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  Josephine's Heart 

 

By Ruby

 

 

As Josephine James rode into the wonderful little frontier town she couldn't believe this was the place she was to meet her mother.  Actually the fact that her mother wanted to come out west at all still had Jo mystified. 

 

Her mother, Victoria James was a city girl through and through.  Since her stepfather had passed away 6 months ago and left her mother with all his debts, money had been tight.  Jo didn't realize just how tight until her mother told her a month ago they were heading west to a small town called Four Corners.  It seemed her stepfather's brother Stewart James raised cattle and was doing quite well for himself.  Jo had met Stewart and his son Thomas at her stepfathers funeral and Stewart had made a business offer to her mother, which required her to go west. 

 

Victoria was very hush- hush about the whole deal, but insisted Josephine come along.  Jo had no plans of arguing; she hated the city with as much passion as her mother loved it.  She was looking forward to the open plains with no buildings in sight.  She learned to ride at an early age and she decided she would bring Preacher, her horse along and spend some of the trip in the stage with her mother and ride some of the way on horseback.  She was welcoming the trip and as they pulled away from the city she never looked back.

 

Jo slowly made her way down the main street until she came to a group of men gathered outside of the saloon.  She wondered what was going on and as she got closer she heard a high-pitched voice she knew all too well.

 

"Josephine Mary James you had me worried sick!" came her mother's voice from inside the circle of men.

 

Jo rolled her eyes and slid down the side of her horse and tied him to the hitching post.

 

"Mother I told you not to expect me until this afternoon.  I'm actually early," she said walking over to her mother and the group of men. 

 

"Josephine I knew letting you go off on your own was a horrendous idea. I was about to send these men out after you," her mother said while gesturing to the seven men standing behind her. 

 

The seven men were looking on as the situation between the mother and daughter heated up a bit.  They were worried at first when the older woman came to the jail with the tail of her daughter missing.  And now it seemed to the seven men that the mother was a bit paranoid.  The young woman looked fine and in fact dressed in men's clothing and how well she handled her horse they never would have taken bets she was from New York City. 

 

"I apologize for causing you gentleman any bother.  As you can see I'm perfectly fine," Jo gave a winning smile to the gentleman that she lost as her eyes wondered back to her mother.

 

"No trouble at all Miss James," a tall handsome gentleman with a moustache said as the other six men nodded in agreement.

 

Her eyes somehow found their way back to the gentleman with the red jacket.  He was intoxicatingly handsome and his eyes, she couldn't pull her gaze away from his eyes.  There was something about him, almost as if she's met him before, which she knew was impossible.  And then the moment was broken when her mothers voice interrupted her thoughts.

 

"Josephine, go on and get your self cleaned up at the hotel.  We have a rendezvous with your uncle and Thomas this evening.  They are making a special trip in to town just for you.  Now go and get yourself presentable," her mother practically barked. 

 

" I will after I have a drink at the saloon.  I'm extremely parched and would like to sit for a moment," Jo said as she made her way to the entrance of the saloon.

 

"In there?" her mothers voice screeched again.

 

"Yes mother, in there," Jo shot back with a stress on the word there.

 

"Oh Josephine why must you always do these things?

 

"Do what mother.  It's a drink that's all and then I will join you at the hotel,"  she said and then she made her way through the batwing doors knowing full well her mother would never fallow her into the saloon.

 

Victoria turned to the gentleman and thanked them for their help.  As she walked away Victoria and Josiah locked in a stare for a brief moment it was if they were having a conversation through their gaze and it didn't seem to be a friendly one.  The men all noticed it, but chose to bring it up another time.  Knowing the ex-preacher and his past he would open up if he felt the need.  They all decided it was best to make their way into the saloon and have a seat just to make sure the young woman didn't run into any trouble.

 

While Josephine waited for the friendly Mexican woman behind the bar to bring Jo her beer she happened to see in the reflection of the mirror above the bar the seven men come in and sit at a table off to the side.  She asked the woman to add two bottles of whiskey to her bill and asked it and seven shot glasses be taken over to the men at the table.

