Chapter 8 – The Next Move

"Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from
us all but the things that cannot be torn,
so that we see ourselves as we really are."

~ Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha

Tensions were high when the Duke family gathered in the kitchen for breakfast. Bo picked at his food and watched Daisy with one eye as he waited for Uncle Jesse to address the elephant in the room. It took great restraint for him to keep quiet after hearing Daisy's excuse for the bruise on her arm. It was obvious by Luke's demeanor that he didn't buy her explanation either. The eldest Duke cousin sat across the table, working his jaw and holding his fork with a white-knuckle-grip.

Uncle Jesse heaved a sign and put down his coffee. "Daisy," he said, his tone both a reprimand and a question.

"Yes sir?"

"Ya' having trouble with Ernie Ledbetter again?"

She stiffened, but kept her eyes down. "Ernie? No sir."

Luke tossed his napkin on the table and said, "Daisy, just tell us who did this to ya' and don't you dare say ya' ran into the bar."

"A bar doesn't leave finger marks." Bo added. "C'mon, Daisy. We ain't letting this go so ya' might as well tell us. If you don't, we're gonna start knocking on doors until we find the ape that did this to you. He's got a date with my fist!"

Daisy raised defiant eyes to his, "You will do no such thing, Bo Duke! It ain't what ya'll are thinking! It was all my fault." Daisy dropped her eyes to her plate. She had barely touched her food. "I made a stupid mistake, several actually."

With a click of the tongue, Bo said to Luke, "See, now that just ticks me off. Don't that tick you off, Luke?"

"Dang right it does."

Bo pressed his lips in a thin line. He wasn't sure what disturbed him more, someone putting a hand to his cousin or her defending the behavior. Daisy was the strongest woman he had ever known and seeing her like this was just plain wrong.

"Alright just hold it. Boys, watch your tempers." Jesse sat back in his chair and speared Daisy with a truth-serum-stare. "I want to know who, how and why, and in that order. No excuses. As for you two," Jesse pointed a finger at the boys. "Just keep quiet."

"Yes sir."

Uncle Jesse moved his plate and clasped his hands together on the table. "Just tell me his name baby girl."

Daisy slouched in her chair before saying, "Jaxon MacFarland."

"Jaxon!?" Bo dropped the butter knife with a clang.

Luke bristled like a longhaired cat in the bath, but said nothing. Bo could see the conflict written all over his cousin's face. He said the MacFarlands had saved Daisy's life. Twice. He said they were good people. His judge of character was usually spot-on. What went wrong?

Uncle Jesse sat motionless. It was another uncomfortable moment before he prodded, "Well? Keep talking. How did it happen?"

Daisy sat forward, her blue eyes glistened with tears of frustration. "Uncle Jesse, I was swinging a broomstick at his head. He was defending himself. It was an accident. I promise that's all it was."

"I'll decide if it was an accident." Jesse sat back and stroked his beard, "Why were ya' swinging a broomstick at his head?"

Luke shoved his plate back and stood to pace. "Does it matter? Jaxon is plenty capable of defending himself without putting a bruise on her!"

Bo crossed his arms and added, "He must've done something or Daisy wouldn't have swung a broomstick at him in th' first place!"

"I said for you two to be quiet!" Uncle Jesse scolded. "Daisy, answer my question."

Daisy shot an angry glare at her cousins. "I started it. I forgot to lock th' door last night after closing and I thought he was a robber. I didn't see him until it was too late. Ya'll know Wallace Monroe is after him! He just reacted! He's had to fight for his life, you know that Luke." Daisy huffed a sigh and crinkled her forehead as if she were remembering. "Jaxon moved faster than anyone I've ever seen. It was like…muscle memory, or instinct or something. He felt horrible about what happened. Please don't make a big deal outta this. I said something I shouldn't have and I hurt his feelings."

Luke stopped pacing and his eyes turned dangerous. "His feelings? Daisy, what is wrong with you!?"

"I don't give a plum nickel about his feelings!" Punctuating his words with a fist to the table Bo added, "Men do not hit women. Period!"

