Thank You So Much Hank
When Hank returned to camp, Grace busied herself with the cooking. He didn't say anything. He just smirked.
"Breakfast is ready," she announced, her back still to him. Sully, Cloud Dancing and Hank all joined her. She dished them out a breakfast of bacon, bread from the Cheyenne and the berries she collected on the side.
"Thank you," Hank said as his fingers grazed hers as he took the metal dish.
She nodded but avoided his eyes. He smirked again.
After Cloud Dancing returned from washing the dishes in the river, they mounted their horses and started back toward town.
"You can't avoid me forever Grace," Hank said as he led his horse gently through the woods. She was silent. "There ain't no reason we can't talk about this like adults."
"There's nothing to say," Grace said her back barely touching his solid chest.
"Then why are you being so...not yourself?" he asked. She turned slightly in the saddle to look him in the eyes.
"What are you talking about Hank?" she said her voice stern.
"Quiet. You're being quiet."
"Well a lady knows when to speak and when not to speak."
"Well, if you're askin' me, I say that since you stood on the bank and stared at me while I was naked, you ain't as ladylike as you want all those people in town to think," he said with a sexy smirk on his face.
"That is not true!" Grace said indignantly. "And I didn't stare."
"You did," Hank said in her ear. She felt the heat rise in her face as she turned away from him. She felt his laugh rumble through his body. She hated that he had the power to make her feel flushed.
And he was wrong. She hadn't stared at him. That would have been wrong and not decent. She was a lady and seeing a man naked, even if on accident wasn't proper or talked about. She crossed her arms over her chest and decided that it didn't matter to her what kind of "business" Hank thought he was in, he wasn't going to treat her the way he treated his "girls".
"Who do you think you are Hank Lawson?" Grace asked her eyes locked in front of her.
"A saloon owner," he answered honestly.
"Don't be smart."
"What are you asking me?"
"Why do you think you can talk to me like I'm one of those girls that "work" for you?" Grace asked.
"I don't," Hank said.
"Ha," Grace laughed.
"Grace, if I talked to you like that, you'd know it."
"What's that mean?"
"It means you aren't like them. You're special and I wouldn't talk to you like that," Hank said. "Ain't no reason to."
"Oh," Grace said quietly. She didn't know what to say. She was completely taken aback. He said she was special. What did that mean? "Well, thank you Hank."
"You're welcome," he said in a whisper as the township came into sight. The town was just starting to come alive.
"Grace!" Dorothy yelled, her hand on her chest. "Michaela! It's Grace!" she yelled as she ran toward the returning men. Grace watched as Dr. Mike appeared in the doorway of the clinic. She gave her a bright smile and ran toward them as well.
"Grace, are you alright?" Dr. Mike asked as she helped Grace off of Hank's horse.
"Yes. I'm much better now," she said with a warm smile. Grace reached out and hugged Dr. Mike tightly. The beautiful doctor hugged her back. The two women were joined by Dorothy and Myra Bing. The ladies cried and lead Grace off toward the clinic.
Hank watched everyone greet Grace warmly. He was about to ride off when he heard his name.
"Hank!" Grace called out. She was running toward him.
"What?" Hank asked looking down at her.
"Get off that horse," she said her hands on her hips. He was happy to see her feisty side reappearing.
"What do you want? There's money to be made," he said now standing in front of her.
"Thank you," she said into his ear as she hugged him tightly. He hesitated but hugged her back just as tight. "Thank you so much Hank." He simply nodded.
Hank reveled in the feel of Grace in his arms. She was warm and soft and her slender frame fit against his like that's what it was made for. He reluctantly let her go when he felt her release him. She held both of his hands and squeezed them. "Thank you," she said before she let go and returned to her friends.
"Your cuts and bruises seem to be healing well," Michaela said as she examined Grace's face and arms.
"Hank had Cloud Dancing take a look at me," she said. Michaela widened her eyes slightly as she helped Grace lay back on the table. Dr. Mike examined her friend for any damages caused by her kidnappers.
"Grace, you can sit up now."
"Am I alright?"
"You're just fine. You can still have children," Dr. Mike told her happily.
"Thank you God," Grace said with a big smile and a few tears running down her face. Michaela walked over to the door and allowed Dorothy and Myra to enter.
"Are you alright, Grace?" Myra asked placing her hand on her friend's back.
"I'm just fine, Myra. Just fine," Grace said smiling.
"What happened out there?" Dorothy asked.
"Nothing good," Grace answered.
"What about on the way back?" Myra inquired.
