Andrea spent the next few days at the telegraph office, checking things out. She was going to like this job. It made her feel like she was doing something important. She had bantered back and forth with Clayton on her responsibilities to him, back home, and how ridiculous she was being for taking on this job. Andrea basically just kicked him out of her new office.
After cleaning and moving stuff around, Andrea was proud of what she had done. Spinning around she sang Happy Birthday to herself. She would be 40 in a couple of days, and for once she felt at home. This was a present she was giving to herself.
Vin had watched Andrea for several days. She sure was a hard worker. He had seen what she had done with the telegraph office. Chris had told Vin that he had heard Mary and the Judge talking about Andrea's birthday, but the Mary had told him that Andrea did not want anything special done. She wanted to have just a nice, quiet dinner with her and the Judge, and if she could swing it, without Clayton. But that would be rude, and as long as he was in town she needed to be at least civil. Mary was glad Clayton would be leaving soon, without Andrea. At least that is what Andrea had told her. Mary didn't like Clayton. Didn't trust him. He wasn't right for Andrea. She needed someone who would let her be herself, and not try to take away that wonderful spirit she had.
Vin had spent the next several days out at Nettie's house, mending fences and generally handy man stuff. He had a special place in his heart for her, and she loved him like a son. She knew he had something on his mind, but just couldn't get it out of him. Casey's momma cat had had two kittens, one having long cream colored fur. Watching the little fuzzy thing pounce on the momma cat, smacking her brother, doing her own thing, plus loving up to Vin then after a few rubs down her back, she would take off again. Made Vin think of one particular woman. Andrea was a lot like that kitten. Doing what she wanted to do, full of piss and vinegar. She was soft and loving one minute, ornery the next.
Vin knew Andrea loved animals, just from their talk the night in the shack. When Vin asked if he could have that kitten to give to someone, Nettie knew she must be someone special. It was something about the way he played with that little kitten. Getting ready to leave, he stuck the little fuzz ball in his coat, in which she just curled up and quite content, feeling the vibration from her purring. Reminded him of someone else he knew.
Nettie looked at Vin. "Son, don't know who has taken your heart, but don't waste no time. If she's worth it, fight for her." Vin looked at Nettie and smiled. If Andrea turned out to be half the woman Nettie was, which he knew she would, then she would always be a pleasure to have around. "And you tell her that if I was 30 years younger, she would have a fight on her hands." Vin tipped his hat knowing why he loved this woman so much.
Andrea had a few people come in wanting to send messages. All of her years of experience working in the telegraph office at home were not forgotten. But now, she was in charge. She looked up as Vin came through the door.
"Need to send a telegram." Vin had that little smirk on his face.
Exasperated but not letting on how elated she was to see him, Andrea pulled out paper and pencil. "All right. What's the message."
"Let's see. To whom it may concern. I understand from Mrs. Travis that you are coming up to a certain circumstance. Due to that circumstance, I have decided to hopefully make it more enjoyable and make you smile."
"Mr. Tanner. I have work to do." Andrea tried not to smile. He was pulling her leg and she thought he had been serious.
Vin just kept on. "Miss Travis, I'm not finished. Please accept this gift as a token of my friendship. Sign it Vin Tanner."
Just as Andrea started to say something to him, he pulled out that little brown bundle of fur with big golden brown eyes. "Happy Birthday, Andrea. She's got your eyes and your temperament."
"Oh Vin, she's beautiful!" Andrea almost flew around the counter. Vin handed the squirmy little thing over to Andrea. "Oh Vin. Thank you. I love cats!" With the kitten in one arm, Andrea reached up, and hugged Vin.
Vin smiled. "Maybe I should have brought both of them kittens, and then I would've gotten a kiss too."
Andrea looked up at him and smiled. "Can I just kiss you for the one?" With that Andrea gave Vin a quick kiss. But the impact from that kiss left both wanting more. He put his arm around her, pulling her to him, bringing his lips down on her lips. Andrea had forgotten how warm and wonderful his lips felt. How could she stay mad at this man who made her forget everything with just one kiss.
