A Worried Man (by BettyHT)

Summary:  It’s an Adam has left the Ponderosa for adventure and finds romance story, but like any Adam story, there are always complications. Adam is in Boston pursuing a dream, but there are obstacles there too with corruption, pressure, and conflict, but he does meet someone who will be his ally and by his side through it all.

Category:  Bonanza
Genre:  Western
Rating:  PG
Word Count:  17075


Chapter 1

The ship rolled in the waves with a rhythm that one could learn and adapt to walking but it wasn’t easy. It wasn’t even any more than a horse going up and down slopes was even but if you let your body adjust to the sway, you could work into the uneven rhythm and make it look graceful. Standing on deck of the clipper ship, the dark-haired man was learning well to do the same and could hold a conversation while doing it now as he adjusted to the ship’s movements without thinking even after only a week on board. Every now and then, he reached out to steady the woman by his side by gently putting a hand beneath her elbow to steady her when her balance faltered. Her conversation never lagged though, and he found he enjoyed these sparring sessions more and more each day of the voyage. They had left San Francisco seven days earlier on their way to Nicaragua. He responded to her latest claim with one of his own philosophical tenets.

“Faith is to be sure of what you cannot see and you hope to be true.”

Looking out over the ocean then that was stirred by the waves that propelled the ship after three days of calm that had slowed their journey, she swept her arm in an arc to encompass the entire vista. “So you have faith that over that horizon, there is more ocean, and that is also what you hope to be true?”

“Yes, that’s about right.”

“And you’re saying that religion is the same thing?”

“Yes, we have faith that there is heaven and that God will accept us there when our time here is done. We have hope that is in fact what will happen, and we hope that happened for those who have gone before us. Religion is faith and hope and nothing more. Those who say the Bible is the word of God have to have faith in the word of the men who wrote down those words and hope that they told the truth. It still all comes back to hope and faith.”

“But you believe in God and heaven?”

“Yes, because I have faith.”

“You are quite a thinker for a sailor.”

“Oh, I’m not a sailor. I’m a cowboy from Nevada. I decided to work my way to Nicaragua instead of paying for the passage. It seemed a good idea at the time. I wanted to do some of the things my father did and see some of the places my father talked about. He was a sailor. From there, I’m crossing over to sail to New Orleans. My second stepmother was from that city and I’d like to see the city of her birth. After a short visit, I plan to take more conventional means of travel to Boston.”

“To Boston? We’re going to Boston too. My father has business interests in Nicaragua that he wants to check, and then we’re crossing too. My father says I should not spend time talking to common folk like you. He wants me to spend my time with men of higher station. He thinks it is about time that I find myself a husband.”

“And what do you think?”

“I think that you are interesting, and that most men of high station are not interested in me except as a way to connect to my father’s money. They never wish to talk with me. They only want me to be their accouterments. That means, well, …”

“A decoration on their arm for the evening?”

“Now how does a cowboy from Nevada know the meaning of a word like that?”

“Even in Nevada, there are books to be read.”

“If my father finds me talking to you, he’s going to be very angry. He will probably talk to the captain again.”

“He might.”

“You’re not worried.”

“Oh, I’m worried. There are many things about which to worry, but that isn’t one of them. What will the captain do? Fire me? Make me pay for my passage? None of that worries me so there is no need to be concerned.”

“Most men are scared of my father. You’re different. I get the impression that you’re not afraid of anything.”

“Oh, there are things that deserve respect or even fear. Your father isn’t one of them. Hurricanes, an angry grizzly bear, a cholera epidemic, a war, and things like that are to be feared. A father angry that his daughter dare speak to a man of whom he disapproves is not cause for fear.”

“Good, because if you aren’t afraid of my father, then I hope we can talk more.”

“I’d like that too.”

*****

Their next encounter was not conversational though. Vertiline was taking a walk on deck with her father, and Adam was working with the other sailors earning a scowl from Marcellus Lewis when Adam smiled at Vertiline and got a smile in return. Adam didn’t understand the sudden flurry of activity when there was a call from above. The skies were a clear blue with light puffy white clouds and there had not been even a hint of another ship according to earlier reports. However the captain ordered all passengers to get below deck even though none were helped to do so as sailors rushed about deck and most grabbed anything loose. Adam wasn’t sure what to do, and then he saw it. A wave that looked to be about twenty feet high was rolling toward the ship at amazing speed. The captain and crew were doing their best to turn the ship but were finding it immensely difficult to accomplish it fast enough. All Adam saw was that Vertiline and her father were a long way from any safety. He didn’t have the skills to help the crew with the ship, but he could help passengers so he rushed to their aid grabbing a rope as he did so wrapping it around Marcellus and securing him to a railing even as he wrapped an arm around Vertiline and the rope around the two of them just as the wave hit the ship. Water hit them knocking them off their feet and smashing them into the rail. They would have been washed overboard if not for the rope that held them to the railing and Adam’s strong arms that held it securely even as the ship rolled and hawed before slowly regaining its equilibrium. He barely did manage to keep his hold through that though losing his grip on it eventually when he started choking with water that had gotten in his mouth and down his throat. Vertiline and Marcellus were doing the same. Marcellus dropped to his knees and retched over and over again. Adam held Vertiline to him and helped her to stand as she coughed. She was shaking in weakness or from fear; he couldn’t tell, but it didn’t matter for he found he liked holding her against him. He heard his name being called then and turned to see the captain calling for him to come help. Forced to release her, he smiled. He spoke hoarsely for he had coughed too with the effect of the water he had swallowed.

“I wish I could stay, but you should be able to help your father now. I have to attend to my duties. I do know how to clean up a mess.”

Nearly twelve hours later, everything was shipshape again. If they had been hit with another rogue wave or tsunami, the ship would likely have foundered for their cargo had been unbalanced and the bilge pumps had been forced to work to capacity. Many passengers were ill and had been needing assistance as well. Vertiline’s father was one of those who were very affected by what had happened. The ship’s doctor cared for those most affected by the encounter with the large wave confining Marcellus to his berth for three days. Adam didn’t mind at all because he had many more opportunities for short conversations with Vertiline. However when Marcellus was able to get out of his quarters again and saw how familiar his daughter seemed to be with Adam, he forbid her to see him again as he had done before with little success. It didn’t mean that she followed that directive, but his conversation with the captain did mean that they saw very little of each other before the ship docked in Nicaragua.

*****

On the night before the ship reached Nicaragua, Vertiline stood on deck with her hands wrapped tightly to the rail. Her experience had taught her to expect the unexpected aboard ship so she was being cautious. By her peripheral vision, she saw Adam approach. On a ship, it was impossible not to be noticed on deck or anytime you left your cabin for that matter.

Noting her grip on the railing, Adam smiled. “If another rogue wave comes, it appears you are ready to take care of yourself. I find that mildly disappointing.”

Seeing the mischievous look he had, she grinned in response. “Father is busy looking over business papers. I said I needed to walk and he hardly noticed. We have the evening to ourselves for now if you would like to stroll on deck with me.”

“I would enjoy that, and wish that there would be many more nights that I could stroll beneath the stars with you.” Adam realized he had said more than he had intended, but he honestly had been enthralled with Vertiline from the moment he had met her. If he had been more settled on his future, he would have made a concerted effort to woo her and win her father over as well.

“When we are all in Boston, perhaps we will see each other there.”

“Somehow I doubt that your father will allow me anywhere near you especially when he is on his home territory. I’m sure he has other plans for you than to spend time with a cowboy from Nevada.”

“He may have plans, but they are not my plans.”

“I’m sorry if I have come between you and your father. I had no intention of harming your relationship with him. I will be busy when I arrive in Boston because I already have more or less accepted a position there.”

“How does one more-or-less accept a position?”

“I accepted on paper with the caveat that I wanted to know more about what would be expected, and I can only know that when I arrive. If it is not what I thought it would be, I’ll look for something else.”

“Having that kind of independence must feel so energizing. It is suffocating to always have to answer to my father.”

Smiling, Adam knew how she felt about that but guessed it was worse if you were a daughter instead of a son. For the first time in his life, he was making decisions that he did not have to worry if they would pass muster with his father. She saw his smile and wondered if he was smiling at her or with her so she asked. It was a measure of their growing friendship that she did that. He explained briefly why he had left Nevada impressing her with his confidence and his willingness to forge his own way.

“I wish I could do what you’re doing.”

“Perhaps someday you will.”

“Perhaps, but I don’t know if I could do it alone, and the only men my father approves for me are the kind of men who wouldn’t cross the street in the middle of the block.”

Stopping at the rail, Vertiline was so close to Adam that he could feel the warmth of her against his leg and his side. Wanting nothing more than to gather her in his arms, kiss her with unbridled passion, and press her body against his, he knew he shouldn’t because it would be the same as making a promise that he couldn’t keep. He stepped away instead turning to her and taking her hands in his.

