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Marin
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 19, 2017 5:52 pm    Post subject: Proof Reply with quote

The Brambles Orchard seemed strangely unaffected by the upheaval of the previous day. The family and the hands were up early as usual, breakfast was served, and they parted ways to go about their business, which today included clearing the ruin of the apple loft and securing the perimeter of the Brambles itself. Marin put Evan in charge of keeping Bridget McAlister occupied with the suggestion that he enlist her help to take the children down to the Mallorys, and explain to the Mallorys and to the Taylors what it was that had happened. She, after all, needed some time with Sam. There were things Marin Lassiter knew that her friend really deserved to know as well.

As for Sam, as much as he adored Bridget, he was grateful that Evan was keeping her busy for a little while so that he could talk privately with Marin. After all, they had a lot to discuss, and not all of it was about Rogier. There had been a time when they were almost as close as siblings, years ago when they'd still been children and their mothers had been close friends. There were still questions in his head that hadn't been answered, and before he decided what exactly to do about his father, he needed answers to those questions.

Jodie had vacated the kitchen, knowing this was where Marin felt most secure and easy in herself. So Sam was invited to make himself comfortable at the table, and Marin laid a shallow decorative box in front of him. "Your mama gave that to my mama about two weeks before she died," she told him quietly. "I found it again a couple of years ago, but for obvious reasons, we couldn't pass it on to you or even contact you safely. Everything in there belongs to you, Sam."

He took a sip from his cup of coffee before setting it aside and looking from the box to Marin and back. His fingers touched the box tentatively, lovingly even, knowing this was all he had left of the mother he had once adored, but could barely remember. "Do you know what's inside?" he asked, almost afraid to open it, for some reason. The past was inside there, full of memories both painful and otherwise, and presumably answers.

She nodded regretfully. "And I know that makes it worse that I never contacted you about it," she said quietly. "I remember my mom showing me the box when I was little, and telling me that it was incredibly important, that it was the whole world to Sarah and Sam McAlister, and we should never lose it. Wasn't until I opened it a couple of years ago that I understood why."

Here was the proof he'd been looking for that he was Rogier's son and that the ranch rightfully belonged to him - not because he was the man's son, but because the land had belonged to his mother's father and should have been rightfully passed on to him, not to Rogier who had never married his mother or acknowledged Sam as his son. He found his hands were shaking a little as he lifted the lid of the box and peered inside.

Inside the box were scattered a few photographs of himself a a child, and of his mother and grandfather. Rose petals, like the ones she had used to scent her clothes, dried and desiccated, littered the bottom. But the papers were as precious as gold. His birth certificate, naming Rogier as his father. His grandfather's will, naming Sam as the beneficiary of all he owned and the profits contained therein. And the deed to Oakham Mount itself, still bearing his great-grandfather's signature. His life, as it should have been, contained in one shallow box.

"I don't remember him," Sam said of his grandfather as he looked over the photos. He had a few photos of his own of his mother, which he kept tucked away in a safe place, but he barely remembered his grandfather. He set the photos aside and examined the remaining contents, each legal document, one by one. There was no way any of it had been forged or faked, and there were too many people who knew the truth of it, even if it had been kept a secret from the one person who deserved to know. "It's true, then," he said, his heart sinking a little. To know that a man like Rogier had been his father, that his blood flowed through his veins was more than a little upsetting, but he wasn't his father, and he wouldn't be like his father.

"It's just blood," Marin told him gently. "There's no blood between me and Jodie and Bill, but they're my family. My mother's parents were my blood, but they despised us. Blood isn't what makes family, Sam. He's never been a father to you. That's all that matters."

He didn't reply to that, but only nodded his head, silently contemplating her words. There was one other question he needed answered, but it was the one answer he feared more than any other. "How'd she die?" he asked, his voice whisper quiet and full of grief. He'd been too young at the time to have made any sense of it. All he remembered was confusion and loneliness.

Marin eyed him warily. "I shouldn't know that," she said guiltily. "But I know what my mom thought. She wrote it in her diary." She sighed softly, curling her hands about her coffee cup. "Sarah keep getting sicker and sicker, and nothing was healing her. Mr. Hale wasn't allowed to see her. She told my mom that she thought Rogier might be doing something to her. That's why she gave my mom the box, just in case something happened to her. She said not to give it to you until you asked her for it, so my mom assumed she was going to tell you about it. But I guess she never got the chance."

"And you only found this recently?" he asked, wondering why it had taken years for the truth to come out, but then he knew Rogier had likely been very careful in keeping that truth a secret and in keeping him away from the Brambles. And suddenly, Sam was flooded with a wave of guilt that didn't really belong to him. "I'm so sorry, Marin," he said in that hushed voice that was full of grief and guilt. "If I'd known ..." he trailed off. If he'd known, things would have been different, but he wasn't sure if they'd have been better.

"Oh gods, Sam, I'm the one who should be sorry!" Marin rose from her seat, hurrying around the table to thump down into the seat beside his and stretch her arm as far over his broad shoulders as she could. "None of this is your fault, none of it," she insisted. "It's all his, it's all his guilt and shame and blame. None of this belongs to you, and so help me, if you don't acknowledge that and let it go, I'll ..." She cast around wildly for some threat that might actually make a difference. "I'll-I'll ... I'll tell your wife on you!"