 

After Inez had delivered Jo's gift to the men the one with the mustache asked for her to join them and she did happily. 

 

"Thank you for the drinks," the young kid said.  He looked no older than her young twenty-one years.

 

"Your most welcome it's my gift for my mother troubling you.  I know she can be a bit high strung at times.  I do apologize," Jo said making eye contact with each of the men.  She noticed from the start how each of the men was quite different in their own way.  She wondered how it was they were here in this town and from where she stood they seemed to be close friends as well. 

 

She didn't have to wait long for the answer to her question.  The handsome mustache man she quickly came to know as Buck introduced himself and his other friends.  He with the interjection of comments from the other six men told her how they came to be the peacekeepers of the quaint little town.  They talked for sometime and she enjoyed their company immensely.  The conversation finally turned to them asking what had brought Jo and her mother to Four corners. 

 

She explained how after the death of her stepfather her mother found them swimming in mounds of debt and that all she really knew was that her stepfather's brother had offered a solution to her mother's money problems.  The men were none to thrilled when she told them who the man was that she and her mother were here to meet and they told her about the run in they had with Stewart James and his nephew when they first arrived in Four Corners.  She promised them she would keep a close eye on her mother and if anything suspicious arose she would inform them immediately.

 

Then Josiah who had been fairly quiet through most of the conversation, but had paid close attention to her and hung on her every word when she spoke finally asked her a question.

 

"Miss James if you don't mind could I ask you what happened to your paternal father." And she noticed the effect this question had over the six men.  It was as if they all knew something she didn't.  She brushed it off to paranoia and answered Josiah.

 

"Well Mr. Sanchez I only know what my mother has told me." She took a sip of her beer and continued meeting his gaze.  "Mother told me they were very much in love and that he died before I was born.  He was a preacher and had gone off to do some missionary work and was robbed and killed," she said and then looked down into her glass.

 

It took the men all a minute to register what the young woman had just said.  They all remembered the looks that had passed between Josiah and Victoria; it was as if they knew each other. 

 

Finally Josiah found his voice and spoke.

 

"I'm sorry to hear that Miss James," he said with that way he had of comforting.

 

"Do you know what your fathers name was?" Chris asked

 

"No, Mr. Larabee.  Mother won't talk about my father with me.  She says it's too painful."

 

"Well gentleman it has been a pleasure, but I really must be going.  My mother will send out another posse if I don't show my face soon," Jo said and they all stood and tipped their hats.

 

"Thank you kindly Miss James for the drinks," JD said again

 

"Your most welcome and please call me Jo.  All my friends do." She gave them a huge smile and then she turned on her heels and was out the saloon doors.

 

The men all sat in silence not really making any eye contact and then it was Vin that broke the silence.

 

"Josiah you know Jo's ma don't ya'," Vin asking what they all wanted to know.

 

"Yeah Vin I do.  We were involved over 20 years ago.  Victoria was a different woman then.  She was kind, so full of life.  She was a lot like her daughter is now," Josiah answered not looking up at them.

 

"What happened?" Nathan asked.

 

"I went to pick her up one night to escort her to dinner and she had left a note for her mother to give me.  It said she had found someone new and that she loved him and they were to be married in a week.  I was crushed.  I tried to find her.  I found out later they had been married in New York and from everything I learned today from Josephine that's where they resided as well," he said before downing another shot of whiskey.

 

"Josiah, is it possible for Miss Josephine to be your daughter?" Nathan asked.

 

"It's more than possible brother.  I knew the moment I laid eyes on her that she was my daughter," he said finally making eye contact with his friends.

 

"What are ya gonna do about it Josiah?" Buck asked.

 

"I'm not sure Buck," he answered

 

"Ya have ta do somthin Josiah.  She's your kin," Vin said shocked that Josiah would even contemplate not telling the girl.

 

"Mr. Tanner is correct.  I feel the dear girl would be elated to find out her father was still among the living," Ezra said with much emotion.

 

"I'll take it all into consideration my friends," Josiah said while getting up from the table.  He tipped his hat to his friends and he was out the door. 

 

"I can't believe Josiah's got a daughter," JD said.

 

"And a pretty one at that," Buck piped in.

