“Not sure, Miss Candy, fella rode up a while back had an Injun with him, Sioux, by the look.”
Candy shook the mass of her dark hair away from her face, gave Pete a grin and a, “Thank you.” and headed inside the house.
She strolled unannounced into the library, “Angus, damn it; watch your blood pressure!” She popped a quick kiss on the top of his balding head and helped herself to a shot of whiskey from the bottle on his desk. Then she turned and waited for Angus to calm down enough to make the introductions.
“Candy don’t cuss, you know it ain’t fittin’ for a lady!”
“Then stop givin’ me reasons to, you cantankerous old coot!”
That set Angus in to a fit of laughter and coughing. While he was busy recovering, Candy strode over to the two other occupants of the room extending her hand, “Candy McAllister, and you are?”
The tall man smiled and shook her hand firmly, “Travis, Ma’am.” His companion looked a little uncertain, but Candy paid no attention to his uncertainty, she held her hand out and asked, “And you, Sir?”
The Indian shook her hand … “Billy, if you please, Ma’am, I like to be called Billy.”
She smiled and said, “Then, Billy it is.”
“So gentlemen, will somebody please tell me what all this fussin’ is about, or do I get to ask a whole bunch of useless questions?
“Sit down young-un and listen; try not to interrupt till I’m done. Pour yourself another drink.” Angus had a worried sound to his voice.
“Fine. Gentlemen would you care for another?” She asked as she held up the whiskey bottle.
They both declined. She helped herself to a generous amount.
When she'd seated herself, she caught a movement off to her left, she drew her gun so fast, no one else had a chance to react.
She holstered it just as quickly when she realized that the movement came from the biggest, blackest, scariest-looking dog she had ever seen.
“Well I’ll be damned, what the hell sort of dog are you, boy?” She sat down on the floor and slowly extended her hand as the horse-size animal came over to investigate. It sniffed at the proffered hand and wagged its long tail, gave her a lick of approval and dropped, draping itself over the tall man’s boots.
“Well now—you are privileged, Miss Candy—I don’t believe I’ve ever seen ‘Bear’ do that before! He normally takes off the arm with the gun, not licks it?”
“Bear huh? Damned good name, what breed is he?”
“Well I’m figurin’ he’s a quarter mountain lion, a quarter horse, and half a grizzly, but that’s only on his good days.” Travis laughed at her expression.
Candy took a closer look at the man who belonged to that laugh. The body wasn’t hard on the eyes, he was a tall one, broad of shoulder and she’d bet he was narrow in the hip. She’d just have to wait till he stood up to confirm those thoughts. When her gaze lifted to his eyes she found them fixed on her face, and could feel the flush rising in her cheeks. He gave a slow smile, and turned his attention back to Angus.
“Well, you gonna tell her or am I, Angus, she has a right to be told.”
“Damn you, Travis, I will, it’s just—hell, it ain’t easy you know.”
“What ain’t easy? What do I have a right to know? Will somebody tell me what in tarnation is goin’ on here?”
“All right, young-un, settle down now; it’s time you found out anyways. Billy here, is ‘Lakota Sioux’ ... he found a badly injured Sioux woman out by Crystal Rapids a couple of days back. She’d been shot and was in a real bad way. Before the woman passed on, she gave Billy some information about a small, dark-haired girl that she’d hidden about fifteen years back when her folks was bein’—when her folks was bein’ killed!”
“Crystal Rapids! God damn it, Angus—were they my folks? Was that girl, me? God in heaven, was they my kin? Who murdered ‘em--Injuns?
“Hush up girl, let me finish. First up--they wasn’t Injun’s!
Candy had the grace to blush, she turned apologetically to Billy, “Damn, sorry Billy, I shouldna just assumed that, I apologize.”
Billy looked into her face, “You have a temper that speaks before wisdom, Miss Candy--I accept your apology.”
“Thanks, Billy. Now you better fill me in and fast, Angus, before I jump to any more wrong conclusions.”
