Samantha McCrea stood in her small garden, tending to her tomatoes. She hated tomatoes, she was only growing them because Newt said he liked them.

He had made her this garden plot.

Of course she knew he had only done that to get her out of his way while he was range boss.

The Captian had gone back to Texas to bury her father and wouldn't take her with him. He said it would be too dangerous for just the two of them.

She couldn't believe her Pa was dead. It didn't seem possible, but he was and had been for nearly a year. Sometimes she pretended that he wasn't really dead. That he was just gone off hunting, or on ranger business. He had often had to do one or the other in her short 12 years of life.

She was the only female at the Hat Creek Ranch but none of men would dare mess with her for fear that Captian McCrea would come back and haunt them or the Captian would fire them or Newt or Pea would shoot them.

She had lived with the Captains, Newt, Pea and Deets all her life, since her Ma had died just hours after she was born. She had even came on a cattle drive with them to Montana.

She wished she hadn't. She hated Montana. Everything was so messed up here.

Deets was right, they had no business leaving their own land and coming up here where they were strangers.

Deets was gone, Papa was gone, the Captian was back, but he acted as if she just a nuisance, always grumbling that Gus should have left her with Clara Allen.

Well, that would have suited her just fine. She loved Miss Clara and Miss Clara loved her. Newt loved her too. But now he worked for the Dunnagans and the Captian wouldn't let him come back even if he wanted too. All over some silly fight.

Yeah, she hated Montana.

Now, eveyone was talking about these horses that were coming, and when the Captian and Pea would be back with them and the people bringing them up.

Well, she didn't care if they ever got there. She wondered if she could slip off and go see Newt at Kennelworth.

Nah, it wouldn't work. It was too far to walk and someone would see her leaving on her horse.

So she just stood there, tending her tomatoes grown for someone who didn't even live there anymore.

Stupid Jasper. Why did he have to go off and get Newt in that fight? She decided she hated Jasper too. Now, he was stuck watching her, since the Captian had brought him back to the ranch to recuperate after Pea accidentally shot him.

Oh, well, at least he was being nicer to Pea now.

She still didn't like Jasper though. If it wasn't for him, she would still have her Newt. She stuck her tongue out at him. Then giggled when he paid no attention. She could easily slip away from him. Deets had taught her how to be so quiet and so quick, she could escape anyone, but Jas wasn't even watching her. He was cleaning a bridle.

Maybe she could go see Newt. Her Newt.

Chapter two

Just as Sam was getting her courage screwed up to leave, an awful commotion started up near the gate.

"OPEN THE GATES!! HERE THEY COME!!!!" Everyone was shouting.

She pressed up on her tiptoes to see and then she couldn't believe her eyes. It seemed there were hundreds of horses all running towards the ranch. Horses of all sizes and colors. She thought it had to be the most beautiful sight she had ever seen. She walked to the edge of her garden fence and watched with pleasure as all the horses came in.

She giggled when Gideon Walker winked at her.

He rode over to her.

"Miss Sammie, you look prettier than ever," he teased.

"Why, thank you, Ranger Walker," she pretended to curtsy, holding her arms out wide as if she were wearing a Paris ball gown instead of a pair of boys britches and one of Newt's cast off shirts.

"Would you allow me to escort you to the ball, ma'am," he played along.

"Oh, Ranger Walker I am so tired of balls, would you be so dear as to take me to see all those beuatiful horses," she grinned.

Gideon laughed. This girl was certianly Augustus McCrea's child all right. "It would be my pleasure, ma'am."

He lifted her over the fence and onto his horse. "Give him a kick and lets go."

She did so. She held the riens expertly even though he kept a loose hold on them himself. Stallions were known to run or fight if they smelt other horses.

"Mr. Gideon, who's that?" She gestured at a young Mexican lady.

"That's Au...a woman who works with the men we hired," he answered quickly not knowing how to tell her that was her big sister.

"The Captian hired a woman?!"

"Yeah, I was pretty amazed myself," Gideon laughed.

Chapter Three

Augustina saw the girl-child sitting in front of Ranger Walker and wondered if this was the sister Clara had been telling her about.

She looked around.

It had to be. The only other girls around were Clara's.

Well, it didn't matter she had other matters to take care of.

Like Capitan Call.

After the excitement over the horses was over, Gideon took her back to the yard.

"You know, Miss Sammie, there's somebody here who's just dying to see you. Why don't you run on over the porch and see who it is?" He sat her back on the ground.

She drug her feet going up to the porch until the lady on it turned around.

"MRS. CLARA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" She ran to the woman, who lifted her up in a smothering hug.

"There's my Samantha!" Clara exclaimed hugging the girl to her. Augustus McCrea had been her life's love and now that he was gone his daughters were all that was left of him and she cherished them.

Even Augustina who didn't know Gus.