 

"I'd stay away from her Buck.  Josiah's not going to take to kindly to you sniffing around his daughter," Nathan chimed in.

 

'Now Nathan you know I wouldn't hurt a hair on Jo's pretty little head," Buck said with a hurt look on his face.

 

"I don't think it's her hair Mr. Jackson was referring to," Ezra said.

 

And with that they all broke into roaring laughter, even Buck.

 

~~7~~

 

Jo sat and listened to Stewart and Thomas James for hours.  They were very polite and kind to she and her mother; in fact she got the sense that Thomas was interested in her.  He was constantly staring at her and telling her wild stories about adventures he's had and the run-ins he's had where the use of his guns were required.  Normally that kind of story would have sparked an interest in the young girl, but her thoughts kept going back to a certain gentleman from this afternoon.  One Mr. Standish to be more specific.  Jo couldn't put her finger on just what it was, but he had consumed her thoughts since she'd left the saloon. 

 

When the night was finally over Jo felt like she could breath again, unfortunately her mother had made mention of her spending time in the saloon earlier in the day and that she had spent said time with the seven peacekeepers. Thomas immediately made plans to come into town again tomorrow night and spend some more time with her.  Jo was not thrilled.  He was a nice man and not bad to look at either, but she was not interested in him at all.  When they had a private moment tomorrow she planned to make that clear. 

 

~~7~~

 

The next afternoon found Joe sitting in the corner of the saloon alone slowly nursing a beer.  She'd had another awful fight with her mother about how she's not living up to her potential.  Her mother felt Jo should be thinking about finding a suitable, of course wealthy husband and settling down.  Jo of course was not interested.  She swore when and if she ever married it would be for love and no other reason.  Jo watched for years the marriage her mother and stepfather had.  They were so cold and never spoke to one another unless it was required.  She knew they never loved one another and that it had been a marriage of convenience.  Her stepfather was rich at least at the time he married her mother and she was a beautiful arm piece for when he needed to be seen at public functions.  Jo swore that would never be her and her mother never understood.  She constantly told her she was just like her father and as it was intended to hurt Jo, but it never did.  She wished more than anything in the world she'd known her father.  She was suddenly pulled out of her thoughts by a soft southern voice.

 

"Miss James a beautiful woman such as yourself should not be sitting in the corner of a dusty saloon all by her lonesome."

 

"Well then Mr. Standish please join me," she said meeting his eyes and giving him a winning smile.

 

"It would be my pleasure," Ezra said as he pulled the chair out and sat down never breaking eye contact; not missing her sullen face, "Is there something I can be of assistance with my dear?"

 

"I don't want to burden you with my trouble's Mr. Standish," Jo said breaking the eye contact and looking down at her hands.

 

"Non sense my dear.  Please, if telling me your woes will help than I am at your service." He said while reaching over and gently squeezing her hand as if to reassure her with his touch.

 

When he touched her it was if her skin had been set on fire.  She never in all her life experienced a feeling like that from another human beings touch.  When she looked up into his eyes she saw for the first time the man Mr. Standish really was.

 

 "Miss James, are you alright?" he asked breaking her look into his soul.

 

"Mr. Standish can I ask you a question?"

 

"I assume so," he hesitantly said.

 

"Have you ever been in love?" she asked making sure she kept eye contact with him when he answered.

 

He looked at her intensely for what seemed liked minutes and he finally answered with a single.

 

"No."

 

"But there have been times you thought you were.  Infatuation, maybe?" she continued with her questioning.

 

"Yes, Infatuation I suppose would be the best word to describe those moments," he said still meeting her stare.

 

"But you look for love don't you Mr. Standish.   Acceptance from that one person that truly knows you and understands you. And when you do fall in love it will be forever and that person will have all of you, heart and soul.  Am I correct?" she asked

 

He pulled his hand away from hers that up until that moment had still been holding hers from what he thought was to comfort the young woman.

 

"Miss James, may I ask where are you going with this?" Ezra asked with a masked face on, not wanting her to see that she was getting to him. 

 

"Mr. Standish do you believe the eyes are the windows to the soul?" Jo continued on, knowing she was affecting him.

