“My name is Sarah and this is Ben,” she replied. “We’re looking for Devil’s Rock.”
Geoffrey chuckled and leaned upon his saddle horn, eyes gaze shared between the two. “Well, you are still a good distance off. This is Indian territory. They don’t take kindly to white men killing their buffalo.”
“I didn’t kill it,” Ben said, a hint of malice in his tone.
“Oh, then I suppose they must have assumed you did since you were just feeding on the carcass.”
Ben shot an embarrassed glance to Sarah, then lowered his eyes in shame, pulling down his hat brim low upon his brow to hide his face. Sarah’s guts were still churning at the idea that her guide, or former guide, was eating raw flesh. But what puzzled her even more was that Geoffrey didn’t seem to be bother by it at all.
“Why are you going to Devil’s Rock?” Geoffrey asked.
“My family was killed by an outlaw names Clarence and Ben was helping me to find him.”
Geoffrey donned a contemplative gaze and gritted his teeth. “I know of Clarence. If it will help to expedite your journey, I can lead you out of the territory and in the right direction of Devil’s Rock.”
Those words were salvation to Sarah’s ears. She would have much rather traveled with Geoffrey than with Ben right now. “That’d be much appreciated,” she replied with a grin. She clucked at her horse and she joined Geoffrey at his side.
They were about to ride up back in the direction that Geoffrey came when her paused and turned in his saddle to face Ben. He was edging closer to the carcass, eager to continue his meal as the hunger was burning inside of him.
“Aren’t you coming, Ben?” Geoffrey asked.
Ben looked up with a surprised expression. He looked between Geoffrey and Sarah, who looked shocked and disgruntled by the offer. She wanted to shout in protest, but thought it rude.
“I’m sure you could get farther without me,” Ben replied, turning away.
Geoffrey’s face hardened with displeasure. “No. Come,” he ordered.
Sarah was caught off guard by the sudden sharpness of Geoffrey’s demeanor, but did not question it. Ben’s eyebrows shot up in amazement and obediently followed after the two.
They silently rode out of sight from the buffalo carcass and as if reading Sarah’s thoughts, he led the party straight for a nearby creek to water their horses and let them graze.
The two dismounted their horses and led them to the cool stream. Sarah crouched down to refill her canteen while Geoffrey moved around to the side of his horse. Ben kept his distance and stayed further downstream from them, wary of the new member to their party.
“You must be hungry, milady,” Geoffrey said, reaching into his saddlebag and pulling out a loaf of bread and some dried preserved meats.
“Yes, I am. Thank you,” Sarah said, taking the bit of food that he offered her. She sat upon the shore of the stream and hungrily bit into the bread, letting her teeth sink in deep.
Geoffrey turned his attention to Ben and came up beside him. “Take this. I know it’s not much, but it will help for now,” he said, handing Ben a small handful of dried meat. Ben hesitantly took it from him and devoured the meats without question.
“You’re not from around here, either, are you?” Sarah asked.
“No, I’m not,” Geoffrey said as he moved back to join Sarah by the horses. “I’m from another country than this one.”
“I come from England. Have you heard of it? Not many I meet nowadays have.”
Sarah’s eyes lit up. “Oh, yes! My father has told me stories from there.”
Geoffrey smiled as he sat himself down beside her. “I come from a village in the English countryside, but I’ve traveled most of the world. I’ve been to Australia, Russia, France, Germany, China, Scandinavia, Japan, I was even in Africa for a short time.”
Sarah grinned broadly. “That sounds exciting.” She didn’t know where half of those places were, but she imagined they weren’t anywhere in the United States.
“It was for a time. But I’ve decided to stay here for a time,” Geoffrey said as he let his gaze fall over the rolling green plains.
“But why? There’s nothing exciting out here.”
Geoffrey turned to her with a grin. “Sure there is. I enjoy the company of the natives and the simplicity of life here.”
“But didn’t those savages run from you?”
“Yes, but like I said before, that tribe doesn’t take kindly to me. There are still many who do.”
“Why don’t they like you?”
Geoffrey’s eyes danced with amusement. “Let’s just say that they don’t like people from England.”
“Oh,” Sarah said, then turned back to her meal.
“Your what?” She looked up with confusion.
“I’m sorry to hear about your family.”
“Oh.” Sarah turned her face away and sighed, forcing back the wave of emotion she felt. She had heard such sentiments since the murder of her family, but somehow, coming from Geoffrey, it hit her much harder than it had before.
“You know, it’s ok to mourn them.”
She shook her head furiously. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“It might help you to.”
Sarah looked up into his eyes and felt she could no longer hold the flood gates closed. There was something about the warm sincere look in Geoffrey’s eye that made her really believe that it was ok to let loose everything she had been trying to hold back, to suppress. There was an uncanny freedom about his company that was so different from anyone else’s. It reminded her of her father, whom she missed more than she could put into tangible words.
The longer she looked into his eyes, the harder it became to keep from breaking out into sobs. The weight of her sudden grief was overwhelming, but she refused to show such passionate emotions to a man she had just met. She had to be strong, she had to be brave in the face of the lonely world that she was now stranded in.
“I do miss them,” she managed to choke out without bursting into tears.
“I lost a loved one too. It was many years ago, though.” Geoffrey’s eyes turned sorrowful.
“My condolences,” Sarah said with a weak smile. “How did you deal with it?”
“Just as you will,” he said softly. “One terrible day at a time.”
Sarah down the river to Ben and saw that he was scooping up water from the stream to wash down his meal of dried meats and rinse his hands of the blood that was still coated on his fingers. She wondered if he was dealing with grief too. Despite everything, she felt pity for whatever he was.
Geoffrey stood up and mounted his horse after filling his own canteen and announced that they should be moving along. Sarah packed up her saddlebag again and lifted herself back onto her own horse. Ben followed them out of the valley and they traveled for some hours across the prairie at a steady, but leisurely speed.
Sarah no longer found it outrageously urgent to find Clarence. Somehow she felt that it wasn’t as big of a deal to find her family’s killer. She still desired justice to be served, though.
Geoffrey enjoyed himself as he struck up casual conversation with Sarah. He found her a pleasant young lady, full of spirit and youth. He told her stories of his travels, being careful to leave out details that would startle her. Though she was traveling with Ben, he had a strange feeling that she was not aware of what he was just yet.
Ben followed close, keeping a fair distance behind them at all times. The dust that the horses kicked up in their wake bombarded him and added another layer of dust to his already dirty clothes, but Ben didn’t let it bother him. He listened to their conversations and envied the ease they shared between one another. It had been years since he felt he could converse so freely with another person. The loneliness he carried in his heart seemed to strengthen its hold upon him, but he never let his golden eyes betray his real emotions.