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Chapter 1

Colorado - 1892

It certainly wasn't in his plans when he woke that morning but somehow, someway, Edward Masen left his farm one late spring morning to stock up on supplies with his children and came home with a new wife. Not a real wife, like the I'll love you to the ends of time kind of wife, but a servant who was also his wife on paper, kind of half of each.

Edward Masen woke that morning and upon finding the sky clear and the sun bright, decided it would be a good day to go to town. After chores, an unsatisfactory breakfast and wrangling his kids, Edward set off with his best horse and small cart to make the trip to town. The winter had been long and hard. Harder still was losing his wife, Rachel, to fever not a month into the snowfall. The ground hadn't frozen completely so Edward was able to bury her properly, but inclement weather made him unable to go to town safely. He had been alone, without househelp or comfort, raising two small children for many months. He was grateful for Rachel's planning and organization because he was able to do his own chores and keep them fed over the winter. Other than to restock and barter, Edward was going into town to find a woman. He was hoping to find a widow or such to keep house and help with the boys. He needed her to be a cross between a governess and maid with some farming help in between. He had neither the time nor the inclination to woo and marry a girl.

Edward had cared for Rachel, appreciated her and enjoyed her. But he didn't know if he loved her. Not the fairytale kind of love the girls he went to school with were always gushing about. He was sad for himself and the boys when she died; he even cried. He just wasn't sure what he felt. It was entirely too confusing to go into and he'd rather think of all the work for him to do back at the farm.

It was almost a sin how prideful Edward was about his farm. Second only to the love for his children, he loved his farm. And rightly so, for the toil and work of his own two hands proved to be very fruitful. He had started with nothing but a scrubby plot of land that had gone unsold for years. Edward, seeing what others could not, guessed that its potential had been overlooked by many. Its neglect was possibly due to the amount of work it would need. He had chosen the best parts of the spread for his farmhouse, a nice flat tract of land nestled in a small natural valley, and had been able to buy it for a song. The hills on three sides weren't too high, but high enough to give him the feeling that he was the only man on earth most days. He managed, by himself, to work several acres of good farmland over the years. There were woods nearby for game and a stream for fish. An industrious wife and a warm home; what more could a man ask for in life?

Edward had the forethought to build a cabin with two bedrooms and a loft. The house was right filthy by the time Rachel arrived, and was filthy now that she was no longer there to keep it up. Edward tried his best, but there was only so much women's work he was willing to tackle. And then there were his boys, Emmett and Jasper. Good, solid, healthy boys. Emmett was coming to an age where he could be a real help to his father. At six, he came up to Edward's waist and it looked as though he might outgrow his papa's height and be well over six feet, not just Edward's six foot on the dot. He had brown eyes like Edward's father and brown hair darker than anyone else in the family. It may have come from Rachel's family line, because the Masens tended to run lighter in hair colour. Where Jasper's blond came from, Edward couldn't rightly tell but it wasn't the white-blond of Edward's best friend Carlisle; he knew that for certain. Although, once into the whiskey, his friend liked to joke that it might be a possibility. That was one of the reasons Rachel didn't quite warm to him.

Carlisle was a trapper and trader who wandered the woods and kept no home. He was happy living rough. He said he was too wild a man to take a wife and make roots. When they were out hunting, far away from Rachel's hearing, he did admit he'd like some regular feminine touch but not enough to keep one around all the time. Too much effort on his part. He was happy with his biannual trip to the brothel two towns over.

Now Jasper, his youngest son, was a bit peculiar. He was a good boy. He did what his daddy asked of him and listened to his mother, too. But Jasper seldom spoke. He was three and quiet. Edward could take him out to the barn, set him in a corner and the boy would amuse himself for hours. Maybe he was quiet because Emmett was so chatty. Last fall, before Rachel died, Carlisle took Emmett on a two-day fishing trip. Jasper didn't speak a word the whole time Emmett was gone, and not for days after he got back. Edward had never known a more contemplative child. Now, if the boys got into a fight, Jasper could hold his own. He could outyell even Edward himself. He had a good vocabulary and spoke clearly when he did talk. He was smaller than his brother was at the same age, but not weak or sickly. Jasper was just a small, quiet guy.

The only time Edward felt he knew true love is when he looked at his boys. He wished he had loved their Ma as much as he loved them. Life would have been sweeter. However, from the time she answered his post looking for a bride to the day she died, all Edward felt was a real fondness for her. And she was a good wife. Rachel knew exactly what he needed before he even knew himself sometimes. She knew if he was going to be extra hungry and she'd make a big dinner. She knew when it was time to make a batch of liniment for his sore muscles. The house was always clean, his clothes mended, the garden lush and his meals hot. If Rachel hadn't died this winter, they were going to work on making a girl baby for her. A sweet little girl to help out around the house when the boys got big. Now he was heading to town with a long list and a mind to get himself some help.

The three-and-a-half miles were easier going than coming. Mostly downhill with an empty cart meant that the boys could ride and bounce in the cart and Edward could ride the horse. The way back would take some maneuvering but he'd see about that later. It was Jasper's first trip to town, well, as a little gaffer. He rode in Rachel's arms a few times when he was a babe. Edward and Emmett went alone every time last year. Jasper kicked up a fuss at being separated from Rachel and she chose to stay at home with him.

