Beyond Always

By Carrie Carr

Part 11


Disclaimers:   I don't know why I keep trying to disclaim these folks – goodness knows I've chatted with them/about them enough. So, I'll just say that all names, places, people, and situations I write about are fictional. They are not based on anyone or any place. Although Amanda would disagree, I do own these characters – so please, no stealing :)

If you have anything to tell me, please let me know at . You can also get the scuttlebutt on my website, . Drop by and say hello. 

Big time thank you: To my chat group at Carrie's Crossing, who keeps me motivated. And to my awesome beta readers, Kay and Kelly – thanks for keeping me on the right track!

Dedication:   This story is dedicated to the love of my life, my beautiful Jan. She's the reason for everything I do. Forever and always, my love.

** The chapter numbers have changed, due to some reworking of the original text. I apologize for any confusion – Carrie **

Part 1

Chapter Twenty-Four

The rain continued to pound the outside of the truck, which rocked with the force of the wind. Lorrie tried to keep from crying, but every movement of the truck caused her left arm, which hung lifelessly below, to sway. Her seatbelt kept her in place but she was too far away to reach the still woman beneath her. “S…Sh… Shelby ?” She wiped the tears from her face with her good hand. “ Shelby ?”

Lorrie sniffled. “ Shelby , wake up. Please?” She twisted in the seat, which brought more movement to her arm. “Aaah!” Her tears dripped off her nose as she cried.

The sound of Lorrie's distress brought Shelby around. She attempted to open her eyes, but only her right one would obey. “Ugh.”

“ Shelby ?” Lorrie rubbed her fist under her nose to wipe away the tears. “ Shelby , are you all right?”

“Uh,” Shelby groaned as she tried to get her bearings. “Lorrie?”

Lorrie sobbed in relief. “I thought you were dead,” she cried.

Shelby was able to move her head, but almost threw up at the motion. “Fuck.”

“What's wrong?”

“Gimme a sec,” Shelby ground out between her gritted teeth. She concentrated on her churning stomach, closing her eye and silently pleading with herself to not get sick.

While she waited, she took stock of her condition. She was crushed against the driver's door and the pain coming from her left shoulder was almost as bad as the sharp throbbing from her head. She cleared her throat. “Lorrie? Are you okay?”

“My arm hurts really bad.” As she spoke, Lorrie no longer heard the roar of the wind and the truck quit rocking. “I think the wind stopped.”

“Good.” Shelby slowly moved her right hand until she reached her belt. She took her cell phone out of the leather holster and used her thumb to push the keys. The off-key tones she heard made her want to cry. “Fuck. No phone service.”

Lorrie crossed her right hand over her body. “Should I unbuckle my seat belt? Maybe I can help you.”

“No!” Yelling made Shelby 's head hurt worse and she was afraid she was about to embarrass herself by throwing up. “Let's just sit still for a minute and try to figure something out, okay? I don't want you to fall and hurt yourself more.”

“I think I can turn and stand on the dash,” Lorrie said, as she carefully raised her legs and braced them. “Then I won't fall, right?”

Shelby swallowed the bile that rose her in throat. She could feel a wet stickiness along the left side of her head, and fuzzily wondered what it could be. She was so focused on the pain that she didn't hear Lorrie's comments.

The click that announced the release of Lorrie's seatbelt was loud in the cab of the truck. An instant later, Shelby heard the girl scream in pain as she dropped from her seat.


Tom heard the crash in the front of the feed store and jumped up out of his chair. The electricity flickered off, so he blindly rushed out of his office toward the main showroom. “Oh, my god.” The feed store, like many of the older buildings in Somerville , was surrounded by large shade trees. One of the biggest trees from the west side of the building had crashed through the roof. He ignored the rain that dampened his face as he moved closer. His first concern was his employee. “Rebecca?”

He stepped cautiously toward the largest pile of rubble, where tree branches mixed with ceiling tiles and glass. “Rebecca, where are you?”

Tom slipped on the wet tile and fell to one knee beside the debris. He noticed a scratched, pale hand only inches away from him, and he shakily reached for it. “Rebecca, can you her me?” It was cool to the touch. “Hey.”

The fingers wriggled. Over the sound of the rain, a weak voice called out. “Help me.”

“I'm here.” Tom tried to separate the branches so that he could see her, but it was too dark. “Don't move, okay? I'll go see if I can find someone to help me get this mess off you.”

“Please don't leave me,” Rebecca cried. She managed to turn her hand over and grasped his with surprising strength. “I'm scared.”

He lightly squeezed her hand. “I know. Um, can you tell if you're hurt?”

“I…I'm not sure.” Rebecca's voice trailed off.

“Are you in any pain?” Tom almost leaped out of his skin when the wind slammed something against the building. “God.”

Rebecca tried to pull her hand free of his. “Maybe you should be somewhere safer.”

Tom used his free hand to wipe the water from his eyes and face then looked around. Part of the roof was missing and rain soaked everything in sight. “Not much else can happen where we're at.”

“Do you feel cold? I'm freezing,” Rebecca said.

“It's a little cool, with the rain and all. You just hang in there, all right? As soon as the storm passes, I'm sure help will be here.”

“Could you do me a favor, Tom?” Rebecca's voice had softened to the point where he had to lean closer to understand her. “If something happens, could you—”

He shook his head. “No, no. Don't start thinking like that. Everything's going to be okay.”

“I hope so. But, just in case, could you tell Shelby that I love her? Please?”

“ Shelby ? Her?” Tom released her hand. “You…you're a lesbian?” He hadn't gotten a chance to know Rebecca very well, but he had hoped to work up the courage to ask her out on a date.

“Tom? Please, don't leave.” Rebecca began to cry. “God, I'm so scared.” She wriggled her fingers. “Please? Tom?”


As the wind and heavy rain slammed the VFW building, the five women who had been working in the hall huddled together. They were underneath two tables that were pushed against the strongest interior wall. At one point, they heard the windows in the kitchen shatter, but no one made a move to investigate. The electricity failed right after the storm started and the building had already started to get warm and humid.

“I don't think I can take much more of this,” Kathleen whimpered. She had admitted a paralyzing fear of severe weather just as the storm hit, much to the disdain of Phyllis. “I thought I could handle it, but I just can't.”

“Sssh.” Anna Leigh had her arms around Kathleen, who shook so hard it nearly rattled her teeth as well. “Listen.”

The howling wind had stopped, and now the only sound was the hard rain on the roof. They could also hear the rain coming into the kitchen, and one of the main doors of the building had blown open during the peak of the storm.

Phyllis Chambers crawled from beneath her table. “Goodness, that was intense.” She brushed off her slacks and then looked at her hands. “I wonder how long it's been since anyone has swept or mopped around here.”

