a Continuation of "Her Name is Sara"
Disclaimer: All characters belong to Alliance.
The three of them drew stares from the other passengers as they entered the plane. Ray's left arm was in a sling. Fraser's right arm was heavily bandaged. Sara had both wrists taped, a black eye, split lip and bruises along her jaw line and neck. But she couldn't suppress her smile. She was in the best mood she had been in for a week. When an elderly woman stared with her mouth gapping open, Sara smugly stated, "Never enter a Toughman Contest in Chicago. Them city fellars are tough." Ray laughed so hard his arm hurt.
"Sara. That wasn't nice."
"Oh, come on Ben. I was just having fun. Besides, I may look like hell, but I feel great. I can't wait to get home."
After everything she had been through, Craig practically forced her to take some time off. She didn't put up much of an argument. She needed to see her family and have time to put this nightmare out of her mind.
She walked in the bullpen with a smile on her face. Most were surprised she was there. But she was on a mission. She knew Ray and Ben would be there. She had to beg Ben to go to work. He refused to leave her side once he found her. He slept in a chair by her hospital bed for the past two nights while she was under observation. After he did return to work he would spend his lunch sitting with her in her apartment. But she was pleased with what she was about to do and she couldn't wait for him to come see her.
Craig had called the consulate, while she called Welsh. She knew Inspector Thatcher couldn't resist a request from Craig Parker. Before their conversation ended she was offering the full support of the Canadian Consulate and Turnbull for a ride to the airport.
She strode over to his desk before either realized she was there. She would refuse to take 'no' for an answer.
"There's my two favorite guys."
"Sara, what are you doing here? If you need something I would have gotten it for you.." Fraser rose to offer her his seat. "Stop fussing over me, Ben. Besides, I needed to talk to both of you."
"What's up? You look like you just won the lottery."
"I'm glad you asked, Ray. Craig has decided that I need to take an extended leave of absence."
"That's a good idea. You've been through a lot. Take some time. It'll do you good."
"I agree. But I will only go on one condition. Well, two actually."
Fraser looked hard at Sara. * She's up to something. *
"Sara, what are the conditions?"
Ray and Fraser looked at each other, then back at Sara. Ray couldn't take it anymore.
"Spit it out. What's the deal?"
"You two are going with me."
"Are you nuts. We can't just take a couple a weeks off."
"Ray is correct. We have duties here."
"I've had that taken care of. Our flight leaves at 9:30. I'm taking my heroes home to the farm." She shoved two first class plane tickets at them.
"Pick me up tomorrow at 8."
"Sara, have you lost your mind?!." Ray started rubbing the top of his head.
"Vecchio! In my office."
Ten minutes later, Ray returned to his desk to see Fraser pleading with someone on the phone and Sara sitting next to him with a grin from ear to ear. Fraser hung up the phone and looked stunned.
"What's the matter, Benny."
"That was Inspector Thatcher. She demanded that I take three weeks personal leave to recuperate from my injuries. She stated that if she needed anything that she had the number in South Carolina where we will be staying." Ray stood with his mouth open listening to his friend.
"What did the Lieutenant want?" Sara couldn't stand it any longer. She couldn't wait to hear the answer.
"As if you didn't know. Welsh just put me on three weeks medical leave."
"So it's settled. Pack a few light clothes. It's starting to warm up down south."
"Fraser, I think we have just been had."
They took their seats in first class. Dief was sulking in a carrier in freight. Fraser by the window, Sara on the aisle and Ray across the aisle in the end seat. As the plane took off she held both their hands. This is what they needed. Time to heal.
The flight lasted about 3 hours and thankfully was uneventful. Sara got to see the cockpit and talk to the Captain. Ray and Ben shared a knowing look when the Captain asked if she wanted to sit in the Co-pilots seat. Even through her bruises she could still charm the pants off anyone she knew.
They exited the plane and made their way down the concourse.
"Do we need to rent a car?"
"No, Ray. My friend is picking us up."
They claimed their bags and Dief and started to head for the exit when a woman screamed.
Then Sara returned the scream with one of her own. The two men stood in awe at Sara and her friend. Sara dropped everything she was carrying and flung herself into the arms of her friend. The two women just stood in place, hugged, bounced up and down and made some type of giggling sounds that neither man could understand.
Finally the other woman broke her hold from Sara and held her at shoulder length. A quick flood of tears replaced the joy on her face.
"Oh, Lord, Sara. Look what he did to you. Oh, God. He beat you so badly."
"I'm fine. Debi. They'll fade in about a week. Debi, these are the gentleman I told you about."
The woman turned to face the men she had heard so much about. Ray immediately noticed how beautiful she was. She was a few inches taller than Sara. Her blond hair was pulled back from her face to reveal the most clear blue eyes. She was thin and attractive. * Man, if all the women from the south were as beautiful as Sara and her friend, I'm in heaven. *
"Detective Ray Vecchio, Chicago PD, Constable Benton Fraser, Royal Canadian Mounted Police. This is my very best friend, Debi Johnson. Her friends call her Debi."
Ben was the first to extend his hand, "It's a real pleasure to meet you, Ma'am. This is Diefenbaker." Dief let out a small 'woof'.
"Thank you for taking care of our Sara." The blond woman politely shook his hand and then turned to face Ray.
"I'm glad to make your acquaintance." As he said it he placed a kiss on the back of her hand.
"Watch this one, Debi. He's Italian. Smooth, real smooth."
They all laughed and made their way to the parking lot. They stopped at a large hunter green Ford Expedition. Along the front door were the words, 'Peg's Paradise Ranch'.
"I see Daddy let you borra' one of the trucks." Being home always made Sara's accent thicker than the one she used in the city.
"Let's go fella's. I'm going to take you to 'Paradise'." Debi rolled her eyes as she got behind the wheel. Sara opened the door for Dief to hop in and then sat in the back with Ben and pushed Ray to the front seat. As they left the airport, Ben was thrilled to see that it only took them about 10 minutes before they were in a residential area. He could actually see trees and lakes. The countryside was so beautiful.
The ride lasted about 35 minutes when they turned onto a long stretch of pavement. On either side were barbed-wire fences. As far as the eye could see, cattle grazed. In the middle of one pasture was a large pond shaded by a large oak tree. Ray thought he had entered a post card. Over the knoll they could see a large white farmhouse in the distance. Sara sat up on the edge of her seat.
"We're here. That's my house."
Ray turned to look at her from the front seat with a surprised look on his face.
"That's your house? You live at the Walton's? "
"Yep, that's 'Paradise'. My Daddy named it for my mom when they got married, 'Peg's Paradise Ranch'. She loved this place. See that row of trees there? Daddy planted those the year she died. One for every year they were married. She past away when I was 8."
