Sean Donovan (The Californians, Book 3) (9 page)

BOOK: Sean Donovan (The Californians, Book 3)
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When Charlie finished with the horse, she walked to
the front of the livery and pulled the double doors shut.
There were double doors at the back also, but they were
already closed and Sean watched as she headed toward
another small door. She hesitated on the threshold.

"I don't suppose you know an anvil from a saddle, but
my blacksmith just walked out on me. I'm finished here
for the night, and my supper will be coming. You can
start work in the morning." Sean stood still as he listened to his wife, unsure if he should tell her he was an
experienced blacksmith. While he was still debating
whether or not to speak, Charlie left without another
word.

She walked with swift purpose to the door of her
house, not turning to look behind her until her hand was
reaching for the handle.

"Now where in the world is he?" Charlie muttered to
herself when she saw that Sean had not followed her.
She stood still and gave a small sigh, wondering once again why she had married him. Charlie told herself
quickly it was because of his size. A man that big would
be worth hours of work in a livery, as soon as she taught
him how to smith.

She waited a second longer, hoping he would appear
in the livery doorway, but it was not to be. Suddenly she
felt very suspicious. With a mixture of fear and anger,
Charlie moved back toward the livery.

Sean glanced around at his new home and wondered
in which stall he should bed down. It was early yet, but if
he slept he might not notice how empty his stomach
was. He stood for a moment, his hand on the tender area
of his throat. His eyes slid shut as he once again felt the
rope.

"Thank you, Lord," Sean whispered, still staggered
by the fact that he was alive. He felt down his own arms
and then to his legs before the vision of himself hanging
from a rope sprang into his mind. His palms became
damp, and he shook his head to dispel the image before
beginning to walk along the stalls, desperate for something to distract his mind.

The tack wall caught and held his interest. He was
immediately impressed with the quality of halters, bridles, and saddles. He stood looking them over when his
wife's suspicious voice made him snatch his cap off and
turn to face her.

"Is there some problem?"

"No ma'am." Sean noticed she was frowning as she
had been when she exited the courthouse.

"Then why didn't you follow me?"

"I assumed you wanted me to bunk out here."

Something in his voice, as well as the way he held his cap in both hands, tempered Charlie's voice as she replied.

"Your room is in the house." She watched him replace
his cap and move carefully toward her. Her anger evaporated, and she suddenly felt a little sorry for him. After
all, he was to have been executed today. But by the time
Sean was close enough to see her face, she'd carefully
hidden this emotion.

"Come on," she said and once again headed outside.
Sean followed her this time and saw that she was leading
him to a small house some 50 feet behind the livery.

Stepping through the front doorway Sean found himself in the kitchen, but he wasn't given any time to
inspect his new home. "This way's your room."

Charlie led him down a short hallway where Sean saw
two doors. One door was straight in front of him and one
was on the left side of the hall. Charlie opened the door
on the left.

"You can have this room. Oh! The bed isn't made. I'll
get some sheets." Charlie darted out of the room, and
Sean was left alone.

The room was not overly large, but it was more than
sufficient. The bed was small, but it definitely outsized
the cot in his jail cell, and for that he was thankful. Sean
moved to the window. He pulled the curtains back and
one of them tore. He knew a moment of panic and then
noticed that they were very faded, almost transparent.

"These are clean."

"The curtain tore. I'm sorry." Sean's voice was humble.

Charlie's eyes darted to the window. It was on the tip
of her tongue to ask if he was usually so rough with
things, but then she remembered how old the curtains
were. They had been hanging there since her grandfather was alive.

"It doesn't matter. Here." She threw the sheets onto
the bed. "Supper's in half an hour." On those words she
exited, closing the door behind her.

 
twelve

Sean continued to stand next to the window, the
events of the day going once again through his mind
until a hunger pain tore at his stomach. The pain was
impetus enough to cause him to move. Not wanting to
dwell on the hours he had just lived through, he decided
to make the bed.

He found himself mentally thanking his brother-inlaw, Rigg, for the months he had lived with him. Rigg
had taught him to take care of himself. Prior to that, his
mother, and then his aunt, had seen to everything.

No water had been offered to Sean in jail beyond that
which he'd been given to drink. So when the bed was
finally made, and he noticed a pitcher and bowl on the
dresser, he decided to find some water and have a quick
wash. It couldn't really compare with a bath, but it would
have to suffice and would certainly make him more
presentable at supper.