“Really, Phyllis. I think we have more important things to worry about than dirty floors,” Evaline chastised. She was a friend of Phyllis' mother and had plenty of dealings with the snotty younger woman. Evaline held out her hand to Kathleen. “Come on out of there, honey. We're perfectly safe.”

Kathleen accepted the helping hand and then turned to assist Anna Leigh. “Thank you for understanding, Mrs. Cauble.”

Anna Leigh hugged her. “Please, dear, call me Anna Leigh.” She turned to the final woman in their little group. “How are you doing, Mary? I know it had to be painful for you to be under there for so long.”

“I'll live,” Mary assured her. She was on the Ladies Auxiliary committee that planned the barbeque, even though she had severe arthritis and couldn't always help. “I hope everyone outside was able to get to cover.”

Phyllis snorted. “They could at least see the storm coming. We had no warning at all. No one even bothered to run in and tell us.”

“Be that as it may, someone should go check,” Evaline said, giving Phyllis a pointed stare. “Thank you for volunteering, Phyllis.”

“Excuse me?”

Mary jumped in. “Come on. I'll go with you, and we'll see if anyone needs any help.” She grabbed Phyllis' arm and led her toward the open door.

“Wow, she's obnoxious,” Kathleen whispered. “What's her major problem, anyway? She was ordering everyone around all morning.”

Anna Leigh started toward the kitchen. “Do you mean Phyllis? She married a lawyer a few years ago, and now he's the county judge. Don't let her bother you, dearest.”

“Where are you going, Mrs., um, Anna Leigh?” Kathleen hurried to catch up to the older woman.

“To see what kind of mess the storm made of the kitchen. Perhaps we can salvage some of the sandwiches, at the very least. I have a feeling it's going to be a very long day.”


The rain fell steadily on the overturned truck and the cadence lulled Shelby into a semi-conscious state. She could still hear Lorrie sniffling, but her crying had stopped a few minutes earlier. “How're ya doin', kid?”

Most of Lorrie's weight was on her left foot, which had gained purchase on the steering column. Her right foot was on Shelby 's seat, inches away from her neck. “I think my arm's broke. It hurts to move it.”

Shelby slowly raised her right hand to her face in an attempt to wipe the blood out of her eyes. Her mind was a muddled mess. “We can't be too far from the house. Think you can get out and call for help?”

“I'll try.” Lorrie looked around but couldn't see any way out. “ Shelby ?”


“I can reach the handle and roll down the window on my side, but I can't climb out with just one arm.”

“That could be a problem.” There was only one solution and she dreaded it. She released her seat belt. “All right. I'm going to need your help.”

Lorrie stood over Shelby , holding her injured arm against her body. “What are we gonna do?”

“Do you think you can stand on the steering wheel or on the seat, so I can get up? Then I can boost you through the window and climb out after you.”

“Okay.” Lorrie kept her balance by bracing her good hand against the roof of the truck. It wasn't comfortable, but she was able to move around until she was out of Shelby 's way. “Do you need any help?”

Shelby bit off a sharp reply. The girl was only trying to be helpful. “Just ignore me for a few minutes, okay? I don't want your mom kicking my ass for using bad language around you.”

Lorrie giggled. “Momma cusses a lot, too. And I've heard my mom say things she doesn't know I've heard.”

“Yeah, I figured.” Shelby took a deep breath and released it slowly. “Okay, here goes.” She grabbed the steering wheel with her right hand and used it to leverage herself off the side window. The unsettling feeling of her sticky face peeling away from the glass caused Shelby 's stomach to churn. She gritted her teeth as she struggled to a sitting position. “Argh! God dammit, that fuckin' hurts!” The shoulder that she landed on throbbed to the point where she thought she may pass out. Shelby closed her eye and bit her lip to keep from fainting.

“ Shelby ?” Lorrie could see the blood caked on the left side of Shelby 's face. It slowly ran from her temple to her shirt and her hair was matted with drying clumps of blood.

“I think I'm gonna need your help, after all,” Shelby gasped. She held out her right hand. “If I can just get my balance, I think I'll be okay.”

Lorrie grabbed her hand and held on tightly as Shelby struggled to stand. She turned her head and noticed a crack along the back window. “Hey, look.”

Shelby leaned against the truck roof and opened her one good eye, but her vision was too blurry. “What?”

“The back window has a big crack in it.”

“How big?” Shelby ran her hand across the window, but with the leather glove on she couldn't feel anything.

“All the way across, I think.”

Shelby blew out a heavy breath. “Finally, something in our favor. I'm going to try and kick it out. It would be a lot easier than trying to climb up through that little window.”

“I can help,” Lorrie offered.

“I reckon between the two of us, it should be easy.” Shelby tried to get turned enough to use her leg, but the cab was too small. “Fuck. Okay, plan B. On the count of three, you kick and I'll ram it with my shoulder.” She closed her eye for a moment, inhaled deeply and then exhaled slowly. “One…two…three!”


“I think I like storms,” Ellie sighed. She sat in front of Kyle, who had her arms wrapped around her. “And I never knew closets could be so…romantic.”

Kyle kissed the side of her neck. “Does this mean I don't have to take you out on our anniversary?”

Ellie tilted her head as she enjoyed the gentle kisses. “I don't care where we are, or what we do. You know that.”

“Mmm-hmm.” Kyle put her hands under Ellie's shirt and stroked her stomach. “Me, either.” Suddenly, something seemed different which caused her to stop. “Do you hear that?”

“Huh?” Ellie was lost in a sensual haze. Anytime her lover touched her, she melted. Kyle had been wonderful during the storm, holding her close and exchanging gentle kisses to keep her calm.

Kyle kissed Ellie's head and stood. “The wind stopped.”

“Is that a good thing, or a bad thing?” Ellie accepted a hand up and put her arms around Kyle's neck. “Next time, we have got to have a flashlight, or something in here. I hate not being able to see your eyes.”

“Yeah, I didn't think about the power going out. All I wanted to do was make sure you were safe.”

Ellie found Kyle's lips easily in the dark. Once they broke apart, she laughed. “Depends on what I'm supposed to be safe from. The storm, yes. I was very safe. Making out in a dark closet? Not so much.”

“I didn't hear any complaints,” Kyle teased.

“And you never will.”

Kyle held Ellie's hand and led her from the closet. They both stopped when they saw the damage to the bedroom. “Damn.”

The bedroom was soaked from the rain, which continued to fall. Glass was everywhere, as were wet leaves and small twigs and branches. The white, padded bench that sat beneath the window was drenched and covered with mud.

Ellie gingerly walked to the window and looked out. Although she was soon as wet as the rest of the room, she didn't move away. “Hey, Kyle?”

“Yeah?” Kyle stood beside her. “Wow. I wonder where that came from?” Just outside their window was a narrow section of wooden trellis. “I guess that's what broke the window, huh?”

