Love Rides a Chestnut Horse Ch. 04bytigrlily320©
The next morning, he awoke with his head pounding and it took a moment for him to recall why. As soon as he did, he turned his head to the side, looking for his fiancé, but terrified at what he might find. But as he turned his head, he saw his angel sleeping. Her chest gave a gentle rise and fall with her breathing. He lay there for a moment, watching her sleep and looked at the darkening bruise covering half her face. He ran his finger lightly over the gash, wishing he could make it disappear. He leaned down to kiss her, still feeling horrible that she was hurt. As he placed a gentle kiss on her forehead, her eyes blinked open and she looked up at him, confusion dawning in her eyes.
He ran his hand through her hair, "You ok baby?"
She frowned. "What happened?" she whispered.
He sighed with relief, "you got kicked, hon."
Her eyes blinked closed again, and she shook her head in confusion. "But... no, you were hurt."
"I'll live," he smiled as he rubbed her arm gently.
"Well I've got a headache and a sore leg. But I'll live, baby. I'm just worried about you." His eyes showed concern as he watched her trying to put the pieces back together
She closed her eyes and thought for a moment. Opening them, "I'm... I'm ok, I think." Her eyes then closed tightly and she sighed, "oh, my head."
"Yeah, you're staying in bed today - no arguments."
She shook her head, then groaned and closer her eyes. "No, I can't. There's too much to do. We're getting married tomorrow..."
He laid his hand gently on her forehead. "You're staying in bed."
Ignoring him, she attempted to push herself up, "But, I have to...."
He gently grabbed her arm to stop her. "No. I'll ride into town and talk to the reverend and put it off a day or two..." he trailed off as her eyes widened. She shook her head as she looked up at him.
"No! Don't leave!"
"Honey, it's ok," he soothed. "I'll only be gone for about twenty minutes."
Tears formed in her eyes, "But yesterday, when you left...." She looked up into his eyes. "You got hurt."
He nodded. "And I'm still here, baby." He pulled her gently into his arms and she cuddled into his chest.
"Everyone always leaves me."
He took her chin gently and raised her eyes to his. She sighed, shaking her head.
"My parents both died on this ranch because of the horses. They just rode away on them and didn't come back." She looked up at him as she finished.
"Oh honey, I'm sorry." He pulled her tight to his chest, rubbing gently up and down her back.
"I don't want to be left alone again. You promised."
He shushed her softly. "Honey, I'm going to have to go out and take care of the ranch and go to town. It will be ok. I'll always come back."
She pulled away from him, blushing. "I'm sorry. I don't know what came over me." She nodded slowly, "Of course you do."
He pulled her back into his arms, "It's ok, love. I know it scares you, and I understand."
She shook her head, "It's silly, I know. I'm being illogical."
"It's understandable," he held her to his chest and rubbed her back, and she smiled.
"Can I ask one more silly question?"
He nodded, "You can ask me anything, baby."
She smiled softly, lifting her head and looking up at him. "Just how scary is my face right now? Only one of the three of you has to answer...."
"Please, tell me you're joking."
She smiled, "Well, about the second part, anyway."
"It's pretty bruised, sweetie."
She nodded, accepting. "I guess I can live with that. And I am a little dizzy, I guess. But it's not like it's the first time a horse kicked me in the head." She laid her head back on his chest.
His eyes widened. "What do you mean, 'not the first time'???"
She rubbed his arms. "Honey, I grew up in those fields. Do you think I never annoyed another one into it?" She turned her smile into his chest.
Shaking his head, he laid a gentle kiss in her hair. "I'm going to go feed the animals and run into town, ok baby?"
"It will be ok, I won't be gone long. I promise"
"Sorry I was irrational. I know you will," the blush crept up her cheeks again, and she kissed his lips softly. He deepened the kiss, so grateful that she was here and talking to him. She broke it off, and asked, "Are you sure you're ok to be walking around?"
He nodded, "I'm sure, love."
"Ok, I'll be here... apparently." She smiled up at him as he slid carefully from beneath her, and out of bed.
"You better be." He stood sorely, picking up some clothes and starting to get dressed. He pulled his jeans on, wavering slightly. He turned away from her so she wouldn't see the grimace on his face.
She watched him carefully. "Oh, baby. Your leg... You can't do all that today. It'll keep for a day."
He shook his head, "No... I can." He stood and walked toward the door. Pausing, he turned to her. "Love you, Belle."
She watched him from the bed. "You too... please be careful."
