Vin got down off of Peso. He was sore from riding all day. His body was ached. He had gotten soft from staying in Four Corners, not roughing it out on the land. Or, maybe he was just gettin' old and his body missed the friendship and his bed that had become a part of him in town. Four Corners. Never thought he would ever settle down in one place long enough for anything, especially in a town. Well, it wouldn't be too many more days of ridin' till he got back. A good meal, a nice hot bath, some female company, and a soft bed, in that order, would suit him fine. Of course, the last two items would have to be together. He weren't one on a permanent relationship, but sometimes a man just needed to let loose and the touch of a warm woman pleasuring him.

He was standing there, drinking from his canteen, thinking about soft, warm skin, when shots rang out. He started to pull his rifle and turn towards the shots, when he felt them hit. Twice. The impact from the bullets through his balance off. As he went down, Vin could feel a pain in his shoulder and side. That's all he felt until darkness closed over his eyes.

Samantha had been riding that afternoon on Leader, her big roan stallion. He was a powerful horse and full of spirit. But he seemed to sense that the small woman riding him was strong willed and he easily bowed down to her. When they rode, they were one. He accepted this woman as a part of him, and she in turn, accepted him for his spirit and strength. It was a perfect combination for horse and rider.

As the shots rang out, Samantha reigned Leader to a halt, listening to where the shots came from. "Who the hell is shooting on my land," Samantha swore to herself. She knew her neighbor, the great and wonderful Brandon Wilkerson and his men had a bad habit of hunting on her property. She had warned him. He always told her that someday he would take and reign in her spirit like she did that horse.

Brandon Wilkerson! He was such a pompous ASS! She had kept him at bay for years. He never gave up. He could have any woman in the county, and for some reason he wanted her. Samantha was slightly older than him -- she being just over forty years old. Young giggly women would swoon all over him at parties. Samantha had started going to them years ago when she first moved out west, but after a time, she realized what kind of person Brandon was -- a POMPOUS ASS! So she stopped accepting his invitations. He would then come by her house, saying he was just passing through. He would make himself at home and constantly talk about about how rich and wonderful he was. Samantha had finally told him that she didn't want him to come over any more. But he would not take no for an answer.

Switching her mind back to the sounds of gunfire, Samantha and Leader headed toward that direction. "Damn you Brandon. This is the last straw. You'll not hunt on my property again, if I have to put a bullet in you myself." Just as Samantha was swearing to do Brandon in, she came across a horse and rider through the thicket. The man was lying on the ground, out cold. Samantha jumped off of Leader and went over to the buckskin clad figure on the ground. Turning him over, she noticed blood oozing from his shoulder and side. Samantha looked around to see if anyone was close by that could have shot him. She saw two riders going in the opposite direction, recognizing them as Brandon's men. She turned quickly to this young man lying on the ground. "Damn you Brandon Wilkerson. You had no right to have this man shot."

It had been a long time since she had had to treat gun wounds. At first she felt sick to her stomach. "Why is it that I always have my hands in blood? I thought I left that far behind." Putting those feeling far behind her, she concentrated on the man bleeding and out cold. Pulling her shirt out, she ripped sections of the white material to help stop the bleeding until she could get him home.

"Mister. Mister!" Samantha tried to wake him. Vin moaned slightly, eyes opening but blurry. "You're gonna have to wake up and try to get on your horse. I can't do it by myself." Vin just vaguely heard a voice and, with the help, stood up. He wasn't real steady on his feet but was able to work with this person and get on his horse. All he could do was lean over his saddle.

Samantha got up on Leader, and riding close to Vin and his horse, she held onto his coat hoping she could get him home before he felt off. Fortunately, they weren't too far away from her home, but by the time they stopped at the door, Vin just slid off. Samantha got off of Leader and went around to the stranger.

"Mister, we only got just a little bit more to go. Come on. You can do it. You got to help me." Vin focused again and with a lot of effort, stood up but supporting a lot of his weight on this person. Samantha was able to get him up the few stairs, into her house and over to the small bedroom.

As soon as Vin hit the bed, he passed out. He had lost a lot of blood and the pain from the two bullet wounds did him in. Samantha pulled out her father's doctor bag and set it by the bed.

"First things first, mister," Samantha sighed as she started removing Vin's clothes. It wasn't an easy task, taking the clothes off of a person totally out. It was difficult, but years of experience were not lost, and in no time, Vin was undressed and undercover. The next chore was removing those bullets.

Samantha pulled out her father's bag and started to work. It had also been a long time since she had to dig a bullet out of someone. She had hoped then it was over and done with. The bullets were finally removed and Vin was stitched and bandaged. Now all she had to do was wait to see how this fair-haired man would make out. Fortunately for him, who ever shot him was a bad shot or he would be dead. The bullets had not hit anything vital, but the loss of blood alone and infection that usually occurs, could kill him.

Several days passed, with Vin fading in and out. He had developed a slight fever from a small infection from the wounds. Came with the territory of bullet wounds and bits of cloth and dirt that always found their way inside. Samantha had kept his fever down by continuously washing his body with cool water, and forcing liquids into him.

At first, Samantha had looked at this man as another patient, thinking of times long ago when those patients seemed never ending. But it was a different time and different place now. The surroundings were peaceful now, sun shinning, flowers on the table. Now looking at him, she noticed how handsome he was, not too old, and in very good condition. She couldn't help notice, especially after cleaning him up. Also, having to wipe him down trying to keep the fever at bay, she could see and feel the strength in his arms and legs, how his stomach was flat and hard. Quite interesting in other areas too.

Samantha pulled out her father's old razor. Handsome as he was with several days growth of beard, she decided to go ahead and clean up those whiskers. In just a short time, Vin's face was clean shaven and without one nick. She hadn't lost her touch with that either. He was even more handsome with a smooth face. Now it was just waiting for the man to wake up.

Late one night, Samantha had already changed her clothes for bed. Deciding she needed a drink of water, she just slipped out of her room with just her gown on. One of her few luxuries was this beautiful nightgown. It was made of light, thin material, thin straps of silk, low cut in front. The breast area was of full lace dipping down to her waist in a V-shape. Samantha had a beautiful figure and the nightgown hugged every curve of her well-shaped breasts, and small waist and hips. The back of the gown was cut low to reveal much of her soft, well-shaped back. Dipping her glass in the water pitcher, she heard what she thought were horses.

Brandon's men had screwed up again. They had been told to continually ride Samantha's property. Anybody show up, shoot them. Since she had started declining his invitations, and showed no interest in him, he just knew she had someone else. Why else would she turn him down. And his men had seen a rider on her property. But they hadn't finished the job, since they said they had seen Miss Severn ride up on that big roan of hers. They had watched from a distance and seen her take him to her house.

"Damn it! They couldn't do anything right." Now he needed to find out about this man. Hopefully, he died after she got him home. He didn't want any man to share her home or her body. He wanted that all to himself. Her and that property too.

Brandon and his men rode up to the front of Samantha's house. Not even thinking, she grabbed her rifle, and went outside on the porch to face the riders. She had kept several lamps lit in the house in case the injured man decided to wake up. The moon was full and cast a lot of light on an otherwise dark night. Holding the rifle up, Samantha faced the riders.

"Brandon, I told you not to come here anymore. Now get off my property. And the next time your men decide to trespass, I'll shoot them myself. I know it was your men who shot at the man on my property."

"Miss Severn. Samantha. Please, we are only trying to protect you. Living out here all by yourself, being a woman and all, it's not safe for you."

