by Dreamer

Characters: Casey, Vin, Ella Gaines

Summary: Will Casey survive long enough for Vin to find her

Warnings: Rough language and a little violence.

Author Notes: This is the first time I am trying something more suspenseful than my usual romantic stories. Hope you like it. Got the idea for this from Dean Koontz’s Intensity (this is no way near as intense or violent as that book), how someone can will themselves to survive, or at least try. It intrigued me.

Thanks to Bountyhunter’s  Lady for making me this collage. Credit for photos for collage goes to Sally-Ann at and Joy at

Third sequel to my stories A Kiss from the Soul and Heart and Soul. Yes, I will be doing more!

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Casey willed her heart to stop racing in case they could hear it. She took slow deliberate breaths. Silent breaths. She knew Vin would find her. She just had to stay alive long enough. Just thinking about Vin helped calm her down.

After their intense kiss a few months ago Vin rode out to their homestead and sat down with her aunt Nettie. She had heard all about their kiss. In fact it was all over town. Most of the people in town were nice about it with only some gentle teasing comments. Vin’s glare that could rival Larabee’s shut up the rest.

Mary helped as well. A lot of the town folk turn to her since she was always having a fit about anything indecent in the town. Since Mary was OK with it most of the town was too. Mind you a certain blond gunslinger had been keeping her too busy to get riled up over trivial matters.

Everything was going so good for the couple. Vin’s name had finally cleared. That being the one thing that made Vin hesitate in asking her to marry him. Without a price on his head Vin could now settle down and plan a future. A future with Casey.

Nettie had made Vin sweat. Hassling him about how inappropriate it was to kiss Casey in the saloon. She kept grilling him about his intentions until he stood up and just blurted it out.

“My intentions are to court her for the least amount of time acceptable to you and then I am going to marry her. I may not have much, but I do have some money put away to buy a house. Where we can, if God is willing, have lots of babies.”

Casey cried when she heard that and accepted his proposal before Nettie could say a thing.

“I guess that’s settled,” she said as Casey wrapped her arms around Vin and held him tightly. “Spring will be a fine time for a wedding.”

Tears came to Casey’s eyes at what could be lost if she didn’t survive. She desperately wanted to have Vin’s children. Lots of them. She wanted to feel Vin’s arms around her and share his bed until she was old and gray.

Vin and Casey were getting married this Sunday in a double wedding ceremony with Mary and Chris. The town had been planning the wedding for months. Everyone was excited about it. Even Old Toby Jones was smiling and it was frightening people. No one even knew the man knew how to smile.

Casey could almost feel the warmth of Vin’s arms around her as she lay on the cold damp ground covered in mud, leaves and blood. The blood wasn’t hers. It belonged to one of her kidnappers.

The two men Ella Gaines hired were only told to grab the woman reporter from town. Casey and Mary had been sewing their wedding gowns when they heard a explosion down the street. Mary went to investigate leaving Casey alone in her office trying on a dress.

Casey was able to let out a scream alerting Ezra to her situation but he could do nothing since she was already thrown over a horse as they headed out of town. The man holding her must of hit her because the next thing she knew she lay on the ground with a woman screaming nearby.

“Mary Travis! You dope! Not some woman child!” Ella Gaines was furious. She had it all planned. She would finally have her lover back whether he liked it or not.

Casey pretended to be unconscious as she listened to the woman’s tirade. She had hired these two men to distract the seven men protecting the town and grab Chris Larabee’s fiancée. She was going to make Chris marry her instead or she was going to kill Mary. She was going to kill her anyway but he didn’t need to know that.

“Fine! Get rid of this girl and we’ll get Mary tomorrow. If you mess up again I will kill you!” Ella ordered before getting on her horse and riding away.

“Looks like we get to have some fun!” The fat smelly one leered at Casey.

“Damn, I need to take a leak first.” The skinny man ran into the bushes while another approached Casey.

Casey had found a heavy rock while Ella was screaming at the men and swung it as hard as she could when the man was in reach. She had hit him hard on the side of the head. Blood flowed freely as he tried to grab the rock, staining Casey’s shirt. She hit him one more time before he knocked it away.

The man was dazed and Casey was able to edge away but he soon caught up to her and grabbed her foot.

“You’ll pay for that!” he yelled as he advanced on her.

Casey’s legs were strong from years of riding and walking to and from town. Casey kicked as hard as she could freeing her foot. She kept kicking and hit his knee with such force that she heard a crack. The surprised man yelped in pain. He tried to balance on his other foot but her next kick sent him flying into the fire.

Casey didn’t hesitate. Ignoring the man's screams, she got up and ran. She ran as fast and as hard as she could. She knew her only chance was to hide until Vin could find her. Vin would find her. She knew he would. She just hoped she was still alive when he did.

She shook the negative thought away. I will stay alive. I have too much to live for. She was deep in the bushes when she heard the other man call to her.

“You killed my brother. I’ll get you!” He let out a shot to scare her.

