Their Tender Love’s Awakening – Extended Epilogue

“Didja pack your long johns, darlin’?”

The back door slammed shut behind him as Jesse padded into the kitchen and made straight for the cookstove and its ever-bubbling pot of coffee. Rain was falling in sheets against the window, hurled by a good strong invisible hand, and he had wisely tugged off his muddy boots on the porch before venturing onto Mrs. Boston’s clean floor.

“Long johns? I’ve gathered every bit of woolen stuff in this house—blankets, socks, coats, even a couple of rag rugs. You won’t see me venturing out into this downpour improperly dressed.” Julianne turned from the table, where she had been kneading bread dough, for the hasty brush of a kiss upon her husband’s cold cheek.

“Don’t think you’ll have to worry too much.” 

Pulling off his spattered Stetson and his wet sheepskin-lined jacket to hang both on their accustomed wall pegs, he curled one arm around her waist and snuggled tight. Just to share her homely, fragrant warmth. Just to remind her what was what.

“This weather will change by the time we’re ready to leave. Prob’ly a mite chillier than you’re used to, you poor little Virginia hothouse flower, but dry, at least. Now gimme a real kiss.”

Sighing as if his demand were a huge imposition, she outstretched both sticky, floury hands on both sides and closed her eyes to wait with exaggerated patience. 

“Huh. You don’t haveta be such a martyr about the whole thing.” Jesse chuckled. Then he swept her off her feet anyway, as another reminder of who was boss in this household.

Of course, she enjoyed every second, emerging from the interruption with cheeks flushed and whisker-burnt. 

“Like that, do you?” He snagged a small chunk of the dough to stuff into his mouth.

“I doubt I shall ever tire of—Jesse! Don’t eat that raw! What’s wrong with you?”

“Nothin’ that some private time with my wife wouldn’t cure. Where is everybody?”

Plopping the mixture back into its bowl to begin another round of rising in the warming oven, she crossed to the sink to scrub with soap. “Rachel took to her bed with one of her rare headaches—due to the inclement weather, I believe. Helen is in her room, curled up with a new novel. Carolyn is working in her room with paints and paper to produce the best picture we’ve ever seen.”

A houseful of women and he loved every one of them. Some more than others.

“Bein’ helped by Bumpy, I expect?”

“Don’t you know it? She claims it’s far too nasty for a pup to be outside.”

Many changes had taken place at Falcon Ridge during the preceding three months.

First and foremost was the official laying to rest of one of the Maplewood community’s least-respected, least-liked citizens, Stanley Rittenhouse Andrews. The Reverend Paul Harding had conducted a generic funeral service, whose solemnity had belied the life its late-lamented had led, at the ranch cemetery’s gravesite.

Despite a lack of honor and esteem for the casket’s occupant, his ceremony was well attended. A goodly number of folks from town had come out to pay their respects to the household, by wagon and surrey and horseback, and brought along plenty of covered dishes and desserts to augment the banquet Mrs. Boston was providing. What began as a sober reflection of the Bible’s admonition about “ashes to ashes and dust to dust,” soon evolved into a celebration of life and love.

In other words, an enjoyable social occasion.

Jesse was left in a welter of mixed emotions that evening after all their guests had departed, and he was left alone once more with his wife and family. Not exactly downcast, not exactly disappointed, certainly neither jubilant nor triumphant. It isn’t every day that one loses a brother, even a brother so dissolute and depraved as this one. He had needed time to deal with the loss.

A vital part of his mental and emotional recuperation included Julianne. That night he took her to bed, embraced her tightly, and made love to her with a fierce yet magnificent passion as if their union would provide all the comfort he might need. It probably did.

With the crossing of that bridge to the past, the ranch crew had completed work on the barn to the congratulatory hails of everyone, once the last board had been set in place and the last nail had been pounded home. A few scorch marks here and there marked all that remained of the fire, which was grave enough but could have been so much more devastating. A thorough paint job, then a second coat, and the building was restored to its former glory. 

The memories of that shocking night, and the damage dealt to the residents’ security, would fade but never entirely disappear.

Jesse’s next task was a monumental one: that of splicing back together the two ranches that had been torn out of the single huge estate by the death years ago of Caleb Andrews. Jesse and Adam had, as decided, confabbed with Sheriff O’Dell as to the circumstances of Stanley’s demise; the sheriff had, as assumed, immediately paid a visit to the Catamount for a friendly little chat with Jed Taylor.