"He didn't hit me, Bo! He grabbed my arm to keep me from breaking th' coffee pot over his head!"

"Coffee pot?" Uncle Jesse looked back to his niece. "I thought ya' said it was a broom?"

"It was, but then I grabbed the coffee pot. I don't understand why ya'll are so upset about it when I'm not. It was an accident! Please, let it go. Uncle Jesse, I have a serious problem that I need to talk about. I'm in trouble."

"Trouble." Bo said slowly. "You're in trouble?"

Luke braced his hands on the back of his chair. "If you mean what I think you mean, I'll drag Jaxon's hide behind the General and use what's left as fish bait!"

"Luke Duke!" Daisy gasped. "It ain't that kinda trouble! A slushy would have a better chance in the devil's bedroom than Jaxon MacFarland would in mine!"

"Th-that's enough." Uncle Jesse said, disturbed by the arch in conversation. "Tell us what's wrong. Then we're gonna come back to that bruise and Jaxon MacFarland."

Five minutes later, Bo's stomach dropped when all the color drained from Uncle Jesse's face. Luke sank to his chair and pinched the bridge of his nose. Daisy wasn't kidding about trouble and a bruise was the least of their worries. This wasn't a silly speeding ticket or one of Boss's setups. This was Wallace Monroe, the mob.

After the shooting this past June, they learned he was a ruthless killer, a powerful part of the Five Families, with all their money and resources at his disposal. He was called the Long Arm of the Mob, having earned the title when he arranged a hit on a safe-house in New York. Six agents were killed, along with a witness for the prosecution…the MacFarland's former business partner. A threat was left saying the MacFarland siblings were next and they had been on the run for two years. Now thanks to Boss, Daisy was in the same boat and Monroe wouldn't stop until she was dead.

A chill crawled down Bo's spine. The Dukes never backed down. They fought the system and usually had the good fortune to come out on top, but seeing Uncle Jesse's reaction shook Bo to the core. He felt his entire way of life slipping away and couldn't fathom a world without Daisy. She was as much a part of the farm as the earth it was built on and a very critical part of Bo's life. They had to protect her, but there was only so much they could do. Of all the people Monroe targeted, only three were still alive.

The MacFarlands.

Bo's thoughts went back to the shooting and the condition of the Circle M house when it was all over. He was there that day, helping Emily clean up the mess. What if all that blood had been Daisy's? Bo's stomach clenched. It irked him to no end that Jaxon and his family might be Daisy's only hope for survival, but with Monroe having someone inside the FBI, they might not have a choice in allowing them to protect her.

"I shouldn't have taken Boss's money." Daisy said on a sigh, her tears dangerously close to spilling over. "I put ya'll in danger with me and Enos must hate me for bringing this down on him. Jaxon said they're gonna protect me, whether I like it or not, but Enos is leaving for Wyoming next week. How can they protect me while they're gone?"

"We'll figure it out, Daisy. Just remember, it was Boss who did this." Bo swallowed the massive lump in his throat. "Enos would never hate you. He's gonna see it was Boss's fault."

Uncle Jesse reached across the table and took her hands, worry etched in his face. "Daisy, there's no use worrying over things we can't change. Let's focus on keeping you safe. Luke, ya' got that number for Agent Ferguson?"

"Yes sir." Luke pulled the card out of his wallet and handed it over. "Uncle Jesse, I don't like it, but I think we should take Jaxon up on his offer and work with the MacFarlands."

"But Luke, I don't want to be anywhere near them!" Daisy said. "Don't you know how hard that's gonna be for me? The whole town is gossiping about Enos and Jenny! I'm not ready to see them together."

"Keeping you alive is what matters most." Luke said. "You're tough, Daisy. You can handle it and we're going to help you. Think about it. You saw what Drake is capable of and I've seen Jenny handle weapons like a pro. I'm madder than a hornet at Jaxon right now, but after being Monroe's prisoner for four months, I can understand him being shell-shocked. If he's better qualified to keep you alive and can admit he made a mistake, I'll let this incident go. Knowing he's that fast is an odd sense of relief right now."

