Life goes on after the shootout at Dead Man's Corner, and Paul Whitaker is left behind to pick up the pieces. Given the title of mayor and the responsibility of burying the dead, Paul is left to nothing but drudgery when the woman he loves rides off with another man. Now that he's alone with the dead, a wedding is the farthest thing from his mind.
Until the town's most popular whore surprises him with a marriage proposal.
Martha is beautiful and determined. Paul has always liked her from afar, but is completely dumbfounded when she announces her intention to be his bride. Is love still possible in Dead Man's Corner? Or will Paul lose another woman?
"What are you doing out here?" she asked.
"Trying to make sense of this," he said, nodding at the unmarked cemetery. "Not sure how I'm going to take care of it all."
"Is it necessary?"
Paul flinched. "You know it is."
"When are you going to start?"
"Tomorrow. Bright and early."
"Not by yourself, I hope."
"No, I'll have help this time."
They both fell silent, observing the last rays of light sinking behind the hills. This is my wife, Paul thought, unable to quite comprehend it. This is my wife. Mine. But Martha didn't feel like his anything. Nobody belonged to him. He didn't own a thing. He was just borrowing the town until somebody with more knowledge and strength came along and took it over.
"Your dinner is getting cold," she said softly whispered.
"I'm not very hungry."
"Why don't you come inside?" Her touch was too familiar, her body too close to his. He tried to imagine following her into the house, into their bedroom, into their wedding bed. He tried to imagine finally sleeping with the most popular whore in Dead Man's Corner -- and he hated himself for thinking of his own wife as a whore. He hated that he couldn't think of her as his wife.
"No, I think I'm going to go over to the livery and see about getting a wagon and a mule for tomorrow."
Martha sighed, releasing him. "I see."
"What are you going to do tomorrow?" Paul asked, hoping to make light small talk. He didn't want her to leave angry.
"I'm gutting the house."
"Gutting the house?"
"Getting rid of everything that's not ours," she explained.
"But what will we do?" Paul asked, imagining a bare, empty home. No furniture, no pans, no candles, nothing.
"I'll order more at the store," she said, shrugging.
"Order more? But we can't afford ..."
"Paul, you're a rich man now. And well, I have my own money. You don't need to worry about it."
Paul bit his lip. "Well, if it makes you happy ..."