The girl wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. "How long?" she asked.

"You're two months through already. Only seven more to go," the doctor smiled, trying to encourage her.

She tried to smile back at him but failed miserably. Seven more months! she thought, what am I going to do?

"You'll be fine, sweetheart," the doctor tried again, but this time his words drew the start of loud sobs from her.

"I can't be pregnant!" she cried. "I can't!"

The doctor started to lose his patience with the sobbing girl before him. It all seemed a bit suspicious to him - the way that she didn't want to be pregnant. "Well…" he said, "there's nothing I can do for you now. I'm sure your husband will be quite happy to learn about the coming baby," the doctor added carefully, seeing that she didn't wear a wedding ring.

"Yes…" she mumbled, hiding her hand, trying to gather her composure again. "Real happy…"

"One other thing that you have to keep in mind," the doctor changed his tone to a more practical one. "You must take things easy from now on. At least until the baby's here. No hard work, no lifting heavy things, and no riding. If you must get somewhere, use a buckboard or better - use a stage."

"But I need to get to Sweetwater," the girl cried. "How am I going to get there?"

"Well, there's a stage leaving in half an hour to Sweetwater, you can be there tomorrow afternoon."

"Can't I ride there? Just so I'll get there and then I'll start my resting?" the girl asked, looking scared of the thought of going by stage.

"Look, ma'am," the doctor admonished, now quite irritated with the girl's desire to hurt herself and the baby. "What's the rush to get to Sweetwater? Riding a horse can hurt both you and the baby. And besides, it's not proper for a young girl like yourself riding all alone through the wilderness. You will take the stage to Sweetwater and then you will rest in your husband's house. It is your husband that you are going to meet there, isn't it?"

"Uh… yes," the girl whispered; now lost in thoughts.

"Well then, that's good." The doctor concluded while standing up. The girl stood up as well. "Now, listen carefully!" the doctor continued. "No hard work and no riding. Is that clear?"

The girl's throat was full of tears so she just nodded her head, feeling the tears well in her eyes once again.

"Good," the doctor put his arm around her shoulders and led her to the door. "Now you'd better hurry so you'll make it to the stage."

The girl looked up at him. "Thank you," she managed, "and I'm sorry for my outburst."

"That's alright," the doctor smiled warmly, once again softening. "You'll be alright."


Chapter 1

Lou blinked in the sun when she stepped out of the doctor's office. The news he gave her made her tremble.

She ran back to her hotel room to gather her things, then to the livery to take Lightning. She then headed back to the street to find the stage back to Sweetwater. She tied Lightning to the back of the stage, keeping her small saddlebag with her.

In the stage, opposite her sat a young couple on their way to their honeymoon. They both looked so much in love. Lou remembered how she once felt. Once she had hope for a better future. Even after Kid and she broke up. Even after he started seeing other girls. She thought there would be other men. He's not the only fish, after all. But now, pregnant… and in a few months it would start to show. Who would want her like that? Fat and ugly? And lazy? What was she going to do for seven months? She would have to tell Teaspoon and Rachel. Would that be the thing that would get her fired? Surely Teaspoon won't let her stay there without doing anything. But where would she go? She didn't know anybody. She didn't have any relatives to go to…

Suddenly the stage took a hard jump and the young woman fell on Lou. "Oh, I'm so sorry, ma'am," said the newlywed.

Lou looked at her and managed a smile. The girl was beautiful. With long brown hair and green eyes. Lou turned her gaze toward the young man beside her, as he checked on his wife. The admiration she saw in his eyes reminded her once again the admiration she used to see in Kid's eyes. Again, as in every time in the past that she thought about him, Lou felt tears stinging her eyes. She quickly turned to look outside the window, ashamed of her tears.

"Are you alright ma'am?" the young man asked her.

His voice startled her. She turned to see his blue eyes, now full of concern, looking at her. For a moment she just gazed at them, letting her imagination take over, letting herself think that it's all a bad dream. The whole last month was only a dream and that was Kid sitting there in front of her, caring for her like he used to.

"You look troubled. Is there anything we can do to help you?" the voice woke her from her daydream. No it's not Kid. Definitely not Kid…

"I'm alright," she smiled. "Thanks."

"Sure. So, are you from Sweetwater?" the young woman asked.

"Yes," Lou answered. "Is that where you're headed?"

"Oh, yes," the young woman answered, somewhat excited. "Tom and I thought it would be a nice place to settle down in and start a family."

"A family? How long have you been married?" Lou blurted.

The woman looked a bit puzzled by Lou's reaction. "Well… we're not in a hurry… but in time…"

Lou suddenly felt ashamed for her nosiness. "I'm sorry, it's really none of my business."

"It's ok," the man smiled. Lou still looked uneasy. "Look," he started, "let's try again: I'm Tom Smith and this is my wife Elizabeth."

"Call me Eli," the woman offered with a smile.

Lou eased a bit. "I'm Louise, nice to meet you."

They all smiled at each other. There was a moment of silence, which Lou broke. "So, how long have the two of you been married?"

"Just over a month," Eli answered, her voice full of excitement. She gave her husband a loving smile, which he returned.

"You look so much in love," Lou said but felt out of place the minute she uttered the words.

Eli and Tom seemed to be a bit puzzled by her sincerity; it wasn't every day that a stranger would say such a thing so openly. Eli managed a smile, though. She could see Louise's intentions were good. She was wondering what brought all that pain into her eyes.

Louise seemed to be a really nice girl and Eli craved a friend. Her family back east was very close and she grew up practically without really knowing any outsiders. When she met Tom, a new world opened up for her and when they fell in love and got married, she knew she would leave everything to be with him, where he wanted to be most - the west.

But leaving her family behind wasn't an easy thing for her to do, and she longed for the voice of another woman she could be friends with. Louise, although she was a mystery, looked like a decent girl. Not like those horrible women her mother warned her from - the dancers at the saloons and the whores. Her mother also warned her of the morality of some of the girls. But Louise, didn't look like any of those type of women. Eli hoped they could be friends.

"So, Louise, are you living with your family?" Eli asked.

"Well… sort of..." Louise answered, somewhat coldly, but gave no more than that.

Eli looked bewildered. She looked at her husband, but he only shrugged his shoulders. Not a word was spoken afterwards.


That night, while they were camping, Lou addressed Ben, the stage driver.

"Ben," she said, gathering all her femininity. "I have a little request."

"Sure," he smiled, looking up to see her beautiful eyes staring straight at him. "How can I help you?"

"Well… the thing is… well, my family lives just out of town, and we practically pass through their territory…"

"Yes?" the driver couldn't take his eyes of hers.

"Well… I was wondering…"


"Will it be possible if you'll drop me off by their land, so I won't have to make the whole way back from town?"

"Aren't they going to wait for you there?"

"No. You see, I'm surprising them, so they won't be waiting for me. They don't even know I'm coming."

"Well, ma'am, there won't be a problem. If you want I can take the few extra minutes and drop you off at your relatives."

"Oh, no. I couldn't ask you to do that for me. I want to surprise them. Alone, I would be harder to spot."

"Sure thing, ma'am. Whatever you want."

Lou sighed in relief. At least she passed this one. Now she had to think what she was going to do when she got to her 'relatives'.


She got off the stage in the middle of nowhere, about a mile from the station, and untied Lightning from the stage's railing. Tom and Eli seemed to be relieved that she was off, they had barely exchanged a word since the previous day, and the three of them looked somewhat uncomfortable with each other.

Lou quickly changed her cloths to her male disguise. Soon, I won't be able to wear these, she thought. "Lightning," she spoke to her horse, tears starting to fill her eyes, "What am I going to do?"

Lou started back to the station, on foot. When I get close enough, she thought, I'll start riding, as slow as I can. The boys would get too suspicious if I walked in.

On her way back to the station Lou had a lot of time to think about the last few months. Just a couple of months ago everything seemed to be so great. She was in love with a man who loved her back, or at least she thought he did.

Then he started talking about marriage, saying it wasn't right, the way their relationship was heading if they weren't married. He asked her to marry him twice, but both times she declined. Maybe she should have said yes. Maybe she should have married him. Maybe she would have if she had known she was pregnant. But then again, he didn't love her anymore, did he? He was quick enough to find a new love interest after they broke up. It was barely a week after they went their separate ways that he started seeing that Samantha woman. Did he love her at all? At anytime? Maybe they took things to fast too soon… they probably did.

And now she was pregnant! Last week she started to feel sick. Each morning began with her running out of the bunkhouse, much to the boys' amusement, in order to throw up. She didn't tell anyone about this routine, didn't pay much attention to it. She had to take a run to Seneca, since no one really knew how she felt, so she decided to go to see a doctor there. It would be safer, she realized, than going to the Sweetwater doctor, since he would have to check her out, and then find out about her…

What would she do now? Who else was there that should know? Maybe Jimmy? What would Rachel think of her? Would she despise her? Was she any different from the saloon girls, or the girls she once worked with at St. Joe?

And Teaspoon? Though he had an out-of-marriage daughter, it was different for men - nobody knew about the child unless they wanted them to. But everybody would know about her when she started getting fat. And that would happen. No question about it.

But what about…

No! She decided. I won't tell Kid. It isn't his right to know. And I wouldn't want him to be a father to my child.

Her child… hers… what kind of a mother would she be? She barely knew hers. How would she know what to do? She's never taken care of a child before, and now it would be all hers.

But what would she tell Kid when he sees her belly getting bigger? He sure would have a lot of questions. He always did. Would she be able to lie to him as she looked straight into his eyes? Oh, his eyes…

The station came closer and closer. Now she could see the roof of the main house. She knew it wouldn't be long until one of the riders spotted her. It would probably be Buck, with his hawk eyes.

She mounted her horse and, slowly, made her way back to the station.

Fear of what was to follow was eating at her heart.


Chapter 2

Buck saw a figure heading toward the station. "Rider coming!"

Cody emerged from the bunkhouse, ready for departure. "Is that Lou?"

"Yes," Buck answered. "Looks like she's hurt or something. Look how slow she's riding."

Buck ran to meet her, Cody following him close behind. Lou dismounted from Lightning into Buck's arms.

"Lou, are you ok?" He asked, his voice full of concern.

"Yes. I'm fine," She said. "Just a bit tried."

Cody stood beside them, quiet for once, not quite sure of his place there. "Uh… Lou… do you have the mochilla for me?"

"Oh, the mochilla!" Lou cried. "I totally forgot about it!" The tears that formed in her already red eyes confused both Cody and Buck. "It's all right, Lou. You don't need to cry over it. It's only a mochilla."

But Lou was already crying, her body trembling in Buck's arms.

"I'll get Rachel," Cody said. "Bring her to the bunkhouse."

Cody mounted Lightning and rode toward the house. "Rachel!" he cried before the horse stopped. "Rachel!"

Jimmy and Rachel emerged from the house. Seeing Lightning by the porch, Rachel scolded Cody. "Weren't you supposed to go in the opposite direction?"

"Rachel," Cody said ignoring her sarcasm, "Lou just came back, but she isn't well. She started crying…"

Before he could finish, both Rachel and Jimmy were on their way to the bunkhouse. Rachel took a moment to turn back to Cody. "Thank you, Cody, but I suggest you get started on your way…"

Cody mumbled something she couldn't hear and reluctantly went to his horse and mounted up. Well, I guess I'd better get going before Jimmy starts blaming Kid for Lou's crying… He thought to himself as he rode away from the station.

Buck almost carried Lou into the bunkhouse. Her legs shook terribly. He opened the door for her and helped her in. As Lou saw Kid sitting with Samantha, a gasp escaped her lips. Kid turned as he heard her, his cheeks reddening. Lou felt even weaker and she grabbed a chair, holding its frame with shaking hands.

The door behind her burst open and Jimmy walked in, Rachel right behind him. Buck and Samantha turned their heads toward them but Lou and Kid remained staring at each other.

Rachel put her hands on the girl's shoulders. "Sweetheart, are you ok? Louise… Louise, do you hear me?"

Lou turned her head, her eyes red and swollen. "I'm fine, it's… It's just my head…" Tears continued running down her cheeks.

Rachel took her hand and led her toward one of the bunks. Since hers was a top bunk, Rachel thought it would be better for her to sleep in a lower one. All the occupants of the room stared at them, as Rachel took off Lou's boots, and laid her on the bunk. "Boys, Samantha, will you please wait outside?" Rachel said.

The boys and Samantha cleared the bunkhouse. Before he closed the door behind him, Kid turned back to Rachel and Lou. "Rachel, what's wrong with her?"

Rachel turned to face him, her face full of concern. "Would you just wait outside, Kid?"

He walked out, closing the door behind him. Buck was already walking Lightning to the stables, but Jimmy still stood on the porch, eyeing Samantha with eyes full of hate.

"Come on," Kid walked toward her, "I'll take you home." She smiled gratefully at him, her eyes reflecting the relief she felt.

Rachel looked at Lou who was lying on the bunk with her back to Rachel. Seeing Lou sobbing like this, her shoulders shaking, broke Rachel's heart. Lou was like a daughter to her and she wanted so much to help her. "Lou, darling, please talk to me. What's wrong?"

"I really don't want to talk right now, Rachel."

"Lou, I want to help you…"

Lou turned to face Rachel. "Rachel, please… I can't right now." Rachel started to answer her but Lou interrupted. "Rachel, please… I just want to sleep."

She was exhausted. The news, the journey back home and the crying took their toll on her. She just wanted to sleep for an hour. Two. A day. A week. Forever.

Rachel sighed and walked out. She looked at Jimmy who was still there, waiting on the porch. He was worried. She knew he loved Lou and she knew how angry he was at Kid. But she also knew that Kid still loved Lou dearly. She knew why they broke up. Jimmy knew it too, but he didn't understand how Kid could give up on her so easily.

"How is she?" he asked.

Rachel took her time answering him. She looked over at the stables where Buck was coming from toward the bunkhouse.

"Rachel," Buck said as he came closer. "I don't think she rode Lightning all the way from Seneca."

"What do you mean?" Jimmy asked, a bit puzzled by what he said.

"Well, he's not as tired as he should've been," he explained. "If she would've ridden him the whole way, he would've been much more tired."

"If she didn't ride, than how did she get here?" Jimmy tried to reason with Buck.

"I don't know how she got here," Buck answered, a bit impatient with his friend's questions. "Look, she did ride in, but she was riding very slowly. Cody and I ran to see what's wrong with her and she just started crying, especially when Cody asked her about the mochilla, which she forgot."

"Dear Lord." Rachel exclaimed. "What happened to her?"

"I don't have a run for a few days. I'll go to Seneca and try to find out what happened." Buck offered and started toward the stables to get his horse ready.

Jimmy stared as Rachel. "How is she?" he asked again.

Rachel flung her arms in the air in desperation. "I don't know Jimmy. I honestly don't know. But whatever it is, it's obviously not good."

Jimmy patted her back. "Buck will find out. Don't worry. She'll be ok. She has to."

