Ladies Day, My own version, by Patricia, Laramiekid_2000
Slim swallowed his last bite of beans. As Jess picked up the plate, Slim complained, "Jess, tonight do you think we could have something different to eat than beans?"
"I ain't no cook," Jess growled. "When I signed on as a hand I never figured on doing the cooking."
"You know with Jonesy going to take care of his brother, we have to take turns until we can hire a housekeeper. "
"Well all I know is that better be soon. Or get use to eating beans. 'Cause it's all I know how to cook."
"Jess, I'm worried. If we don't find a housekeeper soon, we might not be able to keep Mike.
You know the judge is planning on visiting us next week."
"I don't get it, Slim," Jess said as filled Slim's coffee cup. "We'd be better for Mike than some orphanage. The judge knows the boy doesn't have any relatives. We checked on that. We raised Andy to be a fine man. He's in college now. But ever since we took in Mike seems that judge is always showing up checking on us."
"Well we are a tough bunch, I guess," Slim acknowledged. "But I want Mike cleaned up. You know the judge could surprise with a visit. Come a week earlier than expected. He's done it before."
"Where'd Mike go anyhow?"
Slim glanced around the room. "Mike was just here."
"Dog gone it, Slim! How come every time it's my turn to make sure he gets a bath, he disappears?"
Slim laughed loudly.
"It's not funny. From now on, you get him to take a bath."
"Oh no, partner." Slim hurriedly stood, tossing his napkin on the table.
"Well at least help me with washing these dishes."
Slim turned his head towards the door and smiled. "Looks like for once the stage is on time. You better get some fresh coffee made."
Before Jess could reply, Slim was out the door.
The stage slid to a stop in front of the cabin. The driver grinned down at Slim. "Wait 'til you see what I'm hauling." He winked.
Slim opened the door then held out his hand to help a small slender woman out of the coach. She wore her dark hair piled high on her head. She gave a slight disinterested nod to Slim, then walked briskly towards the cabin. Like a puppy, Slim started to follow her. But Slim stopped when he heard a "Uhm." He turned quickly, moving back to the stage to help an elderly woman descend. Not only were their ages different. But this woman was in direct contrast to her traveling companion. This woman was blonde, stocky, and short; whereas the other woman had been a brunette, slender, and tall. Though this woman was pleasant to look at; the other had been breath taking to behold.
"Thank you," she said letting go of Slim's hand. She brushed the dust off her jacket.
Slim again started for the house but the woman's voice stopped him.
"Excuse me. I'm looking for Slim Sherman."
Slim tipped his dark Stetson. "You've found him."
"Mr. Sherman, I'm Daisy Cooper. I saw your ad for a housekeeper."
Inside the cabin, Jess was drinking a quick cup of coffee when the brunette woman from the stage entered. She smiled warmly. "Mr. Sherman?"
Jess turned. Seeing her beauty, he smiled with appreciation. His eyes traveled the length of her, taking in all her features. She smiled as if she enjoyed his attention.
"I'm here in regards to your ad for a housekeeper."
Jess rushed to her. "You applying for the housekeeper?"
"Ma'am, I'm very glad to see you." Jess held out his hand.
She took hold of his hand as if it was something precious. "Thank you, Mr. Sherman."
"Oh, I'm not Slim Sherman. My name's Jess Harper, ma'am. I work for Slim."
She pulled back her hand from his. "Oh, one of his hired hands." Her voice now lacked its previous friendliness as she smiled lamely at Jess.
"Actually his only hired hand. But Slim is going to be mighty glad to meet you. We've been looking for a housekeeper for a long time. And we're both getting tired of my cooking." Jess moved to the window and pointed. "That's Slim out there by the stage. Come on, I'll introduce
you." He tossed his apron on the chair then he opened the door and stepped back to allow her access. "Slim's going to be mighty happy to see you. Mighty happy."
She followed on Jess's heels as Jess hurriedly crossed the yard to where the stage stood.
Jess greeted, "Slim, we got us a housekeeper!"
Slim turned towards Jess with a smile. "We sure do."
