their niece- or nephew-to-be.

The only thing to mar Adam’s happiness had been a couple of run-ins in town with Bob Trager, the hand that Adam had fired many months before. He had found work on another ranch, but every time any of the Cartwrights spotted him in Virginia City, he was in one of the saloons and either drunk or on his way to being drunk. When he saw Adam, he made a point of mouthing off to him. Adam tried his best just to let it pass, as he was trying to avoid any kind of violence for Regina’s sake. Luckily, most of these confrontations occurred when Regina was not with him. He was afraid Trager would say something to him when Regina was accompanying him that he would not be able to let go by. He wondered to himself just how far he was willing to let himself be pushed. He wasn’t sure himself. He loved Regina more than life itself, loved her more with each passing day, but he wondered just how much he could take before his pride and his manhood would let Bob Trager’s remarks push him over the edge. Regina never said a word to him about his gun and he wore it out on the range and into town, but when working around the Ponderosa yard, he left it off.

Even though Regina was well along with child, they still kept up their lovemaking in the bed he had slept in most of his life. Sometimes they both ended up laughing and giggling at themselves and praying no one else in the family was hearing them. Regina was a source of never-ending wonder to Adam. Around the family and friends, though friendly and liked by all, she still maintained a certain reserve, but when they were together by themselves, she turned into a carefree, laughing, teasing, joy-filled woman who melted his heart every time he looked at her.

For her part, Regina was still in a state of amazement that this man had chosen her. When they walked together in town or sat together in church, she was slightly ashamed of herself for the prideful feeling that she had about being seen with him. It was obvious to her that many of the other young women in Virginia City were surprised and jealous that he had chosen her, when he could have had the pick of any one of them had he elected to do so. After all these months, she still tingled at his touch, trembled with anticipation of seeing him when he had been out working all day, looked forward to their nights of lovemaking as if it was still their wedding night. The fact that she was carrying his child now brought her more joy than she ever could have thought possible.

She was not terribly happy about his still wearing a gun, but on the other hand when she thought of what could happen to him out on the range, such as encounters with snakes or mountain lions, deep down she was relieved that he had it to protect himself. The thought of losing him overrode any other thoughts.

*****

CHAPTER TEN

About a month before their baby was due, the whole family was engaging in a bit of teasing with her about the fact that once she sat down, she could hardly get up again. The standing joke was that someone always had to be in attendance so that they could help her get up if she needed to. She took it all good-naturedly, realizing just how much they all cared for her, and it struck her just how much she loved all of them. She had grown up without a mother, just as Adam had for most of his life, and though her father had been wonderful, this was really the first time she had a family. It was something she enjoyed very much.

Adam had finished with the design of their new home and he and his father and brothers would soon start building it. It would still be some time before it would be finished, but Adam hoped that their child could celebrate his or her first birthday in their new home.

He had taken to spending his days either in the house itself working on the Ponderosa bookkeeping, or at least within close calling distance. He was determined that there would be no chance that he would miss out on the birth of his child.

One day he was sitting at his father’s desk going over some contracts. Hop Sing was picking up supplies for the house in town, and Regina was sitting at the table laying out some patterns for more baby clothes. She had already filled a chest full of things she had made for the coming child.

There was a knock at the door and as she was the closest, she managed to rise from the chair on her own with a look of triumph at her grinning husband, and went to answer it. As she started to open the door, it suddenly flew open and a man brushed by her into the house with his gun drawn. He quickly glanced around and spied Adam just as he was quickly getting to his feet behind the desk. Adam immediately recognized Bob Trager and could tell he was half-drunk.

“Trager, what the hell do you think you’re doing busting in here?”

Trager, as he aimed the pistol at Adam’s mid-section, answered, “Well, Mr. High and Mighty Adam Cartwright, “I’m here to get a little payback on you, that’s what.”

“What’re you talking about?” Adam was keeping one eye on Trager and the other on Regina, who seemed frozen in place by the sideboard, her eyes open wide, showing the fear she was feeling. Adam dared not make any false moves as he knew Trager was a loose cannon and anything could happen. Adam’s own gun was in its holster on the sideboard next to Regina.

“Well, I’m talking about taking me a little bit of that money I know your daddy keeps in that safe right over there behind you, boy.” Trager nodded at Adam. “Yeah, I made sure when I worked here I found out just where that was at, case I ever needed to know. Well now I need it. Got fired off the Mirabel spread and figured you probably had somethin’ to do with that.”

“Trager, I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about. I’ve never talked with anybody at Mirabel about you. I couldn’t have cared less about what you were doing after you left the Ponderosa. I had nothing to do with your being fired.”

“Well, it don’t matter no how, I’m still gonna have me the money outta that safe over there, so you better be quick about gettin’ it.”