Squished but not daunted, the kitten wormed its way up to Andrea's shoulder, purring the entire time. Vin and Andrea broke apart, Andrea laughing. "Oh Vin, she is just adorable."
Vin smiled. "Yeah, reminds me of someone I know."
"Oh Vin! She needs a name. How about Fluffy? No. Too sissy. How about Ginger. Ginger Snap. Yes that's it. That's what I'll call her. What do you think?"
Vin noted how happy she was. She was even more beautiful when she was real happy. Hell, he didn't think a kitten would make her that happy. "Yeah, that suits her just fine." He was scratching the kitten's head, when the door opened.
"Am I interrupting something? If I didn't know better, I would call you out, sir, for trifling with my fiancé's affections." Clayton had just walked in the door, looking at the two. He knew there was more going on that met the eye.
Vin turned and Andrea looked like she would kill. Vin turned back to her. "Fiancé? You never said you were engaged!" With that Vin turned to Clayton with a "sorry, didn't know. Won't happen again" and left.
Andrea turned on Clayton. "How dare you! I am NOT your fiancé! I think you had better leave, and not just my office. Why don't you go back where you came from."
Clayton was furious. "Is he the reason you don't want me around anymore. Before you came here, you didn't mind me being around."
"Clayton, you just didn't know how to take NO for an answer. More than once I told you that I wasn't interested. You just kept it up." Andrea was furious.
"Well, Andrea, I didn't think you were serious. You're just mad now. We'll talk later." With that Clayton turned and went out the door.
"Well, I never. The nerve of that man." Looking at Ginger in the face, Andrea sighed. "Well here I go again. Why is it that I always get myself into these situations." Putting Ginger in the back room, Andrea went to look for Vin, and after seeing the furious look he had given her, she would have a tough time talking to him.
Vin was mad. Damn if she didn't do it to him again. He just wouldn't learn. Here she was engaged to someone else, and she responded to his kisses. Damn her. Well good riddance. He was washing her hands of her. Vin decided to go for a ride so he headed to the livery to saddle up Peso.
Andrea had caught a glimpse of Vin going into the livery. Andrea knew he was mad and she almost dreaded talking with him. It was the first time a days that they had gotten along, and Clayton had to come by and ruin it. Walking into the livery, she saw Vin getting his horse ready.
"Vin, I need to talk with you. Explain something." Andrea didn't like the look on his face. He was really mad, and she couldn't blame him if he thought it were true.
"No need to talk, Andrea. I think all has been said. You seem to like playing games with other people's feelings. Well, I ain't a game player."
Andrea's blood boiled. This man made her so mad. He wouldn't even hear her out. "Well you will listen Mr. Tanner, and then the devil with you. Clayton is NOT my fiancé. Can you understand that? He was just being cruel because he has never been able to get me to agree to marry him. Hell, he never takes no for an answer. Oh, by the way. You want to know where those bruises came from? Well, for your information, he tried to take advantage of me, and almost did too, and then I slapped him. And because I hit him, he wanted to hurt me back, so he grabbed my neck. I have never, or wanted to ever be intimate with him. And especially, and especially after how you made me feel, just from your kiss." She hadn't meant to tell him about the bruises. It just slipped out and she regretted it.
Andrea started crying. "Damn you Vin Tanner. I, I. Oh I don't know what I'm doing anymore. You've got me so confused." She was mad with herself for being so weak.
Vin shook his head. Damn, he jumped to conclusions, not believing her. What was this woman doing to him. He couldn't think straight. Seeing her crying like that, well, he couldn't stay mad and really didn't have a reason to. He went over to her, arms circling around her, whispering into her hair. They just stood there. Andrea felt warm, protected, just like when she was a kid and the Judge would hold her during storms. After a few minutes, Vin lifted her face to him, and wiped her tear stained cheeks. "Come on, let's get that kitten of yours settled in. Then we're gonna get a bottle, blanket, and go to the nice quiet spot where I first met you."
But Vin was thinking in the back of his mind, "And I'll pay a nice visit to the son of a bitch, and he will be leaving town."
Vin and Andrea spent all afternoon by the lake. The sun was nice and hot and the lake water was cool. Andrea had dared Vin to go swimming. He insisted it weren't decent to strip down to nothing with her. Andrea just laughed and went behind some bushes, taking her clothes off and going into the water.
