A/N: This story is a departure from the type of fanfictions that I usually write, but I sincerely hope that y'all enjoy it! Please let me know what you think!
Bella sat quietly on the coach, her fellow passengers sleeping nearby. She hadn't bothered to make friends with either of them. The old man sitting across from her was always sleeping and drooling onto his stubbled chin and the fat man sitting next to her, a Mr. Mallory, did nothing but leer at her. She swore that once or twice she'd actually caught him fingering the fabric of her skirts between his sausage-like fingers.
She wished she were still on the train. It had started off in Chicago, but it had only been able to take her so far. Little by little the towns they stopped at along the way had gotten smaller and smaller and then the railroad line had ended all together and she had switched to this coach. Now she was entering unchartered territory…
…the wild west…
She wondered how wild it could really be. She'd read Harper's Weekly which described a place of lawlessness filled with wild Indians and bandits. Thus far, the landscape had been rather barren and boring. There wasn't even a single buffalo in sight. Was that what her life was destined to become? Barren and boring?
She had hoped for excitement and her brother Emmet's letters had led her to believe that there wasn't a single boring day. She hoped that was true. Her life in Chicago had been sheltered. Her parents had always figured that they'd have time to introduce her to people in society when she was older, but all they'd done was make her shy and unable to deal with people very well. The only one she'd been able to open up to was Emmet.
She hoped that he would be happy to see her after all these years.
He'd told her that they were putting up a telegraph line in the small town near his ranch, but she hadn't received word from him that one was in place and letters took forever. So, after both their mother and father had died of some sort of fever within a week of each other, she'd left it to a trusted family friend to take care of their estate and had brought a ticket to go out west and find him. He was all she had left.
The last time she'd seen Emmet had been six years ago when she'd been a gangly 12 year old girl and he'd fought with his father about independence and wanting to "be his own man." Their father had never forgiven Emmet for leaving, but her mother had known it was for the best. She'd always told Bella that her big brother was never meant to be part of the business world like their father wanted. She knew that her mother had secretly supported Emmet's departure, going so far as to give him his portion of his inheritance early so he could settle wherever he wanted.
From the letters they had gotten over the years it seemed that he'd done well for himself. She and her mother heard about the land and the cattle, and they had giggled at the daguerreotype of Emmet dressed up in a long duster and cowboy hat. He was even bigger than she remembered if that was possible. She had sent him a couple of pictures over the years, but he claimed that only the one that showed her when she was fourteen had ever arrived and she figured that the others had disappeared somewhere along the way, never having reached him. She was different now, having grown into a beautiful young lady with porcelain skin, wide, doe-like, chocolate brown eyes, and full lips that made it seem like she was always pouting since her lower lip was slightly bigger than her upper lip. And, though she was petite at 5'3", she had curves in all the right places that were only enhanced by her corset and bustle.
Would he know her? Would he take her in?
The closer that the coach got to the small town called Spoons Valley, the more unsure of herself she became. When Mr. Mallory said that they were close, she perked up a bit and looked outside the coach's window. Now she was really nervous.
The coach eventually came to stop at a station and the driver helped her down onto a wooden platform. Looking around she noticed the stares coming her way from different people that were wandering about and she had the sudden urge to twirl a lock of her long mahogany hair around her finger or to smooth out the folds that made up the skirt of her brown satin dress, but she heard her mother's voice in the back of her head telling her not to fidget, so she looked around silently as the bags were unloaded from the top of the coach, her trunks being placed near her on the platform.
Right at his moment, coming here didn't seem like such a good plan. She was different. The women here were walking around in simple cotton dresses had an effortless, rural kind of beauty to them. She was out of place in her brown satin dress accented with black lace, small matching bonnet, and black earbobs. She also had no idea what to do now or how she was going to get a hold of her brother. He'd told her that his ranch, the Big E, was somewhere north of Spoons Valley, but that was the only information that she had.
Standing there the coach moved off and she was left alone, though her large traveling companion was standing nearby, talking to a young man that looked to be about Emmet's age. He had long blond hair, tied back in a ponytail and might have been called handsome if it wasn't for this uneasy feeling that she got from him when he looked her way and took her in from head to toe. Blushing brightly she turned away and looked around.
Someone had to know who Emmet was and would be able to take her to him.
She was just beginning to feel a sense of panic when she heard footfalls on the wooden platform and heard someone clear their throat behind her then say, "Excuse me, ma'am, but are you waiting for someone?"
She turned around and was staring to a pair of blue eyes set in a handsome, smiling face. He had curly blonde hair that fell just past his ears and as their eyes met he tipped his hat to her. He just seemed to radiate a sense of ease and authority. "Ma'am?" She blushed, realizing she was staring and she nodded. "Yes, sir. I was hoping I could find someone to take me to the Big E Ranch." The man smiled in response, "The Big E? Well, then, you must have been the gal that Em sent for. Figures that big loon would forget when you would be getting here. I'm Sheriff Whitlock, a friend of Emmet's. I'd be more than happy to take you out that way."
Emmet had sent for her? Had he found out about their parents somehow and she'd crossed paths with his letter along her journey here. That had to be it. Who else would Emmet send for?
"Thank you, Sherriff Whitlock. I'd really appreciate your help."
The man winked and simply said, "Call me Jasper, ma'am."
She blushed in response and gave him a shy smile. "Only if you call me Bella." He chuckled and nodded. "I'll just go get a wagon for your things and we'll be on our way."
She nodded and thanked him again. As he walked away he passed her travel companion and the young man he was with and he frowned and tipped his hat, "Mr. Mallory…James." From the way Jasper's tone had chance, she could tell that something wasn't quite right, but she couldn't figure out what. The tension was palpable.