Man, time flies when you’re having fun. I turned my head to see the clock, 8:30 a.m. I had been awake for a few hours but refused to move because the love of my life was laying between my legs with her head on my chest.

She’s the most beautiful creature I’ve ever seen, bar none. We’d spent the last two nights staying up late, watching TV, and making love. I felt like a love-sick teenager again, with raging hormones out of control.

“Good morning,” I kissed the top of her head as she moved in my arms.

She wiggled her hips. I moaned, “You got something for me this morning, cowboy?”

I rolled us over, my weight pinning her down like a roped calf, “I have your pre-breakfast warm up. If you’re game?”

We showered and got dressed for the day. “Lover, will you order us some breakfast. I need to check in on a few business matters before we leave for the day.”

“Sure, you want eggs and bacon?” She asked as she moved to the phone on the bar.

“Yep, that should do it. Three eggs and about a pound of bacon,” I replied as I stepped into the small office and sat in front of my computer.

I knew what I wanted to get my girl for Christmas. It came to me while we were watching Dracula Untold. I just hoped I could find one. I have a friend who lives in Flagstaff, Arizona who runs a one of a kind bookstore and tea shop.

I dialed his number, “Old Books and Tea Room. How may I help you?”

“Hi, this is Mac Ross. Is Jason in this morning?” I asked.

“Yeah, hold on,” I could hear her try to muffle the phone, “Jason, there’s a Mac Ross on the phone for you.”

“Tell him I’ll be right there,” he replied.

“Sir, Jason said he’ll be right with you.”

“Thank you, very much,” I replied.

“Mac, you old cowboy! How are you doing?” Jason’s voice came through the phone.

“I’m doing great, but why is everyone calling me old?” I laughed, “How are you, old friend?”

“Ah, touché. I’m swamped, and business is great. The little old people around here really like my tea.” Jason is a herbalist by trade but started dealing in old and rare books as well. “What can I do for you, Mac?”

“I’m looking for a book for my fiancée,” I replied.

“No way! I thought you were a confirmed bachelor for life. What are you looking for?”

“The oldest edition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula that you can find in excellent condition.”

“So, the new girl is into the supernatural and paranormal?” He asked.

I laughed, “So it would seem. Al took me to see that new movie, Dracula Untold, a few days ago. I liked it, and she was over the moon. So, I thought why not find her the original for Christmas,” I stopped for a minute, “It goes without saying that cost is not a problem and I’ll pay your finders fees.”

“I know money isn’t an issue and yes, you’ll pay my fee. I have a Fifth edition in the shop but let me make some calls and see what I can find for you, friend.”

“Okay, sounds good. I have rodeo tonight, and I’m taking Al to the Wild West Show this afternoon. So, if I don’t answer, leave a message, and I will get back to you. But, if you find one, grab it for me please.”

“Okay, will do. Talk to you soon.”

I pulled up my financial accounts and made a little adjustment and closed the computer.

Al walked in just as I was standing, “Breakfast is here. Come and eat before it gets cold,” she smiled at me.

I pulled her to me and kissed her, “I’ll never get enough of you, Lover.”

She giggled, “What happened to all that super-duper control you have?”

“You,” I nuzzled her neck, “You happened, and now all I can think about is you.”

“I love you, too. Let’s go eat before it gets cold,” Al took my hand and pulled me to the bar. I was hungry, and there were some really, good smells coming from the bar.

“After breakfast, I need to go to the Coliseum to work on tonight and tomorrow night’s line up,” I took her hand. “Put whatever you need in a bag, and you can change in my dressing room tonight,” I rubbed my thumb over her knuckles.

She looked at me, “Is something wrong, Mac?”

I smiled, “No, everything is perfect. I was just thinking about how to have Rocky introduce you tonight.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’d like to announce our engagement tonight,” I lifted my eyes to her. “Maybe, have you come out before your ride.”

“Really, in front of the crowd?” she smiled. “The place where we started our rodeo careers,” she met my eyes, “Yeah, I like it.”

“Okay, I’ll write it into the lineup,” I kissed her cheek and finished my breakfast.

 

“Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, Cowboys and Cowgirls, welcome to the Fort Worth Stockyards Rodeo! Tonight, we have a very, special guest with us. She cut her barrel racing teeth right here at this very rodeo. She’ll come out before the barrel racing begins and show us all how it’s done. Tonight, Crazy Mac is once again our bullfighter and comic relief.”

“Heehaw, Rocky! Really the comedic relief indeed,” I looked to my box seats and saw Al watching me. “Welcome folks, we have a great group of cowboys and cowgirls riding tonight. So, keep your eyes open. Make lots of noise, and let’s get started with the bull riders.”

Everything was going smoothly. No one had been hurt, and the barrels were being set up. I saw Al leave the box seats about 10 minutes ago so she could get ready to ride the first set of barrels. “So Crazy Mac,” Rocky said to get the attention of the audience, “Is it time to introduce our special guest?”

“Yeah, Rocky! I think it is!” I could see Al and Bullet at the end of the chute, “Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, Cowboys and Cowgirls, it is my great pleasure to introduce to you a home-grown cowgirl from Alvord, Texas. The current world record holder and current National World Champion Barrel Racer and my fiancée, Allyson Yates. Come on out, Sweetheart.”