 

"Miss James after your little speech, yes I believe that to be true," he said leaning back into the table and anxiously awaiting her next question, or observation.  No one had ever read him the way she was, especially someone he had just met.

 

"Mr. Standish truth be told until I met you I never gave much thought to that before either, but after meeting you I do.  Would you like me to continue with what else I see?  Or am I making you uncomfortable? Jo asked hoping he would let her continue.

 

"Miss James my compatriots could not coax me away from this table with a sack of gold.  You have me very intrigued.  Please do continue."

 

"Mr. Standish you're a very guarded man. You think letting someone get close would be the downfall of you; they may see the real you.  The real you that has a heart of gold and is constantly in a struggle with yourself over right and wrong, and something tells me as of late the good nature in you is suffocating the bad.  Your becoming the man you've always wanted to be and that frightens you," she finished and waited to see how he would react.

 

His eyes never left her as she spoke and couldn't believe what she was saying.  It was all true.  Every word that came out of her beautiful mouth was true. 

 

"How do you know all this?" he asked trying very hard to keep his mask in place.

 

"This is what I see when I look in your eyes Mr. Standish. I take it no one has ever been able to read you like a book before," Jo said with a smile.

 

'No, Miss James never."

 

"Well that's truly a shame.  Because they were missing out on a wonderful view," she said reaching across the table to take his hand and he welcomed the contact. 

 

Then the moment they were sharing was over when JD came hurriedly into the saloon.

He looked around the saloon and when he saw the couple in the corner, he found who he'd been looking for. 

 

"Jo, sorry to interrupt, but your ma's looking all over for ya and I told her I'd checked in hear for you," JD said giving Ezra a quick glance he looked weird to the young man.

 

Letting out a sigh she replied.

 

"Thanks JD.  Please tell her I'll be along in a moment."

 

"Ok, Jo.  Ez are you all right.  You look kinda pale?" JD asked leaning down to get a better look at his friend.

 

"Yes I'm fine Mr. Dunne.  Please go and pass Miss James's whereabouts on to her mother before she gets worried," Ezra said finally making eye contact with JD.

 

"Ok, see ya later," He said making his way to the door.

 

Ezra looked over to Josephine remembering the reason he had come over to speak to her in the first place.

 

"Miss James we never did get to your dilemma, but something tells me it has to do with your mother. 

 

"That's quite alright and please call me Jo or at the very least Josephine."

 

"Alright Josephine, than please do call me Ezra.  I guess since you know me even better than my own mother formalities seem a bit much," he said with a smile

 

"Now please tell me of your mother," Ezra said

 

"Not much to really tell.  She's hell bent on marrying me off to the richest man she can find and she cares little of what I think."

 

"And what it is it you want?" he questioned

 

"I want love Ezra.  I don't care about money or social status.  I want to be someone's whole world and they mine.  I refuse to settle for anything less and she refuses to understand this."

 

"Well, parents have a way of wanting the best for their children and sometimes they loose sight of the fact it's our lives to live.  Give her time and maybe she'll come around," he said grabbing both her hands in his and rubbing his thumbs over the backs of them.

 

"And if she doesn't come around?"

 

"Then move far away and when you write don't leave on your return address," Ezra said with a huge smile.

 

"That sounds very inviting," Jo chuckled

 

"Yes, well if you need further advise or a good ear I recommend Mr. Sanchez.  He has this way about him.  Trust me."

 

"That I do Ezra.  I better be going.  Thank you.  I enjoyed are conversation immensely," Jo said getting up to stand. 

 

Ezra rose as well still with her hands in his.

 

"My dear if you need anything you know where to find me," he said releasing her hands.

 

She got on her tiptoes put her hands on his chest and leaned in to whisper in his ear.

 

"Don't worry Ezra.  Your secrets are safe with me." With that she planned a soft kiss on his cheek and she turned on her heels and was out the door leaving a speechless Ezra behind. 

 

~~7~~

 

While at dinner with Thomas Jo's mind kept wondering back to the conversation that afternoon with Ezra. Never in her life had she connected to quickly or so completely with one person and she was sure he felt the same. 