"Vin Tanner, you didn't seem to mind how I was dressed the first time you saw me." Andrea yelled back at Vin from where she was swimming in the water. Vin told her the water was too cold. She called him a sissy.
"Damn Andrea. Well, things could be worse, I guess." Vin didn't look forward to going into the water at all, but his incentive was that beautiful woman out there taunting him and daring him to come on in. Well, when he got out there she would be sorry, if he got his hands on her.
Vin hoped the water would be cold enough to temper his desire for Andrea, but he had the feeling that the situation the way it was that it wouldn't be. They splashed each other and played around, till both couldn't laugh anymore. Vin had finally grabbed her arm and pulled Andrea to him. The cool water hadn't tempered either one of their desires. Lips met. Vin lifted Andrea into his arms and carried her out of the water onto the blanket. Between the bottle of liquid fire they had consumed and the passion they felt for each other, it was inevitable that they spent the rest of the afternoon making love.
After Clayton had left the telegraph office, he knew he had to do something soon. He could tell by looking at Andrea and this Vin fell that there was more going on that met the eye. Well, he was going to find out. His first priority would be to get into the man's room and see what he could find out about him. Clayton had seen Andrea and Vin ride out on horse back, so he knew he would have a little time. Getting into Vin's room was easy. After searching through all his personal items, Clayton found what he was looking for. This was going to be too easy. Now he needed to find out where the two of them went.
At first Clayton wasn't sure if he could find Andrea and Vin. He wasn't familiar with the area, so he just rode in the general direction they were headed. What luck to come across him. He decided to watch them while be hidden by trees and bushes. There they were on a blanket, talking and laughing.
What got Clayton riled was what he actually saw. Andrea and this Vin Tanner fella were on the blanket stark naked. His desire for her was only stopped by the fact that she had no clothes on in front of that Vin fella. He had thought about confronting the two, but waited. He was glad he did. Later watching the two make love made him furious, but set his desires higher than he had ever been. Andrea was beautiful and Mr. Tanner was not bad either. In fact, he enjoyed watching them both. This is when he set his plan into place.
Later that evening, Andrea was in her room, getting ready for bed, thinking about the wonderful time she had had with Vin. There was a light knock on her door. Thinking it might be Vin, Andrea opened it up to stare up at Clayton.
"Clayton, what do you want. I'm getting ready for bed." Andrea was furious that his man had come to her door and spoil the ending to a perfect day.
"Andrea, you and I need to talk." Clayton just pushed the door open and then shut it behind her. "I want to get married to you. Tomorrow morning would suit me just fine."
Andrea was taken aback. Mouth open and then started laughing. "Are you crazy? What makes you think, no, what makes you have the gall to even suggest that?"
Clayton smiled. "Well, Andrea, you, of course, have a choice. But let me finish and I think you will change you mind. Did you know your lover was a wanted man? A wanted man for murder?
Andrea's smile faded. "Clayton, what are you talking about?" Andrea didn't know what he was talking about. Clayton handed her the wanted poster he had found in Vin's room.
"I don't care what Mr. Tanner is wanted for Clayton. I am sure there is an explanation for it all."
"You know Andrea, I can turn in your Mr. Tanner, and have him swinging by a rope in no time before an explanation can be given. And of course, your father would be implicated in harboring a murderer, not good for his reputation. Why it just might ruin him."
Andrea stared at the poster, and sat down on the bed as Clayton continued talking. "Now, I can keep this little information between you and me alone, if you agree to marry me, tomorrow morning. It's up to you."
Andrea was sick. Clayton would do what he said he would do if she didn't agree. "What guarantee do I have that after we married you still wouldn't turn him in?"
Clayton had her where he wanted her. "Well, as long as you stay with me, do as I say, and do what I want you to do, I will keep this information quiet. If I didn't well you could leave me. But I want you bad enough not to let this out. But the minute you attempt to leave or disobey me, I will turn him and your father in. Is it a deal?"