Sam couldn't help but laugh at that. "Oh, good. She'll only threaten to kill me again." Of course, they both knew it was an empty threat, and one that was only made in frustration. "She loves me, you know? Every time I think about it, I have to pinch myself to make sure I ain't dreaming." He sighed a little, grateful she wasn't blaming him for any of it. In a way, Rogier had been responsible for both their mother's deaths, and when Sam thought about it that way, he couldn't help but want vengeance, or at the very least, justice. "We're gonna set it to rights, Marin, one way or another. I promise you that."

"One day, you're going to have to tell me how you ended up married to a woman from a different century, and why you're so shocked that she loves you," Marin told him in amusement, squeezing her arm about his back briefly. "Look, Rogier is a piece of filth, and he's shown his true colors more than once over the last few years. This is the second time he's tried to kill our daughter, and this time we have evidence. We have Bridget and we have you, and my testimony as well. But Evan had a different idea that I need to run by you."
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 19, 2017 5:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

He could have asked the same from her really, as Evan was clearly not a native of Rhy'Din - it was the accent, which resembled Sam's a little, though he couldn't quite place it. He drew comfort from her hug, but felt a little too shy to return it, knowing as how she belonged to another man, and yet, their relationship had always been a platonic one. "The second time?" he echoed, eyes widening in undisguised shock and horror. As if it wasn't bad enough that Rogier had threatened her children once already via Dobson.

She nodded, drawing her arm back before either one of them could get awkward about it. "Evan is from Earth, uh ... Texas, in the Wild West kind of era," she explained. "He lost his first wife to another man's pettiness, and he left his daughter, Maggie, to be raised by her mother's sister when he went to get revenge on the man who killed her mother. He was on the run for a long time before the Nexus dropped him in my lap, and for a long time after that, he wouldn't even talk about Maggie. He didn't want to disrupt her life. But I wrote letters, used the Nexus to send them, and made sure that Maggie's Aunt Emma had a portal stone just in case she ever needed it. A couple of years back, Maggie appeared out of nowhere, covered in soot, crying, yelling about a bad man who shot her uncle and set fire to her aunt's house until there was no way out. Emma got her safely to us, but she and her husband both died. Bill investigated, and it was Dobson who set that fire."

All the color drained from Sam's face at the news of that tragedy, knowing it was not only Dobson, but his own father who'd been responsible. "Gods," he muttered quietly under his breath. He had never imagined all the tragedy people had suffered all because of his father's greed. "I'm so sorry," he found himself apologizing again, though it wasn't his fault. At least, Dobson was dead now, and by his own hand, but that was only part of the problem. "You said something about running something past me," he added, after a moment spent trying to gather his composure.

"I didn't tell you to make you feel guilty about it, Sam," she said gently. "I told you because you need to know how angry we are, how angry Evan is, with Rogier. He wants to challenge Rogier to a duel. A shoot-out, one shot each. And I don't want my husband in prison for murder, so he's agreed that if you'll allow that, we'll make sure a watchman is there to witness it. But it's your choice whether it happens or not."

"A shoot out?" Sam echoed, furrowing his brows. It wasn't that Sam objected to the possibility of Rogier's death so much as he didn't want Marin's husband getting himself killed or put in prison. "He deserves everything he's got coming to him, but I ain't so sure that's a good idea. I mean, what if he wins?" he asked, unsure of Evan's skill with a firearm. Not only that, but somehow he almost felt as though Rogier was his problem and his responsibility, just as Dobson had been.

"He won't." It really was as simple as that. Marin had absolute faith in her husband. "Evan is from an era where being quick and accurate with a gun was the difference between dying bloody or getting away with your life. He thinks I don't know, but he practices every day. He's actually gotten better. These days, I don't see another hole in his habitual target, and that means he's hitting the same bullet hole every time. No, I'm not afraid of him losing the duel."

"If that's the case, I reckon he might have an unfair advantage," Sam pointed out, though that hardly bothered him. Dobson and Rogier had had an unfair advantage for years, and there would be no peace between the Brambles and Oakmount until Rogier was taken out of the equation. He'd hoped it could be done peacefully, maybe by having him arrested and thrown in prison, but he knew how slippery and devious Rogier could be. Blood or not, he couldn't trust him any farther than he could throw him. Too many people had suffered because of him, himself included. This had to end, and while he'd been hoping it didn't have to end bloody, maybe that was the only way to make sure it would end. "You realize he'll try to cheat," Sam pointed out, knowing Rogier well enough to know that.

"Just another reason to have the Watch there to witness it," she pointed out. "We're not planning on giving him much of a choice, really. We'll go with the Watch, with the intention of having him arrested for his part in the attempt to kidnap and murder our children, and we will make it extremely clear that when he goes to trial, every single thing he has ever done that is in any way underhanded or cruel or vicious will be aired. Knowing him the way you do, which do you think he'll choose - the guarantee of having his shady dealings aired before a public jury, or the possibility, however small, of getting away scot-free with just a single shot?"

"And you think he'll abide by the rules? You think he won't have his thugs there to protect him?" Sam just shook his head. "It's a good plan, but not good enough. It won't be a fair fight, unless the Watch can round up his thugs first and make sure the duel takes place on neutral ground."

"If we have to set a time and date, he'll run for it and destroy Oakham Mount on his way," Marin pointed out. "We should tell the Watch what we plan. They know he's trouble, they might just be waiting for a chance to deal with him in their own way."

