"His cabin I think," he commented.
"You think?" Buck asked. Vin nodded.
Chris never even made it to his cabin. He sighed as he looked around. His desperate thoughts that day had forced him to ride. His destination was intended for the cabin, but that's not where he ended up. In fact, he wasn't quite sure where he was. He stopped his horse and looked around wondering where in the world he was. He stood a bit in the stirrups and looked around. He didn't even recognize the rocky terrain he was in. A frowned creased his brow. He slowly started to walk his horse again, his gaze intent on trying to figure out where in the world he was.
Before he could get much further, his horse's foot slipped on the rocks. Chris tried to regain the horses balance, but in doing so, he lost his own, and he fell from the horse. A grunt came from his lips as he hit the ground, a resounding crack coming from his ribs. He reached out to grab at something to keep from rolling, but he came into contact with something he never thought he'd see this far from town in this kind of terrain. Barbed wire. As the weight of his body fell against his arm, and his hand closed around the wire, the palm of his hand shredded with the barbing. He cried out as it did so, and his body gained momentum as he rolled down the hill he had been on.
His clothes became torn, even his duster not protecting him from the jagged rocks. The rocks cut into his skin, creating lacerations along his chest, arms and thighs. His leg smacked against a rather large boulder as he rolled by, his knee dislocating. He howled in pain. He tired once again to catch himself, but all his weight landed on the one arm, and his wrist was tucked and bent beneath him, not breaking it though, merely spraining it. A rock flew up and cut him along the cheekbone, and blackening the eye. The area around his right eye began to swell immediately. Another rock caught him in the mouth cutting his lip. All the injuries he was sustaining register one by one in his mind. Till he reached the bottom and he collided with another large boulder. He heard a loud crack as his shoulder connected first with the boulder, dislocating it, then his head struck it, and darkness descended on him.
Kathleen Cody slowly made her way down the path towards her home from her private place in the foothills. She was busily reading a letter from her friend, Jillian Harris. She was looking forward to her friend visiting her in a few months. She was so engrossed with the letter she never saw the man on the ground till she toppled over him.
"What in the world!" she said out loud. She gasped slightly at the bloodied mass before her. She got to her feet and walked slowly over to the man. Despite the blood and dirt on his face, he was handsome. Kathleen shook her head and ran the rest of the way to her house to get her buckboard in order to get the man to her house, so she could tend to his wounds. The whole way she prayed that he was still alive.
It had taken Kathleen most of the day to hoist the dead weight of Chris' body into the back of the wagon and get him to the house, and into it. She panted a bit as she wiped her brow once he finally had him in the bed. She looked down at the black clad figure and reached down removing his boots. Till she saw how badly swollen his knee was. She decided to assess his injuries first. She ran her hands over the lean muscled legs to his knee on his left hand sighed and winced when she found the knee dislocated. She took a deep breath and placed her hand over the joint and took a hold of his calf and jerked sharply. The crack she heard let her know she had successfully relocated the joint.
Ever so slowly Kathleen removed his shoes finally and undid the buckle of his gunbelt. She practically peeled the garment down his body, grimacing at the cuts and bruises she saw. Her eyes widened when she found that the man wore nothing beneath the black denim. With great effort she tried not to stare at his rather well endowed body as she removed his pants. Ever so gently, and with some effort, she pulled him into a sitting position and removed his duster, and his shredded shirt. She managed to get the clothes away from him and threw them on the pile of clothes she had to wash anyway. She looked back at the man and grimaced again. Cuts and bruises were all over his body. His shoulder was at an awkward angle and she knew that would need a jerk to relocate it. His wrist was swollen, suggesting a sprain, and his hand was shredded. Must have gotten into the barbed wire from the ole' Smith place, she thought to herself. She filled a bowl full of water and got a clean rag. She set the bowl down beside the bed and lifted his arm and jerked it easily. She nodded when she heard it snap back into place. She further assessed Chris' injuries.
