West (Chapter Seven, page 2 of 8)

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"Why did you lie to me, Carter?" I whispered. I didn't ask him, troubled. This seemed like more than the usual oversight or side effect of his odd personality. The dark sense stirred again, one I took to originate from the empathic memory chip.

One that told me Carter was hiding much more than this.

"Miss Josephine!" The sound of Nell shuffling around in the anteroom made me think the bath I had heard about was ready.

I took my phone, going to the doorway. To my delight, the water was clear and steaming. I pulled off the clothes I'd put on last night to hop into the water. Oh, god this feels like heaven! I hissed at the heat and buried the phone beneath my shift on the nearby chair, aware of how Nell viewed the devil's box.

My mind was tired - but wired with energy. I wanted to know more about those who came before me, about Running Bear and Fighting Badger and how the sheriff was connected to everything.

"You awoke early," Nell said.

"Yes. Nell, can we visit the Indians today?" I asked.

"Of course not."

"That's what I thought." Puzzled how I was going to find Running Bear, who bore a potentially dangerous grudge, let alone talk him and his brother out of slaughtering people, I leaned back. The one idea that surfaced: telling their chief, who seemed to want peace, if John was to be believed. But I couldn't do that, either, with Nell dogging my every step. "How is Father this morning?"

"Well. Happy." Nell's expression softened.

"Good." I smiled. "What are we doing today? Another trip to town?"

"Heavens no. Even if the storm wasn't coming, your father had five marriage proposals on his desk this morning," Nell said.

"No one asked me."

"Why would they?" Nell raised an eyebrow. "It's your father's responsibility to choose a good husband for you."

That's just so wrong. "Do the Indians or half-Indians have arranged marriages?"

"Josie, dear, please. You should not be thinking of them or talking about them." As if to emphasize her point, Nell grabbed a brush with thick bristles and began scrubbing my back.

"Ow," I muttered. "That looks like it should be used on a horse."

"You are one odd girl."

I rolled my eyes and bore through the bath, robbed of any chance to enjoy it by Nell's ministrations.

An hour later, I was dressed and waiting for Nell to tell me what was on our schedule. When my nanny didn't immediately return, my gaze fell to the sheep, visible out the open windows. Most had been herded into a corral or the smallest of the many barns by farm hands. The sky was gray but not yet raining, the wind loud and brisk.

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