Westbound (Love Travels West, Book 1)

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Chapter 5. Tongue Taming.

But the tongue can no man tame, it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.—James 3:8

Chapter 5.

Tongue Taming.

    Jake hoped that Dannie would sleep in so he could leave without her, but his hopes didn't materialize. Just as they agreed, at 5 a.m. sharp, Dannie was packed and ready. Jake grumbled at her punctuality. He had only known this Miss Preston for one day and was already about as annoyed with her as he could possibly be. After the whole embarrassing performance yesterday, Abner and Dannie had taken to talking. Jake hadn't stuck around to listen to their conversation, preferring to go and wash himself from the Arizona dust. When he had come back, they were still talking and from the looks of it, they had shared their life stories. No doubt Abner knew all about Dannie and Dannie knew all about Abner, where he was from, and where he was headed. Jake had finally pushed Abner to wash before his train left and Abner gave in. Dannie had gone to her room and Jake hoped that was the last he would ever see of her, but when Jake took Abner to the train station, Dannie had accompanied them, seen Abner on the train, wished him every happiness in his matrimonial life, and even went so far to say she would be praying for him. When at last Abner was gone, Jake found himself walking back with Dannie but the two of them didn't say a word to each other. At the door to the hotel Dannie had asked what time he was leaving tomorrow and Jake had replied at five in the morning.

     Jake had avoided contact with any people for the rest of that day, but even then he knew Mrs. Callaway was asking around town, trying to find out a bit more about him. The only thing anyone could tell her was what had already been said by Abner. Nobody new much about Jake's personal life and he intended to keep it that way. He was the best cattle driver and horse breeder Arizona knew, who he had been before that, what his life story was, that was something he didn't speak about to anyone, not even to his close friends on the ranch.

    To Dannie, the fact that not much could be said about her new traveling companion wasn't very comforting, and she had prepared herself for the upcoming journey with some hesitancy. Her heart was beating a little faster than usual, this whole thing was terribly risky, not to mention improper. To travel alone, with a man, for three days, but then, what other option did she have? Someone had to take her to the Circle 4.

"Oh, Lord," she finally prayed, "if it is not your will for me to go with Jake, please, make something happen to stop me from going with him. I don't know what to do, give me your gift of discernment." Looking out the window, Dannie noticed Jake preparing the wagon for the journey. She watched as he put the reins on the horses, and even though she was on the second floor and the window was a little dirty, Dannie could tell he was whispering something to the animals, a calm, reassuring look in his face. "Funny how he can be so kind to animals and so horribly rude to people," Dannie couldn't help thinking, yet at the same time, something in her heart told her that this man would not physically hurt her. The way he handled the horses spoke a little of his character, he may be rude, he may be impudent, but he was not cruel.

    "Once again, dear Lord," she whispered as she shut her bag and put her hat on her head, "if this is not your will, than make it clear to me." Dannie glanced around the room and noticed she had left her Bible on the nightstand. Picking it up, she reopened her bag and was about to put it in when it slipped out of her hands and tumbled to the floor. Berating herself for her clumsiness with her Father's Bible, Dannie bent over and picked it up. Turning it over, she glanced at it and her eyes fell on a verse. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unaware.

    Of course seeing Jake as an angel was beyond the power of her imagination, but as Dannie tucked the Bible away, she thought perhaps this was a reassurance from God that all would be well and He had sent Jake to her as an answer to the prayer she had made in coming off this ship. Only...Dannie couldn't help wishing God had sent someone a little more agreeable.

    Coming down the stairs, Dannie stepped outside and walked up to the wagon and Jake. Jake heard her coming and turned around.

    "My, you sure rise early," he sarcastically informed her.

    "I don't think that was meant as a compliment," Dannie wryly said. Jake ignored her sentence and motioned for her to climb up the wagon.

   "I really am very much obliged, Mr. Wade, that you are willing to go through all the trouble." Dannie politely stated. Even though she didn't like him, Dannie felt she did owe the man, he was going to take her completely free of charge.

   "Yeah, whatever," Jake grunted. Dannie bit back the smart reply that was on the tip of her tongue. He could at least try to be nice. Forcing a smile, Dannie handed Jake her bag and then proceeded to climb into the wagon.

    Jake did not want to help the annoying Miss Preston up the wagon, but he knew it was expected of him, so he supported her arm until she was safely seated.

    "Thank you." Dannie crisply said with another forced smile. Jake only grunted again and hopped up beside her, taking the reins of the horses.

    The back door of the hotel flung open and Maggie came rushing out. "You take care, Dannie dear, don't let him do anything to ya," She admonished in a motherly voice.

    "Really, Missus!" Jake was very offended at the statement.

