The Past Is Never Forgotten

by Kit

Casey was yelling. "JD!" I told you I get out when I get out! Jane and me got allot of work to do. Just cause you’re the sheriff and can do what you want don’t mean we’ve got all kinds of time on our hands!" She’d been trying her best to shake him each time he came in to see her.

Watching amusingly from the bar Jane couldn’t help but find the couple irresistible. So that was JD Dunne. Mercy if he wasn’t just a boy? He wore a dark brown jacket; white cotton shirt and his pants were black. He was a handsome young man, then again, which one the seven wasn’t? It was official she’d met and seen them all.

"Jane please help me to get rid of him!" Casey came stomping over with a massive amount of dirty dishes in both her hands. "Can’t you make him leave bein the manager and all?"

"I ain’t doin nothin wrong Casey!" JD spat at her.

Then turning his attention on Jane. "Just came in to see if she wanted to go ridin." He always seemed to rile Casey. What was the harm in his coming by to see her?

Casey punches his arm. "Ain’t you introduced yourself to Jane yet?" He really could get on her nerves sometimes.

"Hey!" Giving her an angry look and rubbing the spot she inflicted. "She knows who I am. Least she should with you’ve been yellin at me since I came in!"

Casey gave him such a push he was thrown off balance. "I swear JD Dunne you ain’t got the sense god gave a mule!" And with that she stomped off into the kitchen.

Throwing up his arms in defeat. "What did I do?!"

Trying to keep up with the people ordering and shouting request at the bar. Jane was trying to shake off JD as well "Maybe you should just come back when were ready to leave JD?" She suggested as she collected an empty plate from a patron who had departed and putting a heaping plate of food in front of another.

Just as a man placed his coins on the table and left the chair empty, JD took the opportunity, sat down, took his hat off and roughly put a hand through his thick black hair. "I put all extra time in seein her and all she does it yell at me."

"I don’t know what to tell you JD." And she didn’t. She didn’t know them as a couple and certainly didn’t’ have the time to talk. She started assisting the servers and busboys seeing if the clientele were being seen to.

But that didn’t take care of JD. He followed right behind her. "I don’t have time we really are so busy." Brushing by him, one the busboys was in toe as they came to a table full of dirty dishes. As she placed the dirty dishes in the crate the bus boy ran off into the kitchen for clean ones.

She then turned and proceeded to take the money left on the table, place it in the pocket of her apron and clean off the crumbs, coffee stains and messes of food that had fallen off of the plate and onto the table.

"Can’t you talk to her?" He constantly pleaded while shadowing her. There was no one else. Mrs. Travis wasn’t close to Casey…she wasn’t close to anyone. And he couldn’t ask the fellas. So she was his only hope.

Turning on her heels. She wanted to scold him for being such a pest but seeing the pathetic look on his face she couldn’t resist. "After things clam down JD I’ll see what I can do…that’s all I cam promise. Now please let us do our jobs."

At first he didn’t budge. Finally he put his hat back on his head and tucked the loose strands of hair behind his ears. "Al right. But I’ll be back tonight." As he made his way out he turned on his heels and yelled at her. "Oh, yeah! It’s my turn to make sure you get home al right." He then made his way out.

Jane was sure she hadn’t been that embarrassed in ever. Just about he whole place turned to stare in her direction. Oh, well she thought. By now just about the whole town was familiar with her sad excuse for an existence. Might as well let a few more in on the situation.

+ + + + + + +

Months had now past since her stay in Four Corners, Jane was enjoying the quiet afternoon walking around the town. It was a crisp fall afternoon, the sky showed blue with an occasional fluffy cloud passing by. Walking along the boardwalk, she happened to glance across the street, as a wagon rolled on by kicking dust as the moving wheels disturbed it’s calms of the dirt covered road. Over outside of the saloon Chris Larabee and Vin Tanner were sitting side by side.

Noticing Vin making his departure, she decided to go say hello to Chris. It was interesting; the only time the town really walked in his direction was when there was trouble. With the exception of that annoying Travis woman who owned the local newspaper and was arguably the worst busybody ever, she made any excuse to be around him. The usual six were the only others that were friendly in his regard, the rest of the town, they avoided him like the preverbal plague.

As she approached he put on a gentle smile and stood up from his chair to greet her. Tipping his hat. "Ma’am beautiful day," he noted while quickly taking a glance up of the sky then back down to her.

"It is," she agreed as she walked up the steps and onto the boardwalk. The laughter and the voices of several people were heard form the other side of the double doors. She couldn’t help but glance in the direction and wonder what it would be like to be inside such a place. Both men and women’s voices were evident.

"Allot of ladies do go in saloons now a day’s," he tried to assure her. Watching her puzzled expression he couldn’t help but find the situation amusing.

She turned back to face him. "I could never…" She tightened the shawl that was about her shoulders as a cool breeze passed through.

Eyeing the empty chair beside his. "Do you mind?" She invited herself.

