Close Your Eyes and Concentrate
When they came to a clearing at about midday, Cloud Dancing and Sully stopped.
"What's going on?" Hank asked stopping beside them.
"Cloud Dancing is trying to hear Grace," Sully explained as they watched the Native with his eyes closed.
"Nothing," he said opening them. Hank was about to speak but then Sully closed his eyes. He and Cloud Dancing sat in waiting.
"Nothing," Sully said opening his eyes. They both looked to Hank.
"What?" he asked.
"Close your eyes and concentrate," Sully said. Hank rolled his eyes but did it anyway. He cleared his mind of everything except Grace. Suddenly he heard it. 'Help me. Please, please God. Help me.'
"Did you hear that?" Hank questioned as his eyes popped open.
"No," Sully said, "we didn't hear anything. But that doesn't mean that you didn't."
"Did you hear something?" Cloud Dancing asked.
"Yes," Hank answered a little confused. "I think...I think it was Grace."
"Which way did it come from?" Sully asked. Hank pointed West. Cloud Dancing took off in that direction and the other two followed. Hank didn't understand what had just happened but he figured it was some kind of Injun magic and he didn't think about it again. There was no time for that. They were going to find Grace.
Hank, Sully and Cloud Dancing raced through the woods. They rode for what seemed like hours; until the Native man stopped.
"There," he said pointing. Hank followed his finger and he saw a small dilapidated shack that was almost hidden by thick trees. He dismounted and ran into the house. The Crowfelds were passed out in the living area. The space was littered with whiskey bottles and cigar butts. Hank thought long and hard about waking them up and fighting them both but he heard her call from the back of the house. He ran toward her cries. Hank burst through the tiny back room. Grace was lying there tied to the misshapen wooden bed. Her dress torn and thrown to the side, her undergarments rips and splattered with blood. Her beautiful face was bruised and blooded.
"Grace?" he asked as he approached the bed. Her eyes slowly fluttered open.
"Hank?" she said softly. "Are you real?"
"Yes," he said untying her bonds. "I'm taking you away from here."
"I'm so glad," she said smiling. He lifted her into his arms bridal style. She was weak but she put her arms around his neck. When they got outside Hank saw that Sully and Cloud Dancing were tying the Crowfeld brothers across the back of their horses.
"Cloud Dancing?" Hank called as he approached the two of them. "She's in pain."
"No. I'm fine now, Hank," she said as he set her down on the ground.
"Don't be stubborn, Grace," Hank grumbled. She sighed and allowed Cloud Dancing to look examine her.
"She has some internal injuries but they have mostly healed," Cloud Dancing said, "but she is able to ride."
"Good," Hank said lifting her on to his horse. He got in the saddle behind her. Sully and Cloud Dancing mounted their horses and followed Hank out of the clearing. As they rode, Grace began to hum. She closed her eyes and leaned against Hank's solid chest. Hank pressed his lips to the top of her head. Her eyes snapped opened. What was happening? She leaned forward a little, turned and looked into his eyes. His gorgeous blue eyes were locked on hers. Hank gave her his patented crooked smile and she felt her insides turn to mush. She smiled briefly then quickly turned around. They rode until the sky was dark. Hank got off the horse and began to set up a shelter out of blankets. He helped her down and helped her inside. "Are warm? Settled?" he asked softly.
"Yes. Thank you Hank," she said sweetly. He smiled briefly and exited; closing the flap on the her make shift shelter behind him.
"You should drink this," Cloud Dancing said handing her a metal cup of a brown flowery smelling liquid.
"Thank you," Grace asked. She didn't question him on what he gave her. Michaela trusted him; that was all she needed. He bowed his head slightly and made his exit. She sipped liquid and it was surprisingly pleasant.
Grace drained the cup and laid it to the side. She laid down and her mind began to drift to Hank Lawson. He was an arrogant, callous brute of a man. But he was also kind-hearted, smart, and extremely handsome. Grace loved the rare opportunities when she got to see his hair tied up. But why she couldn't understand. She tried to push the alluring blonde from her thoughts but his hearty laugh, sexy blue eyes and finely sculpted body kept flickering across the forefront of her mind. Grace tried to chalk it up to her being thankful to him to for saving her; but was that it? Were her thoughts solely on Hank because he was her rescuer? That seemed good an answer as any but deep down, she knew it wasn't the truth. Cloud Dancing and Sully had been on the rescue mission as well. She also found out that Jake, Matthew and Brian were out searching for her before they went back to town.
Grace had to honest with herself. If it had been anyone else that was bursting through that door to rescue her, she would have been disappointed. Secretly, she was hoping it was Hank. Ever since the day she got Robert E.'s money back, she had felt something for him. He gave her a crooked smile and she felt herself start to fall. But who could she tell? Robert E.? Michaela? Dorothy? No, they wouldn't understand. They wouldn't get that loving Hank may be unconventional but that's where she thinks her life is headed. It was just too bad that her feelings would be forever unrequited. Grace shook her head trying to get rid of some of the clutter, took a deep breathe and drifted off to sleep.