He saw Kid return. "I'll be right back," he mumbled as he went to the stables after him.


"What did you do to her now?" Jimmy asked Kid, shoving him into an empty stall.

Kid stumbled backwards. "I didn't do anything to her."

"Then why is she crying like that?" Jimmy asked, again shoving Kid.

"I don't know, Jimmy. Maybe it's your doing?" Kid taunted. Ready for a fight.

"Boys!" Rachel called from the door. "Please don't fight now. Louise is gonna need both of you…"

"She won't need him," Jimmy declared motioning at Kid.

Before he knew what happened, Kid was all over him and the both of them engaged in yet another fight.

"Boys, please…" Rachel tried. "Kid… Jimmy…"

Suddenly they heard a growl from behind. "What's going on here?"

The three of them turned to see Teaspoon standing at the door. "What's going on here?" he demanded for the second time.

Jimmy got up and straightened himself. "It's Lou. She's crying. And it's all Kid's fau…"

Before he even got a chance to finish, Kid emerged from behind and again they were rolling on the ground, punching each other.

"Knock it off! Now!" Teaspoon demanded.

"I did nothing!" Kid yelled, somewhat desperate.

"No one says you did, son. But, what, the hell's going on? Rachel, would you please explain to me as to why these two hotheaded are trying to kill each other."

"It's Louise," Rachel started. "She came back earlier, and hasn't stopped crying since."

"And Buck said she didn't ride her horse here." Jimmy added, his comment drawing both Kid and Teaspoon's attention.

"What?" Teaspoon exclaimed.

"How did she get here, then?" Kid asked.

"Buck went to Seneca to try and find out what happened to her," Rachel continued.

"Is she hurt?" Teaspoon asked.

Rachel shook her head. "I don't think so, but she wouldn't let me check on her. She didn't say much, just that she's tired and her head aches."

"Well, boys, there's no use in blaming one another. Let's hear the story from Lou. In the meanwhile, I don't want to see you fighting each other again. Is that clear?"

Kid and Jimmy stood with their heads downcast.

"I said is that clear?"

"Yes!" they answered.

"Good. Now, Rachel, I'm going to try and talk to her, I want you to come with me. You two have chores to do, if my mind isn't playing tricks with me…"

Teaspoon and Rachel left the stable, leaving Kid and Jimmy eyeing each other suspiciously.


"Lou, sweetheart," Teaspoon said as he gently stroked Lou's hair.

Lou woke up, her eyes red and swollen. She was still crying.

"Lou, what's wrong?" Rachel asked.

Lou's flow of tears became even heavier. She got up and sat on the bunk, her legs crossed, her back loose. "I don't know how to tell you this," she started, not able to lift her head to meet their eyes.

"Did someone hurt you?" Teaspoon asked, fear clear in his voice.

Lou shook her head. "Teaspoon, can I talk to Rachel alone?" she knew she would have to tell Teaspoon about it as well, she just didn't think she could handle the both of them right now.

Teaspoon put a hand on her shoulder. "I'll be here when you need me."

As he closed the door behind him, Rachel moved to sit on the bunk beside Lou. "Louise, honey, please talk to me. I want to help you, but I need to know what happened," she comforted. "Did anyone hurt you?"

Lou shook her head. "It's nothing like that."

"Is it got something to do with Kid?" Rachel tried, knowing it was a sensitive subject.

The sobs that grew louder confirmed it. "What did he do, Lou?"

"He didn't do anything. Well, not exactly," Lou said through sobs.

"Lou, just tell me everything from the beginning."

"Oh, Rachel…" Lou tried between sobs. "I can't."

"Louise, you have to if you want me to help you," Rachel told her, gently stroking her hair.

"I'm such a fool," Lou whispered. "I should've known something like this might happen…"

"Something like what?" Rachel asked the trembling girl before her. "Lou, you're not making any sense."

"Rachel… this whole situation doesn't make any sense. I can't be pregnant. I can't be. Not now…"

It took Rachel a few moments to recover from the shock from hearing Lou's last words. "Pregnant?" she asked, still stunned.

Lou's cry stopped abruptly as she realized what she just said. Her eyes were full of shame and she looked hunted.

"Oh, Lou…" Rachel didn't know what to say.

"What am I going to do, Rachel?" Lou asked between renewed sobs.

"I don't know, Lou. But you have to tell Kid!"


"You have to, Lou."

"No, Rachel! You have to promise me you won't tell him."

"Louise, he has a right to know he's gonna be a father."

"I don't want him to know. Rachel, I don't want him to be a father to my child."

"He is."

"But if he wouldn't know about it… I don't want him to know."


"No, Rachel!" Lou said with more confidence. "He can't know. You have to promise me."

"I don't know, Lou…" Rachel said, trying to convince her to do the right thing.

"Rachel, please. It's hard enough as it is. I don't need him and his conscience too."

"Ok, Lou. I won't tell him. But what are you going to do now?"

Before Lou could answer, there was a knock on the door. Rachel went to open it. Kid was standing in the doorway, trying to peek at Lou.

"Um… Rachel… You wanted me to get something from town earlier…"

"Oh, yes," Rachel answered. She completely forgot about it.

"Well, I think I should go before Tompkins closes the store."

"Yes. Well, I need some flour and sugar. Tell Tompkins to put it on the account and I'll pay him tomorrow."

"Sure," he said and then added in almost a whisper, "Is she alright, Rachel?"

Rachel looked at Lou and with tears in her eyes nodded. "She's fine, Kid. Don't worry."

"Right. Just tell her… tell her that…"

Rachel looked questionably at him.

"Never mind. I better get to town," he retorted as he headed toward Katy who stood by the rail of the porch.

Rachel closed the door behind him.

Lou looked at him through the window. "What did he want?" she asked.

"I need some things from town. He just came to ask what I wanted."

"Oh," Lou whispered.

"Lou… he will find out, you know."

"No he won't."

"He will, Lou. You won't be able to hide yourself from him forever, nor the baby."

"I'm not staying here that long," Lou said with conviction.

"What are you talking about? Where are you planning on going, Lou?"

"I don't know yet. Maybe I'll go to stay with Emma for a while, if she'll have me."

"You can stay here. This is your home."

"No, Rachel. This is my job, which I can't do anymore. Teaspoon won't let me stay here."

"Lou, you know him better that that…"

"I don't want to stay either, Rachel. Not with Kid here, and his girlfriend. It would be too embarrassing. And I can't have him find out about the baby."

"You've made up your mind then, about leaving?" Rachel couldn't believe it.

"I don't know, Rachel. But I don't see any other option for me."

"Why won't you tell Kid and give him a chance to do the right thing?" Rachel suggested, still thinking they ought to tell him.

Lou laughed bitterly. "The right thing? What? Marry me? You know, Rachel, the reason for our break up was that I didn't want to marry him, so what your suggesting now is that I marry him just because of this?"

"This is a very good reason, Lou," Rachel answered.

"But what about love, Rachel? What about that?"

"You still love him," Rachel couldn't be fooled by Lou's protests.

"But he doesn't love me. He doesn't and I'm not sure that he ever did."

"Lou, you know that's not true."

"I don't know anything anymore, Rachel. All I know is that leaving is the only thing I can do."

They heard a horse galloping toward the station. A couple of minutes later Ike stepped into the bunkhouse. He looked suspiciously at Lou who's eyes were still red even though she stopped crying for now.

*What's up?* he signed.

"Everything's fine, Ike," Rachel assured him. "Why won't you go wash up and I'll make you something to eat."

Ike nodded but before leaving he looked at Lou again. She managed a little smile. "I'm fine, Ike."

He smiled at her and walked out.

"You better make him something to eat, Rachel. I'll just rest for a while."

Rachel nodded and got up. She leaned down and kissed Lou's head. "Just tell me if you need anything," She turned toward the stove.

"Rachel…" Lou called after her. Rachel turned back to her. "Would you, please, tell Teaspoon about this? I know I have to tell him I just don't think I can do it myself."

"You sure?"

Lou nodded her head.

"Lou, sweetheart, I'll talk to him. You just rest now, and I'll tell the boys not to disturb you." Rachel waited for Lou to lie down and moved toward the stove to fix Ike something to eat. Poor girl, she thought, what can I do for her?


It was late afternoon that Eli walked down the hotel's stairs. Tom was tired from the trip and fell asleep on the bed as soon as they entered their room. But not her. She was too excited to sleep. There was so much to see in this town, and she wanted to experience it all, as soon as possible.

She went out of the hotel. The little stores were starting to close. She saw the stagecoach driver and started toward him. As he saw her, a smile spread on his face.

"Oh, hello ma'am. Did you get settled already?"

"Why, yes. Thank you, sir." Eli smiled. "Can I ask something?"

"Sure, ma'am, anything I can be of assistance?"

"I was wondering… the girl that rode with us… Louise."

"Uh, yes. Louise," The driver acknowledged.

"Well, I was wondering… since she seemed a bit distracted, I thought I might pay her a visit. It's just that I didn't get her address, and I wondered maybe you knew where it was…"

"Well, she got of in the middle of nowhere. The only place near by is the Pony Express station. Maybe she's there," The driver answered.

"Thank you so much, sir. I'll try there."

"There's an express rider over there," The driver pointed at the store across the street.

Eli followed his pointing. There was a young man loading sacks and boxes on a buckboard. She crossed the street toward him.

"Excuse me, sir."

"Um?" he asked without even stopping to look at her.

"Excuse me, sir!" Eli said more firmly.

Kid stopped his loading at looked at her. "I'm sorry ma'am, I guess I wasn't paying much attention."

Eli smiled at him. "That's ok. I just came into town. My name is Eli Smith," She extended her hand for him.

He shook it. "Most folks just call me Kid."

"You're working at the Pony Express?"

"Yes, ma'am. How can I help you?"

"Me and my husband just came here from Seneca on our honeymoon and…"

Seneca? Did she say Seneca? He thought. Did she see Lou?

"I came in the stagecoach and a girl was riding with us. Louise. She got off the stage in the middle of the road, said she wanted to surprise her family. I hope I'm not ruining her surprise, it's just that she didn't seem well and I was wondering if she's ok now."

"What do you mean she didn't seem well?" Kid asked concerned.

"Do you know her?"

"She's staying with us for a while," Kid had to be careful. He didn't know this woman.

"Well, will you just tell her that I just wondered how she is and that I might come and visit her if she wants me to. I'm staying here at the hotel for a while, so she just needs to let me know if she wants me to come."

"I'll tell her."

"Thank you, sir."

"That's ok, and don't worry about her, she'll be fine."

"I'm sure she will. Good-bye then," she smiled and left.

Kid was standing by the buckboard confused. Why hadn't she ridden Lightning back? And the way she's been acting… had something happen to her? If anyone hurt her, I'll… he stopped in the middle of the thought. It wasn't his place to help her anymore. She didn't want him by her side. She was very clear about that when she didn't want to marry him. But he couldn't help the way he felt.


Rachel sat on the swing. Louise was sleeping and the boys were avoiding the bunkhouse. Ike was sleeping too, after his ride, Kid was still in town and Jimmy, Buck and Noah were playing cards inside the barn.

"Rachel?" Teaspoon was seating himself beside her. "How is she?"

"She's sleeping now." Rachel didn't know how she was gonna tell him this. "Teaspoon, there's something I have to tell you."


Chapter 3

Teaspoon sat next to Rachel on the swing. For a couple of minutes they were quiet. He sipped coffee from his mug and waited for her to say what was on her mind. He knew it would somehow have something to do with Louise.

Oh, Louise, he thought, What did you get yourself into this time? He loved that girl and admired her. It frightened him to see her, the one that was always so strong, so weak.

"Rachel, you wanted to tell me something," he started after the silence became unbearable.

"Yes. But I don't know where to begin."

"What's wrong with her?" Teaspoon had a feeling Lou was in the middle of Rachel's thoughts.

"Oh, Teaspoon," Rachel started. "The poor girl's in so much trouble. I don't know how to help her."

Teaspoon looked at her. There were tears in her eyes. "What happened, Rachel?"

Rachel took a deep breath before answering. She fixed her eyes on the horizon ahead. "Teaspoon, you must keep this a secret. No matter what. She doesn't want anybody else to know. Especially Kid."

"What is it, Rachel?" Teaspoon checked her face.

"She's pregnant, Teaspoon." Rachel blurted, still not looking at him.

Teaspoon's mouth hanged open. "Pregnant?" He asked incredulously.

Rachel nodded. "Two month."

"Oh, my God," he whispered. "Did she tell Kid yet?"

"No, Teaspoon. She's not planning on it either."

"But she has to. He's the father, isn't he?"

Rachel nodded again. "I told her he has a right to know, but she wouldn't listen. She doesn't want him to know."

They sat silent for a few minutes, before Rachel started again. "She said she's leaving."


"She doesn't want Kid to find out and she also said that since she can't ride, she has nothing to stay here for."

"Nothing to stay here for? What about her family? What about her friends? And where would she go? She has no place else."

"She said she'll write Emma, ask her to stay with her and Sam." After a few seconds of silence she continued. "So, are you going to fire her?"

Teaspoon looked at her shocked. "Fire her?"

"She can't ride, Teaspoon. That's why she didn't ride Lightning on the way here."

"How did she get here then?"

"She came by stage." Both Rachel and Teaspoon were startled to see Kid right there on the porch with them.

"How long have you been standing here?" Rachel asked, afraid that he'd heard things he wasn't supposed to.

"I just arrived here. Why?" he asked suspiciously.

"No reason, son," Teaspoon said. "What were you saying about the stage?"

"I said Lou came by stage. I met a girl in town. She and her husband just arrived from Seneca by stage, and guess who was on the stage with them."

Teaspoon just sighed and glanced at Rachel who had tears in her eyes once again.

"What's wrong with her, Rachel?" Kid asked feeling that something was wrong.

"Nothing, son. Nothing," Teaspoon answered Kid who was still looking at Rachel.

Rachel cleared her throat. "Kid, would you please get the boys, dinner will be ready in a few minutes. We'll eat at the house tonight."

"Sure, Rachel," Kid answered as he headed toward the barn, a bad feeling in his heart.


After he called the boys for dinner, Kid went to the bunkhouse to hang his gun belt. He took a minute to look at the sleeping Lou before walking toward his bunk. He longed to hold her and kiss her but she wasn't his to hold and kiss anymore. And he had another girlfriend now… Samantha… How could he give up all hope of a future with Lou for her?

Lou stirred and woke up. She opened her eyes and looked at him. Immediately she had tears in her eyes. Kid felt guilty for making her cry again.

"Lou…" he started but she turned her back at him.

He sighed. "I've met Eli Smith in town earlier today. She said she might come and visit you sometime."

Lou stiffened as she heard this. "Who's Eli Smith?" she lied. She remembered the pretty woman very well.

"She's the girl you traveled with in the stage from Seneca. You know, the pretty girl that just got married," Kid had more than little sarcasm in his voice. He knew she was lying and she knew he knew it.