The realization of what happened hit both men at the same time. Each glanced from one woman to the other. The driver chuckled but immediately hid his laughter as Jess shot him a menacing look.
"Appears we have more than one applicant," Slim noted as he smiled at each woman.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Sherman, I didn't know who you were when I got off the stage. Or I would have immediately asked for the position."
"Well uh," Slim looked undecided.
"Maybe," Daisy suggested, "you should interview us both before you decide."
"Of course," the other woman agreed but unlike Daisy she wasn't smiling.
"What do you say we go inside and have some coffee," Slim offered. "And get to know each other."
Jess stepped back to allow the women to go ahead of him.
"Slim..." Jess blocked Slim from following the women. "She was here first. She just thought I was you, that's all."
"We'll talk to them both and then decide which one is best."
"Which? Why's she pretty and..."
"And she can cook and keep house?"
"I guess she wouldn't be applying if she couldn't. And it just seems to me if you have to choose and they're both qualified, it wouldn't hurt to pick the one who's most pleasing to look at."
Slim slapped Jess on the back. "I just might do that."
The driver chuckled. Jess's eyes darkened.
"And what's so funny, Milt?" Jess growled.
The driver replied, "Well to tell you the truth, Jess, I was starting to get use to your cooking."
Slim hid his smile. "Come on, let's go get to know them."
When they entered the cabin, both women turned towards Slim with questions on their faces.
"Why don't you ladies have a seat?" Slim offered.
Jess hurriedly pulled out a chair for the young woman.
"Uh, Miss Cooper." Slim politely pulled the other chair out for Daisy.
"Thank you, Mr. Sherman," Daisy said as she settled into the chair.
The other woman offered no thanks but only gave a quick glance at Jess as if annoyed. Then she looked at Slim with a smile. "This is a nice place, Mr. Sherman."
"Thank you. And I'm sorry, I don't know your name."
"This is Daisy Cooper."
"I'm pleased to meet you, Miss Gregor," Daisy greeted with a nod and a smile. But Julie said nothing, only nodded back a greeting..
"And you've met Jess. Miss Daisy this is Jess Harper. My hired hand."
"So nice to meet you," Daisy offered another smile.
Jess tipped his dusty hat. "Ma'am."
Slim asked, "Would you ladies like some coffee?"
"Please," Daisy replied as Julie nodded. "The ride has been so dusty."
Jess poured the coffee.
"My, that's good coffee, Mr. Sherman," Julie purred.
"Jess is the one that needs to be complemented. He made it."
Julie barely glanced at Jess. Daisy took a swallow of the black liquid. She couldn't hide her expression.
"Well I like strong coffee," Jess mumbled.
"Then you must certainly like this coffee," Daisy answered.
Slim bit back his laughter. "Now Miss Daisy..."
"Please, Mr. Sherman, call me Daisy. Miss Daisy makes me sound ancient."
Jess shot Slim a look, 'ISN'T SHE?'
Slim answered with his own look that clearly said, 'GIVE HER A CHANCE.' He then turned his attention to Daisy. With a smile, he said, "I promise to call you Daisy if you'll call me Slim and him Jess."
Daisy's face blossom into an expression of happiness. "It's a deal!"
Jess couldn't help but smile at Daisy for she looked so delighted, as if she had just won a poker game.
Julie glanced from the men to the woman. "Uhm, Mr. Sherman, Slim," the words flowed as if honey dripping, "please I want you to call me, Julie."
"Julie," Jess repeated as if almost saying a prayer.
"So Daisy," Slim began again, "tell me why you decided to apply for this job?"
"To be honest, Slim, I need this job. You see my husband and I came out West to start a store, but upon arrival we discovered we had been swindled. There was no store. And we had spent the last of our money to get here. My husband died two days ago. I need a job. So when I saw your advertisement, I decided to apply. I'm a good cook. And I love children. I had two of mine own. Both killed in the war. " She dabbed at her eyes.
Jess swallowed hard as Slim looked concerned.
Julie loudly put her cup down on the table. "I too love children. And I cook the best fried chicken in Wyoming." She suddenly grinned at Jess. "And the best pie if I do say so myself."
