After she galloped away from the ranch, Rebecca spent the first few days in a drunken stupor. She tried to drink the memory of Cassie from her mind. For a short time the alcohol quieted the sound of Cassie turning her down, but each time she sobered up the voice returned to haunt her.
She walked the deserted streets of The Settlement. Most of the women were still helping take care of the sick. Although some had returned, as the patients started to recover. Rebecca spent many hours staring at the poster of the missing Virginia woman. "Why" she asked. "Why would a Southern woman come all this way North. It doesn't make sense. She is a good looking woman." Rebecca conceded. "She could be anywhere. Why would they even think she was here?"
There was a vague feeling of familiarity that Rebecca couldn't understand. She had never been to Virginia or seen anyone even vaguely resembling the woman staring back at her. 'Besides, the only stanger we.ve seen in weeks is... is that...that... The thought hit her. She placed her hands so that only the face and a small of amount of blonde hair was showing.
She knew. By god she knew. She knew how to take care of all the roadblocks to Cassie returning to her arms and bed. Of course the reward wouldn't hurt either. She needed to send a telegram.
Recovery for the sick was slow and steady with only a few having the secondary problems associated with typhoid.
Those few who did had mild cases and were soon well enough to return to their homes. The women from the settlement were the last to leave after helping to straighten out the house. Soon they too were gone and the only patient remaining was Victoria.
Cassie spent all of her free time sitting near, or hovering as Maude called it, by Victoria's side. Doc had finally given his permission for her to be out of bed for short periods. While Cassie was working the ranch, she spent most of her days resting,rebuilding her strength,by drinkingendless glasses of Granny's potions. She didn't mind as they were pleasant tasting and she did feel better afterwards.
The first day she was allowed out of the room, she asked Maude to help her out to the porch. She longed to feel the sunshine. While the room was bright and airy it wasn't the same as being outdoors. That was the first thing she wanted to do after taking a bath and putting on the clean clothes that Maude had washed for her. Maude stood closed by in case she was needed. Victoria smile knowing that Cassie came by hovering naturally.
Maude also trimmed Victoria's hair so that it no longer looked like she hacked it off with a knife.
Kowing Cassie returned to the house around six each night, she wanted to be on the porch when she returned. Maybe even visit her horse. Maude reassured her that the horse was being well cared for. Cassie personally fed, watered, groomed and exercised the animal each day.
She was waiting as the workers with Cassie in the lead trotted into the yard. She knew all available hands were posting and fencing off the watering areas that were suspicious to avoid another outbreak. The riders kicked up great clouds of dust behind them as they entered the gate.
Cassie noticed the addition to the porch and smiled as she waved to the men who headed over to the bunk house. She urged her horse to the house instead of the barn.
"Hey look at you. Doc finally gave you the ok."
"Yep. I was able to take a bath and get into my own clothes. Not that there was anything wrong with those sleep shirts I was wearing." She stated with a slow drawl.
"Looks like Mama cut you hair also."
"She said it looked like I hacked it off with a knife."
"Mama can sometimes exerate a bit. Did you?"
"Did I what?"
"Hack it off with a knife?'
"Scissors actually. A small pair I keep in my mending kit. Thank you by the way."
"Taking care of Millie for me." At the puzzled look on her firend's face. "My horse.,. your mother said you had been taking care of her for me. And doing all the work yourself."
"You are welcome. Want to go see her?"
"I sure would."
Cassie held out her hand."Come on we'll give you a lift over."
Victoria grasped the hand that was offered. Before she could even lift her foot, she found herself sitting behind Cassie. A wave of self consciousness hit her. Not sure where she should put her hands, she rested them on her denim covered legs."
"You can hold onto me, I won't bite."
Timidly she circled Cassie's waist and leaned into her back as Cassie started the horse towards the barn.
Both were aware of the tingling where their bodies made contact. Both felt a heat that had nothing to do with the temperature outside. One that did not leave them as the entered the cooler barn. Within seconds of entering the barn Victoria heard a familiar whinny
"Looks like she's happy to see you also."