He was too late. The foreman had packed up his few belongings and was long gone, disappearing into the night like a puff of smoke. Boomer, stopping by the Ridge that he might make a report to Jesse, upon his return to town, doubted anyone in the whole state of Montana would ever see hide nor hair of him again. Too scared of consequences opined Boomer and likely preferred being on the run a thousand miles away to spending precious years behind the bars of a most unsavory prison.

“I’ll get some Wanted posters made up straight away,” the sheriff concluded. “Have ’em hung up here and send the rest wherever I can. He won’t be able to hide out for long, that no-good sidewinder.”

Of the six men working at Stanley’s rundown ranch, four stayed on after Jesse’s lengthy consultation with every single fellow. One had followed too closely in the hierarchy’s footsteps and was let go without mishap; one other, of such an advanced age as to seem almost decrepit, decided he’d had enough of this hard life and was going into Maplewood to live with his sister.

Adam would be spending time there, as Jesse’s lieutenant, to whip things into shape and hire a couple more cowpunchers/general laborers. Since only a few miles separated the Ridge from the Catamount, neither the distance nor the challenge caused any hardship for the plucky foreman. He was, in fact, he confided to his boss, excited to be taking on responsibility of a different kind. Enthusiasm to clean up a mess and improve every facet of the ranch had him rubbing his hands together with glee.

After that, with chores returned to the normal and mundane and life falling once again into routine, Julianne had decided to put Carolyn’s lessons on hiatus for the summer. She had consulted with Daphne Whitman, a teacher at Maplewood Unity School, and soon enough this fall, little Miss Carolyn Andrews would be attending classes there regularly.

Wearing her new dresses like a pro. 

The months of July and August slipped rapidly away, hour by hour, like the puff of dandelion seeds blown away by the wind. And almost as insubstantial. Along with the orchard’s sturdy old fruit trees, the garden continued producing mounds and mounds of colorful vegetables, which must be culled, worked up, and canned for winter. 

While Julianne appreciated the bounty and realized how much everyone would enjoy the fruits of labor as snowdrifts were piling up outside the windows, there were times—when her back was aching and her fingers nipped by knives—when she wished for a little less productivity. 

Just to rip up those blasted squash vines that crawled through everything, or pull down the corn stalks with their blatant golden ears, would have provided enough satisfaction, even if temporary.

One of the most pleasant additions to the Ridge was Bumpy, a mixed black lab pup who delighted everyone with his antics. A month or so ago, Julianne had noticed an advertisement in the Maplewood Megaphone, which she had promptly brought to her husband’s attention. Since he heartily approved—and admitted to kicking himself for not coming up with this idea long ago—the family of three had set out for the Potter farm. There, an overjoyed Carolyn had been thrilled to choose her own four-month-old puppy out of a litter of five.

Now, the two were inseparable. 

Against Mrs. Boston’s better judgment, little Bumpy, a bundle of pure energy, ate his food and drank his water in the kitchen, raced through every other room in the house as if each had been built specifically for his needs, and slept beside Carolyn in her bed every night.

“Dogs belong outside,” she harrumphed to Julianne. “That’s their natural space. Not inside, with all their dirt and fleas.”

“I’m sure that’s true,” Julianne replied, attempting to pacify. “But we’ll just have to make sure Bumpy gets regular baths and brushing. A good responsibility for Carrie, don’t you think? And look how well she’s taken to it.”

Julianne had never seen the child happier.

She was even content to stay behind, once again, for the long cattle drive that the ranch hands would make within the next few days. 

“I can’t go off and leave Bumpy behind, Mama,” she gravely explained. “He’d miss me.”

“I’m sure he would, sweetheart. And it’s very wise of you to take such charge as you have.”

Jesse, to whom she repeated this bare-bones conversation a little later, smiled proudly. “I think she’s gonna be all right, Ju. I worried about her, with so much goin’ on and havin’ only her paw to watch out for her. But then you come along and put us all straight. So I think we got the makin’s of a fine woman in that girl.”

“I think so, too.” Sentimental, as she always was when he let down his guard, she had blinked back a few tears.

After Mrs. Boston’s amazing revelation concerning her long-departed husband, both young newlyweds had begun to treat her entirely as a member of the family and not so much an employee. She was Carolyn’s de facto grandmother, the Andrews’ de facto mother. With those adopted relationships in place, she felt less constrained in working until she dropped and more at ease in taking an occasional afternoon nap or a lengthy comfortable bath as the situation warranted.