“No, you wont!” Casey stated softly in case the wind carried her words.

Casey surveyed her surroundings. She remember Vin teaching JD how to track and she accompanied them many times. Vin had said smell could give even the best tracker away. He told how if he had been in civilization too long he would roll in the dirt to hide his scent. He also said that mud gave protection from the sun and bugs.

She didn’t need to worry about the sun since it was almost dusk but the bugs were getting bad. She was afraid their buzzing would give her away. She saw a muddy spot and rolled in it, coating her hair, face and clothes. As quietly as she could she crept deeper into the brush and away from the fire.

The feel of the mud on her skin was itchy and as it dried made her skin feel tight and dry. This was nothing compared to the aches and bruises she had received so far. Worse was the ache in her heart.

Casey concentrated on Vin’s blue eyes. They could look into her soul and make her feel like she was the most beautiful woman in the world. She loved they way they would get darker after he kissed her. Those eyes held the hint of the mystery he would share with her on their wedding night.

She found a small cave but she knew that she would be trapped if her pursuers found it. She made her tracks enter the cave but then she covered her tracks as she veered away from it. She hoped she remembered right what Vin had said. Since she had a huge crush on him even then, she was sure she did. She loved listening to him talk.

Even his voice would cause goose bumps to rise on her arms. He would tell her the most wonderful things he saw and tales of his adventures of being a bounty hunter and living with the Indians. What made her completely melt was his poems. The first time he shared one with her she felt as breathless as she did during their first kiss. That man could make words dance and flow with a rhythm that was seductive.

The mere thought of Vin calmed her as she made her way in the darkness. She had to find somewhere to hide. She was growing tired and it was getting cold. Casey felt the night close in on her and she imagined a thousand eyes were watching her. She was glad she wore her regular boy's clothes underneath the dress Mary had insisted she try on. It kept her warm and protected her legs from the brush.

When she could go on no more she found a spot near a fallen tree and hid behind it. She pulled up leaves and brush to conceal herself. She lay with her back against the tree and tried to keep warm. It was nearly impossible to keep alert with exhaustion creeping in.

Casey awoke with a start. How she was able to sleep with fear in her heart and bugs and who knows what else crawling on her. It was nearly dawn and the woman was back. She could hear her yell obscenities at her remaining captor.

“Can’t you do anything right? She’s just a slip of a girl!” She was close, only a few feet away from where she hid.

“I was sure she was in the cave,” he whined bitterly. “There’s something spooky about that girl!”

Casey lay as still as possible. The sun was beginning to rise but there were plenty of shadows helping to keep her concealed. She held her breath as heard them get closer. The man’s voice kept assuring the woman that they would find her. Fear was clear and evident in his voice despite the bravado of his words.

Casey let out her breath slowly as the pair passed her. Missing her only by a foot or two. She waited until she was certain they were out of the area before she climbed out of her hiding spot and set off to find help.

Casey never felt so bad in her life. Every muscle in her body ached, She had passed exhaustion and only the thought of Vin kept her going. Also she was hungry. She saw a blueberry bush and paused to grab a few. She couldn’t linger. She knew she had to keep going. It was her only chance to survive.

Casey continued to think of Vin as she plodded on. The sun now high in the sky. The memory of his arms around her lessened the pain. Their first kiss distracted her from the agony she was feeling as her body tingled with the memory of his touch. His lips had been so warm. Distracted Casey stumbled and fell down a steep hill. She came to rest at the bottom when she heard Ella call out.

Fear icy cold sliced through Casey’s heart. She was sure she had been seen. It would soon be over. She was too cold and weak to put up much of a fight. She just wished she could see Vin one last time.

“Henry? Damn, Where is that good for nothing nincompoop!” Ella was standing at the top of the hill. If she looked closely at the bottom she would see Casey. The mud, leaves and dark clothing helped conceal Casey from the evil woman.

She moved down a few yards and started down the hill. Casey watched expecting the woman to head towards her and was stunned when she headed away from her. Ella hadn’t seen her. Some how she felt warmth flow through her veins and her will to live brought back the fight in her.

As Ella made her way down she gestured wildly and kept muttering to herself. She hoped the woman would fall and break her neck. Unfortunately she made it down and again came with in feet of Casey’s prone form. If she hadn’t have fallen when she did she would have been caught.

“Chris Larabee, MRS Chris Larabee. Ella Larabee. Damn fool can’t see we’re meant for each other...” Casey heard the woman confess to killing Chris’s wife and son. Casey couldn’t believe that anyone could be that evil. Casey was about to head in the opposite direction but then something changed her mind.

This has to end. A threat to Chris was a threat to Vin. Besides Casey was sure the woman would eventually find her. Quietly Casey followed Ella. It wasn’t hard. Her constant dialog about how perfect she and Chris were for each other was easy to follow.

Finally Ella returned to the campsite. She was now cursing her companion's absence. The smell of charred flesh was thick in the air and a newly dug grave was off to the side.

“Insufferable imbecile!” Ella bellowed.

