“Go away! Just go away. No more. Please, oh please,
no more.” The terrified begging added to the guilt already consuming Stephen Davis. The scene before him was
something out of the newspaper, describing a brutal massacre.
The light of the fireplace should’ve enveloped the tiny one room, hunting cabin. All it managed to do was cast off an eerie glow to an already gruesome sight; blood drenched sheets, wooden floor, and walls stained crimson. His sister-in-law, Nichole, stood beside the bed, trembling. Her petite hand covering her mouth, as tears streamed down her cheeks.
“What happened?” His eyes locked on the woman perched in the far corner of the double bed.
Her copper hair strewn about her pale face in disarray, bruises covered her head-to-toe, adding to her untamed appearance. Her diminutive frame shook with fear. Her green eyes glazed wide with dread,
keeping Stephen, his sister-in-law, and brother within her sights.
“I just finished dressing her wounds when her eyes flew open, and. . . and. . .” Nichole Davis brought a
hand back to her mouth, choking back the tears causing her voice to quiver.
“How bad are her wounds?” Dread rose in Stephen’s chest. After all this time, all his plans, surely this couldn’t be the end before they ever had a beginning. If only he had not given up on finding her. If only
he’d kept going back to the rundown ranch, taken Destiny Connors away from the hell he was sure was her life. Maybe, he wouldn’t have found her this morning, laying on the edge of the river, so close to death.
“Most of them are just minor flesh wounds,” Nichole apprised, wincing at the sight of Destiny clutching her knees to her chest, blood soaking into the bed around her at a rapid pace.
Stephen gave Nichole a questioning look. “Most of them?”
“The blood you see isn’t all from her cuts and scratches. . . or the wound on her head.” Nichole tore her attention from the woman eyeing Stephen and his brother, Chris.
Something in her eyes made the knot in his stomach clinch with dread. “Well?”
“She’s. . . she is. . . she is having a baby,” the words stuttered from her mouth, sending his shocked mind whirling in a million directions. Surely, Destiny Connors hadn’t married a man like her brother. Wouldn’t that be the only answer to the scene appearing before him now? How else could she possibly be with child? Could he truly be too late to stake claim to the one woman who held him captivated from that very first glimpse? All he had wanted for this last year and a half was to win Destiny’s heart. Every thought, dream, and decision he’d made in this time frame had revolved around finding Destiny and starting their life
“What? She can’t be with child. Look at her. She’s no bigger than Anna.” Chris Davis shook his head in
disbelief, adding to the overwhelming sensation, fast consuming Stephen.
An anguished scream filled the air, as the petite body buckled in agony, adding to the turmoil of the room. The young woman’s cries did nothing to draw him from the daze. “Destiny, let me help you,” Nichole’s plea sounded distant in his ears. “I don’t know what she’s been through, to know whether or not what I’m about to ask of you will do more damage or not. But I have to help her or she’ll die.” She first looked to her husband then to Stephen.
The words coming out of her mouth sounded as if they came from some place far away. Everything seemed to be playing out in slow motion. All the noise of the room seemingly vanished from his ears. His eyes locked on the woman, he once fancied himself being with for the rest of his life. The only thing left, giving any hint he was still in the land of the living, was the pressure of his heart crushing against his chest.
“What do you need us to do,” Chris’s anxious tone tried to bring him back to reality, but nothing in this long year and a half, since he had last seen her, had prepared him for this.
“I need you two to hold her down while I make sure this child is. . .” another scream from Destiny cut off her words.
“Just hold her down!” Nichole scurried into action, grabbing at Destiny’s legs. The young woman clawed at the air, kicking and screaming as if being attacked.
Chris moved to the bed in an effort to help his wife. Destiny bolted away. “Stephen, come on,
snap out of it! If she’s to survive, we have to help Nichole,” he yelled.
Stephen’s feet were like lead as he made his way across the small space. Destiny’s green eyes, wide
with fear, watched his every movement as if it were he she had to fear most. The part of her life, he
had witnessed, flashed before his eyes. A frightened but strong young woman, dressed in rags, tending to a
rundown shack of a home as if it were a fine palace. She’d hated her older brother, Jake, the man, who’d been responsible for the death of his parents. Her interactions with him had been visibly lined with
distaste. Yet, Jake’s control over her had been just as apparent as her fear, or her revulsion.
