Love Rides a Chestnut Horse Ch. 07bytigrlily320©
They walked down the boarded sidewalk, and he opened the door for her to step into the store. She took a deep breath and stepped over the threshold, feeling the usual hush go over the room. He walked in behind her, meeting every look with a hard one. She walked without looking at anyone, directly to the aisles that held the things they needed at home. He stayed with her, holding the things she handed him. She looked back at the assortment of items he held and looked up into his eyes.
"Can you think of anything else we need?"
He shrugged. "I don't think so, babe."
"How about clothes, baby? Do I need to buy fabric to make anything for you?"
He shook his head, "I think I'm ok."
She nodded, and then pointed in the direction of the counter.
"Wait, I do need some nails." He set the items on the counter and hurried back to the hardware aisle. He picked up a 5 lb sack of fencing nails and a new hammer.
Her eyes widened and she looked up at him, "that's a lot of nails."
She grinned at him and then turned to Shannon nodding to her to make the list and tabulate the bill. Isabella arranged for the transfer from the bank.
She looked up at him. "Are you ready, baby?"
He nodded and picked up the packages, smiling at her as they headed out. She turned and waved goodbye to Shannon as they headed out. He placed the groceries in the box behind the bench on the wagon.
Turning back to her, he reached out his hand. "Ready to go to the butcher shop, honey?"
She nodded, taking his hand and falling into step beside him. As they reached the shop, she stepped back and allowed him to open the door for her to step inside. She sighed as she realized the shop was empty, and smiled. She looked back as he entered.
"Just get whatever you like, honey. I can never decide."
He smiled, kissing her forehead. "Alright, baby." He walked up to the counter and ordered a selection of meat quickly and waited for it to be packaged up. As they walk out of the small shop, James glanced down at her.
"How about you run in and invite Doc over for dinner some night this weekend?
She nods and is about to step onto the walkway to the office when the door opens at the store, causing the bell to ring. He heard her sharp intake of breath and saw her pick up speed considerably.
"What the..." he murmured, walking along with her. He looked around, seeing a large woman in a bright floral dress and bonnet walking quickly up to meet them. While he watches, he can see Isabella waver, trying any way she can think of avoid meeting up with the woman. He pushed the package of meat under his arm and took her shaking hand in his.
Despite their speed, she managed to reach doc's door just before the pair, and in a shrill voice declared, "Why Isabella Murphy, where HAVE you been? And where have you been hiding this strapping young man?"
Isabella blushed a deep red, as James looked from her to the woman and back.
She squared her shoulders and looked up at the imposing woman. "Mrs. Sawyer, it's so lovely to see you." He was almost surprised that her voice is so perfectly composed and calm, especially considering how much her hand was shaking in his. He squeezed it gently, and smiled down at her.
"Oh, honey, we just NEVER see you anymore! I thought after... well, you know... YOU would at least get out more." The woman shook her head in disappointment.
Isabella nodded her head, "well, sometimes it's hard to get away." Her voice drifted off toward the end, and James felt prompted to step between the two.
"We haven't met. My name is James Buchanan," he started as he felt her hand on the back of his shirt, pulling. "Isabella hired me to take care of the farm and it seems we've taken quite the shine to each other."
She whispered, "James..." shaking her head back and forth.
He nodded, catching her meaning. "Isabella, that mare is due to foal, we really should get back so I can check on her."
She sighed in relief, a grateful smile overtaking her face. "You're right," she nodded.
"Pleasure to meet you ma'am," he called out as he helped Isabella up into the buckboard and climbed on himself. He grabbed the reins and clucked to Leo and the horse took off. He glanced over, noticing the stiff position in which she was sitting. Her hands were shaking in her lap. He snapped the reins and Leo broke into a lope, taking them us out of town quickly. He glanced at her again. "So...?"
"I HATE that woman!!" Her voice shook with anger as she yelled. "She's the most horrible, evil, vile.... Ugh, I HATE her!" She pulled off her bonnet and threw it into the back of the wagon.
"What happened, honey?" he asked softly. "Why do you hate her?"
She took a deep breath and began, "she's the one... after mama died..." She took another settling breath before continuing. "She went around telling everyone that the reason it drove daddy crazy was that he killed her. Or that it was his fault, at least. And they all believed her! And now she walks around like she's God's gift to this silly little town...." She trailed off, dropping her head into her hands.
