Disclaimer: dont own em, not making money off of em.
Third story in the How the River Feels story line. Best to read
and Too Much first. Definitely a romance with the guys settling down with wives.
If that is not your kind of story don't read any further.
Credit for the pictures goes to Barb
graciously allowed me to use themm except this one, its all mine.
Many thanks to Katy and Sue. You have been my inspiration and tutors.
Warning: There is mention of sexual abuse but nothing graphic.
SIZE: Approx 160K
Part 1 - 2 | Part 3 -
5 | Part 6 - 7
Part 8 - Epilogue
"Goddammit. WHY do we have to stop? Its only another three hours back to town! Why cant we keep goin?"
"Get it through your thick skull! For the fifth time, its too dark! Theres no moon and we cant see where were goin! Is that plain enough for ya?" The tracker was quickly losing patience. The rest of the seven were making camp, fetching water, unsaddling horses, setting up a fire pit, and here he was, still arguing with the second most stubborn man he knew. And apparently getting nowhere.
"Oh, for cryin out loud, Buck, has Inez got ya so henpecked ya cant even spend a night under the stars with the rest of us?" JD joked as he passed the two men with another load of the saddles and bedrolls.
Buck turned angry eyes on the young man. "Shut up, JD. What would you know about it anyways? Ya cant get your woman to say yes to ya!"
JD threw down the saddle and turned back towards Buck. "Ill have you know, I aint asked her nothin yet, so she aint turned down nothin. Youre just afraid that Inez will cut ya off if ya dont do everything she tells ya, ya big pansy!"
Buck took a step towards JD and Chris found himself stepping in between the two friends, something he hated to do. He wasnt their mother and he wasnt a referee but tonight, he sure felt like both. "Both of ya, shut the hell up!"
Both men glared at one another until finally, JD turned back to his task. Chris rounded on Buck, ready to do battle, but the look on Bucks face stopped him in his tracks. He walked up to the big rogue and put a hand on his shoulder. "Lets take us a walk." They moved out into the desert and found a rock to sit on.
Chris started, "Look, Pard, I miss Mary too but its too dang dark to go on tonight. Well be home in the morning, okay?"
Buck looked across at his old friend. He knew they werent going anywhere tonight and his head told him they were right. It was too dark to continue. But Chris didnt have a wife that was nine months pregnant and out on a farm by herself. He shouldnt have ridden with the rest this time. They would have all understood, well, maybe not JD and possibly Vin, but the others would. He should have stayed home with her. The Dawson gang had fought back, it was true, and the others had needed his extra gun to dispatch the gang of eight murderers but he was needed at his homestead. Inez and their baby now came first. Chris should understand, he had one on the way. He wouldnt want Mary to be alone when it was time to deliver.
"I shouldnt have left her alone, Chris. Its her first one and shes gotta be scared." His voice broke on the last word.
Chris knew who was scared. And it wasnt Inez. His old friend was petrified at the prospect of becoming a father. He was just getting used to being a husband and a land owner. Chris knew he was elated that a baby was on the way but in the past few weeks, as Inez neared her due date, Buck had begun to question what kind of father he would be. Late one night, he had told Chris that beings as he had no father to learn from, he was probably going to make some terrible errors along the way, maybe ones that could destroy the kid. Chris had laughed and had assured the big lug that he was positive Buck was going to be a wonderful father cause he had an understanding way about him. He didnt say that Buck also had the biggest heart of anyone he knew, but he did. It was true that Buck had been raised in a whorehouse by women but they had filled him with love for his fellow human being and Chris knew that Buck would pass that along to his son or daughter.
"Yeah, she probably is, Pard, but if I know our women at all, they either have Inez ensconced at my house or Amandas clinic. I bet dollars to doughnuts that shes not alone at the farm. You know Im right, dont ya?"
Buck nodded, his spine starting to straighten as he considered Chriss words. Mary and Amanda, along with Rain and Casey, wouldnt let Inez stay alone for one minute as her time to deliver grew near. Especially with all the men out of town.
Buck nodded slowly. "Sorry, Chris."
"No need ta be sorry, Pard. Well be home in the morning. Try to relax tonight, okay?" He looked his good friend in the eye and smiled.
