Prologue

“Jesse,” Teaspoon bellowed as the boy took off running the instant he heard his name being called. “You just mind what I told you,” he continued, uncaring that his words were being ignored.

Jesse, Teaspoon mused. Sometimes he wondered why he ever let that boy stay with him. But when he was being honest with himself, he knew exactly why he allowed Jesse to stay with him. He loved the chance to say the name again. It didn’t hurt to say it anymore. Sometimes it almost made him feel like she was with him again. In some ways Jesse James reminded him of his first wife, Jesse Tobin, beyond just the name.

He sat at his desk and leaned back. Putting his feet up, he tilted his hat over his eyes and thought about her.

Chapter 1

Seems like back when he was a boy, there wasn’t a week that went by that he didn’t see her. His mother and her mother were best friends. Although Teaspoon spent most of his time with her older brothers, he always kept an eye out for her. He was in love with her, had been since the day he first saw her.

He recalled one particular day in the Tobin kitchen, where Jesse was trying to make a cherry pie. Her mother had recently decreed that since Jesse would soon be old enough to receive suitors, she had better learn something about making herself useful in the kitchen.

Teaspoon sat forlornly at their kitchen table, having no desire to sample anything Jesse made, especially since all her previous ventures in the kitchen had ended in utter disaster. Last week, her roast caused her brothers to develop stomach pains bad enough to summon the doctor. While just yesterday, her father chipped a tooth on the bread she had made. Teaspoon just wanted a chance to make things right between them. He had kissed Jesse the other day and to his dismay, she had run away the instant he let go of her. Ever since her mother’s announcement he had been making himself crazy over the thought of Jesse with someone else, hence the kiss.

Jesse handed him a slice of pie, “Try it,” she said, slyly. It certainly looked good. She had followed her mother’s recipe exactly. Well almost exactly. She was hoping that after enough culinary mishaps, her mother would just give up on her notion of molding Jesse into something she would never be, a proper wife

Despite his misgivings, Teaspoon took a taste. “Jesse,” he said, choking down the bite. “This pie is as good as your mother’s,” he lied. One wrong word and he just might end up wearing that pie. Although, he mused, it was certainly better than eating it. “Really?” Jesse said, mockingly. She fought to keep from smiling. “Let me get you a bigger piece then. That one you got in your plate is just a sliver.”

Teaspoon realized then that she knew how bad her pie was. He laughed, “You know I’d do most anything for you. But eating another piece of that pie, just ain’t one of them.”

She looked at him, suddenly serious. “I know, Teaspoon,” Jesse began. But she didn’t get a chance to continue, Teaspoon drew her into his arms and kissed her. He didn’t mean to kiss her, not like that anyway. He had it all planned out, how he would woo her properly before he kissed her again. But it didn’t matter, because this time she kissed him back. Jesse knew how much Teaspoon cared about her. She felt the same way about him. She was just surprised when he had kissed her before. Now she was ready.

From that point on, Jesse and Teaspoon were inseparable. They were always talking about what they were going to do in the future. They couldn’t wait to see the world, ignoring those that who told them to just wait till they got older.

One day they got tired of waiting so they ran off and got married. Not that either side of the family objected. In fact, they were thrilled to death. When they returned to town, Teaspoon got the obligatory lecture from her father and brothers. But he knew they loved him. He had been part of their family for a long time now.

They lived with Jesse’s family at first, hoping to save up so they could go out on their own. So when Teaspoon heard about a cattle drive and he jumped at the chance to earn some money. Had he known what would happen in his absence, he would have never gone.

Chapter 2

Upon Teaspoon’s return, he learned that Jesse’s father had killed himself after the bank foreclosed on his ranch. Steven Tobin just gave up all hope once he lost his land. The rest of the Tobin family seemed to have been scattered every which way.

As soon as he heard what had happened Teaspoon set about trying to track Jesse down. He was positive that the town gossips had it all wrong. What they were saying about Jesse and her brothers couldn’t be true.

He rode late into the night searching all their favorite haunts, but with no luck. Dejected, he leaned against a tree racking his brain, trying to think of where else she might be. Teaspoon had been sure that she would be here, nobody knew the woods as well as Jesse and her brothers. As he took a sip from his canteen, he heard the sound of a pistol being cocked. He looked over to where the gunman was.

“Jesse,” he called out, tentatively. He was unable to make out the identity of the shadowy form.

“It’s about time you got back. I’ve been comin’ here every day,” Jesse said, stepping out from the darkness. She tried to smile at him.