 

After dinner Thomas suggested a walk and Jo complied.  She was hoping this would give her the moment where she could explain that she didn't nor would she ever have feelings for him.  He seemed to be treating the situation as if they were courting.  And that needed to be put to a stop.  She almost felt sorry for him.  She knew he was getting encouragement from her mother and she was going to be putting a stop to that as well.  Jo wasn't sure exactly what it was that was developing between her and Ezra, but she wanted the freedom to explore it. 

 

During the walk, Thomas talked so much about himself that Jo wasn't given the chance to get a word in edgewise let alone bring up the conversation she intended to have with him.  As the pair was passing the saloon Thomas made a comment about being a very successful poker player.  That gave Jo an idea.  She challenged him to show her his skills and go in and play a game or two.  He thought on it for a moment and agreed.  It seemed some of his ranch hands had joined him on his trip into town and this would give him someone to play with. 

 

As Jo and Thomas made their way into the saloon Jo looked around for the object of her desire. It didn't take more than a mere moment to find him.  He was at table surrounded with spectators.  It caught the attention of Thomas as well.  It seemed the men Ezra was playing were the same men Thomas was intending to find.  As they made their way over the game ended and Ezra came out the winner…of course.  Jo tried to conceal her smile, but once he turned and looked at her she found she couldn't hold it anymore.

 

The next thing she knew Thomas was challenging Ezra to a game.  Ezra complied he knew this would give him sometime to look on the woman that had consumed his every thought since their encounter only a few hours ago.  She looked beautiful in her dark blue dress that brought out her sky blue eyes.  And when she looked at him they appeared as if they were dancing.  She was so beautiful and he knew for the first this might actually be more than infatuation he was feeling.  No one had ever broken down all his defenses as she had, come to think of no had ever really tried.  He felt closeness with her he's never felt with another living soul and it was comforting.  He pulled himself out of his thoughts and focused fully on the game at hand stealing casual glances at Josephine every chance he could.  He won several times and each time she beamed with excitement.  Thomas never even noticed. 

 

After several games Josephine excused herself telling Thomas she needed some air.  He was so consumed by the game he never even looked up. The only sign he even heard her was the small grunt he gave her.  She quickly made her way to the exit of the saloon.  Once on the boardwalk she took a deep breath in and walked over to the post and leaned up against it.  As much as she enjoyed being near Ezra it was killing her that she couldn't be near him, speak to him, touch him.  She closed her eyes and thought of what it would be like to have his hands on her when suddenly she was pulled from thoughts by the very person she was fantasizing about.

 

"You look spectacular this evening Josephine.  Blue truly is your color," Ezra drawled while coming closer to her.

 

She spun around to find him only a few inches from her.  As she looked into his eyes and saw the same wanting she knew was in hers she finally spoke.

 

"Thank you Ezra.  Your game ended so soon?" she asked while closing the small gap between them so that her chest slightly grazed his vest.

 

"Yes, I excused myself. I suddenly had an erg for some fresh air," he said while taking her hand in his.

 

"I see.  Well it's a lovely night.  What would you say to escorting me on a walk?" she asked, entwining her fingers with his. 

 

"I was thinking the same thing as well my dear." And they walked down the boardwalk hand in hand.

 

Somehow the couple ended up behind the livery stable.  Jo leaned up against the building and looked at Ezra who was standing in front of her.  Without words, because none were needed he put his arms on either side of Josephine and leaned in and gently kissed her.  Being the gentleman he was, Ezra waited for her to take the kiss into the next level, which she did. 

 

Jo put her hands inside his jacket and wound them up his back and over the smoothness of his vest and his silk shirt.  She pulled him into her and dug her nails into his back.  She opened her mouth to him and invited him to take her at will. 

 

When Josephine dug her nails into his back it took all Ezra had not to let out a moan.  She smelled and tasted so good.  He couldn't remember wanting a woman as much as he wanted her at that moment and when she opened her mouth and wound her tongue with his their mouths did a dance. 

