{Chapter} 28

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{Chapter 28}

Katie woke up at the time she normally did, and wasn’t awake long before she remembered the events of the night before. She didn’t know what had happened to Alex or Marshall, but she didn’t see them around camp anywhere.

She made breakfast before everyone else stirred as usual. She figured that the best way to get past the shock of what had happened was to get on with life and try to forget. Soreness in her joints and muscles prevented her from cooking as quickly as usual. She had just finished preparing the big pot of oatmeal when the cowboys began to stir. Adam was the first one up, and that was no surprise.

“What are you doing up so early?” He asked groggily, smoothing his disheveled hair out of his face.

“Cooking breakfast. Ya’ll’ve gotta eat,” Katie replied.

“And you’ve gotta heal. You must be mighty sore.” The concern in Adam’s voice was endearing.

“I’m fine. I’ve been paid to by the cookie and I ain’t about to shirk my job.” Katie brushed past him.

Adam sighed. “I’m driving the wagon today.”

Katie didn’t bother arguing about that. She could use some time to talk to him. To just have a normal conversation.

For now, she had to know what had become of her captors.

“What happened to those two?” She asked.

Adam sighed. “They’re gonna be watched by Joe and Brant.”

“Might as well not be watched at all.”

Thoughts of the two men getting a hold of her again made her shiver.

“Well, they’re not gonna come near you because you’re not leaving my sight,” Adam told her with authority.

Katie nodded. She didn’t mind being watched. If anything it would make her feel better to be protected at all times.

Toni was the next one up, tending to the baby inside the chuck wagon. Pretty soon the whole camp was up and about. Another day had begun.

**********

Toni gripped the reigns to her horse hard. She felt such an anger to Alex and Marshall that it made her break out in a cold sweat. She imagined the same thing that had happened to her all those years ago happening to Katie now. She imagined the helpless feeling that Katie would have felt had they had their way with her. Toni didn’t even want to think of that happening to her cousin. She wouldn’t wish such feelings on her worst enemy.

After seeing her uncle stick up for the two men last night, claiming that they “were basically boys” ad “weren’t thinking clearly” and “made a mistake”. She had a good mind to whack her uncle upside the head for his coldness toward the situation. Katie’s life had nearly been ruined, and he called that a “mistake”.

Her trust for her uncle had been taken down a notch and the base of her guard wall had been erected. She didn’t know what was going on inside her uncle’s head or heart, but something told her that there was more to him than what met her eyes. She had tried to ignore this feeling for a while, but she couldn’t shake it. Maybe there was a reason for that. Maybe her trust in him was misplaced. Doubts filled her mind as she thought of all her uncle could accomplish with her trust. Was she giving him too much slack? Had he been doing things behind her back?

She was planning to find the answers to those questions soon.

Erik fidgeted with the pommel of his saddle. He was itching to tell his wife what Mark was up to, but knew that if he did Toni would more than likely strangle the man with her bare hands. Adam had told him that they needed to wait things out, but he couldn’t help but think that they might wait too long and someone might get hurt. That was the last thing that he wanted.

**********

Two days passed and they finally entered Oklahoma territory. Katie smiled as they got deeper and deeper into the state and she began seeing the mesas again. It made her heart stir to be this close to home… finally.

Adam was still driving the chuck wagon for her, even though she was more than well enough to do it herself. She didn’t protest, though. Her hands needed the rest. She fell asleep countless times on his shoulder and when they stopped for the night he would just sit there until she woke up. On one of these occasions, he woke her up as he pulled the team to a halt.

“Time to make camp, Kate,” he said.

Katie rubbed her eyes and nodded. She breezed through the supper routine with ease, having grown used to the normal flow of things on a drive, even with so many cowboys to feed. Every dish was washed and dried, and every one was put in its proper place. Katie sighed at her finished job and placed her hands on her hips.

“You feeling okay, honey?” Adam asked as he approached her from behind.

Katie nodded and turned to him. “I’m doing just fine.”

“Good. I have something to ask you.” Adam took her hand and led her to the side of the chuck wagon that concealed them from the other cowboys.

“Is something wrong?” Katie asked, cherishing the warmth of his hand.

“No,” Adam reassured her, pulling her closer. “We just need to talk.”

“Okay.”

“I was wondering something. I’ve been praying hard for the past few days and, if it’s alright with you, I’d like to ask your father if I could court you… again.”

Katie was taken aback. Was he serious?

“I’m dead serious,” Adam smiled.

Katie realized she must have spoken the words aloud.

“B-But my father and me…” She protested.

“I know, but this is how I feel is the proper way about it. I’ve asked him before, and I think I can do it again. I’d rest easier if I knew that I had your father’s permission.”

Katie sighed. “I don’t mind if you ask him. I’d feel quite honored, to be honest.”

Adam smiled. “Good. Because I love you way too much to deal with your rejection now.”

Katie leaned into him and he wrapped his arms around her. Katie felt like she just needed a hug from him, and wasn’t disappointed.

They stood there, locked in each other’s arms, for quite a spell before they released each other. Katie sent a prayer of thanks to God for placing Adam back in her life.

“I love you to death, Adam Sterling,” She whispered.

Adam chuckled. “I love you, too, honey.”

Katie placed her hand against the side of his face. All she wanted at that moment was to spend the rest of her life with this man.

**********

Toni was shaken awake earlier than usual that next morning, and she felt like mumbling a few of the words she had left behind after becoming a Christian, but her conscience helped her refrain from it.

“What is it?” She asked groggily.

“I need you to wake up, Toni. I’ve got something to tell you,” Erik’s voice said.

Toni rolled over and sat up. “What is it?”

“The money… all of it… is gone.”

Dun dun dun! It's happening people!

I'll try to get to writing more soon. Today I have to go grocery shopping with mom *sarcastic "yay"* Out here it's like a 3 hour deal because you have to go ALL the way to town. Anyway, I'll get to writing soon! Byee!

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