"I see." Slim glanced at Jess. "Well this is difficult. Tell you what. Why don't Jess and I talk about it outside? You two rest a spell. Come on, Jess."
As soon as they were standing outside the cabin, Jess argued, "Don't see what's to talk about."
"Julie just don't look like a housekeeper."
"She sure don't," Jess agreed with a smile.
"We need a housekeeper and I'm not sure having someone around like that would be good."
"You mean 'cause she's pretty? That don't seem fair. I remember you judging me by looks the first time we met."
Slim sighed. "And I was wrong. You've been the best ranch hand and the best friend a man could want."
Jess pushed his hat back on his head. "Slim, let's give Julie that chance too. After all, she did say she cooked the best fried chicken in Wyoming. And I've been wanting some fried chicken for a long time."
Slim was silent for a long moment. "All right."
"Then it's settled. Go tell Miss Daisy."
"Well I kind of figured, we both would..."
"Oh no. I couldn't hurt that sweet old lady. I'm staying outside with Milt. I couldn't bear to see her disappointment."
"But you want me to go in there and...."
"You're the boss ain't you?"
Slim nodded reluctantly.
Both women smiled at Slim as the man entered. "Daisy, this was a hard decision but..."
Daisy cut in, "I see," she said so disappointed that Slim wanted to change his mind.
She smiled warmly at Julie. "Congratulations, Miss Gregor, I'm sure you'll do a fine job. Well the stage must be ready to leave. I better get on it." She stood, then offered her hand to Slim. "Thank you, Slim, for the interview." She shook his hand. "I wanted to tell Jess thank you."
"He's helping Milt change the horses."
Without another word, she left. Slim glanced at Julie.
"Thank you, Slim, for the job. I better get my baggage off the stage."
Slim followed her out the door. Slim almost offered Daisy the job when he saw her talking to Mike. Mike was talking non stop.
"Slim, I was showing Miss Daisy my arrowhead that you gave me."
"My it's a fine arrowhead. I told him my husband was in the army. He had some arrowheads but never any quite as grand as this one. Thank you for showing it to me, Mike."
Slim spun Mike around so he was facing Julie. "Mike, I want you to meet Julie. She's the new housekeeper."
Jess nudged Mike's shoulder. "What do you say, Tiger?"
"Oh, pleasure to meet you."
"Why don't you show her your arrowhead," Jess suggested.
"Sure." Mike held it out but Julie didn't take hold of it. She only mumbled, "Very nice." She then turned her attention to Slim, "Well if you'll get my bag. That one. Then I'll start."
"That's all right, Slim. I'll get her bag," Jess said quickly.
"I ain't never seen Jess move so fast," Milt called down to Slim, ignoring Jess's hard stare.
Julie asked, "Slim, what would you like me to do first? Tidy the house?"
"Maybe you can start by cooking us some food," Jess suggested.
"All right," she said her voice sounding very nervous.
Mike said, "I hope you're not going to cook beans, Miss Julie. I don't think Jess can cook anything but beans."
Daisy laughed but Julie didn't even smile.
"I thought you could fry us some chicken," Jess stated. "You did say you cooked the best fried chicken in Wyoming."
Again she glanced at Slim, as if asking for his approval.
Slim agreed, "Sounds good. It's been a month of Sundays since we've had chicken."
Her body tensed. "Then chicken it is."
Mike screamed out with delight. "And biscuits and pie and..."
"Easy tiger," Jess said rumpling Mike's hair. "Julie knows what goes with chicken. She'll cook you a fine meal. "
"I hope you have everything I need." Jule stammered, "Uh salt, pepper, uhm sugar, I guess that will do it."
Daisy's eyebrow shot up.
"Slim keeps lots of supplies," Jess assured. "Come on, Julie, I'll help you get settled.""
Milt called down from the stage seat, "Well guess we'll be going now, Miss Daisy."
Slim helped Daisy aboard the stage. "I'm sorry this didn't work out."
"Me too, Slim. That's a fine boy you got there."
Mike said, "I wish you were staying, Miss Daisy."
Daisy bent down so she was eye level to Mike. "Now I know you and Julie are going to be good friends." She stood up straight, offering her hand to Slim. "Goodbye Slim....Mike." She hugged Mike before boarding the stage.
