{Chapter} 6

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{Chapter 6}

Before the sun even broke out over the horizon the next morning, the entire MC outfit was lined up in front of the trail boss.

Mark stood in front of the cowboys, a hard look in his eye. A look that would have given Adam shivers before he had spent years as a deputy sheriff.

“Okay boys, we’re gonna go over a few rules here” Mark placed his hands on his hips. “On this drive you’ll be expected to do your job as best as you can with no excuses. Most of you have been on a drive before, so I won’t go into the particulars with the cattle. You’ll leave the cook alone if you know what’s good for you. If you have any guns on you, please give them to the foreman and he’ll put them away. Tiny, Rattlesnake, Joe, Doc, Dallas, Bubba and Dusty. You boys are the swing riders. J.T., Rawhide, Brant, Rusty, Walker, Toothpick, and Alex. You boys are the flank riders. Adam and Gringo,” Mark grinned at them. “Ya’ll have the pleasure of riding drag this first little while.”

Adam and Gringo groaned. Adam knew they did this to him because he was green to the whole cattle thing. “Marshall, you’re the point rider, so go find Hondo and get started. Erik, Slim, and Slick, you boys handle the remuda. Boys, you mind Erik, hear? He knows more about horses than the rest of us combined” Mark took a deep breath. “You’re all aware of the wages and how that will be handled, so I guess that’s all I have. Wade, you wanna lead us in prayer before we leave?”

Adam watched as Wade came to the front of the group.

“Hats off, men” he ordered.

The cowboys removed their hats and bowed their heads.

“Lord” Wade began. “I suppose you know what we’re facing now. We’re not asking you to make it easy for us, just to give us strength to make it through this. Keep us and the herd safe, and help us to be mindful of Your ways. Amen”

Everyone replaced their hats and went on about their preparations.

Adam turned and his eye caught one of the cowboys that had joined up this morning. He felt all the blood rush from his face and down to his boots.

It couldn’t be. It just couldn’t be.

**********

Katie made sure that everything was in place in the chuck wagon, and double-checked the contents to make sure she didn’t miss anything. All was ready to go. She was clad in a split skirt and had purchased a cowboy hat to protect her from the sun. Her adrenaline pumped at the thought of her first cattle drive. Looking around the ranch, she spotted Aubrey and Wade locked in each other’s embrace, Aubrey’s tears wetting Wade’s shoulder. Her heart twisted and she felt a wave of sorrow come over her. She wished she could have told Ben goodbye before he was murdered. What she wouldn’t give for just one more moment with him to tell him that she loved him. Wade kissed Aubrey’s hair and muttered words in her ear. Aubrey nodded but continued crying. Katie tore her gaze away from their private moment and watched as Toni rode up on her horse, ready to go.

Searching out Erik, Katie found him walking toward his wife with a faint smile on his face.

“Where do you think you’re going, missy?” he asked.

“On the drive. I haven’t missed a drive since I was fifteen years old, and I don’t plan on starting now” Toni’s jaw was set determinedly, and Katie knew that there was no changing her mind. Yet Erik was obviously putting his foot down on this, too.

“Toni, if you think I’m gonna let you take that baby and ride out there in the middle of nowhere with it, you’ve got another thing coming” he said.

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