"We ain't agreeing to anything until I've made that call to th' FBI." Uncle Jesse said. "I'd like to get Chuck's opinion on th' MacFarlands. Then I'm going into town to have a talk with Enos. It's way past time that I found out just what he's up to with that MacFarland girl."

Daisy opened her mouth, probably to protest, but she clamped it shut when Uncle Jesse gave a warning look. He went to make the call and Bo set out to put Daisy's mind at ease about the upheaval in her love life.

"Daisy, don't worry about ol' Enos," he said. "We'll figure out how to get both of ya' out of this mess. I still say he's just having himself a little fling is all. It's like I told ya'. Jenny can't stay in one place for long."

"Sugar, I know ya' mean well, but Monroe is targeting Enos, too. She might just take him with her when she goes."

"And leave Beth's ranch behind?" Bo shook his head. "No way. How close can they be anyway? It ain't like he's in love with the girl."

Luke cleared his throat in a not-so-subtle hint, but Bo ignored him and plowed ahead.

"It can't be love, Luke." Bo said. "It's too soon. Trust me. I've fallen in love at first sight hundreds of times. It don't last. He's just dippin' his toes in th' pond a little."

"Sugar." Daisy frowned bitterly. "It ain't his toes I'm worried about."

On the hill above the Duke farm, Jaxon could barely keep his eyes open after a long night of staring across the landscape. The morning heat was already on the rise and added to his sleepiness. Drake would be here soon to relieve him and he couldn't wait to crawl into bed and sleep away his problems. He felt like a complete heel after his meeting with Daisy went so wrong. With a beleaguered sigh, he put his head back to rest his eyes and slumber quickly claimed him.

Jaxon woke abruptly when a punch to his jaw caused his teeth to rattle. The driver's door opened and strong hands yanked him out of the car. Jaxon was thrown across the rocky ground. He landed face down with a grunt and the skin of his palms burned as he slid across the deer path. His heart hammered against his ribcage and he sucked in a breath.

Shaking himself out of his stupor, Jaxon had pushed himself up on all fours when a kick to the ribs sent him rolling. Something deep inside him snapped. The man was a fool for attacking him this morning. The rage surged, blinding him to everything but the fight. Like a feral tiger, he rolled out and moved into a defensive crouch. He could see the silhouette of his attacker as the morning sun outlined his form. The opportunity was brief, but Jaxon took it and sprang into the air, jumping forward to kick the man square in the chest. The blow sent the fool flying backwards and he fell against a tree.

Jaxon didn't hold back and attacked again. He hit him with a hard right hook and barely grimaced when his fist slammed into the man's face. He swiftly locked his fingers around the windpipe and cocked back another fist in preparation to strike again.

His fist stopped inches from the man's face. "Travis!?"

"Jaxon, just...t-take it easy." The man raised his hands in a defensive posture. "It's over. I'll explain, just let go."

"What the hell are you doing!?" Jaxon released his hold. "We weren't supposed to meet until later!"

"I couldn't wait." Travis panted and pulled at his collar. "I got a call from my informant and I took a chance that you'd be here watching the Duke girl."

Jaxon stepped back in a state of shock and stared at his handler. For the second time in twelve hours, he had been attacked by a friend. This was not his day. Travis's salt and pepper hair was mussed from the fight, blood dripped from his nose, leaving bright red spots on his white dress shirt and a bruise was forming near his eye.

"That's going to swell," Jaxon said breathlessly, his chest heaving from the exertion. "I understand if there's an emergency with Monroe, but why attack me? What are you thinking, Travis?"

"I'm thinking you've turned soft!" Travis stood and hit Jaxon in the chest with both hands, shoving him back. "What are you thinking!? I could have slit your throat in your sleep! You're far too comfortable. Learn from this lesson. It'll keep you alive. All of you are getting sloppy."

Jaxon whisked his arm across his brow to wipe the sweat from his forehead. "I'm sorry. I messed up."

