Adam Cartwright rode steadily towards the Greene ranch. Tess Greene was approaching the house carrying a bucket of water as Adam neared.
"Well if it ain't Adam Cartwright." Tess said placing the bucket on the porch and walking up to him. "Isabella said that you would be by."
"Well, Carlos would have made the trip," Adam said, "But I don't think that would have been a good idea. He and your Ma aren't on such good terms."
"Oh." Tess walked back to the house and Adam dismounted his horse to follow her. "So Carlos trusted you to travel with his sister?"
"Is there any reason you can think of why he wouldn't be able to trust me?" Tess gave Adam a look and then started to enter the house. "What?" Adam said following her inside.
"Oh, come on, Adam." she said. "If Carlos knew what was going on between you and Isabella..."
"Nothing has happened between us." She gave him the look again. "Nothing." He followed her into the kitchen. "What makes you say that?"
"Adam, the way you two look at eachother is enough to make anyone's stomach turn. Anybody who doesn't see it has got to be blind."
"See what?" They heard from behind them. Adam spun around, dropping his hat as Tess turned her head.
"Good morning, Isabella." Adam said picking his hat up off the ground. She smiled softly at him.
"Anybody who doesn't see what, Adam?" she asked. Tess punched him in the arm.
"Umm, uh, nothing." he said. "It's nothing important. Are you ready to go?"
"Tess." Adam said putting his hat back on and tipping it to her. He allowed Isabella to exit ahead of him.
Adam closed the door as they both stood on the porch. Isabella looked out over the horizon and Adam stared over at her. Adam knew that he loved her. He loved the way her eyes would meet with his when they spoke. He loved the way her black hair fell perfectly down her back. He loved the way he felt when she smiled. He knew he loved her. Even she knew he loved her, for she felt the same way about him. However, neither of them had yet to express their feelings in words to eachother. Not because they didn't want to , but because they were afraid to. Afraid of what would happen once the fact was out in the open. Afraid of how Carlos would react.
"You look real pretty today." Adam broke the silence.
She turned and smiled at him once again. "You look very handsome."
There was an awkward silence. "Carlos can't wait to see you." he quickly said leading her down towards the horses. "We offered to throw him a party, even tried to plan a surprise one, but he insisted against it."
"Carlos has always celebrated his birthday among family." she explained. "No fancy party, not for Carlos."
"I'll remember that next year." Adam laughed as he helped Isabella onto her horse. He then mounted Beauty and they rode off.
They rode for awhile down by Lake Tahoe. The beautiful day that had once been, soon turned cloudy and dark. However Adam and Isabella rode at a steady pace.
"Even on a day like this, the water seems to let off a certain glow." Adam said coming to a stop.
"It seems to go on forever," added Isabella. "Into the clouds." With that, the skies opened up and the rain began to fall.
"We'd better get going," Adam said. "We're gonna get soaked." They started their horses again towards the ranch. All seemed to be going well until suddenly there came a huge clap of thunder. The horses bucked. Adam managed to get his under control, but Isabella `s horse jumped wildly. Adam tried to lean over and grab the horse's reigns, but he couldn't get hold. The horse became more agitated as it moved, falling back on Isabella and then taking off.
Adam quickly ran to her. "Isabella." he said leaning down and gently lifting her head. "Isabella?" She had a gash on her forehead and she laid absolutely still. "Isabella?" Her eyes fluttered and opened slowly. "Isabella, don't move." She cringed in pain. Adam saw the fear in her eyes. He paused a moment as he looked up and thought of what to do. "I have to go for help." He began to stand but she grabbed at him. "Isabella, listen to me. I have to go get a wagon to move you. I'll hurry, I promise." He leaned down and kissed her on the head. "I promise."
Adam stood and removed his coat, placing it over Isabella. He then quickly jumped onto Beauty and sped towards the Ponderosa. His horse rode like the wind through the trees, splashing up muddy puddles of water. He could see a light in the distance.
Little Joe stood on the porch with Carlos, looking at the rain fall. Carlos sipped some coffee from a tin cup as Little Joe spoke.
"Ya think the rain's what's keepin' them?"
"Perhaps." Carlos said.
"They'll be here in no time, you'll see." It was then that they saw Beauty speeding towards the ranch. Hearing the horse, Ben stepped outside to see what was going on.
