The Past Is Never Forgotten

by Kit

SUMMARY: A woman comes to Four Corners with a very troubled past. Not looking for anything but a new life she finds seven new friends and a new beginning instead of an end to her life.

COMMENTS: This story I had in my head for sometime and thought might as well put it down on paper in the hopes that people may enjoy it. Mind you, some may not feel that what I wrote one would call accurate to the show. But we'll never what could have come about with the town, people, etc. Anyway, the story involves all seven and I just hope enjoy the read.

Feedback is always welcome. I am very interested to know your opinions of the story. Please feel free to drop me a line.

The Standish Tavern seemed to be in a bit of a dilemma as Jane Townsend entered. The bar was crowded with too many men and dirty unclaimed plates and cups. They were stacked aside the men as they received full new plates of food. Each table had men sitting much too tightly together and if the table wasn't full of food and a mess it was just full of a mess. As she tried to take in the situation it appeared there was one lonely man doing all of the work. And from the way he appeared...she was surprised to see him engaged in such menial labor. He looked like a "gentleman". With the exception of the apron tied about his hips and touches of gravy and flour that were spotted here and there on his clothing, he was dressed very smart. His paisley suspenders were accompanied with a white cotton shirt that had ruffles both on the collar and the sleeves. The bottoms of his dark blue pinstriped pants gathered at his shiny black boots those too were now spotted with touches of food. He certainly didn't seem to care what he was doing and the patrons were not helping in the least by yelling orders at him and complaining each time he walked by a different table offering another comment.

Finding a lonely table, Jane sat herself down like the others...her table was full of an unkept mess. She couldn't' help but feel sorry for his plight he needed assistance but would he be willing to take hers? Taking another look about...the place was a little less to be desired. Bits and pieces of food were on the floor. Spots of what she guessed to be coffee and what ever else accompanied it. Also, it looked as if it hadn't been swepted or washed in however long. She needed a job in the worst way. Just arriving in town and getting off the stage pretty much that moment she knew there weren't going to be many offers and options. As she saw that he was making his way towards her she braced herself.

"Hey Standish!!!...Where's my food?!"

Comes a loud bark from across the room full of people.

Ezra Standish couldn't help but cloud his mind with private thoughts. Why on earth did he open the doors? He should have just left the place to rot! And to open it with out help or knowing how too cook...he had know idea what he'd gotten himself into. Snapping a glare over his shoulder. "You'll wait your turn!" He spits back.

Now he placed his attention on her. "What is it I might be able to assist you with?" He asked out of breath, one hand he kept on his hip and the other he used the back to roughly wipe the sweat from his brow.

He held a rich and quiet southern accent. As he stood waiting on her reply, without even knowing, he complained to himself while touching and pulling at the stains on his clothes that no doubt were brought on as the day progressed. His temper really flared when he noticed a cuff link was missing from one of his sleeves. At first words didn't come out she just stared up at him. He really didn't fit the part as a waiter and quite frankly she didn't want to bother him. He seemed busy enough. "A cup of coffee?" She finally blurted out.

In frustration he threw up his arms. "The single fixation I have not had occasion to prepare!"

Her mouth fell agape at his quick remark and again found herself a loss for words. He didn't frighten her she just didn't know what to say. Not knowing the gentleman words escaped her.

"I do apologize." He offered in a more relaxed tone. Pulling out the chair that was empty in front of her he roughly sat down and ran a hand through his short brown locks.
"Truly you must absolve my actions. I am not always so disagreeable." Searching for more words he did his best effort to put on a smile. "This is most categorically not my region of expertise. I am unaided I most undoubtedly do not have an inclination of the duties that are required for such a position..."

Not knowing pretty much anything he said but not wanting to sound dim witted she felt it best to play along. "I understand." she did in the sense that one didn't always get what they were best at in employment and had to take what was thrown their way. "You seem like you could use some help. Are you looking for some?" She felt uneasy blurting out the offer but right now she didn't have time to be proud. She was alone and there was no one else to help her out with money.

For the first time in the course of the day and for some time he found a true smile come to his face. "Indeed I am. I am in desperate need of assistance." He couldn't help but chuckle. "What is your name?"

Putting a hand out for him to accept. "Jane, Jane Townsend and yours?"

He accepted her hand with a soft but firm grasp. "Jane." He nodded with approval. He then grinned widely. "I thought perhaps it would be acquainted with the heavens. Again, I must apologize for my loss of etiquette I am Ezra Standish and I have possession of this god forsaken establishment."