"At least you're alive to admit it." Travis loosened his tie and pointed to Jaxon's face. "When you look at that fat lip you better remember you could've been killed here. I'm pressed for time. Let's get down to business."

Jaxon bent over with his hands on his knees to catch his breath. "I'm listening."

Travis retrieved an envelope he had placed on the top of Jaxon's car and held it in his hand. "You need to take the Duke girl, gather your family and leave early for Wyoming. I want all of you on the road no later than tomorrow. Monroe knows you're here. We don't know what he's planning, but based on your behavior, all of you are sitting ducks if he were to act now."

Jaxon straightened and said, "Hold on a second. Why do we need to leave if you don't know what Monroe has planned?"

"I told you why. Because he knows you're here. Besides, my informant insists. Nothing has changed Jaxon. Did you think Monroe would abandon his quest just because Jenny decided to play house?"

Jaxon glared at him. "Watch how you talk about my sister, Travis. This isn't a game to her. She's serious about Enos."

"He's going to make her vulnerable." Travis shook his head and directed, "Do what I tell you. If Monroe is planning a hit, it's best if you're long gone from the area. There are enough people at the Rafter G to prevent him from making a direct move."

"Having people around won't stop him." Jaxon leaned against the car and crossed his ankles. "It's going to be tough to convince Daisy to come along. She isn't very happy with any of us."

"I told you I'm pressed for time." Travis snapped. "Use your gift of gab and fix whatever you broke. Look, if you care about her survival, you'll get her out of Hazzard. Monroe will probably leave her family alone if she's halfway across the country. That might persuade her."

"Yes, you're probably right about that." Jaxon bit back a groan. He knew how much Daisy's family meant to her. "I'll take care of it."

"One last thing. Tell Drake to back off." Travis handed him the envelope. "Until last week, I have never done a spot check and been able to get within eyesight of Drake without him knowing I was there. This time, he didn't have a clue and if it had been anyone else, he'd be dead. I don't want to see any of you hurt again. Now, take that envelope to him and straighten him out. Got it?"

Jaxon glanced at the sealed envelope curiously. "What do you mean straighten him out? Drake has always been so focused. What would've distracted him that much?"

Travis acted put out. "It's in the report, Jaxon. Just do what I tell you. Okay?"

"Okay. I got it."

Travis sighed and stood with his hands akimbo. "Look, I know you're tired of running, but my person on the inside is close, real close. We found the evidence we need and as soon as it can be smuggled out, we are going to get that warrant on Monroe."

Jaxon tossed the envelope in his car and stood with his arm draped over the open door. "You've said that for months, Travis. A warrant is just a piece of paper. You still have to find him and catch him."

"I know, but we can freeze his assets and make things very difficult for him. If my informant passed the information along, we'll have it in a few days. By the time you get to Wyoming, we may have a warrant in hand. We'll get him, Jaxon." Travis patted Jaxon's shoulder and said, "I have to go. Go home and clean up. The girl will be safe with her family until Drake gets here. I'll call you in three days."

Jaxon waited until Travis drove away before he slid behind the wheel of his Jag. The adrenaline was wearing off and the pain from the beating was breaking through. His ribs ached and his bottom lip was on fire. A glance in the rearview mirror revealed a huge split lip. Nice. That's going to be real attractive.

He wasn't pleased about Travis taking it upon himself to teach him a lesson, but it was his fault. He wasn't the only one to make a critical error recently. Curious about Drake's mistake, Jaxon picked up the envelope and pulled out the reports.

"Son of a…" Jaxon fumbled through the images with his heart in his throat.

Travis had caught Drake and Daisy together in the barn and his brother was kissing her like his very life depended on it. He couldn't believe his eyes and stuffed the photographs back in the envelope, angrily flinging it in the passenger's seat.

Jaxon punched the steering wheel a few times and tramped down the betrayal that was eating him away from the inside out. Just last night she claimed to be in love with Enos, but she was kissing Drake?