“My duties aboard ship are concluded. I have a long trip across Nicaragua beginning tomorrow. I should get my things together and get a good night’s rest for I doubt that the next few nights will be restful. It has been a pleasure sailing with you, and I hope that one day, I will see you again.”

The switch to more formal language was a clear message. Vertiline understood and accepted it. She had no illusions that their relationship was going to last beyond this voyage. She wished him well and watched him until he disappeared below decks. The next morning, she saw a tall dark-haired man descend from the ship, hail a hackney, and climb aboard as the driver loaded luggage as he directed. Adam was wearing a white shirt and dark striped trousers. She knew it was Adam but had been amazed that he looked more like a businessman concluding a trip than a sailor or a cowboy. It appeared that he was a man of many faces.

*****

Chapter 2

Projects, hard work, and keeping busy with one task after another staved off loneliness for Adam in Boston. He had not anticipated being as lonely as he was. He had been alone many times without being lonely. He had traveled extensively for the Ponderosa often gone for as much as a month or more from his family yet he had always known they were there for him and that he could call on them if needed. For the first time in his life, there was no one to call. His grandfather had died. He was living in his grandfather’s house, and that was some comfort, but at times, it accentuated the fact that he was truly alone too. As promised, his friends had come through for him, and there were job offers waiting when he arrived. He took the architectural job as they had expected. It was very difficult because he had to relearn much of what he had forgotten in the intervening years and had to learn new methods and techniques developed while he had been away from the field. Even though he had kept up with reading, it wasn’t the same as doing. There was one skill that he had mastered though far better than anyone in his firm and gave him status there. His work with the square set timbering and shoring of mines had taught him more about working out load bearing equations than anyone at the firm could match or even begin to understand. He pointed out a design flaw in a warehouse plan the first few days he was there. His warning was ignored by those who thought they knew more than he knew. The warehouse roof collapsed during construction which got him a meeting with the head of the company.

“If you knew it was a flaw, why didn’t you insist that it be changed?”

“I tried to tell those who should know better and was rebuffed. They told me that they had been building warehouses for twenty years and knew far more about it than I did. That was true, but I still insisted to them that their system of support was inadequate for the weight of the roof.”

“But you never came to anyone else about it.”

“Sir, would you have listened to me if I told you that your senior architects were in error on a major project, and I had been here two days?”

Frowning, the head of the firm had to admit to himself at least that he wouldn’t have listened to a cowboy from Nevada and overruled his senior architects. However he had wanted to know how Adam had spotted the design flaw.

“I worked with Philip Diedesheimer on the square set idea and helped him implement it. It was timber from my family’s ranch that was being used so we had it milled to the proper size for his design. Then we had the same system installed as shoring in the mines in which we had invested.”

Leaning back in his overstuffed leather chair and regarding the dark-haired man before him, Leland Grandfield was surprised on several counts. One was that Adam Cartwright wasn’t at all worried about sitting in the boss’ office after a major disaster that he might have prevented. He had a confidence that bordered on arrogance. Leland liked that. Another surprise was that Leland had agreed to hire him as a favor to friends but had assumed he was hiring a rough westerner. Instead, the man who sat before him was as urbane and sophisticated in his style, speech, manner, and clothing as any of the men who worked for him. He knew there was gossip and there were various innuendos being bandied about but saw no cause for any of that. Those things were apparently based on assumptions and not facts. Adam spoke and acted with sophistication and an air of knowing he belonged. No one was going to knock him down with mere words. Underneath it all though was the hint of more. Leland suspected that if one were to anger this man, they might find themselves in a fight they didn’t want.

“All right, then, I have a plan to offer to you. From what I have been told, your basic skills need to be honed. However, you have shown a remarkable talent with load bearing equations. You will continue to work as you have done since arriving here on the basic plans and copying of plans. However, if you see any errors, you are to bring them to me or any of the other senior architects. We go over the work at the end of each day. You will be expected to attend those meetings. We may have questions for you. It will mean that your workday will be longer and you may need to take some work home with you until you can work your way up to having assistants to do the basic drawing for you. That should happen within the next few months if I have assessed you correctly. Will you accept that offer?”

“I’m assuming that it is not a true offer but an order so I do accept. I will manage to do what you have said but I want an assistant within a month. I learn fast.”

“I think that can be done.” Leland stood then and put out his hand which Adam took. “There will also be some social occasions. If you are going to work your way up here, you need to meet those men who will be your clients. That is done at parties and dinners. I will see that your name is added to guest lists at the earliest convenience. Expect invitations to begin arriving by the end of the month.”

“I’m very busy.”

“And these will make you busier.”

The tone of Grandfield’s response left no room for negotiation. The parties were part of the job. Nodding politely, Adam took his leave and returned to work with a small smile tugging at his lips especially when he saw all the curious looks he got. He knew that many had hoped he was going to be fired, and he suspected they were going to be more upset when they found that he had been in effect promoted instead. Although he was still doing the same basic work, he would be looking over their work for errors in calculation and would be sitting in on the meetings with the senior architects as they reviewed the work of the men around him who had worked here for years. He was still going to be exhausted by the time Sunday morning let him catch up on his rest and was still going to have ink on his hands and up to the elbows of his shirts many days, but he had gotten the attention of his employers in a very short time. That made him feel good. At least it made him feel good until he realized the impact it would have on his life. He barely had time for meals and to sleep with the extra work that he had, and the renovation of his grandfather’s home was significantly delayed as he could only work on it on Sundays. However he also liked to spend part of Sunday at church and then visiting his mother’s grave and his grandfather’s or walking in the city looking at the sights he had remembered from college or seeing the new developments since then. He pushed himself to meet the challenge, and at the end of the month, he was rewarded with an assistant, a nervous young man fresh from school with no practical experience, but he could draw so that took much of the pressure off Adam’s long days. On the first day that young Merlin was working at his long drafting table with him, Adam heard the usual noise in the large room diminish significantly. Looking up, he saw Leland Grandfield making his way through the room stopping to talk briefly with several of the men. He did the same with Adam.

“You will find an invitation in your inbox. It is mandatory that you attend. We’re looking to attract some new clients who will be attending this event. We want to make a good impression so we want all of our best men there.”

It was an order, and Adam took it as such. He nodded and Grandfield continued on his way making sure that his firm would be well represented. Whoever the client was to be, it was obviously very important to him. Adam shrugged. He had hoped to finally get home early and have a chance to relax, but he hadn’t had any social interaction either except with shopkeepers and restaurant staff. He thought it might be nice to have a conversation about something other than the weather and the price of goods and services. He had managed to visit a tailor so he had appropriate clothing hanging in his closet at home. A nice bath and he would be ready to go. As evening fell in Boston that night, he arrived at a large estate, had his name checked off the guest list, and walked inside trying to appear nonchalant and realizing that he probably knew no one there except for the other employees who had been ordered to attend. He was wrong on that score though. He was the subject of conversation before he arrived, and became the subject of several more conversations when he did arrive.

*****

Leaning toward Marcellus Lewis, Leland Grandfield tried his hand at matchmaking. He thought that anything that ingratiated him to Lewis might get him closer to the men who ran the city and the lucrative contracts being awarded. “I think your daughter might be interested in one of the architects who began working at my firm then if she finds these Boston fellows so boring.”

“I would rather my daughter meet someone of higher station. I know that an architect who works for you has a college education and comes from a good family, but I was hoping for a bit better for her. I could use the connection too. It’s always good to make liaisons through marriage to families of wealth and power.”

“Oh, I do agree, but how about a connection to one of the wealthiest families in Nevada who own over one hundred thousand acres of a cattle ranch, have the beginnings of a major horse breeding operation, run a thriving timber and lumber business, and have investments in shipping and mining? The newest hire is a friend of my partner’s son and it’s his family of whom I spoke. He is the eldest son out to see a bit of the world. He doesn’t need to work at our firm because not only is his family wealthy, this son has investments of his own as well. He wants to work, and he is quite talented. He is a conversationalist too and well able to entertain. All the people at the firm say so, well those who aren’t jealous and already worried that he isn’t going to take their job away. I daresay your daughter would likely be charmed by him.”

“She is not easily charmed and seems off put by anyone who has wealth and power. Somehow she seems drawn to men of lesser station.” Pausing for a moment, Marcellus wondered at the depth of information that Leland had acquired. “How is it that you know so much about him?”

“I was puzzled by him. He seemed to have an air about him that didn’t fit with a man willing to work at the job we offered. I can see now though that he is ambitious and is only using it to move up. He knew he couldn’t step in any higher so that told me that he’s also a practical man. I had someone do a bit of checking on him. I liked what I found out.”

Thinking for a bit, Marcellus had a thought that was disconcerting. “He’s not married. Is there some reason for that? I do not wish to put my daughter in danger.”

“Come now. How many eligible young ladies do you think there are in wilds of Nevada? He may have an ulterior motive in coming here. He may wish to find a proper wife. That would work into your plans if he did. You’ve wanted to get a foot into the California market. This would be a start.”

