Dorothy Garlock

Dorothy Garlock by A Gentle Giving

Book: Dorothy Garlock by A Gentle Giving Read Free Book Online
Authors: A Gentle Giving
about it? Starr said I was shit-stompin’ pretty.”
    “What’s that suppose to mean?” Charlie yelled. “Starr was nothin’ but a whore.”
    “Don’t you ever talk to each other in a normal tone of voice?” Willa asked, then realized she hadn’t even been heard by the two glaring at each other.
    “Don’t ya talk bad about Starr,” Jo Bell screeched.
    “Stop yelling,” Willa said firmly. “Voices carry. We don’t know who is within hearing distance.”
    “I’m hungry. Ya best get to fixin’ supper,
Jo Bell jerked a stool out of the back of the wagon, walked a distance and sat down.
    Willa looked at Charlie and shook her head.
    “I’m making coffee. Mr. Byers gave us some smoked deer meat, biscuits, and a jar of buttermilk.”
    “I hate buttermilk. Ain’t ya cookin’ eggs? Mr. Byers gave us some.”
    “I want eggs.”
    “Charlie, I noticed that worn leather collar has made a sore spot on the grey mule.”
    “I saw it. I figure to put somethin’ on it after supper.”
    “I want eggs,” Jo Bell said in a shrill voice. “Where’s that Mr. Smith? Ain’t he comin’ for supper?”
    “I’m kind of sore,” Charlie said, turning his back on his sister. “I ain’t used to ridin’ five, six hours straight.”
    “Ya ain’t ridin’ Papa’s horse no more. Papa’d want me to have that horse. I’m sellin’ him for cash money.”
    Willa glanced quickly at the boy to see if his sister’s words had provoked another shouting match. To her surprise, he looked at her and winked.
    “We’ll be in the foothills tomorrow.” Grasping the handle of the coffeepot with the end of her apron, Willa pushed it over the flame, then stood.
    “Damn you! Listen to me! When I tell ya to do somethin’,do it. I said I want eggs!” Jo Bell grasped Willa’s arm and spun her around.
    Willa reacted instinctively as she had done in the past when she had been grabbed by rough hands. Jo Bell had scarely time to blink her eyes before Willa’s balled fist landed squarely on her jaw. The girl staggered back a few steps and fell heavily to the ground. Willa stood over her, anger making her breathless when she spoke.
    “Don’t ever put your hands on me again. Understand?”
    “Why . . . why—”
    “Do you understand?”
    “Charlie! Charlie!” Jo Bell’s eyes found her brother leaning against the side of the wagon, his hand in the fur on Buddy’s neck. The dog’s fangs were bared. “She . . . she hit me!”
    “Yeah. She packs quite a wallop. Ya had it comin’.”
    Jo Bell looked at him with disbelief. “Ya’d let her . . . beat me?” She turned, buried her face in her bent arm and burst into tears. She rolled in the dirt, racking sobs shaking her shoulders.
    Anger left Willa as quickly as it had come. She looked down at the girl, then at Charlie. The boy was looking off toward the foothills, whistling through his teeth in order to appear unconcerned. Willa went to him.
    “I’m sorry I hit her. It’s just that I’ve been grabbed so many times in so many different towns that I just reacted—”
    Charlie looked directly into her eyes. “Don’t be sorry. She needed it lots a times, but I didn’t dare. Fact is I’m shamed that she acts so.”
    “Don’t be. It’s not your fault.”
    “I don’t know what to do.” Something in his voice and the sad look on his face caught at Willa’s heartstrings.
    “Just do the best you can. It’s all any of us can do.”
    *  *  *
    High on the ridge overlooking the campsite, Smith looked down on the scene. In spite of a splitting headache, his lips twitched in a grin. The nasty-nice woman wasn’t so nasty-nice after all. She’d knocked the spoiled brat on her ass. Something, in his judgment, that should have been done long ago.
    Smith tried to remember the woman’s face, but all he could conjure up was blond hair, a funny color of blue eyes and a boyishly thin body with small pointed breasts. He chuckled out loud. It was a strange

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