"I said leave, Brandon, before I put a bullet in you. I don't need your protection and I don't want your protection. Now leave." Brandon had not expected Samantha to show up outside, especially in that revealing gown. Lust filled his eyes, as he looked at her, her skin glowing in the moonlight, and the breeze whirling around her gown, making it cling to her curves.

"How is the stranger." Brandon sure hoped he died, especially seeing Samantha in that gown. He didn't want any man to see her, especially like this. It was bad enough that his men could see her now. And they apparently were very appreciative of her state of dress. But he didn't want to rile her any more than she already was, so he didn't suggest that she get a robe on.

Suddenly, Brandon's eyes averted past Samantha. Samantha heard him behind her, felt his breath on her back. "You heard the lady. Best you all leave." Vin had been awakened by the noise from outside and doing the best he could, he slipped on his pants, found his rifle, and just managed to get to the front door and outside. Samantha turned, to find the man doing the best he could to stand. Just as she turned, one of Brandon's men had jumped off his horse, up the stairs, catching Vin off guard. He slammed Vin's rifle butt into his side, buckling his legs right out from underneath him.

Samantha yelled and she bent down to cradle Vin. "No. NO! Leave him alone. Get out. Get off of my property." She had dropped her rifle, but when she bent down to help Vin, she grabbed his. Standing up, she turned, and shot at the feet of Brandon's horse. The horse spooked, catching him off guard, throwing him to the ground. Cursing, Brandon got up, dusting himself off.

Brandon gathered his dignity and yelled at the cowhand. "Dusty, leave him alone. I am sorry Samantha, I am only trying to protect you." With his pride hurt, Brandon remounted his horse, and they turned and rode off.

Seeing them ride off, Samantha turned to help Vin. Taking his arm, and putting it around her shoulder to support his body, Samantha helped Vin back to his bed.

"You shouldn't have gotten up. He's ripped your stitches. I'm going to have to suture them again." Samantha dug out her father's black bag. Remembering the whiskey under the sink, she came back with the bottle and two glasses. Pouring two drinks, she downed one, and lifted Vin's head up to have him drink the other.

"I need one for support. You'll need more than one for the pain." Vin drank one drink and after the first stitch, decided the bottle would be better. After Samantha finished, she looked up at Vin. The whole time he had been watching her sew him up, looking at how beautiful she looked in that revealing gown. The light from the lantern made her skin glow. He wished his eyes would focus better, because he knew he would be able to see a lot more of her.

As Samantha looked up, she saw his look, and smiled. "I guess you needed something to take your mind off your wound. Did it work?" Vin smiled. Samantha saw that smile transform this man into a deadly handsome one.

"Ma'am, don't know where I am, but if it weren't for you sewing me up, I'd swear I was in heaven."

"I can see that the pain hasn't affected your brain from smooth talking. My name is Samantha Severn. But call me Sam. I found you several days ago, face down on my property, with two bullet holes in you. The men that were so gallantly responsible for your condition were the ones outside tonight. I'm sorry. You just happened to be at the wrong place, wrong time."

"Didn't think he would catch me off guard like that neither." Vin had inwardly cursed himself for not being able to get rid of these men. From her reaction to their riding up, he gathered she didn't want anything to do with them.

"Brandon Wilkerson is a neighbor and an ass." Vin smiled again at this woman. "He thinks he owns me, so therefore, he owns everything I own. He doesn't know how to take NO for an answer. I really am sorry."

"No problem. Been shot by better men than them. Ohhhhh, hurts when I laugh."

Samantha winced. This man sure had a better opinion of all that happened than she would have. "Well, now that you are awake and stitched up again, how about something to eat?"

After seeing this woman with more focused eyes, he wasn't sure food was all he wanted. This beauty stirred feelings down deep inside him. Clearing his throat, he answered her. "Ma'am, that'd be great. Do feel a might hungry. Thanks."

"Well, it's the least I can do for you getting shot and then opened up again." Smiling Samantha stood up to walk out of the room. Vin was trying to get out of bed. "Now look, isn't being stitched up twice, enough for you. You'll break them stitches if you're not careful." She walked over to him. "Let me at least help you sit up better." Leaning over Vin, she carefully put her arms around him, helping him pull himself up into a sitting position. It hurt like hell but he didn't care. She was so close. The impact of the two bodies touching was overpowering to Vin, not to say in the least Samantha was quite aware of what it did to her.

Vin was glad the covers were over the rest of him or she would have seen how much she affected him. Samantha caught her breath, her mind wandering to the time when he was out cold and she had bathed him all over. She remembered what was under those covers and wondered what they held under there now. Samantha felt a flush coming into her cheeks. Her eyes looked up and caught the look Vin gave her. His eyes were beautiful and blue. Blue as a spring sky. Samantha felt hot all over. No one had ever made her react this way. She had only been close to someone once, and he had been gone for years, but he had never affected her this way.

Vin's one hand had been on the bed, against her hip. His other hand had been on her waist as she was helping him slide up into a sitting position. God he didn't want to remove them. She was so warm, so soft. He wanted to hold her. He wanted to kiss those lips to see how soft they were, then run his lips down her neck to that valley where lace and skin met.

"You didn't answer me. I'll told you my name, how about yours?"

Vin hadn't realized Samantha had been talking to him. "Vin, ma'am, Vin Tanner." He had almost forgotten what his name was. He had been too engrossed in Sam to even get the words out.

Pulling herself out of his grasp, although she had wanted to linger longer, she stood up. "I'll be back shortly with something for you to eat." Finally realizing that all she had was a gown on, she went and got her robe. While she fixed him something to eat, her mind kept wandering back to how strong his hands were, and warm, and when their bodies had touched, well, she couldn't think straight.

"Samantha Severn, you should be ashamed of yourself, thinking such thoughts. You're almost thinking like a wanton hussy and you don't even know this man." Sam chided herself for thinking like this, but again her mind wandered back to this handsome man, whom she had seen quite a lot of, so to speak.

Several more days passed. Vin seemed to be getting stronger. Sam noted that the wound was healing slowly but looked good. One morning Sam had slept in a little longer than she had wanted to. Getting dressed, she went to Vin's room.

"Mr. Tanner? Mr. Tanner? Vin? Are you awake?" No answer. Samantha decided that Mr. Tanner was probably still asleep. Peeking in she noted that the bed was empty and his clothes missing. Turning, Sam went outside. She didn't see him anywhere, so she walked towards the barn. Hearing rustling sounds from inside the barn, she walked in. There was Vin, slowly and painfully, moving hay with the pitch fork into the horse stalls for clean bedding.

"Mr. Tanner! You shouldn't be doing stuff like this." Vin had his shirt on but not buttoned up. As he turned, Sam could see a small red spot on both of his bandages.

"Mr. Tanner. Do you enjoy that needle and thread going through you? Your wounds are bleeding again. Come on in the house and let me take a look at them."

Vin hadn't realized he had done too much too soon. He just knew he was gettin' soft and should have been up doing something. Although, having this beautiful woman wait on him hand and foot hadn't been bad at all. In fact, it had become quite a pleasure.

Sam fussed at Vin all the way back to the house. Vin tried not to smile. He sure had made her mad. "Mr. Tanner, there is no need to smile. That smile will not get you out of this trouble. Lie down on the bed and let me take a look."

Sam helped Vin take off his shirt. He noticed how tiny she was and she had good muscle strength. He had also noticed that when she had helped him into the house the night those men came that she was fine-boned but strong. And she smelled wonderful. Leaning over him, checking his wounds, Vin wanted to run his fingers through her hair. It was so shinny, thick, and long. He bet it was soft. Sam happened to turn and look at Vin, ready to fuss with him again, until she saw the look in his eyes. Her mouth came open to say something, and Vin reached up and pulled her head down. Their mouths met, lightly, and as lips touched, they parted. Sam couldn't move. His lips were magic. Vin's other hand went up around her back, pulling her closer. The pressure from his lips became stronger.