"No, not at all." He gestured a hand towards the chair. Women…he’d never figure them out. They were all alike yet so different.

"Thank you." She accepted his offer and sat.

She sat upright with her hands clasping the shawl to protect her from the occasional cool breeze.

He sat and relaxed his chair with his long legs stretched out and his hands clasped loosely together on his stomach.

For a while they just sat giving quick awkward smiles.

Finally she decided to break the silence. "Forgive me for being so blunt Chris…may I call you Chris?"

He nodded his approval.

"But why is it that most people seem to avoid conversations with you?" Looking at his blank expression she hoped she hadn’t offended him but she couldn’t help but wonder his opinion.

"Well," He lightly rubbed his neck. "I imagine it's do to the fact I don’t come off as the approachable type. Besides, I like my own company." He shifted a quick mischievous smile in her direction.

She nodded. "I know what you mean. But I also think you are very much misunderstood." This man was amazing. His face never showed emotion. Reading him was probably as difficult as reading Ezra’s tells at the poker table. "I think you’re a very kind and thoughtful man."

"Thank you," he said softly. He wasn’t good with people. There was not getting around it. Even when his wife Sarah and son Adam were alive he was never good with getting attention from others or expressing his feelings. And the years following their murders, those hard times on the trail and problems with town from town those situations didn’t help out his lack of affection. He learned to accept it was just his way.

"Well," Standing up slowly and smoothing her skirt down with her hands. "I’m sure I’ve embarrassed you enough for one day Chris. I’ll be off now."

He stood up. "Jane." Tipping his hat. He couldn’t remember the last time someone came by and just had a quick conversation with him. Those menial squabbles that arose daily were tiresome. It was a good feeling just having someone say hello. He liked this woman. She wasn’t out for anything-just acceptance.

"Good day Chris." She smiled as she walked away. He finally called her Jane and not ma’am. She wanted to get to know all of these men. And little by little she intended to do so.

+ + + + + + +

Fall turned to winter and winter to spring. Jane was positive she was enjoying life to the fullest for the very first time. As she went through the cash box she could see it was time for a deposit. Ezra was pretty reliable about getting the money to the bank but on occasion he’d forget and Jane would have to take the deposit and bring the bank note over to him at the saloon. She hated doing that. It was the one thing she had to admit that Ezra asked her to do she didn’t like. He most likely got tied up in a good game. It wasn’t often he had business out of town but when he did…that was when she had full responsibility of the tavern another job she didn’t care for. But she figured they were small sacrifices in comparison to all the good he’d done for her.

Closing the cash box and locking it, she then turned to Casey who was finishing moping up the floor. "Casey, I’ve got to go over to the bank and make this deposit before it closes."

Casey wiped the sweat off her face with the sleeve of her shirt. "You want me to lock up?"

She shook her head slightly and smiled at the exhausted girl. "No, I’ll do it. You have fun with JD." Leveling mischievous eyes on her. "And be nice to him."

"I will," Casey laughed and then went back to her moping.

It was the first time other then leaving the house for work that Jane had been out. Shaking her head in sadness. "What a beautiful day to be inside," she muttered to herself.

Luckily she did reach the bank in time. The bank manager was always so friendly to her. He told her he would’ve waited for her…he knew she or Ezra would have eventually showed up. After having a brief conversation with him, she made her way over to the saloon. Pausing first, she took a deep breath, pushed the swinging doors open and made her way in. All she wanted to do was find Ezra so she could give him the note and escape this unnerving environment. There were seas of people both men and woman. The smoke was so thick and heavy she wondered how anyone could breath. Some men were playing poker; quite a few stood at the bar or at a table and enjoyed their drinking. As she started her quest for Ezra she heard an occasional snide comment about having a good time being offered from a drunk in the crowd. Others just gaped as she went along. Finally she found Ezra. He was sitting in the back with a table full of victims.

As she reached the table all but Ezra brought their gazes up to her. "Ezra," She whispered. He was too busy reading his cards. Oh, please she thought. I just want to get out of here. "Ezra," She bent down a bit and said louder and fortunately he brought his eyes up to hers.

"Why Jane," he greeted her that wicked smile. "Care for a game?" He motioned a hand to the table that was surrounded by men. He loved teasing her. She hated it in there and he knew it.

"Ezra," she said with a stern voice. "I’ve just come to give you your note." Rifling through her purse she found it and placed it on the table in front of him.

Eagerly he snatched it and placed it in the inside pocket of his dark brown and gold paisley vest.

"Come on now darlin. You have a seat."

She stole a glance down in the direction of the offer. Sitting aside of Ezra, with his belly so huge it all but hit the table was a short fat man with tobacco juice running down his mouth and onto his filthy shirt. He was grinning widely and crudely up at her as petted an obese thigh.

Wrinkling her nose. "No thank you." I’d rather take up with the Comanches she thought in disgust

Ezra threw back his head and roared with laughter. The others at the table joined in on the humor at her expense.

