Chapter 13

Sully walked into the homestead with Brian a while later, and Michaela could tell by the look on his face that something was terribly wrong. Brian went upstairs to talk to Matthew, and Sully pulled the telegram from his pocket. He handed it to Michaela, and as she was reading, he began to speak.

"Jake said this sounded like the description of a man who came to town lookin' for Molly. He said he was her brother Edward, and when I got to the boardin' house, her room was destroyed. All of her stuff was broken and ripped up."

"Oh my God," Michaela whispered. Then her eyes settled on the name of the man who had sent the telegram. "Why on Earth would Andrew be warning Horace of this man?"

"That's a good question," Sully replied. "Maybe we better go talk to Molly."

"I don't want to disturb her now. I just checked on her, and she's sleeping."

Meanwhile, upstairs, Brian sat down on the floor in the hallway beside Matthew.

"Hey little brother," Matthew said quietly.

"How's your friend doin'?"

"She's restin'," he replied. "Dr. Mike said Sully went into town to get some of her things."

"Yeah," Brian said quietly. Matthew sensed his brother's tone.

"What's goin' on?"

"Me and Sully joined up goin' into town, and when we got there, Jake came over."

"What?"

"It was real strange, and he started askin' all these question. He said some man named Edward came to town sayin' he was Molly's brother. But, when me and Sully got there, all her stuff had been ripped up and smashed." Matthew looked toward Molly's door.

"Go on."

"Before we even went inside, Horace came over with a telegram. It was sayin' that some man named Nicholas . . . uh, I think it was Nicholas Hill, yeah! Anyway, it was sayin' that he was headin' for Colorado Springs and that Molly could be in danger."

"What!"

"Horace didn't wanna tell nobody at first, 'cause, he thought that he shouldn't worry her, seein' as she was a widow and all. He didn't want her frettin' 'bout some man coming for her, so he thought he'd stop it quietly. He was even gonna come for you, but he knew ya were getting close to Molly, and you might let it slip."

"What else aren't ya tellin' me?" Matthew asked after a few moments of silence once he'd gotten the chance to soak it all in.

"The man who sent the telegram . . ."
"Yeah?" Many thoughts filled his mind, but he couldn't figure out who would be warning Horace of an apparent danger to Molly.

"It was Andrew." Matthew began to see red now. Andrew? What did he have to do with Molly?

"Matthew?" came Molly's voice inside of his room. "Is that you?" Matthew swallowed hard, and Brian gave him a look as if to tell him to go in and be with her. He slowly stood and walked into the room. Molly was sitting up in bed, and James was curled up beside her. He was clutching his favorite toy in his hands, and Matthew felt a bit relieved that it hadn't been destroyed along with the rest of her belongings.

"Hey," he said quietly, clutching his hat in his hands. She knew he was nervous, and she didn't know why.

"Come sit." She patted the chair next to her bed. "I could use some company." He settled down into the chair, and she noticed his eyes looking down. "Matthew? What's the matter?"

"Sully just got back."

"Oh? Did he bring my things?"

"No," he said quietly. "Some man came to town and said he was your brother. Said he was lookin' for ya. Horace at the depot got a telegram sayin' Nicholas Hill, the man you told me had been after ya, was comin' to town." Molly's face grew pale. "Everything in your room was destroyed. He musta . . ."

"He was looking for the money. That means he's coming after me, Matthew!" she exclaimed.

"Whoa, whoa. Ya gotta rest. I'm the sheriff, and I'm gonna take care of this. I'll make sure you're safe." She knew there was still something on his mind.

"Matthew? The telegram . . ."

"How do you know Andrew Cook?" She let out a sigh.

"He's . . . he's the friend who helped me to come here."

"Why didn't ya tell us ya knew him?"

"Well, I knew he'd been living here, but I didn't know how well everyone knew him. Besides, he seemed as if he didn't want people to know I knew him."

"Of course," Matthew said quietly, shaking his head. She saw tears starting to form in his eyes.

"Matthew? What's wrong?" Matthew was silent, but Molly was persistent. "Tell me. Matthew, I think I have a right to know."

"We know Andrew," he finally said. "He came here right before Katie was born. He was gonna stay just to deliver the baby, but things happened, and he ended up stayin' longer. My sister fell for him. She was smart and real pretty. She was gonna go to medical school too. She did go off to college, hopin' to be a doctor like Dr. Mike. Then, Andrew fell in love with her." Molly felt her heart beginning to pound nervously. "They got married just after my sister got accepted to go into medical school." Matthew swallowed hard.

"Andrew told me his wife was dead," she said softly.

"Colleen died last month," he replied.

"You said she died having Julia."

