Lou felt self-conscious when she walked up the stairs to Teaspoon and Rachel's house at the old way station. Kid was right next to her, clasping her hand in his. He gave her a reassuring smile before he knocked on the door. A minute later a grinning Teaspoon opened the door for them.
"Good evening, Miss McCloud, Kid," he greeted them.
"Good evening, Teaspoon," Kid responded, while Lou merely smiled, still a little uncomfortable.
All her anxiety and self-doubt soon vanished, though, as the meal progressed. Lou could fully understand why Kid felt so strongly bonded with the couple. They have obviously loved him as if he was their own son.
Teaspoon was a very funny and easygoing man, and Lou felt she would love to hear more of his stories and wisdom.
Rachel was a beautiful woman, and Lou couldn't help but feeling a little bit jealous of her femininity. Even though Kid assured her that he thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world, Lou couldn't help the longing to be able to fill in a dress like Rachel could. Other than that, Lou hoped that some day she could cook as well as Rachel.
The conversation was smooth and they shared a couple of laughs, mostly at Kid's expense. Lou thought he looked so at ease, so naturally at home, and she felt her heart swell with love for him.
After dinner Teaspoon and Kid went to the parlor, while Lou helped Rachel with cleaning the dishes.
"I've never seen Kid this happy before," Rachel commented with a smile, handing Lou a wet plate to dry.
Lou smiled gratefully. "I've never been this happy either," she admitted.
"He really loves you," Rachel observed.
Lou nodded. "I love him too."
Rachel's grin widened. "That's all I need to know. As long as the both of you love each other and make each other happy, that's all that's important." Rachel quickly dried her hand in a towel and pulled Lou in an embrace. "Congratulations on your engagement, Louise."
The next couple of weeks passed quickly enough, Lou thought, and tomorrow was her wedding day.
She exited the small cabin and went straight to the barn, ready to start her day. She smiled as she spotted her fiancé, already working at the far end corral, trying to break the newest horse. He smiled at her, but quickly regretted his momentary lack of attention as the horse began to buck and he was thrown to the ground. Lou gasped and was about to head his way when he quickly jumped to his feet and waved at her, letting her know he was all right. She laughed and continued towards the barn.
Later that day Lou and Kid ate lunch together at the small cabin.
"This time tomorrow, we are going to be husband and wife," Kid remarked when they finished their simple meal of cold sandwiches. He pulled Lou from her chair and brought her to sit in his lap. "You know, you can still back out."
"Are you crazy?" Lou laughed and kissed his mouth lightly. "I love you. Marrying you is the best thing that's going to happen to me." Suddenly a thought crossed her mind. "Are you having second thoughts, Kid?" she asked gravely. "Is this why you're asking me?"
"What? No, Lou. I love you too. You're the best thing that's ever happened to me. I can't wait to marry you."
"You're not just marrying me because we… you know… slept together back then?"
Kid shook his head and hugged her close. "I loved you even before we made love, Lou. I think I loved you from the first moment I saw you in the stable the morning after the town event. Please marry me tomorrow," he begged, tears in his eyes.
Lou cupped his face in her hands and kissed his lips. She too had tears in her eyes. "I'll marry you tomorrow," she nodded. "I love you, Kid."
"I love you too, Lou."
They kissed again, more passionately now. Lou's fingers entangled in his hair, his hands roaming all over her back. He drew her closer as she started unbuttoning his shirt. Kid moved to kiss her neck, eliciting a moan of pleasure from her.
The sound of her moan entered his brain and he stopped his kisses and caresses immediately. "Lou, we shouldn't," he panted, out of breath from the kisses. "We should wait until tomorrow."
Lou gazed directly into his eyes and nodded. She rose from his lap, and planted another kiss on his lips before she headed out. "We should get back to work, Kid," She smiled from the door.
Kid sighed and smiled back. He lazily rose from his chair and followed her outside.
"Will you stay still for a second?" Caroline scolded, as she tried to put another hairpin into Lou's hair.
"How much longer?" Lou asked, clearly impatient. She was already wearing her wedding dress and only the hairdo was keeping her from walking down the aisle.
"Just a couple more minutes," Caroline chuckled. "You'll get to Kid soon enough."
There was a knock on the door and Lou quickly rose to answer it, ignoring Caroline's protests. At the door was a beautiful woman, dressed in the finest dress Lou had ever seen, her long black curls were swept up, leaving only a few loose ringlets to frame her beautiful face.
"Hello," she smiled, her southern drawl evident. "I'm looking for Kid. I was told I could find him here," at seeing the woman in front of her, wearing the wedding dress she hurried to add, "I'm sorry to interrupt you, I can see you're busy, but it's very important that I speak with him."
Lou looked at the woman uneasily. Something in her didn't sit well with Lou and she looked questioningly at Caroline who still stood behind her. Caroline just shrugged. She had no idea who that woman was.
"Well, is Kid here?" the woman asked impatiently. "I'm an old friend of his. My name is Samantha. Samantha Edgars."