“Probably.” Ellie turned to take another look at the bedroom. “I hope everyone at the fair is okay. Lex and Amanda were going to take the kids.”

Kyle kissed her on the forehead and retrieved her cell phone from the nightstand. “I'll give Amanda a call and see.” She dialed Amanda's cell phone number and frowned at the recorded message. “Lines are out.”

“Can we run by the town square and see if they're there?”

“Sure, baby. How about you get into something dry and I'll board up the window, okay? I think I have some plywood out in the garage.”

Ellie grabbed her before she could leave the bedroom. “Thanks. But I don't see why I should change, especially since we're going right back out in this mess.”

“Maybe because I'm overprotective?”

“Probably. But I love you for it.” Ellie swatted her on the butt. “Go on. I'll try to get some of this mess cleaned up while you take care of the window.”


Rebecca's pleas were more than Tom could ignore. He took her hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze. “I'm sorry. It's really none of my business who you, umm, you know.” It wasn't as if he didn't know any gay people. Lex Walters had been coming to the feed store her entire life. But, Rebecca seemed different. Now that he was over the shock, he knew he had to help her.

“I…I'm so cold, Tom.”

“I know. Look, let me run back to the office and see if I can call someone to get you out of there.” Her grip kept him from leaving. “Rebecca, I promise I'll be right back. But I can't move this tree or any of the other stuff without help.”

She released his hand. “Please, hurry. I don't want to be alone.”

Tom got up. “I'll be right back, I promise.” He stumbled over the ruins and slipped on the wet tile, but finally reached the office. He picked up the phone but heard nothing but static on the line. “Crap!” He didn't want to return to Rebecca without something positive, so he left the office and headed out the back door. “I'll find someone to help.”

Back in the showroom, Rebecca couldn't stop shivering. She was lying on her stomach with her right cheek against the floor and she was chilled to the bone. “Tom?”

She waited for an answer, but between the rain that fell and the noises made by the damaged building, she couldn't hear anything. As the cold numbed her body, Rebecca found it hard to stay alert. “Someone, please, help me,” she cried.


“I can't believe all this damage was done by wind and rain,” Kyle said. “Good thing we kept our vehicles in the garage.” She was behind the wheel of her shop's truck, which she had borrowed until she could finish the rebuild on her own car's engine. “I've never seen so many beat up cars and broken windows from a thunderstorm, before.”

Ellie pointed to a house as they passed. “It looks like their roof is gone. Do you think a tornado did this?”

Kyle shook her head. “I don't think so. But I wouldn't be surprised to find out we had hurricane-force winds. It's almost impossible to find clear streets.”

“I really appreciate you taking me to the town square. I just want to make sure my family's safe.”

“I'm worried, too. Besides, we can cut over by the shop on the way. I want to check and see if we had any damage.” Kyle stopped when they came upon a huge elm that had fallen across the road. “Crap.” She put the truck in reverse until they came to a cross-street. “We'll have to cut through by the high school.”

Ellie ignored her mumbling and stared out her window. Tree limbs littered every yard and many of the cars had cracked or shattered windows. “Unbelievable.” She held on to the handle over her door as Kyle drove onto the sidewalk to bypass another fallen tree. “Don't ever complain about my driving again, Kyle. At least I stay on the roads.”

“Not much choice, baby. Besides, it's not like—” Kyle slowed when she noticed the stopped truck ahead. “Wow. Look at the size of that tree. I hope those guys got out okay.”

Ellie unbuckled her seat belt. “We'd better go see.”

“Hey, at least wait ‘til I stop,” Kyle yelled. She parked and jumped out to follow her lover. “Ellie, wait.”

The closer she got to the vehicle, the faster Ellie walked. Even from the back, the large, green Dodge pickup looked familiar. “Oh, no.” She turned to Kyle, who jogged up beside her. “It's Lex's truck.”

“Are you sure?” Kyle tried to look through the driver's window, but it was blocked by a tree limb. “I can't see inside.”

Ellie pointed to the door, where the edge of the Rocking W Ranch logo could be seen. “We need to see if she's in there.”

“I'll check the other side.” Kyle walked around the truck and moved a plastic child's playhouse out of her way. “Shit.” The passenger's side of the truck was obscured, and one of the larger branches had blocked the door. She turned and headed toward the rear of the truck. “I couldn't tell—” Kyle stopped when she saw Ellie in the bed. “What are you doing?”

“I think I can see through the back windows. The leaves are thinner back here.” Ellie disappeared into the foliage. “Kyle, do you have a screwdriver and a flashlight? I can't see a damned thing.”

Kyle decided against arguing. She went to her vehicle and searched through the attached tool box, grumbling the entire time. She found a small crowbar as well as a flashlight and a hand saw. “Better than nothing, I guess.”

Ellie stood by the tailgate and helped Kyle up when she returned. “A crowbar? Perfect! We can pry the sliding window open and I can squeeze through.”

“Oh, hell, no! You're not climbing inside. We're just going to look and see if anyone is in there.”

Ellie ignored Kyle's outburst and took the crowbar from her hands. Without another word, she squeezed through the branches and out of Kyle's sight. “Hon? Could you bring the flashlight?”

“I swear, she's gonna be the death of me.” Kyle struggled through the leaves and branches, only to see Ellie's head and shoulders disappear through the window. “Ellie!”

Ellie popped back out and almost bumped faces with Kyle. “The branches have covered all the other windows, and with the rain and clouds, it's too dark to see inside.”

“Maybe I should go in,” Kyle offered.

“I'm a nurse. If there is anyone inside, they may need medical attention.”

Kyle shook her head. “I don't want you to risk it. If the wind gets up again—”

“All the more reason for me to hurry.” Ellie took the flashlight from Kyle's hand. “I'll holler if I need help, I promise.” She quickly kissed Kyle's lips and turned away.

Kyle watched helplessly as Ellie disappeared into the cab of the truck. “Be careful,” she called after her.

Inside, Ellie was on her knees in the back seat and shined the light toward the front. She could see a dark head that rested on the flattened airbag on the driver's side. “Lex?” Ellie stretched over the seat and touched the driver's shoulder. “Lex, can you hear me?”

When she didn't get an answer, Ellie touched the side of Lex's neck, relieved to find warm skin and a strong pulse. “All right. Good.” She turned the flashlight toward the passenger side of the truck to see a man in a similar state. His pulse was strong as well and she exhaled in relief.

Ellie turned to the back window and stuck her head out. “Lex is in here, along with some man I don't recognize. They're both alive, but unconscious.”

“That's a relief. Let me help you out of there and we'll go find some help.”

“I can't leave her here like this.”

Kyle shook her head. “I'm sure as hell not leaving you here by yourself.”

“You have to. I can't tell how serious their injuries are, and we need to get them out.”