She was so angry she thought she’d die. Without another word she turned to bolt. As she turned she spied a man playing cards that looked allot like Jarod’s faithful and ruthless partner Tom Sullivan. But it couldn’t have been…they’d never be in these parts. Much to her horror the closer she got to his table she realized it was him and sitting right by his side where he always was when he wasn’t at hers…was Jarod. Her gut turned, she thought for sure she was going to retch from the overwhelming tension brewing inside her. The room began to spin. Placing a hand on her stomach she stood motionless for a several moments but then hatred began to take over the horror. Her chest heaved with anger. She clenched her hands into fists and without even realizing what she was doing made her way over taking long, leisurely strides towards his table. Before he knew what was happening Jane went up and punched him square in the face. Because he wasn’t expecting the attack and the force from her punch he fell back chair and all. "I hate you!" She yelled full of rage. She was so angry she didn’t even feel the pain that was coursing through her hands. She continued her assault on him by punching him with her fists anywhere she could his head, chest, whatever came in contact with. A pair of arms grabbed her from behind and put her on such a stronghold she was thrashing about like a fish that had just been pulled from the water. "Get off me!" She struggled.

"Easy…easy now Jane," Josiah had to admit. For a woman and not a big one at that it was tough to keep his hold on her.

Starting to control her breathing and once she recognized the voice to be Josiah’s she began to calm down. "I’m done now Josiah…you can let me go."

"I don’t know." His tone was questionable. After what he’d seen she was capable of he was weary to trust her.

At that moment Jarod began to shake off the recent event. Roughly he got himself up from the floor and through the overturned chair that was in his way of getting to Jane. "You crazy bitch!" He seethed through clenched teeth. "I ought to kill you."

She should have been scared. His eyes held nothing but a fierce fury. "You go to hell," she breathed. Still trying to wriggle out of Josiah’s grasp. But he wasn’t letting go.

"You’re going to be sorry you did that," he threatened as he moved closer.

"I wouldn’t," Chris warned from behind him.

Jarod took a look over his shoulder to see Chris’s revolver staring down at him. He then took a look around the room and noticed that five other men were holding guns on him. "What the hell?"

"What this is--is a warning," Vin said as he stood beside Chris holding his Winchester up and readies to shoot him if he moved wrong. Shifting his eyes he found both Buck and Nathan over at the bar with drawn guns, Buck had a rifle and Nathan a revolver. Ezra had made his way over to stand behind Josiah and Jane with his derringer pointing at its mark. JD stood on the other side of Chris with his colt waiting for action.

Jarod followed Vin’s eyes and then he turned back to regard Jane. A cruel smile crept on his face. "You’re nothing but a whore." He had to hand it to her though. After leaving him he thought she’d crawl up and die…he was wrong.

Finally releasing her. Josiah had to wonder what she might do next. He didn’t think she had that type of anger inside her.

At first she took a quick glance at Tom. He stood motionless standing right behind his companion. His glare on her was equally intent as Jarod’s. He held a firm, steady hand on his holstered revolver. Her attention now on Jarod she was pleased with herself that she was standing her ground after a few uneasy moments she walked a bit towards him. "And you’re a coward."

He lifted a hand as if to slap her and before he could move any further he felt a gun barrel at his temple.

"Touch her and you die," Chris whispered so lightly that surely only he and Jarod heard the warning.

Shifting an angry glare at Chris. "I wasn’t gonna hit her."

"That’s good." Chris gave an icy reply. It had been sometime since he’d wanted to put a bullet in someone this badly.

"Chris," Jane spoke up. "Put the gun down." She then turned to the others. "It's al right really. I’m not afraid of him."

Hesitantly Chris lowered his gun and placed it back in its holster. One by one the others either placed down their weapons or back in their holsters.

She couldn’t help but stare at him. He was still so very handsome with light brown hair that came just past his neck. His dark brown eyes that once showed love and tenderness were now full of pure detestation. He had a light shadow of unshaven facial hair. He wore light brown pants a dark brown jacket and a pinstriped shirt. His black bolero hat had fallen to his chest too due to the recent scuffle. His gun belt fit comfortably about his hips. Even after everything he’d just said. She knew she must be a fool but she still loved him or at least the man she once new. Putting a hand through her hair and did her best to straighten her posture and look as if the recent activities didn’t affect her in the least giving the crowd a once over. "I really am sorry everyone. I didn’t mean to ruin your good time. Please forgive me." Looking over her shoulder at Josiah. "Thank you." She smoothed her dress and walked through the stunned on lookers.

Following her outside Vin stood behind her. He still was in awe of the events that just took place. "You al right?"

"No," She turned to him. "No, but I will be." Once she got as far away from Jarod Chisholm as possible or an abrupt departure of his from the town.

Vin went over so that they were face to face. "Who is that fella?" He’d never seen a woman react like that in his life to a man…ever.