"Rachel said dinner's ready," he sighed after a couple of minutes, just before he walked out.

"So why won't you go then?" Lou barked angrily. She just wanted to be left alone. Especially by him.

"I'm going. But before that, would you tell me why you took the stage and didn't just ride home?"

"I thought you would be happy that I took a safer transportation," she retorted sarcastically.

"Lou," he sighed. "You never cared much about my feelings when we were together. Don't start now," he didn't wait for her to answer and just walked out.

Lou stared at the door even after he left. How dare he say that? She didn't care? She wasn't the one with a new boyfriend.


While they were all sitting at the table, Teaspoon excused himself. He wanted to talk to Lou alone, without the boys coming and going.

Jimmy watched him as he walked outside the door. "Rachel," he started, "have you found out anything about Lou?"

Kid stiffened in his seat. "She took the stage here," he told them without looking up from his plate.

"And how would you know?" Jimmy asked arrogantly.

Kid looked up and stared right into his eyes. And this is my best friend… he thought. "I met someone that was on the same stage with her," he finally answered.

Rachel felt the tension between the two and decided to interfere. "The woman that Kid met said Lou didn't seem too well so she wanted to check on her, that's all. Now boys, I don't want to discuss the matter anymore tonight." When she saw Kid relax, she said more quietly, "Now finish your dinner."

The boys each looked at his plate. Kid couldn't eat and just played with his food. Occasionally Jimmy watched him, ready to pick another fight in Lou's name.


Teaspoon knocked on the door of the bunkhouse before opening it. He stepped in quietly, not wanting to frighten her. He saw Lou sleeping on one of the bunks. She didn't seem comfortable in a bunk that wasn't hers. She was curled with her legs to her chest, breathing fast. He took a chair and sat beside her. He wanted to touch her and hug her and make everything ok again for this brave woman who now seemed to be even tinnier than he has ever seen her before. However, he just sat there looking at her for a moment before he woke her up, whispering her name.

Lou stirred before fully waking up. He smiled at her lovingly. She tried to smile back but didn't quite succeed. She knew why he was there. He's going to fire me, she thought.

"Lou…" he started. It was so hard. When he took the job for Russell, Majors & Waddell, no one warned him he would fall in love with all those boys and women he worked with. And of-course no one warned him of falling in love with a special young lady that stole the heart of every man she met. And no one warned him of the problems he would have to help them deal with…

Lou decided to make it easier on him. "It's ok, Teaspoon. I'm leaving anyway."

Teaspoon looked at her, with sad eyes. "No one here wants you to leave, Lou. I'm not firing you."

"I can't ride," she said, relieved that she didn't have to repeat her story to him.

"Louise… remember what I told you all when I first found out about you? Company's company and family's family. And I always thought of you all as family. You are family Lou, and the rest of it is here."

"And now this family's getting bigger…" Lou tried to lighten the subject but it only brought tears to her eyes.

"Aren't you going to tell this baby's father about it?" Teaspoon hoped she would change her mind about this. Kid was also a member of his family.

Lou shook her head. "Hasn't Rachel explained this to you?"

"She did," he admitted. "I just hoped you would have changed your mind."

"In a couple of weeks he would probably ask Samantha to marry him. I don't want to come between them just because of this baby."

"Don't you think he would like to know?"

"Why? So he could be noble again? And what about Samantha? She's not the one who has to suffer because of a mistake Kid and I made. I won't marry him just because of this baby, Teaspoon."

Teaspoon was overwhelmed. She was trying to do the right thing for the woman that took her place. "You don't have to go through this alone, Lou."

"I've been alone most of my life, Teaspoon. I think I can manage this too."

"I don't doubt that you can, but you have to think of this baby too. Don't you want it to have the father that it deserves? Do you want it to grow up without a father like you did?"

Lou knew what he said was true. She always promised herself her children wouldn't be orphans. "I'm not sure Kid is the one I want as a father for my child," she said honestly.

"You had so much love for each other, Lou. It can't have just disappeared." Teaspoon saw it in their eyes. He knew the both of them still loved each other. He had a lot of experience in this field…

"You really think so?" Lou asked doubtfully. "I'm not sure what love is anymore. I'm not sure that we ever loved…" she sobbed.

Teaspoon decided to leave Kid out of the conversation. Talking about him caused her so much pain. "Where did you think of going?"

"I thought I would write to Emma. Do you think she'll have me there?"

"Why not? You know she loved you as a daughter."

"But I wasn't pregnant before," Lou answered. "She's a respected woman, and I'm not even close to being in that category."

Teaspoon knew how hard explaining this baby was going to be for her. "Emma's your friend," he encouraged. "She won't judge you for this."

"You know, Teaspoon, I used to. I thought that girls that… you know… I thought them to be immoral. I thought myself better than them. I guess I'm not, am I?"

"Louise, you remember Amanda, don't you?"

Lou just nodded.

"Well, her mother and I weren't married. Does that make either one of us or Amanda count any less?"

"Of course not, Teaspoon. But that's what others will think."

"What do you care what others think?"

"'Cause no man would ever want anything to do with a woman who has a child who's father is a mystery."

"You can uncover this mystery, Lou."

"No! Please don't tell him, Teaspoon. I don't want him to know."

"I already promised Rachel I wouldn't tell. Don't worry about that. But please think of what you're going to do some more. I don't want you to leave and I don't think any of the boys do." She opened her mouth to protest but he held up a hand and continued. "Not even Kid."

He stood up. "You better rest now. I'll tell the boys to be quiet. Good night," he said leaving the bunkhouse.


When Teaspoon entered the house he was surprised to find there was still some food left. The boys stared at him as he sat in his chair and started eating. He avoided them for moments that seemed like eternity.

Finally Jimmy couldn't stand the silence any more. "Is she any better?" he asked.

Kid looked at him. Maybe he's the one Lou would marry. He obviously cares a lot about her, maybe he even loves her, he thought. But, Lou, no one will ever love you the as much as I loved you. He didn't want to admit it even to himself but he still loved her, even though they broke up.

"She will be," Teaspoon answered, "if you won't hustle her. Please don't annoy her with your questions."

"But what is it?" Noah asked.

Teaspoon gave them all a hard glare. "She'll talk when she's ready. For the time being just leave her alone."

They all looked ashamed for their impatience.

"Rachel, may I be excused?" Kid asked after a couple of seconds.

Rachel nodded her head and he got up.

"Off to visit your sweetheart, Kid?" Jimmy couldn't resist.

Kid stopped for a moment but then headed out the door.

Teaspoon sighed. "You know, Jimmy, I never thought you would behave so stupidly."

Jimmy just stared at Teaspoon, self-assured. He stood up. Why do I have to listen to this? He thought.

"Sit down!" Teaspoon growled at him. "Where do you think you're going?"

"Outside." Jimmy retorted. "Why? Only he can go out?"

"Sit down, Jimmy," Noah tried to calm him down.

"Why do you all care so much about my doings?" Jimmy barked at them.

"Jimmy," Rachel tried. "What's the matter?"

"What's the matter? What's the matter? Don't you see? The matter is Kid keeps hurting her and hurting her, and no one here seems to mind."

"Jimmy, Kid has a right to go on living even though they broke up, and you know damn well why they broke up. You know it wasn't really Kid's fault," Teaspoon tried to reason.

"He shouldn't have pressured her like he did." Jimmy just wouldn't listen. He was so sure of his rightness.

"Jimmy," Noah interfered. "You're acting like a fool. Kid's your best friend and you're letting this friendship sink because of your feelings for Lou."

"What feelings?" Jimmy got defensive.

"Oh, Jimmy…" Rachel looked at him doubtfully, as if saying why do you keep denying it?

Jimmy returned the glare. "What? Lou and I are just friends. That's all." With that, he left the house, afraid of being questioned any more.


Jimmy walked out of the house. Even though he would never admit it, he knew he wasn't right to come so hard on Kid. It wasn't his fault he and Lou broke up. It wasn't anyone's fault. It just wasn't the right time for them. In his heart he missed his friend.

As he wondered around the station he saw a figure sitting on the fence of the corral. He walked closer. It was Kid. He just sat there watching the dark.

"Hey," Jimmy greeted him, trying to sound casual.

"I don't feel like fighting with you tonight, Jimmy. You will have to look someplace else."

"I didn't come to fight with you. Just thought you would like to talk."

Kid looked suspiciously at him. Is this his way of saying he's sorry? He thought before he decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. "What about?"

"I don't know. You, Samantha."

Here he goes again, Kid thought. Just can't leave her out of the conversation. He decided to play along. "What about her?"

It took Jimmy by surprise. He never thought Kid would talk with him about her. "Um… I don't know. Your relationship, I guess."

"What do you want to know about it?"

"Well… don't you need any more of my advice like you used to need so much when you were with Lou?"

"You've already taught me everything there is to know, Jimmy," Kid answered sarcastically.

Jimmy sneered at that. He still remembered the time when Kid asked him for an advice about Lou. "Just dance" he told him then.

At that moment Jimmy knew that it wasn't for him to come between the two of them, even if they weren't together anymore. "So, do you love her?" Jimmy was pretty curious about that.

Kid thought about it for a moment. "I don't know," he admitted. Even though things weren't the way they used to be between the two of them, he knew Jimmy wouldn't use that against him. "She's a nice girl and all, but it's not like it was with Lou. You know what I mean?"

Jimmy nodded silently. "You still love Lou, don't you?"

"Don't you?" Kid asked back.

Jimmy looked at Kid for a sign of anger but find none. "She's a very special lady."

Kid didn't pressure him for more and just nodded in agreement. "I'll never find anyone like her again. I don't want to either. What we had was special while it lasted. I don't want a poor replica of it."

"Why did you break up then?" Jimmy asked, though he knew the reasons for their break up very well.

"I pressured her and she wasn't ready. It's just that the way things were going between us… we had to get married before something happened."

"But did you love her enough to marry her?" Jimmy asked.

Kid just stared at him as if he's lost his mind. "Did I love her enough? Jimmy, what are you talking about? I loved her more than anything. More than life itself. Seeing Samantha is the thing that keeps me from losing my mind. I thought you understood that."

Jimmy shrugged. "I don't know, Kid. It seemed kinda strange, the way you took up with Samantha so soon after your break up. It didn't seem right. It looked as if breaking up with Lou didn't count for much. I think that's the way Lou feels."

"Our relationship meant everything to me, Jimmy. You can tell her that."

"If she'll ever get over what's bugging her."

"What do you think it is?"

"Who knows? Probably nothing big, just a flu or something."

"Yeah," Kid sighed. "Come on, let's go to sleep."

They jumped off the fence and walked together toward the bunkhouse.


When Jimmy and Kid entered the bunkhouse Ike was already sleeping, Lou was pretending. She was glad to see them coming in together… both alive…

"Where's Noah?" Kid asked.

"Probably helping Rachel clean after the dinner," Jimmy answered.

Kid stopped getting undressed to watch Lou. "Do you think she's going to be ok?" he asked.

"She'd better," Jimmy smiled.


Chapter 4

Lou woke up while the rest were still sleeping and sneaked out. She walked into the stables, straight toward Lightning's stall.

"What am I going to do with you? Huh?" she asked as she rubbed the mare's neck. "Do you want to stay with all your friends?" Lightning just stared in her eyes and said nothing. "I don't know, Lightning. I think I should. I think I should leave you here. You know they will take good care of you. I won't be able to ride anymore anyway. And you'll get to be with Katy and everyone…"

"Why? Where are you going?"

Lou felt the hair on neck stand. She turned around. "How long have you been standing here?" she asked.

Jimmy came closer. "Just a minute. What is it, Lou? Is it because of Kid?"

"Not all my problems are related to Kid, Jimmy," she tried to joke.

"Yeah, sorry," he apologized. "So, where are you going?"

"Who said I'm going anywhere?"

"So you're talking to your horse about leaving her here cause you're…?" he was waiting for her to answer but she just lowered her eyes.

"I can't talk about it, Jimmy." She couldn't bring herself to meet his eyes.

He came closer and put his hands on her shoulders. "Lou, what is it? I want to help you."

"There's nothing you can do, Jimmy, and I really don't want to talk about it."

"A hint?"

Lou smiled at his persistence. "If I'll give you a hint, you promise you'll give up?"

He nodded.

"I'm leaving. And that's all I'm gonna say."

"But why?"

"That's all I'm gonna say," she repeated more sternly.

"You can't just leave like that, without an excuse."

"I have an excuse, Jimmy, I just don't feel like sharing it." He was starting to annoy her.

"I thought we had trust between us."

"We do, Jimmy, we do," she put a hand on his arm. "But I can't talk about it. Please don't ask me any more questions. And don't tell the boys about it."

"Rachel and Teaspoon know?"

Lou nodded.

"So, is it a special something for Teaspoon? You know, like the one I did back with that Grace woman?"

"It's nothing like that, Jimmy, but please don't ask me anymore about it. Please…"

Jimmy just nodded.

"Rachel's calling everybody for breakfast."

They both turned to see Noah standing in the doorway.

"You ok?" he asked Lou.

She smiled and nodded and started toward the door, Jimmy behind her.

"Have you seen Kid anywhere?" Noah asked as he waited for them to reach him.

Lou stopped in her tracks, Jimmy almost bumped into her. "Why?" she asked dreadfully. What does Noah knows? She thought.

"Cause he's not in the bunkhouse and Rachel told me to get everyone," he looked at her suspiciously.

"Oh," she said simply, walking past him.

Noah gave Jimmy a questionable look but Jimmy just shrugged. He couldn't understand what was bugging her so much.


Rachel turned from the stove as Lou came into the bunkhouse. "Good morning, sweetheart. How did you sleep?"

"Fine," Lou answered and took a seat next to Ike.

Jimmy and Noah came in less than a minute later and sat at the table.

"Where's Kid?" Rachel asked.

"I couldn't find him anywhere, Rachel," Noah answered.

"Well, I'd better save him something, I guess." Rachel couldn't help it but she felt sorry for Kid who would never know about his child.

She brought the food to the table, biscuits and eggs. Lou saw the food and felt nausea in her stomach. She ran out of the bunkhouse, Jimmy on her heels.

Rachel felt tears starting in her eyes. "Oh, that poor girl," she sighed.

Ike and Noah looked at each other and then at her, confused.


Lou threw up for what seemed like forever, even though she had nothing to eat in the past couple of days. Jimmy stood beside her the whole time. When she finally looked up she had tears running down her cheeks.

"Damn it, Jimmy. Why did you have to come after me?"

Jimmy was worried. "Lou, are you sick?"

Lou bit her lips and looked at the ground. "I'm going to wash up my face," she said finally.

She went past him. He waited for a minute and then walked after her.

She bumped into him after she washed her face and started back toward the bunkhouse. "Jimmy, why do you keep following me?" she snapped at him.

"Lou, you're starting to frighten me with your behavior." He put a finger under her chin, forcing her to look at him.

"What behavior?" she asked innocently.

"What behavior?! First you come here by stage…"

"Who told you that?" She asked before he could continue.

