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Book of Bargains

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At the end of the day, JD took the catalogue with him by accident.

In all fairness, it was an entirely honest mistake. He'd been harried all day by Simon Snell who wanted to know why The Clarion had reported that yesterday was the wettest day in living memory, when it had clearly rained twice as much two years ago; and by Mary, who kept popping in wanting to know if Billy had sent a wire from Santa Fe yet, like he'd promised to; and by Buck, who'd wanted to jaw about his latest conquest; and by his own gnawing worry for Vin, who'd ridden off in search of a bounty three days ago and hadn't been heard from since. So when he'd finally closed up the office for the day and collected up his mail, he'd taken the catalogue with him, thinking it was the latest edits on his most recent manuscript, sent back to him by his editor in Chicago. It wasn't until he was home and fed and had a cigar sweetly smoldering in his hand that he realized what he'd done.

"Aw hell," he cursed, more put out by the inconvenience of having to track down the proper recipient of the thick book than by anything else.

"Don't cuss," Casey said, swatting him on the arm with a dish towel. She sat down next to him and looked at the catalogue, taking in the garish red and yellow cover. "Well what in the blue blazes is that?"

Normally, JD would smirk and make a smart aleck remark about pots and kettles after hearing her words, but it'd been a very long day, and he didn't feel in the mood to get into a fight – even one with Casey, where fighting was really foreplay and love and all the sweet words they were both still too shy to say to each other, despite twenty years of marriage and five kids. So, instead, he looked down at the publication in front of him and shook his head.

"I dunno. Some kind of magazine, I think." He flipped it open and stared, suddenly amazed, at the wealth of objects laid out before him – dresses and jackets, shirts, skirts, corsets, drawers – all for sale. "Well would you look at that."

Casey peered closer at the open pages, taking in the simple line drawings, the neat blocks of tiny black print, then sniffed and stood up. "Don't see what's so excitin' 'bout a bunch of drawings," she said, turning back to the dishes waiting to be dried and put away. "'Specially ones of clothing. Why, I bet we can get all of that stuff at the Potters anyway."

"Yeah, but look at some of the things they have in here! We could buy you a brand new hat, with feathers in it! Or how about a fan? Says here they're sellin' one imported all the way from Japan! Or how about a brand new surrey? Look, we can get one for sixty-eight dollars." He grinned up a Casey, already imagining the two of them driving the cart down Main Street. "We can ride on up to Santa Fe, see Michael and the baby, and then drive home in style!"

Casey laughed and flicked the towel at him again. "JD, what're we gonna do with a surrey? We only go to town, and the horses are good enough for that. 'Sides, sixty-eight dollars! That's a lot of money!"

"We could…go to church in it," JD said. "Just think how fancy you'll look drivin' up to the steps in one of these! And anyway, we got money enough, Casey. Heck, with Mikey and Tommy and Annie all grown up and married, we ain't hardly spendin' nothin' these days."

"Oh JD." Casey smiled fondly at him. "What do I need stuff for? I got everythin' I could possibly want right here."

JD smiled back, then closed the book. She was right, of course – they didn't need any of the things advertised in the catalogue, like the fancy fur collars or the bicycles or the brand new linen shirts. They had never needed any of these things. Still, for all that Casey had dismissed his talk of fans and feathers, of a shining new surrey built for four, JD had seen the way her eyes had lingered – just for a second or two – on the dresses and skirts for sale. And while JD may not have been as worldly as Buck, he knew his wife, and he could read the longing in her eyes. Casey would never admit to dreaming of luxuries, of the big city life, of being something other than a farmer's wife, if only for a little while. And especially not to JD, who was happy enough out here on the farm; happy enough writing his stories and working at The Clarion and basking in the glow of family. Still, they had money enough to buy a few fine things – a new stole, perhaps, or that Japanese fan, or fancy white china decked out in a pattern in blue.

And anyway, if none of that suited, there were whole pages filled with guns.