by John Savage
Gunfights weren’t unusual in the Old West, but Seth should have known that it was a mistake to shoot it out with the son of one of the richest men in the territory. He had to run, unintentionally picking up the man’s beautiful daughter on the way, and then he dared not let her go lest she lead the posse to him. As much as she complained, it seemed that she did not really mind too much took her with him, tied and restrained. Her womanly assets were mighty inviting, especially when they needed to sleep together under a single blanket to keep warm on the cold nights.
As he escaped across the border into Mexico, he picked up three beautiful senoritas and a wagonload of gold bars. Trouble was, he needed to keep the senoritas, or they would lead bounty hunters right to him. Soon, as much as he was sure it would lead to trouble, he could not refuse the charms of the beautiful women. Of course, he had to keep them chained or tied, just in case they ran off and caused trouble for him. For some reason, none of them seemed to have any problem with that at all…
It was fortunate that the moon was up that night and, even though only half lit, still cast light enough to make out the trail up the side of Silver Spring Mountain. The sun would be following the moon in a few hours when Seth reached the trapper’s cabin. There was still no sign of pursuit although he knew full well that Barrington would have riders fanning out as soon as he found his daughter missing.
After riding the range all day, then most of the night, he was tired and saddle-sore when he finally halted by the dark cabin well hidden among the pines. The last part of the journey had been steep and the air higher up was noticeably cooler than down in the valley.
He had not heard any sounds from his bundle for a while and wondered if she had – improbable as it would be – fallen asleep. There was not much for her to do back under that blanket and nothing for her to see.
Untying the rope holding the bundle against his saddle, he lifted it onto his shoulder and made for the cabin. The bundle grunted and he knew that she was awake. Probably had not even tried to sleep. For a better part of the ride, she had been making noises under there, probably curses and orders to untie her immediately. Roberta was the kind of woman who expected men to jump at her command. That he had actually grabbed her, bound and thrown her over his horse was probably quite a shock to the young woman.
Dumping his bundle on the cabin floor, he went back out for the saddlebags. When those were dropped off inside the dimly lit cabin, he returned to his horse to remove the saddle and blanket. Thunder snorted a complaint that he had been forced to ride so far in the middle of the night.
Dumping the saddle and blanket on the floor, he went to the saddlebags and fumbled around in the dark to find a candle. He always carried a few there, just in case he needed them. When a single candle was sitting on the table and casting a very dim light round the small cabin, he finally turned his attention to the woman he had taken. He was tempted to just grab a corner of the blanket and heave, letting her roll out and thump on the floor. But instead he gently unwrapped her. As soon as her face was visible, he found that she had worked the gag out of her mouth and was ready to inform him, in colorful detail, just what an idiot his was, that his parents were not married, how dare he treat her like this, and that he was going to die as soon as her father caught up with him. And a few other choice words about his ancestry and extremely dim hopes for future salvation.
For the most part, he ignored her and set about removing a blanket tied upon the top of one saddlebag. That he stretched out on the floor. He threw the one he had wrapped her in over next to the first one. Being ignored only made her madder and increased the volume of her complaints.
Finally her turned to her and said simply, “Shut up.”
“I will not, you dirty low-life! I will…”
“You will get gagged again if you don’t shut up,” he interrupted.
“I… You…” she sputtered angrily.
Seth looked over at her, checking that the leather strips he had used to bind her hands behind her were still in place. From the redness on her wrists, she had been trying to work her hands out of there for a long time. Her feet were still tied together, so he was satisfied that she would not be going anywhere soon.
“My father is going to find you and kill you,” she finally stated in a half way normal tone.
“He’ll try,” Seth admitted.
“Oh, he will. I promise you. And I am going to enjoy watching him shoot you.” She stopped threatening him when he took a long drink from a canteen. She was licking her lips and looking at the canteen, obviously thirsty. Maybe it had been hot inside that blanket.
“Want some?” he asked her.
She nodded, but she did not want to beg for anything from this man.
“Fine. I’ll give you water but only if you’ll stop talking. It annoys me.”
“You’ll have to untie my hands so I can drink,” she pointed out. “Besides, they hurt. You tied me too tight.”
“You stay tied ’cause I’m going to get some sleep before the sun comes up and I don’t want you wandering around or trying to conk me with a rock while I sleep.”
She made a rude noise but turned her face up when he came near with the water. Half of what he poured into her mouth spilled over her blouse, but she drank eagerly as much as she could and did not complain.
He put the canteen on the table and unbuckled his gun belt to add to it. The rifle that he carried in with the saddlebags went there also. Looking at her as she stood there, he picked up the two guns and placed them on hooks set over the fireplace. Spreading the blanket that had been under the saddle on Thunder on the floor, he told her firmly, “Now you listen here, I am going to get some sleep. You should, too. But it’s cold up here, so I’d suggest that you wiggle your butt over here and get next to me. We share these two blankets and keep each other warm.”
He was spreading the blankets over himself, when he turned to her. “Coming?”
“I’d rather freeze to death,” she told him.
“Fine, go ahead.”
He blew out the candle and settled down under the blankets.
The cabin interior was not totally dark. Pale, ghostly light from the setting moon crept in through the window and open door. Roberta tested the leather strip that bound her hands yet again but still could not reach the knot or pull her hands out.
It had been easy to put up a big front because she was angry. But now the anger seeped out of her and tiredness took hold. She yawned, but refused to settle down and seek slumber. She eyed the open doorway and wondered if she could crawl out and try to hide someplace so he would not find her in the morning. Maybe he would go on if he were unable to find her. But although that would get him out of her life, it would leave her bound hand and foot, and alone in the high mountains. She was certain that her father would, as she had promised, set out to find her. But how long would it be before they found this cabin? If ever…
Roberta wanted to cry and some tears did begin to seep out. This was not fair at all! She should not be treated like this. She was the daughter of an important man in the territory, maybe someday to be the governor, and she should be treated with respect.
Without meaning to, she fell asleep while trying to think of ways she could escape.
When the first light of dawn came in, Seth awoke. He was not surprised to find that Roberta had crept over during the night and was lying next to him, snuggled up as close as she could.
She was sleeping still, and for a while he did not get up but remained in place looking at the delicate features of this beautiful woman. That long golden hair was in disarray but still looked fine. He longed to touch it, to feel its softness.