"Yup, thanks for the ride over. It was fun. Come here and let me introduce you two officially. Hey girl, did you miss me?" The brown mare nodded her head. "I bet you have been enjoying all the attention you been getting haven't you?." Another nod. She held the large head in her hands and kissed the soft nose, before she whispered into her ear. "How do you like my new friend? Think you will like staying here if we can?."
"Nice piece of horse flesh. Good stock"
"She was a gift when I got my teaching certificate."
"A teacher huh?"
"Yep. Know of any open positions in the area?"
"Think of staying around?"
"I'd like to.If I can. It's a beautiful area and maybe even far enough away from home"
"Look Victoria, you can stay here as long as you want. If your father or that man manage to find you and come here, you don't have to do anything you don't want to do. This is a free country. Less than 50 years ago we fought a war to prove just that. So no one and I mean NO ONE is going to force you to do anthing or go anywhere against your will."
"Thank you Cassie." Impulsively she threw her arms around Cassie. After a slight hesitation she felt the hug returned.
"Now how about I introduce you properly?"'
"You mean,' Here you go girl here's some food and water for you, then some exercise and a rub down' doesn't count?"
Victoria bumped her. "Of course not silly. Come here. Millie, this is my friend Cassie. Cassie, this is the friend and only companion I had for several weeks, Millie"
"Millie, I am pleased to meet you. Now how about some dinner or maybe a couple of these?" She handed Victoria two small apples. "She really likes these. Found out the first day when she went right to the bin where I keep them."
"I hope she didn't do any damage."
"Heck no. I keep the bin locked because Goldie also loves them. She even found a way to open the bin. You don't mind sharing do you girl." She said to the gold horse in the next stall.
Together they fed and watered and rubbed down the horses. They kept up a stead stream of ligh hearted banter as they worked. Victoria watched the ripple of muscles across Cassie's back as she brushed her horse. She took a long leisurely journey from the midnight dark hair kept securely in a pony tail, the strong shoulders, the musceled back, the slim waist, the narrow hips and long legs. She felt her face getting warm when Cassie turned around.
"Hey" She said reaching out to Victoria. "Are you all right?"
"Yeah... Fine...Never better...why?"
"Well for starters your face is as red as that pail by your feet." She felt Victoria's skin for any sign of fever. "I think we 'd better get you back to the house, your warm."
"No no no I'm fine really. I just need to..." She looked around until she found the water barrel. "Give me a minute." She went to the barrel, took a deep breath before plunging her head into the cool water. Cassie watched her, puzzled at her behavior. The thought entered her mind as she watched, 'she does have a realy cute butt.'
"Hey." she said as she pulled Victoria's head from the barrel. "Want to tell me what that was all about?"
Victoria shook her head, scattering water down the front of Cassie's shirt.
"oh God, I'm sorry. I really didn't mean to do that."
"No problem. Well now that we are both wet, care to tell me why?"
"I guess I do owe you some sort of explanation." She softly drawled. Cassie nodded in agreement. "I uh I was watching you brush down Goldie, and I uh, well I was enjoying the view. One thing led to another which led to me dunking my head in the barrel."
Cassie laughed, A deep pleasant sound. "I understand. you got horny." She said bluntly. At the shocked look on Victoria's face. she continued. "Look it's perfectly normal. Even very proper Southern Bells get those feelings. To be perfectly honest when I saw you with your head underwater and your butt in the air, all I could think of is what a cute butt."
"But we hardly know each other. Even though I have seen you for months in my dreams everynight the fact remains..."
"The fact remains that we are attracted to each other and according to Granny we are destined to be together."
"Then I guess it would be acceptable even for a proper Souther Belle, to do this." She put her arms around Cassie's neck and pulled her head down, and gently brushed her lips against the taller woman's. She felt Cassie's arms around her waist as the kiss deepened.
Their moment was watched by two sets of eyes. One indulgent knowing blue eyes and a pair of outraged brown ones.
Rebecca had come to offer Cassie one last chance to come with her or she would send the telegram she held in her hand. Hot angry tear filled her eyes as she whispered, "There is only one way I will get you back now" She jumped on her horse and spurred the animal away from the barn.
To be continued...
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