Westbound (Love Travels West, Book 1)

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Chapter 17. Recovery.

 It is a well known fact that if you leave two people alone in a room, sooner or later they will fall in love—unknown.

Chapter 17.

Recovery.

   Jake slowly opened his eyes, his mind was foggy, his head felt heavy, and all he knew was that everything in his body ached. Closing his eyes again he lay for a few moments, trying to figure out just where he was and what was going on. When he had regained some strength, he once more lifted his eyelids and noticed a figure standing not far from him. His blurred vision hindered him from recognizing the person. Reminded him of a woman, but that was impossible. There were no women at the Cora Belle. She was coming closer to him, and it seemed she was floating over the ground. He shifted a little, trying to get rid of the pain that seemed to cover every inch of his body. There was a soft light coming in illuminating the room and giving the floating female a sort of glow. Jake began to to seriously wonder if perhaps he had died.

   "Am I dead?" He mumbled out loud, his voice husky and cracked.

   "Not quite; I fear you are still stuck down here on earth."

   Despite his weakness, Jake grew alert and he strove to focus on his surroundings. "I know that accent," he said. "I'd recognize it anywhere."

   Dannie had to smile. "I believe you owe me five dollars," she softly said, trying her best to remain calm. Her heart thumped against her chest and her breathing was a little irregular, to think he was awake, and talking.

   "Damn it, I believe I do," Jake whispered, feeling very weak and stunned at the same time. He looked up at the face that was now close to his. "Dannie, is that really you?"

   "Yes, it is."

   "Where I am?"

   "The Circle 4?"

   "What am I doing here and why does my whole body ache? I feel like death itself."

   "You were attacked by cattle rustlers. We were afraid you wouldn't make it. Due to an infection in your leg you ran a fever and would often thrash about, mumbling words that were hard to understand. Now you seem to have regained full consciousness, and seem to be in your right mind. Only you must lie very still; there is still a long road to recovery."

"Right, right," Jake was silent for a few moments, as distant memories of past events began coming back to him. "Was I in really bad shape?" He questioned, licking his parched lips.

   "Terrible shape, three bullets and two knife wounds. God was very merciful indeed, one bullet just barely missed your heart."

   Jake looked over at his body, all covered in bandages. "Even durin' the war I never looked this bad," he thought to himself.

   "Do you want something to drink?" Dannie asked.

   "Got any whiskey?"

   Dannie rolled her eyes. "I think water will do for now," She said, raising Jake's head a little and lifting a cup to his lips.

   "How long have I been out?" Jake asked once Dannie had lowered him back on the pillow.

   "Five days. Now, you rest, I'll just go inform Mr. Martin that you have awakened." Dannie tucked the blankets around Jake. He closed his eyes, worn out from all the talking. Dannie depart from the room in search of Mr. Martin, but she hardly felt the floor beneath her feet. Jake had awakened, he was talking a little, even showing a hint of attitude, surely that meant that the worst was over and he was now on the road to recovery.

***

   "So, Jake, how do you feel today?" Mr. Martin asked. It was two days since Jake had come to his senses and Mr. Martin had come for his routinely check up.

   "Still kinda lousy," Jake complained. "But I feel better than a couple of days ago. I mean, heck, I can at last sit up in bed and take in decent food. Certain parts of me still ache, but I think I'll be up sooner or later."

   "I'm afraid it is going to be later and not sooner," Chris Martin chuckled. "But I will say it is a true miracle that you made it at all. From the shape you were in when they brought me to you, I thought for certain that you were a gonner. Looking at you now, I believe you might actually make a full recovery."

   "All thanks to you, sir, I don't think I would have made it if Sam hadn't brought me here."

   "Don't go on thanking me," Mr. Martin shook his head. "I believe you owe most of your recovery to Dannie." He nodded towards Dannie, who was sitting quietly in the corner with her needlework. She turned a little red from the compliment and buried her nose in her sewing. 

"The dear girl wouldn't leave your side for nothing. Saw you through every stage, would change your bandages with her own hands and do everything I asked of her. Not to mention the dear girl prayed night and day that you would pull through. So I think I am right when I say that if you ought to thank anyone, it should be Dannie."

   Jake glanced over at the embarrassed Dannie, who was trying very hard ignore the fact that they were talking about her. Her cheeks were tinted pink and her hands worked quickly and irregularly. Her skin had tanned a little, thanks to the Arizona sun, and her hair was gathered up in an elegant twist, which suited her a lot better than the hideous bun had. Her navy blue cotton dress, with Irish lace around the collar and wrists, went very well with her completion, or so Jake thought. He wished she would lift her head so he could look into her eyes, but she kept her face glued to her work.