Buck took a deep breath and went about helping the others set up camp. When they were done, he immediately settled into his bedroll and turned his back to the others. His mind was on a homestead just outside of Four Corners and a beautiful Mexican woman who held his heart in the palm of her hand. As he slipped into sleep, he dreamt of a small, dark haired child with big brown eyes and a smile that captured both parents hearts.
The next morning, Buck was the first one up. He was saddling his horse when Vin began stirring. The tracker sat up and spun quickly, instantly awake when he heard the horses moving restlessly. He relaxed when he saw the tall man tightening the cinch on his big gray mare.
"Ya goin somewhere?" he asked, standing behind Buck.
Buck turned so fast he almost lost his balance. "Dont do that, Vin! Ya could give a man a heart attack."
"Heard that before. Ya werent goin ta wait for the rest of us?" Vin smiled.
"You cant understand how I feel, Vin. I gotta be there for her."
"I know Bucklin. Let me git the others up and well be ready to leave in twenty minutes. I know Chris is anxious too." Vin laid his hand on the father-to-bes arm.
Buck was eager to leave but he reckoned he could wait another twenty minutes. After all, the sun wasnt quite up yet. "Lets get their butts movin then."
The seven rode into Four Corners two hours and ten minutes later. Unspoken, an agreement was made to push the horses and get Buck back to town as quickly as possible. Only Chris had ever been a father before but five of them had women that they loved and were anxious to see. The town was still quiet, people just now rising to start their day. The seven tired horses plodded towards the livery where they knew they would be treated to sweet hay and oats. Buck and Chris pulled their horses to the side and, after tying their mounts to the hitching post, entered the office of the Clarion News. Mary came from the living quarters in the back with a cup of coffee in her hand. The cup broke when she dropped it and hurried to Chriss eager arms. Buck waited impatiently while the two greeted each other as lovers do.
Finally, the two parted and Buck, his face somber with his concern for his pregnant wife, asked, "Wheres Inez? Is she with Amanda?"
"No, Amanda left last night for the Terrell place. Ed got kicked bad by that ornery horse of his. Inez is at home. She stayed here two nights but she said she had things to do to get ready for the baby and that she wanted to sleep in her own bed. I think her back was bothering her but you know her. Shes probably the third most stubborn person I know." Mary was glad to have her husband back home and she knew that Inez was missing Buck, too. Mary had figured she just wanted to go home and pine for Buck.
"God damn that woman. She shouldnt be out there by herself." Buck turned and was gone. Mounting his tired horse, he spurred Bourbons sides and hurried out of town towards his and Inezs homestead.
As he reached the front yard, he heard the scream of pain. Forgetting everything but his wife, he jumped from Bourbons back and raced into the house. He searched the front room and then the kitchen. Another scream told him his wife was in the bedroom. He ran in to find his beautiful wife, drenched in sweat, writhing on the bed. One hand was over her swollen belly and the other gripped the rail of the headboard.
"Inez?" Buck quickly sat by her side, pulling her to him. "Whats wrong?"
"Whats wrong? You imbecile, I am having a baby! Oh shit, its coming. God, Buck, I can feel it!" She screamed again and pushed her husband away from her.
"I dont know what to do, darlin. Should I ride and get Nathan?" Buck stood, white as a ghost, by the side of the bed. He wrung his hands, totally perplexed as to how to help.
"Theres no time, you son of a bitch. Get some towels and then helllpp meeee! Madre de Dios, its coming. Move, you idiot!" Inez glared at her husband.
Buck quickly ran for the towels and grabbed one of the baby blankets that Inez and her friends had been making for the past four months. He reentered the room and gulped. Inez lay with her knees bent, her legs spread wide. Now both hands gripped the headboard fiercely. Her head was slightly off the pillows and she was straining and pushing, gulping air as she did so.
Buck stared transfixed at the spot of wet hair appearing between Inezs legs. His child was about to make its appearance. As if in a daydream, he moved forward and found his large hands ready to assist his baby into the world.
"Shes almost out, Sweetheart. Just a little more." Buck encouraged, knowing that Inez had to do all the work.
"You bastard, you did this to me! OOOOHHHH SSHHIITTTT!"
With one final push, Inez delivered her baby into her husbands hands. She collapsed back into the bed and looked down her body to where her husband stood, bent over. He didnt seem to move and suddenly, Inez was scared.