She couldn't help but blush at his compliment. He was charming. Trying to hide her embarrassment she gave a quick look around and turned back to him. "Well Mr. Standish I think with some extra time and imagination this could be a lovely place." Once again, she couldn't help but think how he looked like he belonged in San Francisco, New Orleans or somewhere fancy not here, in this no mans land. He seemed early to mid thirty's his short brown hair held no touches of gray but one could see where the sun had naturally worn in streaks of blond. He had a few lines under the lightest green eyes she'd ever seen. He was a blindly handsome man. She felt for the ladies of the town.

"Did I detect a Texas accent? Your manner of speech is not unlike Mr. Tanners." As he took in her appearance he could see she wasn't a young woman. Not old by any means but a few years younger than he must. She was an attractive woman. A few strands of gray showed through her thick chestnut mane of hair that was pulled back in a tight bun. She wore a dress that was light blue calico.

She sat silent and said nothing in regards to his comments. Obviously Mr. Tanner was a friend of his but how he figured Texas....

Her amber eyes had warmth but also a hint of warning. When she didn't answer on his remarks he figured he best leave it alone. He knew he was going to like her. Getting up from his chair. "Might I be so bold as to suggest you start at this very moment and I insist that you call me Ezra not Mr. Standish."

"Beginning now would not be a problem." And as she got up from the table, she followed him and stated. "And the first thing I'm going to do Ezra is make a pot of coffee."

+ + + + + + +

As the day was coming to a close one man was left sitting and eating as Jane cleaned everywhere but around him. He seemed very much to himself. Even when he brushed in with his tall lean form and with the exception of the silver concho belt that adorned his gunbelt his wardrobe was full black. She knew enough to just serve him and leave the small talk.

"I'm finished."

She turned as he stood up, then taking some coins out of his pocket placed them on the table. His soft blue eyes locked on hers. He couldn't have been more than forty. He was ruggedly handsome and looked very dangerous if provoked. After he placed his hat on his head of short blond hair, he tipped the rim. "Goodnight ma'am." He nodded, turned to go out the door. The sound of his spurs added a hit of intrigue in regards to this man. Before he reached the door, he looked over his shoulder to her. "The food wasn't Mexican." It was more of a statement than a question.

"No," She whispered picking up his dishes. "I can't cook like that. I only know the types of foods from the North." She tilted her head slightly to a side and grasped the dishes more firmly with both her hands. "Sorry if you didn't like it." She had a feeling people might not be pleased with a change of menu in the area but it was a risk she and Ezra would have to take.

"On the contrary...It was very good. Guess since sounds like you're from Texas, I assumed it would be Mexican. Anyway, best meal I've had in a long while." With that he went out the door.

She didn't think her accent was that recognizable. She just hoped the town would work out. She placed the dishes on the table, took out a chair and sat. She was tired. What a day she'd had. Having to throw out all the food that was prepared from the last employee she of course had to prepare new and more food. Ezra had given no explanation as to why the person had left and she didn't ask. Besides with cleaning and serving as well when she could to help Ezra there really was no time for talk. Earlier in the day, Ezra had taken her luggage over to the hotel; he said he'd have her checked in so that she wouldn't have to worry about not getting a room. He was so kind, he insisted on paying since he had her start that very day. If he only knew about her past she wondered if he'd be this good to her. She was a woman over thirty and to common people she was a spinster and most likely the ones from the past that did know her found her loose. It didn't matter now. Pushing herself up from the chair, she collected the dishes and was relieved that they were the last to be cleaned. As she walked towards the kitchen she took another look about the place...yes, she nodded in approval this really does have character it just needs attention. And she knew she'd have to offer some.

+ + + + + + +


All but jumping out of her dress, not to mention drop the key that belonged to the tavern onto the boardwalk as a voice came from behind her. Turning slowly she came to face a very handsome man in buckskins. As soon as she turned he tipped his hat and gave a warm smile.

"Didn't mean to startle yeah." He stood with his thumbs in the top of his breeches; she could see his suspenders peeking from the inside of his jacket his gunbelt and guns hung low on his hips. He had hair just about he color of her but a bit lighter. He was about the same age as Ezra.

"Names Vin Tanner." He watched as she gave him the once over and wondered if he frightened her. She didn't' appear to be afraid of him just a bit shaken by his abrupt interruption. "Ezra asked that I walk you to the hotel."

So this was Mr. Tanner. Well Ezra was right he definitely held a Texas accent it was much more noticeable than hers was though. She hoped his memories of Texas were more pleasant than the ones she held. "Ezra is so kind." She whispered. She couldn't begin to wonder if every man in this town were handsome.

"Yeah," He chuckled lightly. Lifting his elbow. "Sounds like we're from bout the same parts?" Peering over at her. "Texas I mean."

Excepting his elbow. "Thank you. "I'm Jane Townsend." She really didn't want to discuss Texas. "I'm originally from the North only the last few years did I live in Texas."

"Grew up and spent my whole life there well up till now that is."

