It's Closer Than Brothers--Part #12 of 13 episodes of how my heroes from Trouble in Texas met
and how they became so loyal to each other.
and how they became so loyal to each other.
Book #3 Stuck Together --Vince's story--releases in THREE DAYS! June 3.
Closer Than Brothers
Callie and Seth
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Seth's lips left hers and she missed them terribly. Lantern light shone in her eyes. The room had been nearly pitch dark with only moonlight coming through the uncurtained windows in this large upstairs room.
"Y-yes?" She couldn't see beyond that glaring lantern, but she recognized the voice. Dr. Coolidge. The Fort Worth doctor who was supposed to take her home.
"Get up immediately."
That actually took some doing, tucked beneath Seth as she was. Her skirts twisted up with him and his nightshirt and his blanket and his legs and oh, mercy.
Finally she stood. She had an irrational desire to salute.
"Wh-what are you doing here, Doctor?" The doctor wasn't alone. He had five men with him. Callie didn't know much about the army honestly, but there were stars on one man's shirt, and other decorations on these men.
"We have a very important reason to be here that is not your concern. I told your father I would see to your well-being, but I had no idea I was dealing with a young lady who was no better than she ought to be."
Callie had never even been kissed before.
Well, before Seth. He'd kissed her any number of times. "I'm sorry. I was just…Seth is…that is…it's not like it seems."
"Oh, it seems as if you were in bed with a man, not your husband. How am I misunderstanding that?"
"I w-was…he was having a nightmare. I was waking him up."
"By kissing him?"
As a matter of fact yes, but Callie didn't think it was wise to say that.
Seth, newly relieved of his fever, very, very newly, stood beside Callie. In his nightshirt. Not proper at all. He slid one of his strong hand to the small of Callie's back, supporting her.
"You will leave this hospital immediately, Miss Stone."
"B-but I am working here. You said you needed my help."
"I don't need the kind of work you are doing, I assure you."
"Doctor,” Seth said, running his hand up and down her back, “Sally has been nothing but…"
"It's Callie," the doctor snarled.
"What?" Seth, the dunce, asked.
"The woman who was sharing that bed with you, her name, is Callie. Perhaps you should familiarize yourself with it."
Seth looked at Callie with wide, confused eyes. Maybe he wasn't fully awake yet.
"Callie, I mean. Callie has been nothing but generous and…"
"We saw ample proof of her generosity, soldier and we don't fault you for accepting her generous offer, but women of the street aren't welcome in here."
"Women of the street?" Callie's fist clenched.
"Now there's no call to say such things. Callie taking care of me like she did tonight is the nicest thing anyone's ever done for me."
"Seth, stop trying to save me. Right now."
"What kind of women do you employ in this hospital, Coolidge?" The man with the stars on his uniform gave Callie a very sharp-eyed look. "I would think you'd know to keep an eye out for her sort."
"I'm not letting you talk to Callie that way, General." Seth leaned toward the older man. Callie heard the threatening tone in Seth's voice and looked at him. He had a wild look in his blue eyes. A dangerous look. A mad look.
She wondered what happened to a man who attacked a general. Surely it went badly for the attacker.
The general didn't even react to Seth, instead he turned on the doctor. "If you can't manage this hospital, I'll relieve you of the job and give it to someone who can."
The doctor stiffened and turned furious eyes on Callie. "Get out, Miss Stone. Immediately." Then he glared at Seth. "And if you're well enough to issue threats to one of the Union Army's generals, then you're well enough to leave this hospital, too. Get out."
Seth's fever had only broken today. Callie wasn't sure how he'd walk out. He didn't have any clothes. Callie wasn't sure how he was managing to stay on his feet.
Seth even seemed to calm down a bit. He subsided from his threatening stance and said, "I'm sorry to have been so rude. But…but…well, you interrupted us. I'd just persuaded Miss Stone to marry me. That kiss was to celebrate her accepting my proposal."
Callie gasped and turned to look at Seth. He was staring right at her with eyes so blue they glowed in the lantern light. She knew it was a terrible mistake but she wanted him so badly. Yes, Seth was sick. And all right, yes, he'd just said her name wrong. And yes he wasn't probably even thinking clearly. But the kiss they shared and the way she alone could get him to come out of his nightmares, there was something between them, something real. She knew it was love that would grow into a lifetime of happiness.