"Told me what?"

"About me coming here in a stage. Kid told you, didn't he?" Even now he betrays me… She thought.

"Was it a secret?"

Lou shrugged.

"Why did you come in a stage instead of just riding here, anyway?"

Lou lowered her eyes. "Please…" she whispered.

"No, Lou. Damn it. I'm worried about you. Everybody here's worried about you."

"Jimmy…" she tried to speak but the tears choked her.

Jimmy suddenly felt guilty for making her cry and he pulled her into a tight embrace.

She hugged him back and sobbed into his shirt. "Oh, go ahead," he chuckled. "It's not one of my favorites anyway."

She laughed and smiled at him. "Thank you."

"That's ok," he kissed the top of her head. "But please, Lou, tell me what's wrong."

Should I? She thought. This would be the ultimate betrayal against Kid. She decided she didn't have it in her heart. "Come on," she said. "Rachel's probably worried." She didn't wait for his answer and just started back toward the bunkhouse.


"Oh, nice of you to join us," Rachel scolded fondly, and then added in a whisper to Lou, "Are you alright?"

Lou nodded. "I'm starved."


After they finished breakfast, Jimmy stayed longer than the others. He wanted to talk to Rachel.

"She threw up, you know."

"Yeah, I know, Jimmy," Rachel sighed.

"So?" Jimmy wanted some kind of an explanation.

"Jimmy, don't you have chores to do?"

"What are you both hiding, Rachel?"

"Hiding, Jimmy? No one's hiding anything. Just go and get your chores done before I would find more things I need you to do."

Jimmy reluctantly walked to the door. Before he stepped out, he turned back to Rachel. "I still think you're hiding something."


An hour later Lou saw a wagon approaching the station. As it came closer Lou recognized the driver. She sighed as she approached it.

"Louise," the driver said.

"Samantha," Lou acknowledged her with a nod.

There was a moment of awkward silence before Samantha spoke again. "Is Kid around?"

"We all thought he went to your place. Nobody has seen him since last night."

"Oh, I see," Samantha mumbled. Then remembering her manners she asked, "How are you?"

"Uh?" Lou didn't understand why the woman would ask about her being.

"You looked a bit sick yesterday," Samantha explained.

"Oh, that… I'm fine. It was probably just exhaustion, that's all."

"Oh," Samantha looked uncomfortable. "I guess I'll go now."

"I'll tell Kid you were looking for him."

This was more than Samantha had ever expected from the girl that was once her boyfriend's girlfriend. "Thanks." She replied simply, before she turned the wagon and headed back to her house.


Kid came back an hour later. He dismounted Katy near the bunkhouse and tied her to the fence. He stopped for a second as he saw Lou inside when he opened the door. He didn't say a thing and put his gun belt on his bunk.

"Nice of you to show up," she said from her new bunk. "People were looking for you."

"Oh, yeah, right." Go on, Lou, this is real funny right now. He didn't feel like fighting with her.

"Samantha," she said.

He turned to face her. "Samantha was here?"

Lou nodded. "You know, Kid…" she started.

"What?" he demanded after she stopped in the middle of the sentence.

"Oh, nothing," she replied innocently.

"When was she here?"

"About an hour ago," Lou answered. "Looked pretty disappointed that you weren't here."

"Oh, is that so?" he asked. "Who did she talk to?"

"Me," Lou said somewhat triumphantly.

"You?" Kid didn't believe that. "Oh, great. That's just great."

"What's frightening you so much about it, Kid? I didn't tell her any of your dirty little secrets."

"That's cause I don't have any."

"Oh, really? I can think of at least one."

Now that was a challenge. Kid looked at her expectantly.

"How about telling girls you love them without really meaning it?" she asked feeling hurt once more and now she had tears in her throat.

"I've never lied to you, Lou."

She just looked at him. "Well, it doesn't really matter anymore now, does it?" She grabbed her hat a walked out of the bunkhouse.

Kid sank to his bunk.

A few minutes later Jimmy walked in. "Where were you?" he asked.

"Nowhere in particular. I just needed a ride."

"You could've asked Teaspoon for an assignment while you were at it," Jimmy joked.

"Did you find anything about her?" Kid suddenly turned serious.

Jimmy shook his head. "She wouldn't talk and Rachel just dismissed me. And she threw up before breakfast."

"Threw up?" Kid was getting really concerned.

"We sat at the table for breakfast and suddenly she just run outside and threw up."

"Just like that?"

Jimmy nodded.

Suddenly something hit Kid. "Do you think it got anything to do with her running out every morning last week?"

Jimmy pondered that for a second. "I'm going to talk to her," he remarked on his way out.


He found her in the barn, sitting on a barrel. "How are you feeling?"

"Fine. How are you?" she smiled sarcastically.

"Lou, get serious, please, will you." He took another barrel and sat on it next to her.

"Ok, Jimmy," she apologized. "Sorry. I won't ask how you're feeling anymore, ok?"

He smiled at her. "Can we talk?"

"Sure," She replied.

"But will you be serious?"



"So, what was it that you wanted to talk about?"

"Well, Kid and I…"

Lou stopped him. "Do we have to mention him?"

"Well, it kinda was his idea."

"What? You talking to me?"

"No. He thinks maybe you're throw-up this morning has something to do with you're running out every morning last week."

"Oh, Jimmy, why did you have to tell him I threw up?"

"He asked how you were doing," Jimmy answered simply.

"Jimmy," Lou was desperate. "Please don't tell him anything more, ok?"

Jimmy saw the pleading in her eyes. "Why?" he asked. He needed to understand this.

" 'Cause I'm asking you."

"Yes. But why are you asking me that, Lou? What's going on?"

"Look, whatever's going on, I can't have him find out."


"Jimmy!" By now she was quite irritated.

"What?" he jumped off the barrel. "Does it has a connection to you're running out?"

Lou sighed. She felt tears again. Why can't he just leave me alone?

Jimmy wasn't going to back off now. This whole thing was just too weird for him. "So, are you going to tell me or aren't you?"

"Jimmy… please… you have to trust me on this one. I can't tell you about it," Lou tried to make him understand.

"So there is a connection."


"Lou, I want to help you."

"You can't help me, Jimmy. You can't."

"Why not?"

"'Cause it's got nothing to do with you."

"Does it has anything to do with Rachel?"

Lou looked bewildered. "No."

"So why did you tell her?"

"Cause she's my friend."

"I'm your friend too, you know."

"I know, Jimmy. But it's different…"

"Why is it different?"

"Because it is."


"Because she's a woman."

"And I'm not…"

"No, you're not, Jimmy."

"So that's my problem, right? And you can't trust me because of this?"

"I never said I couldn't trust you."

"You might not be saying that, but you can't."

"Jimmy, it's just that everything I'm saying or doing you're running and telling Kid."

"So all this is just because I told him you threw up?"

"It's not because of this, Jimmy, it's just that whatever happens, I can't' have him find out."

"So, it is about him."

"Partly, but it's about me."

"Him and Samantha?"

Lou shook her head. "Him and me."

Jimmy came closer to her. He put a hand on her shoulder and looked at her eyes. She had tears again. "What is it, Lou?"

"I'm going to have a baby, Jimmy."

Jimmy stared at her unbelievingly. He opened his mouth in an attempt to say something but he didn't know what kind of words he could offer at this moment.

Lou broke the silence. "Jimmy, please don't tell him."

"Tell him what, Lou? That he's going to be a father? Are you nuts? You can't hide this from him. This is too important, Lou."

"It's not important to him, Jimmy, and…"

"Not important to him? Are you kidding?" Jimmy was amazed by her.

"Please, Jimmy. I'm leaving anyway, and there's no reason for him to know."

"How about decency, Lou?"

"Decency? So now he'll be decent and marry me and indecent and leave the woman that he loves?"

"He doesn't love her, Lou."

"Oh, come on, Jimmy. Look, I don't want him to find out. I can't' have him find out. Will you please keep my secret?"

Jimmy walked away and started pacing before he answered her. "I won't tell him, Lou, on one condition."

Lou looked at him with a question in her eyes.

"You let me take care of you."

"I'm leaving, Jimmy."

"Don't leave. Marry me."


Chapter 5

Lou was shocked. How can he ask me that? It was so simple for him. Like it all had to do with a little question. She couldn't stand to be near him so she just ran out of the barn, feeling angry and hurt and betrayed by one of the few people she still trusted. She knew he wouldn't tell Kid but she didn't think she could stay there, listening to him and looking at him.

"Lou wait," Jimmy tried to stop her but she didn't even hear him through her loud sobs.

As she ran out of the barn she collapsed into the arms of Cody who just came in. "Woah, Lou, stop." When he realized she was crying he hugged her. "What is it, Lou?"

She didn't answer him and just let him hold her. Cody saw Jimmy approach and gave him an expectant look.

Jimmy shrugged and tried to touch her but she shrugged his hand. "Don't touch me," she cried.

Jimmy and Cody exchanged confused gazes and then Jimmy left the barn.

Cody guided her toward the barrels. He sat her on one of them and gave her his handkerchief to wipe the tears. "Lou?"

"I don't want to talk about it, Cody."

"That's ok, Lou," he assured her.

She looked at him unbelievingly.

"What?" he smiled. "I can be serious sometimes."

"I know," she said apologetically.

"Just don't tell anyone."

She smiled at him. "Thank you."

"Don't mention it. You ok?"

She nodded. "I'll be fine. I just want to be alone for a while. Do you mind?"

"No. Actually I'm hungry. You know where Rachel is?"

Her smile broadened. "I think she's preparing lunch."

"Sure you'll be alright?" he asked before leaving.

"Yeah. Go eat. You look like you need it."

"I'll come back in a few minutes."

"Probably a few hours," Lou joked.

"Glad to see you can still make jokes," he smiled. "Promise me you won't cry."

"Promise me you won't tell that I did."

"I won't." He vowed.

"I won't cry," she promised.


Jimmy caught up with him on the way to the bunkhouse. "Is she still crying?"

"What have you done to her?" Cody stopped walking and faced him.


"So why is she crying like this?"

"She's still crying?"


"So why are you still talking about it?"

"Jimmy, if you hurt her…"

"What? If I hurt her, what? You would do what?"

"Too many people have hurt her. You're probably her best friend right now. Don't disappoint her."

"And why do you think I would?"

"Cause you're in love with her and you're not thinking straight."

"I'm not…" Jimmy tried but Cody held his hand up to stop him.

"Don't bother, Jimmy," he sighed, before continuing his walk toward the bunkhouse.

Jimmy remained standing there helplessly.


When Cody returned to the barn half an hour later he found Lou sleeping on some hay. She was curled and her hands were resting on her abdomen. He watched her for a couple of minutes. He knew they weren't close. She was the rider he talked the least with. But still she was a member of his family and she was the like a sister to him. And he admired her spunk and courage and abilities, even if he would never admit it to anyone. Furthermore, his curiosity won the best of him.

He found a blanket in a corner and covered her. She stirred for a second but didn't wake up. Cody left the barn and went back to the bunkhouse.


Kid found Jimmy shooting at cans behind the stables. He pulled his own gun and joined in. For a couple of minutes they were just shooting, not a word spoken between them. When they stopped to reload Jimmy turned to face Kid.

"What do you want?"

"I was wondering if you found anything more about her," Kid answered him.

Jimmy stared at him for a moment. What was he going to tell him? That he was going to be a father and that the mother didn't want him to know about it? Or maybe that he, Jimmy, his best friend, just asked the woman that he loved more than anything to marry him?

"Well, did you?" Kid repeated his question.

"No," Jimmy lied. "She said she just didn't feel well for the last week. I made her promise that she will see a doctor." When he saw the suspicious look on Kid's face, he continued. "I heard there's a flu going on in Seneca. Maybe she caught it while she was there."

"But she felt ill before she even went there," Kid insisted.

"I don't know, Kid," Jimmy was desperate. How am I going to get out of this one? He thought. "Maybe she caught it someplace else. Stop worrying, it's probably nothing at all." He left Kid standing there before he had a chance to ask any more questions.


It was late afternoon when Kid arrived at Samantha's place. She heard him galloping toward her house and went out to greet him. As he dismounted she approached him, flinging her arms around his neck and kissed him. She could feel him stiffen under her hands and she wondered why he didn't returned the kiss. She dropped her arms and backed away.

"What's wrong?" she asked.


He is clearly someplace else, she thought. "Kid?" she tried again.

He looked ashamed. "Oh, sorry," he apologized absentmindedly.

"What is it, Kid?" her voice was full of apprehension of what it was that occupied his mind like that.

"Samantha, we need to talk."

She nodded, I knew this day would come. It was too good to last forever.

She led him toward the swing on her porch. When they were seated, she took his hand in hers. He took a deep breath before he opened his mouth.

"Samantha, Lou told me you were looking for me."

She nodded. "I just wanted to invite you for lunch, that's all."

"I wasn't at the station," he noted.

"I know that, Kid," she smiled.

"No, Samantha, you don't know." He saw she didn't understand his meaning. "What I mean is that I was riding around."

"I thought you had the day off."

"I did. I went for a ride to think. I needed to get away so I could think clearly. I needed to think about you and I and about…"

"You and Lou?" she interrupted him. She felt tears stinging her eyes.

He nodded. "I'm so sorry Samantha. I really am. I thought I could forget about her, but the truth is that I can't. I do care a lot about you, you have to believe me. But it won't be fair to you to keep on like this," he waited for her to answer, any kind of answer, but she just stood up and with his hand still in hers she turned to face him.

"Well then, Kid. I guess this is a good-bye."

"I'm so sorry, Samantha…" he said again.

"Shh, Kid, I know you are. But I think you should leave now."

He kissed her hand.

"Please don't get all noble on me now, Kid."

He stood up and looked her in the eyes. She stared right back in his. "Tell Lou she's a very lucky girl, will you?" she tried to smile at him.

"You are a great woman, Samantha," he said and then ran down the steps, mounted Katy and galloped out of her yard.

"I know," she whispered to herself, wiping a tear that escaped her eye, as she watched him gallop out of her life.


Kid dismounted Katy near the bunkhouse and rushed in. "Where's Lou?" he asked Noah who was sitting at the table cleaning his gun.

"Cody said she's sleeping in the barn," Noah whispered pointing toward the sleeping Cody.

"In the barn?" Kid confirmed.

Noah nodded.

Kid ran out of the bunkhouse with the same speed that he entered it. He went straight toward the barn.


"Lou?" Kid called when he entered the barn. "Lou, where are you?"

Lou thought she heard someone calling her. "Lou?" Here he is again, she thought. What does he want from me now? "I'm here, Kid," She called.

He found her and knelt beside her. "Hi."


"How are you feeling?" he asked, his hand reached to touch her.

She backed away from his hand. "What do you want, Kid?"

"There's something I want to tell you."

She looked into his eyes. "You're sure I'd want to hear it?"

"Lou," he ignored her sarcasm. "Remember how great it was when we were together?"

