~~ Thankful Hearts ~~

by TJ

PREVIOUS STORIES - #1 - The South Wind, #2 - Confidantes and Confidences, #3 - Forsaken

SPOILERS – There are numerous references to events in ‘The South Wind’ and ‘Forsaken’ in this story. I’m also assuming that you know about Buck’s marriage proposal from ‘Serpents’. If you’re following the series, you’re probably catching on by now. While the individual plots are mostly independent of one another, the stories are all related in some very interesting ways, after all that’s why they call it a series.

WRITER’S NOTES – First, let me say thank you to everyone for their patience. Doing my PKP VS story took time, and RL is inescapable at this time of the year. I apologize for the wait, and thank everyone for their continued support and encouragement.

I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome Amy to this little support network that seems to be coming together around me. She’s signing on as my second beta, and her energy and enthusiasm speak volumes. Welcome Amy!

In keeping with the theme of ‘Thanks’,

I would like to thank Antoinette for her continued friendship. Doesn’t matter if it’s research, betaing or just chatting, she’s always there to lend a helping hand and give me support. Thank You Antoinette!

Many thanks to Nancy, for all of her added little touches. She works her magic, where I have no clue. The ‘Newspaper Article’ you’ll find in this story is a wonderful example. My imagination created what you see, but Nancy took my simple presentation and made it look great. Thank You Nancy!

A special thanks also, to my friend Beth. She’s got a special project on the go for me, which will add a nice touch to the series, but in the meantime she’s given me a few pointers to improve the flow of my words. You are best to judge the results for yourself, but I think her advice has been wonderful for the overall presentation of the stories. Thank You Beth!

I started this series alone, and seriously wondered if my work had any merit. Now, thanks to the generosity and support of some wonderful ladies and a whole group of adamant readers, I know History Will Know The Seven will succeed.

As for the story… It may seem like a nice little ‘light’ story, but this one has some interesting information in it about the mysteries unfolding in Four Corners and gives more clues at the things to come. I’ve done some research with the Series Canon (as established by the TV show), as well as historical and geographical information. I’ve taken the liberty of pinpointing the town on the globe. And as in this story, I’ll include the occasional historical figure in the narrative to solidify the timeline. This marks the halfway point in the series. I hope everyone is enjoying this as much as I am.

Enough said… on with the show!


Donald Granger sat behind his desk and counted out the sizable collection of currency in front of him. Each bill had to be verified by each of the appointed representatives before he could receipt the money and begin the distribution of the funds, as it was required.

Mrs. Travis watched intently as each note was moved from one pile to the other. It had been at Joseph Langdon’s request, that Mary be present at the reading of his will. His family lawyer had concluded that it was reasonable to assume that this same woman could serve as an impartial witness to this particular task. Once again, her presence had been requested, and the newspaperwoman was more than happy to give up an hour of her day. Silently, Mary wondered if she would ever see this much money again.

As the second representative, and lawfully appointed executor of the estate, Ezra stood behind Mary’s chair as the money was tallied. Like Mrs. Travis, none of Joseph’s family had met the gambler before, and they instinctively concluded that he was a responsible individual. Knowing this to be the case, Standish presented a façade of a trustworthy, distinguished gentleman. Inside, however, he was drooling so badly it hurt.

Karen Warner sat in the chair next to Mrs. Travis. As the elder daughter of Joseph Langdon, Mrs. Warner was the third appointee required, to release the trust account. She hadn’t been surprised that their father left his ranch to her younger sibling Katrina, nor was she envious in any way. Both sisters hated the cattle ranch, but while Karen hated the whole idea of living in ‘the Wild West’, her little sister just disliked the beasts that their father raised.

Doctor Charles Warner stood beside Karen and patiently waited as the final bills were counted out. He had comforted the love of his life when they received word on her father’s untimely death. He felt it his duty now to accompany his wife as she dealt with the last of her father’s requests. What Joseph had asked seemed simple. He had strongly suggested that Karen ‘take care of things’ until ‘Katrina was ready’. Charles secretly wondered if his sister-in-law would EVER be ready for this kind of responsibility… or any kind of responsibility, for that matter.

Word from Katrina seemed to indicate that she would arrive in due time and take control of the estate, as their father had wished. In the meantime, the trust fund needed to be in place so that the ranch could continue to operate under the watchful eye of the executor. Mr. Warner was no stranger to looking after Katrina’s affairs, but did hope that the added stability of running a cattle ranch might make the young lady grow up a little. Perhaps even accept the responsibility and become more stable for it. Charles Warner could only hope…

"…90, 95, 100," Mr. Granger concluded. He looked at the two ladies across the table from him and smiled. "By my count that is ten piles of one hundred dollars a piece. Do you agree, Mrs. Travis?"

