Four days he'd been on the Barkley Ranch. Four days he'd had to deal with the side glances, listen to the whispered gossip over his motivations for showing up. Four days he'd been subjected to conversations abruptly stopped when he entered a room, hateful glances hurled his way, and worse. In a way he'd welcomed the chance to ride out and repair fences, it didn't even matter that he'd be workin' alone, he'd been doin' that longer then he could remember.
Drawing up the horses, he brought the buckboard to a stop and climbed off the seat. The fence wasn't in good shape and from the looks of the damage it was not going to be a one day job like he'd been told. Well, if they thought he was goin' to tuck tail and run back whinin' like a kicked stray they had another thing comin' to 'em.
Yanking his gloves from his pocket, he pulled them on as he walked around to the back-end of the wagon. Wouldn't be the first night he'd spend out, likely wouldn't be the last, course, it'd have been nice if he'd have known he'd be stayin' out, if only so he could have tucked coffee and a pot in his saddlebags. Nothin' he hated more then startin' the mornin' without coffee.
Reaching for the bail of barbed-wire he hefted it out of the wagon and carried it over to the trampled section of fence before dropping it. Repeating the process, he unloaded the rest of his supplies before tackling the first challenge of tearing out what remained of the old fence.
It was well into mid-day when he heard the sound of a horse's approach, pausing with the shovel still in hand, he turned to see if he could make out the rider, and almost instinctively found his gun-hand fallin' to his holster. There was no tellin' what he might run into out here, and he wasn't about to take any chances. As the rider drew closer and he saw them more clearly his face broke into a smile and he immediately relaxed.
"Audra, what are you doin' way out here, the family know where you are?" Dropping the shovel he walked over to catch the bridle of her horse, so he could hold it steady as she dismounted.
"I heard what the Foreman did, sending you out here on your own, I thought you might be hungry." As her feet hit the ground she pulled two bags off from behind her saddle.
"I had a bite of jerky earlier, but, yeah, I could eat. Let me get my bedroll out of the buckboard so you're not settin' on bare ground." Taking her horse with him, he tied it off to the wagon before retrieving the bundle from beneath the wagon's seat. As he turned, he shouldn't have been surprised to find that Audra hadn't been content to stay put, and she had in fact followed him.
"Why don't you let me take those, we can go up the hill a bit, away from all the dirt." He marked the direction by pointing after taking the bags from her, and as Audra gave her nod of agreement matched his stride to hers for the walk.
"So, just who knows 'bout you comin' out here? Can't imagine Nick'd be too happy 'bout it."
To be continued...
Muse: Heath Barkley
Fandom: The Big Valley