Sean's door squeaked as it opened. Carrying the
pitcher, he stepped tentatively into the hallway and
walked softly out to the main room of the house where
he stood looking around. There was no sign of his wife.

He noticed for the first time a large stove in the corner
with wood stacked nearby. The kitchen table, appearing to be about four feet square, was made of oak and had
four matching chairs.

Sean discovered that a doorway off the kitchen led to
the living room. It had a long sofa and one overstuffed
chair. There was a small table stacked with a few old
newspapers, and all the furniture sat on an old, braided
rug.

After a superficial inspection of both rooms, Sean
looked more closely in the kitchen for a container of
water. He had circled the room twice and figured he'd
have to ask his wife or go without.

He turned to head down the hall and nearly dropped
the pitcher he was carrying when he found Charlie
standing just inside the room watching him.

"Is there a problem?"

"I was looking for some water." Sean gestured with
the pitcher before noticing the shotgun in her hand and
changing his mind about needing water. "I was going to
have a quick wash, but it can wait."

His voice dropped on these last words; his whole body
tensed. He wanted to move past her, but she was blocking his path and he wasn't about to do anything to make
her use that gun. He stood still and waited.

"There's a well outside at the back of the house. I'll
show you."

Sean watched in some surprise as she leaned her gun
against a wall and preceded him to the door. Sean noticed as they walked that she was finally without her hat,
and had even removed the oversized jacket she'd been
wearing. There wasn't much to her; in fact, her frame
was rather slight. She had the brightest red hair he'd ever
seen.

There was no conversation as Sean filled his pitcher.
Not until they were ready to go back to the house did
Sean notice a bucket sitting beside the well.

"Charlotte," Sean used her name for the first time.
"Do you want me to fill this for the house?"

Charlie's head had whipped around at the sound of
her name, but there was no teasing in Sean's eyes. No one
called her Charlotte, except in wisecracking, and Charlie
just assumed that he was getting smart with her. She
couldn't have been more wrong. His eyes were as
respectful and hesitant as they had been since the two of
them had stood in the courthouse and become man and
wife.

"Yeah, we'll need it in the morning."

Sean proceeded to fill the bucket. Charlie stayed to
watch him, although she wasn't sure why. For a moment
in the kitchen she had thought he was out there to make
a run for it, but that thought was swiftly put to rest when
she had looked into his eyes.

Charlie was finally admitting to herself that his size
had little to do with why she had married him. It had
been his eyes. How many times were they going to get
her into trouble? She had spoken up at the hanging
because of those eyes and the way he'd kepi them closed.
Then in the kitchen, when she confronted him with the
gun, it was the fear she saw in them that caused her to
put the weapon down and escort him to the well.

Charlie had been amazed to see that he was afraid of
her. She found she didn't care for that at all. She didn't
plan to get close to this man in any way. They might be
married, but in her mind he was nothing more than
hired help. Yet to see a man of his size and obvious
strength showing fear tugged at her heart.

Sean set down the bucket in the kitchen and took the
pitcher to his room. While they had been at the well, a young girl named Ruth had delivered a plateful of food
from the hotel to Charlie's kitchen table. By the time
Sean returned to eat, Charlie had carefully divided the
food. He sat down in the chair across from her.

Sean, believing he could consume five times the
amount on his plate, found himself suddenly queasy. He
ate slowly of the beef stew before him, and when Charlie
tried to pass him half of her biscuit, he declined. Though
he found himself hoping there would be more food in
the future, for now he was thankful that he had no more
to tackle.

The meal was eaten in silence. By the time Charlie
rose, Sean was also finished, and he watched as she put
their plates in a large pan. She turned and spoke her last
words of the evening.

"We start work at 6:00, so you'd better get some rest."

"I'll do that. Thank you for supper," Sean said softly.
"Goodnight, Charlotte."

Charlie frowned again at the use of her name before
watching him leave. The frown caused Sean to wonder
what he had done this time.

Sean's body was trembling with fatigue and something else he couldn't name by the time he crawled
beneath the blanket on his bed. Even though the bed was
too small, it felt wonderful to relax his tense muscles.

BOOK: Sean Donovan (The Californians, Book 3)
3.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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