*** Rachel becomes introspective as she remembers what was, what isn't anymore, and what does the future hold for her…
*** Though Logan and Rachel are not siblings by birth, they were raised together from an early age as brother and sister…
*** Now time and circumstances have changed, and so has Logan's feelings for Rachel…
≈ 1 ≈
~ Yearnings ~
~ 1881 ~
The sun was near to setting when Logan and Rachel finished supper in near silence. Usually, they would relax with casual conversation. Lately, though, she began to notice his hasty retreat immediately afterward. Even she took to her room earlier than usual tonight. She sat down at her dressing table and began to brush her long brown hair.
She couldn't help but notice sadness in the sable brown eyes staring back at her, which conflicted with her thoughts of expectation. However, of what she couldn't be sure. Perhaps it would be safer not to dig beneath the surface of the unknown. Her late mother would say, 'Little one, you must leave well enough alone or you'll invite trouble.'
She and her late husband, Daniel grew up together, along with Logan, who came to live with her family at four years old. They grew up as if they were brother and sister.
Her eyes welled when she recalled Sheriff Dodd's knock on the door. To this day, the words still seemed unreal. 'I'm sorry, but your husband died during an attempted bank robbery.' The only solace to aid her grief was to find out a few days before the tragedy that she was with child. At least she had shared the happy news with Daniel.
She sighed and laid her brush down on the vanity. She walked over to her bedside table and picked up her wedding daguerreotype. She sat down on the bed and touched her husband's picture. As if doing so, he would become real again.
"Oh, Daniel, why is it sometimes I feel so on edge, but at the same time, excited?" She starred at their images a little longer. Nonetheless, when it came right down to it, her husband was still gone. Her daughter was gone. Moreover, the daguerreotype in her hands was cold, lifeless. She set it back in its place.
Every corner of her room held reminders of married life. Wedding gifts such as the four-fold screen made of mahogany panels with stained glass adorned one corner of the room; a gift from Logan. A rocker gifted by her best friend, Sandra, sat in another corner with a baby afghan she had crocheted for Daniela still draped over the arm. Her mother made the brown, white, and yellow Wedding Ring quilt on the bed.
Hours of loneliness filled her nights now. If she were completely honest, her quandary over recent awakenings filled her with anxiety. She thought never again to have such urges after Daniel's death. It didn't matter that she was only twenty-nine; propriety dictated a widow's life. She had no reason to doubt the guidance from the Danvers, her late husband's parents. After all, Alvin was a preacher, so he would not lead her wrong. And Eunice had been most helpful in explaining to her what was expected of her fact of life.
She contemplated why after she lost Daniela, the Danvers attitude changed toward her. They became severe in their censor, aloof.
On one hand, she was a widow, and for the sake of propriety, she needed to act thusly. On the other hand, since she was young, would it be so wrong to want a husband and family of her own?
She just didn't know what to do? She grabbed a shawl form the armoire and wrapped it around her. Maybe a nightly constitution and some fresh air would help her to make sense of her jumbled thoughts. She walked outside and down the steps to the path that surrounded her home, lead to the stables and corral.
Logan leaned on the corral fence, and with the moon and stars help along with the light from the bunkhouse, the corral and stables took on a peaceful aura. No matter that he was thirty-one years old, he found himself still in awe that this was his home; he loved the Dangling W. It was in his blood, and if he had to explain why it was so, he couldn't in a million years. He surmised that for many it was probably an interesting concept for people to understand since he was not born on the ranch.
Arnie and Maddie Wesley raised him as their own child. He didn't remember a lot of his life before coming to the ranch. He sometimes brought to mind glimpses of his battered mother, their living in squalor, and surviving hand to mouth. Mostly, though, he shut his mind off to such things; it served no purpose to dwell on what was.
He grew up thinking of Rachel as a sister. There was never any question that she and Daniel would spend their lives together. Then fate stepped in and Rachel lost her husband, and he lost his best friend.
