Chapter 4

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"Mr. Jacobs." Someone was knocking on his hotel room door. Cade heard the man, hell he'd heard him when the man had walked up the stairs. Cade was an extremely light sleeper, he was just hoping whoever it was would go away. "Mr. Jacobs, please, I have a message for you. It came a couple of weeks ago, it said it was urgent." Cursing, Cade threw back the covers and walked across the room, naked as the day he was born. He jerked the door open, snatched the paper out of the other man's hand, and then slammed it in the messenger's face. Without pausing, he walked over to the bed and flopped down.

He unfolded the piece of paper and began to read.

Cade, I need your help. STOP

Red Valley at the Double C. STOP

Cole Weston STOP

"Shit." Cade mumbled. If Cole was sending for him, then whatever was going on, had to be bad. There wasn't a single situation he could think of that Cole Weston couldn't handle. He was the closest thing to a friend that Cade had. He leaned over and picked up his clothes from the chair, where he'd put them last night. Once he was dressed, he picked up the piece of paper, folded it, and shoved it into his vest pocket.

He packed his saddle bags, then started over to the saloon to see Belle before he left. He'd only been in town for a day, and already he was dreading seeing the woman. She knew how he was, all he wanted was a soft body when he came to town. He liked her because once she bought the Silver Bell, she quit working on her back. She was clean, very beautiful, and she definitely knew how to please a man. That was it. He couldn't stand to hear her talk, she was possessive, and constantly trying to get him to stay the night with her when he was in town.

In all his years, Cade Jacobs had never spent the night sleeping with a woman. He'd spent all night having sex but, once he was done, he was done, and he got up and left. He was in front of the saloon now, after pausing for a moment, he continued on his way to the stable to get Rusty. The last thing he needed right now was to have a woman bitching at him for leaving again so soon after he just got there. That was just another reason why he would never get married. Women were good for two things, sex, and cooking. After saddling his horse, he stopped and picked up a few supplies he needed, Cade rode out of McDermott; not caring about the woman he knew would be furious for him leaving.

Cade put all thoughts of Belle and McDermott from his mind, instead thinking about the best way to get to Red Valley. It would be much faster to take the train, but he hated the feeling of being closed in and confined. No, going by horseback was the only way for him to travel. He rode for several hours, not really thinking about anything in particular. He was always alert when he was traveling. More than one man had tried to ambush him and get revenge for someone he'd killed.

He hated killing. It made him sick to his stomach every time he took another man's life, not that he would ever tell anyone that. There had only been a handful of times in his life that he'd actually gone looking to kill someone. Contrary to what everyone believed, he only killed when he had to; unfortunately, that seemed to be fairly often. It's true that he was a hired gun, but most of the time his reputation did the work for him. The funny thing, was that almost all of what people said about him, was made up. He'd been in his fair share of gun fights and he was damn fast. Most people didn't want to be on the business end of his Colt .45

Then there were the young bucks that wanted to make a name for themselves, and the best way to do that seemed to be for them to kill him. Most tried to do it honorably and beat him to the draw, while others didn't care how they did it as long as the end result was Cade being dead. It was a hard life, but it was the only one he knew. He wasn't a wanted man, so he worked and he saved, thinking that maybe one day, he would be able to put this life behind him, like Cole Weston had; except, Cade had no intentions of getting married. Just the thought of Cole being married and having kids made him chuckle. He just couldn't see the mighty Cole Weston answering to any woman, ever.

His mind went back to the reason his friend had summoned him in the first place. All kinds of scenarios played through his mind, but try as he might, he just could not think of a single reason. Regardless, it would be nice seeing Cole again. If the weather held, he should be in Red Valley in a week or so.

It took a little longer to get to Red Valley than he had initially thought. Several storms rolled through causing him to have to take shelter. There had just been too much rain, and with him being unfamiliar with the area, the last thing he wanted to be caught in was a flash flood. Cade stopped his horse at the entrance to the Double C for a moment, then started down the drive. For some reason, he felt like his life was about to change forever. When the house came into view, his gut clenched slightly. What would it be like to own something like this? What would it feel like to know that when you laid down at night, that you were in your house on your land? He could only imagine.

Cole was in the barn when he saw a lone rider making his way down the drive. He recognized who it was almost immediately. It had been almost a month, and he had really started to wonder if the man was coming at all. Cole walked out to greet Cade as he brought his horse to a stop in front of the corral. "Well, well, look who decided to finally come dragging in." Cole stuck his hand out for his friend to shake.

"Well, I would have been here a couple of days ago, but I got caught up in several storms and had to find shelter." Cade said with a half-smile. "So, what's going on that you need help with?" He had never been one to mince words.

"It's not me, but a friend of mine. Well, actually, it's my friend's sister. She bought a ranch, and apparently, she has a lot of water on her land while her neighbor does not. She didn't know it, but the three previous owners were either killed or run off the land. I thought you might be interested in being her foreman, just until we make sure she doesn't end up like the prior owners." Cole hastily threw in the last part. He'd seen the look on Cade's face when he'd mention that he'd be working for a woman.

It's not that Cade wouldn't be respectful, because he would. It was just that Cade thought women were put on this earth to pleasure a man, cook, and clean. He was so much harder and colder than Cole had ever been. Whereas Cole had known the love of his mother, then Rebecca, his first wife, and now Grace, Cade had never known any. For some reason though, Cole thought that if the right woman got a hold of Cade, the man would walk through the fires of hell for her.

"Come on, let's go inside, and have some dinner. I'll introduce you to my better half and our brood." Cole said as he slapped his friend on the back then led the way into the house.

"Mrs. Weston, dinner was delicious, and that apple pie, well, I don't think I've ever put anything in my mouth that tasted as good." Cade said as he rubbed his overfull stomach.

"I'm glad you enjoyed it Mr. Jacobs." Grace said as a becoming blush crept up her neck and face.

"Cole, I don't know how you don't weigh four hundred pounds, eating like that all the time."

"Oh, she keeps me busy." Cole said as he watched his wife glide across the floor.

The look of hunger on his friend's face took Cade by surprise. Grace Weston was one of the most beautiful women he'd ever seen. It was painfully obvious that the two were deeply in love with the other. At that moment, Grace turned around, returning the hungry look she received from her husband. Cade jerked his eyes away, feeling as if he were intruding on something special and rare. He would have never thought in a million years, Cole would get married and have five kids. For the second time since he'd arrived, his gut clenched, he was overcome by a strange longing, which was completely silly. He did want his own place, but certainly did not want a wife and kids. That thought was laughable.

"Um, if you two will excuse me, I think I'm going to retire for the evening." Cade stood up and headed for the front door.

"Where are you going? Grace asked.

"Well, I was headed to the barn to bed down for the night."

Grace shook her head. "Oh no you're not. I will not have it said that Grace Weston made her guests sleep in the barn! Follow me." She turned and walked towards the back of the house where they had added several more rooms.

Cade's eyes widened with shock. This was not the same woman from just a few seconds ago. This was a no nonsense, take charge, you had better listen to me, woman. He looked over to Cole who simply smiled and shrugged.

"My advice would be to do what she says. You'll regret it if you don't."

"I heard that Cole Weston." Grace said from the back of the house.

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