Cassie (Chapter Four, page 1 of 8)

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The afternoon dragged on. She watched the dunes anxiously for Bordeaux. He wasn't impervious to harm, much as he might think so. He must have seen something besides tracks or he wouldn't be so concerned. She shuddered, wishing he was with them.

She shouldn't have blamed him last night. He wasn't the problem. He was only the messenger. If he had buttered up to her, it was merely to make his job easier. Hadn't he tried to remain aloof? She was the one who had become serious - and with little encouragement on his part. It was amazing how clearly a person could see things when trouble lurked on the horizon. Davis was right about one thing. Her feelings for Bordeaux had become more than mere friendship. Love? It was hard to say. One thing was sure. At the moment he was one of the most important people in her life. He deserved an apology, and she intended to give him one - if she ever saw him again.

Hours later, baked by the sun and choked with dust, Pete finally called a halt for the day. They circled the wagons and made camp. She scanned the darkening hills. Bordeaux was still out there somewhere. Alive? Wounded?

A whisper of sound behind proved to be Davis. He rested a comforting hand on her shoulder as he joined her vigil.

"He'll be all right."

She sighed heavily. "I'm not so sure. Anyway, maybe he decided not to come back."

Davis shook his head. "He'll be back. He's not the kind to leave at a time like this."

She wasn't so sure. He could have gone to get those troops - or to Ashley for that matter. What reason did he have to stay with the freighters now? Certainly he wasn't responsible for their safety. And yet, Pete had told her to seek out Bordeaux if something happened. Pete trusted Bordeaux. That had to count for something.

The sun turned the dunes orange red and then quickly sank, leaving them in pre-moon darkness. The sand lay white around them like a blanket of snow. She readied supper, careful to spend as little time in the ring of firelight as possible. Her rifle was leaning against the wagon, within easy reach, and her whip hung near by. Fritz and Royce were watching the mules in a makeshift corral outside the wagons. She stirred the pot of stew and stepped away from the fire.

A rifle cracked, piercing the silence with deadly import. Cassie grabbed her rifle. The muffled sound of hooves on sand approached the opening between two wagons. The pace increased until a horse leaped over the wagon tongue and into the circle. She threw the rifle to her shoulder and took aim. It was the bay. Bordeaux hit the sand on his feet, a rifle in his hands.

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