 

Just as they were reaching the point where on of them was about to suggest taking their rendezvous to a more private location a shout of Josephine's name brought them back to reality.  Ezra grudgingly pulled away and tried to catch his breath.

 

"It's Thomas. I should go.  There is a talk he and I need to have that is of utmost importance," she said while smoothing out her dress.

 

"I see and would that conversation entail me?" Ezra asked while smirking.

 

"Why yes as a matter of fact it would.  I need to set him straight on a few things." And with that statement out the calling of her name came again and it was closer this time.  She quickly wound her arms around Ezra's neck and gave a quick sensual kiss and then with a moan expressing how mush she hated leaving him she pulled away with a smile and a promise to find him tomorrow. 

 

Ezra stood and watched her walk off and as she rounded the livery he realized how much it killed him to let her go.  That's the moment Ezra knew he was falling for the beauty and there was nothing he could do to stop it.

 

~~7~~

 

For the next hour Josephine tried explaining to Thomas how she felt or more importantly didn't feel. And he wasn't quite grasping what she was saying.  He knew she didn't love him and he didn't love her, but that would come in time.  After exhaustion had reached her and she realized nothing she said would make him understand she bid him farewell and he told her he would see her tomorrow when she and her mother came to the ranch for a visit.  This was news to Jo.  But of course her mother had accepted the invite on her behalf.  That was it she and her mother were going to have a talk and now!!!

 

As Jo walked into the hotel room her mother was waiting up reading a book just as she had hoped she would.  And Jo wasted no time blasting her mother with words. 

 

"It's over mother.  I am through.  Tonight was the last time I let you run my life for me.  I am not now nor will I ever go on another date with Thomas or any man you choose for me." Jo screamed

 

"Josephine Mary calm yourself down!" she said getting off the bed.

 

"I will not mother.  I have had enough.  Do you here me?  I'm through!" Jo said while pacing.

 

"Josephine, Thomas is a wonderful man and I don't understand why you won't at least give him a chance.  He could make you happy darling I just know it!" she exclaimed coming over and taking Jo's shoulders with her hands.

 

"No mother he won't make me happy.  I don't love him.  I never will love him!" Jo practically screamed.

 

"Love. Josephine love is only in books and fairytales.  Love doesn't exist in the real world."

 

"Oh mother yes it does.  I'm so sorry you lost my real daddy and maybe that's why you've closed your heart, but mine is open and it's wide to receive," she said through the tears that were building. 

 

"This has absolutely nothing to do with your real father Josephine.  It has to do with making a good life for yourself and love will not put a roof over your head or cloth you in fine silk or give you all the luxuries life has to offer."

 

"Mother I'm not you those things don't matter to me. What's the good of having those things if there's no one to share them with?"

 

"Please just go to bed and after a good nights sleep you'll see things better in the morning and then we'll talk some more darling."

 

"No mother.  I've felt this way all my life and a good nights sleep isn't going to change what's in my heart."

 

And with that said Jo went back out the door she came in and back outside.  She walked she didn't know to where, but she needed to think.  There had to be a way to get through to her mother and make her understand.  She happened to look up and she saw a light was on in the church and she remembered what Ezra had told her earlier about Mr. Sanchez.  If there was ever a time she needed an objective opinion this was that time.

 

As she opened the door to the church she realized the light she'd seen was coming from the candles on the alter.  She slowly made her way up the aisle and stood there staring at the candles giving off their glow.  After a few moments lost in the light she heard a door open to her left and she saw Mr. Sanchez make his way out of the room.  He looked startled to see her and she was beginning to think it had been a bad idea to bother him so late.

 

"I'm sorry to disturb you Mr. Sanchez.  I'll come back tomorrow at a decent hour," Jo said and turned to go.

 

"No my child.  There is no need to go.  I'm not nearly ready to turn in.  Please sit and tell me your troubles," Josiah said pointing to the pew.

 

She looked at him for a minute; she thought she saw something in his eyes.  Love, maybe? 

 

"Only if you're sure I'm not bothering you," she replied

 

"I'm absolutely positive.  Now please come tell me what brings you here at this hour." He said while taking a seat and waiting for her to do the same. 