“You said he’s from Nevada.”

“More specifically he is from Virginia City, Nevada, which is the only important city between Denver and San Francisco. His family does extensive business in California, and he is well known in Sacramento and San Francisco and has some very good business and legal contacts there.”

“You’ve learned a lot about him in a short time.”

“In business, it pays to learn about your assets, and never mistake this, he is an asset.”

“My impression of him from what you’ve said is that he is clever and intelligent. You should not underestimate him. He and his family did create a small empire in Nevada according to what you discovered.”

“Yes, but it was in Nevada. How difficult could that be?” The two men laughed then as they compared the difficulties of their business dealings to what they assumed was a simple matter of building a business in the west. “Ah, Marcellus, we could live like kings if we were willing to give up living in civilization and used our talents to build an empire in the wilds of the west. Perhaps I shall send my youngest out there to add to the family holdings. Here all he can seem to do is spend money. It might be good for him to find a way to make some instead. Perhaps this Cartwright could make some introductions for him.”

“Did you say Cartwright?”

“Yes, Adam Cartwright is the architect the firm hired, the one I was telling you about. He’s very good as well as being wealthy. I daresay he doesn’t need to work like this, but he wants to do it. He went to college here in Boston, and his grandfather owned a business here. Apparently he’s purchased his grandfather’s old home and is renovating it because he plans to live there while he stays in Boston. It’s no longer the best part of town but once was. I guess he must have a sentimental attachment to the place. You do look a bit pale, Marcellus. Are you feeling all right?”

*****

Chapter 3

Rarely was Marcellus Lewis so angry as he was at that party. He felt that Adam had played him for a fool by masquerading as a sailor when in fact he was a wealthy man who could easily have booked passage instead of working for it. He informed his daughter of just that before she might encounter Adam that evening, but she wasn’t as surprised as he expected.

“Father, I talked with him extensively on the journey. His vocabulary, his manner of speaking, his way of acting when he was with me, and his decided tendency not to be afraid of you were all clues to me that he was not who he seemed to be. When he disembarked dressed as a businessman might be, I suspected that he had been a sailor for the experience and not for necessity. In fact, he had told me that his father was a sailor first and he had wanted to experience some of what his father had done. I expect it was no more than that. I doubt it was any nefarious plot against you as he did not know you before the voyage.”

“It doesn’t change the fact that I was misled and quite badly. He never told me any of that. It is highly suspicious especially to have him turn up here.”

“He told me that too. His grandfather was from here and he lived with him when he went to college. He was born here and his mother is buried here. Father, you are too suspicious.” Yet Marcellus had managed to plant some seeds of doubt in Vertiline who was none too trusting of men anyway. She began to wonder about him and to wonder why her father had brought him up in conversation as soon as he had seen her arrive at the party with Granville. “Why bring all of that up now? It’s been many months since we saw Adam last.”

“I’ve been informed that he is to be at this party tonight. He will likely be arriving soon. He and Leland’s other people will be coming in together like as not hoping to make an impression. He would like nothing more than for one of his to catch your eye, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he has set Cartwright on your trail knowing how you like the more exotic ones.” Vertiline’s mother joined them then and Marcellus felt compelled to tell her the whole story. He kept his daughter there and summoned his son to join them before he told the tale. “Rowena, Granville, I want you to hear all of this so that there is no misunderstanding. I do not want this Adam Cartwright anywhere near Vertiline tonight, and I trust that once you have heard the tale, you will agree with me.” Marcellus launched into a wildly embellished version of events then that had Vertiline trying to correct his exaggerations much to his dismay even as he told more. Finally he finished and she sighed in exasperation.

“Father, he did not try to trick you in some nefarious plot. He did trick us, I admit, but his motives are unclear at this point. He did save our lives too so you have to at least give him credit for that. We would have been washed overboard without his help. I wish to speak to him about that and other things, and I will.”

“I forbid you to speak with him.”

“We would be seen as uncouth to avoid guests invited to a party which you are co-hosting. I will speak with him. Speaking is not grounds for anything more. Granville can stay close to make sure nothing untoward happens although if anything like that was going to happen it was far more likely aboard that ship than here in Boston at a party. He could hardly ravage me here amongst all these guests.”

“Rowena, see what your coddling has done. She speaks like a street urchin. Please take her aside and caution her to be more circumspect in her speech, and please have her spend some time with some ladies of refinement. Perhaps some of it will transfer to her by a miracle.”

In a huff, Marcellus grabbed his son Granville by the arm and marched off to meet with various business and political associates leaving his wife and daughter in his wake not seeing that Adam had arrived and noted the heated family exchange. Across the room, one of Adam’s coworkers noted his interest in the Lewis family.

“Well, Commodore, what is so significant about that particular family?”

“Commodore?”

“Well, yes, didn’t you know? Some of the others have taken to calling you that. Knowing your family history and the way you have of standing on a new building site and staring out over it as if it is a ship at sea and you can see for miles kind of led to a nautical image.”

Grinning, Adam nodded. There were far worse things that others might call him. Such a nickname wasn’t bad. “I met Marcellus Lewis and his daughter on the ship I took from San Francisco to Nicaragua. He is a sour sort, but she is intriguing.”

“Intriguing, eh? That’s not one of the words most men here would use. She’s rejected the advances of anyone who’s tried. There’s not a one of us who is up to her standards if any of us had any idea what her standards are.”

As the two men made their way to the refreshment table, Adam had an answer for him. “She wants a man who’ll cross the street in the middle of the block.”

“Why, that’s not very smart. With the traffic in Boston these days, that could get you killed, and at the very least get your shoes and clothing in a sad state. Why ever would anyone want to do that?”

“Why, to get to the other side, of course.” Laughing then, Adam picked up a glass of fine brandy and sniffed it in appreciation. He had not had anything like it since he had left home, and it reminded him of his father and the family he had left behind. For a moment, he was serious and quiet.

“I didn’t mean to ruin your evening with talk of the Lewis family and their peculiar daughter.”

Recovering quickly, Adam had a smile again. “No, I was thinking of something else. The brandy brought back memories. I’ll try not to do that any more tonight.”

“Well, good because it’s a party and you’re supposed to be having fun and looking like an energetic young man to show that Mister Grandfield only hires the best.”

“I thought I would find Vertiline and see if she wanted to dance.”

“You certainly do know how to find ways of making things difficult. Well, good luck to you. I shall spend my time with women more amenable to charm and all those things my parents and teachers told me to do to impress people.”

With so many people in the room, it took some time for Adam to locate Vertiline again and then to work his way toward her. Circling the small dance floor, he graciously exchanged pleasantries with those he knew, accepted introductions to those he did not, and then worked his way around. Watching him, Leland Grandfield had the impression that he was working the room and approved of how smoothly it went. He wished his other employees were as efficient as Adam at meeting so many people. He had no idea of the ulterior motive Adam had in working his way through the party throng. Finally Adam neared where Vertiline stood with her mother and several other ladies. At that point, he was a bit unsure of how to approach her because she was in the company of only women when a man stepped up beside him.

“Father will be very upset if you talk with her. He thinks you are some agent of his enemies who has conspired to fool him and to get to him through his daughter. It would be best if he did not see you two together. If you would step outside on the veranda, I’ll let her know how much trouble you have had to get close to her. If she wishes to speak with you, she’ll step outside for some fresh air and you can talk. If she is not interested, you’ll know because you’ll be taking some fresh air all alone.” Adam didn’t respond except by raising his eyebrows slightly. “Ah, very discreet. Yes, you must wonder who I am. I am Granville Lewis, Vertiline’s brother, and chafing as much at my father’s restrictions as she does. Now, move along or my father will guess at what has transpired here. He is the most suspicious type.”

“And you’re not?”

“I am, but my sister is a better judge of character than my father, and I could use an ally at your firm. I wish to conduct some business as an intermediary and need someone there willing to work with me.”

“I won’t barter for your sister’s time and attention.”

“I wasn’t suggesting that. I simply thought to show that I have her best interests at heart to show you what kind of man I am. I think you value loyalty and integrity.”

“I do.”

“Well then we understand each other, don’t we? I shall go talk to my sister and get her away from my mother’s protective clutches if you will make yourself scarce so mother feels she can relax her guard.”

Feeling uneasy about the situation, Adam acquiesced and strolled out to the veranda that was cooler. He stood for quite a while thinking that perhaps he had made enough of an impression and could go home when he heard the doors open. Turning, he expected to see Vertiline but found it was Granville instead.

“Father saw you go out here. Apparently he has been watching you closely so he intercepted my sister when she moved in this direction. She’s going home now. If you wish to speak with her, you can walk around to the front and see her by our carriage. It is blue with gold leaf trim. You already know what she’s wearing so you should have no trouble spotting her. I’m not sure if she will be expecting you. I had no chance to say anything to her about it.”

Thanking Granville and trying not to appear too anxious, Adam hurried to the front of the mansion in time to see Marcellus escort Vertiline to the front door. She took her wrap and walked toward their carriage as her father turned to go back inside. Adam walked at an angle to intercept her.

