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Authors: Marcia Lynn McClure

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BOOK: The Touch of Sage
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Sage opened her eyes, grimacing and gasping at the pain her regained consciousness shot throughout her body.
It felt as if searing flames were burning into her back and shoulder.
Intense throbbing sensations emanated from both sources of injury and caused an ache in her head to keep time with them.
She squeezed the tears from her eyes, blinking to clear her vision.
The sight
that
met her only caused her to wish oblivion would find her once more.
Reb sat cross-l
egged on the floor next to her—
a needle and thread in hand.
He ran his fingers over the roughl
y stitched wounds at his chest—
wounds from which blood still oozed.
Then stretching out his left leg, he tore open his pant leg, pouring whisk
e
y onto the wound at his thigh and grimacing as he then pinched one of the
lacerations together and began to stitch.


You…you need a doctor,

Sage breathed.
Reb glanced to her, frowning
,
and she fancied there was excess moisture in his eyes.
No doubt the fact he was sewing his own wounds caused an incredible insult to his already horrific injuries.


I

ll be fine,

he mumbled, returning his attention to stitching his leg.
“Bu
t we need to get ya home.
Dugger and the others oughta be ridin

in any minute
,
and they can take ya back.
Aunt Eugenia and the others will do better for ya than I have.

Sage felt a tear travel over the bridge of her nose as Reb dropped the needle he

d been using and reached out to put a hand on her arm.

Let

s get ya to my bed where you

ll be more comfortable.
This hard ol

floor won

t do nothin

to ease yer
—”


No,

Sage told him as she stared at the needle and thread dangling from his half-stitched wound.

Please…please don

t make me move yet.
Just…just let me lay here awhile until I feel a bit better.

He looked pale
,
and she knew she must recover enough to help him mend his injuries.

If…if you

ll just give me a minute…I can help you…I can help you to…


Shh,

he said, brushing a strand of hair from her cheek.

I

m just about finished.
It

ll be fine.
Maybe not the best stitchin

job in town…but I

ll be fine.

His frown deepened
,
and again Sage saw moisture gathering in his eyes.
“I
di
d the best I could on ya. It
ain

t a pretty job…but it

s the best I knew how.

Sage closed her eyes, several more tears escaping them.
How long had she been unconscious?
Long enough for Reb to tend to her before caring for himself.

He forced a smile at her that told her he wasn

t certain either one of them was out of danger yet.
Then he took hold of the needle and thread still dangling from one of the lacerations on his leg and with trembling hands began to stitch once more.


Reb!

Charlie hollered as he and three other men burst through the door and into the kitchen.

Ya all right, Reb?
We seen the cat out there and…

Charlie was struck silent, his eyes widening as he looked first from Reb to Sage and back again.

Miss Sage!

he exclaimed.


You boys get the wagon hitched back up,

Reb ordered, pointing at the other hands.

We gotta get Miss Willows back to town.


Yes, sir,

one of the men said, motioning to the others to follow him as he left.


Looks like we need to be gettin

both of ya back to town, Reb,

Charlie said, shaking his head.

I ain

t never seen such a mess a blood!


I

ll be fine,

Reb said.
“But Sage is hurt bad. W
e need to get her back so them old ladies can look her over…make sure I done things right.
She

s hurt worse than me.


Um…Reb…I don

t think ya

ve quite got a handle on yer condition here,

Charlie said, walking over to Reb and bending down to further inspect the wounds on his chest.

Sage winced as Reb suddenly reached up,
taking hold of the front of Charlie

s shirt and growling,

I said…get her back to town and I

ll be fine!


Reb!

Sage exclaimed as Reb began to sway back and forth.


I think…I think we best take Miss Sage back to town,

Charlie said, reaching out to steady his friend.

But I ain
’t too all-
fired certain you

d make the trip all right, Reb.


Fine.
Fine,

Reb mumbled.

Just…just get the girl…

Sage gasped, wracked with her own bodily pain and that of her fevered mind as Reb then completely collapsed in a bloody, unconscious heap on the floor
. Sage tried to raise herself—tried to move toward him—
to reassure herself he still lived.
But the pain of her injuries was too great
,
and she felt her head hit the floor hard as she too succumbed to the reprieve of darkness.


Eugenia Smarthing spent more than four days out at the ranch tending to Reb.
His wounds were far more severe than Sage

s.
When Eugenia had arrived at the ranch to find Reb unconscious, still bleeding and so terribly injured, the first thing she had to do was to attend to his awkward attempt to mend himself.
She cleaned his wounds, stitched him properly
,
and waited.
He had been taken with a terrible fever over the next several days but somehow survived and was healing slowly.
Or so Mary,
Rose,
and Livie assured Sage daily.


Eugenia says that boy is strong as an ox.
Even the pain of her wiping out his wounds with lye didn
’t keep him unconscious. H
e kept wakin

up and growling at her when she was workin

on him,

Mary told Sage for the umpteenth time as she herself lay still weak and uncomfortable in healing from her own injuries.

He done a right good job on you, though…thank the Lord,

Mary added,
helping Sage to sit up in bed and
fluffing the pillows at her back.

No sign of infection.
Ya

ve even got some pink back in yer cheeks this mornin

.

Mary smiled and brushed a strand of hair from Sage

s forehead.


Maybe I

ll come down to the kitchen for supper tonight,

Sage said.
She smiled gratefully at Mary.
The w
idows had been so wonderful—so
helpful and nurturing since the mountain lion attack—cooking for themselves and waiting on Sage hand and foot.
In truth, Sage enjoyed being cared for.
It was the first time in years and years she could remember someone caring for her, instead of
her
doing all the caring for.

Still, her anxieties over Reb were nearly overwhelming!
No matter how often
Rose
, Livie
,
and Mary reassured her of Reb

s increasing good health, it took every bit of strength left to her to keep from bursting into t
ears at the mere thought of him—
at the visions
that
leapt to her mind each time she closed her
eyes—
the visions of t
he mountain lion attacking him,
tearing him.

Charlie had been out to see Sage several times.
He further assured her of Reb

s getting better.
Likewise he told her he and the other hands had the ranch well in hand.
Still, Sage sensed
something distressing—
something she couldn

t quite put her finger on.
Charlie told Sage Reb blamed himself for the attack.
Reb knew he should
have
hunted the cat down long before, instead of letting it roam about, an easy threat to cattle and anything else made of meat.

A constant nagging, insecure, frightened feeling had settled deep within Sage

s being.
No matter how hard she tried to concentrate on the glorious, impassioned moments she
had
shared with Reb o
n the way to the ranch that day,
always it was darkened by some ominous, foreboding feeling.
A sort of sickening sensation
that
whispered to her that the course she

d been set on with Reb before the attack was irrevocably altered.


Rose has chicken and dumplin

s and all the fixin

s set up for supper tonight,

Mary said, taking one of Sage

s hands between her own and patting it lovingly.

Tonight would be a good night to trot down for supper.

Sage forced a smile and said,

I

ll come down, Miss Mary…but I doubt I

ll be trottin

.

Mary laughed and shook her head, amused.

Now that

s our Sage!

The old woman see
med to study Sage for a moment—her smile fading slightly,
her eyes narrowing.

Ya know I was attacked by a mountain lion once myself.


What?

Sage asked, astonished.
Mary nodded and looked upward as the memory seemed to wash over her.


I was twelve,

she began,

and Mama and I were out castratin

pigs.

Sage bit her lip, stifling the urge to giggle.
Mary

s face was suddenly so solemn, but as usual, her manner of starting a story was rather surprising.

It was awful hot that day,

Mary continued,

and I was mighty irritated at havin

to help with the castratin

.
Course, it had to be done. Them males is much easier to handle once they

ve been castrated.
They feed out better most times too,

Mary explained.
Sage nodded, still biting her lip, still trying not to giggle.

Anyhow,

Mary began again,

Mama and me was about our business
,
and all of a sudden…this big ol
’ cat just comes outta
nowhere!
I mean, they

re rare in
Oklahoma
as it is.
But
here it come…right at me!
Mama seen it comin

and hollered for
Pa,
but he was to
o far away…and before I knew it,
I was standin
’ face-to-
face with the biggest ol

cat I ever did see!

BOOK: The Touch of Sage
10.97Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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