Much as he tried his best to rationalize his errant thoughts about her, he could not. Trips to the creek gave proof to changes that he could not explain. And, truth be told, he was worn out trying to halt them. Was it so bad, wrong to have such thoughts? After all, Rachel wasn't married any longer. However, in some people's mind, she was his sister. The question he continued to ask himself was when had he stopped thinking of her as a sister? And why did he want more? In doing so, did he think it wrong? And how would she react to such thoughts - if she knew? Sometimes he sensed she felt the tide between them changing too, though neither spoke of it. Suppers at the house were becoming more difficult too. His quick exits were noticeable. Had he hurt her feelings by not chatting as in the past? Dammit but this isn't easy!
He turned around and leaned against the fence, crossed one ankle over the other, and then lit his pipe again. He drew in a drag, no closer to resolution.
The smell of Logan's pipe tobacco gave him away every night. She didn't have to see his short, wavy brown hair, and piercing black eyes to know he was there. He had a slight scar, barely visible just above his right eyebrow, the result of his protecting her from a ruffian at school when she was ten, he twelve.
She contemplated if she should make her presence known. Logan had helped run the Dangling W for years and much more so since her father's recent illness. So much so in fact, she wasn't really looking for excuses to seek him out for business sake. Nonetheless, drumming up reasons to linger was something new for her.
When it came down to it, much as she probably shouldn't tempt fate, she could not bring herself to turn away. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath to calm her nerves, took in the tobacco mixed with bay rum. Lighthearted though she was, she said, "A penny for your thoughts."
Logan smiled in relief that she had come. "I'm afraid a dollar wouldn't fix this cowboy's thoughts."
She had noticed his hesitation before answering, and then his response; it concerned her. "One of these days, Logan Burke, I just might bring out the big bucks and call your bluff." She knew all too well the lopsided grin on his face. She didn't have to see it through the darkness of the night; she felt it like a caress on her skin.
"Honey, I would probably bore you to tears. How is Arnie feeling tonight?"
"Resting comfortably after Rosella made him some chamomile tea and allowed him one molasses cookie, though he wanted the whole plate."
Logan laughed softly. "He does like his molasses cookies. What did the doctor say when he was here earlier?"
Worry crept into Rachel's voice. "He's coming along, though slower than Doc would like."
"Well, that's the best we can hope for at this point I would imagine." Logan emptied the bowl of his pipe with what little tobacco was left, kicked dirt on it with his boot, and then slipped the bowl of his pipe in his back pocket. He took a step forward and tipped her face toward the moon's glow with his crooked index finger. "You're not getting enough rest, Rachel. If I can tell that from seeing you in so little light, I dare to think what tomorrow will bring. You've got to take better care of yourself," he said with far too much emotion.
"Logan Burke, you know exactly what I look like in the light of the day."
Logan dropped his hand; he was beginning to want, need more. He rearranged his stance to calm things down, and cleared his throat. "You take on too much. Before Arnie became sick, he mentioned hiring more help. You should follow through."
"I trust your judgment, as Daddy does, so by all means advertise in town for three more men." Rachel sighed. "Between nursing Daddy and keeping the books, I have to admit it is overwhelming." Rachel let out a breath of despair, "I don't know what I'd do without you, Logan."
"You'll never have to find out, because I'm not going anywhere. Besides," he grinned, "have you ever heard me grumble?"
"Never, but then you aren't the kind of man to complain." She hesitated. "I need to ask you something. May I?"
He crossed his arms in front of him. "Since we were kids, Rachel Wesley Danvers, you have never once asked permission for anything concerning me."
"I stand corrected." She chuckled
"So, what's on your mind? I'm an open book, my lady."
She clasped her hands and pursed her lips before speaking. "I'm just wondering. Do the men resent me when they see us discussing what to do around the ranch?"
"Not in the least."