Ben didn't realize Sara had lost her mother. He felt even closer to her now than he ever had. Ben smiled at the look of sheer happiness on her face as she looked out the window of the truck.
"What does your father do?"
"He raises a few cows. Farms a little." At that, Debi let out a howling laugh.
"Come on, Sara. Tell 'em the truth. Her Daddy's one of the largest cattle farmers in the State. Black Angus Cattle."
As they pulled through the front gates, Sara was about to burst with excitement. They saw an older man in blue cover-alls standing on the front porch. Before Debi could stop the truck, Sara jumped out and bounded up the steps.
The man hugged his daughter and swung her around in the air.
"Baby-Girl! Baby-Girl! It's good to have you home!"
Ben could make out the tears that were forming in his eyes. They grew larger when his gaze fell upon her battered face. He gently held each side of her face, turning it from side to side as he took in her injuries.
"What did he do to you. Are you okay? Mr. Parker didn't quite prepare me for all this."
"Daddy, I'm fine. Honest. I want you to meet Ben and Ray."
They both walked toward the truck as it came to a stop in the driveway. The three remaining passengers exited the vehicle and waited for the introductions.
Debi walked past, "I'll go on in the house and fix ya'll somethin' to eat. I know yer hungry after that long trip."
"Ben, Ray, this is my Daddy, Jack Montgomery."
He looked like he was built like a Mack Truck. His face was tanned and weathered from years of hard work. The tears seemed out of place as he shook the hands of the men that saved his daughter.
"Thank you, for everything you did for Sara. She's my baby-girl. Her and her brother are all I got in this world."
Ray looked around and took in the expanse of the ranch. "Oh it looks like you got quite a lot here."
"This is just a little cow farm and a few corn rows. My baby-girl and Jack Jr. are all that matter to me. This could all be gone tomorrow and it wouldn't make a difference."
Ben took in his surroundings. He took a long deep breath and smiled at the smell of clean air and grass. Then a breeze shifted and he smelled what Sara had missed so much in her time in Chicago. Cows. He smiled as she closed her eyes and inhaled the scent of them. Tears streamed down her face.
"Ahh. Now I'm home."
Ray's nose curled up and he looked at his two friends. "What is that? Oh Geez. What died?"
"Nothing has died, Ray."
"Then what is that Benny?"
Sara just laughed and took her friends by the hand, then led them into the large farmhouse.
Inside looked like something out of a movie. Large airy rooms, hardwood floors, it really did look like the Waltons. Mr. Montgomery led them up stairs to their bedrooms.
"Ben, you'll stay in the guest room across from Sara's and Ray, you'll be at the end of the hall in Jacky's room. Get your stuff settled and we'll have a bite for dinner."
"Dinner? It's only 12:30." Sara looked at Ray with a grin the size of all outdoors.
"Ben, Ray, you're in the South now. Dinner's lunch and Supper's Dinner. And the best part is we'll always have grits for breakfast."
Ben laughed out loud and Sara was grateful to hear it. Ben had been quiet most of the trip. She knew something was on his mind and she had been too excited to find out what. Later, she thought. She would definitely find out later.
"Daddy, I'm going to take a bath and wash the city off of me. Will you keep my two favorite cops entertained until I come down?"
Sara disappeared into her room and after everyone else's luggage was deposited in their assigned rooms they met down stairs in the kitchen. The kitchen was large and open. Debi was busy cooking over the stove and smiled as they came in.
Ben answered her, "She's taking a shower. She should be down in a minute." Ben gave her a confused look when she laughed. "Settle in and get comfortable, boys. If you hear that radio - " She was interrupted by the sounds of a country song drifting through the house from the direction of the upstairs bathroom. "As I was saying, If the radio's on and George Straits playing, Sara's home and she's going to be a while."
Mr. Montgomery's whole body shook while he laughed. "She's famous for her long hot showers. She'll be in there 35 minutes at least. Here's some advice. Make sure you get up early if you want hot water."
Debi was wiping her eyes with the back of her hand as she laughed, "Yeah, Mr. Jack. You better make sure you take your own advice. You and Jacky took cold showers till Sara left for college."
As the three men settled in at the large kitchen table, Ben asked how Sara ended up in Chicago. Mr. Montgomery just smiled and looked at Debi.
"You were there. You tell it, Debi." Debi turned toward the men with a spoon still in her hand.
"It was the beginning of our senior year in high school. Most folks around here have lived here all their lives. But Sara knew she wouldn't live here forever. Sara's Sara. I'm sure you've figured that out by now."
Ray and Ben exchanged looks. *Boy did we ever. *
"Well, She and I were up in her room talking about where we wanted to go to college. I had decided on the University of South Carolina. Sara said she would let fate decide. She was smarter than anyone I knew, so she could go anywhere she applied. After everything that happened she was ready to get out of this town. Well, Sara took this big ole US map and pinned it up on the wall. Walked to Jacky's room. Took three darts off his dartboard and stood in her doorway. 'I'll apply to wherever they land. The first one to send the acceptance letter is where I'll go.' She closed her eyes and let all three go at once. Texas, Illinois and Tennessee. The rest is history."
Fraser couldn't get the phrase 'after everything that happened' out of his mind. *What had happened that would cause her to want to leave home?*
"What did you study at USC, Debi?"
"I'm a pharmacist. I work at one of the drug stores in town."
She started lifting lids on the stove and stirring the contents. The two men didn't realize how hungry they were until the smell of what she was cooking filled the kitchen. The conversation was light and comfortable. They all turned towards the door as they heard Sara come thumping down the stairs. She entered the kitchen with her hair hanging loosely around her shoulders. She had on faded jeans and a USC sweatshirt. Ben smiled. She was again barefoot.
"Man, I'm starved. Whatcha cookin'?"
"Get the plates. It's just about ready. I really wish you would wear shoes once in a while."
"I'll help you, Sara."
Ben and Sara set the table. "I made your favorite."
"Somehow I knew you would. Love Debi"
"Yeah Yeah. Love Sara." Jack Montgomery sat at the head of the table and smiled. It was like she hadn't left home at all. She and Debi were still having the same conversations they had in high school.
"I hope you guys are hungry. Deb cooks better than I do." Ray and Fraser couldn't believe that was possible until they saw the plates placed before them.
Pork chops, corn on the cob, sweet peas, and macaroni and cheese.
"Everything's fresh but the mac'n'cheese. Sara likes Kraft out of a box. Who wants biscuits?" Debi served up the fresh biscuits and then took a seat. Everyone joined hands as Mr. Montgomery said the blessing.
The rest of the afternoon was spent leisurely in the den. The Braves were playing and the five of them settle in for the afternoon. Debi left before supper and Mr. Montgomery treated his daughter and her guests to a wonderful meal at the favorite local steakhouse, The Buckhorn. After supper, Fraser could see the exhaustion beginning to show on Sara's face. The black eye and bruises couldn't hide the dark circles under her eyes. When they returned to the farmhouse, Sara excused herself to go to bed. It was only 9:30, but everyone was tired from traveling and the events of the last five days. Fraser and Ray followed her upstairs, each sharing a look that spoke volumes. Fraser silently prayed tonight would be better than the last.