"Yes, Mr. Granger that was my count."

"Mrs. Warner?"

"I agree."

Apprehensive about any possible contention, the resident banker of Four Corners looked up at the gambler and raised his eyebrows. "Mr. Standish?" he asked nervously.

The trepidation in Granger’s face was undeniable to the gambler’s trained eye. Ezra smiled at the thought of making this professional apprehensive but decided against prolonging any discomfort. Being entrusted with the daily operation and maintenance of the ten thousand acres and almost five hundred head of cattle was a huge responsibility. The southerner didn’t wish to give Joseph’s family any reason to question his character. "I concur with your calculations, Mr. Granger."

Visibly relieved that the lengthy process had passed the inspection of one Ezra Standish, Granger took a deep breath and collected the ten piles together. Completing that task, he turned to the small table beside his desk and retrieved a tray, which sat on top. "And this one thousand added to the other four gives a grand total of five thousand dollars." Placing the last set of bills beside its counterparts, he again looked at the two young women and smiled. "Are we in agreement, ladies?"

Smiling, both Mary and Karen both nodded their concurrence.

Once more, the banker turned to pose the question to Ezra, but the gambler responded before the question could be asked.

"Of course, Mr. Granger. Everything seems to be in order." Smiling his agreement, Standish shifted his position towards the window and peered out. He could see Buck and Josiah standing watch at the front door, and he knew Chris and JD were out back. "Might I suggest that you secure the funds in the safe, so that my associates can return to their numerous other duties."

"Yes, yes indeed," muttered Granger as he gathered the money and moved around the counter. Venturing inside the vault, he put the five piles of cash inside Mr. Langdon’s personal safe, closed the door and turned the dial. Making his way back to his desk, he pulled a large ledger from the top drawer and proceeded to record the deposit of five thousand dollars to the Langdon Trust Fund, care of Mr. Ezra P. Standish.

He had trained as a financier, but today Granger was serving as both banker and town notary. "Mrs. Warner," he motioned for Karen to sign the deposit slip as he set it in front of her. "And the receipt for the lawyer in San Francisco," he handed her another paper.

As the former Karen Langdon signed the paperwork, she handed each document to Mary Travis for her ratification.

"Mr. Standish!" Granger beckoned the gambler’s attention from the window then handed him the papers as he arrived at the desk.

Double-checking all the figures and the attending signatures, Ezra smiled at the banker before placing his own endorsement on the documents. "Well," the gambler stood up straight and smiled proudly, "That business is finally attended to."

Both ladies stood up as Ezra moved around behind them. Karen Warner offered a ladylike handshake to Mrs. Travis before turning to her husband and taking his arm.

"I believe that finalizes all of the documentation required to establish the trust and ensure that the Langdon Estate is properly taken care of," Donald Granger concluded.

"Yes… Until my sister arrives to take ownership," Karen uttered quietly.

The gambler acknowledged the lady’s statement and was about to comment when Dr. Warner spoke.

"And heaven help you when that happens," he said sarcastically.

"Charles!" his wife exclaimed loudly.

"Well, I’m sorry my dear. But it is the truth and you know it."

Mary and Ezra exchanged a quick glance.

"Is there something I should be informed of, Mrs. Warner?" Standish asked after a moment.

Charles and Karen looked at each other evasively.

" … Before you return to San Francisco, perhaps?" Ezra added, this time raising an eyebrow. He was clearly taken aback by the exchange of words and looks.

"It’s obvious Joseph trusted you, Mr. Standish. He’s left everything in your care until Katrina…" Charles Warner stopped in mid sentence and looked at the gambler intently.

"Did Joseph ever speak to you about Katrina, Mr. Standish?"

Ezra took a deep breath as he thought on the specific words the elderly Langdon had used to describe his younger child. They had spoken on the topic only once, and the gentleman had characterized his daughter as ‘A tempest! An out-of-control wild fire!’… As he recalled the words Joseph had used, Ezra’s expression changed to one of perplexity.

"Yes," Charles acknowledged as he noticed the changing face on the man before him, "I see he did."

"My father hadn’t seen Katrina in eight years, Mr. Standish." Karen looked at her husband and pulled him a little closer. "She’s much more … independent … than the last time he saw her."