“No, El. Please don't ask me to leave you.” Kyle hefted the saw. “I'll work on the branches by the door. Maybe we can get them out that way.”


“Let me try, okay? You've seen the damage around here. I'm sure the emergency services are overwhelmed.”

Ellie nodded. “All right. I'm going to go back and keep an eye on them, in case they come to.”

“Holler if you need me.”

Ellie reached through the window and wiped the rain water off of Kyle's face. “I'll always need you. Be careful out there.”

“I will. You, too.” Kyle kissed her hand and backed away.


The rain had slowed to a drizzle, although to the two trudging through the mud, it didn't matter. Shelby 's left arm was useless. She had her hand tucked into the front of her belt to keep it immobile, and each step brought agony to what she assumed was a broken collar bone. She glanced at Lorrie, who silently kept up with her. “How're ya doin', kid?”

“I feel stupid,” Lorrie muttered. “Sorry I threw up on you.” Once they had made it out of the truck, the two of them put a splint on her broken wrist. Lorrie cried so hard at the pain that she threw up all over Shelby .

“Hey, don't worry ‘bout it. Rain washed me right off.”

Lorrie kept her eyes on the ground. “I bet you don't cry like a baby.”

“I do, and have, on occasion.”

“Really?” Lorrie looked up and stumbled.

Shelby caught her and kept her from falling. “Yup. Many times. Nothing wrong with it, kid. Everyone that has a heart, cries. I'd worry more about someone who doesn't show emotion.”

“I guess I never thought of it that way. But I threw up on you! That's something little kids do.”

“Nah. It's a natural reaction to hurtin'. Like I said, don't worry about it.” As they crested the hill, Shelby pointed ahead of them. “See? We made it.”

Lorrie sniffled and wiped her nose with the back of her hand. “Do you think Momma will still be in town?”

“I reckon she's out of her mind, worryin' ‘bout you. We'll take Rebecca's car and find her, I promise.”

Once they reached the back door, Shelby stopped. “Fuck.”

“What's wrong?”

“I left my damned keys in the truck!” Shelby punctuated the sentence with a firm kick to the middle of the door. It burst open and slammed against the interior wall. “Rebecca's gonna love me for that.”

Lorrie followed her inside. “You won't get into trouble? Momma gets into trouble when she breaks stuff.”

Shelby took a set of keys from a bowl on the counter. “She's been after me for years to replace that door.” She went to the refrigerator and took out two cans of soda. “If you'll check the pantry, we should have a bag of cookies in there. Grab ‘em and we'll head for town.”


Chapter Twenty-Five

Amanda finished with Eddie's diaper as Charlie came into the living room. He had volunteered to check the upstairs rooms for damage after the storm. “How bad was it?”

“Not as bad as I thought it would be, considering part of the roof is gone,” Charlie said. He sat in the chair closest to Melanie and Teddy, who were busy drawing pictures. “I think the majority of the damage is to the attic and the guest room. But I'd feel better if an expert checked the roof, before y'all spend the night up there.”

“Thanks, Charlie.” Amanda put Eddie on the floor and patted his rear. “There you go.”

Eddie laughed and joined his sister and cousin. “Meemee!”

Melanie tore off a page from a coloring book and handed him a thick crayon. “Don't eat this one, okay?”

“Good,” Eddie agreed.

“It'll be a little crowded, but you can bunk in with us,” Martha offered as she fed Hunter his bottle. “The barns protected our place really well.” The heavy winds tore part of the roof from the ranch house and barn, but no animals were injured.

Jeannie brought in a tray of sandwiches and drinks. “I hope peanut butter and jelly is okay with everyone.” She placed the tray on the coffee table. “I wonder if the storm was as bad in town as it was out here. I still can't get Rodney on the phone.”

“I'm half-tempted to drive in and see,” Amanda added, before she left to wash her hands.

Martha handed Hunter to Jeannie and followed Amanda down the hall. “Usually I'd be the first one to tell you to stay put.”

“But?” Amanda ducked into the spare bathroom and vigorously scrubbed her hands.

“But, I'm as worried as you are.”

Amanda dried her hands and joined Martha in the hallway. “I thought Jeannie and I could ride in together, so we can check on Gramma and everyone else. But if Teddy goes, Mel will want to go. And if Mel—”

“Don't you worry about the kids. Charlie and I will take them to our place.”

“All of them?”

Martha put her hands on her hips. “Are you saying I can't handle four children?”


“That's what I thought.” Martha patted her on the cheek. “Run upstairs and pack an overnight bag, just in case. We'll have a movie marathon this evening, and let the bigger kids camp out in the living room. Eddie can sleep with us and Hunter will be just fine in the portable crib.”

Amanda gave her a quick hug. “Thanks. You're a braver woman than I, that's for sure.” As she headed for the stairs, she heard Martha's parting shot.

“I raised Lexie, didn't I? How much harder can those four little angels be?”


“Damn it, Lex! Stay still,” Ellie snapped as the paramedic placed the cervical collar around her cousin's neck.

Lex hadn't stopped complaining since she had become conscious. Her right wrist was splinted and she awakened to find herself strapped to a backboard. “I need to call Amanda.”

“The phone lines are down. Just relax and let these guys take care of you.”

“How the hell am I supposed to relax, when I'm trussed up like this?” When Ellie came into her line of sight, Lex lowered her voice. “I don't want Amanda to be worried.”

Ellie rubbed her shoulder. “I promise, I'll get in touch with her. How's your vision, now?” When Lex first came to, she had trouble seeing anything.

“Still a little blurry.”

“Well, that could be due to your broken nose, cuz. Or the concussion you probably have.” Ellie felt, rather than saw, Kyle join them. She gratefully leaned into the arm around her shoulders. “How's he doing?”

Kyle watched as they loaded Weldon into the back of the ambulance. “Not too bad. His broken leg is the only thing they're worried about.” She moved to where Lex could see her. “How are you, Lex?”

“Fine. I need to get home and check on my family. None of this is necessary.” Lex blinked as something occurred to her. “Damn it. Ellie?”


“Lorrie went with Shelby to help with her fence. Could you—”

Ellie followed as the firemen took Lex toward a waiting ambulance. “We'll find her. Don't worry.” As they loaded the stretcher, she asked one of the men, “Which hospital are you taking her to?”

“Parkdale. The storm barely touched them over there.”

“Thanks.” Ellie turned and fell into her lover's arms. Now that the rain had stopped and the clouds had lightened, she could easily see how badly the truck had been wrecked. “I can't believe that tree didn't kill them.”

Kyle kissed the top of Ellie's head. “Yeah. I kind of freaked out when I saw the blood all over Lex's face. You were great, though.”

“I don't feel great, just drained.” Ellie walked beside Kyle as they returned to the wrecked truck. Two uniformed men were trying to secure the doors. “Sheriff Richards, is there anything else we can do here?”