She snorted lightly. "He’s no one." And that was true. The man she had attacked and left in the saloon was not the man she’d once known. What was remarkable was how these men came to her defense. She would have never have guessed that anyone would do anything like that for her. "Vin I have to go home but," She took his hands in hers and looked into his compassionate blue eyes. "Thank you. And please thank Josiah, Chris and everyone for standing up for me." She gave him a quick light peck on the cheek and made her way off the boardwalk and into the night that brought thoughts of a past that had finally caught up with her.

+ + + + + + +

The seven men in fear of what actions they might have taken if they’d stayed at the saloon all made for Chris’s house. What weighed heavily on their minds was…what did Jane have to do with Jarod Chisholm and what brought on that scene. They were all sitting out on his porch. Chris and Josiah sat on the chairs that were placed outside the door. JD, Buck and Ezra all rested their backs against the charitable wooden beams of the porch. And Vin stood with a shoulder resting on the doorway.

"We have to do somethin for Miss Townsend," JD whispered as he sat and played his thumbs on the cup of coffee he’d accepted from Chris.

Chris was shaking his head. "What was that all about anyway? It was like the devil was in her" He looked around at his companions that all appeared to be equally astonished from the chaos of the evening.

"Well," Josiah took his cup of coffee and placed it on the table that was situated in the middle of the circle of men. "I know I shouldn’t be tellin you this but," he stated as he rested his back against the wall of the home. "She told me about him and her. She wanted to give me a confession."

"What did he do to her?" Buck growled. He’d had too much of men beating women. If this man had to made an example of then so be it.

Josiah peered over in his direction and then gave the rest a quick glance before he continued. "From what she told me…it seems they both had different ideas of what was going to happen. She thought he was going to marry her and well…well he thought he’d just have a good time."

"What do you mean?" Buck’s voice was full of venom. Jarod Chisholm it appeared had little chance of getting out of town alive.

Slumping his shoulders forward a bit, Josiah then began to play with imaginary lint on his pants. He really didn’t want to continue the story…he thought Jane might hate him for it. But if he didn’t tell them they’d never know. "Jane came from Boston, her parents didn’t have money so they sent her to her uncle in Texas, stayed with them a spell then to make her own money went into town. Wasn’t long before Chisholm took notice of her and began what she thought was courtin her," he chuckled lightly. "Well after a while he got her in a family way and then when she told him he said it wasn’t his." Looking around at his friends he could see their faces were either an acceptable fit of rage or one of shock. "Anyway, him bein the low life he is…he left her and well she couldn’t keep the baby so she threw herself down some stairs…she ended up here not long after."

"That no good son of a--!!" Buck roared as he stomped back in forth on the porch. "We have to do something. He can’t just stay here and not get some type of payback."

"Calm down Buck," Chris told him while he sat with his elbows on his thighs and rubbed his temples to ease the pressure he’d gotten from the story. Buck was right they had to do something…but what?

Buck spun on his heels, his hands on his hips his face was stone. "I say we shoot em down like the low down dirty dog he is."

"Hold on now," Nathan spoke up. "I say we find out just what it is he wants and then… well if it’s trouble were in for we can warn Jane."

Vin nodded in agreement to the suggestion. "Nathan’s right. We can’t just go shootin up the town…were supposed to be the law and well--it’d be murder."

"So what." Buck’s mood hadn’t changed. He wanted Jarod to pay…not just for Jane but also for every woman who’d ever come in contact with a skunk like that.

Ezra moved away from the area he’d been resting on, he came to stand in the middle of the group, moved his burgundy jacket back with his elbows and put his thumbs in his pant pockets. "I believe Jane should be acknowledged of our decision. I will procure my leave from you gentlemen and acquaint her with the situation at hand." Tipping his hat he made his way off the porch.

The others sat in silence and gave one another questionable glances. What was in store for them was uncertain but the matter at hand was something that could not be avoided. Jarod was going to have to leave town but was he going to go quiet or did they have another fight coming.

+ + + + + + +

A light knock on the door startled Jane. She had just taken a hot bath in hopes that it would calm her nerves. She slowly walked to toward the door and held her night robe tightly about her. "Who is it?" She whispered to the locked door. Oh lord—thoughts raced in her mind don’t let Jarod have been able to find me.

"It’s Ezra."

Breathing a sigh of relief she opened the door to see him standing there with a gentle smile on his face. Immediately he took his hat from his head and placed a hand through his hair. "I know I must be intruding on such a late hour…however, it is imperative we talk."

"Please come in Ezra." She opened the door further so he could enter.

He brushed by her still holding his hat in his hands and took a look around the room. To the right was the kitchen area. It had a small table with two chairs. The cleaning basin was set on the counter a small window was above it where if it were day you could see the windmill. The stove was to the left of it and the usual pots pans and kitchen accessories where in view. To the left he found the sitting area. She had a couch set against a wall and the fireplace was in view as one would sit. A small table was in front of the couch with a vase full of wild flowers…no other furniture was visible. Some pictures adorned the walls it still needed attention but for the most part it was indeed turning out to be a very comfortable atmosphere. "Jane," He turned to her. "You have done wonders with the house."

She couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable with wearing only her nightclothes and the thought of her hair being wet and combed down and not up in a suitable fashion…she must look awful. She placed a nervous hand through her hair. "Thank you Ezra." It didn’t take a genius to figure out why he was there…Jarod.

Motioning a hand to the parlor. "Care to sit?"

"Thank you. I believe I would," he chuckled lightly as he took a seat on the sofa. "I must admit I detest traveling in the evening."

She let out a small laugh. "I can imagine. I’ve made some coffee would you care for some?"

"Yes, such an indulgence would be a pleasure." Not finishing the cup Chris gave him and the chill in the air he could use the warmth the liquid had to offer.

She didn’t have to ask how he took it. She’d worked with him long enough to know he took it black. He stood up as she entered the room. Taking the cup the held the steaming contents. "Thank you."

As she sat down next to where he was standing, he then sat beside her.

After taking several sips of the coffee he knew he must let her know why he’d gone to visit. "Jane I’m sure that my unannounced and abrupt presence has left you in wonder of my intent?"

"Ezra?" Interrupting his explanation.

He turned to her. "I must finish…"

Placing a hand on his knee. "Ezra I know why you’re here." Looking into his eyes that held such sentiment "It’s because of Jarod."

He let out a loud sigh. "Yes it is in regard to that loathsome character." Her knowing why he’d gone to see her didn’t shock him in the least. She was sharper than most. It made him a bit self-conscious as well in the fact that he’d never made a habit of visiting often. He cared about her a great deal and perhaps that’s why he steered clear. Getting romantically involved would be the worst thing at this time for either of them. Moments where the two would be alone were best left as rare as possible.

Sitting back with her cup placed firmly in both hands. "I can’t talk about this again." Her voice cracked. "I just can’t." She didn’t want to cry again. Jarod wasn’t worth it.

Ezra placed the cup on the table and sat back as well. "You need not worry yourself of the explanation that deals in your past indiscretion." He turned to her. "Josiah has already shared with myself and the others in regards to your conversation." He hoped she wouldn’t be angry with Josiah but she had every right to feel betrayed by him.

"Oh, Ezra," she breathed. "I don’t want to leave Four Corners. I just love it here." She couldn’t be in a place Jarod was but her leaving would only allow him to win again. And she wasn’t going to have that.

"And you won’t," he declared and waited until she turned to him again. His eyes locked on hers when she did. "I have come not only for myself but for the others…we must know what it is you expect."

Shaking her head vigorously. "Oh, no! I will not have anyone getting hurt on my behalf. I will leave first. Ezra," She shifted her body and took his hands in hers. "You and Chris--well any of you—you owe me nothing." Why did it seem everyone she came in contact with either ended up getting hurt or hurt her? How could she have been so stupid to think life was finally going to be good?

With hesitancy he reached into the inside pocket of his jacket and slowly pulled out a sterling silver flask unscrewing the cap. "I sturdily suggest that you append this to your coffee."

She stared at the flask in dismay "I’ve never drank straight liquor before." She couldn’t even recall if she ever had a drink in her life.

Playfully he cocked an eyebrow. "Then this," He said gently prying the cup from her hands. "Is a most ideal occasion for you to acquaint yourself with the familiarity." It wasn’t a case of him trying to take advantage of her they both knew that. It’s just he knew that she was uninformed to certain circumstances of the world.

After holding the cup out to her for a while she finally accepted.

Ezra couldn’t help but be amused at watching her. She eyed the inside of the cup as if in fear of something were ready to jump out at her. "Go on…" He gave the bottom a gentle nudge so that it was closer to her mouth.

Eyeing the cup suspiciously then him and back to the cup she finally took a charitable gulp. She didn’t anticipate the burning that followed as it trickled down her throat. She began to cough with such vigor Ezra petted her back to assist in the relief.

"Oh, my," she breathed once she found her voice again. She was rubbing her throat. "It burns." It felt as though she had swallowed fire.

Again he chuckled. "Yes, well," He put the cap back on and placed the flask back in his pocket. "It does procure some getting used to." It was the smoothest brandy known. But if a person was not used to liquor it didn’t matter. It was going to be alien to their senses.

Watching her delicate manor he couldn’t help but to touch her. He took a hand and tucked the strands of hair that had fallen loose from her state of frustration he tucked them behind her ears. It didn’t matter how she was dressed she was a beautiful woman with a heart bigger then any he’d ever known. Nothing was going to happen to her, nothing. "Jane we will conclude this matter. You will not leave Four Corners." He then took her hands in his. "Jarod Chisholm is going to depart and you will not have to subject yourself to his person not ever again in your life time."

She dropped her head to her chest and began to sob uncontrollably. She didn’t want Ezra to feel sorry for her and she didn’t want to shed any more tears for Jarod but she was so tired of running from him and being brave when it came to her feelings…she surrendered. She was beat.