“I did want to speak with you. I am sorry if it created problems with your father again. It seems that I am destined to be at odds with him.”

“Or is it your plan?”

Surprised by her reaction, Adam wasn’t sure how to respond. He decided on a more formal approach considering the somewhat negative tone of her greeting. “I had planned a mere pleasant continuation of our conversations, Miss Lewis. If that is not to your liking, I will not bother you again.”

“Do what you will. It seems that is what you do anyway. You’ve been in Boston quite a long time and haven’t thought to engage me in conversation before this moment. That speaks for itself, don’t you think?”

“I am sorry. I did not think that you were expecting me to call on you. I have been very busy, and I do know that sounds a lame excuse, but it is truthful. I will not bother you any longer. Good evening. I see your driver awaits you.”

Turning quickly, Adam made his way to the house rather confused by that turn of events. She had seemed to want to see him yet her greeting had been anything but welcoming. He was disappointed too for he had hoped to find a friend, and she had been the only person he had met so far on his journey who had been fun to engage in conversation. He guessed that despite her tumultuous relationship with her father, she had been influenced by his opinions. Back inside, he continued his circuit of the room for another hour meeting and greeting making his employer pleased. Then he took his leave. There were two repercussions from the party. One was that he had trouble sleeping replaying the whole scenario with Vertiline over and over again trying to understand it. The other happened on Monday morning when he was summoned into Leland Grandfield’s office.

“What did you do or say to upset Marcellus Lewis so much? I wanted him to like you and us, but he is furious with you apparently.”

So Adam told him the story from the beginning with the difficulties between him and Marcellus on the voyage to Nicaragua and that Marcellus had forbidden him to speak with his daughter but that he had persisted. “Now he has found out my background apparently and thinks that it was all some great conspiracy. I only wanted to experience what my father had experienced. I knew nothing of him before that trip.”

“Marcellus is an extremely suspicious man. However his son still wants to work out a deal with us and with the city so we may yet get a good contract from this. It would be best apparently if you avoid the Lewis family for your benefit personally and professionally.”

The insinuation was as clear as it needed to be. Adam didn’t like it, but because it wasn’t likely to be an issue anyway, he simply nodded and left the office. He had no idea that Vertiline had regretted her words as soon as she had said them and was plotting a way to intercept his path again to try to reopen communication with him. At the same time, Granville was getting in well over his head with the political machine that ran the city.

*****

Chapter 4

Alternately angry, confused, frustrated, or disappointed when he thought about Vertiline, Adam decided he couldn’t think about her. He threw himself into his work and spent his hours as he had been spending them. He worked all day and part of the evenings on drawings for the firm, and then when he had any free time, he worked on the renovation of his grandfather’s house, took long walks or rides through Boston, or visited sites that were meaningful to him. By the time he got to his bed each night, he was able to fall asleep almost immediately. He knew he was getting enough sleep by forcing himself to exhaustion but knew too that allowing himself to worry or to feel the bitter pangs of loneliness wasn’t going to help his sleep pattern much either. He looked in the mail each day hoping for a letter from his family knowing that it was unlikely. They wrote as often as he did which was about once a month.

Anything more from him and they would know how unhappy he was despite the tone of his letters. Adam had never been truly lonely before and was having a difficult time adjusting to it. He had thought it would be the same as his years away in college, but then he had his grandfather as a substitute for his family. He had still been homesick, but his grandfather and his housekeeper had done all they could to ease the emotional toll he had felt at being separated from his family by the distance of a continent. Now he felt that same distance but there was no one to help ease the emotional toll.

That’s why it had surprised him so much when he had reacted the way he did when he had seen her that morning a week and a half after the party. He had stopped at a pastry shop on Hanover Street to get some pastries and coffee to take to work, and she was there too walking in behind him.

“Good morning, Adam. I see you indulge your cravings for Boston’s best. If you are ever traveling to the west through Medford, there is a new shop there in Ball Square that makes the best standouts. They melt in your mouth.”

“Thank you, Miss Lewis. I’ll try it some time. Now, I need to go. I have to be at a project we’re doing down by the harbor, and I don’t want to be late. Good day.” He had left then, and he could have sworn she looked disappointed. However he guessed that he had not wanted to allow her another chance to rebuff him and had chosen to continue the way they had left things the last time they had encountered each other. Then he wondered what she was doing at a pastry shop down on Hanover Street so early in the morning and so far from her home. Wondering about that made him almost run into a few people as he walked around the job site so he put those thoughts out of his head.

*****

A week later, Adam was going to get lunch at a small restaurant near Grandfield and Lee when he encountered Vertiline again. She was in the restaurant with her brother Granville who greeted him with an invitation.

“Well, Adam, we meet again. Would you like to join us for lunch? We’ve only put our order in. You could get yours in too and spend some time in jocularity with us before returning to grind away at your chosen profession.”

“No, thank you. I’m only going to get something to take back to the work we’re doing down at the docks. I have too much work to do to spend my lunch break sitting here. Thank you very much for the offer. Nice to see you again too, Miss Lewis.”

The wait staff seemed surprised by Adam’s request but prepared a lunch for him and packaged it up. As he left, Granville turned to his sister.

“I thought you said he ate his lunch here every day?”

“He did. I asked several people who said he eats here every day and usually engages several people here in conversation too. He was getting to be well known by the staff and the regular patrons.”

“Well, you have certainly gotten under his skin. He is so besotted with you, he can hardly function normally.”

Shocked, Vertiline turned to her brother. “That’s hardly true. He can’t even stand to be in the same place with me. He leaves at the first opportunity. He cares not at all for me. I guess that I should give up this crazy quest.”

“Not at all, my dear sister. If he cared not at all, he would have sat down here with us and had his lunch. Instead, he fled lest he had to deal with his emotions. He is the moth drawn to the flame, or he could be one of those drawn like those drawn to the juices of the poppy.”

“So now I destroy like fire or opium? That is hardly an attractive way to describe me.”

“No, I only seek to describe how our poor Adam is feeling unable to fight the addiction.”

“You think he cares then?”

“More than he wants to, and he will succumb because he has no choice. Go to him. He won’t be able to resist you up close. I know. I have had women come close to me like that and when they are next to me, well, there is no saying no at that point.” Granville paused then because he wanted to bring up a subject that he thought she might find unpleasant, but they had forged an alliance in this endeavor so he decided to ask her. “He’s a bit old for you, isn’t he? You rejected all those older men that father tried to foist on you.”

“It wasn’t that I didn’t find any of those men attractive. It was that father wanted me to like them because it would create business for him. He was using me like some property to be bartered for an economic advantage.”

“That’s curious.”

“What’s curious?”

“At the party, when I said that I wanted to help Adam to meet you on the veranda and he questioned my motives, he said he wouldn’t barter for your time and attention. It does seem that the two of you think alike on some things. Now, I do need to get to my meeting, and out lunch is nearly gone. I’ll help you find a ride home, and then I must be going.”

“I think I’ll take a leisurely stroll along Hanover Street. I can find a ride later.”

“Yes, of course, and you might find a handsome architect hurrying about too. Well, good luck to you, but don’t let him see you coming.” With that and a grin, Granville took his leave after placing enough money on the table to pay for their lunch and give the wait staff a generous tip. Vertiline dawdled over her coffee for over an hour, and then gathered her things and did just what she had told her brother she had said she was going to do. Like he had guessed, she hoped to find Adam coming back to his firm because it was the most direct route from the docks back to the firm where he worked. Window-shopping and strolling leisurely, she managed to use quite a lot of time. Her planning and execution were superb. She saw him well before he saw her, and that allowed her to keep things between them often enough that he didn’t see her until he was too close to avoid her. She hailed him, and he had to stop and talk.

“I had the distinct impression that you were avoiding me at lunch. I believe that was my fault for how rudely I addressed you at the party. I did want to apologize, but you gave me no chance. I want to apologize now.”

“Thank you.”

“I had hoped for a bit more than that.”

“I am very busy. I should get back to work.”

“Yes, from what I’ve heard, that’s all that you do.”

“From what you’ve heard?”

“Yes, you are interesting to people. They talk about you. Did you know they call you The Commodore? I thought that was quite appropriate.”

Unable to suppress a small smile at that, Adam was somewhat pleased that she liked that. However, he still wasn’t sure of her. “What else do people say?”

“They say you don’t do anything but work. You don’t have any friends. You don’t seem to have any hobbies. Apparently, you have no vices either. All you do is work. You’re such a fraud.”

“A fraud! I’m an honest man.”

“Oh, you’re honest in your work. I don’t doubt that at all, but you’re not honest in yourself. You hide behind your work and seal yourself off from everything. It makes me wonder why you left Nevada. Did you leave to find challenges and opportunities, to find adventure as you said you did when we had those long talks aboard ship, or are you running away from painful emotional problems, from emotional hurt that you don’t know how to handle.”