“The current owner of that huge ranch out by Crystal Rapids has always claimed to have won the deeds fair and square in a poker game, in Deadwood. Billy’s m … the Sioux woman said different, she said that these ol’ boys followed a young couple and their wagon, out of town. She was out gathering willow bark down by the water; them ol’ boys didn’t know she was there, not at first.”
He looked at Candy’s sweet face, “I’m so sorry, young-un, apparently the headman pulled over the wagon; he held a gun to the woman’s head and threatened to shoot her if’n the man didn’t sign over those land deeds. He signed--then they killed him.
“They hadn’t noticed the child in back of the wagon. But the Sioux woman did, she saw the child, and grabbed her, hushed her to stay quiet and laid down with her in the scrub. She figured the men would move on, after they’d ….”
“After they what? Damn it to hell, Angus, tell me!”
“They did terrible things, Candy. Things no decent man would ever do, and then—and then they shot your momma, threw her in the wagon and set it on fire.”
Candy sat numbed by what she was hearing, “But, what—what happened? Where did the woman, what did she do, with me, I mean?”
“Apparently you cried out when you saw your Momma, when you saw her get shot! The headman came lookin’, he would have killed you, young-un. The Indian woman stood up, and let them think it was her that had screamed. She let ‘em think it was her--to save you, Candy.”
‘Oh mercy—oh no! What did they do? Tell me what did they do to her?”
Angus hesitated again, Candy caught the look he gave Billy and Travis. “What ain’t you sayin’? C’mon damnit! Please, what happened?”
Billy surprised her by saying, “They took her, Miss Candy. She was a beautiful young woman, they took her, and kept her as a …! They kept her all those years.”
“Oh, oh--no! Oh my Lord, that woman, she—they, I’m so sorry—so, so sorry!”
“Poor woman. It seems like a couple days back she saw the owner, Ike Claybourne, shoot one of his partner’s in the back. Seems the man got greedy. He threatened to go to the sheriff in Deadwood and tell him all about the couple Claybourne had killed all those years ago; if Claybourne didn’t sign over a half share of the ranch. Claybourne, agreed, then the damn coward shot his partner in the back.
“The Indian woman knew she’d be next; she was the only witness still alive to say anything, she tried to get away. He shot her. He must have figured she was dead. Poor soul, she lived long enough to mount a pony and head towards her village, that’s when Billy here found her.
“Well—you know the rest, honey. I found you, all those years ago, wanderin’ around out there. You could barely talk. I found what was left of the wagon, then I bundled you up and took you to the Doc in Deadwood. The Sheriff and me, rode back out together, I left you in town with the Doc and his Missus.
“Seems like the young fella--your Pa--had been talkin’ up a storm at the saloon about comin’ into a whole mess of land, out near Crystal Rapids. We couldn’t identify nothin’ honey, weren’t nothin’ left. I brought you back here, and I adopted you all legal. We have never had a lead on what may have happened to your folks, till now.”
“How, how did you make the connection? Billy, how did you know about me?”
Travis spoke up, “Candy—Billy and I both worked as scouts. Angus here, was the best CO we ever had. We went our separate ways, but Billy and I worked together for a couple different outfits, and I had heard that Angus had found a youngster and had adopted her. Billy and I met up over near Deadwood a couple of days back, he told me about the Sioux woman, about her bein’ his m ... and, and--what she told him. I remembered what I had heard about Angus and the child, and well, here we are.”
Everyone looked at Candy. Her eyes were full of tears and somethin’ else—raw hatred. She excused herself and left the room. The dog, at a soft command from Travis, followed her outside.
Candy had gone on down by the creek and was sitting looking at nothing, while the tears slid unchecked down her face. The large animal seated himself next to her and she absently stroked his head, it gave her comfort, she took all he had to give of it--and then some.