Jeremy turned away from his deputy. “No, we've got it.” He handed Ellie a bag. “This is the stuff out of the glove box. I didn't want to leave it behind.”

“Thank you. And thank you for getting help here so quickly.”

“Well, having a woman jump in front of my cruiser gets my attention.” He pointed at Kyle. “Next time, just wave. I could have hit you.”

Kyle blushed. “All I knew is that we needed help, and yours was the first car I'd seen since we got here.”

“You did what?” Ellie asked.

“Um.” Kyle held out her hand to the sheriff. “Thanks for everything, Sheriff. Could you have Lex's truck towed to my shop?”

Jeremy shook her hand. “Sure.” He listened to the chatter from the radio on his belt. “Sounds like we've got several of the surrounding towns sending help. I'd better head on over to the town square and check out the damage. Do you need anything else?”

Kyle looked at Ellie. “I don't think so. We promised Lex we'd find her daughter, Lorrie, but we'd appreciate it if you'd keep an eye out for her.”

“She's with Shelby Fisher,” Ellie added. “According to Lex, they were going to work on Shelby 's fence.”

Jeremy took a small notepad from his shirt pocket and wrote the information down. “All right. We'll keep an eye out for them. I'll also try to reach the ranch on the radio. If I know Charlie, he's probably monitoring our frequency for information.”

“Great.” Ellie shook his hand. “Thank you again, Sheriff. I can see why my cousin speaks so highly of you. Do you mind if we follow you to the town square? I'm hoping to find the rest of my family over there.”

“Of course. Let me tell Oscar what's going on, and we'll head out.”


Lorrie was in shock as Shelby tried to find passable streets in Somerville . “Did a tornado hit?” she asked.

“Looks more like the wind did most of this. It got up pretty high, remember?”

“Yeah, I guess.” Lorrie stared at the fallen trees and trash that littered the yards and streets. “Do you think my mom is okay? She was outside when we left.”

Shelby had been thinking that very thought. “Uh, well. I reckon your mom is a lot smarter than that. She's probably holed up somewhere safe, worried about you.”

“What about my house? Everyone else was at home.” Lorrie pointed out the side window. “Look! That car is upside down!”

“It doesn't take much to toss one of those little things around. Hell, I bet you and me together could pick up one end.” After driving around another downed tree, Shelby thought about the huge trees that surrounded the feed store. Her thoughts drifted toward her lover and she sent a silent plea to whoever would listen, to watch over Rebecca.

When the local hospital came into view, Lorrie glared at Shelby . “I thought we were going to find my mom.” It had taken them twice as long to get through town as normal and she was anxious to be reunited with her family. She had her injured arm cradled close to her body, and fought to keep from crying.

“We will, I promise. But you need to get your arm looked at.”


“Do you think I'm dumb enough to face either one of your folks without having you checked out, first? There's no telling how long it'll take to find them in this mess.” Shelby circled the lot, unable to find a parking space. “If your wrist is broken, it needs to be set as soon as possible. I know all too well what happens if you don't.” She showed Lorrie the two smallest fingers on her right hand, which were bent out of shape. “I tried to fix these myself and they healed wrong. Hurts like hell every time the weather changes.”


Shelby grinned. “And that's not even the worst of ‘em.” She slowly cruised by the hospital entry and saw the line of people coming out the door. “Damn. I was afraid of that.”

“What?” Lorrie looked at the hospital. “Oh. We're gonna be here forever.”

“Nope.” Shelby put the car in reverse. “We're goin' to Parkdale. Their hospital is bigger, anyway.”

Lorrie's joy at a reprieve was short-lived. She dropped her head against the back of the seat. “Crap.”


Across town, battery operated floodlights cast a yellowish glow over the interior of the feed store. Tom watched the group of rescuers work to free Rebecca. He paced back and forth in an attempt to see their progress. While some of the tree limbs were cut away and discarded, the heavier ones were still in place.

“Hold it, guys. That limb isn't stable,” yelled a man stationed by Rebecca's head.

“Got it braced!” voiced another man. “Andy, bring over that board.”

The next fifteen minutes seemed like a lifetime to Tom, who chewed on his thumbnail while he watched the firemen stabilize Rebecca's body and carefully remove her from the wreckage.

He moved closer as Rebecca was placed on the stretcher. In the surreal light, Tom could see the tears run down her face and disappear into her hair. He touched her hand, which was strapped down with the rest of her body. “It's going to be okay.”

Rebecca cut her eyes toward his voice. “Tom?”

“Yeah, I'm here.”

“Could you?”

He leaned to hear her. “What do you need?”

She began to cry harder. “ Shelby . Please find her.”

“Um.” Tom had to walk with the stretcher as they carried her from the store. “What about your family?”

“She is my family, Tom. Please.”

The fireman that held the top of the stretcher cleared his throat. “I'm sorry, but you're going to have to step back. We need to transport her.”

“Okay.” As he watched them load Rebecca into the ambulance, Tom wasn't certain what to do. He wanted to help her, but he didn't know the first thing about how to find or contact Rebecca's girlfriend. If he were honest with himself, he still had trouble thinking of her as a lesbian.

When the ambulance pulled away, Tom went back into the store. He needed to find a way to close it up so that he could leave, and he hoped he could decide what to do about Rebecca.


A large crowd had gathered at the VFW building, where Sheriff Jeremy Richards had set up a mobile command center. Butcher paper had been taped along one wall, where people could use markers to share information.

Anna Leigh and the other women were once again busy in the kitchen. Only this time, their food preparation was for those displaced by the storm and the volunteers who were busy trying to find the missing. She took a tray of completed sandwiches into the main hall and heard the sheriff's voice above the din.

“The more seriously injured are being routed to Parkdale. And before you ask, no. I don't have a list of casualties at this time. I do know we've had two reported fatalities so far, but we have a lot more buildings to check.”

A voice from the group yelled, “How long are we supposed to be without power? There aren't many places that have generators, unlike this place.” A lot of other voices chimed in, raising the noise level.

Jeremy held up his hands to quiet the crowd. “I haven't gotten a call back from the power company, but they've assured me they're sending trucks to help repair the lines. We're the only town that's been hit so far, so we've got top priority.”

Anna Leigh stood by patiently while he answered a few more questions. Once he was finished, she handed him a sandwich. “You look like you could use this.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Cauble.” He unwrapped it, but stopped before he took a bite. “Oh! Hey, is Amanda here?”

“No, she's at home. Jeannie was going out to see her this morning, though. Why?”

He looked a little unsure, but took a gentle hold of her elbow and moved away from the crowd. “It's about Lex. She was in an accident, and was taken to Parkdale.”

“Oh, goodness. How badly was she hurt?”

“I don't know for sure, but she was arguing with her cousin when they loaded her into the ambulance.”