“You don’t know me.”

“I think I know that about you. Things didn’t go well with us right away, and you built this wall of work between us and avoided me. You don’t have to worry about me hurting you because I can’t get anywhere near you. You ‘re a great architect. You know how to build things.”

“I am a good architect, and I don’t need to have you tell me about myself.”

“Then perhaps you need to take a closer look. You told me that you were heading out on your own and that you were tired of taking orders and being treated as if you couldn’t make a decision on your own, and here you are working for others and following orders every single day as if you never had that thought.”

“So, what would you have me do? Go out on the street and try to drum up business by myself?”

“Why not? Does it scare you?”

Perturbed that Vertiline was throwing his own words and thoughts back at him as a challenge, Adam was even more upset to realize that she might be correct. He surprised himself almost as much as he surprised her with his next action, but he wanted her to stop talking. “Then I should stop working this instant and go have some dinner. I need to take these plans back to the office and make a report but then I have nothing I have to do the rest of the day. There is no meeting scheduled today because there is a meeting with city officials. Would you do me the honor of accompanying me to dinner? I promise to act the gentleman and to take you to a respectable place.”

Vertiline was speechless at his request and took a moment to collect herself which pleased Adam a great deal. He decided that he liked this game quite a lot. When she answered, he liked it even more.

“Of course I’ll accompany you to dinner. You thought I would say no and you could shut me up. It won’t be that easy.” No matter how confident Vertiline sounded, inside she was beset with worry. His theories about worry be damned. This is plenty to worry about.

Offering his arm then, Adam waited to see how Vertiline would respond and was pleased when she smiled and accepted. He shortened his stride to allow her to proceed in a ladylike manner. When they arrived at Grandfield and Lee, he asked her to seat herself in a chair in the lobby promising to be back as quickly as he could. That however was nearly an hour later making her worry that something had gone wrong.

“I’m sorry, but there were problems at another site, and I’m the one who has to correct errors so I had to do some work on some plans. It’s all fixed now so I’m free to go.”

“You’re the one to fix problems, but you’re the newest one here, aren’t you?”

“Yes, but they discovered that I know quite a lot about some things and have found ways to exploit that knowledge. Now let’s go to dinner. You can ask all the questions there that you want to ask.”

At dinner, Vertiline did have many more questions about Adam’s work, and when she finally exhausted those, Adam had one question for her.

“What’s a standout?”

“Oh, so now you’re interested?”

“I was interested then, but I didn’t want to be cruelly rebuffed if I asked a question.”

“Touché. Very well, standouts are little doughnut shaped cookies that are smothered in sugar. You pop one in your mouth and it’s like heaven in there for a short time.”

“You eat the whole cookie at once?”

“You have to do that. If you don’t, you have sugar all over your lips.”

“Ah, and then you would have to lick them clean. How unsightly.”

At that point, Adam had that little grin then that said it was all very amusing to him, but actually he was thinking it would be fun to kiss the sugar from those lips some time. Now that they had broken through the coldness between them, they were quickly reestablishing the easy conversational style they had had aboard the ship as they had sailed from San Francisco to Nicaragua. Unfortunately, there was another similarity to that voyage in that Marcellus was furious to learn that Adam had invited Vertiline to dinner. Granville had kept a careful eye on his sister by having his driver return to Hanover Street. The driver had reported back when Adam had invited Vertiline to go with him. A small amount of cash to the hackney driver waiting outside had that driver report to the Lewis household with the restaurant destination later. Granville then sent the driver back and told him to wait outside the restaurant for the couple so that they would have reliable transportation when their dinner was concluded.

*****

Chapter 5

At the restaurant, Adam offered to hail a ride for them but there was one waiting outside as he and Vertiline exited. It was convenient so he hired that one.

“I’ll ride with you to your home.”

“You don’t have to do that, Adam.”

“I’d like to do that. It’s what a gentleman would do, isn’t it? Let me at least offer you that after you were gracious enough to accept my abrupt invitation to dinner.”

“You did catch me by surprise with that. Very well, let’s ride together.” As Adam helped her to step into the carriage, she did have a warning though. “However, if my father comes outside at my home, be prepared. He will not be happy at all at finding me in your company especially as I did not send word as to why I am late.”

Following her inside, Adam was agreeable. “I understand that he can be worried for you, and I will not do anything to raise his ire any more than my mere presence is likely to do.” He settled on the soft cushioned seat beside her as the driver closed the door. With the curtains partially closed and the sun nearly down, it was dim in the coach. He felt cramped with Vertiline pressed next to him so he moved his arm around her shoulders. She tensed a little under his arm but calmed as he did nothing more and slowly relaxed into his gentle embrace. They didn’t talk then as their thoughts were of each other and how they were sitting. Vertiline turned to Adam wanting to say something but nothing came to mind. He raised his hand and traced her jawline from her ear to her chin and then used his finger to tip her face up so that he could lean down and kiss her lips. He did so softly brushing his lips across hers before gently pressing his lips against hers in a first kiss. He pulled away then looking to see her reaction. At first she said nothing and had a look that he couldn’t decipher. Her first response surprised him.

“A gentleman would have asked first or waited for an invitation.”

“A lady would have slapped my face. I guess that speaks for itself then. What would you like to do next? Issue an invitation or slap my face?”

Surprising him once more, she did neither but spoke from her heart. “That was my first kiss.”

“Surely you’ve been kissed before.”

“Oh, men have tried to kiss me among other things, but nothing like that.”

“Like what?”

“Like a kiss that I wanted. Would you please kiss me again?”

With a grin, Adam complied. They explored the art of kissing until the carriage stopped. Vertiline was reluctant to stop with sensations and feelings awakened in her that she had never felt before but knew her father would be out there instantly if she did not get out. Adam climbed out of the carriage first and helped her step down.

“I suppose a kiss good night would be inflammatory.” He knew how she would react and smirked when she gave him the roll of the eyes and sigh he knew he deserved. There was something he could offer that she probably wanted to hear though. “If you’re on Hanover Street for lunch again, I will be happy to have lunch with you.”

Grinning when he said that, Vertiline didn’t know how much that pleased Adam and made his spirit soar. “That’s good to know. I think that perhaps I shall find reasons to be on Hanover Street as often as possible. Good night, Adam, and thank you.” She turned to walk to the house quickly then to forestall any possible meeting between her father and Adam. It was barely in time too as her father was coming out of the house as Adam climbed back into the carriage. She reached her father’s side as the carriage pulled away.

“How dare you spend time with that cowboy when you know how I feel about him?”

“We only had dinner, father. He was a perfect gentleman.”

“He most certainly better be, or I’ll make sure he faces consequences. Now go inside. Your mother has been worried sick.” Except of course Rowena wasn’t worried at all. She walked upstairs with her daughter in order to please her husband but had only one question.

“Is he a good man, Vertiline?”

“A very good man, Mama; the best.”

“Granville said he thought so too. Good. I’ll do what I can to get your father to see things your way. You need to be more discreet though until I can turn him around a bit.”

“I’ll do that, Mama. Mama, is there any charitable organization on Hanover Street or other ladies society or something that I could join?”

The two talked about those possibilities for a while letting Marcellus think that Rowena was counseling her daughter against the dark-haired man from Nevada instead of conspiring with her in ways to meet him without Marcellus hearing about it. By the time Rowena left her daughter’s bedroom, they had worked out a strategy that both thought would work.

*****

In his apartment, Adam wrote a letter to his family. For the first time in a few months, he was more upbeat in his writing and that was noticed when that letter arrived on the Ponderosa and Ben read it. Ben and Hoss especially had been concerned at how the letters from Adam had become so businesslike in the previous few months. Hoss had remarked on each one with a similar comment.

“Pa, I think he’s unhappy. He’s doing that thing where he don’t show nothing holding it all inside. Whenever he does that, he’s not happy. When we got the letters from when he was traveling and when he first got to Boston, he talked about stuff he was doing, and you could tell he was happy doing it. Now it sounds like some of that stuff that them temperance ladies like to put in their flyers. There ain’t no life in it.”

Ben had agreed with Hoss’ assessment so when they got the letter Adam wrote after he patched up his relationship with Vertiline, they were relieved. They had no idea what had changed because Adam didn’t share those kind of things with them, but the whole tone of his writing had changed again. There was joy again in what he was doing so it was clear that whatever loneliness or unhappiness he had been feeling was gone or at least significantly diminished. They knew Adam was prone to some of those dark moods and were glad that it had passed.

*****

In Boston, Adam too was glad that his mood had brightened. He was aware that having Marcellus as an enemy wasn’t good for his employment options, but he knew too that he could strike out on his own. He already had enough of a reputation that there would be small projects he could do. They wouldn’t be the major projects nor the lucrative city contracts, but there would certainly be enough to support him if he chose to go that way. Vertiline had reminded him of his goals by challenging him. Grateful to her for that, he thought about her often as he worked wondering when she would find a way to get back for lunch because he was looking forward to that. When he saw her next, he hardly recognized her because she was dressed in such somber colors.

