Westbound (Love Travels West, Book 1)

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Chapter 11. Jake's Story (continued).

If you can wait, and not be tired of waiting, or being lied about, don't deal in lies, or being hated don't give way to hating... —Rudyard Kipling.

Chapter 11.

Jake's Story (continued).

   It got very quiet in the cave. Dannie reached over and placed her hand over Jake's.

  "Did Calhoon react somehow?" She softly asked.

  Jake snorted. "Of course the man reacted, we all knew he would. He was mad as hell at me for not only taking Rachel, but woundin' him in the process. I had hoped the whole escapade would help in catchin' him, but he somehow got off that train before the authorities could get him. I knew he would come back to the farm and somehow I had to keep Dan safe and out of this. I was gonna to leave, but Dan was going to stay and get married and raise a family and I didn't want Calhoon to be after him. I made it clear that I was the one who had come up with the plan to get rid of Rachel, and I told Dan that if Calhoon ever showed up to put all the blame on me. I was the one who went after her, I got her off that train, and I was the only one who could say anythin' about it. Everyone around knew that Dan and myself didn't get along, so I hoped it would help convince Calhoon that I hadn't included Dan in this whole scheme. Of course if I was going to take the blame, I wasn't going to hang around Texas. I left one night without tellin' Dan where I was going, it would be safer for him as well if he didn't know where I was. All this happened four years ago. I haven't written to Dan once in all this time. If Calhoon somehow got whiff that we were in correspondence he would decide that Dan is conspirin' with me about Rachel. And that is why," Jake glumly concluded. "I don't communicate with any of the members of my family."

   "You mean that Calhoon is still somewhere out there, and after all these years he is still looking for your sister?" Dannie felt a chill go down her spine.

   "Yup, they still can't catch that scoundrel and he's still lookin' for Rachel. I don't know if its because he actually fell in love with her or just because he wants to prove to me that he always wins. Either way, he's been houndin' me for quite some time. We met up once as I was travelin' through Texas and he tried to get the information of where she was out of me. I told him the honest truth that I didn't know but of course he didn't believe me and threatened he wouldn't leave me alone until I gave Rachel up. Pretty soon after that I left joined a cattle drive and traveled to Wichita. It was there that I met Bessie. She was a right pretty girl, the prettiest I had ever seen in my life and I'll admit, I was smitten right from the start." Jake's voice grew rather strained and he fought to keep his cool. "We began seein' a lot of each other, Bessie was friendly and sympathetic. After all I had been through, it was nice to have someone to talk to. I still wasn't sure exactly where I was going to go and where I was going to start building my future life, but I knew that wherever it would be, I would want to build it with her. There was one thing about her however, that should have gotten me suspicious, but I was too in love with her to notice it. Love makes us blind, and sometimes it makes us blind to the wrong things. She was always asking about my family and seemed keenly interested about what happened to Rachel. Whenever we would get to talkin' about just anythin', one way or another the conversation would somehow lead to Rachel. As I mentioned earlier, at first, I hardly even noticed, I was too busy building plans for the future."

   "Why did she want to know where Rachel was?" Dannie had of course already guessed why, but she felt it would be better if she asked.

   "Because she was working for Calhoon," Jake hotly stated, his face growing angry. "She was one of his gang. His little female that he used to seduce men to get information out of them. I was just one of the many fish she was baiting to catch. Calhoon tracked me down and had her go over and try to get the information out of me. She kept pesterin' an' pesterin' me about it until finally I began to grow a little suspicious. I didn't want to think anythin' bad of her, after all, I was very much in love with her, but I made up my mind that I would watch her carefully. I was hopin' that my suspicions would prove to be nothing more than somethin' I had made up. I so desperately wanted to believe that it was just me over reactin'. But one night I caught her talkin' with Calhoon, and he was all upset that this was takin' forever and that Bessie had better pull the strings in quick because he was startin' to lose his patience. I didn't hear the entire conversation but I heard enough to make me understand that Bessie wasn't at all in love with me, she was just doing her job. What was more, I found out that she was actually the lover of another one of his gang, and the man was getting real upset that the whole thing with me was taking so long. He was jealous no doubt and wanted her to git the information and then they would have no more need of me and could kill me off. Needless to say, when I found all this out, I was quite heartbroken, but I knew I needed to keep my head about me. That night I stole away without tellin' anyone. I came here to Arizona and pretty soon I met up with Clayton Walkers, who was looking to starting a ranch. We teamed up and the Cora Belle came to life. I've been workin' there for about three and a half years, and so far Calhoon hasn't been able to find me. Of course it's all just a matter of time. I know he's still out there and one day he'll find me and come to settle the score. He won't lose, he can't lose, he has to win, and when he does come it will be me or him, one of us is gonna to have to go."

   "Why didn't you change your name, try to hide your identy?" Dannie shuddered, almost expecting Calhoon to suddenly appear from the growing darkness.

   "I'm no coward," Jake replied. "And I'm not the hidin' kind of person. Let him find me. Even if he does kill me, at least he'll know that I was perhaps the only person who stood up to him, who defied him, who wasn't afraid of him. Let him come and face me like a man, not have his little trollop do things for him." Jake cut off abruptly and stared out into the pouring rain. Dannie bit her lip, trying to think of something to say. Unfortunately nothing was coming to mind.

   "So there ya have it," Jake spoke up again. "That's the story of how my family broke up and all because Rachel couldn't keep her head about her, couldn't keep her emotions in check." Jake shook his head in disgust. Dannie looked at him sympathetically and gently squeezed his large, callous filled hand.

   "She was only sixteen, Jake. Girls tend to let their emotions get the better of them when they are that age. I first met Paul when I was sixteen, and well, we both know how that ended." Dannie let out a sigh from these words. "Seeing as her father wasn't very affectionate towards her, and I'm guessing both you and Dan where to busy with sorting out your own life, she was probably pretty lonely and then some man come along and finally gave her all the attention she has been wanting. He showers her with pretty words and makes her feel like she is the most important person in the world. I'm not surprise she fell for him. I'm not condoning what she did or how she behaved." Dannie quickly added, seeing the fire starting to burn in Jake's eyes. "I'm just staying that giving her age and the circumstances, I understand why it happened the way it did. And I also want you to know, that I am truly sorry it turned out like this, and I'm also really sorry about the way it was with Bessie. I'm guessing she is the reason you find it hard to trust any woman."

   Jake slowly nodded his head, "One of the reasons at least. Amy helped out and Rachel gave her generous contribution. I guess I'm just not lucky when it comes to women." 

There was a pause, before Dannie spoke again, her voice filled with regret.  "Jake, believe I owe you an apology."

   "For what?" Jake looked at her in surprise.

   "For judging you. I didn't know anything about you, but came to conclusions just the same, without bothering to try and understand why you were the way you were. Papa would have been ashamed of me. He taught me never to judge a person but I'm afraid I was never quite good at following that particular set of teachings."

   "I judged you as well, Dannie, without knowin' anything about you, so I guess I'll apologize too and then we'll be equal."

   Dannie smiled from his words. "Well, now that we've got it all settled, how about some dinner?"

  "Sounds good to me," Jake grinned and getting up went to the wagon to try and find something to eat, while Dannie cleared the sleeping space and arranged the bedrolls for when they would need them.

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