 

She did and in a matter of moments she was telling him the whole story.  Her mother, Thomas, and even Ezra.  She went even further and told him about her life growing up and watching her parents live in the same house but lead totally separate lives.  They talked for hours and Josiah even shared some of his past and how he ended up in Four Corners with the men he now associated with.  It was an awesome conversation and by the time she left the church and headed back to the hotel she felt cleansed and relaxed. 

 

Ezra had been right.  Josiah was a wonderful listener and he had a way of giving advise without you even knowing he was giving it.

 

As she walked to her room she realized for the second time today she'd found a connection with a stranger that she'd felt she'd known all her life. 

 

~~7~~

 

Morning came and after her late night Jo found it extremely hard to wake up.  She looked at the pocket watch lying on the table beside the bed, ten a.m. As Jo got out of bed a knock on her door came with a voice on the other side telling her it was someone from the hotel bringing her a bath.  She let them in and soaked in the glorious tub for what seemed like hours.  As she was at the dressing table brushing her hair her mother came in. 

 

"I was beginning to wonder if you'd ever wake up," her mother said

 

Josephine continued to brush her hair choosing not to do battle this early in the morning.

 

"Josephine make sure you put something presentable on for our trip to the James' ranch.  The carriage will be here for us around noon," she matter of factly said as if the argument last evening never happened. 

 

"Mother I told you I'm not interested in Thomas and I no longer choose to lead him or his father on."

 

"Josephine I expect you to go. I already said you'd be coming."

 

"Well that mother is not my problem.  I'm not going and that is all I have to say on the matter."  And with that Jo picked her shirt and slacks off the bed and went to get dressed behind the screen.

 

"Josephine what am I to tell them when your not with me?" she asked horrified.

 

"I don't know mother, but I'm sure you'll think of something."

 

"I'll be down stairs if you change your mind," with that said she was out the door.

 

After her mother left and Jo was dressed she decided to sit and read a book while she waited to make sure her mother and the men that came to collect her were gone before she headed outside. 

 

As Jo was sorting around through the suitcases under the bed to find her books she came across a leather satchel that she'd never seen before.  It had to be her mothers.  She pulled it out and what she found was a stack of papers.  The first few were the bill of sales slips from when her mother sold the business and the house before coming west. Next she found her stepfathers will. And then what she found next was her birth certificate.  She'd never seen it before, in fact when she'd asked her mother about it many years ago her mother had told Jo she'd lost it.  But here it was.  It had her name and the date and location she was born and then in black was the name of her father.  Josiah R. Sanchez.  Jo's heart leapt into her throat.  It couldn't be the same man she'd just met only 3 days ago!  Why had her mother told her he was dead?  She had so many questions, but first she needed to catch her breath.  She seriously thought she was going to faint.  After pulling herself together she continues to sort through he papers to see if she could undercover anymore of her mothers lies and just when she thought not, she came to the last paper.  It was a business agreement between her mother and Stewart James.  It was a payout to her mother of fifteen-thousand dollars once Josephine married Thomas.  That was the last straw, the finishing touch that sent Jo over the edge.  She grabbed the birth certificate and the business agreement and stormed out of the hotel room. 

 

When she didn't find her mother in the restaurant or the porch outside of the hotel she walked across the street to Buck and JD and asked if they'd seen her.

 

"Uh yeah.  She came to the saloon looking for Josiah about twenty minutes ago.  I think she's at the church," JD replied.

 

"Thank you," Jo said and started off in the direction of the church.

 

She wasn't sure what she was going to say, but whatever it was it was not going to be pretty.

As she made her way up the steps of the church she could hear her mother arguing with Josiah.  She took a deep breath and pulled open both the doors.  Josiah and her mother stopped arguing the minute they saw her and they both knew from the look on her face she was angry.

 

"Josephine what are you doing here?" her mother asked looking down at the papers she held in her hands.

 

Jo looked past her mother and made eye contact with Josiah.

 

"Did you know? Did you know all these years you were my father?" she almost screamed.

 

"No Josephine.  I only found out you existed three days ago," he answered.

 

"Three days ago! So you knew who I was last night and you never told me.  Why?"