Anna Leigh couldn't keep from laughing. “That certainly sounds like Lexington . Perhaps I should try to drive out to the ranch.”

“No, ma'am, I wouldn't advise trying right now. The roads are a mess. I just wanted to let you know, in case Amanda somehow gets in touch with you.”

She patted his arm. “Thank you, dear. When will it be safe to travel?”

“I guess it depends on where you need to go. Some of the major roads have been cleared by volunteers, but we've got a ways to go before all the residential streets are passable. If you need to get home, let me or one of my deputies know. We'll give you a ride.”

“That won't be necessary, but thank you. I thought I could help around here at least a few more hours. Be careful out there, Sheriff.”

He tipped his hat. “Yes, ma'am. Thanks for the sandwich.”

Anna Leigh finished handing out her sandwiches and returned to the kitchen. Kathleen took the tray from her and guided her to a chair. “Are you all right, Anna Leigh?”

“Yes, I'm quite all right. Thank you. Have you heard any news of your grandmother?”

Kathleen placed the tray on the counter and squatted beside the chair. “As a matter of fact, yes. One of the volunteers passed by the home on his way over here. He said that other than a lot of broken tree limbs everywhere, they're okay.”

“That's wonderful, dear.” Anna Leigh stood. “I believe I'll step outside for a breath of fresh air. I shouldn't be too long.” She left through the kitchen door and breathed a sigh of relief when it closed behind her.

It was still cloudy, but the rain had stopped sometime earlier, and Anna Leigh was surprised by how peaceful it was behind the VFW. If not for the amount of debris scattered around the area, she would be hard-pressed to tell that anything was wrong.

She walked slowly around the building, taking her time to get her thoughts in order. She was so wrapped up in her thoughts that she almost missed the tiny mew nearby. After a short search, Anna Leigh found the cause of the noise.

A small, soaked gray bundle was huddled beneath a split, plastic garbage can lid. It raised its blue eyes up at the intruder and gave a half-hearted hiss.

Anna Leigh knelt beside the lid and cautiously held out her hand. “Well, hello there. Aren't you a brave little thing?”

The kitten wasn't much larger than her fist, and it nervously sniffed at her fingers.

“That's right. I'm not going to hurt you.” She allowed it to sniff for a moment, then carefully picked it up. “Goodness, you weigh next to nothing,” she marveled. When she held it close to her chest, she could feel it shiver. “You poor dear. I wonder who you belong to?”

Anna Leigh looked around the area to make sure there were no brothers or sisters for the kitten, before she continued along on her walk. “You must have gotten washed away from your home. I'm not quite certain what to do with you.” The more she talked, the calmer the kitten became, until it began to purr. “Aren't you a little heartbreaker?” She stepped around to the front of the building and happened to see a familiar vehicle pull up almost in the yard.

Two women jumped out of the maroon Expedition and started for the main entrance of the VFW hall.

Amanda was the first to notice Anna Leigh, and she jogged to where her grandmother stood. “Gramma! I'm so glad you're all right!” she was about to embrace the older woman, when she noticed what she held.

Jeannie followed her sister and stopped. “Gramma, what is that?”

“A kitten, of course.” Anna Leigh shifted the animal to one side and hugged Amanda with her free arm. “I'm so glad to see you. Is everything all right at the ranch?”

“Our roof was damaged, but other than that, yes. We're all fine.”

Jeannie got in a quick hug as well. “Where did you get a kitten?”

“I found it outside.” Anna Leigh stroked the kitten with her thumb as she held it. “What are you two doing here?”

Amanda gently scratched the kitten's head. “Since the phones are out, we came to make sure everyone was okay. Have you seen Lex, or Lorrie?”

“Goodness. Lorrie is with Lexington ?” Anna Leigh asked as her face drained of color.

Jeannie put her arm around Anna Leigh. “What's the matter, Gramma?”

“Amanda, dearest, I'm afraid—”

“No.” Amanda took a step back.

“ Lexington will be fine,” Anna Leigh rushed out. “I spoke to the sheriff a short time ago.”

Amanda stopped and held up her hands. “No, wait. What happened?”

“The sheriff told me that Lexington was in an accident, but she should be all right.”

“What about Lorrie?”

Anna Leigh shook her head. “I don't know. He didn't mention her at all. But he said that Lexington was at the hospital in Parkdale.”


“Just a short while ago. He's inside, trying to keep everyone updated.” When Amanda turned and headed for the door, Anna Leigh turned to Jeannie. “I'm sure he would have told me, if anything were wrong with Lorrie.”

Jeannie nodded. “I'm sure he would, Gramma. Let's get you and your little friend inside, so we can find out more about Lex.”


The white, tile ceiling held no answers for the woman forced to stare at it for the last half hour. Lex had given up finding patterns in the dots on the tile. She was still immobilized on the backboard and was waiting to be seen by a doctor. “This is total bullshit,” she grumbled.

“They told me a woman was being unreasonable in here. I should have known it was you,” Rodney teased as he stepped into the examination room.

Lex tried to turn her head, but she was strapped down too tightly. “Rodney? What are you doing here?”

“Isn't that my line?” he asked as he stood beside her head. “I was here with a patient, when the storm hit Somerville . Since I'm on staff here as well, I stuck around and started helping in the emergency room.” He continued to read her chart as he spoke. “Why did you hit a tree, Lex?”

“Don't give up your day job. You'll never make it as a comedian.” The friendly banter with her brother-in-law helped alleviate Lex's nerves, at least a little. “And for your information, the damned tree hit me.”

He took out a penlight and shined it in her eyes. “Hmm.”


Rodney ignored her and studied her x-rays. “Are you in much pain?”

“I can handle it.”

He rolled his eyes and switched out the film. “Let me try again. Are you in any pain?”

Lex muttered something.

“I'm sorry, what was that?”

“Okay, yes. I've got a goddamned headache, my wrist is killing me and my back hurts. Happy?”

Rodney lightly patted her shoulder. “Not happy, no. Are you claustrophobic?”


“Because we're going to need some better images of your head and back, just to be safe.”


“Yes, I'm afraid so. Are you okay with that?”

Lex sighed. “Do I have much of a choice?”

He put the chart down and leaned over her, so that they could see eye-to-eye. “Of course you do. But, do you want to be the one who tells Amanda we didn't give you a thorough exam?”

“Are you afraid of my wife, Rodney?”

“Aren't you?” he asked as he laughed.

Her answer was unintelligible.

Rodney studied Lex's nose. “You're going to need that set, unless you want to go through the rest of your life looking like a boxer.”

“Yeah, I figured. Hurts like hell. Hey, Rodney? Has anyone been able to contact Amanda? I don't want her freaking out over this.”

“I've tried a couple of times, but the lines are still down. Don't worry, I'll be the one to talk to her, so she's not given the wrong information.”