"Buck, whats wrong? Is the baby all right?"
She was answered with a tiny wail. Buck still remained unmoving. His mouth was agape, his face still white.
"Mex, what do I do? Hes so tiny and slimy. And hes still attached!" His voice was barely a whisper as if he would startle the infant.
"Wipe his face and nose real good. Good, good. Now, lay him on my stomach and then get a knife. You have to cut the cord, Buck. Bring in some warm water and clean him up quickly, then wrap him in the blanket." Inez instructed, anxious to see her son.
Buck did as he was told and ten minutes later, Inez was peering at their son, while Buck held him tenderly, wrapped in a blanket. He was gorgeous with dark eyes and a full head of black hair. His tiny red face was squenched up and suddenly he let out a fierce yell. Buck pulled his son close to his chest and began to laugh.
Josiah had taken care of his horse and then bathed himself. He was sipping a cup of coffee when his wife of two months drove her buggy into town. She stopped in front of their home and her clinic and though tired, she jumped out to be greeted by her loving husband.
"It is so good to see you, Sweetheart. Is everyone all right?" She kissed her husband and then, still holding on to him, she tipped her head back to see his face.
"Yes, Doctor, everyone made it just fine. Well, maybe not everyone. Buck was a nervous wreck. I doubt if he got an hours sleep last night. He was set on continuing home last night although it was way too dark. As it was, we all raced home this morning, breaking camp before sunrise. I think Chris and I were almost as anxious to get home as Buck was. By the way, how is Inez?"
"Oh dear, I really should go check on her. She was starting to dilate yesterday. The baby should be along any hour now. Would you go with me?"
"Of course, my darling wife."
After checking with Mary and finding that the pregnant woman went back home, they got back in the buggy and Josiah took the reins. He turned the gentle mare back to the street and at a brisk pace, they proceeded to the home of Buck and Inez. As they came into view of the house that the entire town had helped to finish, Josiah noticed Bucks big gray mare, still saddled, grazing in the garden. The hair went up on the back of his neck.
As soon as possible, he climbed out of the buggy. "Buck!" His big voice boomed.
He lifted Amanda out of the buggy and then they both raced to the front door. Just as they reached the steps, the door opened. Buck came out, worry written on his face.
"Whats wrong, Josiah? Dont tell me we got to ride again!" The tall man was wiping his hands on a towel.
Amanda and Josiah both saw the blood on the front of Bucks shirt. Amanda asked first, "Buck, wheres Inez? Is she all right?"
Buck broke into the biggest smile either person had ever witnessed. "Shes some lady. Would you believe she delivered the baby all by herself? God, it was a miracle!"
"She delivered the baby herself?" Amanda demanded, not believing the lanky man before her.
"Well, I guess I helped a little. She was on the bed, ready to pop when I got home. All I did was catch the little thing when it came out." He looked at his clothes, realizing what the Sanchezs were seeing. "It gets a tad messy afterward. I just cleaned everything up. Inez is trying to nurse the baby. Maybe you could give her a little help, Amanda."
Josiah stuck out his hand as his wife ran inside to see the new child. Buck took the offered hand and the two friends shook. "Well, you gonna keep me in the dark? What do you have, a daughter or son?"
Buck laughed and proudly announced, "I have a son! Most beautiful baby ya ever laid eyes on. Ten fingers and toes, and a great set of lungs."
"Congratulations, Buck. What are you going to call this fine lad?"
"Tell ya what, Josiah. Would you go back to town and let the others know and ask them if they would all come out about four? Id kinda like to present my son to the whole family at once. I think Inez will have had a chance to rest by then. Shes exhausted right now."
The ex-preacher nodded. "Sounds good. Tell Amanda Ill be back in a little while to pick her up. Im sure she wants to get Inez and the baby squared away. A boy! How about that." Josiah returned to the buggy and left the new father standing on the porch.
At the appointed time, six men and five women made their way to the Wilmingtons house. All eleven bore presents for the newest member of the eclectic family. Chris had thought to wire Bucks Aunt Maggie and Inezs mother, informing them of the arrival of the boy into this world. The women were all eager to see the baby and the men were anxious to see their friend. They were all in a festive mood as they made their way into the front room, having been greeted by Buck at the door.