Never one for shopping Rachel would give Edward her list. She would then spend the time alone doing God only knows what women do when they're alone. Her lists were always practical, he gathered; he'd never actually read them but preferred to pass them still folded to the shopkeeper. Just the essentials, no ribbons, doodads or candy. If Rachel asked for fabrics they were always plain-coloured, sturdy weight cottons or such. She'd rely on Mrs. Newton to choose the best for what she needed. Rachel was never one for reading, save for a bit of family bible on Sundays in lieu of trekking to town for church service. Her hands were always busy with cooking, cleaning or mending. Her menfolk created a lot of mending. Emmett was likely to grow out of a new shirt a week after the sewing of it was finished.

Rachel held to a very strict routine, day in and day out, week to week. Monday was for bread making, Tuesday canning, salting or pickling, Wednesday bedrooms were turned out and linens replaced. Thursday was wash day, Friday was ironing. Saturday was heavy gardening; she and Jasper pulled weeds and watered a bit every day. Sunday was more relaxation and contemplation. Sometimes they packed a picnic and sat by the stream. Other times they wandered to a meadow just the other side of one of the hills and enjoyed the outside. On meadow days, she would ask them to gather as much clover as they could and make some honey sweets. It was a nice life, nothing fancy or exciting, but with purpose. Rachel hardly ever talked about her life before Edward and he didn't really think to ask. She was content, perhaps occasionally sad, but as long as Edward's needs were met, he let her be. He didn't want to bother too much with her moods; they were some of those woman-things that had little to do with men.

That was the way Edward had been raised; to leave woman-things to the women and concentrate on his own, more important manly affairs. Unless it was at the dinner table or undercovers in the dark, men and womenfolk just didn't mix too much. A woman's head was far too full of homelife to carry a meaningful conversation anyway. Or at least that was the way his father, Edward Sr., explained it when Jr. found himself looking sideways at a pretty girl in town one day.

Edward kept those teachings close after he moved from home so he wouldn't get easily taken in by a girl in a pretty dress and live his life for her instead of for the land. And his father's advice had proven true and timely; for once he had a spread of his own, Edward was able to work it, marry and still concentrate on the land without losing his senses to a woman. His wife, Rachel, was a welcome addition but not a distraction to the work. Edward came to think of acquiring a wife much the same as investing in a newer, sharper plow; both allowed him to work the land better and more efficiently. Sure, he could have fared well without either, but they did help in the long run.

Emmett was made to walk for the last mile of the journey. Growing bored with riding in the cart, he turned his mind to pinching his brother to entertain himself. Jasper endured the pain for only so long before hauling off and whaling on his older, bigger brother. Their yells alerted Edward and he separated the pair quickly. Emmett, pleased that he had gotten his way yet again, gamboled off into the woods to the side of the trail in hopes of chasing a rabbit or two. Jasper was even more pleased because he could now lay flat in the cart and watch the clouds as they danced around the sky. Edward's mind was solely on the trip and finding a woman to help them.

He'd found ten dollars tucked into Rachel's bible and it was burning a hole in his pocket. He was flush with cash leftover from last year's crop and perhaps, if he was able to find a buyer for Rachel's piano, he might just have enough to buy a few more acres to farm. There was a small plot next to his that hadn't yet sold. It would be hard work to get it ready, but Edward was never one to shy away from a challenge, especially not a physical one. He could put in the extra hours with no problem knowing there was someone there to take care of all the other chores. And Emmett was finally big enough to be a real help around the farm. Although, the boy was mischievous and prone to wandering; Edward would have to find a way to keep him on-task without resorting to the strap the way his own father had.

His father, Edward Sr. was very generous with the strap, employing it often to both his wife and child, so Elizabeth held little sympathy for her child when he complained. Edward vowed to never raise his hand in anger to his family. To this date, he had never has broken this vow. After all, Emmett was such an imp, it was difficult to punish him at all. Jasper was so quiet, if he'd ever broken any rules Edward didn't know about them, and Rachel was steadfast and did what was asked of her. She never gave him cause to correct her in that manner. Edward often wondered what his mother did to earn the strap or if it was a failing with the way his father led the household.

AN: Many, many thanks to Vagabonda, Beachcomberlc, and IpsitaC77 for their helping touch with this story. Really, I gave them a steaming pile of...clay...and they each moulded it into a much better form layer by layer.

There are opinions expressed by some characters that I personally find abhorrent but are appropriate for the time period. Please know, none of us involved with this story approve or condone domestic violence in any way.

This story is loosely based on the film, Rachel and The Stranger, RKO Radio Pictures c. 1948. If you have the chance to watch it; it's just lovely.

I have not abandoned Uncredited, I am still working on it, but it is slow going. As soon as a chapter is ready, I'll send it out.

I had thought of entering this into the Age of Edward contest but it became much too wordy. I can't wait to read what comes from the contest. As you might have guessed, I am partial to Historical stories.

I might not be able to answer reviews, should you choose to leave one, but please know I adore each and every one. I plan to have a new chapter to you each week. I do have 14 of them written already.

Thank you for reading.