 

"Because I wasn't sure you'd want someone like me for a father," Josiah said through tears.

 

Josephine took a few steps farther into the church.  "Why?  Why mother did you keep us apart?" and this time she screamed.

 

Forgetting she'd left the doors open when she entered the yelling started to bring observers.  Once the crowd started to form a the remaining six peacekeepers that were not in the church decided they'd better find out what was so interesting.  As they made they're way up the stairs they heard Jo yelling.

 

"How dare you keep me from my father?" Jo said taking a step closer to her mother. 

 

"I had every right.  You deserved better than he would have provided for you Josephine."

 

"Don't you mean you mother, a better life for you!"

 

"That's not fair Josephine.  You grew up never knowing what it was like to want for anything."

 

'That's not true mother.  I grew up wanting my father; my real father.  It's all I ever wanted!"

 

Josephine felt a gentle hand touch her arm and she turned around to see not only Ezra, but also the remaining five friends.  She looked at Ezra and she saw concern flooding his eyes.

 

"Josephine would you like me to take you somewhere?' he asked quietly.

 

"Not yet Ezra, I have a few more things to clear up with my mother first," she said putting her hand over the one Ezra had on her arm.

 

"Oh lord Josephine.  Don't tell me this con artist is the reason you want nothing to do with Thomas.  You can't seriously love a man like this?" her mother spat.

 

Josephine whipped around and closed the space between her mother and herself with five quick steps. "How dare you judge this man?  You know nothing about him."

 

"I know his kind, Josephine.  He's no good for you!"

 

"And Thomas is.  Come now mother.  The only reason your pushing him on me is because you stand to gain fifteen thousand dollars!" Jo said holding up the agreement.

 

"Is this true Victoria?" Josiah asked shocked.

 

"This is none of your concern Josiah," she said not taking her eyes off her daughter.

 

"Oh yes it is.  I will not stand by and let you ruin our daughter's life.  She is everything you use to be when I met you and I will not let you sour her to life!"  Josiah said taking a step towards Jo.

 

"I'm doing what's best for her, She'll thank me one day." 

 

"The best thing for Josephine is to let her live her own life and make her own choices," he said coming to stand in between the two women.

 

"I don't know if I can do that," Victoria said, starting to cry.

 

"Well a good start would be to tear up the agreement you had with Mr. James," he said gently taking it from Jo's hands and giving it to Victoria.

 

Victoria looked down at the paper and then at her daughter.

 

"I'm so sorry Josephine. I'm so sorry for everything," she said looking from her daughter to Josiah.

 

Jo had never seen her mother cry let alone get an apology from her.  She was seeing a whole other side of her mother; probably a bit of the woman she use to be all those years ago.

 

"I know," Jo replied and then she grabbed her mother and hugged her.  And to Jo's surprise her mother hugged her backed.

 

The men with the exception of Josiah feeling sure the drama was over left the church making sure the doors were shut behind them. Josephine, Victoria, and Josiah spent the rest of the afternoon in the tiny church getting to know one another and surprisingly enough Josephine found out how lucky she truly was.

 

 ~~7~~

 

As Josephine and Josiah stood on the steps of the church looking out on the town and each recounting the last couple months and all that they had found.  Neither could have expected that life could be so good. 

 

Josiah reached over and took Jo's hand. "Are you ready?" he asked giving it a gentle squeeze.

 

"Yes.  Are you daddy?" she said looking up into the loving eyes of her father.

 

"Honestly, I've just found you and I'm not ready to give you up, but I know you'll be in good hands," Josiah said with tears forming in his eyes.

 

"You'll always have me daddy.  No one will ever change that again," she said with her own tears threatening to fall.

 

"Ok, then let's not keep Ezra waiting." And with that Josiah opened the door to the church.

 

They walked in and the piano player started the 'Wedding March' as all the people gathered stood for the bride and her father.  They walked to the end of the aisle where Ezra was waiting for her and then Orin Travis turned to Josiah and asked.

 

"Who gives the bride's hand in marriage?" Judge Travis asked.

 

"I do. Her father," Josiah said with a smile.

 

~The End~