“Well I’m sorry I to have kept you waitin’,” he replied as he hurried to her side.

“I’m so glad you’re back,” she said, wrapping her arms around him.

Teaspoon brushed a lock of hair from her face, “Jesse what is goin’ on?” he asked, gruffly.

Jesse scowled at his tone, misunderstanding his concern as anger. She tried to pull away from him. “Leave me be,” she cried. “I thought you were here to help.”

But as Teaspoon didn’t let go of her. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for it to come out like that. I was just so scared for you.” He forced himself to slow down, doing his best to coax Jesse into talking to him.

Jesse sat down and began to tell Teaspoon her tale. Lionel McKey, the new bank owner, had been foreclosing on all the prime pieces of land. McKey had come to town and bought almost everything he could get his hands on. He began with the general store, then the bank and now the Tobin’s ranch.

When Jesse’s father died, her mother was destroyed. It was bad enough how she lost her husband, but seeing what her what her children were doing caused her even more pain. She left town and went to live with her sister, unable to cope with what was happening to her family.

Jesse and her brothers were furious at the loss of their home. They were going to make sure that Lionel McKey got his. They set about cutting off his supplies. Every time a shipment for his store was due into town, Jesse and her brothers would make sure it never reached its destination. They were hoping that without a steady source of income, McKey would have to start selling off the land he claimed as his own.

“Jesse, what have you got yourself into now?” Teaspoon muttered.

But Jesse didn’t answer, she just snuggled closer to him and soon fell asleep. She was convinced that if anyone could figure a way out this mess, Teaspoon could.

A few minutes later, Teaspoon dozed off as well, simply relieved to be with his wife again.

Chapter 3

A few hours before dawn, Teaspoon awoke to find one of Jesse’s brothers shaking him. He held his finger to his lips, jerking his head in Jesse’s direction. She was still asleep. He then motioned Teaspoon to follow him.

“Robert what in blazes is goin’ on here? How’d you end up like this?” Teaspoon hissed once they had stopped walking, a few yards away from their campsite. He still had trouble believing the tale Jesse had told him.

Robert repeated Jesse story. He added that the previous banker had taken pity on most folks in the area, letting everyone slide on their payments since the drought had hit everyone equally hard. But McKey didn’t feel that way, he saw this as an opportunity. All the ranches he had foreclosed on bordered the river, which was now barely a creek. But everyone knew in time that it would be back. It had always done so in the past and then all the land that McKey now held in his name would be worth a fortune.

“Alright, so let’s get out of here. You just lay low, until I can get something on McKey,” Teaspoon said, anxious to start doing his part. The way McKey seemed to be gobbling land left and right had raised his suspicions.

Robert just shook his head, his voice taut with fear. “Too late for that. Mike just got shot. They are closing in on us. You got to get Jesse out of here. Me and Ed will lead them away from you. We’ll keep ‘em busy long as we can.”

“This is just plain crazy. Why don’t you just turn yourselves in? Let the law handle McKey.”

“Can’t do that. Between the bounty hunters and the new Marshal, we don’t stand a chance.”

“What new Marshal?” Teaspoon said, surprised. Jesse hadn’t mentioned anything about that.

“I think his name is Harris,” Robert laughed bitterly. “And McKey owns him.”

“What are you plannin’ on? Shootin’ it out with them?” Teaspoon asked, incredulous.

“Nah,” he replied. “You just get Jesse out of here. Maybe you can keep her safe. She needs you now. Especially with all of us...” Robert just let the words trail off.

“Robert,” Teaspoon began again, desperate to make his friend see reason, but it was to no avail.

Seeing his brother die, had convinced Robert that there was no hope for him. But maybe, Robert reasoned, the law would be easier on Jesse, after all she was just a girl, barely old enough to be out on her own. Maybe, he continued, the Marshal would let her get away. Maybe McKey would be satisfied with the deaths of the Tobin brothers, especially after he started getting his supplies again.

Reluctantly Teaspoon agreed, he would do as Robert asked. What choice did he have? He couldn’t leave Jesse all alone and he certainly wasn’t going to ask her to come with him if he joined up with her brothers. As soon as dawn broke, he and Jesse would go head north, while Jesse’s brothers went south.

Chapter 4

Teaspoon waited by Jesse’s side. He watched her sleep, wondering again how this all happened. Once she awoke, he told her what was going on. “Come on, we got to get goin’.”

