West (Chapter Five, page 1 of 17)

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I didn't catch my breath until I left the house. The sun dispelled the lingering unease from upstairs, and I took a moment to admire the sleek black carriage waiting for me.

Nell had the reins, and I slid onto the bench seat beside her. She deftly drove the two-person buggy away from the house and into the prairielands. Waist high grasses bowed and rustled in an early fall breeze. They stretched as far as I could see, meeting the blue sky dotted with clouds in the distance. Hills rolled gently, sometimes hiding surprises I discovered when we crested them. Fluffy white sheep and cattle appeared over two peaks, one of which was tended by John's ranch hands.

Rather than be impatient by our relatively slow speed, I found myself immersed in admiring landscape unlike any I had ever seen.

"It's so peaceful," I murmured. "What is that?" I pointed to the six-foot stake with a red flag on its tip at the top of one hill.

"It marks the edge of the savages' land. Your grandfather owned two thousand acres in this territory, before the government decided to resettle the Indians out here. Your father marked the edges with flags," Nell replied. "The red men cross the border to reach the road, and they allow your father's herds to graze on their land in exchange. They share several large ponds."

"He gets along well with them," I commented. "Is it like this everywhere?"

"No. The cavalry responds to skirmishes between the savages and gentlefolk regularly."

"But didn't we kind of just take their land? I mean, is it a surprise they're unhappy about it?"

Nell glanced at me. "You best keep comments like that to yourself."

I flinched, a sudden headache piercing my temple. It flared then died quickly, fading to a distant ache. An odd sense filled me, and I tried to determine what it was.

Memories that weren't mine. They floated through my thoughts like fragments of a dream that persisted after I awoke. I watched them, mesmerized by the idea of seeing into someone else's mind.

Historically enhanced intuition. It was the ultimate survival tool, one that gave me insight into the thoughts of everyone around me. Instead of the internet, this was maybe how I found the men I sought. Carter, you are a freakin' genius.

As I watched Nell's memories, I frowned.

"You're dying from a tumor, aren't you?" I asked her.

Nell's sharp intake of breath was enough of a response.

"You had two children who died in their youth. Your brother has dementia but your tumor will take you before the dementia does."

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