"Agreed," Sam replied. He wasn't his father, and he wasn't going to do anything to put himself or those he cared about on the wrong side of the law. "If Dobson found his way through a portal, Rogier could do the same. We can't afford him escaping."

"The Watch don't go into someone's home when they go for them unless they're made to," Marin said thoughtfully. "Rogier will probably be asked to step outside, away from the house, before they make their intentions plain. With luck, that'll keep him from using a portal."

"I don't want you or Bridget anywhere near Rogier when that happens," he said, having a few stipulations of his own. He couldn't afford taking the chance of either of them getting hurt if things went south, not from stray bullets or otherwise.

"You sound like Evan," she sighed, but she didn't argue. "Fine. But you and Evan will take Bill and Daniel, at the very least. You're not going alone, either." She eyed him for a long moment. "This is going to take a couple of days to set up. We're not going to rush into this and muck it up with impatience, any of us."

"No, but we can't take too long either. I swear Rogier's got a nose for trouble, and if we wait too long, he'll either get complacent or come up with a new plan of his own. He wants the Brambles, Mare. I ain't sure why it's so important to him. He's got plenty of land of his own. Now that Dobson's dead, he's gonna want revenge." And if he found out that Sam was staying at the Brambles, that would mean even more salt in the wounds.

"Dobson has no family to inform of his death, and we already positively identified him for the Watch," she told him firmly. "There's no reason for his death to be reported to Rogier, and you said yourself that Dobson often doesn't go straight back to the Mount after doing a job for him. We have a couple of days, and we'll put those days to good use."

He considered a moment before nodding his head. He had to concede that she had a point and a good one. "You've thought about this a lot," he said, assuming that to be true, though whether she'd only started thinking about it since last night or if she'd been thinking about it for years, he wasn't sure. The bottom line was, they needed to get rid of Rogier once and for all - on that, they were agreed.

"We've been waiting for the other shoe to drop for years," she said quietly. "Yesterday, it did. I don't know why he wants our land, and to be honest, I don't care. He crossed the line when he tried to kill our children so blatantly, and if he had dared to come and do it himself, I would have happily beaten him to death with a washing dolly. As it is, I have to wait here while you and Evan do the job for me."
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 19, 2017 5:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

He didn't bother to ask if he and Bridget could stay those few days. After what had happened the day before, he assumed they were welcome, at least for now, and the next few days would be spent carefully making plans and going over every possible loophole. "Wish I'd known," he muttered again, though nothing short of time travel could be done about it now, and he wasn't going to chance that.

"Wish I'd had the courage to tell you," she answered softly, wrapping her arm around his back once again. "I missed you, you know. It felt strange being back here and not having my weird friend who always smelled like horse and cow hanging around, trying to steal my chocolate."

Sam chuckled at that, glad she hadn't held Rogier's sins against him and still considered him a friend. "I ain't changed that much, you know. I still smell like horse and cow, and I ain't above stealing your chocolate," he admitted with a grin on his face that faded a little as he turned serious. "I missed you, too, Marin. You're the closest thing I ever had to a sister."

"Well, we've reconnected now, so you're stuck with me," she informed him cheerfully. "Just make sure your wife knows I have no designs on your manhood, so she doesn't scalp me when I'm not looking. She strikes me as the jealous type."

He chuckled again. "She's a redhead, ain't she?" he pointed out, eyes bright with amusement. Of course, so was Marin, but that was sort of the point. "You don't worry none about Bridget. I got a feeling you're gonna get along just fine."

"I have a feeling she'll get along better with Jessamin Taylor," Marin predicted in amusement. "Jess is from late 1800's England, her husband is from WWI sort of era Texas. We have a weird selection of people up here."

"My Earth history ain't so good," Sam admitted. When other people were learning history, he was busy learning how to ride a horse and wrangle cattle. He did know how to read and write though and didn't lack for intelligence.

"Neither is mine, to be honest," she admitted cheerfully. "I had to look a few things up when the Taylors arrived. You'll probably meet them later - I wouldn't put it past the Taylors or the Mallorys not to come up here for dinner, just to get a nosy look at you and Bridget."

"You got a full house here. Lot's changed from what I remember," he said, closing the lid on the box and setting it aside for now. He'd look through it again later, when he could deal with his grief in private. He took up his mug and took another swallow of his coffee. "You done good, Marin. Brought the Brambles back to life." He had no qualms about meeting new people or making new friends. The more the merrier.

"It was dead when I got here," she said, her expression sad for a moment as she considered the hows and the whys of her return. "Honestly? I might not have stayed if Evan hadn't shown up on my second night here. Then a couple of days later, Jodie and Bill came back, and suddenly it felt like home again. It took work, but we paid back every cent the place owed and started making a profit, and somehow we have a healthy business again. We're even thinking about exporting to other cities, if we can rustle up interest."

"You put a lotta work into the place. That's for sure. I'm glad we're neighbors," he told her further, but he was even more glad they were friends. "It's gonna take a little doing, sorting out Oakmount. I ain't seen the books, but she seems to be turning a profit." He wasn't sure if Rogier was cheating there either, but if things went as planned, he was going to find out eventually.

And if Rogier died, everything that was his would go to Sam automatically anyway, since he was the man's son, though Marin wisely chose not to mention this. "From what I hear, Oakham Mount is the premier source for cattle in the city," she said. "Sounds like you'll inherit a good reputation, despite the current manager."