Tears filled her eyes. "Why are you doing this to me, Kid?"

"What?" he asked, baffled by her reaction.

"You're still trying to hurt me. You still can't forgive me for not marrying you, can you? Not even after you found someone else."

"We broke up," he whispered.

"Huh?" She didn't understand him. "I know we broke up, Kid."

"Me and Samantha. We broke up."

Lou looked at him bewildered, Does he know? "Why are you telling me this, Kid?"

He lowered his eyes. "I thought we could…"

"No, Kid," She cut him off.

"Please, Lou, just hear me out," he pleaded.

"No!" she cried and stood up. "You can't run back to me just because you're alone. It doesn't work that way, Kid," she started walking out of the barn.

"I told her I can't see her anymore. I told her I still love you, Lou."

She stopped in her tracks. She didn't know if she should believe him. "Well, Kid, that's just too bad. I don't love you anymore," she lied. Before he'd see the tears in her eyes, she ran out.


Lou entered the bunkhouse. She looked around. It was empty except for Cody who was sound asleep on his bunk. She opened her crate and took out a piece of paper and a pencil. She sat at the table and began writing.

Dear Emma,

I'm sorry I haven't written to you sooner. So many things have happened here. We have a new housekeeper, as you probably know, and she's ok. The boys couldn't take their eyes off her at first, but they've grown accustomed to her presence by now.

I can't write much now, 'cause I have to send this letter to you as soon as possible.

The thing is, Emma, I'm going to have a baby. A few months ago Kid and I grew close. Very close, I guess you could say. We're not together anymore, and now I found out I'm going to have a baby…

I can't have him find out, Emma, so I have to leave Sweetwater. I can't ride now anyway, so it won't really be a problem to leave the Express.

I guess what I'm trying to ask is if I can come to stay with you and Sam. I have no other place to go.

I would understand if you couldn't have me,

Love always,



Chapter 6

Rachel was busy sewing Buck's torn shirt when Lou knocked on her door. "Come in," she called.

Lou entered hesitantly. "Um, Rachel… I wrote the letter for Emma… Can you send it for me, please?"

"Louise, sweetheart, of course I can, if that is really what you want…"

Lou nodded. "It is, Rachel. It's the only solution."

Rachel nodded understandingly. "Well, how do you feel, now?"

"Now I'm fine," Lou sighed and sat on the settee.

"Good. How about a cup of tea?"

"Sounds good."

Rachel went for the kettle. While she poured the tea she eyed Lou. "You look like you were sleeping. That's good. You're going to need your strength. Especially if you're about to travel all the way to Emma's."

"Yeah," Lou responded absentmindedly.

"Lou, honey, what is it?" Rachel asked stroking her hair.

"Oh, Rachel, Kid just came into the barn to talk to me," she saw the questionable look on Rachel's face and nodded. "He told me he and Samantha have broken off their relationship. He wanted us to get back together."

Rachel looked amazed. "What did you say?"

"Of course I told him that we can't. Oh, Rachel," tears were starting to fill her eyes. "I told him I don't love him anymore."

"Oh, Louise, why did you do that?"

Lou shrugged. She was so desperate. Her world was coming down on her. She felt like screaming. "I got scared, Rachel. How can I ever believe him again? He told me he still loves me, but he told me he loved me before, and it wasn't too hard for him to find another woman after we broke up."

"But if you love him, shouldn't you give him another chance?"

"I bet he knows about the baby, Rachel. It's probably the reason for this odd confession."

"But how would he know, Lou? I haven't told him, and I guarantee you Teaspoon hasn't either."

"Jimmy," Lou whispered.

"What?" Rachel couldn't understand.

"I told him."

"You told Jimmy?" Rachel was shocked. She knew Lou and Jimmy had become good friends over time, but she never expected that. She didn't even tell Kid about this but she told his best friend, Rachel thought. "Why did you tell him?"

"He was so worried over my throwing up, and he told the whole world about it, it was the only thing I could think of to make him stop."

"So now he told Kid about this…"

"I'm not sure yet, Rachel, so please don't say anything."

Rachel nodded. "I won't. But I want you to promise me you'll be careful. I still think you should tell Kid. But it has to be you who tell him, not Jimmy." After a few moment of silence Rachel stood up. "Come on, let's make the boys something to eat for dinner."


Dinner was as loud as ever at the Express station. All of the riders were there, except one.

"Where's Buck?" Lou asked suddenly.

Jimmy moved uncomfortably in his chair. Rachel stood up and started taking the dishes off the table. The others remained as they were, just silent.

"Where is he?" Lou asked again, growing suspicious over their behavior.

"He's out on a run," Noah answered her finally.

"Where?" Lou asked. She felt there was more to it than just another simple run.

"Seneca," Jimmy mumbled.

Lou looked at all of them. "Seneca?" she asked. "I just came from there. Why did he go again after me?" No one answered her and it suddenly became very clear to her. "He went because of me, didn't he? You sent him to check on me…" she couldn't believe this. "Why?" she asked.

"Well, Lou, we were worried about you after the way you behaved when you came back yesterday, and you did forget the mochilla there" Jimmy explained.

"It was sheer exhaustion. You shouldn't have sent him all the way there. You could've waited for me to explain."

"You still haven't explained it, Lou," Kid noted.

Her eyes shot daggers at him. "I don't owe you an explanation."

"Yes you do, Lou. You can't just tell me you don't…" he started loudly, but stopped suddenly as he remembered they weren't alone in the room. She looked at him with wide-open eyes.

Jimmy saw her uneasiness and chimed in. "What's done is done, Lou. There's no point in talking about it now."

There was more to his words then just Buck and both he and Lou knew what. She lowered her head. "I just wish you would've trusted me more," she whispered.

"We're sorry, Lou, but like Jimmy said, there's no point in talking about it now. Let's just forget about it," Teaspoon concluded.

Lou nodded. "I guess," She mumbled, though she still felt angry.

Rachel suddenly understood the full meaning of what they've done sending Buck to Seneca. Oh, my God, She thought, He's gonna find out about her.


After dinner the boys went out to sit on the porch while Lou helped Rachel clear the table.

"I broke up with Samantha today," Kid blurted.

Five pairs of eyes stared at him in shock.

"Why did you do that, son?" Teaspoon asked.

"I didn't love her," Kid answered honestly.

"You didn't?" Cody asked.

Kid shook his head.

"Then why did you see her in the first place?" Noah asked.

"I thought I'd grow to love her. I needed to forget about Lou and I thought this was the way…"

*Except that it wasn't?* Ike asked.

Kid shook his head. "I can't stop thinking about her. But it's pointless. She doesn't love me anymore."

"Why do you think that?" Noah asked.

"She told me so," Kid answered, and walked away from the group.

Jimmy sighed. "I've never met two people more stupid than the two of them."

No one argued.


Rachel walked out after she and Lou finished the cleaning. "Good night, boys, Teaspoon," she said. "You better go to sleep soon, there's a lot of work to be done tomorrow."

The boys all sighed.

"Shut up," Teaspoon scolded with a smile. "I wish I had your work, you bunch of lazy…"

"Yeah, yeah," Cody stopped him.

Teaspoon sighed. "Come on, Rachel. I'll walk you to your house."

As they walked away Jimmy stood up. "Well, good night, boys," he said, imitating Rachel.


He found Lou sitting at the table, a cup of coffee in front of her. He sat on the bench opposite her. "Lou," he started, but she stopped him.

"Jimmy, I don't want to talk about it."

"We have to. Did you think about what I asked?"

She looked at him with amazement. "Jimmy, give up. I'm not going to marry you."

"So what are you going to do? Leave?"

"Yes. I'm going to leave, Jimmy. Why is it bothering you so much?"

"Because I don't want you to."

"You better get used to disappointments in your life," She remarked coldly.

"You don't mean it, Lou."

"Jimmy," she sighed, her voice on the verge of breaking. "You had no right asking me what you did. You know how I feel about you, and…"

"And I know how you feel about Kid," he continued her sentence. "But you won't tell him about this."

"Me not telling him has got nothing to do with you asking me to marry you."

"It got everything to do with it. Lou, you got to let someone take care of you. And if it ain't gonna be me, then at least tell Kid about it. And he's not with Samantha anymore, so she won't be a problem."

"God, Jimmy. You think Samantha is the only reason why I won't get back with Kid and why I won't tell him?"

"What else?" he asked.

She rolled her eyes. "Please, Jimmy, tell me you're not serious."

"What?" he asked honestly.

"Well, first of all, I didn't want to marry him before he even met Samantha, and she had nothing to do with me turning him down."

"Why didn't you marry him when he asked you?"

"I don't think it's any of your business, Jimmy. I haven't explained it to him and I'm not going to explain it to you," she said. She just wanted him to get out of the bunkhouse and out of the issue. She was tired talking about it.

"Look, I'm sorry, ok? I didn't mean to pry. It's just that it really shocked all of us that you didn't want to marry him. We all thought you loved him..."

"Jimmy, can we please drop it?" she cut him off.

Jimmy looked desperate with her. "If that's what you want. But I still think you're wrong."

"Thanks for your opinion, Jimmy," she remarked coldly.

Jimmy looked at her for a couple of minutes, not uttering a word. He stood and walked out of the bunkhouse. Lou sighed in relief, though she knew she hadn't heard the last of it.


When Kid entered the bunkhouse everybody was already asleep. He took a chair and sat next to Lou's bunk. He knew that if she'd wake up and see him there she'd be furious, but he didn't care. He missed her so much. He wanted to be there, on the bunk, next to her…

She stirred and he sat back in his chair. Please don't let her wake up, he prayed. After a second, she seemed to be peaceful again and he breathed easier. God, Lou, if you only knew how much I love you, he thought. Probably more now than I ever did. She didn't know how much her words hurt him. He believed them to be true, and it ate at his heart.


He woke up when someone touched his shoulder.

"Sleep well?" Cody asked teasingly.

"Huh?" He realized he fell asleep on the chair. Oh, No, he thought. He looked at Lou's bunk. She was up and couldn't be found inside the bunkhouse.

To his questionable look, Noah volunteered. "She ran out as usual. Jimmy's out with her."

"Jimmy?" Kid was getting jealous about it.

Cody nodded. "I wonder what's going on between the two of them," he said, not paying any attention to the angry glares he got from Ike, Noah and Kid.

Kid sighed and got up from the chair. He put his clothes on and looked out of the window.

"They're behind the bunkhouse," Cody volunteered.

Kid threw him a hard glare. He strapped on his gun belt and walked outside.

*I hope he ain't gonna kill Jimmy,* Ike signed.

"Cody didn't help Jimmy much," Noah mumbled.

Ike nodded.

"What?" Cody asked innocently.

"You can't keep your mouth shut, can you?"

"What?" Cody asked again.

Noah threw his hands in despair. "You don't understand, do you?"

Finally, Cody realized the full impact of his words. "Oops," he smiled.


Kid walked out of the bunkhouse to look for Lou and Jimmy. He knew she would probably be mad at him for coming after her, but he had to make sure she was fine. Furthermore, there was something very suspicious about Jimmy's behavior the previous night…

He heard some mumbling and followed the voices that became clearer the closer he got. Until he could hear everything…

First there was Lou's voice telling Jimmy to stop.

Stop what? Kid thought. He remained standing in his place and listened to the conversation.

"Stop following me, Jimmy. Stop worrying and stop talking about it."

"Lou, you need to let someone take care of you."

"I can take care of myself."


"And I won't get back together with him."

"You know you love him."

Kid's heart filled with hope.

"I won't marry him, Jimmy."

"What about me, then?"

Kid held his breath. What?

"Jimmy, I can't marry you."

"Why not, Lou?"

"I'm leaving."


As they heard a noise, they both turned to see Kid taking off his gun belt.

"Kid…" Jimmy started.

"Lou, would you please excuse us," Kid said, not taking his eyes off Jimmy.

She took a step toward him. "Kid, please…"

Jimmy decided to play it innocently. "What's wrong, Kid?"

"Lou…" Kid repeated.

She came closer to him and put a hand on his arm to calm him down. "What is it, Kid?"

He shrugged her hand.

"Kid, I don't want to fight with you," Jimmy called.

"Well that's too bad for you, 'cause you don't have a choice." Kid retorted. There was a cold menacing tone to his voice.

Lou took two steps away from Kid and then ran back to the bunkhouse to get the rest of the boys to stop this fight. The minute she was gone Kid jumped on Jimmy and started hitting him with his fists. Jimmy fought his end. It was a chance for the both of them to release all the anger they held inside. Within a few seconds they were rolling on the ground hitting and cursing each other.

A minute later Lou returned with the others. It took both Noah and Cody to hold Kid back while Ike held Jimmy. Lou stood crying, watching the scene.

"It's not over yet, Jimmy. Don't get too comfortable," Kid growled at him, trying to break free from the restraining hands. "Let go of me."

"Damn it, Kid, what has gotten in to you?" Cody asked.

"Why?" Kid suddenly broke into sobs.

Noah, Cody and Ike all looked at Jimmy for an answer but he just lowered his eyes and started wiping the blood from the corner of his mouth. They moved their gaze toward Lou but she just stood there, watching Kid, shaking with sobs.

Cody left Kid and went to her. He pulled her in an embrace. "They're fine now," he whispered into her hair. "They're fine."

Kid used the fact that there were two hands less restraining him and jumped on the unprepared Jimmy again.

Ike and Noah took a firm grip on him.

"You'd better go," Noah told Jimmy.

"I didn't do anything to him," Jimmy defended himself.

"Like hell you didn't," Kid yelled at him.

"You don't own her, Kid. I had a right to," Jimmy yelled back.

"You knew how I felt. I thought you were my friend. You couldn't wait 'til we'd broken up, could you?" Kid felt all his strength leaving him and he fell to his knees.

Lou heard his voice break and turned to watch him. She approached him and knelt in front of him. He looked up at her.

"I said no to him, Kid," she told him, gently touching his face and his eye that had began to turn black. She saw the pain in his eyes. Not a physical pain but rather a mental one. She put a finger on his lips when he made an attempt to say something. "I'm not marrying you either," she said simply. Then she stood up and left the scene, more determined to leave than ever.


Chapter 7

Buck was heading toward Sweetwater. His trip to Seneca was in vain. Nobody knew anything about an Express rider. He even tried asking about a young girl named Louise, but no one, except for the man who sold tickets for the stage, knew anything about her, and he only confirmed that she indeed bought a ticket. He tried to look for the doctor, but he was out of town. The hotel clerk was so young and confused that he wasn't much help either.

He was just a couple of hours ride from the station. He hoped things had changed, that at least Rachel found out what was wrong with Lou and that they'd sorted everything out.

Jimmy would probably blame him for not finding anything and for not caring enough. What would Kid say? he wondered. Jimmy was much closer to Lou nowadays than Kid. He was very protective of her since she and Kid broke up.

It was very clear to everyone that if it wasn't for Kid still living with them all, and Jimmy's respect for him, and maybe fear from his reaction, that Jimmy would've made a move for her himself.

