Dallas, Texas ~ March, 1868
Abigail opened her eyes to light filtering through the lacy curtains, the sound of birds chirping and the faint sound of men shouting to be heard over the sound of the cattle. She sat up, threw the blanket off her legs and climbed out of her bed. She walked across the room barefoot and watched the scene down below. She watched Lucas and the other hands corral the feisty animals into the holding pen. They only held new cattle there for branding. Then she noticed the 7 men on horse back she had never seen before.
Abigail watched Lucas easily maneuver Spot to block the escape of a few head. He was skilled at horseback riding, the best she had ever seen. If he had ever entered the yearly competition in town he would win. But Lucas said he didn’t do it for notoriety, he did it for the love of the job.
She smiled as Lucas turned his head to look up to where she stood, it was amazing how he could tell when she was close by. He tipped his hat like he did when ever he saw her, making her heart skip beats in her chest. It had been 3 weeks since that night in the barn when they had talked about her father’s plan to marry her to Preston. 3 weeks since he had made his claim for her heart.
Abigail blushed when she thought of the relationship they shared. They loved each other, but with her family they were nothing but lovers. They would meet in the barn each night, to talk as they brushed the horses, and several times the night ended up in the loft in each others arms. Each time was better than the last, her fear was gone. However now she was saddened to think that they would never be more than lovers, because of her father.
Abigail’s thoughts were cut short when she noticed the arrival of a carriage. She watched as her father stepped off the porch and greated the occupant. She scrunched up her brow trying to figure out who would be calling at the ranch this early in the morning, on a Saturday. She felt her stomach grow queasy when she saw Preston Scott step down out of the carriage.
Why was he here? She wondered as she watched him walk towards the porch with her father. “The cattle.” she said in a whisper. She had just watched Lucas and the other hands accept the payment for her hand in marriage. Had she really just been bought? Abigail felt the burning sensation rise in her throat as she ran across the room to the small basin on the table in the corner. She grabbed a hand full of hair pulling it back as she became sick.
“Miss Abigail. Are you OK?” Isabell asked as she opened the bedroom door. Abigail didn’t answer as she continued to heave into the porcelian bowl. Isabell closed the door and rushed to her with a clean cloth. “Here she said pressing the cloth into her hands. Abigail looked at her as she pulled the rest of her hair from her face and tied it back with a ribbon. “Have you felt like this often?” Isabell asked as she felt her forehead. Abigail shook her head as she used the cloth to wipe her mouth. “No.” she said quietly as Isabell gently guided her to the bed to sit down.
“I have come to help you dress for breakfast. Mr. Scott is here to visit.” she said her eyes looking away quickly. Abigail sighed at the news. “I saw him arrive, right before I became sick.” Abigail said closing her eyes pressing her hand against her stomach trying to fight the wave of nausea.
Isabell stood and went to the wardrobe against the wall and opened it. “Would you like to wear the lavender dress Miss? It brings out your eyes.” Isabell asked pulling the dress from the wardrobe and looking over at her. “That’s fine Isabell.” she said quietly still trying to control her stomach. Isabell laid the lavendar dress on the bed along with her under garments and picked up the basin with a towel draped over it. “I will return shortly with warm water to wash with Miss.” she said as she walked to the door.
Abigail stood up and walked to the window to look outside. She searched for Lucas and after a minute found him and a few other ranch hands preparing for branding. She really did love him, and she hated the idea of having to marry Preston, but never did she think the idea would make her physically ill. Abigail gently rubbed her stomach smiling as the nausea finally began to subside.
She wondered when she was married if she would be able to come back to the ranch to visit, and see Lucas again. Maybe she could set up meetings some place else, perhaps at the Double S, a midnight rendezvous sounded romantic. Abigail smiled as she heard Isabell come back into the room.
Isabell quickly helped her wash and dress, then fixed her hair twisting it into a simple braid that hung down her back. Isabell pinched her cheeks slightly. “To give you a bit of color, hopefully that will hide the paleness for a while, at least until your color returns.” The maid said with a weak smile. “Thank you.” Abigail replied as she turned to head to the door. She took a deep breath before walking to the stairs. This was one breakfast she wish she could skip.
Abigail slowly walked to the dining room and made herself smile, watching as Preston Scott stood as she entered the room. Abigail made brief eye contact with him as she took her seat across from him. “Good morning Abigail.” he said with a smile. “Good morning Mr. Scott.” she said quietly before saying good morning to her parents. Thankful that the staff decided at that moment to serve breakfast. Abigail asked for dry toast and weak tea, hoping it would help settle her stomach.