Andrea hated being treated like this. Threatening two people she loved. Yes, loved. She loved Vin with all her heart and sole. And now this man was taking it all away. "All right Clayton, I'll marry you." Andrea didn't move. She just sat there on her bed, the poster slipping out of her hands onto the floor.
"Now, just to make sure you mean what you say, I insist spending the night with you." With that Clayton went over to the door and locked it. Andrea knew what he meant. And as he walked over to her, she knew that this was the night that she would die inside.
The next morning brought no joy to Andrea. Clayton had been very demanding that entire night. Andrea was ashamed at what had transpired between them. To be even more cruel, Clayton had told her about watching her and Vin together, and expected more than what had gone on between them.
Judge Travis was confused when Andrea and Clayton had insisted that he marry them the next morning. He wanted to speak to Andrea but she wouldn't let him. He kept trying to get these two to wait but Andrea was insisting that he do it this morning and now. With that, Judge Travis got Mary to witness the marriage. Mary tried to get Andrea to tell her why she was doing this, but Andrea insisted that this was what she wanted and that she loved Clayton.
"Andrea, this is not love. You can't do this. Why the man is not for you. He'll crush you. Please don't do this." Mary implored Andrea not to get married.
"Please Mary, he is going to be my husband. If you can't say anything nice about him, then you and I need not talk about anything else." Andrea turned trying to hold the tears back. "Please don't say anything to Vin, Mary. I want to tell him. Please."
Mary knew something was wrong but Andrea was stubborn. She knew that Andrea was a woman who could make up her own mind, and she would honor her decision. But Mary knew something was amiss.
Later that day, Andrea was cleaning up the telegraph. She had asked Mary to take the kitten since Clayton told her in no uncertain terms that that cat was out of the question. Clayton was making preparations for leaving on the stage that afternoon, as Andrea finished getting her things out of the office. Tears rolled down her face, as she sobbed. Vin happened to see her in the Telegraph Office. Smiling, he walked in, just to loose his smile when he saw Andrea's face.
"Andrea? Andrea, what's wrong?" Vin took only a few steps to put his arms around Andrea. The feel of his warm arms, his kiss on her hair, just about did her in.
Pulling herself away from him, she looked at those gorgeous blue sparkling eyes. "Vin, I......I'm leaving on the stage this afternoon." Before he could say a word, she continued. "Clayton and I were married this morning."
The look on the man's face went from shock to deadly. The clear blue eyes turned stormy. His grip on her arms tightened. "What the hell are you saying? What do you mean you married him?"
Andrea gathered herself, steeled herself against her feelings she had for him. She had to make sure he hated her. It would make it easier for both of them. "I.......I only wanted to make Clayton jealous so he would want me more than he did. You were a good diversion for me. I appreciate all we had, and what we have done together, but it's over."
His grip had tightened so hard on her arms, he hadn't realized he was hurting her. "I was a diversion?" He started to say more but knew if he did, he would call her names that weren't fit for no lady. But then again, she weren't no lady. But he would not stoop to her level. Shoving her slightly back, he turned and walked out the door slamming it so hard that the glass broke.
Andrea knew he was gone for good, and her happy life she had hoped for would be buried forever. At least in her heart she knew that Vin and her father would be as safe as they could be, because she would honor her agreement. And as callous and mean as Clayton could be, she knew he would also keep his promise. After all, he would profit financially and professionally from this marriage. In their upper crust acquaintances and society, their marriage would be considered quite a union. To Andrea, it would be her death warrant if not physically, then mentally.
Andrea had packed all her stuff and waited in her room. Her father had wanted to talk with her but she refused him. Clayton had come into her room, demanding his husbandly rights before they left town. He would do all he could to remove Vin Tanner from her sole, her mind, and her body.
Later, Andrea straightened herself up, putting finishing touches on her face, trying to hide the tear stained eyes. Clayton was quite satisfied with his little roll in the hay with his wife, and ready to catch the stage. Life with this woman was going to be interesting if not satisfying. He might even not visit his lady friends every day when they returned home.
Noticing the stage from Andrea's window, Clayton told her to get her things together. As they walked out, Judge Travis was coming up the stairs. Andrea met him at the top of the stair, "Father, I'll miss you. Please don't stay away too long. I love you."