Adam glanced at Regina. Trager had moved to where he could see both Adam and Regina. Adam had decided that he would give him anything as long as he just left and didn’t hurt anyone.

“All right, Trager, I’ll give you what’s in the safe, but then you’ve gotta take off out of here and leave my family alone. I don’t care about the money – just be careful with that gun and don’t hurt anyone. I’ll get the key and open the safe.

“Damn right you will, Cartwright, and do it now.”

Adam pulled open a drawer in his father’s desk and removed the key from its hiding place there. He turned, opened the safe and took out the cash that was there, which he figured to be about $2,000.

Turning back around with the money in his hand, he saw an unpleasant glint light up Trager’s eyes.

“Drop it on the desk, then back off,” Trager ordered.

Adam did as he was told, unwilling to do anything that might put Regina in danger, praying Trager would be satisfied with the money in hand.

Trager picked up the money and stuffed it inside his shirt. “All right, Cartwright, now I’m gonna get my real payback. With that, he fired his gun, the bullet grazing Adam’s right upper arm, ripping his shirt and bringing blood. Regina screamed, but Trager paid her no attention.

Adam grabbed his arm with his other hand, wishing at that moment that he had been wearing his gun to begin with.

“I’m just playing with ya now, Cartwright. Where do you want the next one? How about your kneecap? Hear tell that’s mighty painful. How about a gut shot, boy, how’s that sound?”

Regina shook off her fear and a determination like no other in her life gripped her. No one was going to harm Adam, her love. She reached over, never taking her eyes off the two men who were glaring at each other, and slipped Adam’s pistol out of the holster resting on the sideboard. She had never fired a gun in her life and knew very little of how to handle it, but she knew there was more to it than just pulling the trigger. She knew it had to be cocked, but wasn’t sure just how that was done. She quietly pulled the hammer back, taking both hands to do it. She heard the click as the gun cocked. She only had an instant of hesitation, an instant of remembering her lifelong beliefs. But her thoughts then turned solely to her husband, the love of her life, the father of her unborn child. She didn’t know much about aiming the gun, but raised it up, pointing at the mid-part of Trager’s back. Adam was only barely visible to her around the corner, and Adam, his eyes only on Trager, did not see what she was doing at all.

Suddenly, the weapon boomed in her hands, startling her as it did so. She had no memory of actually pulling the trigger. She watched as Trager quickly turned and fired back at her. She didn’t feel the impact of the bullet as it hit her in the chest. Her only thought was that she had saved Adam, the love of her heart. Adam jumped Trager and pulled his weapon away from him as Trager crumpled to the floor onto his stomach, his tan shirt turning crimson, the color spreading quickly. Adam ran from Trager to his wife, who was also on the floor.

“Regina! Regina! Oh my God, Regina!” he screamed. He pulled her into his arms and tried to see where she had been hit. Regina looked up at him and whispered weakly, “My love forever, my darling,” and then her head fell back over Adam’s arm. In that moment, Charlie, one of the hands burst in the front door. Adam looked up at him with anguish. “Charlie, ride for Dr. Martin. Don’t come back without him and make it fast!” he ordered. Charlie took in the scene, then immediately ran out and back to the barn to saddle his horse. The rest of the Cartwrights rode into the yard just as Charlie was mounting up to leave.

“Mr. Cartwright, I’m heading to town for the doc. You better hurry inside. Mrs. Adam has been hurt. Adam needs you.”

They all three quickly dismounted and ran for the house. Ben’s heart sank as he took in the sight in front of him. Hoss went over to Trager and pronounced him dead. Ben dropped to his knees by Adam’s side. Adam was desperately trying to staunch the flow of blood from Regina’s chest wound, tears streaming from his eyes. Adam knew she was still alive, but also knew it was bad, very bad.

“Adam, son, let Hoss carry her up to bed so we can take care of her properly,” Ben ordered.

“Joe, go find bandages and some hot water and bring it up, then you and Hoss get that body out of here.”

“Adam, let your brother take her now!” Ben gently tried to pull Regina from Adam’s grasp as Hoss knelt down to pick her up. Ben pulled his son back away and Hoss picked up Regina’s limp body and carried her upstairs to the couple’s bedroom.

Ben and Adam worked together to remove Regina’s dress and camisole, then Ben pressed a thick bandage into the wound to try to stop the bleeding. Adam had calmed only slightly, still almost at the edge of hysteria. Ben wrapped a long piece of material around the bandage and around Regina’s body to hold it in place. He then got to his feet and gripped Adam by both shoulders and looked piercingly into his eyes.

“Adam, for Regina and your child’s sake, you need to pull yourself together. She is going to need you to be strong for her and for the baby. It’s a bad wound, but she can pull through this if we keep our wits about us and if the doctor gets here soon. Now I want you to do what I tell you if you want to save them!”

