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   Chapter 3 Eyes of the Past

Loving River By LadyRosabella Characters: 8737

Updated: 2017-12-20 16:07

Zane easily caught the slight form before she crumpled to the ground. His brow puckered as he gazed at the beautiful soft woman he held. She was gorgeous. She was in danger. Zane glanced at the mercantile owner. "She probably needs some air. We'll be back when she recovers."

The man nodded without seeming too concerned about the unconscious woman. "Probably came for the thread." He grumbled as he picked bad apples from the crate on the counter.

Zane wasted no time in taking River from the mercantile. He turned and strode for the soft grasses just behind the diner. He knew that nature would calm the girl's soul while he caused her to faint. Zane wasn't surprised that she fainted. He rather expected it. The girl would only associate him with horrific memories. She would be a monster if she hadn't acted so. Kneeling, Zane settled himself onto the grass. He pulled River onto his lap, cradling her gently, he stroked her hair. "Come on, baby." He whispered. "Come back to me. We need to talk." Zane sighed as she made no reaction to his soft words.

"I know you don't think well of me. You have reason to be weary, but baby, my Pa's found his way out of prison and word has it that's he's been asking about you. I protected you from him once, darlin' and I'm not gonna let him get his grubby hands on you this time either."

The crease in his brow seemed to deepen as he continued to watch the sweet girl. She was perfect. Why couldn't his father just leave her be? He stripped everything from this girl? Would the nasty man not even leave her with her future and pride? "Baby girl, I'm here to help you. I'm not bad news for you. Please wake up. We need to talk."

River's lashes fluttered against her skin as her mind slowly came to. She was laying down outside. Someone was holding her. He smelled wonderful. The scent was familiar to her. It was similar to the scent that accompanied her fathers memory. The scent of the outdoors, hard work, and leather. She breathed deeply, reveling the the comfort that the familiar scent brought her. As her mind slowly returned to consciousness, she heard a voice, a deep voice speaking to her in a soft, reassuring manner.

"You just relax, River girl. I'll take care of you. You have my promise. I'll never let anyone hurt you. I promise. Now come on, baby. Wake up and talk to me, this is important darling. Come on." He whispered. Unable to resist, he bent and placed a warm kiss to her forhead. "Please talk to me." He murmured against her skin.

River basked in the warmth surrounding her. It had been too long, much too long since she had felt so protected and secure. She felt as though someone really cared for her- not just care for her, but was taking care of her. It was a feeling that she associated with love and happiness. She didn't want to lose that feeling, it had been so long since she felt it. Content. That's what it was, contentment.

"River, baby. We need to talk. There's danger coming but I promise he will not get to you. I will protect you. I will always protect you."

Almost against her will, her lashes fluttered open and she found herself gazing into the handsome face that could only belong to one.

Zane smiled as he gazed into River's eyes. "That's it, girl. Come one. We need to talk, baby."

"You're a lawman." River whispered.

Zane smiled as he gently caressed her cheek. "Yep."

"Are you-. Is your father-?"

"My father isn't here. Yet. Now listen, we need to talk. There are things that you need to know. Just relax, and let me tell you."

River nodded her silent agreement as she sat up and pulled away from Zane. She wanted nothing more then to sit in the embrace of his arms and take comfort from this strange man. She knew she couldn't though. It wasn't safe and she wasn't going to risk her life with a man known to be dangerous.

"After I told Mrs. Kate about you, I took off and found a life of my own. A life that didn't involve my father."

"Why are you here? What do you want with me?" Rivers mind was tormented by remembering the deeds of this man's father. How was it that only a moment ago she'd been drawing comfort from the terrible man's son.

"I'm here to help you. Trouble is coming. Just let me-"

"What do you mean trouble? I haven't bothered you, why are you here?" Panic rose in her voice as she leaned forward.

"River girl." Zane chuckled. "You need to recall your manners. Just let me speak and it will all be clear. Okay?" He paused, only continuing after he received her nod. "I've made a decent life away from my Pa. After I grew some, I went searching for the old gang. We took them all in." Zane shook his head in disgust. "They were supposed to hang for their offenses, the murders." Zane paused and pursed his lips as he gathered his thoughts. Finally he looked up and directly into River's worried eyes. "River, my father is alive and he is out of prison. Word is that he's been searching towns, asking about you."

"Why?" River sobbed. "What does he want with me?" She shook her head and brushed furiously at her eyes. She didn't want this man to see her weakness.

"I don't know." Zane mumbled. He leaned forward and clasped her hand in both of his. "I promise you though, you have my word that he will not touch you. My deputy and I came to make you safe, to protect you from my father. River, I will not let him hurt you."

River took three deep breaths, her mind carefully sorting though what Zane had to say. She believed him that his father was coming. She believed that his fathered wanted her. What she didn't believe however was that she could trust Zane. "How- how do I know you mean what you say?"

"River just think of my father. He-"

"I am thinking of your father. And that is why I ask my question. How do I know that you mean to protect me? Maybe you came to collect me for yourself. Maybe it's an elaborate scheme of your fathers to make me trust you."

Silence ruled over the couple as they sat in the sun warmed grass and studied each other. River was surprised by the look on Zane's face. She had expected malice, guilt, or even anger to cross his features. Instead his face softened, caring look in his eyes as he leaned forward and whispered. "I protected you from my father once before. What makes you doubt that I would do it again?"

Surprised by his words and confused to his motives, River attempted to make sense of this man. "Why did you?"

Her question was not harsh or accusing. It was a simple question born of the girls honest confusion. Perhaps that's why Zane decided to answer honestly. "I always liked you. You and your family. It killed me when my father did what he did to your parents. I wouldn't let him take you too. Not if it was in my power to save you."

"Why did you come now? To warn me." She asked as an unknown force caused her to move closer to him.

"I loved your family, River. I've- I've never had that. My childhood was difficult at best. I always hoped- wanted what your family had. With you."

"What?" Rivers eyes widened. Her ears surely had deceived her. Surely he wasn't saying what she thought he said.

"I was afraid that you'd hate me for my connection with him. So I stayed away." Zane shrugged. "I didn't have much choice though when I heard he was looking for you. I had to risk it."

"Risk what?" River fought to understand what this man was saying. She couldn't believe it.

"I had to risk your hatred of me to save you from him."

"Are you- I mean." River took a deep breath and looked into Zane's eyes. "Did you say that you wanted a family with me?"

Zane smiled, his eyes twinkling with mischief. "Is that all you heard, River girl?"

"Isn't that what you said?" She tilted her head as she studied Zane with new eyes.

"I did say that. But you don't have to feel obligated- I mean. You wanted the truth as to why I saved you from my father. I told you, but I will help you stay away from my father regardless."

"You saw me in that barrel." She looked at him with amazement and awe reflecting in her gaze. "And you never told them."

"I couldn't."

"You got Mrse. Kate."

"I couldn't leave you alone."

"You came back."


"Zane, do you love me?"

Zane leaned close until he was face to face with River. His breath caressed her lips as he spoke, "Baby, I always have."







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