"Pa, get the wagon hitched up." Adam said jumping off his horse.
"Woah, slow down, what's wrong?" Ben asked him.
Adam tried to catch his breathe. "It's... Isabella." Carlos' head jerked to look at him. "She's hurt bad, Pa."
"What happened to her?" Carlos said as they all ran to hitch the wagon. He grabbed Adam's arm. "Adam, what happened to my sister?"
Adam looked him in the eye. "The horse, she fell off the horse. It bucked and fell back on her." Carlos' eyes opened wider.
Carlos quickly pushed by Adam and went with Ben to hitch the wagon without saying a word. Adam stepped back onto the porch where Little Joe had been standing. Adam removed his hat and ran his fingers through his hair. Little Joe looked over at him as he stared out over the land.
"Adam, I..." Joe began.
"I could've grabbed those reigns." Adam said. "I should've stopped that horse."
Ben and Carlos returned, Ben riding the wagon and Carlos beside him on his horse. Adam started to walk off the porch, but Carlos stopped him.
"You are not coming."
"Carlos. "Ben said.
"No, Ben. I do not want him to come."
"I understand you're upset, but Adam is the only one who knows where Isabella is."
"It's alright, Pa." Adam said. "She's down by the lake. By the place Little Joe likes to go fishing."
"Fine." Ben cracked the reigns and the wagon raced towards the lake. Carlos stayed behind a moment.
Adam and Carlos looked at eachother in silence until Carlos spoke. "If I ever... catch you near my sister again... I will kill you." With that, Carlos turned his horse and raced to follow Ben in the wagon.
Adam and Little Joe stood and watched them ride away. "He didn't mean it." Little Joe said.
Adam was silent for a moment and then he turned to enter the house. "Yes he did." Adam said walking inside. Little Joe ran after his brother, closing the door behind them.
Adam leaned up against the front of the Trading Post, a solemn look on his face. Inside, Tess saw Little Joe paying for a small bag of sweets.
"He's still upset, huh?" Tess asked him.
Little Joe piled the contents into his mouth. "Who, Adam?" he said through the have masticated candy. "Yup, he's been like this for days. Tess put her hand on Little Joe's shoulder and then turned to leave the store.
Adam still stared blankly as Tess came up behind him. "Ya come here often?" she said.
Adam turned his head. "Hey Tess," he said.
"Isabella's doin' real good. The doctor says her ribs are healing nicely." Adam went back to his silent stare. Tess walked around to be directly in his view. "You know, Adam. You've gotta stop being so hard on yourself. It was an accident, she's gonna be fine."
"Carlos doesn't seem to think so. We haven't seen him around. He hasn't even talked to Pa."
"Isabella's his sister. He's just upset that she was hurt."
"I'm sure you heard about his comment to me."
Tess nodded. "Hoss told me."
Adam rubbed his eyes. "Carlos watches your ranch all day long," he said. "Hoss told me that he saw him." Tess nodded. "I have to see her, Tess."
"What are lookin' for help on gettin' yourself killed?"
"Please, Tess. I'm haven't seen her since this all happened. I promised her I'd hurry back for her and I didn't even go with Pa and Carlos. You've gotta do this for me, Tess. Please."
Tess looked at Adam and taking a deep breath she said, "Carlos watches the house almost all day every day. To see who comes and goes. I've noticed though that everyday at two o'clock he isn't there. It's about an hour until he comes back."
Adam smiled for the first time in days. "Thanks, Tess." Adam took and kissed her on the cheek and hurried to his horse.
"I don't want to hear about this if Carlos finds out." she called after him.
"He won't, don't worry."
Adam turned his horse and was about ready to ride off when Tess called after him. "Umm, Adam?" He turned back to see Little Joe standing in front of the Post with her. He smiled and motioned with his head for Joe to get on his horse and follow him home.
The boys rode back towards the Ponderosa, and Tess smiled, shaking her head as she walked back into the Post.
Adam arrived at the Greene Ranch after two o'clock. He wanted to make certain that Carlos was gone so that he wouldn't get caught. He quickly approached the house where Tess was waiting to let him in.
"You'd better appreciate this, Adam Cartwright." she said. "She's upstairs."
Adam walked up the stairs and into Isabella's room. He saw her lying in bed, her head turned looking out the window. He slowly approached her.
