Chapter 24 The Life

Sherriff Charlie Forks rode up to the Lazy B Ranch not particularly looking forward to the chore he was set to do. He had conferred with the circuit judge about the Uley-Black situation and got an opinion on it. He also was sad to convey the latest bulletin on Jacob Black to his sister. She was in a tough spot all in all and didn't deserve it, in his opinion.

He rode right up to the house and dismounted, swinging his horse's reins over a post that was there for the purpose. Climbing up the porch stairs he knocked on the door. Hat in hand, he waited until the door was answered by none other than Emmett McCarty. Why was he here?

"Morning Emmett. Miss Black and Mr. Uley around?"

"Yes. They are in the house. You want to come in?"

"Yep. I have some news for them."

Emmett led Charlie into the parlor where Rose and Sam were pointedly ignoring each other. Rose was working on some needle work and Sam was playing with a deck of cards. As the two men walked in, both Rose and Sam jumped up as if they were glad of the distraction that Sherriff presented.

"Good Afternoon, ma'am—sir," Charlie said as he pulled off his hat.

"So, my good man, do you have some news for us?" Sam asked, a jovial smile on his face.

"I do. Why don't we sit down and I will tell you what I've discovered."

All of them sat, even Emmett. Sherriff had to figure out what his role was here. Something was up with that. Shouldn't he be up at Bear Valley Ranch? Curious. But on to the business at hand.

"I spoke to Judge Weber and he considered your situation and came up with this decision. Now, Mr. William Black, Rosalie and Jacob's father's last will and testament, which is on file at the county courthouse, states that the Lazy B Ranch be divided in half; one part goes to Jacob and the other goes to Rosalie after his death. This deed to the land was drawn accordingly after Mr. Black died." He lifted up the document that Rosalie had given him.

"The deed you have, Mr. Uley has been superseded and you have no claim to the land at all. You do have recourse against Jacob within the civil court but as it is, you are a guest here, not someone who can legally claim ownership."

"Damnation!" Sam exclaimed. "I will tear the hide off of that whippersnapper!"

"Have you had any news of Mr. Black, Sheriff?" Cookie asked.

"No. He's disappeared into thin air."

Turning to Rosalie, Sheriff Forks softened his voice. "I am sorry to tell you, Miss Black, but formal charges have been laid. Jacob is wanted dead or alive for kidnapping Mrs. Cullen, and threatening bodily harm against her."

"What if Mrs. Cullen refuses to press charges?" Rosalie asked.

"She is not the one that pressed these charges, ma'am. The state's attorney did."

Rosalie nodded. She had thought as much. Even she had to admit that Jacob had gone beyond the pale in his behavior. And he used to be such a wonderful scamp. True he was over indulged but he never let it go too far, not until Pa died and then there was nothing and no one could stop him.

Rose sighed and stood. "Thank you, Sheriff, I am glad you took care of this business in a timely manner."

She then turned to Sam Uley and lifted her chin as she said, "Can we help you pack so you can get on the road?"

Sam looked surprised. Rose was basically kicking him out of her house. "No, thank you ma'am. It won't take me five minutes to be out of here."

"That's good. That way, you can go into town with Sheriff Forks."

Knowing he could not put up much of an argument there, Sam grimly nodded and left the room to get his belongings together. He was determined that, though Rosalie Black may have heard the last of him, Jacob Black hadn't.

The Sheriff turned and looked significantly at Rosalie and Emmett standing together. "Uh, I was surprised to see you here today, Emmett."

Cookie smiled. "I am helping Miss Rosalie out. It isn't right for her to be here all by her lonesome, especially with all the wild things that have been happening."

Rosalie smiled at Emmett then spoke to Sheriff Forks, "I am very thankful to have Mr. McCarty's help."

The Sheriff looked thoughtful for a moment, then shrugged his shoulders and went outside. Cookie followed him to get Sam Uley's horse saddled.

Rosalie watched them go and then went back to her needlework project. She hated crewel work. She stabbed the needle through the fabric as she heard Sam clatter down the steps. Good riddance, she thought as she rose to bid him good bye.

"Have a lovely trip back to town, Mr. Uley." She smiled sweetly.

Sam nodded at her. "If you happen to see your brother, Miss Black, please tell him I want a word with him."

"You and about half the county, Mr. Uley."

Sam harrumphed and walked out of the house. Rosalie smiled and went back to her handwork. A few minutes later, Emmett came in and stood watching her, not saying anything.

Rosalie looked up and noticed the twinkle in his eye. "What are you thinking, Emmett?"

"A lot of things, Miss Rosie. Primarily, that you told Sam Uley that we were affianced. Once he gets to town, we'll have a problem."

"A problem?"

"I would say so. I'm sure that the Sherriff will pump Uley for information as they ride back together and you know that Charlie Forks is the biggest gossip in town. This time tomorrow, it's going to be all over that you and I are getting married."

Rosalie stood and took a few steps closer to where he was standing. "So? Does that upset you, Mr. McCarty?"

"I wouldn't say it upsets me, Miss Black, but it does call to mind that I haven't actually asked you to be my wife, yet."

"I did notice that, Emmett." Rosalie shrugged.

"A man tends to like to be in on those sorts of decisions, I am thinking."

"But some men take so long to come to the point."

Cookie studied Rosalie's face. "I believe some men have to consider things a bit before they get that far."

"And what things would they be?"

"Whether he could dare to dream that the most wonderful gal in the world would choose him, especially after she told him once he wasn't good enough."

Rosalie took another step towards Emmett. "Maybe the gal had been completely childish and shallow before. Perhaps she has finally learned what is truly important and finally realized the only thing that could make her happy. I think she would consider him again if he'd just ask."

"Hmmm. So you advise him to ask?"

"I would."



Cookie was the one to actually close the gap between them as he took her hands in his. "Miss Rosalie? Would you marry me?"

"I would."

Beaming, Cookie said, "I guess we won't have to worry about the gossip mongers anymore," and then leaned in to heartily kiss his intended.

A few moments later he asked, "When do you want to get married?"


"I will be ready whenever you are. I need to talk to Edward Cullen, though."

"You do?"

"Yeah. I have to tell him he needs a new cook."

"Emmett, I want the Lazy B to start ranching again. Do you think there's a way we can do it?"

"There's always a way. We'd have to buy cattle and hire hands. I've got some money put by but not enough."

Rosalie looked around. "I am afraid there's nothing here worth selling to get the money we'd need. Jacob took anything that would garner ready cash. I don't know how we'll do it."

"We'll find a way, Rosie. Miracles do happen." He took her in his arms once again, to prove it.

Two Months Later

The amazing thing was, since Cookie left Bear Valley Ranch, Alice stepped into his place willingly and happily. It seemed she was a natural in the kitchen and the men were tickled that such a little dynamo was the one to dish up their grub.

But it wasn't grub. It was fine eating. Alice could make scrambled eggs seem like the rapture.

"Alice, where on earth did you learn to cook like this?" Bella had asked one day while they were preparing dinner together.

"It was happenstance. My governess was sweet on our chef, so I spent a lot more time down in the kitchen than Mama ever knew. But Henri, the chef, noticed how interested I was in his craft and was happy to teach me. He was from France and I believe what I cook reflects that. I have always enjoyed cooking and am so glad I now have the chance. "

"We are certainly benefiting from it, I'd say. You are a blessing to us, especially under the circumstances."

Bella looked out of the window at her bourgeoning vegetable garden. They had harvested peas, pole beans, summer squash, cucumbers, onions, carrots, and tomatoes. Bella had spent most of her days this summer in the kitchen pickling, and putting up vegetables for the fall. The new mason jars made it so easy.

She couldn't wait until the winter when the snow was high on the ground and she could present Edward a dish of summery pole beans and tomatoes. She had Tyler build shelves in the kitchen to store the fruits of her labor and she was slowly filling them up.

Cookie and Rosalie had come to Bear Valley Ranch to announce their engagement soon after Jacob Black disappeared. It was not surprising to Bella and she was very happy for them. Cookie stayed at Rosalie's ranch, bedding down on the porch until the circuit riding preacher showed up again and they could be married.

Instead of a dance that weekend, the town had a wedding. Apparently forgetting that Rosalie Black had been stricken from the social register, Mrs. Cope was in rare form hosting the reception in the livery stable. It was a joyous occasion. Bella had never seen a happier looking Bride and Groom. This trip to town for Preacher weekend was eventful but in a good way, contrary to the first one Bella attended.

Cookie had been talking to Edward about the Lazy B Ranch and how to get it restarted. Later, Edward and Bella shared a sweet moment in the night before they drifted off to sleep. "I wish I could loan Cookie the money he needs for cattle but my profits aren't there this year."

"And your expenses are bigger than you expected." Bella felt guilty. She knew she had cost him quite a bit of money, moving her out there and their stay in Denver plus all of the improvements she had made did come with a cost. She was thinking about how the pump house was now the bath house, complete with a stove to heat the water. Also, the purchase of two milk cows, the construction and fitting out of a chicken coop, and the canning equipment were additional expenses. True, the quality of their lives was improved but there were costs involved.

Edward's kiss interrupted her train of thought. "Yes, I have more expenses but I have more joy than I could have ever imagined. I wouldn't have things any other way. You are my pearl, dear heart."

Bella nuzzled his neck and drifted off to sleep, thinking that if she was his pearl, he was certainly her treasure.

"When a man is fond, there's no telling how far he will go to protect his ladylove," Bella recited, then giggled, Alice joining her. There was no doubt that their own men were fond; they could barely behave circumspectly when around other people.

A fire had appeared in Jasper and Alice's marriage since that momentous Preacher Sunday and it was quite sweet to watch, at least Bella thought.

