Westbound (Love Travels West, Book 1)

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Chapter 18. Walking Again.

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye—Antonine de Saint-Exupery

Chapter 18.

Walking Again.

   Dannie was on her way to the kitchen when she met up with Mr. Martin in the hallway.

   "Ah Dannie, are you on your way to Jake?"

   "Not exactly sir, I was just on my way fetch him lunch. Grace said it should be ready by now."

   "Lunch can wait, go back and remove his bandages, I've got some spare time on my hands and figured I'd take a look at his wounds. I'll be with you in a minute, just want to fetch my medical kit." 

With that Mr. Martin walked off, leaving Dannie standing awkwardly in the hall. Remove Jake's bandages...on her own? Walking back into the room where Jake was still being forced to sit in bed, she took a deep breath and attempted to make her voice sound professional.

   "Jake, take your shirt off."

   The eyebrows slowly lifted upwards and the pale green eyes blinked at her in surprise. "Take my shirt...off?" He repeated.

   "That's right, come on, be quick about it," Dannie walked up closer to the bedside.

   "Why?"

   "Mr. Martin is going to be here in a minute to examine you wounds, and I've got to remove the bandages."

   "Oh, well in that case," Jake grinned and began unbuttoning his shirt. "This could get very amusin'," he thought to himself.

   "Take it off all the way, it's going to bother me," Dannie commanded. Jake complied.

   "So, did you have to do this often while I was unconscious?" He asked as Dannie began untying the linen strip.

   "Several times," Dannie curtly replied, trying to focus on her work and not on Jake's muscles. Her hands were clumsy and she found it hard to undo the knot. Why did Jake have to be awake? This would have all been a lot simpler if he wasn't.

   "You stripped me down and changed my bandages several times? How did you manage taking my shirt off and unwindin' the bandage with me out cold?"

   "First of all, you weren't wearing a shirt, and second I had help. When it came to cleaning the wounds Mack was always around to lend me a hand."

   "I wasn't wearin' a shirt? Right, I remember when I awoke all I had was this white stuff wrapped around me. So, you would sit here and watch me sleepin' without my shirt on?"

   Dannie knew her face was going bright red, and she decided against answering such a ridiculous question. Why was this strip of linen so long?

    Jake, who was enjoying this whole procedure immensely, kept right on talking. "Still, gettin' the bandages off and cleanin' the wounds must have been pretty hard.."

   "It was a lot easier than doing it with you conscious," Dannie confessed.

   "Was it now? And why's that?"

   "Cause I didn't have your running commentary distracting me."

   "Aaah. Well, sorry if my talkin' is botherin' you, but I can't help myself; I've never had a woman hug me while I was bare-chested before."

   "Jacob Wade, the things you come up with!" Dannie was sure her face was purple by now. "I am not hugging you! I am merely removing your bandages so Mr. Martin will be able to examine your wounds. Don't you know nurses do things like this all the time. It comes with the profession. Surely you understand that this is all for medical purposes." Dannie hurried to get the silly thing off of Jake as fast as she could.

   Jake chuckled at Dannie's reaction. It was funny to see her all embarrassed and blushing. "I s'pose I'll have a couple of scars to show thanks to this encounter.

   "Not like I could care if you did," Dannie retorted. At last she had all the bandages removed and as if on cue, Mr. Martin walked in through the door.

   "Ah, I see I am right on time." He stated with a grin. "Alright, let's take another look at your wounds. I can see they are healing nicely, but it's too soon to take the stitches out. Dannie, you go ahead and open that bottle and disinfect the area around the wounds. You can do it on your own by now. Once your done, wrap him up again."

   "Yes sir," Dannie said, dreading the fact that she was going to have to start 'hugging' Jake all over again. She carefully applied the slightly damp cloth around the area of Jake's wounds, careful not to snag any of the stitches, they had to remain untouched and dry.

   "What about his leg?" Chris Martin asked.

   "Oh, I forgot about that one."

   "Never mind, I'll do it, you focus on his chest."

   Jake winked at Dannie, who pretended not to notice. Focus on his chest? Did Mr. Martin even hear what he was saying?

   "How long do you think it will be before I can get out of this bed and walk again?" Jake asked as Chris Martin undid the bandage on his leg and examined the wound.

   "Don't rush into it, Jake. You took some serious injuries and I need you to rest and take it easy. There is no way to make it heal faster, just be patient. You took an infection in the leg and I had to re-open the wound and clean it out. When you do get up, you will have to break the leg in slowly, give it time to adjust to your weight. I'll have Mack make you a walking cane."

   "How about ridin'?"

   "Oooh, now that is something you shouldn't even think about. Let the wound heal all the way before you stress it like that."

   Jake grumbled and turned his attention back to Dannie, who had by now begun the process of winding the clean bandage around his chest.

   "Is it me, or is your grip tighter this time?" He asked.

   "That's because now I'm putting it on, and I have to make sure it stays on," Dannie replied. She was glad Mr. Martin was here, hopefully that would make Jake watch his tongue.

   "There," she said, surveying her work. "Even I have to admit, I am getting pretty good at this."

   "Are you now?" Jake asked with another wink at her.

   "You finished," Mr. Martin looked over. "Good, go and get him his lunch."

   "What about my leg?" Jake protested.

   "I can manage that without Dannie." Chris Martin replied.

   "Pity," Jake said, though only loud enough so Dannie could hear him. Dannie ignored him and promptly left the room. Closing the door, she leaned against it biting her lip broke into a smile. She had been right when she told Sophie she was in danger of falling in love with Jake.