Wanting the subject to quickly change. "Well, I don't' really call anywhere my home."

He was getting her meaning. Obviously she didn't want to talk about herself so he'd amuse her. "Well Miss Townsend," They began their walk to the hotel. "Ezra, me and about five others take care of this town.

"Really?" She was intrigued she'd never heard of such law tactics. "Who are the other five men?"

"Well there's Chris Larabee, Nathan Jackson, Josiah Sanchez, Buck Wilmington and JD Dunne. JD is what you might call the official Sheriff." Again he chuckled. "Didn't want you thinkin Ezra's in charge cause I'm here at his request. It's just we do things for one another."

"Oh," She didn't realize she was the prize in a raffle.

As if sensing her thoughts, he continued hoping to put her mind at ease. "It ain't that I didn't want to walk you to the hotel it's just..." He sighed loudly. Mercy if he wasn't good around women. "Never mind."

"It's alright Mr. Tanner." She petted his arm. "Really you don't need to explain. I wouldn't want the job of babysitting some woman either."

Stopping them in their tracks. "No," He was getting frustrated with himself. "I just ain't good around women. I never know what to say." Looking at her he could see she wasn't taking anything he'd said to heart. Ezra was right...she was a good person and he was lucky that she ended up at his tavern instead of the hotel that day.

Again they began to walk.

"Ezra is very good to me." She laughed lightly. "Well at least from what I've gathered. We really haven't had much time to talk."

"I hope you come to like all us. You've met three so far."

Looking at him dumbfounded. "I've only met two, you and Ezra."

"Nope, He shook his head lightly. "You met Chris too. He's the fella that held you up from leavin."

"Oh." It was all she could think to say. "He looked more like the type to disturb the peace than to keep it.

"I've been keepin an eye on yeah. Never know what someone might think to do with a lone woman working at night." Shrugging his shoulders. "As for Chris well, he's a good enough fella once you get to know him." He stated as a matter of fact.

As they reached the hotel he tipped his hat. "You sleep well now Miss Townsend." He had to admit...for once Ezra was right she was attractive in all ways.

Taking on a wide smile. "It's Jane. And you have a good evening Mr. Tanner and thank you so much for seeing me to the hotel."

He winked. "Been a pleasure and call me Vin."

With that she made her way up the stairs and to the door of the hotel. Out of curiosity she turned to see if he'd left....indeed he'd stayed, he wanted to see that she safely got inside. It had been some time since she'd seen a man pay that compliment.

+ + + + + + +

It was a rainy Sunday morning as Jane made her way over to the church. As the soft rain turned into a down poor, she ran through the muddy main street and finally up the stairs and into the shelter of the dry church.

After she was done running her hands through her damp hair and smoothing down her dress that now had a full line of mud at the bottom of it. She took a look about and was shocked to see that she was alone. It was a small establishment that needed lots of work but it appeared someone was taking care of that. The only light came from the candles that were about the altar and the stairs that lead to it.

Hearing footsteps that were light then turned heavy the closer they approached. She turned in the direction of the sound and there stood a bear of a man. With what looked to be a carpenter's box full of tools. At first he did not notice her but after a moments time he looked in her direction and put on welcoming smile.

"Good morning." He greeted with a warm husky voice.

"Hello." This couldn't be the preacher. Dressed casual, he had on a light blue cotton shirt, his solid dark brown pants were tucked his tall black boots. He wore two necklaces one adorned with assorted colored beads and the other...a large crucifix and with exception of the crucifix he looked like he was entering a saloon not a house of god. He had to be in his early fifty's, he had short, wavy thick salt and pepper hair.

"I'm Josiah Sanchez," He placed the toolbox on the floor and brought his arms upwards. "And this is the church," He dropped his arms and chuckled lightly. "Well we hope someday."

That was four of the seven she'd met. She liked his voice, it seemed comforting and seeing the size of was an advantage with people she was sure he would never be aware of. "I've come for Sunday service." From looking around the didn't look as though that were going to happen.

"Now that's a new are the first to flock to my," Mockingly clearing his throat. "Congregation."

"Oh," She couldn't help but be disappointed. She really could hear some words of inspiration.

Placing his hands on his hips, he tilted his head to a side. "Aren't you the young lady that works for Ezra?"

"Yes, I'm Jane." She was tired of saying her full name besides it appeared her presence in town was somewhat the latest news.

"Folks I hear seem to like your food. I myself haven't had the time to test it. Been on the road."

"Do you mind if I sit and pray at least?" Might as well. The other option was back out in the rain and to her boring room.

He waived a hand at the empty pews as an offering. "Be my guest."

Taking a spot in the middle isle she sat and then took her rosary beads from her purse, she then knelt and worked on her conversation with the lord on her sins.

