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Thread: Ransom

  1. #1
    Registered User DRayVan's Avatar
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    Ransom

    The darkening clouds meant a change in the weather, and Jesse Cooper could feel the worst was coming. On the heels of the obscured sun, a cool, north wind whipped up and was beginning to blow with a vengeance. He had been riding for more than a week across the plains of the Colorado Territory heading west to La Font in the foothills of James Peak. Now, he looked for shelter until the storm passed but could only find a gully in the otherwise flat, open plain.

    After a cold, miserable night and little sleep, the rising sun and cloudless skies were a welcome sight. Jesse saddled up and continued his trek toward the mountains, looming large on the horizon--two day’s ride, he reckoned. Hopes of employment at the Bucking-R cattle ranch spurred him on. The ranch was the largest in these parts, and Jesse was confident they always needed help--at least, he hoped they did. Luck had turned a blind his way, lately, and he needed a break to get back on his feet.

    One day out, he rode through small herds of cattle crazing on scattered patched of grass. The Bucking-R brand meant he was now on the largest ranch in these parts, but he still had a ways to go before reaching the main ranch-house. The terrain turned to soft, rolling hills and deep cut gullies where streams had cut into the soil.

    Jesse stopped at a stream for a drink of cool water. As his horse ate nearby grass and washed it down, he peeked over the ridge. In the distance, three men were chasing a rider--a young man, he guessed. Although he was keeping pace, the rider zigged and zagged to avoid obstacles. Jesse wondered how long he could keep this up before they gained on him. He retrieved his rifle, took aim, and shot the hat off the lead pursuer. All three pulled up and halted. Without giving them a chance to reconnoiter, Jesse shot the hat off the next man. They drew their weapons and dropped flat to the ground. Meanwhile, the young rider turned and made for Jesse at full gallop.

    The horse jumped into the gully, stumbled, and threw its rider into the water. The rider was soaking wet but stood and thanked Jesse for stopping trailing men. “You’re a godsend, mister,” a soprano voice said.

    Stunned at the high-pitched sounding gratitude, Jesse turned and looked at the rider. The wet shirt was clinging like a second skin. No man he’d ever met filled a shirt like that... Or ever looked so pretty... “You’re welcome, ma’am... err... miss. You’ll have to excuse me, though, while I tend to business.”

    Jesse peeked over the edge. One man circled to his left, one circled to his right, and the other stayed put. He took aim on the left man and waited until he got a clear bead on his legs... And fired.

    “Jake! Jake, I’ma hit,” yelled the man. He rolled over, grabbed his leg, and shimmied behind a small bush.

    “How bad it be, Virgil?” Jake yelled back.

    “Flesh wound. I’ll be alright.” Virgil took his kerchief and tied it around his leg.

    Jesse took a bead on the left man, and when his arms and shoulders were exposed, he fired.

    “Jake, he winged me, too,” bellowed the man. “This plan of yours is goin’ to Hell inna handbasket.”

    “Shut up, Theo. I got more brains than you and Virgil put together, so stop thinking on yer own. Only leads to trouble. Both of you come on back whiles I rethink this here plan.”

    Virgil and Theo crawled to Jake, and they dropped into a gully where Jesse couldn’t see them any longer. Jesse turned his attention to the young woman crouched nearby, shivering and her lips turning blue.

    “Don’t you have a coat, miss?”

    “N-No, I don’t.” She was rubbing her arms across her chest.

    Jesse took off his coat and handed it to her. “Here, take mine.”

    With a shaky hand, she reached out to take it. “Thank you, kindly.”

    Jesse looked over the ridge. “We can’t stay here.” He looked back to the woman. “They’ll recover soon and be on us.”

    She pointed southwest. “Daddy has a cabin about three miles or so toward that crop of trees.”

    * * * *

    Jesse dropped the saddlebags on the floor. “Can you build a fire?”

