The Rancher's Wife
Disclaimer: Dont own em, Not makin money off em.
February Challenge Story
Rating: PG13 for adult situations
Amelia Walcott watched the ladies man walk down the boardwalk across the street. She could certainly see what all her women friends were talking about. He was a fine specimen of a man. She sighed as he laughed out loud at something his young companion had said. He did, indeed, have a smile that could light up a room.
Amy, she thought to herself as she turned and walked into Mrs. Potters General Store, aint you got enough on your plate what with two men and a baby on the way. She shook her head and made her way to the bolts of cloth laying on a table at the back of the store. David needed a few new shirts and she sure could use a new dress. Hers were all getting too tight.
Hello, Amy, havent seen you in town in a long time. How are you? The gorgeous blonde owner of the local newspaper spoke from across the store. Mary made her way to stand in front of the ranchers young wife. Hows David? Amy smiled at her friend and answered, Were both just fine. And you, Mary? How is Billy doing now that hes a permanent resident here?
I cant tell you how wonderful it is to have him here full time. And Billy loves it here. Since that whole mess with his fathers killers got cleared up, he just seems to thrive like a tumbleweed. Noticing that Amy was looking at cloth, Mary whispered conspiratorially, Gloria just got in some lovely cotton cloth. She hasnt even put it out yet. Maybe we can convince her to let us look at it first. What do you say we ask. Mary took the petite brunette by the arm and made her way to where Mrs. Potter was trying to help a man pick out a present for his wife. Gloria, Amy and I are going in the back to look at your new shipment, all right?
Gloria Potter nodded and turned her attention back to the befuddled man. The two women made their way into the storage area and quickly found the bolts of cloth. They were searching through them when Amy picked one up and stopped, her attention totally absorbed by the cloth she was holding.
The material was a light blue and all Amy Walcott could think of was how wonderful Blue Daniels would look in a shirt that matched the color of his eyes. She put the bolt down and her hand went to the slight swelling of her belly. She was sure the baby she carried was Blues but, of course, she could never tell anyone her secret. Well, maybe some day she would tell Blue that he was going to be a father. Maybe. Suddenly, she felt eyes upon her and she quickly tried to change the look of rapture and sadness that mixed on her face.
Whats the matter, Amy? Are you all right? Mary was worried about her friend. She had never seen that look of despair on Amys face before.
Im fine Mary. Its just a little warm back here. These are beautiful but I think the tan out front will do just fine for Davids new shirts. And the green gingham will be just fine for a new dress for me. Billy would be darling in that red. And your friend, Mr. Larabee, would look really good in this blue. Amy winked at the suddenly flustered woman.
Now, why would I make a shirt for a gunslinger, Amy? Hes not even that close a friend. I enjoy the company of all the Seven.
Yeah, right. Speaking of the Seven, I saw Mr. Wilmington walk by as I came in here. Boy, hes an eyeful. I hear he can take his pick of women every night. Has he chosen you yet, Mary? Amy laughed at her friends pained expression.
Oh, my, no. Not that he hasnt made advances. Mary Travis stopped and thought for a few seconds. You know, he hasnt made any advances to me since the day he got to town. I wonder why? He seems to flirt with almost every other woman in town but hes always very respectful to me. Mary seemed genuinely puzzled.
Amy chuckled. Hes not stupid, or at least thats what Ive heard. Mr. Wilmington is probably scared to death that your Mr. Larabee would take exception to his hitting on you. That foul tempered hombre has you staked out as his and dont pretend like you dont know. I, personally, dont see what has you so intrigued. Yeah, hes handsome but hes so sour. Does he ever smile? Now, Mr. Wilmington has a brilliant smile, one that could take your breath away. If I was in the market, well, hed be my choice.
Mary smiled and nodded. Perhaps youre right, Amy. There is something about Buck that is appealing. But hes got so many women pining away for him, I, for one, wouldnt want to be just another notch on anybodys bedpost. Still ..
Both women laughed and, arm in arm, they made their way back to the front of the store.
Gloria, Ill take two yards of the red and three of the light blue. Mary winked at Amy.
Amy grinned and shook her head. Mary had it bad for the gunslinger, no doubt about it. Mrs. Potter, Ill need some of the tan and some of the green gingham. I also need a few other items. Heres my list. Mary, it was good seeing you again. Why dont you come out to the ranch for supper sometime? It was good to see you too, Amy. Ill try. Its just that I get so busy with the paper and trying to make a home for Billy, I rarely get a chance to socialize. Thank you though. Say hello to David for me, okay.