Bella and Alice shared knowing glances and then picked up their baskets of vegetables and went into the kitchen. Rascal was big enough now to let roam the yard and so, they left him nosing around the garden. Tyler constructed a tidy dog house for him and the pup seemed happy enough with it. Bella wasn't sure if Tyler appreciated the playful pup's high spirits but Boy was always giggling and laughing whenever Rascal was about. Bella thought there was nothing as joyful as a little boy's laughter.

One day she'll be listening to the laughter of her own child Bella thought. She truly couldn't wait. Just as they had discussed, Edward and Bella were leaving the chance of a baby in the hands of God but so far, there was no sign that one was on the way. Patience is a virtue she reminded herself.

Sighing, she went about preparing the vegetables, with Alice's help, either for the day's meals or for canning. At dinner time, Alice left the kitchen to get the dining room ready for the meal as the men would be coming in soon. Bella was finishing up in the kitchen when she heard the door slam to the bath house and she knew that Edward was back.

Smiling, she started to prepare their plates. She carried them over to the main house so they could have a private meal, just the two of them. Alice and Jasper preferred to eat in the dining room with the hands. Like the artiste that she was, Alice liked to see the men enjoy what she had prepared.

Bella loved this time alone with Edward. He made her heart happy just by being in the same room with her. Her back was to the door as she was bending over the table, so Edward's first sight of her was of her luscious behind. She hadn't heard him coming in as he was in the habit of taking off his boots at the door—there's no telling what he would have tracked in there from the paddock and stable.

She had noticed a spot on the table cloth and was leaning over, rubbing it with a napkin, trying to get it out. She was putting a lot of vigor into it, so Edward got the benefit of seeing her sweet little behind shimmy and shake as she tried to remove the spot.

The first she knew of Edward's presence was a very suggestive wolf whistle and she jumped to find him propped in the doorway, grinning at her with a gleam in his eye.

"Edward! You surprised me!"

He walked over to her and kissed her nose. "I was just admiring the view."

Bella was blushing. "Sir, I fear you were being forward."

"Forward and backward, too. It was still a thing of beauty to behold." His hands drifted down to her bottom.

Bella laughed and shook her head, "Edward, do you want your dinner now?"

"I'd rather have you but now is not the time. I need to talk to you about something." He looked serious. They sat down at the table and Bella looked questioningly at her husband.

"Jasper and Alice are going back home next week."

"Oh." Bella was surprised how disappointed she was to hear that. "Why so soon? I thought they were going to stay until next month."

"Our father wrote asking for his quicker return. There's something business related that needs Jasper's attention."

"I will miss them." Bella stirred her soup, suddenly sad.

"Well, they suggested that they take you to Chicago with them for a visit."

"Without you?"

Edward nodded and then said, "I can't leave the ranch, Bella."

Bella immediately responded, "Then, no."

"But think about it, Bella. You will be able to meet my parents, who are desperate to see you, and Chicago is a fine town. You would enjoy the sights. And also, you can be safe from Jacob."

"Jacob?" They hadn't spoken of Jacob in a while. He had disappeared and no one had heard hide or hair of him.

"Yes, Bella. I fear he's out there somewhere just biding his time, waiting until our guard is down and then he'll come after you again."

"I don't want to go. Not without you."

"Bella, the cattle drive is coming up in just a month. I will have to leave home to take the herd to market. You cannot go with me."

"For how long would you send me to Chicago, Edward?"

"At least until I get back from the drive. The beginning of November?"

"Edward," her voice was breaking, "that would mean we'd be apart for almost two months. I can't be away from you for that long. I can't. Please don't send me away."

Edward's own expression was pained. A separation from her would feel like a hole in his heart but he had no idea how he was going to keep her safe during the cattle drive. "I don't want to be parted from you, either. I just don't know of another way."

Bella had lost her appetite completely and she was feeling like she was going to break in a thousand pieces. She rose from the table and mumbled, "Excuse me."

She dashed into their bedroom and shut the door as tears began to fall. Edward got up to follow her and found her lying across their bed sobbing into her pillow. He didn't know what to do. He sat down on the bed and looked helplessly at his distraught wife. She was sobbing so hard, she had already saturated the pillow. He had never seen her so upset.

'Bella don't cry… Please don't." He patted her on the back.

"Don't send me away from you, Edward," she sobbed.

"Oh, Bella." Edward reached over to take her into his arms.

She gratefully curled against him and burrowed her face into his neck. "You don't have to go if we can think of something to do to keep you safe while I am gone."

"Who's going to be your chuck wagon cook?"

"Cookie is. He doesn't have a herd of his own, so he agreed to run our chuck wagon during the drive."

"So that means Rosalie will be alone, too?"

"I don't know what they plan to do while he is gone."

"Perhaps Rosalie and I can stay together? Along with Tyler? You said he generally stays back to keep an eye on the place, right?"

"That's true but it wouldn't be as safe as you leaving with Jasper and Alice for Chicago."

"I didn't come west, Edward, to be safe. I came west to live my life with you. I can't run away every time something seems threatening to us, else I would never stay home. I chose this life, Edward. It is what I want."

He tenderly stroked her back as he held her close. He knew there would be no running. They would face this together. Somehow.

Chapter 25 The Farewell

Bella and Alice both cried on the day they parted. For the first time in her life, Bella understood how it felt to have a true sister of the heart. She and Alice became close over the time they were together; each learning from the other and enjoying their companionship.

Alice had forgiven Edward for disappointing her sister all those years ago after she realized that Bella and Edward were simply meant to be. And truly, Frances really wasn't such a catch in the first place, if Alice was being completely honest.

Jasper was sad to be going, too. He enjoyed his days spent in the saddle with Edward and working with his hands. He was truly melancholy about the prospect of going back to Chicago and trading his broken in denim blue jeans for the constraints of a business suit.

He stood on the porch of the ranch house and looked out over Bear Valley Ranch and envied the life his brother created. However, he also realized that Edward was a different sort of man than he was. He doubt he'd ever wish to give up the stability and comfort of his Chicago life on a permanent basis and strike out on his own with nothing, as Edward did all those years ago. He liked a sure thing and Chicago was that for him.

Edward had enjoyed having his brother's company. They worked well together and Jasper's easy going nature and willingness to chip in whenever there was work to do made him handy to have around. He would miss him. The fact that Bella and his brother and sister-in-law hit it off so well made the suggestion that she go back to Chicago with them feasible, if he put Bella's feelings aside.

But Bella convinced him they shouldn't be parted for that long. To tell the truth, he didn't need much convincing. He would have felt gutted to be without her for but he needed to find a way to keep her safe while he was on the drive.

Edward waived his little brother and wife off with Bella at his side. He stood smiling but internally he was in turmoil. He couldn't take Bella with him on the cattle drive because she was not hardened enough to spend seven days in the saddle.

She couldn't ride with Cookie in the chuck wagon simply because he wouldn't stay with the herd so she'd be more exposed than if she stayed home. Cookie would drive ahead of the herd, set up camp, and prepare a hot meal ready for the cowboys when the herd caught up to him. So basically, the chuck wagon was travelling on its own. It would be very easy for them to be ambushed.

Then again, he felt very uneasy leaving her at home with just Tyler to protect her. As he recalled, Tyler didn't do such a good job the last time. And he couldn't hire someone to come guard her because all available men were working on the drive for all the ranches around.

He didn't know what he was going to do.

Bella was going to surprise Edward today. He was working in the wheat field closest to their house but he was so busy, he asked that she just send a sandwich or two down to him to eat at dinnertime. She decided to do better than that.

She rushed through her morning chores and then got the dinner on for the men. It was a simple dinner, one that Lauren and Tyler could easily manage on their own once it came time for the men to eat. She found a large basket, lined it with a gingham napkin and then made up several roast beef sandwiches, a bottle of coffee, and a container of cream. After that, she scooped out a large serving of berry cobbler that she had made for the sweet from blackberries she had picked the day before. She put the cobbler in a bowl, covered it with a towel and packed it away with the rest of the picnic food.

"Lauren, do you know what to do for dinner now?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"I'll be back by mid-afternoon, then. Thank you." She smiled, gratified that she could take this time to sneak off to be with her husband. With Alice and Cookie gone, she had much more work to do and was finding that her time with her husband was the victim of it. By the time all her daily chores were completed, she was exhausted and could barely wash her face before climbing into bed.

Frequently, by the time Edward joined her, she'd be sound asleep and he couldn't bring himself to wake her for his own selfish desires. And as soon as she woke in the morning, she had to rise because the cows needed milking and breakfast for the whole ranch needed cooking. Bella was happy with her life but she missed the time with Edward. A new cook was coming after the drive and that should free her time a little.

Bella picked up a blanket, the basket of food, her wide-brimmed hat and then practically skipped down the hill to where Edward was working. A large oak tree threw beautiful shade along the edge of the field and so Bella spread the blanket there and set out the food and drink. She stood, hands on hips to watch her husband as he worked in the field.

He had seen her of course, the minute she was within his sight a smile lit his face and he tipped his hat. He sent his workers up for dinner, then finished what they had been doing before walking over to his sweetheart.

Bella wished she could paint a picture of him as he neared her. The look in his eyes, the smile on his lips, the leonine way his body moved all could be features in her dreams for ages. Before reaching her, he looked around to make sure the men were gone, then upon entering the shade of the tree, he took her into his arms and his kiss matched the ardor of his gaze.

"Oh, Edward. I've missed your company," she said afterwards.

"I've missed every part of yours, too."

He pulled her down to sit next to him on the blanket. "We both have been caught up in our work and there is no help for it. It won't get done if we don't do it."

"I thought we could steal some time together with a picnic." She handed him a wet towel. Edward was fastidious for a cowboy and he didn't like to eat with dirty hands.

