See Chapter One for disclaimers.
They had walked around the lake, along the waters edge and were packing up to leave when Logan noticed the dark clouds moving in from the west bringing with it a chilling wind. "Looks like we'd better hurry, those clouds don't look very friendly."
Following Logan's line of sight into the sky, Madison frowned. "I should have known this pleasant weather wouldn't last. Turning, she blew out a shrill whistle and watched as Steeler and Mercy trotted over.
"You really have those guys trained well. I would never have believed that you could let them roam free and not be afraid they would wander off, much less have them come when you call them." Lifting the saddle, Logan gently placed it on Steeler's back and began fastening the straps, as Madison did the same with Mercy.
"Horses are very intelligent animals, but Steeler and Mercy are special and know they are loved and cared for so they show their appreciation by being loyal and trustworthy." Madison stood and nuzzled Mercy's neck with her face. "Aren't you girl?"
Looking at Madison, Logan cocked her head, her curiosity getting the better of her. "Okay, I give. What's so special about these two, other than the fact you spoil them rotten."
Chuckling, Madison mounted Mercy and waited for Logan to follow. "I do spoil them, but they deserve it. I got them from a horse rescue organization. They had been removed from a farm in Montana after they were found beaten and half starved. They had been fed molding hay and were severely neglected for most of their young lives. Mercy was almost dead when they got her and Steeler wasn't far behind. When I heard about them through a friend, I just couldn't resist, so I took them both."
Logan looked at the animals with a keen eye, and for the first time noticed the thin scars that randomly streaked their flanks. "You've done a great job getting them healthy. I would have never known their history if you hadn't told me, how long have you had them?
As they rode back towards the stables, Madison leaned down and tenderly stroked Mercy's neck, cooing at her friend when Mercy whinnied back in response to her affections. "I've had them for almost three years now. They were both about a year old when I got them." She laughed, remembering the morning she took possession of the horses. "I lived in the city at the time, and had to find a place where I could keep them, so I rented a small dilapidated farm about five miles from where I now live. The house was practically in shambles, but it had a great barn for the kids and a large fenced-in area for them to exercise."
She glanced over at Logan, not sure if she should reveal the rest of the story. She decided to reveal all and continued the sad but sometimes funny story. "I actually ended up sectioning off a corner of the barn and made it into a bedroom. God knows it was probably safer than living in the house. I would shower, change and eat most of my meals at the hospital. I think most of my associates thought I had lost my mind, of course the ones that knew me well, took it all in stride."
A grin lit Logan's face as she peered at the woman. "Somehow I find it hard to get a visual of you living in a barn, Doctor."
Shaking her head, Madison laughed at the detective's comment. "Yeah, me too sometimes. I tried to get them boarded here at the stables to begin with, but the waiting list was long and they also requires their boarders have a one year record of good health as well as a variety of shots and tests completed prior to their acceptance."
The doctor reached over and patted Steeler's neck, Logan noticing the obvious love she possessed for the animals. "After eight months of living in the barn, I decided I couldn't handle it any more, so I bought the property that my house is on now and built. By the time the house was completed, Mercy and Steeler were accepted here and the rest is history."
Logan thought about the complex layers that made up her companion's persona. "I guess after practically living with them for a year, you really miss spending time with them, don't you?"
A sad smile crossed the doctor's face and she considered Logan's question. "Yes, I do. The time we spent together was a growing time for both of us. They needed so much attention medically and emotionally and being there allowed me the chance to give them that. I think that is one reason they responded so well, because they knew I wasn't going to beat them or leave them." Looking at the detective, she tilted her head to one side and shyly smiled. "You know, people aren't the only beings with feelings and emotions. Animals have them too, even though they can't communicate with us as well, they do have their own way of showing love, devotion, and even appreciation for what we do for them."