“I can’t,” Jesse protested. “I can’t just let them die.”

“They’re already as good as dead,” Teaspoon told her, hating the words he was saying. Watching Robert walk away, knowing what his friend was planning on doing, had torn him up inside. Teaspoon couldn’t imagine feeling worse. But he knew then that had to convince Jesse to come with him. He didn’t want to lose her too. “Let them do this for you. They couldn’t save your ranch or your father. Hell, they can’t even save themselves. But they can still save you. Don’t let what they are doin’ just go to waste.”

“But they are my brothers!”

“And I am your husband. Don’t that count for nothing?”

Jesse stared at him. “It means everything. You know that. But how can I just go on and live my life, knowin’ that they died for nothing?”

“They’re givin’ up their lives so you can have one. Jesse, you owe it to them to have a good one.”

She sat, lost in thought. “We’re gonna come back some day and make McKey pay,” she said finally, heeding Teaspoon’s words.

Teaspoon held her close, “Some day we will,” he promised her.

They started to ride away, heading north, just like Robert told them to. But the Marshal was following Teaspoon’s trail. Unwittingly he had led them right to Jesse. Teaspoon spotted them on the hill above them.

“Jesse,” he said softly. He pointed to the gunmen above them. They still didn’t seem to have seen them. They tried to ride away, as quietly as they could. Suddenly Marshal Harris appeared before them.

“You’re comin’ with me,” he said, pointing his rifle at Jesse. The rest of their men trained their weapons at both Teaspoon and Jesse.

Teaspoon leapt off his horse, blocking Harris’ view of Jesse with his body. “She ain’t gonna do nothing. Just put your gun down and she’ll go with you.” He prayed that for once in her life Jesse would do as she was told.

Harris lowered his rifle. “Get off your horse then.”

Slowly Jesse dismounted. She walked towards the Marshal, her hands in the air. “You got me,” she said, angrily. “So now what are you gonna do?”

Harris smiled. “Escort you to jail. You have a date in front of a judge.”

Chapter 5

“Not guilty,” the foreman announced. He looked quite pleased with himself as he said those words.

Teaspoon ran to Jesse and threw his arms around her. “I can’t believe it. It worked out just like the Marshal said.”

Marshal Harris true to his word had escorted Jesse to jail and then he hired the best lawyer he could find to represent her. Finally he made sure that the trial stayed in town. McKey did all he could to get it moved elsewhere. But the Marshal pulled a few strings of his own. He had a hunch that Jesse’s townsfolk would never convict her, especially once she revealed the location of all the stolen supplies. And as it turned out he was right.

Marshal Alvin Harris joined Teaspoon by Jesse’s side. She squirmed out of Teaspoon’s embrace and hugged him. “Thank you Marshal. I should have had some faith in you, right from the start.”

“Ain’t nothing,” Harris responded. McKey thought he was buying himself a gunman with a badge, just because Harris didn’t always follow the letter of the law. But what McKey didn’t know was he always followed the spirit of it. He had been a lawman for a long time now and he had learned more than a few ways to make it work for him.

Harris turned to Teaspoon. “You two get out of town. McKey is out for blood and I don’t need any more spilled in my town.”

Teaspoon just grinned. He knew that Harris’ stern words came from his deep concern for Jesse. As soon as he brought her to jail, Harris had stepped in where Jesse’s father left off. Teaspoon used to think that someone had helped Harris out in the past and now he was just passing along the favor. But lately he was starting to think just the opposite, upon hearing rumors about Harris spending time in prison. Maybe Harris wished someone had helped him out, the way he was helping Jesse. Teaspoon had tried to ask him if he had ever been in jail. But the Marshal had just waved him off, mumbling something about not letting his brother being shot in the back.

Jesse tugged on Harris’ arm. “Can’t you do something for Robert and Ed?” she asked. All she had heard was that her brothers had made it to Mexico, apparently safe and sound.

“You know I can’t. I used every trick I had for you,” he told Jesse. “Besides, those brothers of yours just don’t look as sympathetic as you do. I don’t know if a jury would just let them walk.” He ruffled her hair, “But I reckon that they’ll make out alright.”

“I know. I just can’t help but worry ‘bout them,” she said.

“I’ll have someone check up on them for you,” Harris assured her. “Now you make sure to let me know when you get to where you are goin’, ” he said, as he ushered them towards the door. “I want to make sure you’re okay.”

