Holding the Heart

Hello again! I know it’s been a little bit, but I hope that everyone had a great holiday and excellent start to the New Year. It has been crazy beginning for us, to include multiple cases of the flu, but am now back on the mend and ready for all 2015 has in store for us.

In honor of the month of February, I’m going to be trying something new. For this month, I’m going to blog a short romance story. You’ll get pieces of their adventure every week, coming to a close at the end of the month. I really hope you enjoy it!

Without further ado – Part 1 of “Holding the Heart”

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Perhaps stumbling into the Red Eye Saloon wasn’t the smartest way to avoid drawing attention to herself, but Abigail James wasn’t having the best day and catching her boot on the loose floorboard at the bar’s entrance was just the next in the long line of accidents happening to her that afternoon. Having every male eye in the bar now turned in her direction with interest, that just made it even better.

 

“You lost girl?” This came from a man at the bar closest to her who was rubbing his pale mustache.

 

“The quilting circle’s down the block,” his buddy laughed.

 

“Perhaps she’s looking for work?” a voice in the back called suggestively and this made everyone break out in laughter.

 

Everyone, Abigail noticed, except the man standing to the side in the back, a cigar clamped in his lips, the smoke curling up slowly towards the ceiling.   His eyes snagged hers and Abigail felt her insides quiver from the intensity of his stare. She swung her gaze back to the bartender. “Sir, could you please direct me to Mr. Cole Tanner?”

 

“This ain’t no place for women. You’d best be moving along.” The bartender placed a glass with amber liquid in front of mustache-man and grabbed a rag.

 

“But you don’t understand. It’s imperative that I find Mr. Tanner.” Straightening to her full height of five and a half feet, Abigail tried to inject a note of authority into her voice. The sun was beating down hard that afternoon and as much as Abigail wanted to, she didn’t dare lift her long brown hair from her neck for fear of giving these ruffians anything else to leer at. She supposed it was not just because she was a woman infringing on their private territory but also because she was wearing pants instead of a dress.

 

“I’d be delighted to help you find him.” Mustache said. Something in his tone worried Abigail and she started to step back sensing that she might have made a mistake in her hasty rush to the saloon. Given her circumstances though, she wasn’t certain she could have done anything different. She was quickly running out of time and it was obvious these men weren’t going to help her the one man who was said to know how to find anything or anyone.

 

It was quiet except for her heavy breathing; everyone was watching to see what she would do. “No, thank you. I suppose he’s not here.” Abigail was trying to keep her voice steady.

 

Mustache grabbed her arm before she could leave. “No really, I insist.”

 

Abigail tried to jerk her arm free and Mustache just tightened his grip. With his other hand he threw some coins on the bar and began to drag her outside and around the building to the alley.

 

“I’m must insist you let me go at once.” Abigail tried to inject a note of authority in her voice and not give in to the panic that was clawing its way through her body as he continued to drag her into the shadows. She dug her boots into the dirt but that wasn’t helping. The man had arms of steel and he wasn’t budging even when Abigail brought her other hand up to try to rip herself from his grip.

 

The man stopped and pushed her up against the wall. “I’m just trying to help you, lady.” His voice rasped. He brought his face close to hers. “But it’s going to cost you.”

 

His breath was horrid and smelled like the whiskey he had been drinking. Trying not to gag and keep from shaking, Abigail thrust her chin out and began jerking in earnest.

 

“Now, now.” Mustache grabbed both her arms and tugged them behind her back against the wall. “I promise you’ll enjoy this.”

 

Abigail couldn’t believe it. She couldn’t believe she was trapped out here and this was happening. When Mustache started nibbling on her neck icy-cold panic filled her whole body. He gathered her wrists in one hand and with the other slid up her rib cage to grab her breast and squeeze.

 

Abigail gathered her breath to scream. Mustache must have anticipated this because he suddenly slammed his mouth onto hers and shoved his tongue between her teeth.

 

No, Abigail thought. This can’t be happening. I won’t let this happen! She jerked her knee up between Mustache’s legs and at the same time bit down hard on his tongue in her mouth. Hard enough that the metallic taste of his blood filled her mouth.

 

Mustache yelped and fell back, his hands cupping his groin. His eyes narrowed and just as Abigail was about to run a shot rang out in the alley. Dust flew between Mustache’s feet from the bullet that hit the ground.

 

“The next shot is going in your worthless dick, Hank.” A voice came from the front of the alley.

 

Abigail turned her head and found herself again staring at the man from the back of the bar. The sun was shadowed behind him so she couldn’t make out his features real well, but she could tell it was him by the way he stood, casual but on alert. The same was cigar hanging from his lips.

 

“This an’t no concern of yours, Dutch.” Hank grumbled, trying to stand.

 

The man came further down the alley and now Abigail could see the fiery determination in his eyes. His broad shoulders never moved, keeping his arms steady while holding the revolver in his right hand.

 

“Whether it is or not, I’m the one with the gun. Get out of here.”

 

Abigail held her breath while Hank glared at them both, shaking with his anger. Pushing himself from the ground and with one last glance at Abigail, trudged down the alley back towards the saloon.

 

After Hank rounded the corner, he turned to Abigail. Noticing how she shivered, he holstered his gun and held up both hands.

 

“It’s okay. It’s over.”

 

Gulping air, she clenched her hands at her side. “What do you want?” She was surprised her voice was so steady with the way her body was shaking.

 

“You said you were looking for Cole Tanner.” His hands slowly lowered.

 

She knodded. “Yes, do you know him?”

 

“I’m Cole Tanner.”

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