***

   "Ah, I can see you are walkin' at last." Jessica Martin said with a large smile when Jake appeared in the dining room. It had been two weeks after the ordeal and Jake was still on the Circle 4. Mr. Martin was leery of moving him until he improved completely, saying that the conditions for recovery were not provided at the Cora Belle.

   "Yup, Mr. Martin finally let me out of that confounded bed. I'm still rather clumsy on my feet. The cane helps, but I don't plan to have it for long."

   "It's nice to see you up and about." Jessica smiled warmly. "We really are glad to see you at the supper table. And it will be nice to have Dannie around. She winked at Dannie, who was helping Jake sit down in a chair. "We've missed your face, Dannie dear."

   Dannie shook her head trying to hide her blushing face, and took her seat beside Sophie.

   "Sophie in particular was very upset about your long absence," Caleb added. "You really should hear her opinion of you, Jake. You've missed some very strong statements."

   "Not surprisin'," Jake grunted.  

    "Honestly, the way she put it, we could have almost though you went and nearly got killed on purpose."

    "Caleb, stop it!" Sophie was going red in the face. "I never said anythin' like that. Dannie, Momma, someone come to my rescue."

   "Caleb Martin, don't tease your sister," Jessica Martin scolded. "Now, let's say grace and eat."

***   

   Jake was in a hurry to get better, and this meant Mr. Martin and Dannie had their work cut out trying to make sure he didn't jump into things he shouldn't. Several weeks passed by, one by one Jake's wounds lost the stitches as the skin grew back together. And while it was all 'too slow' for Jake, Mr. Martin marveled at the rate with which the cowboy was improving. It soon became the joke of the ranch to try and guess just what sort of stars had Jake been under that nearly got him killed and then went and pulled him through at unusual speed.

   The inactivity didn't sit well with poor Jake though, and as time dragged on he became more and more restless. One day, Dannie walked out on the front porch and found Jake staring off into the distance. "Mr. Martin is very pleased with the progress you've made these past days," she kindly said, placing her hands on the porch railing. "He said you'll be able to go back to the Cora Belle soon."

   "It's about time," Jake stated, though inwardly he found that he wasn't very anxious to leave. "Caleb tells me you've become quite the horse woman."

   "He's exaggerating," Dannie blushed.

   "Caleb Martin is not the sort of person who exaggerates, that's Sophie's special quality."

   "Well I'd hate for a professional to judge my riding skills."

   "I'm itchin' to get on the back of a horse," Jake blurted out. "Dannie, you wanna go ridin' with me?"

   "I'm reminded of a time when the last thing you wanted to do was go anywhere with me, said it would drive you mad," Dannie teased.

   Jake scowled at her words. "That was ages ago. Come on, I can't sit around this place any longer, I need to ride a bit."

   "Very well," Dannie found herself giving in. She actually liked the idea of riding with Jake. "I'll ask Bill if you can borrow one of the horses and oh..." Dannie suddenly paused. "Do you think Mr. Martin might not approve of the idea? He said you should take all this slowly."

   "I can't take it any more slowly! Seriously, is Mr. Martin my father or somethin'? I'm a grown man, Dannie, I'm twenty seven years old and I can decide what I should or should not do. I'm gettin' by just fine without the cane now, and the limp is almost gone; I know I ready to ride a horse."

   "Have it your way," Dannie shrugged.

   "Great, so let's go."

***

   "Caleb, do you know where Dannie is?" Sophie asked her brother, who was sitting in a chair, carving a piece of wood.

   "Yup, she and Jake went out ridin' 'bout an hour ago; said they'd be home in time for supper."

   "WHAT?" Sophie let all her anger burst out. "Who does Jake think he is anyway? How dare he just steal Dannie and go ridin' out like that?"

   Caleb smirked at her reaction. "Don't tell me you are jealous because probably for the first time in your life a man wanted to go ridin' with someone other than you?"

   "That has nothing to do with it. I'm angry because Jake is stealin' Dannie from me. I mean, he kept her completely occupied with this whole near death stunt of his. She hardly ever left his bedside, even when he came to consciousness. Then at last he got out of bed and began walking around, and what do we find? Dannie is constantly by his side, helpin' him walk or doing somethin' just as ridiculous. And now he's finally losin' the cane and standin' on his own two feet and the first thing he does is take Dannie out ridin'. She's our Dannie, and he can't go about usin' her like this."

   "So maybe the two of them are fallin' for each other," Caleb shrugged. "Not everyone is like you, Sophia Martin, refusing to fall in love and not wanting to get married."

   "But Dannie deserves so much better than Jake!" Sophie plopped down in a chair facing her brother. "I mean, look at her, she is smart and bright and extremely talented, and Jake, who is Jake? That man is a no good idiot."

   "Sophie," Caleb put down his carving and frowned at his sister. "That is entirely untrue. You know just as well as I do that Jake is the best horse breeder for miles around. Every ranch owner just about hates Clay Walkers because Jake works for him. He's just got a talent with those horses and can handle them better than anyone I know. Not to mention the fact that he's an experienced cattle driver and can handle a large herd with just a hand full of men. He's no idiot, that man has brains enough for five ordinary fellas."

   "So he's good with horses and cows," Sophie snorted. "but that is not what Dannie needs. She should have a husband who likes the same things she likes. Jake and her having nothin' in common."

   "I think you should let Dannie decide who she wants to love. If she likes Jake than good for her."

   "Jake does not deserve Dannie!" Sophie stated with a stomp of her foot.

   Caleb shook his head at his silly sister and picked up his work again. Sophie frowned at her brother, who didn't understand anything about life, and went to try and find some useful occupation until Dannie and Jake returned.

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