The woman laughed as she cantered the white horse around in circles.
He couldn't see her face, but he knew she was beautiful. He watched her
and smiled. Just then, the sky turned black, and the wind picked up.
In the distance there was a man riding a black horse. He stopped about
thirty yards away from the woman, who had stopped laughing but was
till riding the horse. His throat tightened as he saw the man draw a
shotgun and point it in the woman's direction. The man pulled the trigger
and the woman opened her mouth in a silent scream. He tried to run
to the woman, but he couldn't move. The horseman rode away, and the
woman came crashing to the ground. "Nooooo!" he screamed...
Ezra's eyes snapped open out of the awful nightmare. He was sweating
and the bed sheets were soaked in sweat. He turned his head to look
out the window. The sun's rays were just starting to peek up from
the horizon. He closed his eyes and let out a low groan, then tossed
the sheets to the end of the bed. Ezra stood up and got dressed,
then glanced at the mirror.
He was satisfied with what he saw, so he sauntered out of the room to the saloon.
"There he is," Vin said as Ezra entered the saloon. Ezra looked
up and was met with the sight of JD, Buck, Vin, and Chris sitting at a
table drinking whiskey. JD looked half asleep, Buck was turned around,
talking to a group of women, Vin was looking calmly at Ezra, and Chris
looked like he was somewhere else. To someone just passing by, it
would look like
he was staring intently at Buck's shot glass, but his colleagues knew he was in his own dark world, thinking of his past with his wife and son.
Ezra smirked and glanced at all of them, then his sight fell on Chris. His smirk faded as he saw Chris's expression. Chris snapped out of it and looked up at Ezra, who quickly averted his eyes.
"Good morning all," Ezra voiced as he pulled up a chair and sat in between Buck and Vin.
"I came in and looked at the poker table. No Ezra. I was worried," Buck said jokingly, and gave Ezra a pat on the back.
Ezra gave a weak smile. "I guess I rose a trifle late," Ezra said. He waved the bartender over and ordered a brandy. "Well, guess I should take my customary position at the card table. Gentlemen," he tipped his hat, picked up his brandy, and moved to the poker table. "Would anyone care to render a game of poker?" Ezra asked in his smooth, Southern drawl.
Gabrielle Brisbane stepped out of the stagecoach. She looked nervously around, ran her slender fingers through her auburn hair, and relaxed. She picked up the carpetbag that held her belongings and looked around for the hotel. A man bumped into her shoulder and caused her to drop her bag.
Gabrielle cursed under her breath and bent to pick it up, but a tall man beat her to it. She looked up into a kind, weathered face. The man held out the bag to her.
"Your bag, miss," the man said. Gabrielle took the bag from the man.
"Thank you, Mr..." she started.
"Sanchez. Josiah Sanchez," the man said. "Do you need any help?"
"Um...yes, actually," she admitted. "Could you please direct me to the hotel?"
Josiah smiled. "The hotel? Of course. It's right over there, the large building connected to the saloon.
"Thank you, Mr. Sanchez," Gabrielle said. She smiled at Josiah and looked at the hotel.
"No trouble, miss, no trouble."
Josiah continued his path to the church, and Gabrielle walked to the hotel. She walked through the doorway and stopped at the front desk. Henry, the manager, came scrambling out of the back room and looked at Gabrielle.
"Can I help you ma'am?" he asked while searching behind the desk for the guestbook.
"Yes, I would like a room please."
"Yes ma'am. Just sign the book here..." Henry said as he pulled the thick book out of the desk and set it in front of Gabrielle. He flipped through the yellow pages and pointed to the May 20th column. "Right here, please. Um...you'll be staying in room...4. Is that alright?"
"Oh, yes, that's perfect. Is that the door to the saloon?" she asked, turning to the double doors behind her.
"Uh...yes, ma'am, it is, but I wouldn't recommend it, you see, the men are quite-"
"Thank you, sir," she maintained as she took the key from Henry and went up to her room. She opened the door and tossed the carpetbag into the room. Then she stepped over and glanced into the mirror. She decided that she still looked okay so she briskly walked from her room. Henry tried to get her attention so she wouldn't go in, but Gabrielle ignored him and pushed over the heavy wooden doors. The noise was loud, but Gabrielle was used to it. She stepped down the stairs and walked to the bar. She ordered a vodka, straight up, and looked around the saloon. There was a young man trying to get a group of women's attention, the man beside him charming another group of women, a man dressed in black who looked like he was about to kill something. She scrutinized the man a little more closely.
Why does he look familiar? she thought. She turned back to the bar and called the bartender over.
"Excuse me, do you know that man's name?" she asked, gesturing towards the man.
"Oh, that there is Mr. Chris Larabee," the bartender said, then went back to drying a beer mug.
Larabee. She thought. She pondered over this name until it came to her. She gasped and covered her mouth. "Sarah..." she whispered.
Ezra looked up from his royal flush to see a woman staring at Chris with a panicked look on her face. His eyes widened and he opened his mouth slightly.
Oh my God, he thought, she's the most beautiful woman
I have ever seen! He threw his cards on the table and walked
Buck, ignoring the moans of resignation of the other players.
"Buck, can you, since you are the expert, identify that woman over there," he asked quietly, nodding his head toward the auburn haired woman.
Buck looked at her and thought for a moment. "Nope, doesn't register. But she looks awfully familiar." He glanced at the woman again. "She's got the green eyes...I know who she reminds me of! Sarah..." Buck trailed off and looked at Chris precariously.
"Sarah?" Ezra repeated. He looked in the direction that Buck was looking and it registered. "Oh, Sarah."
Gabrielle hopped off the barstool and started to walk out of the saloon. She kept looking behind her and didn't see the wrinkle in the rug that was in front of her. She stumbled over it and started to fall, but was caught by two strong arms. She was pulled up and turned around. She raised her head to look into two evergreen eyes looking into hers.
"Are you alright, ma'am?" the man asked in a refined, Southern drawl.
Gabrielle looked around, embarrassed. "Um...yes, thank you, but I really must go, you see..."
"Well, then allow me to escort you to your accommodations," he replied, offering his arm to her.
"Oh, thank you..."
"Mr. Ezra Standish, at your assistance," he stated, bowing slightly. "I've never encountered you here before, may I ask your name?"
"Gabrielle, Gabrielle Brisbane."
"Well, Miss Brisbane, allow me," Ezra said, smiling. "Excuse me, but I am going to see Miss Brisbane to her room, gentlemen,"Ezra looked at Gabrielle and smiled. As they began to walk out, Ezra heard Buck let out a "Mooooooo." He just shook his head with a smile on his face and walked out with Gabrielle.
Chris moved over to Buck. "Buck, did you hear that?"
"Her name," Chris said, "her last name was Brisbane. That was Sarah's maiden name. Gabrielle..." He brooded over this name a while and came to a conclusion. "She told me about a Gabrielle. She's Sarah's sister."
"Sarah had a sister?"
Chris gave Buck an annoyed look. "Yes, she had a sister. She didn't like to talk about her. Gabrielle, that's right..."
Buck was confused. "Why didn't she like to talk about her?" he asked Chris.
"She was some sort of criminal, I guess. Said she worked for a man named Jakob. She didn't want to say anything because it was her sister. She didn't want her sister locked up."
"Oh...great. Now we got our con-man hanging around a con-woman!" Buck said jokingly.
Chris gave Buck a look that made him shut up. "I don't like this, Buck.I got a bad feeling."
Later that night, Ezra walked into his room and threw himself on the bed.
Gabrielle, he thought, like an angel. He and Gabrielle had made dinner plans for the next night, and he was very glad. He stood up and carefully hung up his jacket and hat, kicked off his boots, and lay down on the bed, and slipped directly into a dream:
He was five years old, and Mother had just tucked him into bed. She sat on his bed, smiling down at him. "Mommy, when is Daddy gonna be good?" he asked innocently. She opened her mouth to answer when she heard shouting.
We know what you did, Jakob!" little Ezra heard his older sister,Janice, scream. Janice was fourteen.
"You murdered the sheriff and his whole family!" finished Gregg,Ezra's brother at twelve. "How could you do that?!"
"Damn you children! Meddlin' in my affairs. You want me ta go ta jail for petty theft? You wanna be fatherless? Havin' your father locked up?" Jakob sneered.
"Better fatherless than having you for a father! You're a murderer! And Gregg and I will turn you in!" Janice challenged.
Little Ezra crawled out of the bed and tiptoed quickly to the room where the fight was taking place. Maude tried to hold him back, but he was determined to see what was going on. He got there just in time to see his father, Jakob, pull out his revolver. Janice and Gregg screamed as he pulled the trigger. Both of them fell to the ground, dead. Ezra's eyes widened in surprise. He walked into the room.
"Janie? Gregg?" he said. Jakob looked over and smirked.
"Hey there, lil Ez," he paused, looked at Janice and Gregg, and walked toward Ezra, "Daddy's gonna show you somethin'."
Ezra smiled and started toward his father when Maude scooped him up and ran out the door. Jakob roared and went after her. She hooked a lead rope on her mare and hopped on. Still carrying Ezra, she galloped off in the direction of her sister's land.
"You can't run from me, Maude!" Jakob thundered, "I'll get you both!"
Ezra let out a yelp and sat up. Again it was morning, and again he was soaked with sweat. He closed his eyes and shook his head. Why am I bringing this horrible memory back now? he asked himself. He got dressed and headed out to the saloon to play his daily game of poker.
Four months later
Ezra sat beside Nathan in the saloon, drinking his brandy. He kept glancing at the doors that connected the hotel lobby and the saloon. Nathan followed his gaze, then turned to him.
"Guess you really love this woman, don't ya, Ezra?" he asked, with a small smile.
"Love is not the word for it, my friend. Eros has shot me right through the heart." Ezra answered, placing his hand on his chest.
"You should marry her, Ezra. That is, since you lover her so much. Don't let her go."
Ezra turned to Nathan and smiled. "Doctor man, you have read my mind."
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a red velvet box. "Tell me what you think."
Ezra opened the box and Nathan whistled. Inside was a solitaire diamond ring.
"That's one nice rock you got there, Ezra." He looked at Ezra and nodded his head. "She'll love it."
Ezra's face brightened. "I'm going now. Wish me luck."
"Since when did a gambler tell someone to wish him luck?"
Gabrielle sat in her room brushing her long auburn hair. She thought of Ezra every minute of the day, and the memory of her past life only touched her when she let her mind go blank. She smiled at the thought of his smile, how not only his mouth smiled, but his evergreen eyes twinkled and highlighted the whole experience. She heard a quiet knocking, so she stood up and opened the door.
Ezra, clad in his signature red jacket, stood smiling at the door. He walked in and led Gabrielle to a nearby chair. She was confused.
"Ezra...?" she started.
He put his finger to her lips and kneeled before her. "Gabrielle, let me talk. You are the only woman that has ever made me feel this way...I love you with all my heart and soul. You are the only woman that I could ever love. Gabrielle, I want to spend my whole life you." He pulled out the red velvet box and presented her with it. She gasped and her eyes filled with tears.
"Gabrielle, will you marry me?"
Gabrielle let out a sob and wrapped her arms around him. "Yes! Oh, yes," she whispered in his ear. Ezra smiled and kissed her.
(Oh, time to close the door, this is PRIVATE!!)
The next morning, Ezra and Gabrielle walked into the post office. He posted a letter addressed to his mother, and turned around. Mary Travis walked in and walked up to Ezra.
"Hello Mr. Standish, Miss Brisbane," she greeted.
"Why, hello Miss Travis, I have an invitation for you." Ezra said.
Mary looked at the envelope. "Invitation? For what?"
"My wedding to Gabrielle," he said. He smiled and gave Gabrielle a kiss.
Mary looked up, surprised. "Wedding? Mr. Ezra Standish, get married?"
She smiled, "I never thought I'd see the day. Congratulations you two!"
"Thank you," Gabrielle said.
"So, when is this to be held?" Mary asked.
"We were going to have it in about a month. Mother is on one of her annual trips. Don't know where she's at when she travels, so we wanted to give her some time to arrive," Ezra answered.
Mary smiled and turned back to Gabrielle. "Do you have any relatives coming?" she asked.
Gabrielle's smiled faded. "No, I don't really have any relatives."
"Um...you know, my parents got sick..." she explained.
"Oh, I'm sorry."
"It's okay, really," Gabrielle said.
"Well, I guess I should be on my way, good day Mr. Standish, Miss Brisbane," Mary said, and walked out.
"Ezra, I need to go up to my room for a minute, I'll meet you in the saloon?" she asked him, with a hint of nervousness in her voice.
"Of course. I'll announce our news to the rest of them," he answered. He leaned over and gave her a peck and she quickly walked out of the building.
Gabrielle pulled out the small box that was hidden under the bed. She rummaged through the box until she came up with a crumpled sheet of paper. She studied the sheet for awhile. It had a portrait of her drawn on it and above it in bold letters said
WANTED. This Woman, Gabrielle Brisbane,is
wanted for armed robbery and murder. $700 Reward; Dead or Alive.
Gabrielle ripped the paper into pieces and threw them all over the room.
"Well, Jakob, I'm moving on," she whispered to herself. She glanced into the mirror and left the room.
The man led his buckskin horse up the hill overlooking Four Corners. He surveyed the town until he spotted an auburn haired woman rushing toward the saloon. He squinted, then smiled. The man turned the horse around and mounted.
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