“Vertiline? Has someone passed in your family? If so, I am so sorry that I did not know.”

“No, nothing like that. Mother has gotten me a position helping in a charitable organization but they frown on their volunteers wearing the latest fashion while trying to help the less fortunate among us. I do see their point so I had to do some shopping to find appropriate clothing. It does look like I’m in mourning I suppose.”

“Yes, would a colorful scarf or other decoration offend the ladies?”

“Probably not, and that is a good idea. I’m not used to wearing plain clothing and had not thought to use the accessories to make them look less plain.”

“If you observe the women who work here, you will see that the skirts and aprons are plain but they wear more colorful blouses or wear head scarves or other colorful items to make the outfits more attractive.”

“Yes, I see it now. I guess I never paid attention before. You are observant.”

“I like to watch people and learn as much as I can about them. It helps to know how to think about them.”

“Oh, and what have you learned about me and what has it made you think about me?”

“I’ve made that perfectly clear to you.”

Blushing a bit, Vertiline looked down at the menu in her hands to avoid looking at Adam at that point. She was a bit embarrassed because the thought of their kissing took her breath away still. Never having felt a physical desire for a man like this, she was unsure of what to do or what to say so thought it best to avoid the topic all together. Sensing her reluctance to speak of their personal relationship, Adam turned the topic to Boston’s sights and things that they might go see together when they had time. Near where they were was the Old North Church and many other significant Boston historical structures. Adam had seen many before years earlier but thought it would be far more pleasant to visit them with someone from Boston especially if that someone was Vertiline. All too soon, lunch was over and Adam had to return to work, but Vertiline promised to be there for lunch the next day and was as she had said she would be. She returned almost every day for the next few weeks. Eventually Adam broached the touchiest subject of all.

“What will your father do when he discovers your subterfuge?”

With a grimace, Vertiline stopped her fork in midair and replaced it on her plate. “I’m not sure. Time has passed, and he hasn’t said anything about you for a while. I’m hoping that means he has calmed down about you, but I can’t be sure. He had quite a temper and he’s very suspicious by nature so that may be too much to hope.”

“Then the man who came in and is sitting over by the door watching us may be working for him?”

“What?” Startled, Vertiline was going to turn and look but Adam took her hand and spoke calmly to her.

“Don’t look and keep your voice down. Yes, I think he followed you here. It certainly looked like he did. We’ll test it out when we leave. We’ll walk out together and go down the street to that little chocolate shop you like so much. We’ll go inside. If he follows us there, it will be apparent.”

“You think my father sent someone to follow me?”

“Is there someone else who would likely send someone to follow you?”

Thinking for a short time, Vertiline had no other suspect. “Granville might if he was worried for me and wanted to make sure that I was safe, but he knows I’m meeting you for lunches so he would have no reason to send someone to find that out. Mother knows too.”

“So the logical conclusion is that your father suspects that your explanation for your new behavior was not entirely truthful.”

“I did not tell him any lie. I merely omitted the part about where and with whom I would have my lunches.”

“I am well acquainted with the technique as I used that quite often with my father when I was younger. I’m not sure it was always successful then either.”

“He may have seen through it. I never was very good at fooling anyone.”

The two of them made their way then from the restaurant to the chocolate shop. At the entrance to the shop, Adam glanced back to see that the man following them had left the restaurant and now paused up the block. When they exited the store, the man followed after them at a discreet distance. When the couple reached the corner where they had to part, Adam told her he would watch to make sure that the man didn’t follow her any further. The man didn’t follow Vertiline because he hadn’t been following her at all. He had been following Adam. His plans were briefly interrupted however when Adam met Leland Grandfield on the street shortly after bidding farewell to Vertiline.

“Was that Vertiline Lewis?”

“It was.”

“I’ve never seen her dressed that way before. Her father did say she was going to elaborate lengths to see you despite him forbidding her to do so. Were you aware that he had told her not to see you?”

“I was.”

“But you have persisted in seeing her anyway despite also knowing how important a good relationship with him is to my firm. I want to see you in my office when you return. It is of utmost importance. Do not go to your workstation. Report directly to my office.”

“So that I can be fired?”

“I wasn’t going to be so crass as to do that on a public street, but if you insist on knowing, yes, that is what I intend. You are an asset to my firm, but you are not valuable enough to offset the need for clients such as Marcellus Lewis. I’ll have anything belonging to you delivered to your residence. You need not return to my firm for any reason. Good day to you.” Leland turned then as if dismissing a servant and walked away.

Angry but resigned knowing that he had invited that possibility by meeting Vertiline so openly, Adam turned to walk back to his apartment unaware that he was being followed. They waited until he was away from any witnesses and then converged on him. He held his own for a short time against the three men until a piece of wood struck the back of his head and stunned him. Then the blows and the kicks came until he was down and unable to defend himself at all. There was only one thing said to him.

“Stay away from her. Next time could be worse.”

Laying in an alley, Adam lost consciousness for a time. When he awakened, it was evening and the alley was dark but the street still had some light. He struggled to his feet staggering to the end of the alley and then to the street getting disdainful looks from those he passed who assumed he was drunk. He made the several blocks to his apartment and stared at the steps wondering how he would manage to climb the two flights he needed to manage when strong arms wrapped around him from behind.

“Father was much too gleeful today. He chortled when he told me you were being fired and then made a remark about that not being the only blow you were going to receive. It took a short time for that to penetrate, but I did eventually understand. I was looking for you and am sorry to say I didn’t recognize you sooner in your sorry state. I will get you to your apartment and then summon a doctor.”

“No doctor.”

“You look like you need one.”

“I’ve been hurt worse before. If you would help me up the stairs though, I would appreciate that very much.”

“Certainly my good man. My sister would find me quite remiss if I did not do at least that. Now let’s see about getting you up those stairs. My driver can help too.”

Granville signaled his driver and the two helped Adam up to his apartment. They got him a basin of water and a towel so he could clean up a little and then helped him to his bed.

“I daresay those marks are going to look grotesque tomorrow. I shall have to warn my sister before she comes to see you that you are a sight.”

“Your father will let her come to see me?”

“Tonight at our house, there is likely to be a re-enactment of the War of the Roses. When Vertiline and mother learn what father has done, his barbaric actions will unleash their wrath. He has no idea what he has done. Now is there anything else that I can do for you before I leave?”

After setting a pitcher of water and a glass on the bedside table, Granville left. Adam lay on his back staring at the ceiling. He was badly injured, he had no job having possibly ruined what professional reputation he had gained, and he had perhaps caused a family to fracture. He guessed that was quite a lot to do in only a few months. He wasn’t prone to worry about things but he was a worried man now. He worried especially about Vertiline but also about what he would do next. With the pain and the turmoil inside of him, he didn’t fall asleep for many hours so he was sound asleep the next morning when Vertiline entered his apartment and found him still dressed in his trousers and bloodied shirt. With tears sliding down her cheeks, she stared at his bruised and battered face. Pulling a chair beside his bed, she waited for him to wake. They had a lot of things to discuss.

*****

Chapter 6

The first sensations that Adam had as he began to awaken were throbbing pains in his head and from his ribs. He moaned a bit but was surprised to feel a gentle touch on his cheek when he did. Startled a little, he was quiet and worked to open his eyes which was difficult because both lids were swollen after the beating he had taken. Once he did manage that, he had to smile a little even though that hurt too but he wanted to smile because Vertiline was there. He couldn’t have imagined anything that could have relieved his pain more than seeing her at his bedside. He had an urgent need though so he planned to swing his legs over the side of the bed as soon as he could, sit up, and ask for a moment of privacy. That didn’t work though as he found he couldn’t manage to swing his legs nor sit up on his own. Vertiline first pulled his legs to the side of the bed and then sat down beside him letting him wrap an arm around her so he could pull himself up as she moved forward to help by pulling.

Once he was sitting, she reached for the chamber pot and placed it next to him. Never saying a word, she stepped out pulling the door nearly closed but leaving a crack so that she could hear him if he needed to call her for any reason. Adam would have preferred a closed door but considering what she had already had to do for him realized the necessity of that precaution. He struggled to do what he needed to do but managed to do so without making a mess. He felt a small amount of pride in accomplishing that considering that he felt like a herd of cattle had stampeded over him and regretted not allowing Granville to call the doctor the night before as he had offered. His ribs felt like they would probably have felt better bound up. So far no words had been spoken but that soon changed when he called to her that he was done.

“I’m so sorry this happened to you because of me.”

Struggling to speak, Adam did manage to say what he felt he needed to say. “This wasn’t because of you. This was because of your father. I owe him on a couple of counts now.”

“We had a terrible row last night. Mother and Granville were on my side too. Father was ready to toss the lot of us out. He called all of us ungrateful. Mother got very angry and reminded him that it was her dowry that he used to start his business. It’s true. She has three brothers, and each one inherited part of their father’s business and each has built it into something bigger. Her share was a generous dowry.”

