No Mountain That High

Chapter Seventeen

Nick stood on the verandah looking up at the night sky. It so felt good to be free of his back brace. It, along with the wheelchair and crutches were now being stored in the attic among numerous other items….the doctor had taken away the crutches and given him two canes instead. His legs still sported braces.

Nick sighed as he remembered the visit they'd had from one of the local farmers earlier that evening. The man, one Frank Tolman, had tried unsuccessfully to convince them that his son had left town a broken hearted man due to Kathleen's refusal to see him as a serious beau and was only using Nick. His exact words had been "She told him he couldn't do right by her, said she'd found someone who could give her all she ever wanted." Since Heath had seen the man talking to Sarah just hours before he arrived at the home, Nick's blond haired brother had thrown the man off by asking what else Sarah had said. Mr. Tolman stuttered and stammered only to find himself dodging Nick's canes and being escorted out the door by Jarrod.

"Hey, Cowboy, kind of late to be up isn't it?" Kathleen, who had awoke and heard someone moving around downstairs, asked as she walked up behind him. She knew it would be considered bold, what with her technically still being an employee of the Barkleys; still, she slid her arms around Nick's waist and laid her head against his back. She'd gone to calling him Cowboy months ago and saw no reason to stop.

Nick closed his eyes, a battle raging inside of him. "...do right by her." Ever since Mr. Tolman had showed up ranting and raving, Nick had found the old doubts he'd had returning. Sure his back brace was off and he was still doing his exercises, but the canes were still a part of his life and he'd seriously started to doubt his legs would ever work properly again. Could he really do right by her no matter what? Kathleen, sensing something was wrong, let go and walked around in front of him. "Nick?" She reached up and took a hold of his face. "What's the matter?"

Nick felt pain shoot through his very being as he turned away from the woman who held his heart in her hands and headed for the door. "A broken down cowboy can't do right by you; you need to find someone who can. I can write your grandfather; I'll explain everything."

Kathleen flew faster than she ever thought possible, shutting the door and blocking his path, her eyes were blazing. "You'll do no such thing! I told you before, you'll do just fine!" While he didn't know it, she'd been at the top of the stairs and listening to Mr. Tolman and his lies. That being the case, she wasn't surprised to hear Nick voicing such nonsense. Though, she wasn't about to stand by and do nothing. She just had to get it through his thick skull that she loved him more than life itself. She had to make him see what might, or might not, be permanently damaged legs didn't matter to her. She just had to open his eyes. She couldn't lose him, not after all she was willing to give up.

"But you deserve…" Nick never finished his sentence as Kathleen had slid her arms around his waist once, maneuvered him around and pushed him carefully against the wall, again not caring if she was being "too forward".

"Don't argue with me, Cowboy." Kathleen ran her hands up his chest, wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her lips against his. With the wall behind him and Kathleen in front, Nick let go of his canes, wrapped his arms around her and returned her kisses as if his very being depended on it, maybe it did.

"Kath…leen," Nick, struggling to remain in control of himself, pried his lips off hers and whispered, "My legs…"

Kathleen's mouth turned up in smile as she again ran her hands up and down his back and cut his words off as she whispered, "What about them?" It was a good thing everyone else was sound asleep because while they had not meant to let it happen, Nick and Kathleen found themselves sliding down to the floor, promising to stick by each other come what may before falling into a fire that could only be quenched once they'd become one.

Epilogue

Heath and Jarrod were again standing by the fence, only this time they were joined by Audra, their mother and Kathleen whose hand had been sporting a wedding ring ever since the morning that the family had awoken to find that she and Nick had taken off and been joined in marriage by Reverend Stacy. To appease the family the two had had a more formal wedding a month later. The fact that a new member would be added to the family by the end of the year was apparent as Kathleen was starting to show what everyone in town assumed was a wedding night baby. While the Barkleys suspected different, they weren't about to voice their suspicions. Why should they? Even if they were correct, the two had fixed the situation just fine.

"Hold on Nick!" Jarrod yelled as Nick, free of any sort of braces or canes, was back to breaking horses. A part of Jarrod had wanted to insist someone else break the horse in, but he knew Nick not only wanted to do it…he needed to do it. In some small way, Jarrod needed it too. For the truth was that, while he'd worked through any guilty feelings that had wanted to hang around, the desire to see his brother whole again had never left him.

"Way to go Nick, stay with him!" Heath and Audra both shouted at the same time. Both had been ecstatic when they'd learned that Nick had put his foot down and demanded to be the one allowed to break the horse in. To them, it showed them that Nick had indeed made a complete recovery.

Victoria watched as Nick won the battle, dismounted the horse and walked over to, and climbed over, the fence. "Ain't no mountain that high, Mrs. Barkley." Barrett's words which he'd repeated to more than Heath rang in her ears as she watched Nick embrace his wife, kiss her forehead and run his hand over her swollen abdomen. Victoria had to agree with Barrett, though she would have added "especially when he has a good woman behind him pushing."