Adam looked into Ben’s stern eyes, sucked in his breath, and answered, “Yes sir, I’m okay. Just tell me what I need to do, Pa.”

“All right, now listen to me, son. Regina has started into her birthing. I can feel the contractions have started. We need to make sure we keep her from bleeding any more and keep her as quiet and still as we can. That will be your job. Your voice is what she needs to hear and she needs it to be a calm voice that she is hearing, do you understand me, boy?”

“Yes, I understand.”

“All right then, son, let’s get to it.”

The bleeding stopped, but Ben knew the bullet was in deep and though Regina was progressing in her labor, she had not roused since the shooting. He prayed that Doc Martin would hurry and get there. Adam was beside himself with fear, but talked as comfortingly to his wife as he could, though he could not see any evidence that she was hearing him.

As Adam knelt by his wife’s side, talking to her, he was hardly aware of his father cleaning up and dressing the slight wound in his own arm.

*****

CHAPTER ELEVEN

Amazingly, within three hours after Regina was shot, Dr. Martin arrived at the Ponderosa. He had brought along Mrs. Shaughnessey, who often helped him with deliveries and at other times when someone in the Virginia City area was going to need some special help or nursing. He knew that was going to be the situation here. He asked Ben and Adam to leave so that he and ‘Shaughnessey,’ as she was known to everyone, could examine Regina.

“But, Paul, I need to stay here with her,’ objected Adam. Dr. Martin signaled Ben with his eyes and said, “Adam, Shaughnessey and I need to be able to take care of your wife properly and we can’t do that with you in here worried about everything that is happening. I cannot take the time to be concerned about a distraught husband, not now!” Adam gave Paul a stricken look, but acquiesced as his father gently pulled him out of the room and closed the door.

Adam couldn’t bring himself to go as far away from Regina as downstairs, so he and Ben sat in Ben’s room while they waited. Actually, Ben sat and Adam paced back and forth, his hands clenching and unclenching, and Ben could see he was on the edge of tears. He didn’t bother trying to say anything comforting to him because he wasn’t at all sure, contrary to what he had said to Adam earlier, that Regina could survive this.

Hoss and Little Joe waited downstairs after getting Trager’s body out of the house. Hop Sing had returned from town and helped the two brothers clean up the area. They were sick at heart about Regina and were deathly afraid for their brother’s state of mind.

After Dr. Martin had been there for a couple of hours, finally, they could hear Regina’s muffled screams. At the first sound, Adam jumped and started to go to their room, but Ben pulled him back.

“Son, that’s a good sign. Women do yell when they are giving birth and it means she has roused. Let Paul and Shaughnessey do what they need to do to help her, son. I know it’s hard…it’s hard to hear your wife go through a normal childbirth, much less something like this where she’s been hurt, in addition.”

“Pa, I’m so worried about her. How’s she gonna survive this with a bullet in her chest and it’s early for the baby?”

“I know you’re worried, Adam, but Paul will do his best and really it’s not that early for the baby. Regina just told me the other day that Paul had told her it could be only two more weeks, no tellin’ for sure.”

They continued to hear Regina’s cries, each one like a kick in the midsection for Adam. Finally, there was a different cry, the obvious cry of a baby.

Ben grinned, “Adam, see, I told you. Sounds like you’re a father now. The baby has come and it will be easier for Regina now. Just you wait and see.”

“Pa, I just want her to be okay. She’s gotta be okay. I can’t live without her, Pa.”

Ben gripped Adam’s arms, “I know just how you feel son and I wish I could say something to make you feel better. At a time like this, all I know to do is pray for her, son, and I’ve been doing that since the minute we walked in the door this afternoon.” He reached up and cupped his hand around the back of Adam’s neck, hoping somehow that his touch would be of some comfort if his words were not.

The door to Ben’s bedroom had been left open and at that moment Shaughnessey walked in carrying a tiny bundle in her arms, wrapped in a blanket.

She looked at Adam with warmth and concern written all over her face as she told him, “Adam you have a baby son. He’s a little mite, coming a bit early as he did, but he’s healthy and I know y’all have heard him screamin’ already and that’s a good sign.”

She pulled the blanket back from the baby’s face and showed him to his father and grandfather, but before Adam looked down at him, he asked urgently, “Shaughnessey, how is Regina, please tell me how she is. Is she going to be all right?”

“Son, the doc is still working on her. You know I’ll be as honest with you as I can. Doc really don’t know how it’s all gonna turn out, but he’s doin’ his best and he’ll talk to you just as soon as he can. Now you take care of your little boy here while the doc does his job,” and she gently put the baby into Adam’s inexperienced arms. He looked down at the child’s face and marveled at the emotions that swept over him as he did so, but he was still almost frozen with fear for his wife.

