A huge THANK YOU to Kurumi-chan for the wonderful review! You deserve a stack of flapjacks!

I gave up writing FanFiction a couple of months ago, but thanks to her review, I think I might continue.

With that said, my writing has gotten rustier than a spatula on a windmill. Please forgive me.

Wow, let's end these cheesey Western-style similes and get on with the story. ^_^'

"Wake up," a deep voice commanded.

"Five more minutes, Neji," I murmured. "We can pick up the new stools for the saloon later."

Instantly, I felt a sharp slap on my cheek. I immediately jolted up with my eyes wide open. They met piercing, ebony eyes, and I realized that I wasn't back at home anymore. I vaguely remembered being kidnapped the night before by the Lone Lasso, but that was it. I didn't remember falling asleep and being brought to a strange room.

Oh, and my memory definitely failed in telling me that I was no longer bound or gagged. So the shriek that I emitted could have woken up the whole county. I didn't even know why I was screaming. All I knew was that I had a premonition that something bad was going to happen.

Another slap, sharper this time, stung my cheek. I immediately clamped my mouth shut.

"If you scream again, I will go back to Konoha Town and kill Naruto," he narrowed his eyes.

Wait… why didn't he threaten to kill me? I mean, I still loved Naruto. He couldn't be a cheater; Naruto worked harder than anybody I knew. He deserved to be rodeo champion for all of those years, I just knew it. I didn't care if he had a fiancé either. Engagements could always be broken. It wasn't like Naruto had already married his fiancée, whoever that lucky lass happened to be.

Anyway, the Lone Lasso usually threatened to kill me. Why did he only list Naruto this time?

"I need to keep you alive so I can sell you," he stated as if he read my mind.

"Sell me?" I squeaked. "T-to who?"

"Stay here," Sasuke commanded as he left the room, ignoring my question.

I surveyed the room that the Lone Lasso had ordered me to stay in. The bed indicated that this used to be a bedroom, but the rest of the space looked ancient and empty. Dust and cobwebs filled the room, and I wondered how long it was since somebody had stepped foot in here.

"What is this place?" I murmured.

A hand clamped down on my wrist and a chill ran up my spine. I suppressed the urge to scream bloody murder again.

"The Uchiha ranch," the Lone Lasso stated from behind me.

He turned me around so I faced him. Once again, I locked onto his piercing, ebony eyes. Even though he wore a bandana over his mouth, I knew he was scowling at me. This situation was worse than a stale piece of pecan pie.

"I'm pretty sure you were a good catch," he murmured, "but we'll have to test if you'll be of any use."

Son of a horseshoe! Sasuke was going to test my capabilities as a slave. My heart pumped rapidly as I looked at the door. Freedom, all I ever wanted was freedom. Now even the little taste I was granted would be washed out with soap bitterer than a cow in a fishbowl. I worked hard my entire life. What did I ever do to deserve this fate?

I frantically eyed the door behind Sasuke. He had left it ajar, and I could see a hallway extend full of numerous doors. I wondered which one was the exit. I needed to escape as quickly as possible, but unfortunately Sasuke still held my wrist in a death grip. He squeezed it even more until I was sure the circulation had been cut off from my hand.

"Who," I whispered, because I didn't dare raise my voice at my captor, "are you planning to s-sell me to?"

"The Akatsuki tribe," he stated. "They need a new slave since the last one was sacrificed."

"S-s-sacrificed?" I squeaked.

From the look of terror on my face, the Lone Lasso let go of his grip on my wrist until my arm hung limp to my side. Even though the bandana on his mouth covered some of his face, I could tell that he smirked. Did he actually enjoy my pain?

"Follow me," he ordered.

I nodded and followed Sasuke out of the room into the hallway. After we passed seven doors, we turned left and passed five more doors. The Uchiha ranch was huge! However, the building looked plain and dilapidated. It was as if everybody had suddenly abandoned and forgot about the house.


I found my face squashed against the back of Sasuke's white shirt. Since I had been lost in thought, I hadn't noticed that he stopped walking. Of course, my carelessness led to a collision worse than two bulls on a rampage. I instantly stepped back, squeezed my eyes shut, and braced for the wrath of the Lone Lasso. Instead, he ignored me and pushed open the door to a kitchen. He shoved me in the room, which caused me to fall flat on my face.

"Ow," I mumbled as I staggered to stand up again.

Sasuke walked into the kitchen and stared at my pathetic state.

"Two of the Akatsuki tribe members are coming over for dinner tonight," he stated. "Make dinner for them so they'll offer a high price for you. If you deliberately do poorly, I'll kill Naruto and your cousin."

I could never let anything happen to Naruto nor Neji. Why was Sasuke intent on making me miserable, aside from the fact he's the most wanted bandit in the county?

