AUTHOR's NOTE: Here's the new and hopefully improved version of Against the Current. I can't believe I've been working on the same story for almost five years now. Thank you all for following my story and showing your support over years. Also, thanks for putting up with my rewrites and title changes. So, enjoy the new version and ignore the old one. lol


Chapter One:

The Dog

Broken Arrow, Oklahoma - May 1925

Katie:

Sweat beaded on my forehead and ran into my eyes. It gathered at my neck and ran down my chest, soaking my undergarment. I tugged at my shirt to allow even the smallest of a cool breeze. Looking at my younger brother, Travis, I envied how unfazed he was by the heat.

I would have given anything for a glass of cold water.

Turning my back to him, I picked up the wheelbarrow, and hauled the dirty hay out. I took in a lung full of fresh air before returning to the stuffy confinements a minute later. The smell in the barn was made worse by the heat and the open doors weren't helping much.

"That sun is relentless," I said, working on the second to last stall.

"You need to stay out of it," Travis said, snickering. "You're getting too dark."

"At least I don't burn and cry about it later," I shot back.

He responded by flinging muck that barely missed me. It made a loud thud when it splattered the wall.

"You missed!"

"At least my skin don't look like mud!"

Throwing down my pitchfork, I closed in the space between us. I grabbed his shirt and drew back my fist. Despite a recent growth spurt bringing him to my eye level, I saw the fear flicker in his wide eyes. He was always all talk and nothing to back it up. Most boys were.

"Call me mud again! I dare you."

Travis writhed in my grasp. "Let me go!"

"Come on, say it."

"I'll bite you!"

Travis teasing my skin was never meant to be malicious, but I still hated it. It was another reminder the Richmonds were not my blood family, another reminder I didn't belong. I couldn't help that I was Seminole-Creek, anymore than Travis was white.

The Richmonds took me in after my real parents died suddenly. I was a toddler at the time of their death so I don't remember much about them. I wasn't sure on all the details of my adoption. All I knew was that Ma was babysitting me when they died and no one claimed me. Months later we moved to the ranch. I didn't have photos; I didn't know my old name and barely had any memories. It hurt sometimes, but I kept telling myself I was lucky to have a family like the Richmonds.

He stopped squirming and looked over my shoulder. "What's that out there?"

"Nice try, but I'm not falling for that again!"

"No, really!"

He pointed behind me, towards the window that faced the pasture. I let go of his shirt and turned to see what he was pointing at. At the treeline, I saw a brown and white mutt with lopped ears, sniffing at the ground.

Travis and I hurried out of the barn for a better look. We stopped at the fence several yards from the barn and watched the dog. Its nose was to the ground, following an unknown scent. Not once did it acknowledge the horses grazing.

I once had a dog named Hock a few years back, but one day a snake bit his neck and he died, devastating the entire family. Since then, I had wanted another dog, but my family wasn't keen on it.

"Should I get my gun?" Travis asked.

I turned to face him with a glare. "You won't shoot that poor dog. If you do, I'll rope you and drag you behind my horse!" With that, I hopped the fence.

"Where are you going?" Travis called after me.

"I'm gettin' a new dog!"

"We have chores to finish! Get back here!"

The dog was trotting into the trees as I got closer. I worried he'd run from me, but he didn't notice me. I whistled, and he stopped and faced me with his ears pricked. I knelt down and called for him. He slowly crept towards my extended hand. He sniffed, then gave my fingers a lick. I carefully moved my hand under his chin and gave him a scratch. I stopped scratching him and reached for the rope I always kept at my side.

Just when I thought the dog was mine, he suddenly stopped wagging his tail, pricked his ears, and looked around. I reached out to pet him again, but he shrugged me off. He slowly moved for the bushes. I glanced over my shoulder for a moment to make sure no one was watching me. When I turned back around the dog had already slipped into the brush. I stepped into the dense forest and went after him. The forest was thick this time of the year, making it hard to see.

Despite the density, I knew my way around. The dog took a trail that led to the creek. I called out to it but it only stopped briefly before taking off again.

Once the creek was in my sight, the dog barked happily and crashed into the water.

"You're not making this easy, you mutt!"

The dog stopped, looked over his shoulder, and gave a defiant cuff before continuing on his little journey. We continued making our way down the creek. Occasionally, he'd jump out of the water and give himself a shake, then immediately jump back in.

"Chaaaarlliieeee!"

The dog stopped to prick its ears. I froze in place, to listen. It was a man's voice coming somewhere from the northeast. If I continued downstream, I'd encounter whoever it was.

"Charlie!" the voice called out again.

The dog bolted down stream. Against my better judgment, I rushed after him.

As I approached the source of the voice, I could smell and see a campfire. Even though he was just outside the property line, I could still run them off if I wanted, but I didn't know how many people were there. Instinctively, I reached for my revolver, but it wasn't there. Of course. Despite this, I decided to investigate anyway.

I moved through the forest, careful to make as little noise as possible. My feet glided over the forest floor. My breathing was steady, and every sense was kept open. Playing hide-and-seek in the woods had taught me stealth and to be aware of my surroundings.

I came across another Indian where the stream began to narrow. Upon seeing him, I almost stumbled but caught myself on a tree. His back faced me and was cutting off a strip of meat. He was shirtless, deeply tanned, with shaggy black hair, and wearing faded jeans. His back was badly scarred, like white lighting bolts on his skin.

He knelt down by the fire with the dog now by his side. Close to his camp was a beautiful palomino mare hitched to a low-hanging branch.

He patted the dog on the head and said with disgust, "You're all wet!"

I quickly ducked behind a large oak tree and took another peek at him. His shoulders were broad and his arms lean. He seemed to be a little on the thin side too, but he wasn't puny. No, he had seen his fair share of hard work.

"You were playing in the creek again weren't you, boy?" he continued.

The dog responded by licking the stranger's arm. He gave a small chuckle and tossed the dog a hunk of raw meat. He filled a tin plate with cooked meat and sat on a log. The smell of his kill roasting over the fire filled my nostrils, making my stomach prick with hunger.

After a moment or two passed, I took another peek. The dog gnawed at his dinner and the horse chewed away at some grass. Charlie, glanced my way as he ripped the meat and pricked his ears. His tail thumped the earth sending up a cloud of dust. No, don't come over here. The stranger noticed and glanced over his shoulder. I quickly ducked behind the tree again.

"What is it, Charlie?"

Charlie thumped his tail harder.

My mouth went dry, my heart slammed in my chest, and my underarms were damp. I was frozen, not sure if it was safe to run or not. I carefully looked out from my hiding place once more and saw he'd turned his attention back to his meal.

It was getting late. Soon the forest would be too dark to navigate through. I slowly backed away until I was at a safe enough distance.

Turning on my heels, I ran for home.

When I made it to the open fields, I let out a sigh of relief and slowed my pace. I jumped the fence just as Ma called my name. I continued to the house where the smell of chicken and dumplings greeted me.