Cassie (Chapter Seven, page 1 of 7)

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The desert and lava fields behind them, they made good time. In spite of ample opportunity to talk to him about the twins, she never brought it up. He was distant, even cool towards her. Had he changed his mind about marriage? Had the idea only been a clever method to gain favors? If he didn't bring up the subject again, she wasn't about to.

They rode into Ashley in the late afternoon. Their arrival created a stir in the sleepy little town. People gathered around them to ask questions. Bordeaux was curt as he helped her down into the crowd.

"I'll go stable the horse. See if you can find out anything about Pete and the others. I'll see about some rooms at the hotel."

He swung the bay around and left her to the townspeople.

Directing answers to faceless voices, she searched the crowd for any of the crew. Were they back yet? Were they still alive?


She stood on her toes and searched for Royce. She spotted him waving to her from the boardwalk outside the saloon. With long strides, he started toward her, pushing his way through the crowd.

"You're alive!" She cried excitedly when he reached her. She hugged him. "Where are the others?"

"Pete's yonder at the livery stable. Fritz is down to the store gettin' supplies, and Davis is sleepin' in the hotel. We just got back about an hour ago. Pete allowed as how Bordeaux would take care of you." He glanced around.

"Where is he?"

"He took his horse to the stable. I guess I'm supposed to meet him at the hotel."

The crowd had dispersed, so they turned toward the only hotel in town. Cassie frowned up at Royce.

"Was anyone hurt?"

He shook his head. "No, Pete spotted them afore they saw us, so we got away. We let Bordeaux's horse loose a ways down the trail, hopin' he'd find it." He blushed. "We'd have waited for you, but we was outnumbered three to one and didn't have time to look for you. We came back with help, though, but we couldn't find you."

He paused, his face turning a darker shade of red. "What took you two so long to get water? I thought Bordeaux said it wasn't far."

She knew her face was as red as his. "The water wasn't much more than a drip and it took us a long time to fill the canteens. By the time we were finished it was dark and the sand was blowing so bad we might have got lost, so we stayed in the cave until it let up."

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