“Mr. Scott, what brings you to our home this morning?” Abigail asked hoping the conversation would draw the attention away from her menu choices. “Well, first please call me Preston.” he said his eyes watching her as she brought the tea cup to her lips for a small sip. “Ok, if you insist Preston.” she said her eyes watching him over the rim of her cup. “I came this morning to over see the delivery of the cattle your father and I agreed upon a few months ago.” he said as the corner of his mouth lifted slightly. “I saw them arrive from my window this morning. They looked like the best of your herd.” she said setting the delicate cup down.
“Indeed they are. I had my hands choose only the best. I wouldn’t want my gift to my future bride to be less than perfect.” he said his gaze dropping to the table. “Thank you Preston. That speaks tremendously for your character.” she said tearing small pieces of her toast and trying to eat.
Preston’s eyes followed her every movement. “Only the best for you Abigail.” he said as she slowly chewed watching as his eyes fell to the bodice of her dress.
Lucas felt wrong accepting the cattle from the Double S Ranch. He knew they weren’t a gift as they were referred to, they were payment. Payment for the woman he loved. Lucas watched the front of the house for a glimpse of Abigail all morning as they set out branding the new cattle before turning them out to pasture. So far he wasn’t lucky, and it was mid morning.
Lucas stood next to the other hands as they took a water break, that’s when he watched Mr. King walk out the door with Mr. Scott. He watched the two men walk to the carriage and exchange a few words.
Then he saw her. Abigail walk out onto the front porch, wearing the loveliest dress he had ever seen. The lavender color made her skin look like porcelain, her dark hair falling down her back in a braid. Her hands clasped together in front of her, watching as their morning visitor disembarked. He watched as Preston walked to the steps of the porch and took her hand. He said something to her and then gently kissed her hand before turning to leave.
Lucas felt his hand grip the post he was leaning against. He hated that she had to go with that man. She should be with him. “I hear that Mr. King consented to let Preston Scott marry Miss Abigail. Looks like the one bright spot on this ranch will be gone soon.” His friend Marty said as they both watched Preston Scott climb up into his carriage. “I heard the same thing. I’m afraid your right about that. She’s the only one of the King family that seemed to see us as more than the help.” Lucas said as he watched Mr. King walk back into the house. Then he watched as Abigail turn towards them and wave before following him back into the house.
That evening after supper, Lucas stood in the barn bedding down the horses when he heard the heavy door to the barn open, and the cool evening breeze flood in. He watched as Abigail walked towards him, wearing the same lavender dress from earlier that day. “how was your breakfast?” he asked as she gently ran her hand across Spot’s muzzle. She looked at him with sadness in her eyes. “It was the worst breakfast I can remember.” she said looking back at the horse. “Preston can’t be all that bad.” he said continuing to brush the appaloosa's coat. “He seems nice, but you know how I feel about the subject.” she said sighing. Lucas smiled. He did and he felt the same. “Father and Preston have decided on a wedding date.” she said quietly.
Lucas stopped brushing. He could handle her getting married as long as it was an idea, now it was getting real. “When.” he said simply. “Next month. Preston doesn’t want to wait any longer. Mother got them to wait one more month so she can plan some sort of wedding.” she said turning to look at him.
“Abby. I wish there was something I could do. I don’t have anything to offer your father. Sadly it comes down to who can offer more, and Preston has me beat.” he said setting the brush down and walking around the horse. “But I don’t care about all of that. I just want to be happy. I just want you.” she said tears filling her eyes. Lucas felt his heart break. He wanted nothing more than to be hers. He reached out and pulled her into his arms. “If I save my pay from now until the wedding maybe I can save enough for us to run away. Leave Texas, go north, so no one can find us.” he whispered. Abigail looked up at him. “I will go any where as long as I am with you.” she said with a watery smile. “I have money saved. It’s not much, but it will help.” she said lightly touching his chest.
Lucas smiled. “I hear there is land in the west that we can get fairly cheap. Maybe we should try there.” he said touching her cheek. “Yes, maybe we should.” she said leaning into his touch. Lucas leaned down and kissed her lightly. This woman was happy to give up everything she had to be with him. Taking off in to the unknown just so they could have a life together.