At hearing the name, Lou took a step back. The color draining from her face. Caroline heard the name as well and came to stand by her friend. "Kid is not here," she said coldly. "What do you want with him?"
Samantha looked bewildered by the rude woman before her. "I don't think it's any of your business, miss…"
"Mrs. Cody," Caroline answered. "And I can't imagine what business you might have with Kid."
"Well, that's between him and me. I know your husband is a good friend of his, but I don't think he'd appreciate your attitude towards me," Samantha sneered.
"Kid is at the church, waiting for his bride to arrive," Caroline held her head up, unfazed by the woman.
Samantha squinted her eyes and looked more closely at Lou, studying her. "I don't believe you," she called. "There's no way Kid will ever find her," she pointed dismissively toward Lou, "attractive. Look at her, she can barely fill out the dress. She looks like a little girl."
Caroline took a deep breath to control herself as she felt Lou back up inside the cabin, deeply insulted by the cruel woman's words. "You should go now," she hissed.
Samantha shrugged and turned around. "I'll be waiting here on the porch for him, somehow I don't think there will be a wedding today," she smiled slyly.
Caroline closed the door behind her and rested her head on the wood, collecting herself. she turned at the sound of a sob escaping her younger friend's lips.
"Oh my god, Caroline. This is her, isn't it?" Lou panted, having trouble to keep her composure. "She's back!"
"What's taking them so long?" Kid whispered to Jimmy who stood right next to him. "Shouldn't they be here already?"
Jimmy shrugged. Truth was Lou was taking much longer than they expected. "Want me to send someone to check at the ranch?" Jimmy asked.
"Yes, please," Kid replied.
Buck rode fast to the ranch, hoping this was all just wedding jitters. He brought his horse to a halt at the sight in front of him. Though he hadn't seen the woman in seven years, he recognized her. This is not good, he thought as he approached her.
"What are you doing here, Samantha?" he asked.
"Well, hello to you too, Buck. It's so nice to be so warmly welcomed," she said sarcastically.
"Don't even start, Samantha," Buck retorted angrily. "What are you doing here?"
"As I told the two women in the cabin, it's between Kid and me. It's none of your business."
"Oh my god, Lou," Buck mumbled as realization dawned on him. He moved past Samantha and opened the door slowly. "Can I come in?" he called.
"Yes, Buck," came Caroline's response.
The sight in front of him almost broke his heart. Caroline sat on the bed, while Lou walked around the room, collecting her things and stuffing them into a carpetbag. She wore her men clothes; her wedding dress discarded on the bed. Her eyes were red and swollen and tears kept running down her cheeks. Caroline looked at him, her eyes pleading for help.
"What are you doing, Lou?" Buck asked from the door.
"Packing." Came the short reply.
"But Kid is waiting for you at the church, Lou," he said softly.
"Well, I don't want to come between him and her," she snorted, indicating with her head to the woman outside the door.
"Kid doesn't love her, Lou. He loves you and wants to marry you."
"He's been thinking about her for seven years, Buck," Lou cried. "Of course he still loves her. He only wanted to marry me because she was not available."
"Lou, you should speak to him. You should let him make the choice. I know he will choose you. He loves you," Caroline tried.
Lou closed her bag and looked at the two. She then locked her eyes with Caroline's. "Please explain everything to him. Tell him I only wanted what's best for him. Tell him I love him too much to compel him to do something he doesn't want to."
Lou looked one more time around the room before she opened the door and stepped outside. She didn't even spare a glance towards the woman sitting outside the cabin and headed straight to the stable to saddle her horse.
"I've had enough," Kid hissed and without waiting for a response from Jimmy strode out of the church, and rode off towards the ranch.
Jimmy and Cody exchanged confused looks and quickly followed him, leaving a shocked audience.
They arrived at the ranch just as Lou walked her horse out of the barn. Buck and Caroline were standing in the yard, looking helpless. Kid dismounted and walked toward the woman he loved with all his heart on shaky legs.
"What are you doing, Lou?" he choked. "Where are you going?"
Lou stepped away from him as he moved closer. A sob escaped her as he caught her arm and pulled her into his arms.
"What are you doing?" he asked again, holding her close, smelling her scent.
"Uh, Kid," Jimmy came to stand by the embracing couple. He motioned with his head towards the dark haired woman that was still sitting on the porch of his cabin.
Kid followed Jimmy's indication and felt anger like he'd never known before building up inside of him. He passed the sobbing Lou into Jimmy's arms and briskly strode over to where his ex-girlfriend sat. "What the hell are you doing here?" he bellowed, yanking her to stand.
"W… what do you mean?" she stammered. "I came here to be with you."
Kid looked as if someone slapped him.
"I… I made a mistake when I left you," she put a hand on his chest to relax him. "I knew Robert from before and when he asked me to go with him I just couldn't pass up an opportunity like that. You do understand, don't you? He could provide for me better than you could back then. He was very rich and he took good care of me, but then he died last year from pneumonia. I realized only recently how much you loved me, and how foolish I was to leave you. I decided to give us another chance," she smiled seductively at him.
Kid drew back from her, pushing her hand away. He was still silent as she kept talking.