They all loved her, but there was something else in Jimmy's feelings. They were more like Kid's.

Buck sighed. It probably was hell at the station these last few days, he thought. I wouldn't want to be in Lou's place when the two of them start blaming one another for her behavior. If anything ever came between the two best friends, it would be Lou.


Lou harnessed Lightning to the backboard. She had to get away from the station. Kid and Jimmy just proved her that she could not stay.

They will just keep blaming each other for her bad mood and everything in the world. She didn't want to be the reason for their fighting once again. They were best friends yet they practically looked for any excuse to be at each other's throat.

She knew wasn't staying, but she still had to wait for a response from Emma. She hoped she would hear from her soon.

In the meantime, she thought, the best thing for me to do is keep as far away from the station for as long as I can. She decided to go over to the pond. It was always her favorite place to think. She even shared it with Kid when they were… Oh, no, she thought, I'm not gonna think of him again. I can't. It will only bring me pain. She spurred Lightning out of the station's yard and toward the pond.


Rachel was tending to Kid's scratches from his fight with Jimmy. The latter was nowhere to be seen.

"Ow," Kid cried as Rachel put a cloth soaked with alcohol on a scratch near his lower lip.

"You know, Kid, for a grownup man, you're quite a baby," Rachel tried to joke.

He stopped her hand and looked her in the eyes. Through his tears she could see all the pain and hurt that was stored in his heart.

"What is it, Kid?" she asked.

"Is she dying, Rachel?" he asked, his voice full of dread.

"What?" Rachel gave a nervous laugh. "Where did you come up with this?"

"I don't know, Rachel, but something very odd is going on here and I can't stop thinking that…"

Rachel stopped him, putting a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "She's not dying, Kid."

"So what is it then?" he worked hard to disguise his breaking voice. "I've heard her say she's leaving."

"Oh, Kid," Rachel sighed. What am I going to tell him? She thought. "She's just going for a couple of weeks," she lied. "That's all."

"So why did Jimmy ask her to marry him?" he almost choked on these words.

"He did what?" Rachel cried.

"You didn't know?" he was sure Rachel was in on it.

She shook her head. "I wonder what went through his stupid brain to make him do such a thing…"

After a couple of seconds Kid started again. "I thought you would approve," he whispered.

"What? Jimmy and Lou? Kid, it's you she loves and you're the right man for her. I love Jimmy just as much as I love you, but it was wrong for him to do that."

A few seconds passed silently before Rachel restarted cleaning his wounds. "What did she say?" she asked in a low voice.

"She said no, but she said no to me too, Rachel. She doesn't want to get back with me."

"Give her time, Kid," Rachel advised.

"What time, Rachel?" he asked. "She's leaving." Before she could interrupt him he continued. "And I know it's not for just a couple of weeks. It's for good."

Kid looked up at her; the tears in her eyes confirmed his suspicions. He walked out of her house.


Lou reached the pond and got off the buckboard. She freed Lightning from the buckboard. Maybe I should just set you free, she thought, but dismissed it almost immediately. You wouldn't be happy like that, would you? She patted her and headed toward the water. She took off her shoes, rolled up her pants, and lay on the grass, her legs in the water up to her knees. She closed her eyes from the sun and immediately fell asleep.


Buck was only a couple of hours ride from the station and he hastened his horse's pace. Might as well finish with this as soon as possible, he thought.


"Jimmy!" Rachel called to the young man that came into her view.

He rolled his eyes and approached her reluctantly.

"Where were you?" she asked him rather harshly.

"Hanging around."

"What about your chores?"

"Is that what this is all about? My chores?" he sneered.

"Don't be sassy, young man. I want to know exactly what was it that you were thinking about when you asked Louise to marry you. Hasn't this poor girl been confused enough?"

Jimmy had the sense to look shameful. "I don't want her to leave, Rachel."

"And you marrying her would make everything well for her again?"

"Well, at least people won't look down on her for her…" he looked to see that no one was listening, "her fatherless baby."

Rachel gave him a hard glare. "This baby has a father, Jimmy. Have you even tried to talk her into telling him?"

"Sure I did, Rachel. What are you taking me for? Kid's my best friend."

"Jimmy, this is not a way to treat your best friend, even if you are indeed in love with his girlfriend."

"Ex-girlfriend," Jimmy reminded her.

"No to him, Jimmy, and I don't think it is to her either. What do you think?"

Jimmy shook his head. When he looked at Rachel again he had tears in his eyes. "Kid must be hating me now. And Lou too."

Rachel shrugged. "Whatever, Jimmy, you can't make peace with him now, without you having to tell him what made you ask her."

"So what can I do? I don't want him to hate me."

"Stay away from Louise, Jimmy. She's leaving in a few days. You can't stop her leaving, but you might be able to save your friendships with her and with Kid."

She saw the uncertainty in his eyes. "I know how you feel, Jimmy. I'd hate to see her leave too, but that's her choice and I respect her for it, even though I don't agree. All you can do is be there for her if she decides she does need your help."

Jimmy nodded. "Thanks, Rachel." He started to walk toward the corral.

"And, Jimmy," Rachel started and he turned back to her. "Keep your distance from Kid as well, and don't give him a hard time. It's hard for him too. He knows she's leaving." To his questioning look she added. "All he knows is that she's leaving but he doesn't know why."

Jimmy nodded again and walked away.

Rachel sighed as she watched him. Oh, boy, She thought. I hope they won't kill each other when she leaves.


Lou woke up to the sound of someone approaching. She opened her eyes just to find herself staring into a gun's barrel.

"Get up!" a gruff voice told her.

She tried to reach for her gun but the man stepped on her hand. She heard bones cracking and cried in pain.

"Don't try anything funny," another man told her.

She got to a sitting position, holding her right hand in her left, and looked around. Five men were standing above her, all holding guns at her.

"What do you want?" she asked.

"Shut up!" the first man, obviously the leader, told her and kicked her in the stomach. His leg however missed a bit and hit her rib cage. "You're in no position to ask any questions. Is that clear?"

Tears were starting in her eyes, but she forced them in. Oh, my God, she thought. What are they going to do to me? "Please, let me go… I'm pregnant."

Now the leader looked more closely at her. "My, my, boys, this little boy here is actually a girl," he laughed. "A pregnant girl."

All the men joined his laugh. "That's even better, Missy, you see, we need ourselves a hostage, and a pregnant one would do the job even better." He shoved the barrel into her shoulder. "And you might be able to serve us in more ways than one…" he said dangerously, his eyes searching her entire body.

"Don't get your hopes high," Lou spat at him and received a slap on her face.

"Tie her up," the leader told one of his men.

Two men tied her hands behind her back, ignoring her cries of pain when they touched her injured hand. She tried to struggle against them but she was no match for their strength. There was no point in screaming either, for they were too far from the main road or any civilization.

The first man led her toward Lightning. "Get up!" he ordered.

"I can't."

"Oh, really, and why is that?"

"I can't ride in my situation."

"What situation? There will be no situation for you ever again if you won't get on that damn horse right now." He aimed his gun right between her eyes. "Now get up!"

"Boss," one of the men called and the man who threatened her turned to the speaker. "Maybe we can take the buckboard for her."

Lou felt the first glimpse of hope but that was too soon. Before she even knew what had happened, the man was lying on his back, a hole in his head.

"Now," the leader bellowed, "Does any of you have any more dumb ideas?" He looked at his remaining three men. "Taking the wagon will slow us down," he said as he turned to face the terrified Lou.

"Now get up!"

"I can't mount with my hands tied behind my back," She retorted.

"Henry," the leader called one of the two that tied her. "Help her up."

Henry practically shoved her into the saddle.

"And don't try to escape. Danny here is a very efficient gunman," the leader warned as he pointed toward another man. "So don't try anything foolish."

"You won't get away with this," Lou hissed with certainty she did not feel.

"And how's that? You're lawful wedded husband will came and rescue you?"

"I have friends who will hunt you down. One of them is a marshal."

"Is that so?" he said with a mock impression. "So you better hope for their sake, as well as your own, that they won't find you. Ever." He burst out laughing and the rest of them joined him again.

Oh, Kid. Please don't let me down now, she thought.


Kid was sitting on the corral's fence. Jimmy stood a few feet behind him. After a few minutes he came closer.

As he sat himself on the fence, Kid gave him a look full of hate.

"I'm sorry," Jimmy said.

Kid didn't give him any hint that he'd actually heard.


"You're not sorry, Jimmy. All you're sorry about is me overhearing you. I was such a fool to think of you as my friend."

He jumped of the fence and headed back to the bunkhouse.

Jimmy sat there, tears rolling down his cheeks, wondering if the two of them would ever forgive him.


Lou was mounted on Lightning, watching Henry and Danny ditching the dead man in the bushes. She fought the tears that threatened to escape her eyes. She couldn't let them see her weakness. She feared the thought of what might happen to her and what might happen to the child she was carrying. Please, God. Please don't let them hurt us. The both of us, she thought.

The men mounted their horses. "Let's get going," The leader of the group said. He took Lightning's reins and dragged her after him. The others followed them.


Buck was riding hard toward the station. He was tired, hungry, and thirsty. He thought of his bunk, and of Rachel's food. He was so lost in thoughts that he never saw the low branch before it hit him and he fell off his horse. The horse neighed at him.

"Yeah. Ha ha ha. Very funny," Buck collected himself from the ground. He touched his head and felt something sticky. Blood. "Oh, great," he said to his horse. Since he didn't have any water left, he headed toward the pond to wash his head from the dirt and blood. Rachel would freak out if she saw it, he thought.


Lunch at the bunkhouse was quieter than normal. Everyone except Buck and Lou were there.

Rachel looked at Lou's empty place. "Where is Louise?" she asked no one in particular.

"She said she was going to the pond for a while," Noah answered. "Thought she'd be back for lunch, though."

"So where is she then?" Rachel asked a bit concerned. Had Lou decided to leave earlier, without a word from Emma? She wondered.

Noah shrugged.

"She probably decided to stay there a while longer. Quieter there," Cody suggested through his full mouth.

"I guess," Rachel sighed.

Ten minutes later they heard a horse approaching.

"You see?" Cody asked. "Here she is. You had nothing to worry about."

"She took the buckboard, Cody," Rachel answered him as she headed for the door to welcome the newcomer.

"It's Buck," Kid remarked disappointed.

Buck dismounted near the bunkhouse. "Hey. All this for me?" he joked.

"For Lou," Cody informed him. "We thought you were her."

"Why? Where is she?"

"She went away for awhile."

"Not the pond, I hope…" Buck knew it was one of her favorite places. Rachel gave him a confused look so he explained. "I passed by it on my way here, saw a buckboard. I thought it looked like yours, Rachel, but there was no one there."

Kid was on his way to the stables. "Where are you going, Kid?" Teaspoon asked, but got no answer. He didn't need one either. It was clear to him as it was to everyone else. He was going to the pond. Teaspoon, Noah, Ike, Cody and Buck followed him. Jimmy stayed beside Rachel.

"Aren't you going with them?" she asked.

"I don't know if this is such a good idea," he mumbled.

"Go," She told him.

He hesitated for another second but then run toward the stable to saddle his horse.

Kid didn't wait for the others. He didn't really care what they might think of his impatience. Lou was behaving weird for the last couple of weeks and he had a bad feeling it all connected somehow.


They arrived at the pond only a few minutes after Kid. They found him searching the ground. Buck knelt beside him, examining the tracks.

"Lightning's gone," Kid told them.

"Maybe she decided to go for a ride."

"She didn't," Jimmy said eminently.

Kid looked up at him.

"How do you know?" Noah asked.

"I just know."

"How?" Kid demanded, getting up and coming closer toward him.

Jimmy backed off a bit. "Kid, I just know that she didn't just go ride Lightning."

"Well someone did," Buck said.

All eyes turned toward Buck.

"What?" Jimmy asked, unbelievingly.

"See the tracks here?" Buck asked, pointing toward some hoof marks on the dry dirt. "They're Lightning's. And someone was riding him. Someone light."

"It can't be her," Jimmy insisted.

"Jimmy, who else can it be?" Buck asked.

"I don't know. But it can't be her."

"Then who?" Kid was getting even angrier with every word Jimmy said.

"She can't ride."

"What do you mean?" Kid threatened.

"Hey, guys," Cody interrupted them. "Kid, is that…?"

"Lou's," Kid said grabbing the boots from Cody's hand.

"Now you're saying she rode without her boots on?" Jimmy demanded of Buck.

"Look, Jimmy," Buck said defensively. "There are more tracks here from the same time. Maybe she rode with someone."

"She didn't ride."

"Damn it, Jimmy. You better start explaining," Kid barked at him. "What's going on?"

Teaspoon, who stood aside from the young men, watching them, came closer and put a reassuring hand on Kid's shoulders. He understood Lou must have told Jimmy about the pregnancy. "Son, I'm sure there is a perfectly good explanation for this."

Kid shrugged his hand. He went toward Katy.

"Where are you going?" Teaspoon asked him.

"To track her."

Jimmy just nodded. The others also went for their horses.

"Now hold on, boys. You can't all go. There's still mail to be carried."

"But Teaspoon," Cody started to object. "If anything happens to her…"

Teaspoon stopped him. "Now hold your horses, son. You don't know that anything's happened to her."

"Something must have happen, Teaspoon," Jimmy interrupted Teaspoon. "She wouldn't have gone on a ride. She knows she can't because of the baby," he talked so fast that the words were out there before he could understand what he was saying.


Chapter 8

Teaspoon shook his head.

"What baby?" Kid asked.

Teaspoon looked at him and then at Jimmy whose face was red as a tomato. The others just stood watching the three and each other.

"What baby?" Kid asked again, now more firmly.

"She's carrying a child," Teaspoon finally whispered.

Kid stood there for a couple of minutes unable to speak. "She's pregnant?" he asked in a trembling voice.

Jimmy turned his back to him and walked away, tears in his throat. She will never forgive me for this betrayal, he thought.

Kid ran after him and turned him around. "Damn it, Jimmy. Is she pregnant?" When he didn't answer Kid punched him in the face. Jimmy didn't return the punch and stayed lying on the dirt. But Kid didn't give up. He jumped on him and started hitting with all his force and despair. "Damn you, Jimmy," he cursed.

Noah and Buck pulled him off Jimmy. "Kid, we need you calm," Noah said in an attempt to sooth him. But he kept fighting their grip.

"Is that why you wanted to marry her?" Kid yelled at Jimmy, tears rolling down his face. "Is it your child?"

"It's yours," Teaspoon said.

"You mean you knew about it all along?" Kid felt betrayed by everyone. "Who else knows? Did you know, Noah?"

Noah shook his head.

"Only Rachel, Jimmy and myself," Teaspoon admitted.

"And why, the hell, didn't anyone tell me?" Kid demanded.

"It was Lou's decision, Kid," Teaspoon answered in a low voice.

