Amelia wondered if the situation had gotten better or worse after Buck and his men took her back inside the schoolhouse. Claire still sat in the back of the room with Emily working on her Valentine for Ben who with George were trying to play a game amid the hostage situation. She had told Claire what Buck wanted, the three people responsible for killing his cousins in the hotel.
Meaning Ethan, John Taylor and her…and so she and Claire started to try to plan what to do on their end to help the men outside.
"You can't let them know you killed one of them," Claire said, "Uncle Ethan and Dakota will figure out what to do."
"I know but Buck only gave them several hours," Amelia said, "That doesn't give them much time before they have to do what they want."
Claire shook her head.
"I don't know what's going to happen but I know they won't let anything bad happen if they can help it."
"Buck also thinks I'm married to another man too," she said, "But I explained that husband is unable to be located when he wanted Ethan to fetch him."
Too many complications added to a volatile situation, Amelia thought but she didn't know what to do. She was trapped in a schoolhouse with two other women and a group of children and she felt responsible for them.
She'd do whatever it took to protect them and get them out safely even if…but no she couldn't forget that it wasn't just her own life involved. She had the unborn baby to protect too. Ever since she'd found out that she'd gotten pregnant, she'd been looking forward to the future, one with her and Ethan adding to their already good sized family.
So she had to somehow take care of herself too.
"Buck's talking to his men," Ella said, joining them, "I don't think he's happy with what happened."
"He wants to avenge his cousins' death and Ethan's not making it easy," Amelia said, "Plus Ethan asked for more time than he wanted to give him."
"How much longer is this going to last," Ella asked, "the children are getting restless."
"We'll have to keep them distracted," Claire said, "Just keep acting like it's a normal day."
"These men being here isn't normal and some of them have asked when they're going home."
Amelia watched them and she watched Buck leave the men and head in their direction. He smiled when he saw the three women sitting together.
"You're doing a good job keeping the children quiet," he said, "It shouldn't be much longer."
"How much longer?"
He appeared amused at her words.
"You in a hurry to get out of here…?"
Ella didn't respond to that but Claire looked at him carefully.
"The children miss their parents," she said, "and it's hard for them not to react to what's happening."
His eyes hardened.
"You'd better make sure they stay quiet," he said, "or we'll be forced to do it for you."
Claire knew that he meant it. Buck turned his attention to Amelia.
"So you going to sit and wait until your husband shows up?"
She just looked at her hands.
"I told you I don't expect him," she said, "Who knows when he'll show up? He fancies himself a free spirit."
"He leaves a pretty thing like you unattended to," he said, "I should shoot him just for that. I could do that if you'd like."
She tightened her lips.
"No…no need to do that," she said, "I'll just save some choice words for him when he returns home."
She remembered what it had been like when she'd been married to Pierce and the nights she waited for him to return home from the saloon to her. At first she thought he might be spending time with a saloon girl or two but she realized soon enough that she wasn't losing him to another woman but to an assortment of get rich schemes. She hadn't learned the complete truth about him until after he'd taken off. When Ethan had broken some unwanted news about her husband she'd wanted to hit him mostly because she'd wanted to hit something but he didn't use it against her like other town's people had done.
"Why would a pretty thing like yourself waste time with a man like that?"
She shot him a look.
"You mean when I could end up with an outlaw?"
He set his mouth in a fine line and she knew her comment hit its mark.
"I know how to take care of a fine woman."
"I'm sure you do…all of you outlaws do," she said, "but I'll hang on to my husband for a while longer."
"I'm going to let you all go," he said, "as soon as I finish some business with the marshal and the others who murdered my cousins in cold blood."
Amelia bristled at that because that was so far away from what actually had happened. But she didn't dare argue with him.
Ethan walked up to John Taylor who had returned from tending the horses.
"I heard what happened," he said, "Buck wants to face off with those who shot his cousins."
"That includes you and also Amelia…"
John Taylor went to pour himself some tea that Rosie had brewed in the kitchen.
"She's already in there with him and he doesn't know it."
"No he doesn't," Ethan said, "and I don't want him to know that she's there…it's safer that way for her and for the others."
"Until he finds out the truth…and that you both lied to him."
"Didn't lie…just didn't share that information with him."
John Taylor shrugged.
"Same difference as far as he's concerned," he said, "and then Amelia and the children will be at his mercy."
"They are already…he and his men could just decide to kill the hostages at any moment."
John Taylor sipped his drink.
"But they won't…because they need them at least long enough so they have you and I where they want us."
Ethan knew that was Buck's strategy and he had to come up with a way to outsmart the outlaws. Not much time left to do that, he already had to come up with a reason why Amelia couldn't show up. He knew that inside the schoolhouse she had concocted a version of events where she had a husband that wasn't the town marshal…but other than that he didn't know much.
Charlie walked up to him quickly.
"There's a wire…it just came in," he said, "Someone is on his way here to offer his services…"
Ethan felt puzzled.
"It's something to do with Pierce Lawson, you know the man who was married to Amelia and then just took off one day."
Ethan looked over at John Taylor.
"What does he have to do with any of this with Buck and his gang?"
"I'm just delivering the message. I have no idea and it doesn't give that information in just a few words."
Ethan hardened his expression.
"If Pierce shows up anywhere near here, I'm going to kill him."
He felt so certain about that and John Taylor just remained silent. Charlie seemed shocked by his words.
"Why would you do that Ethan?"
"He knows why…and I'm not getting into it right now," Ethan said, "but he'd have it coming."
Charlie just shook his head.
"Ethan I think you've lost it in the head," he said, "You sure you can handle this crisis?"
Ethan flexed his jaw.
"I can do that Charlie…I'll need your help," he said, "John Taylor and I are going to have to go out there and face Buck and his men. I don't want him to find out that Amelia's already in there with him."
Charlie knew better than to challenge him on his words.
"Okay I can do that," he said, "What else?"
"I'm going to need more men starting with Clancy and Bob," he said, "Lukas too…but not too close to me and not in sight."
Charlie nodded. Ethan knew he had to keep calm while doing his planning. If it threw him to have Pierce tossed into the equation, he had to put that aside until he got the hostages away from Buck.
Amelia looked over at Buck and then back at Claire. She remembered back to the siege in the hotel with a gang of outlaws who were desperate and ruthless, even more so when cornered. She'd done her best to play them off of one another and had to make some difficult decisions. She'd do the same here if necessary to get the children out of here.
She didn't want anyone making that choice for her.