Starting the car, Jaxon drove away from the Duke farm. Daisy didn't want him anyway and it was clear she was a mess. He should settle this the way they always had and beat the ever-living daylights out of Drake, but he'd already lost one brother.

Jaxon was known for his hair-trigger temper, but he was still a man of high honor. Sating his need for revenge would damage his family and hurt his sister. Whatever the final outcome of this colossal mess, some fickle girl would not cost him his family.

Regardless of Drake acting like a gigantic jackass, Jaxon had to keep everyone together and convince Daisy to come along on the trip to Wyoming. If Drake wanted her so badly then he could have her. Let him be the one to protect her. As far as Jaxon was concerned, from here on out, Daisy was just another job.

Jaxon gripped the wheel and muttered to himself in disgust. "She's a confused mess, Jaxon. She's a fickle creature, Jaxon. You deserve a woman who only has eyes for you, Jaxon. Why don't you call Katie, Jaxon? Right. You just wanted her for yourself, Drake. You never could keep your hands off my things."

Enos was on cloud nine when he strolled down the hall and jogged down the stairs of his home. His living room was bathed in brilliant morning sunlight and the most incredible smells wafted from the kitchen. He couldn't wait to find Jenny after such a magical evening and his heart was already beating a little faster. He reached the first floor and tossed his hat on the small credenza as he turned the corner.

His heart jumped when he saw Jenny by the stove and he leaned against the doorjamb with a silly grin. She was a vision. Coming downstairs to find her every morning was a habit he never wanted to break and each time he laid eyes on her, it was like opening a present.

When she turned to put a pan in the oven, he drew a deep breath. Those snug jeans fit the dramatic flare of her hips and the sweetheart neckline of her eyelet halter top revealed just enough glistening curves of flesh to make his mouth go dry. Jenny closed the oven and looked up to meet his gaze with a smile.

"Hey, you. How long have you been standing there?"

"Mornin', Jenny," he grinned ear to ear. "Not long enough. Ya' sure look pretty in my kitchen. You must've been up at dawn to do all this. Ain't ya' tuckered?"

"Of course not, silly. I used to do it all the time at Gran's bed and breakfast. Chief cook and bottle washer is on my resume." She waved the spatula in the air and said, "It's somewhere between executive vice-president, PR director and cattle wrangler. I even do windows."

Images of her tending to his home flickered through his mind. He wanted to see her like this every day…puttering in his kitchen…preferably in nothing but his old flannel shirt. Enos indulged his fantasy and delved further. He would come home from work to find her waiting on the porch swing, or reading stories to his children in the garden. He would take her to bed every night and show her how much he wanted her. Each new day would begin with her in his arms, warm and naked, snuggled against his bare skin.

Without another word, he crossed the room to stand behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. Enos lowered his head to place kisses on his favorite spot at the curve of her neck. She giggled and leaned that delightful little body against him. It was heaven. Enos buried his nose in her hair and inhaled deeply. She smelled so good, like lavender and summer rain.

"Good morning, Deputy."

"Yes ma'am. It sure is. Jenny, let's go to th' movies tomorrow. Let me introduce ya' to the town before we leave for Wyoming next week. What do ya' say? Would ya' go out with a guy like me?"

Jenny laughed, "It might take a little persuading. Are you sure you want a girl like me on your arm?"

"Persuading ya' would be half the fun. I want th' whole world to see that you're mine. I want you, Jenny. Every part of ya'." Enos guided her hips back and she took a hitched breath when he nibbled on her ear.

With a crooked grin she said, "You have an insatiable appetite, Deputy Strate."

Enos raised her chin with his finger and guided her face to his. "It's the menu."

She blushed a delicious peachy shade and said, "Speaking of the menu, I have a real treat for you this morning. I figured it's about time we put that table to good use. Have a seat and I'll have the food ready in a minute."

"I'm gonna kiss ya' first." With a waggle of his eyebrows, Enos moved to capture her lips in a powerful kiss. His mouth promised what he had been unable to vocalize. She was his. He would claim her, body and soul, keep her by his side, and love her until his dying day. His hand cradled her face. Sparks tingled down his spine when his kiss became possessive and his tongue found hers.

