Chapter Two

They got through customs without much difficulty. There wasn't time for Robert to sample the posole at the depot restaurant, though, having decided it was best to go with Sophie to check on her horse. Rough characters often hung around rail yards and a girl might not be safe on her own. Especially one as sheltered as Sophie.

As they got on their new train and found their seats, Robert wondered for how long he would be able to preserve Sophie's innocence. She was only a little older than Diana had been when her world had been turned upside down, her faith in the essential goodness of humanity forever shattered. Even after sixteen years of safety and kindness in the Kentucky bluegrass country, there had remained a subtle wariness in the lines of her body, as though she dared not drop her guard for long.

Observing that Sophie seemed pensive as they pulled away from the station, Robert took her hand. "Grandma's going to be happy to see you."

"I know."

It was all words to her, and how could it be otherwise? Grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles were what other children had, not Sophie, and although Robert suspected she was pleased that she would finally be able to claim an extended family, she was nervous, too. Her friends in Kentucky had grown up surrounded by kin, whereas Sophie had only her parents, and she didn't even really have her mother until the day she won Diana's heart by jumping her pony over a fence no other child her age dared approach.

"She'll probably have a nice present for you."

Sophie gave a little shrug and continued staring out the window.

"And a good barn for Bandera."

The girl turned around. "You're sure she knows how to take care of horses?"

"Of course she does. Her sister was a veterinarian."

Sophie remained skeptical. "Riley says Kentucky is the only place where people know how to treat horses right."

"I'm sure your friend didn't mean to tell you a story, but other than bluegrass, there's nothing the Kentucks can provide that we can't do for our horses here in the USS."

She sighed and leaned her face against the glass. "I wish I was home."

"You are home, in a way. Your mother loved this country."

"I know. But she loved Kentucky, too."

"That just means you have two homes. You're a lucky girl."

Sophie fidgeted slightly and feigned interest in the landscape. They were traveling across the desert plains, heading toward Santa Fe, and just beyond that, Estrella.

From the leather bag at his feet, Robert removed a folio containing his correspondence. Some were letters he had begun working on earlier in their journey, to be finished upon arrival at their destination. Others were letters received, and there was one in particular he wanted to revisit. An old colleague from the civil war, now a member of the president's inner circle, had a job for him, if he wanted it.

Robert smoothed the creases from the letter and re-read the details. There was a growing push to improve communications, but the committees that had been formed for that task had been hampered by infighting and lack of direct knowledge of how to put together an effective communications system. As an outsider, Robert was a politically neutral choice to head the initiative, and he brought the requisite skills to be successful. Since the position would likely require direct negotiations with Mexico, the United States and the Republic of Texas, there was a good chance of becoming an official cabinet member. It was a tempting offer, but risky.

He glanced at Sophie, who had curled herself into her seat and appeared to be asleep, her sleek brown hair falling over one shoulder and her lips parted slightly as she hopefully dreamed of pleasant things. Her safety was paramount, and although Amalia had assured him in telegrams that she knew of no plots against him, her letters had hinted at a caveat.

He folded the letter and put it back in the folio. He knew exactly what that caveat was. As soon as word got out that he was home, his life would be in danger. Diana hadn't bothered divorcing her first husband before setting out for Kentucky. Although Robert was fairly certain Will didn't know about her bigamous second marriage, Will did blame him for stealing her heart and would gladly see Robert dead. The only questions in Robert's mind were how likely it was that Will would hunt him down after all these years, and whether he would target Sophie as well, once he knew she was Diana and Robert’s daughter.

1 comment:

  1. Admittedly Will got a bit screwed up at the end of the previous series, but I like to think he isn't so far gone that he'd be a danger to them.