Sam pulled herself apart from Vin. "Mr. Tanner, I, uh, your wounds, they're fine. Nothing too bad. They're just oozing slightly." Noting the look in Vin's eyes, Sam smiled, then slapped a new bandage on Vin's shoulder.

"Damn, that hurt!" Vin hadn't expected that reaction from her. "Mr. Tanner, you're not that hurt any more that you need a diversion from the pain. I just wanted to make sure that the bullet hadn't severed any nerve endings." Smiling even more, Sam finished bandaging Vin and got up.

"Do you feel well enough for some breakfast Mr. Tanner, or would you prefer to stay in bed?"

The look Vin gave Sam made her realize that was probably the wrong thing to say. Although, there was a lot worse things than being made love to by a handsome man. Shaking those thoughts from her mind, Sam smiled, shaking her head back and forth with a warning sounding "Mr. Tanner," and turned to go fix breakfast. She sure was going to miss this man when he left.

Vin had learned his lesson. He made sure he didn't open his wounds back up. But, it if wasn't for the fact that he could cause serious damage to his body, he didn't mind the attention that Sam would give him changing his dressings.

That night, they had finished eating dinner, cleaned up, and sat outside on the porch. The night was warm, but a slight breeze was blowing. The moon was shinning and the stars danced all over the sky. Sam knew it wouldn't be long before Vin would be leaving. After all he was doing a lot better. The wounds were healing nicely.

"Sam, the only other doctor type I know is a friend of mine, Nathan. He learned doctoring during the war. You seem mighty handy with that stuff and seeing that doctor bag, I just figured you were one of them women doctors that I here about. And you do a down right good job of shaving too. Didn't even cut my throat."

Sam sat silent for a moment, then spoke. "Don't push your luck with the razor." Sam was smiling when she said that, and then the smile kinda faded. "Well, I'm not a doctor. My father was. During the war, he and I worked side by side. Saw enough blood to last me a lifetime. I guess the worse part was that so many didn't make it. So many boys. Never having a chance at living a full life, raising a family and all. It just wasn't right." Sam could see those men in her mind and hear their screams. Closing her eyes, she continued. "Sometimes when my father was able to save someone by amputating an arm, leg, or both, I would sit with them, waiting for them to wake up. Few were glad that they were even alive. Most were not after losing a leg or arm. Some would talk to me as if I were their mothers. Some would just hold my hand, telling me about their sweethearts back home. Even though I assisted him during the surgeries, I think some of the worst times were the letters these boys received. Sweethearts telling them they had found someone else. You might as well had cut off another leg or arm."

A tear rolled down Sam's face. Wiping it away, she spoke again. "You know, I grew up in a society where woman were delicate, fragile creatures. But, my father, rest his soul, knew I was not that way. I climbed trees and rode astride. My father loved me for my fresh, free spirit. My mother would go into vapors. I grew up knowing the boy down the street, Taylor Cash, would be my husband. We were close and the older we got, he encouraged my openness, my stubborn will. He loved me for what I was. He went to war and my father went to patch the boys up. I wanted to help. So I joined my father, against my mother's wishes.

One day, the casualties were higher than normal. Bodies of men and boys were stacked waiting to be worked on. They brought one man in covered with blood, not much of him left. We were surprised he was even alive. I had taken a cloth to clean his face, washing away as much blood as I could. There staring me in the face was Taylor. He looked at me and smiled. His hand that was left reached up, stroking my face. He whispered my name and his hand fell. I screamed his name, shaking him. I had blood all over me and was shaking a man that I loved and he was dead. My father grabbed me, shaking me until I let go of Taylor's hand, telling me he was gone. Telling me that there were others that needed us. Taylor was gone and there was nothing I could do to change it.

I worked liked a person with no soul for several days. We had very little rest. I had no time to mourn. One time my father went out with the troops. He came back shot up but alive. I cried the whole time I worked on him. He made it through and he was sent home. I went with him. I had had enough blood, enough death.

Back home things got worse. My mother had gotten sick, and no matter what he did, he couldn't help her. After she died, he started drinking heavily until one night he couldn't take it anymore, and shot himself. So I gathered my things, moved west, and, well, here I am. Back to doctoring again."

"Well. You do a mighty fine job. You and Nathan would like each other. He's good at doctoring too." There was nothing Vin could say about what Sam had told him. He gathered she needed to talk and he was glad that he could be there for her. He owed her a lot. He owed her his life.

Brandon sat in his easy chair, thinking about the past days. He didn't like this man staying with Sam. He was handsome and young and he was afraid Sam would prefer that company over his. Damn his men. They should have killed him. What dumb luck Sam had decided to ride that big roan of hers. Well, hopefully that man would be gone soon, and he could continue to pursue the little woman. And when he convinced her that he was the one for her, she wouldn't be ridding that big horse either. She was going to act like a lady and be a lady. Although he did like her spirit. That would be a big plus for him, especially in bed. That man better be gone soon, or he'll make sure the next bullets didn't miss.

Brandon had dispatched a man each day to watch Sam's house and let him know what was going on. He thought he had better lay low, because she had seemed so mad at him that day. She wouldn't admit it, but he knew she cared for him -- she just wanted to keep him dangling. Well, once he roped her in, he would shackle this filly and teach her a lesson.

Brandon was daydreaming of Sam when he heard a knock. "Enter!" It was one of his men who had been assigned to watch Sam's house. "I thought I told you to watch her house. What the hell are you doing here?"

Moving his weight back and forth, the man spoke. "Well boss, I, well, been doing what you asked. Saw Miss Severn helping that feller back into the house. They came from the barn. Well, I snuck up to the window to check what was going on. I saw them. I saw that feller in bed with Miss Severn holding her and kissing her, right tender like. And she didn't make a move to get away from him either."

Brandon exploded and hit the man. "Son of a bitch!" He would ride over there in the morning and have a talk with her. About time that man was gone anyway, and he would see to it that he left.

Next morning, Sam was up bright and early. Vin was still asleep. She had felt a lot better after their talk the night before. It had been a long time since she had someone to talk with, and Vin was content on listening to her rattle on and on. Sam went down to the barn to gather eggs for breakfast. Hearing a rider, she had just come out of the barn.

"Brandon, I told you I didn't want you on my property. Now leave!" Sam was livid. She couldn't believe this fool was back. Hadn't she warned him? And damn, the gun was in the house.

Getting down from his horse, Brandon approached Sam. "Samantha. I am sorry what happened. I have no control over what my men do. I didn't have them shoot this man. Anyway, where is he? Has he healed and left?" Brandon tried to sound genuinely concerned.

Sam didn't believe him for one minute. Shaking her head, she started to turn back into the barn, saying, "Brandon, go home. You are not welcome."

Furious, Brandon grabbed her arm, spinning her around. "Listen here, that man is to be gone from here. Understand? I know he has been pawing you, and you need to know the right way to act. You'll not be sharing yourself with him. You got it!" His grasped on her arm became tighter. She tired to get loose. He grabbed both of her arms, pulling her to him.

"God, Sam, I want you. I can't stand to see you with anyone else. Get rid of him so we can be together." Brandon's voice was full of lust as he held her close. Struggling, Sam was able to finely get loose and slapped him across the face. Stunned at first, then angry, Brandon reached back and hit her across her face with his fist. Almost knocking her on the ground, Sam caught herself, and stood straight backed, glaring at him.

