"Where have you been, Sterling?" Duncan asked.

Adam sighed. "Tracking down killers and driving cattle, sir."

Duncan laughed. "You? Driving cattle? Ha! Don't play with me, boy."

Adam stared at the man.

"You're serious?" Duncan asked.

Adam nodded.

"I don't believe it. I just don't believe it! After all this time of me running this town single-handedly, I find out that you were off gallivanting with a herd of smelly cows! Unbelievable." Duncan plopped down into his office chair.

"Bet you're gonna love to hear that I was working for Toni McBride, huh?" Adam smirked.

"What?" Duncan screeched.

"Oh, you bet. She paid mighty handsomely, too," Adam said teasingly.

"Well, you're just lucky that you aren't out on the streets and I'm willing to let you have your job back," Duncan grumbled.

Adam smirked. That was Sheriff Duncan's way of begging him to take the job back.

"I'll be in Monday morning," Adam grinned and replaced his hat. "By the way, you really need to sweep in here."

**********

"Erik, you might want to stay and hold him down," Doctor Wilkinson said.

Katie watched as Aubrey's facial expression turned from worried to terrified.

"H-Hold him down? W-Will it hurt him that bad?" she asked innocently.

Katie's heart went out to the woman, who probably hadn't seen a bullet taken out before.

"Ma'am, taking out a bullet is a very painful process." Wilkinson turned to Katie. "You might want to step out with her."

Katie nodded and wrapped an arm around Aubrey's shoulders, leading her out of the room and down the hall to the kitchen.

Aubrey sat down in a chair with stiff movements and a blank look on her face. Toni came and sat down between Aubrey and Katie, heaving a deep sigh.

"He's gonna be okay, Aubrey. Doc knows what he's doing," she said.

"Wade's a tough guy." Katie agreed.

Aubrey shook her head. "I should be back there with him." She started to stand.

Toni touched her arm, without looking at her, and made her sit back down. "You won't be able to help a thing."

Aubrey sighed and looked around. "It's a mess in here."

Katie watched as she started picking up dishes and wiping off the table.

"Aubrey, will you just sit down?" Toni asked.

"I have to do something, Toni. I'll go crazy just sitting there," Aubrey answered.

After a few moments of watching Aubrey clean, Katie heard a groan come the back bedroom.

Aubrey stopped what she was doing and jerked her head in the direction of the hall. Neither Toni nor Katie knew what to tell her. After a minute, Aubrey went back to what she was doing. Wade's groans grew louder and more frequent until Katie nearly broke out in a cold sweat. Aubrey dropped the dish she was washing and walked toward the hall.

"I can't do this," she said.

Toni stood and stopped her. "Aubrey..."

Another cry of pain came from the back room and Aubrey fought against Toni.

"I have to be with him!" she cried.

"You can't, Aubrey," Toni told her.

Wade groaned loudly again.

"Wade!" Aubrey screeched.

Toni had to hold her back by her waist now. Katie stood in front of Aubrey.

"There's nothing you can do, honey. He would hurt just as much if you were back there," Katie said.

"I can't take it, Katie!" Aubrey wailed.

Tears spilled from the woman's eyes and nearly tore Katie apart.

It was going to be a long night.

**********

Erik braced his arms against Wade's left shoulder and the top part of his leg to keep him flat on the bed. They could hear Aubrey's cries from where they were at the end of the hall. All Erik could do was pray for them. There was no way to ease Wade's pain, and certainly not Aubrey's either.

"I've almost got it," Doc Wilkinson said.

Erik sighed with relief. Wade's entire upper torso and face was glistening with sweat and the sheets around him were drenched. Erik prayed again for the painful ordeal to be over with soon.

His stomach churned at the sight of so much blood and the gunshot would, and he decided that he could never be a doctor. How Wilkinson didn't even flinch was beyond his comprehension.

"Got it." The doctor pulled out the bullet and held it up.

Erik gagged at the disgusting sight of blood and lead. Wade's groans grew fainter and Erik was relieved.

"You can go see about the women while I patch him up," Doc Wilkinson said.

Erik nodded and left the room to where the women were. Aubrey looked at him with fear behind her eyes.

"We've got the bullet out. I think he's fine," Erik told her.

Aubrey nodded and Erik gave her a brief hug, knowing that Wade wouldn't mind if he saw her in the state she was in.

Toni smiled at him, obviously relieved.

"W-Will you pray for him with us, Erik?" Aubrey asked.

Erik nodded. The four of them stood in a circle and joined hands.

"Lord," Erik began. "You know about Wade and how much he means to all of us here in this circle. You know what will become of him and us. I ask for Your healing and peace in this time. God, we trust in Your plan and Your unfailing love for us. Help us to rely on you no matter what we're going through. Help us to fully resign this situation to You, because You're the only one who really knows what's best for us. Through Jesus' name we pray, Amen."

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