Then there was Helen, still in recovery from the emotional beating she had taken. Always rather shy and retiring, she often buried herself in her books and journals to escape from the world and all the hurt that could be thrust forth upon innocent trusting souls.

Except that Adam had his eye on her, and Adam was a very determined young man. Often, at the end of a sweet summer day, when the dust had settled and the night birds were tuning up their orchestra, he would invite her out for a walk or a quiet sit in the swing. Nor would he take no for an answer. He simply persisted until she gave up and gave in.

For the present, Adam asked for no more. He understood how she was feeling and why she was feeling. He was quite satisfied to give her the time needed to recover her equilibrium and grow into the strong, capable woman he knew she could be.

As long as he could prevent her from moving back to Virginia!

 

*  *  *  *  *

The herd of cattle had been recently brought down from the high country to be gathered into several spacious corrals. There, the separations took place: those to keep, those to sell, mamas from yearlings and younger calves, old bulls and doe-eyed heifers. As it happened, Splodge was chosen to stay on the ranch. 

After several days of hard work, it was time to leave.

This time Adam would remain behind to oversee the two ranches and its several employees. But a crew of six wranglers—including a couple from the adjoining Catamount—Fergus with his indispensable chuckwagon, and Jesse and Julianne would be driving some seven hundred head roughly four hundred miles to Rapid City, South Dakota. There, several cattle buyers would assess the herd and offer their market price, from which Jesse could choose the best. Once the deal was made, the cattle would be loaded onto cars at the depot and hauled another five hundred miles to the stockyards southeast in Omaha.

Thus, it was imperative that the drive move along steadily but slowly enough that the cattle, fattened on their summer pasture of sweet, lush grass, lost none of the healthy weight they had gained. The more meat, the more money paid per pound. And cows were the main cash crop. An average day would comprise anywhere from twelve to fifteen miles of travel, with an idle nooning to stop, eat, and rest the herd. And if a nap could be squeezed in, especially for the night riders, so much the better.

At some much later date, Jesse might have taken on the role of weather prognosticator. As he had guessed, the rain stopped, the skies cleared, the puddles dried up, the temperatures warmed, and all boded well for the journey, which would occupy (barring unforeseen problems) a month’s trek there and a couple of weeks back.

Having experienced—and survived—the early spring drive up into the mountains, not to mention riding occasionally during this past summer with Jesse, Julianne now felt entirely comfortable climbing into the saddle on Myrtle’s broad back. The pace was slow, the scenery was beguiling, and she could enjoy leisure time.

“Have you been to this place before, Jesse?” she asked after some hours of peaceful quiet when only the birds twittered, and a frequent moo or bellow came from the cows following placidly along behind.

“What, Rapid City?” He flapped a lazy hand at some insect buzzing determinedly around his head. “Yup. Used to go with my pop when I was younger and been there every year since. Wasn’t much to see then, just the railway connection. But the place has about doubled in size since then—must be two thousand citizens, nearabouts.”

“Oh, my.” Dreamily she stared off into the distance. “And shall we explore all that’s offered?”

He laughed. “Well, maybe not everything, darlin’. It’s a rough cow town, with entertainment that appeals to—uh—well, the wranglers comin’ in. But sure ’nuff I’ll give you the chance to spend some of whatever money we make.”

She grinned across at him. “I sincerely look forward to that. I promised Carrie to bring back something nice for her.”

“Somethin’ for you, too. With lace, and maybe some little peek-a-boo red bows …”

“Jesse Andrews, you are incorrigible.”

“Yup, I admit it. Even though I don’t know the meanin’ of the word.”

A month of travel eastward was, she found, similar to that into the mountains. Except of a much longer duration, with more responsibility. The wind blew her hat and her hair; the sun darkened her skin to a warm tawny color; the rain sent her shivering into her yellow slicker.

It seemed that she was being transformed by marriage into a woman more malleable, more adaptable, less constrained, less modest. After consulting with Mrs. Boston, she had assembled a wardrobe of several sturdy riding skirts, split for comfort and convenience, and a pair of knee-high riding boots. 

Although several men’s eyes, including her husband’s, widened and then decorously shifted focus when she swung up onto the horse, Jesse admitted he liked the style. “Reckon I’ll have to take you on every cattle drive,” he admitted sheepishly, “do you continue dressin’ thataway.”