"Ben!! Help me!" Sara was screaming at the top of her lungs. Ben was the first to be by her side. He grabbed her by the shoulders to wake her as he had done for the two nights she was in the hospital. The doctors said it was her mind's way of coming to terms with the ordeal she had been through. They recommended a vacation, therapy and time.
Sara turned violent at Ben's touch. She was still in the nightmare as she beat him with her fists. Ben absorbed her blows until he could shake her awake.
"Sara. I'm here. You're home. Wake up." Ray and Mr. Montgomery had been jolted awake by her screams. Jack Montgomery thought he would die at the sound of her screaming. Ben finally woke Sara who once again collapsed in his arms. Tears streamed down her face as the nightmare still played in her mind.
"It's okay, Sara. I'm here."
Ben had hoped that her being home would have ceased the nightmares. He was wrong. She clung to him while he stroked her hair.
Mr. Montgomery felt as if his heart had broken at the site of his daughter. His first reaction was to go to her and hold her in his arms like a father should. But, he knew the three people before him had shared an experience that he could never imagine. He liked Ben. He saw the love in his eyes when he looked at Sara. He saw it now as he comforted her. Now he needed the whole story. He turned to Ray who had been standing in the doorway.
"How long has she been having these nightmares?"
"Fraser said they started the night she was found, while she was in the hospital. He's been sitting up with her ever since."
"I want you to tell me what happened to my daughter. I don't want the watered-down version that Craig Parker and the police gave me either. I want to know what really happened to my Sara. What did the bastard do to her?"
Ray rubbed his hand over his head as he looked at the man before him. "Mr. Montgomery, we better go put on a pot of coffee."
Ben held her until she eased her sobbing.
"I thought the dreams would stop, Ben. I thought that being here would make things better." He rubbed the back of her head and stroked her hair as she rested her head on his shoulder.
"I can still see his face. I'm still in that room. I'm still chained to the wall. I can feel how cold it is. But, in my dreams, you don't come. It's just Carver and me. No one can hear me scream." Ben hugged her closer to him as she cried.
"I'm here, Sara. Everything's going to be fine." She grabbed at him, clinging to him. "Please, don't leave me. Please. Stay with me."
"You know I would never leave you if you wanted me to stay." He propped himself up on her headboard and stretched his legs out on her bed. She rested her head on his chest as he stroked her hair. Dief had taken a post by the door. Ben had decided he would sit with her until she fell back to sleep. He knew her father was not the type to approve of him sleeping in her room. After all she was his baby girl no matter how old she was.
Ray and Mr. Montgomery sat at the large kitchen table sipping cups of coffee. Mr. Montgomery stared into his cup as Ray began recounting the details of Sara's kidnapping. As he told Sara's father of Fraser's concussion, Sara's fight with Carver, being held 16 hours, found nude and handcuffed to a wall and then witnessing himself and Carver being shot, he could see the tears slowly roll down the elder man's cheeks. Without a word Mr. Montgomery rose from his seat and walked upstairs to his daughter's bedroom. He stood in the door for a few minutes taking in the sight before him. His first reaction was anger. No father enjoyed seeing his daughter in the bed with a man. Then he took in the expression on Sara's face. Before he had seen fear and terror. Now, as Fraser and Sara clung to each other in sleep, she seemed content and comforted. If this man was what Sara needed for strength he would put aside his old fashion views and do what is best for his child. He entered her room and removed a quilt from the hope chest. He gently covered the two figures and left the room, closing the door behind him. He returned to his room and prayed for his daughter until he fell asleep.
She shifted slightly as her subconscious tried to sort out the events of last night. At her movement Ben hugged her closer into him. He wasn't sure when he fell asleep. But it had been such a long time since he held a woman in his arms his body molded to her form. Ben let out a soft moan as he snuggled close to her. In his rush to comfort her, he didn't even notice that she was only in a tank top and panties. He himself was only in perfectly starched boxers. She turned slightly. He opened his eyes slightly as she shifted. He realized immediately where he was and the position he was in. He was also aware he should not be there. He started to pull away from her when he realized his arms were wrapped around her bare waist. He could feel the warmth of her skin against his. When she shifted again, Ben found his hand resting on her abdomen. He felt his heart quicken. His whole body seemed to perspire in an instant. When he pulled his hand away, Sara rolled over towards him and buried her head in his chest. She wrapped her arm around his waist and snuggled into him. Ben could feel a tightness move through his groin. The feel of her breath on his chest was almost too much for him to bear. He put his arm gently on her shoulder and shook her.
"Sara." He whispered her name sweetly in her ear. Sara let out a small moan. "Sara, wake up." Ben shook her a little more.
"Ben? What's the matter?" She rubbed her eyes and looked at him.
"We fell asleep. I'm terribly sorry. We've been here all night. I should really go back to my room." A blush crept over his face as he started to roll out of bed. Then he noticed the embarrassment in Sara. She quickly sat up on the edge of the bed, exposing her lime green undershirt and hot pink panties. She hung her head and refused to look at him. He quickly turned his head.
"I'll look away as you get up. I'm sorry if I have embarrassed you, Sara." Ben's face was growing hot. He couldn't help but look at her when she leaned up. The undershirt left little to the imagination and her underwear only had strings connecting the sides.
"What are you talking about, Ben. You haven't embarrassed me. I've embarrassed myself. I thought the nightmares would stop once I got home." Ben still kept his back turned to her as he spoke.
"You've been through a horrible ordeal. The nightmares are only natural. You detached yourself from the situation so well, that you have to confront your emotions sometime. The doctors told me in the hospital that it's your minds way of dealing with the trauma you went through."
She turned to look at him and noticed he would not face her. "Ben, why won't you look at me? What's wrong?" Ben began to blush again as he answered her. "I'm sorry. I didn't realize last night that you were in your - unmentionables."
She laughed at the red-faced man sitting on the edge of her bed. "Ben, you found me naked and chained to a wall. You held my hand the entire time the doctors were examining me. I think I'm beyond being modest in front of you." She stood and walked around to the side of the bed he was sitting on. She leaned into him and cradled his head against her stomach. He instinctively wrapped his arms around her waist.
"I'm so sorry it has ended up like this. I never wanted to be so much trouble to everyone. I'm sorry you have to deal with all this. I thought everything would be fine once I came home." Ben looked up into her eyes. "Everything will, Sara. Everything will, in time."
