This is a bit of a filler chapter, I know. But the gears are turning. There is more coming!
Hope dismounted her horse and gave a stretch. Nothing about being in a saddle for hours on end was comfortable. Though life in the saddle was much more preferable to the life she would have been given had she stayed with her mother at the brothel.
The sun would be up soon and it was imperative to get out of sight before the sun rose. She had found a rocky outcrop nestled near a small grove of trees on the banks of a dried creek bed. It wasn’t much of a hiding spot, but the best she could come up with for now. It would be a good enough place to regroup and come up with a plan with Travers.
Ray tethered his horse in the cover provided by the grove. He made short work of his saddle. Without a word he reached for Hope’s mare.
“What are you doing there, cowboy?” Hope asked incredulously.
“Taking care of your mount,” he replied.
“Queenie is my responsibility,” she said.
“Right. I keep forgetting I’m not dealing with a woman unlike any I’ve known before,” Travers said, though not unkindly.
It would have been a comment that would have typically irritated Hope to no end. How many times had she heard some form of those words in her life? More times than she could count to be sure. Travers’s tone seemed genuine. There was not the usual sneer and sarcasm that usually accompanied the words. She felt a stirring somewhere inside her, but pushed the feeling away ignoring the weakness.
“I can manage my own mare, Travers,” she said adamant to keep things professional.
Travers gave Hope a small smile at her tone, then turned to rummage around in his pack.
When Hope had finished getting her mare settled she found that Travers had managed to put together something resembling a meal with whatever he found from his own supplies. She was mildly surprised. After finding the wanted man in a saloon inn two towns over from where he was wanted for murder, she had expected to have to hold his hand through his time on the run.
“As I’ve gotten some semblance of sleep tonight, you should sleep first Miss Rawlins,” Travers said as they ate.
Hope was struck by another emotional wave. She nodded trying to convince herself the emotional responses that she was experiencing was due to the lack of sleep and the high stress of her father’s murder. She did not expect that she would be able to get any sleep when she laid her head down on her pack and covered herself with her coat. But the rest would be beneficial regardless.
The sun was high overhead when Hope startled awake. Travers was leaning over her gently shaking her shoulder. It was later than she intended to be asleep.
“I better get a little sleep before we head out,” Travers said. His voice held a bit of a sleepy gruff to it.
Travers must have a clear conscience, Hope mused to herself as she noted how quickly he fell to sleep. Hope used the time wisely getting their campsite cleaned and as clear as she could. With no fire it was fairly straight forward. Only the most experienced trackers may see the signs of a recent camp, but with any luck there would be no connection with this stop with a man wanted for murder.
Shadows were just starting to lengthen when Hope woke up Travers.
“I could use some coffee,” Travers said with a groan.
Hope smirked at him, “Me, too, cowboy. No fire. No coffee.”
Travers ran his hands vigorously through his hair before getting up to relieve himself.
“I’m thinking we need to go to Denver. Pa had a safe deposit box there he kept his bounty journals in. It seems like a good place to start to find a clue as to who his murderer could be,” said Hope.
“He was a bounty hunter that list may be long,” Travers said heavily.
Hope cut a hard look at Travers, “He was respected. Often those we brought in were glad that if they were caught it was Pa that had them and not one of the more bloodthirsty hunters out there.”
“No need to lecture me, Miss Rawlins. I know how your father ran things. That don’t change that being a hunter he would have a long list of people that would want to do him in,” Travers said.
Hope sighed. She hadn’t yet had a chance to mourn her father and the pain of losing him was eating at her heart. It was hard knowing he was gone. It had only been two days. The temptation to let go of her composure was strong. She knew that she wanted to argue with Travers more, but only for the sheer futility of it. She steeled herself. She could mourn once she saw the one responsible for her father’s death at the end of a hangman’s noose.
“The journals will be the best place to start. About as good of a start as I can think for now. Denver is a day and a half from here,” Hope said.
“Then Denver it is,” Travers agreed.