Jenny moaned deeply and swayed, dropping the spatula in the frying pan. She surrendered to him and fed on his kiss like she would never let go. His blood began to heat and sinful thoughts of her on the kitchen table drove him wild. Enos ached with need and everyplace her body touched his felt like fire, burning through the layer of clothes and stoking his desire. More images came to mind as he thought of last night. Memories of his hands tangled in her hair, those kiss swollen lips as they–


Enos jumped and broke the kiss. Ding dang it. "Mornin' Drake." He let her go and darted to the other side of the room. Drake was like a bucket of ice water and he could feel the reproachful glare on his back.

"Drake, you're becoming a pest." Jenny scolded.

"Good. That means I've done my job." The eldest MacFarland strolled in the room and took a seat at the butcher-block table.

There goes my plan for th' table. Enos sighed and pulled two coffee mugs from the cupboard.

Drake leaned on his elbows and asked Jenny, "Has Jaxon called?"

"Not since last night and sneaking up on us is not your job." Jenny retrieved the spatula and turned her attention back to the stove. "The coffee is ready. Why don't you and Enos go ahead and start?"

"I'll get th' coffee." Enos kept his back turned as he poured the hot brew.

He needed the distraction before he faced Jenny's brother. His relationship with Drake wasn't nearly as comfortable as what he shared with Jaxon, but they were making progress. When Enos turned around, Jenny was placing a platter of food on the table.

Drake quirked an eyebrow and said, "Jenny, ya have no' fixed a full Scottish breakfast in ages. What are we celebrating?" His brows drew down and he glared at Enos. "What exactly do we have to celebrate?"

"Plenty." Jenny replied sharply. "Enos invited us into his home, don't you think that's reason enough?"

"Aye, two weeks ago. I'm grateful for it, but must ya always be winchin the man?"

"Winchin?" Enos approached the table and handed Drake his coffee.

Drake took the mug and his mouth curved in a half-smile. "Like snoggin? Mind yourself, Enos. Or I'll be expecting a proper wedding."

"Drake Jacob MacFarland!" Jenny rounded on her brother. "I will kiss him whenever I please and before you get high and mighty about it just remember, I know what you've been about lately."

Drake choked and Jenny popped a hand on her hip with a look of utter amusement. Eventually Drake regained his composure. He stood and took her face in his large hands.

"I'm sorry, lass. It's no' easy to let go of my baby sister. Just making sure he continues to treat ya well. We've always looked out for ya." Drake kissed her forehead and returned to his chair.

Jenny blushed, again. "Let's say grace and eat."

"I ain't gonna hurt her, Drake. Ya' got my word on that." Enos offered his hand and the two men shook on it.

Enos sat at the table and couldn't help but smile. Drake's surly nature and overprotective streak might get in the way, but he treated Jenny with such endearing tenderness that he couldn't get too upset over it. The bond between the MacFarlands reminded him of the bond between the Duke cousins.

After Enos led the blessing, Jenny returned to the stove to start the eggs. He knew she could cook, but this wasn't her typical breakfast. He had no idea what he was in for. She started by serving yogurt, fresh fruit and the smoothest oatmeal he'd ever tasted. Drake called it parritch, or porridge. Enos didn't care what it was called as long as there was more of it. He thought the eggs were all that there was left, but then Jenny brought over toast in a crisping rack and plates of hot food.

"Potato scones, fried eggs, sautéed mushrooms, a rasher of bacon, sausage, baked beans and broiled tomatoes." Jenny sat the plates in front of the men and poured Enos a glass of buttermilk. "Sorry, Drake. I couldn't swing the black pudding."

"Possum on a gumbush!" Enos stared at the plate in amazement. "Would ya' look at that!? I ain't tried baked beans for breakfast before. This sure looks tasty!"