Fraser took several deep breaths to calm himself before he stood to return to his room. For the first time that evening Sara noticed the body of the boxer-clad Mountie. She openly stared as he walked across the room and back across the hall. His muscular back and thighs moved with such grace. She felt a sharp pain of excitement travel through her stomach as he turned and smiled from the doorway of his room. * Dear God, He's gorgeous. But, he's so pale. * Sara quickly gathered her things and headed for the bathroom.
Ray grimaced as he heard the country music coming from down the hall. *Damn. It looks like we'll all get cold showers *
He saw Fraser as he entered his room.
"How's she doing?"
"She's a little depressed."
"What about you? Are you okay?"
"What do you mean, Ray?"
"I mean, are you okay? You've been quiet these past few days and I want to know why. Is it Carver?"
"Carver? No. It's just that - I - ah - she - " The stuttering Mountie pulled at his ear.
"You like her."
"She's not Victoria, Benny. Not every girl will rip you apart and try to kill you and your friends." Fraser dropped his head and sat down on the edge of the bed.
"It's hard, Ray."
"I know, Benny. But, Victoria is gone and Sara is here. She likes you as much as you like her."
"You couldn't possibly know that."
"Yes I can. I can see the way she looks at you. You are the only one that can comfort her."
"We've merely shared an experience that has brought us close to one another. If Carver had never taken her, I doubt that - "
"That's bullshit, Benny. Stop trying to talk yourself out of loving her. It's not going to work this time. You've got to open yourself up to somebody sometime."
"I'm very open with you, Ray."
"Yeah, right. Sara's open with everybody and she expects the same in return, especially from the people she cares about. She cares about you, Benny. Don't let Victoria screw your life up anymore. Open your eyes and your heart so you can see what you've got right in front of your face. Even her old man likes you. He knows where you spent the night. Hell, he's grateful you're here for her." Fraser looked at the man before him. Ray had never spoken to him this way. Fraser knew that Ray was his best friend but today he realized what good friends they actually were.
"Thank you, Ray."
"Thanks for what?"
"For telling me what I need to hear."
They heard the bathroom door open. Sara walked back toward her room and heard the two men talking.
"Hey, what are you two talking about?" Her hair was wet and she had on a big fluffy terrycloth robe. Ray caught Fraser staring at her. He couldn't help but laugh.
"We were just discussing the joy of taking a cold shower after you used up all the hot water."
"Yeah right." She gave him a sly smile then her mood quickly changed. "Ray, I hope I didn't wake you up last night." She averted her eyes from his as she spoke. "I - had kinda - a rough night." Ray walked over to his friend and hugged her tightly.
"It's okay. It's only natural. After what you've been through, it's expected. It's going to take time to heal from this." Sara stood on her tiptoes to return his embrace. In her best Scarlet O'Hara she said, " I'm so lucky to have you both."
Mr. Montgomery had left the house early. He had 3000 head of cattle and 150 ranch hands to tend to. Debi had taken the day off work and arrived just in time to have breakfast with Sara, Fraser and Ray. Sara was ready to put last night behind her and start living again. "Today, I'm going to show you two the farm. Ray because of your shoulder, you'll have to ride a four wheeler with Debi. Ben, you and I will ride horses." The four of them made their way out of the house. Sara grabbed to walkie-talkies out of a charger near the back door. She handed one to Ray.
"Set to channel 2. Daddy uses 1 to talk to the ranch crews. Holler if you need anything."
Sara gave him a sarcastic smile as Debi led him by the hand out the back door.
Ray looked extremely out of place holding on to the back of the four-wheeler as Debi sped off behind the house into the back pasture. They were headed for the creek.
Sara led Fraser to the barn so they could saddle up the horses. Fraser was excited at the idea of riding a horse again. It had been such a long time since he a ridden anywhere other than the city. He couldn't take his eyes off Sara. She looked so attractive in those faded jeans and cowboy boots. She caught him staring at her while she saddled her horse. A blush crept up his face. They trotted the horses out to the barn and into the pasture. Dief ran ahead of them exploring every inch of the pasture. They slowed to a leisurely pace and enjoyed the scenery around them. Ben took it all in. Sara had had enough of his silence.
"So, are you going to tell me what's on your mind or are you going to be mute the entire trip?" Ben gave her a confused look. "Don't look at me like that. You haven't said hardly anything since we left Chicago. What is it?"
"I'm not sure what you mean. I'm having a wonderful time. Your family is very nice. I think Ray is quite taken with Debi. I'm just glad to see you so happy to be home."
"How long has it been since you've been home, Ben?" She really did have a way of getting to the point of the issue. He rubbed his thumb across his eyebrow.
"Do you miss it?"
"So that's it, huh?"
"I beg your pardon."
"Coming here has made you homesick." Sara reached over and grabbed his free hand. "Ben, I know how important home is. This maybe a poor substitute, but my home is always open to you as your own. You and Ray have done so much for me. I owe you my life. I brought you here to give you a few weeks of peace. We've all been through so much. I didn't want to leave Chicago without you."
Ben squeezed her hand. He wanted to take her in his arms and kiss her, but it had been so long and he was so unsure. After Victoria, his heart had been too scarred to care about anyone in that way. He felt so close to her, yet something was holding him back. Sara could see the conflict on his face. She remembered what Ray had said about the only other woman Ben had cared about and how she ripped his heart out.
"Hey, you see that tree over there in that other pasture. I'll race ya. The loser stables the horses." With that she took off like lightning. Ben quickly reacted in kind. He loved the feeling of a horse and the exhilaration of riding in the country. She was running at a full gallop when she neared a split rail fence that separated the two pastures. Ben yelled to her, "Sara, look out." Sara's horse cleared the fence with all the grace of an equestrian champion. Ben marveled at the site of her. "Come on, Ben. You're falling behind."
Ben cleared the fence and met her underneath the tree. "You lose."
"You could have been thrown." His face was stern as he spoke.
"Ice, here wouldn't do that. Let's stop for a while and talk. Okay?" He didn't understand why she would be so careless.
The two sat and watched the horses grazing in the field. Ben sat down and leaned against the trunk of the tree. Sara sat down beside him.
"Ben, I know someone hurt you. But I'm not that person. I'm not asking you to fall in love with me. I'm just asking that you give me a chance." Ben shifted nervously. He wasn't used to a woman being so direct with him. Sara shifted to sit in front of him. She stretched her legs on either side of his and looked him in the eye.
"I'm sorry if I'm making you uncomfortable but I just felt the need to say this. This whole mess with Carver showed me two things. I've got wonderful friends that care about me and that life is short. Live it while you can. I like you, Ben. And I think you feel the same. Tell me if I'm wrong, Ben. That night on the sofa seemed to me to be more than a man wanting to comfort a scared lunatic. And now - well, I feel safer and closer to you than anyone I've ever known."
Ben's head was reeling. He thoughts were lost in her eyes. Those beautiful green eyes. She was asking him to give her a chance when it was he who needed the chance to be loved.
