by Judi Milling


Riding back to town after Jenny's confession was hard on both Vin and her. Jenny was so humiliated that she had been abused the way that she had. Vin was murderously angry at the man who did this to her. This was a woman who should have had a wonderful childhood and bud into womanhood. She was robbed of that. He knew what the right thing to do was, but he was hot tempered and it made his blood boil.

Jenny, noticing how Vin's attitude was so dark and foreboding, stopped Cody. "Vin. Remember the day you saw me at the lake? You remember saying to me that I would have to argue that snake to death, since you didn't see any guns on me to shoot it with?"

Vin glanced over to Jenny, remembering how he and Jenny had bantered back and forth that day. He smiled, shook his head. "Yeah, you were right funny. Thinking you could out smart me. Knew I'd win. You were getting to flustered. Could tell. You were getting flushed, and those beautiful soft mounds were rising too fast." Jenny laughed and was so glad she could bring a smile to those lips, and some sparkle to those eyes.

Jenny continued. "Well, the reason I didn't have a gun is because I don't know how to shoot. Would you teach me? Please?"

Vin looked at her, and pulled Peso to a halt. "Come on. Bring the horses over to that bunch of rocks over there." Vin didn't even question her plea. She needed to be able to protect herself. After all, it could mean the difference between life and death one day.

Vin and Jenny spent the entire afternoon practicing aiming, gun safety, cleaning, and shooting. Jenny had to scold him only once. He was helping her aim, standing behind her with both arms around her. He kept telling her to concentrate. She kept telling him she was. He told her that if she was concentrating, that he could kiss her, and she would be able to shoot and hit the target. Vin had grabbed her from behind, kissed her, pulled the gun up and shot. Bullet met the target square on. The next time he did it, Jenny pulled the gun up, shot, and missed. "That was not fair, Vin. You tricked me. I wasn't ready."

Vin looked at her, his eyes taking on a serious look. "Jenny, you may only have one chance between life and death. Always be ready."

Later that evening, in the saloon, all six men listened to Vin and Jenny. They only told a brief history of her step father and the current situation. The man was dangerous. Jenny was worried sick that one of them might get hurt, just because of her. Chris was the first to say that Jenny meant a lot to them and the town. She was well liked and respected. It was the right thing to do.

Vin and the rest of the men decided to walk the town, checking around, just to see if anything or anyone was different. Ezra stayed. Ezra leaned over to Jenny, put one hand on hers and the other hand cupped her chin. "You know, Jenny, we do affectionately care for you. And Mr. Tanner, whether you know it or not, has been bewitched by your charms and levity. I have seen a very big change in Mr. Tanner. He is fiercely loyal to those he cares for, but has always been the type of man to stay to himself, a loner. You have changed him. He has changed you. And God help the man who ever hurts you. I just hope Mr. Tanner realizes what a jewel he has. If he doesn't, then he is a damn fool."

Jenny knew that this gambler had a heart of gold. He just didn't want to show it. She guessed it was years of doing cons that made him that way. Her hand touched his jaw. "Thank you Ezra. I knew from the moment I met you that you had something special in you. You and I had a kinship. We're both gamblers in a way. Probably one of the smartest things I have ever done was come here and hook up with you. The other was falling in love. Falling in love with the man in buckskin and piercing blue eyes." From that night, Ezra and Jenny would have a special friendship even closer than Luke and Jenny had.

Jenny was exhausted. She gave Ezra a kiss on his lips, and told him that she was tired. The rest of the seven were still out. Jenny had given them a description, but they saw no one. Jenny retired to her room, changed clothes and fell across the bed. She couldn't sleep. Vin and the guys had been gone for hours, searching, but to no avail. Coming into the saloon, he questioned Ezra about Jenny. Knowing she needed the rest, Vin went upstairs to his own room. Damn, he was tired too. He would take Jenny out for a ride tomorrow, and just enjoy the day. Maybe take her swimming. She had been talking about doing it. Although, one of the days he had followed her, she did decide to go swimming. He smiled, remembering. He should have turned around. After all, she didn't even realize he had been watching her. But he couldn't take his eyes off of her. He had gotten so mad at her. She wouldn't listen to him about the dangers of going off alone. God, he would have loved to have gone in with her. Having the cool water, temper his desire. But he knew it wouldn't. He would love to go to her right now. The woman was a witch. But, damn, what a woman. He would give her time tonight. A small knock sounded on his door. Vin grabbed his gun, got up, and slowly opened it. Jenny's eyes widened at the sight of the gun. In a low and husky voice, "Vin, you don't need that gun. I'll come peacefully." Vin smiled and pulled Jenny into his room.

