{Chapter} 7

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{Chapter 7}

Katie shook her head as Toni rode up to the chuck wagon every three hours or so to tend to Justin. The woman should have stayed home with the baby instead of bringing him along. It was just wrong to expose him to the heat this way. It was true that he was out of the sun, but Katie imagined that it got stuffy in there every now and then. Then again, Toni was the parent. Whether she was irresponsible or not remained to be seen. Her eyes sparked and shone while working with the herd, and Katie knew that she really loved working with the herd.

It was getting late when Mark decided to pick a spot to camp for the night. Katie didn’t argue with him either. She was sunburned and dusty from the trail. Other than that, she was doing pretty well. Then again, it was only the first day.

After a place to camp had been found, Katie parked the chuck wagon to start on supper while the boys and Toni bedded down the herd. She strapped little Justin to her back and went about setting up camp.

“Boss sent me to help you” she heard a voice say.

Katie turned and saw Adam standing there, his hands shoved in his pockets. He looked like he had been rode hard and put up to dry. Either Mark was teasing him by sending him to help out the Cookie, or he was just that useless.

Resisting a grin, she took joy in telling him what to do as they went about setting up camp.

The strained silence was nearly more than Katie could handle. She sent Adam off to find firewood so she could compose herself and not chew him out as she wanted to. Adjusting Justin on her back, she grabbed a mixing bowl and a few ingredients from the back of the wagon. Cornmeal, “cow grease” or butter, salt, sugar, milk, and baking powder was all she needed to mix up a big batch of corndodgers to go with the stew she was planning on making. After having a talk with Toni about good recipes to cook for the boys, Katie had ventured into her own version of chuck wagon food. She wasn’t about to cook up some “mountain oysters” as Toni put it. Katie had made the mistake of asking about that one.

Adam came back, set the wood in a pile, and went on about making a fire. Finally, he stood up and huffed.

“For corn’s sake, Katie. We’ve gotta talk this out if we’re gonna be stuck together for over a month on this thing” he said suddenly.

Katie rolled her eyes. “We don’t have anything to talk about.”

“That’s a lie and you know it.” Adam muttered. “You’ve been nothing but uncivil to me for the past four years since you moved back to Sundance.”

Katie sighed. “Fine. I’ll talk. Where should I start? At the complete and utter betrayal or the complete and utter betrayal?”

“It’s not what you think, Kate,” Adam reasoned.

“Stop calling me that” Katie said in a warning voice.

Adam didn’t even apologize this time. “If you would have given me a chance to explain…”

“You’ve had five years to explain, and now I‘m trying to understand and it‘s like nailing jelly to a tree,” Katie stirred the contents of her bowl vigorously.

Great. Now she was pulling out Rawhide language.

“Then allow me to explain” Adam said.

Katie turned to him. “Start talking.”

Adam took a deep breath. “You remember that night I told you that I couldn’t court you anymore?”

Katie sent him a look. “Does Tiny snore?”

“Point taken. Well, earlier that day I had a talk with your father…”Katie snarled. She should have known that her overprotective father had something to do with this. “… and we… we exchanged some heated words. You know that he never approved of my family. Anyway, he told me about ya’ll’s move to El Paso, and I was mighty cantankerous about it. Alright, in all probability I said some things I shouldn’t have. Your Pa told me that we were done. He said that he would have a talk with you when you arrived home from a walk or something that you had ventured off to. I… I couldn’t bear for you to have a bad relationship with your Pa over me, so I decided that I’d pretend like it was my idea that we end it all. I figured that since you were moving away anyway, our relationship couldn’t work. You would leave me behind, but you would have to move with your father. I lost so many nights of sleep over that, wondering if it was the right thing to do. Lately I’ve just been too… well, I just never had the sand enough to tell you” Adam kicked up a little dust with the toe of his boot.

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