    The woman stood with her hands on her hips. “Of course I can. Who do you think I am, some silly, know-nothing girl?”

    Jesse shook his head. “Sorry, Missy. No offense intended.” Jesse looked out the window facing the trail. “It’s that I’m just tense from the shootout, and I reckon they’ll be a-comin’ this aways once they tend to their wounds.” He turned back to her. “What they chasin’ you fer?”

    “Ransom.”

    Puzzled, Jesse said, “Ransom? Speak plainer, Missy. My ears and brain are still ringing from all the shooting. What you mean, ransom?”

    The woman gathered kindling for a fire. “Those bastards figured to capture and hold me for ransom. That plain enough for you?”

    “Who are you that yer worth a ransom?”

    She looked up. “Carrie James.”

    Shocked, Jesse asked, “James? Is yer paw Ernest James?”

    She nodded, “One in the same.”

    “Owner of the Bucking-R ranch?”

    She nodded, again. “Yep. Why you ask?”

    Jesse looked out the window, again. “I was heading there looking fer work.”

    She returned to the fire-making task. “If you get me out of the mess, you’ll have the best job Daddy has to offer.”

    “I’d try my best even if you ‘tweren’t a James, just a plain Carrie.”

    Carrie stood, warming her hands. “F-Fire’s going. Soon as I dry out, you can have your coat back.”

    “Keep it as long as you like. Any food in this cabin?”

    “Sometimes there is. I’ll check…” Carrie rummaged through cabinets and shelves. “No, we’re out of luck.”

    “Ain’t got none with me, neither. Fastin’ never hurt anybody for a few hours.”

    “It’ll help me keep my figure.” Carrie stood in front of the fire, pressed on her belly, and chuckled, nervously.

    Jesse looked out the window. “Well, we wouldn’t have time to eat, anyway. I see them a-comin up the trail.”

    Carrie came over to see. “What you gonna do?”

    Jesse looked at Carrie, and said, “Sorry, Carrie, but I need my coat. I’m gonna try and pick one or two of them off before they get organized for an assault.”

    Carrie handed the coat to Jesse. “Here. Be careful… I never got your name, fella.”

    Jesse put on the coat. “Jesse. Jesse Cooper.”

    She put her hands on his arms and looked longingly in his eyes. “Take care, Jesse Cooper.”

    He smiled. “I will. Keep the fire burnin’.” He turned to leave. “I’ll be a might bit cold when I return.”

    She lifted her hand in a semi-wave. “Do return, Jesse. Please.”

    * * * *

    Jesse edged through the thickets, using trees and boulders for cover, until he was within earshot of the men.

    “Ya got a plan, Jake?” asked Virgil.

    “Shut yer trap whiles I’ma thinkin’,” said Jake.

    “Without a plan, we’s gonna get real hurt this time. That cowboy knows we’s were after that girl, and he’s gonna protect her, whatever it takes,” said Theo.

    “Damn, Theo. You actually put two thoughts together,” said Jake. “and they were good ones, too.”

    “Thanks, Jake.”

    “All right. Here’s the plan…”

    Jake never finished telling the others his plan: a rifle slug tore through his right eye and exploded out the back of his skull just as the muzzle sound reached their ears. Theo and Virgil hit to ground, weapons drawn. Jesse fired again, hitting Theo in his neck. Theo fell back, clutching his throat. Virgil stood to return fire, but Jesse had already cocked his rifle and squeezed the trigger.

    Virgil spun around as the bullet entered and exploded his heart. He grasped his chest as if he could stop the bleeding, but when he slumped to the ground, he was dead. Theo was on all fours, holding his neck with one hand and searching for his weapon with the other. A rifle shot echoed through the trees, and Theo collapsed on the ground.

    Jesse’s heart hammered, his hands shook, and he was weak from head to toe. He’d just killed three men, the first ever, and he was sick. Leaning over, he retched, empting his stomach contents. After he regained his composure, he checked their saddlebags for food--nothing, he’d eat--and took their canteens. He went to the stream, rinsed out his mouth, and then drank deeply. After filling the canteens, he headed back to the cabin.