“When we get there, would you marry me Abby?” he asked in her ear as he unbuttoned her dress. “Yes.” she whispered as she clung to him. “I want nothing more than to be your wife.” she whispered as he slid his hands into the back of her dress, pulling on the laces of her corset. “Abigail Werner has a beautiful ring to it.” he said against her neck.
Lucas watched as Abigail crept back into the house around midnight, her face flushed from their meeting in the loft. He needed to do some research the next time they were in town. He needed to know the stage coach schedule out of Farmer’s Branch. He didn’t think anyone there would recognize them. Taking the train in town would be easier and faster, but they stood the chance of being caught.
He knew if they got caught, her life would be even more miserable than would be if she just simply married Preston. As for him, he knew that kidnapping was a crime punishable by death, and all it would take was the word of Mr. King and Mr. Scott to get him convicted of that crime, that is if they didn’t kill him and claim self defense. What he and Abigail were planning was dangerous, but so worth the risk if they managed to pull it off.
Dallas, Texas ~March, 2016
Breanna stretched as she opened her eyes. It was the first morning she woke feeling happy and refreshed. Then she froze as the memories of the night before flooded her mind. She swallowed hard as she looked over to the other side of the bed. “Yup not a dream.” she muttered as she looked at the muscular and very naked Hunter James. Breanna slowly climbed out of bed picking up her clothes as she went, quietly dressing as she stared at Hunter, willing him to not wake up.
“What kind of vet are you?” she asked herself. “Who goes to birth a calf, and ends up sleeping with the owner?” she asked as she pulled her jeans up. “One who is connected to the owner who has the same dreams.” she heard Hunter answer. She looked up at him, still laying in bed smiling at her.
She swallowed hard as she continued to stare at him for a moment. “I didn’t mean that in a bad way.” she said buttoning her jeans and zipping them. “Then how did you mean it?” he asked sitting up and running his hand through his tossled hair. “I just meant that I don’t normally just jump into bed with men. I’m not sure what came over me last night.” she said looking away as Hunter moved to get out of bed. She could hear him pulling on jeans, then she felt his hand touch her cheek. “We both know something came over both of us last night. I don’t regret it though.” he said looking down into her emerald green eyes. “Did you dream of them last night?” she asked unable to stop staring into his eyes. “Yes.” he said his hand sliding into her hair.
“What do you think will happen to them?” she asked feeling the urge to kiss him return. “I hope they find a way out. They make it to the west and find happiness. Everyone deserves to be happy.” Hunter said leaning down and kissing her lips. “What do you think will happen to them?” he asked as he looked down at her.
“I don’t know. It’s very risky what they have planned. But I feel all Abigail’s feelings, and something is wrong. I’m not quite sure what is wrong with her, but she’s not well.” Breanna said looking across the room where the basin used to be. “What do you mean?” he asked looking concerned. “The morning Preston delivered the cattle. She was sick, queasy, vomiting. It was sudden, and it went away after while.” Breanna said remembering the event in her mind. “Nerves maybe. Stress? It couldn’t be easy knowing your father sold you for some cows to save his ranch.” Hunter said watching her relive the dream. “I don’t know. Hopefully it’s nothing serious.” Breanna said turning and walking to the window.
She stared out at the all familiar view of the barn. The snow was still coming down, hopefully snow plows would make it through by mid afternoon so she could get home. “You anxious to get home?” Hunter asked from behind her. “yes. Nothing against you, but being here is eerie.” she said looking around the room. “You know this is Abigails room, right?” she said looking at him.
“I had figured it out after seeing her in the window several times.” he said smiling at her. “Is the room much different?” he asked quietly. “Some. The bed is in the same place. The wash basin is gone, so is the wardrobe. But the feeling is still here. What made you chose this room?” she asked looking back out at the barn.
She felt Hunter stop behind her then gently run his hand down her arm. “The view.” he said pulling her hair to the side then lightly trail his finger down her neck to her shoulder. “Don’t you feel the need to be together?” He asked quietly. Breanna closed her eyes as the heat from his fingers left a trail where he touched. “Yes.” she whispered. “And it scares the hell out of me. Not that your not a great guy, but because it’s not how I am.” she said turning to look at him. “I feel the need to kiss you when ever I’m near you. I feel the need to feel you touch me.” she said leaning close to him and closing her eyes as he slid his hands down her back and grabbing the hem of her shirt.
