Escape (by BettyHT)

Summary:   This begins as a story of family conflict:  first it is a WHI for The Lady from Baltimore: Joe and Adam are at odds; how will they repair their relationship and what changes will happen for the Cs especially Adam? Then it is a WHI for She Walks In Beauty as Adam and Hoss are at odds; it continues as a WHN then as there are further developments especially for Adam in the third part of the story.

Category:  Bonanza
Genre:  Western
Rating:  T
Word Count:  36,548


Chapter 1

Joe couldn’t stop thinking about seeing Adam’s hands on Melinda’s arms. He was holding her and it was obvious to Joe that Adam had kissed her against her will. Joe just kept thinking that Adam always had to come out on top; he always had to be the winner. Well this time Joe was determined to prove him wrong. Adam had ridden out hours earlier after telling his Pa it was a good time to do the tasks he had put off because they had guests. Joe had been ready to ride after him to finish telling him what he wanted to but Ben had forbidden him to go. Every time Joe thought about it, he got angrier and angrier.

“Joe, ya gotta let this go. It’s gonna eat ya up inside.”

“I can’t forget it. I love her. I want to marry her, and all I can see right now is Adam’s hands on her.”

“Joe, Pa said SHE kissed him.”

“That’s a lie!”

“Joe, our brother can be mean and ornery and bossy and uppity sometimes, but I ain’t never known him to lie jest like I ain’t never known him to push himself on a woman.”

“Well, there’s a first time for everything. I saw him, Hoss, I saw him.”

Hoss put his hand on Joe’s shoulder. There was nothing more to say. Slowly Joe stood and with Hoss’ hand still on his shoulder, they walked inside. Hoss was hoping that Joe would talk with their Pa. Pa would be able to settle Joe down and make him see reason Hoss hoped.

Inside and upstairs in a guest room, Melinda was talking over the same situation with her mother Deborah, but the tone of the conversation was completely different.

“Don’t you see, mother, Adam will have to marry me now. After what Joe saw, he won’t want me, but Adam will have to marry me because of what they all think.”

“Darling, poor deluded darling. The Cartwrights are not going to make Adam marry you for one kiss especially as he told Benjamin that you kissed him.”

“But what if I said he touched me and did other things? That would make them, wouldn’t it?”

“Yes if something else did happen, that would certainly change things. But nothing else happened, and Adam is gone now. Darling, Adam isn’t right for you. He has no feelings for you.”

“But mother, he is a wonderful man, and I just know that in time, he would love me.”

“No, it is not possible. Joseph is the one who will love you. He already does.”

“Mother, I want to talk with Mr. Cartwright right now.”

“Not until I know what you are going to say. I want you to get those foolish ideas out of your head right now. I want you to go downstairs and say yes to Joseph’s proposal of marriage. Then I want you to ask for a wedding to take place as soon as possible. Saturday would be good.”

“All right, mother, I’ll do as you say.”

Still a little nervous about what her daughter would say especially after the sudden capitulation, Deborah escorted her out of the bedroom and toward the stairs. Melinda began crying and Deborah was amazed that real tears were sliding down her cheeks. She certainly did look the part of the assaulted maiden. As they began to walk down the stairs, the three men down below looked up with varying degrees of sympathy. Ben was wondering what this was all about, but at the moment, he had no way of determining what the Bannings were up to. That was going to suddenly change. Joe rushed to the stairs to reach out to Melinda but she spurned his advances. Deborah started to get very worried that her meticulously plotted plan was going to suffer another major setback.

“Darling, if this is too much for you, we should just go back upstairs until you feel better.”

“No, Mother, I want them to know everything that Adam did.”

“Melinda, this is not proper. You are overwrought. You need to come back upstairs and rest until you are feeling better.”

“Don’t you want them to know? Don’t you want them to know that he touched me? That he touched me in places only a husband should touch a wife? If he won’t marry me, no man will want me. He has ruined my life.”

“Melinda, you’re distraught. You said it was a kiss. That’s all these men saw. Please come upstairs with me now.”

“Mother, he touched me before he pulled me to him and kissed me. And I’ve never been kissed like that either. He, he-”

Melinda dropped to her knees sobbing. It was a very effective presentation but the only one believing it was Joe. Ben knew that she was lying. His son would never have done what she said. Hoss was embarrassed too to see her lie that way. Trying to rescue something out of the ashes of her plan, though, Deborah turned to Ben.

“Benjamin, it seems that there is only one way out of this mess without having to call upon the services of the sheriff and ruin the lives of all involved. Adam must marry Melinda. They will undoubtedly have to move away from here to avoid the inevitable problems in your family that this will cause.”

“Deborah, you should take Melinda upstairs. We will talk later.”

Deborah helped Melinda to her feet and escorted her up the stairs. Melinda’s sobs echoed through the room until they heard the bedroom door at the end of the hallway close. Joe turned in fury to his father.

“There, that proves it. She’s willing to give up marrying me because of what Adam did!”

“Joseph, you need to calm down. She’s lying, son. You know Adam would never do these things that she has claimed. What I am more worried about is that Deborah has talked of calling the sheriff. Adam’s reputation would never recover from that happening.”

“Adam’s reputation! That’s what you’re worried about. What about me? What about Melinda?”

“Joe, Pa’s right. Adam would never a done those things she said. You’d know it too if you would just take a minute to think. I know you’re in love and your temper done empties your head sometimes, but ya gotta take a step back and think about this.”

“So why am I not surprised. You’re both on his side. Well, I’m not, and I never will be again. He’s ruined my chance at happiness. I’m going outside. I can’t stand to be in here a moment longer.”

Joe strode from the room and slammed the door behind him.

“Pa, what are we gonna do?”

Ben sat at his desk and dropped his forehead against his fists. He shook his head. He had no idea what to do next. A knock at the door interrupted their conversation. Hoss went to answer the door and hopefully to get rid of whomever was there. Instead, Ben heard him invite someone inside. It was Horace Banning dressed in an outrageous suit and tie and looking like a traveling drummer instead of a successful businessman. Ben greeted him and Horace had to ask why everything seemed so somber. Ben and Hoss filled him in on what had been going on.

“Ben, I know Adam just like I know Hoss here. I don’t know your youngest very well because he was so young the last time I saw him. But Ben, I know Adam couldn’t have done anything like this anymore than I would believe Hoss would have. I will go upstairs and speak with my family to see if I can get to the bottom of this. I wish we had been reunited under better circumstances.”

Horace went up the stairs and Hoss called out that it was the last bedroom on the right. Then he looked at his Pa who for the first time today had a more relaxed expression. Perhaps there was a way out of this. Hoss said he would go outside to find Joe to see if he was ready to talk. After a short time, he was back. Joe wasn’t there and Cochise was gone.

“Where do you think he went?”

“Maybe to the lake. He goes there a lot when he’s troubled.”

“You’re probably right, Hoss. Give him some time and then go out there. He needs to be back here to talk this through.”

Upstairs there was an entirely different kind of conversation going on.

“How could you come here? You’ll ruin everything.”

“Ruin everything? My dear, I can’t see that there is anything to ruin. It seems that there is a huge mess here and it has ensnared my good friend and his sons. What have you been up to?”

“Just trying to ensure our daughter’s future. Something you were never able to do. Who would marry the daughter of a man who can’t keep a job more than six months at a time?”

“Mother, please. Papa, I am so glad to see you. You like Adam, don’t you? You think he’ll make a good husband, don’t you? You always talked about how clever he was and what a great future he had and what a gentleman he was. Papa?”

Melinda started sobbing then. Her father felt she needed to calm down before they would be able to find a resolution to this mess. He suggested she lie on the bed and try to sleep for a bit. He indicated to Deborah that they should leave and she shook her head and flounced out of the room ahead of him. Once in the hall, she directed her husband to the bedroom she was using. Once inside, she again turned on him and how he was ruining their daughter’s life.

“I think you have done a masterful job of that, Deborah. Now I suggest you be quiet until we can talk with Melinda quietly. She needs to find a way to tell the truth without making herself out to be any worse than what the Cartwrights already think of her.”

*****

Chapter 2

About two hours from the house, Adam decided to make camp. He was emotionally and mentally exhausted from the day’s events. He would use the camp as a base of operations for a few days and hoped that by the time he returned home, things would have settled down. He wished now that he had stayed to clear the air with Joe but the two of them seldom made any progress on an issue when their tempers were hot. After unsaddling Sport and grooming him, he gave him grain and then hobbled him so he could graze. There was water nearby and Adam took his canteen and the small coffee pot to go get some. When he returned, he set some coffee to simmer and took off his gun-belt and laid it next to his saddle. He propped his rifle near by in case there was any threat. He didn’t expect one but it paid to be careful. After a short time, he picked up the rifle when he heard a horse approaching. Seeing a familiar pinto, he set the rifle down.

Joe rode up next to his camp and dismounted. Adam had expected to see him look calmer and ready to talk, but instead he looked even more upset. In addition, it appeared that he might have been drinking. Adam knew their father would never have let him drink when he was so angry so he must have gotten a bottle from one of the men in the bunkhouse. Unfortunately, he probably had had too much of it.

“What can I do for you, Joe?”

“You can come back and face what you’ve done.”

“That’s just it, Joe, I didn’t do anything. She did. I’m sorry about that but I didn’t start anything with her, I just finished it by pushing her away.”

“You’re a damned liar. She said how you touched her and forced yourself on her.”

“Have you been drinking?”

“What if I have? Anybody dealing with what I’ve had to face might have had a few drinks.”

“And what have you had to deal with?”

“My brother forcing himself on the woman I love and wanted to marry.”

“Joe, that never happened. She lied if she said it did.”

“You need to come back. Deborah wants to get the law after you, so you better come back with me.”

Joe stood there defiantly, breathing rapidly, and obviously very upset.

“Joe, I’m not going anywhere with you. You can’t seriously believe what that empty headed little temptress has said.”

Joe got even angrier at that point. He pulled his pistol and aimed it at Adam.

“You’re coming back with me even if I have to force you.”

Adam knelt next to the fire and reached into his right pocket for his handkerchief to lift the coffee pot from its perch next to the fire. An angry, emotional Joe who had been drinking was unpredictable.  When Adam did that, Joe fired hitting him in the forearm. Adam fell back grasping his forearm tightly to his side.

“What the hell!”

Looking behind Adam, Joe suddenly saw his gun-belt and rifle next to his saddle.

“Adam, I thought you were going for your gun. Oh God, Adam, I’m sorry. Here let me help you.”

Adam growled at him. “Get the hell away from me.”

Grimacing in pain, Adam retrieved the handkerchief with his left hand and wrapped it around the graze in his right forearm. Seeing that it was a graze and unwilling to do any more harm, Joe said he would send Hoss back, and then he mounted up on Cochise and left. Realizing he needed help, Adam tried to call out to Joe to stay, but he couldn’t say it very loudly with his teeth clamped together as they were. As Joe galloped away, Adam pulled open his vest to look at the hole in his side. The bullet had grazed his arm but passed through his right side. He felt around his back despite the pain in his right arm and found the exit hole. It wasn’t much of a wound, but now he was out here with no help and night coming on. He pulled an extra shirt and pair of socks out of his saddlebag. He used the socks as a thick pad over each hole and then tied the shirt around his middle to hold them in place.

There were more worries. If he went back, and Deborah called the sheriff in, it wouldn’t matter what he said because sympathy would lie with the girl. From what Joe had recounted, she hadn’t claimed enough that anyone would feel they had to hunt him down. In time, he hoped it would all settle out. He decided to get as far away as he could tonight so he could buy himself some time. He hoped to get to the nearest line cabin before it got too dark. There would be more supplies there and he would be protected against predators who would be attracted to the scent of blood. He laboriously packed up his camp and saddled Sport which took far longer than it usually did. He was glad he had fed and watered his horse already because his energy was diminishing rapidly. He was in shock and it was affecting his thinking but of course he wasn’t aware of that. He heard Joe’s accusations at home and in camp again and again in his head.

As twilight was descending, Joe rode into the yard at the Ponderosa. Two hours of riding in the cooler late afternoon air as well as what he had done had helped sober him. Ben and Hoss immediately came outside to find out where he had been because Hoss had been unable to find him.

“I went to see Adam. Oh Pa, I’m so sorry. I shot him, Pa. I thought he was pulling his gun,

and I shot him.”

Ben’s heart rate shot up and he grabbed Joe by the shoulders. Joe was sobbing. What Joe had done had made him think, and he didn’t like where those thoughts had taken him. In his mind over and over he thought ‘How could he have accused his brother who had loved him all his life? How could he have thought that Adam would draw on him?’ He had wanted to go back again and again but forced himself not to do that. He was so ashamed and didn’t want to cause any more trouble for his brother than he already had.

“You shot Adam. Where is he? How badly is he hurt? Joe talk to me now!”

By then, all three Bannings had come outside as well and had heard that Joe had shot Adam. Melinda started to wail.

“How could you do that? He was going to come back here and marry me and now you’ve ruined it. Mother, you said he would come back and marry me if I said he did those things. Now he won’t. Joseph Cartwright, I hate you. You ruined my life.”

Melinda turned and ran back in the house followed by Deborah. Horace walked slowly behind them with his head hanging in shame.

“Joseph, tell me about your brother!”

“Pa, I grazed his arm. He told me to get away from him. How could he want me anywhere near him after what I did? I told him I’d send Hoss back.”

After Joe explained in more detail what had happened and gave directions, Hoss wanted to head right out but Ben stopped him. It was nearing dusk, and in that rough terrain, Hoss could be seriously injured if his horse slipped or fell. Hoss did not like his father’s decision.

“I don’t like it either son, but Joe said it was a graze. He’ll be fine until morning and then you can bring him back here.”

Once inside, Horace stepped forward.

“I will be taking my family to town as soon as I can. I have Deborah and Melinda packing now. Melinda has far more in common with Deborah than I ever knew. Unfortunately she is not nearly as intelligent as her mother and thought that her childish plan of concocting a set of lies could actually work. She has attempted to manipulate your son into marriage. Deborah was doing the same with Joe in trying to get him to be our daughter’s future.”

Joe was sitting and had his head hanging. Ben wanted to comfort him but also wanted to take him over his knee. He had thought that Joe had better sense than this, and to let this girl blind him to his brother’s love was incomprehensible. Hoss saw the looks that Joe was getting and suggested they better get out to the stable and do chores.

“Hoss, do you think it would be all right if I came with you tomorrow?”

“I think that is the first sensible thing you said today. Pack what you need tonight. We’re leaving as soon as the sky starts getting light.”

*****

Chapter 3

The next morning as the sky was just beginning to lighten, Hoss walked to the stable to saddle his horse. Within a minute, Joe was there with a food sack and medical supplies Hop Sing had handed to him. No one was speaking to him and for that he was grateful because he knew that all they would say would be the same kind of things he had been saying to himself for the last twelve hours. Joe was surprised but shouldn’t have been when their father walked in the stable and saddled Buck. As soon as the horses were saddled, they headed out.

Four hours away, Adam had awakened to find that he had a fever and that he had bled much more than he had expected. He slowly got up from the bunk and pulled the sheet off the bed. There was a large bloodstain on it. He tore it in two to make two new pads. He untied the shirt he had around his middle and replaced the socks that were saturated with blood with the two pads made from the sheets. Then he tied his shirt around his middle again. Suffering from shock, blood loss, and a fever, he could only think that he needed to get away and that he needed to get help. He tossed the bloody socks into the fireplace. He had not made a fire last night because his stomach rebelled at even the thought of food and it was relatively mild weather even up here. He hadn’t unsaddled Sport either, but had just loosened the cinch. He walked outside with his saddlebag and canteen. With a grunt of pain, he tightened the cinch.

“Sorry, boy, for neglecting you. I’ll do my best to make it up to you as soon as I can.”

With more grunts of pain, Adam mounted up and sat there for a moment. He needed help. Downhill was to the Ponderosa and more trouble. Uphill was more arduous but would eventually get him to a small mining camp. They would have alcohol at least and perhaps someone with some medical training. He headed uphill. For two hours he rode through some difficult terrain. Finally he came upon a trail. He wasn’t sure where it led but he followed it because he could no longer take the pounding of the uneven terrain. It was a trail so it had to lead to some people. He just hoped they were friendly. As he rode, he leaned forward more and more with his head down just urging his mount to keep going.

On the Ponderosa, Ben, Hoss, and Joe kept expecting Adam to come riding toward them. After two hours, they reached the spot where he had started to make camp and it was clear he had not stayed the night there. Now they wondered where he could be. Hoss suggested he headed to the nearest line shack even though it was two hours riding uphill. It didn’t make a lot of sense at this point but they had no other way to go. The terrain made tracking extremely difficult so they simply took the most direct route. Within an hour, Hoss spotted signs that he had passed that way. They speeded up with the belief they would find Adam at the line shack. Once they could see it in the distance though, there was no smoke coming from the chimney and no horse in the small corral. They continued on to see if he had been there at all but wondered why he would have left if he had been there.

Once at the line shack, it was clear that Adam had been there. What was shocking though was finding the bloodstain in the bunk and the blood saturated socks lying in the fireplace. Ben turned to Joe to ask him again how Adam was injured. Joe demonstrated what he recalled as happening. Hoss was the first to understand.

“So he was kneeling down and when he reached for his handkerchief, you thought he was going for his gun so you shot? Then he pulled his arm into his side? Pa I think Adam got shot in the side. Normally if your arm is hurt you would pick it up. He pulled his wounded arm into his side instead.”

“But why wouldn’t he come home so we could help him? Why is he riding away from us?”

“Pa, I said he had to come back with me or Deborah was going to call on the sheriff to arrest him for what he did.”

“Oh God, this is a nightmare. We need to find him and soon. We’ll spread out and follow the three directions he could have gone. We’ll split up the medical supplies and the food. Don’t come back until you find him or you know he didn’t go your way.”

On the trail on the other side of the mountain, Adam saw a wagon pull out onto the road ahead of him. He didn’t have the strength to yell out for help. He watched as the wagon grew smaller and disappeared around a bend in the trail. He urged Sport to go in that direction. As he neared the bend, he thought he heard another wagon but was getting confused about everything. From around the bend behind him, a carriage came rolling at him. He was sitting on his horse in the middle of the trail and made no move to either side. Finally Sport in a near panic jumped sideways and Adam fell off into the brush next to the trail. The driver of the carriage pulled up and climbed out to race over to him.

“Why didn’t you move? Oh I hope you’re not hurt. Oh no, you’re bleeding, a lot. But that didn’t just happen did it?”

Seeing the makeshift bandage around his middle, the woman who had been driving the carriage sat back. This man needed help. She would not be able to get him back on his horse so she went to get her team to pull the carriage next to him.

“Come on now, mister, you have to help me here. Can you try to stand if I help you?

Hearing what sounded like an affirmative answer, she got his left arm over her shoulder and did her best to get him upright. The next task was to get him to shuffle over to the carriage and get in. It took almost twenty minutes to accomplish that as both of them needed to pause often. Finally he was in and she walked to Sport who shied away from her.

“Well, you can follow or stay. I can’t take time for you now.”

She climbed into the carriage and snapped the reins and the horses headed out at a good pace with the wounded man leaning into one corner. Sport stood with his reins down on the ground effectively ground tied as he had been trained. He wasn’t going anywhere. That’s where Hoss found him hours later. He fired three shots although he doubted that his pa or Joe would hear them because they had gone in different directions. They did hear the echo of three shots and although neither could tell where those shots came from, it did tell them they were going in the wrong direction. Once back at the line shack they knew it was Hoss who had found something so they headed uphill in the direction he had gone.