Ezra took her into his arms and as if on instinct she accepted the embrace and wept with an emotion that even surprised her.

He held her even closer. "It’s going to be alright," he whispered in her ear. Releasing a hand he began lightly stroking her hair. "Everything is going to be al right. I promise." In his life he hadn’t made many promises and the ones worth keeping he didn’t recall. But this one he most certainly would keep and he knew the others were going to help him out so there would be no room for disappointment.

+ + + + + + +

Days had passed since Jane had seen Jarod. As she bent over the washboard to scrub her clothes, her thoughts raced of what her plans were now. Even more, what were Jarod’s? She thanked god that the day was cool as she wiped her forehead with the back of a wet sleeve. She had allot to do still in and around the house.

Nausea clutched her stomach. She couldn’t get him out of her head. She was so blind. Going along with all those stories of how she would be his wife…

"Hello Jane." A deep voice drawled. "Been out of town a while. Don’t expect you’re trying to avoid me?"

Jane swirled. Her heart all but jumped out of her chest. There they stood Jarod and Tom.

An unnatural quiet settled over the yard.

She couldn’t help but stare at their guns. Guns always did frighten her. To her they were nothing but an instrument of death.

Their horses were left standing behind them. Both tipped the rims of their hats.

They meant trouble and she knew it. She prayed her voice wouldn’t shake. Showing fear would be her down fall. "What do you want Jarod?" She ignored Tom entirely. Why try to acknowledge his presence, she’d always hated him. But now, she hated them both.

Jarod moved closer and took his hat off as he did a breeze lifted a few strands of hair across his face taking a hand; he raked them back with his fingers. "I’ve gotta tell ya Jane that display in the saloon left me a bit confused." He smiled. "You and me well—we had some good times." He put a hand out to touch her cheek.

At once she pushed away his advance. Good times? What good times? Those were few and far between. She came to meet his gaze. It’s funny how the smile she once welcomed now turned her ill. "I’ll ask you again, what do you want?" She wished he’d go. She was alone and frightened out of her wits. Tom’s leering made the situation even worse. He always did give her glances that left her uncomfortable.

Jane was scared speechless, before she could think Jarod lunged at her. She screamed, lost her balance and fell rump first to the ground. He was about to crouch down when she jerked upwards and caught him in the groin with a foot. He grunted and retreated; the color drained from his face. She got up and made for a sprint. Tom snaked a hand out and caught her arm. "Not so fast little lady you got some payin up to do."

Jarod came up from behind, caught her by the waist and shoved her violently to the ground. Spots formed in her eyes from the pain of the impact. "Now we’re gonna have us some fun." A cruel smile formed on his mouth as he leaned over her. Grasping the neckline of her dress in his fists, he said, "Lets bring back some old memories huh darlin?" She saw Tom hovering over them.

"I suggest you remove yourself from her at once." A voice then rang out.

Jane twisted her head to see Ezra standing on the porch, rifle to his shoulder. His jacket lifted slightly from the breeze the air presented.

As if by magic she found herself unhanded. Taking the opportunity she lurched to her feet and moved as quickly as she could away from the two men.

Slowly Ezra made his way of the porch. "Leave this land. And make no attempt to return. I will take an utmost contentment is delivering you to the maker." As far as arresting the two he’d take care of that with the others once he got back into town. Right now Jane was his concern. He didn’t want any risks he didn’t want her getting shot.

Jarod struggled to his feet. "Just saying hello to my girl." How she always seemed to have these men around her was quiet anonymity.

Ezra leveled his stormy green eyes on him. "You have a most unnatural way of greeting someone you were once in acquaintance with. And from the information she has specified to me—she no longer desires to be in association with you."

He laughed at Ezra’s method of talk as he brushed off the dirt from his clothes. "You sure are a stylish talking gentleman aren’t ya?" His smile faded as he turned his attention on Jane. "As for me and Jane well--We’ll just see about that." He wasn’t done with her. No one made a fool out of him.

Her eyes glittered with hatred. "You miserable no good bastard." She had no idea what triggered the detestation in him or if it had been in him all along but right now the feelings she felt for him were mutual.

Ignoring the remark he made his way over to his horse and mounted. Tom being the coward he was had already been atop his horse and waiting for his chum. Without another word the two men wheeled their horses and rode off.

Ezra slowly rested the rifle onto the ground.

Jane made her way over to him and caught his hand. "Where did you come from?" She hadn’t seen him since the night of their talk.

"Myself and the others found it preeminent to keep watch on you. We feared something of this nature might occur." His eyes took on a dangerous glint. "He will pay for this unspeakable act."

Her voice shook with sentiment "I was so scared." She grasped both hands in hers. "I don’t even want to think about what would have happened if you weren’t here. You all have been so kind to me."

His fingers curled warmly around hers. "There is no limit to lengths I would go for you Jane."

