Shane's Bride (Mail Order Brides of Texas #3) (14 page)

BOOK: Shane's Bride (Mail Order Brides of Texas #3)
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“No more food please.” Her voice was husky with sleep.  He watched as she struggled to keep her eyes open.  After setting the plate of food back on the table he sat on the bed next to her and stroked her hair.  She sure had beautiful silky hair.  The thought of losing her made his stomach quiver, and he was at a loss of what to do next.  She wouldn’t be going anywhere for at least a week maybe more.  After her back healed he just didn’t know and that saddened him.  It was true sometimes there was just nothing a person could do.

 

 

 

Chapter Seven

 

 

 

One week later

Cecily’s eyes suddenly opened wide, and her body tensed.  Where was she and how had she gotten there? She needed to escape and fast.  Frantically, she looked around the best she could in the dark and found her dress.  After she slipped it on, she located a shawl, disappointed to discover the room was windowless.  She had to get out of there, she just had to.  She snuck out the bedroom, tiptoed through the kitchen down the hall to the front of the house.  Slowly and as quietly as she could she opened the door, stepped through, and closed it behind her.

Then she ran as fast as she could.  She ran across the canyon floor and headed for the shortcut.  The woods there made a good hiding place.  She couldn’t allow them to get her, not again.  Her feet stung as she flew over the rocky earth.  She’d forgotten her shoes.  It didn’t matter now, though.  She couldn’t go back, she refused to go back to be tortured.  Her back was on fire, and her soul was battered beyond repair.  She kept going, increasing her pace.

She found the shortcut and went through the canyon wall until she came out on the other side.  The first thing she did was to locate the densest part of the forest.  That was where she ran to.  Her heart beat so fast, and she was gulping air, her lungs burning, but she refused to stop.  Long Nose would surely kill her this time.  Tears ran down her face.  This would be her last night on earth.  How would he do it? Would he simply drive the knife into her heart? She found a big tree and squatted beside it, hiding.

No, a knife would be too quick, and Long Nose liked to drag things out, especially pain.  He seemed to enjoy the sound of her screams.  Every time she ran away, they always caught her, somehow.  The punishments were so horrendous.  She put both hands over her mouth to silence her sobs.  The last time they’d caught her, he'd burned her back with flaming pieces of wood.  Never had anything been so agonizing.

Finally, she quieted herself.  She needed to think.  Boy, was she tired.  She found some downed branches and placed them over her.  There, she was hidden.  She listened to the night sounds of animals scurrying about.  At one point a raccoon stood in front of her and it seemed to be scolding her. 

The pain in her back was unbearable.  The smile Long Nose had given her sent chills of terror through her body.  She wrapped her arms around herself as some form of protection, not that it ever worked.  What had she done to deserve such torment and pain? She dug her nails into her palms until it hurt, wishing it was Long Nose she was hurting instead.  Her body shook as her mind whirled.  She couldn't get the atrocities laid upon her out of her memory.  What type of husband used a woman and then threw her on the ground offering her to others?

Her back burned and burned.  There was no way she was going to be able to stay in her hiding spot; it hurt her back too much.  Closing her eyes for a moment, she dozed.

It was just before dawn when she awoke, and her confusion was great.  Where was she? She must've had one of her awful dreams.  She'd never be like a normal woman, and it was time to give up trying.  She could only be herself, a woman with a battered soul and body.  Carefully, she sat up, not without a groan or two, and pushed the branches away from her.  She stood and turned in a big circle, trying to find some type of landmark she recognized.  Her shoulders slumped.  There was no such landmark.

The woods were too dense for her to find the canyon, and it was hard to tell which way the sun was coming.  Her best bet would be to get out of the forest, but how? Taking a deep breath she decided upon a direction and began to walk.  Rocks, broken branches, and pine needles all drove into her feet with every step she took.  She tried to move as silently as she could, afraid there were more Indians out there.  How she had run so far last night, she’d never know.

Rustling in the underbrush made her pause.  She knew it was either a bear or a man.  Her heart stopped as she strained to listen, but she'd been so turned around she wasn't sure where the sound was coming from.  She pressed her back against the big tree and began to tremble.  She glanced around her looking for a tree she could climb in case it was a bear.