“There he is and he’s got Sport.”

Ben and Joe headed to where they could see Hoss riding. Once there they were sadly disappointed that he had not found Adam. He had been looking for some sign of his brother ever since he found his horse but could find nothing. All he saw was that a carriage or wagon had stopped and it appeared that Adam was now on that vehicle. There were so many tracks like that on the trail though that he had no idea where his brother could be. They continued until it was too dark to see but never found another sign of Adam. The next day they would do the same. When they finally got to the small community of Alturas, no one had any recollection of anyone fitting Adam’s description. They had well and truly lost him and had no idea where to look.

Later that same day, Adam awoke in a bed with sunlight streaming in through the window. He had no idea how he had gotten there. He felt his side and there was a large bandage there and there was a bandage on his arm as well. That was about all he had energy to do so he lay there waiting to see who his savior had been. He didn’t have to wait long. A woman entered the room with a tray and immediately noticed the hazel eyes staring at her.

“Well now, we been waitin for you to wake. Let me tell my missus and I’ll be right back.”

Another woman entered the room with the first after just a minute.

“It’s so good to see you awake. I was afraid that I would have a man die in my house. I would not want to live here if that happened, and I do like this house. We’re going to get some water and broth into you. It’s going to be a lot easier now that you’re awake.”

She climbed onto the bed and got her arm around Adam’s left side and pushed him up until she could get behind him. Then she told him to lean back into her and rest his head on her shoulder. The effort almost made him lose consciousness, but she kept talking to him and encouraging him to keep his eyes open just a little longer. Because of the efforts of the two women, Adam drank almost a cup of fluid before his weakness overwhelmed him. As she pulled out from behind him and let him settle back into the bed, she talked with him.

“We’ll get introduced later. You did real well. You’re a fighter. I can tell that. You just keep fighting, and we’ll be here to help.”

“He is a right purty one, ain’t he, missus?”

“Yes, Belinda, he is a handsome one. I have to wonder what he was doing on that mountain with two bullet wounds though and all dressed in black. That pistol and holster look like they belong to a man who knows how to use them. I am praying that we did not bring an outlaw into our home.”

The next time that Adam awoke, it was dark. He was feeling a bit stronger than the first time and realized that he wasn’t wearing anything. There was a sheet and a blanket over him so there was no immediate problem, but he realized the two ladies had seen all of him that was to be seen. He thought he heard something and realized that one of the ladies was sleeping in a large rocking chair not too far from the bed. He also realized what had awakened him and he was wondering what he could do about that. Finally he softly said ‘Mam’ a few times. She stirred and awakened.

“You’re awake. How do you feel? Would you like something to drink?”

He said ‘no’ with what was a bit of desperation and she seemed know immediately what the problem was. She walked to the table near the wall and turned up a lamp that was there. Then she pulled a chamber pot next to the bed. When she reached to pull the blanket and sheet away from him, he wanted her to stop.

“I’m going to see you sooner or later as we do this. There’s no man of the house so it’s one of us. I can’t do this with my eyes closed. Well I suppose I could but I’d have to feel my way and you would likely be even more embarrassed by that.”

Adam smiled and would have laughed but even small chuckle that slipped out hurt a bit so he held back. She smiled at him. Her joking had done exactly what she had hoped. He let her pull the sheet and blanket back and helped him swing his legs off the bed so he would be able to use the chamber pot. Then she helped him lay back down, pull his legs back onto the bed, and covered him again.

“Well after that, we really do need to introduce ourselves. I am Eve Hamilton. My husband and I owned a lot of mining operations here. He has since gone to heaven, and though I loved him dearly, I am in no hurry to join him there. This is where I live during the warmer months of the year. I spend my winters in my home in San Francisco.”

Looking expectantly at Adam, Eve waited to hear his name. He appeared reluctant to tell her.

“No matter what, I am not here to judge. I saved your life and I would like to know your name. When you are healed, you are free to leave here.”

“My name is Adam.”

“Oh now you’re just having fun with me. Adam and Eve. Not too original though. I think you can do better than that.”

“I’m Adam Cartwright.”

“Well I know of one Cartwright family and they own the Ponderosa.”

“That would be the one.”

“Then what are you doing here, alone, and wounded? I would think the Cartwrights would have men working for them who would be willing to help. And then there’s your family. I have always heard what a strong family it is.”

With that, Adam dropped his head down. He didn’t want to talk about it.

“All right, honey, maybe tomorrow. But you owe me the truth. It is the least I should get for saving your life.”

Adam lay in the bed and heard Eve return to the rocking chair. He said a quiet ‘Thank you’ and heard a quiet ‘You’re welcome’ in reply. He had trouble falling back asleep though. He wondered how much he should tell her. Finally he decided to tell her the whole story. It was actually a pretty good story as long as you weren’t part of it. With that decision made, he was able to sleep. Adam awoke in the morning hearing rain falling on the roof. He gazed out the window at the rain that was washing everything clean again. Oh how he wished that could wash away his troubles.

*****

Chapter 4

In Alturas, Ben, Hoss, and Joe watched the rain with sadness. It was washing away any tracks. Even if they backtracked now to follow up wagon and carriage tracks that left the trail, the ones they needed to see were already being obliterated. The slim hope they had to find Adam was gone now. Donning rain slickers they purchased at the mercantile, they headed home. Each prayed because they thought Adam needed those prayers.

In Eve’s home, Belinda brought two trays to the guest bedroom. She had a standard breakfast of bacon, eggs, bread, apple slices, and potatoes for Eve. For Adam, she had a tray with broth, coffee, applesauce, and some soft scrambled eggs. Adam was understandably perturbed to get his tray when he was able to smell the food from Eve’s tray. Eve smiled at him.

“Well your appetite seems that it may be back to normal. If you can keep that down, we’ll start you with more solid foods for lunch. For now though this is what you get. So thank Belinda and eat.”

Adam finished his food and leaned back into the pillows with a contented sigh. When Eve finished, she picked up his tray and put it with hers outside the door. Then she sat in the chair and told him it was time to talk. He looked at her and told her the whole story. It took quite a while.

“You’ll need to go back.”

“I know.”

“Why didn’t you go back when you were shot? Surely, they would have helped you.”

“I don’t think I was thinking well by that morning. I can barely remember what I did much less what I was thinking. And yes I could have gone back and they would have helped me, but Melinda is still there with her accusations. I don’t know what she wants, but if I stay away long enough, she’ll give up. I just hope that Joe doesn’t marry her in the meantime.”

“You’re not serious? You don’t know what she wants? She wants you! Sweetie, it’s you she wants, not Joe.”

Adam looked at her in disbelief.

“She wants me so she said things that could get me locked up?”

“Oh, honey, you know that out here just like anywhere else in the country, the family would be just as happy with a marriage sentence as a jail one, perhaps even happier with the marriage.”

Eve sat in the chair watching him as he processed their conversation. Then he looked at her and smiled.

“Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”

“Sir Walter certainly got that one right.”

Adam was surprised. People usually assumed it was Shakespeare when he said that. Eve knew the poem Marmion though. He was quite impressed and Eve could see that. She was pleased with herself for impressing this man and then a little embarrassed to realize that was true. Next she decided to impress him further.

“Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.”

“Congreve’s The Mourning Bride. You are quite well read.”

“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.”

“I love that book. I just got it a year ago. I fell in love with it almost before I read it I think. The leather cover, the printed word, just moves my soul.”

“Well we shall have a lot to discuss during your convalescence. Now I know you must know that we undressed you when we got you here. Belinda has your shirts all clean and pressed and mended the two holes in the one. Your pants are also clean. Black is a wonder when one is washing out blood, but your drawers were a mess as I expect you already know. I have some of my husband’s clothing including drawers packed away yet, but my husband was smaller than you, shorter and much thinner.”

Adam grinned at that, and Eve began to blush.

“He was a man of small stature, quite short if you will.”

Even as she said it she started to smile and as she saw Adam trying not to laugh, she lost control and laughed longer and louder than she had in quite a while. Downstairs Belinda listened and was happy that Eve was finally over mourning her late husband. He had been a dear but my goodness it was three years almost that he was gone. Belinda just hoped that Eve didn’t start to expect a relationship with Adam for she didn’t believe there was any future for them. The age difference alone would be a major obstacle. She had to be ten or fifteen years older than that handsome man.

Adam was holding his side and trying to stop laughing but the emotional release was so necessary, he couldn’t stop. Finally with tears running down their faces, both were able to regain their composure. Adam leaned back with a sigh.

“That hurt but felt good too.”

“Honey, I don’t think I’ve laughed like that in years. Yes, it felt good. But back to my original topic: now that you’re feeling better, Belinda and I need to make a supply run to town. We can buy fabric and make some drawers for you very quickly. Is there anything else you would like us to get?”

Adam mentioned socks and handkerchief but Eve said she had enough of those packed away for him to use. Finally he thought to ask about Sport. Eve had to tell him about leaving him on the trail and that he wouldn’t let her get close to him and wouldn’t follow the carriage either. She could see that bothered Adam, but there was nothing that could be done about that now. Adam would not be riding a horse anytime soon anyway so they had time to decide what to do about getting him a horse when he needed one. For now, they would talk until lunchtime, and after lunch, she and Belinda would head to town.

*****

Chapter 5

Back on the Ponderosa, the situation was tense. Joe wanted to go searching again and Ben was inclined to agree with him. Hoss just asked where they were going to search. Adam was obviously with people. Someone was caring for him but they had no way to know. He suggested they put up the equivalent of a wanted poster in Alturas and along the trail to that town. He suspected that Adam was somewhere in that vicinity. Ben had to accept the wisdom of Hoss’ idea. They immediately got to work on wording a poster and then sent Joe into town to have some printed. Joe was anxious to get going with this project. He would not be able to sleep well again unless he made things right with Adam. The next morning, Joe and Hoss headed out to put some ‘wanted’ posters up along the trail and in Alturas. Assuring their father that they would be back in two days or would send word why they were not back, they headed out for the arduous trek north.

“You do know that Adam forgives you, don’t you?”

“How could he, Hoss, after what I said and did?”

“Joe, Adam has forgiven everything you have ever done to him. He loves you. He would never not love you.”

“Even now. I would be you that wherever he is right now, he’s been worrying about you. He’s probably sick at heart to think you might have married that Melinda, and he wasn’t here to stop it.”

“Why did she want Adam and not me, Hoss? I did my best to get her to love me, and he didn’t even want her, so why?”

“Who knows. Some women just seem to fall for Adam just because he’s there. It’s not like he has to do anything.”

“Then why isn’t he married? You would think by now he would have married one of them.”

“I keep telling him he’s too picky. He says he ain’t found the right one yet. I told him that’s cause he keeps picking women where there’s no future for them. He falls in love with the darndest women, ones he can never marry, but he keeps falling in love with em anyway. Guess there ain’t no sense to love.”

Near Alturas, Adam was finding that out all over again except this time he wasn’t the one who had fallen for someone. It was clear that Eve had more than a little feeling for him. After returning in the afternoon, she had sat on the side of the bed to show him their purchases. She had picked up a copy of Dickens’ book which they had discussed. She leaned over him to set the book on the other side of the bed and as she did so, her other hand pressed on his chest. When she turned back, she leaned forward to kiss him. He kissed her back gently but without passion. She sat up and looked at him.

“Eve, I don’t feel that way about you. I like you a lot. I think we can be great friends but I don’t see anything more happening between us.”

Eve wanted to pull her hand away from him, but he captured it in his left hand. He tugged a little until she leaned into him, and then he hugged her. He caressed her back and kissed the top of her head. After a bit, Eve sat back and looked into his beautiful eyes.

“Will you come back and visit me? Will you hug me and kiss me just like that again? I have no children and I just miss having someone to hug.”

“Eve, I would be privileged to do that. I will come as often as I can. I will bring my brother Hoss to meet you because you will truly love him too I think.”

“Adam, how old are you?”

“Thirty-four. Why?”

“I’m fifty-three. I did not realize how much of an age difference there was. It is far more than I thought.”

“I look that old to you?”

“Well you do look younger now that you are not gray with fatigue and your face is not in a perpetual grimace from the pain. Perhaps you could let me shave you too? I was quite good at that once. I may be a bit out of practice but I did that for my husband for the last months of his life. He was dying but he wanted to look his best each day anyway.”

“As long as you’re sure my nose will still be there when you’re done.”

“Of course it will. And I’m sure you have recovered enough from the blood loss that a few nicks won’t be a problem.”

With that, she sashayed out of the room and Adam laughed again despite the discomfort. He had not been this relaxed in a long time. In just a few minutes, Eve returned with towels, strop, razor, and soap dish.

“Belinda will be up in a moment with a hot towel and some hot water.”

“You were ready to do this all along, weren’t you? What would you have done if I said no?”

“Oh, you do sleep soundly at night. We would have managed. We got all your clothes off of you and got you in that bed. We could manage to shave you!”

Adam shook his head and Eve grinned at him. She had the same type of devilish canary-that-ate-the-cat grin that he did. He admired her for the strength of character she had. He liked her. He wished he could have found her to be his romantic love, but having her for a friend was a great reward. He had been so lucky that she had found him.

The next week was a happy time for Adam and Eve. The day after she shaved him, she brought up drawers that Belinda had made using his pants as a sizing guide. She dug socks out of storage and Adam was able to dress. He didn’t wear his boots yet for the first few days as he barely made it down the stairs to the sitting room. There he discovered a piano. When he found that Eve could play, and she found that he could sing so well, there were many nights of entertainment in the three of them singing songs. After a few days, Adam asked for his boots, and he and Eve took a short stroll outside. She had done little to the area. There was a small vegetable garden and a stable. Most of the area retained its natural rugged beauty. By the end of the week, he was strong enough that they took a walk to the nearby stream and sat on a bench near a wide area that was almost like a pond.

“We could go fishing here.”

“My husband and I did just that. Maybe tomorrow we could do that in the morning. Belinda and I are making another trip to town in the afternoon. Would you like to join us?”

Adam shook his head no and Eve knew why. He was concerned that the sheriff may have gotten a notification to look for him. He would stay here in anonymity a bit longer. That trip to town would change everything however.

*****

Chapter 6

As Eve and Belinda rode to town, they saw a few papers that looked like wanted posters tacked to trees and paid no attention until Eve suddenly had a suspicion as to why they were there. She had Belinda stop the carriage at the next one they saw and she climbed out to get it. When she read it, it was not what she as expecting.

Adam

The threat from

Baltimore is gone.

Please come home.

Sport misses you too.

It was simple and to the point. Adam needed to know this as soon as possible. Because they were almost in town by that time, they continued with their errand but only until they had purchased the supplies they needed. Then they immediately began the return trip. By late afternoon, they drove into the yard of Eve’s home and saw Adam at a makeshift table next to the stable cleaning the fish they had caught that morning. Eve climbed out of the carriage almost before it came to a complete stop. Adam walked to greet her because she appeared to be very emotional. Eve thrust the paper into his hands as soon as she neared him.

“You can go home. It’s over.”

Adam threw his arms around her and hugged her. He wanted to leave the next day, and Eve said she would go with him. They would take the carriage. It would take longer, but she wanted to meet his family, and he wanted them to meet her. They would get more time together this way as well. The three of them ate a fine fish dinner that night and sang songs with joy before retiring early so they could get an early start. Both ladies packed their bags that night as Eve told Adam: they traveled everywhere together. Belinda’s husband had died in one of their mines many years ago and Belinda had been with her ever since. Adam had very little to pack except for his extra shirt, some socks Eve gave him, the shaving kit, and the drawers made by Belinda. It all went in a small valise that Eve gave him.

The next morning it seemed the sun was shining brighter than it had in some time. The sky was clear, and the three climbed into the carriage. Eve sat next to Adam in the front seat and Belinda sat in the back. They began what turned in to a three-day trip. They talked and laughed and wondered aloud what had happened at the Ponderosa. In the afternoon of the third day, Eve asked when they would arrive on the Ponderosa because she thought Adam had said they would be there by this evening. Adam looked at her and smiled. Mine owners had no sense of how big a large ranch could be.

“We’ve been on the Ponderosa for about four hours now. We should be near the house in another hour or so. I love saying that to people and seeing their eyes get all big, just like yours.”

Eve punched him playfully in the arm. The more she had thought about it, the more he seemed like the son she never had. She began thinking about rewriting her will. Those nephews who never visited didn’t really need her wealth. This man might do some great things with it. There would always be provisions for Belinda in her will, but her good friend was content to live simply and would have little desire to manage a large estate. She slipped her arm through Adam’s and leaned into his shoulder. She was content with her thoughts.

As Adam saw the ranch house in the distance, he pulled up on the team. He looked at Eve as if to say, there it is. She looked at the large house in the distance with its grand setting and was amazed.

“That is beautiful. You must be so proud of what your family has accomplished here.”

Adam nodded, smiled, and then snapped the reins to move forward again. Ad they got nearer, Eve could feel the tension in him. As they pulled into the yard, he sat on the carriage bench as if to drink in the feel of home again. He hadn’t been sure he would ever be able to feel this way again. Hoss walked outside to see who had arrived and stepped back inside only long enough to yell that Adam was home before he rushed to his brother and lifted him off of the ground in one of his classic bear hugs. Ben and Joe rushed out of the house to hug Adam as well. He seldom enjoyed these displays of affection but this was one of those times. As he hugged Joe, he whispered in his ear: “I love you little buddy!” Joe had tears in his eyes as he whispered back: “I love you too.”

Next Adam introduced Eve and Belinda to his family. Briefly Adam described becoming lost, losing consciousness, and waking up in Eve’s home where he had been until Eve found the poster and brought it to him. After that story which took some time, they went inside, and Adam escorted the ladies upstairs to guest rooms.

Ben watched him walk up the stairs until he disappeared around the corner. He felt so good having his son home again. But he did shake his head in appreciation of the circumstances.

“What is it, Pa. Adam’s home. Is something wrong?”

“No Hoss, not wrong, not wrong at all, just amazing.”

“How is it ‘amazing’, Pa. Adam told us how she rescued him.”

“Joseph, Hoss: your brother got involved in a big mess, then he got shot, and got lost. But who rescues him and nurses him back to health? One of the richest women in California! That, boys, is amazing don’t you think?”

It was even more amazing later that evening as Ben mentioned that Hamilton Industries had seldom awarded any contracts to the Ponderosa. Eve said that would change as long as they sent Adam to do the negotiating. She said he was like a dear son to her, and she would instruct management to treat him as such. She complimented Ben on having such a talented gentleman as a son. Adam grinned in embarrassment at her description of him, but was proud that she felt that way. Ben and his brothers listened carefully because now they knew what the relationship between the two of them was. Adam had hugged Eve and kissed her lightly which had made them wonder. Ben especially was happy on more than one level to find they had a mother-son relationship which became apparent to everyone later as Ben invited Eve to sit on the porch and enjoy a sherry with him. After they walked outside, all three sons grinned at each other and at Belinda who shared in their merriment. Belinda was thinking to herself: Now there was man Eve could get serious about. Heck, they already shared a ‘son’!