Then the stage was gone.
"I liked her, Slim," Mike said as they watched the stage ride away. "I liked Miss Daisy a lot."
"You're going to like Julie too," Jess said as he joined them. "Why she's inside starting to cook that chicken. I can taste it now."
Mike, Slim, and Jess sat down at the table with anticipation. But their first bite of food made them wish for Jess's beans. The chicken was tough, the gravy lumpy, the mash potatoes hard, and the biscuits even harder. Slim ate but his eyes threw daggers at Jess the entire meal.
Even Jess looked as if he was losing some of his support for Julie as he barely touched his chicken.
"I promise tomorrow's meal will be better. It's a new stove. I just need to get use to using it."
"Sure," Jess agreed with Julie, though his voice lacked enthusiasm.
But breakfast the next morning was not any better. She had served them burnt bacon. The coffee was even stronger than Jess made. The biscuits to hard to chew. The eggs no one could swallow. After Julie left the cabin to feed the chickens, Slim grabbed a piece of beef jerky. He
chewed as if he hated jerky.
"Slim, I hate to say this," Mike looked worried, "but I liked Jess's beans better."
Jess said quickly, "Slim, I know what you're thinking. I just know if she has time..."
"I don't know if my stomach can take it! It's not the stove, we both know that."
"I know. Ain't met anyone who can't even boil water. I had to show her how. She thought it would only take a few minutes for a big pot of water to boil. She had that fire so hot we'll lucky the stove didn't melt." Jess shook his head as if he couldn't believe his words. "I guess you were wrong to hire her."
"I was wrong!" Slim eyed Jess with so much anger that even Mike noticed.
Jess argued, "Well you're the boss ain't you?"
"Now you listen here!" Slim leaned over the table so his face was close to Jess's face "I'm going to ride into Laramie. I hope Daisy is still there. If she is, I'm going offer her the job. I'm going to beg her to take the job. And you're going to be the one to fire Julie. Not me! You! And I want her gone by the time I get back! Understood?"
"I'm fired?" Julie stood in the doorway.
Jess glanced helplessly at her.
Slim answered apologetic, "I'm sorry you heard it the way you did but..."
"I know I can cook better," she said. "If given time. My last job didn't require cooking so it's been awhile since..."
"You mean you weren't a housekeeper?" Slim's eyebrow rose. "I guess I should have asked. But when you bragged about your cooking. Exactly what did you do?"
Julie looked down at the floor. "I worked in a saloon."
"You were a saloon gal!" Slim almost chocked on the words. "I hired a saloon girl to help raise Mike. Oh the judge is going love that. Jess!"
"I didn't know! I swear!" Jess looked as shocked as Slim.
Mike asked, "What wrong with a saloon girl?"
"Mike go outside."
"Aw I never get to hear anything."
As soon as Mike shut the door, Julie rushed to Slim. She grabbed hold of his hands as if holding onto a lifeline. "Just because I worked in a saloon doesn't mean I'm a bad person. Oh Slim, I'm trying to start a new life. Please give me another chance. Let me cook lunch. I promise it will be tasty."
Both men turned as they heard Mike call out, "Stage is coming."
"Lunch," Slim stated. "But if it's no better than the last meals..."
"I'll pack my bag. Thank you."
Slim walked out of the cabin.
Jess lingered. "He ain't a bad man. It's just he's mighty protective of Mike. We both are. The judge is still deciding if we should have custody. And we ain't eaten a good meal in awhile which makes him a might grumpy."
"I know I should have told you both that I worked in a saloon. But I did want this job so badly."
"Well if it helps. There's a cookbook in the kitchen."
She surprised Jess by kissing his cheek. "Thank you."
Jess said, "Good luck!" before he left the cabin. He almost bumped into one of the passengers who was standing outside the door.
"I was told I could get some coffee."
"Sure. Inside," Jess said, eyeing the man.
"Thank you." The man entered the cabin.
Daisy Cooper stepped off the stage.
"Am I glad to see you." Slim took hold of her hand.