Josiah took a seat in front. He placed an elbow on the top of the pew placed his chin on his palm and watched her pray. She certainly did seem to have allot on her mind. Not bad on the eyes either. He wanted to offer her confession but of late....not too many people wanted to share their inner most feelings or thoughts with him.

Peering up from her prayers she couldn't help but notice him watching her. "Is there something wrong Mr. Sanchez?"

Shaking his head lightly. "No, just wondering if maybe you might want to offer confession."

"Why would I want to do that?" She snapped. She didn't know why took such a quick defense. He was just offering his help. Being on her own for so long didn't help her lack of manners in the socializing department.

"Suit yourself." He stated getting up and retrieving his toolbox again.

"I'm sorry. I had no right to talk to you like that." She really didn't like being rude to people it's just she had a hard time talking about herself.

He stood grinning down at her with his toolbox in hand. "Apology accepted."

"Mr. Sanchez, it's just what I have in my head I really am so scared to confide in anyone." Her eyes turned full of sadness. "And since you're not truly a man of god...well, I'm afraid what you might think of me."

"No, I'm not a priest but I like to think with all the wisdom I've come to gain from my time with the Indians," He chuckled. "I won't boar you with those stories. Anyway, I feel I've done my time to be accepted as a man of god or at least a spiritual advisor of sorts."

Sitting back she wrung her hands in her rosary beads. "How much time do you have Mr. Sanchez?"

Dropping the toolbox lightly on the pew he had occupied. "All much time as you need. And the names Josiah."

He went over and sat beside her but he kept his gaze forward not saying a word.

She knew he wanted her to start when she was ready...if she didn't get this out now...she knew she never would. "I don't know where to start." Her voice cracked a bit. Why she felt so full of emotions she wasn't certain.

He shifted his eyes in her direction briefly and then back forward. Bringing up the past was something she had to do on her own and without interruption. It was best he listened until she was through with her tale.

Peering up at him. "I've been running a long time Josiah." She confessed and then placed her gaze back to her hands that held the beads firmly in her grasp as if they would protect her from the backlash she was sure to receive once she was done.

He nodded vigorously. "I know all about that." If this woman only knew the heartache and horror he'd endured both personally and professionally she wouldn't feel so shameful about her own turmoil.

"Well," She breathed. "I'm originally from Boston," Snorting lightly. "Most folks hear you're from those parts and think you're from money. Well I wasn't." Turning to him. "Josiah I had a horrible child hood, my teenage years weren't much better. My father worked and what he made...well he drank. My mother was scared of her own shadow." Sitting back she shook her head slightly. "Anyway, I'm sure you can get the idea of how things were." Turning to him she gave a smug smile. "Here's were the good part comes in. My father sent me to live with my uncle in Texas. From the time I arrived money was very tight...they were nice enough people but my Uncle was a farmer and with a wife and six kids of his own as time wore on it got tougher and tougher for me to be living with them. I did my best to help him out in the field and my Aunt with the house, kids, cooking....well after about five years I just couldn't impose any longer. I went into town and looked for work there. I got lucky and found a job working with the wife of the storeowner as a seamstress. One day I'm minding my own business working and along comes who I began to believe was my knight in shining armor...."

After this comment she became quiet. For sometime there was nothing said.

"Are you sure you want to go on?" Josiah offered as he broke the silence. He could see she was doing her best to be brave but sharing these types of memories were unpleasant enough to endure let alone talking about them aloud with a perfect stranger.

Slowly she nodded her head. "Yes," Giving him a quick yet painful smile. "It's got to be said. I have to tell someone. I know to many people at my current age I'm considered a spinster but at the time I was with Jarod. That was his name Jarod Chisholm. I was already a woman in my twenty's."

"Not the Jarod Chisholm!" Josiah couldn't help but interrupt her that time. Everyone was familiar with the name Chisholm. Living in the west, east, wherever they were undoubtedly the wealthiest cattle barons in Texas and most likely New Mexico Territory's.

She couldn't help but laugh at his out burst and his surprised expression. "Yes the Jarod Chisholm. Anyway, I didn't know anything about him or his family wealth the land anything. Little by little he charmed thing lead to another and..." Her voice became small. "We eventually became intimate." Steeling a glance she saw that he didn't seem to condemn her...yet. "He promised and promised that we would be married. So I constantly fell for his excuses. We were a couple for quite a while...he never once introduced me to his parents. Well, I began to get sick quite often. Jarod talked me into seeing the family doctor." Her voice now began to crack with emotion. "I um...I found out I was going to have a baby." She could feel the tears beginning to work their way down her cheeks. She wiped them away with the back of a hand.

"Do you want to stop?" Josiah couldn't help but press that she reconsider her confession. She was breaking his heart.