    "This is the west after all," Maggie ignored Jake, "and it's a dangerous place. Mr. Wade looks like a good man, and he seems to know his way around here, so perhaps it's all the better, but you be on your guard just the same. Have you got a gun?"

    "Certainly not!" Dannie exclaimed. "I could never touch such a horrible thing. I do not believe in any kind of weapons, especially firearms. God is my strength and my strong tower, he is all the weapon I shall need.

    Jake smirked and shook his head. "I'll be sure to write that on your tombstone."

    Dannie coldly turned to him, "how very presumptuous of you, Mr. Wade; who said you would be invited to my funeral?"

    Jake didn't bother answering her question, but inwardly he couldn't help but marvel a little. This probably had to be the first woman who could so easily rebuff all his blows. It was like anything he shot at her bounced back at him

    "Ah, dear, dear, you still have so much to learn." Maggie shook her head. "Now, you listen to me, if that Mr. Martin doesn't want you for some reason, then you can come here and work for Caleb and myself. We'd be glad to take you in if your relatives won't."

    "Mrs. Callaway, I don't know what to say, you are too kind," Dannie smiled warmly at the dear lady.

    "There, there, you take care and always be on your guard. Oh, and I made this up for you," Maggie pressed a basket into Dannie's hands. "There is apple pie and fresh bread and a plenty of my best donuts. Give some to Mr. Wade, I've known it that when a man is well fed he is apt to be happier than if he's hungry. God be with you, dear soul."

    "And you too, Mrs. Callaway, I am indebted to you. I'll be sure to write when I reach Mr. Martins," Dannie leaned over and placed a kiss on the thin cheek. Jake, who was very impatient to get going, flicked the reins and the horse and wagon began moving forward.

    "Remember, if Mr. Martin don't want you, you can come back and work for us," Maggie called after the wagon.

   Dannie waved and nodded her head.

    "Maybe you should just take them up on their offer now." Jake offered. "I mean..."

    "Thank you, Mr. Wade, but when I want your advice, I'll ask for it," Dannie snapped at him.

    "Whatever." Jake mumbled with a shrug. The first hour of the journey passed in complete silence. Jake kept his eyes fixed on the road ahead of them while Dannie looked around at the dry, barren landscape. The sun was rising higher in the sky and the heat began to beat down on them. The wind blew about, but it was a hot, sticky wind and did nothing to cool the heat. Dannie sighed. How foreign everything was, how different from her native England. She couldn't help but remember the thick green foliage, the cool damp air, fresh from the rain. The warm sun that would be so kind as to peek out now and then and giving warmth to the area. England sun had always been a kind sun, not cruel like the one here, making everything seem asleep or dead. And the dust, oh the terrible dust. It was all Dannie could do to keep it out of her eyes and face. She kept her handkerchief in her hand at all times to wipe away the layers as they would settle on her face. She dared not complain, however. The last thing she wanted was to hear Jake's sentiments on how she felt.

    "Is it always this hot?" Dannie dared to ask at one point.

    "Nope," Jake replied, "you just happened to arrive in the peak of summer. It gets a little cooler in the winter."

    Dannie wondered just how much 'a little cooler' was. Her question did break the silent spell and Jake turned to look at his traveling companion.

  "What's London like this time of year?" He asked.

   "I don't know," Dannie's voice was bored. Why did everyone always assume she was from London? "I've never been to London."

  "You're not from London?" Jake was a little taken back. "I was positively sure you were from England."

    "For goodness sake, there is more to England than just London." Dannie turned to face Jake. "I happen to be from Yorkshire, that's a county located in northern England. If you knew anything at all, you might have been able to determine I'm from the north by paying attention to my accent, just like I can tell by your accent that you were born and raised in the south."

    "Oh, is that what you think?"

    "Can you honestly tell me that you were not?" Dannie lifted an eyebrow.

    Jake huffed angrily, "Well, yeah, so I was born and raised in the south, how would you tell that?"

    "Because in New York no one speaks the way you all do. I mean, what you don't slur your completely mispronounce."

    "Now wait a minute, Missy, just because I'm pronouncin' it differently don't mean I'm pronouncin' it wrong."

    "Doesn't," Dannie corrected.

Jake rolled his eyes. "I hate to disappoint you, Missy, but about ninety percent of the folks here speak like this, and in time you will too."

    "Oh no I won't," Dannie resolutely stated, "I'll keep my proper English if it is the last thing I do!"

    "Betch ya five dollars you won't? Give ya a year and you'll talk like everyone else here."

     Dannie looked Jake square in the face, "very well, five dollars it is!"

    "We're agreed then," Jake grinned, at last things had started to get a little interesting. "So tell me, how does it feel being a female 'Danny'?"