"I have grand news, Slim. I have accepted a position in Medicine Bow. It was in the newspaper in Laramie. I telegraphed and the rancher hired me without even meeting me."
"Oh..." Slim drop hold of her hand. "I'm very glad for you."
Daisy's eyes traveled across Slim's face. "Slim is anything wrong?"
"No. Just...Julie is getting use to our stove that's all."
"Oh," Daisy said as if she understood. "Why don't I go help her? Moving from Army base to Army base I've had quite a lot of experience with cooking with different stoves."
"Would you do that, Daisy?" Jess asked, joining the couple. "You'd help her like that even though Slim didn't hire you?"
Daisy smiled. "Of course I would. After all I wouldn't want you boys to starve."
After she left, Slim growled at Jess. "This is the last time I take your advice. I bet Daisy is the best cook in Wyoming."
"Slim, did you see the other passenger who got off the stage?"
"Didn't notice. Why?"
"Ever heard of Cal Thomas?"
"I'd bet my last dollar that was him."
"Let's get these horses changed quick. I'll go inside and make sure the ladies are all right."
Moments later, Jess heard Slim calling him. "Jess, get in here. I need your help."
Jess was hitching the horses. He glanced over his shoulder but Slim had already gone back into the cabin.
"Go on, boy. I'll finish the horses," Milt said. "Mike can help me."
As soon as he entered the cabin, Jess stopped as if he had been hit. .
"Drop your gunbelt," Cal ordered, his peacemaker pointed at Slim.
"Do it, Jess," Slim ordered. "We don't want the women hurt."
Jess unbuckled his gun belt. A soft thump was heard as it hit the wood floor.
"Lift your hands where I can see them. And move over there to him."
Jess walked to Slim. "You all right?"
"What do you want, Thomas?" Jess asked.
But it was Slim, not Cal who answered, "It seems he and Julie know each other. They know each other very well."
"I'm his wife," Julie admitted.
Jess looked as if a bullet had struck him. "You're married to Cal Thomas?"
Julie eyes dodged Jess's glare. "Well he's better than a hired hand."
Jess's stare dropped off her face.
"At least Jess is honest," Daisy defended.
Cal frowned at Jess. "Now you ain't been courting my wife have you?"
Jess's stare battled Cal's stare.
Before either could speak, Mike rushed into the house. "Slim, the horses are ready and..." Mike froze as Cal pointed the gun at him.
"Thomas," Slim warned as Jess started towards Mike.
"Both of you stay there when I can see you."
Jess stopped. He glanced helplessly at Mike.
"Get back there with him. Unless you want gun fire."
Jess backed up to where Slim was standing.
"Slim?:" Mike sounded frighten.
Slim offered Mike a smile. "Just keep quiet, Mike. You'll be fine."
Daisy moved forward.
"Lady, don't," Cal ordered.
But Daisy kept walking.
"Daisy, stop," Slim pleaded.
Daisy did stop walking when she reached Mike. She pulled him to her and wrapped her arms around him. "You'll be all right, Mike," she comforted.
Cal threaten, "You do that again..."
"And you'll do what?" Daisy challenged. "Hurt an innocent boy? I would think a small child wouldn't be such a threat to you, Mr. Thomas."
"Now what?" Jess asked quickly, as he exchanged a worried look with Slim..
Slim spoke, "Tell us what do you want, Thomas?"
"Just my wife. She's coming with me."
"I won't go with you, Cal," Julie stated. "You can't make me."
"Maybe you'd rather see the boy and woman killed."
Daisy tightened her hold on Mike as he sharply drew in his breath.
"Mister, you hurt even a hair on them and I'll track you down, if it takes the rest of my life," Jess warned.
Cal laughed. "Julie, you know how to pick them. He reminds me of the one you had defending you in Cheyenne."
"Be careful, Jess," Julie warned. "Cal shot and crippled the last person who tried to help me."
"No one gets near my wife."
"No one did, Cal. Not the man in Cheyenne. And not Jess."
"I seen you kissing him."
Slim glanced shocked at Jess.
"She was just thanking me," Jess tried to explain. "It didn't mean anything."