"You ever, ever touch me again, I'll kill you Brandon." He stepped back. The look in her eyes had shown pure hatred.

"Sam, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to hit you, but you have got to behave yourself. It doesn't look good you too living in the same house. My man saw you two in bed."

Sam's eyes widened, then narrowed. "You've had your men spying on me. How dare you. Get out. Get out now and don't come back. Do you hear, GET OUT!"

Brandon knew he had gone to far and rather continue with this, he decided to talk with her later when she cooled off. Getting on his horse, he turned and rode off. Sam's hand went up to her cheek. Brandon's fist would leave a nice bruise and she tasted blood. Her bottom lip was split.

Vin had finally decided to get up. Damn, he sure was gettin' lazy. Walking over to the window, he had seen Sam and Brandon seemingly talking. But when he grabbed Sam by the arm, Vin was furious. The man had over stepped his bounds. He had no right even touching her. He put his pants on as fast as he could, trying to watch what was going on at the same time. He was coming out of his room when Sam walked in. She was holding her head down, and turned away from Vin when she saw that he was up. He sure picked one hell of a time to get up. She had hoped to slip into the house and fix her face, although she had a feeling that when she looked at it, there would be no hiding from the fact that she had been hit. She could feel her lip already swelling.

It only took a couple of steps for Vin to catch up to Sam, gently grabbing her arm and turning her around. The purple and black bruise forming on her cheek and the swelling lip was the first thing he saw. Vin turned, went into his room, grabbed his shirt and rifle, making sure it was loaded as he started walking out.

"No, Vin, please. He didn't mean to. I mean it just happened. Please, it's not worth it. I'm not worth it. Please. Don't do this."

Vin turned. The pleading in Sam's eyes just about broke his heart. That bastard had hurt her and he wanted to hurt him back. No one deserved that kind of treatment. Sam placed her hand on his arm and whispered, "Please, don't do this, he isn't worth you possibly getting hurt again. Please."

Vin looked at her, then at his rifle, then back at her. He put the rifle down, and pulled Sam into his arms. God he wanted to make things better, take away that bruise. He started kissing her hair. She leaned against his chest, crying, feeling his strong arms, his warmth. He leaned her head back enough for him to put his lips down on hers, lightly, ever so lightly, so as not to hurt her bruised face and split lip. Even with the light kiss, Sam could feel the pain, but it was worth it to have this man's lips on hers.

Separating from her, he smiled, "Looks like it's time for me to take care of you." With that, Vin grabbed a towel and some cold water. "Come on. Sit down. Let's see what we can do with that face and lip. Then you can tell me what went on down there. Vin noted the frown on Sam's face. Trying to make her feel better, he smiled and told her, "Then as soon as I ripe the son of a bitch apart, then maybe we can poison a few buzzards with what's left." Sam smiled and winced. "Ohhh, my lip is killing me!"


Later on that evening, Sam got ready for bed. Vin had tried to coax information from her but she was steadfast in not letting him know what happened. Things were getting out of hand. Vin was well enough to travel. She lay down across her bed, thinking how she would talk to Vin about leaving. If he didn't leave, something might happen to him. She couldn't live with that. And she had been able to handle Brandon before Vin came into the picture. With him gone, maybe things would go back to the way they were, or even better, Brandon would ignore her altogether. Probably not.

Vin on the other hand, lay across his bed, thinking he was well enough to leave but he kept putting it off. He really didn't want to leave Sam. She needed him and, well, dammit, he needed her.

"Vin? Are you awake." Sam had gotten up. It was no use staying in bed, because she couldn't sleep.

"I'm awake." Vin's reply was one of wishing he hadn't answered her and yet glad he did.

Sam came into his room, wearing that beautiful nightgown he had grown to love. The moonlight was shining through the window, basking her in golden shadows. He didn't move, but still lay flat on his back on the bed.

"Vin. We need to talk. Your wounds are doing very well. In fact, you should be able to leave any time. I, I think it's time for you to go." Sam's voice quivered slightly. She wanted him to go, but she wanted him to stay.

"Yeah. Been thinking about that myself. But with that Brandon feller, I'm not sure if it is safe for you." Vin didn't attempt to get up, but still lay on his back, looking out the window at the moon shining.

Sam sat down on the bed. "Oh, Vin, I'll be fine. Once you're gone, he won't feel threatened. He'll back off."

Vin leaned up and swung his feet around, sitting up next to Sam. "You really want me to go? Are you sure?"

Sam stood up, not wanting to look at Vin. If she did, her reserves would go down. "Yes, I think it's best. You're well enough to travel, and you said yourself that your friends are probably starting to worry. You need to go." With that Sam started to walk away from him.

Vin leaned over, gently catching Sam's gown. She stopped, and he stood up, touching her arm and turning her around. His hand went up to her face and he cupped her chin in his hand. "Look at me and tell me you want me to leave."

Sam mustered the strength to reply looking into those beautiful blue eyes. "I think it's time for you to go back to Four Corners."

Vin sighed. He pulled her into his arms. "Ok, I'll leave in the morning. But, I want one thing from you tonight. I want you." With that, his lips lightly came down on hers. Sam's arms went up around his neck, not hesitating one bit. Vin's lips moved from her lips to her chin then down her neck. My God, she was wonderfully soft. And she smelled so good. He ached so much for her, he didn't know if he could go on without her telling him she wanted him as much as he wanted her.

Sensing a change in Vin, she sighed. "Vin. I've never been with a man before. I'm not sure how I should act. I want you. I want you to make love to me."

That night was a night they wouldn't forget. Later, leaning over to look at Sam, Vin whispered. "Sam, are you all right?"

Opening her eyes, a small smile formed on Sam's lips. "I'm fine." She wanted to say something else to him, but didn't know what to say. My god, he was wonderful, and if this was like it would be all the time, it sure would be a pleasure. She just knew Vin had had other women, but he had made her feel special. And she knew this night would have to last her. He would be leaving in the morning.

She kept her head on his chest with his arms wrapped around her for quite a while. She could hear his breathing and his heartbeat, breathe in his wonderful scent. She wanted to remember everything about him. How he felt, how he made love, his voice.

Vin didn't want to separate from her. She was wonderful. He had promised her he would leave in the morning. He didn't know if he had the strength to leave her. He wanted to stay. He wanted to make this feeling last. He had done a lot in his lifetime and this was what he felt was his best. Finding this wonderful woman.

"Sam, are you sure you want me to leave?" Vin didn't want to hear what he knew she would say. He held her even tighter.

"Vin. It's better this way. You need to go. It's the best way." Sam hated to say it. God how she wanted him to stay. But, Brandon would be a problem. And she didn't want anyone getting hurt, even that ass.

When Vin woke up the next morning, the sun had not risen very much. Sam was sleeping peacefully. He edged himself out of the bed, trying not to wake her. It would be easier this way. Leave without her knowing it. He slipped on his clothes and walked over to the sleeping beauty. He leaned over to lightly kiss her shoulder. She was right, he guessed. He should leave. He couldn't give her what she really needed. He wasn't the type to settle down. This was the best way. With regret, he grabbed his rifle and hat and quietly left the bedroom. It didn't take him long to saddle Peso, mount, and ride off. She would be impossible to forget, but then again, he really didn't want to forget her.

From a hill top, not too far away, a lonesome rider, watched the buckskin clad man ride off. He turned his horse, spurring him back to his original destination from where he came. He knew his news would make one man extremely happy.