“So what would your uncles think of what has happened here?”

“I’m not sure. I’ve never gotten to know them, but any scandal would be too much for them so father setting ruffians to attack you would certainly qualify as unacceptable to them. As far as my behavior or yours, I do not know.” Vertiline opened the curtains a bit to let in more light and that made her cringe even more at the bruising she could see. “I should help you clean up. I can get some water and soap and help you.”

“I can do it.”

“Yes, well, I’ll get the water and soap while you get your shirt off.” Vertiline saw the basin with the water that Granville had gotten for Adam the night before. She took that and dumped it in the kitchen sink, rinsed the basin, and brought it and a pitcher of clean water to the bedroom. Adam still didn’t have his shirt off. He was struggling to get his arms out of the sleeves. She moved to help him and was shocked at the condition of his chest with terrible bruising around his ribs. “You should see a doctor.”

“Once I get my shirt off, we can check and then decide.”

“Check what?”

“My ribs. You can press on the bruised areas that I can’t reach easily enough. I think they’re only badly bruised. If any are broken, you can summon a doctor.” Adam slowly moved his fingers along the bruised ribs in front determining that none were broken and then asked Vertiline to check further back because it hurt him too much to reach that far.

“How will I know if they’re broken?”

“Here, let me show you.” He took her hand and guided it along one of the bruised areas in the front. “As long as you can feel that it’s solid like that, it’s not broken or not so badly as to need a doctor’s attention. If you find any soft spots, then that’s a problem.”

“But it hurts you to do this.”

“Yes, it does, but it’s necessary. Please, help me.”

Very carefully then and trying not to exert any more pressure than necessary, Vertiline checked the ribs that Adam couldn’t reach. There were no suspect areas.

“Now what do we do?”

“I would like them bound. That would help a lot. I don’t have any bandages though. I suppose I could use an old sheet if you would tear it into long strips.”

After telling her where to find the extra sheet and explaining how to tear the strips, Adam waited until she had several long strips ready. She thought she should wash the area first so she did that very gently and then dabbed it dry before he had her wrap them around his battered ribs letting her know when to pull a bit tighter or when to the pressure was a bit too much. When he felt they were sufficiently bound, he told her how to tie off the ends.

“Thank you. That’s much better. I have to breathe shallowly but I don’t feel that every breath stabs me.”

Vertiline sat down on the bed beside Adam. “When I was washing you, I saw scars. Two on your back look new. What happened to you?”

“A man wanted to kill me and very nearly succeeded. He and his sister had held a grudge against my father for a very long time. He shot me three times.”

“Where’s the third scar then?”

“I’d have to drop my trousers to show you. I’d be willing if you wanted to see the scar.”

When he said it, he had that cheeky grin she loved to see so she knew that despite the bruises and the pain, he was still the same man. She leaned forward.

“Not yet, mister, but someday, I may say yes to an offer like that from you. I have to tell you that you are the first man that I have ever thought I wanted to be with like that.”

“You would tell me that when I don’t even have the ability to hold you in my arms.”

“Can you kiss me?”

“I think I can manage that if you’re gentle.”

There was that cheeky grin again. She responded in kind and reached up to caress his cheek as softly as she could. He had a lot of stubble but somehow it made him look more handsome. She leaned forward and kissed him the way he had kissed her the first time brushing her lips softly across his before applying a bit more pressure.

“What is the meaning of this? I knew I would find you here, but sitting in his bed kissing him when he’s half naked! Why, why, it’s an outrage. Rowena, see what’s happened here. My goodness, woman, see what he has done to our daughter.”

Standing in the doorway were Marcellus and Rowena with Granville right behind them. Rowena spoke next.

“I’m sorry, dear, but as soon as he realized you were not in the house, he knew where you must be. All we could do was come with him. The door was unlocked so he entered before we could stop him.”

“She is my daughter. I had every right to enter to protect her from him. Look at what’s happened. What is to be done?”

“Why Marcellus, there is only one thing to be done.” Marcellus looked to his wife wondering what she would say. He was the only one not shocked by her solution. “Why they must be married now. It is the only way to avoid a terrible scandal, isn’t it? Our family reputation requires a marriage. That would resolve everything.”

Granville was the first to recover. As Marcellus was agreeing with his wife that it would resolve all issues, Granville began to grin and looked over to Adam and Vertiline sitting beside each other on the bed.

“I must say this happened much more quickly than I had anticipated and with even less drama although I had no idea that my helping my sister to mend her relationship with you was going to have such serious consequences. Welcome to the family, Adam. Vertiline, close your mouth. It is unsightly to sit there next to your handsome fiancé with your mouth hanging open like some common fishmonger.”

At that point, Adam turned to Vertiline. “Do you want to be married, to me that is?”

“Do you want to be married to me?”

“It’s not polite to answer a question with a question.” Looking to Rowena, Adam had a practical question. “When would this wedding take place?”

“No sooner than six weeks. No proper notice for a wedding can take less than six weeks. We could have the wedding at the shore house. It’s beautiful there at that time. Your bruises should be gone by then too.”

Turning back to Vertiline, Adam took her hand in his, grimaced because he had to turn his body toward her to do what he wanted to do, and then took a moment to catch his breath. “Vertiline Lewis, would you do me the great honor of becoming my wife in six weeks at the shore house?”

Still a bit in shock but so pleased to hear those words from Adam, Vertiline nodded and then began to cry. Adam pulled her to him and did his best to embrace her although it was difficult. Rowena turned away and told Granville and Marcellus that they were going back home because everything was settled.

“But my daughter is still in the bedroom with him.”

“It’s all right now. No one will think anything odd about that. He’s injured and they’re betrothed. Who else would be in his bedroom taking care of him then? Now, let’s go home and leave them alone so they can talk about their future.”

Once they left and pulled the door closed, Adam released Vertiline and asked if she was ready to talk. When she agreed, his most pressing question was why she had cried.

“I’m not sure. Part of it surely is that it was such a shock, and some of it is that we aren’t going to get to do all those things I thought we could do. I mean we were becoming a couple and we were going to go visit the important places in Boston, and you said we were going to have a picnic sometime, and then you said you would teach me to ride, and well, all of that is gone now.”

“It’s not gone. We have six weeks to do many of those things. Well if you give me a few days to feel a bit better, then we can do many of those things.”

“But with your job, you hardly have any time at all.”

“I don’t have a job. That was the other little treat your father managed. He must have talked with Grandfield. He let me go just before I received the unpleasant visit from three of your father’s less wholesome friends. I have quite a bit of free time before the wedding.”

“But what will you do?”

“Honestly, I was already thinking about possibilities before this happened. I want to talk with David Lee. From what I could ascertain, his father isn’t at all happy about the direction that Grandfield has been taking the firm. If David and possibly his father want to strike out on their own, I would throw in with them. If Granville wanted to join us, then we would have the contact person we need. There would likely be a few others who would like to come with us. It would be a smaller firm, but we would have better control over who the clients are and we could stay away from city contracts and shady deals, as well as risky ones. Grandfield is talking about taking the firm into building some railroad lines. That’s a high-risk endeavor financially when there are so many better prospects out there.”

“You have been putting a lot of thought into this.”

“It’s your fault. I was getting complacent, and you challenged me. I have a difficult time ignoring a challenge.”

“What about my father in all of this?”

“He and Grandfield are tied together very tightly. I see no reason to try to pry them apart.”

“And if Grandfield goes down, my father goes with him?”

“If he’s smart, he’ll put important assets in your mother’s name to protect them. A smart man would do that before getting involved in any of the things as risky as what Grandfield is proposing. Perhaps someone he trusts could suggest that to him.”

“You are as much a man of integrity as I thought. I’ll tell mother and she’ll tell my uncles who will advise him. That should do it. He of course will tell them that he knows what he’s doing and it’s an unnecessary step, but they will remind him that the assets he must protect are the inheritance she brought from their father. If he ever wants any help from them, he needs to heed their advice whenever it’s given.” Seeing that Adam was looking a bit pale behind those bruises, Vertiline had a suggestion. “How about if you lay back and rest. I’ll go out and get something for us to eat. You’ll probably feel better after a nap and lunch.”

“If I write a short note, will you send a telegram to my family? My father especially might want to attend the wedding. I would at least like to give him the opportunity.”

So Vertiline headed out to send a telegram and get lunch while Adam lay back and tried to sleep, but despite his exhaustion, he found sleep elusive. Things were changing very fast, and he could almost hear his father’s words. Son, are you sure you want to do this?

