Love Rides a Chestnut Horse Ch. 12bytigrlily320©
Just then, they heard hooves pulling a carriage up the drive and Cappy barking out the door at them.
"They're here, baby," she hurrying out of the room and down the stairs and into the kitchen to continue preparing the food. James trotted down after her and headed out onto the porch, waving as they pulled up in the carriage. Doc waved back at him from the wagon as he pulled it to a stop in front of the house.
"Hey Doc," he smiled as he walked down and patted the big grey horse on the hip.
"Why, hello there, young man! Where's your better half?" He jumped down from the wagon like a man half his age and reached up to help Sarah down as well.
"She's inside, cooking," he smiled. "Hello, ma'am. I don't believe we've met yet." He walked over to Sarah and held out his hand to her. "James Buchanan."
"Well, not technically," she took his hand and shook it with a soft but still strong grasp. She smiled up into his face, "Sarah Thompson. The wife of this crazy old man here," she nods to Doc, who looks wounded. "I best get in there and see if Bella needs any help."
James smiled, "I'm sure she'll be grateful. Doc, what do you say we get this horse some water and fresh hay?"
Together they unhitched the wagon and led the horse out to the barn. He undid the horse's harness, hanging it in the tack room before leading him to a stall. They gave the old mare some hay and water and a handful of grain. As James took care of the Doc's horse, the man walked over to the stall where Beauty stood. James saw where he was going and walked over as well, checking on the black horse.
"How's he doing?" Doc asked.
"He's good," James nodded. "I can tell a difference in him in just this short amount of time."
The older man sighed, "That's a good thing." As he spoke, he nodded toward the house. "She's a bit attached to this one."
"Yes sir, she is." James shook his head at the Doc. "It took me forever to talk her into even gelding him. I hope he changes for the better, but I just don't know."
Doc nodded, "her daddy had big hopes for this horse. Bella had big hopes too – hopes that this horse would help bring her daddy around. I guess he didn't really live up to either of them."
James sighed, "I didn't see any way of getting around her riding the horse. So I thought this would be the best way to handle it. I know it hurt to do it, though, and of course that made it hurt me all the more."
"For the better, though," Doc nodded. "I always found it strange, but I never once saw this horse flinch when she was on him. Anyone else, he'd throw off in a heartbeat."
"Yea, so she's told me..." James' voice drifted off as he looked at the horse.
Doc grinned, "She wouldn't lie to you, son."
"I know she wouldn't," he nodded. "Oh, she had me go into the cellar and find some bourbon, she said you liked it. I actually found some that was distilled about 20 miles from where I grew up."
"Is that right, son?" Doc asked and smiled as James nodded. "Well, then we should get to that soon. Just let's have a look at your new baby first." He walked back towards Honey's stall, which James opened.
"I had my eye on a big grey mare, but she had her heart set on this one," James shook his head. "Can't say as I blame her, though. This is definitely a horse for that girl." He watched as Doc patted her neck and smiled. "They get along great already."
"That's terrific, son." He looked over at James, "well, we best go see to that bourbon."
He smiles back, "yes, sir." They turned and headed toward the house. As they got closer they could hear laughter floating out through the kitchen windows. They walked up the back steps and through the door.
Doc glances around, "it's been ages since I've been in here. But I see she hasn't changed it much." The men made their way to the den, and Doc's face lit up as they entered. "Patty and I used to sit in this room for hours. Eileen and Sarah would have to come pull us away at the end of the night."
James walked to the liquor cabinet and pulled out the Kentucky born bottle. He poured two glasses and handed one to Doc, who sniffed the dark liquid and smiled. James grinned at his pleased expression and lifted his glass.
"To new beginnings," he said his smile widening.
Doc lifted his own, clinking it against the younger man's. They each took a sip and settled into the worn leather armchairs.
Doc glanced up, taking a deep breath. "I know you're good for her, son."
"Thank you, sir," James smiled.
"Sarah and I have always looked at that girl like a daughter. So it matters a lot to us that she's taken care of. And while her Daddy was crazy later on in life, he was an angry drunk Irishman for most of it. I would imagine his ghost probably is, too."
James laughed. "Yes sir, I would not doubt that he is. Can I get you a refill?"
"You can, son. That is delicious stuff." He smiles as James fills his glass again. "From back home, you said?"
"Yes, sir it is. From Kentucky," James swelled with pride. "Her father had it in the cellar."
As the two sat there chatting comfortably, the time passed. Soon enough there was a knock on the door and they looked up to see Bella standing in the doorway.
"Hi honey," James smiled.
"Hi," she smiled in return. "Dinner's ready, gentlemen."
Both men rose as they finished off their glasses. James took the empty from the Doc and motioned toward the door. "After you, sir."
Bella turned to walk away and tossed casually over her shoulder, "and Sarah told me to tell you not to come in smelling like bourbon!"
James breathed into his hand and then looked at Doc, "whoops."
Doc shook his head. "Patty always had a remedy for this." He walked over to the window behind the desk, opening it. He laughed as he reached out side to the closest plant, and broke off a few leaves. "Aha," he smiled. He handed one to James, who saw that they were mint leaves. "Chew on that," he smiled.
"Genius," James smiled, chewing on the leaf.
"Her daddy was a clever man," Doc smiled.
"So I'm learning."