Of course. Have fun making the shirt. Amy teased as Mary made her way out the door. She turned back to Mrs. Potter and waited until Gloria had gathered all her dry goods together. She thanked the widow and picked up her packages. As she made her way out the door, she saw Blue Daniels waiting across the street. She stopped and sighed, and then shook her head slightly. She couldnt take a chance on David seeing her with his ranch hand. Davids temper was legendary and she would do just about anything to keep it away from the man she loved. Again, her hand came to rest on the babe that grew inside her. She turned away from her lovers eyes and made her way to the hardware store where her husband had gone for his supplies.
What in the hell is wrong with you, Amelia? This is the third morning in a row that you didnt have breakfast on the table when I came in! You know I cant waste time sittin around waitin on you to fix my food. Well, woman, I expect an answer! David Walcott stood intimidatingly in front of his wife of three years. He was eight years older than his young wife and about a foot taller. His dark eyes burned into her and she didnt know what to say. She didnt want to tell him that she was experiencing morning sickness. She wanted to tell him she was pregnant when he was calm and contented, not when he was foaming at the mouth.
I havent felt well the last few days, David. Im sorry. It wont happen again, I promise. She looked down at her shoes, never meeting his glare. It better not. Now get me somethin to eat and make it fast. Daylights a burnin. He stomped into the next room, leaving her scrambling to fix his breakfast.
Amy was just cracking some eggs when she felt the familiar blue eyes upon her. She looked up and smiled at the handsome young ranch hand that stood in the doorway. He smiled slowly, longingly, at her and she wanted so much to run into his arms but she held her ground.
Mornin Mrs. Walcott. Your husband had a chore for me to do. Is he in? He licked his lower lip and took a step towards her.
Oh, there you are, Daniels. Here, take this into town and make sure it gets posted. It needs to get to my attorney by next week. And dont take all day. That fence out by the pond needs mendin. Well, git! David sat down and his wife put a plate of eggs and ham in front of him. He had dismissed Blue Daniels from his mind. Amy had not.
Amy bit back the emotions that seemed to well up at the most inopportune times these days. It was all she could do to not snap at her husband for treating Blue the way he did. She knew that the only reason Blue stayed at the ranch was because he loved her. He hated David Walcott. Maybe, one day, she would find the strength to leave but not now. She owed David too much. And part of her still felt something for him, not love, but something. She turned back to her chores for the day.
Amy walked down the boardwalk toward the General store. Her head was down and she didnt notice anyone who happened to be around her. She had told David that she was pregnant the night before and he had not taken it well. She had thought that he would be glad that she was finally pregnant after all these years but he had seemed cold and distant when she had informed him of the life that grew inside her. He had stared at her disdainfully and left without saying a word to her. This morning, he had driven the wagon into town with her right beside him and he had not said a word to her during the fifty minute ride. As he handed her down from her perch on the seat of the wagon, he gruffly said, Be back in half an hour or Ill leave without ya. He had then turned on his heel and left her alone.
Her mind was on her troubles and not on where she was walking. Her foot caught the edge of a loose board and she fell forward. Two strong arms reached out quickly and caught her before she hit the hard wood of the boardwalk. She felt herself being lifted up and placed back on her feet. She looked up to see a smiling face with twinkling blue eyes.
Now, darlin, ya need ta watch where youre goin. Ol Buck cant always be there to catch ya when you fall. Are you okay? He left his hands around her waist and cocked his head slightly.
She blushed and stammered, Yes, Im fine, Mr. Wilmington. Thank you. The name is Buck, darlin. Are ya sure youre all right? You looked a might troubled. Real concern seemed to flow through his eyes as he studied her seriously.
She took a deep breath and smiled, or at least tried to smile. I guess I wasnt paying much attention. I have some things on my mind but nothing serious. Im glad you were there to catch me, Buck. Thank you again. Any time, Mrs. Walcott. Can I walk you to the store? With your mind a million miles away, ya just might walk right on by. He smiled his radiant smile and, this time, she found herself really smiling back at him. She nodded slightly and he took her hand and placed it on his arm. Just in case ya lose your footing again. He patted her hand and they walked to the store together. He tipped his hat to her as he moved away, leaving her at the front door. She stood motionless, watching him walk away.