Drake stabbed a mushroom and said, "Aye, my sister knows how to fill a man's stomach. Ya willnae need to eat again until sometime after two. Try the tomatoes."

Enos dug in and smiled contentedly. "Mmm, I could get attached to this."

Jenny moved to wrap her arms around his shoulders and whispered, "I'm attached to a lot of things around here." When she kissed his cheek, Enos felt it to his toes. The melodic sound of her laughter warmed him through and through.

"Blimey hell." Drake muttered and rolled his eyes. "Jenny, have ya given any more thought to what we will do about Daisy when we leave for Wyoming?"

"I thought we would discuss it tonight. Jaxon will have heard from his handler by then." Jenny sat next to Enos and poured her tea. "She…um…might have to come along."

This time Enos choked and Jenny gently patted his back. "You okay, Deputy?"

By the time he recovered, his eyes were watering. "Are ya' serious?"

"I don't think we have a choice," she replied sympathetically. "If we're going to watch her around the clock, we need at least two people and we can't split up."

"I reckon it's for th' best, but…" Enos couldn't hide his disappointment. Ding dang it, I had plans!

The front door opened and slammed shut. When Jaxon walked into the kitchen Jenny shot out of her chair. "Jaxon!? What happened to you!?"

Drake shoved his chair back and stood with his fists clenched at his sides. His voice was stuck in his throat.

"Possum on a gumbush! Who beat you up?" Enos also stood, but Jenny was already across the room.

She took Jaxon's arm and said, "Come sit down and tell us what happened. Are you alright? Is Daisy safe?"

"Yes, she's fine and I'm all right, but I don't want to sit down. It was my handler, not Monroe. Travis was teaching me a lesson. Apparently we're all too comfortable." Jaxon shot an angry glare at Drake and drummed his fingers on the envelope in his hand. "Some of us are more comfortable than others."

"What the bloody hell did the arse mean by that?" Drake crossed his arms and snarled, "Travis will answer to me for it. Ya had enough lessons from father. I willnae let him get away with it! Where is he? I'll give him a thumpin' so pure he'll not try that again."

"Stop it, Drake." Jenny looked up at Jaxon and examined his injuries. "That looks painful. Please sit down. I'll get some ice for you and we can talk."

"I'll get th' aspirin. Ya' look like ya' need it." Enos moved to the counter.

Jaxon caught Jenny by the arm before she moved away. "Sis, I've had a rotten night. I could really use a little space. I need a shower before I meet with the Dukes. I have to convince Daisy to go with us to Wyoming. Travis wants us on the road tomorrow."

"T-tomorrow?" Enos stammered and handed him the aspirin bottle. "Why so early?"

"Monroe knows we're here. Travis thinks we'll be safer in Wyoming. It's only a few days." With a sidelong glance, Jaxon said, "Drake, you need to go watch Daisy at the farm. Jenny, please don't worry. I'm just tired and sore."

"It's my job to worry," she said softly. "You're not in this alone anymore."

Enos hadn't seen Jaxon in such a state before. He was an absolute wreck. His lip was busted and his shirt was ripped and dirty. He had scrapes on his knuckles and a bruise on his jaw, but the defeated look in his eyes was heart wrenching.

Drake pulled his keys from his pocket and kissed Jenny's cheek. "I'll be at the farm. Thanks for breakfast." Then turning to Jaxon, he put a firm hand on his shoulder and said, "Numpty, ya need rest. Ya cannae work this hard. It is no' good for ya and I'll not watch ya burn yourself out. Okay?"

Jaxon couldn't look him in the eye. He eventually nodded and Drake gave Jenny a worried look before he left the house.

"Go on upstairs." Jenny said, sweetly. "I'll bring you the ice in a few minutes. Do you want some breakfast? I made broiled tomatoes."

"No, I'm not hungry, but thanks." Jaxon sighed and pulled her close, pressing his forehead to hers. He closed his eyes and whispered, sad and broken, "I love you, sis. I don't know what I'd do without you."

"Oh, Numpty. It's going to be alright. I love you, too. Come with me. I'll walk you upstairs."