A Helping Hand

by Jan

Chris was in the stable saddling up Pony when Nathan approached him. “I know you’re planning on spending a few days at your place, do you mind dropping this medicine by the Baker ranch on your way?” Nathan asked Chris.

“Medicine” Chris replied. “I thought Otis Baker died about a month back.”

“He did” Nathan smiled “this is for his granddaughter Linda, she was coming down with a bad cold and this will help. She decided to stay and run the small spread herself. I thought since she was your neighbor you wouldn’t mind dropping this off for me.”

“Sure, I’ll take it” Chris said taking the packet from Nathan and putting it in his saddlebag. “Running a ranch by herself, that’s tough for anyone.”

“She has some friends moving out here to help her, thanks for taking the medicine for me” Nathan replied.

Chris nodded to Nathan signaling “You’re welcome” then finished with Pony and the two men walked outside with Chris leading Pony. Mounting up Chris said “See you in a couple of days.”

“Watch your back” Nathan replied and Chris rode out of town.

Chris had been feeling closed in and was looking forward to spending a few days at his cabin. He was enjoying the ride and figured it would just take him a few extra minutes to stop by the Baker ranch so he should make his cabin in plenty time to do his chores before it got dark. As he rode into the yard of the Baker ranch he noticed it looked like the chores hadn’t been done for a day or two. Tying Pony to the hitching post out front he walked up the steps and knocked on the door. He heard a noise from inside but no one answered the door so he opened the door and walked in calling “Hello” as he entered. Hearing a moan from the back room Chris pulled his gun and when to investigate.

Entering the bedroom cautiously he found Linda in bed with a fever. She was all twisted in the covers and her long blonde hair was partially covering her face. Swearing quietly Chris holstered his gun and approached the bed; laying his hand on her forehead he could feel the fever that was racking her body. Leaving her in the bedroom Chris went back to the kitchen to prepare the medicine Nathan had given him to deliver to her.

He brought the medicine and a glass of water back to the bedroom with him. Putting them down on the night stand Chris reached out to her and said “Ma’am, Nathan sent me with your medicine.” He gently lifted her head and she started to struggle and pull away. “Easy Linda, I’m just trying to help you” Chris reassured her.

Linda’s fevered brain tried to make sense of his words but something in his voice made her know she was safe with this man so she relaxed against him and let him lift her head and shoulders. “That’s it, drink it down” Chris coaxed her and he helped her drink the medicine almost laughing at the face she made swallowing it. “Here, this water will help” he said giving her the second glass he had brought with him.

Her head fell against his shoulder when she finished the water. Sighing Chris pulled the blankets back and straightened the bedding before laying her back down. For all of his hardassed attitude he knew there was no way he could just go and leave her here alone in her condition so he headed outside to stable Pony and take care of her stock before bringing his saddlebags into the house. Grabbing a basin he filled the basin with water then dropped a dish towel in it. He carried it back to her bedroom putting it on the night stand in easy reach of the bed. Chris knew he needed to get her fever down and the best way he could think of was to wipe her body down with cool towels. He just hoped she would understand his motives were to help her and not take advantage of the situation.

He pulled back her covers and removed her sweat soaked nightgown, laying her bare body back on the bed he sat down next to her and began to wipe the wet towel over her. He changed the water in the basin several times before he decided she needed more than just wiping. He had noticed there was a bathtub in the corner and thought soaking her in the tub would help. After putting lukewarm water in the tub he stripped to his waist to keep his shirt dry and then he carefully lifted her up, pausing when she started to move in his arms. He was pleasantly surprised when she relaxed and snuggled up against him. He gently placed her nude body in the tub and made sure her head wasn’t going to slide down into the water.

He left her to soak in the tub and stripped the bed down replacing the damp sheets with dry ones he had found. He pulled out a clean nightgown for her and placed it on the bed. Returning to the tub he was satisfied the soak had helped her fever. Lifting her out of the tub he grabbed a towel to dry her off before putting her back to bed. He felt guilty but couldn’t help but admire her body with its soft curves in all the right places. He shook his head to get those thought out it, after all she was helpless and depending on his helping hands not his roving hands. Part of him wanted to keep her bare to his gaze but the gentleman in him put her in the clean nightgown and back to bed pulling the covers over her now cool body.

Stretching his back Chris went back to the kitchen to make some dinner for them both. She was better but still out of it so hers was just broth. It was rich and thick and he knew from personal experience it would help her regain her strength. He had just finished banking the fire for the night when he heard a call from her room. She was more alert than she had been so he smiled to try to keep her calm. “Hi Linda, I’m Chris. Nathan sent me with your medicine. You all right.”

“I’m so cold” she replied shivering under the blankets. Her blue/green eyes were still hazed but clearer than before as she gazed up at him trustingly.

“Do you have any more blankets” he asked. “I used them all from the closet.”

“No, that’s all there are. Will you help me move closer to the fire, maybe that will help.” Linda asked him.

“You’ll be better off staying in bed” Chris told her. “I know you don’t know me but I’m asking you to trust me.”

“All right” Linda replied with a nod.

Chris removed his boots and gun belt and lifting her covers he crawled in the bed beside her. He reached for her and pulled her up against him. “Better” he asked.

“Yes, thank you” Linda sighed as she snuggled up against his warm body and fell back to sleep.

The next morning they woke wrapped in each others arms. Linda blushed at her brazen behavior and wouldn’t look at him. Chris reached down to grab her chin and gently lifted her head so he could look in her eyes. “This is just between us, no one needs to know” he said softly.

Linda gazed into his eyes and knew she could trust him. Not sure if she could keep the tremble out of her voice she just nodded gratefully.

“You stay put, I’m going to feed the animals and get some breakfast” Chris told her getting up. “I’ll be back with your medicine.”

She was still weak as a kitten so Chris stayed with her that day while she rested peacefully. He slept in her grandfather’s room that night telling her he wanted to know she was up and steady on her feet before he left. By the next morning she was much stronger and got up to eat breakfast with him in the main room.

“I really appreciate all you’ve done for me” Linda said blushing slightly.

“Neighbor’s look out for each other here” Chris assured her.

“Well, that’s true but I want to repay your kindness when I’m feeling better” Linda said with a smile.

Chris smiled back and thought maybe it was a good thing to become friendly with this neighbor. He made sure she had a good supply of wood and the animals were cared for before he rode out to continue on to his place. He promised to check in on her on his way back to town the next day and had already decided to make sure he had plenty of time for the visit. Linda was feeling much better about taking over the ranch now that she had met Chris, watching him ride away she thought of how much she was looking forward to getting to know him better.

The End