Travis, came out to the porch and stood watching from a distance. Candy was a feisty little thing, and too damn beautiful for her own good. Angus had warned him about her pig-headed temper. If this plan was going to work, he’d have to stop her from killing everyone in sight when they got to The Crystal Rapids Ranch.
Candy stood up, then bent and gave Bear a hug. She straightened her shoulders and flicked back her mane of hair. When she strutted up to Travis, she was clearly still very angry, “So, where do you fit in all of this? Are you really a friend of Angus’s--or a hired gun?”
“I hire my gun hand to no man—or woman. I am a friend to Angus. I owe him a debt. This, will repay it in full.”
“Me and Billy, are going over to the Crystal Rapid’s spread. We aim to get that deed, and trace your remainin’ kin.”
“What about the owner, and the other mangy dogs that did this thing to my folks, and that brave woman who saved me? That son-of-a-bitch—Claybourne! What are ya gonna do with them, huh?”
“We are aiming to let the Sheriff do his job on that one, Candy.”
“No—no—not a chance, I want ‘em dead. I want ‘em screamin’ for their damned lives and begin' for mercy—before I shoot ‘em. Don’t you and Billy get in my way—you hear me? They are gonna bleed for what they done. Slowly!”
“That’s exactly what Angus figured you would want to do—I aim to keep you from doin’ that Candy, and from gettin’ yourself killed in the process.”
“Did, Angus tell you that I can out-shoot, and out-ride, just about any man?”
“Yup, he also mentioned that you can out-cuss most of us.
“I need you to calm down and listen up now, Candy. I know you love that old man like a father. Doncha see—it would be the death of him if anythin’ were to happen to you. So I am tellin’ you--come with us, but--understand this, unless they draw down on you first; you are to keep those damned guns of yours holstered. If you can’t agree to that—and give me your word on it—then you stay right here. Understood?”
“What in hell makes you think my words good?” Candy fairly spat the words at him, her green eyes flashing fire.
“I trust Angus with my life, plus … Bear likes you, I’ve never known him to take a shine to anyone that can’t be trusted.”
“Okay, I’ll give you my word. I will not draw on these sons a bitches, unless they are facing me with a gun in their hands—that’s it. I will promise you that only—understood?” She parroted his word back at him, then stormed inside to talk to Angus.
“Candy?” He called after her. “We leave first light tomorrow. Angus, will fill you in on the plan. If you own any fancy female duds—bring ‘em with you. That’s if you know how to wear ‘em.” He was laughing as he headed off with Bear to find Billy.
Angus, was still sitting behind his desk in the library, Candy walked in and put her arms around his neck. “I love you, you ol’ reprobate—like you are my Pa, you know that. So don’t be worryin’ none about losin’ me. I gave Travis my word. No shootin’ unless they draw first. Now, fill me in on this here plan; ‘cause I got to go and pack me some fancy assed female duds.”
“You and Travis are gonna dress up all proper and rich lookin’. You are gonna make this Claybourne varmint an offer on the ranch—he would be a damned fool to refuse. It’s gonna be more money than he’s ever seen. The deeds will have to be handed over—and then we have him, soon as we can contact your kinfolk, and get proof that your folks was headin’ out to homestead the place. Seems that nobody in Deadwood recalls much about your folks—but they know Claybourne, he never won a hand of poker in his life.”
Candy had to agree it was a smart plan. She gave it more thought as she lay awake that night, waiting for the dawn. Candy had given Travis her word that Claybourne would have to draw first ... she smiled to herself in the darkness; she had said nothing about provoking that Claybourne son-of-a-bitch into drawing his gun. She was downstairs, mounted and packed to leave, before either Travis or Billy made an appearance.
“You said your goodbyes to Angus?” Travis asked.
“Done, let’s head out. I don’t wanna waste any more time.”
Travis gave her a long steady look, decided something, and said, “Okay, we go. Bear!” He gave a shrill whistle, the huge dog ran to join them. “Billy is gonna follow up behind us with the wagon. I figure on us reachin’ Deadwood sometime tomorrow afternoon. Let’s get it done.”