She found the perfect tree and decided man or bear she was going to climb it and get out of sight.  It didn’t take long to shimmy up the tree and find a branch to perch on.  The leaves covered her presence, and now all she could do was wait.

It wasn’t much longer before Shane wandered into view, head down, studying the ground as he walked.  Cecily sighed in relief.  She’d been certain her fate was to be a meal for a bear.  To her surprise, Lucy was right behind him tramping through the woods.  If not for her, Cecily probably would never have heard Shane until he was right behind her.  She was about to let herself down when Lucy began to nag at him.

“You’re going too fast.  I’m getting tired,” Lucy whined.

“I told you not to come.  Cecily is none of your business,” Shane said impatiently.

“Well, I couldn’t very well stay at the house and have Elliott stare at me, now could I?”

“You must have known the risk of trying to be someone you’re not.  These are still trying times, and even though you’re no longer a slave, people still have their prejudices.  I told you before I’ll keep your secret, but I’m not going to boot Elliott out of the house.”

“I just wanted a better life.  I wanted you.  I thought you and I had something special, so wonderful that you’d be happy to see me.  It never occurred to me you didn’t feel that way.”

“I lied to you.  My father had a very good reason for us to stay apart.  He thought we were becoming too close, and he had made arrangements to sell you.  I left instead."

"A good reason? I don't understand what you’re saying."

"You're my sister."

Lucy gasped.  "What are you talking about? Are you telling me your father and my mother…? No… I—I don't feel so good.  Let's keep walking and get this over with." Lucy's heartbreak was evident in her voice.

Cecily watched as they walked away, surprised by the new development.  Lucy looked white and from the way she’d seen people treat the ex-slaves, she didn't blame her one bit.  Poor Lucy.  She'd loved someone
her whole life only to find out it was a forbidden love.  Life wasn’t fair.  Cecily climbed down the tree and began to walk in the direction Shane and Lucy had taken.

 

 

****

 

 

Shane rubbed the back of his neck as he glanced at Lucy.  The devastation on her face was a kick to his gut.  They’d been childhood friends, but he’d known all along they’d never have a future.  “I know it’s a shock, Lucy.  I was overwhelmed and surprised when I found out.  I suppose that’s why he always kept you in the house, so he could watch you grow.”

Lucy shrugged her shoulders but refused to look at him.  “Well there’s nothing I can do.  I can’t believe I spent so much time in love with a man who is really my brother.  I thought you left because your daddy wouldn’t let you have me.  I’m not sure what to do now.”

Her voice was so flat Shane grew concerned.  Then he heard a noise.  He suddenly grabbed Lucy one arm around her waist and his other hand over her mouth and pulled her off the trail.  “Someone’s following us, you need to be silent,” he whispered.  He waited until she nodded in understanding before he took his hand away from her mouth.

Whoever it was, wasn’t trying to be quiet, and the more he listened, the more he became convinced it was Cecily trailing behind them.  He wanted to run in her direction and scoop her up, hugging her to his body.  He wanted to kiss her until she promised never to leave again, but he couldn’t do that with Lucy watching.

“I’m pretty sure it’s Cecily,” he whispered.  “You stay here, I’ll be right back.”

Lucy nodded, but her widened eyes shared her fear.  He felt bad for having to leave her.  “It’ll only be a minute.”

Shane walked back the way they had come and sure enough, Cecily was shuffling toward him.  Relief swept his body as he watched her.  She came to him and stood right in front of him toe to toe standing silently as she caught his gaze and held it.

After a while, she spoke.  “Thank you.  Thank you for coming out here to find me.” He studied her scratched face and hands.  Her hair was full of twigs and leaves while her dress had tiny rips here and there.  The circles under her eyes were very dark and she looked like she’d been through hell.

“Sweetheart, are you all right? It looks like you wrestled with a grizzly.” He took her hands in his and leaned down, giving her a kiss on the cheek.

“I had another dream, a nightmare.  It all seemed so real.  I was so frightened that I kept running and ended up lost.”

“I figured as much.  Lucy’s not far, we need to go get her.” He released one of Cecily’s hands but held onto the other as he took a step forward.  He heard her gasp as she walked and looked down at her bare feet.  “You didn’t think to bring your shoes?”