*****

Chapter 7

Sport tossed his head as he was affected by his rider’s mood. It had not been a good day for riding for the spirited chestnut. For the first ride of the day, Adam had been troubled and rode slowly. Sport yearned to run all out but never had the chance. Then the ride home had been jerky and uncomfortable as Adam rode fast and then slow, and stopped often. Finally, Sport thought the day was done, but Adam came back after grooming and feeding him to climb back in the saddle, although rather awkwardly, and they headed out at night but not to town and a comfortable livery stable. No, they headed for the high pasture. Sport was hoping at least for the line cabin because even though it was a longer ride, it was safe and there was food and water right there. He just wasn’t sure what his master wanted at this point. Adam seemed not only troubled but hurt as well. Sport made a few feeble attempts to turn back to the Ponderosa but wasn’t successful.

Adam was hurting in every way he could. He kept thinking of how he could have handled the situation better because he knew that letting Regan kiss him had been the proof he needed but also a dagger to the heart of his brother whom he loved more than anyone. The thought that kept intruding was that Hoss probably didn’t think his brother loved him at all because of what Hoss saw as the ultimate betrayal. Well it wasn’t, but Adam, who prided himself on thinking things through and having a plan, had really messed this one up. How could he have known that Hoss would see that kiss but not see that Regan had moved to him to kiss him and then not see him push her away either. The timing could not have been worse. Adam had been so troubled on the way home that he had taken a long time for a short trip. Hoss had to have imagined all sorts of things happening during that time frame.

By the time Adam arrived home, it was to see Hoss in the bunkhouse in a worse mood than Adam had ever seen. When Hoss vented his anger, Adam did nothing. Hoss hit him and tossed him about. Adam had bruises on bruises as far as he could tell. He couldn’t have struck out at his brother though even in self-defense and hurt him more than he already had. Adam knew too that Regan was going to hurt Hoss more and just couldn’t add any torment. Adam was feeling guilty for how badly he had handled the situation with Regan and felt he probably deserved some hurt for that. He always thought of himself as the protector of his brothers, but he felt he had certainly fallen short on this occasion. The guilt ate away at him as he rode. He wasn’t sure Hoss would ever forgive him for this one. The only consolation he had was that Regan would have hurt Hoss far worse in the long run, but the cost of avoiding that had been high.

With his mind occupied with worries about Hoss, Adam did not pay attention to what was going on around him. That was a terrible mistake to make late in the day riding alone far from any help. The first thing that Adam noticed was Sport getting edgy, but that wasn’t unusual in the spirited animal. What he noticed next though caused his adrenalin to rise rapidly. There were two armed men ahead of him and when he twisted around to see if there was an escape, there were two behind him. They must have spent some time working their way around him, and he had been oblivious. He was nearly at the line shack and almost off Ponderosa property. A three shot call for help wouldn’t be heard by anyone. In one last self-condemning thought, Adam wondered if anyone in his family would have responded anyway considering the mess he had left behind.

“Stop right where you are. Drop your pistol on the ground.”

“I can give you anything I have. You don’t have to shoot.”

With that, a bullet plowed into the ground next to Sport who reared. Caught unprepared, Adam was thrown. As he lay on the ground trying to catch his breath and fairly certain he had broken a rib or two, the four men reached him. One grabbed his pistol out of his holster. They were unable to grab Sport as he took off.

“Damn! Now we got him, how we supposed to carry him?”

“There’s a line shack near here. It was probably where he was headed. We’ll spend the night there, and in the morning, we’ll deliver him. Then we’ll come back for you, Tom.”

“Why me? And how do I know you’ll come back?”

“You’re the fool who fired the shot and spooked the horse. And we’ll come back cause it’s your aunt’s money we’re after.”

With that, the men got Adam to his feet and tied his hands with a lariat and gagged him. He was forced to walk the last two miles to the line shack. The men who had captured him guessed that it would take all of his energy, and he would be less trouble that night. With the injuries sustained from the earlier beating and the injuries from the fall, Adam was nearing the limit of his stamina by the time they reached the line cabin. As they pulled him inside and told him to sit, he collapsed. When they rolled him over and saw the bruising on his face and neck, they realized they had a seriously injured man. One of the men pulled open his shirt, and they all sat back and wondered what they would do next. The left side of Adam’s abdomen was black and blue.

The next morning when Adam awoke, he smelled bacon and beans which nearly made him vomit. The room was spinning so he closed his eyes again. As he lay there he took inventory of himself. His arms and legs were sore but nothing seemed to be seriously wrong except his feet were very sore. His head hurt a lot, but it was his stomach that was the worst. He felt sharp pain there just from breathing. He also could feel that someone had bound his ribs which was probably why they weren’t stabbing him with pain as well. One of the men walked over and used his boot to push Adam’s leg. He groaned in pain.

“Let’s get him outside and on a horse. We’ll deliver him before he gets any worse.”

With that accomplished, even though they had to tie Adam to the saddle, the four rode north. Tom cleaned up the cabin and moved what he needed about a quarter mile away from the line shack. He didn’t want to be caught if anyone came looking for Adam Cartwright. By that night or the next morning, his partners would be back with a horse for him. Until then, all he could do was wait.

At the Ponderosa, Ben sat at the dining table and waited too. Hoss had yet to make an appearance. After what had happened the night before, Ben wasn’t sure when Hoss would be willing to show himself. He had to be hurting for so many reasons. Joe was always the last to get up but this morning, but Ben could hear him moving around upstairs. Soon, Joe was walking down the steps carrying his boots and his shirt.

“Well, there’s no rush this morning. You could have finished dressing. Is Hoss up yet?”

“I heard him moving around in there. Figured I’d let him decide when he wants to come out. No, I was wondering why Adam came back. I thought you said he was going to be gone for a few days. I wanted to be here before Hoss saw him especially after what happened yesterday.”

“What do you mean, Adam’s back? I haven’t seen him.”

“Well I could see Sport standing out by the corral. I didn’t see Adam though.”

Ben rushed outside then and Joe was close behind. Candy walked up and asked if Adam was in the house because it wasn’t like him to leave his horse just standing in the pasture. He said he had seen him grazing out there that morning and had brought him back to the house. After asking around, it was apparent that no one had seen Adam. He wasn’t back but his horse was. Ben and Joe headed inside to get what they needed. They were going to ride out and find out what happened to Adam. As they entered the house, Hoss was coming down the stairs.

“Hey, Hoss. Something has happened to Adam. Sport came back without him.”

“Well, he can take care of himself. Wouldn’t hurt to have him have to walk all the way back.”

Ben looked at Hoss and could see the pain still etched on his face. What he couldn’t see was that Hoss was thinking it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if Adam was hurt.

“Hoss, son, I know you’re hurting. But this is your brother who’s missing.”

“Well he didn’t act like much of a brother yesterday so I don’t see as how I need to be all that concerned about him today.”

Ben wanted to say something but whatever he said at this point would just make things worse. Ben knew that Hoss would regret his words later but right now his pain was blocking his thinking. He and Joe would search for Adam without his help.

“Hoss, I made that same mistake about Adam once too. You’re wrong in what you’re thinking. I hope you figure it out sooner than I did, cause if you don’t, you’re just making everything worse.”

“I told Regan I would be there to say goodbye today. I ain’t gonna let Adam deny that to me. He’s done enough.”

“We’ll be heading to the high pasture. You can meet us there later if we’re not back.”

Joe walked out to join his pa. Within a short time, they rode out. Hoss walked over to look at the dining room table. The food just didn’t appeal to him. He waited until he heard his father and brother ride out, and then he grabbed his hat and gunbelt before striding to the stable to get Chubb. He planned to ride to town and try to convince Regan to stay. He didn’t care about her past. He still wanted to be part of her future. As Hoss rode toward town, his anger at Adam rose again. Just yesterday morning, things had been looking so good, and then Adam messed it all up by butting in where he had no business.

In town, Regan sat with her sister waiting for the stage. She was dressed modestly. She had hope that she could remake herself somewhere, but it would have to be someplace where no one knew her. Even then, she doubted that she would be able to do it. When she saw Hoss riding in, she cringed. This was going to make things much harder. Hoss rode up and smiled briefly as he saw her. He walked up to her and put his hands on her waist.

“I want you to stay. I don’t care what happened. I don’t care what Adam did.”

“Oh, Hoss, you still don’t understand. Adam didn’t do anything. I saw an opportunity to use what I had always used with men, and I did it. He didn’t trust my love for you, and he was right. I thought perhaps with you it would be different. I do care for you and am so sorry you were hurt, but I couldn’t stop myself. I was angry with him when he pushed me away. All I could think was that he would be tattling on me to you and ruin everything. But I see now that I was the one who ruined everything.”

“Ya didn’t ruin nothing. I still love you. Stay with me. We can do this.”

“If I had talked to Adam like I’m talking to you now, none of this would have happened. But I didn’t, and I fell back into using my body to get my way. I can’t stay and ruin your family. Please let me leave. I’m not the right woman for you.”

“Regan, I’ll go with ya if ya want? Please?”

Regan pulled Hoss’ hands from her waist and stepped to her sister. She kissed her on the cheek, picked up her small bag, and walked to the stage. After she got on the stage, she looked through the window and waved goodbye.

“Hoss, I’m sorry. I think Regan is going to try to become the woman you thought she was, but there’s too much damage done here for her to stay. I’m not sure my sister can change enough, and she isn’t sure about that either.”

After the stage was out of sight, Hoss mounted up and rode toward home even though it didn’t feel much like home any more. Once Adam was back, he thought he might leave. It might be better that way.

*****

Chapter 8

At the Alturas Prime Timber lumber mill, Adam was lying on a couch in the main office. The men who had ordered his abduction had not expected to see him as badly injured as he was. Every breath seemed to bother him and he was semi-conscious. They had wanted to force him into negotiating and signing contracts favorable to their business, but in his current condition, he wouldn’t be able to do any of that. Ever since he had befriended Eve Hamilton, the Ponderosa had gotten a number of contracts and that had hurt their profits. More importantly, the railroad contract was coming up and with Eve’s influence in California, the Ponderosa might get that too.

“I say we cut our losses and just go dump him somewhere. He ain’t gonna get no contracts in his shape anyway. Old lady Hamilton will have to deal with us.”

“If he’s missing, those Cartwrights will be all over the place looking for him. That’s why we grabbed him when he was heading out. They won’t miss him right away, unless that damn horse gets found.”

“Hamilton has got a real soft spot for this one. Maybe we can use that instead.”

“How?”

“I don’t know! Am I the only one who can think around here?”

“Well, Tom, it’s your aunt. What do you think?”

“I think I would just as soon have him dead. She put him in her will. Did you know that? If he’s gone, she’ll have to do something else.”

“Who inherits if he’s dead?”

“Well I assume all three of the nephews but my cousins are easy to manipulate. If I send some money their way, they won’t complain.”

“So, kill him and then her, and we’re sitting on top of a gold mine.”

“That about sums it up.”

“Except for his family. We gotta make his dying look real accidental. If they suspect anything else, there won’t be a place for us to hide.”

“I think you’re right about that, Clay. Why don’t you haul him in the back room and see to him. We’ll be back later to talk. Everybody try to come up with a plan.”

As the others left, Clay put Adam’s arm over his shoulder to help him into the back room. He couldn’t let anything happen to Joe’s brother, but at the moment, couldn’t see a way out of this mess either. He had been working undercover for months investigating corruption in the contracts for the railroads. He had uncovered a lot of information on kickbacks and bribes but he knew there were many more people he could implicate if he just had more time. Unfortunately, it didn’t appear that he had much more time. He needed to get Adam to medical help and quickly. The best bet to save him and the investigation was to haul him over to Eve Hamilton’s home and hope she was there. Otherwise he would have to take him to Alturas, and it was doubtful that either of them would get there alive.

By the time the others returned, Clay had a plan. He explained that it would look like: Adam died from injuries received when he got thrown from his horse. Clay would take him back near where he had originally been injured and hit him on the head hard enough so he would never awaken. The Cartwrights would find him and assume he died as a result of a fall. Once his death was well known, Mrs. Eve Hamilton would have a tragic accident as well. The others agreed mainly because they had no better plan. To keep tracks to a minimum, Clay told them to place Adam stomach down over a saddle. Clay knew that could be aggravating his injuries but to stay here was certain death.

Clay rode out leading a horse carrying Adam. Once he was far enough from the camp to escape detection, he headed directly toward Eve Hamilton’s house. He rode as slowly as was prudent considering Adam’s injuries and grimaced each time he heard the older man groan. As he rode into Eve’s yard, she rushed into her home and emerged with a shotgun. She had recognized Clay from visits that he had made trying to get contracts with her for Alturas Prime Timber.

“I know you have no reason to trust me, Mrs. Hamilton, but I’ve got Adam Cartwright here and he’s badly hurt.”

Clay saw another woman near the door with a gun. Eve nodded at her and walked carefully to the horse that Clay was leading. Once there she gasped and dropped her gun. Clay dismounted and helped her untie Adam from the horse. By then, Belinda was there to help as well, and they carried Adam into the house and upstairs to the room he used when he visited. They stripped his soiled clothing from him and were dismayed to see the large dark bruise on his left side.

“I thought at first that he was bleeding internally, but that looks the same as it did yesterday.”

“We will pray that is true. Otherwise there may be no way to save him.”

“I need to get these horses out of sight or none of us will be safe here.”

Eve and Belinda cared for Adam, and Clay took care of the horses. Once Adam was cleaned up and bandaged, Belinda sat at Adam’s side as Eve went to find out from Clay what had happened. Clay explained his background with the Cartwrights and that he was working as a government agent to uncover evidence of corruption. His less than stellar past got him accepted into the criminal element. However when talk turned to murder, he knew it was time to end the investigation. But he told her what some were planning for her after Adam was dead and she blanched when Clay talked about her nephew Tom.

“Oh my, my foolish actions have led to this. I got angry with Tom just a few weeks ago because he was trying to pressure me into giving contracts to companies he recommended. He tried to use his position as an heir to gain an advantage. I told him he was out of my will as an heir to the business, and that there would simply be a small trust fund set up for him. Then I told him I put someone worthy in there and named Adam. I never thought that Tom could be capable of anything like this. But it’s my fault that Adam is hurt. Ben is going to be so angry with me.”

“I don’t think so. A very wise man told me once that I am responsible for myself and not for choices others make.”

“Ben?”

Clay nodded. He hoped that Ben and others would be here soon. In caring for Adam, they had determined that his injuries were not as serious as they first thought but would prevent him from traveling. They wondered at the extent of his bruises because he could not have sustained all of them in one fall. The three of them would not be able to hold off Tom and his cronies if they determined where Clay had hidden Adam. They would not expect Clay back until late so they had some breathing room but not much.

Up on the ridges where Clay had told the others he was going, Ben and Joe continued to search for any sign of Adam but found none. They found the tracks of many horses but there was no way of knowing if Adam was on one of those horses. As the afternoon grew late, they saw two riders coming in from the direction of the Ponderosa. They waited in a clearing for them: it was Candy and Hoss. Ben and Joe were very happy to see Hoss but a warning glance from Candy stopped them from saying anything.

“He’s my brother and he helped me out of a lot of scrapes. I’ll help him one more time, but I can’t promise any more than that.”

With Hoss tracking, they found that the tracks they had been following most recently went both ways twice. It was the most logical trail to follow so they did with Hoss leading the way. Once they crossed the ridge and reached the trail, they had a similar problem to the last time they were looking for Adam here: too many tracks.

“Pa, what is it that Adam always calls this when we seem to be reliving something?”

“Deja vu, Joe, deja vu.”

“Well, where do we go now, Mr. Cartwright?”

“Candy, there’s only one place he would go if he got this far: Eve Hamilton’s.”

Candy was aware that Ben saw Eve socially. He didn’t know that Adam was that close to her, but of course Adam usually kept things that were important to him pretty much under wraps. Joe started telling the story of Melinda Banning and everything that had happened because of her to explain why Adam would go to Eve’s home. As Joe talked and the horses walked, Hoss was thinking. Ben saw the pensive look he had and didn’t bother him so all of them could hear Joe telling his story. When Joe got to the part where Adam forgave him for not trusting him and for shooting him, Hoss reacted.

“The horses are rested enough. We need to get moving if we’re gonna get to Miz Hamilton’s place before dark.”

At Eve Hamilton’s home, Adam was waking up slowly. Eve had seen him reacting to noises around him and lightly patted his cheek to wake him.

“Come on now, Adam. I know you can hear me so open those beautiful eyes of yours.”

With a few more pats, Adam started blinking. After a sigh, he slowly opened his eyes. For the first time since he had been thrown, he was fully aware of his surroundings. Eve spooned some water into his mouth. Once he swallowed, he smiled.

“Looks like I made it to heaven because I can only see beautiful angels.”

Belinda snorted and Eve chuckled. No matter what happened, this handsome man did not lose his charm.

“Sweetie, are you hungry?”

“A little, as long as it isn’t broth.”

Eve gave him one of those long suffering mother looks.

“You know, for a lady who never had children, you do a great perturbed parent look.”

Eve couldn’t help it and she laughed with him. Belinda said she would see what soft foods she had in the kitchen. In just a short time, she returned with applesauce and biscuits.

“Will this please the lord and master, my lady?”

Clay had followed Belinda upstairs earlier and as he waited he tried to decipher the relationship of these three but it was difficult. Eve noticed his slight frown.

“Clay, dear, Adam is like a son to me but since I didn’t get to know him until he was thirty-four, we have an unusual mother-son relationship. Belinda is my best friend and tolerates the two of us being silly.”

Eve asked for Clay’s help in getting Adam a little more upright so he could eat. After a few grimaces, he declared he was comfortable enough and Eve held the plate so he could eat.

“Honey, are you going to tell me where you got all these bruises? What kind of mess did you get yourself in this time?”

Adam frowned and Eve knew by his look that he was feeling guilty about something. He sighed and started to tell her the story about Regan and the kiss. She didn’t interrupt and he finished with how Hoss had pounded him and his decision to leave for a bit.

“You Cartwright men are so alike!”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Sweetie, you and Hoss and Joe keep falling in love with women you can’t have. It will never work for you. Hoss needs a sweet, strong woman and maybe even a bit sassy to balance out the relationship. Joe needs a calm, thoughtful woman with class. Yet neither of them ever seems to find the right kind of woman.”

Adam was looking at her with a bit of a smirk.

“And what kind of woman does my Pa need?”

“Well it’s not me if you’re trying to be smart. Your father is a strong man who likes to make the decisions. He doesn’t do that well with other strong individuals who might challenge his power. I’m sure you’ve run into that before.”

Adam had to chuckle at how well she understood his father.

“He and I get along well on social occasions but there is no future there except as friends. He needs a wife not a business partner. Aren’t you going to ask about you?”

“I’m afraid to.”

“Oh honey, it’s not bad. You just keep finding women who are strong and exotic and completely unwilling to share your life. You need a strong, smart, but quiet girl, one who will be by your side no matter what, who will allow you to protect her, and give you all sorts of children. You really do need to have children, you know.”

Adam was thoughtful but unwilling to continue this conversation.

“Is anyone going to tell me what Clay is doing here? I could guess but it would likely take a lot longer that way.”

Eve kissed Adam’s cheek and asked what he remembered of the last two days. Because he had no memory of recent events, she told him what had happened. As she finished the story, horsemen were heard riding in. Eve and Belinda grabbed their shotguns. Clay knelt by the window and looked out. It was Tom and at least six others from the APT and they looked ready to do harm. Clay said he was going downstairs to cover the front door. He told Belinda to take a window in back and for Eve to stay at the window where she was.

“Clay, we know you’re in there. Tom followed you. He didn’t trust you and it turns out he was right. He came back and got us. Now all we want is Cartwright. Hand him over and you can go.”