As she descended down the stair, Judge Travis noted the tortured look in Andrea's eyes. Those were not the eyes of a woman just newly married. They were not Andrea's eyes. He would talk to Mary and then Vin Tanner and find out what the hell was going on.
The stage had been traveling for several hours. Andrea kept looking out at the country side with blank, dead eyes. Clayton sat looking at her, smiling to the fact he had won. He would enjoy holding this over her head, demanding anything he wanted from her.
Several riders approached the coach, riding hard and fast. As they got closer, guns were pulled. Clayton's smiled faded. Why, they were being robbed. The coach pulled to a halt. Andrea, looking puzzled, turned to Clayton. "Why are we stopping?"
"For God's sake Andrea, we are being robbed. Just keep your mouth shut." Clayton was mad at because this was not in his plans.
"Get out of the coach, with your hands up," came the voice of one of the riders.
Andrea and Clayton got down, facing the riders. One got down holding a small bag. "Now hand over your valuables."
Clayton pulled his rings, and handed his wallet to them. Then he grabbed Andrea's hand, and roughly pulled her rings off. "There my good man, you have all our goods." Clayton was so smug. He had always been able to come out of a situation on top. He didn't tell them about all the money he had neatly tucked away in a hidden, private place. You could almost see the rider smile beneath his bandana covering his face.
Pointing the gun directly at Clayton, the man snickered. "Now mister, don't you make the mistake of thinkin' I'm stupid or somethin'. Take your boots off."
"Now my good man, I don't have anything else." Inside Clayton knew the man was stupid. He would pull just a small amount of money out of his boot and these ruffins would leave.
"No more money, huh? A well to do man like you and your little wife? Well how about this little lady. Maybe she's hiddin' somethin' under that dress. Common honey, let's see what ya got." The man started to lift Andrea's skit.
"My good man, my wife has nothing under there except what belongs to me. If you would be so good to refrain from your ill manner." Clayton was getting more cocky.
Pointing the gun in Clayton's face, he gave him an ultimatum. "Don't have no more money? All right, then we'll take your wife and we'll let you live."
Clayton looked shocked. He had ten thousand dollars hidden on him and wasn't about to give it up for anything. Yet, how could he let them take his wife. He needed time to think. "Well mister, what'll it be?" The robber was getting more and more perturbed but he kept looking at Andrea, with evil and lust in his eyes.
"Clayton, please, if you have any money give it to them!" Andrea was frightened. If Clayton would stop arguing and just hand over any money he might have, they would probably leave. The longer they stayed there the more chance of them getting killed. "Clayton, Please!!!"
"I'm sorry my good man, I don't have any money." At this point, Clayton didn't care if they took Andrea. He was bound and determined not to give them any money.
They hadn't planned on this. Just rob the stage and take off. But this man pissed them all off. One of the other men got down off his horse and approached Andrea. "Not a bad looker. We could have some fun with this one and then sell her across the border. Them senioras would like a little number like this one." With that, he grabbed Andrea's arm and started pulling her towards his horse, with her begging him to stop and yelling for Clayton.
"Please, just let me live and you can have her." Clayton was almost groveling. Andrea turned to look at him, hate filling her eyes.
"Well, little woman, looks like that husband of yours don't care what we do to you. How about we let him watch?" Andrea's blood drained from her face. She was even too frightened to faint. That would have been a blessing.
"Shoot him and the driver. We don't want any witnesses." The man shrugged and turned the pistol on both of them shooting them. Then they rode off.
A day had gone by after Andrea and Clayton had left. Judge Travis had talked with Mary first. He had tried to talk with Vin, but couldn't get anything out of him. The man had hate in his eyes just at the mention of Andrea's name.
The Judge later decided to check out both Clayton's and Andrea's rooms just to see if he could find anything that would help him figure out why Andrea had done what she had done. He knew it was not like his daughter to give in to someone, and the look in her eyes the day she left, looked liked a woman who was dead inside.