"I need you to still keep an eye out, for a least a week. Then we'll know if he is coming back." Brandon's man left. He felt really good. He hoped that young man would be gone permanently. Killing wasn't to his best liking, but, with that man going, he could avoid having him killed. Now maybe things could get back into order, and he could easily pursue Miss Severn. Maybe he would ride out himself tonight, after dark, and just kinda check up on her.

Sam stretched. God, she felt wonderful. So satisfied. So........ Then she remembered. Today would be the day Vin would leave. It wasn't going to be easy for her to let him go. Damn that Brandon! Turning over, hoping to see Vin, Sam was greeted with an empty bed. Seeing his clothes and rifle gone, she had a sickening feeling he wasn't up drinking his coffee. She quickly dressed, and went outside down to the barn, almost hoping Peso was still in his stall.

Light filtered through the barn as she opened the doors. Next to Leader, the stall Peso had been in was empty. Turning Sam slowly walked back toward the house, not even minding Leader whinnying to her. It was best this way. That's why he left the way he did. Clean break. No second thoughts. How she hated her life just then. "Vin Tanner, why did you have to show up in my life?"

It turned out to be a long day for both of them. The day dragged on for Sam. She did chores almost mechanically. That night, she lay down across the bed that she and Vin had shared, falling into a deep sleep. Breathing in his scent on the sheets had somewhat given her the peace she needed and so did the medicine she had taken for her headache.

Vin settled down to an open fire with nothing but her on his mind. He ached for her. To hear her laugh, fussing with him, crying in his arms, her smell. He sure would be glad to get back to town in a few days, maybe keep his mind off her.

It was late when Brandon quietly road up to Sam's house. He just wanted to peak in to see how she was doing. Looking around he noticed a slight glow from her front bedroom. Looking in he saw Sam sleeping soundly, the lamp light glowing on her skin. He quietly went into the house, going into the bedroom, just looking at this vision. He walked over taking a chance that she wouldn't awaken. He had to touch her. He had to feel her soft skin. Deep in sleep, Sam dreamed of Vin. She moaned and moved slightly. Brandon took a chance.

Sam was deep into her dream, making love to this wonderful long haired man that she nursed back to health. Brandon couldn't believe how deep in sleep she was. Looking at the table next to the bed, he spotted a bottle of dark liquid. No wonder. She had taken something. Looking back down at her, he wished now he had used more force. As he stood up, Sam whispered, "Vin, Vin."

Brandon's face turned lived. That bitch. Well, wait till he told her about tonight and how she responded to him. Maybe he should watch more closely to see if she took anything else when she went to bed. Well, even one night with her was better than nothing at all. He didn't want to leave, but he knew he had better.

Whistling lightly, Brandon left the house, mounted his horse and rode back to his ranch. Smiling, he would have an edge on her by thinking her lover had come back. Her haughty attitude with him would stop when she found out she had willingly given herself to him and not this Vin fella. But, he didn't want to tell her too soon, and ruin it. Maybe later. A hell of a lot later.

Sam woke up the next morning feeling wonderful. Had it been a dream? But why didn't Vin stay this time. Sam knew in her heart that he really didn't belong here. He needed to be free to go and come whenever he wanted, and not be tied down. Maybe that's why she cared so much for him. He was a lot like her.

Days dragged by for Sam. One thing that started to bother her was being so sick feeling all the time. And tired. She had always had a lot of energy, but now she just dragged on with everyday chores. It had been real quiet too. At least Brandon hadn't made it a point to be a pest. Her worry picked up when she missed her cycle. Maybe it was just all the things that had been happening that threw it off. God she hoped so. One night of passion hopefully didn't leave her with something else to deal with. Although the thought of having some part of Vin to have around wasn't all that bad. But first things first. She had to make sure before she started thinking about things that might not be.

The next missed cycle and continuing morning sickness left no doubt in Sam's mind. She was pregnant. She smiled knowing that the life inside her was from a wonderful union. But, she didn't believe in making any plans to fast. She would take it one day at a time.

Brandon had made it a point not to show up at Sam's house. His plan was to stay away, and maybe loneliness would set in and she would want him to show up. And two months had passed and it was killing him. That night he had taken her was one of the best nights he had had with a woman. Now it was time to see if he could continue the relationship.

Sam saw Brandon riding up to the house. She was coming back from the barn. Her hormones had really been in a turmoil from the pregnancy. She really didn't want Brandon here at all but then again, she missed companionship. "It must be the pregnancy. I'm getting soft in the head. Well, maybe if I just talk with him, he won't stay too long." Sam really didn't feel like arguing with him.

"Sam. I thought that I would come by and see how you are doing?" Brandon had noticed that she had no marks left from where he had hit her. He had really regretted that. His temper had just gotten the best of him and set his relationship with Sam back a few steps. He would have to watch that in the future.

"I'm fine Brandon." Sam had forgotten how handsome Brandon was. Sam thought to herself that he would be a very good catch for a woman. Oh great, she was getting soft. She needed to put a check on herself. This baby was really doing a trick on her.

"Sam, you look absolutely radiant." Brandon had stepped even closer to her, wanting so much to just touch her, but refraining himself. He had to go slowly. "I wanted to know if we could start fresh. And I promise I won't push you this time."

Sam looked at Brandon. He reminded her of a lost puppy. Knowing though that she needed to put a stop to this because of the baby she was carrying, she looked at Brandon. "Brandon, this won't work. Really. I do think it's best that you don't come by anymore. Please."

"But Sam, I really am sorry I pushed you. Please, at least give me another chance."

Sam knew what she had to do. She didn't want it out, especially telling Brandon, but it was the only way to discourage him. "Brandon, there is another reason I don't want you to come over here any more. I. I'm going to have a baby!" Sam waited for the anger.

Inwardly, he smiled. Damn, he had already gotten her pregnant. He knew it had to be his and not that Vin fella. "Sam, I. Damn. Are you all right. Was it that Vin fella? I'm sorry, it's none of my business."

His concern floored her. Just then her hormones got the best of her and she started crying. Brandon's arms went around her holding her close. She welcomed his arms. She had missed someone holding her, talking to her. He leaned her head back and brought his lips down to hers. He was very gentle. He was doing his best. Damn, it was working. In no time, she would be his and he would have a son. The baby wouldn't be anything else but a boy. He wouldn't have it any other way. Sam responded back. Craving the feel of a kiss. Brandon sensed her response and pursued it farther. His lips became more demanding. He coaxed her lips apart with his tongue, connecting with the sweet inside of her mouth. Sam could fee heat rising in her body. Craving and wanting what she had missed for so long.

Brandon scooped her up in his arms, carrying her to the house. By damn, she wanted him. It was all he could do to keep from running. He carried her into the house, into her bedroom. Gently placing her on the bed, he stayed close to her, afraid to break the connection in fear she might not want to go farther. His kisses became more ardent, his breathing labored. He slowly started unbuttoning the front of her dress. Sam let out a groan. His hands were warm and tantalizing. Sam's hands moved around his back, pressing him into her. Brandon decided to be a little more daring. Sam came to her senses. Realizing what was happening, she started struggling. "Brandon, no, please, stop, I can't. Don't do this." She was panicky. How could she do this. What was wrong with her.

Brandon was beyond stopping. Finally with all her strength, Sam was able to separate him from her. He rolled sideways, lust still filling his eyes. She quickly pulled her dress together, and stood up.

"Brandon. You shouldn't have. You went too far. We went to far." Sam knew she had a flush on her cheeks. She was ashamed of herself. She had let her defenses down. Why, she was acting wanton. She didn't even like him."

"Is it because of this Vin fella that you didn't want me to make love to you." Brandon's temper was rising, along with his cravings for this woman.

