Chapter 39


Catherine's jaw dropped when she read the headline of the newspaper Jack had handed her. She had barely stepped foot onto the porch before he'd stuffed it into her hands. "The Professor did WHAT?" She couldn't believe the words she was reading. Professor Harold MacDougal had been an… eccentric man, to say the very least. Sure, she had seen him high more times than she cared for. But he wasn't ever violent!

"Looks like it says he got naked and threatened to jump off a building if he didn't get…" Jack leaned over Catherine's shoulder to read the article again. "Beef wellington and some claret." He snickered.

"I just can't believe he would do something like this."

"Cat, you said he's used cocaine in front of you. Are ya really that shocked?"

"He didn't get violent, though." She gave the article a quick glance over again. "He certainly never seemed the type to beat someone with a croquet mallet!" She took a seat at the bottom of the stairs and tried to wrap her head around this side of the Professor she hadn't known about.

"I don't know, Pa said that he was real strange." Jack commented, taking a seat next to her. He gave her a small nudge with his elbow. "I think I'm gonna trust Pa on this one, you ain't exactly the best judge of character."

Catherine folded the newspaper and placed it in her lap before looking up at him. "Well, that's not very nice of you to say, Jack Marston." She tried to scold, but the smile on her face gave away any bit of seriousness.

"Hangin' around me is just proving my point." He shrugged and chuckled. "Maybe you should keep better company."

Immediately, the smile on her face fell. "That's the second time I've been told that in a matter of days. I'm not too sure that I like hearing it, especially coming from you." Her tone had turned sharp.

"I think I'm missing some information here." He replied, brows furrowed.

Catherine sighed and fiddled with the newspaper in her lap. "I may have gone and gave Archer a piece of my mind about us being followed the other day. I wasn't very nice about it and may have insulted his manhood. He made a comment about the company I keep and I told him it was none of his business."

"Wait, wait." Jack readjusted himself so that he was facing her, hands held out. "You're telling me that you went and yelled at Archer Fordham?"

"I wouldn't say I yelled at him, but yes I went and spoke with him. He didn't seem happy when I left." Catherine rolled her eyes.

"I'm proud of you."

Jack's words surprised her. She rose a brow at him and asked, "You're proud of me?"

He nodded. "Course. You ain't exactly the most outspoken person, Cat. I'm proud of you for speaking your mind. Ain't too often that something riles you up enough to do it." Jack's smile faded a little as he grew serious. "If he keeps bothering you, you let me know, alright?"

Catherine threw a grin his way and reached for his hand. "Archer doesn't intimidate me." She gave a squeeze. "Especially since I've got you."

"I mean it, Cat."

The redhead smiled at him again. "I know you do." She gave a small sigh before changing the topic. "What do you wanna do today? I have all the time in the world, Father is out of town."

Jack thought for a moment. "I have an idea. Trust me?"



"I feel like I've been tricked." Catherine commented when Jack handed her the fishing pole. "When you said there was a river nearby this wasn't what came to mind."

Smirking, he reached into the bag he'd brought with for something to bait the fish. "You said you trusted me. Didn't you wonder why I grabbed the bag?"

"I'm going to be honest, once you said 'river' I didn't hear much of anything else." She took a glance around the area and tried to find comfortable footing in the dirt.

"You don't look very excited about this." Jack chuckled as he baited the hook on the pole in Catherine's hands. "Ain't gotta do it if you don't want to, Cat."

Catherine tried a smile. "I'm just a little out of my element. I'm willing to try!" She tightened her grip at the base of the fishing pole. "I never knew you liked fishing."

"It grows on ya. I hated it when I was a kid, used to fight with Pa about goin'." A melancholy smile appeared on his face. "He used to like to go to this spot. Always said there was good fish here."

"He taught you to fish then?" Catherine asked, giving the pole a few sways.

Jack shook his head. "Nah, that was Uncle Arthur." Jack paused and his mouth scrunched into a frown. "Well, I guess he wasn't really my Uncle. A friend of my old man." He shook his head and ignored the confused look Catherine was giving him. "Anyway. I was pretty young when he showed me, but it stuck I guess. I don't mind goin' fishing now. It's peaceful."

"It sounds like you don't catch very much."

He chuckled and moved his focus from the hook to her face. "Now who's the one not being nice?" He teased. "Let me show you how to cast that thing, I'd rather not get a hook in the shoulder." Jack set the bag on the ground beside their feet and moved to stand slightly behind Catherine. "The trick is the use your hands and not your wrist." He told her, placing his hands atop hers on the pole. With his guiding hand, Catherine lifted it over her shoulder and cast the line.