"Who you trying to fool, Harper?" Cal's voice showed his temper. "I plan to settle with you before I leave." He pointed his gun right at Jess.
"Don't kill Jess!" Mike screamed out.
Cal laughed. "Boy, what I got plan for your friend will be far worse than dying."
"You're wrong, Cal!" Julie cried out."
"You shut up!" Cal yelled. "I thought I had taught you to keep away from other men. But once saloon girl, always a saloon girl."
Jess's body tensed with anger.
"Easy, Jess," Slim mumbled.
Jess bit his lip to hold back his words and his temper.
"Cal, if I go with you will you promise not to hurt anyone."
"Sure, honey, except for him." He nodded at Jess. He then addressed Slim, "I want you to go saddle me two horses and let the other horses loose. And tie up that driver while you're out there. I got enough people to watch in here."
Slim didn't move.
"I could just shoot you and do it myself."
"Do it, Slim, " Jess urged. "We don't want Mike or the women hurt."
Slim was almost out the door when Cal added, "And if you're thinking of bringing a gun back in here, the boy will be the first one I shoot. Ask Julie, she knows I mean what I say."
"Slim, he won't hesitate killing Mike. Please do what he says."
Slim slammed the door as he left.
Daisy spoke up, "If you're planning on riding, then you will need food."
"Daisy!" Jess growled angrily.
A smile broke out on Cal's face. "Well now, this lady's accommodating. Julie, you could learn from her."
Daisy said, "I'll be glad to fix you some. Unless you would rather your wife..."
"Oh no. I've learned a long time ago. She ain't much of a cook. You go but the boy stays in my gun sight."
"Mike is nervous. Let him be with Jess. If you do, I promise to fix you a tasty sandwich. I'm a very good cook."
"Maybe you'd like to saddle his horse too, Daisy," Jess said sarcastically.
"Nonsense, Slim is doing that," Daisy replied.
Cal grinned. "Lady, you got gumption. All right. Boy get over there with your friend."
Mike ran to Jess. Jess protectively held Mike to his side.
Daisy was finished fixing the food before Slim had returned. "Here's some coffee. Sandwiches are in the bag."
"How do I know you ain't added poison?"
"I'll be glad to taste the sandwiches." She took a bite from each sandwich she had fixed. "I'll taste the coffee too."
"No," Cal reached out for the cup.
"I insist." Daisy started to put the cup to her lips. But suddenly she threw the hot steaming coffee in his face, blinding him.
Cal screamed out in pain as his gun fired wildly. .
Jess dove for Cal. Daisy rushed to Mike and shielded him with her body. Cal was no match for Jess. Jess slammed his fist into Cal's body , over and over until his knuckles were bleeding.
"Jess, that's enough," Daisy cried out as Slim pulled Jess off the man.
"Cal?" Julie ran to the bleeding man. "I think he's hurt bad."
Jess turned his back as if her sight disgusted him.
The sheriff had been long gone. Cal was now in jail and Julie was in town waiting his trial.
"Daisy, I wish you would stay," Slim said for the tenth time. "Won't you reconsider."
"Well I did promise I'd take that other job."
"I guess it's back to Jess's beans, huh Slim?" Mike asked sadly.
"Well tonight we have fried chicken." Daisy rumpled Mike's hair.
"I wish you'd stay, Miss Daisy. I wanted you right off as the housekeeper," Mike pleaded.
"That's because you're a good judge of character."
"You know Jess feels awful bad about not wanting you right off for the housekeeper," Slim confided.
Daisy looked around. "Where is Jess?"
"Just said he had a something to do. Never figured he'd be gone this long."
It was another hour before Jess arrived. He entered looking bone tired. But quickly a smile lit his face. "Chicken? I hope you saved me some."
"Miss Daisy cooked it," Mike informed. "She wouldn't let us eat until you got here."
"Where have you been?" Slim demanded. "You know how hard it is to sit here and smell that chicken and not get to eat it!"
"Did you tell him about the pie?" Daisy asked entering the room, carrying a plateful of chicken.
"She baked apple pie."
"My favorite," Jess said, his grin widening.
"That's what I was told, Jess," Daisy answered. "Gentlemen if you'll take a seat."