The trip through the Black hills of Dakota was uneventful, the wonderful scenery and their own thoughts kept it mostly silent. Candy looked around her and drew in a deep breath of the pine scented air. "No wonder the injuns fight so fierce to hold onto this land, I don't understand why some people just don't understand that." Travis nodded thoughtfully before replying,"You do love it--the land ... don't you? I ain't met too many woman who feel so strong about it." "You been, hangin' round the wrong sorta women I figure." "Oh, just what would be the right sorta women, in your opinion?" "Ain't it time we gave these horses a spell?" Asked Candy, deftly changing the subject. They took a break, and rested themselves and the horses—Billy joined them a while later, and Bear climbed into the wagon to ride free the rest of the way. Sundown found them about half a day’s journey out of Deadwood. They made camp, and settled down to get some shut-eye.
The campfire was welcome as the night air turned cool. Travis handed Candy a flask of whiskey. She took a long swig, and passed it across to Billy who declined with a smile.
Candy settled down to sleep; unaware of the time Travis spent looking at her in the light from the fire, or the tenderness that softened his rugged features.
Travis watched the firelight flicker across her beautiful face. She was really something, this girl; she had gotten under his skin faster than any woman had ever done. She was fire and ice, passion and a whole lot more besides. He had never let any woman close, and no other woman he’d ever met made him smile in total understanding of her moods the way this one did.
“She’s a nice lady—hey, my friend?” asked Billy.
“Didn’t realize you was there, Billy. Yeah, she’s somethin’ ain’t she?”
Billy gave his friend a knowing grin and said, “I’m thinkin’ this one’s kinda special, different to most of ‘em. She got you thinkin’ about maybe settlin’ down some, Travis?”
“Me—settlin’ down—now that’s just plain foolishness my friend—ain’t gonna happen!”
“What’s uh-huh, supposed to mean--?”
“Oh—nuthin’, Travis, just—uh-huh.” Billy, laughed out loud, then settled himself down for a nap. Travis took first watch. Billy relieved him just on sun-up.
The ground was shakin’ underneath them, both Travis and Candy awoke, “What in the hell? Sounds like a buffalo stampede. Billy, what’s happenin’? Is it a stampede?”
“No, we got company, riders-many riders!”
“What the hell—from the Fort, Billy?”
“No—Indians—my people, many tribes, all Sioux … don’t look good, Travis.”
“You hear anything about a pow-wow, or somethin’?”
“No, we have a new Lakota chief—‘Tatanka Ilyoanka’, Sitting Bull. He has been tryin’ to unite all the Sioux people into one nation. I have been away from the village since I found … since I found ‘White Dove'.”
“Yeah, I understand. This Sitting Bull, he’s a strong medicine man too, ain’t he? Seems I heard tell about some new General out to the Fort, can’t remember his name though. He wears a buckskin I heard, over his uniform. New blood, every time the damn fool government sends another one out here trouble starts. I don’t get it? Why don’t they just leave you folks the hell alone?”
“You wanna join up with ‘em, Billy, you go on ahead, they’s your people, I understand that!”
“Somethin’ big happenin’ Travis, this could be real bad. I saw Red Cloud and Crazy Horse; they never ride together. Sitting Bull, must have got ‘em riled up enough not to kill each other.”
“Which way were they headin’, any ideas?”
“Not sure—could be the village near Little Big Horn River. You and Miss Candy, better get some good cover, and stay right here. Travis, I am gonna ride out, see what I can find.”
“There ain’t no towns, twixt here and the river, and they is headin’ away from the Fort, maybe just a big pow-wow. You think, maybe—Billy?”
“Travis—no women, no children, only warriors. Painted-warriors. I don’t think its good Travis.”
“Billy, you are my friend. You do what you think is right! I’ll never sit in judgment, you know that.”
