You Gonna Print That, Right?
Hank had left Grace sitting at his table; thoroughly kissed and confused. There was no way she had heard him say those words. There was no way that he had kissed her so passionately that she almost forgot herself.
Hank Lawson loved her? Why? Was that even the truth? It was hard to tell with a man like him. One minute he's got this nice, considerate side and the next he's putting up new proprietor signs at the church that he swindled from the Reverend.
She didn't know what to think. She knew she couldn't talk to Dr. Mike or Dorothy about it. They wouldn't understand that she hadn't wanted Hank to stop kissing her or that she had wanted him to say those three sweet words again so that she could tell him that for whatever reason she loved him too.
It was true. She did love Hank. He had shown his quality out in the woods and even before that; when those Crowfeld boys had accosted her here in the cafe. Grace rose from the chair and started off toward the bank.
"Good afternoon, Grace," Preston A. Lodge III said as she entered inside.
"Good afternoon, Preston. Do you think it'd be alright if I had a word with Myra?" she asked wrapping her white lace shawl around her shoulders.
"Myra, you've got ten minutes," he said before walking back toward his office. Myra came from behind the counter and stepped outside with her friend.
"Are you alright?" she asked. "You look like you've seen a ghost."
"No. Nothing like that," Grace said. "I need to ask your advice."
"Me? Really?" Myra questioned. "No one ever asks me. Why not Dr. Mike? Or Dorothy?"
"Because I don't need to be lectured or talked about in that gazette," Grace said. "I need actual advice."
"Alright. Well, I'll do my best," Myra said with a gentle smile.
"This is harder to say than I thought."
"Just say it fast. That always helps Horace."
"I think I'm in love with Hank Lawson and I don't know what to do," Grace said quickly and quietly.
"Really?" Myra asked excitedly.
"Yes and why are you so excited?"
"No reason but my advice is just to tell him."
"What?" Grace asked shocked.
"Hank is a man. They usually already feel like you do, they just need you to tell 'em first," Myra said reassuringly.
"Can feel love just like everybody else."
"Myra, I don't know," Grace said shaking her head.
"Back to work, Myra," Preston said sticking his head outside.
"Listen, I have to go but my advice is to tell him," Myra said as she stepped back toward the door. "You might be pleasantly surprised." Pleasantly surprised? Grace was pretty sure she meant terribly embarrassed but she also knew she was right. She had to tell him. Hank did kiss her. So she pulled her shawl tighter and marched off toward the saloon. Jake was arriving just as she climbed the last step.
"Grace? What are you doing here?" he asked joining her on the porch.
"Can you do me a favor?" she asked turning to him.
"Send Hank out here, please."
"Uh sure. What for?" he asked.
"None of your business, Mr. Slicker," she said raising her chin.
"Fine," he said as he walked through the swinging door. A few moments later, Hank appeared.
"Whatdya need?" he asked in a gruff voice.
"I need to tell you something," she said.
"Well, what is it? I'm working."
"I don't care about that. This is important."
"Ok. I'm listening," Hank said leaning against the banister. Grace took a deep breathe.
"I love you too."
"What?" he asked his blue eyes wide.
"You heard me."
"Why are you saying that?"
"Because it's true," Grace said stepping toward him.
"It can't be," he whispered looking down at his boots.
"And why not?" she asked her hands on her hips.
"You know why," he said looking at her. "This whole damn town thinks I'm evil. You being a lady could never love me."
"I don't care what this town thinks of you, Hank Lawson," Grace said, "and neither should you. What I think of you is all that matters."
"And what do you think of me?"
"I think you are one of the most complex men I've ever met. I think that when you choose to be, you are one of the most sweet, caring and kind people I've ever met."
"Really?" he asked.
"Yes. You saved my life and you took care of me. I fell for you and I don't regret it," she said.
"I don't regret it either," Hank whispered.
"Good," Grace said with a luminescent smile. Her breath hitched when he pulled her into his arms and kissed her deeply. She didn't hesitate this time. She returned all the love she felt flowing from his kiss.
"What now?" Hank said breaking their kiss, still holding her in his arms.
"Now we're together. No matter what anyone says," Grace said.
"Good to know," he said leaning down and capturing her lips in yet another passionate kiss.
Grace returned to her cafe delighted. Hank and she had made each other aware of their feelings and it had given her a sense of completeness. She moved around from table to table happily; making sure everything was ready for the lunch rush.
"Grace?" an angry voice called out. She turned to see Robert E. coming toward her.
"Good afternoon Robert E.. What can I do for you?" she asked greeting him with a smile.
"I saw you," he said.
"Saw me where?"
"At that damned saloon."
"Oh," she said "Well, what's the big deal about that?"
"I saw you and that Hank Lawson!" Robert E. said trying not to raise his voice.
"So?" Grace questioned her arms folded across her chest.
"What were with doing with him?"
"Minding my business, Robert E.. You should try doing the same," Grace said pointedly before she returned to her work. Robert E. angry, headed straight toward Bray's Mercantile.
"Dorothy," he said as he walked toward her desk. "I got a story for you."
"What is it?" she asked.
"I saw Hank Lawson attack Grace."
"What do you mean?" Dorothy asked.
"He had his hands all over her. She couldn't get away," Robert E. said.
"You gonna print that, right?"
"Of course," Dorothy said as she walked over to her press. Robert E. left feeling triumphant.
By the afternoon, the entire town was buzzing about the story that was printed in the gazette.
"Can you believe it?" Dorothy questioned as she and Micheala stood in her exam room.
"Why didn't she come to me?" Dr. Mike asked. Dorothy was about to answer but she looked out the window and saw Loren walking toward the barber shop, gazette in hand.
"How could he do it?" Loren asked slamming the paper down on the wooden counter.
"I don't even know what you're talking about," Jake said as he cut Horace's hair.
"It says here in the gazette that somebody saw Hank attacking Grace!" Loren said appalled.
"Let me see," Horace said grabbing the paper from the older man. "A source in our humble town has reported that saloon owner Hank Lawson brutally attacked our beloved Grace," Horace read.
"Keep going," Loren said waving his hand at the rail thin man.
"Right, well, Hank is still at large and it is the opinion of this paper that a brute of a man such as Hank Lawson should he put in jail and until he is, no woman is safe," Horace finished the article. His face wore a look of fear. "I have to go find Myra," he said throwing the paper back to Loren and running out of the barber shop.
"Hank say it ain't so?" Myra asked as she burst into the saloon.
"What are you talking about?" he asked throwing back a shot.
"What the gazette is saying about you."
"I don't read that rag," he said.
"I thought you loved Grace. How could you?" she said disappointed.
"Keep your voice down, Myra," Hank whispered harshly. "What are you talking about?"
"The paper says that someone saw you attack Grace," Myra informed him.
"That ain't what happened," he said. "Did I ever hit you?"
"Well no," she said.
"What about any of the other girls?" he asked. Myra was silent. "No, raising your hand to someone ain't the same as hitting 'em."
"Hank I know that but the gazette..." Myra started.
"I don't care about the damn gazette," Hank rumbled. "It won't like that this morning. We were just..." he began.
"HANK!" they heard Loren Bray yell from outside the Gold Nugget. Hank and Myra exchange a look before heading outside.