An uncomfortable silence settled over the bank.

"I will see that these documents are ready for you when you leave tomorrow," Harold Granger broke the silence before dismissing himself to the rear of the establishment. He took several of the required papers as he left.

"Thank you again, Mr. Granger," Mrs. Warner called out to the banker as he disappeared. Smiling at the gambler, she nodded her goodbye to the other lady before motioning for her husband to escort her from the establishment.

Charles Warner tipped his hat to the two remaining parties before turning to leave.

"Good day, Mr. Standish," Karen called as they left.

The widow watched the door close behind the departing couple. She was more than curious about their exchange. "What’s wrong with being … independent?" Mrs. Travis questioned the gambler. Mary moved towards the door, but turned to hear the gambler’s answer.

Ezra took a deep breath as his eyes widened substantially. "Well… given Joseph’s rather … flamboyant … description of his daughter, Mrs. Travis," he shuffled his feet a little as he tried to find the right words to complete his sentence. "… I would venture to guess that… independence… in this particular young lady … sets her apart from her peers, and is not … necessarily… a positive thing."

Mary Travis looked at the gambler inquisitively. Tilting her head questioningly, she shook it, smirked and walked out the door. She had no real idea what Standish was talking about, but his reaction to the situation amused her to no end.

Margaret Watson stood by the door and watched Nathan as he checked the scar tissue on her son’s leg. It had been more than four weeks since the wild dog had mauled James. There were no signs of gangrene, and the boy had ridden out the infection well. The healer had said the boy might be able to go home today if everything looked all right.

And right now, that’s what James Watson wanted more than anything else in the whole world. ‘Well, Dr. Jackson?" the boy asked impatiently.

Nathan looked at the twelve year old and smiled. "You wanna be home for your birthday, don’t ya, James?"

Unable to contain his enthusiasm, the boy’s face beamed.

Nathan looked over his shoulder at the boy’s mother. "And I suppose that celebration in two weeks would be betta if James were home with his family."

"I can’t think of a better Thanksgiving memory, Dr. Jackson," she replied expectantly. Having her son beside her would top her list, but there was something else she had in mind, for a wonderful Thanksgiving memory.

"Well, there’s a real doctor in town right now," the healer explained. "He should be here any minute. I asked him ta come take a look."

"I thought you said James was better," Mrs. Watson said anxiously as she stepped closer to the bed.

"Oh, yes, ma’am…" Nathan began as a knock sounded at the door.

Three heads turned to see who was there.

Charles Warner waited a few seconds before opening the door and entering the clinic. He looked around cautiously and smiled at the dark man and his patient. Removing his hat he closed the door and stepped forward to introduce himself to the lady present. "Good morning, ma’am. I’m Doctor Warner. I understand you wanted me to examine your son."

Margaret greeted the man politely, then shook her head. "No, sir," she began, "thank you kindly for the offer, but Doctor Jackson saved James’ life. He’s done just fine."

"As I explained to you last night, Dr. Warner," Nathan interrupted. "I ain’t no doctor, just a healer who…."

"You done saved two of my boys, Nathan," Margaret returned the interruption. "You don’t need a piece a paper ta tell folks what you can do."

Charles looked at the woman strangely. He tried to picture an anxious mother with an injured child in her arms. Glancing at the Negro healer, the doctor understood that this man would be given neither the opportunity, nor the means to assist in San Francisco, but he also understood that folks did things a little differently ‘out west’. Yet seeing the clear admiration in the woman’s face and hearing her forceful words, Warner couldn’t help but wondered how a dark man could earn such respect. Given Nathan’s previous description of the wild dog attack, Warner was even more curious to see how the healer had been able to save this child’s leg. "Well, since I am here anyway… shall we take a look," he said as he moved closer to the boy.

Jackson filled the doctor in, as he stepped out of the way, "I just took the splits off ta take a look. Even the drainage canal seems ta be healing nicely."

"Drainage canal?" Charles Warner glanced at Jackson. The question was clear in his words, as he examined the terrible scars on the child’s leg."

"Yes, sir," Nathan replied. "I didn’t have the proper equipment like the book described, so I did the best I could."

A few minutes passed as Warner continued his examination. "How long has it been since the attack?" the doctor asked curiously. He was clearly distressed by the injuries inflicted on the boy, but also impressed by the healing he saw. Especially considering the environment in which the procedures had been carried out.

"More than four long weeks," Margaret replied quietly.