"I thought you were tired," Vin told Jenny as his shut the door and put his gun down.

"I thought I was, but I couldn't sleep after all. What's keeping you up." Jenny put on a slight smile.

Vin grinned at that remark, thinking of what kept him up a lot lately. "Well, let's see. It could be that I was remembering a couple of weeks ago, while I watched you taking your clothes off to go swimming. But before you got in the water, I kept thinking, you were too skinny for me." Vin grinned again. Jenny balled up her fist and acted like she was going to punch him. He grabbed her and started to kiss her.

Pulling herself away, Jenny narrowed her eyes. "Wait. WAIT a minute. What do you mean you were watching me take my clothes off. And, and I'm TOO skinny? Well you didn't seem to mind last night at all."

Vin pulled her to him, laughing. "Yeah. I been following you for weeks. I knew you wouldn't listen to me. You are one of the most hard headed women I have ever known. Yep. Down right ornery." Then he kissed her. A long lingering kiss that made her forget everything.

Nothing could separate them after tonight. They would become one body, one soul. And Jenny, before going to sleep, whispered in Vin's ear, "I did see you that day at the lake. I knew you were watching. I wanted you to see me. I wanted you to want me," and drifted off to sleep.

Vin smiled, and hugged her closer, "damn I wish I had known, then I wouldn't have been watching. I would have been there with you" and then both slept.

Several weeks passed. Life in Four Corners was pretty quiet. Jenny had not seen Jason again. Sometimes that made her feel better, but, she kept having that nagging feeling something was going to happen. At times, it had made her right testy. Ezra chided her for being "a bit out of sorts." Vin and her would spar back and forth occasionally, but every night their love making made up for it.

Judge Travis had come into town one morning asking the men to take care of a problem brewing. He needed Vin to do some tracking of an escaped prisoner from another town. He thought that it would only take a couple of them to take care of it. Vin was hesitant at leaving Jenny. She assured him that she would be fine. Ezra, Buck, Josiah, and Nathan would be around if she needed anything. "You can't watch every move I make. It's been quiet, and I won't go out without someone with me. I promise. Really." Jenny had assured Vin this, and this time she meant it. She didn't dare let on about her silly feelings and uneasiness. "Go on, now. I'll be fine. I'll see you when you get back."

That day, Chris, JD, and Vin headed out. Hopefully they would only be gone several days, if they were lucky. It was real late when Jenny went to her room that night. She and Ezra closed up the saloon. Ezra kissed her, and volunteered to sleep in Vin's room. "No, no I'm not a baby. I'm fine. Besides, Buck will be back soon, so not to worry." As Jenny went up the stairs she was surprised that the quiet stillness bothered her. She shook it off and went to her room. Jenny was really tired. Slowly she undressed, thinking about Vin and smiling. She wondered how she could tell him. Tell him of something she had suspected. Wondering how he would react. She slipped her gown on. The bed didn't look quite as inviting as usual without Vin in it. But he would be back soon enough. Her mind was on so many things that she failed to notice that one of her windows was open and that she was not alone in her room.

Just as Jenny was about to slip into bed, a voice behind her made her freeze in her steps. "Hello, Jenny, darling. I thought you would never come to bed."

Jenny spun around, and stifled a cry. "Get out, Jason. Get out of my room or, or I'll scream." Jenny was shaking. Jason approached her slowly, and behind him two other men stood.

He smiled an evil smile. "It won't do you any good, my darling. No one is around, especially any of your men friends. Well, daddy's come to take you home." With that, Jason hit her and she fell into a black abyss.

When Jenny awoke, the darkness was still around her. Her head hurt, her arms hurt. As her mind cleared, bile came up into her throat. Oh God, no, please make it a nightmare. Please." But it wasn't. Her mind cleared and her eyes focused. She was in a barn. Light filtered in through cracks in the walls. She screamed. "Somebody help me, please!" Jenny was scared. More scared than she had ever been. Then she realized that her arms were tied above her. A rope thrown over a beam pulled her just high enough where she had to stand on her toes. Her legs ached. Her body ached. Just then Jason walked in, a smirk on his older but still handsome face.

