Hey everyone! Another new story (but that isn't too surprising, considering). This one is a Western, and I decided to try my hand at one because who doesn't love cowboys? There's really not too much else to say. The italicized lines underneath every chapter don't belong to me: they all belong to Jessie James, and the songs are "Wanted," "Bullet," and "Big Mouth" - all of which I highly reccomend. Reviews, as always, are both generous and helpful, so please drop me a line with your oopinion on the story. I do hope you enjoy the story, and thanks for your interest!
"If it pops into my head, it's coming straight out my mouth"
It was universally assumed that if one – especially a woman – was well-bred, she was also polite and demure, exceeding in manners and passiveness. Of course she was well educated in trivial things that men regarded as second best and not very important, such as music, singing, drawing. If a woman was bookish, she was deemed too smart for her own good, especially if that woman was more intelligent than a potential suitor. Her voice should be soft, and instead of speaking – much less having – her own opinion, she should stand still, smile, and look pretty. At least, that was what the genteel women raised in the West were brought up to believe. Instead of getting an education or some kind of job, their main goal in life was to find a husband and have children. And the only way to achieve such a thing, to attain a genteel and respectable man – even better if he was wealthy beyond all imaginable measures – was to adhere to the rules above. In essence, a woman had to be perfect in every way. And by perfect, she had to be a man's version of perfect rather than her own.
This reasoning was exactly why Riley Ledger wished she hadn't been brought up as a genteel woman. Or, at least she wished that she was a boy because genteel boys got away with much more compared to genteel girls. And it wasn't fair.
Riley didn't even want to get married. In fact, society, at least in the West, was much more relaxed compared to places like England where marriages were arranged or at least made due to status instead of compatibility. And Riley believed that marriage was more convenient to a man rather than to a woman. A man had the privilege of asking whoever he wanted while a woman only had the power to refuse, unless a parent was persistent that a match be made, whether a daughter wished for it or not.
Riley had decided at a young age that she would have none of that.
It was Riley's older sister Kendra that played the part of woman with remarkable beauty and grace. It was Kendra who was the true beauty of the Ledger family, and Riley acknowledged this with good humor. Kendra had pale blonde hair and exquisite blue eyes. Despite living in a small town in the West where the sun was one's constant companion, Kendra still had fair skin, and a slim body, always hidden by the latest fashionable gowns. She walked with grace and had a smile for everybody. Her patience inspired Riley to try and attain a fraction of it for herself, though this was a struggle unto itself.
Kendra was what Riley wanted to be, and at the same time, knew she could never be. Instead of pale blonde hair, Riley had dark blonde – dishwater blonde – hair that was hard to tame. Her complexion, though peachy, was slightly tanned, and freckles covered her cheeks and her nose. Her eyes were a mixture of blue, green, and gold, and they always displayed each and every emotion the young woman was feeling. Instead of dresses, Riley preferred pants and a nice shirt, but her father refused to let her out of the house unless she was dressed appropriately. Being outdoors mattered more than wearing pants, at least to Riley, and her father had long given up hope that his youngest daughter would marry anyways, so he didn't pay too much attention to her.
Bradley Ledger was a well-bred man who reveled in being the town's sheriff. However, he didn't actually need to work, given the fact that he inherited a nice sum of money after his wife passed away. A portion of that money went into placing his daughters in an etiquette based school. When Kendra excelled and Riley didn't, Bradley was focused with transforming his oldest child as the perfect bride. So while Kendra was wearing the latest fashion and playing piano at the saloon underneath their home, Riley was left to her own devices in hand-me-downs.
Oddly enough, this didn't bother Riley in the least. She wasn't jealous of her older sister in the slightest, and was quite glad that her father didn't actually expect her to marry. However, even she had certain obligations, and one of them was accompanying Kendra down to the saloon whenever she played. It relaxed Kendra to know someone, and it gave Riley a place for her to be. The only reason Riley never argued was because she wanted to support her sister, and it was the only place she could read her book without her father getting on her case about it.
Currently, Kendra was playing an up-tempo song that apparently was a favorite of bartender's, and Riley was sitting off to the side, her nose buried deep into a novel. In fact, she was so consumed in her story that she didn't notice a man, sitting in the middle the saloon at a poker table, watching her with an intense green gaze. His thin lips curved upwards when he noticed her attention was so deeply focused, and after tossing his cards into the pile, indicating that he had folded, he stood up and slowly walked over to her until he was standing a few feet from her.
Riley didn't even notice. Her fingertip quickly pressed on the page, her eyes trying to take everything at once before flipping the page and continuing.
This caused the man to frown. He had always been told he had a commanding presence, but how could that possibly be true when a girl of no more than twenty-two years of age didn't even notice him before her? Deciding to try a different tactic, he took another step forward and cleared his throat.
This time, Riley glanced up, raising a cool, arched brow. She stared at him for a long moment before dropping her eyes back down to her book, hating when people disturbed her for no reason, especially when she was at the climax of the book. Well, he was a man, after all, and it was rare to find a red blooded male who actually appreciated a good novel especially since novels were a trivial thing. Or, at least, society deemed them as such.
This time, the man felt his patience slip away from him as his frustration only deepened. The young woman had pointedly dismissed him, something he had never encountered before, to be treated with complete disrespect. "Excuse me," he said, shifting his weight and narrowing his green eyes at her. "But would you mind putting that book down so I can speak to you, darling?"
Riley let a sigh slip out of her mouth, trying to refrain from rolling her eyes but only succeeding halfway. "Actually," she said, trying to remain as polite as she could. "I would. I can almost assure you that whatever you have to say, I really don't want to hear."
"Is that so?" the man asked. "Well, you don't even know what I'm going to say, so how do you know it's not what you want to hear?"
"Because I'm not interested in you," Riley said, glancing down at her book, wishing for nothing more than to resume her reading. "Let me guess; you are going to tell me something charming with a dash of innuendo, aren't you? That's all right and swell for a different kind of woman, but not me. I'm sure my novel has much more interesting things to say to me than you ever could."
The man didn't mean to get so offended, but there were many different elements at play here. The most obvious one was the fact that she was a woman, and she was dismissing him so easily. He had never dismissed by a woman before, and he felt himself curl his fingers into fists. Riley had already diverted her eyes back down to the book, resuming her position on reading. Without warning, the man grabbed the book away from her, and when Riley leapt out of her chair to grab it from him, stopped dead in her tracks. His fist was up, as though he was going to hit her. Her breath caught in her throat and she turned her head, closing her eyes tightly as she did so.
However, the hit never came.
When Riley suspected that it was safe to open her eyes, she saw another man in front of her, preventing the swing by her pest. He had a black cowboy hat on and dusty brown hair, but other than that, she couldn't make him out. Though he spoke, she didn't understand what he had said due to how dazed she was, but his voice was low and gravelly. He was dressed in brown pants, boots, and a brown vest over a blue long sleeved shirt. He almost looked like a cowboy…
Before Riley could get a better look at him, before she could thank him no less, Kendra quickly grabbed onto her sister's wrist and quickly ushered her out.
"My book," Riley murmured, furrowing her brow.
"I'll get it for you later," Kendall told her in a soft voice. "What you need now is to go home."