Warner looked over his other shoulder and smiled at the woman. He could see in her eyes that she had suffered everyday along with her child. And he was also beginning to see why she had such high regard for the darker healer. Glancing back at Nathan, the man offered a brief smile, before refocusing on the boy. "Well, young man," he said quietly, "I can see that you’re in good hands here." He gently set the child’s leg back on the bed and smiled again. "The bone will take a few more weeks to set properly, but everything appears to be going well."

"So, I’m gonna be better real quick?" James asked curiously.

"We never doubted Doctor Jackson would see him through this," Mrs. Watson added with obvious pride.

Charles Warner stood up and ruffled the boy’s hair. "Yes, son… I think you’re going to be just fine. And you’ve been brave through all the pain… I can tell."

"It hurt real bad at first," James replied.

"You think the muscles will heal, Doctor?" Jackson asked seriously. "The book told me how important it was to drain and irrigate the wound, but it didn’t say how the muscle would heal."

The doctor smiled one more time at the boy before walking slowly to the exit. He briefly rested his hand on the woman shoulder as he passed her and nodded his head in reassurance.

Mrs. Watson smiled at the man as he moved towards the door, then offered the same beautiful smile to her son.

Nathan followed Charles as he prepared to leave, still waiting for an answer to his question. He glanced back to the Watsons as the doctor replied.

"It’ll take time … once the boy gets back on the leg, he’ll probably walk with a limp. But lots of exercise should cure that… in time." Warner looked at the healer thoughtfully and spoke after a few moments of silence. "If you don’t mind, Mr. Jackson, I’d like to come back tomorrow morning, before the stage leaves, and talk with you some more."

Nathan looked pleasantly surprised at the request and acknowledged the idea. "Yes, sir, Doctor Warner. I’d like that very much."

"Good," Charles replied as he opened the door. "I’d stay longer but my wife and I have hired a buckboard to go out to her father’s ranch. We’ll likely be there for the rest of the day. She has a few things she would like to collect." Stepping outside the clinic he continued as the healer followed. "I’m very interested in the book you referred to in there, and the procedure you tried to follow."

"I didn’t have the right equipment, Dr. Warner…" Nathan stammered. "I did the best I could…"

Charles set his hand on Jackson’s arm and tried to calm the anxious tone of his voice. "From what I can see, Mr. Jackson… no doctor could have done a better job in saving that leg."

Nathan smiled cautiously.

"And the boy’s life, Mr. Jackson." Offering his hand to the dark healer, Charles Warner smiled at the man he had only minutes before questioned.

Jackson took the hand and shook it vigorously.

"I’ll be back," Warner repeated.

"I’ll look forward to it, doctor," Nathan said happily, as he watched the man go down the stairs. He took a deep, satisfying breath before heading back inside and closing the door behind him.

Making his way back over to the bed, Nathan took the splints and replaced them on either side of the boy’s leg.

Having practiced this maneuver many times over the last month, James took hold of the boards and held them in place while the healer proceeded to wrap the leg tightly. "Do I get to go home," the child asked nervously.

Jackson smiled. "The doctor seems happy with what he saw."

"I had no doubt he would," Margaret Watson announced expectantly.

"And I thank you for your trust in me, Mrs. Watson," Nathan replied, glancing at the woman over his shoulder.

"So? …Dr. Jackson… do I get ta go home soon," James repeated again.

"Well," Nathan spoke as he continued to bandage the leg. "I’ll need a couple of promises from both of ya."

Both James and his mother paid close attention to what the man had to say.

"First off," he glanced up at the boy, "You heard what Doctor Warner said. Just like I told ya, that bone ain’t healed yet. I’ll need your word that you’ll not try and stand on it."

Although the disappointment was clearly visible of her son’s face, Margaret nodded her head in compliance with Nathan’s order as James looked at her questioningly. The boy nodded his head slowly in agreement.

"Second… You need to promise ta tell your Ma if somethin’ starts hurtin’. I can’t help ya if I don’t know if somethin’s wrong."

The boy took a second to understand what the healer was saying before acknowledging his compliance. That one seemed a whole lot easier than the first requirement.

"And third," Jackson concluded. He finished tying off the bandages around James’ splints and looked at the boy. "You gotta promise me you’ll keep drinkin’ my herb tea before bed each night."

Mrs. Watson looked at her son expectantly. She didn’t like the smell of the herbal concoction that the healer had her fix for James every night and knew darn well, that the boy liked the taste even less. But if that’s what it took to get her son home… Margaret smiled as the grimace on James’ face began to waver. He nodded, signaling his intent to follow the last of the three rules laid out for him.