Teaspoon and Jesse stepped outside, pushing their way through the crowd that had gathered to congratulate them. Jesse clung to Teaspoon. She was so tired. The past few months weighed heavily on her. She was only just coming to realize how much she had lost. “I want to go see my mother,” she said.

“Darlin’ I’ll take you anywhere you wanna go,” Teaspoon replied, relieved that it was all over.

They went to Alvin Harris’ home. What few things Jesse had left were there. They packed up and began their journey as soon as Teaspoon said his goodbyes to his family. They hadn’t ridden more than a few miles out of town, when someone began shooting at them.

Teaspoon jumped off his horse, running to Jesse, after seeing her fall. He dragged her to the safety of a grove of trees and laid her on the ground, noticing then that his hands were covered with blood.

“Jesse,” he cried, cradling her in his arms.

“I love you, Teaspoon Hunter,” she said. Teaspoon could barely hear her.

Chapter 6

Teaspoon scanned the area quickly, whoever had shot Jesse was gone. He took the opportunity to get their horses, knowing that he had to get Jesse to a doctor and fast. “Jesse, you think you can ride?” he asked, dropping to his knees next to her.

“I’m sorry for everything,” she said, wincing as Teaspoon tried to carry her. She had to make things right in the time she had left.

He quickly put her back down. Even the small movement of trying to lift her caused the blood to pour from her body. “Now don’t go soft on me now. I’ve seen you in worst scrapes than this.”

“You thought my luck would hold out forever?” She smiled weakly at him.

“Jesse, just hold on.” Teaspoon pleaded with her. “I’ll go get help.”

“I’m sorry I wasn’t any kind of wife to you.”

“You’re the only kind of wife I want,” he said, uselessly pressing a hand to her belly. No matter what he did, he couldn’t stop the steady flow of blood. “Don’t keep talkin’ like this. You gonna be just fine. We have a lot of livin’ to do,” he said, trying his best to sound hopeful. He tried to remind her of the dreams they shared.

She touched his face. “Now you got to live the life we planned. You owe it to me.”

“We’ll live it together,” Teaspoon whispered. “Jesse, don’t leave me now.”

But Jesse didn’t respond. Teaspoon just buried his head in her limp arms, recalling another promise he had made to her. To make McKey pay. He was damn sure he was going to make good on that promise.

***

Alvin Harris glared at the man sitting in his jail. Lionel McKey finally got what was coming to him, courtesy of Teaspoon Hunter. The day after Jesse’s funeral, Teaspoon set about trying to find evidence to bring McKey to justice.

What he discovered pleased Teaspoon greatly. It seemed as if Jesse and her brother’s efforts weren’t in vain after all. As they had hoped, McKey had been struggling without the income of his general store and stupidly used his bank customers’ money to finance the purchase of his latest acquisition, his new home. Something that a judge just might not approve of, Harris had chuckled, once he heard the news.

Harris clapped his hand on Teaspoon’s shoulder, as they stepped outside. “He won’t be out for a long time.”

“Yeah, but some day he’ll be out,” Teaspoon replied, bitterly. “He’ll still get a chance to have a life.” Teaspoon was still angry about the fact that he couldn’t find any proof that McKey had been involved in Jesse’s death.

“Won’t be much of a life. He’ll be too old to enjoy much of anything once he gets out,” Harris responded, keeping his own grief securely hidden away. It wasn’t his first loss and he was sure that it wouldn’t be the last one. “And you can’t let this eat at you. Otherwise I might as well bury you right next to Jesse.”

“I wish you could,” Teaspoon said. But he knew that wasn’t what Jesse would have wanted for him. He had to make good on all the promises he made to her.

“You know, I’m right proud of you,” Harris said, fondly. “Took a lot of strength not to go hunting McKey down. You wouldn’t want a job as a deputy would you?”

“Nah, I don’t think I am cut out for that kind of work,” Teaspoon told him. He was ready to travel for while. He wanted to see the world outside of Texas, do some of the things he and Jesse had talked about. But he knew he would come back someday. It was his home after all.

Epilogue

Teaspoon sat up quickly, when he heard the door slam. Jesse James marched into his office and dropped a bag on his desk.

“Here,” he said, sullenly. “I did like you asked.”

“Glad to see you were paying attention,” Teaspoon replied.

Jesse took a seat across from Teaspoon. “Why you always tellin’ me what to do? Seems like that’s all I hear, all day long. Jesse, Jesse, Jesse.”

“Well, maybe I just like the sound of you name,” he said, with a smile.

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