However, when they’d needed her help, she’d pushed past her fear, helped them save Nichole. For that, he’d be ever grateful. It was the least he could do now, for her. He pulled himself together, assessing the frightened woman, he fancied himself falling in love with. “It’s okay, angel, no one’s going to hurt you, I promise.” He kept his words soft and steady, as he climbed gradually onto the bed. His eyes locked with hers as he continued to speak to her in mellow tones.
The moment he reached for her, she retaliated. Her hands flinging in the air, trying desperately to stop her would be assailant. The heat of fresh blood oozed down his cheek as her fingernails ripped at his face.
Stephen ignored the burning sensation and continued his pursuit. His stomach knotted with the torment she’d gone through, to draw a reaction such as this. He talked quietly to her, inching his way toward her.
Stephen grabbed her firmly around the waist, pulling her around until her back was against his chest. He held her securely with one arm, gingerly using his free hand to wipe her matted chestnut hair from her sweat-lined face. He managed to keep his words calm, even though the woman in his arms
squirmed and fought against his touch.
“Please! Let me go. Just let me die,” her pitiful pleas churned in his stomach. A gripping pain hit her again, drawing her attention away from him. She screamed out, this time in agony and the terror of what was happening to her.
“Destiny, look at me, sweetie. Let us help you, please.” Nichole immediately tried to get the distraught girl to focus on her.
Straightaway, her body stiffened in his arms. His head rested against her shoulder. “Let us help you, angel, please,” Stephen whispered, tightening his arm about her waist just enough to emphasize his words.
“Make it stop,” she begged, slamming her eyes closed against the pain. His fingers itched to brush away
the tears seeping beneath her lashes. If ever he saw the man who did this to her, it would be too soon. No woman deserved to be beaten, and definitely didn’t deserve to be beaten so badly death knocked on her door. Regardless of the fact, he may never be able to make a life with this woman. He’d see this part of her
life ended or die trying.
Stephen placed a hand out before her. “Take my hand, angel. It’ll all be over soon,” he breathed against her ear, trying to will, his strength into her.
Destiny Connors stared at the outstretched hand. It was large and looked as if it could crush her in two.
Yet, something about the gentleness of this man, spoke to her soul. It was as if unspoken promises once made were now being fulfilled. Change was right around the corner for her. All she had to do was take this hand in hers.
The next pain struck with such force. Without thinking, she grabbed a hold of the hand and squeezed with all her might against the torturous aching threatening to rip her apart. The hand closed around hers as if trying to absorb her anguish. His other arm wrapped about her, pulling her close as if to take into him
all her torture. She had waited what seemed a lifetime for Stephen Davis to return to her. Intuitively, she knew he would be a gentle man. She’d seen enough men in her time, which weren’t, to recognize a good man when she saw one.
Men like Stephen didn’t take up with women like her. Whores were not the marrying kind and definitely were not women to bring home to a respectable family. Stephen’s family was one of the highest thought of lineages in all the Wyoming territory. The Connors clan, on the other hand, was the most look down
Another sweep of pain rushed her senses and tore at her body. It was only a matter of moments before her child came into the world. The cold blue-gray body never cried. Tears came to Nichole’s eyes as she
looked tenderly up at her. Destiny’s eyes drifted to the lifeless body, resting on the child she had no idea she had been carrying. It was so small, no bigger than the palm of the hand she was holding. As if in slow motion, she reached for the naked little body pulling it to her. Carefully, she rubbed the tufted of dark hair, lifted a tiny limp hand in her own.
“I’m sorry, little one, if only I’d known,” she gently placed a kiss on the lifeless little lips. Her heart compressed tightly in her chest. Sadness and relief merged together. How could this be happening? Never once did she realize she may have been carrying a child under her heart. Even now, when she could see
the visible proof in her hands, the reality did not seem to be there. The nightmare that was her life, only seemingly grew worse.