When they were all settled, Buck went and carried in his wife. He had helped her clean up and he had watched the baby as she slept. Inez had insisted that she could walk but her doting husband had forbid it. When he had her settled on the settee, he went back to the bedroom and proudly brought out the precious bundle. The women quickly gathered around the sleeping infant, cooing and complimenting Inez on the absolute adorability of the baby. The men had moved to slap Buck on the back or to Inezs side to give her a congratulatory kiss on her cheek. Finally, Buck gave the baby to Inez and when everyone was settled, he cleared his throat.
"You know that we love all of you. Youre all family as far as were concerned." His eyes scanned across Nettie, Casey, JD, Mary and Chris. He shifted his gaze to Nathan and Rain, Josiah and Amanda. He finally smiled upon Vin and Ezra. "Obviously, we cant name him after everyone. Folks, Id like to present our son, Ezra John Wilmington."
The gambler was stunned. His hand went to his mouth and for perhaps the first time in his life, he was speechless. When he finally found his voice, it was filled with emotion. "You are truly naming him Ezra? After me?"
"Youre the only Ezra we know. Wed also like you to be his godfather, if thats alright with you? After all, you did save his and Inezs life when I was down and out." Buck moved to stand in front of the ex-conman. He held out his hand and Ezra shook it immediately.
"It would be an honor, sir. Thank you." Both men shook, holding each others hand until the emotions were back under control.
"Hell, Ez, dont take it so ta heart. Were callin him John." Buck lightened the mood as the whole roomful of people laughed. JD beamed with pride. Buck shifted his gaze to the youngest member of the Seven. "We figured you aint using the name. Our son might as well."
"Sounds like a fine idea to me, Buck. Congratulations!"
Three Months Later...
"YOU ARE NOT GOIN BACK TO WORK IN THAT SALOON AND THAT IS FINAL, WOMAN!" Bucks voice clattered around the rafters as he followed after his wife. His face was crimson, his throat sore from arguing with the woman for over an hour.
Inez put John down in his cradle and spun on her heel to face her stubborn husband. "I am going back to work and you cannot stop me, Senor. I wish to go back and it is MY choice to make."
"The hell it is! Im your husband and what I say goes! Did that snake of a conman put you up to this?" Buck stood with his feet apart, his hands on his hips, attempting to intimidate the petite woman before him.
"Do not bring Ezra into this, Buck! He had nothing to do with my desire to go back to managing the saloon. I WANT TO DO IT! Get that through your thick skull! Madre de Dios, you can be so dense at times."
"It aint dense, woman, its whats right! You got a baby and a husband to take care of. And I wont have you runnin into town every morning to work at no saloon."
"YOU wont HAVE me? Since when do you own me? I AM NOT your slave!"
"Never said you was but you ARE my wife and I run this household. I forbid you to go back to work." He nodded to emphasize his final decree.
"YOU forbid me? YOU FORBID ME? You pig! I will do as I please and you will not stop me." Inez stepped right up to Bucks chest and poked a finger into his body.
"Oh no? And just who is supposed to care for Johnny while youre at work?" He spit out the last word as if it were poisonous. He had never been so mad in his whole entire life. The woman, who just months before had become his wife, was now acting like he didnt matter at all. Just who did she think she was? It was a wifes duty to take care of her husband and his children. Everyone knew that! Well, it seemed everyone but his wife.
"And what is wrong with you watching your son? All you do all day is sit around the jail or the saloon. You sit and drink and make jokes. Well, Senor, you will have to get off your ass and watch your son now." Again she poked him in the chest.
He laughed, a loud derisive laugh. "Well Darlin, I aint exactly equipped to take care of Johnny, now am I. And further more, I have a very important job, one me and the guys have been doing for a long time now. And we do a hell of a good job at it. We are the ones who make it safe for you and Johnny to go into town. Or did you forget that?"
Her eyes grew wide and then narrowed as she hissed, "I never asked for your help. It was you and your chauvinist attitude that almost got you killed, not me. You men, you think you rule the world. Well, Senor, you dont rule me. You are exactly what I ran away from in Mexico. You are no better than Don Paulo!"