   "I think I owe Dannie more than I know," Jake said at last, causing Dannie to go all the deeper red.

   "You give me too much credit," she sputtered. "All I did was follow Mr. Martin's orders."

   Mr. Martin chuckled and walking over put a hand on Dannie shoulder. "Never tell me you are incapable of nursing again. You should have seen her while I was pulling out the bullets from you, Jake, she behaved like a true professional."

   "Wait a minute," Jake's face scrunched. "You mean to say Dannie was around when you operated?"

   "Yup, she was there the whole time. You'd never think this was her first time administering to an operation. One could have thought it was something she did for a living."

   Jake looked at Dannie in bewilderment, "I thought you got sick from the sight of blood, like to the point where you were faint and useless."

   "Is that so?" Mr. Martin smiled at Dannie with a mysterious look in his eyes. "Then I guess we ought to be very glad that she conveniently forgot this fact during the operation." He patted Dannie's shoulder and went over to the door. "Consider yourself very lucky, Jake, not everyone can find this dedicated a nurse when they meet an accident."

   With a wink at Jake, Mr. Martin left, leaving Jake and Dannie alone in the room.

   "Conveniently forgot?" Jake glanced over at Dannie.

   "It was a rush of adrenaline," Dannie replied, poking her finger in her discomfort. "Trust me, I nearly fainted at one point, you looked positively horrid. Jake," Dannie lay down her sewing and looked at him. "Jake, was it, was it Calhoon who shot you?"

   "It wasn't him personally. Could have been some henchmen of his, could have been someone else. It's not like there is a shortage of cattle rustlers in the area."

   "But what if it was Calhoon?" Dannie persisted.

   Jake shrugged. "Then too bad for him that he didn't get me this time either."

   "And what are you going to do? If it was him then he knows where to find you. You must take some kind of precautions? Perhaps notify the sheriff and have him keep an eye on the area."

   "Well, until I get out of this confounded bed, I certainly can't do anythin'.You have no idea how sick and tired I am of sittin' and doing nothin'. Have any of the fellas from the Cora Belle even asked 'bout me?"

   "Sam Carthwrite came over twice when you were unconscious. I've sent him a note saying you have woken up and the fever you had is gone. He'll probably come and see you as soon as he can."

   "Thanks."

   "Don't mention it." Dannie felt her face going hot again.

   "No, I'm serious, thank you, for everythin'."

   The door squeaked open and a dog's head appeared through the crack. He barked joyfully when he caught sight of Dannie, and pushing the door open with his body ran to her.

   "Roy, you naughty canine," Dannie scolded the barking creature. "You know you're not supposed to come in here."

   "That your dog?"

   "Yes," Dannie tried to get the happy dog to settle down, but Roy was determined to jump around his mistress and lick her hands. "Mack gave him to me about a two weeks after I arrived."

   "And you named him Roy?" Jake looked surprised.

   "Is there anything wrong with the name?"

   "No, it's a great name, just not somethin' I thought you would name a dog."

   "What do you mean?" Dannie's face twisted in confusion.

   "Don't get me wrong, but knowin' your rich vocabulary, I thought you'd come up with somethin', I dunno, more original."

   "I had to name him Roy," Dannie's voice dropped and she gazed at the dog tenderly. This sudden change of behavior sparked Jake's curiosity.

   "What do you mean?"

   "I promised him I would."

   "Promised who?"

   Dannie slowly lifted her eyes and they locked with Jake's. "My brother Robert."

   "You have a brother?"

   "Had," Dannie corrected. "He died a long time ago."

   "How come you never mentioned him before?"

   "He's not someone I generally talk about," Dannie sighed and cuddled Roy. "He was three years younger than me and from the time he learned to walk he just loved dogs, they were his favorite animals. All he could dream about was having a dog of his own, but Papa was allergic to dog fur so we never kept one. He kept telling me, 'when we grow up, Dannie, we'll get a dog and we'll call him Roy'. You see, his favorite book was Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scot." Dannie shook her head sadly. "Only Bobby was never destined to grow up. He was born very sickly and left us just three months after his seventh birthday. So you see, when Mack gave me the pup, I had to call him Roy. I owed it to Bobby. I'm sorry I never mentioned him before, much like you when it comes to your family, I find it hard to speak about him to other people."

   "You don't have to apologize for that," Jake soothed. "You know, you were right back then."