As he wiped his hands and face, Bella said, "I've brought sandwiches and a treat."

"But you are the treat, wife."

"Then, I've brought two treats," she laughed. "The other is blackberry cobbler and cream. I picked the blackberries yesterday, baked the cobbler this morning and the cream, I skimmed from the milk our own cows gave us." She handed him a sandwich wrapped in brown paper.

Edward smiled, "Can I have my treat first?"

Bella was surprised but shrugged and reached for the basket to get the bowl of cobbler out. Edward set down the sandwich and stopped her by gently cupping her cheek and pushing her back so that she lay upon the blanket, in the tall grass under the tree. "This is the treat I want first."

He kissed her again and it was like fireworks exploding under her skin. He lovingly traced the sensitive part along the inside of her lips with his tongue and let his hand travel downward to tenderly tease her bosom.

"Edward, don't you think we are rather exposed to be doing this?" Bella had to ask, especially considering how their outdoor activities turned out the last time.

"We can just embrace a bit, Bella. It would take the edge off my longing for you."

They kissed some more; sweet, loving, electrifying kisses and Bella sighed, "I am afraid, my love, it does the opposite for me. It winds me up so tight that I wouldn't care if someone was watching. That's not very modest, is it?" Her fingers traced the line of his jaw.

Edward laughed and sat up, "Kissing you does whet my appetite and I should know better but I can't resist you. Come hell or high water, tonight I will make sure to come to bed with you so that we can share some private moments."

He picked up his sandwich and unwrapped the paper from it.

Bella grabbed one for herself. They spoke companionably as they ate, chatting about their day when suddenly they were hailed from across the field.

"Woo HOOO! Edward Cullen!" Bella's eyes widened as she counted her blessings that they hadn't gone any further with their affections just now.

Edward stood up to see who it was then he waved and called, "We're over here Sherriff."

As soon as Charlie got close enough, he started to apologize for intruding upon them. "So sorry to disturb your dinner but I've brought some news that I knew you'd want to hear."

Bella, ever the gracious lady, said, "Oh, Sheriff Forks, please join us. I'd wager you haven't had your dinner today. We have plenty to share. Sit down!" She handed him a sandwich and he willingly accepted it.

"Why thank you, ma'am. 'Tis a pleasure to join you."

The men settled themselves on the blanket with Bella. Charlie unwrapped his sandwich and took a bite.

Bella and Edward looked at him attentively, wondering what the congenial man had to say but Charlie was in no hurry to tell them.

"Your cattle look prime, Edward."

"Yes, fortunately they've been able to feed well this summer. I hope to recoup the losses of last winter at market."

"You just might, as not many herds are in the shape yours are."

"That's hopeful news for us, then."

Charlie nodded and held up his sandwich to Bella. "This is good eatin' ma'am."

He was eying the bowl of cobbler in the basket.

"Would you like another? You are welcome to it."

"I do believe I will, thank you," and he picked up another wrapped package and dug into its contents.

"Your brother and sister have left the area, haven't they?"

"Yes, they left a while ago. We received a letter telling of their safe return to Chicago."

"That's good to hear. Right nice couple those two were. Fit right in hereabouts."

"We enjoyed their company very much and were sad when they had to go back," Bella said.

"Well, perhaps they'll come again?"

"I hope so," Bella said with just a shade of melancholy in her voice.

The Sheriff had finished off his second sandwich and so Bella offered him some coffee and cobbler.

"Now that's a pleasure I can't deny!"

So Bella was able to divide the cobbler between the two men. She poured the cream on top, then poured two cups of coffee for them. She had only brought dishes enough for herself and Edward so, being the proper hostess, gave her portion up to the guest. She really didn't mind. She just wished the man would tell them what he came to say.

"So, Edward, we've had some news about Jacob Black."

Bella's heart sped up and she could fell frissons of fear skitter up her spine. Edward stiffened and looked grim.

"It seems that Sam Uley tracked him down in Tombstone and shot him dead. Uley sent word wanting the reward."

"Did he also send proof of his claim?" Edward asked.

"Yes. The Sheriff down there has Jacob Black's belongings and some papers that identify him."

"When did this happen?" Edward continued.

"Last week or so. Shoot out at high noon right on the main street."

Bella was stunned. "Dead? Oh, poor Rosalie. Have you told her?"

"No. Thought I'd come here first as you folks were the ones who were being threatened by Jacob Black."

Bella turned to Edward with a worried look. "We will have to go to her. She will be devastated."

Edward nodded at his wife but internally, he was rejoicing. His major problem was solved with the death of Jacob, Although he was disappointed that he wasn't the one to put that dog out of his misery, he knew could now safely leave Bella at home with the Crowleys while he went on the drive . He felt like the weight of the world had lifted from his shoulders.

The Sheriff stood as he dusted the crumbs of his meal from his fingers and got ready to go. "I'll just be getting over to the Lazy B now. Mrs. McCarty needs to know this news as well. Good afternoon, Ma'am. Edward."

And he nodded and took off back over the field. Soon he was out of sight.

Edward turned to Bella and said, "You are wondrous, sweetheart."

"I am wondrous?"

"Yes. Here this devil, Jacob Black, had foul intentions towards you, insulted you, kidnapped you, and most likely caused us a terrible loss, and you are not rejoicing at his death but are concerned only about the feelings of his sister."

"He did some bad things, Edward, but Rosalie still loved him. I never like to hear of the untimely death of anyone, no matter how much deserved, but Rosalie was hurt by his behavior, too. She has suffered with embarrassment, betrayal, and an uncertain future because of her brother's antics but still he was her brother and I think her heart will be broken over this news." She started gathering up their dishes.

Edward stood and helped her, finally folding the blanket and putting it in the basket. The men were coming down to the field now, so after biding Bella adieu and tipping his hat he went over to give instructions for the rest of the afternoon. Bella waited until he was finished with Eric and then they both walked up the hill to the ranch house.

"I am going to get cleaned up, Bella. I will get Tyler to saddle Tanya and Kate for us. Do you feel like riding over?"

"That would be fine, thank you Edward." Bella smiled and they parted their ways.

She went into the cook house to dispose of her basket and then rushed over to the house to get changed for the visit to the Lazy B. Edward soon joined her as she was changing into her riding costume. She was lacing up her corset as he walked in.

He smiled teasingly, "Do you need any help with that?"

"I could always use your attention, Mr. Cullen," she teased right back.

Edward, always willing, stepped forward to put his hand to the task. Bella was wearing a pair of drawers that covered her from waist to knee. There was no crotch in this garment because taking them down for personal necessity would involve too many clothing adjustments. All a lady had to do was to pull up her dress and pull open the placket of her drawers, take care of business, and she was done. It could be drafty at times but nothing too uncomfortable. A lady just had to always remember to keep her knees together and her dress pulled down.

Over top her drawers, Bella was wearing a chemise. This was a cotton or linen undergarment that covered a lady from shoulders to below the knee. The one Bella was wearing was sleeveless but she had some heavier, flannel long-sleeved ones that she was saving for winter. Chemises could be plain or adorned with lace and embroidery. Bella liked her chemises to be feminine so occasionally she'd add a ruffle to the hem or around the neck.

The corset was designed to accentuate womanly curves. It was a garment that was stiffened with whalebone and worn around the waist. Tapes pulled it tightly to enhance a woman's figure so that the bosoms were held upwards, the waist drawn in and the hips flowed gently outward. It looked quite appealing but if pulled too tightly could be a torture device.

Bella turned her back to Edward and moved her long hair out of the way so he could have access to the tapes. She had gotten most of them adjusted but the ones towards the top were harder for her to reach. She was glad of Edward's help.

Edward loved these moments. For some reason the simple intimacy spoke to the fact of their happily married state. His current relief from his worry over Jacob Black simply gladdened his heart more. Plus, he couldn't resist kissing her neck as he did it.

"Edward you are trying to distract me."

He pushed up against her to show that he was also distracted.

She had to laugh. "Edward we are going to be paying a condolence visit. How can you think about such things now?"

He answered her with his lips still behind her ear, "As I told you soon after we wed, I will always be ready, willing, and able to take advantage of seeing my beautiful wife dressed only in her most personal garments."

He slid his arms around her waist to pull her completely flush against him. "I love you," he whispered.

And of course, Bella melted. Sighing his name, she put her head back against his chest and shut her eyes, drowning in the sensations he was causing. Edward continued to kiss her neck and nibble at her earlobe. His hands were tracing her newly defined curves, then he reached down to push her hard against his own growing desire.

Bella put her hand over his own and rubbed her hips back and forth, her aim was to encourage him.

He didn't need encouragement. Groaning he lifted her chemise and felt between her legs for the sweet spot that he was always hungry for.

"Kneel on the edge of the bed so we will be even, Bella" he pleaded.

She did as he asked as he unbuttoned his pants and kicked them off, unfurling himself from his own undergarment, he gently guided her to bend over and then brought himself to herself and entered within.

Bella gasped in pleasure, for this sensation was different in a good way. "Oh, Edward that feels so good."

"You're so incredibly close around me like this, Bella." His voice reflected his enjoyment. He leaned over her, one hand reaching around to touch her just there, the other bracing himself on the mattress and sought to pleasure her as much as he was being pleasured. His hips and hand moved in synchrony.

Bella was on her hands and knees, her hands in fists as she pushed as hard as she could against Edward. She could feel the pressure growing within her and she tightly clenched her eyes shut and bit her bottom lip.

As he moved, Edward started murmuring soft words in her ears, "My Bella, oh you are so fine to me. I am lost in you… I am lost. You are my heart."