"I hope so," Sam said, with a small worried frown. He also hoped he'd be able to make a go of the business, but with any luck, he wouldn't be alone in that either. "I got a proposition to make. I know cattle and I know ranching, but I don't know too much about business. You made a go of the Brambles. Think you can teach me to make a go of Oakmount? I'm willing to pay you for your trouble."

"Honey, all I knew was music when I got here," she reminded him in amusement. "You know more about business than I did then. You'll do fine, and of course we'll help, however we can. You saved my family yesterday, Sam. You're never paying me for anything, ever again."

"Not even your chocolate?" he teased, the corners of his eyes crinkling in amusement. "Might have to have Mrs. Prudey swap recipes with Jodie. I ain't had so much to eat in ages!" he added with a laugh, patting his stomach for good measure. There was no roundness there, no matter how much he'd claimed to have eaten. Like Evan and the other men at the Brambles, he was made of solid muscle, the result of years of hard work.

"I might make you work for my chocolate, but never pay for it," she laughed back at him, rising to her feet. "C'mon, I wanna show you the paddock and the horses. Evan and Duncan sweat blood every time there's a foaling, but I'll bet you don't."

He arched a brow at her suggestion. "Well, it ain't something to take lightly, for sure," he said, before draining his coffee and moving to his feet. There weren't many men who were bigger or taller than Evan, but Sam was one of them - just barely.

"Yeah, but I'm gonna bet you've never seen anything as awesome as a Therm before," she chuckled, hooking her coat off the hook by the door. "Grab a coat - that gray one should fit you."

"Beg your pardon?" he asked, that brow arching higher. He'd never heard of a Therm and wasn't quite sure what she was talking about. He glanced at the coats, grabbing hold of the one she'd indicated and tossing it on over his shoulder and back. He'd brought his own, but he'd left it upstairs with the rest of his and Bridget's meager belongings.

"Trust me," Marin laughed. "You'll like him. He doesn't like anyone but Duncan, but even I like him, and that's saying something. Anything with a mouth big enough to bite my head should scare the crap out of me." She pushed open the back door, leading him out into the crisp chill of the winter day.

Thankfully, the blizzard had passed, but had left the world a white, snowy wonderland. It really was beautiful to behold, albeit cold. "Forgot how pretty it is here," Sam said as he stepped outside behind Marin, pausing to take a deep breath of crisp, cold air, exhaling a cloud of breath. There was just a hint of charred wood in the air, a reminder of what had happened the day before.

"Green in summer, white in winter," Marin agreed softly. She loved her home, but then, she had always loved it, even when it was ramshackle and neglected. The ruins of the loft were visible from here, black against the white snow, but men were working on taking them down and finishing what the fire had started. She smiled at Sam, jerking her head toward the stables and the paddocks beyond them. "C'mon. If I fall over, just listen for where the yelling's coming from - this is deep enough for me to disappear in."
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 19, 2017 5:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

He laughed again, offering an arm. "Just hold onto me. I'm too big to be swallowed up by a little snow." Okay, more than a little, but still not enough to bury the big man in.

More than happy to be kept from disappearing in a drift, Marin wrapped her hands about his proffered arm, grinning up at him. "So ..." she wheedled sweetly. "You, wife. Spill."

There was that rumble of a chuckle again, amused by the question, but a little perplexed with how to answer. "I met her at the Welcome Center. Rogier sent me there to hire a few hands and see if I could find a suitable maid. There she was, looking lost and pretty, and I couldn't resist." He chuckled again, recalling that first meeting. It wasn't exactly love at first sight. "She thought I was looking for a whore."

His companion let out a laugh, finding that only too easy to imagine. Bridget struck her as a bold sort, albeit within the context of her own life experience. "Something tells me you had to talk pretty fast to convince her otherwise."

"Afraid I laughed at her, and then I offered her a job," he admitted with a grin. "She had spunk. Reminded me of you a little. She was only in Rhy'Din two days when I met her. She can tell her story better herself, if you ask her. Reckon she didn't like me much at first, though she claims to have loved me the first day we met."

"When did you know she was the one?" Marin asked, desperate to know the details. "How did you go from not really liking each other to married and so close as you are now?" She batted her lashes at him, not needing to look where they were going. She was feeling her way by the sensation of the ground beneath the snow under her boots, anyway.

"Dobson tried to get his hooks into her soon as he seen her, and I sorta told him we were engaged. As things turned out, I had to follow up on that in order to keep her safe, and the rest just happened, I reckon," he said with a light shrug of his shoulders. She needed have batted her lashes; he was willing to tell her what he knew, but he didn't want to speak for Bridget.

"And you love her?" she asked, the serious question offered up in a deceptively soft tone as she looked toward the stables. They could hear the horses as they grew closer - it seemed as though the stallion and his mares had taken one turn around the paddock on sufferance and had headed straight back into their stalls the moment they were allowed to.

"Is that so surprising?" he asked, just a little defensively. He thought it showed whenever they were together, but Bridget had only arrived at the Brambles the night before. She had risked her own life in a blizzard to get to him, but then, she hadn't had anywhere else to go either.

Marin raised a brow as she looked up at him. "I married Evan within a month of knowing him," she told him firmly. "I slept with him the second night he was here. I knew he was the one for me right away. So you're not being judged here, Sam. I'm just gagging for details!"