Shaughnessey continued, “Now Ben, I’ve gotta get back in there and help the doc. That baby is gonna need to be kept warm and he’s gonna need to be fed later on. He can go for a while, but the time’s gonna come when he’s got to be fed. I know Hop Sing knows how to take care of a small baby, but it still is gonna need to be fed, so someone’s gonna have to get some milk for him. Doc and me right offhand can’t think of anybody around here to be a wet nurse for him, so you’re gonna have to get some cow’s milk and mix a little sugar in it for him. Doc Martin brought along a bottle you can use to feed him with. Now I gotta get back in there right now.” She turned and left the room.

Ben looked at Adam as he was gazing down at his newborn son. “Adam, I’m going down to get to talk with Hop Sing about the milk. Now you sit down here on the bed and hold your son. I’ll get Hop Sing to come up later and help us with the baby.” He took hold of Adam’s arm and eased him down onto the bed. Adam was still gazing at the baby, seemingly in a trance.

Ben quickly went off down the stairs to tell Hoss and Joe about the baby’s safe arrival and to speak with Hop Sing. He then asked Hop Sing to come up with him to help. Ben entered his room again, finding Adam just as he had left him. Ben knelt in front of Adam and put his finger down next to the baby’s cheek.

“What’s his name, son? You and Regina would never tell us what your plans were in that regard.”

Adam finally pulled his eyes away from the child’s face and looked at Ben. “Uh…his name….uh, well, Regina wanted to honor both her father and you, Pa. We finally decided if it was a boy to call him Benjamin Jacob Cartwright. We thought we’d call him Jake so as not to be any confusion with two “Bens” around,” and Adam was even able to give his father a small smile at that.

Ben’s eyes started to sting as his emotions almost overcame him, but he knew Adam didn’t need to see that right now.

“Son, I couldn’t be more proud and honored. Thank you and I thank Regina.” By this time the baby had gripped Ben’s finger as babies will do. “Well, little Jake, you’ve got a nice strong grip there. You’re gonna be a fine, strong young man just like your father.”

Adam had helped take care of Joe when he was a baby, but that had been so long ago, he had forgotten what it was like to hold a tiny infant. He put his finger against his son’s cheek. The baby turned his face towards his finger, nuzzling, searching. Adam let him take the tip of his finger into his mouth and could feel the strong sucking sensation. Though Regina’s welfare was uppermost in his mind, he felt strong emotions surface as it sank in that this child was his own baby son.

“He looks just like you did when you were born, Adam, I remember very well,” Ben said proudly.

Adam looked up into his father’s eyes and probably for the first time in his entire life truly understood this man, his father, and how Ben felt about his sons.

*****

CHAPTER TWELVE

Shaughnessey walked in the door, saying, “Here let me take the baby for a minute, please.” She leaned over and took the child from his father’s arms, and then motioned Hop Sing to go out of the room with her, just as Ben and Adam both stood up. Paul came into the room after they left and closed the door behind him.

Both Ben and Adam could see it in his eyes. “I’m so sorry Adam. There was just nothing more I could do for her. She lost too much blood. Amazingly, she stayed with us long enough to deliver your son. She was only half-conscious even for that. She never fully regained consciousness through it all, son.” Paul’s eyes were full of pain, as was his heart, to have to tell his good friends this terrible news.

Ben gripped Adam’s arm and looked at him. He seemed to be in a state of shock for an instant, then he pulled loose of his father’s grasp and ran from the room, screaming, “NO….NO!”

They both ran after him and found him kneeling at Regina’s bedside, screaming her name. Hop Sing and Shaughnessey, who had put the infant in his new cradle, backed away from the bed. Ben heard Joe and Hoss thundering up the stairs.

“YOU CAN’T LEAVE ME, REGINA….YOU CAN’T! I WANT HER BACK, PA! SHE CAN’T BE GONE. NO…..NO!” And then, Adam Cartwright, always the strong one, the stoic one, the aloof one, laid his head down on the bed next to his dead wife’s body and sobbed as though his heart were breaking into a million pieces.

Joe and Hoss were at the door, tears also in their eyes as they watched their brother’s misery. They all stood there for a few moments as the sobs racked his body, then Ben slowly went to his son. His own eyes were full of tears, as were the eyes of everyone in that room, except for the tiny infant sleeping peacefully in its cradle.

Ben placed his hands on Adam’s shoulders and kneaded the muscles there, trying to impart some measure of comfort to his child.

He took hold of Adam’s arm then and gently said, “Son, come on now, let’s get you back into my room. You don’t want to stay here. Come on son, come with me.” He slowly pulled Adam to his feet and Hoss came over and took Adam’s other arm, and they led him out of the room, still weeping uncontrollably. Joe and Paul followed them out. Hop Sing and Shaughnessey prepared to take care of Regina’s body and to clean the room.