He placed a kiss behind her ear and then stood as he felt both of their peaks were approaching. Suddenly, they were soaring, each nerve responding to their physical love. Bella collapsed on their bed, Edward following behind her. They both were panting and euphoric.

Bella turned her head to look at her husband whose eyes were shut and lips were curled into a little smile. She put a hand up to his cheek. "I love you, Edward."

His eyes opened, he tenderly looked deep into hers and kissed her sweetly.

"So long as I can breathe or I can see, so long lives your love which gives life to me," he quoted.

They lay there for a bit until Edward remembered that by now, the horses must be standing waiting for them and so they hurriedly finished getting ready.

They walked out to the barn and found both Tanya and Kate waiting patiently for them. As Edward helped Bella up into her saddle, he couldn't help but to let his hands pause a little longer than necessary. He sighed. This overwhelming emotion he had for her took over all his senses.

He reckoned that he felt such an arching joy mostly due to the fact that his worry about Jacob Black was gone. All he could see ahead was a wonderful and blessed life he was going to share with the love of his life.

Smiling at Bella, he said, "Let us go, my heart."

And they rode out of the barnyard together on their way to pay their sympathies to Rosalie Black McCarty at the Lazy B Ranch.

AN: A placket is the reinforced edge to a garment where buttons or hooks could be attached but in the case of drawers, none were. Bella's drawers' placket was very similar to the opening in a man's boxers, just much bigger.

Men usually wore unionsuits in those days, a completely unsexy form of underwear, so I didn't describe them here. Google pictures of unionsuits and you'll thank me.

The quote is from Shakespeare.

Chapter 26 The Drive

When Bella and Edward arrived at the Lazy B Ranch, there seemed to be no one around. The Sherriff's horse wasn't outside the house but a pile of horse manure was indicating that he had been there but left.

Bella and Edward dismounted and climbed the stairs to the porch and knocked on the door. There was no answer.

"Perhaps they have no wish for visitors at the moment, Edward."

"That could be the case."

They knocked once more and there was still no answer.

"Could they be outside?" Bella ventured.

"Let's look around."

They walked around to the back of the house and saw both Cookie and Rosalie. She was sitting on a swing that hung from a large tree but she wasn't swinging. Cookie was standing over her with a hand on her shoulder.

Bella and Edward stopped uncertainly, not knowing whether they should make themselves known but before they could decide, Cookie looked up and saw them standing there. He waved and then bent down to say something to Rosalie. Then she stood, put her arm through Cookie's and walked over to meet Edward and Bella.

Bella watched Rosalie approach compassionately, trying to discern exactly how she wanted to be treated at the moment. The shock of such grave news affects people differently. She would follow Rose's cues.

"Welcome, Mr. and Mrs. Cullen. I'm sorry I did not meet you at the door."

"Please, Mrs. McCarty, we came to offer our condolences." Bella said, matching Rosalie's formality but the look on her face was full of care and concern.

"Why, thank you. Please do let us pass into the house where we can sit." Rose's stilted speech was telling.

Edward shot a questioning look at Cookie. Cookie grimaced and shrugged but followed his wife into the house.

As they settled into the parlor, Rosalie busied herself making tea.

"Rosalie, truly don't worry with that. We are here to help you and offer our support," Bella said.

Rosalie let her hands fall limply into her lap and she stared into space. After a moment, she said dully, "He wasn't always bad. When he was a boy, he was full of happiness and high spirits. As he grew, his headstrong ways and insistence on getting what he wanted started to wear on our relationship but mostly he was just a boy in his actions. It was after my Father died that he went mad. It could only have been madness to drive him to such wickedness."

She looked up at Bella and Edward, then went on, "I'm sorry for the evil he has brought on you. Please forgive him, if you can."

"That's all in the past, Rosalie, and forgotten," Bella said.

Edward thought he would never forget what Jacob Black did but he knew very well now was not the time to mention it.

"Sheriff Forks told me that Jacob was killed in a shoot-out with that Sam Uley in the Arizona Territory." Rosalie's voice was lackluster and her expression was empty.

Edward spoke, "What proof did Charlie present to you of Jacob's death?"

"He said that the Sheriff in Tombstone knew the dead man was Jacob. Evidently Jacob had been there for a while and was known as a gambler. Sam Uley tracked him down. There was a shoot-out and Jacob was killed. They buried him in the local cemetery."

Rosalie swallowed. "He should be here with Mama and Papa but if I want his body back to bury next to our parents, I'd have to pay. Sam Uley is bringing Jake's belongings as well as the affidavit from the Sheriff in Arizona testifying to his death."

"That's surprising of Mr. Uley," Bella said.

Rosalie laughed harshly. "He just wants his reward, Bella. Evidently, Sam figured that killing him would be the only way he'd see money out of my brother."

They were all quiet for a while the Bella said, "I'm truly sorry for your loss, Rosalie."

"Thank you, Bella."

"Can we do anything for you?"

"No, thank you. There's nothing to be done."

"Please consider us if you ever have a need," Edward asked.

They rose and took their leave. On the way home, Bella's thoughts were sad for her friend and she was thinking of ways she could help her over the coming months.

Edward looked at his wife's expression and decided to try to get her to think about other subjects. "We leave on the drive next week. I hate to say this just after witnessing poor Rosalie's grief but it is a profound relief to me that I won't have to worry about your safety at being left behind here while I go."

"I knew the drive would be coming up soon and I'm glad you are no longer worried. What must I do to help you get ready for it?"

"Cookie was planning to come over in the next few days to set up the chuck wagon. You may wish to see if we've provisions enough on hand and order new if we have the need."

Bella nodded.

"How about clothing?"

"I wear what you see front of you on a daily basis but I will need this suit brushed. I generally wear that in town to do business."

"I will go over it again to make sure it is as clean as can be."

"I'm sure I will look fine, sweetheart." He smiled at her.

"Do you think Cookie will still go with you on the drive?"

"That's a good question but I think he will. They are in need of the income. And while I am in Denver, I will meet up with our new cook and bring him back to the ranch with me so you will no longer be so burdened."

The week leading up to the drive was hectic: sorting the cattle they would take to market and the cattle that would remain behind to maintain their herd, getting provisions together, hiring last minute cowpokes to make the trip.

Before she knew it, Bella was bidding her husband goodbye. She was trying very hard to ignore the sick feeling in her stomach as she watched him saddle up.

That morning, Edward awoke her with kisses that ended in their typical conflagration. He left Bella gasping, heart thundering, and every muscle incapable of moving.

"Edward, I don't think I can budge," she panted, "I feel so … boneless."

Edward snorted a laugh at her comment but didn't say anything as he lay on top of her.

"What is so amusing?"

"What you said surprised me. It was humorous."

"That I couldn't move?"

"No. That you were boneless."

"Well, that's how I feel. I don't see why that's funny."

"Well, in polite company it isn't but in impolite company it is funny."

"Why?" Curiosity still was one of Bella's main attributes.

Edward rolled off of her but still held her close, "I feel as though I am sullying your goodness when I tell you these things."

"Hmmm. Perhaps, I'm not as good as you think I am."

Edward laughed again and hugged her close, "You are better than good."

Bella made a face. "No, I'm not because if I was, I wouldn't still want to know why being boneless was funny in impolite company, so tell."

Edward laughed again, and kissed her forehead. "In impolite company a man's pecker is sometimes called his bone. So when you said you felt boneless it was actually a direct result of me boning you."

Bella gasped and giggled. "Well, then I am all for being boned if it makes me feel like this."

He squawked another surprised laugh and kissed her neck. "I want you to remember this feeling for the next week so you won't forget me."

She huffed. "I don't think that's possible. It's hard for me to focus on anything other than you, Edward. You are infused in my every fiber."

He kissed her once more. "Good. Remember me."

He rolled out of bed and extended his hand to Bella. "Come on Missus. We have work to do."

Groaning, she let him pull her out of bed just as she thought of all the tasks she had to complete before he left.

"Oh, my word, I need to dash." Her seemingly powerless muscles suddenly were charged with energy and she grabbed her clothes. She went behind the screen to wash up and then dress.

Edward had finished long before she did and soon returned to bring her a cup of coffee as she was straightening their bed.

"Coffee? Where did that come from?" Bella asked in delight.

"Cookie's been at work already. He's got breakfast on."

"I swahn, Edward. I've got to get a move on."

And with that she dashed out of the bedroom but two seconds later stuck her head back in and said, "Thank you for the coffee, darlin'."

Edward laughed and shook his head.

And then she was a whirlwind of activity until she found herself waving her apron at Edward as he rode off down to the herd. She had thought about riding down with him but she needed to milk those cows that were bellowing in the barn and she didn't want him or his hands to see her cry like a baby.

She was determined to keep herself busy until he came back in seven days time. And so she did.

She cleaned the house from top to bottom, she dug up the vegetable garden where it had run its course and replanted with fall crops. She went berrying with Boy, Lauren and, remembering what Edward said, a rifle. She did massive amounts of laundry and ironed everything she could. She made winter curtains for the cook house. She made Edward some flannel shirts for winter. She canned vegetables until she ran out of jars. She picked flowers and hung them to dry in the eaves. She wrote her brother his monthly letter. She wrote Alice her weekly letter. She taught Rascal, who was getting fairly large and gangly several tricks. She practiced her horsewomanship. She visited Rosalie…

Until finally, she decided on the Saturday before Edward would return she would take advantage of the beautiful early fall day when the sun was still warm, to take a book out to the wheat field with a blanket and read it.

She spread the blanket under the oak tree, just about where she and Edward had had their picnic a few weeks before but as she sat, she got hot. The air was so still. She looked up at the tree branches above her and could see the leaves stirring and she realized that perhaps the tall wheat surrounding her kept the breeze from reaching her.