It wasn't right. It wasn't his daughter! Rummaging through Clayton's room, Judge Travis didn't find anything. As he started to walk out, he noticed a folded piece of paper partially hidden under the bed. Pulling it out, he unfolded it to find the wanted poster of Vin. Damn, he knew Clayton well enough to know he had probably threatened Andrea with Vin's exposure and probably his for knowing about this. And he knew Andrea. She would do anything not to have him hurt. And he knew she would do anything to protect the man she loved. And he knew she loved Vin Tanner. He had hoped it wasn't true. It wasn't that he didn't like Vin or respect him as a man, but he did have a price on his head, and life for them wouldn't be easy. Andrea could really get hurt in the end. But now, a loveless, threatened marriage would kill her just as easily and probably more quickly. Clayton would see to that. He had noticed things about the man that he hadn't noticed at home. Things he hadn't liked at all.
Just as he was leaving the room, Mary had met him in the hall. "Judge, they found the stage, just two days out. Driver is dead, Clayton has been shot. Andrea is nowhere to be found."
As they rushed downstairs, they were met by some of the seven. Chris spoke up. "Judge, Clayton was just brought in. Nathan's got him and it doesn't look good."
By the time Mary and Judge Travis got to Nathan's, Vin, JD, and Josiah were already there. As they came in, Nathan shook his head. The man wasn't going to make it. He was surprised he held on this long. But Clayton was not told. He expected to come out of it. So they let him believe it. "Judge, Judge. I tried to stop them. All they wanted was Andrea. I tried to give him money only, but they wouldn't relent."
"Do you know where they were going? Where they might have taken her?" Vin pushed aside some of his friends, frantic of what might happen to her.
Clayton looked at this man. He hated him. He would hate what Vin and Andrea had had together, what they had shared. He lied. "I have no idea where they went, except they talked about heading up north somewhere. They said they wouldn't hurt her, just hold her for ransom." Clayton couldn't talk anymore. He could have his revenge on the two lovers by lying to them. He would hate them to his death.
Vin turned and rushed out the door. Some of the others followed. Chris and Ezra caught up with Vin first. "We'll find her Vin. Nathan will stay here with Clayton. Judge, Mary, we'll find her." With that the six got their horses, mounted, and road out to where the stage had been found.
They rode hard for that day. It was taking longer because of having Andrea share a horse with one of the robbers. The time passed. Her fear was real. They stopped late that night. Men were picking lots as to who would get her first. The leader had suggested that they rest the first night and be ready to ride the next day and get some distance between them and where they had robbed the stage.
The next evening, the men decided to share a couple bottles of whiskey while deciding about Andrea. They had taunted her with words, touching her. Andrea was almost numb. She was frightened but wished it was over so she could just die. She knew if she thought about Vin that it would get her through what she would have to endure.
The men had not figured on six men easily tracking them. Back at the stage, Vin had had a funny feeling about what Clayton had told them. These men wouldn't want an unwilling woman with them for long. If they didn't kill her first, then going to Mexico would be their best bet for getting rid of her to the highest bidder.
They rode hard and long, like the devil was after them. Vin would not let up. Chris kept telling his friend that they would find her. Although, in his heart, he wasn't sure how they would find her. But he wouldn't let Vin see how he felt. He saw it too in Vin's eyes. Vin was afraid of what he might find.
There were only three of them that robbed the stage. They were so interested in the bottles of whiskey and arguing about Andrea, that they consumed more liquor than they had planned. Andrea had been tied up and couldn't move, so when all passed out by the fire, she had no choice but to sit there. She had been working the ropes, to the point of burns on her wrists, but to no avail. They had put a gag in her mouth because they had gotten tired of listening to her begging to be let go. Tears streamed down her face. She had at least gotten another reprieve, but for how long.
All she could do was think of Vin. How she missed him. She missed his arms. She missed the warmth she felt when he held her. And his smile. His smile would warm the mountain snow. She shut her eyes, hoping to visualize what he looked like, his voice........
"Just stay still and don't move until I can untie these ropes." Andrea's eyes popped open. His voice was so real. Then she felt his breath and heard his voice in her ear. She felt warm, loving hands on her hands as ropes were being untied. Finally, her hands were freed as the gag was removed from her mouth.
Vin's low voice, whispered softly in her ear. "Andrea, are you all right. Did they hurt you?"
