Listen With Your Heart

Focused on Finding Grace

Hank and Jake took to their regular table. Hank glanced around and saw the Crowfeld brothers sit down at a near by table. He clenched his jaw but winced at the pain.
He watched Grace float around happily; avoiding the brothers for as long as possible.
"What can I get you this morning, Jake?" she asked her back to the Crowfelds.
"The regular," he said with a small smile.
"No problem. What about you Hank?" she asked.
"Just a coffee," he said.
"What happened to your face?" she asked spotting the now black and blue bruise on his jaw.
"Nothing," he answered quickly.
"That doesn't look like nothing," Grace said as she gingerly touched it. Hank wanted to move into her touch but he fought that crazy urge and moved away.
"It ain't nothing," he said.
"But you said you..." Jake began.
"I said it was nothing," Hank said looking at the both of them. "Coffee," he said averting his eyes quickly away from Grace's alluring brown ones.
"Alright. I'll be right back," she said touching Hank lightly on the shoulder.
"What's wrong with you?" Jake asked as he tucked his napkin into his collar.
"Nothing a little whiskey won't fix," Hank grumbled with a crooked smile. Grace returned with a plate for Jake and a large cup of coffee for Hank.
"If y'all need anything else, just let me know," she said sincerely. She gave Hank a soft, sympathetic smile. He smiled back briefly but his thoughts were churning inside. He didn't understand why he felt some of his hard outer shell chip away whenever she smiled at him. He couldn't wrap his head around why he wanted to protect her from the Crowfelds; when just yesterday they had pushed Dorothy Jennings down in the street because she was a woman and she refused to walk behind them.
Hank watched the whole thing happen and he didn't make a move. He let Sully and his Injun friend, Cloud Dancing, deal with it. But when it was Grace that was being threatened he felt like he had to spring into action. Like she needed him to protect her because one else could do it the right way. Only him.
Hank was pulled out of his thoughts by the sounds of Grace shrieking. He turned in his chair to see John Crowfeld trying to pull Grace into his lap. One of his dirty hands on her breasts.
Without a second thought, Hank rose from the table and punched Jared in the face. John dumped Grace and before he could stand Hank had punched him too.
"Are you alright?" he asked helping her up.
"I'm fine," she said even though he could clearly see she was shaken up. Hank looked back at the brothers with a disgusted look before he escorted Grace back to the kitchen. "Thank you for what you did."
"No need," Hank said avoiding her eyes again.
"Are you sure you don't want anything for your face?" Grace said lightly touching the bruise.
"It's fine," he said looking her in the eyes finally.
*Chip*
"Thank you again," she said with a beautiful smile.
"You're welcome."
*Chip*
Hank strutted back to his table and took a seat. He noticed the Crowfelds had left. Good riddance.
"What was that?" Jake asked still shoveling food into his mouth.
"They were getting on my nerves," Hank answered simply as he took a drink of his coffee. It tasted sweet.
"You want more coffee?" Grace asked sweetly.
"What's in it?"
"It my special sweet honey coffee."
"Oh," he said.
"I make it for myself but you got a nasty bruise so I figured you'd like something a little comforting," she said.
Jake tilted his head at the exchange.
"Thank you," he said. "I don't need anymore." Grace nodded and walked away. The two men finished their meal in silence; Hank reveling in the taste of Graces' special coffee. As Hank and Jake walked back toward the saloon, Jake kept looking at Hank with a knowing smile."You got something to say?" Hank asked pouring them each a shot.
"No," the dark hair man said with a chuckle before throwing his liquor back. "Grace looked pretty today."
"Did she?" Hank asked nonchalantly. When in truth, he had noticed how beautiful she looked. Her jet black hair pulled up on the sides, her soft brown eyes meeting everyone's and her alluring smile. Oh, how her smile warmed him. Made him feel...things. The point was Grace made Hank feel different and he couldn't understand it but he liked it.

The day turned into to evening and as usual everyone ate dinner at Grace's Cafe. The Crowfelds didn't show up so Hank was grateful for that. Grace bid everyone goodnight and began her clean up. Hank stayed and watched for a few minutes but he had to get back the Gold Nugget before someone tried to drink for free.

The next morning everyone was placed where they always sat awaiting breakfast. But after 15 minutes and there was no Grace, Dr. Mike went to the kitchen.

"Grace isn't there!" she exclaimed as she returned.

Hank's insides began to tighten. Brian Cooper came running.

"She isn't at home either," he reported. The whole town murmured with thoughts. Hank was cool and calm on the outside but inside he was having a hard time not panicking. He racked his brain trying to figure out places she could have went.

"She would have at least told Dorothy or myself where she was going if she was leaving town," Dr. Mike said to Sully.

"Alright, Sully, you and Cloud Dancing come along with me, Brian and Jake. We're gonna head out this afternoon," Matthew said.

"I'm coming," Hank blurted out. He rose from the table to see the surprised faces. "Two more eyes can't hurt," he said as he headed off to get his gun and horse. He met the other men in front of the clinic. Everyone wished them good luck and safe travels.

Hank didn't care about any of that. He was just focused on finding Grace.

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