"You can't hide behind your pain forever, Ben. I know you feel something for me. Tell me if I'm wrong, Ben. Tell me." Rays words from earlier that day were ringing in his ears.
Ben didn't know what swept over him. He could no longer control himself. His mind had relented to his heart. He leaned forward and grabbed Sara by her shoulders. She was startled and inhaled sharply. Ben thrust his lips to hers and kissed her passionately. She made a small squeaking noise from the surprise. Ben quickly pulled away at the sound. * Oh Dear * He looked intently at her face. All he saw at first was shock. Then he felt her hand on the back of his neck. Her eyes were those filled with passion and caring. She pulled him to her and kissed him gently. She softly ran her tongue over his upper lip. He felt a wave of heat rush over him. He lightly kissed a trail down her neck. His hands were exploring her lower back. He shifted and pulled her to him until she was now straddling him. He felt a tightness run through his groin. When he returned to kiss her lips again, she made a low guttural moan. Her face had grown hot.
"Sara! Ben! Can you guys hear me?" Sara sighed loudly and picked up the walkie-talkie.
"Hey, Deb. Whatcha need?"
"We're almost back at the house. I can see Jacky's car in the driveway. You comin' along soon?"
"We're on our way. We're in the South pasture."
Sara laid the handheld on the ground and looked at Ben and the position they were in. A blush began to creep up both of their faces.
"So I guess this means you're going to give me a chance."
"No Sara. It means I hope you will give one."
Sara hugged him tightly and then stood above him. "Come on. My baby brother is home. I can't wait for you to meet him."
"Jacky! Get your butt down here!" * She does have spirit.*
A tall muscular young man ran into the kitchen and grabbed Sara up into a hug. He swung her around a few times and delighted in her squealing. He quickly hoisted her up and threw her over his shoulder.
"Hey, You big gorilla! Put me down!" Sara was slapping Jacky on the back. He ignored her. He stuck out his hand to Fraser.
"Jack Montgomery, Jr. It's a real pleasure. Daddy told me what you did for Sara. Thank you."
"It's a - pleasure to meet you." Fraser thought Ray and Francesca were a lot to get used to. He had never seen anything like this. Jacky Montgomery was a foot taller than Sara. He was the spitting image of the Senior Montgomery. He looked like your typical well built country boy. The only similarity between he and Sara was their smile. Broad and inviting.
Jack carried Sara out to the living room and plopped her down on the sofa between Debi and Ray.
For the first time Jacky saw her face. "Damn, Sara. Look at you."
"Jackson! You won't talk that way in here."
"Sorry, Daddy. Sara, I'm so sorry. Why do you always have to get the hell beat out of ya?" Fraser gave him a look of confusion. He could tell that there was something that he and Ray did not know.
Jacky's face was one of concern and anger. Jacky was always protective of his sister, especially after the first time she had been beaten. Sara must have known what he was thinking.
"He's dead, Jacky. The police have already killed him. I'd rather not talk about it. How's school?"
Fraser and Ray both grew quiet at the mention of Carver. They would rather not talk about it either. Both were thankful for the change in subject.
"Oh it's fine. I can't wait to get back home for good though."
"I know the town can't wait until you get home. They've been waiting for a local large animal vet for a long time." Sara was so proud of her brother. He was smart and good-looking. She knew he would do well for himself.
Mr. Montgomery wore a permanent smile. It had been a long time since both of his children were home. Now the house was filled with good friends and laughter. He said a thankful silent prayer.
"Hey, I'm starved. Are we going to go eat?"
"Jacky, you're always starved." Sara took a swipe at her brother. He quickly blocked and poked her in the side.
Everyone had made a point to get in the shower before Sara. They all rode to a local steakhouse and had a wonderful meal. The conversation was light and fun. Sara seemed to be glowing. Ray and Fraser fell right into the conversation and Fraser managed to sneak in an Inuit story or two. When the meal was finished and they returned home, Mr. Montgomery could tell his house guests had had a long and full day.
"Jacky's staying at Pete's tonight. He's got a heifer about to calf. Debi, he'll drop you off at your house on his way."
Ben and Sara sat close on the sofa, while Ray stretched out in one of the large leather recliners. Mr. Montgomery settled into his chair and clicked the TV on.
"I don't think I've ever eaten so much red meat before in my life." Ray let out a contented sigh and rubbed his stomach. Sara just laughed and Ben moved to put his arm around her. Ben could see that Sara's eyes were showing how tired she was, but she was fighting to stay awake. He leaned in and whispered in her ear, "Why don't you go to bed?"
"I'm fine. I'm not really that tired."
"Please, don't lie to me, Sara." She lowered head and spoke softly to him.
"I'm sorry, Ben. I just don't want to go to bed right now." Mr. Montgomery and Ray were straining to hear the conversation the two of them were having. Ray finally broke into the conversation.
"You have to sleep sooner or later. You've got to face this and get past it."
"Easier said than done, Ray." Sara gave him a hard look.
"Tell me about the nightmares. Maybe I can help." Sara went through the details of her dreams and explained how she was alone and no one could hear her screams.
"So, Fraser and I never find you, right? But, Fraser you've been waking her up when you hear her screaming." Fraser and Sara gave him a confused look.
"I'm just saying, maybe you need to let the nightmare run its course. Fraser always wakes you up, so you don't ever finish the dream. Maybe that's why you keep having it."
Mr. Montgomery swallowed hard and spoke his decision, "Ben, perhaps you should stay in Sara's room tonight. That way you can be with her when the dreams start. I've heard that people can hear in their dreams. When she starts to have the dream, don't wake her up, just talk to her." He had been the one to hold Sara and talk to her the last time she had such horrible nightmares. That was along time ago. She's not a little girl anymore. She wasn't a little girl then either. But, he knew it was time to step aside and let the two men she shared so much with now help her through this.
Sara couldn't believe what she had just heard. This went against everything her father believed in. Mr. Montgomery stood and walked to the sofa. "I'm going up to bed. Goodnight, Sara. I love you." He leaned down and kissed her on the top of the head.
Ray decided it was time to go to bed. "Goodnight. Sweet dreams, Sara."
Ben and Sara sat a while on the sofa in silence. Than Sara turned to him, "I hate this."
Ben looked shocked. "What? I'm sorry if I have done - "
"Not this. The whole thing. I hate that everyone feels sorry for me."
"No one feels sorry for you. We all care about you. The two should never be confused." Ben brought her into a warm hug. "Come on, let's get ready for bed."
Ben changed in his room. He chose to wear pajama bottoms and a white undershirt. He knocked softly on Sara's door before he entered. She was standing in front of her mirror brushing her hair. He couldn't help but smile at her choice of sleepwear. She had on a baggy pair of blue pajamas with big yellow stars and fluffy white clouds all over them. It was a big change from what she wore to bed previously. Sara noticed the smile on his face, "Sexy, huh?"