"Yes," She assured him while sniffing back more tears. "I need to do this. I didn't see Jarod for almost a week after I agreed to see the doctor. He came to my room one night. He was drunk." Her voice seemed to fade as if she were visualizing the event unfolding in front of her. "We talked around the subject for a while and then finally I just told him I was going to have a baby..." She dropped her head to her chest and began to sob. "He said he knew and it wasn't his." Fiddling through her purse she finally found a handkerchief and lightly blew her nose several times. Her attempt to laugh failed her. "He then went onto say he was getting married. His family arranged it. The girl he was marrying was from an adjoining ranch...they were going to merge the families like their cattle."

"I'm sorry." Was all he could say. He was sickened by her story. How could a man do this to a woman...any woman?!

"You haven't heard the whole story Josiah."

He nodded as an inclination for her to continue. "If you feel you should." If this man did anything further he and the others were going to track him down and kill him...Jarod Chisholm or not!

"I was devastated. He left of course. And when I say left...I mean left. A week passed and I was at odds with myself. I had no money, husband and no family not really. The townspeople knew of Jarod and I, my reputation would have been ruined if it hadn't already been. My options were limited."

She was quiet for a while. And with the quiet she heard the rain and until this time had forgotten how it poured down on her not too long ago. Realizing now that she was in a daze, she then turned to Josiah with eyes full of shame. "I was desperate you see."

He took one of her hands and stroked it lightly. He still remained silent so that she could finish her horrific tale.

"At first I thought of taking laudanum...I thought of everything and I came to the conclusion there was only one, I went to the top of the stairs at the hotel and without even mussing a hair...I threw myself down them. I drifted in and out of consciousness for weeks. Jarod's doctor was the one who nursed me back. I think he knew all along what was going to happen and what Jarod was...when I got well enough the doctor was kind enough to give me what money he had in his bill fold and here I am."

Josiah was truly stunned. "I have no words." He breathed. He thought he had heard it all but this woman just proved to him there was still allot to learn about people.

"I know." There certainly was no explanation needed. What could he say?

He turned to face her. "What do you want? I mean now?"

A faint smile came to her lips. "It's over now....would you pray with me?" There was nothing she did want other than peace of mind.

"Of course." How could he refuse such a simple answer?

And with that, side-by-side both began to pray for a clean soul.

+ + + + + + +

Diligently washing the floor and blowing once again at the strand of hair that annoyingly insisted on dropping in her eyes. Jane had to admit she was exhausted. The job took so much out of her. Ezra offered that if she could find someone she felt she could work with he'd bring him or her on. To her there was no end to his kindness. She had to admit...if her past hadn't been such a sickening experience she might entertain the notion to pursue him but be that as it may...she would not. She was through with men.

A quiet whistling of a passer by caught her attention. She stopped pushing the mop long enough to spy Casey Wells make her way past the doorway. Casey was from what she'd heard from the patrons was the granddaughter of Nettie Wells a prominent member of the community. The seven came to their rescue on an occasion and although Casey hated to admit it...she and JD were an item. At least that's what she gathered from the gossip. Dropping the mop she made for the exit.

"Casey!" She yelled breathlessly as she trotted after the young woman.

Turning on her heals and eyeing the woman as if she were a few sandwiches short of a picnic basket Casey couldn't' place her. "Do I know you?" She was sure she'd seen her around town but just didn't know where. She was pretty enough. Casey liked how the sun complimented her red highlights also she didn't feel threatened by her.

Jane came to stand in front of her. "Well, not really." She admitted. They'd never met. "I've seen you around town." Casey was young Sixteen at the most. She let her shoulder length hair to blow in the cool breeze. She wore a white cotton pin stripped shirt and brown pants. No doubt, she was a tomboy. Jane knew she must look awful due to the cooking and cleaning and she also knew she probably smelled a mixture of both food and cleaning products. She was definitely a mess.

Casey was eyeing her suspiciously. "What do you want?" Nope...she couldn't place her.

This young lady certainly got down the point of the matter. Placing a hand over her chest. "I'm Jane. I work at the Standish Tavern."

"Oh!" Casey's' mood lightened severely. Stomping a foot on the ground. "That's were I've seen you. I knew I'd seen yeah around town."

Jane couldn't help but let out a sigh of relief. At lest the girl didn't think she'd seen her in an insane asylum. "I was wondering well," She'd better get out the question. Casey had that look on her face again. "I could really use some help and Mr. Sta—I mean Ezra said if I could find someone willing to help me out..."

"What would I have to do?" Casey wasn't sure with that Ezra she could only imagine what he'd have them doing. He was a character that one.

Jane was beginning to feel hopeful she might just have help. " that sort of thing."

"I don't know..."

