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"He is. I had been teaching for a couple years and would often see him near the school. He would sit there and watch me. Even before his wife died, I would see him there. A few times, no matter where I was, he would show up out of nowhere. It was like he was following me or having me followed. Gave me the willies. Then he started to show up at home. He was always nice to my parents, but when he would look at me, I felt like my blood had turned to ice. He has a way of smiling that never quite reaches his eyes. I always felt so dirty when he looked at me." She shivered despite the heat. "Then he came up with his proposal."
"That is barbaric. Slavery was abolished years ago." Ellie said.
"According to the government it has. Unfortunately that does not pertain to women. In some areas of the country, women go from being the property of their fathers to being the property of their husbands. So when they came to their agreement, I knew I had to get away. Corrigan wanted to get married right away. But I was able to stall. I talked him into postponing the wedding by telling him that I needed time to prepare and that I wanted my own home. I refused to be the mistress of another woman's house. He agreed, which really surprised me and gave me the time to save money and plan everything."
"That was a damn gutsy move."
"Thanks. You know the rest of the story."
"It is quite a story. What I want to know is when Granny told you to go to the mountains, how did you know which mountains?"
"After awhile, I was able to get into the dream and talk to her instead of just watching. She said to head North, that my destiny was in the North. I asked her what destiny? That is when I began to see Cassie's face. She never spoke to me."
"That is our Cassie." Ruth joked. "The strong silent type. A woman of action not words." She laughed.
"Well Ruth, I for one am very glad she is a woman of action. She has saved your butt many times." Ellie said with a smile.
"Ya got that right, my dear. So when did she start to talk to you?"
"Ruth, stop that. It is none of your business." Ellie ordered. "I know your mother did not want to help you at first. What made her change her mind?"
"I don't know. One morning she got up and said she would help me."
"I know." Cassie said. "Granny did. She told me she was able to get into your mother's dreams and convince her to help you."
"I am so very happy about that. I was out of time. It was really hard to keep up the charade of being a blushing bride to be. I went through all the motions. Even to altering my mother's dress. I had to call up every acting skill I had just to get through the courtship. I felt so dirty every time he would touch or try to kiss me. I had to make everyone believe that the wedding would take place. The night before the wedding, I waited to hear my father's snores, kissed my mother good bye and left." Victoria said. "As for when Cassie started to talk to me. I had been on the road for several weeks and thought I would never find the right mountains. I even went as far as turning around and for the first time I saw Granny's face while I was awake. I stopped to take a break and fell asleep. That is when she spoke to me." Victoria stopped her story.
"Hey wait a minute. You can not stop there. what did she say?"
Victoria turned to Cassie, who shrugged. "She said, come home, we are waiting for you."
"That's it." Ruth exclaimed. You have to be more romantic, Cassie."
"Ruth stop that." Ellie ordered.
"She did not have to say any more than that. It was enough to keep me heading here." Victoria said as she reached over and took Cassie's hand. "And a date with some bad water. The rest you all know."
"Yeah, we found you and brought you back to the ranch."
"That is not all of it Cassie. What my friend here has failed to mention, was that she refused to leave your side, unless she was forced to."
"Or when I was drugged. A little trick I have not forgotten."
"I think we should be afraid now Ellie."
"Not me. I know when to keep my mouth shut, or think before I act." Ellie replied.
"What are you talking about? Me not think?"
"Hey wait a minute. I have an idea." Cassie interrupted the two.
"Uh oh, watch out." Ruth joked. "We are in trouble now."
"Cassie ignored her friend and asked. "What would it take to make your father and this Corrigan back off?"
"Oh gosh, I don't know. My death or..."
"What if you were already married?"
"Huh? Where am I going to find a husband in a couple hours?"
"It does not have to be a real husband. It can be done but we will need everyone's cooperation." She spurred her horse to go faster. "Come on. As you said, we only have a couple hours." The others followed close behind.
"Wait a minute, Cassie." Victoria called.
"I will explain everything when we get to the ranch." Cassie called over her shoulder.
"YOU WANT TO DO WHAT ?" Maude yelled at Cassie. "I have heard some crazy idea before, but this is the worst one yet. You have more sense that that. Cassie was surprised by her mother's reaction to her idea. They had returned to the ranch, taken care of the horses and entered house.
"Listen mama, the only way we can get this man to back off and leave Victoria alone is sh e is already married. There is no way we will kill her, because that would be our only other option"
"Thank you for that at least." Victoria said.
"So that leaves us just one option."
"No it is not." Maude stated. "What is wrong with the truth. The truth that Victoria is a free woman who can marry anyone she chooses."
"Cassie?" Victoria interrupted. "Can I talk to you alone?"
To be continued...
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