Chapter 12, continued
Peter lifted SueAnna from the floor and followed Lorna to the room she’d prepared. What happened? One minute he was like a child—too excited to keep his presence hidden—the next he witnessed his wife fall into the arms of a man he didn’t know. Why was his sister in the company of this person? Where was Lily? This was not at all the homecoming he’d envisioned.
“I’m sorry, Peter.” Lorna touched his shoulder. “I’m not eager to send you back out there, but I do need some privacy to get this girl settled. I’ll let you know as soon as Doc Thayer is through examining her.”
“Mrs. Nelson, who—”
She flicked her wrist toward him. “Later, Peter. Tell Doc he can come in any time. And you tell that young man where he can find his wife.”
“Wife? SueAnna is married? To that—”
“Later, I said. There will be plenty of time later to try to make sense out of what’s happened. For now, it’s SueAnna we need to worry about.”
Doc moved away from the wall when Peter left the room. “She ready for me in there?”
He nodded. “Anything she needs, Doc. I’ll take care of anything she needs. Just help her.”
“I’ve a feeling what she needs is standing in the middle of the mercantile holding your wife. Don’t envy you none, son. But reckon you’re man enough to take care of it.”
The man was right. The scene hadn’t changed. Claire was still in the arms of the stranger, and they seemed oblivious to their surroundings. It seemed like an eternity before Claire lifted her head from the man’s chest and looked his direction.
“I’m sorry, Peter. I…this is…this is an old friend I never expected to see again.” She didn’t move from the man’s arms while she spoke.
He would take this up with his wife later. For now he hoped he could get a message to the man without causing a scene. “The doctor just went in to tend to your wife, sir. I’d think you’d want to do the same.”
SueAnna’s questions roared through Trey’s mind with a vengeance. What would you do if you were to find Claire again? Where would that leave us? Where would that leave me?
His arms were around Claire, and it was like she’d always been there. She was as beautiful as the day he rode away from her. But she was Peter’s wife—SueAnna’s brother’s wife.
What was he doing? Where was SueAnna? She was standing right here. Oh, dear God. Did he say Doc was with his wife? He pulled from Claire’s arms. “Where is she? Where did they take her?”
“You brought her in here cold, wet and so ill she could hardly stand on her own. That was fifteen minutes ago, and you just now ask her whereabouts?”
“Don’t shush me, Claire. Not now.”
Trey fisted his hands. “Never mind. I’ll find her myself.” He deserved the man’s anger—deserved a good thrashing—but for now he needed to find SueAnna.
“Yes, you do that. But if that girl dies, so help me—”
Die? He stumbled through the curtain and followed the voices he heard until he found the room. He gasped. Even from the doorway he could hear SueAnna’s labored breathing. Her face was flushed, and she clawed at the air with, oh, dear Lord, the palms of her hands were raw and bloody. Experience told him they were rope burns. What had he done? She’d hadn’t complained. Not one word during that cold, wet ride into Prairie View. “Will…is she—”
Doc shook his head. “Will she live? Is that what you want to know?” He shrugged. “I’m a doctor, Trey. Not God. Don’t know what ever possessed you to bring her here in the first place, as fragile as she’s been.”
“I…she insisted. Said she needed to talk to another woman. I didn’t know—”
Lorna gripped SueAnna’s wrists and brought her hands to the bed, palms-up.”
“You let her stand there, Trey Martin—wet, cold and sick. Your arms were full of Claire when this sweet girl fell to the floor, and even then you didn’t notice. It was Peter who had to pick her up and bring her in here—while you were holding his wife.”
“Lorna, please. Let me explain.”
“You needn’t explain to me, young man, but you will certainly need to do some fancy talking to Peter. And if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll get a chance to make things right with the young woman lying here fighting for her life. For now, I don’t care what kind of storm you have to ride through, and I don’t care if you have to walk, but you hightail it back to the KIM and let Adam know what’s happened.” She pointed toward the door with her chin, her hands still gripping SueAnna’s wrists. “Get”
Trey stepped to the bed and brushed his lips across SueAnna’s forehead. “I know I’ll have to prove this, but I love you.”