They rode along in silence for a while enjoying what was left of their day, the shelter of the wooded trail providing a barrier against the quickly cooling wind. They were less than a mile from the stable when Mercy suddenly shied and became agitated. Struggling to control the horse, Mercy reared back sending Madison hurling off backwards, landing with a thud on the hard dirt path. Logan jumped off Steeler's back, rushing over to the doctor, just as she was attempting to sit up. "Hey, are you alright? Lie still, let's make sure nothing's broken."
As she knelt beside Madison, Logan looked up to see Steeler snorting, backing further down the path, in the direction from which they had come. Looking ahead, the detective spotted the source of their fear and agitation, a rattlesnake lying in the middle of the path. In a low whisper, she turned to the doctor. "Don't move."
Easing to her feet, Logan walked back towards Steeler, now standing about fifteen feet away. Reaching the horse, she gently stroked his neck while fumbling with the strap on the saddlebag. Finding her gun, she eased forward a few feet towards the doctor, but before she could get any closer, the snake began to slither towards the fallen woman, who was obviously downwind from his flicking tongue. In a lightning quick movement, she raised her revolver and fired one shot, striking the snake in the head, before quickly returning to Madison's side.
Madison was now sitting up, wincing as a sharp pain seared her hip. "Go see about the horses, I'm fine, but they don't know what's going on."
Seeing that Madison was relatively uninjured, Logan returned to the animals and began stroking their necks, whispering soothing words, reassuring them of their safety. They soon calmed under her gentle touch and she began walking them back towards their owner, now sitting on the ground intently watching her.
Madison was astonished at how quickly the detective was able to calm Mercy and Steeler and watching as Logan returned with the horses. "You're good with them, they trust you."
Logan regarded the horses intently. "Well, I always have gotten along better with animals than I have people, I guess." The detective held out a hand for Madison to grasp, and once she was on her feet and convinced nothing was broken, they remounted the horses, resuming their journey. The women had only ridden a short distance when the sound of galloping hooves broke the silence of the woods, and seconds later the doctor spotted Sam racing towards them.
Reining in his horse, Sam slowed as he neared the two women. "I heard shots. Are you two okay?"
Nodding, Madison glanced over towards Logan, then back at the weather worn stable master. "Yes, Sam we're fine." Tipping her head towards her companion, she winked at the concerned man. "Seems like there was a wandering rattler out in the path as we were riding in and it spooked Mercy. Detective McGregor took care of things. Believe me she has a darn good aim. I don't think you'll have to worry about it again."
The stable master gave Logan a long studious look then smiled. "It seems odd that there would be a rattler out during this time of the year." Scratching his head he looked back and forth between the two women. Realizing his help wasn't needed the cowboy reset the Stetson low on his head and nodded towards the two women. "Well, as long as you're alright, I'll just be on my way." Tipping his hat, he turned and headed back in the direction of the stables.
"We'll see you in a few minutes Sam, and thanks." Madison laughed as she watched the stablemaster's retreating back and then turned to her companion. "I think you hurt his feelings."
With a smirk on her face, Logan lifted her hands in the air. "What? What did I do?"
Chuckling, she heeled Mercy onward before glancing back over her shoulder at Logan, still sitting on Steeler with a confused look on her face. "I'm thinking ole Sam there was running to the rescue and you just took the wind out of his sails, Detective."
Rolling her eyes, Logan trotted Steeler beside Mercy. "Yeah, well, I don't remember seeing you too concerned with ole Sam's feelings while you were sitting on your ass in the middle of the path, Doctor"
Madison bit back the smile that was threatening to take over her face. She was enjoying teasing the detective and suddenly realized how much fun she'd had this weekend. As they rounded the last bend and the stables came into view, an empty feeling began to shroud her mood, knowing that her day with the alluring woman would soon come to an end.
After removing their saddles and blankets, the women began brushing down the horses. Even at Sam's objections, this task was one she never let the stable hands perform, preferring to do it herself. To Madison it was her way of thanking the animals and reinforcing her love for them. It also gave her the chance to spend a little extra time just touching them, doting on them...something they had lacked in their early days.