She stared at him. Was it her imagination or did he get more handsome every time she saw him. Never in her life could she ever repay the loyalty and generosity she had received from him and the other six men since her arrival. "Oh, Ezra what did I do to deserve you?"

He took her into a quick strong embrace. "You simply entered my life." He liked it when she accepted his affection. He also knew that the inevitable was a confrontation with Jarod. Right now she was going to need all the welcoming attention possible and he was delighted to oblige.

+ + + + + + +

"What are you doing here?" Ezra demanded once he entered the tavern and spotted Jane at work. Was she mad?! Jarod no doubt stills lurking somewhere outside of town or even worse getting reinforcements.

"I’m working," she answered without looking up at him. She didn’t want to argue, especially after the scene at the house. Jarod and Tom were put in jail for a short time and because of Jarod’s family name it was insisted by the higher law that he and Tom be let go. The seven had made it clear they were no longer welcomed and Four Corners. And they were never to return and if they did they’d take any means to bring charges against them. They did leave. But the seven men who protected the town and she all knew somehow someway either Jarod alone or with company would come back. Ezra and the others were driving her out of her mind by trying to keep her under lock and key. She’d have none of it. If Jarod and her were in for another round well then so be it.

Roughly he took the hat from his head and began tapping it against a thigh. "Have we not explained to you enough the desperate situation we are facing?"

She thudded a plate of food on the table due to her anger in front of a misfortunate patron. Finally she spun to face him. "Yes!" She exclaimed. "And I’m sick to death of it!" She took a nervous look around to see everyone watching the heated argument. She wondered what they ever did for excitement before she came to town. Seemed, as though there was a scene every week without disappointment. "Ezra," she sighed loudly. "I will not hide out. And I will not leave everyone else to do my job." She could see his expression beginning to relax. It hurt her to scream at him but he had to understand. "I have responsibilities--besides this is my home and I won’t live in a guilded cage."

"You really are attempting to formulate our vocation to it’s most difficult aren’t you?" He tried to smile but found no cause. It was best she wasn’t in site of Jarod but then again she was right. She couldn’t hide out. It would do no good. "We are all together at the saloon if you feel you necessitate assistance in anyway." He then turned and made his way out of the saloon.

Jane stood for a bit and thought about his words. The last thing she wanted was to make things more difficult. It was bad enough they all took shifts sleeping in her barn or on the porch. Naturally they wouldn’t budge from the their decision so she did her best to make them comfortable; giving them extra blankets feeding them. Right now however, the best thing she could do was to go on with her life. How long that would ensue was anyone’s guess.

+ + + + + + +

The evening sky was full of fury. The thunder rolled with the intensity of a hundred wagon trains passing through town and the lightening was so extensive and piercing that when a bolt did find it’s mark it was if TNT was being tested outside the tavern. Each time lightening did strike Jane jumped about a foot. She did her best to finish up work as quick as possible. She was alone. After a brief argument she talked Casey into letting JD bring her home. With each flicker of lightening she’d take a nervous glance outside. One could see nothing but a fierce and lingering storm. She hated storms she always had.

She wished one of the other six were in the tavern with her. She knew they were either across the street at the saloon or scattered about. It didn’t ease her mind.

Wiping down the last table she thought she saw something in one of the shadows. Spinning around at first she didn’t see anything. She then took a slow, cautious scan of the room. Placing a hand on her stomach she breathed a sigh of relief. "Calm down Jane you’re just seeing things." Once again she looked about and after a moment felt it safe to continue cleaning off the table.

The sound of the rain made it difficult to hear anything but the pounding of the raindrops. Stopping once again she thought she heard footsteps. Before she could turn, a steely arm wrapped around her waist a soaked hand clasped over her mouth. "Miss me?" A voice whispered in her ear. She knew it was Jarod. The water from the rain had left his close drenched, she could feel her dress beginning to get wet from the contact of him. Her heart thumped in her chest from being so frightened.

With a quickness that even surprised her he let her go and pushed her away. Immediately she spun around. He was so wet it looked as though he’d been dunked in the trough. Taking her eyes off of him she shifted about. She needed to get away from him.

Putting a hurtful grip on her arm he warned. "You better not think about running." He then roughly curled a hand in her hair. "We have unfinished business." Pulling her face to so close to his she could feel his breath he continued. "I don’t know where you got off being so high and mighty. It’s because of me you had any bit of fun at all." Again he roughly threw her from him. Her rump lightly hit the end of a table. She looked down at it dumbfound and then back to regard him. She knew she couldn’t get away from him so her best option was to keep him in her site. She was surprised not to see Tom. She could only hope Jarod was alone. If Tom were with him he would have shown himself by now…at least she hoped.

At first he paced back and forth. It was obvious he was confused what to do at this point.