"Andrew's never held his daughter. He's never even looked at her." Molly felt as if she'd been slapped in the face with the truth. She'd seen the kind, quiet side of Andrew Cook, but she had no idea the kind of man he was before he left Colorado Springs. Perhaps he was still that same man. He had abandoned his daughter, and that's why he hadn't wanted to join her on the journey out here.

James woke and looked around.

"Hungry, Mama," he said softly. "I want pie." Molly smiled at her little boy and kissed him on the forehead.

"Here," Matthew said, picking the boy up. "I'll give ya over to Brian, and he'll take ya downstairs."

"Kay," James said trustingly. Matthew disappeared into the hall with James and returned alone a moment later. Molly was staring him with uncertainty in her eyes.

"Julia is Andrew's daughter?" Matthew nodded.

"Colleen died after givin' birth to her, and Andrew left right before Colleen's funeral. He didn't answer our telegrams for a long time."

"So Dr. Quinn and Sully are going to adopt her?"

"I hope so. From where I stand, Andrew don't deserve to be a father. For what he did to her, Julia would be better off if she never even knew him."

"You can't mean that," Molly said quietly. "I got to know him. He was so kind to me, and . . ." Matthew began to feel anger building up inside of him. Had Andrew really started moving on so quickly after Colleen's death? Matthew couldn't bear the thought of his baby sister lying dead in the cold ground while her no good husband was off making new relationships with the women in Boston.

"Kind? Ya call a man who leaves his newborn baby a kind man? A man who . . . who leaves without going to his own wife's funeral?" Matthew stopped, thinking about Ingrid's funeral and how saying goodbye to her had been the hardest thing he'd ever done until Colleen's funeral.

Pain overtook Matthew's soul, and he turned toward the door.

"Matthew?" Molly asked, frightened now. "Where are you going?" Matthew couldn't answer her. He as too upset to even think about explaining himself to her. "Matthew!" He opened the door and paused a moment before walking into the hallway and closing her inside the solitude of his own room.

Molly broke down into tears, weeping out of confusion, anger and worry. She had never seen Matthew so upset before in the short amount of time she'd known him, but the words he said and his vehement feelings toward Andrew told her that she had much to learn.


It was that night that all was silent in the Sully homestead. Wolf was lying on the floor at the foot of Michaela and Sully's bed. Julia and Beth were tucked into their crib together while young James slept beside Katie down the hall.

Brian had given up his room to Matthew, but Matthew had taken the opportunity to sleep in the loft of the barn. He needed to be out of the house. He hated avoiding Molly, but he knew he'd frightened her with his outward display of loathing toward Andrew. He hadn't wanted to frighten such a beautiful, sweet young woman. It hadn't been her fault that she'd been taken in by Andrew's charm, or whatever he'd drawn her friendship from.

Michaela and Sully had talked for hours about everything that had transpired that afternoon. Matthew had explained Andrew's involvement in Molly's move West, and everyone felt that Molly was free to make her own judgments about Andrew, but they all couldn't help but feel even more anger toward him now.

Molly wasn't sleeping. She was sitting up in bed, staring into the darkness of the room. She felt weak and tired, and she was nervous for the tiny life she carried inside of her. She didn't want to move for fear of losing this precious gift, and she didn't want to cry for fear that she would wake the entire household. The last thing she wanted was for people to pity her. All she wanted was to feel safe again and not have to feel confused about the two men she had trusted so much since her husband's passing.

She'd never seen Andrew show a cruel side of himself, and she didn't think there was anything cruel about him. She knew what it was like to grieve, and she knew what it was like to hurt. Everyone expressed their grief in different ways. Perhaps Andrew was going to come back for his daughter. Michaela had earlier shown her the few letters he had sent that had explained his painful decision. She had even asked the good doctor why she still felt anger toward him even though he had explained himself. Michaela had only told her that she didn't feel anger. She only felt the pain that Andrew was unintentionally putting on the entire family by not taking his responsibilities. Then, she had gone on to explain how Julia needed her and needed Sully.

Molly knew those weren't the words of a desperate grandmother wanting to hold onto her granddaughter. They were the words of a mother who needed to protect and love this child with every part of her being. Sully and Michaela were wonderful parents and would never leave their child in another person's care unless it was absolutely necessary and they had no other choice. Andrew had had a choice, and he had chosen to flee and leave everything behind him. He had wanted to make a better life for himself, but from what she'd seen in her short friendship with him was that he was the same sad, lonely man she'd met a month ago on that train. She felt sorry for him, but she knew he hadn't made an attempt to change his life for his daughter's benefit.

Her mind drifted to Matthew and the sadness that had filled his eyes when he had talked of his sister's death. Something more was lying in the depths of Matthew's mind; something that added fuel to the painful fire that burned those memories into his every waking and sleeping moment.