Adam was struggling to get out of bed. He reached for his pants that were lying on the chair near the bed. Clay started trying to negotiate downstairs, but of course it was hopeless. He was trying to buy time so that they could come up with a plan or reinforcements arrived. Not for the first time that day, Eve and Belinda were praying that Ben and his sons were heading their way.

*****

Chapter 9

Ben, Hoss, Joe, and Candy were nearing Eve Hamilton’s home when they heard gunfire. It was sporadic and sounded like a combination of rifles, shotguns, and an occasional pistol shot. Ominously, it seemed to be coming from the vicinity of Eve’s home. The four men rode fast but carefully toward their destination. Once it was clear that the gunfire was at her home, the four split up into two pair. All of them packed whatever ammunition they had into pockets. Ben and Hoss approached the house from the road, and Candy and Joe rode through the trees at the back of the stable. Hoss spotted a man sneaking close to the back of the house. There was someone poking a shotgun out of a second floor window, but he didn’t think the man on the ground was visible to that position. Hoss signaled to Ben that he was going that way. Ben started to work his way toward the men who had bracketed the front of the house. He caught a glimpse of a red shirt and knew that Joe and Candy were working their way toward those same men from behind the stable.

Inside the house, things were desperate. They had good cover but very little ammunition and had to pick their shots carefully. Clay was wounded by some glass that shattered with a barrage of fire from the men outside. Eve had heard his cry and had headed downstairs despite Adam’s objections. From the window where Eve had been firing the shotgun, Adam tried to hit targets with his pistol. He had little ammunition and the range was long. He heaved a sigh as he heard Eve yell from downstairs that Clay was all right with superficial injuries. Yet their situation was dire, and he couldn’t see how they could last another hour. When he heard shots fired from near the stable, he looked up over the windowsill to see what had happened and smiled just a bit as he had seen a green jacket and a red shirt.

“Eve, Clay, Belinda, the cavalry is here. Be careful of your targets. Watch for the green jacket, red shirt, a ten gallon hat, and the man with the silver hair.”

Belinda and Eve were familiar with the Cartwrights because of a number of visits to the Ponderosa over the past two years and social occasions in San Francisco as well, and of course Clay knew them too. The red shirt was to let them know that there was one more ally out there. The odds suddenly weren’t so bad. Once Joe and Candy opened fire with Ben firing from near the stable, the APT men moved to the side of the house opposite Ben. All of them had lost sight of Hoss but assumed he was moving toward the house too. Sporadic gunfire continued but neither side had an advantage. Ben, Candy, and Joe made it to the house and got inside where they greeted Eve and Clay. They were in fact shocked to see Clay, but explanations would have to wait.

“Eve, where’s Adam?”

“Ben, he’s upstairs in a front bedroom. Belinda is in the back.”

“Pa, we’ve got ammunition and you have food and water. I think they’ll give up before long. But where’s Hoss.”

“I’m not sure. He was working his way to the back of the house. I haven’t heard anything from back there. Maybe you and Candy could head out there to see if he needs help.”

Belinda came walking down the stairs, and when asked said that she had not seen Hoss so they continued to wonder where he was. Unfortunately, the answer to that question was about to be delivered. Without warning, the front door was kicked in.

“I got someone you might want. Take a look.”

Hoss was standing with a pistol to his head. The man holding him pushed him into the house.

“Well, it looks like we got ourselves a standoff. Now all I want is Cartwright. Hand him over, and I’ll leave. You can keep the ladies safe that way. Now that seems a reasonable offer, don’t ya think?”

Joe was going to blurt out that there were four Cartwrights there, but a poke in the ribs from Candy kept him quiet.

“Tom, I don’t think that is a good deal at all. You need to leave. If you leave now, I will not press charges but if you hurt anyone, you will be a hunted man. You must know how important Adam is to me. I will not hand him over for some hired help.”

Eve hoped that Hoss could forgive her statement, but she did not want her nephew to know that the Cartwright clan was already there. Tom’s anger, greed, and jealousy had made him unstable, and there was no limit to what he might do. Tom signaled all of them to move to one side of the room. His hand holding the pistol to Hoss’ head was shaking and no one wanted to force his hand at this point so they moved. He ordered them to drop their weapons, and they did that as well.

“Well, where is he?”

“Right here.”

Ben and Eve said ‘Adam, no.’ almost in one breath. Adam, barefoot and shirtless was moving down the steps gingerly one slow step at a time. Hoss got his first look at the damage his brother had suffered. There was a large swath of bandages around his ribs, and a large nasty bruise on his stomach. His jaw was bruised and the eye on that side was swollen. There were other bruises on his arms. As he reached the bottom step, he addressed Tom.

“It’s me you want. Let him go. If you pull that pistol from his head, he’ll drop like a ton of bricks.”

The special emphasis on ‘drop’ was the only clue Hoss needed. He relaxed and fell to the floor putting Tom off balance temporarily. Adam drew his pistol from the back of his pants where he had hidden it, and fired at Tom hitting him in the left arm. Tom had regained enough equilibrium and fired at Adam who pitched backwards into the stairs. By then, the others had retrieved their weapons, and before Tom could fire again, he was hit several times and slammed back into the wall.

Eve and Ben rushed to Adam who was moaning and holding his head that he must have hit on the steps. There was blood running down his foot and onto the floor. Eve quickly checked his leg and found a wound in his calf.

“What kind of a fool stunt was that? You could have been killed.”

“It’s all right, Eve, it’s all right.”

Adam reached out his right arm to pull Eve in for a hug. She put her head on his shoulder and sighed. Belinda arrived with bandages and towels. Ben grabbed a large bandage and quickly wrapped it around Adam’s calf. They would care for it properly once they got him upstairs. Hoss walked over and Adam looked up at him but didn’t know what to say.

“Ya coulda been killed, and then I would have felt awful. Why’d ya hafta do that, Adam? After everything I did, why?”

“I guess I’m the scorpion; it’s just my nature.”

Adam leaned back then and closed his eyes. It had been a very difficult few days. Hoss and Joe carried him upstairs, and Eve directed them to place him in a front bedroom but not the one littered with casings and glass. Ben stayed with Adam as Eve and Belinda tended to his wounds. Downstairs, the men carried Tom’s body outside and found no evidence of the other men. Apparently they didn’t like even odds and had left.

After about an hour, Belinda and Ben came downstairs. Belinda headed to the kitchen to make a meal they all needed. Ben uncorked the brandy and poured for all of them. He described Adam’s injuries, and said that he would need to stay here for a week or two but would recover from everything.

“Pa, what did Adam mean when he said he was the scorpion?”

“Hoss, it’s an old fable. The scorpion asks the frog for a ride over a stream. The frog says he won’t do it because the scorpion will sting him. The scorpion says he won’t because it would mean his death too. The frog agrees that makes sense so he gives the scorpion a ride. Midway across the stream, the scorpion stings the frog dooming them both. The frog asks why, and the scorpion says ‘I couldn’t help it. It’s just my nature.'”

“So Adam was saying he had to do it because he couldn’t do anything else?”

Hoss had a lot to think about. The smells coming from the kitchen ended all conversation though as the men volunteered to do anything Belinda needed to get that meal out to the dining table. Belinda made up a tray for Ben and Adam, and Ben headed upstairs to spell Eve. Over dinner, Joe peppered Clay with questions until they knew his story. He planned to head into town the next day to send telegrams. Joe and Candy volunteered to ride with him in case he ran into any trouble. Eve asked if they could bring materials back to replace the window panels that had been broken. Then very solemnly she asked if they could bury her nephew the next morning before they left.

Just after dawn the nest morning, Hoss, Clay, and Candy carried Tom’s body to the trees near the stable. Ben escorted Belinda and Eve. They held a brief service and asked the Lord to forgive the man his sins. Ben walked the ladies back to the house as the men filled in the grave and marked it with a simple wooden marker. Inside, Joe had been sitting with Adam.

“Brother, you’re getting a little slow on the draw. You’re going to have to do some practicing.”

“Joe, I have never practiced pulling a pistol stuck in my pants behind my back!”

“Well, maybe you ought to if you’re going to keep getting yourself into these messes.”

Suddenly Adam’s demeanor changed.

“About this mess with Hoss, I really made a lot of bad decisions. Do you think he’ll ever be able to forgive me?”

“Of course he will. He knows you were only trying to help. He did love her a lot though.”

“I know. I think she may have loved him too. But she couldn’t fight herself any more than I could. She needs to be able to try someplace fresh where people aren’t judging her.”

“Like you did?”

“Yes, like I did.”

Joe and Adam heard the others returning then. About a half hour later, they heard someone coming up the stairs and expected their pa, but it was Hoss who asked Joe if he could sit with Adam for a while. The two brothers were quiet. Neither knew what to say.

“I’m more sorry than you can know about how badly I messed up.”

“I know ya are. I’m gonna do what you always do: I forgive you. You’re my brother, and I’ll always love you.”

Adam dropped his chin to his chest as the tears flowed. It was more than he could have hoped for just a few days earlier. Hoss had so rarely seen Adam cry that he had no idea what to do at first. Finally, he sat on the edge of the bed, took his brother in his arms, and shed his own tears. Ben had waited in the hall to intervene if his sons had started to argue. Instead he turned and walked downstairs with tears in his eyes as well. Belinda met him at the bottom of the stairs, took his arm, and steered him outside for a stroll. Eve looked over at Joe whose mouth was hanging open and grinned. This was working out far better than she had hoped. Maybe those two were starting to realize what a good pair they made.

So the trip to town was made, windows were fixed, rooms were cleaned up, and Clay’s telegrams brought the officials who needed to be there to make arrests. Clay left with them when they headed to Sacramento. Candy, Joe, and Hoss headed back to the Ponderosa because there was a lot of work that needed to be done. Adam continued his recuperation.

“Ben, would you like to try your hand at fishing?”

“What about Eve and Adam?”

“Oh Adam said some fool thing about transcendentalism or something and Eve was all excited to talk with him about it and was digging out some book when I left the house.”

“Well then fishing it is!”

From the house, Adam and Eve watched the two grab poles from the stable and walk toward the stream talking all the way.

“Do you think they’re going to figure out that we drive them out of the house on purpose everyday?”

“Eve, I don’t think they’re thinking about us at all. And I am so happy not to have Pa hovering over me. Now what would you really like to do?”

“I thought we could take a carriage ride to town. There are a few things I would like to buy, and you can see if you got any answers to all those telegrams you’ve been sending. What are you up to anyway?”

“I was wondering when your curiosity would get the best of you.” Adam smiled and told her what he had been working on.

“So you think this is the place she will be happy?”

“It could be if you want to help.”

“Belinda wants to move to Virginia City and buy a little house. Says she’s tired of traveling around. Wants to get involved in a church again. So this could work out well for me too.”

“Interesting that Virginia City is her choice when there are so many other towns to choose from.”

They couldn’t stop themselves then and started laughing.

“I never knew my mother, but I always imagined she would be just like you: smart, funny, and loving. I am so glad it was you who found me lying by the side of the road.”

“Well Sweetie, of all the men I have seen lying by the side of the road, I’m glad you’re the one I decided to save.”

From the bench by the pond, Ben and Belinda could hear Adam and Eve laughing. It was a common sound around here. Soon they heard them leave. The sun was warm and the air smelled sweet. Ben put his arm around Belinda, and she leaned back into him as they enjoyed the pleasant setting. In a week, they planned to travel to Virginia City. Ben had promised to help Belinda find a small house. In fact he had one in mind already. He had realized that Adam and Eve were pushing the two of them together, but was smart enough to see that it was a good idea.

A week later on the day they were scheduled to leave, Adam drove the carriage into town returning a short time later with a lady. Ben’s eyebrows rose about as high as they could go when he saw who was with Adam. Eve walked out and welcomed her to her home. Adam and Ben carried her bags inside. They said their goodbyes. Ben drove the carriage and Belinda had packed all of her important belongings in the back. Adam rode Buck. Eve and her new friend stood on the porch and waved goodbye.

By late that day, Ben, Adam, and Belinda arrived on the Ponderosa and headed directly for the house. Belinda would be their guest until she could purchase a house. Hoss and Joe were overjoyed to see them. After they had carried in all of Belinda’s luggage, Adam asked Hoss to stay outside for a moment. Once everyone else was in the house, he handed two letters to Hoss.

“Eve has a new companion. It’s someone you know. She has a few things she would like to say to you.”

With that, Adam headed into the house. Hoss stared at the thickest letter hoping that he knew who the new companion was and dreading that it wasn’t. Finally he tore the letter open to see ‘Dear Hoss’ at the top and he skimmed to see ‘Love, Regan’ with a heart at the bottom. He walked to a chair on the porch and read and reread the letter again and again. After about an hour, he heard the door open and expected Adam, but instead it was their father.

“From your look, I would say that Adam has done well this time?”

“He just can’t help it, can he? But I gotta say, this was one sweet surprise. If anyone can help Regan, it’s Eve, and now Regan is less than a day’s ride from here.”

“Have you opened the second letter?”

“Not yet. I was still enjoying the first one.”

Hoss tore open the smaller second letter and read quickly. He blushed a little, but smiled too.

“Eve says I’m welcome to visit any time. They’ll be there through September and then they’ll be in San Francisco, and she invited me to visit there too if I want. If I go to San Francisco, I’m supposed to bring Adam along.”

“Anything else?” Ben was wondering what had made Hoss blush.

“Nope, that’s about it.”

Hoss was not going to tell his father the comment Eve had made about him and Belinda. There was only so much he could say to his father and that crossed the line. Maybe he would tell Adam. Adam had a way of saying things that worked better than most. Instead Hoss put both letters in his pocket and slapped his father on the back.

“Let’s go inside. I smell dinner.”

*****

Chapter 10

It was the New Year, and Eve was entertaining and having a grand time. Ben and Belinda were there, Hoss and Regan were dancing, and Adam was walking out to the terrace. Eve just had to watch. She had watched Adam dance with a variety of women tonight but never the same one twice. He was gracious and danced gracefully, but it seemed none of the women captured his interest. Instead the dark haired, shy beauty who was the daughter of one of her best friends in the city seemed to intrigue him. He had approached her twice only to be rebuffed. Eve had smiled at the ease with which he accepted rejection and that he tried again. That girl was much too shy and had finally escaped the torment of the formal dance by slipping out to the terrace when no one noticed. Her mother would have been irritated and her father would have escorted her back inside. Eve wondered what Adam would do. She watched as he walked slowly to stand near her. By the body language, Eve could tell he had addressed her. Oh how she wished she could hear the rest of the conversation however it was far more bland than she would have expected. Finally, Eve had to turn away before she was caught watching.

“Hello, it is a beautiful night out here for January. But aren’t you a little chilled?”

“You don’t have to be nice to me.”

“I know. I’m Adam by the way.”

“I’m Katherine.”

“Do people call you Kate, or Kathy, or Kat?”

“Yes they do.”

“But you would like them to call you Katherine?”

For the first time, Katherine was actually interested in knowing this man. At least he had been smart enough to understand that she liked her name the way it was. When she looked at him, he grinned at her, and it was the most gorgeous grin she had ever seen. She quickly averted her look. What could a handsome man like that want with her, or rather, she knew what he wanted and she didn’t want that. He didn’t say anything or step any closer to her though. Finally she looked at him again and he was looking at the stars. She couldn’t help herself, she looked up.

“What are you looking at?”

“Oh the constellations. My father taught them to me as we traveled west. It was something to do in the evening. It was also soothing to see them every night and know that some things anyway never changed.”

“Why was that important to you?”

“I never lived in one place for many years. I lived in a wagon. It was nice to have something to hang onto. What about you? What’s important to you?”

“Family is the most important. I love books, and the theatre too but I seldom get to go.”

“Why is that?”

She was embarrassed to say that she lacked escorts as men did not seem interested in her. She looked down. He would never have had that problem from the looks of him so how could he ever understand her predicament.

“I’m going to be in San Francisco for a week or more. Perhaps you would be willing to allow me to escort you. I’m afraid if you say no, I will not be able to go, and I do love the theatre.”

“I’m not sure.”

Katherine was sure she wanted to go with him. What scared her were the demands that men had when you were alone with them. The groping and the mashing of their mouth on hers made her uncomfortable. Her reaction made them uncomfortable and she never saw any of them a second time. It was all terribly overwhelming.

“Perhaps you would be more comfortable if we got to know each other a little first. I’m a friend of Eve Hamilton. She invited me, my brother, and my father here tonight. We are mostly on vacation, but I do have a few meetings to attend while I am here. However, tomorrow is Saturday and I have no commitments. Would you be interested in a ride to the coast and lunch?”

“I would have to check with my mother to be sure it is all right. But, yes, I think so.”

At Adam’s too apparent look of surprise at her first statement, Katherine felt she needed to explain.

“My mother and I work on a number of charitable endeavors together. I don’t know if there are any errands we must do tomorrow. I will check and if my calendar is free, I would like to take that carriage ride with you.”

“Would you like to dance?”

“I’m not comfortable with crowds. I would just as soon stay out here a while.”

“Certainly, but we can still hear the music. If you would like to dance, it would be my honor to be your dance partner.”

Katherine extended her hand, and Adam stepped to her side and guided her in a graceful waltz around the patio. After that, there were several more dances. In between they sat on a bench and talked. Finally it was time to go in as people were beginning to leave. Eve had peeked outside one more time and had seen them dancing. As Adam walked to her side to say goodnight, she poked him in the ribs.

“Well, honey, looks like you found a new friend tonight.”

“Have you been peeping again?”

Adam kissed Eve on the cheek and she reciprocated. Hoss and Regan walked over as did Ben and Belinda. The ladies were staying here with Eve, and the three men had rooms in a hotel. They asked why Adam and Eve were grinning. Eve said it was because Adam had made a new friend which got all sorts of comments from Hoss and Belinda until Adam sighed in exasperation and left. Ben and Hoss bid their ladies good night and followed him out the door.

The next morning, Eve was just visiting with Katherine’s mother of course. The topic of Adam came up soon after her arrival.

“My daughter, the spinster, now decides that she wants to be courted by a cowboy! He said he was a friend of yours. How could that be?”

“Henrietta, he works on a ranch, but he is hardly a cowboy. His family owns the Ponderosa. He has many other talents as well as those needed to run a ranch.”

“He still lives out there in that wild country. Katherine has never been one to attract a man. I’m afraid of what he has in mind for her.”

“You could not meet a man who is more of a gentleman around women. You will just have to wait and see.”

“It’s just unseemly that he would want to take her on a carriage ride unescorted when they have just met. We have not even met him yet.”

“Didn’t you see him dancing with Katherine last night?”

“No, I never saw her dancing at all. She was dancing?”

“Oh yes, indeed, they must have danced at least six times. They were also deep in conversation between dances.”

“Really? And he was a gentleman through all of that. Well that certainly does relieve some of my anxiety. He must have acted properly or she would never have consented to see him again. Men who see Katherine as desperate for a husband have tried to force themselves upon her, and it has made her even more shy around men.”

Katherine came down the stairs then, and both women were surprised. Neither had ever seen Katherine look so happy and pretty. She had adorned her hair with her best combs and wore a lovely sea green dress accented with a gold necklace. It was simple but elegant. Eve knew Adam would like it and told Katherine that. The three women chatted until just before eleven when there was a knock on the door. Eve volunteered to answer it.

“Why am I not surprised to see you here, ‘mother’?”

“Sweetie, a team of oxen couldn’t have kept me away.”