Finally he turned to her. She wasn’t sure what was working in his mind but it wasn’t good. She went to move and as she did he lunged for her. She somehow got lucky enough to escape his grasp and made a run for it. Her only hope was the front door. With quick long strides he caught her in no time. He grabbed her by the waist and lifted her off the ground he tried putting a hand around her mouth again but she sunk her teeth into it. "Damn!" He complained but wouldn’t let go. Now he put both hands around her. He wasn’t letting go and she wasn’t going to let him hurt her again. She fought with every bit of strength she had and finally got an arm loose and took a hold on his hair with her hand. For some time he struggled to get her off using curse words she’d never before had the misfortune of hearing. Finally he got her hand from his hair and roughly threw her to the floor.

She placed a hand on the small of her back. It hurt awful from the impact. She couldn’t help the tears that formed in her eyes. When she brought her gaze up to his she knew it was over.

"I am so going to kill you," he warned as he slowly pulled his .45 from the holster. He moved closer until he was leering over her. "You had to make it difficult."

She just sat on the floor waiting for him to shoot her. There was nothing she could do but sit and let him kill her.

Just then a form came out of the dark. Before neither she nor Jarod knew what was happening he was getting a face full of fist. Getting off the ground and moving closer to the light where the attack was unfolding she saw that it was Josiah. "Oh, Thank you lord," she cried.

After what seemed to be an eternity of his battering Josiah finally stopped slamming his huge fist in Jarod’s face and then yanked him up by the chest. "So help me," His breath was short from the activity. "I ought to break you over my knee like a piece of firewood." Jarod limply lay in Josiah’s arms. Josiah released him onto the ground as if he were a sack of dirt. He then looked over at Jane. "You al right."

Nodding. "Yes," She was still trying to find her breath. "I am now." It was finally over. Jarod was going to be out of her life. She knew it now.

He walked over until he stood in front of her. He gently cupped a hand under her chin and slowly moved her face from side to side to observe the injuries. "Don’t see much done to your face but the rest well—let’s just get you over to see Nathan ok?"

Putting a hand over his she peered up with eyes full of sadness. "I never wanted any of this to happen. I never wanted anyone to get hurt."

He nodded. "I know." Other then people like Jarod Chisholm there wasn’t anyone who wanted harm to come to others.

"What’s going on?"

They turned to see Vin standing over Jarod’s limp body.

Josiah turned his head to him. "Had a bit of trouble."

Vin chuckled. He then looked at Jane and gave her a quick kind smile and then asked Josiah?" She al right?" He couldn’t see anything wrong with her but seeing Jarod on the floor and Josiah in the room…one only had to guess.

"I’m fine," she assured him.

"Where’s Nathan?" Josiah asked.

Vin inclined his head towards the saloon. "Cross the street trying his luck with Ezra."

"Will you go and get him? I want Nathan to take a look at Jane." He then looked down at Jarod. "We best get him to the jail before he wakes up and wants to talk about his rights again."

Tipping his hat to her. "Course and I’ll get Buck to help me collect that piece of trash of the floor," he offered on his way out the door.

It didn’t take long for Nathan to come over. The rest followed behind. Buck and Vin carried Jarod out. Buck made remarks the whole way out the door about how Jarod was going to see what justice was about. JD followed them stating he was sheriff and it was his job and up to him to place the charges. Chris took a look at her and after seeing she was ok let her know if there was anything she needed to let him know. He then made his leave. Josiah followed Chris back to the bar after satisfied by Nathan’s arrival. He was as he said "In serious need of a drink," Jane thanked him with an urgency she hoped he would appreciate.

After some light poking and peering Nathan stood back with his hands on his hips. He didn’t look convinced she was al right. "Don’t know," He relaxed some, however, he stood contemplating as he stroked a thumb over his jaw. "I think you best come with me to the clinic."

She was sitting down with Ezra by her. "I’m fine Nathan really." Seeing the doubted expression he held. "I’ll come by tomorrow. I promise." She really did feel fine. Her back did hurt but it could have been worse.

For a moment he stood still pondering. "Al right," he finally agreed. "But you best come by before you come here."

She could see he wasn’t going to leave without her consent. "I promise." He looked as though he didn’t believe her at first he then gave her a look and then turned to Ezra. "You make sure she comes and sees me Ezra."

Ezra chuckled at Nathan’s persistence. "I will." He then turned to Jane. "If I have to bring her there myself I will."

It appeared he liked that answer because he then turned and made his way out of the saloon.

It was now just her and Ezra. Just the way it started out. Giving him a smile. "Well Ezra we meet again." He was always there for her. She liked the thought of him always being around.

"You’re not hurt?" He whispered while he watched her. He didn’t bye her amused expression.

"I’m fine. He’s going to get what’s do to him this time I know it." She stood up from the chair.

Ezra got up and stood behind her. "Are you going to leave?"

"No!" She turned. "No this is my home now. You and the others are my friends. I hope to never leave."

Taking her hands in his, he held them tight but firm. "And I know I speak for myself and the others when I say—We hope you should never decide to leave either."

It was unanimous. She had a home; future and a past that she could now with all confidence leave behind her.


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