“I guess I was in a hurry.” She looked at the ground refusing to catch his gaze.  Shane quickly gathered her up in his arms and carried her down the trail to where Lucy waited.  Lucy looked none too happy when they finally met up with her.  She had her arms crossed while she tapped her foot with the most sour look on her face.

“Oh good, you found her.  Now we can go home.  I think we’ll need to lock you in the room.  We can’t have you traipsing all over God knows where, leaving Shane to go find you.  He needs his rest too, you know, and I think it’s highly inconsiderate for you to play this juvenile hide-and-seek game with him.  Come on, let’s get going.” Lucy marched down the trail, her steps so haughty, Shane wanted to laugh.

“Lucy, you’re going the wrong way.”

She turned and gave them an exaggerated sigh while she shook her head.  “Of course I am,” she said with sarcasm dripping from each word.  She put her hands on her hips and marched on by them while giving them the look of the devil.

Shane thought it best not to say a word.  Lucy was too riled up as it was, and he didn’t want her using her razor-sharp tongue on Cecily.  He walked, cradling Cecily against his body, and he was filled with a sense of rightness, a sense of belonging, and a sense of peace he hadn’t felt in a very long time.  He was going to end up with a broken heart; he knew it, and there was nothing he could do about it.  Cecily wouldn’t want another man to touch her.  She’d suffered too much already, and he didn’t blame her for being afraid.  He turned his head and looked at her face and his heart beat wildly when she met his gaze and smiled.

They were making pretty good time and were just about to the canyon and the hidden trail, when Lucy abruptly stopped.  She stood blocking the entrance, giving them both a scathing look.  “You could probably put her down now.  I don’t know why you’re carrying her, and it certainly does not look right.  I really think it’s for the best if Cecily moved to a different town and started over.”

Shane gritted his teeth and counted to ten before he answered her.  “I happen to think it’s best if Cecily stays.  I can give her all the protection she needs.”

Lucy shook her head.  “You stupid fool.  Don’t you realize the whole town is talking about you behind your back? Everyone has an opinion as to why she is staying in your house and some of the opinions are downright nasty.  Don’t you see she’s dragging you down, and you don’t need that? You need someone in your life who is above approach, someone who is clean and pure.  Cecily is neither of those things.  In fact, she is quite the opposite.  She has lain with dirty Indians and allowed them unspeakable liberties.  Why, in the eyes of the good people of Asherville, she is no better than a dog.”

Shane felt his shirt grow wet as Cecily silently cried.  “Lucy, why don’t you go on ahead to the house and pack your things.  Edith Mathers has a room above the mercantile she might be able to rent to you while you wait for the stage to come through.  You never once gave Cecily a chance and if you had, you’d know that she is a fine, loving, giving woman.  And I don’t believe the whole town is saying those things, a few maybe but not most.  Goodbye, Lucy.”

Lucy’s jaw dropped and her eyes widened.  She looked as though she’d never seen him before.  She shook her head before she spoke.  “You’ll be sorry, Shane, I know you will be.  You may talk a good game but you know what I said is true.  You may think you have feelings for her, but she has you bamboozled.  I think that’s why she keeps running into the woods.  She’s looking for the band of Indians her husband lived with.  If she was so perfect, she’d be content to stay in your house.  Mark my words, she will leave at the first sign of those heathens.”

He didn’t flinch.  In fact, he didn’t care what she had to say.  All he wanted was Lucy out of his sight and out of his life.  He never had figured out what her game was or how she had come by such fancy clothes, but it really didn’t matter.

Lucy narrowed her eyes as she stared at Cecily.  Suddenly, she turned and with her back straight she walked through the canyon wall.

Shane carried Cecily to a nearby creek and set her down on the bank.  She put her feet into the water and smiled.  “Thank you.”

He dropped down next to her and all was silent except for the bubbling of the creek.  There was so much he wished he could say but he’d end up playing the fool.  “How is your back? I kept thinking about how much pain you were in and the smell of blood…”

BOOK: Shane's Bride (Mail Order Brides of Texas #3)
13.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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