The words struck Buck like a fist to his belly. He staggered back a step. "You ungrateful " Buck glared at his wife one last time and spun on his heel. He was out the door before Inez could bring her temper under control.
Inez sat heavily in the rocking chair that Josiah had made for her. Instantly, she was sorry for the hurtful words she had uttered. Bringing the hated Mexican into the argument was uncalled for and she knew it. It was just that her beloved husband thought he had the right to order her around and nobody was going to order Inez Recillos Wilmington around. She wanted to go back to managing the Standish tavern. She wanted to be around people. She missed the joking and laughter that filled the saloon everyday. Truth be told, she missed her husband who spent most of his days in town with his friends.
As she calmed down, she realized that Buck could not be responsible for John. He had to be ready to respond to trouble at a moments notice. He had patrols to ride and she really didnt want her son to be spending time in a jail with drunks and thieves. She would have to figure out something else.
Buck rode his horse hard towards town. He was angry and he couldnt let go of the fire that still raged inside him. They had a son to think about now. How could Inez just turn her back on Johnny and him? She had a full time job taking care of their needs. There was no need for her to go back to managing the saloon. They had plenty of money and he had plans for the small homestead, plans that included Inez staying home with their children.
Bourbon was still galloping as they reached the edge of town. Buck pulled the horse to a walk and turned his reins over to Yosemite when he reached the livery. He didnt speak to anyone on his way to the saloon. The ice in his eyes scared off even the stoutest of heart.
He stormed through the batwing doors and crossed to where Chris and Vin were sitting, enjoying an afternoon beer. He sat and sighed, then ran a big hand over his face. The look on his face stopped either of the other two men from saying a word.
"Good afternoon, Buck. May I get you a mug of your favorite libation?" Ezra came up behind the seething man, unaware of the powerful emotions still racing through him.
Buck turned slowly and then rose to confront the smaller man. "You goddam snake," the new father hissed. "This is all your fault. I ought a knock the snot out of ya for what youre doin to my family." And, before anyone saw it coming, his fist quickly shot out and connected with the gamblers nose. Ezra went down in a heap, totally shocked by the actions of his friend.
Chris and Vin reacted instantly and each took one of Bucks arms before he could attack Ezra again. The large man shook his arms, attempting to dislodge the encumbrances. "Get off of me. You goddam, lying, son of a bitch, get up and fight like a man."
The gambler made no move to stand. His nose was bleeding and he grabbed a handkerchief out of his pocket and tried to stem the red flow. His bewilderment showed in his eyes. He had no idea why the fun loving man who rarely lost his temper was once again ready to pounce on him.
Chris held tight to Bucks arm as he pulled the angry man towards the door. Once outside, Vin let go and went back to check on Ezra. Chris spun his old friend around and then shoved him into a chair. "What in the hell has gotten into you?"
Bucks breath was coming in great gulps and with each gulp he felt some of the anger leave. He had struck out at Ezra because he could not hit his bullheaded wife. It wasnt fair to Ezra but he didnt care right at the moment. His anger was turning to despair as he sat looking at Chris and the town he loved.
"I dont understand, Chris. Why aint she happy with what shes got? I try to make her happy, I really do. Hell, I aint even looked at another woman since she said yes to me. I love her and our son. Why does she want somethin else?"
Chris was so confused he shook his head in incredulity "What in the hell are you talking about? You come into town like a raging bull, hit Ez in the face, and then start talking like a crazy man. Youre not makin sense!"
"God dammit, Chris, she wants to go back to work with Ezra. I know hes behind this. Hes got to be. Shes a wife and a mother, aint that enough?"
Chris broke into a big smile. It all sounded so familiar to him. He and Mary had argued numerous times about the same thing. "God, Buck, dont you know by now, there aint no figurin what a woman is gonna want. Even six months pregnant, I cant get Mary to quit workin on that newspaper of hers. And there aint no way to win an argument with her. I guess theyre gonna do what they want, no matter what makes sense to us."
"Ive tried to make her see what a bad idea this is, Chris, but shes so stubborn. Why cant she see that John and I need her to be home? I dont want her workin in the saloon til late at night. It aint right." Buck buried his head in his hands, frustrated and forlorn.
"Wish I had an answer for ya, Pard, but when it comes to women, I know nothin. Why dont we go back inside, drink a beer, and apologize ta Ez." Chris placed a supportive hand on Bucks arm.