"I guess I get that feeling because of the odd looks Max Burnett gives me. It's as if he looks through me sometimes." She shrugged. "Truth be told, I wouldn't mind if he quit. What do you think about him?"
Logan's temper flared. "He hasn't made any untoward advances has he?"
"Oh no, he just appears to be mad is the best way to describe it."
"Well, I'm glad you said something. I'll keep closer tabs on him. Come to think about it, I might even have a better idea."
Rachel asked, "What is it?"
"You know how Tater has a way of getting along with everyone. On any number of occasions, he's clued me in different suspicions of the men in the past. For instance, do you remember Ike Echers?"
"Do I ever, he was a real piece of work," said Rachel. "I remember how Tater played along with Ike when he wanted to sabotage our getting that prize bull, Domino."
"He thought he was pretty shrewd when he asked the old man if he could represent the Dangling W. All so he could pick the bull up, and instead of delivering it home, sell if for a profit in Phoenix, and then tell us the bull died en route and pocket the money."
"And Daddy suspected he was the very person who did the same thing to Randolph Hunter when his prime bull came up missing, though it could never be proven."
"I think we should see if Tater would be agreeable to doing a little schmoozing with Max."
"Tater is the perfect choice," Rachel said, excited. "Max won't get suspicious of him, and he won't be the wiser that we doubt his loyalty."
"Exactly," said Logan.
"What a relief." As was natural over the years of their close bond, Rachel hugged Logan, but what she had not expected was the surge of electricity that charged through her. She quickly gathered her wits, but closed her eyes and stalled before pulling away. That had never happened before.
"I'm sorry, Logan," she said when she gathered her wits and stepped back. "After losing so many people, I depend on you far too much." Hard as she tried to stifle the tears welling, she could not. "I can't bear losing Daddy. To lose four loved ones in less than five years would be too much." She turned away from Logan, hoping to gather her scattered thoughts. Instead, a shudder of grief overtook her. "This ranch is all I'll have left. If not for you, I'm not so sure I'd be strong enough to carry on running it."
He put his hands inside his front pockets. "You have me, Rachel. I'm not going anywhere."
Rachel turned around to face Logan. "Of course, you've always been here for me - you're family. Still, you deserve to find a good woman and have a houseful of children." Now where on earth did that ridiculous thought come from? What would I do without him? Rachel shivered and then wrapped her arms around her middle.
That was all it took. Logan took the two steps separating them and held her shoulders with his hands. With the moonlights glow, he searched her expression. "Rachel, I'm here for you now and always will be because I can't imagine being anywhere else, honey. You, your parents and Daniel are the only family I have ever really known. Just because your mother and Daniel are no longer with us, doesn't change that fact."
Though it was wrong, Rachel wrapped her arms around Logan again. "It was hard enough to lose Mother. Then when Daniel died, I was sure I'd never be able to pick up the pieces." She looked into Logan's eyes, "When I lost Daniela, I wanted to die. You helped me see that I could go on. Your strength helped me get through it all, Logan. And now, I'm scared of what will happen if Daddy gets sicker." She hesitated, "Or we lose him-"
"Shhhh, don't think, let alone say such things. Rachel," he whispered. "Let's just take it a day at a time." He knew he should not do it.
Rachel knew she shouldn't allow it as she blinked back tears, but when Logan cradled her face in his hands and pressed his lips to hers, a surge of need shot through her. She took what he offered; she savored it as she became lost in the kiss. She opened her mouth to him, sending shivers through them both.
Neither one could bring themselves to stop as Logan drew her closer and trailed kisses down her neck. "I'm here, Rachel. I'll never leave you."
"I need you, Logan."
"I need you too, honey."
"Miss Rachel" called Rosella Juarez, housekeeper and cook for the Wesley home for over twenty-five years, "I hope you are with Mr. Logan and not out her by yourself."
As if drenched by ice water, Logan and Rachel broke apart, gasping for air. As steadily as he could muster, Logan answered. "Rosella, we're over here talking by the corral."