Hes a charmer, aint he. Half gentleman, half snake. But he sure looks good! Gloria Potter said, coming to stand beside the lovely young brunette. That he does, Mrs. Potter, that he does. The two women were chuckling as they made their way into the store.
Across the street, David Walcott watched his wife. He had seen the whole interlude with the scoundrel. He knew Wilmington. He had played cards with him on numerous occasions and had listened to the man go on and on about his female conquests. He also knew that Wilmington rode with the other six gunmen who protected Four Corners and the surrounding countryside. David clenched his hands at his side. The rage that had begun last night started to find a target.
My wife will be the last woman you tell your friends about. No one takes what is mine!
David paced back and forth. He wanted to hear it from his wifes own mouth. He stopped in front of her prone form. She lay on the floor of their parlor, weeping, unable to look at her livid husband.
Tell me his name! I know that bastard aint mine, woman. I been sterile since I was sixteen. You never wondered why you wasnt pregnant before this? Now, who is it? I want to hear you tell me the name of the whore lover you been sleepin with! He reached down and pulled her up by the arms. He gripped her upper arms painfully and shook her. It was that goddam Wilmington, wasnt it? I saw you two together this morning. Dont try to deny it, Amelia.
Amy slowly raised her head and looked at her wrathful husband. Buck! Could he be her way out of this awful scene? David wouldnt try anything with Buck Wilmington. He would be afraid of Chris Larabee and the others. He would hurt her but he wouldnt touch Buck. And she could protect Blue. She would do anything to protect the love of her life. She gasped a deep breath and said, Yes, it was Buck. But it was just once David, I swear. Its been over and done with for three months. He leaves me alone now and I never see him. I just tripped this morning and he happened to catch me as I fell. I swear thats all there was to it today. Im sorry, David, it was all my fault. I led him on. Please, David, just let it drop. Tears flowed down her face as she beseeched the man in front of her.
David Walcott placed a hand around his wifes neck and squeezed. He squeezed until his wife started to turn blue and then he threw her away like a rag doll. He turned on his heel and walked into the bedroom, slamming the door. Amy struggled for breath. She had saved Blue. She kept repeating it over and over. Right now, it was all that mattered to her.
Buck and JD strolled down the boardwalk to the alley and then began to cross the street. They were headed to the saloon for lunch after riding the morning circuit. They were both in good spirits as they stepped onto the dusty road. Buck knocked the kids hat off his head and laughed as the young man scrambled to retrieve it before a horse stepped on it.
Suddenly, from out of nowhere, four horses surrounded the two men. Buck and JD looked up to see David Walcott and three of his ranch hands glaring down at them. JDs face showed a slight glimmer of fear but Buck just scowled at the four men. He had learned a long time ago that a man wont respect another man if one showed that he was afraid of the other. And Buck had a lot of experience with pissed off men.
What the hell is the meaning of this, Walcott? Buck punched one of the horses to get it to move away from him but the rider moved quickly back into him, the horse stepping on Bucks foot.
Like you dont know! snarled David. If I see you anywhere near her again, youre dead. Ya got me, Wilmington? David leaned down and spit in Bucks face.
Buck had enough experience with irate husbands to know what David Walcott was referring to but he had never slept with Amelia Walcott, hell he had only met her yesterday. Buck saw the anger flaring in the man and decided not to pursue it. He had no intention of ever seeing Amelia again so it was no hair off his chin to avoid her. He nodded to the man on the bay. The man motioned for his men to disperse and they rode out of town, leaving a stunned JD and a puzzled Buck in the middle of the street.
What in blue blazes was that about, Buck? I didnt know you even knew Mrs. Walcott. You didnt . Tell me you didnt sleep with that mans wife, Buck! JD looked up at his big brother and waited for a response.
Buck slapped him on the back and limped to the opposite side of the street.
No, I didnt sleep with Mrs. Walcott. I aint got a death wish even if she is a pretty little thing. Hes deranged, Kid. Forget it. Come on, Im starved, lets eat. With that, Buck was done discussing it. He limped to the saloon, leaving JD watching him. JD shook his head and wondered how Buck could be so cavalier about the assault.