"What do you mean?" Grace asked, her cheeks turning a deep rose at the thought of seeing Hank Lawson in his natural form.
"We saw you hugging Hank," Michaela said.
"Oh, well he rescued me."
"I was tied up and suddenly he burst through the door," Grace said thoughtfully.
"Well I'll be," Dorothy said her hand on the side of her face.
"Don't make such a fuss over it now," Grace said. "Anybody would've done that."
"But anybody didn't. It was Hank," Myra said cutting her eyes out the window to The Gold Nugget.
"Dorothy help me get Grace upstairs," Dr. Mike said as she helped Grace off the table. The two women helped Grace climbed the stairs to one of the rooms.
Myra slipped out. She marched right over to the saloon.
"Come back to work?" Hank asked with a crooked smile.
"Of course not but...can we talk? Myra said. He came from behind the bar and lead her to one of the rooms in the back.
"What's this about? I'm busy," Hank asked as he sat on the edge of the bed.
"Why did you save Grace?"
"What kind of question is that?" he asked angrily.
"Well now Hank, you hate everybody," Myra explained wringing her hands together.
"I don't hate everybody," he said.
"No. I don't hate you all the time."
"You can tell me what happened out there Hank."
"There ain't nothing to tell, Myra," he said avoiding eye contact.
"There's something to tell," she said sitting beside him.
"This don't leave this room," Hank said looking into her eyes. Myra nodded her headed yes vigorously. "I saved Grace."
"Well I know that already," she said.
"Myra, will you shut up?" he sighed. She clamped her mouth shut. "But, I had to."
"I don't know," he said. "I can't explain it."
"Well, with me and Horace, I just wanted to talk to him. All the time," Myra said. "He just was so interesting to me."
"Well, I don't know why you thought that, but with Grace, I just...she's so feisty," Hank said.
"Well she always did just stand right up to you."
"Yeah. She's strong and brave and it's not something I always noticed."
"When did you notice?"
"A while ago," Hank confessed. "That's why I hit those Crowfeld boys."
"I don't understand," Myra said.
"I think..." he paused. "I'm serious Myra. It stays in this room."
"I promise," she said excitedly.
"I think I'm..." he stopped again. "Ugh, I think I'm in love with Grace."
"Oh my goodness! Hank that's wonderful!" Myra said hugging him.
"Get off of me," Hank said pushing her off of him. "Calm down."
"Did you tell her?"
"Why not?" she questioned.
"She doesn't...no," he said running his hands through his long blonde tresses.
"I gotta get back to work," he said wrenching the door open and marching down the hall and back out to the bar area.
Hank watched as Myra left the saloon. When the doors swung behind her, he was instantly nervous. What if Myra told Grace? Or Michaela? Or Dorothy? He knew the latter of the two would never let Grace know. Maybe if he were a man like Sully or a yellow belly of a man like Horace; then maybe they would let her consider being with him.
"Hank?" Jake said waving his hand in front of his friend's face.
"What?" Hank asked pulling his attention away from the still swinging door.
"Whiskey," he said. Hank nodded and poured him a shot. "What's the matter with you?"
"Nothing. Why do you ask me that all the damn time?" Hank asked, his blue eyes boring into the barber.
"I thought that's what friends do. You don't have to bite my head off," Jake said defensively. "Next time I'll just be like everybody else in this damn town and I just won't care enough to ask," he said rising from his stool and storming out of the saloon.
"Shit," Hank murmured. He hadn't meant to push Jake away like that. But right now, he didn't want someone asking him what was the matter with him. That would just lead to a bunch of questions he didn't want to answer. Like 'well I thought you hated Grace, how can you say you love her?' Or 'do you honestly think that someone as beautiful and strong and brave and amazing as Grace could ever love you back?'. Well the answer is no.
As he looked around The Gold Nugget at the dingy floor and dim lighting, the round tables placed randomly around the room and the stained bar top; he knew that this was no place for a real lady. That's why Myra had to get out. He had known she was a real lady from the start but she was also one of the only people in town that didn't treat him like a leper; even though she should have. So he couldn't just let her go. Not to Horace Bing, but he didn't have a choice in the end. He did want Myra to be happy and he knew that the rail thin telegraph operator made her happy.It saddened Hank that because of Myra's...previous profession that people just wished her all the best in her future; but if he decided to make a move toward a happier life, he would be shut down. He realized that he was Satan to them so he didn't deserve good things so he was completely and unhappily content with living with this burning unrequited love in his heart.