Chapter 2


Meredith Bennett turned towards me as I entered the kitchen. "Hey darling, thought you might be hungry when you woke up." She set a plate down on the counter. "I know how much you love eggs and bacon." She went to the ice box and grabbed a carton of milk.

"Thanks!" I wasn't exactly sure how to ask, so I just said what came to mind and hoped it wasn't rude. "Um… Mere those people last night, who were they? I mean, what do you know about them?"

Mere froze in her spot, seeming to take a minute to decide if and how to explain. "This is new Riv, you've never seemed interested in customers, before."

"That's because I know all of the other customers, even those who only come on occasion. But I've never seen those guys who came before. I mean, are they new to the colony?" I decided to approach this conversation with tactic; getting this information from Mere appeared to need some tactic.

"They've been around before. It's been awhile though." I stored everything she said.

"Are they dangerous? I mean what if I see them in town and say hello?"

"I doubt you will see them in town, but if you do, I see no reason not to be polite." Mere kept trying to read my expression, so I continued eat and look down at my plate.

"Why wouldn't they come into town?" That was puzzling; the colony laws were clear and definite. New colonists were introduced to the whole town.

Mere shook her head. "Just visiting." She gave me a small sad smile.

It irked me for some strange reason that I might not see my stranger again. I got over it and came to an idea. Visitors to the colony had to check in at the town office. And our town didn't get many visitors, most of which I knew.

"They seem really close." I commented. "Are they some sort of gang?" I held out my glass as a signal that I wanted more. If they were criminals then checking the visitor list would obviously be pointless.

I noticed her smile as she answered, "They're definitely quite a pack." She stopped and raised an eyebrow. "Why all the questions?"

"Just curious," I tried to answer non chalant. Mere made it quite apparent that she didn't believe me. Deciding that I had had enough for now, I smiled and excused myself. A minute later I returned and Mere chuckled.

"Forget something?" I rushed to her side giving her a warm hug. "I'm glad you're okay. What happened?"

"Not sure, maybe I was just tired." My answer was mostly honest. "I'm going into town." I exited the house, full of energy and contemplating my next move.

"Stop by Doc Brown's and get checked out, OK?"

"Alright." I hollered back.

My first stop was the general store. Lawrence was restocking some shelves with canned supplies. It always made me snicker somewhat to find him dressed in a uniform of black slacks, short sleeved black shirt and a white apron. He reminded me of a mom in those 1980s magazines I read in the archive.

"Morning, Lawrence."

"Why, hello Rivy." He stepped off the latter. "I heard you weren't feeling well last night. Doing better, I see?"

"Yeah. I'm feeling much better thank you!"

"Hi, Tommy boy!" Thomas Oakfield was the nephew of a royal who governed the colony. Thomas hated it when I called him that. He was the same age as me although he always acted like some spoiled baby brother. Sherry had said one time that she thought he liked me; that was why he enjoyed being an arrogant tyrant one moment and sweet guy the next. I told her he was probably just bipolar, although he had on several occasions, tried to kiss me.

"Miss Rivers," he said in that arrogant voice that always got me so irritated. He always used this I'm-too-good-for-you-be-thankful-I'm paying-attention tone of voice. Mere said it was the kind of voice that caught hood rat women, who spent their husband's money during the day and got a beating from him at night.

"What are you up to," I asked routinely well hiding my recent feelings of uncomfortable-ness. I had been getting these feelings as if it wasn't always safe to be near Thomas; especially when I didn't feel the same way about him as he did about me. The problem was not talking to him often brought me more inconvenience than acknowledging his presence.

"I'm just passing through." Thomas had a glint in his eyes, the kind I didn't like. He seemed too calm. "I bought a new saddle this morning. All the gold on it glistens like the sun."

I snorted. "Oh, yeah? Well that's nice." I switched my focus to Lawrence. "Are you still going to school?"

Lawrence shook his sandy blonde hair. "I decided to stay and help my family with the store. My dad is still sick."

Thomas seemed to be pissed that I wasn't showing him any attention. "Hey don't ignore me, tavern girl."

I simply rolled my eyes and continued to talk to Lawrence, took his hand briefly and squeezed it. "I'm sorry."

Lawrence only shook his head again and thanked me. "No, thank you. If it wasn't for you and everyone at the Tavern I wouldn't have had the opportunity to have gone the first time."

I smiled, "well I'm glad your home." I let go of his hand as I made my way to the door. "I'll see you soon?" Lawrence nodded his head and waved.

I quickly threw a goodbye to Thomas who was still whining about me not listening to him then scurried out of the store.

Walking along the main road towards the front of town, images of that mysterious guy continued to float in mind. There was something so special about him. He enticed my senses.

Visually, he was pure lust in human form. Built tall, lean and hard, girls would have to be blind not to see him as a fine conquest. And even then, with a voice like his rough, masculine and intelligent, even a blind woman would open up like a flower in full bloom. He'd had dark green eyes and olive skin, not usual for people in the colony. His hair was dark brown; the kind you thought was black until you looked closely at it in the light. He'd moved with such fluidity and took her hand last night with such gentleness, yet the feel of his hands were rough.

Rivy was sure it was outrageous how attractive AND be smart. Usually guys in her town were one way or the other, never both. Although Lawrence was a decent looking man and pretty smart, Rivy had no doubts her stranger and Lawrence were on two different playing fields.

So absorbed in thoughts about her stranger, that Rivy had passed town hall before taking in her surroundings and turned around. Well Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome, to find out who you are

"Are you sure?" An angry voice snarled.

"Yeah, I'm sure it's her. She's older now but I'd know her anywhere." A sniveling voice replied. "I've got a picture here." A thin shaky hand shoved a photograph across a desk until it came to a stop just before falling off.

A red-haired girl with dark brown skin and brown eyes was smiling and carrying a tray with dishes.

"Where?" the voice was deadpanned.

"Colony 36, sir."

Silence settled for a few moments before a devious voice issued commands. "Round up some of the boys. I want this done quietly Matthius. Find her, bring her. Report in a week." The man Matthius nodded his head, and made to exit. "Oh and Matthius." The slender man look to his senior. "No mistakes. I want her alive and well."

"Yes, sir."

An hour after entering, Rivy had no new leads as to the identity of her mysterious stranger. The group hadn't logged in as visitors or future members of the community. That left her with two thoughts. They were either outlaws or they'd purposely hadn't signed in. But that raised questions. She checked the inn and they hadn't stayed there, they weren't at the Tavern and she knew no one else they could possibly have ties with in colony 36. So who were they?

The mystery was killing her to solve. Whoever these men were they didn't want to be found. Giving up the search for the day, River left the town and walked towards the rock canon just outside of town. She made her way down a small path into the canyon and when she reached the bottom followed the canon's riverbed until it opened into a valley.

This was River's paradise, her oasis. The mediocre vegetation that grew within the town borders was nothing compared to the forest valley. There were huge trees and ferns, grass covered the valley floor and a small mist of water was carried on the breeze. A two week hike through the valley brought you a day's ride from colony 5, the royal city colony, if that said anything about the size of the valley.

It was the perfect place to relax, and River's favorite place to be. Once situated on her favorite rock, her feet waded in the lake, River pulled out a small pocket sized book and began reading. She wasn't sure how long she'd sat there before her attention was caught by the sounds of crunching leaves and twigs snapping. That was the only warning.