"Oh, please Casey?!" She felt awful begging the girl but she needed help badly.

Casey frowned. "I can't cook but I guess I could help you clean up the place."

Jane clasped her hands in triumph. "Casey you're a an absolute doll."

"Yeah?" She'd never been told that before. She had a feeling she was going to like working with Jane.

"When do you think you could start?" She knew today was out the question but as soon as possible was a must.

"I've got to talk with my Grand-Mother and then I'll get back with you." She went to walk away and then turned back. "How much will I get paid?"

"I'm not sure." She'd have to talk with Ezra when he returned. "I'll speak with Ezra and we'll come up with a figure, ok?"

Casey nodded. "Ok."

With that Casey Wells went on her way. Jane couldn't be more pleased. There really wasn't anyone else she would consider working with. Not that she knew the young girl but every other woman certainly didn't seem co-worker material. Making her way back to work she knew the day would go by easier then the past ones. She was finally going to get some of the work load off her and maybe even find some free time to herself or at least a more at ease atmosphere.

+ + + + + + +

A shadow cast a dim in the sunlight from the doorway as Jane was wiping down the bar. As she brought her gaze to the form walking towards her he took his hat from his head and let it rest on his back. He walked with such a confidence in his step. He was the literal tall, dark and handsome man. With his thick dark brown hair and mustache adorning his top lip. A red bandana hung from around his neck, his jacket and pants were both light brown and as he placed his hands on his hips, his suspenders came into view.

She couldn't help but be captivated as he stood there smiling at her. It wasn't just any smile but the most boyish yet seductive smiled she'd ever seen on any man. This town should be renamed to have something to do with handsome men she thought stunned by yet another looker.

"I'm Buck Wilmington." He announced with pride as he watched her stare at him. It had been a while since he'd seen any women come into the town that weren't either high and mighty or just down right unattractive. He was pleased at the fact he decided to feed on the curiosity after hearing Ezra brag about his new associate. Vin, Chris and Josiah seemed to approve of her too so he figured he best find out for himself if she was worth a bother.

Nodding her head at what she now counted to be the fifth of the seven she'd met. "Mr. Wilmington. I'm Jane." It wasn't that he made her feel uneasy, well not in a scared sense just a nervous one.

Finally he made his way over to the bar and leaned over so that they were face to face. He liked what he saw, especially her hair color and soft white skin. "Jane huh? Don't get many red heads." He was giving her an approving once over. "You look like a real live prairie flower."

At first her face grew crimson from embarrassment at his bold stares in regards to her body. But then she had to wonder if he was for real with the lines. With the looks he had he didn't need them. "Thank you Mr. Wilmington." She managed.

Slapping a hand on the bar. "It's Buck darlin!" He then took a quick look about the room and back to her. "This place sure looks a heap better since you come along. Ol Ezra was about goin out of his mind without any help." He laughed out loud. "I told him with out Inez he was gonna be one sorry fella. But did he listen to Buck?!" Noooo...."

"Who's Inez?" She couldn't help but ask. It was the first time she'd heard the name.

Again he leaned in closer. "She worked here before you." Leaning even closer he whispered. "Ezra didn't feel she was....well...let's just say Ezra felt it best she move on."

Leaning back from his constant ardent glare. She couldn't help it...he certainly had no problem in showing his attentions to a woman. "He never mentioned her." Now she was curious if Ezra had a problem with women working with him or perhaps there was something romantic between him and this Inez? It didn't matter time would tell with hers and Ezra's working relationship and as far as his past...well who was she to judge?

He shrugged off her comment. "I'm not surprised. He doesn't talk about her period." Waiving a hand as if to waive off the subject. "Well, she's gone now and you're here." He brought on a lopsided grin. "And that's what matters."

"Mr. Wil--Buck I mean. I don't know if you're aware but I was just cleaning up and getting ready to leave...the tavern is closed."

"I know that...I told Ezra I'd be the one walkin you to the hotel tonight."

She let out a frustrated sigh. "I've explained to Ezra I can walk on my own but he insists on taking me or putting one of you through the bother." Over and over she'd done her best to assure Ezra she could make her way to the hotel was only a few steps down the street but he'd have none of it.

Giving a quick laugh. "Never thought I'd say this but Ezra's right a woman shouldn't be walking around this town at night." Tilting his head to a side. "Specially one as pretty as you."

"Buck," She took on a serious tone. "Please believe me when I say this and don't take it the wrong way but." She began to feel her palms getting sweaty; she began to wipe them on the apron to keep them dry. "You seem like a nice enough man." Seeing his grin not diminishing she felt a bit more at ease. "It's just I'm not interested in getting involved with any man...not for a long while...perhaps not ever again. So I'm asking you to please let me be." Noticing that he was slowing becoming more serious. "Unless of course you'd consider being friends. Because I would really like that, I'd like being your friend."