The others got Adam into Ben’s room and sat him down on the bed. Ben looked up at Paul beseechingly, asking him with his eyes what they could do for his distraught son.

“Just a minute, Ben,” Paul answered, “I’ll be right back.”

Adam turned to his father. Ben enfolded him within his arms and Adam continued to weep against his father’s shoulder.

Paul walked back in with a medicine bottle and glass in his hands. He poured some of the medicine into the glass and knelt down by Ben and Adam.

“Adam, I want you to drink this for me, son,” Paul urged. “Come on now. Just get this little bit down.”

Ben reached for the glass and held Adam away from him slightly. He could see that Adam’s hands where shaking too much for him to even be able to hold the glass. He put it to Adam’s lips and Adam swallowed it, knowing it would put him to sleep and end his agony for the moment. He didn’t want to face it now anyway; he longed for oblivion.

His father held him close again. Between sobs, Adam lamented, “She did it for me, Pa, to save me. She didn’t even know how to use a gun. I didn’t see what she was doing. If I’d looked at her, if I’d known, I could have done something to help. I did everything Trager wanted ’cause I didn’t want him to hurt her, but she picked up my gun and she shot him. Regina shot him. Regina, who couldn’t hurt anything, she shot him, she shot him for me, Pa. It’s all my fault. I want her back. She can’t be gone, she can’t be….”

“Shh…son, it’s not your fault. This all lies on Trager’s head, nobody else’s. Don’t you start blaming yourself. Regina did it for you because she knew he was going to kill you and she loved you, son. She wouldn’t want you blaming yourself. Now try to relax and let the medicine work.” Ben hugged him tightly as Adam’s sobs started to subside.

Adam continued on with the same words over again until his voice slowed and his words started to slur. He began to feel limp in Ben’s arms and his eyes drooped heavily. Ben nodded at Hoss, who came over and helped his father lay Adam on the bed. Hoss pulled his brother’s boots off and pulled the quilt up. Ben finished pulling it up to Adam’s neck just as he could see his son finally drop off to sleep. He smoothed the hair back from Adam’s brow, shook his head sorrowfully and turned to his other sons.

“Pa, I’m just so sorry for all of this. What are we gonna do to help him?” Joe questioned softly.

“Joe and Hoss, we’re going to do what we have to do for him and for your new nephew. We’re gonna be right here for him whenever and whatever way he needs us. That’s all we can do. I need for you to help the others with Regina’s body, and early in the morning to make the arrangements. I’d do it myself, but I don’t want to leave him. I think I need to be here when he wakes up. The medicine and the sleep will get him through tonight, but there are going to be lots of tomorrows where he’s going to need us to be there for him. Believe me, you know I speak from experience. But he has that little baby in there and that’s going to help. Having you boys was the only thing that got me through the same situation as he is in now, but Adam has us, too,” Ben murmured the words sadly.

In his heart, Ben was deeply shaken. How could this be happening all over again to his own son. It was almost as bad as when it happened to him. To see the torment in Adam’s face was almost worse than experiencing it himself. In addition, it brought back all the memories and pain of his own losses. He knew the road ahead was going to be a rugged one for the entire Cartwright family. His only consolation was the thought of his new grandson lying in the next room. He knew that child would be the salvation of his oldest son and perhaps of them all.

*****

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

Adam did not take any more of Dr. Martin’s medicine over the next two days, but he went through those days almost as if he were drugged. Ben practically had to lead him by the hand to get him through those days, from making certain decisions about the arrangements to just about everything else that needed doing. The funeral was to be held two days after Regina died.

Hop Sing and Shaughnessey took on the major care of Adam’s child and Ben asked Shaughnessey if she would consider staying on indefinitely in his hire as a nurse for the motherless baby. She had known Ben and the boys ever since they came to the Nevada Territory and couldn’t turn him down.

The day of the funeral arrived. It was to be held at 11:00 that morning. The mattress on Adam and Regina’s bed had been removed and replaced, and though Adam hated now to go back to that room, Ben insisted he face it right away and so he had slept there the next night after her death. Ben knew it was better to face these kinds of things than to put it off for very long, or he would never go back to the room. Ben had dealt with the same thing when Marie died. Ben only hoped that Adam would not retreat further into himself as Ben had done during the few months subsequent to Marie’s death.

Ben also insisted that the baby’s cradle be left in the same room with his father, and though Shaughnessey slipped in and out to feed young Jake, Adam was aware that his new son was nearby. During the day before the funeral, he had spent a considerable time staring down at his son and had even picked him up and held him a couple of times, which Ben felt to be a good sign. Shaughnessey even showed Adam how to use the bottle with the tube and rubber nipple device to feed his son. Dr. Martin had also left a recipe for pap for Hop Sing to start preparing to further provide nutrition for the baby.