Billy, nodded. It was understood. He unhitched his paint from the rear of the wagon, “Travis, there is a cave about four hours on, in the wall of the canyon. Good place for you, for you and Miss Candy, fresh water stream runs through it. It looks back down the trail, gives you a clear field of shootin’. It’s big enough to take the wagon. Go there my friend, it will be—maybe--all right!”
Travis shook his hand, “Go do what needs to be done, my friend.”
“You, you and Miss Candy, be well.”
Candy had been watching events unfold, she could feel the sadness in these two men. She wondered to herself if they would ever see, Billy, again.
“Billy!” She called, “Take care now!”
The man, nodded without speaking and urged his paint on.
Candy, wanted to say something, anything to take that look of loss from Travis’s face. She knew in the way that woman have always known, that no words would help. She reached over and squeezed his hand, tight. And then busied herself with cleaning up any trace of them from the campsite.
Travis grabbed a branch and covered their footprints down to the wagon, couldn’t erase the wagon’s tread, but no one would know how many of them there were. Bear clambered down from the wagon, had a quick feed, and without any need to be told, the huge dog headed up the trail.
They waited in silence, till the dust cloud from all the riders settled. When the time seemed right they headed on out. Maybe an hour from the cave a shot rang out--echoing of the canyon walls.
“Down!” Yelled Travis, but Candy was already off the wagon and rolling underneath it.
“Did you see where it came from?” She asked.
“I think up there on that ridge, to the west.”
Bear, came running back in and under the wagon. “Good boy-good Bear. Lay down now.”
“Cover me, I’m gonna move the horses outta clear sight, under those trees. Ready? Now--Candy!”
She let loose a barrage of shots towards the ridge, using her handguns; hopefully, whoever was up there would think they had more than just the two of them to deal with.
“How many you figure, Travis?” She asked as he threw himself back under cover.
“Not sure, not too many I don’t think—maybe a couple of stragglers. They got rifles damnit, someone has been sellin’ ‘em rifles again.”
“What are they after, the horses, you think?”
“Don’t know Candy—these people been treated mighty bad, they may be angry enough to kill us, just because it’s been done so often to them!”
“Well, we got plenty of ammunition, long as they don’t keep us holed up here too long.”
“They will probably wait till nightfall, and then try takin’ us. They are mighty skilled, and quiet. You doin’ all right girl?”
“Me—I’m scared to death, but geez, Travis, thanks for askin’?” Candy gave him a smile.
Right there and then Travis knew in his soul that if he had to die, being here with this woman, it will have been worth the dyin’. “Candy—remind me to ask you somethin’ after we get ourselves outta this little fix, all right?”
“Little fix huh? Okay—I’ll remind you.”
They lay side by side, and watched the shadows lengthen. The darkness wrapped itself tight around the canyon.
Bear, raised his head--without making a sound.
“We got company comin’ … you ready?”
“That’s my girl.”
The first shot came from behind them; the Indians must have worked their way around the ridge. They had at least one behind them and two in front.
Travis spun around and fired at the same time. The Indian screamed and fell forward.
Candy, was using both six guns. She hit one with a head shot, he went backwards, and then dropped.
She heard another sound behind her, she didn’t have time to look. She made out another two of them coming toward the wagon. Bear came out of nowhere, and launched at one of them, she wouldn’t forget the strangled cry of the warrior as the beast tore out his throat.
“Candy, behind you--look out! No, you don’ … !” She heard Travis scream the warning, then the gunshot and Travis dropped down beside her. The Indian was almost on top of them, she fired point blank. His face disappeared.
It was quiet and still. Bear came over and whimpered softly as he nudged Travis.
“Travis—I think we got ‘em all. Oh thank God, we got ‘em, Travis, we got ‘em. Travis? Damnit, Travis, don’t play games with me!
“Oh no—please God—no. Travis, talk to me, damn you!”
Candy moved quickly and turned Travis over. He had a bullet hole in his chest, it went clear through, looks like he’d taken it through the back.