Ben blushed. "On you, anything is sexy." It was Sara's turn to blush. "Let's go to bed."
Sara looked on in amazement as Ben and Dief made a bed roll on the floor.
"You can sleep up here with me, you know."
"Dief and I are perfectly comfortable on the floor. We'll be here if you need us."
Sara started to pull down the comforter on her bed. She was mumbling to herself as she climbed into bed. "Great. I've got a Mountie and a wolf on my floor. I'd much rather have the Mountie in my bed. But no-he's a gentleman."
"I beg your pardon. Did you say something?"
"I said goodnight, Ben." With his acute hearing Fraser heard every word. He grinned to himself as she turned out the lights. Sara was fighting sleep as hard as she could. Finally, her body won out. Sara slept soundly for about an hour when she started to move slightly. Fraser leaned up and sat by the side of her bed. Sara had started to dream.
---I'll have you.----
"No, leave me alone!" Sara swung her arm through the air.
---No one will help you now.---
"Ben, help me. Ray!" She was screaming louder than before. Tears were rolling down her cheeks. Ben could only sit and watch as she relived the terror Carver put her through. Ray heard Sara scream his name. He ran down the hall toward her room. He could hear her mumbling in her sleep. He quietly opened the door and stood by side Fraser.
---I'm going to kill you just like the others.---
"NO! Please God! Help me, Ben." Ben leaned over to Sara and started to speak softly in her ear.
"We're coming, Sara. Ray and I are on our way. We'll find you."
"Please! Help me. He's going to kill me."
"I'm with you, Sara. I'm here. Ray and I are here."
"Ray! Ray, Stop. Look out!"
---I'll kill all of you now---
"Ray! Oh my God. He shot Ray!" Beads of sweat had formed on Sara's face. Her hair was sticking to her forehead as she flailed her arms. "Ben! Behind you! No!"
Sara sat straight up in the bed. She was drenched in sweat and was hyperventilating. Ray ran to the kitchen and found a small bag. He passed Mr. Montgomery who had been standing in the hall. He flew up the stairs three at a time. Between gasps Sara was trying to speak.
"Welsh - shot him. I - saw - him shoot - Carver." Ben quickly took the bag from Ray and put it over Sara's mouth. As she inhaled into the bag, Ben rubbed her back. Ray sat on the other side of the bed and held Sara's hand. Her father stood in the doorway, tears streaming down his face. Her breathing started to regulate and she began to calm down.
"Ray - he shot - you. I saw - him shoot you." Ray brushed the hair away from her face.
"I'm okay. Look at me honey. I'm fine." Sara smiled weakly at him and buried her head on his shoulder. "You're okay." She repeated his words as a reassurance to herself. Then she turned to face Fraser.
"He was going - to stab - me. But you - jumped in front - of me." Sara's eyes began to fill with tears again. "He would have stabbed you if Welsh hadn't - "
Ben softly rubbed her cheek. "Shhh. He didn't shoot me Sara. He's dead. I'm not going to let anything ever happen to you." She hugged him tightly as he stroked her hair. Ray squeezed Ben's shoulder as he left the room.
Ray smiled at Mr. Montgomery. "Let's go make a pot of coffee."
Sara seemed renewed. Debi had talked them all into going out dancing.
"I don't know about this, Fraser." Ray rubbed his hand over his head as they waited in the living room for the two women to get dressed. His shoulder was much better, so he decided to leave the sling at home tonight.
"It's just dancing, Ray. Why are you so concerned? Sara said she and Debi used to go to this place all the time."
"We're not going to a consulate function here, Frase. We're going to some kind of South Carolina hoe-down."
"I'm sure it will be fun. Mr. Montgomery, what type of dancing will take place at the establishment?"
Mr. Montgomery looked at the two Yanks in front of him.
"Well, boys. It won't be like anything you're used too. So just hang on and have a good time."
"See, Fraser. They're going to take us to some kind of Hee Haw Hootin' Nannie. We're going to look like idiots."
"I'm sure we'll be fine, Ray."
Debi appeared at the top of the stairs. She looked nice in a denim miniskirt and white button down blouse. Ray quickly made his way to her side.
"You look wonderful this evening."
Debi blushed slightly. "Thank you, Ray."
She smiled at him coyly. Then she turned to look up stairs.
"Sara, you better get a move on. I told Jacky we would meet him there by 8:30."
Sara looked breath-taking as she started down the stairs. Everyone fell silent as she joined them in the Den. After coming to terms with what she had been through, the light returned to Sara. Her bruises were barely noticeable. Her hair was swept up on top of her head. The red dress she wore fit her perfectly. The hem of her dress danced across her upper thighs as she skipped down the stairs. Ben was unaware of his mouth hanging open when she joined him.
Ray was still staring when Debi poked him the side and said, "Let's go. We're going to be late."
Ben emerged from his mesmerized state and took Sara by the hand.
"You are beautiful." Sara smiled and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.
Ray and Fraser could hear the music from the highway. They pulled into the gravel parking lot and made their way inside the two story building with the sign out front that read: Possum Holler.
Ray made a face at Debi, "You gotta be kidding. Is this for real? The Possum Holler? Are Buck Owens and Roy Clark inside?"
"Ray. We're going to have a great time tonight." Sara smiled at him so brightly that he actually believed her.
Everything was dark well-worn wood: the floor, the walls, and the bars. Everyone they passed greeted Sara and Debi. They made their way past the front bar area and went to pay to get inside the club. The little old lady taking in money nearly flung herself over the bar to hug Sara. She stamped their hands and refused to take a penny from them. The four of them entered a smoke filled room full of bar tables and people dressed like cowboys. Ray looked at Fraser in concern.
"We'll be fine, Ray."
"We don't exactly look like we belong here, Benny."
After heads had turned to look at Debi and Sara, their eyes were fixed on the two strangers they had with them. Everyone had heard about the Chicago Cop and the Mountie Sara had brought home. Now they saw the Italian looking man dressed in an expensive looking suit and a man with a Stetson, wearing a black leather jacket and boots. Sara and Debi noticed the women take notice of the two attractive men that just entered the bar.
"We better keep an eye on them. Some of these women would bust a gut trying to get noticed by these two." Debi yelled over the music to Sara.
The four of them started across the dance floor to a table in the corner. Before they were halfway to their table the band stopped playing and the lead singer made an announcement
"Well, as I live and breathe. We have some very special guests in the house tonight."
Debi smiled a knowing smile. Sara, Ray and Fraser froze in their tracks as a large spotlight was pointed straight at them.
"Ladies and gentleman, Miss Sara Montgomery has found her way back home." The crowd hooped and hollered. "We've all heard about the bastard that took her, Well now meet the men who took her back, Detective Ray Vecchio and Constable Benton Fraser."