He listened intently as she vented. "I'm sorry honey. The next time I'll tell her to go fuck herself," he stated bluntly before realizing he had said it out loud. He grinned, "sorry, babe."
She smiled at him and burst out laughing. "It's ok. You're allowed, but only about her."
He smiled back, "ok." He saw something by the side of the road and pulled Leo to a stop. He jumped down off the wagon and walked to the roadside, squatting down. He stood and turned around walking back over to the wagon, handing her a bouquet of bluebells.
She blushed, smiling. "Thank you," she took it from him.
"You're welcome, honey" he kissed her cheek softly as he climbed back into the wagon, settling next to her again and slapping the reins to take off again.
She leaned against him as they rode away, her head on his shoulder.
He took her hand and squeezed it gently. "We're gonna be parents."
She turned her head and lay a soft kiss on his shoulder. She nodded, "we are."
Finally, they pulled up in front of the house. He hopped down on one foot and reached his arms up for her. She leaned down and placed her hands on his shoulders. He grabbed her waist and set her down on the ground. She smiled up at him and he leaned down to kiss her cheek. He then reached into the box behind the seat and grabbed everything but the nails, following her toward the house. They walked inside and he put the meat in the icebox, setting the rest of the things on the table and unpacking them.
She looked over and saw them, "baby, I can do that."
"So can I, love."
She shook her head, smiling.
He continued putting everything away before walking over to her. "I'm going to go take care of Leo and turn him out."
She nodded, "be nice to Beauty."
He shrugged, walking outside. He grabbed the reins and led Leo to the barn quickly, unhooking him and turning him out. He pulled the wagon into the barn, and put it waway. On his way out, he paused in front of Beauty's stall.
He tilted his head as he studied the strong stallion. "How can one animal cause a family so much pain?" he murmured.
Back at the house, Isabella walked out on the porch and settled in the old rocker, pulling her knees to her chest. She saw him walk out of the barn and glance around, stretching in the sun and walking toward the house. She lay her head on her knees as she watched him approach. She smiled up at him as he came onto the porch.
"Hi baby," he smiled.
"Everything ok?" she asked.
"You bet," he leaned down and kissed the top of her head. He leaned back against the railing, facing her. "How about you, are you ok?"
She smiled, nodding. "Why wouldn't I be?"
He shrugged, taking a seat in the other rocker and reaching over for her hand. He propped his leg up on the railing in front of him.
She leaned her head against the back of the chair as she looked over at him. "So... are you still happy to be marrying the daughter of the town nutcase?"
He grinned, "more than happy."
She raised an arched brow. "Really? The way all those people treat me doesn't bother you? Because now they'll treat you the same way."
"Well, that's going to stop."
She glanced at him, confused, "what?"
"How they treat you - that comes to an end." His eyes were serious, his voice stern.
She shook her head, laughing. "Baby, no - they're not worth it."
He nodded, still so serious. "No, THEY aren't. But you are."
She squeezed his hand, which he returned, gently. "It doesn't matter what they think now. I have you," she smiled.
"But it does matter. It matters to me." He smiled warmly. He then looked up at the sky for a moment, and gave a contemplative sigh. He paused before he spoke again. "Belle, Doc told me something. Something about Beauty."
She looked down, laying her head back on her knees.
He pressed on, "and about your Dad." He reached over and pulled her from her chair into his lap.
Her voice was barely more than a shaky whisper as she responded, "he didn't mean it."
He was firm. "He's dangerous honey...."
"He's not," she shook her head.
He nodded, "he is. He doesn't mean to be, but he is. He scares too easy."
She turned back and looked down at him. "Daddy was so proud to have gotten him."
"Baby, he's a beautiful animal, but he's too unpredictable," he pleaded with her.
She shook her head, insistently. "But, he's never thrown me. He listens to me"
His eyes widened, "for God's sake, he nearly killed you because of a damn thunderstorm, Isabella!"
Hey eyes flashed with anger. "That wasn't his fault!"
"Yes. It was," he sighed. "You didn't see Leo going wild. Beauty just scares too easily, honey."
She looked away, feeling defeated. "But he was daddy's horse. He's the last thing I have."
"He's not going anywhere, baby." He held her tightly to him as he spoke.