   "Back when?"

   "Remember that time we were hidin' from the storm you said that you understood what I had gone through, and how though our lives were different, sorrow was sorrow? You were right, the stories are different, but I think the pain is somethin' we can relate too."

   Jake was looking so earnestly at Dannie that she found herself lowering her gaze. Those pale green eyes were making her feel something she hadn't felt in a long, long time. Not since the day she bumped into Paul."

   "May I come in?" Sophie's voice called out. "I just had to make sure for myself if Jake was really alive. Lookie at that, he really is. I have to say, if there is one thing Jake knows how to do, it is prove people like my daddy wrong. And I think he has great fun doin' it."

   Dannie fought the desire to giggle while Jake tried to keep his cool. He wasn't really happy how Sophie had barged in the room and broken his moments alone with Dannie. Sophie generally tended to annoy him; she talked all the time but never spoke any sense.

   "Dannie," Sophie kept talking, hardly noticing Jake's less than welcoming expression, "Grace is calling you to go and take in some food. And she won't take no for an answer, said if you don't come right now she'll come here and drag you to the table. Ah, I see Roy has found you. Did you tell him you were cheatin' on him for Wade here?"

   "Dearest Sophie, how very blunt you are," Dannie laughed.

   "Too blunt if you ask me," Jake added with a grunt.

   "Just go eat, I can watch Jake while you are gone."

   Jake cringed. Be left alone with Sophie? No thank you. His protest to this arrangement was stopped by a knock on the door.

   "Come in," Dannie called. The door opened and Sam Carthwrite walked in.

   "Howdy Sam, come to see the invalid at last?" Jake joked, a grin appearing on his face.

   "He lives!" Sam exclaimed, walking over and taking Jake's outstretched hand. With his other he gave Jake a hearty slap on the shoulder.

   "Owww!" Jake grimaced. "Watch it Sam, I'm still in the healin' process."

   "Right, sorry 'bout that. I got Miz Preston's note sayin' that you were awake and came around as soon as I found a spare moment. Everyone back at the Cora Belle has been worried as hell. The boss in particular has been anxious, but duty keeps him tied to the ranch. How soon do you think it will be till you get back?"

   "Day or two I reckon."

   "Don't be so sure on that," Dannie cut in, "Mr. Martin said a two weeks at least, could be more till your ready to leave. He wants to make sure there will be no infection, that is Jake's greatest threat right now."

   "Ah, where are my manners? Howdy Miz Preston, Miz Martin," Sam removed his hat and nodded to the two females. "Miz Preston, next time I meet with an accident, I'm gonna to have them send for you right away. An' there will be no more of that 'I don't know nothin' 'bout nursin' nonsense."

   "But I didn't know anything," Dannie protested, her cheeks coloring once again. "It was the first time I had ever administered to any sort of operation. People don't go shooting each other in Collingham."

   "And don't go on sayin' you can't stand the sight of blood," Jake put in.

   "I can't! It makes me feel sick, but sometimes I have to put my fear aside."

   "Well, Sam, since you are here to keep Jake company, I'm takin' Dannie to have a bite to eat," Sophie said, pulling Dannie from the chair.

   "That's a right good idea, Miz Martin, I've got an hour or two to kill before I have to head back, so Miz Preston can have a nice, long break. Don't know how you managed to put up with Jake this far, he's somethin' terrible when it comes to entertainin' women."

   Sam chuckled at his own statement, but Jake didn't find very funny.

   "It's alright, I've long learned his bark is worse than his bite," Dannie replied and left the room with Sophie.

   "She's a right smart woman," Sam said once the girls were gone. "A man is lucky if he falls into her hands when he is ill. She follows instructions perfectly and has a great head on her shoulders and can think of things real quick. Reads a lot too. You know Chris Martin has this huge library with all sorts of medical books in them, an' she must have read them all durin' the time you were out. I'll be she knows more than the average doctor about medicine now."

   "What I can't believe is she managed to stand the sight of me covered in blood and still keep her head about her. I cut my finger while I was bringin' her here, she nearly fainted from the thought of it." Jake shook his head in bewilderment. Sam smiled mysteriously but didn't say anything.

   "What about those men that attacked us, what happened to them?"

   "Disappeared into thin air, none of us have been able to get any trace of them. Funny thing is it seems you were the only one they were after. Got shot and beat up enough for all six of us together. I mean I know you were born under unlucky stars...but still."

   Jake nodded his head, deep in thought about everything Sam had told him.

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