She felt him pull the shirt over her head. She shuddered as he ran his hand across her skin. “And that scares you?” he whispered as his hands slid to her hips. “Yes, because I don’t even know you.” she whispered as she looked up at him. Right into the familiar gray eyes she saw in her dreams, the eyes of the man she loved.
“I feel the feelings of Abigail for Lucas. Your feeling Lucas’s feelings for Abigail, not me.” she said her heart pounding. “They feel real to me.” he said as he bent his head to kiss her. Like the night before Breanna let the feelings take over, it felt right being with him, but she couldn’t explain why.
“If it would make these feelings be less awkward maybe we should get to know one another.” Hunter suggested as he held her close as they laid in his bed, later that morning. Breanna smiled, he was trying to help alleviate the distress she was feeling. “OK.” she said laying her head on his chest.
“I grew up in Austin, orphan since I was 10. I’m 35 and I bought the ranch about 6 years ago. I bought it from the original family. I love my job, I love old movies, horses and Mexican food.” he said playing with her hair as he spoke. Breanna felt her heart skip beats as she realized they had many things in common.
“Your turn.” he said as he slid his hand down her bare arm. “I grew up in Arizona. Until I moved here to live with my Grandparents when my parents and older sister were killed in a car wreck when I was 17. I was spending the summer here with Grandpa, helping at the clinic, and they were driving to pick me up. I love all animals, though horses are one of my favorites. I love romantic movies, old or new and I love Mexican food.” she said breathing in his scent. It was different than what her feelings from Abigail told her Lucas smelled like. But she liked it.
“It must have been hard losing your family?” Hunter said lightly kissing the top of her head. Breanna smiled at the feelings the simple gesture made her feel. “For many years I blamed myself. If I hadn’t begged my parents to let me stay here, and then refused to fly home, they would still be here.” she said hugging him closer. She felt Hunter tighten his arm around her. “It wasn’t your fault, no one knows the future.” he said quietly. “It took years of therapy for me to let that go. What happened to your family.” she said looking up at him.
“My mother just decided one day that she didn’t want to be a mother any more, her boyfriend at the time was more important. So she dropped me off at Family Services and signed away her rights. I haven’t seen her since.” he said looking down at her. “That’s so sad.” she said sitting up to look at him. “I think it was the right decision. I don’t think I would have had the ambition to own my own ranch if I hadn’t been taken into the foster home I went to. Who knows what would have happened if I stayed with her.” he said smiling at her.
“I probably wouldn’t have met you.” he said tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear. “Did you feel as if you were pulled to this ranch?” she asked watching his face as she waited for him to answer. Hunter nodded as he thought back to 6 years ago when he started looking for a ranch to buy.
“I didn’t see it that way at the time. But now that I think about it, I searched specifically for attributes of this ranch. Finding it at the exact time the last owner took over, who just happened to not want to deal with it.” he said with a smile. “So the ranch did belong to the King family?” she asked curious.
Hunter nodded his head. “It had been in the King family since the early 1800′s. There was a box of photo’s upstairs that the owner left. I will show them to you.” he said with a smile, as he got up and began pulling on his jeans, this time Breanna didn't look away. “Did you look at them?” she asked as she watched him walk towards the door. “Once when I first moved in.” he said as he disappeared out the door.
Breanna took the opportunity to redress, pulling her hair out of the back of her shirt as Hunter returned with a box of photo’s. He set the box down on the bed and opened the lid. Breanna pulled out a photo and looked at it as she sat down on the bed.
“Did you recognize anyone?” she asked looking over at him. “Not when I looked at them the first time. Not full on I know that person. I mean a few pictures I had the feeling I seen it before.” he said picking up a picture and looking at it. “Like this one.” he said showing her.
Breanna looked at it and looked at him. “The guy in the middle.” she said pointing to the young looking man. “He is one of the King’s ranch hands. I don’t know his name but I remember seeing him in one of my dreams.” she said picking up another picture, then another.
“Hunter.” she said touching his arm. Hunter stopped his search and looked at the photo in his hands. “Abigail.” he whispered. Breanna stared at the photo in her hands. It was like looking at one of those old time photos you had done at the fair, where you dress up in costumes with your friends and have your picture taken to make it look old.
She was staring at another woman, but someone who could have been herself. Breanna looked at Hunter shocked that she looked like this woman. “I don’t believe it.” she whispered setting the picture aside. “I wonder if there is one of you, well Lucas.” she said digging through the box again.
