"Wake up, Meg," a voice purred in her ear, rising Meg from an unconscious stupor. Her eyes blinked lazily as they opened to see an alert Ashley. "Hello, doll," she whispered, "you've slept long enough."
Meg smiled sleepily, yawning and cuddling into a ball. "I hope mother didn't mind me sleeping in."
Ashley shook her head with an odd smile. "No, you deserved it. It's nice to have a few extra hours of shut eye sometimes." Meg nodded in agreement and yawned again, extra wide this time. She glanced out the curtained window and smiled.
"It's such a lovely day outside. What time is it? I must have slept like a baby."
"It's almost noon," Ashley replied mutely, twisting her handkerchief in knots.
"What's wrong?" Meg asked, rising to look out of the paned window. She gasped in shock as she saw several strange horses tied to the post outside. "Ashley," Meg said worriedly, "who's here?" There was a tide of panic rising in her stomach but she couldn't determine its cause.
Her question went unanswered; Ashley sat in silence, staring vacantly at the floor with a strange obsession. Fear overwhelmed Meg, something was going on and Ashley was behaving as if something drastic had just happened.
"Tell me!" Meg yelled sobbing, images appearing in her memory. The sound of horse hooves beating on the gravel road, a gunshot shattering the silence, the sight of a bullet wound, blood dripping away. She collapsed to her feet, the coarse rug pressing into her knees. A man's voice echoed in her memory. "A man who would love you with all the passion a woman could handle."
Who's voice was that? It was someone Meg loved, she was certain of that. However, she also remembered that that someone was in grave danger. "Please tell me Ashley," Meg whispered, kneeling at her friend's side.
"Cal," Ashley muttered, ripping her embroidered handkerchief into two unequal parts.
Cal's beautiful face shone in Meg's memory. The sight of him smiling down at her, the sun laminating his godly features. Then she saw him lying on the hospital bed, unconscious and close to death. Meg tore out of the room, searching the hallways for someone…anyone to tell her where her Cal was.
"Mother!" Meg yelled, wrapping a thin robe around her frame and sprinting out onto the cold floor.
She nearly fell down the stairs; the railing was the only support. "Someone!" she yelled, running through the house in circles, only to return to the grand stairs with a ghostly Ashley standing at the top. "Ashley, where is everyone?!?"
"They're gone, Meg," Ashley said. "Jared's home to keep us safe. Michael and Nick are out searching for the man who did this to Cal." Meg strode into the kitchen looking for Jared.
"What about your folks and Riley?" she called over her shoulder.
"They're at the doctor's."
Megan found Jared slumped against a chair near the fireplace. He unloaded and loaded the bullets, making many repetitions without knowing. His hands caressed the gun; his fingers sliding down the barrel.
"How's Cal," she whispered, taking a seat next to Jared. He consciously fringed and stood up away from her.
"Whore," he muttered, his eyes making contact with her so she could see the dark irises and rimmed cornea's. Meg stiffened as if she was slapped.
"I- beg your pardon," she stuttered, lowering her eyes in anger.
"Cal was out with you, he should have been with us scouting the area. You had him under your charm, slut."
"He took me out," she hissed angrily. Jared shot a hateful glance at her and slid his gun into its holster.
"The shot should have hit you, not him," he drawled. "Now he's almost dead, and you're here, half naked, not even blushing."
"Bastard," Meg spat out, "I would have gladly taken that bullet." She turned on him and ran up the stairs.
Ashley was putting on her bonnet and shawl when Meg returned to the room. "If only I wasn't with Nick Allan," Ashley muttered.
"What'd you say?" Meg asked, turning on her.
"Maybe he'd have stayed home then," she replied, "but no, instead I went off with Nick, who I could have seen any other time."
"Don't you dare blame yourself!" Meg said angrily, blood rising to her face. "Out of all people who are guilty, I'm at the top of the list."
Ashley bit her lip then gingerly picked up a woolen shawl from the quilted bed. "Let's just go see him," she whispered, closing eyes that neared tearing.
The ladies saddled up their horses and raced to the doctor's office. As they arrived, their family and friends were leaning and sitting against the wall in the nervous wait to see if Cal would live or die.
Note: It's been half a year since I've updated this so I sincerely apologize. This was sort of the lost chapter I forgot I had, which is very short. So please forgive the grammar mistakes and all the rest I haven't edited yet. I'm starting the next chapter as soon as this goes up.
Thank you and I apologize.