He frowned at her, not because he wasn't willing to tell her the truth or that he was jealous of Evan in any way. He just wasn't quite sure how to answer her question. "Ain't sure when it happened, but yeah, I love her. Ain't nothing I wouldn't do for her. Threatened to kill Dobson if he so much as looked at her the wrong way. He was just itchin' for a fight. It was gonna be me or him sooner or later. Wish it had been sooner."

"When do I get to see you waving a miniature version of yourself around your head, then?" Marin teased him, releasing his arm to push her way into the stable. As she turned back to invite him in, a bay head leaned out over the stall beside her to wuffle against her ear, making her leap sideways in shock. "Star! Oh, you ... you enjoy doing that way too much, you big mama," Marin told the mare, who whickered happily as her nose was rubbed.

That was a loaded question, and one he once again wasn't too sure to answer. "Happens when it happens, I reckon," he replied. They hadn't been taking any precautions, and there was nothing wrong with their love life, so he reckoned it was just a matter of time, or so he hoped. Then again, the timing hadn't really been right, so maybe the Gods had a plan of their own. "Well, ain't you a beauty," he said as the mare made herself known, a fond smile on his face. Like most men who made their life around horses, he often felt more at ease with them than he did with other people.

Gesturing for him to introduce himself to the mare, Marin laughed, smoothing her hair down where the horse had blown it about. "This is Star," she introduced the bay. "She likes to make me jump, but she's the safest I've ever felt on horseback. And that in there with her is Flash, her son. She was late foaling this year." She pointed past the mare to the skinny-legged foal at her side, all black hide with a white flash on his long forehead, edging closer to see what his mother was seeing.

He offered his hand, palm upwards, to the mare to let her inspect it and see if she found him acceptable. "When did you start breeding horses?" he asked curiously. As far as he knew, the Brambles was an orchard, not a horse farm.

"A couple of years ago," Marin told him, leaning over the stall's edge to greet the foal fondly. "Evan is more at home with horses than with trees and shrubs, and once we were established, I didn't see why we shouldn't have a small stable here. Then Duncan showed up with his Therm, and they both got very excited about breeding from him."

"There's that word again," Sam said, unsure what a Therm was exactly, but guessing it was some sort of breed of horse. "Sorry I ain't got no sugar, darlin'," he told the mare regrettably as she poked her nose at the palm of his hand.

Chuckling, Marin stepped back from the stall. "Well, come and see him, then," she told Sam, gesturing for him to follow her. The next stall also held a mare, who was coolly indifferent to the passing humans, but the one after held a magnificent stallion, shining black and sturdy, but with the long lines and graceful carriage of a race horse. He eyed Marin without much interest. "This is Thunder," she told Sam. "And he doesn't like me, so this is as far as I go."

"Thunder," Sam chuckled. Why were people always giving their horses such silly names? "I reckon he lives up to his name," he said, as he joined her to look over the stallion. "He's a beauty, for sure," he said without hesitation. He didn't have to look him for long to know he wasn't an ordinary horse. "You stud him out yet? I'd be interested in seeing what comes of it."

"Flash is one of his," she said, gesturing back toward Star's stall, where the bay and her foal were peering over the stall's edge at them. "The boys think he'll be a tall, Arabic-type, rather than a clone of his sire."

"He's got the makings of a fine stallion," Sam remarked, as he momentarily looked back at the foal. "What are you reckon you're gonna do with him? He's too fine a horse to plow a field," he said, though he wasn't too sure what he'd do with him either. Race him, maybe, though that could prove expensive. He'd need both a trainer and a rider, for starters.

"Oh gods, I have no idea," she laughed. "I know even less about horses than I do about apples. No one's said anything about the horses being more than bred and trained to saddle and bridle yet. We've only got two young ones right now anyway."

Raised on a cattle ranch, Sam knew horses pretty well, but even so, he didn't know much about race horses. Still, he had to admit the "Therm" was a fine specimen and so was his foal. "You could sell him. I wager he'd fetch a fine price, but seems a shame to sell him to someone who'd waste him. Got a mind to buy him for myself, if I had the ..." He trailed off, suddenly remembering that he stood to inherit all of Oakmount, if they were able to remove Rogier anyway.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 19, 2017 5:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Marin watched as that realization made itself known, smiling to herself. "We'll just have to see, won't we?" she said gently, glancing up as voices made themselves known outside.

"... not wearin' trousers," someone who sounded a lot like Bridget was saying truculently. "It's not right, women dressin' like men."

Sam smirked at the sound of Bridget's voice, amused by her continued agitation regarding proper dress. He laid a finger against his own lips, silently asking Marin not to give him away, curious what his wife might say when she thought he wasn't around to hear.

A voice unfamiliar to Sam, but known to Marin as Jessamin Taylor, answered Bridget's complaints. "I don't know about not right," the young Englishwoman was answering. "Trousers would certainly make walking in this snow easier."

"Bein' a woman's not supposed to be easy," Bridget countered with a huff. "We're s'posed to get on with it, no matter what."

Marin almost laughed as Jess responded with mild amusement.

"For a woman who is supposed to get on with it," the Englishwoman said gently, "you do complain an awful lot, you know."