"I forgive you for wanting to marry this boyish girl. I understand it's partly my fault since I wasn't here…"
Kid felt the anger inside him reaching a boiling point at her insults. He let his frustration out in a roar, punching the wall of the small cabin so hard that Samantha jumped back in surprise. "Get the hell out of my life and never come back," he yelled. He then took a steadying breath before he continued, his voice still louder than normal, "I'm sorry I've ever met you. You are a sorry excuse for a woman. That 'boyish' girl over there is the woman I love and intend to marry today. She's more of a woman than you'll ever be. She has more class and she's smarter and gentler, kinder and more beautiful than you can ever hope to be."
Kid didn't wait for her to respond and stormed away from her. He neared his friends, who stood there staring at him surprised. He grabbed Lou's hand and pulled her from Jimmy's embrace. He half dragged her with him to the barn. Once they were inside, he closed the barn door behind them.
He turned to face Lou, still very angry. "What are you doing, Lou?"
When she didn't answer him he hit one of the walls with his fist in frustration. "Where were you going, Lou?" he shouted. "You were going to leave me, weren't you?"
Lou started sobbing, her body shaking with misery. At her cry, Kid's anger disappeared and he rushed to her, gathered her in his arms, caressed her hair, and whispered soothingly into her ear.
"Where were you going, Lou?" he asked again, his voice broken with his own sobs. "Why were you leaving me?"
Lou's arms came up to hug his waist. "She's back, Kid. Samantha. The woman you loved for seven years. I don't want to come between your happiness."
"What are you talking about, Lou?" Kid asked, his hands cupping her face, tilting her head so he could see her eyes. "I don't love Samantha anymore. I love you. I wouldn't have asked you to marry me if I didn't."
Lou looked skeptical.
Kid chuckled at her face and kissed her lips.
"But she's so beautiful," Lou replied, unable to believe Kid was choosing her over the woman outside.
Kid shook his head. "She's ugly in here," he retorted and pointed to his heart. "I don't understand how I ever felt so strongly for her. I must have been a bigger fool than I thought." He took a deep breath before he continued. "I love you now, Lou. Now and forever. I still want to marry you, if you're still willing. I would have wanted to marry you regardless of Samantha. Please tell me you'll marry me, Lou. I don't know what I'd do if you won't."
Lou stared into the blue eyes she loved so much and saw his sincerity and his love for her. Kid interpreted her silence as hesitation and started to back away, his heart breaking. Lou looked bewildered at his retreating form and hurried to grab a hold of him and hug him tightly.
"Of course I'll marry you, Kid. This is all I've ever wanted since I met you. I love you. I was just scared you didn't love me."
Kid felt tears running down his face, but he didn't care to wipe them off. All he cared was the woman in his arms telling him she loved him. He tenderly tilted her head so he could meet her lips with his. He held her close as their kiss lingered, their tears mixing together at their closeness.
"Come on, Lou," Kid panted when they broke the kiss. "We need to get married."
The both of them exited the barn hand in hand to the applause of their awaiting friends.
Caroline hurried towards her friend, smiling and laughing through her own tears. "Come, Lou, we need to get you dressed and fit to marry."
Both women hurried towards Caroline house, while Caroline motioned to her husband to bring Lou's wedding dress over from Kid's cabin to their house.
"We will only need fifteen minutes, boys. Why don't you head on back to the church? I'm sure the guests are becoming quite restless," Caroline called before she followed Lou into the house.
"Well, Kid. I guess we should get you back to the church then," Jimmy smiled and slapped his friend's back.
"Yeah," Buck agreed, coming closer to them. "Jenny and Kaitlin are probably worried sick by now."
Kid nodded but took a couple of steps closer to his house. Cody emerged carrying Lou's dress in his arms. "Cody, will you stay with the girls here, escort them to the church."
"Sure thing, Kid," Cody smiled. "Want me to take out the trash here while I'm waiting?"
Kid shook his head and walked up the stairs to where Samantha sat. "You should go now," he said menacingly. "If you give Lou any more trouble, I swear to God…" he could not even finish and just sighed in frustration and pity. "You are a sad woman, Samantha. I should be angry at you but actually I feel nothing but pity." With that, Kid turned and walked to where Jimmy and Buck stood waiting for him. "Let's go," he said as he mounted Katy.
It took the girls just over half an hour to get ready. As they exited the house, Cody whistled appreciatively. "Well, who would've thought, Mr. Lou McCloud…"
Lou blushed but let him help her up the buckboard. She scanned the yard for a trace of the other woman.
"She's gone," Cody replied.
She smiled at him, grateful for his understanding.
Cody helped his wife and climbed to sit beside her. He took her hand in his as he drove the buckboard to town.
The ceremony was short, everyone was anxious to hear the whole story as to what happened before. As soon as Teaspoon pronounced them husband and wife, Kid claimed his bride's lips in a heated kiss.
They ran down the steps of the church and kissed again to the sound of applause from all their family, friends, and guests.
Kid cupped Lou's face in his hands. "I love you," he whispered.
"I love you too," she answered.