Adam offered his arm and they walked to the parlor. Eve introduced him to Henrietta who seemed a bit tongue-tied for some reason. Then with an adieu, Adam and Katherine walked outside to a carriage. It was a carriage with the top down. Adam pulled a blanket over Katherine’s lap after they were seated and nodded to the driver who snapped the reins. They were off on their first adventure.

“Eve, you could have told me he was gorgeous. Looking at those dimples and those eyes, I could hardly think of a word to say. He certainly doesn’t dress like a cowboy. Her father is going to be pleased I think.”

Eve smiled. This was just the sort of woman she thought Adam needed. Now if she would just have a sense of humor and a joy in living to balance out that serious nature of his that would be even better. The real test would come when he said something sarcastic or when he got in one of those dark moods. That would be later, but Eve hoped that Katherine was enough of a woman to handle all of that.

One of the first stops Adam made that day was to visit an old friend who was a photographer and had her own Daguerreian studio. Adam had asked if she had time to make a daguerreotype of Katherine. Adam had not expected her to be dressed so elegantly but it made this stop even more important. Katherine had never sat for one before and was a bit nervous, but Julia put her at ease and within an hour, the couple were on their way again.

“I had no idea that there was a woman doing that kind of work here.”

“There are actually quite a few who do that, but Julia is the only one who is a friend. Next I would like to show you a site where they are going to build a Subtreasury for the national government. I’ve been asked to submit some designs for the façade. They probably won’t get chosen but it’s challenging to be asked for ideas. Tomorrow if you would like to spend another day with me, we could attend St. Mary’s Church on Grant Avenue. I like the old style of that church. It just seems more fitting to have a religious service there.”

“Architecture really has your interest, doesn’t it? If you like, we can ride around and look at buildings. Sometimes I like to draw and the more I see, the more I can imagine.”

“First, though, we should have lunch. As he said it, the driver was slowing the carriage. Adam folded the blanket back from their legs and told the driver to be ready for them in two hours. Her helped Katherine to the street and escorted her into a chocolate shop first.

“I thought you wanted to get lunch?”

“This is something that should hit your tongue when there are no other flavors competing with it.”

Adam ordered a selection of chocolates. The clerk handed him a small box and he looked in and selected one. He offered it to Katherine who opened her lips so he gently placed it in her mouth. She closed her eyes and enjoyed the sweet taste as the chocolate melted on her tongue. In the future, when anyone asked Adam when he fell in love, he always thought of this moment but always said it was when he first danced with her. This moment was too special to share.

After the chocolate shop, they walked arm-in-arm about three blocks to a small restaurant. Inside Adam was warmly greeted and it was apparent he had been here often. With knowing looks, the maitre d’ seated them at a table next to a large expanse of windows. High on the hill like this, they could look out over the growing city. Lunch was fresh seafood of various types with roasted vegetables and wine. Katherine could have spent the rest of the afternoon there, but Adam wanted to go to the shore. As they walked outside and saw their carriage awaiting them, Adam first pulled her into a pastry shop where they selected some sweet items to have for dessert when they reached the shore of the bay. In the carriage, Adam pulled the blanket over their laps again but this time, Katherine took his hand and held it as she leaned into his shoulder. They chatted about their lives and their travels until the smell of the sea let them know they were near the shore.

Adam led Katherine to the shore. There he sat down and removed his boots and his socks. Katherine stared at him until he told her the only way to see anything was to walk in the tide pools and her feet would get wet. Shrugging in uncertainty, she sat on a rock and removed her shoes too. Then she took the hand that Adam offered and they walked toward the water. There was a shallow tide pool, and Adam stepped in and beckoned her to join him. She did and as they walked in the very shallow water, Adam pointed out all sorts of sea creatures and pulled her away from a few he said had spines that could cause painful wounds. But there were many colorful and exotic creatures and soon she was lost in wonder. As the tide started to come back in and they turned back, they realized it would reach their shoes and boots soon if they did not hurry. They ran back together laughing and splashing through small puddles to retrieve their footgear and head to higher ground.

Once Adam helped Katherine back into the carriage, the sun was low on the horizon and it was time to head back.

“I never did get my dessert.”

“What would you like then: chocolate or pastry?”

“Chocolate.”

As Katherine turned to get her chocolate and Adam turned to give her one, their faces ended up only inches apart. Adam felt her tense next to him but she didn’t turn away. He leaned forward and brushed her lips with his. Then he leaned back and offered her the chocolate.

“Why did you stop?”

“I didn’t want to be too forward.”

Katherine tilted her head sideways.

“I never imagined myself saying this, but would you please kiss me?”

Adam slid one arm around her waist and the other around her shoulder and pulled her to him. Over the next hour, Katherine learned a lot about how a man could kiss a woman. She had never imagined it could be so pleasurable. By the time they reached her home, she was leaning into Adam’s embrace with her head resting on his shoulder. The chocolates and pastries had long since been forgotten.

As Adam escorted Katherine up the walk to her home, Henrietta and Katherine’s father George stepped out onto the porch looking very stern. Both relaxed when they saw how happy Katherine was. Katherine introduced Adam to her father and then said goodbye to Adam as she walked inside with her mother. She couldn’t wait to tell her about some of the things they had done that day but knew there were a few things she was definitely not going to mention. George walked to the street with Adam. He wanted to be sure his intentions were honorable. After a short conversation, they shook hands and Adam climbed into the carriage and left.

When Adam reached the hotel, he met his father and brother as they were leaving the dining room. They asked him how his day had been and he said ‘Fine’ and smiled. For Adam, that was a rousing endorsement so Hoss slapped him on the back.

“She’s a right purty little filly too. Too bad she lives so far away.”

Adam just smiled again and said they were attending church services the next morning. Ben and Hoss already had made plans with their ladies to do the same so they agreed they would all try to meet for dinner the following night with the ladies if possible.

Adam walked to a nearby theatre to see if they had tickets available for the next show. He was able to get a balcony with seating for eight on Friday. He took all eight. Then he walked back to the hotel and had a very restful night with pleasant dreams of walking on the seashore and he wasn’t alone.

After church the next morning, Katherine told him that her parents expected the two of them for lunch. He smiled in resignation. He should have expected that, but at least he would be with Katherine. He asked if she was free for dinner and she said yes so he asked if she would dine with his father and brother and their ladies that evening. Then he told her about the theatre tickets and she grabbed him around the neck and kissed him. She surprised herself and Adam with that but he wasn’t complaining. Katherine blushed a little though.

“I’m sorry. Now you must think me to be so forward for a lady.”

Adam pulled her back into his embrace and kissed her.

“Not at all. You may do that all that you want.”

They were nearing Katherine’s home and George was standing on the porch awaiting their arrival it seemed. Adam slid a decent distance away from Katherine in the carriage, which made her grin at him.

“Scared of my father?”

“Not at all. However, your mother is another story.”

Once greetings were done, they headed inside for lunch. There were many questions for Adam and a lot of amazed looks at his answers. Although they knew by now that he was no simple cowboy, the travels, the degree from a university, the architectural work, the negotiations, and most of all that he was a friend of Edwin Booth had left Katherine’s parents nearly speechless. Silently both George and Henrietta were delighted as well as shocked that this man was interested in their daughter. Once he invited them to attend the theatre with them on Friday and to invite four other friends, Henrietta could only smile.

After lunch, Katherine led Adam outside for a walk in the large garden. Henrietta checked on them periodically and found nothing to bother her until they sat on a bench and Katherine sat on Adam’s lap. That caused Henrietta to turn to George in dismay. She wanted him to do something immediately, but he assured her there was nothing to be worried about. She looked out again and they were kissing, but again George refused to do anything so she pouted hoping to change his mind.

When Henrietta was going to check again, Adam and Katherine were nowhere in sight. She turned to call to George for help when suddenly the couple walked into the library.

“Mama, Papa, Adam wants to court me. He wants to marry me someday soon. Isn’t that wonderful? Please say yes, Papa, please.”

“Yes, of course. He already had my blessing yesterday, my sweet daughter.”

Henrietta was startled and looked at George with that look that said ‘you could have told me’. Then she smiled and hugged Katherine and then hugged Adam. It was clear that wasn’t the most comfortable thing for him to do, but these two were going to be part of his family soon so he hugged her back. Henrietta led Katherine into the kitchen to get together a tray of tea and coffee. In the study, George shook Adam’s hand and offered him a whisky. All four of them thought that the day had turned out to be one of the best ever. The following Saturday when Adam had to leave to return to the Ponderosa was one of the hardest days he had ever had. As he kissed Katherine gently before stepping aboard the steamer that would take him to Sacramento, all he really wanted to do was get back off that boat and say he was staying with her forever. Instead, he promised he would be back as soon as he could.

As Adam traveled home, he pulled the small daguerreotype out of his pocket often and pictured Katherine as she had been that day on the shore. He no longer knew if he wanted to live on the Ponderosa. With Katherine, he could live anywhere. His thoughts dwelled on her and an uncertain future. It was such a complex issue with no easy answers; he had avoided it for years but now wondered if he could. What would happen if Katherine did not want to live on a ranch or in a rough town like Virginia City? Could he give her up now that he had found her? What would his father and brothers think and feel about this? How much more did he owe them or was he free to pursue his own dream? He should have been a very happy man but found that he was as unhappy as he had ever been as conflicting thoughts and emotions filled his days and his nights.

*****

Chapter 11

“Dear Adam: I am afraid that we mistook infatuation for love. If you loved me truly, you would have found a way to be with me. It has been six months and we have only letters. Now you tell me you will be gone for six weeks or more on a cattle drive and then must go to Arizona to negotiate contracts. Then it will be nearly winter and travel could be difficult. I am afraid there is no future for us. I thank you for all that we shared in the short time we were together, but now I must say goodbye. I cannot live my life through letters. I hope you can find someone to love and be with, Yours truly, Katherine.”

Adam read and reread those words hoping to find a word or phrase that would show there was a chance at reviving his relationship with Katherine but could not no matter how many times he had tried. When he had returned from San Francisco full of doubts about his future on the Ponderosa and feeling guilty that he was considering leaving the ranch and leaving his family behind, he had thrown himself into work. He did every dirty job that came his way. He offered to take care of a number of projects. His father had been happy to hand over work for him to do. No matter how much he did though, it never seemed to be enough. When he had tried to schedule trips to San Francisco, his father had always had ‘just one more’ job or contract for him to do. Yesterday he had returned from a trip to Salt Lake City where he had been unsuccessful in getting a cattle contract. The confrontation with his father over that had been more hurtful than he could express.

“Adam, what is wrong with you? You don’t seem to care about this family anymore. You spend all your time mooning over that girl you met in San Francisco instead of paying attention to what needs to be done here.”

“That ‘girl’ is the woman I want to marry. The reason I write letters so much is that every time I have tried to get some time to go see her, you have one more thing I have to do before I can go.”

“Well this is a working ranch and I expect everyone employed here to pull his weight!”

“So now I’m an employee! Just a moment ago I was part of the family. The part of the family who doesn’t pay attention to the work I am supposed to do apparently!”

“Well if you did, we would have had that contract! We needed that contract so that we could replace the breeding stock we lost last winter.”

“Pa, the only way I could have gotten that contract was to offer a price that would have meant a net loss.”

Adam too was at a loss. He no longer knew what he had to do to get his father’s approval. It seemed nothing he did was good enough any more. Getting away on the cattle drive would at least give him some time without his father’s nearly constant criticism.

“I’m leaving on the drive tomorrow. When I get there, I’ll see if I can work out some contracts for next spring before I go to Arizona to work out the contracts there.”

“Well don’t be late for those meetings in Flagstaff. Those contracts are a sure thing as long as you’re there to sign them.”

“I’ll be there. Now I need to go to town to pick up the cash we need for the drive. I’ll pick up the mail while I’m there.”

Adam expected a comment about the mail and heard it as he left the house but refused to rise to that bait. He stalked into the stable barely acknowledging his brothers as he saddled Sport. He asked if there was anything either of them needed in town, and then he rode out. He had a letter ready to send to Katherine, but as it turned out, he never sent it.

“Adam never smiles any more. Heck he hardly talks any more. If that’s what being in love with Katherine does to a man, I think he better look for a new gal.”

“Joe, it ain’t the being in love that’s the problem. It’s not being able to go see her that’s got him all riled.”

“Yeah, Pa does seem to come up with a new job for him every time he wants to get away. Why do you suppose that is? It seemed Pa liked her. He never said anything bad about her.”

“I think Pa’s afraid that Adam is going to want to go live in San Francisco when he gets married. He might be right too. I have a hard time picturing Katherine living here. She’s real nice and all, but she’s a city gal through and through.”

“But isn’t the way he’s treating him going to make him want to leave?”

“Yeah, I think so. But Pa seems to be acting like if he can keep them apart, it won’t happen.”

“Hey, how about you and Regan? How’s that going?”

“Well as it turns out, Adam was right about her. She’s never going to be happy with just one man. We’re still friends and we’ll see each other, but it was clear the last time we talked that there’s no ‘us’ in her future.”

“So are you upset with Adam any more about her?”

“Nah, he was doing what he thought he had to. I’m glad I got to see her some more and work it all out for myself though. She’s doing real well working with Miz Eve too. She’s working some in the business stuff and liking it. Miz Eve is more worried about Adam. He ain’t been there to see her yet. The couple a times I been there, she’s asked about him, and I always have to say he’s working on another job for Pa. I could tell she didn’t like the sound of that.”

“Well we better get this tack and such out to the drive or Adam’s gonna bite our heads off later.”

Later, they waited dinner until they could no longer take any more of Hop Sing’s complaints. As they were finishing the meal, Adam strode into the house. He didn’t say anything. He dropped the mail on the desk except for one letter that he had in his pocket and put the small cash box in the safe. Then he turned and walked up the stairs.

“Adam, I expect some explanation of why you were late. I expect the members of this family to show some consideration.”

Without pausing, Adam just said: “You expect too much.” He reached the top of the stairs and disappeared around the corner. They heard his bedroom door close.

Hop Sing came out of the kitchen with a tray.

“I take this to number one son who ‘no care about his family no more’. He leave tomorrow. Maybe he better if he no come back.”

Delivering that with a pointed glare at Ben, Hop Sing turned and proceeded up the stairs with the tray for Adam. They heard Adam’s polite refusal and Hop Sing’s quiet admonition. Hop Sing came back downstairs without the tray and returned to the kitchen. Hoss and Joe both had a sinking feeling that they knew what Hop Sing had been referring to, but it was Hoss who asked.

“Pa, what did Hop Sing mean when he said Adam didn’t care about his family no more? He was looking right at you when he said it. You didn’t say that to Adam, did you? You couldn’t have said that to him, could you?”

Ben dropped his head. He was ashamed at what he had said. Lately he seemed to always say the opposite of what he set out to say to Adam. His reaction was all that his sons needed to know what he had done.

“Pa, this has gotta stop! You been riding Adam so hard for months now. Do ya want him to leave?”

“Of course not! I keep trying to hand over responsibilities to him so he knows how much I need him here.”

“Pa, to us, and to Adam too, it looked a lot more like you were trying to keep him from going to San Francisco to see Katherine.”

“She’s just a girl. He could do so much better.”

“Pa, ya ain’t got a right to make that decision. Adam loves that gal and wants to marry her.”

“No wedding no more. She say goodbye Mr. Adam. He have letter.”

Hop Sing had come out with pie to serve for dessert, and reported what he had learned. All three men at the table were shocked. Ben stood to go see Adam, but Hoss stood and took his arm instead.

“Pa, you’re the last person he wants to see right now. I’ll go up.”

Hoss walked up the stairs and Joe excused himself to go see to the horses. When Hoss got to Adam’s door and knocked, he got a short response.

“Not tonight, Hoss, not tonight.”

He turned and walked to his own bedroom. He knew how much his brother was hurting and that no words could help. He had wondered for some time if his brother would be leaving. His pa had worried that Katherine would take him away, but Hoss felt it was more likely that Adam would leave now that there was no Katherine in his future.

The next morning Hoss was awake early. He had not slept well. By the noises coming from Adam’s room that night, he suspected that his older brother had not slept at all. When he saw him, that was confirmed. His eyes were red and there were dark circles around his eyes. He was the picture of fatigue and hopelessness.

“Adam, maybe ya oughta skip this drive and head to San Francisco.”

Adam reached in his pocket to pull out a wrinkled, folded letter.

“Read this. If you can find one word in there that gives me any hope, I’ll do what you say.”

Hoss read the letter and then carefully refolded it before handing it back. Then he put his hand on Adam’s shoulder and the two walked downstairs and out the door to the stable. For the first time that Hop Sing could remember, Hoss skipped breakfast. Ben sat at the table silently as his two oldest sons walked by without giving him a glance. He had six weeks to figure out a way to say he was sorry. He didn’t think he was going to be able to find a way to do that successfully. Without a word, Joe finished eating and left as well.

The drive was a big one. Although they had lost some of the prime breeding stock, the Texas cows had reproduced well so they had a lot of surplus cattle to sell. It took them all of the six weeks they had allotted. Adam acted as trail boss and made the tough decisions. But he rarely talked to anyone except Hoss and Joe. Slowly word had gotten round among the men that Adam had been jilted. Hoss and Joe were hoping that no one was stupid enough to bring it up with Adam, but near the end of the drive, it happened. Two men they hired to replace two men who had been injured started talking loud enough for Adam to hear as he sat near the chuck wagon preparing plans for the last few days of the drive as they slowed down to let the cattle graze and recuperate somewhat before heading into the stockyards.

“Hey, wonder what’s wrong with that oldest one. Can’t seem to keep a gal, now can he?”

“Ya, he must be a steer instead of a bull. If ya ain’t got ’em, ya can’t keep ’em.”

Almost everyone eating dinner paused silently to see what would happen next. They didn’t have long to wait. The two new men had no idea what they had unleashed. They hadn’t heard of the Cartwrights before.

Adam stood slowly and walked over to stand next to the two of them.

“You got something you would like to say to me?”

Both stood thinking that they had the situation well in hand. One pushed a finger into Adam’s chest.

“Yeah, if you’re so tough, how come you can’t handle one little filly?”

The speaker never saw it coming. The blow caught him under the chin and nearly lifted him off his feet. The other man swung and hit Adam in the ribs but another right cross from Adam and he fell back too. The two looked at Adam and at each other. At a signal, they bull rushed him, and he fell back. After that, blows were exchanged but Adam’s fury made up for their two-to-one advantage. Finally, both went down and stayed down. The man who had spoken so boldly only minutes before raised his hand in surrender. Hoss stepped in and turned Adam to force him to walk away. Joe brought over the medical kit and they tended to the bruises and abrasions they could see. He wouldn’t let them do more and walked over to his bedroll to lie down. The next morning, Hoss suggested he ride ahead and get to work on next spring’s contracts. He agreed and said he expected to see them in three days or less. Hoss and Joe agreed to the timetable. They noted how gingerly he mounted up on Sport and suspected he had damaged ribs as well but at least he would do them no more harm this way. At least they hoped so.

In town, Adam got a room and made reservations for his brothers. He asked for a bath in his room and as he undressed, he surveyed the damage in the mirror. He was sure he had cracked ribs based on the amount of bruising and the pain. Nothing else looked too serious so he stepped into the tub to relax. He had been busy working for six weeks filling any time that he wasn’t sleeping. Now however he had a lot of time to think. The tears started falling again. He was shocked at his own weakness and embarrassed by it too even though there were no witnesses. For six weeks now he had felt like he was at the bottom of a well and unable to claw his way up no matter how hard he tried. His strong self confidence that some saw as arrogance was gone. Now he worried about all the ways he could fail and further disappoint those who depended on him. He used to dream of leaving and having great adventures and seeing wondrous things, but now he yearned to escape the torment of each day. The fight with the two men in camp had reinforced the idea that he was losing his ability to handle things. He thought about heading to the saloon and the oblivion of whisky but it would be just one more failure to add to the list his father had been making. Instead, after his bath he fell into bed without having eaten at all that day. The next morning he arose early, shaved, and headed out to the stockyards to see if there were any deals he could make.

When Hoss and Joe arrived two days later, they were shocked at his appearance. Cleaned up of trail dust and newly shaved, Adam looked gaunt and gray. He looked years older. They had dinner and both of them noted how little he ate. He declined their invitation to go to the saloon and instead handed cash to Hoss to buy the traditional round to end the drive. He also had the cash to pay the men and handed over the bank draft for the balance. It had been a good profit after a good drive but there was no smile on his face. He pulled two envelopes out of his pocket and handed those over as well. He had made two deals for the following spring. He informed them he would be heading out to Flagstaff early the next morning, and would likely be gone before they awoke. Then he headed up to his room.

“Hoss one of us should go with him. He looks terrible.”

“Well we can offer, but I don’t think he wants any company.”

“I know, but I feel bad about letting him go by himself this way.”

“We’ll get up early tomorrow, and one of us will go with him regardless of what he says.”

But it wasn’t to be. Hoss got up at dawn and awakened Joe. They dressed quickly and went to Adam’s room, but he wasn’t there. They hurried downstairs and found out he had checked out. When they got to the livery stable, they were informed that he had ridden out at least an hour earlier. It was clear he was avoiding them and wanted no company. Sport was still there. He was tired from the drive, and Adam had purchased another horse to ride. Sad at their failure to help their brother, the two of them headed back to the hotel and a somber breakfast.

At Eve’s home near Alturas, she too was having a somber breakfast. She was thinking about what Hoss had told her about Adam, and now she had a letter from Belinda and another from Henrietta. Even though Belinda’s relationship with Ben had soured when she started taking part in suffragist activities, they were still friends. Eve had asked Belinda to talk with Ben to try to find out what was happening between him and Adam. Belinda had written what she had found out and it caused Eve to worry especially after the letter she had received from Henrietta. Apparently Henrietta had pushed Katherine to write a letter intending to force Adam’s hand. What neither of them understood was how careful Adam was about giving his heart to anyone for fear that it would be broken. Henrietta and Katherine had managed to do the one thing that would ensure that they would never hear from Adam again. Henrietta wrote that Katherine was very depressed, but Eve worried more about how depressed Adam must be.

When Regan came down to breakfast, Eve told her that they would be packing and heading to San Francisco early. Regan was pleased because she liked living with Eve in San Francisco more than here in the country. Eve started to make a list in her mind of all the things she needed to do to save her beloved ‘son’. First she sent a telegram to Ben Cartwright enquiring as to where Adam was at this time. She would summon him to San Francisco under the guise of contract negotiations. Before he got there, she hoped to spend some time with Katherine and educate her on the care and nurturing of Adam. She hoped it wasn’t too late to heal all the damage that had been done.

*****

Chapter 12

Can’t ride. Stop. Can’t meet deadline. Stop. Stage to San Diego and Triumph to San Francisco. Stop. Be there on 20th. Stop.

Eve held the telegram from Adam in her hand and wondered what had happened. At least he was coming. Soon Katherine would be at her home for tea. Eve planned to do a lot more than drink tea with the young woman. She had hurt Adam badly and needed to know that. Next, Eve wanted to see what kind of strength the girl had because it was going to take some effort to win Adam’s heart again after what she had done. Eve knew she was interfering but felt that she had to do this. When she heard a knock on the door, she hurried to answer it and was shocked at Katherine’s appearance. The poor girl had lost weight and she had been thin to start. Her eyes were red and obviously she had not been sleeping well. All the harsh words Eve had thought about saying flew away, and she wrapped her arm around the distraught young woman and walked with her into her parlor.

“I wish there were classes for parents. I know of at least two who sorely need them!”

“Mama said it would make Adam rush to my side. But I haven’t heard from him at all. I’m afraid he never wants to see me again. Eve, I do love him, but Mama said I couldn’t say that because he would be able to manipulate me. I told her he would never do that, but after so many months not seeing him, she convinced me. I was such a fool. What can I do?”

“Do you love him? Do you want to marry him?”

“Yes, with all my heart!”

“What if he wants you to live on the Ponderosa?”

“I will live anywhere he wants to live. I can’t imagine living without him. I’ve tried but it seems like more of a nightmare than anything.”

“He’ll be here on the twentieth. We have less than a week. You broke his heart. He doesn’t give his heart easily because he has been hurt so often. Between the two of us though, I hope we can get him to forgive you. He has been remarkably forgiving and resilient and if you knew his father better, you would know what I mean. I hope that those two characteristics of his are still in full force.”

Eve and Katherine talked the rest of the day about what they could do. As the week progressed, they planned the first meeting at the dock to where Adam would stay and where Katherine would stay. They made dinner and theatre reservations in hopes that they would be used. Finally as the day arrived when they would start their plans in motion, Katherine told her mother that she was again spending the day with Eve. Henrietta was relieved. Ever since Eve had arrived, Katherine had started to eat again and sleep again. She was starting to look more like the pretty young woman that Adam had first met. Eve and Katherine had not shared any of their plans with Henrietta nor did she know that Adam was scheduled to arrive in San Francisco that day.

As soon as Katherine arrived at Eve’s home, the two of them climbed into a carriage and headed toward the docks. Exact arrival times were unheard of so they would wait all day if necessary until his ship arrived. Once there, they were informed that the Triumph had just been tied up to a dock. They rushed there and as Eve alighted from the carriage, she saw Adam. He was walking down the gangplank holding on to the rope with one hand and using a cane with the other. He had his saddlebags over one shoulder. A sailor walked behind him carrying his saddle. She was shocked by his appearance, and it was obvious too that he was in pain as he walked.

She waited for him at the end of the gangplank, and he looked at her and smiled tentatively.

“It hurts. The bullet went through one muscle, nicked the bone, and then went out through the muscle in the back. I swear that everything I do involves one or both of those muscles.”

“And what exactly were you doing that got you shot in the leg in the first place?”

Eve had a mock severe mother look on her face and Adam smiled the first genuine smile he had in two months at least.

“Don’t be too angry, ‘Mama’. A man in a saloon in Flagstaff took exception to some things I had to say and drew on me.”

Eve put her arm through Adam’s arm and walked to the carriage. As they neared the carriage, Katherine stepped down. Eve felt the tension in Adam as he stopped. He began to breathe rapidly and Eve was sure if she could feel his chest, his heart would have been beating just as fast. Katherine walked toward them and stopped directly in front of Adam.

“You can hate me for what I did if you want. My mother told me if I wrote that letter, you would come to me. She was wrong, and I was stupid. I love you more than anything. I know I hurt you, and I will do anything to try to make up for that.”

Eve let go of Adam’s arm and walked to the carriage. This had to work or the rest wouldn’t matter. She could hear Adam taking deep breaths even though she was quite a distance from him already. The next thing she heard was his wooden cane falling on the ground. She turned to see Adam and Katherine wrapped in each other’s arms. She thought to herself: ‘Those two are pure gold’.

“Please tell me that you will never doubt my love for you again.”

“I know, I know, and I was so stupid. I love you, and I always will. I will go anywhere you go. My life is with you.”

Adam kissed her and Katherine didn’t want him to stop. Finally, a cleared throat sound from Eve and they looked up.

“We should continue this discussion at my home.”

Eve smiled and climbed into the carriage next to the driver who had a smirk on his face. Eve asked him to get Adam’s saddle and put it in the back. Adam and Katherine climbed into the back seat of the carriage, and they headed back to Eve’s home. Once there, Adam stumbled on the steps, and it was clear that he was exhausted. Eve insisted he lie down on a bed. Katherine helped him up the stairs and into the bedroom. Both of them smiled when Eve pulled the bedroom door shut. Katherine sat on the side of the bed until Adam pulled her down into a kiss. The she snuggled up to his side and laid her head on his shoulder as he wrapped an arm around her.

“I have dreamed of you in my bed, but this scenario was never in one of those dreams.”

“I’m lying here fully clothed so in your dreams I must have been…ohhh.”

“Exactly!”

Adam smiled at the blush that turned her face a bright pink. Then they talked. They discussed everything they could think of that had happened in the last eight months. Eventually Katherine saw Adam’s eyelids drooping and stopped talking. As his eyes closed, she closed hers as well. Much later, Eve knocked softly and hearing no response, peeked in the door. Both were asleep. Adam’s shirt was partially unbuttoned, and Katherine’s hand was on his chest over his heart. Eve smiled a self-satisfied smile. Her plan was working. She sent a messenger to Henrietta’s home informing her that Katherine had decided to spend the night at Eve’s home.

The next morning as Eve passed that bedroom, she thought about knocking and then decided that wasn’t a prudent idea. Inside the bedroom, Adam heard her walk down the hall and pause. He relaxed when he heard her continue on. In his arms was the woman who was to be his wife. He had awakened in the middle of the night and kissed her to awaken her. Then he had asked her and she had said yes. Kissing had progressed to the point that they were lying together now sans clothing which was why he was so relieved that Eve had chosen to respect their privacy that morning. He assumed she would be happy at their news. He was content to lie there almost another hour until Katherine began to stir. She had not slept well in months and the excitement with the exhaustion had caught up to her.

For Katherine, waking in her lover’s arms was a brand new and overwhelming experience. She had talked with Eve about what her wedding night would be like. She had been somewhat prepared then for the night before. But no one had ever talked with her about the morning after. Now what was she expected to do? Adam solved her dilemma and she loved him all the more. He first kissed her forehead.

“It’s all a bit overwhelming for you, isn’t it?”

All Katherine could do was nod her head.

“I’ll turn my back if you would like to clean up and dress. Once you’re done, you can go down to breakfast and I’ll join you as soon as I’m dressed. Eve has a small water closet with each bedroom. It’s the door to your left as you roll over.”

Katherine rolled over and got out of bed. She picked up her clothing and headed to the water closet. Once cleaned up and dressed, she walked back into the bedroom. Adam smiled at her from the bed, and she blushed again. She smiled back and then left closing the door behind her. As she came down the stairs, Eve walked out of the parlor to greet her. She blushed again. Eve smiled, and Katherine wondered if everyone who saw her today was going to know what she did last night.

“Well?”

“We’re getting married. As soon as possible according to Adam.”

Eve grabbed her in a hug.

“After last night, that probably is a good thing, isn’t it?”

Katherine blushed again and was a deep shade of red by now.

“Honey, if you keep doing that, everyone is going to know what happened last night.”

With that if it was even possible, Katherine blushed more, and Eve laughed.

“We’re going to have to work on your face powder today!”

And the two ladies walked into the dining room to await Adam. Regan was already there sipping coffee. The three of them chatted about the plans they would have to readjust now that it was a wedding instead of a courtship they were implementing. The first step was how to manipulate Henrietta into a wedding soon. Regan said that all they had to do was hint about what happened last night, and she would forget all about objecting. Katherine wondered how Regan could have known, and she said that she had the bedroom next to them, and they had not been quiet. Katherine blushed again, and all three started laughing. Adam limped into the dining room at that time and with the blush adorning Katherine’s face, he rightly guessed what they had been discussing.

After a hearty breakfast, Adam and Katherine headed to her home to let her parents know that there was a wedding to plan. George was a little gruff when he found out how soon they wanted to marry, but the glow from his daughter made him smile. Henrietta was all set to object until she had one question.

“Katherine, you stayed at Eve’s home last night. Where did Adam stay?”

When Adam and Katherine smiled instead of answering, she suggested a church and headed into the kitchen to talk to their cook about a wedding dinner. Adam and Katherine left to meet with the minister and make sure that the date was acceptable to him. Then Adam took Katherine to a jeweler to choose a ring. By noon, they returned to her home, and Henrietta and Eve left with her to be fitted for a dress after they dropped Adam off at Eve’s home. Adam had a few telegrams to send, and Regan took his messages to the telegraph office. That night the whole group had dinner at George and Henrietta’s home. At Henrietta’s insistence, Adam and Katherine were to be together only in the daytime unless properly chaperoned. Regan snickered to Eve that it was locking the barn door after the horse was stolen, and Eve had to fight back a laugh. Adam saw them snickering as did Katherine and both guessed what had been said. Katherine blushed again, and Adam started laughing and Eve and Regan couldn’t hold back any more.

“What is so funny?”

“Mama, they think it is funny that I blush so much.”

Henrietta was going to make a comment until George started laughing too. Once Katherine started to laugh, Henrietta joined in. They had to laugh about it. One look at that blush and the whole town was going to know why the wedding was taking place that Saturday. Well at least, she was getting married. Henrietta had heard tales of some of the girls in their social group who should have been getting married. After dinner, Adam and Katherine walked out to sit on the front porch. It was one of the few places her mother would let her be with Adam without a chaperone.

“Adam, where are we going to live?”

“Oh, I was thinking Australia would be nice.”

“Really, oh my, that would be an adventure.”

Adam looked at her in amazement. He had been joking.

“You would really go to Australia with me?”

“Of course. I will go anywhere you want. Were you serious about Australia?”

“I was joking, but it is one of those places I have dreamed of seeing.”

“Well then, we should put it on our list of possibles.”

And they talked of other places they could live, about children, about the house they would like to have, and many other things. Adam told her about the telegrams he had sent. She knew he was concerned about the reaction he would receive. She assured him that whatever happened, she would be by his side. He liked the sound of that. He had waited many years to hear a woman say that to him, and it felt darn good. He kissed her then and would have again except they both heard Henrietta’s uhmmm. They were being chaperoned. It was so silly that they laughed again. Eve was sitting in the parlor with George and Regan and they heard the laughter. It was what those two needed. Every smile, every kiss, every hug, and every laugh was a healing balm to two hurting souls.

Adam returned to Eve’s home with her later. He was quiet and went to bed almost as soon as they arrived at the house. Later Eve thought she heard someone downstairs. She put on her robe and ventured out into the hallway. Seeing Adam’s door open, she assumed he was the one she had heard. She walked downstairs in the dark and went to the back porch where she found Adam standing barefoot and shirtless and staring at the stars in the sky.

“It makes you appreciate the wonder of His work, doesn’t it?”

“Yes, Sweetie, there are so many wonders that sometimes I guess I forget to think about Who gave them to us. Is that all you’re thinking about tonight?”

“I just had to come here and see if it all was real. I woke up and wondered if I had been having a dream. It seemed like I couldn’t be lucky enough for this to be real.”

“You’re not having any doubts about Saturday, are you?”

“None. I thought that I had lost her and it felt like I had lost myself. Being with her again makes me feel more complete than I have ever felt. I feel like I can do anything as long as Katherine is there with me.”

“That’s true love, honey, and you are so blessed to have found it.”

Adam wrapped his arm around Eve’s shoulders and pulled her close.

“And you’re my angel. You made it happen. Thank you!”

“Are you going to tell me what happened in Flagstaff?”

It was a story he needed to tell. Eve knew that it had been far more of an issue than the flippant statement he had made. She had seen something dark in those hazel eyes when he had said it. Now she felt the tension in him at her question and felt that she had drawn the correct conclusion.

“You were trying to get yourself killed, weren’t you? And it’s not the first time you’ve acted that way?”

“Sometimes it didn’t feel like there was anything to live for. It wasn’t that I was trying to get myself killed. That’s taking it too far. I guess I just wasn’t scared to die, and I was willing to be in situations where that might happen. It’s not that I want to die, but not being afraid gave me an edge over people who were so afraid. The man in Flagstaff accused a cowhand of cheating. It was clear that the guy had just gotten lucky. Some people are sore losers. He was going to kill the man over nothing so I said something. Well I said enough to get his attention, and then he drew. He was mad, and it was a stupid thing to do, and he paid the ultimate price.”

“A good husband, and hopefully a good father sooner than later, will have to be more careful.”

Adam nodded, and kissed Eve on the top of her head. He liked this motherly approach she had with him. It was far easier to talk with her than it was to talk with his own parent. The only other person he could ever talk like this with was Hoss, and he hoped he would be able to be there Saturday for the wedding. He needed a best man.

*****

Chapter 13

On the Ponderosa, that same night just as it was getting dark, Ben and Hoss had heard a rider coming in. They wondered if it could be Adam because he was overdue. Instead, Hoss had answered the door and it was Jimmy from the telegraph office. He said that he had four telegrams so he had been told to deliver them. Hoss dug out a silver dollar and Jimmy was happy. Hoss closed the door and handed a telegram to his father. Then he yelled for Hop Sing and Joe. Joe came to the top of the stairs barefoot and wondering what all the yelling was about. Hoss waved a telegram at him and handed one to Hop Sing who came into the great room. All four men opened their messages, and Hoss was the first to react.

“Goldarnit, that Adam and his surprises. He’s getting married on Saturday. I’m going! Are you going?” as he looked at he others.

“I go. I go. I make sure number one son have best wedding dinner ever.”

“Course I’m going, Hoss. What about you, Pa?”

“Mine says the contracts are signed. He said to come with you if I’ll behave.”

Hoss and Joe looked down. They knew that there was still a chasm between their pa and Adam. Adam had made an overture, but their father would have to make the next move.

“Pa, he loves Katherine. He doesn’t want anything to mar their big day.”

“I suppose he has a right to be concerned after everything I said. All right. I will be on my best behavior. If I even hint at a criticism, Hoss, you have the right to deck me. Fair enough?”

“That’s right, Pa. Just think: grandchildren!”

Joe was grinning as he said it. It had to be the magic word. Pa brought it up often enough. Ben had to grin then. They would work it out whatever happened. He expected that Adam would not be coming back with them, but he would be married, and he would be happy. They rode their own horses to Sacramento. It was faster that way. Then they rode the steamer the rest of the way. In response to their telegram informing Adam that they were on their way, he had a carriage meet them at the dock. Hop Sing was staying at Eve’s home since she had a vacant servant’s room in the back, and there were rooms booked for the other three at the same hotel where they had stayed the last time. When they got to their rooms, there was a bottle of brandy in each as well as chocolates and pastries. Hoss walked through the adjoining door to his father’s room and Joe, who was already there, burst out in giggles. Hoss already had chocolate and pastry crumbs on his face. There was an invitation to meet Adam and Katherine for dinner at six. They had about an hour to clean up, change, and get to the restaurant.

As they arrived at the restaurant that was conveniently near the hotel, they saw Adam and Katherine sitting at a table already. Eve was also there. Ben was a bit apprehensive because not only did he have to face Adam, he assumed that Eve was not pleased with him either. However everyone was very pleasant at dinner and shared the details of the wedding on Saturday. After dessert, they stood to leave and Hoss leaned over to Katherine and told her not to worry too much about the wedding.

“Oh, Hoss, I’m so nervous. Standing up in church in front of all those people has got me scared to death.”

Joe piped in with “Oh, that’s nothing to worry about. What you need to worry about is Adam later.

Ben hissed “Joseph” with enough force to let him know that was not a proper thing to talk about, but it was Katherine’s blush that caught them by surprise. Her face turned a dark red and Adam wrapped his arms around her and pulled her into his embrace. At that point, they all knew that the wedding night was not going to be such a surprise for her.

“Sweetheart, if you keep doing that, we are never going to have any secrets.”

Adam asked Hoss to stay behind just a moment.

“Hoss, I wanted my best friend to be my best man at my wedding.”

“Aww, Adam, that’s all right. I understand. You can have anyone you want as a best man. I’m just happy you invited all of us.”

“Hoss, you’re my best friend!”

The whole clientele of the restaurant turned at Hoss’ yell and saw him pick Adam up in his classic bear hug. Finally remembering where he was, he set him down.

“I’m sorry, Adam, if I embarrassed you. Ya just made me so happy.”

Adam put his hand on Hoss’ shoulder. All was well. Joe was grinning from ear to ear, and Ben looked pleased as well. Adam had let Joe know earlier that he was asking Hoss, and Joe had enthusiastically endorsed his choice.

As they were about to leave the restaurant, Paul Martin and his wife, and Roy Coffee strolled in. Adam greeted them and introduced them to his fiancée. Adam, Katherine, and Eve stayed to have coffee with them as they had dinner. Adam was happy that they had been able to make it as well. Now the most important people in his life were there for the biggest day of his life.

The wedding proceeded as planned, and there were no big surprises nor problems. Adam had paid premium prices so that the dress, the ring, and his new suit were ready by the big day. Hoss stood at Adam’s side and Eve stood with Katherine. The church was packed. With Hop Sing’s help, the wedding buffet was spectacular. Hop Sing had enlisted relatives who had decorated the garden at George and Henrietta’s home so beautifully that the hostess almost tired of the compliments she received. Ben, as father of the groom, had ordered in cases of fine wines and brandies that the guests appreciated.

After the buffet dinner, Eve sought out Paul Martin. She asked to speak with him privately, and then related the story of what had happened in Flagstaff and Adam’s explanation of it. That and other things she knew about him made her worry about him.

“Eve, I suspect that Adam is prone to being in a depressive state. The times when he gets in those dark moods and other times when he goes off by himself would indicate that. But there is also that fatalism that you have seen too. It is as if he is putting his life in God’s hands to see if He will choose to have him live or die. All we can do is work with him when he gets like that. He should not be alone nor left to think too much about things. He forgives others very easily but is not usually willing to forgive himself. I think this marriage is a good thing. And if he has children, even better. He needs to have others to protect. It gives him purpose and keeps him on an even keel.”

“Waking up every morning next to a strong, loving woman who will stand by him no matter what is perfect then.”

“Yes, and the support he gets on a daily basis for things that he wants to do is very important as well. She seems like the type of woman who is willing to let him take the lead.”

“Yes, but she will insist that there be fun and excitement too. The young lady does like to experience new things.”

Eve and Paul returned to the wedding celebration as people were making toast to the newly married couple. It seemed that there many who felt they needed to say a few words. Some were very serious and some were funny. Perhaps the best of the night was delivered by Joe with its mixture of sincere sentiment and crafty humor.

“Today I offer a toast to my oldest brother, my friend, and his lovely bride. It is an honor to stand here on this most important day of his life just as he has stood by me and Hoss in good times and bad. I wish him happiness and prosperity and long life with Katherine, and may there be many children to bless their home. Their love was made in heaven, but so are thunderstorms and lightning and I just want to warn Katherine to expect a lot of all of those as she lives with my brother. And best wishes to Adam on keeping any secrets from us with that blushing bride of his.”

They were able to slip away after that toast because no one seemed to think they could make one better than that. Adam could tell how tense his new wife was. He had reserved a suite at a hotel for their wedding night and for the week after. Once in the carriage, he pulled a blanket over their laps and told the driver to go. After a short time, Katherine realized they were not going to the hotel. Adam said he thought a ride would be fitting because that was what they had done the day he fell in love with her. Katherine smiled and snuggled into his embrace only to have to move as he reached forward for a small box. He offered it to her and she opened it wondering what it could be. It was a box of chocolates. Adam chose one and placed it between his lips. Then he leaned down to share it with his bride. It was her first chocolate kiss. There was chocolate, and lips, and tongues and she forgot to breathe. Finally short of breath and with her heart racing, she had to pull back. She took a deep breath and gazed at her husband and his gorgeous grin. She was hoping that there were going to be a lot more of those chocolate kisses.

The ride lasted for nearly an hour but it seemed that time had ceased. When they reached the hotel, Adam helped her down from the carriage and arm-in-arm, they walked into the hotel through the lobby amidst the admiring glances of all who saw them. Adam was limping because the day had been very long for his leg that was still healing. In the room, he stretched out on the bed as Katherine went behind the dressing screen to remove her dress. All those pearl buttons were lovely but she was getting frustrated at having to open all of them.

“Would you like some help?”

Now she was frustrated and nervous. Even though they had been together, Adam had yet to see her naked, and she wasn’t sure how well she was going to handle that. But taking a deep sigh, she said “Yes”.

Adam had that canary-that-ate-the-cat grin as he pulled the screen away and began to open more of the buttons that went down the back of her dress. Finally she was able to step out of the dress, and Adam helped her finish undressing as she helped him to do the same. She had asked if he would turn down the lamps, but he had declined saying he wanted to see her this time. Then he started to chuckle and she got a little cross.

“You don’t have to laugh at me.”

“Sweetheart, I’m not laughing at you. I just realized that your blush reaches much further than I thought.”

Adam began kissing her to show her the full extent of her blushing and then picked her up and carried her to bed forgetting entirely that his leg still hurt. The strawberries and champagne that Adam had ordered were forgotten too as they spent the night discovering all the joy they could share.

The day after the wedding, as Ben, Hoss, Joe, and Hop Sing prepared to leave, Adam and Katherine arrived at the dock to see them off. Adam told his family he would not be home for a while at least and that no final decision on where they would be living had been made. Ben nodded in acquiescence and said nothing. Adam hugged them all, and they all hugged Katherine before departing. Winter was nearly there and there was a lot of time to work out their plans for the future. As the three men stood at the back of the steamer, Adam and Katherine turned to leave and Katherine grabbed Adam’s behind with a quick grasp that made him pull her closer to him and grab her hand. Hoss looked over at Joe who snickered. He had seen it too. Hoss smiled and looked over to see his father grinning as he too averted his eyes. Adam had picked the right one.

Eve was overjoyed to have her ‘son’ and his wife in the city with her for at least the next few months. She had a vacant property that she let them use as their home for the winter. It was conveniently located just a few blocks from her home. Eve traveled with the newlywed couple to the Ponderosa for Christmas before they returned to San Francisco. Joe had asked if there were any grandchildren on the way yet, and Katherine’s blush was all the answer they needed. Adam had not planned on telling anyone for another month or two, but he was getting used to the fact that his wife could not keep a secret with that blush of hers.

By then they were planning to stay in San Francisco for the next year, and George and Henrietta were thrilled that their first grandchild would be born there. Adam had already accepted a few commissions on buildings in the city that would keep him busy for most of the next year. His plans for the Subtreasury had not been accepted but had impressed enough people that he had been offered other jobs. He told his family that he had not made any other plans for the future yet. They still hoped he would come back to Virginia City at least, but they knew it was a decision that he and Katherine would make as a family. His father and brothers would have to wait and see what that decision would be.

*****

Chapter 14

If only Katherine had said ‘no’ then he wouldn’t be here in this predicament. He leaned into the shade of the boulder and continued to hack cactus into small enough pieces that he get in his mouth to suck the juice out. It was bitter and awful and the only thing keeping him alive. One good thing about the heat and the dry desert conditions, the two wounds he had were not infected. They had scabbed over, but sometimes fresh blood ran if he got too energetic. His two week trip to Arizona had turned into an ordeal from which he still didn’t know if he would survive. Each day as he rested in the any shade he could find and scrounged for food and liquid, he thought about those days before he left.

As spring had arrived in San Francisco, Katherine had blossomed. She got larger every day it seemed, and Adam had to smile every time he saw her because his child was growing inside the woman he loved more than his life. He had been making great progress in drawing designs for the buildings he had been commissioned to do. Without an engineering firm or a construction firm, established firms would carry out the rest of the project. He had meetings with them almost daily and the projects were about to begin. Sites had been cleared and materials ordered. His most favorite project was an octagon house on Russian Hill but the two commercial projects would be much more profitable. He would be able to supervise construction but sooner than he expected, he would no longer have anything holding him in San Francisco. Katherine’s parents lobbied for them to stay until the baby was born and that made sense. However he was discussing some other options with Katherine.

Eve wanted Adam to handle some of the mining operations she owned, and his father had asked if he could do the same for the Ponderosa mining interests. It was intriguing to him because it would allow him to use the business, engineering, and architectural skills he had learned but so rarely been able to utilize. He could also travel quite a lot, while maintaining homes in both San Francisco and Virginia City if he and Katherine chose to do so. He would continue to be mostly a silent partner in the Ponderosa that he had become by default by staying in San Francisco the last fall through the winter and into the spring. If he built a home on or near the Ponderosa, he could help out as needed or when he was able to do so, but he would no longer be living in the shadow of his father. He would be building his own family and his own legacy. He relaxed knowing that he was finally making the decisions that would determine the rest of his life.

“Eve, when would you like me to go?”

“Soon I hope. Your father is willing to sign a contract for the lumber sets we would need but I need someone to tell me if it is a good investment. The mine has been shut down and in that climate, dry rot occurs rapidly. If they invested wisely, there should be adequate shoring to get the mines up and running quickly without too much additional cost. If they cut corners and used wood not suitable for the climate there, then the mines there are not worth nearly as much because the costs of reopening would be quite high.”

“Mowry Mines had a lot of trouble with the Apache raids in that region. Aren’t you worried about that?”

“I know, honey. I contacted the Army garrison near there. Since the War in the East is finally over, they have been able to get things calmed down there. There are still some small bands that may cause trouble but with adequate care, he said miners we hire would be safe there.”

“I don’t know if I should even be thinking of going now. The baby is due in two months.”

“The trip should take no more than two weeks at the most. Why don’t you ask Katherine?”

Adam had agreed, and Katherine had encouraged him to go. That night he had a dream in which he watched his wife give birth to a son, but he wasn’t there. Instead, in the dream, her parents were there and they all cried after the birth as Katherine reached over to hold a picture of Adam that was adorned with a black ribbon. He woke up in a sweat but realized it had been a nightmare and fell back asleep with Katherine snuggled into his side. The next day he could still remember the dream and felt a bit uneasy, but with a scout hired who knew the area, he had headed out.

By the end of the week, Adam had made his inspection of the mining property and Eve was not going to be pleased. However the investment would work if they could negotiate a lower purchase price. They would need to add a lot of square sets to make the mines operational. His father on the other hand would likely be quite pleased. The amount needed would surely justify the expense of several wagon trains of material. Their lumber mill and their teamsters would be busy. The mine eventually would be profitable so Adam was content knowing that in his evaluation, he would please both his father and his ‘mother’ because no matter how he tried, it was the only context that fit his relationship with Eve.

It was the day they began the trip back home that disaster struck. The day had started well. There was a slight breeze that was cooling as they rode. His companion, Josh, talked incessantly but once Adam had made it clear that racist talk of any kind was not acceptable, he had reverted to telling colorful tales of his adventures in the Mojave desert and elsewhere in the west. As they rode, birds were flying in larger than usual numbers which made them alert. Something had stirred them up, and it paid to be careful out here. They heard nothing and were unprepared as they rode through a small canyon to find an Apache ‘boy’ crucified. Josh wanted to hightail it out of there, but Adam rode forward so Josh held his place. When Adam dismounted, Josh came forward to argue with him about saving that “damn Apache heathen” until Adam told him to shut up.

The Apache ‘boy’ turned out in fact to be a man. He was no more than five feet tall at most and Adam towered over him. After cutting him down, Adam used the strips he had cut to bind the man’s wrists, which were bleeding. He then did the same for his ankles. Adam didn’t know any Apache but picked up enough to understand that the Papago had done this in retaliation for something. The Apache gestured at himself and said ‘Bodaway’, and Adam assuming that was his name did the introduction of himself. Then Bodaway said ‘thank you’ and looked pointedly at Josh and spit. It was clear that Bodaway was far more familiar with English than they were with Apache. Adam signed to his horse to see if he wanted a ride but he declined. He did look at the knife in Adam’s hand. Adam handed it to him as Josh snorted in derision.

“Cartwright, he’s as soon slit your throat with that as anything.”

“Josh, just be quiet. No man deserves to be tortured.”

When he turned back, Bodaway was gone. They mounted up and continued on. Unfortunately, they found Bodaway’s companions before he did. They fought hard, but badly outnumbered, they were overcome. Both were wounded and suffered a beating when they were overwhelmed. Then they were tied to narrow trees as the band of men built a fire and prepared food. Nothing was done for their wounds, which supported Adam’s conclusion that they were to die. From stories he had heard, he was worried that it would be a gruesome death, and he steeled himself to be ready for it. The Spanish, the Mexicans, and the Army had treated the Apache with treachery, and they were giving it back in kind. Their only hope arrived when Bodaway strolled into the camp.

Bodaway argued with another who was called Nantan. The best that Adam could discern was that whites had killed Ila who was apparently very important to Nantan. From gestures and looks, Adam had the impression that Bodaway was arguing for his life. Sadly, he doubted that he was arguing for Josh which was exactly what ensued. Josh was pulled from his spot and beaten, kicked, and bludgeoned until he lay panting on the ground curled into a fetal position. Stakes were pounded into the ground and Josh was stripped and staked out. Adam was forced to watch as the torture took place directly in front of him. Those sights and the screams would never leave his mind no matter how long he lived. Josh’s remains were left as is in front of Adam. As the morning sun began to lighten the sky, the Apache men roused, had breakfast and then converged around Adam who had been unable to sleep with the smells and the fear of what his fate was to be.

“Nantan wants you dead too, but has granted that saving my life gives you one chance to survive.”

Adam expected him to say that there was to be some contest or test, but he said no more as the other men untied him and then forced him to remove his clothing. He stood naked before them wondering what was to happen next. They picked up his clothing, his gunbelt sans gun and ammunition, his hat, and his boots and put them in their fire that roared to life destroying his shelter from the sun and the heat.

“Nantan hates all that is white. You get your life and nothing more. It is your only chance. Walk that way, and live if your gods will save you.”

Bodaway pointed out into the Mojave and Adam started limping in that direction. He walked until he was aware the Apache had mounted up and ridden south. Then he sought shelter from the sun that was burning his skin and the hot sand that was blistering his feet. There apparently was going to be no pursuit. They would let the desert do it. At this point, Adam knew that his brain was his best survival tool. He needed to remain calm, rest, and make a plan. Without considering anything else, he had to have sleep, shelter from the worst of the suns heat, and water. He headed to what looked like a dry creek bed. He would seek the water first.

Over the next few days, Adam managed to work out the best spots along the dry creek to dig for water. Often he had to wait hours for the hole he dug to fill with muddy water. He would drink as much as he could even squeezing the mud to get more water. He ate beetles, a snake that he stoned, and a rabbit he surprised sitting in its burrow nursing its young. He made a fire using wood rubbed together. At least there was no shortage of dry material to burn out here. He scrounged in the creek bed until he found stones that he could crack to get sharp edges. He used those to butcher the rabbit and placed it on a stick and roasted it. Then he roasted the babies as well. There wasn’t much there but every ounce was essential to him. He used the skin of the rabbit to make a covering for his shoulders, which were taking the brunt of the sun each day and were painfully blistered. He wove a hat of brush and vegetation each day to keep the sun off his head and partially protect himself. It looked a lot more like an umbrella than a hat he supposed but there was no one there to see him. He wrapped whatever he could around his feet, but despite that his feet were raw and painful.

By the third day, Adam was talking to himself. He realized that he was suffering in the first stage of dehydration and needed to find more liquid to survive. That’s when he started working on cactus as well as following birds and watching for converging animal trails. Hunger was no longer significant. He could live without eating but water was essential. He made a platform of vegetation each morning as the sun got unbearably hot and laid on that in the shade and sucked moisture out of cactus chunks he had chopped with his rock tools on his walk the previous night. Then he would sleep. As the sun began to drop toward the horizon, he would survey the area ahead of him and plan the way he would walk. He then collected his meager possessions of skins, stones, and big hat and began walking again.

Adam was nearing his limits on the sixth day when he stumbled into a tiny oasis. He had followed some animal trails and found a small pond. There were cattails growing there and enough water for several days at least. He had to hold himself back from drinking too much. He couldn’t afford to waste any by vomiting. He spent the next two days there, drinking as often as he could and watching the small pond shrink. He ate cattail shoots and roots, as well as several small animals that came to drink at their watering hole without realizing that a predator had taken up residence. Now he had more skins and covered his privates as well as his back and upper arms. He knew he smelled awful but he was still alive despite the odds. He would fight with everything he had to get back to his wife and to see his child born.

*****

Chapter 15

In San Francisco, Katherine and Eve were anxiously expecting Adam’s return. He was only a day late but there had been no word. Eve telegraphed the owners of the Mowry Mines who responded that Adam had indeed left eight days earlier and should have been home. Eve didn’t tell Katherine, but she was very concerned and sent a telegram to the Ponderosa.

Once Ben had the telegram, he shared it with Hoss and Joe. Both wanted to set out immediately, but Ben insisted that such a trek required some preparation. He sent a return telegram to Eve that they would search for Adam. Hoss and Joe started getting some horses ready to go, and Candy asked them what was up. After they told him, he volunteered to go as well, and when he mentioned it in the bunkhouse, they all wanted to go. Hoss and Joe set up a work schedule and determined how many men could go. Then they made Shorty acting foreman and authorized him to hire temporary help if needed. Hop Sing also said he was going and that they would need a wagon with supplies anyway.

Once Ben returned from town, Hoss and Joe explained all that had already been done. Candy had some familiarity with the area from his work with the Army, so he sat down with the Cartwrights, and they worked out a plan for the search. Candy also suggested the best place for Hop Sing to set up a base. The search parties would be able to return there in two days ride at most to resupply or hopefully bring Adam in. The search parties headed out the next morning at a fast pace. The wagon with extra water and supplies came behind more slowly with two hands who were bringing a remuda with them. A full-scale search and rescue operation was underway.

Within two days as the search groups headed toward the Mowry Mines, they came across the camp where Josh had been killed. The remains were of a man too short to have been Adam. Scavengers had left little but it was clear he had been tortured. His wrists and ankles though devoid of flesh were still within leather thongs tied to stakes in the ground. Hoss stirred the ashes of the fire and turned to his father and brother in shock.

“Pa, Joe, it looks like Adam’s clothes and boots got burnt up here. There’s a buckle, the heel of a boot, and some scraps of leather, cloth, and buttons. If he’s out here, he’s got nothing.”

Carefully searching the area, tracks of the Apache men were found leading to tracks of horses, which headed south. Then from the other side of the camp, Hoss yelled out again.

“There’s tracks here of a man barefoot and headed straight out into the middle of this desert. It’s got to be Adam.”

The demeanor of everyone in the search party changed at that moment because they couldn’t imagine anyone still alive out in that desert almost ten days with nothing. Ben shook his head and turned to face them all.

“I gave up on him once in a desert because I thought he couldn’t be alive. I won’t do it again. We are going to find him. He’s alive; he has to be alive.”