"Isabella?" he said. Her head gently turned and her face lit up when she saw him.
"Adam." she said. "I did not think you would come."
"You've talked to your brother then."
"I have heard what he told you. Carlos would not hurt you, I know him better than anybody." They sat there and just looked at eachother.
"How are you feeling?" Adam finally said.
"Better. I still can not get out of bed."
"In time." Adam said. He leaned down and ran his fingers gently through her hair. "I'm so glad you're alright." Suddenly, they hear the thumping on the stairs.
Tess ran into the room. "Adam." she said out of breath. "You'd better get out of here. He's coming back. Carlos is coming back, and he wants to see Isabella. He's..."
"...here." Adam said as he turned and saw Carlos standing by the doorway. He jumped up and walked towards him. "Carlos, we need to talk."
With no words exchanged, Carlos cocked back his arm and connected with Adam's face. Adam fell to the ground. "I told you to stay away from my sister," he said. "Tomorrow at noon, in town. A duel between me and you amigo."
Adam only held onto his face as Carlos turned and stormed out of the house. Tess ran to him, helping him up off the floor.
"Adam you're not really gonna go through with this are you." Tess asked him.
"Not if I don't have to," he said still holding his face. "Not if I don't have to."
"Adam, I won't let you go through with this." Ben said as Adam saddled up Beauty in preparation to ride into town. "Adam."
"Pa, I don't plan on doing this." Adam said mounting up.
"You're just going to stand there and let him shoot at you? Adam, I don't recommend that."
"I'm gonna try to stop this before it gets out of hand."
"Adam, this has already gotten out of hand."
"Pa. I have to take care of this my way. Please, trust me."
Ben stood there a moment. "At least let us ride into town with you." Adam nodded.
"As long as you let me handle this," he said.
The Cartwright saddled their horses and rode into town. A crowd had already convened to see the gunfight between Carlos and Adam.
Carlos was already waiting as Adam pulled up. As Adam dismounted his horse, Carlos approached him, handing him a pistol.
"It works properly," he said. "Try it if you like."
"I believe you." Adam said. They both walked into the center of the circle formed by the townsfolk. "I don't want to fight you, Carlos."
Carlos didn't say a word, but waited until the noon signal was given. "Whenever you are ready." he said.
Adam took his gun, looked at it a moment and then pointed it in the air and fired. There was a gasp from the crowd. "I told you I wouldn't fight you, Carlos. If you're gonna shoot me, do it now in front of all these people. Go ahead. Shoot an unarmed man."
Without thinking, Carlos took aim, pulling pack the arm on his pistol. But this action was brought to a halt but the screaming approach of a wagon which pulled practically into the circle of people. Off of the wagon slowly stepped Isabella. The crowd watched in shock as she made her way towards Adam.
"Isabella, you should be in bed." Carlos called to her.
"While you murder one of your closest friends?" she said.
"This is no business of yours, Isabella. Go home."
"It is because of him that you were injured. You were his responsibly."
"It was an accident, Carlos. I don't need someone watching me like a child all the time. There was nothing Adam could have done." Carlos kept the gun pointed at him. "If you are going to shoot him," Isabella stepped in front of Adam, "you will have to shoot me first." The crowd watched as Carlos' pistol went unmoved and then slowly went back down to his side. Adam's heart was in his mouth as he breathed a sigh of relief. He embraced Isabella as Carlos slowly approached them.
"Adam..." he began. "I..."
"I understand, Carlos." Adam said. "You were worried the whole time about Isabella. She's your sister and you care very much for her." Adam looked Isabella in the eyes. "I know how you feel, because I care for her too. And if you want to duel me over my feelings, that's fine. Because, I'll never love her less."
Carlos saw Isabella's face light up with Adam's words. "I know that you love my sister. I have always known, and I know that Isabella is in love with you also. She is happy. And as long as my little sister is happy, I approve."
Carlos stepped back, joining the crowd which had begun to disperse. Adam and Isabella stood in that same spot in the middle of town. Again he ran his fingers through her hair and she smiled softly at him. They had finally gotten Carlos' reaction. Though it was of a protective brother in the beginning, it grew understanding and feeling.
Finally, Adam was able to say what he had waited to. "I love you, Isabella." He bent down, his lips locking with hers, and neither cared who was watching.