The morning of the funeral Ben knocked lightly, then quietly entered as Adam invited him into his room. The baby was downstairs with Shaughnessey and she would stay home with him. Hop Sing, however, was going with the family.

Adam was sitting in a chair by the window in his Sunday pants and white shirt, but was staring at the floor. It was near to the time they needed to leave. Adam had declined breakfast; he had eaten next to nothing since Regina was shot. Ben understood. He remembered how sick his stomach had been in the same circumstances.

“Adam, we’ll need to leave soon. You need to finish getting dressed.”

Adam slowly pulled his eyes up and looked at Ben. He seemed again almost in a trance.

“Uh…okay. I’ll do that,” but he looked around the room with a puzzled expression on his face.

Ben went to Adam’s dresser and picked up the string tie lying there.

He walked over to Adam, took his arm and said, “Come on here, son, let’s get your tie on first.” Adam got up from the chair and let himself be pulled over to the mirror. He took the tie from his father, but didn’t seem to know what to do with it. Ben took it from him again, reached out, turned Adam’s collar up and pulled the tie around his neck, turned the collar down again, and said, “Tie it now son.” Adam took the ends of the tie and automatically performed the motions necessary to tie it, as he had done hundreds of times in his life. He had already shaved and brushed his hair.

Ben found his son’s coat and helped him slip into it. He turned Adam around to face him, holding him by each of his shoulders.

“Adam, I know this is going to be a tough day for you, but saying good-bye and being present as others do is a necessary part of what has happened to you, what has happened to all of us with the loss of Regina. Regina was a fine, wonderful woman and we all need and want to pay our respects. I know it will be difficult, but your brothers and I are here for you and so will your friends be.

“I know, Pa. It’s okay. I can do it. He sighed. “We might as well go now.”

*****

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Regina was buried, of course, next to Marie at Sandy Cove. It looked to Ben as if the entire Virginia City and surrounding area population showed up. In the short time Regina had lived here, she become a much-loved person in the area. The minister performed a beautiful funeral service and there were many tears shed. Ben and his brothers were close by Adam’s side. To Ben, he still seemed almost in a dreamlike state, as if he were just going through the motions and not really totally aware of what was being said or what was going on. He looked at the ground through the entire service. The service finished and the others left to head to the Ponderosa. As was the custom their wagons and buckboards were loaded up with food for the gathering that would take place there after the funeral.

The minister shook hands with the four Cartwrights and Hop Sing and then went on his way, also. The gravediggers were proceeding to their work. Adam had finally lifted his eyes from the ground in front of him and looked down into the hole where they were covering up the coffin containing his cherished Regina. Why….why? That question kept repeating itself in his mind. Why for such a short time? Why had she not even been allowed to see or hold her child? Why had they not even had the opportunity to say good-bye?

He felt his father grasp his arm. “It’s time to go back home now, son.” Adam turned at his command and they all walked back to the surrey. Ben was a bit concerned at Adam’s lack of emotion at the service, but he also was aware of Adam’s reticence about public displays of emotion. More than that, though, Ben suspected Adam was just numb from this appalling tragedy that had befallen him.

The family returned home to a house full of their friends and enough food for an army. Everyone endeavored to extend their personal condolences to Adam and he was gracious in his acceptance, still appearing to his father to be in a daze, just going through the motions, but that was understandable. He still ate nothing that was offered to him.

Finally, as things seemed to be winding down, Hoss watched Adam slip away and retreat up the stairs. He had been watching his big brother, his own heart aching for him. Next to Adam, Hoss probably knew Regina the best of all the other Cartwrights. He knew how deep their love had been and what a horrible tragedy this was for his beloved elder brother.

Hoss went into the kitchen and filled a small plate with some of Adam’s favorite foods, then climbed the stairs to Adam’s room. Adam was seated in the same chair Ben had found him in that morning. He had his elbows on his knees, his chin resting against his clenched hands, as he stared at the wall.

“Uh…Adam…I brought you a little bit of food. You ain’t had hardly a thing to eat for two days now. Can’t ya get a little of this down?” Hoss glanced at the empty cradle, knowing the baby was downstairs with Shaughnessey.

Adam slowly looked his way, heaved a deep sigh, and responded, “Well, I guess I’ll have to since you went to all the trouble of bringing it up here, little brother.” He gave Hoss a small smile.

Pleased, Hoss handed the plate to Adam and sat down on his brother’s bed. He watched Adam take a couple of small bites of the food before he said, “Adam, I just want you to know how doggoned sorry I am about Regina. There wasn’t a better woman I ever knew. You know I’m not so good with the words, but I just wanted you to know how sorry I am.”