"I'm sorry Brandon. I can't help it. I let this go too far. It's best you leave." Sam had turned to Brandon who was still lying on the bed.

"Maybe I'll just stay. We haven't finished yet." He tried to hold her again. "Listen you and me both know he won't be back. When that baby comes close to coming you'll need someone to take care of you. And I'm willing to marry you to give that baby a name. Hell, I'll even treat him like he was mine."

"No Brandon. I can't. I'll take care of it myself. I don't want to marry you. I don't love you. Please, I don't want to share with you what you want from me. I can't believe it got this far. I don't want to make love to you ever. I'm sorry, but that's how I feel."

Brandon stood up, softly grabbing each of her arms, pinning her in place. Smiling, he knew it was time to tell her. "Sam, that baby is more than likely mine." The look of Sam's face was perfect for him to see.

"What do you mean? How dare you think that you and I.... That you and I have ever been together." Sam looked at him like he was crazy. The man was delusional!

"That day that fella left, you slept in that front bedroom. I came by to check on you that night." Sam remembered how she had gone to bed that night and she had taken some medication to help her sleep. Oh God, she had dreamed of Vin that night, making love to her. It couldn't have been......

Brandon seeing the shocked look on her face smiled. "I tried to wake you up, but you must have taken something. You were so beautiful. So delicate. So delicious looking. I hadn't planned on making love to you, but, every time I touched you, you moaned. I couldn't help myself. Sam, I made love to you that night and you responded to me, just like you did now. It's in your blood. You are the type of woman who needs and wants a man. That baby you are carrying is mine."

Sam remembered that she had felt so satisfied that next morning. Oh God, she was going to be sick. That bastard. With all her strength, she looked him square in the face. "How could you. You came into my home uninvited. You took advantage of me, you bastard. It will be a cold day in hell before you ever, ever come near me again. Get out. GET OUT!

Brandon smiled. She was mad now, but she would get over it. Turning, he started walking out of the bedroom. "Sam, you'll be sorry you sent me away. A unmarried woman with a kid, trying to make it on your own. You'll be begging for me to take you in, because you know I will take care of you. You want and need the attention of a man's body." With that he walked out, got on his horse, and left.

Sam was furious. Sam was angry. Sam was sick to her stomach. "My God, how did I not know he was here." She started to cry. "I could be carrying his child and not Vin's." She lay across the bed and cried herself to sleep.

Vin had been back in town for several weeks. He tried to keep busy. But mornings and nights were the worst times for him. He had time to think. Think and remember. He remembered he laugh, her crying, her smell and feel. He would smile when he remembered how she would try to be mad at him. Damn his life. Why couldn't things be different. Even his friends noticed a change in Vin. Things seemed to bother Vin more. He had gotten down right cranky. Buck had told him one time that he acted like an ornery little old man.

"Vin. I think you were gone a little too long a while back." Buck would put his hand on his chest, thinking. "Although when it comes to ladies, well, any man could easily be swayed by their charms." Vin would shake his head, and either walk off or continue looking into his beer. Other times, Vin chose to be by himself, drinking his "gut warmers" trying to forget.

Vin had even jumped on JD, yelling at him. JD was stunned. "Ssssh, Vin, I was only kiddin'. You think you were the only man who loved someone and didn't do nothin' about it."

Vin would look at JD real serious like. "JD. You're just a kid. Whata you know about love. And who said I loved her anyway."

Chris had seen it coming for several weeks. Almost as soon as his friend had found his way back to town. They had all been worried that something had happened to him being gone so long and all. And when he told them what had happened, Chris has seen a sparkle in those blue eyes. Vin cared more than he wanted to believe. Vin talked to Nathan a lot about her, telling him what a good doctor she was, and how she and him would get along right well.

Several months passed. Chris had decided that Vin had suffered enough. They all had suffered enough. Chris found him in the saloon, drowning himself in his whiskey. "Mind if I sit?" Vin pointed to the chair opposite him.

"You know Vin, been there, done that, the drowning thing. Doesn't work. You don't forget. One advantage you have? She's still here. Still alive. Don't worry about what might or might not happen. If you care for her, don't waste time. Life's too short."

Vin was still staring at his beer. "Yeah, I know Chris. But I don't have nothin' to offer her."

Chris smiled. "Vin, one time you offered me a chance to get your bounty money if you were killed. That, my friend, made me know how you felt about me, plus the fact you would get the last laugh. As your friend, do something for me. Hell, do it for yourself. Go on back to her. If it works out, either stay or move back here. Whatever you two do, do it together. Real love doesn't come that often. Don't waste it my friend." With that, Vin watched Chris get up and leave."Lifting his hat off the table and fiddling with the brim Vin pondered over what Chris had said.

"Yep. Maybe I just should go back. Hell, she couldn't stay too mad for too long." He also knew that Brandon might prove to be a problem. He wasn't gonna get caught off guard this time.

Later, Vin talk with the rest of the seven and persuaded them to come with him. He didn't know if he would need their help or that he needed them for support. Didn't matter none to him though. They were his friends and he needed and wanted them there. And Sam would like them too. He knew she would.

The pain hit her like a knife. She had been cleaning stalls, and had been extremely tired that morning. In the back of her mind, she knew things weren't right with the pregnancy. Sometimes it could be a curse to have doctoring knowledge. The pain came again. It was way to soon. She was only three months into pregnancy. She hoped to God she was wrong about losing this baby, even though it might be Brandon's. This baby was not to be hated for the sins of the father. It was all she could do to get herself up to the house. Lying on the bed, the pain shot through her again.

She didn't hear the riders approaching. All of them were willing to go with Vin. After all, two bullet holes were enough in the man at one time. He didn't need to go about getting any more. The place seemed quiet. Too quiet. Vin was thinking Sam should be outside. She loved to spend as much time outside as she could. "She's probably down at the barn," Vin was telling the rest of them as he got down. Checking the barn, he noticed Leader pacing back and forth, pitchfork on the ground. He didn't like it. He got a strange feeling. Running back to the house, Vin was calling her name. The rest of the men noticed his concern, and moved toward the house after Vin.

As soon as he walked into the house, he heard Sam's voice coming from the bedroom. It was a mixture of his name, crying, and moaning. As he went into her room, he saw her writhing on the bed, blood on her clothes and bed. "Vin, oh Vin. I'm losing the baby."

Nathan was right behind Vin. Vin just stood there, not moving. "I'm gonna need your help, Vin." Nathan sent the rest to find blankets, sheets, and water. He knew she needed Vin more than anything.

Finally moving, Vin went over to Sam, sitting on the bed, pulling her up part way into his arms. Her hands were bloody as she grabbed his arms, but he didn't care. "Nathan, help her. Don't let anything happen to her."

Nathan could see the pain in Vin's eyes. But the most important person right now was this little lady. "Vin, I.... I don't know how to tell you...."

Whispers came from Sam's lips. Vin tried to calm her. "Ssssh. We'll talk later. Sam, this is Nathan. He'll help you, won't you Nathan?"

Nathan turned to Vin, hoping not to let his friend see his concern. He hadn't done too much where women were concerned, but it didn't look good. Too much blood. Finally, he turned to Sam. "Ma'am, I gonna send Vin out. Think it best."

Looking at Nathan's concerned face and knowing about doctoring herself, she turned to Vin. "I'll be fine. Don't worry. Better you be out there, then I only have to worry about myself. Go on, I'll be fine."

Vin didn't want to go, but he didn't want to upset her.

Walking outside, he stood on the porch with his friends. Chris noted the pain in the young man's face. "She'll be fine, Vin. Nathan will look out after her."