Bella smiled. She remembered writing Edward almost a year ago that her favorite place to read was up a tree. She hadn't climbed a tree since she arrived in Colorado. Maybe she ought to try out a Colorado tree for that purpose.

Chuckling to herself, she picked up the blanket, folded it neatly and placed it next to the tree. Then she put her book—Jane Austen's Persuasion—in her apron pocket and jumped to grab the lowest branch.

Her old tree climbing skills came back easily to her, and soon she was perched high up in the tree in order to catch the errant breeze. She found a comfortable nook and soon was ensconced in her arborial throne.

She felt that she was the queen of all she surveyed and was quite happy to revert back to her old childhood ways in this case. And, besides, it was much cooler up there in the branches.

Soon, she was once again lost in Jane Austen's world of Bath soirees, gentlemen callers, and old loves. Life was good.

Rosalie just wanted to be left alone. The death of her brother tore her in two. She was grief stricken but she was also relieved and those opposing feelings were laying a huge yoke of guilt on her shoulders. She was tired of the constant stream of sympathizers, condolence givers and just plain nosy gawkers. She still had not come to terms with everything that had happened and she needed to so that she could regain her equanimity.

Emmett had suggested that she spend the week while he was gone with Bella, but though she liked Bella very much, and appreciated Bella's thoughtfulness and kindness, she didn't think she'd be good company for Bella, so she didn't go. She spent the better part of the week going through Jacob's room, trying to discover amongst the detritus of his life, some reason he changed into the blighted man he did.

One day, she stumbled across a Daguerreotype of him sitting stiffly and formally on a bench in a Denver studio. She gasped and sat down on his bed, staring at the picture of her handsome, misguided brother.

She wished he had been smiling in the picture because that was how she loved remembering him. But in this he looked stern and his eyes looked dead. She felt a pain gripping her heart and the first tears streaked down her face as she stared at her brother. She finally cried for the first time after hearing he was gone.

She fell over on his bed and sobbed. She cried for the boy he was, for his smile, for his laughter, for the joyous times they had shared. She also cried for the embarrassment and guilt she felt over his recent actions. She cried because he died friendless and alone and at this moment his corpse was moldering in the cold ground of a strange land, with no one to visit his grave with flowers and a prayer.

It was hours later when she roused herself enough to get some supper. The crying she had done must have been her solace though, because for the first time since she had heard he was dead, she slept the whole night through. The next day she woke with a lighter, if not healed step and she took the Daguerreotype of her brother downstairs to put it on the parlor shelf next to the paintings of her parents. At least in this form, Jacob was home.

Boy had heard Pa say there was a new litter of kittens up in the hay loft in the barn. He really wanted to see the kittens but Ma said she was too busy doing her chores to take him there. Pa was working in down in the paddock fixing a section of fence that had come down by accident.

Boy wanted to see those kittens but he wasn't allowed to climb the ladder to the hayloft by himself. He was a flurry of impatience and he knew that since Miss Bella had gone somewhere with a book, there'd be no one around to take him anytime soon.

He was exiled to the front stoop because he had been underfoot as his mother tried to clean. Usually, he could occupy himself with the blocks that Pa had made him but, though they were stacked in a pile on the step next to him, they didn't hold his interest today.

He really wanted to see those little bitty kittens. He tried to be very still to see if he could hear them mewling from where he was sitting. He thought maybe he could.

If he stood up, perhaps he could hear them even better and surely if he took two steps off the porch he could hear them best.

Wait, could he still hear them? No? He took two giant steps closer to the barn.

Was that them? He cocked his head. He wasn't sure. So, he halved the distance between the house and the barn and once again stood listening.

He thought he could hear them but very faintly. They sounded lonely. Did they need some company?

Soon, Boy found himself in the barn at the foot of the tall ladder. There was no one there, not even the cows or the horses, or even the dogs that sometimes stayed in during the day, just empty stalls and the ladder to the loft.

There was no one there to tell on him besides he'd be back down before his Ma would ever know he was missing from the porch. He just wanted to make sure the kitties weren't lonely.

So rung by rung, the doughty little boy climbed the ladder into the loft. Once he crawled onto the loft floor, he was astonished. He'd never seen so much hay in his life. There could be kitties anywhere up here. He began to look around to no avail. So, he thought he'd try listening for them again.

To his delight he did hear the peeping mews of new born kitties coming from the corner of the loft. He climbed over some bales and eventually found the nest the mother cat had made for her progeny.

She was nowhere around but to his delight he saw three tiny, furry kittens huddled together in the straw. They were no bigger than the palm of his hand and he smiled in delight. There was one solid black one and two white and black ones; one more white than black, the other more black than white.

He thought he'd sit a spell with them until their mother came back. He didn't want them to be lonely.

And he really wasn't too sure if he could climb back down the ladder by himself.

Rosalie was doing some bookwork in her father's old study when she heard a knock on the door. Sighing, she thought it was probably another condolence call. She rose, trying to compose her face into one of welcome. It was all she could do not to slam the door in the face of the people who stood there on her porch: Sam Uley and Sheriff Forks.

Suddenly she was enraged, "Sam Uley, you have some gall coming here after what you did."

She started looking around for a weapon and eyed the rifle that was on the wall near the door.

"Now, Mrs. McCarty, you don't want to do anything rash. Sam has your brother's belongings. I can't give him his, uh…." He drifted off as he realized that what he was going to say was verging on the insensitive.

"His reward," Rosalie answered for him. "Oh, I see. I need to recognize Jacob's belongings as being his before you'll give him the money."

Charlie stuttered a bit in embarrassment. "I..I..I'm sorry just to spring this on you like this but do you think you can do us this favor? Then we'll be gone and out of your way."

Sam spoke up then, "Indeed ma'am, I tried to avoid this uncomfortable meeting but the Sheriff here said it was the only way. I do apologize for disturbing you."

Rosalie just sniffed and stepped back inviting the men in. She led them to the parlor and asked them to sit.

"How are you doing, Miss Rosalie?" Charlie asked.

"I was doing fine until you two showed up, if you wish to know the truth. The honest facts are, I'd be happy to kill you, Sam Uley, for what you did to my brother."

Sam just swallowed and looked anywhere but at Rose. His eyes drifted over to the shelf where her family pictures were. He looked puzzled at the new picture alongside the two paintings that he was familiar with. It wasn't there the last time he had been in this room. He stared at the picture and a gnawing sensation started in his gut.

"Mrs. McCarty, who is that young man in yonder picture?"

Rosalie scoffed, "Who do you think it is?"

"It surely isn't your brother!"

"It surely is."

Sam walked over and picked it up. "This is Jacob Black?"

"The very same."

"This is not the man I killed in Tombstone."

"What?" both the Sherriff and Rosalie chorused.

"No. The man I killed in Tombstone was fair completed. He had dark hair, that is true, but his skin was as white as a lily's, he had blue eyes and he was short of stature. This man looks tall and dark eyed.

"Yes, Jacob was well over six foot. Didn't you remember his appearance from the night that you played with him in Denver?"

"Well, uh, Missus. We had been imbibing in some rather spirited spirits, you understand, and the memory of the particulars of that night are rather hazy. But I was sober in Tombstone and I know this feller here ain't the one that I disposed of."

Rose was in shock. "Then who was the man you killed?"

"I don't know but he was calling himself Jacob Black in Tombstone."

Rosalie was hopeful. "So you're telling me that my brother is alive?" She could feel little sprouts of joy spring in her heart.

"As far as I know, he is. I certainly didn't kill him."

They got out the possessions that Sam had brought with him and Rosalie couldn't identify anything there as belonging of her brother. "I am not sure I could tell you one way or the other. These things aren't familiar to me at all. Not even the pocket book."

She opened the item and found it was completely empty; no money, of course, but also no papers or signatures of the kind. Nothing to identify whom it belonged to.

"Well, Sam, we must be getting on and leave the lady to her devices. We will take this with us ma'am as you couldn't claim them."

He picked up the pile of belongings and ushered Sam out the door where their mounts were waiting for them. Rosalie stood in the doorway watching them ride off with a bemused smile on her face. "My little brother is alive!"

Then, a cloud darkened her countenance and she said a little more firmly, "My little, mad brother is alive." But this time as that thought crowded her mind, she remembered something else. Something dire.

Her brother was alive and Bella was unprotected.

AN: Men carried pocket books. They were like wallets. Women carried purses or bags.

Chapter 27: The Jackass

The herd made good time to Denver. Edward noticed that Cookie was pushing them a little further than he used to in years past. Cookie's duty was to drive the chuck wagon ahead of the herd and set up camp each day, so generally speaking, it was the chuck wagon cook who decided how far a herd would travel in a day. Since they didn't have that far to go, Edward and Cookie had preferred to take it slow.

Instead of the customary two to three miles Cookie would normally choose, he pushed them to closer to five. You didn't want to move a herd too quickly because they'd burn off some of the weight they had been putting on over the summer but Edward would not remonstrate with his friend for pushing. He knew why Cookie wanted to get back home quickly and Edward had the same incentive.

Never-the-less, Edward was able to sell off his cattle at a better than expected profit, which pleased him to no end. There was much he hoped to do with the money. He had to take care of some business before returning and he was speeding that a long as quickly as he could but perhaps he could return home on Sunday.

On Saturday, he was eating his dinner in the same restaurant where he proposed to Bella those few months ago. He heaved a great sigh as he looked around the dining room and then shook his fool head. He could not believe how sentimentally he was behaving. He almost asked to be seated at the table that he and Bella had shared but at the last minute, double checked to see if he'd remembered to bring his balls along on this trip because he sure was acting like he'd lost them along the way.

He took the first table he was offered and then started to think about what he wanted to eat when he happened to see his old neighbor, Mr. Dowling, enter the place. He waved him over to invite him to sit with him. The older man smiled congenially and sat down.

