Wyoming Territory, 1866
She could hear him calling her name, but fury propelled her forward. The wind whipped at her hair and the green buffalo grass bent beneath her angry boots. She charged forward, unsure of her destination, only desiring to put distance between them. Her breath came in short, hard puffs, as much from rage as from her exertion in the thin air. Vivian didnâ€™t pause to see if he followed, but stomped ahead in reckless motion, finding satisfaction in the effort.
Though the wind tore the words from his mouth, she could hear him shouting for her to stop. She picked up her pace and clenched her fists.
Venom spewed from a dark place in her heart and flooded her mind with vengeance. Oh how I hate him! I hope he trips over a rock and breaks his leg! Lord, you know what heâ€™s done to me! Let him get bitten by a rattlesnake and die! Strike him with a heart seizure and take his breath away from him, Lordâ€”take his life! He doesnâ€™t deserve to live! Hot tears blurred her eyes. Ragged sobs tore from her chest. How could he do this to me? Oh, how? How?
She couldnâ€™t dispel the image from her mind. She hadnâ€™t been expected home until late this evening. They must not have heard her ride past the cabin. When Vivian led her mare into the barn, the sight of her husbandâ€™s stallion stomping restlessly in his stall was the first indication that something wasnâ€™t right. He had kissed her good-bye and said that he would be riding out to check on the herd, but would likely be home before dusk.
A brown and white horse nickered gently from the stall where Vivianâ€™s mount was usually kept. She had seen that horse before.
A sick spiral of dread grew in her stomach. Cold prickles of warning ran over her skin as she dismounted and stealthily approached the cabin. A confirming giggle sounded through log walls, followed by the muffled response of her husband. She stepped quietly to the front door, then slowly lifted the latch and crept into the dim interior. As the door swung open, she could see the tangle of feet and bare legs from where she stood.
At the sound of her gasp, they silenced. Ricky sprang from the bed, grabbing at his discarded clothes flung upon the floor. â€śVivian!â€ť he snapped furiously, as if she were a child who had burst in on her parents in the middle of a private act.
Always known as a gentle soul, Vivian felt something inside her snap at the sight of her husbandâ€™s betrayal. She spun around and took three angry strides to the fireplace. Her hand tightened around the iron poker. Ricky glared at her venomously as he fumbled with the buttons on his shirt. The urge to beat them both throbbed in her fingers, but she released the poker as if it burned her. She turned instead and ran from the cabin that only the night before had sheltered her in the arms of her husband.
Rage boiled through her veins and caused her to tremble with the force of it. She had never known this kind of pain, this fury that blinded her to all reason and heated her blood with hatred. Oh Lord, how can I live with this? Let him die for his sins! Take his life right now, that worthless cheat!
In some quiet corner of her mind lived the fear that she was partially to blame. She had seen the way her husband looked at the young blonde. How many times had she turned away, too afraid to believe what her eyes told her to be true. Her husband watched the girl with an interest far beyond what propriety allowed. He gazed too long into her eyes as that seductive smile slowly curved his lips. Vivian had seen them talking in the shadowed grove near the creek. Her foolish mind had always raced to provide an innocent explanation, to vindicate her husband, to deny the truth that lived right before her eyes.
If she had been a wiser, stronger woman, Vivian would have been able to admit her husbandâ€™s interest in another woman. Perhaps she could have confronted him with it, forced him to admit to himself that he was wrong for lusting after a woman who was not his wife. If she had known the right words to say, perhaps he wouldnâ€™t have let it go this far. If she had made herself more desirable for him, maybe he wouldnâ€™t have desired another.
The tears spilled over her cheeks, blurring her vision. She stumbled over a ragged boulder in her path as she lifted her skirts and broke into a full run. She knew that she couldnâ€™t run forever. Sooner or later she would have to stop and face him, face his infidelity. Face Annette and her betrayal, too. But not yet. Not yet.
She would run until she was too winded to run any further. And then what? How could she ever let him touch her again? How could she ever trust him again? Her thoughts returned to the iron poker by the fireplace and the satisfaction she would find in striking them both.
She was already gasping for breath. Her lungs hadnâ€™t adjusted to the higher elevation on these windswept plains. Ricky had never known a moment of ill health until moving to Wyoming a year and a half ago. Now, on occasion, his heart would beat wildly and he would grow short of breath. Beads of sweat would form on his forehead and upper lip and he would feel faint, complain of pressure in his chest, and be forced to sit until the spell passed. Vivian thought of his heart now. Lord, let his heart stop! Just let it just stop!