Sam had to bite his tongue so he wouldn't laugh out loud as the other woman - whoever she was - chided Bridget gently. Maybe someone other than himself could make her see sense, though he was kind of fond of the way she looked in skirts.

"So would you, with the day I had yesterday," Bridget countered. By now, Marin and Sam could hear the rustling of two long skirts through the snow as the conversation went on.

"Bridget, it's perfectly all right to have your own opinions about how you should dress," Jessamin said in her gentle way. "What is not acceptable is judging other people for the way they choose to dress. What you wear is not who you are, and constantly lecturing on clothing is not going to make you friends."

Another voice piped in then - a decidedly male one with an accent that sounded similar to Evan's but was a distinctly different voice. "Things are different here than back home," the man pointed out, though that seemed to go without saying, depending on where home was. "You get used to it after a while."

"But wouldn't you mind your wife goin' around in trousers?" Bridget asked in exasperation. "That everyone who sees her can see where her legs are and how round her bottom is and all? Things that should, by rights, be only for you to know?"

In the stable, Marin's eyes turned to Sam as she grinned, wanting to hear Will's answer to that whine.

"I don't know. I never thought of it that way," the voice that belonged to Jessamin's husband, Will, replied after a moment's consideration.

Inside the barn, Sam shrugged his shoulders. His wife had a point, though he wouldn't stop her from wearing trousers if she wanted to. They were more practical, after all.

"I should think that perhaps the only reason you're worrying about wearing trousers is that you seem concerned over the roundness of your own bottom," Jessamin suggested, her smile audible as the group passed by the stable.

"You bite your tongue!" Bridget immediately responded. "And you a lady and all!"

Will hadn't thought much about it in good part because he couldn't remember Jessamin ever wearing pants. Bloomers maybe, but no one saw those but him. "She has a point," he ventured after a moment. "I don't want anyone looking at your bottom, but me!"

"Oh, Will!" Jessamin was laughing now as the little group passed the stables and continued on their way to the main house. "There is a world of difference between seeing the shape of my bottom and seeing my bottom itself. And can we please stop saying bottom?"

"Why, what d'you want to call it?" Bridget asked obtusely. "Your dairy air?"

"That's what they call it in France," Will put in helpfully, a smirk of amusement heard in his voice. Bridget was from a period of time during Earth's history that wasn't so far off from his own and Jessamin's and it gave them a natural bond and point of reference others at the Brambles wouldn't be able to relate to.

Marin could almost see the pained expression on Jessamin's face, proud of the quiet woman for suppressing her nature instinct to correct Bridget's appalling pronunciation and instead change the subject.

"So you come from Ireland then, Bridget?" she asked as their voices faded out of hearing.

Marin turned to Sam, trying not to laugh. "Maybe when things are a little more under control for you two, she'll stop complaining about clothing quite so much," she suggested in amusement.

"She's got a fiery spirit. I'll grant her that," Sam said, once the trio of voices had faded away. "The other two ... who are they?" he asked, turning back to the beautiful black beast named Thunder and reaching out to touch his silky mane.

"William and Jessamin Taylor," Marin supplied the names for him. "They're from time periods on Earth that kind of sandwich the time Bridget's from, so I figured they'd get along. Jess is more delicate than any other woman up here, but she tries to pretend she isn't."

"More delicate than Bridget, I reckon," Sam said with a chuckle. For all her preaching about proper dress, she was a hellion beneath those skirts, and he liked her that way. "She's got some old fashioned ideas, but she'll come around." And if she didn't, she could live the rest of her life in skirts, if that's what she wanted.

"I'll get her in jeans yet, just you wait and see," Marin threatened laughingly. It was then that she realized what else was going on in here. Thunder, willingly letting someone other than Duncan pet his mane. "Typical," she said, waving a hand at the horse. "He threatens to eat my hair every time I get close to him, and look at you!"

Sam grinned in amusement. "Maybe he's just playing hard to get," he told her. "You got any sugar? Or an apple? Something he'll reckon a treat." Of course, it was likely Marin had tried this tack already, but not with Sam here to guide her hand. He'd always had a way with horses, ever since he was a small boy. It was one of the reasons Rogier had made him foreman, or so he'd always thought.

Looking unconvinced, Marin turned to find the barrel where they kept the apples the horses preferred, fishing a couple out. She edged back toward Thunder's stall. "If he bites my hand off, I'm going to tell on you," she warned Sam wryly.

"Don't be such a scaredy-cat," Sam chided with another grin, his memory flashing back to a time long ago when they were still children. He took her hand in his and very slowly and carefully, placed it on the black's mane. "Easy," he said, his voice soft and quiet. It was hard to tell if he was talking to her or to the horse.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 19, 2017 5:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thunder immediately shook his head, making Marin flinch back. She slammed back against Sam as she cringed away, denied her opportunity to retreat by the simple fact that she was very small and he was easily strong enough to pin her place with one finger. "See? He hates me!"

"He senses your fear," Sam contradicted. "You have to show him who's mast ... mistress." He took her hand again, this time the one with the apple and guided it toward the black, slow and easy. "You're trembling," Sam said, very close to her ear, just beside and behind her. "You are the mistress. He's just a horse. Don't let his size scare you."

"Says the man who has never had to use his elbows on people's dangly bits just to avoid being trampled in a crowd," Marin muttered. "I am a small coward. That's how I like it." She met Thunder's eye, glaring at the Therm as though daring him to prove her wrong. Ignoring the small hand being offered to him, the Therm lowered his head to look more closely at the vaguely familiar redhead with the unfamiliar male.