"Let me look at you" she said, holding Sam out at arm's length. She remembered the last time she had seen Sam. It had been two years before when they had been driving the cattle up to Montana. She had urged Gus to leave the child in her care as he had Lorena, but he wouldn't hear of it. Claimed he had taken care of her thus far and he would continue to do so.

Well, she still as skinny as a toothpick but that could hardly be blamed on Gus now.

Woodrow should have been here taking better care of her, instead of running all over the country, fullfilling Gus's crazy request.

Well, now she was here, and she would make sure Sammie was well looked after. First thing being to get her to eating good.

"Let's get you inside," Clara smiled. "You look cold."

Sammie allowed herself to be led inside enjoying having Clara mother her.

They had been inside for just a few minutes when Woodrow burst in the door.

"I thought you should know. I have another business partner."

Ausgustina stepped through the door.

"Who's the daughter of Augustus McCrea."

"That's just fine," Clara nodded approvingly. Niether she or Gideon saw the dark look that had come over Sam's face until she bounded from her chair.

"NO!!!" She yelled giving Augustina a hard shove. "No, you're not! No, you're not!" She lit into Augustina hitting her with her fist. "Take it back!!"

Woodrow pulled her off Augustina, though he couldn't stop her from fighting.

"Stop it, girl!" Woodrow warned, trying to catch her arms. "You hear me? You stop this right now!"

She stopped and stared at the Captian. She had seen what he was capable of if he was angry enough and she sure didn't want him to be angry with her.

"Now, you listen to me, Samantha McCrea. This Augustina and your Pa was her Pa too. That's something she had no more control over than you did. Now I don't want to ever see you behave the way you just did again. DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?"

"Yes, sir." She looked down at the floor.

"Now, 'pologize to her" Woodrow commanded.

She turned to face her 'sister.' "I'm sorry I hit you, But I ain't sorry for what I said," she added, giving Woodrow a defiant look. "And I ain't sorry that I don't like you!"

She broke free of Woodrow grip and ran to the only place that was truly hers. Her garden.

"Well," Clara sighed. "That went well."

Chapter Four

Sam barely said two words to anyone the rest of the day or night. She was obediant enough. She came in when she was told to. She washed up for supper as she was told and went to bed when the Captian said, but she refused to do more than answer yes or no to direct questions.

She felt as though everyone was in on some cruel trick to take the only thing that had ever been truly hers and hers alone, away. Her Papa.

If this girl was really her sister, then why had she waited so long to show up? Sam could have used a sister a year ago but not now. Now she didn't need anyone. She had spent a year up here. Working, learning, surviving.

All she wanted to do was crawl into Newt's strong arms and tell him her problems.

Newt would understand.

He always understood.

But she couldn't do that because Newt now lived at Kennelworth.

She laid in her bedroll listening to Clara list all the things they didn't have that she thought they needed. Like beds. She didn't know why they needed feather beds now. They had been sleeping in bedrolls for over a year. A few more months wouldn't hurt anybody.

But if Clara's list was going to get them a trip into town, then Sam was happy to play along.

The next morning she was seated in a buggy next to Ms. Clara and Martin Johnson. Clara's two girls and Many Tears were ahead of them and Gideon and July brought up the rear.

She was busy telling Clara all she knew about why Newt was no longer with them when Gideon rode up beside them.

She giggled as she listened to him flirt with Ms. Clara. Then she heard gunshots. She looked to the ridge above them and saw several men.

Gideon began to fire back and yell for everyone to get down, and stay still. Several of the vaqueros riding with them did the same.

The buggy overtuned leaving her exposed to the gunmen. She saw thier driver laying on the ground a few steps away.

He was dead.

Trying not to think about it, she grabbed his gun and began to shoot back. Firing a gun was something she had been taught how to do at an early age. Being able to shoot and shoot well had been a matter of survival for her.

She saw Clara's girls move to cover behind thier wagon.

Then she felt a bullet burn into her leg, then another into her side.

Whoever was shooting at them didn't just want to kill them, they wanted to massacre them.

Many Tears was dead.

Clara's oldest girl was hit in the leg.

Clara was shot in shoulder and the side.

Gideon was shot more times that Sam could see.

Several of the vaqueros were dead.

July had riden back for help, but Sam knew they would all be dead before help arrived.

When the bullets stopped she was lying a few feet from Gideon and Mrs. Clara.

The only ones who had escaped injured was Ms. Clara's youngest daughter and Martin.

"Do you have any bullets left in that gun?" Gideon whispered to her.

She nodded, not trusting her voice not to scream.

"Good. Now, listen to me, Sweetheart. Your Daddy's proud, he so proud of you for protecting those girls like that. But this ain't over. They're going to come in, to see what's left. When they do I need you to sit up and shoot. Shoot anyone you think you can hit. I know you're hurting but can you do that for me?"

She nodded again.

"Good girl. Now, don't move till I tell you to."

She laid as still as if she were dead for what seemed like an eternity but was really only seconds.

She heard Gideon whisper to Clara.

Mrs. Clara was dead.

He was saying goodbye.

She heard more men's voices.

She listened for Gideon.

Those men had killed Mrs. Clara but she wasn't going to let them kill anyone else.

"NOW!" Gideon yelled.

She sat up and fired. She shot the remaining three shells in her gun and saw two men fall. It never registered to her that she had just killed them. All she knew was that now they wouldn't kill anyone else.

Another bullet hit her in the shoulder and blessed darkness overtook her.

Chapter Five

When Sammie awoke, Newt was sitting next to her. She tried to get up, but he held her still.

"Shh.. It's all over now," he said. "You're gonna be just fine."

"But, Ms.Clara?"

"She's gonna be okay too. In fact she's already been awake wondering about you." He pushed her hair back from her face. "You've given everyone quite a scare."

"She's not dead?"

"No. She's very much alive. She told everyone what you and Gideon done. I'm proud of you, little bit." He smiled at her.

"Where is Mr. Gideon?" She asked. He had been shot so badly.

"I'm sorry, Samantha. He didn't make it." Newt looked away, not wanting to see the hurt in her eyes. He had comforted her after Deets died then again when Captian Gus died. He didn't know if either one of them could stand to lose anyone else.

Gently as he could, he lifted her into his arms and held her until her tears subsided.

He held her again during the funeral. Then he had carried her back in the house, settled her on her bedroll and told her to either get some sleep or he would stop visiting her.

When she awoke, she was surprised to see Augustina sitting beside her.

"Where's Newt?" She asked.

"He is with the Capitan," Augustina answered. "Here, you need to drink this." She held up a cup of milk. "It will help you get your strength back."

Sammie struggled to sit up pushing Augustina's helping hands away. "I can do it myself," she declared. After doing so Augustina handed her the cup.

"I now my being here, and being who I am has come as a great shock to you," Augustina said. "I do not wish to force you to accept me as your sister, but I would like it if we could at least be friends. Are you willing to try to be friends with me?"

Sammie nodded. "No harm in that, I reckon."

She took another drink of milk then said "You will marry July?"

Augustina smiled. "Yes, one day."

"I will marry Newt." Sam spoke it as if it was already a fact.

"How old are you?" Augustina laughed.


"Isn't that a little young to be thinking of marriage?"

"I didn't say I would marry him today.Just someday, like you will marry July someday."

The next day, Sam refused to lay around in the house any longer. She had hobbled around until she was almost too sore to move.

Then the Captian came in.

"Come on, Sam," he said. "Let's go meet Newt. He should be on his way home. Only Woodrow knew Newt would never really come back now. He was grown and would soon set out on his own. He also knew Sam needed to be able to say goodbye to him, if she would move on.

He held her on his horse in front of him, neither speaking, neither having to speak.

Sam now knew the Captian cared for her. More than once she had woken to find him watching over her. But she knew he would never say so. Words just weren't his way. She could accept that.

Besides, she was a McCrea. Words were her department. Especially argumentive, said only to rile the Captian words.

Newt rode up to the two of them.

"Looking for someone?" he asked.

"Found him," Woodrow answered. "Get things said?"

"What could be I guess," Newt answered.

The Captian dismounted then helped Sam down.

She leaned heavily on Newt as the three of them stood overlooking their ranch.

"Well," Woodrow said, mounting back up. "Let's get back to work, boy. I reckon you can handle horses as well as I can now."

"I won't be going back with you, Captian," Newt said and Sam suddenly felt as though her heart had stopped. She had just gotten him back, she couldn't lose him again.

"This is your dream," she heard him saying. "Not mine. I can't live a life I didn't choose either Captian. I understand that now."

"We'll be sorry to lose you."

"I'm sorry to go, but there's no other way. I'd be obliged if you'd say goodbye to Pea and the boys for me, though."

The Captian nodded that he would.

Then Newt knelt in front of Sammie.

"Saying goodbye to you is the hardest part, little bit." He hugged her. "You keep those boys in line, all right?"

She nodded, trying her best not to cry again.

"I'll be back one day," he promised. He kissed her cheek.

"I love you, Samantha."

"I love you too Newt."

She let him help her onto the Captian's horse.

Then nearly fainted by what she heard next.

"Dobbs," the Captian said, suddenly. "That was your mother's name. Call. That's your name. Its Scots so they tell me. It has had no dishonor that I am aware of."

Newt nodded. Then rode off to make good of that name.

The Captian was Newt's Pa. Now it all made sense.

She took all this in until another thought came into her head.

Newt had said he loved her. He loved her.