Hoss and Joe each put a hand on their father’s shoulder as they walked back to their horses. No one was giving up this time. Adam never gave up. He had to be alive. Quickly they buried the remains they had found under a pile of rocks. Then they split into three groups and slowly rode out looking for any sign of where Adam might have gone. Within a few hours, Hoss found rabbit fur and evidence of a campfire in a dry creekbed. As they searched more they found places where someone had dug into the side of the creek to get water. The holes were dry, but might once have held water. Now they had a direction. They continued on until the light was too dim to follow the clues. Tomorrow at first light all three groups would continue on looking for more clues of where he could be. Adam was walking and spending time apparently scavenging for water and food. They were on horses and had adequate supplies. They should be able to make much better time than he did. That’s the encouraging word they got from Hoss in the morning as they once again took up the search.

Midday the search groups had to stop. They were all getting too hot and fatigued and the horses could not keep up the pace. They were pushing them too hard. In the late afternoon, one group headed to the supply wagon to get supplies and bring back fresh horses for the other two groups. They would then take the tired horses back at a slower pace. They rode through the night under a full moon. Adam was walking too at a good pace because he had rested well and had water. He was heading in the same direction as the group heading back but because it was night, they did not see each other. In the early morning, they passed within a mile of him but by then he was scavenging for cactus and anything else he could find. Again they missed each other.

With fresh horses, the search party found the tiny oasis Adam had found. It was clear that he had spent some time there. They had covered in two days the same distance he had traveled in six. They were getting close but it was still bitter to spend another night knowing he was out there fighting to survive, and they had been unable to find him yet. That night as the search party rested, Adam was only about ten miles away from them but walking further and further away. As Ben and his sons rested, they heard the howl of coyotes that were not a threat to them, but to a man alone and unarmed, they were a deadly threat. It made it hard for them to sleep.

The next morning everyone was anxious to get going but they had to wait until Hoss and Joe found signs of the direction Adam had taken when leaving that area. The search party headed out worried but hopeful that today would be the day they found him. He had spent nearly two weeks in the desert alone and with nothing. It was hard to believe he was still alive, but there were still signs so unless something had happened in the last two days, he was still out there and trying to get home. By late afternoon, they were frustrated at not having found Adam yet and tensions were high. Hoss started yelling at Joe who was complaining that they were going too slow. Candy and Ben jumped into the argument saying that they were wasting precious time talking when they should be searching. At that point, an apparition separated itself from the rocks in front of them.

“Well someone once told me not to let my education get in the way of my thinking. I guess you ought not let your thinking get in the way of your doing either.”

Hoss was off his horse and running toward his brother before the rest realized whom it was. He looked like a desert hermit with his skins and the umbrella hat of brush and vegetation. He must have lost at least twenty pounds in the ordeal. His skin was dark from the sun and his beard was long and tangled. But Hoss had heard the voice and knew. Ben climbed down from his horse and almost staggered as he walked to his son. Hoss had hugged him, and Adam seemed reluctant to let go until his father and Joe got there and hugged him at the same time. There were some wet eyes in the search party.

“Older brother, you smell a whole lot worse than you look which is pretty awful, but you’re still a right purty sight to see.”

“I had a little trouble finding enough water to bathe. I hope you got some canned peaches or something in those saddlebags of yours. I am starved.”

The truth of that was in the gaunt cheeks and haggard look. But amazingly, he was alive. As Hoss brought the can of peaches to Adam, he sat back against a rock on a blanket that had been spread out for him and ate like it was a banquet. He knew he had to stop or he would vomit but it tasted so good and the sweet liquid was like a balm to his soul. A spare shirt and pants that would fit adequately were found and Adam stripped off the furs and other material he had been wearing. He couldn’t bathe but it felt good to wear clothes. Hoss and Ben worked on his feet. There were cuts and blistering and areas that were just raw. There were spots that looked infected so they lanced those and washed his feet again and again with their precious water and then rinsed them with carbolic acid. Finally they applied some salve and loosely bandaged his feet. He would be able to ride but his horse would have to be led. Candy walked over and plopped his hat on Adam’s head.

“Looks to be about the right size. Joe always said you had a big head, but I guess that must say something about mine too.”

Everyone had to chuckle. It was a good release. Then Joe knelt down and looked in his brother’s eyes.

“What happened, Adam? How did you do it? How did you survive?”

*****

Chapter 16

So fed, rested, and more comfortable than Adam had been in two weeks, he talked them through his trek. Most of the men shook their heads. They couldn’t imagine doing all of that or even knowing that they should. His brothers had always bragged him up a lot, but some of the men were realizing it was true. This man was amazing in what he could do.

“You know the strange thing. I had a dream before I left that I died before my son was born. Then this happened. It really makes you wonder.”

“But you’re alive. Oh, and it’s a son, is it? Well you better pick out a good name for my first grandson!”

“How soon can someone let Katherine know I’m all right?”

“Son, we’ll get a rider out at first light. That telegram will be there tomorrow.”

“Mr. Cartwright, I’ll go. I know this area better than anyone else here. Besides, I need to buy a new hat.”

The next day, they rode to the wagon. The day after, the whole group headed north to home. Adam rode on the wagon with Hop Sing who insisted they stop about every two hours so he could hand some food or beverage to Adam. By the time they reached Virginia City, Adam was looking better. He had shaved and with good food and plenty to drink, he had gained back a few of those pounds. The greatest concern was his feet so the first stop was at Doctor Martin’s office. He had them take Adam in to the surgery as soon as he got a look at those feet. After about an hour he came out and said they could go see him. Adam’s feet were heavily bandaged.

“Paul, you want to tell them or should I?”

“Adam’s possibly going to lose a few toes. However, the circulation in his feet is good and the areas of infection have been cleaned out. No walking or standing for at least a week and I need to evaluate the toes in question every day. We’ll see.”

“Has there been any word from Katherine?”

“Ray was going over to check. He should be back soon.”

There was a commotion in the outer office, and Adam heard her before he saw her. Katherine rushed into the room and over to Adam’s side where she stood in shock. He held out his arms and she flung herself into them and got as close as she could considering the size of her tummy. Adam put his arms around her shoulders and kissed her until they both had to stop to catch their breath.

“The doctor said I couldn’t come, but I had to so Eve hired a carriage and here I am. I guess my parents are going to be disappointed, but this baby is going to be born on the Ponderosa. By the time you’re well, it will be much too late to travel back again.”

“Honey, it was too late to travel now, but I knew you needed to be here. Hi there, sweetie. I am so sorry to have gotten you into such a mess.”

“There was no way of knowing. It was just bad luck.”

“Well except for that dream. Next time you have a dream like that, promise me you won’t go?”

“If I ever have a dream like that again before a trip into the Mojave Desert, I won’t go!”

“It’s not funny.”

“I’m sorry. It happened. It’s over. You’re here. All’s well with the world.”

“Now if everyone but his wife would leave, I think he needs to get some rest after he gets bathed. Could one of you bring some clean clothing here for our patient? But no boots! I don’t want him trying to walk out of here before he should.”

“I packed a valise. It’s in the carriage.”

Joe volunteered to get the valise. Ben and Hoss went outside to send the men back to the Ponderosa but not before treating them to a dinner at the International and a round at the saloon of their choice. Candy took charge of the details, and Ben and Hoss proceeded to reserve some rooms at the hotel. Joe and Eve met them there for dinner after bringing luggage to the hotel and sending the rented carriage back to San Francisco. After dinner, Joe and Hoss picked up trays of food they had ordered for Adam and Katherine and took them to the doctor’s office. Ben and Eve sat at the table and discussed business. He invited her to stay at the Ponderosa as long as she wished and she agreed. She had been hoping she would be invited to stay so she could be there when Adam’s child was born. She had sent a telegram to Henrietta and George to let them know that they had arrived safely. Ben said he would send a telegram the next day inviting them to stay at the Ponderosa as well.

“It will be a full house then. I hope no one else wants to visit right now. I better tell Hop Sing before he hears it from someone else or there’ll be all sorts of ranting and raving.”

When Doctor Martin learned that Katherine would be staying and having the baby on the Ponderosa, he asked if she would have her doctor contact him with any records he could send and told her he expected to give her a full exam the next day. She agreed. She wanted to do everything right now that she was here.

Within a week, Adam, with his toes intact, and Katherine were at home on the Ponderosa living in Adam’s old room in his narrow bed. Normally that would have been delightful but Paul had said no intimacy because he thought that it was likely that Katherine could deliver within two weeks. That would be early but not by too much. What he worried about was that it might be even sooner so he told them he expected abstinence. He told Katherine too during his exam that abstinence would be expected for six weeks after the birth as well. She had to laugh when she told Adam all of that and his mind quickly calculated the potential waiting period. It had already been three weeks and now there would be at least eight weeks more. His eyebrows rose and it looked as if he was in physical pain. So they lay by each other each night unable to do anything about the strong yearnings they had for each other. For three weeks, they suffered until one warm and steamy night, Katherine shook Adam’s shoulder with force.

“Wake up. You have to wake up now.”

Groggy after only two hours sleep following a busy day of working, Adam slowly opened his eyes and looked at his wife.

“My water broke. I think the baby’s coming!”

Adam jumped out of bed at that point and grabbed his pants. Then he asked what he should do first.

“Call Mama and Eve. Then go tell Hop Sing. Send someone to get Paul.”

Considering how all of that made his heart race, he got it all done and returned to their bedroom. Eve and Henrietta had changed the bedding and were getting Katherine settled with a new gown.

“You can stay until Paul gets here unless we have to get busy with Katherine. Just try to stay out of the way.”

“Mama, I want Adam here. Adam, please sit by me and hold my hand.”

“Katherine, men do not attend the birth of a child unless it is the doctor.”

“Mama, he put it in there, he can see it come out.”

Eve had to stifle a laugh because she knew that Henrietta was already on the edge of hysteria, worried about her daughter and now about what people would think.

“Henrietta, no one except the family is going to know, and if it makes Katherine more comfortable, isn’t that the most important thing.”

Adam hardly listened. He was still in shock over what his wife had asked and then what she had said. Over the next few hours, there would be more that would shock him, but he stuck it out holding Katherine’s hand and wiping her brow with a cool cloth. Dr. Martin was surprised when he entered the room and found Adam sitting at his wife’s side, but unusual things were not that surprising at the Ponderosa so he got to work making sure the baby was delivered safely and was healthy. After Katherine’s last push and scream, Paul took the small infant in his hands and laid him on the bed. He tied off the umbilical cord, picked up the infant, and handed him to Eve who quickly wiped him with a soft cloth and then wrapped him in a receiving blanket so he could be handed to his mother. As soon as the afterbirth was out, Eve and Henrietta pulled the soiled sheets from beneath Katherine’s legs and covered her with a sheet and a blanket. Adam had sat mute and still watching everything. Eve looked at him and smiled.

“Honey, aren’t you going to say anything to your son? What’s his name?”

Adam looked at Katherine who nodded.

“Jacob; Jacob Michael Cartwright.”

The ladies and the doctor left to let the other anxious members of the family know about the newest Cartwright. As they left the room, they saw Adam finally move to sit on the side of the bed by his wife. He reached out a hand to caress her face and then the cheek of his son. Another part of his dream had been true for he did indeed have a son.

The men of the family trooped upstairs and crowded into Adam’s bedroom to greet the youngest Cartwright and the first of the Ponderosa grandchildren. Adam and Katherine were exhausted. Eve took the infant and placed him in the cradle next to the bed, Henrietta helped her daughter get more comfortable so she could rest. Joe told Adam to use his room and get some sleep. He didn’t want to go but everyone else said the same thing. He did sleep for an hour but immediately then returned to his wife’s side. She asked for their son and Adam picked him up and laid him in Katherine’s arms. She unbuttoned her gown and started helping her son learn how to suckle. Again Adam sat back in awe and watched. These were memories he would always cherish.

Three weeks after the birth of his son, Adam had to return to San Francisco to sit in on meetings about the buildings he had designed. Eve, George, and Henrietta rode on the same stagecoach with him. He packed a lot of their belongings when he was there and had them shipped to the Ponderosa. The rest he left for the time being because he wasn’t sure what Katherine wanted to do yet. They had talked but not final decisions had been made other than spending at least a few months on the Ponderosa as their son grew.

“Honey, have you given any more thought to my idea about the Australian mines?”

“Yes, Katherine and I talked. I’m willing to go there to set up your interests but Katherine will stay here. I’ll get to see the country, but I no longer have as much interest in travel as I once did.”

“I’ll make the arrangements then. I’ll be sending some of my people with you who want to make the move for extra pay and the chance to take charge. You shouldn’t be gone more than six months then. A wise choice too with a new family.”

*****

Chapter 17

The ship was tossed to and fro in waves that dwarfed the small man made vessel. In the harbor, the Triumph had been a tall ship, but out on the Pacific, it looked like no more than flotsam in this typhoon. The storm was unseasonable and had caught them by surprise. Adam had been tossed from side to side in his cabin until he finally went topside to try to help. He was lashed to a mast by a length of rope and doing all he was told to do. The ship heaved and bucked until he saw a sight that made his heart nearly stop. There was a wave that had to be fifty feet high and it crashed down onto the ship shattering masts and washing men overboard. After it passed, there was no ship but some debris and bodies were still being tossed about yet in the angry waves.

Adam shot up out of his bed with sweat streaming down his body. He was sleeping in a cot in their bedroom so that Katherine could rest comfortably in the bed. It was a good thing too as this dream had awakened him several times since he had returned from San Francisco. He was afraid to share it with his wife because he thought she would then be even more terrified of him leaving in a few months to travel to Australia. He must have made some noise though because Jacob awakened. Adam picked him up from his cradle and changed his diaper. Then he placed a clean blanket in the cradle. The noises had awakened Katherine and she asked for her son. Adam placed him in her arms and sat and watched quietly as she nursed him. Jacob had been small at birth but was growing rapidly. He had fuzzy dark hair now and when he smiled, there was a dimple in his left cheek. His eyes were a beautiful light chocolate.

“You seem to be awake a lot lately. Is there something bothering you?”

“Nothing special. We need to make some plans for where we want to live.”

“You’re holding back. What else is going on?”

Adam was glum. He didn’t want to share his nightmare, but he couldn’t withhold it from Katherine either. It wouldn’t be fair. Finally, he opened up and told her, and she had the predictable reaction.

“You can’t go now. It’s just like the last dream. Something terrible is going to happen.”

“That was just a coincidence. Winter is not the season for those storms. It will be fine. It’s months from now so don’t worry.”

Katherine did worry but kept those thoughts to herself. Adam had dreamed of visiting Australia, and he would see the Sandwich Islands and others as well. She had to hope that it would be enough to satisfy him because now more than ever she feared losing him. Adam was designing a house for them here on the Ponderosa but much closer to town. He had set up an office in town that he could use to conduct the mining interests for both Hamilton Industries and the Ponderosa. He was there three or four days a week. When he wasn’t working, he was with his wife and son. Contentment was something that Adam was probably never going to achieve but this was probably as close as he would ever be to that state. Well except for the fact that he hadn’t been intimate with his wife for nearly three months.

On a Friday, Ben was having men over to work on timber contracts. Although Adam was focusing on mining, Ben wanted him to sit in on the negotiations because he had proven himself to be a shrewd negotiator on many occasions. Hoss and Joe who handled most of the timber and lumber contracts were also there. That morning, Katherine had ridden into town with Hoss when he got supplies, and she had seen Doctor Martin. Just before walking out of the house when Adam gave her a hug, she whispered in his ear.

“I’ll be in the garden grove behind the house with Jacob. I have a big blanket in the carriage I’ll be spreading out on the ground to lay on. I’ll need to unbutton my blouse to nurse him. Paul said the six weeks are up. I’m not wearing any pantaloons.”

With that, Katherine sashayed out of the house. Adam stood as if poleaxed. Hoss was grinning, poked him in the ribs, and asked if there was anything he wanted to share. Hoss had seen the look on Katherine’s face and when he saw Adam’s shock, he knew she had teased him unmercifully. As the negotiations progressed, Adam said little and often looked at the door. Finally, as the group took a break for coffee and brandy, Ben in his exasperation had to talk to him.

“What in tarnation is wrong with you? I need your input and you hardly said a word.

Adam? Adam? Are you even listening to me now?”

“Pa, I think Adam is worried about Katherine. She took Jacob to the garden in the back and no one’s there with her.”

“Well, you’re not doing any good here worrying about her. Go see to your wife. We’ll handle the contracts.”

Within minutes, Adam was in the garden with his family. Katherine was nursing Jacob whose eyes were drooping. He would nap soon. Adam lay down next to his wife. No matter how many times he saw this, he was amazed at the miracle that had befallen him. He kissed the breast where Jacob had already suckled. Then he sat quietly with his arm around her until Jacob’s eyes closed. Katherine laid Jacob down carefully next to her and then turned to her husband. It would be the first of many times in the next few days that they made each other aware of how much each had been missed by the other.

Over the next few months, Adam’s life settled into a pleasant routine. He spent three mornings per week in his office in town. Then he traveled at least one day a week to each set of mines. In his free afternoons and on Saturdays, he supervised the construction of a new home for his family. Ben let him know that they were welcome to stay at the main house mainly because everyone would miss Jacob immensely when they moved, but Adam and Katherine were anxious to have their own home. Their home was finished just before Thanksgiving. Eve and George and Henrietta were there over the holidays to visit and to see the new home. At the end of the holiday, Katherine had to fight tears. Adam would be returning to San Francisco with her parents and then continue on to Australia. She kissed him goodbye on the Monday after Thanksgiving and then returned to their home and cried most of the day. Eve stayed and tried her best to console her but there was nothing she could say to ease the pain.

Four days later, Katherine and Eve were in the kitchen sipping tea when they heard the front door open and two loud thumps. Eve grabbed Katherine and pulled her behind her. The door to the kitchen opened, and Adam stepped in. Eve put her hand to her chest in shock, and Katherine rushed into his arms.

“I couldn’t go. I got to the docks and looked at the ship, and I couldn’t go. I couldn’t be gone from you for six months.”

Katherine was crying so hard she couldn’t speak. Adam pulled her into his embrace as tightly as he could without hurting her.

“Eve, I handed the papers and bank drafts over to the others. Regan looked ecstatic about going, and she and Edward will do a fine job for you. I’m sorry. I just couldn’t do it. I dreamed of traveling and seeing wondrous places, but there is no dream greater than what I have right here.”

“Sweetie, don’t you worry. I am more proud of you now than I have ever been. Why don’t you take your wife into the parlor, and I’ll brew a little more tea. I think she needs some.”

Adam’s father and brothers were nearly as happy as Katherine that Adam was not going to be gone. And Adam’s nightmares ceased. The winter meant that there was a lot of quiet time. Jacob was growing and crawling as Christmas approached. Eve was still at Adam’s home living in the guest suite he had built on one end of his home just for that purpose. She told him she would stay until after Christmas but missed all the excitement of San Francisco. They were all decorating the house for Christmas when a rider arrived with a telegram for Eve. Her face turned white and Adam had to grab her before she fell. Once seated on a chair and sipping some tea Katherine had hastily prepared, Eve shared the telegram with Adam. He had been curious as to what it could have said that caused such a reaction. Eve handed it to him and he read it silently before reading it aloud. Because officers of her corporation were on the ship’s manifest, the shipping company had sent her notification once they received it from another of their ships.

Triumph lost in typhoon. Stop. No survivors found. Stop. All feared lost. Stop.

Katherine turned white then and Adam embraced her and guided her to the couch. He poured another cup of tea and handed it to her.

“Another coincidence? Just bad luck? It appears you can’t escape those dreams.”

***The End***

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