Molly found herself being drawn to the idea of going out to comfort him; hold him without even knowing what else was troubling him. She knew he'd lost loved ones before his sister. She knew that Dr. Quinn and Sully were not his real parents. They were too young to be his real parents, for one, and there weren't many obvious similarities in their appearances. When she looked at Katie, she knew that connection was real, but it was rather odd that young Julia looked like a twin, or at the very least, a non-identical sister to Beth, when Julia wasn't a blood relative either.

She felt the room go hot on the muggy July night, so she crept out of bed in the gown the doctor had graciously let her have. Her feet padded along the wooden floor, and she balanced herself as she descended the stairs.

She saw candlelight coming from the loft as soon as she made it out onto the porch of the homestead. The humid air hit her like a heavy blanket, and she felt her skin growing clammy and sweat beading on her forehead.

A coyote howled off in the distance, and the sound sent shivers up and down her spine. She looked around, fearing that spying eyes were watching her. She couldn't help but feel the nervous tingle in her fingers and toes as she walked out to the corral, through the gate and into the wooden structure. The horses were sleeping in their stalls despite the coyotes howling off in the mountains. She found their sleeping to be calming to her own nerves. She'd always heard that animals can sense danger. Then, why were they so serene when she had the sneaking suspicion that she was being watched.

"Who's down there?" Matthew asked, leaning over the ledge of the loft with an oil lamp in his hand. He saw a dark shadow standing down in the hay and his hand reached for his pistol. He'd only carried it with him on this night, because Nicholas Hill was on the loose. He hadn't felt like going after him on this day after everything that had happened. He knew the only way he could find him was if Nicholas found Molly first, so he needed to stay with her. Besides, she had asked him not to go out there looking for him so close to sunset. She had made him promise to stay so she would feel safer, so he had kept his word.

Though he was initially upset that she had trusted Andrew, he knew now that she hadn't known what he'd left behind in Colorado Springs.

"It's me," she said softly. "Sorry if I woke you."

"I wasn't sleepin'," Matthew replied. He climbed down the ladder, still dressed in what he was wearing earlier.

"You weren't thinking of sneaking out and going after Mr. Hill, were you?" Molly asked.

"Thinkin' 'bout it? Yeah. I wasn't gonna go, though." Molly smiled a little. "You should be in bed. Dr. Mike told ya to rest."

"No, I'm alright. I needed some fresh air, anyway." Matthew absent-mindedly took her hand and led her out of the barn away from the smell of horse and cattle dung. They settled down side-by-side on the front porch of the homestead. Molly looked up at the stars.

"The sky is beautiful tonight," she whispered. "Look at all of those stars, Matthew. Aren't they amazing?" Matthew glanced at her, swallowed hard and looked up into the sky.

"Never thought about it, but yeah, I guess so." Molly smiled and took a deep breath. "You know you're safe now, don't ya? I ain't gonna let that man hurt you or James. I'll go out lookin' for him in the mornin'."

"You'll be careful?" Molly asked softly.

"'Course I will," Matthew replied. He cleared his throat and looked out toward the barn. He could almost hear Pup snarling and Ingrid screaming. Molly noticed he was lost in thought now, and she gently put her hand on his back. He didn't move, and she knew something was wrong.

"What is it? You've done this several times today, Matthew. You're thinking about something. What is it? What's wrong?" Matthew glanced at Molly.

"You're sure you wanna know?" She was a little taken aback by this response. What could be troubling that could cause him to ask that kind of question?

"Of course I am, silly. I wouldn't have asked if I didn't want to know." Matthew cleared his throat once again.

"I guess me and Andrew have somethin' in common."

"What?"

"A few years back, the woman I loved was bitten right inside our barn." He pointed toward the door. "Brian had a wolf too. His name was Pup, and he got rabies. He bit Ingrid, and she died a couple weeks later." He paused. "We were engaged." Molly covered her mouth with her hand.

"Oh Matthew, I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have pried."

"No, it's alright. The whole town knows about it. Ya woulda heard it from somebody sooner or later."

"I'm glad I heard it from you," Molly said with a smile. She sighed. "You've lost a lot, Matthew."

"We both have." He looked over at her, and Molly felt her cheeks blushing. Out of great pain, both of these two people had found someone who understood what it was like to hurt and to be afraid. But the thing was that when they were with one another, they weren't hurting or scared. They were at peace.

The click of a gun cocking sent both turning from the homestead. A man in dressy clothes stepped out of the shadows like in some children's ghost story.

"Mrs. Thomas," he said with a smile and a wicked gleam in his eyes. Matthew felt Molly tense up beside him, and they both stood, coming face to face with Nicholas Hill.