She looked at him, praying as she did, “Don’t you dare be dead. You can’t be dead. I won’t let you, God damn you, Travis!”
She listened to his chest, he was breathing. Not well, but--still breathing. She looked around her, laying his head gently on the ground. Bandages, she had to stop that bleeding, fast.
Candy scrambled into the wagon, found a flask of whiskey, and a hunting knife. She stripped a couple of her fancy petticoats, and grabbed Travis’s lantern and headed back under the wagon. “Bear, you’ll have to be a good boy, I’m gonna have to hurt him, to save him. I hope to hell, you understand what I’m doin’ boy.” She poured some whiskey on the wound, which caused Travis to moan. “I’m sorry, Travis—this is gonna hurt like crazy, but it’s gotta be done.”
“Bear, don’t let him move too much, I gotta get a fire started fast.”
The animal seemed to understand, he laid himself across Travis’s lower body, and stayed there.
The fire didn’t take too long; she placed the knife across two pieces of green wood and let it heat.
The bandages were soaked in blood--Candy knew she had to hurry; else she was going to lose him. The knife began to glow red-hot.
She stripped another heap of clean linen, and soaked one in whiskey, cleaning the wound and pouring some around it, and into Travis’s mouth. “No time--the bullets gone clean through. Bear, I gotta do this boy.” She placed a wad of whiskey soaked linen in Travis’s mouth, grabbed the knife with another so she could hold it steady. She counted to three, and put the hot metal over the wound. Travis screamed once.
Candy had to repeat the procedure on the exit wound. Thanking her stars that Bear lay watching her quietly. This time Travis made no sound. He was breathing, just.
She finished what had to be done, bound the wound again firmly and placed a blanket around Travis to keep him warm. It was June 24th, a summer night. Thanking the Lord for small mercies, she was glad of the warmth. She knew Travis’s loss of blood, and the shock of the injury was his biggest threat now.
“Bear, we got to find that cave, boy. I gotta get him under shelter, were I can get to water. This has gotta stay clean.” Bear, got up slowly from Travis’s legs, gave Candy a look and licked her face. Then headed out into the darkness.
Candy, struggled with Travis’s limp body and managed to get him in the back of the wagon.
She put out the fire, and clambered up, the horses were still a little spooked by the gunfire. She had no clear recollection of getting to the canyon wall; she realized that she was there, as Bear bounded over to her with a welcoming bark. “You clever-clever boy, did you find it Bear, did you find the cave?”
He barked again and ran up ahead; Candy could just make out an opening. After quickly checking on Travis, she headed up on foot, making certain the path was wide enough to take the wagon. Satisfied that it would she urged the horses on, finally making it to the cave entrance as the sun began to rise, on the morning of June 25th, 1875.
Travis was still unconscious but breathing a little better. Bear, had long since checked out the cave. It didn’t appear to be occupied.
Candy built a fire, put water on to boil. She was shaking, and felt sick to her stomach.
She rolled herself a smoke, poured a large drink of whiskey, and cried like a baby.
For three days, Travis hung between life and death. Bear left his side only to fetch a drink of water from the stream; he barely ate the venison that Candy gave him.
She bathed the wound, and cleaned the surrounding area with whiskey, there was plenty of that, and food in the wagon.
Spooning mouthfuls of gruel into Travis’s mouth, bathing him with the cool water from the cave’s stream, and changing the crude bandages was all she could do.
On day three, she couldn’t keep her eyes open one more minute. Candy slept, laying alongside Travis, with Bear next to her. She opened her eyes, shocked that it was dark, and having no idea how long she’d slept. The fire was out, she hurriedly checked Travis. His breathing seemed a little easier. She stoked the fire back up, and realized that she was hungry. She fried up a mess of beans, and drank another whiskey. Just laying next to Travis, was comforting. Sleep claimed her again.
“Candy—Candy, wake up.”