"I'm going to be a father?" Kid mumbled. "Lou is pregnant with my child," he kept whispering to himself, trying to comprehend the news.

He was much calmer now. He shrugged Noah and Buck's hands and headed back toward Katy. He mounted her and galloped away.

The others stood watching him when Ike started pulling on Buck sleeve.

"What?" Buck asked.

Ike just pulled him toward the bushes. When they got there, Buck finally stopped asking what this was all about. Right there, hiding by the bushes, laid a dead man.

"Hey, guys…" he called the rest. "I think you'd better come here."

"Oh, my God," Noah sighed as he came closer and saw the man. "Do you know who he is?"

Buck shook his head.

Suddenly Jimmy picked up a shining object that was peeking under the body.

"That's Lou's gun," Buck said as he watched the object.

The boys all looked at each other and at Teaspoon for an explanation but no one had any.

"Something must have happened to her, Teaspoon. She wouldn't have just left her gun under a dead man," Cody tried to reason. "We'd better join Kid in a search for her. He might need some help." He started toward his horse, Buck, Ike and Noah following him.

They mounted their horses, leaving only Jimmy and Teaspoon still standing.

"Tell Rachel we will bring her back from wherever she is," Cody told them.

"I'm coming with you," Jimmy went to his horse.

"Son," Teaspoon started. "I don't know if this is such a good idea you and Kid together."

"I'm going," Jimmy insisted as he mounted his horse.

"Then I guess I'm coming with you too. To keep an eye on the both of you." Teaspoon sighed as he mounted his own horse.


Lou felt a sharp pain in her abdomen. She was feeling very cold and nauseous. She'd never felt so alone in her life. Not even after her mother died. She missed her and she missed her brother and sister. She missed Rachel and Teaspoon and Emma. She missed Kid. His strong arms, his soft lips, his scent. His love.

She no longer held inside the tears and now they were rolling down her cheeks. It was getting darker and all she could think about was how long they would keep riding like that.

She feared for her life and for the life of her unborn child. Please, God, she prayed. Please don't let anything happen to this child. Though she didn't want that child at the beginning, she was getting used to the idea of it. Especially now, that she had decided to go. She needed this baby to replace the family she was abandoning. She needed this child because it was the Kid's.

They reached a triangle of trees and halted. The men dismounted and Henry pulled her from the saddle. He shoved her to the ground. The men gathered some wood for a fire and prepared something to eat. She was hungry and she felt sick, but they offered her nothing and she was too scared to ask. They opened their bedrolls and lay down, Danny keeping the first watch.

Before he lay down, the leader approached her. He let his finger trace her face lines. She was too frightened to move her head away from him.

"You feeling like sharing my bedroll?" he asked.

She didn't answer him, just closed her eyes.

"Well, sweetheart," he laughed, breathing on her. His smell was suffocating. "That's too bad. You don't have a bedroll." He got up and went to his sleeping place.


The boys rode hard and they still couldn't catch up with Kid. When night fell it seemed as if they were half a day behind him even though they took off only minutes after him.

"We better make camp for tonight," Teaspoon said. He knew his boys wanted to continue, he wanted too, but he also knew that they needed the rest.

They found some shelter under some trees and dismounted. Jimmy and Noah went to gather wood for the fire while the others attended to the horses.

They started a fire and ate a quick meal. They barely said a word since they first started this ride but they had so many things they wanted to know.

"So, that's why she didn't ride back?" Buck was the first to talk.

Teaspoon looked at Jimmy, but when he saw him staring at the fire, oblivious to the world he answered Buck himself.

"She found out about it while she was in Seneca. She can't ride while she's pregnant."

"What is she going to do?" Noah asked.

"She decided to leave."

"She's got nowhere to go," Buck pointed out.

"She wrote to Emma," Teaspoon told them. "She can't ride for the Express, so she has no reason to stay."

"Why didn't she tell Kid?" Cody asked.

For the mention on his friend's name Jimmy looked up. "We have to go find him."

Everyone looked at him.

"It's too dark, Jimmy. We can't track him. And we need the rest," Buck said.

Jimmy ignored him and stood up.

"Son, we'll start riding as soon as the sun rises. There's no point in us going into the dark wilderness now," Teaspoon remarked.

Jimmy didn't pay any attention to the others he saddled his horse and mounted. Without a word he galloped into the night.

"You think we should follow him, Teaspoon?" Cody asked.

Teaspoon shook his head. "We can't waste time looking for him. He can take care of himself. Right now it looks as if Lou is in more need of us than he is." After a few seconds he continued. "We better turn in now, boys. So we will be able to go as soon as possible." To give an example to his boys he lay down. They all followed.


Kid was riding hard for hours. He didn't know where he was anymore. He hadn't stopped sobbing since he left the boys near the pond. Why hadn't she told me? He wondered. This is my child too. Why hadn't she told me?

He was exhausted before he even started this ride and now he was numb. He didn't feel the cold and he hadn't realized that it was dark already. He pitted himself and he was angry with her for not telling him. At the same time he feared the worst. What if…

Finally the exhaustion took its toll on him and he fell off of Katy unconscious.


Jimmy found him lying in the middle of the prairie after a couple of hours. He jumped of his horse and ran to his friend's side.

"Kid!" He yelled. "Wake up! Damn you! Wake up!"

After a few minutes Kid woke up. He blinked as he saw Jimmy's eyes staring down at him. "What happened?" he asked as he tried to rise.

"Looks like you felt off Katy," Jimmy answered. "Kid, I'm really sorry…" He started.

"We need to find her, Jimmy." Kid stopped him as he rose to stand on his feet. He felt his head spinning, his knees gave up and he fell to the ground.

"You'll do her no good in your condition, Kid," Jimmy spoke wisely. "We need the rest so then we can go, find her and bring her back. In our condition, we'd probably end dead and then neither of us will be of any use to her."

Kid tried to resist but he knew that Jimmy was right, as much as it hurt him to admit it.

They lay down, not even bothering to open their bedrolls. Before they knew it they were both sleeping.


Lou woke with a start to a sharp pain in her abdomen.

"Wake up!" the man shouted at her as his boot kept kicking her.

She tried to get up but she couldn't find the strength. It was like all her spirit had left her with all of her power. "I can't," she cried.

"What do you mean you can't? Get up." His boot dug deeper into her belly.

She felt her breath leaving her and she gasped for air. That made the men start laughing. She tried to get up again, determined not to let them see her in her weakness.

"Faster!" the leader shouted in her ear.

She gasped in surprise at his loud voice so close to her and fell to the ground. The men burst out laughing again.

"Bob!" The leader called to the fourth man that came closer, grabbed her arm and jerked her up to her feet. She cried in pain as he touched her broken hand.

"Shut up!" The leader said, slapping her. That made her stumble to the ground again, but before she fell Bob took a firm grip on her arm, a grip that felt like tight pincers. Kid, she prayed. Please, help me. Please save me.


Kid was already ready to go when Jimmy finally woke up. He looked up at his friend who stood by Katy. "When did you wake up?"

Kid looked at him. "Oh, good. You're awake. Mind getting up already?" he asked, ignoring the question.

Jimmy shook his head and stood up. "Sure," he replied as he went toward his horse. He mounted and the duo started on their way again, with renewed speed.


The boys and Teaspoon had been riding since the first break of dawn, and they still found no sign of Kid, Jimmy or Lou. They hoped that at least one of them had found the other.

"Teaspoon, which month is she at?" Buck asked as they stopped for a couple of minutes to water their horses.

"She's in the second month of the pregnancy," Teaspoon said in a low tone. There was no point in hiding the facts from the boys any more. Might as well that they know everything. But he still felt awkward talking about that.

"It's a very frail stage of the pregnancy," Buck commented very seriously.

"How do you know all that?" Teaspoon asked.

"Had some experience in the field," Buck answered without giving out much more information and walked back toward the rest of the boys.

Teaspoon followed him. "Well, boys, we better start moving again," he said as he mounted his horse. The boys followed his example and in less than a few seconds, they were on their way.


The hours passed and still there was no sign of Lou. The two young men were becoming desperate of ever finding the woman they loved.

"Kid," Jimmy started. "It's going to be dark soon. Maybe we should stop."

"We can't. We have to find her, Jimmy," Kid answered without stopping his ride or even looking toward his companion.

"Kid…" Jimmy started again.

"Jimmy, you yourself said that she can't ride cause it's dangerous for the baby. We have to find her before something like that happens."

"Kid, she has already been riding for more than a day. She might've already…"

"Don't you dare say that!" Kid snapped at him, stopping Katy.

"Kid, you have to face the fact that maybe she…"

Kid stopped him by jumping on him. They both fell from their horses and rolled on the ground.

Suddenly Kid pulled himself off Jimmy. "I don't know why I'm wasting my time with you," he hissed as he went toward Katy. He mounted her and was about to ride when Jimmy yelled. "Wait, Kid. There's something you don't know."

Kid turned to look at him. His eyes almost burned a hole in Jimmy's forehead. "What?" he asked through clenched teeth.

"After you left Ike found something…"


"He found a dead body hidden in the bushes."

Now Jimmy had Kid's full attention. "A dead body?" he asked.

Jimmy nodded. "We found her gun under the body," he added.

"We have to find her, Jimmy," he said in a shaking voice.

Jimmy mounted his horse. "Let's go, then."


"Boss," Henry said as he approached the leader. "I think we're being followed."

"What do you mean, you think?" the leader growled at him.

"Well," Henry hesitated. "I saw two men riding hard toward us. I believe they will reach us in about ten minutes."

"You think they saw us?" the leader asked.

Henry shrugged. "I don't know."

"Maybe they're just riding through," the leader said. "But let's get ready just in case. Bring me the girl."


Chapter 9

"Teaspoon," Cody started as he approached the older man. "You think we can get to her in time?"

Teaspoon watched the young man riding beside him. The young arrogant boy he hired just over a year ago had grown into a man. Even though he still had this tendency to put his foot in his mouth, he could be serious on occasions. "I hope so, son," he answered finally.

Cody nodded. "Why didn't she want Kid to know about this? He would have wanted to marry her."

"That's exactly why, Cody," Teaspoon sighed. "She didn't want him to marry her just because of the baby. Besides, he was still with Samantha at the time."

"Yeah, but he broke up with her without knowing about Lou, and she does still love him. We all know that."

"Son," Teaspoon said. "It's Lou's decision, and even though I don't agree with it and still don't understand it, it's still hers to make."

Cody tried to say something but Teaspoon held up his hand to stop him. "I don't think we should discuss it any farther. It's not our business. And if you still have questions when we find her, you can ask her." Teaspoon spurred his horse and rode ahead.

"What was that all about?" Noah asked as he came closer to Cody.

"Just wondered about Lou," he answered.

"Cody, give it a rest, will you?" Noah was a bit irritated by Cody's constant nosiness. "Lou probably had a very good reason for not wanting to tell Kid. And I'm sure that if she'll see fit, she will tell you all about it."

"Think so?" Cody asked, suddenly enthusiastic.

Noah shook his head in frustration. "You're hopeless," he remarked as he followed Teaspoon.


"Now, you'll do everything I say or Danny will shoot you. Is that clear?" Lou could smell his stinky breath as he ordered her. She closed her eyes against the pain he caused by gripping her arm. "I asked if you're clear on it."

Lou nodded and opened her eyes as he let go of her arm.

"Don't try to escape either. As I told you before, Danny is exceptionally good with guns."

She watched as Bob, Henry and Danny took the horses and hid behind the trees. Now she was left only with their leader, waiting for the soon arriving two riders.


"Well, Buck, what do you think?" Teaspoon asked Buck who was kneeling on the ground beside a piece of cloth.

"It's Kid's, alright. Looks like he's been on a fight or something like that," Buck informed the others.

"Well, maybe Jimmy's found him after all," Cody noted, trying to lighten the situation.

"Maybe," Teaspoon sighed. "How far are we from him?"

"I'd say a couple of hours maybe. We're closer than before."

"Well, then, we better get to him." Teaspoon started riding, the boys close behind him.


The Kid and Jimmy rode hard. There had been some protruding tracks that they didn't have trouble in finding. Obviously, the men they were chasing didn't know much about covering their trail.

The both of them stopped dead at the sight in front of them. Lou was sitting on the ground, all beaten up. A man was standing in front of her, pointing a gun at them. He shot his gun in the air, and then aimed it back at the Kid and Jimmy. "Stay where you are!" he ordered them.

"Be careful, Kid," Jimmy hissed trough his lips, as he saw the look on Kid's face and his hand reaching for his gun. "There are more men hiding someplace."

"Drop your guns and put your hand where I can see them," the man in front of them said.

Kid tried to look at Lou for any reaction, but the man was blocking her. Reluctantly, Jimmy and Kid dropped their guns to the ground.

"We ain't looking for no trouble, sir," Jimmy said with the calmest voice he could master at this moment.

"What do you want then?" the man asked.

"We're only passing through here on our way. What seems to be the problem with her?" Jimmy asked pointing at Lou.

"These men followed us and stole all our money. Then they beat up my wife here even though we told them she's pregnant," the man answered without a moment's hesitation.

"How did you get here?" Jimmy asked.

The man eyed Kid suspiciously, who was still trying to get a better look at Lou.

"We had a horse and a wagon, but them thieves took it too." After a second he continued, "Is he alright?" he whispered pointing toward Kid.

"Yeah. He's a doctor. Maybe he could help you somehow," Jimmy offered.

The man pondered that for a second. "Yes, I guess," he said.

"Kid?" Jimmy called his name for the fourth time before he answered.

"Huh? Yeah?" he asked.

"I told the man here that you'd check on his wife, since you're a doctor and everything," Jimmy said in a tone that suggested that Kid should cooperate.

"Oh, sure," Kid mumbled absentmindedly as he dismounted and walked toward her.

"What's your name, ma'am?" he asked as he came closer.

"Louise," she whispered tiredly.

"Mrs. Louise," he said, "I would like to examine you. Is that alright with you?"

Lou nodded but then said faintly, "But can we have some privacy."

"Well, sweetheart," the man said, "I'm your husband, I want to stay here and make sure this man won't hurt you. After all, he could be just like those others," he had an evil grin on his face. "But the other one can leave," he added, pointing toward Jimmy.

"No!" Kid cried, afraid to let Jimmy go alone when the rest of the gang was still close by and free. "He's my assistant. I need him here."

"All right then, hurry up with your examination," the man hissed.

Kid looked questioningly at Jimmy and then at Lou who was too tired to notice. He stroked her hair gently. He slowly touched her abdomen, pretending to be examining her and then turned toward the man. "She needs to be laid in a bed," he said. "She needs to rest."

"Maybe we should take her with us," Jimmy suggested.

"I'm afraid that's not possible." The man said. "You see, my wife is very sick. I wouldn't allow her to leave with two strangers, no offense."

Jimmy looked at Kid at a loss.

"Then I guess we could ride to the nearest town and bring a wagon for you," Kid suggested calmly.

Jimmy looked at him bewildered. Kid is willingly going to leave Lou with them? He thought.

