{Chapter} 12

4.1K 219 11

{Chapter 12}

Two days passed and both were spent gathering up the strayed cattle from every direction. No one had time to think of anything other than gathering cattle. Toni pushed Mark hard, who pushed the cowboys even harder. They breathed, dreamed, and lived cattle for those forty-eight hours. The morning that marked the day they were back on schedule was a relieving morning.

Erik got up before everyone else that next morning, when only Katie was awake as she prepared breakfast.

“What are you doing up so early, Erik?” she asked.

“Toni still asleep?” Erik asked, ignoring her question.

“She’s stirring” Katie answered.

Erik nodded and went to the back of the chuck wagon where his wife was silently rocking their baby back and forth, humming to him.

“What are you doing up?” she asked him.

Erik shook his head. The similarities between his wife and her cousin were frightening.

“I haven’t seen the little guy in a week,” Erik explained, pulling himself up to sit on the wagon tongue.

Toni smiled and moved to sit beside him. “Guess you haven’t. Here, hold him for a minute.”

Erik took Justin while Toni prepared to give him another feeding. The boy ate every three hours, which didn’t give Toni very much time to rest. She looked completely worn out, not how she usually looked only a week into a cattle drive.

“You’re not getting much sleep, are you?” Erik asked.

“Not as much as I’d like, but I’m not complaining,” Toni replied to him.

Erik sighed. “Wish I could shoulder some of it for you.”

Toni chuckled. “You wanna take the next feeding?”

Erik laughed. “No, I don’t think so.”

Toni laughed and took Justin from his arms. “Justin might not like the way that turns out.”

Erik’s smile broadened at the smile on his wife’s face. He loved her all the more when she had a smile on her face. He had tried for nearly four years to keep it there, but Toni was a hard woman to please.

“Have you rounded up most of the remuda?” Toni asked him as she fed Justin.

“I’ve got all but two of the horses. One was J.T.’s, but the other just wandered off. He’ll turn up before long, I’m sure,” Erik explained.

Toni sighed. “Sure didn’t plan on this stampede.”

“We knew it was a possibility” Erik leaned against the inside wall of the wagon.

“I know. It almost feels like a… like a failure” Toni’s voice trailed off.

Erik turned to fully face her. “This isn’t a failure. Sure, it hasn’t happened before, but it’s not a failure. It’s just a setback. You and I are used to those.”

“I know that, and I agree. My mind’s just trying to tell me a different story, is all” Toni rocked Justin back and forth.

“We’ve always had this problem, haven’t we? Listening to our minds instead of reason?” Erik said pointedly.

Toni huffed. “My mind’s supposed to know reason. It’s supposed to run on reason, to think about reason, to make sure everything that comes in is reasonable.”

“That hardly ever happens” Erik chuckled.

Toni cut her eyes at him.

Erik smiled. There was the temper he was looking for.

The Matchmaker's MatchWhere stories live. Discover now