Trying to hold back the sobs, Andrea, whispered, "They didn't hurt me. I'm fine."
She tried to stand up with his help, but she had been tied for so long in a sitting position, her legs wouldn't support her. Almost falling, Vin caught her, lifting her up in his arms. Quietly he took her to his horse and put her on him. "If anything goes wrong, ride the hell out of here like the devil himself were after you. Do you understand?"
"Vin, I won't leave you. I can help." Andrea wasn't going to loose this man again, no matter what.
"Did you hear what I said? Don't argue. Now promise." Vin wasn't about to loose her again.
Andrea had seen the look in his eyes. A look that he would make it, giving her hope. "I promise, Vin. I promise."
Andrea need not have worried. Three drunken men were no match for the six. Trussed up like beef on a spit, all the robbers were put on their horses, and led back to town.
On the way back Andrea asked how they found her. She never once asked about Clayton. Vin told her about him being found and what he had said. She said nothing. If Clayton was still alive when she got back to town, she would confront him.
They stopped first at Nathan's at Andrea's request. Walking in, Nathan was still hanging on but just barely. Seeing her, alive, he wished he had died. They hate in her eyes was even more than she had before.
All of them were there including the Judge. Andrea walked over to him. "I'm glad you're still alive Clayton. Just so I can watch you die. You threatened to take everything I loved from me because of your greed. You gave me away like a piece of property. You GAVE me away to those men just to save your money and your hide. But it didn't work did it. You lost this time Clayton. And it cost you dearly. He wasn't even worth watching him die.
As she started to walk out, Clayton yelled out. "Andrea, you're still my wife. And if you divorce me, I follow through on my threat. Remember that."
Andrea turned, looking him in the face. "Clayton, I need not worry. Did Nathan tell you that you are going to die?" The look on his face justified what Andrea had been through.
"No, NO! You're lying. I swear I will do what I said I would do if you walk out that door with that man."
Andrea kept walking. The stars were still out, shinning brightly. Andrea looked up. Vin was standing by her side. Turning around, Andrea looked at Vin. "If Clayton wasn't dying, I sooner or later would have killed him. He would have gone through with his threat. He found a wanted poster on you Vin and threatened to tell the authorities and expose my father for his part in this. I couldn't let him do that. That's why I married him. I couldn't let him hurt you or father. I just couldn't.
"Andrea, I didn't do it. I was framed. I haven't gone down to try and clear my name."
Andrea sighed deeply. "Vin I believe you, but I didn't care even if you were guilty. I loved you and that's all that mattered. Nothing else. I don't have any regrets for all the times we had together. I don't have any regrets of the man that lies dying in there. I just want it over with so I can get on with my life. I'm tired. I want to sleep, sleep for a long, long time."
The Judge came out of Nathan's and all three walked back to the hotel. If the judge had learned anything at all, it was to trust his wild daughter's heart and mind. It was time someone else took over the responsibility for keeping watch on her. Andrea walked into her room. Judge Travis put his hand on Vin's shoulder. "Son, she is a handful, but she loves you. Whatever you two decide to do, I'll accept your decision. You're a good man Mr. Tanner. You're a man my daughter deserves." With that, he turned and went to his room. Vin smiled, shook his head, and went into Andrea's room.
The next morning, Nathan came to the hotel to let them know that Clayton had died swearing to the end he would get Vin and Andrea.
Andrea opened the doors to the Telegraph Office. Ginger Snap went running out the door right into two hands. As she was being picked up, squirming, Andrea rushed out trying to catch her. She stopped dead in her tracks. A smile formed on her lips.
Vin stopped by every morning to help her open up and Ginger would do the same thing every morning. That cat was bound and determined to get her way. Vin was bound and determined she wouldn't. Just like someone else he knew. Andrea walked over to Vin, lightly touching his arm and scratching the cat's head. She looked up into those sky blue eyes, and they smiled back at her. As he leaned down to kiss her lips, Vin thought about the first time he saw that kitten and how it had reminded him of Andrea. Loving one minute and sassy the next. Their love would prove to be long and lasting in every way two people could cherish all they had to give.