Mr. Tompkins stepped out of his store into Sam's path. "Sam, I've got a question for-"

"Sorry, Bill." Sam looked up into the man's eyes. "I'd love to stop and talk, but I'm waitin' for the stage. Emma's comin' back and it's late."

The older man didn't step back out of his way. "That may be, Sam, but I need your help."

The marshal blew out a frustrated breath and nodded. "What is it, Tompkins?"

"You and Emma are gettin' married in a few days and I'm havin' a bit of trouble gettin' that new shirt and trouser that you ordered."

Sam did a double-take. "What? I put in the order over a month ago, Bill. What's taking so long?"

The shopkeeper shrugged, his mountainous shoulders rising and falling together. "This isn't some big city like St. Jo, Sam… things take time to get here and this time… it's late."

"It ain't the only thing late," muttered Sam. "So what am I supposed to do without the order?"

Tompkins looked back at the marshal with a passive expression. "Ask Emma, she'd-"

"I told you… she's not here."

A couple of customers entered the store and Tompkins followed them into the dark interior. "Can't help you there, Sam."

*** ***

Continuing down the boardwalk he nearly stumbled over Mrs. Edmonson. "What's the rush, Samuel?"

He stopped and bent his knees so that she didn't have to crane her neck to see him. "Sorry there, Mrs. Edmonson, I-"

She waggled a finger in front of his nose. "Uh uh… you're supposed to call me Maybell."

Sam nearly strangled on the laughter he was holding back. "Maybell, I'm sorry I was bit distracted. You see, Emma-"

"Oh what a lucky woman she is."

"Yes," Sam swallowed, "thank you, I-"

"I don't suppose the two of you made up your minds yet, hmmm?"

Her eyes sparkled even in the shadows and Sam struggled to get a grasp on exactly what she was asking. "About?"

She reached out and pinched his cheek. "You are a naughty one, ain't ya?" She didn't let him answer. "The cake, silly boy… did you two decide on your cake?"

Sam raked his fingers through his hair and wracked his brain. "The cake…. Uh… I'm ah…" he gave her a grimace of a smile. "I know we talked about it, but for the life of me, I can't remember what we decided. Just… ah, make us whatever you like and-"

She gasped out a breath that had him wondering if she was about to keel over. "You can't just make 'any' cake for a wedding? The bride has to make the decision! Shame on you Sam Cain for even making that suggestion. Where's Emma… let's go find her and-"

"Emma's not- ow!"

Mrs. Edmondson gave him a sharp look as she lowered her hand. "Don't interrupt me, boy." She settled her shawl over her shoulders. "You ask Emma and come and tell me 'fore I hit the hay tonight or there'll be hell to pay."

*** ***

Sam struggled to stand and found that his back had frozen into a curve. With a grimace and a crack he wrenched his back into a straight line and continued down the walk, craning his neck back to see the street. The road was filled with people and horses. No stage.

He needed a change. Something to get his mind off of Emma… and the missing stage and all these questions! Sam crossed the street and realized only a moment too late that he'd crossed over to the Café.

"Oh goodness, Sam! I'm so glad you stopped by."

"Well, actually, Miss Carlisle, I was just on my way to-"

"I've left several messages for you with Deputy Craig and he assured me that you'd be by." She gave him an over-dramatic sigh. "I'm soooo glad you finally came to see me."

He looked quickly to each side of the walkway, looking for an out. "Actually, I was on my way to-"

"I realize that it's coming up, soon… but not too soon, but still," she gasped in a breath and then chattered on, "so I realize that maybe there's time to wait but really I don't want to. I think we should decide it now."


"The wedding party, Marshal! What do you and the Missus… I mean, soon-to-be Missus, want to eat on your special night?"

"Eat? Food, I guess."

The younger woman gave him a look that would have curdled milk. "Food? This is your first meal as husband and wife in the eyes of God and the town! You can't possibly think that just 'anything' would be good enough!" She shook her head rapidly back and forth before stopping still as a statue. A horrified look overcame her. "Or do you?"

Sam felt his face heat and his words tripped over his tongue. "I… don't? You know, this is something that you should really…"

"Ask Miss Shannon?"

"Yes," agreed Sam, "something you should Ask Emma."

While she was nodding and muttering to herself, Sam escaped and went back to the Marshal's office. At least there he could lock the door and hide inside until Emma came back.

*** ***

Several hours and three 'guests' later, Sam peered through the windows at the end of the street and the sunset beyond. Still. No stage…


"Such a heavy sigh, Sam."

Sam whirled around, his hand reaching for his gun.

Teaspoon stepped into the lamplight with his hands up at the same level as his ears. "Hold on there, Sam… I ain't here to cause trouble.

Drawing his hand down over his face Sam sagged against the wall and groaned. "You have no idea, Teaspoon. Everyone has all... these… questions!"

"And you don't have much in the way of answers?"

Sam shook his head, his hands flopping around against his thighs. "I had no idea… Jenny did all the planning the first time… and now Emma… I thought I knew what it took to get somethin' like this goin'…"

"Well, Sam-"

"Hell, I can plan a raid on a whole bunch of outlaws… I can track a murderin' band of thieves … I can survive a week out in the wilds with a knife and a can of beans… but I… I can't…"

"Can't plan a wedding?"

"I guess it's just not somethin' a man can do. Don't you agree?" Sam threw his hands up in the air and looked at the older man whose expression was a little strange. "What is it Teaspoon?" Standing, Teaspoon gave a little shrug and headed for the door. "I'll be around, Sam." He nearly bowled Emma over as she ran up the stairs.

She stopped him with hands on his chest and a concerned look. "What's wrong, Mr. Spoon?"

Teaspoon straightened up and gave her a smile. "Nothin' that one of your apple pies can't cure."

Emma gave him a wink. "Then I'll make you one first thing in the morning."

Tipping his hat he walked down the stairs to his horse.

*** ***

Sam's embrace nearly swallowed her whole. "Sam! What's wrong?"

He held her at arm's length, his hands firmly on her shoulders. "I've missed you… you have no idea how much I've missed you."

She reached up and unpinned her bonnet. "Glad to hear it, but that's not all. Somethin' has you flustered…"

Sam launched into the explanation and had Emma chuckling before he finished. "What? What?!"

She touched his cheek with her hand and gave him a little kiss on his lips. "Now I know why Mr. Spoon was so upset when he left." Emma stepped into his embrace, her cheek warming against his chest. "He came to give you a little help and you hurt his feelings."

"What would he know?"

Emma leaned back in his embrace and smiled up at the big, handsome, dense man she was marrying. "Mr. Spoon's been married six times and he planned four of the weddings himself."

"And I told him-" he groaned, "I'll come out and apologize in the mornin'."

She shook her head and gave him another kiss. "No need. I told him I'd make him an apple pie to make him feel better."

A grin spread over Sam's face as he leaned in for a kiss. "What do I get?"

She slid her arms around her neck. "Me."

Her wedding to Sam is fast approaching when Emma is called out of town to see a sick friend. Now she's due back but the stage is late -- really late. How is Sam handling it? Prompt from Cindy

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