Logan noticed the careful movements of the doctor and was concerned that the fall had caused more damage than she was willing to admit. Deciding to give her a little time, the detective continued to silently groom Steeler while keeping a close watch on the injured woman.
Once they were finished and the horses were comfortably back in the stable, Logan walked outside and stood by the truck while Madison whispered her goodbyes to the horses, pulling the last of the treats from her pocket. She noticed the tender and caring way the doctor was towards Mercy and Steeler and wondered if the same gentleness carried over to her patients. Of course it does. That's why she is one of the most sought after surgeons in the city.
Limping out of the stable a few minutes later, Madison tossed Logan the keys as she headed for the passenger side of the truck. "Do you mind driving?"
Catching the keys easily in one hand, Logan unlocked the door and held on to the doctor's arm as she eased herself up into the seat. "Are you sure you're okay? Do we need to go Mercy and get some x-rays of your...ummm...butt?"
Scowling at her companion, Madison winced as she settled herself into the seat. "No detective, I'm fine. I am a doctor after all."
Closing the door, Logan walked around the truck and climbed in the driver's seat, then turned towards the Madison. "I know you're a doctor, that's what concerns me. I don't think you people make very good patients, do you."
Madison waved her hand in the air, dismissing the detective's remark as she tried to find a comfortable position and growled, "Just drive McGregor. I didn't tell you how to shoot the snake today, don't start telling me how to treat myself."
Trying to hide the grin on her face, Logan started the truck and turned out onto the highway. "My, my, we get a little grumpy when we don't feel too good, don't we?"
Madison didn't reply, just growled as she leaned against the door, willing the pain in her buttocks away.
As they drove towards Bridgeville, the easy banter they had shared earlier gave way to a reflective silence as each thought about the day and their reluctance for it to end. As if their thoughts were synchronized, both women spoke at once. An uncomfortable silence filled the air as neither knew whether to speak or listen, with Logan ultimately deferring to Madison. "I was, umm wondering if you'd like to stay for dinner." Sneaking a sidelong glance at the detective, she noticed her brows furrow. "Of course, I know you're probably tired, so I underst..."
"No, not at all. I was just thinking that I probably need to check in with the precinct." Turning her head, she smiled at the doctor. "I'd love to stay, but on two, no three conditions."
Logan enjoyed seeing the curious look on the doctor's face. "You let me borrow your phone to call in, and you let me borrow your shower." The detective looked at the woman sitting as far against the other side of the truck as she could get, and grinned as she sniffed the air. "From the looks of where you're sitting, I must not smell too good. If you're not careful, you just may fall out of the truck."
Curling her lip up in a snarl, Madison shifted her weight to her other side. "You don't smell bad McGregor, I'm just propping."
Patting the seat, Logan glanced over towards the doctor. "Well why don't you lie down in the seat and put your head on my lap, maybe that will take some of the pain out of your a..."
"Don't even say it." Growling, Madison rolled her eyes as she eased her way across the seat and laid her head on the woman's lap, looking up into a smiling face. "A rattlesnake killer and a comedian to boot, you could be rich Detective."
Logan's hand dropped and lay comfortably along Madison's side as they drove towards Bridgeville and she thought about how contented she was in the doctor's presence. Careful McGregor, the water is getting deep.
"Now what's the third condition Detective?" Madison closed her eyes as Logan's protective arm held her.
"Well, this one is a little more risky. I'll stay if you agree to ice your, ummm, butt, while I cook dinner."
The doctor landed a light slap on Logan's leg before laying her hand on the Detective's firm quads. "Okay, okay, you win. Just make sure it's something good. If I have to put ice on my ass, you have to suffer too."
Chuckling, Logan eased her hand down Madison's side, gently caressing the bruised hip. "Anything you want, Doctor." They rode along in silence as the truck filled with the soft melodic sounds from the stereo. The last thing the small blonde remembered before falling asleep, was the sound of the detective's voice humming along with the music and how at peace she felt lying on the woman's lap.
Continue to Part Thirteen of Code Blue
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