"I… I understand," I nodded my head. "Should I… make dinner for you too?"

He turned around to exit the kitchen and said coldly, "No."

"O-okay," I replied.

I watched as he closed the door. To me, it sounded like the slam of a heavy metal door at the county jail. Any hope of freedom demolished, I turned toward the kitchen. A small stove connected to an oven, an ice box, a sink, and a cupboard were the only additions to the otherwise empty room. Dust was there too, but that was to be expected of this ranch by now.

I searched through the cupboard, pulled out a pot and a couple ingredients. Baked beans, that's what I would make. As I began pouring water into the pot, a realization popped into my mind: I could escape.

"I'm sorry, Sasuke," I said aloud as I opened the window, "but a coyote can't be caged… and neither can I."

As soon as I stuck one head out the window, the kitchen door burst open. Of course Sasuke had to appear at the worst possible moment! His bandana was off, so I could see the frown on his face. He ran towards me as I tried—and miserably failed—to jump out of the window. He grabbed my wrist and tugged me away from the outter world, whatever that was.

"Never. Do. That. Again," he hissed in my ear.

Afraid of what he was going to do next, I merely nodded and squeezed my eyes shut. He tied a rope to my right wrist, and he tied the other end to the kitchen door's doorknob. Sasuke stomped out of the room, slamming the door behind him. Since I was now attached, it caused me to fall to the ground.

"I won't," I promised him.

"These baked beans are delicious, yeah!" I heard a man declare as I sat down on the kitchen floor.

I tried to untie my right wrist, but the Lone Lasso's knots were more complex than a frozen French braid. Sasuke had collected the meal I cooked and served it to the guests, who were probably eating in a dining room located close to the kitchen. I could hear one of the Akatsuki tribe members constantly praising how artistic the beans were. The other never seemed to talk, or at least he spoke so quietly I couldn't hear him.

"Can I have some seconds, yeah?" I heard the more talkative man ask.

I tugged at the rope for the millionth time and sighed. Did anybody have worse luck than I did?

"Sasori, I think it's time we should meet the chef, yeah!" he yelled.

A minute later, the door quickly opened and I scrambled from off of the floor. I studied my bare feet. Since Sasuke had left one of my cowboy boots at the saloon, I decided I might as well take the other one off.

"She's so pretty, yeah!" the louder man exclaimed. "Don't you think so, Sasori?"

I winced when I heard this. When guys called me pretty, that meant they wanted to touch me. Sure enough, he put his index finger under my chin, forcing me to look up at him. He had blonde hair bunched up in a ponytail. He wore a black robe, and his hair was adorned with feathers. Sasori, the other Akatsuki tribe member, had red hair and a similar outfit.

"Those eyes are a work of art, yeah!" the man smiled. "What's your name?"

Before I could open my mouth to answer, the Lone Lasso beat me, "Hinata Hyuuga. How much will you pay for her?"

"One grand," Sasori finally spoke up.

The Akatsuki tribe may have been natives, but they were loaded! One grand was way more than I'd make in a year.

Sasuke narrowed his eyes, "Fifteen grand."

My eyes widened. No wonder he went through that much trouble to keep me here. If I had fifteen grand, I would never have to work a day in my life again. I could get myself a decent pair of cowboy boots too.

"Six grand," Sasori said.

"Thirteen grand," Sasuke argued.

"We're going to be late for the next Akatsuki meeting, Deidara," Sasori said as he turned to the blonde man. "We'll be back to bargain some more."

Deidara and Sasori left the kitchen while the Lone Lasso remained. He studied me for a minute. I quivered in fear under his gaze. He took a step closer to me, and I held my breath. Sasuke snatched my wrist and expertly untied the knot in less than thirty seconds.

"Why… why are you selling me for so m-much?" I asked softly, a bitter tone in my voice, "I thought y-you wanted to g-get rid of me, not force them i-into giving me up."

"You're worth much more than those bastards are willing to pay for," Sasuke said in disgust.

A smile tugged at my lips. To be told that I was worth something felt nice, even if was about the price I was to be sold to a tribe that sacrificed its slaves. Deidara had eyed me creepily, but Sasori seemed okay. I wondered what the rest of the Akatsuki were like.

"I heard news from the Akatsuki that Konoha Town's looking for us," the Lone Lasso told me, snapping me out of my thoughts.

My tiny smile disappeared. My heart picked up pace as I realized what he just said. Maybe Neji had finally found my abandoned cowboy boot and realized I had been kidnapped last night. Maybe he told Naruto too.

"W-who?" I asked, hope swelling in my heart.

"They sent a whole search party," he smirked. "Choji Akimichi, Kiba Inuzuka, Shikamaru Nara, Neji Hyuuga, and Naruto Uzumaki."