Candy sat bolt upright … “Wha…? Travis, Oh God, Travis you are awake!” She kissed his face, small fast kisses, “Oh—you woke up, thank you, Lord.” She kissed him one more time, and burst into tears.
“Women just love to cry—hey Bear?”
“Why—you—you …!” He silenced her with a look.
The journey home was taken very slow and easy.
Angus greeted them with tears of relief and happiness. Angus recounted what he had heard about what had happened out by The Little Big Horn river. Seemed that that General Custer fella, had underestimated the numbers of Sioux real bad, got hisself and a whole lot of good men killed.
The ranch at Crystal Springs had been burned to the ground. Ike Claybourne was found outside with a Sioux lance skewering him to the ground.
“There weren’t nothin’ left of the place Candy—I’m sorry girl. Ain’t no way of findin’ your kinfolk without that damned deed?” Angus gave her another hug.
“I don’t need no other kin, Angus, I got you ain’t I, although you are a might ornery at times!”
The three of them sat outside on the porch, each caught up in their own thoughts, when Bear began barking and ran off towards the edge of the trees.
“God damnit—now what?” Travis stood up and grabbed the rifle from inside the door.
“Rider comin’ in, Injun by the look. He’s alone.”
Bear was running excitedly beside the painted pony.
“Only one other man Bear greets like that, it’s Billy!” Travis walked off the porch and was quickly joined by Angus and Candy.
Travis reached him first, “Billy! Damn it’s good to see ya, my friend, but what in hell are you doin’ here? Ain’t safe round these parts for you my friend, not after that fracas--at The Little Big-Horn!”
“Travis, Miss Candy, Angus, I’m not stayin’. I got somethin’ for ya, Miss Candy.” Billy reached inside his buckskins and withdrew a document, which he handed to Candy with a smile. “I made sure I got these first—ma’am.”
Candy took the documents from his hand, it was the deed to the land. “Oh, Billy—Billy, I—don’t know what to say. But, why? I don’t understand. You didn’t need do this—not for me leastways?”
Angus and Travis were both about to speak, when Billy cut in “It wasn’t just for you, Miss Candy. The Sioux woman, ‘White Dove’, she was my mother.”
“Oh … I…Billy, I am so, so sorry!”
“No need, it is done. I must go now, ma’am. Travis, Angus … be well my friends.” Candy took a step toward him, "Why, no—don't go--we’ll protect you here?”
Travis, put his hand on her arm to stop her. “Let it be, Candy. He has to go—it ain’t ever gonna be safe for him here no more. Let it be now.”
Travis spoke to his friend, “Billy, we thank you my friend, more than I can say! Where will you go?”
“My people have to move fast, Travis. I don’t know what is gonna happen now my friend, but I don’t think things can ever be the way they was.”
“Be well, my friend.”
“Just one thing before I leave, are you gonna ask her?” Billy smiled into Travis’s face. “Yep, thought ya might.” With that, he urged his paint around and with a last wave, he rode off.
Later that evening, Candy said an affectionate goodnight to Angus, and went in search of Travis, she found him standing out on the porch, sipping on a whiskey and smoking one of Angus’s cigars.
She took an appreciative breath, “I do love that smell.”
“Travis, you asked me to remind you—if we got outta that little-fix we was in, that you wanted to ask me somethin’. I get the feelin’ it has somethin’ to do with what Billy was smilin’ about?”
“Did I now?”
“Well, now I wonder what it could have been. Seems to have slipped my mind—with me bein’ near to death and all.”
“You keep that up Travis, you're gonna be a damn sight nearer to death!”
“I can think of no better way of going’! You’ll just have to marry me. I gotta marry ya girl! After all, we did spend three nights sleepin’ alongside each other in that cave!”
“I slept alongside Bear too, and I ain’t marryin’ him!”
“He can be my best man! But, I am gonna be your husband. Somebody’s gotta show ya how to be a female!” Travis silenced her retort with a long deep kiss.
“Why, Candy, honey, I do believe you are blushin’.”