Sam only grinned at her remark. It may have been years since they'd seen each other, but they were still as easy in each other's company as though it had been yesterday. "You should come here more often. Let him get to know you. See how curious he is? There's intelligence in those eyes," Sam told her, staying perfectly still, with that hand held out to offer the apple, while the horse seemed to take a moment to decide.

From somewhere behind them another voice broke the silence, "If I didn't know better, I might be jealous."

Without looking away from the curious horse eyeing her so closely, Marin answered. "Shh, can't you see I'm being inducted into the secret ways of horses?" Thunder lowered his head further, and abruptly butted her full in the chest with his nose, making her grunt with surprise. "What was that for, you rude thing?"

Sam chuckled, but quickly broke away from Marin before her husband got the wrong idea. "Maybe you should spend more time with him. Let him get to know you," he suggested. He knew she rode - or at least, she used to, when they were younger, but the black was an intimidating horse for such a tiny woman as Marin.

"There ain't no secret ways, silly woman," Evan corrected her as he stepped inside the barn to join them. "But he can smell your fear. You gotta show him you ain't afraid."

Marin rolled her eyes at both of them. "His hooves are the same size as my head," she pointed out. "How am I supposed to not be afraid of that?" She gestured with the hand holding the apple, and leaped sideways with a yelp as Thunder's big mouth pulled the apple out of the grasp to crunch it happily. This managed to place her between Sam and Evan, and she sighed. "Go on, laugh at the midget, I know both you unnatural giants want to."

"Ever think maybe it's you who's unnatural," Sam countered with a grin, ducking out the way of a swat and heading toward the door like the coward he was. "I'm gonna catch up with Bridget. See you both back at the house," he said, offering Evan a nod before disappearing through the door.

"Who's the coward now?" Marin called after her friend with a laugh, knowing full well Sam was running away from any possible hint that he might be accused of trying anything on with an old friend. Smiling, she turned to Evan. "Successful morning?"

"You two argue enough to be siblings," Evan pointed out once Sam was out of earshot. Thankfully, he looked more amused than anything else. He knew he had no reason to be jealous, and he wasn't the type to feel insecure. "Mostly," he replied, moving over to rub the black's nose in greeting. "Elise insisted on keeping the kids for the afternoon and put 'em to work baking."

"Good," Marin nodded. "I was hoping they'd stick down there for a while. I assume Duncan and Mara are planning on coming up here for dinner?" Maybe they could stagger the introductions - if Will and Jess did lunch with them, Bridget and Sam might not be overwhelmed with everyone at once.

"I reckon that's the plan," Evan replied in agreement. With the Mallorys to distract them and wear them out, they might even get through another night without any nightmares. "Cal seems to be handling things well, but I'm worried about Maggie," he added with a frown.

Marin frowned faintly. "I know," she assured him gently. "But she's in a much better place this time than she was last time. She knows us, she knows everyone here, and this time the bad man didn't win. All we can do is keep things as normal for her as we possibly can, and hope that she's not too traumatized."

"Would've killed that son of a bitch myself if Sam hadn't gotten to him first," Evan admitted with a scowl. She already knew that he'd happily get rid of Rogier, too, if he was able. In his opinion, neither man deserved to live.

"And well deserved it would have been, too," she agreed. It wasn't like Marin to condone violence, but when violence had been offered to the people she loved, she was first in line to offer it back with a mallet. "What about you, how are you doing?"

Anyone who tried to hurt innocent children, for whatever reason, deserved what they got, in his opinion. He shrugged in answer to her question. He wasn't too worried about Rogier right now. It would take a few days, at least, before he realized that Dobson was dead, and hopefully, by that time, they'd have a plan in place to deal with him. "You know what I'd do if I had my way," he told her.

"I know," she nodded. "And you're not going to do it because it means you'll be send to prison, and that's no way to bring up a family." She turned toward him, curling her arms about his waist as she leaned into his familiar strength. "Sam agreed," she told him softly. "We get the Watch involved, and we make sure you men go armed and in company."

Evan would have rather taken the law into his own hands, but she was right - they had to do this the right way. He only had one condition. "So long as we do it soon. We can't afford to wait for Rogier to find out about Dobson and make his next move."

"Bill's gone down to the Watchhouse today," she reminded him. "If everything goes according to plan, they'll send someone up tomorrow morning, and you and Sam can go over to Oakham Mount with the sheriffs tomorrow afternoon. It'll all be over by tomorrow night."

"So long as that slippery snake don't smell trouble and no one blabs," Evan put in, though he trusted everyone who worked at the Brambles or he wouldn't have hired them, and those who made the place home went without saying. "I want Duncan to stay here and keep an eye on things while we're gone," he added. He'd been teaching the man how to use a firearm, and he was proving a quick study. Evan would feel better leaving someone behind to keep an eye on the women and children, and that someone was going to be Duncan.

"And I want Will to stay, too," Marin told him. "Between them, they can protect us if necessary. Bill and Daniel can go with you, and there are likely to be a couple of sheriffs. Six people who are experts with weapons should be able to take on anything Rogier might throw at you. Right?"
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 19, 2017 5:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Depends. He's got a lot of men in his employ, and there's no telling what he'll do, but our chances are better if we take him by surprise and have the Watch with us," he reasoned, though he wondered if he was only saying this for Marin's benefit. He knew that when a man was as desperate as Rogier, there was no telling what he might do to escape capture and imprisonment.

