Chapter One

Frank James felt the blood running down his side. They should have never gone back for Cole. The whole thing had been a set up, and he knew he should have sensed it. He pushed his horse forward and spotted a small town off to his right.

He knew that he was wanted all over Missouri. However he had ridden all night to get away. He knew that he was well out of his home state by now, and the town looked empty. He turned his horse to the west. The young gelding refused at first and then turned at his master's whim.

Frank looked at the small, modest buildings, noting that most of them were boarded over. He had to find a doctor. He noticed a small shop at the edge of the town. Like all the other places in town the windows were boarded up. Frank pulled his horse up short and pain shot through his whole side. He gritted his teeth as he dismounted. He slowly walked toward the door. His head was spinning as he fought back the urge to fall. He knocked lightly and prayed.

"Please," he whispered. "Please, Lord, let there be someone here."

He knocked again. He felt the blood coming out of the wound a little faster now. It was almost sickening to him. He started back toward his horse when he heard a lock disengage. He turned back as a young woman opened the door to the shop.

She was dressed in light colored skirt and blue blouse. Her long hair was pulled into a bun that had fallen down from some sort labor. Her beige apron had dirt stains on it along with other things. She looked up at Frank with the most beautiful eyes he had ever seen. They were a light, bluish green, almost like a river after a storm. She brushed back a strain of brown bang and stared at him.

"Can I help you?" she asked.

Her voice was soft and kind. It also hinted at defense. Frank could understand why. This place was no place for a woman on her own. He went to say something when he fell back against a column on the porch. He saw the young woman rush to him, and then he slipped into the dark oblivion of unconsciousness.