    "Probably the same as it feels being a male 'Jake'."

    "Don't got much of a sense of humor, do ya, Missy?" Jake couldn't help pointing out.

    "Maybe it's just your jokes aren't funny."

    "Yeah, whatever." Sheesh, this lady was hard to please.

    "And I would appreciate if you would stop calling me 'Missy'," Dannie added. "It is Miss Preston."

    Jake only rolled his eyes. He had met many a demanding woman in his day, but she had to be the worst. And they had only been traveling for a few hours, Jake couldn't help feeling very sorry for himself and his never ending back luck in life.

    "Have you been living in Arizona long?" Dannie felt it her turn to ask a question. Useless conversation was better than awkward silence.

   "Long enough," Jake curtly replied. "I'll tell you right away, Missy..."

   "For the last time, Mr. Wade," Dannie exploded, cutting him off in mid sentence. "It's Miss Preston! Not Missy!"

    Jake lifted his eyebrows at her outburst. Why did she have such a problem with being called Missy? "Alright," he stated, "Miss Preston it is. No need to get so upset, you really ought to learn how to control that temper."

    "Ever grateful for the advice, Mr. Wade," Dannie sarcastically retorted.

    "Miss Preston, honestly, just cool it. You are I are going to be stuck with each other for three days, so we might as well not be all tight and angry. Come on, take a deep breath and relax just a little, that will make the journey more pleasant for the both of us."

    Dannie sighed, this Mr. Wade sure knew how to get on her nerves. She sucked her lips into a thin line. "Will we pass by any towns along the way?" She asked, changing the subject.

    "Not really, it's not like there are that many out here."

    "So...where will we sleep?"

    "We're gonna camp out."

    "Oh." Dannie wasn't exactly thrilled with the idea.

    "Do you know how to cook over an open fire?" Jake asked.

    "I don't know how to cook at all." Dannie felt a little embarrassed by her answer, but she didn't let it show.

    "Oh right, you're the fine lady type," Jake remembered. "Can you do anythin' at all?"

    "I can do plenty of things," now Dannie was on the defensive.

    "Like what?"

    "I can knit for example, and I'm very skilled with a needle."

    "Ah." A hint of approval appeared in Jake's eyes. "Well I guess you're not altogether useless."

    Those words were more than Dannie could take. Reaching over she pulled the reins, making the horses abruptly slow down.

    "What in hell fire?" Jake angrily barked, brushing her away from him. The horses neighed loudly at the way the sudden rough treatment and shook their heads. Jake fought to keep control of the situation. Dannie, in the meantime had jumped down from the wagon. The horses hadn't stopped completely, and Dannie lost her balance in descending from a moving wagon, causing her to tumbled into the dust. She hopped to her feet quickly and took off walking at a fast pace. Jake pulled the horses to a halt, and getting down from the wagon himself, took off after her.

    "For the love of God, Miss Preston!" He called. Dannie didn't stop, she only picked up her pace. Jake ran to catch up with her and caught her by the arm. Dannie spun around and smacked him in the face so hard his whole cheek stung and turned red. Jake's hand instinctively covered the bruised area. How did those tiny little hands have such terrible power in them? What were they composed of that their slap should sting as bad as a horse whip. "What was that for?" He asked, rubbing his sore cheek

    "Unhand me at once, Mr. Wade!" Dannie demanded. "Or I'll give you another one."

    "Miss Preston, you have got to settle down!"

    "Not until you let go of me!"

    Jake loosened his grip, but didn't let go completely. "Now tell me, are you out of your mind! What in the name of heaven and earth got into ya? Do you or do you not realize this is dangerous territory?  Have you no concern or care for your own safety? You can't just take off like that!"

    "And you have no right to be so horribly rude," Dannie retorted. "Where are your manners, sir? Did it not cross your mind that I have feelings? And that perhaps you are sorely hurting them? You cannot insult me like that and still think I'm going to sit around and bear it. I demand you give me at least a measure of respect! I am a human being, and I will be treated as one!"

    Despite himself, Jake figured she did have a point. He was still of the opinion that the smack had been completely uncalled for, but it had been rude of him to say something like that to her face. "Alright, alright, I'm sorry," he apologized. "I spoke out of line, Miss Preston. Whatever my thoughts, I should keep them to myself. Now will you please get back into the wagon."

    "I will," Dannie gave in, "and I'll even go so far to forgive you."

    "Very kind of you, Miss Preston," Jake replied with a strong tint of sarcasm in his voice.

    "But that is only because I am a Christian and my faith tells me to do it," Dannie added.

   "Much obliged." Jake gave a ceremonious bow. Dannie shook herself free of his grasp and the two of them climbed back on the wagon and resumed their journey.

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