Chapter 2

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Chapter 2

They walked into the house, entering in what seemed to be the main room. It consisted of the kitchen, eating area and parlor. The back wall had a huge river rock fireplace, to the left of it was the back door. To the right, there was a wall with two doors that led to identical bedrooms. The room was empty except for dust, even the curtains were gone. As they walked through to the dining area their footsteps echoed on the wide white pine floors. The dining area was in the front part of the kitchen, and it could easily accommodate a six to eight person table.

The back half of the room had counters with cupboards above and below them. On the side wall there was a sink with a hand pump under a window looking out toward the barn. A cook stove sat on the back wall, and it looked to be in very good condition. Lastly there was a butcher block island in the middle of the kitchen. Upon further inspection they located a root cellar.

Even with the house being dirty, it was still light and airy. Every room had more than one window. Sunlight streamed through the two windows in the back of the main room. Dust motes danced through the sun beams. "Faith." Levi looked over at his sister. "Are you sure you want to do this? You're going to have to do all the cleaning and cooking and outside chores."

"I'm positive. I know it won't be easy, but it's something I need to do. Besides, Hope's been teaching me how to cook, a little. I'm sure that if I have any questions, she will help me. In fact, the ride over here was easy and smooth, so I'm going to ask her if she will come over to help me decorate."

"If you think I'm letting my wife on a horse in her condition, you've lost your ever loving mind!"

Faith rolled her eyes at her brother. "Levi, I will check her saddle and horse personally. Nothing is going to happen to her, and I need her help over here. You can't get here by wagon yet, only a horse. Besides, it's not like you won't be with us. I know the poor woman has to get tired of you being her constant shadow when she's expecting."

She had a point, Levi thought to himself. Dammit, he hated it when she was right. "I guess it wouldn't hurt for her to come and help you as long as she went slowly. I'll send a couple of men over here with Tuck to get these corrals and fences back up. Don't you find it a little odd that the house and other buildings are in such good condition but the corrals and fences are totally destroyed?" Levi asked more than a little curious about it. The place hadn't been abandoned that long. He made a mental note to do a little digging and see what he could find on the previous owners and why they left.

"I did think that was strange, but maybe the people that lived here were angry about losing their home." Faith shrugged.

"Who are you going to get to work for you? You know some men may not want to work for a woman, especially one without any experience in running a ranch."

"I don't know. I thought maybe you or Cole might know someone in need of a job." Faith said as they mounted up to go ride the fence line and see how bad it really was.

"I'll have to get with him and see if he knows anyone. Until then, I'll let a couple of my men stay here."

It had been six long weeks of hard work, but the results were better than what she could have hoped for. Faith sat back on a flat rock along the creek behind her house and looked over her land. Her land. It was an awesome feeling. The crystal clear water rolled over the rocks that formed several mini waterfalls and little pools. The creek was about twelve feet wide, most of it being only about eighteen inches deep with the little pool areas under the waterfalls being about four feet deep. Perfect for bathing.

Even in the late spring the water very cool, and right now after a long day of working, the water beckoned her. Faith took her hat, boots and socks off, then rolled up her pants legs and dangled her feet into the flowing water. She leaned back on her elbows as she swung her feet back and forth. The sun would be setting in another hour or so and the sky had already begun to take on the fiery colors she so loved to look at. This was her favorite time of day. The lowing of the cattle in the distance combined with the gurgle of the water and soft warm breeze rustling the leaves began to lull her. Slowly she laid back on the warm rock and closed her eyes.

Levi had given her fifty head of cattle and she had purchased one hundred and fifty more. She had her other animals too, chickens, pigs, and a milk cow. This was a feeling like nothing she'd ever felt before. Nobody back in South Carolina would believe that she would be capable or even want to live like this. Faith sighed, she really needed to get up, there were still things she had to do, cooking dinner for her and John was one of them.

She'd written to him about her new ranch and he'd asked if he could work for her. Of course Faith had said yes. He had been somewhat of a regular visitor over at the Triple L over the last two years. She felt safe with him there with her, and Levi trusted him. The sound of a twig snapping brought her out of her reverie. "John?" Faith called out without sitting up. Another twig snapping and she called out to her friend again, but he didn't answer.

Faith sat up and looked around, finally seeing John leave the barn and head towards her at the creek. That was odd, she thought to herself. It must have been a deer or something. But as she sat there waiting for John to join her, she felt as if someone were watching her. The hairs on the back of her neck stood up, she looked in every direction, but saw nothing. Not liking the feeling, she pulled her feet out of the water, dried them off and put her socks and boots back on. Then she jumped up and walked towards her house meeting John half way, quickly forgetting about the eerie feeling she'd had. 

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Hugh Porter watched the beautiful woman take off her shoes and socks, then roll her pants legs, exposing shapely creamy white calves and trim ankles. She plopped them into the water far too quickly; he would have much rather she kept them out for his inspection. To his surprise she turned, putting her back to him, then reclined back on her elbows letting her head fall back. From his vantage point, he could see the creamy mounds of her full breasts from the opening of her shirt. Instantly, he felt his body respond. It was all he could do to hold himself still. All he wanted at that moment was to be buried in that softness with those shapely legs wrapped around his waist.

He wasn't sure how long he'd stood there watching her when he heard a twig snap behind him. Lightning fast, he turned around with his gun drawn, then sighed and reholstered it. "Dammit Morton! How many times have I told you not to sneak up behind me?" Hugh turned back around when the woman called out. Another twig snapped. "If you do that again, I'm going to shoot you! You got to watch what you're doing! Boss don't want her to know that we're watching her yet." The woman sat up at the sound of the second twig snapping and began looking around for the cause of the noise. She put her shoes and socks back on, and just when Hugh thought she was going to come into the wood line, she turned and went back towards the house, meeting a boy about half way.

"All right, let's get back to Hurst Haven and let the boss know what we saw." Hugh said as he and Morton turned to go get their horses.

Bartholomew Hurst paced the confines of his study, anxiously awaiting the return of his foreman. He looked around at the room enjoying the way it made him feel. He'd done well for himself; that was evident in the fine furnishings of not only this room but his entire house. Mahogany paneling covered the walls and, a granite fireplace with an intricately carved mantle graced one end of the room, while a massive desk sat in front of huge French doors leading out to a separate patio in the back of the room. Bartholomew had been very frugal in his younger years, but now he threw his wealth and the power it gave him, around as a way to gain what he wanted. With that being said, he still didn't like to spend money if he didn't want to. That thought brought him back to the reason, he was pacing to begin with.

He was more than curious to see what they had found out. He still could not believe the bank had found a buyer for that property! They could not have told the new owner anything about the "problems" that seemed to plague that particular piece of land. This will be the third time he'd had to run someone off. He probably should have bought it but why buy it when you can use it for free?

That ranch was only 100 acres, but it had more water than his 1000 acres did, and that made it a necessity for him. If the owner of that little piece of property knew how much he needed the water off of it, they could virtually bring him to his knees if they wanted to. And Bartholomew Hurst did not beg for anything, ever. The sound of footsteps in the hallway drew his attention to the doorway. A moment later there was a knock on the door.

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