Mike rushed for the table.
"Well come on, Jess. Aren't you hungry?"
"Sure am." He sat beside Mike. "What's that I smell?"
"Uh?" Mike sniffed.
"It's you, Mike! You smell clean!"
"Aw Jess. Can't a guy take a bath without everyone smelling him? Slim was doing it earlier."
"I don't know she did it, Jess, but Daisy got him to take a bath. Never heard one complaint from him."
As Daisy entered carrying a plateful of chicken, Slim and Jess rose from their chairs. Jess kicked Mike's chair and Mike immediately stood.
"My, " Daisy said sounding pleased. "Please sit and eat. I know you must be starved."
All except Daisy grabbed for the chicken. Slim sighed with contentment after taking his first bite. "Now this is the way chicken ought to taste."
"Thank you, Miss Daisy. I thought I'd never taste another good meal again," Mike said between chewing.
Jess said nothing.
:"Don't you like the chicken, Jess?" Daisy asked with concern.
"Ma'am, it's the best I've ever tasted," Jess said but with lack of enthusiasm
Daisy glanced worriedly at Slim, who only shrugged.
Jess took a deep breath. "Ma'am, Slim wanted to hire you. But me, I talked him out of it."
"Well Julie had you fooled. Besides I can't blame you. A young man wanting a young woman around. Especially one as pretty as Julie."
"You ain't holding it against me then?"
"Of course not! Now eat your chicken before it gets cold."
Jess though still hesitated. "Ma'am, you might be angry with me when you know what I did."
Slim reluctantly put down his chicken. "Out with it, Jess. We owe this woman a lot. She saved our lives."
"I know that," Jess said. "Daisy, you could have been shot or even worse killed."
"But I wasn't."
"You shouldn't have taken that chance."
"Why, I couldn't let Mr. Thomas ride away from here. And those threats he made to you, Jess. No telling what he would have done."
Jess looked Daisy right in the eyes. "You saved my life. That's why I had to make things right."
Slim pointed his finger at Jess. "I want to know what you'll holding back."
"You wanted to be a housekeeper here, didn't you, Daisy?"
"I think this is a nice spread. And now that Mike has promised to take baths."
"But I did make a promise to accept that other job. And I take promises very seriously."
"Well I talked to Julie," Jess blurted out. "Convinced her to not stay around Laramie waiting for the trial. But to take a job. Start a new life."
"We ain't hiring her back, Jess. I don't care if she's the only one who applies for the job. I ain't hiring her. My stomach can't take any more of her cooking."
Jess replied, "I bought her a stage coach ticket. And I wired that rancher who was going to hire you. Said Daisy couldn't take the job. But she was sending him a replacement."
"You sent Julie to my job?" Daisy leaned back in the chair as if hit.
"Daisy, we need you here, " Jess said quickly. "And Julie needs a new start. Cal beat her. She'll be far away from Laramie. She can start over again."
Slim slammed his hand on the table. "You had no right without asking Daisy."
"I was scared she would say no," Jess admitted.
"I think it's a good idea," Mike chimed in.
"You keep out of this," Slim growled.
"But Slim," Mike argued, "we're a family now."
"A family," Daisy mumbled. "It's been hard not having my husband. First losing my sons, and then my husband. But it looks like now I have another boy to raise. And two grown men who will need some guidance. Not to mention a nudge to take a bath."
"Now wait a minute," Jess argued, "I took one last week."
"Aunt is it?" Slim asked with a grin.
Mike nodded with a smile. "Now that we'll a family." Mike's smile broaden as he glanced at Jess. "Aunt Daisy says a gentlemen takes a bath at least three a week."
"What!" Jess cried out.
"Well you are a gentleman, aren't you, Jess?" Daisy asked sweetly.
Jess laughed. "Daisy, I'd be one if you stayed."
Slim joined in the laughter. "And if you can get him to be a gentleman, I know we've got the best housekeeper there ever was. I didn't think anyone could ever tame this boy."
She smiled but her smile broaden when it landed on Jess. "Thank you, Jess, for helping me become a part of a family."
Jess winked as he returned her smile, then said, "Welcome home."
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