"How are you, Edward? Did you get a good price?"

"Better than I expected. I am grateful for that."

"Your cattle looked well, Edward, better than most. How did you manage?"

"They had good forage this summer and I plan to feed them this winter. I am hoping next year will be even better."

"So you are still going to mix farming with ranching?"

"I can't see how I can avoid it, Mr. Dowling. I think it will work out well."

"I'll still wait and see. I don't like the thought of giving up good pasture to farming."

"Many feel that way."

They disagreed on this subject but Mr. Dowling appreciated Edward's candor. It made for a good digestion and even better neighbors.

But just the same, Mr. Dowling decided to change the course of their conversation. "How is your little wife doing?"

"She's very fine, thank you," Edward said with a smile.

"Has she recovered from that little tussle at Preacher Sunday a few months back?"

Edward frowned as he remembered. "Yes. She may be little but she's a strong woman. She's recovered. I don't think I have, though."

Mr. Dowling chuckled. "The ladies have a way of turning us inside out, don't they?"

"That they do," Edward said with a wry grin.

"You know, that gambler that claimed he'd won the Lazy B was in town earlier this week."

"He's in town? Did you know that he killed Jacob Black in a shootout?" Edward asked.

"Oh, yes. I had heard of it before the drive and it was all over town when I got here. The gambler was saying that he was on his way to Bear Valley to finish up his business."

"Probably going to claim his reward."

"Most likely, although I have a question about whether he really killed the Jacob Black we know."

Edward stopped eating and looked hard at Mr. Dowling. "What do you mean?"

"The gambler, Uley, was describing the shoot-out. One of the details just didn't quite sit right with me. He was talking about how, after Black was killed, they didn't have anything but a woman's coffin to put him in. Now Edward, how tall do you think Black was?"

"He was taller than I am and I am more than six foot."

"There's no way you could fit in a woman's coffin is there?"

"You'd have to cut off my legs."

"That's why I don't think it was the Jacob Black we knew. He was well over six feet tall."

A pain started gnawing at Edward's chest. Jacob Black wasn't dead and Bella was home alone and unprotected. He had to get back to her immediately.

Quickly, he made his excuses to Mr. Dowling and paid his tab. He got out of Denver in record time, making poor Kate gallop as hard as she could.

Bella…his Bella was in danger and he was not there to protect her.

Bella was immersed in early nineteenth century England and swooning over the seemingly ill-fated relationship between Miss Anne Elliott and Capt. Wentworth. Nestled in a crook of the oak tree, she could almost ignore her actual surroundings.

Her sub-consciousness was aware of something different, though. There was an out of place noise. Something was nearing and the niggling prompting of her outer senses soon got her attention. She stopped reading and looked away from her book. The bower of leaves she was nestled in high above the ground provided unexpected cover for her. In about two seconds she was glad for she could see a horse coming through the field towards the tree she was in.

Not thirty feet away from where she was sitting was the dead man, Jacob Black, evidently resurrected to torment her some more.

Tyler finally got the paddock fence mended. He hoped that dang filly would quit kicking at the thing. She had more energy than a swarm of bees and looked to be as ornery, too.

He was glad he was not going to be the one to break her. She'd probably take a feller's head off in the process.

He gathered his tools and walked up to the little shed where he kept them, wondering where his wife and child were.

There was a time when he never could have imagined sharing his solitary life with someone but once he saw Lauren wiping off tables in the Bear Valley Saloon, he knew he could not imagine a life without her. He could never tell her because words were not his strong suit but he showed her by his every breath.

Even from the first moment he set eyes on her, he knew she was the one for him, though he had never considered looking for someone before. He simply recognized that she was his gal. So, he sat in the corner of the saloon that whole Preacher weekend and watched her as he nursed a beer. He never said a word to her, just gazed at her.

It did not take long for her boss to notice his attention and she pointed it out to Lauren.

"Look, honey," she nodded her head where Tyler was sitting. "Seems like someone is sweet on you."

So, Lauren looked and when their eyes met, they stared. A few minutes after this revelatory moment, she realized she needed to get back to work, so she nodded at him and busied herself again.

Not a word was said. When it was time for Church to start, the saloon closed and everyone went to services. Lauren and Tyler sat together to listen to the preacher and sing the hymns.

When it was over, Tyler turned to her and said, "Next Preacher Sunday be ready." Lauren again nodded and went back to work.

The next Preacher Saturday, he went to the saloon where Lauren was waiting for him, offered his arm and they walked together to the Chapel where the Preacher was getting ready for services.

Tyler said, "Excuse me, Preacher, but me and the lady wish to get married."

The preacher was surprised because usually these things were set up well before hand. "Right now?"

"Please, sir."

"I suppose I can. Let me get my things."

The preacher pulled out his Bible.

"What are your names, please?"

"I am Tyler Crowley and …" then the horrible realization struck. He did not know his gal's name. Not even her given name. He gaped and looked at his intended.

"Lauren Mallory," she said in a whisper. Her husky voice caused goose bumps to run down his back. It was the first time he had ever heard her say anything.

He swallowed, took her hand in his and turned to the preacher. "We are ready now."

Explaining to Boss that he was bringing a wife home with him that Sunday was complicated.

"Boss, I got hitched and I am bringing her back to the ranch with us when we go."

Edward was shocked. "Are you funning?"

Tyler was not the sort to fun anyone and he looked insulted, "No. I'm hitched today and I'm bringing her with me."

"Where are you going to live?"

"At the ranch."

"She can't live in the bunk house with you, Tyler."

Edward could see Tyler hadn't thought that far ahead. "Let me meet her and maybe we can figure something out."

Edward had just finished construction on his ranch house and so he decided to offer the Crowleys a room there and he'd have Lauren keep house for him and cook for all.

And so, that's how Lauren came to be Tyler's wife. That first night, they just lay together on his bedroll at the camp holding hands but the next night, after they returned to the ranch and had their privacy, Tyler entered a land that he never knew existed.

She was so soft and warm and welcoming and she endured him so willingly. She was quiet, never speaking more than she had to and he was glad she wasn't a chatterbox but from that first night, he lived for her and would always.

When their son was born, he never in his life thought he'd die because of it but there was a point when he was sure he would. She lay there in their bed, big with child, and suffering because of him. He could hardly bear it, even though she eventually got through it well enough and presented him with a wonderful Boy.

He swore he would never trouble her again that way and for the longest time after Boy was born he didn't. Then one night, she looked at him and said, "You don't want me no more?"

That thought was so foreign to him he couldn't comprehend it, so he didn't answer, just rolled over, put his back to her and went to sleep.

The next morning she and Boy were gone.

His panic was palpable. No one had seen her and he asked everyone at the ranch. Edward formed a search party and suggested that Tyler check the main road to town first. The rest of the men he sent over the whole ranch in case she had decided to go hiking or something completely foolish like that.

Nodding, Tyler jumped on his horse and tore off down the road to the town but it wasn't long before he saw her trudging down the lane, carrying Boy in one arm and a carpet bag in the other. She heard him coming so she stopped and looked at him in confusion.

"Why?" was all he could say as he dismounted and walked to face her.

"You don't want me no more," she said matter-of-factly.

"I don't want you no more?" He could not understand how she could think that.

"You don't want me no more." He finally understood what she meant and it hurt his heart.

He put both of his hands on her shoulders and looked deeply into her eyes, "I do. I will always and forever want you."

"But…you don't touch me in the night." Her cheeks were aflame.

"I…I… want to but I can't."


"I can't stand to see you suffer like you did because of it."


"When you had Boy. You suffered terrible."

"It weren't so bad. I don't even remember it now."

"It just about kilt me to see you like that and to know I was the cause of it."

She put a gentle hand on his cheek. "I suffer now because of you."

"You are suffering now? Because of me?" Tyler was hurt.

He'd gone out of his way to make her life easy.

"My heart pains me because you don't want me no more."

"I want you, Lauren. More than anything."

"Then why don't you take me?"

And so he did. Right there on the side of the road. They found a shady spot and put the sleeping baby down in a safe place, then he showed her how much he wanted her. And she didn't suffer any longer.

They continued on together and they had their share of affliction but in the long run, the years had been joyous for Tyler and all because of his gal.

Tyler climbed the steps into the house and saw Lauren sitting on the floor polishing the legs of a chair with a soft cloth. He looked around and didn't see Boy anywhere but he knew he wouldn't be far off. Boy was obedient and dependable. He probably was taking a nap.

Tyler climbed the stairs to their room. He thought he would check on his son but Boy wasn't there. Tyler went back down the stairs and opened the front door. He saw the building blocks he had made Boy stacked on a step but there was no sign of the little feller.

Tyler went back into the house and asked Lauren, "Boy?"

Lauren looked up, "Ain't he out on the stoop?"

Tyler leaned against the door. "Nope."

Lauren got up and wiped her hands on her apron. "I told him to set out there and play."

They went into the yard and looked but there was no Boy to be seen.

Tyler started calling for him, "BOY! YOU! BOY!"

He couldn't help the note of fear that was there. Lauren ran to the cook house and went inside. A few moments later she came back out and shook her head at Tyler.

Tyler went to the barn and saw it was empty. He looked at the ladder that led to the loft.

"He wouldn't go up there. He's not allowed," Lauren said. Her voice was fearful, too.

Tyler climbed the rungs like he was flying and looked at the loft crowded with bales of hay. In a panic-filled voice he cried, "Boy! Are you up here?"

There was no answer. He climbed back down and looked into the scared eyes of his wife, a fear that mirrored his own. As one, they turned to leave the barn, calling again and again to their son.

