By Sierra Nevada

It had been two years since the rugged gun-slinger had told Mary Travis he was ‘the bad element.'  In all truth to her, he was her bad element.  He left her yearning for him to hold her.  She had tried to keep her feelings hidden, but that was impossible.  Her heart was on her white sleeve.  If he didn't see it, he was blind.  Her son's lengthy letters, and rare visits were the only thing connecting her to her past anymore.  The love of her life was dead almost five years.  She would always love him, but she needed to think of Billy and herself now.  Chris Larabee had acted as Billy's father for sometime now.  Chris took him fishing, and on horse rides, everything his biological father did before.

But two days ago, Mary's dreams had been shattered.  A telegram had been sent to reserve four rooms at the boarding house.  Six new citizens were coming to town, all between the ages of 23 and 32.  The oldest was assumed to be a mother, at 48.  The new ladies were to come on the first Thursday of June, it was just that day.  The whole town was in a torment about these newcomers.  The younger lads of the town had cleaned up considerably, and were actually civilized for once.  Rumors had gone around that each of the ladies would steal the hearts of the seven men.  Supposedly, these newcomers could preoccupy the minds (and or bodies) of the seven.  That was what turned Mary's heart over.  For the seventh time, Mary looked for dust to the north.  The sun rising in the east, highlighted the texture of dust in the air.  Sick to her stomach now, Mrs. Travis retreated to her newspaper shop.  She would have to look from the inside.

Just as Mary had suspected, a stage came rolling in.  It was a few hours early, so not many towns folk were awake.  Vin came out to greet the newcomers.  He had a few questions he needed answered directly.  Deep in thought, he just jumped back in time to have the stage door miss his blonde head.  From inside, Sierra Corbett was tripping on her friends skirt.  As the door opened she was caught in strong arms.  Disgusted with herself, she dared to look up. Accepting her own dare, she looked into eyes as blue as an August sky.  His clothes were similar to hers, soft leather.  At the same time Sierra was making her discoveries, Vin was having the same basic thoughts. Looking down, he peered into the browned eyed girl.  Her eyes were not a usual brown color.  Specks of yellow, and even red and green shaded the brown.  Her hair, flowing to her shoulders, was the brown color of the butt of his gun.  And the thing that got his attention most was the scent of... leather oil.  Putting her quickly down, he helped five others out. Each had dresses on, unlike the first.  The last woman was older, about Josiah's age.  As the other men helped the newcomers to the boarding house, Vin went to find his brown-eyed girl.

Later that day, the seven came into the saloon for a meal.  It just so happened that most of the men in the town were there.  Noticing the audience, Sierra stood up as if to make an announcement.  "All who are listening," which was everyone. "I am Sierra Nevada Corbett.  These are my friends, and my mother."  The other ladies stood up.  Vin was surprised.  He was going
to have some competition.