He nodded, "I will, honey." With one last glance, he slowly hobbled down the hallway and the stairs. James slowly made his way to the door and walked outside. He fed the horses, cursing hatefully at the black stallion while he saddled Leo. He dragged himself onto the horse, and moved down the driveway, riding away. She listened to his progress, sighing in frustration, and pushed herself to a sitting position as she heard the hoof beats pound away from the house. She blinked back the dizziness and leaned back against the headboard. Her hand came up slowly, tentatively touching the side of her face. She winced as she felt the tender skin, probing lightly along what felt like a long gash on her face. She grimaced at the thought that she would likely have an ugly scar. She hoped that James could look past that when this was all over. She slid back down and curled on her side against the pillows.
After about half an hour had passed, she heard the sound of hooves again, and smiled softly. Soon after she could make out his steps on the porch and then heard his slow progress up the stairs. Her eyes watched the doorway, and soon he appeared with a large box in one hand, the other behind his back. She tilted her head in confusion until he brought the hand from behind his back and held out a bouquet of fresh picked wildflowers.
She smiled widely, "they're beautiful."
"I'm glad you like them," he stated as he placed them on the nightstand. "And now, this."
She slowly pushed herself to sit up again, looking at him in confusion. As he set the box on the bed, it began wiggling and her eyes widened.
"What is it?" she asked, just as there was a small "Yip!" from the box. She smiled wide, "you didn't..."
"Open it and find out," he grinned.
She reached for the box and lifted the lid. A tiny white and brown puppy hopped out and began licking her hands. She giggled, "James!"
He shrugged, sitting on the bed next to her. "I thought we needed a dog," he stated softly as he kissed her bruised face.
She picked the puppy up into her hands and held his wriggling form close to her chest. "He's so precious," she smiled. "You're too good to me."
He took her hand gently in his, and looked into her eyes. "I love you, Isabella.
She put the puppy down on the bed, letting him run around on the sheet. She squeezed his hand and looked into his eyes. "This," she motions toward her face, "wasn't your fault. So stop looking at me like that."
He kissed her gently. "Leo picked some of the flowers, he felt bad for you, too." He pulled her close to him.
She smiled softly and shook her head. "I'll be sure to thank him later. And I'm sorry. I was careless. I should have been paying better attention, but I just wanted to get back to you. I know Beauty's skittish in thunder, I know better than to startle him more."
He shook his head firmly, "you have nothing to be sorry for."
She rested her head on his shoulder. "So what's this little guy's name?"
"Up to you baby," he squeezed her gently.
She held her hand out to the puppy, and he ran over. As he bounded across the bed, he stumbled on a wrinkle in the blanket and flopped down. She laughed softly as he finally made it over to her, and she rubbed his belly as he rolled over.
"What's your name buddy? Do you have one?" He yipped as she talked softly to him.
James smiled, rubbing her back, "guess not." He leaned down as she turned to him, kissing her lips gently. She kissed back, reaching her hand out and rubbing his leg.
"Are you sure you're ok?" She looks up at him, concerned. "I can send word to the Doctor."
"I'll be ok honey. Don't look so worried."
She smiled lightly, looking back at the dog. "What was your last rank in the army, baby? We should honor all that you did."
He smiled. "I was a Captain, Bella. But we don't have to." He slid close to her, putting his arm around her shoulder.
"I want to." She looked back at the dog. "Captain Buchanan it is." He yipped up at her and she laughed loudly. "I think that was an order."
"What will we call him for short, then?"
She lay back against him, and sighed. "Cappy," she grinned as the dog began to pounce around the bed. She then glanced over at James. "I still think you should get that checked out."
"It's not broken Bella, just sprained," he soothed as he rubbed her arm.
She nodded, "Ok." She closed her eyes again, leaning her head back on his shoulder. Cappy made his way up the bed and snuggled up besides them, completing the family portrait. She smiled. "Just me and my two favorite guys," she whispered.
He smiled, "What do you think honey, nap?"
She nodded. "I think that sounds like a good idea."
He pushed off his boots and cuddled down against her. She reached up, brushing her fingers over his forehead. He winced just a little and shut his eyes as she passed over the cut and dark bruise, holding her close to him.
"I'm sorry," she whispered.
"It's ok, baby." He kissed the tip of her nose lightly and she smiled.
"Did you go to the church?"
He nodded, "scheduled it for a week from tomorrow."
She grinned, "good. Well, maybe I won't be half purple by then."
"That was my thought.
