Marston topped over the small hill and sure enough there was a small homestead standing just where the fat and thin sisters had said that it would be. Instantly he realized he'd been wrong about these people being wealthy. The house was practically in ruins. The roof looked like it leaked, the shutters were crooked and falling off. The log wall of the rickety cabin had cracks that he knew must let in the rain and wind.
A small barn stood a few feet from the house and it wasn't in any better shape. As a matter of fact from up on this hill he could see a hole in the roof big enough to drop a horse through and it looked as if the horses had been chewing at the wooden walls.
A skinny horse was currently walking around inside the corral, though the corral fence was too run down to do much good at keeping the animal in if it really wanted out. The woodshed and smokehouse didn't appear to be in any better shape than the barn or house.
Marston was beginning to wonder if maybe the ladies had been wrong about Rose still living here when the front door of the cabin opened and a woman appeared, sweeping dirt from the house and off the porch. Marston found his eyes drawn to this woman as he wondered who she was.
She was younger than him, probably in her twenties and she had bright red hair that hung in curls down her back despite the clip she had used to secure it away from her face. He couldn't tell the details of her features from way up here but he could see that her skin looked like the finest of porcelain. She wasn't built like the skinny whores at most saloons. No, this woman was more filled out, just the way he liked them.
Maybe after he gave the old lady the money he'd hang around a couple of days. Shooting his worthless brother in the ass could wait until after he'd had some fun with this big boned red head. He started down the hill, leading the mare and the woman looked up at him and then ran into the house, closing the door behind her.
Marston sighed and again wondered just how ugly he had gotten. He had always been told by the ladies that he was good looking but things seemed to have changed since everyone ran away from him nowadays. He rode his horse up next to the porch and then jumped down. He helped himself to a sip of water from the pump well beside the house and then wiped his mouth on his shirt sleeve as he started up the steps.
"Stop right there." a feminine voice warned from inside and Marston did stop. Not because she told him to but because the rifle barrel sticking out of a small t-shaped hole in the door told him to. He held his hands up.
"I ain't looking for trouble." he assured her. He wondered if this was the red head from outside now holding him at gunpoint. He already could tell he liked looking at her and damn if she had spunk like this too than he knew he'd have to bed her before he could leave town.
"Then ride on out of here and back to where you came from." she said sternly. Marston pulled off his hat and scratched at his thick brown hair.
"I'd be more than happy to do that, ma'am, just as soon as I finish my business here."
"I'm looking for someone. I was sent here by Langston Howell." Silence reigned on the other side of the door for several long moments and then quite suddenly the gun was slid back away from the opening and the door was thrown open.
Marston found himself staring at a more beautiful woman than he had ever seen before. Dark red hair, snow white skin, light freckles across a small, slightly upturned nose and full cheeks. Red lashes framed wide blue eyes and her heart shaped lips were set in a firm line as she glared up at him with that gun still held in her hands. He had known her figure would be one he liked when he had seen her sweeping but up close it was even better.
She was average height for a woman, around five and a half feet and everything about her body was full and soft beneath her worn and faded tan gingham dress.
"Who are you looking for?" she asked.
"His wife, he said her name is Rose."
"I'm Rose." Marston stared at her in shock. This was the old mans wife? That man had been close to seventy years old if he'd been a day and this was a young woman! What would a woman like this see in a man as old as Langston? There was only one plausible explanation that Marston could come up with. This woman had been a whore, Langston had fallen for her and married her (as men sometimes did) and now he was dead and she was going to get all his money and run off to the next old man. Marston had heard about women like her. Predators that fed off of desperate men. He thought back to the one time he'd let himself trust a woman like that and had ended up horseless, moneyless and supply-less the next morning when he'd awoken to find her gone with everything he had.