Jackson looked over his shoulder one more time and searched the woman’s eyes. With the exception of when her husband had relieved her, Mrs. Watson had remained at her son’s side and nursed him back to health along side the healer. Her heart had lifted every time James had made a little more progress. She had cried when she thought no one was around to hear. Now Jackson was letting her take her child home to his family, to be where he belonged. There wasn’t a request in the world that he could ask of her, that she wouldn’t willingly follow. The gentle smile and the nod of her head confirmed that fact all too clearly.

The silence in the room was broken as Claire Watson came crashing through the door and distracted the three from their agreement. "Hey, James," she called out happily. "Mrs. Benson gave you an A on your story." The girl dashed over to the bed and handed her brother his report.

The big ‘A’ circled at the top was clearly visible, and the boy smiled. He was very happy that the teacher had been able to design alternate assignments for him during his recuperation. And the work had taken his mind off of the fact that he had been stuck in a bed for more than a month.

"Congratulations, James," the healer commented. "That’s quite an accomplishment, considering you didn’t know anything about medicine a month ago."

"All your books helped so much, Doctor Jackson. I could never have done it without ‘em."

Jackson cocked his head. "And you would never have had to if this hadn’ a happened." Nathan commented. "Mr. Sanchez is right, James. Some good things do come along with the bad."

Margaret cleared her throat to be heard above the commotion. "And the rest of the good news, Doctor Jackson," Mrs. Watson tried to steer the conversation back to their original topic.

Nathan smiled as he stood up and ruffled Claire’s hair. "I reckon I can live with the decision… if you two can keep your promises."

Margaret’s smile brightened her whole face and James let out a loud holler.

"What?" his sister questioned.

"Dr. Jackson says James can come home, Claire," their mother answered the query as she slid in beside her son.

Claire let out a comparable holler to the one her brother had offered and hugged them both ecstatically. The Watson’s all shared in the moment of joy.

Nathan shook his head and headed for the door. He was glad that he would be getting his clinic back, all to himself again. Yet as he opened the door and moved through it, Jackson knew without a doubt, that he was going to miss the entire Watson clan’s unwavering optimism. Glancing back at the three people inside his quarters, Nathan smiled with satisfaction and gave the family a little privacy.

"Good morning, Mr. Larabee," the newspaperwoman greeted as the gunslinger came through the door of the Clarion.

Chris smiled at the lady and wondered how she could still look so beautiful with the ink smudged on her face like that. He was about to mention the streak, when he noticed the other woman behind Mary’s desk. Tipping his hat, the blond acknowledged the widow’s greeting. "Mrs. Travis. And good morning to you, Mrs. Thatcher," he called out.

The woman looked up from the box of old papers she was going through and smiled, "Good morning, Mr. Larabee." She waved in his directions.

The blond looked back at his favorite lady. "I can’t believe you’re taking advantage of an old lady like that," he teased quietly.

Mary gasped and set the easel of type down with a jolt. She was playing acting her annoyance at Larabee’s comment, but several of the letters displaced in the container she had held. Her irritation grew as he stood there smiling at her.

"Sure is easy ta get your feathers ruffled sometimes," he mused.

Stepping closer to the couple, Mrs. Thatcher interrupted. "Excuse me if I come to Mary’s defense, Mr. Larabee. But I’m helping out here… not being taken advantage of… and quite frankly, Mr. Larabee. I’m grateful to Mrs. Travis for letting me help. Life can be rather dull without a purpose… When you get to be my age, you’ll understand."

Mary and Chris exchanged smiles before refocusing on the elderly visitor.

"Chris didn’t mean any harm," Mrs. Travis announced quickly.

Larabee was about to add his apology when the elderly woman stopped him with a raised hand. "And life without laughter is just as depressing," she said happily. "Now," she turned to look around. Seeing no more boxes on the floor, Mrs. Thatcher looked back at the newspaperwoman. "Do you have the next boxes, dear?"

"Oh," Mary said quickly. Realizing that she had failed to retrieve some more containers from the storage room, she looked at the gunslinger expectantly. "Would you mind getting some more of the old issue from the store room, Mr. Larabee?"

Chris smiled at the two ladies and headed towards the back of the Clarion to collect the missing files.

Mrs. Thatcher watched the younger woman’s eyes as she followed the departing form. "Your young man is certainly handsome," she whispered quietly as Larabee disappeared from view.