She eyed him, torn between concern and amusement. "You're humoring me, aren't you?" she said in a dull tone.

He shrugged again, even as he settled his arms around her. He'd never been one to lie to her, though he might attempt to soften the truth. "I ain't a fortune teller, Mare. I can't say what Rogier will do, but I can promise you to be careful. Reckon that's about all I can do."

"That's all I can ask you to do," she said quietly, resting her head against his chest. "I don't like it, but I know better than to argue with you. He has to be dealt with, and you're the best man for the job. I know it, but I really don't like it."

"Somebody has to do it, Marin. It might as well be me," he told her, his voice rumbling in his chest as he held her close. "Promise I won't do nothing stupid. I got too much to live for," he said, dropping a kiss to the top of her head.

"Good," she murmured, squeezing him gently. He was the only one she was going to allow to see this uncertainty from her. Sam and Bridget needed her to be confident; the children needed her to be absolutely certain that their papa would win the day. But she needed Evan to know she was afraid for him, even if there was no need.

"You know I ain't a killer, Marin, but Rogier deserves everything he gets," he added, though Rogier's fate was still uncertain. The Watch might insist on arresting him, but that was assuming the man didn't put up a fight.

"Sweetheart ..." She raised her head, meeting his eyes head on. "Are you trying to convince me, or yourself? I know he's not going to stop. He has to be stopped, or we'll spend the rest of our lives waiting for the other shoe to drop, waiting for him to attack us again. He needs to be stopped, and the only way to be certain of it is for his heart to be stopped. I know that."

Yes, he'd killed more than a few men in his day. Most of them had had it coming. The rest, well ... You didn't have much choice during times of war - it was kill or be killed. But he'd never killed an innocent in his whole life. Though he might have blood on his hands, that was the difference between himself and Rogier. "I ain't planning on dying," he assured her, though who ever did?

"I trust you when you say you can do this," she told him firmly. "I trust you, Evan. I don't need you to reassure me. I know what you're capable of, and I know you'll do what needs to be done." She unwound one arm from about his waist, raising her hand to his cheek as she offered him a cheeky smirk. "Although I am counting on you for some mind-blowing sex tonight, just to remind you I'm worth coming home to."

He smiled down at his tiny wife from his height, a little amused at her remark, but knowing she was afraid for him, even if she didn't say so in so many words. "Don't need no reminder, but I ain't saying no," he told her, leaning in to press a warm kiss to her lips.

She smiled as he kissed her, curling her arms about his neck as she rose up onto her toes, deepening that kiss only too eagerly. And groaning as a very equine snort interrupted what was a promising encounter. Narrowing her eyes, she broke the kiss to glare at Thunder. "Well, if you don't want me around, I have to find someone who does, don't I?"

Evan chuckled as she broke their kiss only to glare at the stallion. "Now that you're friends, I reckon he's jealous," he teased, nudging her neck with his nose and brushing a few more kisses there - a preview of what she could expect later.

She snorted with laughter at the idea that she was friends with the stallion, moaning softly at the gentle brush of her husband's lips against the sensitive line of her throat. "Trying to get me worked up before lunch, huh?" she accused Evan fondly, nipping his earlobe in a gentle reprimand.

"Might as well whet your appetite," he teased in return. Whatever happened in the morning, it was a given that he was going to make the most of what remained of that day and the evening that followed. If by the will of God he didn't return when tomorrow came, he'd at least have given her something to remember him by.

She laughed, smacking his rear end lightly. "I reserve the right to tease you right back again," she warned. "In front of the children and our guests, if I have to." Yes, she really was that shameless.

"As you wish, woman. I got no complaints," he told her, and really he hadn't. He wasn't sure what he'd done to deserve her, but he wasn't complaining or arguing. Maybe there really was a God somewhere watching over him. How else could he have been so lucky as to end up here with her?

"Woman, is it?" Marin laughed, backing away from him. "All right then, man, you have yourself a challenge. And your first task is this ... try not to let me fall over in the snow!" She blew him a kiss, and turned to run, plunging out into the chilly landscape toward the house, secure in the knowledge that even if she did fall, he'd carry her to the house anyway.

He laughed at the challenge, knowing there wasn't much he could do if she did fall, except to scoop her up over his shoulder and carry her back to the house. Although they were no longer children, it was times like these when they were young at heart, happy just to be together.

"Reckon I better go after her," Evan told the horse, who tossed his head and snorted as if in reply. Out the door he went in pursuit of his wife, his long stride easily traversing the piles of snow as he followed in her wake.

It wasn't exactly a challenge to catch up to her. Between the deep drifts, her short legs, and her skirt, Marin was at a distinct disadvantage, made worse when she glanced over her shoulder and started laughing at how easily he was traversing the snow. Yes, it was childlike, and no, it probably wasn't appropriate given what had happened yesterday, but who really cared? Laughter was laughter, and love was love, and they had both in abundance.

Maybe it wasn't appropriate, but it was needed. Life went on, after all, and what was the point of living if there was no laughter? And with luck, after tomorrow, there would be plenty of life to fill with laughter, for everyone they considered family.
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