The other ladies introduced themselves.  The red-haired one was Elizabeth, the dark curly haired one was Margerette, Laura was another red-head.  A shorter girl now stood, shyness seeming to overtake her. A  quiet "Prairie." was all that was heard in the room.  Now a darker haired girl stood..  Wearing a dress of light printed cotton, it was noticed by all she was ready to view the town.  Quickly a "My name is August." spurted out.  Chuckling softly, Sierra eyed Vin.  Eyes meeting she nodded toward the door.  He nodded back.  The last to stand was the older woman.  Comfortably, the words rolled out of her mouth.  "My name is Laura Corbett.  Any visiting between any man and the girls shall be approved by me.  So you will take me seriously, I have a good shot, and I will use the ability if need be."  She sat, eyeing each of the girls.  As her eyes passed Sierra, she noticed something was up already.  Thinking to herself of what she would do, she let it go.  The girls could make some choices on
their own.  Looking at her watch, she shooed the girls up to their rooms.  Looking at Sierra he watched as she mouthed the words "Stable in one hour."  He nodded and smiled.  As the girls left, the whole room sprang into action.  Conversation on the girls was the main topic. Each eligible man had his eye on one of them.
Chris joined Vin at the bar a wail  after the grand departure.  Curiously, but not wanted to pry he asked "What are you up
to tonight?"  The response he got was a wide grin, and a laugh.  After asking the bartender for the time, Vin answered Chris's question with a "I gotta go see a man, or rather woman, about a horse."  He left it at that.  Walking out the door, he entered the stable.
Chris smiled and went to his other comrades.  Buck was sipping a beer when Chris approached.  "They sure are pretty." was what that man said.  " Sure are." was the response Buck got from J.D.  Ezra said a few seconds later, "Remember when I said I wouldn't leave anything to chance?  Well gentlemen.  I have changed my mind."  Chris sat down bottle in hand.  "Well who's nex"  He looked around the table.  "I lost Vin a wail ago."  Buck shot a look of amusement at Chris.  "Really? You mean the ole' boy made a move?  And before me?"  The whole table laughed at that.  Buck was right.  Vin had always been the one to take them away from women.  Josiah came in to defend his friend.  "Leave him alone. He was probably just waiting for the right person.  Unlike some people." He said that looking directly at Buck.  "All right, all right.  So I like variety."  He replied half defending himself.

In the stable Vin waited.  Soon he heard the back door creak open.  Half defensively he undid his gun holster.  He heard someone behind him, but before he could react rough, calloused hands went over his eyes.  He didn't move, the scent of leather oil filled his nostrils, breathing it in a whisper crossed his ear.  "Guess who?"  He stayed silent, so much was tearing at him.  He wanted to answer her with a kiss she'd never forget, but instead he breathed the words "Sierra."  The hands removed from his eyes.  She stood in front of him now.  A moon beam shining on her.  He stood, not knowing what to do.  Inside Sierra the same things were tearing at her.  Should she kiss him, or wait?  Should she even be here?  While in thought she realized she was suddenly in the strong arms again.  She looked up to see eyes as questioning as hers.  She returned the same embrace.  Her cheek resting against his chest.  "I have no idea what to do."  Was the comment that came from Vin.  "Neither do I." was the comical response.  Out of nowhere they both stared laughing.  Neither knew why they were, or what broke the ice.  Letting each other go, the sat on hay bails talking.  They talked about her family and why they moved here, and why he was here and his family.  Throughout the conversation it was made known that they were friends now, and that was the extent.  More may
come later- way later.

The next morning six of the seven men were in the saloon, doing their usual thing.  Josiah was in his church remodeling it.  He planned to take up his practice when he was no longer one of the seven.  In the back room, he was gathering up his tools to do a painting job. Nathan usually helped, but he was off to his girl back in the Indian camp.  So no one else was around.   He had no idea anyone was behind him.  "Do you need any help?"  Was the question that startled him.  He turned, the
new lady was here in his church.  He had noticed her last night.  Her name was Lauren... Laurel...something like that.  "Laura." was the response he got.  He guessed that she noticed his confused thinking.  "Yes, Laura.  I'm Josiah Sanchez.  I'm fixing up this church and would love some company today."  "Well, lets get started."  Laura said picking up a paint brush.
"Why did you ladies come?"  Was the first question Josiah said.

"Well, my husband died a few years ago.  I had always wanted to travel.  But James never wanted to.  I named my daughters after western places.  Sierra Nevada, Colorado Springs, and Prairie Flower.  Prairie is not my daughter, her mother died when she was born, and the father gave her to me.  Soon after that he left.  So anyway, after James died, I planned to travel.  Sierra, Prairie and I were two weeks until moving day and Margerette, Elizabeth and August came up and asked to come.  They had
been having problems with young men coming and not leaving them alone.  So we agreed they could come, and here we are."  Was the lengthy answer Laura gave him.  Josiah asked question after question and Laura answered them all.

At lunch time, Sierra came in to grab a beer before heading out on Nevada her horse.  She quickly scanned the room and found one of Vin's friends he had described.  So she went and sat with him.  Uncomfortably, she asked his name.  "Chris Larabee, one of Vin's friends." was the slow reply she got from a smirking face.  "Have I done something wrong already?" she asked him curiously "Oh no, just not many can get to Vin.  Actually...  your the first.  That's not a bad thing, it just means your special."  "Special?? What do you mean by that?"  Sierra questioned further.  "Oh, Vin just doesn't trust many people, and
if you can get him to the stable..." he trailed off noticing a red flush coming to her face.  "Nothing happened and probably never will.  We just talked."  "Hey, I never said a thing.  Neither did he, it was just noticeable.   Did you mama approve that appening?"  "No, she doesn't know about it, and I would really like it to stay that way."  She smirked back at him, not caring if he told, knowing he wouldn't.

Just as Sierra finished her sentence, and new guy sat down.  "Hey your Sierra ain't ya'."  Buck excitingly said.  "I was wondering what you were doing tonight?"  Buck said looking straight into Chris's eyes.  Chris shook his head "No." and looked straight behind Buck.  "She's coming on a ride with me."  Was the challenging tone that came from behind.  Buck froze. " Damn, never mess with Vin!"   He thought.  "I think I'd better be finding mama to ask her."  Sierra said amusingly looking at Chris, who smiled, then Vin who looked curious.  "I'll explain later Vin." was the answer he got.

Leaving the room she went to find her mother in the church.   Her and an older gentleman, about her age, were laughing and having a grand old time, so she left them alone.  Since her father had died, mama hadn't laughed.  She wanted to travel all her life, and papa had forbidden it.  I was mama's time to soar on her own wings, and by the look of things, those wings were pretty strong. So Sierra decided to go find Vin to go on their ride.  She found Vin in the stable at the same place where they had been last night.  He again seemed deep in thought.  Sierra went up to him, giving him a hug from behind.  They stayed here, for a long time.  Finally Vin said "Do you want to make this an overnight ride?"  She looked at him questioningly.  Hadn't they agreed to be friends?  Noticing from the features in her face he assured her that there was a place he wanted to take her, but it was a 3 day ride.  He also assured her nothing would happen.  Trusting him, she went to her mother.  She HAD to for this one.  Her mother was still in the church.  When Laura heard this she asked Josiah what he thought.  "Vin's a good kid, he
would never let her be hurt, or go against her wishes."  Was his defense for Vin.  Laura agreed.

Vin and Sierra packed for the 3 day ride.  The next morning they left, bright eyed and ready for anything to come.  They rode the whole day only stopping by Corner Creek for lunch.  They chatted about future plans, the places they had left, and what was ahead.  At night they bedded down by a spring.  After supper, it was still light out, and Sierra had already changed to night clothes.  Vin hadn't yet.  But he decided to.  She was reading a book when Vin picked her up and took her by the spring.  When he set her down Sierra asked "What are you doing?"  He didn't answer just had a smile on his face.  Going back to her book she noticed he was taking his boots off.  "He must be dipping his feet in."  She thought.  A few minutes later he took picked her up again, tossed the book to the ground and waded into the spring.  Sierra was so confused she had no idea what to do.  She just hung on trying not to get wet.  When Vin got to the middle be let her to her feet.  The water was up to her neck, his chest.  He leaned forward, catching her in his arms and kissing her.  She wrapped her arms around him a kissed him back.

Suddenly Vin tripped forward, falling on her into the water.  They both went under still embracing.  When they came up they both laughed.  Walking hand in hand back to camp, Sierra remembered her forgotten book.  Vin went back to get it.  She fallowed, silently.  When he was up from picking up the book she ran to him.  Arms extended, they fell into the spring once more.  Coming up, Vin picked her up, kissing her again. The kiss ended at the camp when he put her down on her blanket.  He lay beside her looking into the stars, then closed his eyes.
In the morning, Vin woke arms around Sierra.  "Going to bed wet was not a good idea." He thought.  But before he could place all the blame on himself he noticed Sierra's arms were around him.  Vin slowly got up, not wanting to wake Sierra.  He remade the fire wondering if anything had happened.  It couldn't have, he would have remembered something like that!  Looking over he noticed Sierra had awoke.  She came over by the fire hi s blanket in hand and put it around him.  Sparkle in her eye she kissed him.  The deep kiss made Vin fall off the log he was sitting on.  On the ground he put his arms around her.
Taking a breath, he looked into her eyes.  The red in them he had seen earlier seemed on fire.  Cradling her head he kissed deeper, if nothing had happened last night it would soon happen if he didn't quite.  But he couldn't.  He looked at her, no expression was on her face, just that of love.  Finally determined to stop anything, he finished the kiss.  They lay there, her on him, they both fell asleep.

The only thing that wakened them was the horse pawing at the ground.  Vin looked at the position of the sun, it was at least 10:00.  Four hours had gone by.  Carefully removing her from him, he started the breakfast that was to be done hours ago.  Sierra stirred, but did not wake.   He decided to delay everything one day.  He went to the spring where he found he book.  The cover had dried since the sun had come up.  He opened it, the title was Pilgrim's Progress.  He started to read
it.  Interrupted by Sierra sitting beside him, he put the book down.  "Are we leaving?" she said sleepily.  "No, I think we'll stay here today.  It's too late to start today."  He replied.  The couple sat there looking at the landscape.  Lush trees were above, birds sang their songs, and the spring rippled.  "This would be a great place for a house."  Sierra said breaking the silence.  "Yes it would, do you want to go back?"  Vin questioned.  "It doesn't matter, I have enough memories to die now."  She said with a sigh.  "Tomorrow, we'll go back tomorrow."  She said looking at Vin.

She stood, taking Vin's hand, stood him up.  Forcing it behind her, he placed it on her waist.  She peered into his eyes, trying to read them.  As usual they were unreadable.  She put her cheek to his bare chest, he put his lips to her auburn head.  "Do you want to build a house?" She asked.  "What?" he said laughing.  "You want to build a house?"  "Yep, I want to build a house, right here."

Back in Four Corners, Buck was in a buzz over Vin's actions.  Laughing, Chris exclaimed "Why are you acting this way?  You know Vin would get someone sometime."  "Yeah, I know, but how he did it is the bur under my saddle."  Buck said as he went to the jail.  J.D. was on duty, and was watching some dude Ezra had caught cheating.  This man was in there for safety, not for a crime.  "Mr. Dunne," the dude asked.

"When can I get out?"  "You get out when Mr. Standish is cooled down.  If I was you I'd skiddatle when ya' get out!"  "That's what I was plannin' on do'n."  Was the weak reply.  "I'll have Buck talk to him."  J.D. amused.

At the church Josiah was still doing his painting, and Laura Corbett stopped in every once in a while, to give him a meal, or drink.  The church was changing considerably.  "Josiah," Laura started. "Where do you think Vin and Sierra went?'  "Oh, probably to Dean Ridge.  It's a beautiful place about three days away.  Don't worry, I've trusted Vin with my life many times, and he hasn't' failed me yet."  He answered.  "This is different." Laura mused. "It's my daughter's life."  She chuckled.  She and James had done something similar, but it wasn't' three days away.  It was a two hour wagon ride to a show in Boston.

On the path again the next day, they rode a little closer together, and talked of a future together.  Heading home, they stopped
at Corner Creek for an early supper.  It was nearly 4:00.  Sierra asked "If we make it to town by dark lets camp outside, I don't want to wake anyone."  "That's fine with me." Vin said wail questioning himself.  They had known each other for what, four days.  And he was ready to marry her.  What was he going to do for the next year?  He couldn't rush into this, for many reasons.  One, Sierra, she was what 23, and had her whole life ahead of her.  Two, the guys, what would they think, and the
last reason was himself.  He had a thing with emotion only his father had known about.  He jumped into things, and later found he wasn't happy.

Sierra and Vin heard hoof beats from behind them.  Looking back a drunk was riding toward them.  "We're married okay."  Vin told Sierra.

"What?"  "I said we are married, this guy comin' is drunk and will try an' get you.  So we're married.  Okay Mrs. Sierra Tanner?"  "Okay Mr. Tanner."  Sierra answered longingly.  As the rider came up he slowed to their pace.  Vin asked "Where are ya' from?"  The cowboy answered, "I'm a drifter.  If I had a wife," he stated looking at Sierra.  "I'd stay.  Yep," he said looking her over. "I'd stay real fast."  "Well, you'll have to pass up mister."  Vin challenged. "Now why would that be?"  The
drunk said swaying from side to side as to fall off.  "Because she's taken.  Been taken for two years."   Vin said now irritated.  "Well, where are the kids?"  The cowboy asked.  "We aren't blessed with them yet."  Was Sierra's surprising answer.  "So if you would be so kind as to pass on, I would really appreciate it."  "Well, so she does talk.  Well, I guess I'd better head back to Dillard's."  The drunken cowboy turned his horse and rode off to the place he came from.

"I now know what ya' mean Vin!"  Sierra said relieved.  "So are we still married?" She asked half question, half amusement.  "Well, I've been thinking," Vin started." I do want to marry, but I've only known you what four days!?!"    "That's enough for me."  Sierra said sliding off her horse to behind Vin.  "Wow, she's serious." Vin thought to himself.  His heart started to thump as Sierra put her arms around him and laid her head on his back. "Well, one man thinks were married... we might as well make it true sometime."   Vin wanted to stop the horse... but he couldn't.  He couldn't.  He kept riding, Sierra hanging onto her
horses reins, and Vin driving.

The two love birds got back to town a few hours later.  Sierra's family came to welcome her back.  The six men came out to.  Both parties were surprised to see Sierra behind Vin.  But no one said anything. Vin asked Chris to get Sierra off the horse from behind him.  She had fallen asleep a few hours back, so he had had time to think.  Chris carefully removed the girl from the horse, took her to her room where her mother then took over.  Vin went to his own room to sleep.  He left a lot of
questions unanswered, but he didn't care.  He had a future to sleep on.

When the two had been bedded down, Buck and August went to talk.  He had taken a shine to her back a few day when she introduced herself.  She had long black hair, a slim figure, and was quite funny.   But then anyone Buck took to was funny to him.  The chosen spot for the meeting was under the hitching tree.  No one would be there, or even near.  There was only one problem.  He had to get rid of Nancy, the farmers widow.  Her husband died three years ago of a fever.  She was still quite young, so Buck took her under his wing.  But never expected what her reaction would be.  To sum it all up and still get the point across, Nancy thought they were in a ‘gonna be' married position.  Yes they had ‘gone to town' a few times, but didn't
everyone do that?  So, to get rid of Nancy, Buck said it was a guys night, and that he would see her tomorrow.  Then he headed to the hitching post.

That night Chris was at the saloon.  His usual bottle in front of him, he was content.  Since his families' death he had taken to the bottle to pass the time and pain.  He still did that sometimes.   He looked around him to find Margerette close by.  Sitting at a table with men swarming her.  When Chris caught her eye, she gave him a ‘help me' look.  He did just that.  He shooed the men off and took her to the restaurant.  Over a late meal, they talked of her family, why she came, and what he had been doing.  To Chris's surprise, her family too was gone.  Not the same way, but by death just the same.  He liked how she
listened and didn't ask questions.  He did the same to her.  When the night was over he felt a huge relief.  No one had ever made him feel that way.

In the same restaurant, Mary Travis was in a dark corner.  Her predictions were right.  She felt a pinge of jealousy.  She could
listen to Chris, she could help him with his tough times.  When Margerette and Chris had walked in her meal was ruined.  Her favorite meal was now bland in her mouth.  As she left the restaurant, everything changed.  She no longer wanted to live here.  If Margerette took Chris, then she would move, far away.  To be with her son.