The dark haired man raised his head and nodded but before they could get up, a young boy named Toby approached them. "Mr. Wilmington, I have a telegram for your wife. Do you want it?"
"Thanks Toby. Ill get it to her." He took the piece of paper from the lad and smiled at him. Toby smiled back and skipped away from the two lawmen.
Buck looked at the paper, deciding whether to open it or not. Why would anyone be sending his wife a telegram unless it was bad news. He tore it open and quickly read the contents.
Your sister enroute.
Mother died in accident.
"Oh my God, Almas dead. I gotta get back to Inez, Chris. Tell Ez Im sorry." He ran back down the street to the livery.
Two days later, Angelina Recillos got off the stage coach and was immediately enfolded in the arms of her big sister. They held tight to each other for a long time before breaking away from one another. JD made arrangements for Angelinas luggage as Buck led the two women down the street to where the horse and buggy waited. He handed both his wife and sister-in-law up to the seat and then climbed in, Angelina ensconced between the two Wilmingtons.
Ezra approached just before Buck slapped the reins down on the horses back. He smiled thinly at Inez and then he looked directly at the young woman dressed in black. "I am so sorry for your loss, Miss Recillos. If there is anything I can do to help alleviate some of your pain, please let me know." Ezra wasnt sure if the young woman understood him or not. She gazed at him, tears filling her eyes and then she gave the slightest of nods to the gambler. He nodded back.
"The ladies need some time alone, Ez. Ill see ya in a day or two, okay?" Buck didnt wait for an answer. He steered the horse out of town, the two sisters holding on to one another, crying.
Mary Larabee met them when they arrived at home. She was holding John and as Inez reached Marys position on the porch, she gave up the tiny bundle to his mother. Buck had a protective arm around Angelina as he led her inside the house. He guided her into the parlor and settled her on the settee before going back out for her bags. Mary quickly went into the kitchen and set a kettle on the wood burning stove to heat water for tea.
Angelina looked around the comfortable room. She felt so lost in this new land. The younger sister had been in the house before but then, she had known that she would be returning home, to her life and mother. Now that was gone and she didnt know how she could possibly fit into this world. She had watched Inez at the wedding, so confident, so sure of herself and her love for the handsome man with the easy smile. For five years, Angelina hadnt been around a man for more than a few minutes. She avoided them as often as she could. The one in the red coat today was the only one, besides her brother-in-law, that she had smiled at in such a long, long time.
Inez came back into the parlor. She had the baby on her shoulder, gently patting his back. Angelina watched her sister and felt envious. She looked so content, so at ease. The raven haired beauty wished that sometime in her life, she could find the same contentment.
Inez looked at her sister. Seeing her now, she couldnt help but feel that the girl was broken somehow. Something was wrong with her, perhaps it had always been that way. Inez remembered back to when they were children. Angelina was always more withdrawn than her older sister. She had been satisfied to sit on the sidelines, watching the other children play but she had been quick to smile, her eyes alight with love and life. She had the sweetest singing voice and had sung at church in the childrens choir. Now, she sat, locked in her silent world, never participating, never even looking on. For the hundredth time, Inez wondered what had happened to change her younger sister.
"Would you like to hold your nephew, Angel? His name is John, actually Ezra John, but he likes to be called Johnny. Buck has him spoiled rotten already. He has just eaten his fill and is ready for sleep." Inez held out her son to her sister.
Tentatively, Angelina held out her arms and when the baby was placed in them, she smiled. She held the tiny boy close and gazed into his peaceful face. It was love at first sight and she felt her heart lighten a little. She sat back and closed her eyes.
Mary carried a tray of tea and cookies into the parlor and saw the look of love on the young womans face. She smiled at her friend as she set the tray on the corner table. "I think you found the answer to your problem, Inez. I do believe that Angelina can take good care of John while you work. It will give her a purpose and make her feel needed." Mary patted her swelling belly. "I hope I can find someone to help me when this one makes his appearance."
The ladies talked for awhile, glancing at Angelina every so often. The young Mexican simply sat holding the baby as he slept. She never touched her tea or showed an interest in the conversation of the other two. She simply held on to the warm defenseless infant who seemed to know he was with family.
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