"Well, Miss Jenny. So you want to hang out with me." He laughed, and then a grim line appeared across his lips. "I told you I would be back. It just took a very long time. You will come to love me just as your mother did, God rest her sole. I guess I was just too much for the old woman." Jenny became livid and spit in his face. "Jenny, that is a habit I will break you of." Jenny had seen two men standing behind Jason. The look on their faces frightened her.

"Don't worry, darling. They know better than to touch you. I'd kill them and they know it. "Damn, honey, I want you so badly." Jenny spit at him again. The lust in his eyes turned to anger. Enraged, he slammed his fist against her face, sending her into deep darkness.

Jenny didn't know how long she had been out. Numbness had set in her arms and legs. She was passed feeling anything except sick to her stomach. Sick from fear and disgust. As she became fully aware of her surroundings, she realized she was alone. "Thank God. I don't know how much more of him I could have taken." Jenny ran it over and over in her mind. She wished she knew what time it was, or what day it ways. Would Ezra realize she was gone and come looking for her? She feared for herself and anyone that would look for her, even if they could find her. But she knew they would find her. None of them would let her down. She had to keep strong for herself and them, and.......

"Well, Jenny, going to behave yourself this time?" Jason walked into the barn. It had turned dark but the only light in the barn was from a small lantern. Jason noticed the light that enveloped her body, making it glow in the dark. "You and I need to come to an understanding, darling. Jason walked over to Jenny.

She wasn't about to show him the fear that encompassed her entire being. "It will be a cold day in HELL before I give into you, Jason Baron. You can go to HELL!"

Jason smiled. "Now, now my dear, is that any way to talk to your father."

Jason smiled, turned and walked out of the barn. The two men who had been with him, had walked in, and had been watching him. The one man wanted Jenny. Fear grew in Jenny, and mustering all her strength, painfully lifting her knee as he came closer. With all her strength, he hit him squarely with her knee. A loud yowl came from his lips, just as Jason came back into the barn. All Jenny heard was a loud shot. The man fell on the ground face forward. "I told you, you weren't allowed to touch her." Jason turned to the other man. "You want the same thing? Touch her and you'll get more than what you think you're going to get!"

"No sir, No sir. I wasn't gonna touch her. It was all his idea."

"Get him outta here. Bury him outback." Jason yelled and came over to Jenny. She was sobbing. He held her close. "My darling, it's all right, he won't touch you again." With that he left.

Jason kept coming in every few hours. He was right. Her body would betray her, no matter how much she hated him.

Ezra had come into the saloon that next morning. Jenny wasn't down yet. She was probably tired and missed Vin so much that he decided he would let her come down in her own time. Late afternoon, he began to worry, so he went upstairs, and taped on her door. "Little Miss Sleepy Head. The establishment could use the beauty of its mistress." Ezra heard nothing. "Jenny, Jenny." No sound. He debated first, then opened her door. She was not there. Ezra thought she had gone out earlier. He would check with Buck and Nathan to make sure she didn't go out on her own. Buck was not in his room, so he guessed she was with him.

It was near dinner when Buck sauntered in. Ezra, seeing Buck by himself, questioned if he had seen Jenny. "No, Ezra, been out all day."

Ezra started to get uneasy. "Well, the lady is not in her room, and I haven't seen her all day. It's not like her." I think we had better check this out. Ezra had gone over to the newspaper to see if Miss Travis had seen her. Buck checked with Nathan.

No one, no one had seen her at all. Buck and Ezra decided that she had gone out on her own. "Wait until I see her. I'm really going to give her a piece of my mind. I ought to turn her over on my knee and give her a good spanking. She knows better." Ezra was furious. Not only that Jenny had gone out on her own, but if Vin found out he had not watched her more closely, he wouldn't want the wrath of that man to come down on him.

Pete was cleaning stalls when Ezra and Buck walked in. Cody was still in his stall, prancing and pawing because his mistress had not come to take him out. "Haven't seen Miss McNeill at all. Not like her not to come down and see her big stallion."

With that statement from Pete, Ezra and Buck turned, with worried looks on their faces. "We've got to find her. Something is amiss." With that, both men went to saddle their horses.