Chapter 9 1 Month Later

As I'm about to walk by the window of the saloon I hear voices and stop to listen. Ezras southern drawl is easy to pick out. "What exactly are you saying Mr. Dunne?"

"I'm saying, I've never seen you play so badly."

"The boy has a point, Ez." That's gotta be Buck. Then I hear Josiah. "I'd have to agree with the boy. A girl who's never played much poker winning $20 from you in one game doesn't seem likely." When Ezra speaks again I hear a hard edge to his voice. "Are you accusing me of cheating?"

I realize they're talking about me and the poker game Ezra sweet talked me into the day before. Chris' quiet voice draws my attention back to the conversation. "No one's accusing you of cheating Ezra. We all know ya only do that if the other player cheats first. Why don't you just admit you felt bad for the girl and wanted ta help her? Losing money to her in a card game was a smart way to give her some money without it attractin' much attention or givin' her a chance to say no."

I back away before they can see me. I'd thought it was strange when I was winning so often yesterday but Ezra claimed it was beginners luck. I should have known better. I feel so embarrassed that I go visit Mary and Billy to hide for awhile. Since it's supposed to be my first night back at work I can't stay long.

When I walk into the saloon I get a feeling that I remember mom calling De Ja Vu. Like I'd done this before. The guys are almost exactly where they were a month ago when I got hurt. It's early enough that the saloon is quiet as it had been that night. I have to force myself not to look around for the two cowhands. The always observant Vin noticed me come in and nods to me with a smile. Chris lifts his glass slightly in my direction.

It doesn't take long for Nathan to catch my attention. "I know I said you could work, but take it easy. You're still not completely healed. Come see me tomorrow." I promise I will and continue on.

Up at the bar Buck teases me. "Now Darlin' you know men can't resist a damsel in distress. The sight of you here working when you should be resting is going to break our hearts. Even Ezra's, and it's made of gold." We share a look of understanding. He could have meant Ezra only loved money, but we both know he meant Ezra had a heart of gold. Somehow Buck knows I found out about the "game". I see that in his clear blue eyes but don't have time to figure out how he knows. It's starting to get busy.

JD comes over and tells me he patched things up with Casey. He looks so happy and relieved that I find myself smiling as well. When I take Ezra his drink I see my chance to thank him. "Here's your brandy Mr. Standish. It's on the house, as a thank you for the game and the beginners luck." Another customer comes up so I leave before he has a chance to say anything. I can feel Josiah keeping an eye on me which is very comforting. By the end of the night I'm sore, but glad to have life back to normal.

THE END