While she enjoyed the freedom from household chores and the anticipation of never knowing what each day would bring, it wasn’t long before she was missing her home on the Ridge and both Carolyn and Mrs. Boston with a fierce ache. This trip was a break in her routine, and she would enjoy the time off and the camp work to which she attended, but it would be wonderful to return to the ranch again to greet everyone with hugs and kisses.

After nearly a month on the trail, the drovers reached Rapid City without incident, moved their herd into waiting corrals on the outskirts of town, took care of horses, personal items, and the wagon, then discreetly vanished to do their carousing. Meanwhile, Jesse, who had temporarily stashed his bride at the only decent hotel in the area, consulted with buyers and made arrangements.

He returned to their room to find Julianne neck-deep in a hip bath full of hot water and suds.

“Oh, glorious tub,” she almost sang to him when he entered and locked the door behind him. “Four weeks of bathing only parts of me at a time, in a cold stream. Now, this, Jesse, this is pure luxury.”

“Glad you like it.” He was busy removing hat and coat, emptying his pockets, yanking off the boots from socks that never seemed to dry out no matter how often they were changed. “Best one I could find, darlin’. Just for you.”

She crinkled her nose at him. Her hair was piled high on her head, her skin positively glowed with the effects of hot water and contentment, and she smelled to high heaven of some wonderful scent.  Were that tub only much larger, he would have jumped in to join her.

“Man.” He padded restlessly around in his stocking feet as if, being so busy for so many weeks, he now felt at loose ends. “I’m just about turned inside out from hunger, Ju. Maybe I’ll just g’wan down to the dinin’ room and bring us back a tray of food if you’re gonna be soakin’ for a while.”

Picking up a handful of suds, she flattened her palm and playfully blew the foam toward him. “Jesse, rest assured that I plan to stay in this tub until we need to leave town.”

“Huh. Wouldn’t doubt it a’tall.”

“Did you sell the stock at a good price?”

“Yup.” He yawned and plunked down on a chair. “Enough to see us through another winter, maybe buy you some fancy doo-dads. Reckon you’d oughta get a brooch or somethin’ outa this marriage, for all you’ve put up with.” 

“You silly man,” she fondly admonished him. “I don’t need jewelry. But, in the spirit of the moment, I wouldn’t refuse it, either.”

Jesse grinned. “Didn’t think you would. But you done good on the drive, sweetheart. Real good. I’ve been awful proud of how you’ve taken hold here, and it was sure nice havin’ you along for company this trip.”

“Oh, well.” She lifted one bare shoulder in deprecation, but she loved hearing his praise. “I’d like to buy something for Helen if you don’t mind.”

“Why, sure, that’d be nice. Some earbobs, or somethin’. You think she’s any closer to makin’ a decision about Adam?”

“Jesse, dear, Nell has begun writing short stories. And she’s gotten herself published in some women’s magazine. No doubt she has her eye on finding fame and fortune.”

“Well, I’ll be switched.” Jesse was genuinely astonished. “Imagine that!”

“However,” a sly knowing glance from beneath wet lashes, “this burgeoning career has apparently given her not only a sense of independence but of self-confidence. She confessed to me that she is coming to appreciate Adam very much. Appreciate, approve of, and admire. A lot.”

Stretching out one leg to ease a cramped muscle—too many hours in the saddle, after all—Jesse sighed. “That’s good news. I know how Adam feels about your sister. And I suspect that he’ll be ready to follow through on his own plans pretty dang soon. Whaddya think her reaction would be?”

“If he proposes, you mean?” Julianne smiled with a sigh of her own. “I do believe she’ll answer in the affirmative. She’ll say yes. And won’t that be wonderful!”

“Rootin’ out the last bit of Stanley from our lives, I reckon. And a fresh start for Helen.”

A few quiet moments slipped away, during which Julianne, humming a little, dripped water from a sponge, and Jesse watched her with the tenderness of one who enjoys doing so.

“Jess.”

“Ahuh.”

“What do you think of my last name?”

“What do I think?” He leaned back and stretched out the other leg. “I’m thinkin’ I’m glad you changed it to mine. Why?”

“Well—I was just wondering …” With one finger, she traced a wet circle on her upraised knee. “Davidson would be all right, wouldn’t it?”

Clearly, he was baffled. “Darlin’, what in the world are you talkin’ about?”

“Because—well, I’m fairly sure … I mean, almost positive …”

His expression showed that, much as he loved her, he was losing patience. “Julianne.”

