“Billy help me! Do something!”

The scream startled Ike so he immediately stopped loading the supplies and searched the area for the source. He saw Cody standing in front of a pretty young brunette, his gun drawn. Without hesitation, Ike pulled his gun and started forward, eyes scanning for any sign of danger. He saw nothing and looked back at the couple, finally noticing that their gaze was not on anyone near them but on the ground. Ike looked down and felt infuriated. As he hurried over to put a stop to Cody’s stupidity, he was beaten to the punch.

“Oh for all that’s holy Jen,” snapped a female voice. “Don’t be an idiot! It’s just a little *garter* snake!”

Ike saw that the young woman speaking was garbed in clothes such as Lou wore, her hat pulled low to her brow, and a long black braid hanging down her back. She also, as Lou did when irritated, had her hands on her hips. Once in Cody’s line of sight, Ike’s hands flew.

“Don’t yell at me Ike! I wasn’t –”

“He’s right, you prob’ly would’a shot some innocent bystander,” the girl cut in, nodding in Ike’s direction, who was too annoyed with Cody to take notice that she’d understood what he’d signed.

The timid young lady Cody was protecting finally walked to Cody’s side and stood close by him. Ike didn’t miss the admiration that shone in the girl’s eyes and it took a lot for him to refrain from rolling his.

“I wasn’t gonna –”

*What were you thinking*

“Well, in Jen’s case prob’ly not much of anythin’.” Amused, Ike grinned at the girl. It still hadn’t penetrated that she was following his conversation. Jen stuck her tongue out at the young woman in a most unladylike fashion.

“Like I was sayin’, I wasn’t –”

*You better be glad that Teaspoon or Sam didn’t see you*

“I wasn’t gonna shoot it I just did it to shut Jenny up!”

The four stood in silence. A heated blush crept up Jenny’s face and a frown marred her smooth skin, Cody closed his eyes and groaned, and Ike and his new friend exchanged satisfied grins.

“Jenny please,” pleaded Cody, “I didn’t mean –”

Jenny smacked Cody’s arm with the handle of her parasol and turned her nose in the air. “I beg your pardon sir but my name is Miss Harrison.” With much force, she opened her parasol and stormed down the walkway.

“Aw Jenny,” whined Cody, his hands outstretched in supplication. He turned to glare at Ike and the other young lady.

“Oh don’t be so worried,” said the girl, with a nonchalant wave of her hand, “get her candy or flowers and she’ll forgive you like that.” She snapped her fingers.

The look on Cody’s face told Ike that he was seriously considering this piece of news. A quick grin and Cody was off in Miss Harrison’s wake. For a moment, Ike watched Cody run after his new love interest. Sometimes he did envy Cody his different young ladies. The blond rider had such an easy way with women it reminded Ike every once and a while of his own clumsiness around the ladies.

“Wish he’d have shot.”

Ike turned a questioning look on the girl.

“Maybe he’d a’ shot Jen,” she said, matter-of-factly. Ike’s shoulders shook with his quiet laughter.

*You know her* he signed without even thinking.

“Not only do I know her, I’m related to her,” she said, sighing. “She’s my cousin from Boston.”

Suddenly Ike looked down at his hands and back at her. *You understand*

She laughed. “Yeah, ‘cause of my daddy.” Holding her hand out, she said, “I’m Faye Harrison. My daddy’s the new preacher here.”

Ike took her hand and was impressed by the power behind the grip. More and more the young woman reminded him of Lou.

*My name is Ike*

“I know who you are,” she said, her eyes widening. “You’re that rider.”

When Ike looked confused, and more than a little embarrassed, at why she seemed to know him, she smiled shyly.

“Heard about you testifyin’ against that man,” she explained. “He was the one that killed some people near where we lived b’fore.” The sad look in her eyes made Ike feel guilty, as if he’d been the one to put it there. After an awkward silence, she looked into Ike’s eyes. “You’re very brave you know that? Took a lot of *fortitude* for you to do that, ‘specially with your friend in danger.”

Ike blushed at the compliment. Other than his two families, blood and Express, he’d never received such high praise before. To change the subject, he thought about what she’d said regarding her father.

*The new preacher*

“Yeah, he’s what you call ‘a preacher of the west,’” she said, chuckling as she toed at a rock on the ground.

Ike touched her arm to get her attention. *What does that mean*

“You know, a *bible* in one hand, a pistol in the other,” she said, holding her hands up and miming the action. Ike laughed. “He took this job but he’s also gonna plant *wheat* and raise some stock.” A faraway, sad look shone in her eyes as she stared off in the distance. Again, Ike touched her arm.

*You don’t want to stay here* He frowned, hoping this wasn’t the case.

“No, no, I do want it,” she insisted. “It’s just that…” she looked at Ike as if judging him to be worthy of her feelings and thoughts. He must have passed because she gave him a big smile and continued, “We’ve never had a real home b’fore. Since Daddy finished the seminary and got his *certificate* back East, we’ve traveled from town to town, speakin’ the word of God.”

Ike nodded. There had been many traveling preachers who had come through Sweetwater and before, when his family was… he grimaced, not wanting to think about that.

“You okay?” she asked. The worried expression made Ike feel warm inside. He grinned and nodded, and she returned the smile.

“Ike?” It was Teaspoon.

The supplies, he’d completely forgotten about that. Sheepishly, he looked over and standing around the wagon were Teaspoon, Buck, Jimmy, and Kid; all of them smiling at him slyly. Jimmy and Kid had gone next door to the gunsmith’s shop and Buck and Teaspoon had still been in Tompkins store when Miss Harrison had thrown her fit. Now they were back and staring at him expectantly. He rolled his eyes and trudged over there, waving Faye to follow him.

*This is Faye Harrison*

“Ah yes,” said Teaspoon, doffing his hat and bowing. “You’re daddy is our new preacher from what I’ve heard.” Faye nodded shyly.

Ike introduced the others, who seemed very pleased to meet the new young miss. The look Ike gave them though as they smiled and vied for her attention made them all back off.  However, it didn’t stop them from teasing him later.

“Where’s Cody?” Jimmy looked up and down the street but the blond was nowhere in sight.

Ike and Faye exchanged amused glances and laughed.

“He’s prob’ly broke from buyin’ apology presents.”

At the confused looks from his friends and boss, Ike held his hand up indicating he’d tell them later.

“Well, guess I should be goin’. I need to get our supplies too.” Faye hesitated for a moment and said, “It was nice meetin’ ya’ Ike.” She gazed up into his eyes and Ike felt completely captivated by her deep brown eyes. Remembering that they weren’t alone, she added, “And y’all too.”

The boys said their goodbyes and got back to loading the supplies. It seemed to Ike that Faye wanted to say something else because she lingered for a moment longer.

“So, I’ll be goin’,” she said, softly. She’d only gone a few steps before turning back, retracing those steps, and taking Ike’s hand. “I think we’re gonna be really good friends Ike.” A gentle squeeze of his hand and she was gone.

Lost in thought, Ike watched her hurry over to the feed store. She glanced back at him once more before disappearing inside the building. Ike stood there in silence, baffled by the day’s events. How things could turn in just a moment’s time.

“You gonna stand there all day or help us?”

Buck’s voice intruded on his happy musings but Ike didn’t mind. Smiling broadly, he walked over to the pile of items and grabbed a sack off the top.

A/N: word list prompt from Raye

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