It seemed like hours to Vin before Nathan finally came out. "Won't know for a while, but I think she might be all right. She was three months with that baby. Just weren't meant to be Vin. Lots of women go through it." Patting his friend on his back was all he could offer Vin right now. Time would tell. Vin turned and went in to see Sam.

She looked pale and week, but a lot better than when he first saw her. As he walked in she smiled at him. It was a small smile, one of happiness but with something hidden. "I'm sorry." was all she could say. Sam started crying and held her arms out to him. He was in those arms with no hesitation. "I'm so glad you came back, Vin." He held her for a long time, Sam finally being taken over by sleep.

It was getting dark, when Vin finally came out of the bedroom. "She's sleeping. Thanks Nathan." Vin was a man of few words, but that thank you meant a whole book full of words.

Next morning, Nathan and Vin went into Sam's room. She was already awake, feeling a whole lot better. She had been pondering since early morning if she should tell Vin about what had happened after he left and that there had been a possibility of the baby being Brandon's. She was afraid that maybe he would hate her for it. It was making her tired just trying to sort out the entire situation. She liked Nathan from the first, feeling a camaraderie with the man. She had confided in him about her baby, needing and wanting and talk with someone who was not involved. She needed someone who could look at the situation objectively. Nathan knew the man needed to be told, but explained to Sam what might happen. Vin was a proud man, but would want an open and honest relationship. But he was also honest with Sam.

"Missy, I don't think I would want to stand in his way when you tell him. He is gonna be some kinda of angry. Seen 'em when he's angry. Might be best, if you don't mind, that I tell the others. It may take all of us to hold him down. After all he saved my life once and I owe him as a friend."

Sam really didn't like the idea at first. But for Vin's safety, her pride could take a lot of embarrassment. "Nathan. Vin is very lucky to have friends like you and the others. I hope I don't regret telling him. Nathan, I love him and no matter what happens or how he feels after I tell him, I know I'm doing the right thing."

Vin had explained to her about coming back and why. How he had brought his friends back with him.

"Well, let me meet these friends of yours I have heard so much about. It's kinda embarrassing though that they saw me the way they did." Sam was overpowered by all these men in one room. All of them strong men, a diversity of personalities so closely bonded by friendship. She really liked them. And they seemed to care so much for Vin. To have friends like that was something she had really not ever had, and she didn't know how much she missed it, until now, seeing Vin with them. They noticed how Sam and Vin kept looking at each other, knowing they needed to talk, and alone. They closed the door behind them.

"Vin I need to tell you something. Please try to listen. Listen to all of it." She had decided to tell Vin about Brandon, even though she knew he would probably want to kill the man. But she couldn't live with a lie. She preceded to tell him about that night and how she had found out. She had a hard time looking him in the eyes, without feeling some guilt. The muscles in Vin's jaw tightened as she told him the story. She noticed his breathing had become harder. When she looked into his eyes, they became dark blue storm clouds.

He didn't know what to say. God he didn't know if he was mad at her, Brandon, or both. And if he was mad at her, then why the hell was he mad with her? Or was he mad with himself for listening to her in the first place and leaving? Damn, he never should have left.

"Sam." Vin got up and paced back and forth, fingering his gun. "I knew I shouldn't have left. Why didn't you just let me stay and take care of things. Then maybe this wouldn't have happened."

Sam was hurt. "Vin, there is no blame here except for maybe what Brandon did to me. And yes, don't give me that look like you don't want to hear it. Maybe if you stayed, that wouldn't have happened. But I still might have been pregnant. Still might have lost the baby. And you could be dead, too. My God Vin, it happened. We can't change it. Your anger at me and Brandon won't change what happened. Please, please let it lie." Sam started to cry. "Please let it lie. No more death. No more blood. Please. No more blood."

Vin couldn't take her crying, her pleading. He turned and walked out, shutting her door. All the others were standing by. They would support Vin in whatever he needed to do, but whatever that was, they weren't going to let their friend get hurt. They could hear Sam. Chris reached over and put his hand on Vin's arm. As much as hate had filled him and still continued to haunt him with the death of his wife and son, he didn't want this man to fall into the same scenario. Hate would murder your soul. "Vin, Sam is right. The loss of the baby is enough blood to be shed. Let's not add more."

Vin sat down in a chair. He looked tired and felt tired.

Vin sat for a while, jaws still clinched, fingers fidgeting with his gun. His anger wouldn't subside. Getting up he headed for the door. Buck stood in his way, ready to say something to his friend. Vin beat him to it. "Buck, I'm gonna go crazy just sittin' here. All I'm gonna do is use the ax out back and split some wood. Maybe that'll help."

Buck looked at Chris, and he nodded back. He moved aside to let Vin out. Several hours later, near getting dark, Vin was still out back splitting wood. Sam had been napping off and on all day. Each time she woke up, she could hear the sounds of medal on wood. Looking out her window, she saw Vin, wet with sweat, pursuing those logs like a man trying to rid himself of the devil. Getting up, she threw her robe on to go outside. The rest of the seven were on the porch kinda keeping tabs on Vin. They didn't want him slipping out to go see that Brandon fella. Nathan saw Sam first.

"Ma'am, you shouldn't be up too much walking around. Why don't you just go back to bed. We'll get you what you need."

Sam looked at the men, loving everyone of them. "Nathan, you all can't give me what I need. I promise I won't be too long." With that Sam carefully went down the steps and around the house when Vin was working.

He had seen her walk up, but never lost of the momentum of splitting the wood. "Best you get back inside. You shouldn't be up and around yet." Sam had not expected Vin to sound so cold.

"Vin we need to talk. Please." Trying to lighten the situation, Sam continued, "You know if you keep up this pace, I could be here for years and never worry about wood for burning." Vin stopped swinging, looking at her. Her smile faded when she saw his face.

"Sam I don't think this is a good time to talk." Vin stood there, leaning on the ax handle.

Sam wanted to run over to him, hold him, have him hold her, but with the look on his face, she only walked over to him. "Please Vin, don't be angry. Angry with me. I was lonely. The baby was making my body crave things that I didn't have. I'm sorry. I was weak."

Vin taking his neckerchief and wiping the sweat off his face, looked at her. "Sam, it's bad enough that I want to kill the son of a bitch for touching you, but you went to his arms willingly and your bed. Don't see how you could have done that, since you hate him so much."

"Vin I....I just don't know what happened. Please, I can't explain it. Please, I can only ask that you forgive me."

Just then Buck came around the corner. Vin, seeing him, called to him. "Buck, Sam has been up too long. She needs to rest." Buck saw the pain in Sam's eyes as Vin turned to continue splitting wood.

Buck started to walk to her to carry her back to the house. Sam held her hand up. "No thank you Mr. Wilmington. I can walk back myself. Besides, it doesn't matter anymore. Nothing matters."

Buck could see the tears on Sam's face. Buck knew Vin's pride was hurt, but, hell, this little lady was more important than pride. Looking at Vin, Buck took a chance and spoke up. "Vin, if you're gonna let that damn pride ruin all you might have with this woman, then you're a DAMNED FOOL! There's plenty of pride to last, but not enough beautiful women worth swallowing it for." With that Buck turned on his heels, and walked with Sam back to the house. Vin stopped splitting with a "son of a bitch," and threw the ax down.