Then she looked up, her dark eyes connecting directly with his blue gaze, and her face seemed illuminated by some other-worldly light. “Jess, dear, I am with a child. And I feel most strongly it’s a man child.”

His jaw dropped. His throat worked. His hands fell from resting on his thighs to the sides of his chair. His breath wheezed out with the force of a hurricane and back in again.

Then he suddenly let out a whoop and leaped forward.

The tub had not grown in size. 

But he jumped in to join her, regardless.

A perfect ending. A perfect beginning. And perfection for everything in between.

THE END


Readers who read this book also liked

54 thoughts on “Their Tender Love’s Awakening – Extended Epilogue”

    1. It was a captivating book! The struggles of the pioneers, who faced years of struggle, in a harsh world! Partricia

    2. I loved this story. I recommend everyone to read this book. I look forward to reading more of her books.m Katie. 327/21.

    3. I loved this story. Jesse and Julianne had such a strong passionate love for for each other and l could not get enough of it. There also was just enough danger to keep me in the edge of my seat.
      I hope there will a story for Adam and Helen.

    4. Absolutely a super story which I enjoyed very much. Strikes me there is another book here waiting to be written with Adam, Nell and the nasty Jed returning!!!!!

    5. I really enjoyed this book. I felt so.bad for Jessie.how his evil.brother kept trying to kill him. I’m so.glad he got what he deserved and Jessie and Julieanne could have a happy life.together. I also.enjoyed the extended epilogue. 😃

    6. Loved this story and your way of presenting it. Will be waiting to hear about Adam and Helen and the new addition to Jesse and Julie’s family.

    7. I enjoyed your book very much. It was a good story line with good characters. The extended episode brought it all together.

    8. I loved the casual language that this story was told in. It made a good storyline seem so more genuine and true. Highly recommend to any and all for a very enjoyable read. Kudos Carol Colyer. I very much enjoy your tales.

    9. What a story! Filled with some chuckles, danger, a jealous, selfish ‘brother’, and an adventure. This book kept me ‘glued’ to it until I finished reading it.

  1. a great story for sure with wonderful and dastardly characters. I feared for one awful moment Jesse’s brother was little Carrie’s father ( so glad he wasn’t) It never fails to amaze me how attached I get to your stories and characters. Loved it

  2. I really liked your characters Julianne and Jessie. They were both able to recognize the problems their families had caused them and to work towards the life they wanted. Stanley was the opposite, always blaming others for his failings and expecting an easy ride through life.

  3. Wonderful book! Thoroughly enjoyed the story and characters. I thought the surprise of parentage was well written also. Looking forward to your next book.

  4. Wonderful book! Enjoyed the story and characters. I thought the surprise of parentage was well written also. Looking forward to your next book.

  5. Life was full of trials and unfinished details. So much depended on learning that family life had its ups and downs. Everyone was going to need time to heal and recover from all of the dramatic trip of taking the herd to the mountains for summer grazing.

  6. Thanks for this exciting book. I was enthralled with every page ! I feel this is the best story you have written. Everyone who enjoys this genre of mail order brides needs to read it.

  7. I loved this book. It was exciting and I enjoyed the ranching as you put me in the middle of it with your great description.

  8. Carol Colyer is an excellent writer and I loved her story of Jesse and Julianne. Stanley was such a cad and received his just desserts. Felt bad for Helen until Adam showed her a worthwhile man she could trust and depend on. Mrs. Boston was a wonderful addition to the story and a grand fount of wisdom. Her revelation was just what was needed to show that Jesse did not need to feel so guilty over Stanley’s death. So, will we read more of Helen and Adam?

    1. Thank you so much, my dear Velta! I am humbled by your sweet comment! I will think about coming up with a sequel but for now, I have a completely new story in mind! 😉 Stay tuned!

  9. This was such a great story. I was anxious for the end but really wanted it to go on and on.I could almost picture myself right there with them all.Looking forward to another book that can put me right into the story. Shirley

  10. Jealousy in its most poignant form. Surprising, jaw dropping revelations. On a scale of 1-10, this story is an 11 or 12!!! All the elements came together and no stone was left unturned. Excellent story telling!

  11. A great story lots of surpense. I enjoyed this book from beginning till the end. Always wonder how the early pioneers survived to build this wonderful country.r Wrighters like Carol give us a chance to go back in time to visit that world. The extended epilogue was great.

  12. I enjoyed the story, the strength of the two main characters, the cleanliness, and the family atmosphere! You’re an excellent author! Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *