By Carol Sandford


Chapter 08


Petunia swung her head and gave her rider a long baleful look. She was the best horse in Will’s stables, but didn’t like going out after dark and hated the rain, a matter that she stubbornly made known as she deliberately went as slow as she dared in the hope that her master would turn back and ditch her for another more willing mount.

Will threw the horse a sympathetic whisper, but steadfastly continued to make his way through the woods towards his goal; the Black Horse home. His throat was hoarse from constantly calling Deanna’s name. It had been two hours since he’d estimated that Deanna had left his home. Two hours in a dark, wet, wildlife infested forest that had no roads apart from a long since used logging track, and it was this track he now plodded towards the place where he’d had no doubts, Deanna would be at.

Gary Black Horse was an excellent tracker even though he was barely 17. He’d lived in these woods since he’d been born and knew the area better than anyone he knew. Mostly because the young tearaway had spent most of his childhood running away and giving the local law enforcement a few lessons in survival as they had trekked out after him, time and time again, only to ever find the boy usually holed up in some cave somewhere, with a roaring campfire going and something cooking on a spit roast, making them all look incredibly stupid.

But things were different now. Gary had turned out to be a Godsend to his grandmother. A credit to his tribe, and a good friend to William Riker.

The horse protested again jerking Will back to the present. The track was narrowing, telling Will he needed to turn off. The turn also lightened Will’s heart somewhat as he knew that within five more minutes he’d be at the Black Horses home. But as his heart began pounding at that prospect, his mind was festering with what he was going to say to Deanna when he saw her.

He was angry. No, he was livid, and scared out of his mind. At present there were four people out scouring the local vicinity looking for her. Four lives that were potentially at risk for Lord knows what. Hell for all he knew, she could be lying injured, or dead, or even worse, in the jaws of that hungry grizzly that he’d made his acquaintance with a while back.

Crazy with worry, he dug his heels into the horse’s flank urging her on quicker. Petunia snickered her displeasure but picked up her pace none-the-less.

The sitting area was small and cozy. Gary had wandered off to his bedroom and Deanna could hear the feint hum of music coming from, she assumed to be a radio. Juanita sat in an old rocking chair, her fingers rapidly moving the needles within them as she worked on a piece of cloth, the colours vibrant and familiar. Most of the hand made articles strewn around the house contained the same colours.

Juanita’s voice broke the comfortable lull a moment later, " I figure Will will be here shortly, it's only twenty minutes or so on horseback from his place."

Deanna swallowed painfully, a movement not missed by the elderly woman. "Don’t worry, my dear. Will loves you and will forgive you. Just promise him you’ll never do it again."

Deanna studied the older woman intently for a moment, wondering just how much she’d known about her and what had happened between herself and Will.

She had her answer when Juanita spoke again, studying the fabric in her hands looking for a non existent mistake, "He loves you, very much."

Deanna found out for herself just how much, when ten minutes later, he stood shadowed in the doorway, almost filling every inch of it which his massive size and bulk. His body, hidden in a huge rain mac only added to mystery of what his eyes hid beneath a large Stetson, still dripping from the previous rain and what had fallen from the trees above him on his way to her.

But even so, Deanna didn’t need to see his eyes to tell her just how angry and worried he was. It seeped from him like a festering volcano, and rightly so. It didn’t take much to figure out just how much damage she had caused by pulling her little stunt. A stunt that had risked peoples lives, including her own. Nervously Deanna pushed herself to her feet and prepared to take whatever he was about to hurl at her.

He suddenly stepped into the room and she stepped back. It made him stop when he realised just how afraid of him she truly was. It made his anger drop away enough for the pain of his relief to rise and engulf him. One more step and he was fiercely dragging her into his arms and holding her as though he was never going to let go of her ever again.

Over and over he murmured against her hair, "Thank God you’re okay, Thank God. I don’t what I would have done if I’d lost you again."

Silently, Juanita slipped from the room leaving them alone. Will was beside himself with grief and Deanna needed this moment to see; to understand. Maybe her inopportune moment of madness had served them well; made them see the truth. There was nothing like a test of fear to bring home what is to be, and this couple were meant to be, that much was obvious.

A minute later, a minute that seemed far to short for the precious time that the couple needed to apologise to each other, Gary Black Horse bounded back into the room with his usual youthful grace, breaking the touching moment before it had barely begun. "Hey there, Will, I found her for you, man," He chuckled gleefully, "she thought I was a bear!"

Will released the woman in his arms just long enough to grasp Gary’s hand in a shake that shook the boy almost off his feet, his gratitude flowing from his words, "I can never repay you for what you’ve done for me Gary, ever. Thank you, I’ll never forget it, man."

The boy turned crimson, "Hey, no sweat, just glad she’s okay, man"

Juanita entered the room as quietly as she’d left, but Will treated her with the same heart felt gratitude he’d shown Gary by sweeping her into his arms for a bear hug, causing the old woman to chuckle, "Thanks for looking after my girl, Juanita, I owe you both big time."

Juanita slapped him of playfully, "Tsk, t’was nothing, I’d have done it for anyone who’d needed a bowl of my vegetable soup."

Will didn’t say anymore. Juanita knew how grateful he was to her, and to her grandson, and he knew that she’d be happier knowing that things would take a different turn for them both once they’d left her home, which Will proceeded to do a few minutes later, but not before addressing Gary, "Hey Gary, I’ve put Petunia in your barn, she’s good and mad at me. Okay if I borrow your truck until morning?"

Will noticed Deanna’s bemused face beside him, "What?"

She didn’t even bother to hide the giggle, "Petunia?!"

Will rolled his eyes, the blush rising on his already ruddy cheeks, "She came with the darned name and flatly refuses to let me call her any other. And besides," he groused, "it kinda suits her."

Deanna knew not to say anymore, so instead she turned to her hosts and gave them both a huge hug. She too had a lot to thank the couple for. If it hadn’t have been for Gary and Juanita, she didn’t care to think of what her fate would have been. She shuddered at the images that swept through her mind.

With a chorus of farewells, Will and Deanna were pulling away from the Black Horse home and heading for theirs. Back to reality. Back to whatever they left behind.

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