    All the while, Carrie was pacing and wringing her hands. She’d heard the rifle shots but didn’t know if they were all Jesse’s or not. She’d hoped they were, but he’d been gone so long. Wouldn’t he come right back after the last shot if he could, she thought. Maybe, he’s wounded and needs my help. Her anxiety increased with each passing minute.

    Then she heard boot-steps on the hard ground. She looked for a weapon and spied a branding iron in the corner. Holding it high over her head, she waited near the door for the intruder. Jesse opened the door and stepped inside. In the light from the fire, Carrie recognized him and dropped the iron.

    Rushing to his side, she said, “Jesse. Jesse, I was so worried something happened to you. Did you get hurt?”

    Jesse shook his head. “Nope. Not a scratch.”

    “What about them?”

    “Dead.”

    Carrie’s eyes were wide. “All three?”

    Jesse nodded. “Yep. All three. Worm bait fer sure.”

    “Tell me about it.”

    He shook his head. “I’d rather not, just the same, Missy.”

    “First killings?”

    He nodded, again. “Might say so.”

    Carrie led him to the fireplace. “Come here, Jesse. Let me sooth your troubled soul.” Carrie put her arms around Jesse’s waist, pressed her ample self against his chest, and nestled the side of her head on his shoulder.

    Jesse let the canteens drop to the floor and put his arms around her. “I-I brought fresh water…”

    Carrie squiggled against him to be more comfortable.

    “What ya doing?”

    She squiggled some more. “With your muscles as big as they are and me as big as I am, I had to do a little shifting so we’d fit closer. Do you mind?”

    He shook his head. “Not at all, Missy. Not at all.”

    She looked into his eyes. “My name’s Carrie, not Missy.”

    He smiled. “Okay, so it’s Carrie from now on. As much as I’ma enjoying this, what’s yer plan to get home?”

    She leaned on his shoulder, again. “It’s too dark to travel, so we’ll have to hold up here for the night a ride out at daybreak.”

    Carrie was holding Jesse tighter than ever.

    “That’s a good plan, but where’s this a-goin’?”

    She look at him and smiled. “What ‘this’?”

    “You holding me so tight and everything.”

    She put her head back. “I’m just beholding to you, Jesse. And we James pay our debts.”

    “That’s good business practice and a good reason to work for yer paw.”

    She looked into his eyes, again. “I’m not talking about my paw, Jesse. I’m talking about me.”

    “I must have rifles shots on my brain ‘cause you ain’t comin’ through plain.”

    She grinned. “Is this plain enough: you can have your way with me on that bed in return for saving my life.”

    An expression of surprise swept over Jesse’s face. “You mean…”

    Carrie nodded. “That’s exactly what I mean.”

    He shook his head. “Now, looky here, Missy. No need fer you to do that. Lord knows, I’d give a month’s pay just to see someone as pretty as you, but think of what yer suggestin’. How could we ever face each other at the ranch? I’ma gonna pass on yer invite, in spite of how much I want to take you up on it.”

    “You sure, Jesse.”

    “Ya don’t make it easy, woman… But I’ll stand my ground on this one.”

    Carrie put her arms around Jesse’s neck and kissed him.

    “What’s that fer?”

    “For not taking advantage of me.”

    “You could kiss me again.”

    “I’ll do one better.” Carrie unbuttoned Jesse’s shirt and ran her fingers through his sparse chest hair. When she found his nipples, she rubbed them until they hardened. “How’s that feel?”

    “W-Wonderful.”

    Carrie unbuttoned her shirt, as well, and pressed her unsupported self against him. Her hot, moist lips met his, and they kissed.

    “Take your hands and gently squeeze them… Feel how hard the tips are getting.”

    Jesse felt parts of him getting hard, as well, so he broke away from the embrace.