Destiny knew she would never wish to raise a child in that home. Her half-brother, Jake, may be dead, but her father still lived. The man still wreaked havoc on his remaining children and continued to force them to live in fear. No, she would never choose to raise a child like that.
“Where would you like him buried?” Nichole placed an affectionate hand upon hers. Destiny stared at the callused work hands of a woman who worked side-by-side with her husband, for a long silent moment.
“Do you remember me?” she asked timidly. She couldn’t meet Nichole’s eyes. What must this woman think of her? The last time she’d seen Nichole Davis, Jake was hell bent on killing her and the entire Davis family.
“You’re Destiny Connors,” Nichole said softly. Confusion filled Destiny. How this woman could stomach caring for her was a mystery to her mind.
“Why would you help me?” she asked in a shaky controlled voice. The man she knew to be Stephen Davis tightened an arm about her waist, causing her to remember he was there. She knew she should move from his grasp but her body refused to obey. Sharp pains shot through her when she tried to move even an inch, no matter, sitting here in this man’s arms was the safest place she’d ever known. This alone surprised her.
“Why shouldn’t we help you, Destiny? If it hadn’t been for you our head ranch hand would be dead,” Nichole stated squeezing her hand lightly. “Stephen, Skyler, and I might even be dead.”
Destiny looked back to the child. Subconsciously, she began to wrap it in the fresh cloth Nichole had
placed on the bed. “I didn’t know I was going to have him,” she began softly. “If I had I would’ve run farther, somewhere pa wouldn’t have ever found me.”
“Whose baby was he? Did you have a husband,” Nichole asked tenderly. Destiny wondered if Stephen pondered the same thing. All that time ago, she had been sure she’d seen promise in those heavenly
azure eyes. Eyes she’d never once forgotten in all this time. Stephen Davis had been thrown into her hell that morning so long ago. A morning she’d never fail to recall. Even in the chaos, he’d taken the time to be gentle with her. He’d spoken to her with kindness and promise of a better tomorrow. It was the first time in her whole existence she’d realized maybe there was more out there than the four walls of a rundown shack,
men like her pa, and a life that had more to offer than merely survival.
Destiny shook her head, admitting her shame. “Every month at payday pa brings home some men from the saloon. Sometimes they’re the same sometimes they’re different. He gets money from them to use my body,” she admitted her shame. The sooner these good people know the truth, the sooner they could just leave her to her own accord. The sharp intake of breath from the man holding her resonated through her. His fist clinched at her stomach and swiftly she grew leery. Destiny tried to move away, but his hand relaxed and he pulled her back to him resting his head against her shoulder once again.
“Do you want to bury the baby at your ranch,” Nichole asked.
“She doesn’t ever have to go back there again!” Stephen’s heated breath washed over her neck.
“I’ve no place else to go. If I run, he’ll find me and bring me back. He always does,” Destiny confessed.
“You can stay here, or on the Bar D. You don’t have to go back to that man.” The controlled anger radiated from him seeping into her flesh. Instinct gave her the strength to inch her body from his.
“You’ve already suffered so much from my brother, I can’t ask you to suffer further at the hands of my pa.”
She pulled her child to her, settling her back against the wall facing the Davis family.
Stephen looked first to Nichole then to Chris. Chris spoke up first, “Destiny, no one should be treated the way you’ve been. Someone beat you so badly we weren’t even sure if you would live or die. Then this. . .” he pointed to the small infant in her arms.
“Let us help you, Destiny,” Stephen pleaded, touching a corner of her heart she thought had long been dead.
“But you don’t know my pa. He’s ten times meaner than Jake ever was,” she said, holding back the tears of fear.
“Your pa doesn’t know the Davis clan either. Give us a chance, Destiny. Let us. . . let me take you away from all that,” Stephen said.
Unexpectedly, it was as if the year and a half between them had disappeared and now her knight in shining armor was there to rescue her. Destiny found herself absently nodding her response. Her heart moved to
tears by the kindness of these people who had every right to hate her as much as they surely despised her dead brother. She knew in her heart this wasn’t going to be long lived. Her pa would come for her one day. When he did, she could only pray she was the only one he took his anger out on. She couldn’t bear if her pa killed this man. It would be the end of the hope she had left in her heart and she would surely die.