Boy's head peeped above the bale of hay as he heard his parents leave the barn. Tears streaked down his cheeks and he shook with sadness. His Ma and Pa were so angry at him. He could hear it in the way they were calling for him. He was so scared.

Not knowing what to do, he just hunkered down next to the kittens and the mama cat who had returned to take care of her babies. Boy was suddenly heartbroken to see the kittens safe at their mama's side. How he now regretted climbing up into the loft. All he wanted was to be safe at his Ma's side or held tightly in his Pa's arms. He put his head down on his arms and sobbed.

Bella watched the unsuspecting Jacob ride by her perch. He was heading uphill but skirting the most direct route. Bella assumed he was trying to be stealthy. Well, she was just going to have to be stealthier. She waited for him to be well up the hill before climbing quietly out of the tree.

Picking up the blanket she bent over and crept up the edge of the wheat field on the opposite side of Jacob's path. When she got into the tree line, she stood and ran through the trees, keeping in the shelter of the brush and bushes that were there. Once she got level with the house but still out of sight of anyone, she came around to the back of the house and went in the back door locking it behind her.

She came into the main room and saw Tyler and Lauren practically run down the stairs. "Have you seen Boy, Miss Bella," Tyler demanded.

"No. I haven't. Not since this morning anyway."

They started heading for the door and Bella shouted out, "STOP!"

Both Tyler and Lauren halted and turned to her with stunned expressions. Bella ran to the front door to lock and bolt it, "Jacob Black is out there. I saw him pass by on his horse."

"But Boy is gone!" Lauren wailed. "We can't find him anywears."

"If you couldn't find him, then Jacob can't. We need to lock up this house. Shut the shutters."

They ran around the house pulling the shutters closed and locking them. Edward had them installed after they had returned from the Preacher Sunday when Bella was kidnapped. There were little site holes in the shutters so someone could see out but the only way someone could see in would be to walk right up to the hole and peer in. There were also bigger holes in them that were akin to arrow slits in a castle except you could shoot out of them—they were the equivalent of nineteenth century arrow slits.

Lauren was softly crying and Bella's heart went out to her. She could understand her agony and she wished there was something to do.

"Where did you see Jacob head to, Miss Bella?"

"He was skirting around to the north side of the property."

"I will go upstairs to the corner bedroom. I'll have a good view from there." Tyler ran up the stairs as Bella looked out of the window.

"I see him!" Tyler shouted down the stairs. "He's over behind the barn. You want me to take a shot at him?"

"How good a shot are you, Tyler?" Bella asked.

"Fair to middlin', I'd say."

"And you don't know where Boy is?"

An arrested look crossed Tyler's face. "No."

"Then don't shoot. Maybe we can talk Jacob into leaving."

Just as they were speaking of that Jacob sauntered out from behind the corner of the barn.

He stood in the middle of the yard, all insolence and arrogance and shouted, "Come out, come out, wherever you are Isabella. I know you are in the house and that's not much fun, when I've waited so long to play with you."

Bella opened the front window shutter and called out to him, "Jacob, this is useless. I am not alone and Mr. Cullen is due back at any moment. It would be best for you if you left."

"I did leave. Now I've come back for what I deserve."

"What do you deserve?"

"Now, that would be saying, wouldn't it? I am sure you know. You are married to a Jonah, did you know? Yes, your husband is a right prig, he's brought me nothing but bad luck. Everything always goes his way. He gets the money. He gets the ranch. He gets the girl. He did not deserve ANY of that."

"He worked for all of that, Jacob."

"No. He bought the ranch with money his grandmother gave him. How is that earning anything? He ordered you from a catalog. He didn't woo you. He didn't have to dance you off your feet, or pay calls and hope that you'd deign to notice him. You got off that train in Denver with a gift bow wrapped around your person and a tag that said 'To Edward THE JONAH Cullen.' I hate your husband."

Bella realized there was no talking to him. "We'll just have to wait him out," she said to Tyler.

Meanwhile, Jacob went into the open barn doors and disappeared from view.

The waxing moon was beginning to rise, and Bella realized for the first time that the night time was coming sooner than later and that was when they would be their most vulnerable.

She was fearful now but she knew she couldn't be half as fearful as Boy's parents. The little lad still hadn't appeared.

Suddenly, they heard a high pitched caterwauling and then rushed to the windows to look.

There was Jacob Black holding Boy with one arm wrapped around him and a pistol to his head. He was walking with him out of the barn.

"Isabella. Lookee see what I've got," he shouted.

Lauren started to cry, "He's got Boy."

Tyler swallowed and looked grimmer than he normally did.

"MISSUS CULLEN?" Jacob sang in a singsong voice, "what do you think of this? He's a fine boy isn't he? Just listen to those lungs. Powerful. It would be a real shame for his little light to snuffed at such a young age, wouldn't it?"

Tyler was holding his wife and shouted, "Leave Boy alone you varmit!"

"Oh I would like to, Tyler. I would. I'd much rather have someone a little more, say, voluptuous to hold on to. I'll tell you what, Mrs. Cullen! You come out here trade places with the boy and I won't touch a hair on his head."

Bella didn't ponder for a moment. There was no way she was going to allow Boy to be harmed. "I'm going out there Tyler…we'll get Boy back." She opened the door and walked out on the porch.

"Here I am, Jacob. You let Boy go."

"My, don't you look a treat, Isabella. I'll let him go. You come out her more first. I don't want any underhanded goings on here."

Bella walked off the porch towards the two figures standing in the middle of the yard.

"Now, Boy, when Mr. Black lets you go, you run as hard as you can for your Ma, you hear?"

"Yyy-eess, Miss Bella." Boy said through his tears. Bella took a few more steps closer to Jacob and Boy, her hands out to her sides.

"Let him go now, Jacob. You can see that Lauren and Tyler are unarmed on the porch. Let the boy go."

Jacob took two steps closer, dropped the boy unceremoniously and then grabbed Bella. "Got you, my beauty."

He pulled her close to his body, then held his pistol to her head. "I'm thinking that I should just end this right now. Edward will be robbed of his Mail Order Bride and any hopes he had that would spring from it.

"Or… or I can take my pleasure of you first. I deserve a sip of your nectar at the least."

He leaned over her as if he would kiss her. She ducked her head and he couldn't free his hand to force her head up so he could force a kiss upon her.

"Of course, I would be saving myself a lot of trouble and just end you here and now. Imagine your husband getting here to find your dead body as his welcome mat." He cocked his pistol.

"Jacob, I don't understand why you are doing this. You'll just make more trouble for yourself."

"I am already wanted Dead or Alive. There's not much more trouble a man can get into around these parts and that's all thanks to you and yours, Missus."

"Perhaps if you turned yourself in, they'll forgive that, Jacob."

"The west is a mighty unforgiving place. No, Mrs. Cullen, I've made up my mind. I'll take my ease with you and then kill you. I'll have the best of both worlds, then. I can disappear again and no one will ever find me."

He started walking her backwards towards the barn and he shouted to the Crowleys on the porch, "I will kill you if you come out. Get in the house."

"HOLD IT RIGHT THERE, BLACK!" Edward's voice was venomous but he was unseen. He was in hiding somewhere in the direction of the barn. Jacob whipped around with Bella held tightly against him.

"Edward to the rescue. This is rich," he muttered, then he raised his voice, "You can't shoot me Edward because you'll risk killing your beloved Isabella."

He shuffled backward, trying to keep Bella between himself and Edward's voice.

Suddenly, he felt the barrel of a gun right between his shoulder blades. "Let her go Jacob."

"Rosalie? Sister?"

"Yes. You have done enough damage to last a life time, Jacob Black. I will no longer be troubled by your actions. Let Mrs. Cullen go, or I will put you out of my misery."

"If you shoot me that bullet will go straight through me into Mrs. Cullen and you'll kill her, too."

"Fine. Have it your way." She raised the pistol and put the muzzle at the base of his head.

"Now, Let Mrs. Cullen go."

"If I let her go, what's to keep Cullen from shooting me straight off."

"If he gave you his word, would you trust it?"

He shrugged.

"Mr. Cullen, if Jacob lets Bella go unharmed, would you still try to kill him?"

Edward pondered that a bit then said, "I won't kill him and he'll just have to take my word for it. My word has always been good around these parts."

"Let her go, Jacob. It is over. You won't get away. Stop causing even more grief in people's lives than you already have," Rosalie said. "Drop the pistol."

He thought a bit as he felt the cold metal barrel hard against his brain pan. Eventually, he shrugged and dropped the pistol on the ground and let Bella loose.

The enraged woman turned around and punched him in the nose as hard as she could. "You are such a jackass, Jacob Black."

Chapter 28 The End

Jacob Black held his nose in surprise. That wildcat cold cocked him right in the face. He looked at her in astonishment.

"You are such a Jackass, Jacob Black," Bella swore.

Jacob just blinked at her, then turned to his older sister and said, "She called me a jackass."

Rosalie grimaced at him and shrugged her shoulders. "Well? She was being kind."

Edward came up behind his wife and laughed. "Bella, you always amaze me," and gave her a hug with his free hand.

He led Jacob over to a bench next to the barn and had him sit down, then tied him to the bench and tied his hands behind his back.

"TYLER!" Edward shouted.

Tyler ran to Edward's side. "Boss?"

"Take a horse in to town and get the Sheriff out here. Tell him that he'll need a prisoner escort. I want this jackass, as my wife so accurately called him, gone from my property tonight."

Edward himself stood guard over Jacob until the Sherriff got there. It was well after dark by that time.

In the meanwhile, Lauren and Bella rushed around to get things settled. They found Jacob, Rosalie and Edward's horses and managed to get them to a corral, take off their saddles and feed and water them as well as the other livestock that were around.