She looked down, "then what are you saying?"
He sighed heavily. "I'm saying that I'm not going to feel comfortable with you riding him when I'm not here, and it's going to worry me like hell for you to ride him when I am."
She blushed angrily. "He is my horse. He's the only one I ride."
"And he's dangerous!" He lowered his tone when he saw her eyes widen. "We can get you a new one."
She pushed her shoulders back, taking a deep breath. "I don't need a new one."
"He's dangerous." He leaned forward putting his head in his hands.
As she sat quietly watching him, she felt tears spring to her eyes. She tentatively reached over to take his hand, but found herself still unable to look at him.
"It scares me," he whispered, turning to see her nod. "I love you, Belle. But it scares me to death to see you ride him." He sighed, "Do me a favor? Let me ride him for awhile and you can ride Leo."
She shook her head as she turned to him with wide eyes. "No. He doesn't let anyone ride him but me. That's what daddy was..." her voice drifted off and she looked away. "He was trying to prove me wrong." Her voice broke off.
James pulled her tightly to his chest, rocking her gently.
"You can't ride him," she shook her head against his chest. "Please don't."
He nodded, "ok, I won't. But I'm riding to town tomorrow to find us another horse. He felt her nod against his chest and rubbed her back softly. He leaned forward and kissed her sweetly. He sighed, "if I lost you, I don't think I'd make it."
She nodded, "you would."
He shook his head, pulling her eyes to meet his. "You're my life now. You're everything that is good to me."
She shook hers right back at him, "Baby, you haven't even known me that long."
His eyes widened with shock. "So what? I don't know what I feel for you?"
She gasped, then closed her own eyes. "No. No, baby, I don't mean that."
"Well, I sure as hell don't know what you mean."
She looked down, ashamed that she had insulted him in such a manner. She took a deep breath and looked back up at him. "All I meant was... you were ok before me. You'd be ok without me. That's all."
He took her hands in his. "I was far from ok."
She looked into his eyes. "Tell me about before."
"I was running away," he sighed. "I wanted to get as far away from home as I could. I saw my friends fall dead at my side. I saw the horrors and atrocities of war that no one should ever see." He looked up to see that she was listening intently, her eyes locked on his face. "I was barely a shell when the peace was finally signed. The minute I was discharged, I took Leo and we started riding west. We didn't stop till last week when I met you and you showed me that there was good left in this world."
She let the tears run freely down her cheeks, squeezing his hand. "I'm so sorry, baby."
He placed a gentle kiss on her forehead. His voice dropped to barely a whisper, "you're new soon to be husband is a trained killer Isabella. We weren't with everyone else. We ran alone, hid and lived off the land. We would hide in the trees and pick the enemy off when they marched through."
"You did your job, baby, that's all." She ran a hand through his hair as she spoke.
His eyes were pained as he looked up at her. "Are you ok with marrying a killer?"
She leaned down and kissed his lips as he pulled her close. "Stop it. You are not a killer. You are the kindest, gentlest man I've ever met. You are the father of my child. That is the man I'm marrying. And there is no doubt in my mind that I love you, James Buchanan."
"I love you too," he whispered. "Would you like me to stop by Doc's tomorrow and invite him to dinner in a few days?"
She nods, a smile breaking across her face. "That would be nice."
"Better yet would you like to come along and help me pick out the new horse?"
She shook her head, "I trust you. Besides," she smiled sheepishly, "I hate going into town."
He laughed, nodding, and then grew thoughtful. "Would you like to see my things? From my life before?"
"Of course," she nodded. "I want to know everything about you."
He smiled, helping her to her feet. He led her inside and up to what was going to be his room. He saw the soft smile on her face as they entered it and leaned over and kissed her forehead gently. He reached under the bed and picked up a large leather bag, followed by another just as big. He opened one and drew out two polished 45's with mother of pearl grips in dark leather holsters. He set them on the bedside table and reached in and pulled out a few tin type photos. One showed only him, in uniform with a large rifle tucked under his arm and the pistols shoved through his belt.
She kissed his cheek, "you're so handsome."
He smiled, "you can have it if you want." He held the picture out and she took it in her hand.
"Of course I want it," she ran her fingers over his solemn face in the photograph.
The next photo was of James and two other men his age, "that's Matt and Ben, we grew up together."