Buck made his way to the table where four of his friends sat. Nathan immediately noticed that the ladies man was limping. He got up and gave Buck his seat, grabbing another for himself.
You all right, Buck?
Got stepped on by a horse. Just a little tender is all. You guys order yet? Buck grabbed Ezras beer and took a long swig.
JD heard Bucks remark and decided to keep the incident with Walcott to himself. It was Bucks business and if Buck didnt want to relay the information to his friends, it wasnt his place to do it either. JD sat down beside Buck and they both ordered when Inez came to the table with plates of food for the other four.
Buck looked at the kid and nodded. JD sighed and nodded back. The whole incident was to be forgotten. When their food arrived they dove in to it and went on about their business for the day.
Amy pulled the horse to a halt in front of the General Store. She had not set foot in town in over three weeks. She didnt want anyone she knew to see the bruises on her face and neck. She didnt want anyone to see her cry for that was all she seemed to do these days. During the altercation with her husband, she had started to hemorrhage and the next day, she had lost the baby. She had stayed in bed for a week, refusing to believe that the precious life she had held within her could be gone. Finally, she had to face the cold hard truth. She now went through the motions of life with little regard for her own. Only this morning at breakfast, did she realize that she had no flour or sugar. David had voiced his complaint as he always did for her inadequacies. She found she could not wait any longer to go shopping and she had hesitantly asked her husband if she could go to town this morning. Surprisingly, he had said yes immediately and had told her that she would have to go by herself, he was too busy to accompany her. She had thought it strange but she welcomed the change of atmosphere.
She got down and quickly looked around to see if anyone she knew was about. She tied the horse to the hitching post and climbed the stairs to the boardwalk. As she reached for the doorknob to enter the store, the door opened away from her and she looked up to see Buck Wilmington standing in front of her. She gasped and her hand went to her mouth. She took two steps back and stared at the tall gunslinger, fear in her eyes.
I aint gonna hurt ya, Mrs. Walcott. He said and reached out to gently take her arm. But, I think we need to talk.
She nodded and he led her to the side alley that ran between the store and the barber shop. He moved down the alley about fifty feet and then he turned to her.
I dont know why you told your husband what you did. Both you and I both know the truth. I figure you got a good reason for using my name like ya did. Buck looked carefully at the weeping woman in front of him, noticing the faint trace of bruising on her face and neck. Tenderly, he cupped her chin with his large hand and turned her face up to his. Did he hurt you, Amy?
Amy looked into the caring blue eyes and nodded ever so slightly. I lost the baby, she whispered. Im sorry Buck, I didnt know what else to tell him. He was so sure it was you. Im sorry.
He pulled her to him and hugged her tight, gently massaging her back, kissing the top of her head, and whispering encouragement in her ear. A few minutes later, he released her. Her tears had stopped but the look on her face told him she wasnt all right.
Is there anything the seven of us can do, Mrs. Walcott? Would you like to talk to Mary? She might be able to help you. His heart went out to the petite young woman before him. He had noticed her before when she was in town. He had always thought her to be spunky, full of life. Now she looked down trodden, afraid to live. He had seen this look of defeat on many of the young ladies he had grown up in the brothel with. He hated to see a woman so beat down.
Thank you for understanding, Buck. Considering what I did, you are being awfully sweet. No, its my problem. Im sorry I made it yours too. David is my husband and I have to live with him. Thank you though for the support. I have to go now. Ill be fine. She turned and ran back to the front of the store.
Jim Grisham had been sitting on his horse in the middle of the street. He watched intently as Wilmington took the small woman down the alley and held her tight. He watched the ladies man caress the womans back and kiss her tenderly on the head. He watched as the man whispered words of love in the womans ear. He snickered to himself as he rode out of town.
You were right, Dave. She went right to him. They were all lovey dovey right there in the middle of town. What do you want to do about it? Jim was still astride his horse as he reported back to David Walcott. He and David had been friends for a long time. Now he acted as Walcotts foreman at the ranch. He knew how good David treated the little bitch. She had no right to embarrass his friend the way she had just done.
Get Hal and Lefty. Tell them we have a job to do tonight. Not a word to anyone else. It cant get back to her or shell try to warn him. After dark, we ride to town. Davids eyes glowed with hatred. Tonight, he would teach his wife a little lesson and he would rid the world of one goddam whore-lovin bastard.