Kathleen began to wash his skin and the cuts with the rag. The blood and dirt sticking to his body released their hold on the man. Kathleen looked down his body admiring the muscles beneath the battered skin. Her gaze fell on his side, and she frowned. The skin was almost purple with bruises, and his breathing was just a bit labored. Must have cracked them, she thought to herself. Her green gaze traveled over his body more as she finished bathing him. She anointed many of the wounds with a poultice she had learned to make. Ever so slowly she covered his wounds with some bandages if the cuts were bad enough. She splinted his knee and propped it up with a pillow. She wrapped his wrist gently with a white cloth, to immobilize it some. She propped his entire left arm with pillows, to help where his shoulder had been dislocated, and his wrist was sprained. She put a soft blanket over him, folding it so it covered his body from the waist down, and she access to his ribs. She examined his temple noting the swelling goose egg, taking that as a good sign. It was bleeding slightly, but she stemmed the flow and put a bandage over it. She cleaned his face, taking care to make sure the cut on his cheekbone and his split lip were thoroughly cleaned. She brushed his sweaty blonde hair off his brow. She wrung out the rag of cool water and gently laid it against his injured ribs A hiss came from his lips and Kathleen's head snapped to his face.
"Who are you?" Chris grit through pain clenched teeth.
"My name is Kathleen Cody, you are?" she asked pushing his one hand away when he tried to push her comforting one away.
"Chris Larabee," he ground out, his energy draining fast. "What happened?"
"I was hoping you could tell me," she said. Kathleen touched Chris' brow and frowned. He was already starting to get a fever. Chris' eyes slowly fell as he slept. Kathleen wasn't getting any answers tonight. Tonight? She wondered. Sure enough when she looked outside, nightfall had descended.
As the days passed, Chris' fever got worse, and the more worried Kathleen became. She had managed to keep him fairly nourished, dribbling cooled broth and water onto his lips when he was asleep. He would lick at his lips without conscious, therefore taking in the nourishment he needed. But he had never really woke up again since that first night. It was somewhat scary for Kathleen. She was growing attached to him. His cuts and bruises were healing nicely. Most of the bruises, save for his ribs and around his sprained wrist had healed pretty much, a bit of yellow tingeing to indicate they had even been there. His knee and shoulder were healing nicely. She didn't think that they would cause permanent damage. He had been thrashing like most with a terrible fever do. She had woke him when she could with his head injury, but he hadn't stayed awake long or even coherent enough to be considered awake.
Kathleen pulled back her long dark hair from her face and tied it with a ribbon. She wanted to clean around the house. She took on this venture so she wouldn't have to linger from Chris' side too long. She began to clean around the house, busy in her task, not noticing when Chris finally woke up. She turned to find his green gaze intent on her. She jumped startled, a hand flying to her throat.
"You startled me."
"Didn't meant to." Kathleen walked over to him.
"Kathleen right?" he whispered, his head throbbing. Kathleen nodded.
"Don't thank me yet, You still have a slight ever and your shoulder and knee are still pretty bad. What happened?" she asked.
"My horse lost its balance in the foothills on the rocks. When I got my horse steady I lost my balance and fell off. Must have been right by the edge," he said. Kathleen nodded.
"I found you at the bottom of the incline," she said. Chris nodded then grimaced, his vision spinning.
"You probably have a slight concussion, you took a good blow to the head. From what I can tell, you hit your head at the bottom on a boulder," she said. Chris suddenly noticed his state of undress.
"Where are my clothes?" he asked. Kathleen sighed.
"Your pants were barely repairable, but I managed. They are on a chair in my room. Your shirt was beyond repair, so we are going to have to find something else. Your duster, gunbelt and hat are in the guest closet," she said. Chris looked at her.
"Won't your husband complain bout you taking in strangers?" he asked softly. Kathleen stood silently and got some broth for him. Chris grew impatient with her silence, till she sat down.
"My husband was killed a few years ago," she whispered as she offered him a spoonful of soup. Chris took the spoonful slowly.
"Jackson was a good man, but he was also sick."
"I didn't mean to bring him up."
"Don't be sorry, he's been gone some time." Kathleen ended that conversation as she fed him. Chris turned his head painfully when he couldn't eat anymore. Kathleen put the bowl in the sink she had and walked back over.
"Get some rest," she ordered. Chris wasn't about to complain as he fell asleep instantly.
"Kathleen?" Chris called a few days later as he tried to stand. Over the course of the days his movement was getting better and his fever had passed. He was gaining strength and his bruises were all but faded.
"Chris you can't be up on that knee!" Kathleen said as she came out of her room, wearing nothing but a nightgown. A rather see through nightgown. Chris stumbled a bit, and Kathleen was there to catch him. He could feel the very feminine curve of her breast against him. He had thought the attraction he had felt towards her had been merely because she was nursing him back to health. Maybe it was more. He looked at her as she settled him back on the bed.