The look on Kid's face told him that he had a plan.


"You still haven't told me how you know all that much about pregnancies," Teaspoon told Buck when they stopped for a few minutes to water the horses.

"Huh?" Buck was a bit startled by Teaspoon. "I don't know all that much."

"What do you know about it?" Teaspoon asked. Though he had a lot of experience in lot of fields, that was one thing he didn't know all that much about since he never had any children himself, at least not that he knew of…

"I only know that the first months are the trickiest. That the woman has to rest, that she can't ride."

"What might happen if she does?" Teaspoon asked, dreading the answer.

"Ride?" Buck asked. "It could be dangerous for both the mother and the baby," he answered after a long sigh.

"So Lou is in a very dangerous situation here," Teaspoon considered what Buck just told him.

Buck nodded. "If something were to happen and she survived, there's a chance that she wouldn't be able to have children later on."

"Oh, Lord," Teaspoon sighed. "What has this girl got herself into this time…"


"So. You think you are smart, huh?" the man in front of her yelled. "Thought you could get rid of me so easily? I'm your husband. Remember?" the man laughed shortly before grabbing her hair and forcing her head up? so she had to look straight into his eyes.

Lou blinked at the pain that racked her body. She couldn't move at all, and now Kid and Jimmy were gone.

Kid must be really angry with me if he left me here with these men, she thought. Through the pain it was hard for her to see the meaningful glances Kid and Jimmy exchanged. Nor did she hear Kid whisper to her that he loved her.

The man grabbed her arm and forced her to stand, making her cry out in pain. This pain was like nothing she'd ever experienced. It was so intense and it enveloped her whole body.

Her hand was obviously broken, and the beatings and the slaps on her face caused her more pain. But there was something else. Something she couldn't identify as anything she'd ever had to endure before.

"Get up!" the man hollered at her.

"I can't," she cried.

"What should we do with her?" Henry asked as he and the other two came out of the trees.

"Why won't we just kill her and get rid of her?" Bob asked.

"'Cause we need her, you dumb fool. She's our ticket out of the bank. They wouldn't shoot us if there's a little pregnant woman with us, now would they?" the boss shouted angrily.

"So what are we going to do with her?" Henry asked again.

Lou was only vaguely aware of the men's talk. She felt a sharp pain and then all became black.

"What now?" Henry asked as he watched her losing her consciousness.

"Damn!" the leader cursed. "We have to wake her up before we can continue. Bob, go get me some water."


"Kid!" Jimmy called his friend for the millionth time. "Kid!"

"Huh?" Kid was lost in his thoughts.

"What's the plan?"

"What plan?" Kid asked.

"The plan to get Lou out of there. You know, the plan."

"I don't have a plan, Jimmy," Kid answered.

"What do you mean 'you don't have a plan'? Then what the hell were you thinking leaving her with them?" Jimmy yelled at him. Was Kid that upset that he wasn't willing to even help Lou? Jimmy thought amazed.

"We're not leaving her there," Kid answered calmly.

"But…" Jimmy started.

"We're heading back there. From behind." Kid explained.

Only now Jimmy looked around him to see that they were indeed just circling the outlaws from behind. "Sorry," he apologized. "I thought…"

"That I didn't care about her?" Kid was more than just a bit hurt.

"I'm sorry. It's just that with everything going on I didn't know what to think anymore." Jimmy suddenly felt like Cody. "I shouldn't have doubted you."

"No, you shouldn't have. But let's concentrate on getting Lou out safe. We'll have time to deal with your mistrust in me later."

"What are we going to do when we get to them?" Jimmy asked.

"Nothing. Lou could get hurt. She's right in the middle of everything and she's too weak to move by herself. We'll just watch that nothing happens to her. That's all we can do."

"Why can't we take them down?" Jimmy asked.

"Are you nuts?" Kid was getting angry by Jimmy's foolishness. "By the hoof prints there are four of them and only two of us. In addition they have Lou and she might get caught in the crossfire. We'll have to wait for the others."

"What if they don't get here on time, Kid?"

"If these men try anything before Teaspoon and the others gets here than we'll have to fight them, but let's just hope that they will be here in time," Kid answered gravely.


"Howdy," Teaspoon greeted the four men before him.

"Good afternoon, Marshal," one of the men answered.

"What seems to be the problem with this woman?" Teaspoon asked referring to Lou.

"Who? Her? My wife's a bit sick," he answered.

Then remembering what Lou's been telling him about her marshal friend, he decided to try his old story again. "We've been attacked by some thieves. They stole our horses and wagon and beat up my wife. They headed that way," He pointed in the opposite direction Teaspoon has come from.

"How many were they?" Teaspoon asked, making no intention to try and catch the 'thieves'.

"Ten," The man answered without even blinking.

"Ten, uh? You hear this, Buck?" Teaspoon asked.

Buck nodded.

"And when did they attack you?" Teaspoon continued his interrogation.

"Three hours ago," the man answered, starting to lose his patience. "Why aren't you going after them?" he asked.

"I think we'd better check on the girl first," Teaspoon said motioning with his head to Cody and Ike to check on her.

"Some doctor already examined her," the man told them quickly as Cody and Ike dismounted.

"And?" Teaspoon was waiting for him to continue.

"He said he will get us a wagon in the next town 'cause she can't ride."

"Well, then you won't mind if my boys here take a look at her? They have some experience in medicine."

"Uh… No… Sure…" the man said a bit hesitantly. "I guess it can't hurt none."

Cody and Ike approached the unconscious Lou. Ike threw Cody a nervous glance as he realized the state she was in.


"Kid!" Jimmy pocked him in his ribs. "Look!"

Kid looked at what Jimmy was pointing at. "Teaspoon!"

Now all they had to do was get his attention.


"She's unconscious," Cody uttered as he returned to where Teaspoon was now standing, talking to the man.

"They beat her up pretty bad," the man said. With every minute that passed he was feeling more and more confident. Had they suspected anything they would've made their move by now, he thought.

Teaspoon looked at where Lou was lying curled. Ike was patting her hair. "When did this doctor say he'd be back?"

"Well, they only left us two hours ago. It will probably take them some time."

"Them?" Teaspoon asked

"Yeah," the man said. "There was another man with him."

"What did they look like?" Teaspoon asked.

"I don't know. The doctor had a short curly brown hair, the other one has longer hair. Also brown. Their horses sure looked like they've been riding hard," he added.

"Was one of the horses a painted mare?" Teaspoon asked.

"Well, yes. How did you know?" the man asked.

"They are the ones we're looking for," Teaspoon answered. "You're lucky they didn't kill you. These two are the most deadly men you'll ever meet."

"Then I guess we were lucky," the man smiled.

"Yeah. I guess you can say that. They get their deadliest when dealing with their woman."

"What do you mean?" the man didn't quite understand.

"I said that you're very lucky that they didn't kill you for taking their woman," Teaspoon repeated.

Finally the boys understood what Teaspoon was getting to. They each reached for their guns, smoothly enough as not to draw too much attention from the men.


"Kid!" Jimmy tried to get his friend's attention. Kid could not take his eyes off Lou. "Kid!" He repeated. "Something's going on there!"

"What?" Kid asked.

"I don't know but it looks like Teaspoon's finally came up with some sort of a plan. We'd better get ready to help them."

"I just hope Teaspoon knows what he's doing."

"Yeah, me too," Jimmy agreed.

The both of them drew their guns and looked at the scene in front of them.

"What is he saying?" Kid asked.

"Kid, I can hear him just as good as you can," Jimmy said irritated. "Let's get closer."


"What woman?" the man asked.

"That woman!" Teaspoon said, drawing his gun and pointing it toward the man in front of him.

The boys quickly followed his example.


"What's he doing?" Kid asked horrified. "Lou could get hurt." He made an attempt to move toward the others, but Jimmy put a restraining hand on his shoulder.

"Don't go there, Kid. They might be needing us in the shadows," he reasoned.


"Drop your guns and put your hands in the air," Teaspoon said. "You're under arrest for kidnapping and attempted murder."

"What are you talking about?" the man asked, trying to get closer toward Lou.

"Stop right where you are!" Jimmy called from behind.

Both he and Kid emerged from the trees, aiming their guns at the men.

"Nice of you to show up," Cody remarked.

"I was just about to say the same thing," Jimmy answered.

"Noah, Buck, tie this filth tight enough so it hurts," Teaspoon said. He had no mercy toward the men who put the life of his female rider in danger.

While Buck and Noah tied the men, Kid figured it was safe enough to leave it to Jimmy, Teaspoon and Cody to watch guard and with one stride he was by Lou's side.

He looked at her, his heart full of pain and sorrow. He reached his hand to touch her face, but was afraid that he would hurt her if he did.

Ike stared at him for a second and then moved away, not wanting to intrude.

Kid's eyes filled with tears as he saw her beaten face. "Lou…" he whispered, gently touching her shoulder. He cleared his throat from the tears that filled it. "Sweetheart, wake up."

He felt despair engulf him when she didn't answer his touch nor his voice.

"Lou…" he started again. "Louise, please wake up. Wake up, honey."

By that time, the men were already tied and mounted on their horses.

"Cody, Buck, Ike and Noah, take these man and lock them in the jail. Then I want one of you to get a wagon here so we can bring Louise home."

The four riders with their prisoners headed toward Sweetwater. They had a long journey ahead of them and they hoped they would make it back to Lou in time. She looked so sick and so weak. None of them had ever seen her like that.

Teaspoon and Jimmy watched the departing riders until they disappeared. Then Teaspoon approached Kid who was still trying to wake Lou up. He was now sitting on the ground, Lou's head in his lap. He was caressing her hair, occasionally wiping tears from his face.

"She still hasn't woke up, Teaspoon," he told his mentor in a breaking voice, his eyes never leaving the girl laying next to him.

Teaspoon knelt beside him. "Those bastards," he cursed.

Kid looked at him. "I think she's running a fever," he said.

Teaspoon touched her forehead. His face told Kid everything he needed to know. It was a high fever.

Jimmy came closer to his friends. "How is she?" he asked.

Teaspoon sighed as he stood up. He put a comforting hand on Jimmy's shoulder and walked away.

Jimmy watched his two best friends. "Kid," he started. "Can I do anything?"

"I can't lose her, Jimmy," Kid cried.

"You're not going to. Everything will turn out fine. You'll see," Jimmy tried to encourage him.

"I love her, Jimmy," Kid confessed.

"I know you do," Jimmy answered.

Kid shook his head. "No. It's different. It's different from what you think; I won't be able to live without her. Jimmy, I need her to breathe."

Jimmy looked at Kid and then at Lou. "She will be fine, Kid," he stated in a trembling voice.


Something woke me up, he thought, immediately angry with himself for falling asleep. What was it?

There it was again. Another moan. He looked down. Lou was stirring. It seemed as if her fever broke.

"Lou?" he caressed her cheek. "Lou, honey, it's okay. You're safe now," he whispered to her. He glanced around him quickly. Jimmy and Teaspoon were sleeping around the fire.

"Kid?" Lou moaned.

"Yes, sweetheart," he moved a stubborn hair from her face.

"It hurts," she managed after a few seconds.

"Where?" he asked.

She couldn't answer him, tears running from her eyes, staining her face.

"Lou, honey, just tell me where."

"Kid, I'm so sorry," she cried.

"Shhhh. You'll be alright," he tried to sooth her.

By now Teaspoon and Jimmy had awakened and were by their side.

"Louise, how are you feeling, sweetheart?" Teaspoon asked her.

"She's in pain," Kid answered for her.

"Kid, Jimmy, would you please go look for some more wood for the fire?" Teaspoon asked as he knelt beside Lou.

"What?" Jimmy cried. "Teaspoon, it's pitch dark. Beside, we've collected enough wood already."

Teaspoon gave him a 'please-do-what-I've-told-you' look and Jimmy shrugged and walked into the darkness.

Kid stared evenly at Teaspoon eyes as he returned his gaze to him. "I'm not leaving her, Teaspoon," he said.

"Kid, please, I want to talk to Lou. Alone." When he saw Kid wouldn't give up he continued. "I won't let anything happen to her. Now go."

Kid reluctantly rose, holding her head carefully until Teaspoon settled down and was able to support it. "Just…" he started. "Just don't let anything, anything, happen to her."

"I won't," Teaspoon promised.

Kid kissed Lou's forehead lightly and went after Jimmy.

"Teaspoon…" Lou started after he was gone. "I'm losing the baby."

"No, you're not, Lou. You just have to be strong now. Everything will work out fine. You'll see." He hated lying to her like that. He knew exactly what was happening, he saw the blood stain on her pants, but he couldn't bring himself to say it.

"But it hurts so much," she cried.

Teaspoon searched his mind for words of comfort but found none. "Lou, there's something you need to know," he said after a couple of minutes.

She opened her eyes to him, waiting to hear what he had to say.

"Sweetheart, Kid has found out about the baby," Teaspoon thought he should tell her that without the boys around, give her time to ponder it.

Lou closed her eyes. "I'm so sorry, Teaspoon. He must be hating me now," she cried in shame.

"No, Lou, he loves you. You know that he does. I just thought you should know that he found out."

"How?" she asked.

"Never mind that now, honey. It was an accident. You rest now, and we'll tell you all about it later," he answered. "Why won't you try and get some sleep, honey?" he suggested.

Lou closed her eyes and soon was sleeping restlessly.

After a few minutes Kid knelt beside Teaspoon. "How is she?" he asked.

"She's losing the baby," Teaspoon answered him.

Kid opened his mouth to say something but couldn't muster the words. He looked around, his eyes filling with tears again.

"I'm sorry, son," Teaspoon said.

"Yeah, well," Kid mumbled finally.

"Kid, just be there for her."

"What do you mean, Teaspoon? Of course I'll be there for her."

"I know you will, Kid. I know you will."

They sat there in silence until the morning came.



The next time Lou awoke she found herself staring in blue tearful eyes. Eyes that she knew so well. She saw the love she had once found in them was still there.

"Hey," Kid smiled at her. "How are you feeling?"

"I'm sorry, Kid," she whispered.

"Shhhh. It's ok."

"I should've told you."

"It's ok now, Lou, and it's me who should be sorry." When he saw the question in her eyes he continued. "I wasn't there for you. I should've been…"

"No, Kid…" Lou tried to stop him but he wouldn't let her.

"I love you, Lou," he said. "and I promised you I would never let anything happen to you."

He leaned down and kissed her lips gently. When he backed away he saw the disappointment in her eyes. "What?"

"I love you too, Kid," she whispered.

He leaned again and kissed her longer.

Lou knew that she had lost the baby and she knew that Kid also knew it. But at that moment it didn't matter to her. She was safe in the arms of the man she loved with all of her heart, the man who loved her with all of his.

She knew they were destined to be together.

She knew some day they will have lots of kids and they would live happily ever after.

The End


Author note:

I would like to thank Lisa for her help with this story. I know it was a lot of hard work, but it's better thanks to her.

Email Hanny