Vin wiped the sweat off his face. Hell, hadn't he done the same thing himself, when it came to needing and wanting a woman's soft touch. Yeah, it was pride. Male pride. Sam was a beautiful woman, who had not given herself to anyone, and he comes along, takes it, then leaves, no matter what the circumstances were. She was a woman full of so much love, and all she did was to accept the warmth and caresses from someone else, even if it was Brandon Wilkerson. He sure didn't like that son of a bitch one bit, but Sam was vulnerable then, and she was honest with him. She didn't even have to tell him what had happened, but she did. And Vin did admire her courage and honesty for telling him. And what did he do. He acted like an ass. Isn't that what Sam had called Brandon. An ass. Damn, he hated being given the same title as him.

Vin knew what he had to do. It would have to be a big apology for Sam to even consider forgiving him. And Buck was right. Buck had more insights into women than Vin ever gave him credit for. Sam was worth swallowing his pride for. He started walking to the house when he noticed riders. There was no mistaking those riders. Wilkerson and his men. He had some kinda nerve riding up to Sam's knowing how she had sent him packing.

Chris and the others had seen them too. JD was ready for a fight. He enjoyed them. "I'd say someone is ready to have their ass whipped, when Vin sees him." All of them came off the steps as Brandon pulled his horse up.

"Who the hell are you? Where is Miss Severn?" Brandon was furious. Vin was coming around the corner so Brandon hadn't seen him yet. Chris spoke. "Miss Severn is not feeling well. Can we help you gentlemen?" Brandon thought that first of all he had to do was chase off one man. Now here were six more. What the hell did she have going on here, especially when she was carrying his baby.

Brandon tried to hold his composure. "Friend, I'm about to ask the same question. Miss Severn and I are close friends and neighbors. I kind of look out after her." Brandon was getting off his horse, as Vin rounded the corner of the house. Seeing Vin, he stopped dead in his tracks. This isn't what he had planned at all. He figured Sam would be ready to have company again, knowing she would be lonely. Brandon was mad, but not as mad as the young man that faced him.

Brandon didn't know whether to stand up against this man or get the hell out of there. Vin kept coming towards him. "Wilkerson, I told Sam months ago that I would tear you apart till nothing was left of you. I'm about to make you buzzard meat for what you did to her."

Vin slipped off his gun since he noticed Wilkerson wasn't wearing any. Wilkerson thought he could beat the starch out of this man. He had trained as a fighter and he knew he was still good. Brandon snickered. "If you want to get the tar beat out of you for a woman, well, a woman who likes to spread herself around, then come on, son. Let's see what you got." Vin lunged at him. Fists flew. Vin knocked him down, jumped on him, both rolling. Sam had heard the commotion and came back outside. She was tired. Tired of everything and everyone.

Vin turned out to be the better fighter of the two. He had just about beaten Brandon to a pulp. He had his fist up to put in the last punch when he heard the gunfire. Men pulled guns. The two stopped fighting. Sam had not been noticed coming out of the house. She had gotten her rifle out and shot once in the air. Then she aimed at the two men fighting, and shot at the ground close to them. She didn't even care if she accidentally hit one.

"That's it. That's enough. I've had enough of both of you." She carefully came down the stairs with Buck helping her down. Both stopped fighting, Vin being on the top, stood up grabbing Brandon by the shirt. As much as she would have liked to have shot Brandon and not thought a thing about it, she wasn't that type of person. It was true, he had violated her in the worst way. She would always hate him for it. But what had hurt her the most was the way the young man next to him had turned against her, all for being honest with him. She almost felt like laughing. Not too long ago, her life was quiet and she was content. It took one pompous ass and a handsome wounded man to turn her life upside down.

Both men were standing there, legs apart, staring at this woman and the rifle barrel that was aimed right at them. Sam didn't take hardly any time to aim, and shot at Brandon, just between his legs, grazing that part so valued by a man. Cringing in pain, he dropped to his knees.

"Brandon if you value your life or your male parts, then I would suggest you get your ass up on that horse of yours, and you and your men ride out of here. This is your last warning. I am capable of and will shoot higher the next time you or your men set foot on this property. Do I make myself clear?" Brandon looked at her, knowing he had better leave. Besides she wasn't worth it anymore. She was damaged goods and there were plenty of woman out there that he could have. Besides, he knew damn well that she would shoot him. His men helped him up and picking up his hat on the ground, he mounted his horse, turned and rode off.

Sam still held the rifle, pointing the nose down. She watched Brandon ride off then turned to Vin. He was about to say something, until he saw the look on her face. "And you Mr. Tanner, I can almost condone Brandon's actions, because he is an arrogant, lecherous ass, and good riddance. But you, you cut me clean through with a sharp knife. I don't like to be rude, but I think it's best that you and your friends go back to where you came from." Turning to Nathan, she placed her hand on his arm, whispering a "thank you." He nodded with a "ma am" and she walked back up the stairs, went into the house and slammed the door.

Buck looked kind of uneasy. Putting his hand on his chest, he cleared his throat. "Ahem, well, I think it's time boys to be saddling up. Long ride." With that he went to the barn followed by the rest of the men.

JD walked past Vin, tipping his hat slightly. "Boy Vin, you're in a peck of a lot of trouble."

As Chris walked past him, he nodded his head to Vin in the direction of the house. Vin understood. He felt he was walking from the fat into the fire. Taking some deep breaths, he opened the front door and walked in.

"Well, I don't think I said anything that should have been misunderstood, Mr. Tanner. I couldn't have been clearer in my request." Sam was standing at her bedroom door, and turned when she heard the front door open.

Vin took several strides to where Sam was standing. She started to turn and go into her bedroom when he lightly grabbed her arms. Both stood for several minutes until Sam spoke. "Vin, really, I think it's best that you go. I'm fine now. I just want some peace."

Vin turned her around. "Sam, I don't deserve another chance. I know that. And in my own way I am worse than that Brandon fella. You were honest with me. I have always done things my own way. It was hard for me to think you could go to a man like him. I never had feelings before for someone to miss them that much and be so lonely.......... until now. I don't blame you fer turning me away. I just want to say I'm sorry. And if you do ever forgive me, it won't take me long to get long as I don't get shot again." Vin smiled hoping Sam would be swayed. He loved her. He didn't want to admit it, but he did love her.

Sam saw that look, and her reserve melted. "Vin why is it so important to you, for me to forgive you? Tell me. Look me straight in the face and tell me."

Vin knew he loved her, that's why it was so important. But damn, he wasn't the type of man to go about telling someone he loved her. Weren't natural to him. All of a sudden he felt trapped. Sam must have seen it too, because she sighed, shaking her head.

"It's just not in you to tell me is it? And I'm sorry, because I have to know. Guess we're at a standstill. Goodbye Vin." Sam turned, went into her room, and shut the door. Too many things were happening at one time. She lay across the bed and just starting crying. She cried herself to sleep.

It was dark when she woke up. Knowing everyone had left, Sam felt like her whole world was gone. Figuring she would get herself something to drink, she opened her bedroom door. The next room with filled partially with light, the table set for dinner. In a glass were some wildflowers. She could smell the wonderful scent of beef cooking. Just then the front door opened. Vin walked in. Seeing her, he smiled, and walked over to her. He was so handsome looking all cleaned up. Sam couldn't speak. His arms went around her, and his lips came down lightly on hers. There was no way that she could not respond to him. Her arms were pinned at her side by his strong embrace but her lips parted to allow his tongue to tease and pleasure. She could feel herself giving in. Just then Vin pulled his lips off of her, so quickly that Sam caught her breath.

His smile was sexual. His eye sparkled and danced in the lanterns glow. His voice was low and raspy. "Samantha, we can work this out because I love you. You have a choice. Wanna eat now or later?" With that Vin gave her a wicked smile, and both decided they would eat later.