"Now what?" She asked.

"We wait until there's a tug on the line. Once we feel that, we'll yank real hard and start reeling the fish in."

Nodding, Catherine focused on the bobber that bounced up and down in the river. The pair stayed quiet for a little while, waiting for something to happen. Just as Catherine went to speak, she felt a hard tug on the line. "I think something's biting!" She exclaimed.

"Let's try to—" Before he could finish his sentence, the line snapped. "Well, shit."

"Did I not do something right?"

"Nah, you did what you were supposed to. Sometimes that happens. Looks like that fish was stronger than us. Here, lemme show you how to replace the line." He said and reached for the bag on the ground so they could start over.

"It's gonna get dark soon, should we be gettin' you home?" Even though he was the one that had suggested it, Jack didn't want her to leave. He was comfortable sitting with her in his arms in the gazebo. Her back was pressed against his chest, his arm draped around her. It was a warm, calm night and he was glad they were able to be spend the time together.

"Father won't be home until tomorrow. I have time." She took the hand of the arm wrapped around her chest into hers. "Unless you have things to do I would like to stay a little longer, if that's alright."

"Got all the time in the world."

They remained quiet for a while after that, both finding comfort in the other's presence. "Can I ask you something?" Catherine asked, her voice soft.

"What's on your mind?"

She was quiet for a moment, pondering her words. Keeping her gaze on Jack's hand, she spoke up, "What does the future look like to you?"

The future? He couldn't stop the bitter laugh. "Haven't really thought about that in a long time, Cat. Sorta been takin' it one day at a time for the last few years."

Catherine's fingers stilled on his hand and rested atop his knuckles. "I'm sorry for bringing it up, I just wanted to know if that had changed since we last talked about it."

Jack tried to remember what his sixteen-year-old self had wanted the future to look like before his father died. He'd been undecided then, and had thought of being many things. None of them seemed to be reachable anymore. "I'm not really sure, to be honest with you." Jack wasn't sure what his future held for the most part. There was only one thing he was sure of, really. "I… I don't think the ranchin' life is for me." Even when he was younger, Jack had never wanted to be a rancher. That had been his parents' dream, not his. They had worked so hard for this land, though. Jack felt guilty neglecting it as much as he had been since his mother died. His heart just wasn't in it.

"You don't have to be a rancher, Jack." He felt her fingers run over his knuckles in a lazy fashion. "If it's not what you want, you don't have to."

"Just don't know what else I'd do. My folks worked hard for it."

"You're smart, you could be anything you like."

Jack chuckled at the conviction her words held. "What about you? What's the future look like to you?"


He shifted his body so that he could look at her. "You heard me, don't act like you didn't."

Even in the waning sunlight her flushed cheeks could be seen. "I've never really put a lot of thought into my future. It was always decided for me. Uncle Edgar and Aunt Emily always made it well known that my future was being a wife one day. It only got reinforced when Archer came into the picture." She paused a moment before continuing. "I don't know what the future holds for me right now, but I think I like the uncertainty. Father seems happy to let me figure things out on my own." Catherine sat up and turned around to be face to face with him. "I almost forgot, Father wanted me to invite you to dinner with us next week!"

Unable to stop himself, Jack laughed. He couldn't help it, the idea was just so far-fetched! His laughing died down the moment he noticed the frown on Catherine's face. "What?" He asked, getting out his last few chuckles.

"I'm being serious, Jack. Father wants to meet with you properly." She folded her arms in front of her chest and gave him a pointed look. "He's extending a hand."

"Sorry, kitty Cat. Don't think it's somethin' I'm interested in. You're the only Ross I'm interested in spending time with." He hated to disappoint her. Then again, Jack was used to disappointing people these days.

"It would mean a lot to me. I'm not expecting you both to suddenly spark a relationship." Catherine sighed. "He wants to get to know you under… better circumstances. Please?"

Jack was ready to say no again and put his foot down. Dinner with Philip Ross just wasn't something he wanted to do. He was about to voice this to the woman in front of him when a thought struck him. What if Philip had expected Jack to decline? Was this just a show for Catherine so he could seem like the doting father he claimed to be? Jack found it hard to believe the other man truly wanted to get to know him. So what was Philip's angle? Jack wasn't sure, but he intended to find out.

"Alright, I'll go."

Sorry for the pause in updates! I've rewritten this chapter about a million times, it feels. But I'm pretty happy with how it came out! Thanks for reading, make sure to let me know your thoughts :)