It wasn't often he got this type of response from a woman. But when he did, he didn't like to but he'd respect her honesty. "Well I've never made a woman do anything she didn't want." Placing that devilish grin that he had on his face when he first entered. "But I've never had too much trouble changing one's mind neither."

She couldn't help but laugh. "Well I guess that's all I can ask for Buck. Let me just finish up and we'll go."

"I'll just take me a seat." He motioned a thumb over his shoulder at the back row of empty tables and chairs. "And get comfortable until you're wantin to go."

"I appreciate that." Beginning to wipe down the bar again, she couldn't help but smile to herself. He certainly was a chameleon. She liked him. She liked them all.

+ + + + + + +

As Jane collected the usual items for the house at the General Store, she couldn't help but think back again of how Ezra's generosity showed no bounds. Week's back at what seemed to be a typical afternoon, Ezra had gone to the bank to make his daily deposit the visit turned out to be much more than the norm. As Jane and Casey were preparing for the dinner crowd Ezra came rushing in and explained his well her good fortune. While waiting his turn for the bank manager he couldn't help but over hear him and the other man talking. It appeared the man wanted to sell his home that resided just out of town. He went onto to tell of how his wife had passed and he planed on moving back with his family that lived out of state. Ezra took the initiative and interrupted the two men's discussion. After a brief meeting the three went to the house were Ezra looked over the establishment and made them an offer on Jane's behalf. Of course after Ezra got through telling her the news she had mixed feelings. She was thrilled but how could she afford it? Ezra insisted that with the financial agreement he planned out for her she could have no other option but except the house. When Ezra brought her to the homestead and she saw it she began to weep. She new it was meant for her. It was a small white one bedroom; all rooms held generous amounts of space. There was an inviting sit down porch and a welcoming windmill to the side of the barn. To both their surprises she embraced him and gave a quick peck on the cheek. They couldn't help but laugh as they both were stunned by her reaction. He was undoubtedly the best friend she'd ever had.

The sound of two men talking brought her back to the present. Her smiled faded into a frown. While looking through the limited quantity of interesting books at the General Store one could do nothing but be disappointed.

"I ordered those books weeks ago."

"It's not my fault Nathan. I have no control over when deliveries come."

Jane peeked over her shoulder to witness a quiet argument was enveloping between the shop owner and a young and very handsome black man.

Shaking his head in frustration the man the shop owner called Nathan made his way over to the book section along with her. Other then his dark blue shirt he was dressed in all dark brown. Taking his hat he set it to rest on his back.

"Ma'am." He nodded as he brushed past her and trying to sound pleasant.

Nodding a hello she placed her eyes back on the book she had in her hands.

He was having a heated discussion with no one other than the books that he was pushing about. "Nothing ever comes when you need it, have to work on folks and what's the thanks you get?"

Jane couldn't help but giggle at his fit. To her surprise she saw that he had turned her way. She hoped he didn't think she was laughing at him...only the situation. "I'm so sorry. It's just I talk to myself all of the time as well."

At first his face remained blank, then he began to laugh as well. "I'm sorry Miss it's just I'm always needin things for the clinic...folks always got different ailments and without books I can't find out what' wrong with em."

Taking a couple steps in his direction. "You're the doctor?" She had to admit...she was amazed a black doctor!

Putting his hand out. "Names Nathan Jackson, I'm not a doctor I just do my best to heal folks."

Eagerly she took his hand and shook. "My names Jane. I work for Ezra Standish." So this was the sixth of the seven? Wow what an eclectic group they were.

"Ezra huh?" He laughed lightly. "He best be good to you. I know how he can get." Ezra was always looking for an angle. Lately, however, Nathan had to admit he'd gotten better. He also had to admit...Ezra never took advantage of women.

Immediately coming to her employer's defense. "He is Mr. Jackson. I assure you." Why was it all these men held what appeared to be a grudge or lack of respect for Ezra? He was the sweetest man she'd ever known.

He laughed. "It's Nathan. Please don't call me Mr. Jackson. That was my daddy's name. I ain't nearly his age."

She laughed as well. "No you certainly are not old Nathan."

Walking over to him and the books. "If I may?" She began going through the pile of books that were in front of him. "I just know I saw a book on chemistry in the pile. "Uh, yes," Picking up the thick black book she had set aside earlier on her quest for literature. "Here it is..." Placing it in his hands. "I don't know if it's exactly what you need but it may help some what."

Nathan leafed through the pages for a few seconds. He then shut the book and held it up. "I imagine it can at least give me somethin to look into till my others come along. Thank you." He said with a shake of the book she'd found for him.

"You're welcome Nathan. I hope it helps."