Poor Kate looked the worse for wear and Bella hated to think what Edward put her through to get home in so quickly. Bella gave her some extra grain.

After milking the cows, the ladies opened the shutters in the house, lit the lamps and got some food together. All throughout this, Boy did not leave his mother's side. He grabbed on to her skirt and refused to let go.

Rosalie insisted on sitting on the bench with her brother. She didn't move or talk. She just sat there as though she were making sure that all went right from this point on. Perhaps, also it was a way for her to grieve.

Bella brought them some supper and they ate in silence. Rosalie fed her brother, since Edward refused to untie his hands.

They only spoke together once.

"You wouldn't have shot me, Rosie."

"You wouldn't have stolen Mama's necklace and all the ready cash and tried to gamble the ranch right out from under me either, would you, Jacob?"

He didn't say another word after that, just hung his head and waited for the Sherriff to come get him.

The Crowleys had long ago put their son to bed, the little tyke had such difficult day. Edward opined that the poor child would never break a rule again in his life. After Lauren put him down, she came back out to the cook house where Bella was working.

"I am so glad that Boy is well, Lauren. I know your heart was breaking when Jacob had him."

"I'd never been so scared, Miss Bella. I thought for sure that Mr. Jacob woulda kilt him right in front of my eyes."

Lauren's eyes glazed over with tears as she spoke and Bella dropped the cloth she was using and embraced her.

"Put that out of your mind, Lauren. Boy is safe and well and the only threat to our peace is waiting next to the barn for the Sheriff to take him to jail."

"It's strange how your mind turns at times, Miss Bella. All I could think of when Jacob Black had him was that Boy'd never grow into his name if he should die now."

"Grow into his name? Isn't his name Boy?"

Lauren looked at Bella as though she was daft. "Now, who would name their child 'Boy' for all eternity? That is just what we call him because his name was too big whilst he's a youngun."

"Then, what is his 'big' name?"

"Why it's Abraham Ulysses Jefferson Robert Crowley."

Bella was shocked. "That is a big name. It's a mighty unusual combination, though."

Lauren smiled and explained, "You see, the Crowleys are from Georgia, the Mallorys are from Pennsylvania. We didn't want the war to break out agin, so we named him after both sides."

Bella nodded. It made sense in its way.

A few hours later, Charlie Forks rode up with a posse of six men to take charge of Jacob Black. It was a simple procedure. They put Jacob on his horse and rode him down to Bear Valley to lock him up in the jail.

Edward and Bella stood and watched them all ride off. Rosalie went with them as her ranch was along the way. Bella invited her to spend the night but Rosalie wanted to be home when Emmett got back.

Lauren and Tyler didn't stay up much longer after the Sheriff left. Evidently, they needed their own reassurance in the privacy of their bedroom.

Finally, Edward and Bella had time to themselves. Edward escorted her up the front porch stairs and then guided her over to the swing. It was a beautiful night, the stars were brightly shining and the moon had almost waxed to its fullest. It may be the last full moon that they could enjoy from their porch swing before the colder weather set in.

Edward sat next to Bella and put his arm around her so that she could nestle her head on his shoulder. "What a day this has been," she sighed.

"I don't even know where to begin, sweetheart." They had earlier related the events of their day to each other in pieces.

"I'm just so thankful it all worked out like it has." He pulled her close. "Hopefully with Jacob finally in jail, we won't have those worries again."

Bella nodded her head in agreement.

"But there's one thing I didn't quite understand, Bella."

"What's that?"

"How did Jacob miss you as you sat reading in the wheat field? From horseback he surely would have seen you."

Bella had neglected to tell him the finer details of her day. "Well, I…uhm… well you see, Edward, Ihadclimbedthetree,"she said all in a rush.

He chuckled, "You climbed that big oak tree? Weren't you afraid of falling out?"

"No. It's an easy tree to climb with broad boughs. I was in no danger. It was hot trying to read while on the ground. The breeze was delightful aloft."

There was a little frown between her eyes. "You aren't unhappy that I climbed that tree are you? I know it isn't ladylike."

"Bella, I am so thankful you did climb that tree. If you hadn't, who knows how this day would have turned out."

He squeezed her again, "Bella, I don't know what I would ever do without you."

They then settled back in silence, comfortable in each other's arms as they listened to the crickets and occasional night bird.

The moon cast silvery light all over the countryside. It was serene and lovely and Edward felt completely at peace.

A thought, though, came to his wife. Bella looked at that big, silver moon and calculated.

Then, she smiled.

And, she turned sideways on her knees so that she was facing Edward. "Do you like that moon, Edward?"

"I do. It's beautiful and it's just about full so that I can also see my beautiful bride in its light."

She leaned forward, wrapped her arms around his neck and put her face right close to his. "I like that moon, too, for all the reasons you said but for one more, too."

He smiled at her curiously and waited for her to continue.

"Because, my sweetheart, the moon is full on and I think I am as well. I may be in the family way again."

His smile was joyful and he pulled her in for a kiss and soon she was sitting on his lap and the moon and all it portended were forgotten.

They knew they had found their home in each other, a cowboy and his mail order bride.

The End

AN: The Crowleys named Boy after the President and chief General of the Union side in the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant and the President and chief General of the Confederate side in the Civil War, Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee.

Chapter 29: Epilogue The Letter

January 1, 1888

Dear Brother and Sister,

I hope the New Year finds all hale and hearty and brings many blessings to you.

Bella and I enjoyed your Christmas Well Wishes and Thank You for the thoughtful gifts. Bella is sharing the variety of spices and other food stuffs you gave us with our New Cook, Juan Carlos Hernandez.

I am sure Bella has related to you how we replaced Cookie with a man hailing from Old Mexico. We have enjoyed learning to eat tortillas with our meals and that frijoles are a delicious side-dish. It was a little more difficult convincing the hands, though. They miss your cornbread and berry pies, Alice.

We were greatly pleased to hear of the expected arrival of a child in your household this coming May. We pray that all goes easily and healthily for both Mother and Baby when the day comes.

My Wife has given me leave to inform you that we are also in expectation of a blessing the following month, so our children will be close in age. I had thought to send Bella to Chicago to have modern medical attention but she insists that she will do well enough here with just a midwife.

She said that our baby should be born in Colorado and I must say, I agree with her. A new land for a new soul, God Willing.

The herd is doing well off on a forage supplemented by the food we provide them. I have not seen the sloughing of weight that I have witnessed years past but then, this winter has been relatively mild so far.

We had our first snow fall, which was unusually late, on Christmas Eve which brought frivolity to our celebrations. Bella's brother sent her a renowned Virginia ham for our victuals and I must say, it was rather tasty when eaten with biscuits and fresh butter, both rendered by the tender hands of my beloved wife.

You asked about the disposition of Jacob Black and a particular question you had of me. Jacob was apprehended by both myself and his sister. While I was in Denver, I heard that he was not dead as I had supposed, so I rushed back to Bear Valley only to meet Mrs. Rosalie McCarty along the road.

She had heard the same news and was on her way to inform my wife. We rode together until the ranch house was in sight. I could tell at a glance that something was wrong for Bella had shut the shutters. She would only have done that if she felt threatened, so Rosalie and I discussed an alternate plan.

I would stealthily approach the house to locate Jacob's where-abouts. I saw him go into my barn but not in time to get a shot off.

While I was observing, Jacob came out holding Boy hostage and threatening to kill him if Bella did not appear. Quickly, we devised a plan with me coming at Jacob Black from the front and Rosalie from the back. Fortunately, the device worked.

Jacob was tried in the county seat and convicted of kidnapping and attempted murder in October. On a cold and cloudy day later that month, he was hanged. Due to the circumstances of the crime, Bella was called as a witness in the trial but because of her delicate health at the time, I testified in her stead as a husband is allowed.

His sister, Mrs. Rosalie McCarty, was awarded the Reward Money for his capture but she declined it, likening it to blood money. It was donated to the school house in town for the education of our youth.

I will say, Mrs. McCarty did well by her brother. She attended his trial and visited him regularly in jail. She even stood by him on his execution day although she could not watch the deed itself. There were many people coming from far and wide to witness Jacob Black's demise. I thought the festive atmosphere was rather ghoulish, myself. He died quickly and cleanly and we were able to bury his body before the ground froze, so that was a blessing.

Jacob did explain many mysteries to us before his doom. It seemed that he never went near the Arizona Territory, as rumor had placed him. He hid out in the hills not too far away and lived off the land.

Evidently, the name 'Jacob Black' is not unique to the one man. About three months ago, Sheriff Forks got word from his colleague in Tombstone that a Mrs. Jacob Black from Texas had traveled out to his town to try to locate her husband.

By her description and a picture she had, they ascertained that the man Sam Uley shot was indeed a Jacob Black but, alas, not the one we knew and who had tricked Uley. It has been a sad case all around, I am thinking. Tragedy of the highest form.

I am very pleased, Dear Brother, that you followed my advice and invested in the Lazy B Ranch. There is no one better equipped for the job of Rancher as Emmett McCarty and his wife Rosalie. They are spending the winter figuring out which stock they will purchase to begin their new herd.

When they come to visit, our talk is mostly exclusive to cattle ranching. They have also decided to follow my path and grow the feed for their herd. Because of this, I am sure you will realize a profit the first year they go to market.

This coming spring, we will be building a cottage for the Crowleys to inhabit close by to the ranch house. It seems that all of our families are increasing and they will have need for the extra room as well.

Boy, or Abraham, as we are now calling him, is growing to be a fine lad and quick to learn new things. Bella has been showing him his numbers and letters and it has not taking him long to get the hang of them.

In closing, please give our best to our Mother and Father and I wish you all good health,

Yours truly,

Edward Cullen