Cassie (Chapter Eight, page 1 of 10)

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Cassie slept fitfully that night and woke in the morning with a start. The sun was trying to force its way through the curtains. She dressed hurriedly and grabbed her spare clothes. Darting down the stairs, she ran to the stage office, arriving as the driver was preparing to climb into the seat. The driver pitched her old clothes in the boot and helped her into the stage. He spat a stream of brown fluid at the ground and grinned at her.

"You look a sight different today. I hope you find this trip a little more comfortable than the last."

She settled into the seat and smiled down at him. "I'm sure the company will be better, too."

He gave her a strange look and secured the door. She glanced at the woman seated across from her and caught her breath. It was the woman from the saloon. She had changed into respectable clothes and looked painfully beautiful. No wonder Bordeaux was so taken with her.

The woman smiled, creating an attractive dimple at the corner of her mouth. "Excuse me for staring, but aren't you the young lady that had Ashley in a dither?"

Cassie frowned. "I'm Cassie Rinehart. As for having the town in a ... dither,..."

The woman laughed softly. "I meant that in a nice way. Everyone was so worried. You have a lot of friends there, don't you?"

Cassie shrugged. "I don't know about friends, but there sure are a lot of people in Ashley who seem preoccupied with everything I do."

The woman stuck out her hand. "Well, I'm honored to meet you," she said with what appeared to be genuine enthusiasm. "I'm Darcie Smiā€¦" She hesitated. "I mean, Bordeaux."

Cassie's heart lurched wildly, and her face felt cold. She stared at Darcie, clenching her hands so tight that her fingernails bit into her palms. Bordeaux? So, Bordeaux had coerced her to meet him at the church after all. It was no surprise that Darcie had accepted his proposal. Bordeaux was a persuasive man with a tendency to move fast - apparently not only with women. Now he had a ranch - her ranch.

What would his Aunt and Uncle say? Surely they were unaware of his deceit. But then, what could they do? Had he told them he was going to get her? Did they know about Darcie? Maybe Darcie was god-sent. She had nearly married a man just like her father. For a moment she was tempted to tell Darcie. But what would that solve? Maybe Bordeaux would stay with this woman. After all, they had known and loved each other for a long time. Were it not for the ranch, she might even feel happy for them.

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