BOO! Here’s the final (long) scene in Chapter One of Dearest Druid, the conclusion of my Texas Druids trilogy. If you enjoy it, let me know by hitting the like button. You can also help get the word out by tweeting and reposting on Facebook.
Rose lay tossing and turning in her bed. The house was silent. No doubt everyone else had long since fallen asleep. Not her. Her mind kept dwelling on Jack, wondering if she’d been wrong not to use her healing power on his wound. Truly, it ought to heal well enough on its own if he didn’t get it dirty. If he did, infection might set in, leading to far worse trouble.
She could have saved herself the worry, and him a good deal of discomfort, by laying her hands on his torn flesh, but she hadn’t wanted to confirm his suspicion that she possessed some sort of magic. What if he went around telling everyone? She couldn’t chance that. They’d likely believe her a witch, as many had done when she was a girl in Chicago, and in the convent after . . . . No! She refused to relive the dreadful events leading to her expulsion by Mother Superior – and the horror that followed.
Forcing her restless mind onto a different path, she wondered how the injured horse was faring. Tye had stabled the animal in the barn but couldn’t get close enough to examine his leg for fear of being trampled. He hoped the fractious stallion would calm down by morning. Was his leg broken? Rose hated to think of the poor creature suffering.
Slipping out of bed, she shivered as her bare feet touched the floor. The night had turned chilly. Hugging herself, she padded over to the window. It overlooked the ranch yard, affording her a view of the barn and bunkhouse, where the ranch hands were quartered. No light shown from either building. Coming to a decision, she donned the dress she’d removed earlier, stepped into her scuffed high-tops and laced them up. She grabbed her shawl and, realizing she would need light to examine the horse’s leg, crossed to her dresser and picked up a squat oil lamp and a lucifer to light it.
As quietly as possible, she crept from her room and down the stairs, ears tuned to any sound from the sleeping household. Once outside, she paused to look at the bunkhouse again. Still seeing no light or sign of movement, she set off toward the barn, stepping carefully in the dark.
The barn doors were closed. Lifting the heavy wooden bar that held them shut was no easy task, but she managed it without making too much noise. A glance around assured her she went unobserved. Retrieving her lamp from the ground where she’d set it, she drew one door slightly ajar and edged into the humid, animal scented interior. It was pitch dark without even the meager light of stars and moon.
Fishing the lucifer from her pocket, she fumbled a bit, but finally succeeded in striking the match and lighting her lamp. With the darkness held at bay, she walked past a stall occupied by a sleepy mare and her foal, another that stood empty, then paused outside a third. Within stood the angry stallion. Only the animal didn’t appear angry now; he looked forlorn with his head down, facing a far corner.
Jack eased past the open barn door and glided noiselessly into a dark corner where Miss Devlin wasn’t likely to see him if she happened to glance his way. Unable to sleep thanks to the aching gash in his back and his unwanted thoughts of Tye Devlin’s pretty sister, he’d gone for a walk. Moments ago, he’d been on his way back to the bunkhouse, determined to sleep, when he spotted the young woman leaving the main house. Curious, he’d followed her to the barn, careful to remain in deep shadows in case she turned to look behind her.
Now, he watched her walk quietly to the last stall on the left, where Tye had placed the troublesome stallion. She paused outside the enclosure, raised her lamp to see the horse, and began to speak in a soft tone. Jack crept closer, straining to hear what she said.
“Hello, darlin’. Come here to me. Ye needn’t be afraid. If you’ll let me, I’ll try to take the pain away.” She continued to croon reassuring words until, to Jack’s amazement, the horse limped over to her and extended his head over the stall gate. As docile as a pet pony, he allowed her to scratch his forehead and rub his muzzle. All the while, she kept talking to him in that soft, sweet tone.
Jack was fascinated by the sight, but when she lifted the latch, preparing to enter the stall, he tensed in alarm. He opened his mouth, ready to order her not to go in there with the dangerous stallion, but something stopped him, perhaps the horse’s calm behavior. Or mere curiosity to see what the fool white woman would do next. Edging closer still, he watched her enter the stall. She didn’t bother closing the gate, and Jack expected the mustang to make a break for freedom, but surprisingly, the horse didn’t move.
Setting her lamp down near the gate, Miss Devlin slowly approached him, offering her hand. He snuffled at it and allowed her to step close. She gently stroked his neck, causing a visible tremor to pass over the glossy brown surface. The stallion butted her gently with his head, obviously liking her touch. She giggled and scratched around his ears. Jack shook his head, hardly believing his own eyes. The woman sure did have a way with horses.
She went on talking to the big brute as she slowly stroked downward along his injured right foreleg. He gave no sign of fear or rebellion, although he did shift sideways when she touched the soar area. She said something Jack couldn’t understand – in Irish? – and the horse immediately settled. Then she squatted, rubbed her hands together briskly, and wrapped them around the swollen part of his leg. She bent her head and her lips moved, praying, Jack guessed.
All at once the stallion whinnied and danced away from her. Jack prepared to dash into the stall and drag her to safety, but she calmly rose and resumed speaking to the wary horse.
“There now, don’t be afraid. I’m sorry it hurt for a moment. ’Tis feeling better now, aye? By morning you’ll not know ’twas ever sprained.” She moved close again, patted the mustang’s neck and gave him another good scratch around his ears. He nickered softly in response.
“There’s a good lad,” she murmured. “Now, I’d best be getting back to my bed. Good night to ye.” With a final pat, she bent to pick up her lamp and exited the stall.
While she paused to latch the gate, Jack slipped out of the barn, not wanting to get locked in there. He hid himself in deep shadows again and waited while the young woman struggled to replace the heavy board that barred the doors. He would have helped, but didn’t want her to know he’d been spying on her. He also didn’t want to frighten her.
Once she was safely back in the main house, he headed for his bunk. Sleep eluded him as before, this time because he was anxious for daylight so he could see the results of Miss Devlin’s midnight visit. As soon as dawn broke, he rolled out of bed, pulled on his boots and strode back to the barn. When he stopped outside the stallion’s stall, the horse neighed angrily and charge the gate. However, he didn’t try to knock it down, evidently having learned his lesson yesterday. He stopped short, stuck his head out and bared his teeth. Smiling at the threatening display, Jack stayed well out of reach.
What interested him was the horse’s right foreleg. Crouching to look it over between the slats in the gate, he clearly saw the swelling had disappeared and the horse wasn’t favoring the leg at all. It appeared completely healed. Jack straightened and slowly retraced his steps to the barn’s open doorway. Crossing his arms, he stared at the house.
“So, Rose Devlin, you do have magic. You’re a medicine woman.” He chuckled. “You’re also a little liar.”