“I know you are, Hoss, and I appreciate your feelings. Regina loved you Hoss,” Adam’s voice was breaking. “She told me how much she respected you and how kind you always were to her, and I want you to know I thank you for that, younger brother.”

“Ah, shucks, Adam, it was easy to be nice to Regina. She was one of the good ones, Adam. I guess it’s not for us to know why God lets these things happen, but mebbe she was just needed in heaven more’n she was here. I just don’t know.”

Adam put the plate down and turned to his brother, “Hoss, I don’t know either. I just know I’m sick without her, but I want you to know that you are not only my brother, but my best friend,” Hoss went over and put his hand on Adam’s shoulder and squeezed it.

“Ah, Adam, you know I feel the same.” He turned and left the room.

They both knew that. Although all three brothers loved each other equally, Adam and Hoss had been together through everything since the day Hoss was born and though Hoss and Joe had a rapport that Adam and Joe did not have, Hoss and Adam also had a bond that was special between them. There never had been any particular need to verbalize their feelings that much before, but Adam appreciated Hoss’ words tonight.

Adam had finally gotten up from his chair and lit his lamp when he heard a soft knock at his door, and Little Joe entered carrying a plate with a piece of Adam’s favorite chocolate cake and a glass of milk.

“Hey, Adam. I brought you a little something, your favorite.” Joe saw the unfinished plate of food that Hoss had brought in earlier. He sure wished Adam would eat something. He was so worried about his brother and felt so bad for him. Joe only barely remembered when his own mother had died. This was really his first experience with death this close as an adult and he didn’t know how to deal with it or what to say to Adam.

Adam had an idea of what Joe was feeling and to make him feel better, he reached for the plate and the glass, though he didn’t think his stomach could stand more than a few bites.

“Thanks, Joe. I am a little hungry now and I appreciate your bringing it to me.” Adam put the glass on the table by his bed, sat on the edge of the bed and took a bite of the cake. Joe stood there watching him, feeling uncomfortable and not knowing what else to say or do.

Adam motioned Joe to come sit beside him on the bed, so Joe went over and sat next to him.

“Adam, …um….uh, I’m so sorry about everything. I’ll be glad to do anything I can to help you, Adam. Help with the baby or whatever. He’s a beautiful baby, Adam.”

“Thanks, Joe. I know how you feel and he is a beautiful baby. I guess Shaughnessey is going to stick around and help with him, which I’m certainly glad of, but thanks, Joe. I know how you feel and I appreciate it. Adam had put the plate of cake onto the table, also, not being able to get another bite of it down.

Joe impulsively threw his arms around Adam and his voice choked as he said, “I love you Adam. I’m so sorry. Regina was a wonderful woman. I was proud to have her for my sister.”

Adam returned Joe’s embrace and held him tightly. “Thanks little brother. I know how you feel and I appreciate it very much.”

When they broke the embrace, Joe stood up and said, “Well, I’ll let you get some sleep, Adam. Good night, older brother.”

“Night, Joe,” Adam returned as he watched Joe leave the room.

*****

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

Adam knew that Shaughnessey would probably bring the baby in to his cradle pretty soon. He knew it would have been easier on her to have the baby with her in her own room, but Ben had insisted on the baby staying in with Adam. Adam had been in such a daze the previous night, he had hardly noticed the child or Shaughnessey when she came in and out, even though Adam himself had really not slept. His body was achingly tired, but his mind was still racing and he wasn’t sure if he would be able to sleep again this night.

Regina was all he could think about. He missed her so much. The pain of missing her was almost a physical one, but the emotional pain was so intense he could hardly fathom the depths of it. He had suffered other pain in his life, not having his own mother, Inger’s death, Marie’s death, but this overshadowed it all. He had known Regina less than two years, and a year of that they had not even been together, but this past year had been the happiest of Adam’s life, being with her, loving her, both of them planning their house, both of them happily awaiting their child. He had never known this kind of happiness in his entire life and now it was over. Not completely over, though, he thought. He had a son, Benjamin Jacob Cartwright. His son and hers. A part of Regina. He remembered those same words that his father had always said to him and to his brothers, that they were each a part of their mother and that he was so grateful for that. He understood his father so much better these last couple of days than he had ever before in his life.

‘He’s a better man than I am,’ Adam thought to himself. ‘I could not go through this three times and still go on….I just could not do it.’

Adam got up and decided to at least get ready for bed, though he doubted any sleep would come. He pulled his boots off. As he stripped his shirt off, he became aware of a baby’s cry. He realized that somewhere in the depths of his mind, he had been hearing it for quite some time, though now it was louder and he realized that someone was bringing his son up the stairs. At that moment his door opened and Ben entered, the crying child in his arms.