Casey was unsure of what to do. The woman didn’t appear to have a gun but that didn’t mean she didn’t have one. Plus her friend could return at any moment.

The lack of movement brought awareness to Casey’s weakened state. She couldn’t keep going. She had to stop. Casey looked around her and found a heavy rock and a thick log she could use as a weapon. She slipped the rock in her pocket and advanced on Ella who was deep in her tirade about how she was perfect for Chris.

As quietly as she could, Casey crept up behind Ella. Without warning Casey swung the log making the woman fall to the ground. Ella was stunned by the blow, so shocked that she hesitated to move and received another blow from the young girl.

The two blows to Ella’s head made her dizzy and blood poured into one eye. The woman was so demented that she barely felt the heavy blows.

“You bitch! You think you can win. Your nothing but a weak helpless little mouse,” Ella yelled as she pulled out a gun from her pocket and fired at Casey.

Casey felt the impact and fell to the ground. Casey’s side hurt terribly but she wasn’t done yet. Casey’s foot kicked out catching the older woman by surprise and she crashed to the ground as well.

“I am no helpless mouse!” Casey screamed.

Casey wasted no time. She grabbed for the gun, desperate to get it away from her. Ella was stronger in her madness but Casey’s will to survive was unbreakable. Another shot rang out and Ella stopped struggling, her lifeless eyes staring up at the sky.

Casey was stunned that it was over. She wasn’t sure she would survive this fight. She had never seen anyone so crazy in her life. Casey lay back on the ground her hand holding her side. She hurt so bad she was sure she was going to die. She tried to get up but her body was too weak. Finally she just lay on the ground staring up at the clouds. Moments later she heard the sound of a horse riding up.

“Casey!” Vin called as he swung off his horse and down to where Casey lay on the ground. Vin pulled her into his arms and held her close. “We heard a gun shot!”

“Vin? I knew you’d find me. Babies, I want lots of babies.”

Vin smiled as he checked her for injuries. Casey was bruised and scraped up but her worse injury was to her side.

“She shot me.”

Cold fear clung to Vin as her tore away her shirt to examine the wound.

“Nathan! Casey’s hurt!” Chris called. Having arrived with Vin, he had been staring at Ella’s lifeless body.

“There’s another man,” Casey warned.

“It's okay. We got him,” Vin said searching for her wound. “Where did she shoot you?”

Vin saw a large bruise beginning to form on her lower ribs below her right breast, but no blood. Casey looked down and pulled a pieces of a shattered rock from her pocket.

“I love you, Casey.” Vin pulled her close as Nathan approached them. Seeing that she needed the comfort of Vin’s arms around her more, Chris joined the others.

 + + + + + + +

Vin never left her side as Nathan checked her over. Thankfully the rock blocked the bullet which only gave her a nasty bruise and possibly a cracked rib.

“Where does it hurt most?” he asked.

“Everywhere, even my hair hurts,” Casey replied resting her h ead on his chest. She yold them how she had survived. Everyone was scared how close Vin and Chris had come to losing their ladies.

“That was really smart, covering your tracks like that. I think you paid more attention than JD did,” Vin said remembering their tracking lessons.

“She was paying attention to you,” JD laughed as he handed Casey to Vin on top of his horse.

“Were you?” Vin smiled down at Casey mud covered face as she nodded.

They sent JD ahead to tell Nettie they found Casey and were returning to town. Josiah stayed behind to take care of the lunatic woman’s body. Vin cradled Casey in his arms as they rode slowly home.

Chris was silent, feeling more guilt than he ever had. He nearly got his best friend's girl killed because he grew complacent. He thought since it had been almost two years since he last saw Ella that she was done. He should have known better.

Vin eased his horse next to Chris’s and they rode silently before Vin spoke.

“It's over,” Vin reminded him.

At first Chris wasn’t sure what he was talking about. He was too lost in his own thoughts.

“She’s dead. Can’t hurt anyone from hell,” Vin said.

“Yeah. Nearly cost you big.” Chris nodded to Casey’s sleeping in Vin’s lap with her head on his shoulder.

“Nearly. She’s going to be okay.” Vin told him with his eyes that he didn’t blame him for what happened.

“It’s really over,” Chris said, starting to release his guilt.

“I made sure it was over.” Casey looked up at Chris. “I heard her babbling to herself about killing your wife so instead of waiting for her to find and kill me. I stalked her.”

“That wasn’t really smart,” Chris said.

“A threat to you is a threat to Vin. Besides, I am alive and she’s not. It worked out in the end,”

“Yeah, I guess it did,” Vin admitted, seeing a strength in Casey he didn’t know existed.

“Now we just have to get married and work on having those babies. Lots of them,” Casey said, making the two men laugh.

“I’ll let you two discuss the details,” Chris winked at them before joining Nathan and Ezra in front of them.

“Babies, huh? You're going to need a bath first,” Vin laughed as she playfully swatted him. But he silenced her with a kiss. “Or not.”