The entire crowd began to hoot and applaud.
Ray smiled nervously and through gritted teeth said to Fraser, "What are we doing here, Benny?"
"It seems we are being thanked, Ray."
Fraser modestly raised his Stetson in the air. Then the lead singer spoke again.
"In honor of Miss Sara's return, I think she and Debi need to lead us off with their song."
Sara laughed hard and looked at Debi. "No you didn't." Debi grabbed her hand and pulled her to the center of the dance floor. Ray and Fraser took this opportunity to retreat to a table. The music began to play and the two women started line dancing. Ben was amazed at what he saw. The fear of three days ago had completely left Sara and she was so filled with life. She seemed to have a glow around her. He laughed out loud at the tune the singer had called their song.
--Well, hello T-R-0-U-B-L-E
What in the world you doin' A-L-O-N-E?
Say, good L-double O-K-I-N-G
I smell T-R-O-U-B-L-E --
Several others joined the two women on the dance floor as the song played on. Ben and Ray watched as they moved gracefully across the floor. The song ended and Sara and Debi laughed their way back to the table. It was a joy to see Sara laugh. Ben delighted in the sight of it.
"So, you girls come here often?" Ray gave them a sarcastic look. Sara wasn't going to let a remark pass her by.
"No, first time. Why?"
"Ha,ha,ha. Very funny. What would you ladies like to drink?"
"I'll have a beer and as usual Sara will have a water. Right?" Debi looked disappointed at her friend. "Right. Bottled, please." Sara smiled broadly. Ray turned to Fraser. "Coke or water?"
"Coke, Ray. Thank you kindly." Sara looked at Fraser in wonder.
"You can drink if you want. I'll drive us home."
"I don't drink."
"Ah. Me either."
"She's a mean drunk."
"Debi! That's not exactly true."
"Yeah, right. Just ask Jacky and the girl you punched out for talking bad about him."
Sara hung her head in embarrassment. Fraser looked on in disbelief.
"Well, Speak of the devil and he shall appear." Jacky strode over to their table with a grin from ear to ear.
"I caught the end of the floor show. I didn't realize you ladies had been retained by the management." A tall blond walked by and gave Jacky the eye. He smiled at his sister and quickly gave pursuit. Ray return with the drinks. He and Debi drank their beers heartily.
"Why did the band play that particular song, Sara? It would imply that you ladies caused quite a bit of trouble." Ben looked expectantly for an answer.
Sara gave Debi and evil smile as she answered him.
"Let's just say that my Daddy's gray hair isn't entirely due to old age."
"Ah-ha" Ben smiled as Sara grabbed his hand.
"Dance with me."
Ray and Debi followed them to the dance floor. Ray noticed Fraser's stiff posture begin to melt as he held Sara. She clung to him and rested her head on his shoulder. As the strains of the song drifted through them he slowly kissed her check. The entire room seemed to fade away. All they could feel were each other. Sara lifted her head and gently kissed him on the lips. Fraser felt a hand roughly grab his shoulder.
"The music stopped, Benny."
"Ah, So it did, Ray." The four of then returned to their table and Debi and Ray drank another beer. The band played an old favorite and a tall man dressed in a cowboy hat and green shirt asked Sara to dance.
"Sure, Frank. I'd be happy to dance." She took the man's hand and leaned over and gave Fraser a quick kiss.
"Oh-oh. Looks like you lost your girl, Benny." Ray pointed toward the dance floor with his beer still in his hand.
"She's merely dancing, Ray."
"Uh-huh." Fraser watched as Sara danced with Frank. He didn't like the feeling that came over him when the man placed his hand a little too low on Sara's back. * She's just dancing. * Sara could feel Ben staring a hole through her. *My goodness, he's jealous. That's a good sign. * The dance ended and Sara walked alone back over to Ben. This time she boldly sat in his lap. He instinctively wrapped his arms around her waist.
"What's the matter, Ben? You look a little upset." Sara was being coy with him. Ray watched with pleasure. * She's going to wrap you around her finger. *
"I'm not upset. I was just noticing that he seemed to have his hands - well, he touched - " Fraser ran the back of his thumb along his eyebrow.
"Dance with me."
"Yes, ma'am." Ben grabbed her hand and followed her to the dance floor. She loved to dance and it showed. Ben loved to dance with her. Ray and Debi were starting to feel good from the beer and decided to give it another whirl on the floor. They clung to one another as they moved to the music. Sara smiled at the sight of her two friends getting more than cozy. Then her gaze fell past them and she saw him walk through the door. She stiffened involuntarily. Ben could tell something happened to Sara.
"What's wrong?" She plastered her best smile on her face and leaned in to kiss him on the cheek. "Nothing's wrong." She hugged him close to her as she prayed. * Please God, no trouble tonight. Please just let him leave me alone. *
Even though she had a buzz, Debi saw him the second he walked in the door. Ray noticed the expression change on her face and followed her gaze to a group of guys near the bar.
"Hey, what's wrong? You look like you saw the devil himself."
"So, what? Which guy? Why all the dislike?"
"See the guy in the blue T-shirt? His name is Waylan Parks. He was Sara's high school sweetheart." The way she said it made it sound dirty. Ray knew there was more to the story than she was telling. The detective in him needed to know more.
"So, that was a long time ago. What? Is there more I should know?"
"Maybe Sara should be the one to tell you."
"Maybe you should tell me. What's the deal with this guy? We shouldn't expect any trouble, should we?"
"Let me just put it to you this way, three days ago wasn't the first time I saw Sara with the hell beat out of her. He's the reason she got as far away as she could to go to school. I imagine Waylan Parks is the reason she's a DA. His Daddy's the sheriff. So he just got a slap on the wrist after what he did to her. Sara was too scared to fight back. Her Daddy and Jacky could have killed him."
"What are you saying? This guy beat Sara up in high school. Why?"
"Let's just say some guys can't take rejection."
"Shit." * Great. Should I tell Benny or not? Hell, I'm telling him. *
The dance ended and the two couples made their way back to the table. Sara couldn't help but look over her shoulder near the bar. Ben could tell something was wrong. He could see something in her eyes.
"Hey Benny, Let's you and me get these ladies some more drinks." The way he said it, Fraser knew he should go with him. On their way to the bar, Ray filled him in. Fraser turned to look at Sara. Now he knew what was behind the statements her family made. Carver wasn't the first man to beat Sara. She had a worried look on her face and no longer seemed as happy as she was a few minutes before. Fraser's stomach tightened.
"Should we be alarmed, Ray?"
"I don't know. Hopefully, Debi's just making a big deal over nothing. It was a long time ago." The two made their way back through the crowd and sat back down at the table. Sara and Debi excused themselves to go to the ladies room. On the way Sara stopped at the bar and ordered a vodka shot.