My heart burst open as I imagined Naruto sweeping me off of my feet and saving me. He could be the knight in shining armor who rescues me from the fire-breathing dragon, or at least a perpetually-angry bandit. However, Naruto would just take me back to Konoha Town. In fact, they all would, including Neji. Then I had to devote the rest of my life to the wretched saloon. My dresses would be forever stained with beer and barf. Arthritis would develop in my overworked fingers on the rickety piano. These images didn't please me at all. I actually found myself not wanting to go back, or at least not yet.

"Are they c-close?" I asked. "Will they f-find us?"

"No, the Uchiha ranch is located in an isolated area in the Fire County. It's also known that this place has been deserted for ten years," Sasuke stated.

I found myself asking him why the Uchiha ranch had been abandoned, despite all of my internal warning signs going off. The Lone Lasso looked me in the eyes. His ebony and piercing gaze paralyzed me once again.

"It's drenched in blood," he said coldly.

I immediately shivered. After that, any signs of talkativeness vanished. He turned around, signaling me to follow him. We walked through the labyrinth of hallways until we entered a bedroom. He left me standing there as he walked away again.

Escaping was not an option. I understood that now. All I could do was climb into the bed and dream of attending Neji and TenTen's wedding. At least my bridesmaid dress was cute.

When I woke up, sunshine burst through the window of my new bedroom. That day was going to be better; I just knew it. I found my way to the dusty kitchen. The pot I used to cook with yesterday sat in the sink. The stench of old baked beans came off of it in waves.

"Ew," I scrunched up my nose.

As my hand reached to clean the pot, a blur lashed out at me. It sunk its sharp fangs into the inside of my left arm. Son of a horseshoe!

A frantically shook my arm and screamed, "Rattlesnake!"

The snake finally unlatched itself and slithered away. I clutched my left arm and tears formed in my eyes. As the venom slowly spread through my veins, searing pain accompanied it. My arm started to burn, as if on fire. The imaginary flames spread toward my elbow until my entire left arm became completely paralyzed. I knelt down on the floor and continued to cradle my arm.

The poison traveled to the rest of my body, leaving my veins on fire. The bite wound began gushing out blood, and the giant room started spinning around me. I squeezed my eyes shut and laid down, as if that could end the pain.

I pictured Naruto's smiling face. I hoped his fiancé would take care of him. At least she'd make him happier than I ever was. I then imagined Neji and TenTen. It was a shame I wound never make it to their wedding, but they were planning to elope anyway. Hanabi came into my thoughts next. We weren't the closest of sisters, but I still loved her. I then pictured my father Hiashi's unmoved expression; I imagined that he wouldn't even care that I had been kidnapped, let alone on the brink of death.

Finally, I thought of the Lone Lasso. He didn't turn out to be a real hero like Konoha Town thought he was. Instead, he was the most wanted bandit in the county. At least he released me from the saloon, even if he planned to sell me to the Akatsuki tribe. So I guess I should thank-

"Damnit," I heard Sasuke curse. "I said I needed to keep you alive!"

I opened my eyes and saw the glint of a knife. He brought it to the inside of my left arm and carved an X. The pain shot through my entire body as I screamed. Sasuke brought the wound to his lips and started sucking my blood—and the venom. He then spit it out and repeated the painful process. When he finished sucking out my poisoned blood, he tore a piece of his shirt and tied it around the wound. The Lone Lasso then gently laid my arm back down.

"Stay here," he told me.

Just as I promised him earlier, I obeyed him. I counted the amount of time he was away. Fifty-two seconds later, Sasuke arrived with a red bottle in his hands. He put it to my lips.

"Drink," he commanded. "It's antivenin."

I choked down the bitter liquid. After I finished the last drop, I eyed the Lone Lasso's bloodied used-to-be-white shirt and realized how much he had gone through to save me. He actually saved me, the most unwanted girl in the county. If he let me die, it wouldn't have mattered that much to him. It looked like the Akatsuki tribe wasn't willing to pay too much for me, or at least by Sasuke's standards.

What I found troubling was that Sasuke had already saved me multiple times. He kicked a guy who pulled my hair on the street; nobody else besides Neji had ever stuck up for me. He rescued me from working in the saloon for the rest of my life. Not to mention, he just saved me from a poisonous rattlesnake bite.

"Thank you," I smiled.

"It's about time," he smirked.

Rattle… Rattle… Son of a horseshoe!

"Sasuke, behind you!" I shrieked.

That rattlesnake's timing was definitely worse than mine.

Yeah, I researched as much as I could on rattlesnake bites.

Wikipedia isn't the most reliable source, so sorry if it doesn't seem realistic.

Please leave some suggestions on how to improve my writing! ^_^

Fun Cowboy Fact: Cowboy hats were invented in 1865 by John Stetson. Yeehaw!