The next morning Sierra awoke to the smell of fresh flowers, and her mother, who was beaming with joy.  "Mr. Tanner would like to court you steadily."  Her mother sighed.  Sierra almost laughed out loud. "So that was his way of getting past my mother?  Well it did work.  What is he up to?"  She remembered back to the creek.  Hadn't these flowers been there?  She wanted to go back there again, and never leave.  Smiling back at her mother, she rose to dress.  Her mother left her alone, now.  Standing behind her dresser she unbuttoned her nightshirt. "You in here?"  Came a voice from the window.  "Yeah I'm dressing I'll be out in a minute."  She laughed.  Stepping out in her leather, she looked at Vin.  "You know, we're gonna have to fix this dress code.  One of us is going to have to wear a dress now and then.  And I really don't think you'd be willing to do that.  Huh?"  Sierra mused.  "As long as I see you I could care less what either of us wear."  Was the direct response she got.  "So this is your way of passing my mother?"  She asked picking up and smelling the flowers.  "Well if it worked, it worked.  If it hadn't I would have found a way."  Vin stated.  Together they went down to breakfast.  At the breakfast table 10 people sat.  Elizabeth beside Ezra.  Vin noticed new things.  Had the rumor been reality?  Lauren was beside Josiah, hand in hand under the table.  And the people that were behind the scenes.  Chris and Margerette were across the table from each other.  It was still noticeable that something was up.  J.D. was beside his princess Prairie.  There were two seats left.  One for Vin, and one
for Sierra.  Everyone was in good spirits that morning.  Vin and Sierra looked at each other and mentally asked "What all happened while we were gone?"  Vin shrugged and passed the eggs.

Six months later

"Good morning honey."  Laura soothingly awoke Sierra.  "Are you ready for our big day?"  It had been a glorious six
months since their move to Four Corners.  There was a wedding planned for today.  This wedding was for 14 people, 7 couples.  Nathan had come back with his loved one Chenneye, and of course there was the rest of them.  Vin and Sierra, Josiah and Laura, J.D. and Prairie, Buck and August, surprisingly Chris and Margerette, and Ezra and Elizabeth. "I'm
great Mama.  I can't wait till tomorrow."  Was the sleepy reply.

Each of the seven men were giving up a bachelor lifestyle, but they would still continue to do their job.  They were all going to
build in one specific area.  The ranch would be ran by all 14.  The ranch would be named "Sevens."    The area was just out of town to the east.  The old Larabee place had been to the west.  This was very hard for Chris.  It wasn't the marriage, it was the new life.  Margerette agreed to visit his families graves as often as they could.  Ezra had changed throughout his ‘gunman' career.  Family now meant more to him than ever.  He was planning to buy the saloon in Four Corners.  His future was
laid out pretty well. Buck had given up his care-free life to be with August.  Like Ezra, family was becoming more important than fun.  Josiah was going to keep up to what he was doing.  He burned the picture in his pocket, and put a new one in.  J.D. was new to the whole system.  He and Prairie had kept to themselves, now was the big day that would take him forever.  Then there was Vin.  He had waited six long months for what he wanted to do six months ago.

The ceremony was short and sweet.  All fourteen were married at one time.  5 of the couples left for other towns.  Vin and Sierra left for their spot.  Vin had boughten the land and was going to surprise Sierra with the documents later that night.  Chris and Margerette stayed to watch over the town.  Vin was close by so if anything happened he would be on call.  Their wives were on call to.  Throughout the six months they had shown their shooting abilities.  Vin and Sierra rode off into the sunset, while Chris and Margerette vacationed at the sheriffs office.  Everyone was happy now.  All pasts were demolished, only a
future was in front of them now.  The fourteen had each other.

Sierra would love to hear from you!

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