Tuesday morning, I was holding Al’s hand, rubbing small circles over and around her knuckles. I was watching her face; her eyes had been moving behind her eyelids for an hour or so. I had been telling her everything I thought she should know.

“I think at least three kids, maybe more. You’re going to be the best mother to our children,” I had my other hand rubbing her cheek, “Sweetheart, please come back to me.”

“Mac,” It was so soft I almost missed it.

“Come on sweetheart, open those beautiful eyes for me,” I was still holding her, but I was on my feet. I leaned in and kissed her, “Open your eyes for me, please.”

“Mac,” just a little stronger.

“I’m right here sweetheart,” I kissed her again, “open your eyes.”

I lost my breath when she opened her eyes and looked at me, “Mac…where…”

I pushed the nurse call button, “Hello beautiful, welcome back.” I kissed her again.

“Yes, Mr. Ross?” the disembodied voice said.

“She’s awake,” I spoke with my last bit of breath. Breathe, breathe, breathe, I kept telling myself.

“I’ll call the Doctor and send in your nurse.”

“Thank you,” I replied.

Al was looking around the room, “Sweetheart, you’re in the hospital. You took a fall off Bullet Friday night.”

She was now searching my face, “Bullet….”

I touched her cheek, “Bullet’s fine. He’s at the Rocking R being spoiled by Half Pint.”

The door opened, and the nurse waited for me to invite her in, “Miss Yates, it’s very nice to see you awake. I’m Vicky, your nurse. Do you mind if I look you over?”

“No,” still weak but stronger.

Vicky ran through the routine I’d seen a thousand times every hour of each day we’d been here.

“Dr. Baker will be here soon. Do you remember what happened, Miss Yates?”

Al was watching me, “I was coming into the gate from a barrel race, there were loud bangs. Almost like gunshots but not, Bullet reared up, and I couldn’t hold on, I fell…” She stopped, “Mac…”

“Yeah, sweetheart that’s just what happened.” I wiped a tear away, “You rode a 13.4.”

She smiled.

The nurse checked a few more things then asked, “Can I get anything for you, Miss Yates?”

“Water, please,” she replied.

“I’ll have the aide bring it right in,” she turned to the door and left.

I moved a piece of hair out of her face, “I was so scared. I just got you back. I can’t lose you again.”

The door opened, and the Marshal was standing in front of an aide holding a plastic cup of ice and a bottle of water.

I stood up and walked to the door. I didn’t know her, so she wasn’t coming into the room, “Thank you, I’ll take it from here,” She gave me the plastic cup, straw, and a bottle of water.

“You’re welcome, sir,” I turned back into the room, and the Marshal closed the door.

I sat back down, opened the bottle of water, poured some into the plastic cup, inserted the straw, and helped Al get a drink.

After she had some, she asked, “Why is there a guard at the door? Why are you not letting some people in?”

I let the side of the bed down and sat next to her on the bed with my arm over her waist, “The bangs you heard were firecrackers going off under Bullet.”

She closed her eyes, and I gave her just a minute to come back, “So, was it Cindi?” She opened her eyes and was struggling to be strong.

“The Rangers don’t think Cindi was there Friday night, but the three cowboys from the Rusty Nail were. One of the bull riders heard the big one bragging about setting off the firecrackers.” I stopped and ran my thumb over her lips, “He’s a known longtime associate of Cindi’s.”

I couldn’t keep my hands off her. She turned into my palm when I brushed her cheek, “What are you not telling me?”

I sighed, “While the Rangers were here, Cindi sent someone disguised as a nurse to get to you.”

“How’d you know she wasn’t one of the nurses?”

“Because she ordered everyone out of the room. Dr. Baker has it noted on the orders that I won’t leave your side and he approved that,” I watched her process everything I told her.

“So, everyone’s in danger,” She looked tired.

“There’s a team of Rangers and Marshals working on the ranches trying to catch them. They also have Marshals to guard us, Matilda, and the house at the Rocking R.” I took her hand in mine, “They’ll get her sweetheart, but until then you’re not going to be out of my sight.”

She smiled, “My Knight in shining armor.” She raised her left hand and moaned as she extended it to my face, “You need a shave, cowboy.”

The knock on the door made us both look up. It opened, and Dr. Baker stood there waiting to be let in, “Come in Dr. Baker and thank you for your understanding of the extra security.”

He walked in and the door closed behind him, “I understand the need, so…” He walked to the bed, “How do you feel, Allyson?”

“Tired, though I don’t know why.  Mac told me I’ve missed three days. I’m hungry, and why does my left side hurt so much?” Then she stopped for a breath.

“Very good questions my dear, let me start with the first one,” He took her other hand, I knew he was checking her pulse. He did it every time he came into the room even though he could get it from the machine that was hooked up to her. “Your body went through a trauma, so your brain shut its self-down to just vital functions,” He looked into her eyes, I could see that they reacted as they should. “That isn’t really resting. So yes, you feel tired, because you are tired.”

He smiled, “Hungry, I would think so. When was the last time you ate?”

She looked at me, “Lunch Friday.”

“Well, we’ve only been feeding you sugar water so, I’ll order a light snack, and then you can have dinner tonight.”

He looked at me before moving the blanket and sheet from her left side, “As for why you hurt on your left side, my dear, you are bruised from your shoulder to your ankle. When you fell, you fell hard. Some of the bruises are deep into the muscle. You’ll be sore for a while.”

“Okay, so when can I go home?” Her eyes were closed again.

“Maybe tomorrow afternoon.”

She nodded, “Can you take these tubes and monitors off me, please.”

He looked to me, “You going to help her to the bathroom when she needs to go?”

“I’ll be the only one helping her anywhere, Doc,” I smiled, “I am an EMT, you know.”

“Okay, everything but the heart monitor. It’s wireless so if you want to move around you can.” He looked back at Al, “You should try to move; the more you do, the less the bruising will hurt.”

He stood up and walked to the door, “I’ll come by this evening to check on you again. Mac, if you need anything at all, have the nurse’s station call me.”

“Thanks, Doc,” He opened the door and walked out.

“Al, are you asleep?” I asked.

“No, maybe, just resting my eyes,” She smiled but didn’t open them.

“Okay,” I leaned over and kissed her, “I love you.”

“I love you too, cowboy.”


It was late when the door opened, and a nurse stood waiting to be let in. I was holding Al as she slept in my arms, in the bed.

“No,” I said to the nurse.

“But I need to get her vitals,” She said from the door because the marshal wouldn’t let her in.

“No, she’s sleeping soundly. I won’t let you wake her up.” I looked to the marshal, “The heart monitor is enough.”

The marshal moved her so he could close the door. Ten minutes later the head shift nurse was at the door.

“Mr. Ross, you could be putting her in danger,” She had her hands on her hips.

“Again, no I’m not. I’m a Texas licensed EMT. Miss Yates is laying on me,” I stopped when she started moving. “It’s okay sweetheart, sleep, I’ve got you,” I waited for her to still. “I would know if her pulse or temperature went up and you would know if her heart went into distress. So no, let her sleep.”

She was in shock when the door closed in front of her. It was the last time it opened until there was some light coming in through the edges of the curtains.


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