"You have a good day now Jane." He placed his hat on his head and tipped the rim. Lightly brushing by her, he then made his way up to the desk and paid for the book and reminded the storeowner to let him know as soon as his books arrived. Before leaving he turned at the door and gave her another warm smile, he then made his exit.

She couldn't believe these men that protected the town. She also wondered how they all were able to be friends...they were all so different.

+ + + + + + +

Life was definitely getting more pleasant for Jane. With Casey helping her out as many hours possible every day. The cooking was pretty much her only burden other than managing the business. Casey did most the cleaning in and out of the kitchen. She also turned out to be much more of a co-worker than she could have ever dreamed. Never complaining she worked as hard as Jane did and they were becoming fast and good friends. Taking matters into their own hands; Jane and Casey persuaded a number of the older boys and girls to come over after school let out and help, as servers and busboys and getting their own tips it didn't take much arm-twisting. They even found that one of the students was excessively good with mathematics so they took him on to balance the books going forward. Talk of the menu and service of the tavern began to spread like wild fire and people were coming in bunches to see what all the talk was about. With the extra money coming in the girls would have touch ups done inside and outside the establishment. Indeed the place had brought on a new character and making more money then its owner hoped possible.

"You two lady's have saved and I must say advanced my finances in a paramount sense." Ezra was going through his cash box with childish glee.

They were all sitting down at the same table. Both Jane and Casey were having a well- deserved cup of coffee and Ezra held onto the cash box as if the two women were potential robbers.

"Well you know Ezra." Casey piped up. "We deserve more of that money too."

"Casey," Jane whispered a warning to her and quick uneasy glance at Ezra. "Ezra has been good to us."

Taking a slurp of her coffee. "He could be better." She didn't care. She'd known Ezra longer and new he could be tighter than a lady's corset with his money.

Shaking his head slowly. "Casey is accurate." He leveled his cool green eyes on her. "However, her manner lacks a genteel quality."

Shrugging her shoulders. "You givin us more money or what Ezra?"

"I must say," He brought on a wide grin. "Genius, pure genius. Students!" He looked from one woman to the other. "No banker remuneration...You lady's were sent from above!"

Casey was getting bored. "I want more money." Shifting her eyes to Jane and then back to him. "And she should get five times more than what she's getting now. None of this would've happened if she didn't come to this moth eaten town. Every bit of your new found money is her doing...I just did what she asked."

Jane was embarrassed. She wanted to say more to Casey but it would have been in vain. These two always argued. It must have just been their way. "Really Ezra," She tried calming the mood. "You've been very generous to me. You've given me a job, brought up my salary more than once and not to mention found me a home and a mortgage deal that is unimaginable. I'm quite content." He was so upset her when people made unkind remarks to and about him.

Casey snorted loudly. "No you're not. And neither am I." Leaning forward she locked eyes on his. "You ante up some of them profits or I'm gonna tell the rest of the fellas how you've been holdin out on two women."

Ezra's face turned crimson with anger. "Casey you and Jane's best interests are always in my thoughts. I have placed trusts in both your names at the bank. Yours is under your grandmother's care and Jane's is under her own. Two women as you so eloquently put it should not be casting their wealth about...they could indeed find themselves in peril."

After staying silent for a time Casey finally whispered. "I'm sorry." She would have never guessed he would have considered their financial security on his on behalf. "But you gotta admit Ezra you ain't one to show generosity."

"No." He had to admit. "Not the precedent, however, I feel at hand my stay here in what I hope to be a growing opportunity of a municipality, has brought me to notice the error of certain--shall I say weaknesses. However, I have had to strive firm in resolving those certain trivial inconsistencies of my nature."

Jane frowned. He really did use such big words at times she felt as if she might need a handbook to read by as he spoke. "Ezra, I'm sure you do your best to take care of Casey and I. We appreciate all you do for us. I just want to say on a personal note that I can't remember the last time I've enjoyed my life so. Since I've come to Four Corners nothing but good things have happened to me and I want to thank you for that." She turned to Casey. "If Ezra hadn't given me a chance Casey...then truly none of this would have happened. As far as I'm concerned it is all his doing."

"As much as I'd like to take the credit for that Jane." He smiled so that his gold tooth showed. "Casey is correct in this scenario. It is because of you I've come into such fortuitous and lucrative good tightings.

"I say we just agree that we all took part in the success." Casey spoke up.

Jane nodded in agreement. It was a team effort.

Slapping his hands loudly together. "Well lady's I say we put on a unsullied pot of stimulant and go over the figures until we come to an agreement upon which you both would find as a respectable and acceptable offer of a new increase in pay."

+ + + + + + +

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 its 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 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. "Its 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 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 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 yeah 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 yeah?" 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 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 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.