Mary looked at the woman and shrugged her shoulders. "Hadn’t noticed," she declared as she turned back to the easel and began to re-organize the letters.

"Mary Travis," Thatcher exclaimed, "That’s the worst excuse for a lie I’ve heard in a long time."

Both women smiled as they acknowledged the extent of their understanding.

"If he were any more of a ‘man’, Mrs. Thatcher, I don’t believe I could restrain myself much longer."

The older lady giggled like a schoolgirl and drew closer to the widow. "If I were twenty years younger, Mary Travis, you’d be forced to restrain both of us."

"Oh, Mrs. Thatcher, you are awful," Mary joined her companion in a quiet giggle.

A sudden wave of seriousness came over the older woman as she looked at the lady before her. "It would please me greatly, Mary… if you would called me Miriam."

The smile wavered from her face as Mrs. Travis looked at the woman before her. She had been at her most vulnerable after a wild dog had almost taken her life three weeks earlier, and she took no great comfort in admitting that fact. Chris Larabee had done his best to stave her fears. But this elderly woman had seen the pain in her heart and made it her own. The widow had needed a motherly figure to see her through her tears, and Mrs. Thatcher had been an unquestioning pillar of strength. A stranger had stepped off the afternoon stage a month ago, but right now Mary Travis felt as close to this woman as she did her own flesh and blood. Mary smiled. "Thank you, Miriam," she whispered. "It would be my honor."

Casey Wells sauntered towards the livery then stopped at the end of the boardwalk. John Dunne stood before her, and the young woman couldn’t help but standstill and watch. He was only checking his horse’s blanket and the straps of his saddle, but Miss Wells loved the way JD cared for his animal. Dunne finished up and patted Haven’s neck. Slowly he ran his hand down the horse’s side.

And as the young woman observed the movement she could see his gentleness in her mind. She watched as her man reached out and brushed her own cheek, and then ran his fingers through her hair. She closed her eyes as he held her and traced the outline of her naked spine to the small of her back and beyond…

"Hi, Casey," Dunne interrupted the girl’s daydream.

The young woman opened her eyes with a start and immediately let out a yell. "Oh, JD. It ain’t nice ta sneak up on a girl like that," she smacked him hard across the shoulders.

"What?" he yelled in return. He was taken aback by her reaction, and more than a little offended at the accusation. "I didn’t sneak up of ya. You’s standin’ here right in the middle of the street."

"Well…" Casey stammered. She was trying to hide her embarrassment, as well as come up with a good reason for her over-reaction to his greeting. Not being able to accomplish either task, she looked at her young man angrily, turned and stormed off down the street.

"What I do?" the bewildered man called out after her.

"Oh… nothing a man can do anythin’ about, John Dunne," Sanchez chuckled to himself. Stepping off the walk he joined his fellow lawman in front of the livery.

"I just don’t understand that girl sometimes, Josiah. I looked up and saw her standin’ there, so I came over ta say hi."

Shaking his head, the preacher let the smile slowly waver from his face. "I know what you did, JD. I saw the whole thing… Reckon I saw somethin’ you didn’t though."

Dunne looked at the older man and furrowed his brow. "What ‘a ya mean, Josiah… Did I miss somethin’?"

Sanchez huffed at the innocence before him and set a hand on Dunne’s shoulder. He leaned in close before speaking. "I’m not a man who’d stand here and try and explain what goes through the mind of a female, JD. Hell, any man who’d try is a darn fool."

The kid laughed a little to show his agreement to the statement.

"I do know one thing though," he cocked his head. "Casey is no more a girl, than you are a kid." The big man moved his hand from Dunne’s shoulder and turned to face his companion. As the two looked each other in the eye, Josiah spoke quietly, "and what was goin’ through that woman’s mind a minute ago, proves that to be a fact… once and for all."

JD considered the cryptic words. He watched his friend straighten his stance and stretch a little. Suddenly the questioning look disappeared from the young man’s face and was replaced, rather quickly, with an expression of surprise and embarrassment. "Oh," he blurted out.

Josiah smiled at Dunne, raised his eyebrows and nodded his head.

"Oh!" the young man repeated, a little louder.

Josiah smirked at the kid’s reaction and leaned forward to whisper in his ear. "You lucky, son-of-a-gun," he said before patting Dunne’s shoulder once again and heading off towards the church.

JD followed the preacher with his eyes before glancing back at the route Casey Wells had taken. He continued to alternate the direction of his stare as he backed up to Haven. Fumbling as he collided with the horse, Dunne mounted and quickly rode out of town.