"You alright?" Sara tried to pretend she didn't know what Debi was talking about.
"Sure, why wouldn't I be."
"Because you just downed a straight shot of liquor and Waylan Parks is standing near the back bar, that's why. You don't think he'll cause any trouble tonight do you?"
"God, I hope not. Let's pray he hasn't been drinking." She ordered another shot and hoped it would kick in soon.
The two women exited the restroom and weaved their way through the crowd. Ben and Ray watched them the entire time. A hand reached out of the crowd and grabbed Sara's arm. She spun around to see who it was. She came face to face with Waylan Parks. Not realizing Sara wasn't behind her, Debi continued walking.
"Hello, Sweetheart. It's been a long time."
The liquor on his breath was so strong it made her dizzy.
"Not long enough. Let go." She spat the words at him. Waylan squeezed her arm tighter.
"You look real good, Sugar."
"Leave me alone, Waylan." Her tone was strong and calculated. She struggled to pull her arm away. She could feel the bruises forming from his grip. Ben and Ray pushed through the crowd to be with Sara. Debi saw them coming toward her and realized Sara wasn't with her.
"Dammit, Waylan. What the hell do think you're doin'?" He smiled at her. She felt as if she would throw up.
"Let's dance for old times sake." He started to drag her to the dance floor. She planted her feet and he nearly pulled her to the floor.
"Come on, Sugar. You know you want to." She wasn't going to let herself be bullied anymore. She balled up her fist and hit him across the nose.
"Shit!" He still had her by the arm when he reached up to his face with his free hand. He saw the blood on his fingertips from where Sara had hit him. He turned to look at her and Sara saw the anger in his face.
"You little bitch." He raised his hand to hit her.
A hand reached out and grabbed Sara while another grabbed Waylan. >From the surprise Waylan let go and Sara found herself in Ray's arms. She turned to see Ben standing in front of Waylan. She had never seen him like this. His face was full of rage. His crystal blue eyes were dark with anger. Yet, his words were calm and calculated.
"The lady has declined your offer to dance."
"Oh yeah, well who are you?"
"I'm her boyfriend." Sara or Ray couldn't believe what they had heard. * Boyfriend * Coming out of anyone else's mouth it would have sounded juvenile, but when Fraser said it, it was sweet.
"Well, I was just going to dance with her." He reached out and quickly grabbed Sara by the arm. Ray refused to let go of her and she was being pulled like a rag doll. Ben grabbed Waylan by the shoulders.
"She said no." The bouncers had quickly arrived to see what the problem was. They saw Waylan come in. They hoped he would have steered clear of Sara.
"Waylan, why don't you just go on home." The bouncer said it more as an order than a request.
"Hey, I just want to dance with my old love. Don't you want to dance with me, honey?" He twisted her arm. She let out a small scream from the pain. Ben grabbed his arm and jerked him away from Sara.
"Don't touch her."
Waylan took an unsteady step back and then swung hard at Fraser.
Fraser's reflexes were ten times as quick as the drunk before him. He dodged the swing and hit Waylan hard on the jaw, knocking him to the floor. Fraser had knocked him unconscious. Sara ran to Ben.
Jacky had been outside talking to a girl when one of his friends told him what was happening inside. He arrived just in time to see Fraser punching out Waylan.
"Damn good punch." Jacky grinned at Ray and Fraser, then turned a look of concern toward Sara.
"Are you okay? He didn't hurt you did he? I'll break every bone in his body if he hurt you again."
"I'm fine. Really. Can we leave now? I'm ready to go home."
The five of them walked out to the parking lot. Fraser had a protective arm around Sara.
"Would you like to tell me what all that was about. That looked like more than an over zealous old boyfriend."
Sara sighed heavily. Her knuckles had begun to swell from the blow she'd administered to Waylan. It was well worth the pain.
"When we get home, let's take a walk down to the creek. I'll tell you all about it."
The ride home was made in silence. Debi and Ray went to sit in the swing on the back porch and Sara and Ben walked slowly across the field to the creek.
They held hands as they walked and Sara began to tell her story.
"Waylan liked me all through high school. He was popular and good-looking, so I decided I would finally go out with him. He was fun at first. Real sweet, you know? Then he started to drink a lot around me. He was just kinda rough at first. He'd grab my arms and sling me around a little. I was young and stupid. I should have left then. But he always sobered up and begged for forgiveness. Like I said, I was stupid. Then one night he was driving me home and I decided I didn't want to see him anymore. Well, Waylan Parks was used to having what he wanted. He was furious. He drove out to the old Cannon Plant Pond. I told him it was over and he just went crazy. He turned into some kind of monster. I tried to fight him off, but I had never had to do anything like that before." Ben recalled the bruises and scratches on Carver's face from the struggle he had with Sara. * So that's where she learned to fight. *
"He beat me up pretty bad and then left me out there. He said I could just walk home. When I didn't make it home Jacky had called Debi looking for me." Her face became sullen and dark. "I've never seen Jacky so upset. He rushed me to the hospital. Two black eyes, a broken rib, split lip and a fractured wrist. I looked pretty bad, I guess. Daddy was furious. The hospital called the police, then him. The sheriff wasn't going to let his son go to jail. The DA and he were best friends. So, Waylan was charged with simple assault and put on probation for a year. They even waived bail. Four months later graduation came and I hopped a plane to Chicago. I was determined not to let anyone else suffer like I did. I guess that's why I fight so hard for the victims. Not all cops are like Sheriff Parks. The good ones deserve someone fighting on their side." They found themselves on the bank of the creek. Ben took his coat off and wrapped it around Sara. She smiled shyly at him.
"I guess its true what they say. What doesn't kill you will only make you stronger." Ben hugged her tightly.
"Some days I feel like Hercules."
On the back porch swing, Debi was telling the same story to Ray. Ray began to understand the woman he thought he knew.
"Sara's really been through a lot." * No wonder everyone feels the need to look out for her. *
The rest of the week was spent in total relaxation. Sara's bruises were gone. Ray's shoulder was healing nicely. Fraser had taken the bandage off his arm. The physical evidence of Carver was gone and the mental ones were healing. Sara, Fraser and Ray enjoyed each other's company. They went fishing, roller-skating and boating. Ray and Fraser were even beginning to dread next week when they would have to leave the farm. Ben and Sara had grown closer and seemed to hold on to each other every opportunity that they could. The time seemed to fly by for them. Sara was full of life and the events from two weeks ago seemed a lifetime away. The weather turned warm and she took to wearing shorts and going barefoot everywhere she went. Ben loved her for that. Ray could see the relationship forming in front of him. He liked what he saw. Sara was good for Fraser and Fraser was good for her. He wondered how things would be when they returned to Chicago.
Continued in All You Need is Love
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