“Adam, your son here has been raising quite a fuss…I don’t know if you’ve heard him. He’s been fed, but I think he may have a tummy ache. Shaughnnessy tells me that can happen a lot when they have to drink cow’s milk rather than their own mother’s milk.”

Little Jake was indeed raising quite a racket for such a tiny one.

“I see you’re getting ready for bed, Adam, and I’d like to try something that used to work when Little Joe sometimes had this problem. Go ahead and get into bed and I’ll show you.”

Adam gave his father a bewildered look, but slipped off his pants and got into bed. He was wearing the bottoms of his longjohns, but no shirt.

Ben unwrapped the screaming baby down to his diaper, then laid the crying child on Adams bare chest, instructing Adam to pat the baby’s back. Ben pulled the covers up with the sheet almost covering young Jake’s head.

“Now son, you just massage his little back and pat it and pat his bottom, keep him on his tummy – the pressure on their tummy – sometimes that helps. I think being close to you like that, like he would have been to his mother, will help. There’s not much else we can do for now, if that doesn’t work. Shaughnessey will be in to get him when his next feeding is due, but he’s your boy, Adam, let’s see what you can do.” Ben turned and walked out before Adam had a chance to object.

Through the baby’s screams, Adam started softly massaging his son’s tiny back, reminding him of the times his father had massaged his shoulders and those of his brothers during difficult emotional times. Soon, little Jake’s screams subsided. He rooted his little face against Adam’s chest, again searching, trying to nuzzle. Adam remembered what he had done the night Jake was born and let the baby take the tip of his finger into his mouth. Jake started sucking, quieted down and immediately went to sleep, still sucking on his father’s finger.

Adam marveled at how good it felt to have the tiny child lying there, the closeness he could feel between them, and amazingly Adam himself soon drifted off to sleep.

After that, a routine developed. At first when Jake cried in the night for his feeding, Shaughnessey would come and take him from Adam’s arms into her room to feed him. Shortly, though, Adam would instead take the bottle from her and feed his son himself, then put the baby back onto his chest for the night. In the end, the baby was sleeping in Adam’s bed every night and a deep bond had developed. He missed Regina’s nearness, but somehow having the baby with him helped the pain.

Ben was aware of what was happening and knew that this was just exactly what Adam needed. As a matter of fact, Ben and Shaughnessey had had a number of conspiratorial discussions. Shaugnessy had often made herself conveniently “unavailable,” thus many times leaving young Jake’s care to his father.

There was already a rocking chair in Shaughnessey’s room, but Ben had another placed in Adam’s and one downstairs in the living room. All of the Cartwright men took their turns rocking and enjoying this new addition to the Cartwright clan.

One day Ben walked in for lunch and found Adam sitting in the rocker in the living room, holding his son. Adam had one leg angled over the other and the baby’s head on his knee looking up into his father’s face.

“Pa, come here quick,” urged Adam excitedly. Ben could see the big grin on Adam’s face and could hear his grandson cooing and vocalizing to his father. He had recently started doing that and it had delighted the whole family. Ben walked over behind Adam, put his hands on Adam’s shoulders, bent over Adam’s left shoulder and looked down at young Jake.

“Watch this, Pa.” Adam traced his finger against Jake’s cheek as he softly talked to his son. Soon Ben saw his grandson give his father the biggest, cutest baby smile anyone could ever hope to see.

“Did you see that, Pa?” Adam was laughing.

Ben joined in his laughter, “Yes, I sure did, son. That’s remarkable, Adam. I don’t remember any of you boys smiling this soon.”

Adam had been very slowly rocking the chair. He stopped and said, “Pa, I know Jake has my hair and eyes, but his smile …doesn’t it look like Regina’s smile?”

“Well, son, now that you say that, I think you’re right, it does look like her smile.” Ben gave both of Adam’s shoulders a gentle squeeze. Adam reached up and covered one of Ben’s hands with his own.

“Pa, it’s taken me a long, long time to truly understand what you went through in your life, what you had to deal with, how you always came through for me and Hoss and Joe, but now I do, and …. I just want to say thanks Pa, thanks for everything.”

Ben leaned his head down next to his son’s and gave him a swift hug, “It wasn’t always easy, but I’ll tell you what makes a man do it … when one of your babies gives you a great big trusting smile like your son just did for you … that’s what gets you through it. Regina isn’t really gone, Adam, not as long as you have that boy there in your arms. Liz isn’t really gone from me, son, as long as I have you.”

About that time little Jake’s face lit up with another huge smile for his father and Adam knew that what Ben had just told him was true. He raised the baby up close and kissed his forehead. To himself he whispered, ‘I know you’re here Regina, somewhere near ….. my sweet, quiet girl.’

***The End***

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