    “What’s wrong, Jesse. Don’t you like this?”

    “The trouble is, I like it too much, and I’ma about to renege and take yer offer of a reward. But I know that ain’t right. So forgive me, Missy. I gotta stop right now whiles I can.”

    “Jesse, you’re quite the special man. Most wouldn’t have passed on the offer, and I almost could love you for that. At least, I do respect your convictions.”

    “The sooner I return you home, the better off I’ll be: job or no job.”

    “Don’t worry about a job, Jesse. When my paw hears what you did to save me, he’ll pay his debts, handsomely.”

    “Right now, my only concern is getting you home, safely.”

    Carrie looked at him. “Can we at least snuggle in front of the fire?”

    Jesse nodded. “Whatever you want, Darlin’.”

    “Darlin’? Not Missy?”

    “You kissed me, didn’t you?”

    “I guess I did.”

    Jesse put a couple of logs on the fire while Carrie spread quilts and pillows from the bed on the floor. After taking off her boots, she crawled under the covers. Jesse unbuckled his gun belt and let it drop to the floor, and removed his boots. He turned toward Carrie.

    In the glow of the fire, Carrie ample chest stood firm, and rose and fell with every breath. The sparkle in her eyes reflected the fire as she watched Jesse’s every move. Jesse slipped under the covers next to her, his heart hammering.

    “W-Won’t you get cold exposed like that, Darlin’?”

    “No more than you will, Hun. I’ll cover later. Meanwhile, thought you’d like to look some more and touch if you’d like. I like seeing and touching you.”

    “I’d better not touch just look.”

    Carrie rolled toward Jessie and kissed him. “I think I do love you, Jesse.”

    “Let’s see how you feel in the morning, Darlin’. Better sleep fer now.”

    Jesse pulled the covers up around Carrie’s neck and his, as well. She snuggled closer to him and pressed herself against him. “This’ll keep me warm.”

    “Hope so, Darlin’.”

    * * * *

    Morning broke with a light frost on the ground and the fire out. Jesse was the first to stir, and he got a roaring fire going. Carrie gathered the bedding tight to herself and opened one eye to watch Jesse at work by the hearth.

    “Mornin’, Darlin’”

    Carrie sat up. “Darlin’? I’m no one’s Darlin’,” she said as she buttoned her shirt.

    “Sorry, Missy. Slip of the tongue.”

    Standing, she said, “Round these parts, I’m Miss James or Miss Carrie. I like Carrie best.”

    “Yes, Miss Carrie.”

    She gathered up the bedding and gave them a toss. “How soon can we ride? My paw must be sick with worry.”

    “Right away. I’ll dowse the fire, then we can ride.”

    She put on her boots. “Good.”

    “One question, Miss Carrie.”

    She turned to Jesse. “What’s that?”

    “What would you have done if I’d taken advantage of you last night?”

    She looked away and tucked her shirt in her slacks. “Had some of my paw’s wranglers taken care of you, permanent-like.”

    “Then, it was the best decision I ever made.”

    She turned her head toward Jesse. “Yes, it was, and you’ll get a good job, to boot. I do like you, Jesse, but you’ll be a hired hand, and I’m the owner’s daughter. It just wouldn’t work.”

    He shook his head. “No, I guess it wouldn’t.”

    Jesse put out the fire, saddled up, and Miss Carrie led the way to her ranch. As they rode, Jesse wondered if he could work on the Bucking-R, knowing Miss Carrie was there, and he would see her occasionally. He didn’t realize it last night, but he’d fallen in love with her… Head over heels in love, and he couldn’t do anything about it.

  2. #2
    TheFairyDogMother kiz_paws's Avatar
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    Loved it!
    You are a great story teller, keep 'em coming!
    Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty
    ~Albert Einstein

  3. #3
    Registered User DRayVan's Avatar
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    Thanks, Kiz. Glad you liked my story.

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