She nodded and placed a soft kiss on his shoulder.
"Matt was killed two days before General Lee surrendered, Ben died early on in the war." His voice was soft.
"I'm so sorry, baby," she whispered.
He nodded, setting the picture aside. He then pulled out his uniform; the chest pinned with several medals, and set it on the bed. That was followed by a canteen with the rebel flag on it. He sighed, "that's pretty much all I kept. I don't know why I kept the uniform."
She squeezed his hand, "maybe you don't have to know why."
He then reached over and picked up the guns, setting them on the bed. He slipped one of them from its holster. He glanced down the barrel before flicking out the cylinder, 5 bullets in it with one spot empty. "Did your daddy ever teach you to shoot a gun?" He asked almost as if it were an afterthought.
She nodded, swallowing hard, still looking at the gun.
"Good," he flicked my wrist and slapped the cylinder back into the gun. "What's wrong baby?"
She shook her head, "nothing." Taking a deep breath, she answered, "I just don't like them. I mean, not yours. Just guns in general."
"Sorry, baby." He quickly put them away and pushed them back into the bag.
She shuddered lightly and he rubbed her back. "What scares you about them so bad, love?"
"I had to use one once. Ever since, I... I just don't like them."
He shushed her, "you don't have to talk about it, honey."
She shook her head. "It's ok, you should know."
He nodded. "Want to sit down in our room?" He watched how her expression remained focused on the bag that held the guns. He lifted it from the bed and pushed it beneath. "Come on, love." He placed his arm around her and led her into their room, settling her on the bed. Squeezing gently as she looked up at him.
She took a deep breath, and began. "I was about eighteen and Daddy was gone for the weekend. He went out of town - actually, it was when he went to see about Beauty. Whenever Daddy went out of town, he made me take all these 'precautions' to be safe. He really had this thing about people coming on the land." She paused to shake her head, "Mama's death messed with his head something awful. Anyway, one of his precautions was that I had to sleep with his gun under my pillow, in case I should need to use it.
Well, one night, I was asleep and I heard someone in the house. I just thought Daddy had come home early. But then the door to my room opened and there was this strange man standing there. I didn't know what to do. He started toward my bed, and he was... LOOKING at me so strangely.... But he never said anything. I reached under the pillow and grabbed the gun. I only shot him once. But I hit him in a place... well, a place where men shouldn't be shot." She smiled slightly. "I wasn't actually aiming there, but it turned out to be pretty appropriate."
He held her tightly, glad that she was safe now.
"And then I ran from the house. I got on daddy's old horse and rode to town, getting Doc. I brought him back, but by the time we got back to the house the man was gone. No one ever found him," she shrugged.
"I'm sure he bled to death, dear. " Which is good, he thought to himself.
"But they never even found his body," she stated. "How far could he have gotten?"
"If he had a horse, he could have gone miles."
She nodded. "It took forever to clean up the trail of blood he left through the house." She sighed as she finished, looking up at him. "Since then, guns have always made me nervous. And sometimes I dream that he's standing over me again."
"I'm so sorry, honey." He pulled her into his lap, rocking her gently. He stared down into her eyes.
She smiled softly, "I'm ok. It was a long time ago."
"You look tired, baby," he noted, brushing her hair back. "Why don't you lie down for a little while?"
She looked up at him, a hint of suspicion in her eyes. "Why? What are you going to do?"
"Probably nap with you," he laughed.
She nodded. "Oh... Well, that's ok then. I thought...."
He raised an eyebrow. "Thought what, love?"
She blushed, "I thought you were trying to distract me so you could go 'take care' of Beauty."
He shook his head, rubbing her arm. "I was thinking we might have him gelded. It might calm him down some, relax his nerves."
"Daddy didn't want him to be. He...," she sighed. "Well, I guess it doesn't matter much what Daddy wanted anymore, does it?"
"But it does matter what you want, Belle," he smiled as he squeezed her hand.
She looked up into his eyes and shrugged. "I don't know what I want. At least not when it comes to him. I mean, he's always been good for me, for the most part. But he's a disaster to most other people."
"We don't have to make a decision now, baby," he assured.
She nodded, "I'll think about it, ok?"
He kissed her forehead and slid off his boots and shirt. He lay down in the bed and stretched out, yawning.