Hunter looked over at the other side of the bed, Breanna was feverishly trying to dress without making a sound. He smiled as she talked to herself as she pulled her jeans up hiding his view of the white lacy scrap of fabric she considered underwear. She didn’t realize he was awake until he said something.
This woman was more like Abigail King than she knew. Though he was very sure Breanna Simms wasn’t a virgin, though she acted very shy when it came to that subject. Like when he went to get out of bed, she turned her head even though not 6 hours ago they were laying in the same bed naked. He watched her turn to the window and stare out towards the barn. That’s when the feelings started up again. He closed his eyes and pictured Abigail standing in the window and looking down at him.
He couldn’t explain the over whelming urge to touch Breanna. He had never felt this with anyone before. He had flashes of Lucas and Abigail in the barn as he ran his fingers down her neck, wanting to touch more. The urge to take her back to bed was killing him. As if Breanna sensed his feelings she turned in his arms and gave in to his touch. Following him back to the bed as he kissed her, feverishly removing the clothes they both had just put back on.
He had almost forgotten the photo’s that were left in the attic of the house when he purchased it. He pulled on his jeans and walked down the hall way to the room he used as his office. He guessed it was Abigail’s sister’s room. The large room at the end of the hall he used for guests, if he ever had any. He pulled the large black box off the top shelf of the bookshelf and carried it back to his room, watching as Breanna pulled her long silky hair from her shirt. A little disappointed that she had redressed. He sat down on the bed with the box and opened the lid. Looking in at the hundreds of old pictures that before didn’t mean much to him.
He looked at the photo Breanna was holding, looking down into the face of the woman sitting next to him. The feelings he had were all jumbled up. He felt love for the woman in the picture, real love. He sifted through the box and picked up another photo. “Here’s one of the bunk house.” he said showing her the picture of the small cabin that used to sit not far from the barn.
Breanna looked over at the picture and smiled. “What was it like living with all the guys in a tiny little house?” she asked looking over at him. “It wasn’t bad. A lot like being in a foster home with all boys. We all shared rooms so there were 3 or 4 of us to a room. You become close.” he said smiling at herb picking up another photo.
This time it was a photo of Abigail and Preston Scott, holding a baby. “Well I guess we know how this story pans out.” he said showing her the photo. Abigail covered her mouth as she took the picture from him. “They don’t look happy.” she said looking at Hunter.
He felt a sadness fill his heart as he looked at the picture of Abigail holding a baby, fairly new by the looks of it. He flipped it over to see if they had written dates on the back. “Look it says Preston, Abigail and Charles Scott December 1868. If Preston and Abigail got married in April, then she got pregnant really quick and the baby was early.” he said looking down at the photo again. He looked up when he heard Breanna gasp.
“Oh. Hunter. She got pregnant quickly. But that’s not Preston’s son.” she said looking at him and then at the picture. “Abigail was pregnant with Lucas’s baby when they got married. She was sick several weeks after they started their love affair.” she said looking at him. Hunter felt a jolt hit him. “Do you think Preston knew?” he asked looking at the man. “I don’t know.” she said picking up another picture.
Hunter felt her body stiffen. He looked over at the picture. It was a picture of the 8 ranch hands standing outside the barn. He recognized all of the guys saying their names in his head as he looked at their faces. He stopped when he got to the last person. He stared at an image of his on face. He watched Breanna run her hand over the picture as she stared at it.
“There are more like this in here. I remember seeing a few of them.” he said digging through the pictures and pulling out several, then flipping them over to look at the back. “1865, 1867, 1869.” he said looking at the backs. “Look, Lucas is in all of these but 1869. Is there an 1868?” She asked looking through the box. Hunter pulled out two more. “1866 and 1868.” he said flipping them over. There was Lucas on the end like usual in the 1866 photo, but not the 1868 photo. The two looked at each other and stared.
“What happened to Lucas?” Breanna said looking upset. “I don’t know.” Hunter said staring at the photo feeling his heart sink. Why would Lucas leave Abigail with Preston? “They were supposed to run away together, but Abigail is here, but where did Lucas go? Why would he do that to her?” Breanna said starting to cry. Hunter pulled her into his arms. “I don’t know. Maybe we will find out soon.” he said lightly stroking her hair.
“let’s go down and eat. We can come back to these later.” He said pulling the photo from her fingers and placing it in the box. Breanna looked up at him tears running down her face. “I’m sure there is a reason. I don’t feel that he would leave her without a VERY good reason. She was his heart.” he said holding her face.