Lex closed her eyes against the bright light of the room. Her headache was making her sick to her stomach. “I need to find out about Lorrie, too.”

“What about her?”

“She's with Shelby at her place. It's west of town, which is the direction that damned storm came from.” Lex clinched her fists. “I need to get out of here so I can find her.”

The door opened and an orderly started inside. Rodney held up his hand to keep the orderly quiet. “Lex, I promise I'll do what I can to find Lorrie. But right now, I need you to relax and let us take care of you, okay?”

“Yeah. Oh, hey. How's Weldon?”

Rodney moved out of the way so the orderly could get to the stretcher. “He's going to be fine. He had a clean break. From what I understand, you both were very lucky.”

“Be sure and tell my wife that, will you?” Lex asked, as the orderly pushed her out of the room.


“Do we have to go in there?” Lorrie asked Shelby . “I just want to find my mom.”

Shelby parked the car. “Yeah, we do. Your arm ain't gonna fix itself, and neither is my shoulder.”

Lorrie got out of the car at the same time as Shelby . “Does that mean you're not going to leave me here by myself?”

“Of course not.” Shelby could feel her last reserves ebb away as they walked to the doors of the emergency room. “I promise you, we're in this together. At least until your folks show up, okay?”

“Okay.” Lorrie followed her through the doors. She almost went back outside when they were assailed by dozens of voices, crying children and the blare of the hospital loud speaker. “Wow.”

Shelby gritted her teeth and continued to the admittance desk, where a lone woman struggled to answer the phone and enter data into the computer. “Excuse me, ma'am?”

“Take a number and take a seat, and we'll call you when we can,” the woman answered, without bothering to look up.

“Yeah, but—”

“Take a number and take a seat,” the woman repeated. She raised her head and gasped. “Oh, my. I'm sorry.” She picked up a clipboard and handed it to Shelby . “Are you able to fill out these forms?”

Shelby took the clipboard. “Yeah, I can do that.” She tore a number from the machine. “Thanks.” She looked around the waiting area, but didn't see any empty chairs. “How about we stand over by the doors? At least it'll be less noisy there.”

“Good. The noise hurts my head.”

“Mine too, kiddo.” Shelby leaned against the wall and tried not to grin at Lorrie's attempt to mimic her. She looked at the clipboard and began to write when the bay doors opened, and a stretcher was brought in. “Watch out, Lorrie. We need to,” her mind went blank when she recognized the woman on the stretcher. “Rebecca?”

The stretcher rolled by Shelby , but not before Rebecca heard her name called. “ Shelby ?”

“Damn it! Lorrie, stay here, I'll be right back,” Shelby yelled, as she dropped the clipboard and chased after them. “Hey, hold up!”

“ Shelby !” Rebecca cried.

“For the love of god, will you guys stop?” Shelby yelled. Half of the people in the emergency area stopped and turned to look at her. She was still covered in mud, blood and everything else and was a frightful sight. “Please, wait.”

They paused at the defeated tone in her voice. One of the attendants turned and saw Shelby for the first time. “Um, ma'am?”

Shelby moved past him and looked down at her lover. “What happened, darlin'?”

“Oh, god, Shelby,” Rebecca cried. She tried to reach for her, but the straps kept her immobile. “Damn it.”

“Easy, there.” Shelby put her hand on Rebecca's. “You're gonna be okay.”

Rebecca started to argue, but noticed Shelby 's appearance. “What happened to you?”

“Just a little accident, nothin' major. You just worry about yourself, all right?” Shelby looked up at the men who brought her into the emergency room. “Can we go with you?”

“Are you family?”

Lorrie overheard them as she walked up. “They're my aunts.”

“All right. But try to stay out of the doctor's way. They may have to send you back here, if they send your ‘sister' for tests.”

Shelby didn't remove her hand as they left the noise of the waiting area behind. She kept her eyes on Rebecca's face. “See? It's—”

“Momma!” Lorrie broke away from them and ran down the hall, where an orderly was pushing a stretcher. She skidded into the stretcher and hung onto the rail with her good hand. “Momma, what happened?”

“Hey, lil' bit. Damn, I'm glad to see you. How did you get here?”

“ Shelby brought me. She's with Ms. Rebecca. What happened to you?” All of Lorrie's words came out in a rush. “Did you get hurt in the storm?”

“Whoa, sweetheart. Listen, your Uncle Rodney is in the room I just left. Go see him and let him know you're here, okay? I have to get some tests done, but I'll be back in a little while.”

Lorrie started to cry. “I don't want you to go, Momma.”

“It's okay, really. Your uncle is worried too, and needs to see you. Can you do that for me?”

Lorrie tried to stop crying. “I'm sorry, Momma.”

“Hey, it's all right. Just go see Uncle Rodney. He'll bring you to me when I'm done, I promise.”

“Okay.” Lorrie let go of the stretcher, then chased after it again. “I love you, Momma!” she cried as Lex was wheeled into an elevator.

“I love you too, sweetheart,” Lex answered, as the elevator doors closed.

Lorrie turned around and saw Rodney standing in the hall. She stumbled past Rebecca and Shelby and fell into her uncle's arms.


Rodney turned away from the x-rays and put his hand on his niece's shoulder. Lorrie was seated on the exam table, dressed in a clean hospital gown. “Looks like you and your momma will be twins for a while. But the good news is, it's a clean fracture. You should be able to play softball in the fall.”

“Will Momma be okay? She's been gone a long time.”

“I haven't seen her film yet, but I think she'll be fine, sweetheart.” He caught her as she swayed. “Why don't you lie back and close your eyes? I'll try to find out how much longer she'll be.”

Lorrie yawned and allowed herself to be guided onto the pillow. “I'm not tired,” she weakly argued as Rodney covered her with a thin blanket.

“I know.” He watched as she fell asleep almost instantly. Once he was certain she was out, Rodney stepped outside the room and carefully closed the door.

A harried young nurse met him in the hall. “Dr. Crews, there's two women in the lobby looking for you,” she said.

Rodney sighed and headed for the lobby. “All right, thanks.” He stopped and turned around. “My niece is in room six. She's suffering from exhaustion and a fractured wrist, and I needed someplace for her to stay while her mother is having an MRI upstairs.”

“I'll check in on her, Doctor.”

“Thank you, I'd really appreciate it.” When Rodney stepped through the doors that separated the waiting area from the examination rooms, he was surprised to see his wife and her sister come toward him. “Jeannie? Are the boys all right?”

Jeannie hugged him as tightly as she could. “I'm so glad to see you.” She slowly pulled away and smiled. “The boys are fine. They're with Martha and Charlie.”

“Thank goodness.” Rodney turned to Amanda. “I think I know why you're here. Lex is upstairs and Lorrie's in one of the exam rooms. Come on, I'll take you both back and try to fill you in.”


