{Chapter} 22

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{Chapter 22}

Katie stopped the chuck wagon with a squeal. Grayson City was displayed out in front of her like a toy train display at Christmastime. It was bigger than she had thought of at first, but she decided that she didn’t mind. She grinned at the thought that the journey had finally come to an end. She was states away from her home, and yet she felt the most overwhelming peace settle over her at the sight of their destination. So much so that it brought tears to her eyes. It was strange seeing so much civilization after weeks of nothing but dusty old cowboys and vast expanses of land. She smiled over at Mark, for the first time in the years that she had known him, she willingly smiled at him.

His turned his horse around. “I’m going back there to tell them that we’ve arrived. You go on into town and book four hotel rooms for you, Toni and her bunch, Wade, and me. The rest can decide if they want a hotel room or not. We’ll be down there in a little while. Alert the law of our arrival so he can clear the streets before our herd comes through. Got it?”

Katie nodded.

Mark rode off, and Katie looked back at Justin.

“You ready for some decent living, Justin Cade?” she asked.

Justin focused his big blue eyes on her and grinned a toothless grin. She giggled and took up the reins, anxious to get into town.

The looks she received from the other people revealed her dire need for a bath and a change of clothes. She had been wearing the same split skirt for nearly a week, and it was showing. She climbed out of the chuck wagon, lifted Justin into her arms, and strode into the hotel.

The bookkeeper gave her an amused look. “Can I help you, miss?”

“I need to book four rooms for about three days,” Katie told him.

“Will you be paying before or after your stay?” The bookkeeper asked.

“After. We’ve got a herd of cattle to be sold,” Katie explained.

The bookkeeper stared at her, wide-eyed. “A herd of cattle? Are you and the baby with the outfit?”

Katie nodded. She didn’t need to explain the baby’s presence to him.

“We haven’t had a drive through here in a while. There aren’t many these days,” the bookkeeper said.

“There will be. Give it a few years. My cousin is sure that the cattle business will boom soon.” Katie signed in for all of them and took the four keys the bookkeeper offered her.

“Maybe it will. You never know, what with the election coming up and all. The economy might get real bad if a war goes on.” The bookkeeper seemed in a talkative mood.

Katie rolled her eyes. She had heard just about all the politics she could stand back at the ranch. Toni had developed a strong dislike for Mr. Lincoln, and didn’t believe him when he said he wouldn’t initiate a war.

“Where are you guys from?” the bookkeeper asked.

“Texas.”

The man’s expression grew cloudy, and Katie felt like huffing. The tension between the states was ever growing.

“Thank you for the rooms.” Katie turned around and exited the hotel.

The wind assaulted her as soon as she stepped out of the doors. Sighing, she walked down the boardwalk until she came to the Marshall’s office. She entered, seeing a man with a badge pinned to his shirt sitting behind a desk. Something about seeing an officer of the law made her think fondly of Adam.

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