Annaleigh heard a loud bang and everything faded to black.
Ryder looked down at the sleeping beauty. How had his carefully laid plans gone so awry? He swore under his breath. He tore his gaze away from the lady he had shot. What the hell would he tell her when she awoke? How could a gentleman apologize to a lady for almost killing her? He sat down next to her unmoving body and groaned. He didn’t want her to wake, but he was growing weary of her ragged breathing. He gently pulled back the bandages on her arm and sighed. What a scar that would leave. He had taken the bullet out, had cleaned her wound. He had done it countless times before, but never to a lovely raven haired beauty.
He had barely had time to reach her before realizing his mistake. She had gone limp in his arms and he was forced to pull her out of shooting range. She could have very well gotten shot again, she had been standing at the very point Mayor Winston should have been. Instead, when the door opened, a lovely female had walked out. She hadn’t sensed the ensuing gunfight, she seemed to have other things on her mind. One of them was pulling her dress back down past her knees. By the time he realized it wasn’t the Mayor, he had already pulled the trigger. How the hell would Billy Bob react when he heard of his failed attempt to kill Mayor Winston? He would be seeing red, there would be no end to his fury.
Annaleigh was having the weirdest dream. She was walking along wooden planks laid carelessly over a marsh. She feared falling in, but she had to pass this way to get home. Home. Where was home? She saw a small white house with blue shutters and a red door in the distance. All of a sudden, she felt something push her and her foot slipped. She fell slowly into the welcoming brown mud of the marsh. She screamed and screamed until the mud filled her mouth and her lungs, leaving her to scream no more.
Annaleigh opened her eyes. She was panting heavily, still screaming as she woke up. Ryder came to her side in an instant and tried to calm her down.
″What happened to me? Where am I? Who are you?″
Ryder looked at her and laughed. He never would have taken her for a loony female. Then again, his assumptions were often wrong, especially when it came to ladies.
″I’m Ryder, it’s a please to meet you ma’am. This here is my house, or whatever you want to call this dump. You were caught in the middle of a mass killing spree in town about three hours ago. You got shot.″
Annaleigh looked down at her dress. It was stained with mud and dirt.
″Sorry about your dress ma’am, I had to drag you out of there fast.″
Annaleigh looked at him, dumbstruck.
″You’re gonna have to tell me who you are honey, or I won’t be able to take you home.″
She touched her arm and cried out. Damn it hurt.
″Don’t you know what being shot means? I tended to it, but you might want to get it checked.″
When she didn’t answer him for the second time, he decided to take action.
″You can tell me where you live and I can walk with you back. I want to be sure you’re safely where you belong.″
Her mouth opened and she let out a cry. It sounded like a cry for help. What the heck was wrong with her?
″That all sounds very nice. You are kind sir. Their is just a small problem, I don’t know who I am!″
She fell back onto the bed with a loud sigh. What the hell was Ryder to do now? He couldn’t have a crazy female on his side, claiming she didn’t know who she was.
″Time to go Ma’am.″
He grabbed her by the arm and pulled her towards the door. He was a perfect gentlemen when the moment was appropriate, but at that precise moment he was mad and a bit fed up. His day had not gone according to plan. It seemed like his day had been jinxed from the start.
Annaleigh was outside, alone. Ryder had taken her as far as the town border and had left her high and dry. He didn’t believe her story. If the roles were reversed, she wouldn’t believe him either. She rearranged her corset and walked quickly back towards Ryder’s home. She had to find someone that could help her identify herself. She really had lost her memory. Unless getting shot in the arm left you without your memory, something else had happened. But what? She had no recollection of anything, only that her head hurt. Try as she may, she couldn’t even remember her name. Poor thing. She found his place and walked towards the door. Ryder had ridden off towards the next town, therefore he wouldn’t be home to stop her from coming in. She wanted to search the house for evidence. Evidence of what? Even she didn’t know.
Annaleigh was inside the house within twenty seconds. She was a master at picking locks, who would have thought? She would be learning about herself along the way. Just as well, maybe she wouldn’t like the person she was. She could start from scratch, make herself into someone completely different. Maybe she had been the town hermit, she could have been the town whore. She looked at herself in the mirror and thought
″ I must be the latter.″
She laughed, shook her head and continued searching the place. Ryder had been right, the house was a dump. Not because it was crumbling on itself, but because he didn’t seem to clean it or even live in it. She picked up a pair of cowboy boots, inspected them and tried them on. She had ladies boots on, but they were too small and they hurt her feet. The new ones were larger and more manly. For some reason, she preferred the manly ones. Her corset made her feel like she was walking funny and her dress just didn’t seem to fit her. Wouldn’t a woman have a dress made to her perfect measurements? It was a bunch of little things that didn’t add up. She didn’t dwell on all the questions because she couldn’t answer them. Why waste her time? She found a dresser filled with men’s clothing. She picked out a cotton shirt and a pair of trousers. She started unlacing her corset, when she heard a noise and stilled. Her ears were perfectly tuned to hear all the little things people overlooked. Another interesting thing she learned about herself. She waited and figured it to be someone passing by. She continued to undress. When she was done, she pulled on the trousers and slid the shirt on over her undergarments. She found a worn cowboy hat and placed it on her head. Perfect. She felt good now, at ease in menswear. Strange.