"Sarah and Eileen always had their rules," he smiled as they headed out of the den. "And Patty always found ways around them." Doc clapped James on the back as they headed into the kitchen. As they enter, they see the table is set and laden down with food. Sarah looks up at the both of them.
"Well," she sighed. "How kind of you to join us, gentlemen." Bella's laugh followed her statement and made James smile, as it always did.
"Oh, leave them alone, Sarah." She smiled over at James as he took his seat at the head of the table.
"Everything smells wonderful, Belle," he grinned back at her.
"Thank you," she nodded as she acknowledged his kind words. "Dig in, everyone."
James picked up his knife and fork, cutting into the steak in front of him and looked up as he heard Bella's soft laughter.
"What did I do?" he asked innocently.
Bella shook her head. "Nothing, just eat."
He smiled, "ok, I will. It's excellent, dear."
"Thank you," she smiled. She glanced around the table as everyone ate, grinning wide. She thought about how great it felt to have people in the house again and felt her heart warm. She then began to eat her own meal.
"We might have to make this a regular occasion," James spoke up through the silence that came with the ingestion of a fantastic meal.
If possible, Bella's smile widened. "I'd really like that," she looked over Doc, who nodded in agreement.
James turned his eyes to Bella and smiled broadly, showing only adoration and love in his eyes. She felt her face flush and looked down at the table. The rest of the meal passed amidst pleasant conversation and laughter as Doc and Sarah told embarrassing stories about Isabella as a child. James laughed as he watched his bride's face turn deep red.
"This is hardly fair," she smiled. "There's no way for me to retaliate." Despite her protests, she leaned over and kissed her groom's cheek.
"Maybe I can convince mother to come out here someday," he smiled. "She'd be happy to fill your head with mortifying stories of me growing up."
"I'd like that," she grinned.
"And then you shall have your revenge," he laughed. He sat back from the table, rubbing his hands over his full belly. "That was wonderful, honey."
She smiled, standing. "Good. Now who wants cake?"
"Ooh, cake! Yes, that sounds excellent, Belle."
She checked in with the other two before walking away from the table, feeling James watching her every move along the way.
"James," Doc interjected. "My horse, Sweeney, has been limping and listing to the left a lot lately, and for the life of me I can't figure out what's wrong with him. What might be wrong with him? People I get, but animals..." he smiled as he drifted off.
James turned to answer him, pausing to review the many maladies that could be plaguing the old animal.
Bella reached for the cake to bring over, but suddenly she felt dizzy and lightheaded. Her vision blurred. She grabbed for the counter, but missed and fell to the floor.
"BABY!!" James leapt from his seat and flew to her side. He pulled her into his arms and looked up, calling for Doc. He was already there, kneeling on her other side.
"Lay her down, James," he instructed calmly. "Give her some air."
"Yes, sir," he did as he was told, laying her carefully on the wooden floor. He stepped back to allow Doc to do his work, afraid of what might happen next. He watched as the Doc moved over his love, listening to her breathing. He placed his hand on her belly as her eyes began to flutter, finally opening. She looked around for James, confused as to how she ended up on the floor.
"I'm right here, Bella," he spoke as he moved back to her side.
She looked up at him, obviously disoriented. "What happened?" She tried to sit up, but felt Doc lay his hand on her chest, pushing her back down.
"Just stay down for a moment, Isabella," he admonished softly.
"I'm ok," she insisted. "I just got really tired." She blinked her eyes fast, trying to regain a sense of balance and normalcy. "I think I just did too much today," she smiled sheepishly.
James squatted down closer to her, looking to Doc to make sure it was ok.
The older man nodded, backing away. "She's fine, James."
He sighed in relief, taking her hand gently. He helped her to slowly sit up, gently rubbing her back in small circles.
"See, honey? I'm fine," she assured.
"You scared me to death, love," he sighed.
"I'm sorry," she allowed him to wrap his arms tightly around her, holding her close. "I guess I shouldn't have tried to do so much today."
He kissed her forehead softly. "It's fine, baby," he sighed, relieved. "I'm just so glad you're ok."
Doc stood from his position near the couple, and looked down at them with a small smile. "Yes, James, she is. But I still think you should take her up to bed. The Mrs. and I will be on our way."
James nodded. "Yes sir, of course. Do you need help with the buggy?"
He shook his head, "I've been hitching that horse up for years, son." He leaned down and softly kissed the top of Bella's head and then stood upright again.
"Yes sir," James smiled ruefully. "Thanks for coming for dinner." He remained in his spot on the floor, cradling Belle gently in his arms.
"Of course, it was delicious," he smiled. "Next time, it's at our house."
Sarah reached down and squeezed Bella's hand, and Bella smiled up and whispered good-bye to them both. Her gaze shifted to James as the older couple walked out. He kissed her forehead and closed his eyes for a moment as he held her. He then lifted her and carried her upstairs and laid her gently in bed.
"I'm sorry I ruined the night," she spoke softly.
"Oh, honey," he sighed. "You didn't ruin the night."
She smiled softly, "no, you and Doc should have been able to go in and finish that bottle of bourbon."
"Shush," he whispered as he slowly undressed her. "Do you feel ok? Would you like a cool cloth? Anything?"
She shook her head. "I'm just tired."
He covered her with the quilt and leaned down to kiss her, smiling as she fell asleep almost immediately. He then undressed himself and lay down next to her. She unconsciously curled into him and he wrapped his arms around her, holding her tight.