*****

Chapter 7

Sitting on a grassy knoll overlooking the sea, Adam leaned back and Vertiline leaned back into his arms. Kissing the top of her head, he murmured once more that he loved her. For six weeks, they had been able to spend time together to learn about each other and do those things that a longer engagement would have allowed under normal circumstances. He found her unconditional loyalty to him to be one of the greatest reasons to love her. In his pocket were several business cards he had received that morning in a post from Boston. His new partners wanted him to see how they looked and to get his approval before proceeding. Lee, Lee, Lewis, and Cartwright looked good to him. Warren Lee had indeed been ready to cut his ties with Leland Grandfield. He was senior partner in the new firm and owned half of it. His son David was next in line with Granville following him, and Adam was lowest on the list of partners, but he was a partner, which was quite a lot of status for having been in town about six months. He had invested a significant portion of his assets in the new business and they were counting on his skills too. He and David were to be the main architects of the new company with Granville as the primary negotiator of contracts. Six men had left Grandfield and Lee to join them. Adam’s talented but socially awkward assistant had been one of the men to follow them into the new company. They already had a contract for a project so after the wedding and a short honeymoon, Adam would be headed to work. The company had moved from downtown Boston out to the rapidly expanding suburban area and planned to take on any building project including building homes.

“My father should be here by this time tomorrow. I think you’ll like him. I’m sure he’ll like you.”

“From what you’ve told me about your father, I think I’ll like Ben Cartwright quite a lot. He seems to be the kind of good man that Boston used to have in abundance according to my mother. She says she thought my father was that kind of man too once but now she’s not so sure about that. He’s let the pursuit of money and power become his goals to the exclusion of almost everything else.”

“Did he put his assets in her name as I suggested?”

“Yes, mother liked your idea quite a lot and talked it over with my uncles who made that very suggestion to my father. He could hardly say no. He knows he may need them at some point and can’t afford to alienate them. Everything except his business is now in her name. She is once again wealthier than he is. I’m sure that rankles a bit with him, but he thinks that Grandfield’s schemes are going to make them rich.”

“Grandfield and the others are little fish in a big pond. They’re going to be chewed up and swallowed by the big fish.”

“You’re rather sure of that, aren’t you?”

“I am. I’ve seen that kind of thing in California with banking and the politicians. It will happen here much the same way. Now I have a question for you though. Your father said something to me this morning when I arrived and had to wait for you. I denied that it was true, but it got me thinking. He’s been wondering about that morning in my apartment and thinks that somehow I set that up to force the situation so he would have to agree to let me marry you. He feels that I manipulated him. I didn’t of course. I could hardly think at all that morning.”

“So what’s your question for me?”

“Did you know your father would follow you to my apartment and find us together?”

“No, I didn’t think that. You don’t think that I manipulated you like that, do you?”

“No, but I had to ask to be sure. I guess it’s because I don’t know you that well yet, and you don’t know me that well yet either. There’s still a lot we need to learn about each other. You do need to know that I love you and I do want to marry you. I don’t regret for a moment asking you to marry me. I admit that for a short time after that I wondered if I had rushed into something. Your father is not the father-in-law I would like to have, but I do like Granville, and I like your mother.”

After a few minutes of silence as Vertiline thought about that day that Adam had proposed to her and about what Adam had said about her father thinking he had been pushed into accepting that she and Adam were to be married, she suddenly sat up and stared back at Adam. She had a rather shocked look making him wonder what had happened because nothing had changed as far as he could tell.

“What’s wrong?”

“Well, nothing exactly, but your question got me thinking. On that morning when Father caught me kissing you, it was Mother who told me that I should go see how you were. She said you probably needed me, and Granville said that someone probably ought to take a good look at your ribs because he thought that perhaps you might have a broken one and need a doctor. Mother said that I should leave before Father came down for breakfast so that he wouldn’t miss me. Granville went outside with me and hailed a hackney so that I would be able to leave immediately. He handed me some money and said that mother wanted to be sure I had enough to pay for the ride and anything else I might need that day.”

“None of that seems very unusual.”

“Adam, Mother never has money with her. She always has Father with her to pay for things or she puts it on our account. If she had money that morning, it was because she wanted to give it to me so she must have asked Granville to get it for her.”

“And it was your mother who finding you in a somewhat compromising situation blithely suggested that the solution was that we should get married to avoid any scandal.”

“Yes, and Father facing a rather public business partnership with Leland Grandfield, the city, and the political machine couldn’t afford to have any bad publicity so he immediately grasped that way out of the dilemma.”

“Then I made the suggestion that your father transfer assets into your mother’s name to protect them if this big project of his fails, and you passed on the suggestion, and now your mother sits in control of the family wealth and your father.”

“That about sums it up.”

Sitting together watching the sun sink against the hills, they both thought about all the changes that had taken place and all that were going to take place. There was only one thing Adam had left to say about their previous conversation.

“At one time, I worried that you might have some characteristics of your father. Now I think I need to be careful because you might be like your mother, and she is a far more formidable woman that I had ever thought.”

Vertiline agreed with his assessment. They walked back to the shore house where preparations for the wedding were well underway. Adam was going into the nearest town the next day to meet his father and bring him out to the house. Hoss and Joe couldn’t come because at this time of year, there simply was too much work on the ranch, but Adam was pleased that his father had made the journey. He was even happier two days later to have his father standing beside him as he said his marriage vows to Vertiline. As he had expected, his father had liked her immediately. He had listened to Adam’s story of how they met and then become reacquainted. He was angry when he heard how Adam was hurt, but Adam told him that he had already done enough to Marcellus to pay him back for the bruises.

“Pa, I got Warren Lee and David Lee out of Grandfield and Lee and into a business with me. I’ve got Granville working with me instead of with Marcellus. The family assets are in Rowena’s name and she’s not giving them up without a fight, and with her brothers, she’ll win any battle he tries to put up. I’m marrying Vertiline when he had forbidden me to even see her.”

“But what about the men he had beat you? He could do something like that again.”

“With my new partners’ help, I’ve located the three men who did that. We have signed statements from them that they were hired by Marcellus to do what they did. They have been told that they are to tell us if he tries to do anything like that again. I was very convincing in my persuasion.”

Knowing how intimidating Adam could be, Ben nodded. “It seems you have the situation well in hand. So this is your home now?”

“For the time being, it is. Vertiline and I have talked about that though. If we have children, we want them raised where the air is pure, the sky is bright blue on a sunny day, and people have a more clear sense of right and wrong.”

“I like hearing that.”

“I’m rather fond of that plan too.”

After the wedding, Ben was a guest of Warren Lee for a short time so that he could visit with old friends and distant relatives while Adam and Vertiline enjoyed a short honeymoon. It was a passionate five days for the couple to explore the physical side of their relationship. Adam was an experienced lover but Vertiline was a young woman with no experience. He took things slowly at first well aware of her trepidation on their wedding night. He could feel her trembling when they were first alone.

“Sweetheart, I won’t hurt you. You know that, don’t you?” He felt her nod into his chest. He ran his fingers lightly down her arms and then back up again letting his right hand continue to her neck where he lifted her chin and turned her to him so he could kiss her softly. “We’ve been kissing and touching for the last six weeks, haven’t we?” She nodded again. “We’ll only be doing more of that, but we’ll be kissing and touching in places where we couldn’t kiss and touch before because it wasn’t allowed. Relax and think of that. We’ll go as slowly as you wish.”

“I’ve already seen you with your shirt off.”

“Yes, we can start that way. I’ll take off my jacket and my shirt. We can sit together and kiss and touch. When you’re ready, you can take off more of your clothing.”

A bit shy that seemed so out of character for her, Vertiline opened the top part of her dress as Adam sat in the chair. He watched intently becoming more and more interested as she unbuttoned more of her dress finally letting it fall to the floor. Dressed in her undergarments then, she came to him. He pulled her into his lap and began to kiss her more passionately than he ever had and she responded in kind. Soon the idea of going slowly was replaced by desire and passion. Later, she chuckled about that.

“It seems that you telling me that we could go slow was all I needed to hear to be ready to go fast. Is that what you had in mind?”

“What I had in mind was to let you decide how fast to go, but I must say that I was quite pleased with how things went.”

“My mother told me what to expect and it seemed like it would be so odd and uncomfortable, but when it was happening, it seemed so natural and pleasurable.”

“It’s one of those things that is better experienced than discussed. So, would you like more experience?”

“Yes, please.”

Thoroughly enjoying five days of experience with each other, Adam and Vertiline returned to Boston in time to visit with Ben before he left on the train for home. He reminded Adam that the train ran in both directions.

“Pa, I’m going to be very busy for the next few months with a new house, a new business, and a new wife.”

“I understand that, but I want you to remember that there’s another part of your family in Nevada, and we miss you.”

“I miss you too. One way or another, we’ll be there at some point.”

“I’m holding you to that and please don’t wait too long.”

“I won’t let him. I want to see the Ponderosa too.”

“Thank you, Vertiline. I knew he married the right woman. It took him a long time, but he made the right choice. Congratulations, and I look forward to you arriving on the Ponderosa at some point.” With that, Ben climbed aboard the train for the ride home and looked back at his oldest son standing with his new wife on the platform at the train station in Boston. How he wished he could see him standing on the platform at the train station in Virginia City.

***The End***

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