By Marsha Ward
Here's part of a scene from Chapter 2 of my work-in-progress. I'd appreciate your feedback, suggestions, etc.
He's gone and done it, Bill Henry thought as he saddled his horse the next morning. Defied his pa and gone off. He's got more gumption than I thought he did.
Bill swung into the saddle, gathered the reins, and clucked to his mount, a frisky dun mustang Rod Owen had bought in Texas. The animal frog-jumped and bucked for a few minutes, but Bill stuck tight and waited out the horse's temper tantrum. The dun would settle down soon and carry him through the morning without further complaint.
Yes, James Owen had sand, he had to give him that. Who else around here was willing to go toe-to-toe and have it out with Rod Owen? Nobody he knew, including himself right now. Not that Bill thought himself a coward. No, he didn't want to leave Colorado Territory and return to Texas just yet. It suited him fine to be in the employ of the older man.
If I head home now, I'll never see Miss Marie again.
There it was, finally, the hitherto unspoken reason for staying, even though the Owen boys were catching on to every cattle-handling trick he'd taught them faster than he'd supposed it would happen. I don't want to leave here without her.
Now the truth was in the open, so to speak. He'd never yet--until now--admitted to himself the fact that he'd grown very fond of the dark-tressed daughter of his boss--the sprightly miss who rode out each morning to exercise her horse, even earlier than he got out and about.
Yes, Marie was the major reason he'd stayed here in this green land beneath the mountain. Marie.
Bill smiled at the thought of the music in her name. He tugged on the handkerchief he'd knotted around his neck this morning. It was a bright red bandana, and he hoped she would see it--and him--when she returned from her ride. He imagined her picking him out of the other cowhands who would be riding up the mountain with him, off to tend the cattle in the pasture on the slope of the mountain. The kerchief would set him apart, catch her eye, draw it to him. After his encounter with her at the wedding meal, she would surely be thinking of him, kindly, he hoped.
He wondered if the girl had a middle name. Not that it mattered. Marrying him would add another name to her own, anyway. She'd be Marie Owen Henry. Ah, didn't that sound fine? Marie Henry. Wouldn't the boys back home be jealous at his luck, bringing back a wife who was as pretty as any girl he'd even seen. No. Prettier.
Her dark eyes reminded him of the deep black pool of water that he'd found on the mountain, shaded by trees and surrounded by protective boulders. He, the cowhands, and the Owen men had stopped there briefly on the way back from rescuing Marie and the Bates girl--Carl Owen's new bride. Marie had rested beside the pool, anxious to be home, but enjoying the beauty of the spot. He'd brought her a tin cup to dip into the water, and she'd looked up with such a depth of gratitude in her eyes as she thanked him for being one of her rescuers. He knew that was when she had captured his interest. Even bedraggled as she was, with her shoulders and sleeves covered with dirt and her hair tangled and bedecked with twigs and leaves, she was the most beautiful creature he'd ever seen.
Rapid hoof beats brought him out of his reverie. Who was riding a horse hard this early in the morning? Was James Owen coming back?
As his eyes sorted out the approaching shape, he saw a skirt billowing behind the horse and knew it was Marie. Irritation washed over him. She knew better than to treat horseflesh so harshly. Then anxiety for her welfare crowded out the negative feelings. Had the horse run away with her? Was someone chasing her? He didn't know the state of affairs with the Indian tribes in the area. Maybe she'd had a run in with a party of hostiles.
Bill rode toward the girl, gigging the dun into a gallop, his heart beating as fast as the hooves on the earth. Then he was choking, trying to swallow his fear as he saw her terrified face. Something was horribly wrong.
The usual disclaimers apply: first draft work subject to change, my copyright, comments very welcome.