The crowd went wild as she and Bullet walked out and stopped next to me. I took a mic out of my pocket and gave it to her, “Allyson, tell us about your horse.”

“Well, he’s a Nokota Stallion. He comes from a line of horses that the Nokota Indians bred in the late 1890s. He is just over 17 hands tall. That’s just a little larger than most barrel horses.”

“Okay, so now you’re going to show us how it’s done right?” I took the mic, and the crowd started chanting, ‘Kiss Her! Kiss her! Kiss her!’ So, I pulled her into my arms and kissed her. The crowd went wild again. I whispered in her ear “Go get them.” She turned to the gate and got ready to start and I moved to the side, out of the way.

“Okay, Allyson’s World Record time is 13.2 seconds. She won’t be riding full out tonight but let’s see how close she’ll get.”

She and Bullet did a beautiful ride, 13.4 seconds. But, just as she crossed the line, all hell broke loose. The time almost stood still. There were 7 or 8 loud bangs. Not gunshots but just as loud. They went off right under Bullet. He reared up, and Al couldn’t hold on. I watched as she fell onto her side, back, and then her head. One of the cowboys got Bullet and moved him out of the way. I went running to Al, “Someone get my bag!”

When I got to her, she was out. Her pupils were fixed and dilated. Her pulse was weak and thready.  I moved my hands to her neck to feel her neck and head. “Give me the neck brace.” I secured it as the ambulance paramedics came in. I checked her head for any swelling. I didn’t feel any. Then I moved down her body looking for broken bones. Again, I didn’t find any.

The paramedics had the backboard ready. I held her head and shoulders as one of the paramedics held her legs as we rolled her to the side, so the backboard could be put under her. The paramedics started their work. I didn’t leave her side.

“Mac,” Rocky was beside me along with Jack who was one of my fellow bullfighters/EMTs. “Jack is going to finish tonight and tomorrow. So, you can go with Allie to the hospital.”

“Thanks, Jack,” I didn’t look up from Al, “Did anyone see anything?”

“I don’t know. There was a Ranger in the audience. He’s going to look things over when you move Allie,” Rocky replied.

I nodded, “We’ll be going to Texas Health Fort Worth, they have the only level one head trauma unit in Fort Worth,” I stopped to count her pulse, “62,” I told the paramedics. “Will you ask him to come by and tell me what he finds?”

“Yeah, I will.” Rocky nodded as he rolled out of the way.

“Jack, will you find Half Pint and ask her to call Randy for me,” Jack looked confused.

“I will, but you have to tell me who Half Pint is,” Jack looked confused.

I almost smiled, most everyone knows I call Patty, Half Pint, “My little sister, she’s riding barrels tonight. Or you can look for Jake Mason, he’s one of the bull riders. He works for Randy and is dating Patty,” I stood up with the paramedics to help carry Al to the ambulance.

“We got it covered Mac. You just worry about your fiancée,” Rocky called after us.

 

They did a CT scan and an MRI and found nothing. Just a small amount of swelling on the back of her head. She had deep tissue bruising down her left side where she hit first. Why she was still in the coma, they could only guess at.

“Mr. Ross, the brain is a very complex thing. When trauma occurs sometimes, it just shuts down to give itself time to heal.”

Two days now, and it was Sunday afternoon, with no change. Half Pint brought me clothes. Randy brought toiletries to clean up with and food to eat. I hadn’t eaten much. I hadn’t even left her room, not even once.

I cleared it with the Doc before I climbed into the bed and held her. That was how Randy found me that morning, “Mac,” he had his hand on my shoulder, “Mac wake up. You need to eat, and your phone has been going off all night.”

I opened my eyes but didn’t let go of Al, “Really, why didn’t I hear it?”

“Well, I took it home with me, so you could sleep,” He replied.

I very gently moved my arm from under Al’s head, “Who is it?” I asked as I stood up and stretched.

“I don’t know, but it’s an Arizona area code,” He handed me my phone.

It was Jason. I hit redial and waited for him to pick up, “Old Books and Tea Room, may I help you?”

“Yes,” I tried to clear my head, “This is Mac Ross, may I speak to Jason please.”

“Oh, yes! He’s been trying to reach you for a few days. One moment please,” She was really perky, and I wasn’t. Coffee, I needed coffee.

“Mac, I found you a first edition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” He stopped, “but, man it’s going to cost you, this time.”

“How much?”

“Half a million, plus my commission,” he replied.

“Can I have it at the ranch by Christmas Eve?”

“Yes, it’s in New York City. Upon payment verification, it’ll be shipped to you overnight.”

“And it’s in excellent condition?”

“Yes, I had a book dealer there look at it and authenticate it for us.”

“Good,” I gave him my card number and told him to put the book and his commission on it.

“I’ll fax both receipts to your office. Let me know when the book arrives and that you’re satisfied with it,” he stopped, “I hope she likes it.”

“Yeah, me too,” I turned off the phone. I turned to Randy as I sat next to the bed and held Al’s hand, “Have we got any more news from the Ranger?”

“Yeah, that’s why I’m here so early,” he stopped, then rubbed the stubble on his chin, “They want to talk to us together. They should be here soon.”

I nodded as I walked to the restroom and closed the door. I cleaned up as much as I could. I couldn’t lose Al again. I couldn’t go on without her. I sighed, splashed water on my face and through my hair. When I heard voices outside, I opened the door and walked out.