It was meant to be and if they were marrying in haste she would not repent at leisure. She'd enjoy herself thoroughly at leisure.
One of the men was a chaplain. They were married immediately.
To Callie's surprise, the doctor wasn't placated. He still kicked them out of the hospital. He did relent enough to let Seth find a pair of pants in a stack near the wall. Callie quickly helped him dress, packed up all the meager possessions Seth had around his hard little cot, and took him to the room she was staying in. She didn't have to wake him from his nightmares because they didn’t sleep all night.
By morning she was a thoroughly married lady.
By the end of the week she was so madly in love she was walking on air.
Seth wasn’t really fit to travel and, unlike Luke, he didn’t seem determined to head out. So they stayed mostly in that tiny room, leaving only to find food. Callie considered this stretch of time their honeymoon.
They spent the first two weeks of their married life mostly in bed. The passion between them
was something Callie could never have imagined. There were no nightmares and very little talking, there just wasn't time to fit much in between lovemaking and working up the energy to make love again.
Callie had cured Seth.
They dozed but rarely did they sleep deeply before waking to make love again.
After two weeks of such pleasure their bliss finally wore them out. Seth slept deeply enough to have his first nightmare, which Callie cured him of in her usual efficient way.
It was glorious and they both agreed marriage was a wonder. She did notice he had a mild fever and worried about it, but he fell back into a peaceful sleep and she hoped it wasn't serious.
She awoke the next morning alone.
She searched frantically. She went to every hospital. So many homes were being used as temporary hospitals that it took her weeks to make sure she’d been to every one of them. She remembered how those men had grabbed Dare and Vince, so she badgered every soldier, trying to find someone who remembered dragging Seth onto a train. She tearfully visited morgues and walked through alleys looking for men sleeping on the streets. She searched until all hope was gone.
He had to be dead, he'd have never abandoned her.
No man could make love to a woman like that and then just leave.
Through tears of grief, she remembered Vince’s money. She used it to get herself back to Texas.
When she got there, she found Pa had fought with Luke, and Luke had run off.
By October she'd realized she was pregnant. Which was when she produced her marriage license and admitted her folly with Seth. Pa was furious, but then Pa was furious most every day.
By February she had a son named Connor who was the image of Seth Kincaid right down to his wild blue eyes.
By summer her pa was dead and she was running for her life from Flint Greer who claimed Pa had sold him the S Bar S.
She considered the promise of help from Luke’s Regulator friends. She knew they would help her, though they didn’t know her at all. She even wondered if she’d find Luke with them.
But she couldn’t remember who they were. Vince Yates. He’d given her the money. Chicago. But such a huge city. She had no idea how to go about finding one man in a town that size.
Dare. She couldn’t even remember his last name, let alone where he’d hailed from.
Jonas Cahill, but he’d been on his way west to work as a missionary on the frontier. He’d ridden with Pa and Luke as far as St. Louis. Callie had no idea where Jonas had gone. And anyway those men, despite their promises, had no responsibility for her.
However her son had uncles.
She remembered, 'Rafe! Ethan! Help! I’m burning!’
Rafe and Ethan Kincaid. Callie and Seth hadn't talked much but he had said his brothers lived in a little mining town called Rawhide, Colorado.
Callie was a western girl. Unlike Chicago which terrified her, she wasn’t afraid to tackle a small town named Rawhide. It sounded like her kind of place.
Seth had brothers. Uncles bore some responsibilities for their families, and Callie had nowhere else to turn--she couldn't count Chicago. She wrote to those uncles and threw in a letter to her husband, just in case he had the nerve to not be dead. Then set out, still living on what was left of Vince Yate's money.
She wished Vince knew he’d saved her, he deserved that, but she had no idea how to tell him.
Heading west, Connor in one arm, her rifle in the other, Callie thought of the trip ahead of her.
Her brother was gone, her husband and father were dead, and her ranch stolen— she didn’t believe for a second Pa had sold it.
And if Seth wasn’t dead, that’s where he’d go.
But of course Seth was dead.
And if he wasn’t, he would be by the time she was through with him.
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