"Your knee is not ready for that kind of movement yet," she scolded. Kathleen fluffed Chris' pillows and tried to urge him back down. She had dug through her husband's things and found a pair of pajama bottoms, and now she was glad she had. She wasn't sure how she would be able to handle the man if he had attempted that move without a stitch of clothes on. Kathleen took a steadying step back.
"Be on my knee, I know but I am getting restless," he said.
"Your restlessness is gonna do more harm then good," she admonished plunking her hands on her slim hips. Chris opened his mouth to protest when he saw her stubborn chin jut out in defiance.
"Okay, okay," Chris relented with a smile. His smile caught Kathleen off guard. She recovered easily and helped him lie down, then propped his leg up again.
"Now rest," she said. Chris tipped a hat that wasn't there before he drifted back to sleep.
The days passed as Chris regained his strength, and he got to know Kathleen. He learned she was adopted by her aunt and uncle when her mother died, and had grown up in a loving home. He had learned her best friend, Jillian, was coming to visit and possible move to the area. She sounded a lot like the kind of women Ezra needed by the way Kathleen described her. He had even opened up to her, telling her things about his childhood. He even told her about Sarah and Adam and the fire that had taken them from him, and who had been responsible. Kathleen's eyes had flashed when he had told her, and he wondered what it would be like to see those eyes flashing with passion. Soon the conversation led to when Chris would be leaving. He was walking, and not doing a bad job either. His shoulder was pretty much healed, with just residual tenderness. His wrist was still a bit sore as well, but not bad. His ribs were pretty much healed.
"So when are you leaving?" she asked him.
"Want me gone that quick huh?" he teased her.
"I didn't say that," she mumbled as she chopped carrots for the stew she was making. Chris watched her.
"Tomorrow." Kathleen nodded. Ever so carefully Chris rose. He walked over and looked over Kathleen's shoulder, trying to look at her face, but she kept turning away.
"Kathleen," he tried. She ignored him. Finally Chris took a hold of her shoulders and turned her around. A tear has made its way down her cheek. Gently Chris brushed it away.
"I shouldn't be crying," she whispered. Chris tilted her chin up so he could look at her.
"I'd be hurt if you weren't," he whispered back. Kathleen searched his face with her eyes. Slowly Chris lowered his head to hers and gently brushed his lips over hers. Kathleen leaned into his embrace and slowly opened her mouth beneath his. They kissed one another deeply before Chris gently broke the kiss.
"Stay with me tonight," Kathleen whispered.
"Wouldn't want to be anywhere else," he said back. Kathleen stepped away from the counter, the stew for dinner forgotten as she took his hand. They made it to her room and slowly undressed one another, still careful of Chris' injuries that still bothered him, and in the light of the moon that came through Kathleen's bedroom window, they made love.
Chris gently stroked Kathleen's cheek as she stood in front of him, her eyes downcast. Chris gently kissed her head and mounted the horse, grimacing slightly from his still injured knee.
"Please be careful."
"I will." Chris looked down at her and urged his horse towards the direction she had told him to get back to town. Kathleen watched him as he left. She promised herself she would get into town to see him, and find a way for him to return to her on occasion. She couldn't deny her heart that.
"Where have you been?!" Buck and Vin both demanded when Chris finally rode into town. Nathan noticed the stiff way Chris moved.
"What happened?" he asked.
"Got hurt something awful, I'm okay, just a little stiff still," Chris said with a sigh as he got down from the horse.
"When Pony came back without you a week ago, we started to go after you, but trial here in town kept us from finding out what happened," Vin said. Chris looked at him.
"I was safe, didn't mean to worry ya," he said.
"So who looked after you?" Buck asked.
"Someone like an angel," Chris replied.
"This angel did pretty good far as I can tell," Nathan said with a nod.
"Still gonna rest though. Don't want my angel's work goin' to waste," he grinned. The men watched shocked as Chris went to the room he still kept at the boarding house.
"Well what do you make of that?" Buck asked.
"Whoever this angel is, remind me to thank him or her for lightenin' his mood," Nathan said.
"Had to be a woman then," Buck said.
"Why you say that?" Vin asked.
"No angel but the female variety could get that kind of response from Chris," Buck grinned. Nathan and Vin didn't comment, but they knew that was true. No man in this world could get Chris Larabee to comply to anything. So it had to be a woman just short of being an angel on earth who had cared for Chris' tortured body, and soul.