"And maybe you'll be able to walk down the aisle," she squeezed his hand gently.
He smiled warmly, "I can't wait."
"I'm sorry it got messed up," she sighed.
"Hey, no. You didn't mess anything up, baby." He kissed her forehead as she snuggled into his chest, falling asleep quickly. He sighed happily and held her close, drifting off himself.
A short while later, Isabella awoke to Cappy's frightened whimpers. She looked down at him and smiled. "Does someone need to go outside?" she whispered, not wanting to wake James. She slowly and carefully slipped from his arms and set the puppy on the floor, where he ran to the bedroom door. Using the bed as support, she slowly stood, feeling a wave of dizziness overtake her. She managed to remain upright and felt the wave pass. Smiling, she took a tentative step forward.
Feeling her absence in his sleep, James awoke, looking around bleary eyed. "Baby?" he called out, questioning.
"I'm right here," she replied from her position next to the bed.
His eyes widened as he jumped out of bed. "Sit... Now."
She smiled, "Cappy needs to go outside."
"I got him, you get back in bed" he assured her.
Blushing, she looked over at him. "He's not the only one that needs to go."
He stood quickly, hobbling a moment. He then steadied himself, and walked around the bed. "Well, let me help you to the bathroom then I'll take Cappy."
"I can get there," she shook her head. "There's wall the whole way." She moved slowly along it, resting every few steps.
He came over, wrapping his arms around her. "Nonsense, lean against me."
"But I really could have," she pouted.
He shushed her and led her into the bathroom. She turned and leaned on the door. "Now take out the dog. A lady doesn't like to be overheard in the bathroom."
He smiled, shaking his head as she closed the door. "Come on, Cappy." He picked the puppy up, headed downstairs and outside for him to do his business.
After finishing, she moved herself slowly along the wall back to the bed. She smiled as she settled into it, pulling the covers back over her. Soon after she was again lying down, James walked into the room with Cappy in his arms. Plopping the dog on the bed with her, he smiled at her as she looked up at him.
"I told you I could do it."
He grinned, "What? Go to the bathroom? I had no doubt."
She blushed. "No, that I could walk." She scratched Cappy's head as he sat down next to her. He smiled as he reached over, stroking his hand along her side and across her stomach.
She looked down at the cotton nightdress she had on. "Nice choice on the sleepwear, babe."
"Well," he smiled, "I thought about leaving you in nothing. That would have been a great view for me."
She grinned. "But, James... then I would have been naked..." She lay back on the bed, looking up at him.
"Like I said," his smile widened, "a great view." He leaned down and kissed her lips lightly as he stared into her eyes.
She whispered, "distracting, I would think." She kissed him back softly.
"Very," he kissed her, "very distracting."
"Slow down baby, you're hurt."
"Just my leg and head, not what's... necessary," he laughed.
Laughing gently, she rubbed her hand up and down his arm. "Did you see anyone else in town?"
He thought about it a moment. "Well, the reverend, the girl you were talking to in the store when we met – she said to tell you hello."
"Oh, I bet she did," she shook her head, smiling.
"What's that supposed to mean," he laughed.
"Just that I'm sure she wanted an excuse to talk to you," she replied. "She was probably trying to get dirt out of you – Shannon has always been the town gossip.
"Well, Shannon got nothing out of me." He tickled her side gently as he nibbled at her throat.
She smiled, and then winced as the movement hurt her face. "Stupid face," she muttered. He kissed the bruise gently as if he could make it better. She glanced up at him, "Is Beauty ok today?"
He frowned. "He's fine, baby," cursing the horse once again under his breath.
"Good," she smiled. "I do have a rather hard head."
"He's just lucky he didn't get his behind beat." He took her hand gently in his and squeezed it; his fear over losing her had barely evaporated. Talking about that horse only made it more real in his mind.
She shook her head only slightly, so as not to jostle her injury. "He didn't mean it, baby."
"I know he didn't. But that horse is too skittish for my liking. He should be smarter than that."
She shrugged, looking up at him. "He couldn't help it," she squeezed his hand. He held her gently, and she fell asleep against him again.
He slid down in the bed and watched her sleep, her head resting against his chest, her hand still clasping his. Cappy climbed up on the bed and snuggled in right between them. James rubbed the small dog's head and sighed with happiness. Despite these recent events, life had finally brought him joy by leading him to her. As if she knew what he was thinking, Isabella smiled in her sleep, and he nodded off along with her, sleeping straight through to the next day.