Amanda slowly opened the door and stepped into the small room. She stood over Lorrie and shook her head. “Just like your momma,” she whispered as she lightly brushed her hand over her daughter's mud-stained forehead.

Lorrie opened her eyes and blinked several times, as if to clear her vision. “Mom?”

“I'm here, honey.”

“Mom!” Lorrie rose and was quickly wrapped in Amanda's arms. She rested her cheek against Amanda's shirt and began to cry.

Amanda sat on the table and tugged Lorrie into her lap. Lorrie was almost her height, but easily stretched until she fit comfortably. “Shh. It's going to be okay.”

Jeannie lightly knocked on the open door and came inside. “Rodney told me that Lex is on her way to a room. They want to keep her overnight for observation.”


Lorrie sat up and wiped her face. “Does that mean that she's gonna be okay?”

“That's exactly what it means,” Jeannie answered. She sat next to Amanda and rubbed Lorrie's back. “How are you doing?”

“I'm hungry.”

Jeannie laughed and winked at her sister. “Let me see if I can find some scrubs that'll fit you, then we can run down to the cafeteria. Unless you'd rather wear that.”

“Eww. No, I don't like dresses. And this one has a big hole in the back.” Lorrie scooted off of Amanda. “Can we go see Momma?”

“As soon as she's settled, I promise.”


The soft snore from Rebecca was the only sound in the hospital room. Shelby sat inches away and watched as her chest rose and fell. After the long series of x-rays, it was determined that Rebecca's back was strained. She also had a nasty knot on the back of her head that they wanted to keep an eye on, so she was admitted and placed in a room.

Shelby scratched at the collar of the green scrubs that Rodney had found for her. They had to cut off her shirt to check her shoulder, which was a Type I separation. The nurse had made her throw away her filthy jeans, too.

She leaned back in the plastic chair and sighed. The pain medication that Rodney had given her took the edge of her shoulder ache, but did nothing to slow down the barrage of thoughts that raced through her mind. “I should have never left you alone today,” she whispered. “I'm so sorry, darlin'.”

“ Shelby ?” Rebecca rasped.

“Hold on.” Shelby poured a small amount of water into a plastic cup and held the straw up to Rebecca's lips. “Easy, now.”

Rebecca took a few sips and nodded. “Thanks.” She studied Shelby 's face. “You look terrible.”

“Yeah?” Shelby leaned over and lightly kissed Rebecca's lips. “You look wonderful.”

“You must have hit your head harder than they thought.”

Shelby touched the bandage on her left brow. It had taken eight stitches to close the gash, which she had completely forgotten about until now. “You know how I am. Hard-headed.”

“That's true.” Rebecca wriggled her fingers, which were immediately caught by Shelby . “I was afraid I'd never see you again.”

“You can't get rid of me that easily,” Shelby assured her. “All I could think about today was getting back to you and make sure you were okay. I did a pretty shitty job of that, though.”

Rebecca frowned. “Are you kidding me? You're here, that's all that matters to me.” She squeezed Shelby 's hand. “When I was stuck under that stuff, and it was dark, wet and scary, I just pictured us snuggled on the couch together in front of a warm fire.”



Shelby scooted her chair as close as she could and kissed Rebecca again. “As soon as you're out of here, we'll do that. I love you, darlin'.”

“Love you, too.” Rebecca closed her eyes and sighed. “I'm so tired.”

“Get some rest. I ain't goin' nowhere.” Shelby was content to hold Rebecca's hand and watch her sleep.


Lex was sitting up in bed when there was a light knock on her door. “Come on in.” She grinned as the door opened and Lorrie hurried inside, followed by Amanda. “Hey, there.”

Lorrie stopped short of the bed, until Lex patted the space beside her. “Are you sure it's okay?”

“Yep.” Lex held out her good hand and helped Lorrie up. “See? Plenty of room.” She patted the opposite side. “How about you, Mom?”

Amanda laughed and sat on the edge. “This will do, thanks.” She sobered and touched Lex's swollen face. “Broke your nose again?”

“Yeah. Not sure if it was the airbag, or the tree.”


Lex bit her lip. “Um, anyway, how's everyone at home?”

Amanda kissed her. “Good try. I'll let it go, for now. Everyone at home is fine.” She moved back and touched the splint on Lex's arm. “How'd this happen?”

“Not too sure. But it's a clean break, so it should heal quickly.” Lex looked at Lorrie's arm. “You too, huh?”

Lorrie shrugged. “Uncle Rodney said the same thing about mine. He also said that Shelby did a good job splinting it, which is why it'll be okay.”

“She did? What happened to you two, anyway?” Lex asked.

Lorrie yawned. “The wind blew her truck into a ditch and flipped it. I tried to catch myself on the seat, and that's when I broke my wrist.” She leaned against Lex and closed her eyes. “Can I stay here with you, tonight?”

Amanda was about to argue, when Lex shook her head and said, “Sure, sweetheart. You can keep me company.”

“Thanks, Momma.” Lorrie turned until she was more comfortably snuggled against Lex's side.

“Are you sure?” Amanda asked.

Lex nodded. “Positive.” After all the trouble she had been through recently with Lorrie, she wasn't about to throw away this gift. “Everyone else okay?”

Amanda kept her voice low, to keep from disturbing Lorrie. “Pretty much. I was finally able to get through to the ranch on my cell phone. Martha said, and I quote, ‘tell Lexie I owe her a whuppin' for trying to drive during a storm,' end quote.”

“Figures.” Lex raised her broken wrist. “Do you think this will protect me?”

“Not a chance.” Amanda stood and stretched. “It's been a hell of a day.”

Lex continued to stare at her wife, even after the stretch ended. “Huh?”

“I can see that thump on the head didn't do much damage.” Amanda took the spare blanket from the foot of the bed and covered Lorrie. “I'm glad you're okay.”

“I was more worried about you and the kids,” Lex admitted. She held out her good hand. “How much trouble do you think we'd be in, if I made you sleep up here with us?”

Amanda laughed and took her hand. “Let's not give the poor nurses any trouble. They've been really nice to me.” When Lex faked a pout, she kissed her bottom lip. “Behave.”

“Yes, ma'am.” Lex kissed Amanda's hand. “I love you.”

“Love you, too.” Amanda kissed her as gently as possible. “Time for you to get some rest.”

“What about you?”

Amanda pointed to the small chair in the corner that converted into an uncomfortable bed. “That'll do, when I get ready. But I thought I'd check on Shelby and Rebecca, first.”

“Good idea.” Lex lowered the top of her bed a few inches so she could be more comfortable. “Give them my best.”

“I will.” Amanda tugged on Lex's foot beneath the covers. “You're worse than the kids. Go to sleep.”

“Yes, Mom.” Lex stuck her tongue out at Amanda and closed her eyes.



To be continued in Part 12

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