Debby K's Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman Fan Fiction

Faith of Our Fathers


by Debby K

Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman
Faith of Our Fathers
by Debby K

************
Chapter 1
************

"Mrs. Lambert," Michaela removed the stethoscope from her ears. "Your heartbeat is strong. I believe that if you continue to use the tea...."

"What about my tumor, Dr. Mike?" the elderly woman interrupted.

"I'm sorry," Michaela hesitated. "As I told you before, there is nothing that can be done. It would be more dangerous to remove it than to leave it alone."

"But I feel strong enough," Effie Lambert countered. "I'm healthy for a 70 year old, Dr. Mike. You said so yourself."

"Yes, but...." Michaela placed her hand on the woman's shoulder. "Sometimes things are out of our hands. I would like for you to continue to drink the tea. I believe it will reduce the effects of your tumor."

The woman's shoulders slumped, "How long do I have?"

"That's difficult to say," she hedged. "I do promise that I shall do everything within my power to help you."

"Thanks, Dr. Mike," Effie reached into a bag. "I brought you some grape jam."

Michaela smiled, "Thank you. My children have quite a weakness for it."

The woman looked toward the anteroom attached to Michaela's office, "It's real nice that you can have them here with you while you see patients."

Michaela patted her hand, "How is your family?"

"Noah works just as hard now as the day I married him," she smiled. "Gladys and her girls will be coming to visit us later this month."

"Good," the physician nodded.

As Michaela opened the door to see Effie out, Brian arrived.

"Hey, Mrs. Lambert," he removed his hat.

"Brian Cooper," she grinned from ear to ear. "Look at how you've grown."

"Thanks," the young man acknowledged.

"I'll see you next week, Mrs. Lambert," Michaela called after her as she departed.

"Ma," Brian entered the Clinic, a piece of paper in hand. "Look at this."

Michaela began to scan the flier, "Rev. Silas Healey?"

"He performs miraculous healin's," his voice enthusiastically noted.

"Brian," she dismissed the authenticity. "This man is nothing but a charlatan, a fraud."

"How do ya know?" he asked.

"These faith healers play on people's gullibility and desperation," she explained.

"Mama!" Josef called from the anteroom.

"Come," she removed her apron. "Let's take your brother and sister home now."

"Do ya mind if I go to Reverend Healey's gatherin'?" he requested.

"I don't mind," she placed her hand on his shoulder. "I think it would be very educational for you, but go with a journalist's quest for the truth."

************

"Josef," Michaela got her youngest child's attention at the dinner table. "Sweetheart, the peas go in your mouth, not on the floor."

"Trow 'em, Mama," he playfully lobbed one at his sister.

"Joey," Katie did not appreciate being his target. "You're gettin' bad manners."

"Bad?" his blue eyes saddened.

Brian demonstrated the proper technique with which to eat, "Do like this, Josef."

"Mama," Katie tilted her head toward Michaela, "I think Joey acts like this 'cause Poppy's away."

"Perhaps he's craving some attention?" Michaela leaned closer to her son. "Well, your father will be home tomorrow, and I don't think he'll appreciate how his little boy has been behaving."

"I eat," he imitated what Brian had shown him.

"Very good," Michaela offered her approval.

"Ma, I found out that Reverend Healey has a big following," Brian brought up the topic from this afternoon.

"I'm certain that he does," she shook her head. "Until someone can prove his fraudulent methods."

"Maybe I could," he volunteered.

"Perhaps," she suggested.

************

As she sat in a wing back chair, Michaela propped up her feet. The roaring fire provided abundant warmth to the room. With the children asleep upstairs, she relished the quiet opportunity to sip a cup of tea and read her latest medical journal.

But then it happened, as it always did when her husband was away. Her thoughts turned to him. Sully had been in Denver for the past week, meeting with men whom she knew he loathed. Politicians. He had come up with a plan to set aside some land for a state park and traveled to the capital to plead his case.

She sighed and setting the journal aside, lifted the teacup. After sipping the brew, she closed her eyes. Relaxing in the softness of the chair, she drifted off to sleep.

She always dreamed about Sully when he was away. This time, she relived their last night together before he departed for Denver. He had taken special care to ensure a romantic evening.... her mountain man with a poet's heart.

Sully had arranged for the children to spend that evening with Robert E and Grace. Then he had cooked dinner for them, tempting her with his culinary skills. When they had retired for the evening, she pulled back the sheets to find rose petals sprinkled across the sheets. Then he had tenderly massaged her shoulders, whispering soft words of love in her ear.

Her body warmed at the recollection of their evening of love. A night filled with the scent of roses. A night blissful from his tender touches and passionate kisses. A night....

She was awakened by Wolf's whimpering.

"What's wrong, boy?" she yawned.

The animal grew more restless.

"Do you want out?" she stood and went to him.

Wolf's nose was to the door sill. She ran her fingers across his fur, then stepped over to the window to peek out. She thought she caught sight of something. Was it a man? Perhaps a prowler.

She debated whether to let Wolf out. If it were a prowler, the animal might frighten him away. Then she glanced toward the fireplace. On the mantle was the rifle. Only as a last resort would she....

Wolf growled. Michaela knew that the front door was secure, but she could not recall locking the kitchen door.

"Come here, boy," she summoned him to follow her.

Nervously, she checked the side door latch. To her relief, it was locked, too. As she pivoted to return to the living room, she heard the front door knob jiggle.

Wolf burst into loud barking. Michaela swiftly opened a drawer and with trembling hand, pulled out a knife. Then she saw the front door slowly open, prompting Wolf to dart outside.

************
Chapter 2
************

Michaela backed toward the steps, her heart beating rapidly. Out of her view, she heard the door close. The prowler most certainly was in the house now, out of her line of sight. She debated a course of action. If she ran upstairs, he might follow, placing her family in danger.

She swallowed hard. Then she saw the shadow of the man on the living room wall. He was by the fireplace. What kind of prowler would stop to warm himself? Michaela mustered all of her courage and tentatively tilted her head to see past the kitchen mantle.

"Sully?" she sighed in relief.

"Hey," he smiled as he neared her. "Didn't think you'd still be up."

"You nearly frightened me to death," she returned the knife to its proper place.

Wrapping his arms around her waist, he pulled her close, "I missed ya."

She tried to calm her breathing from the anxious experience, "I... I missed you, as well."

"Did I scare ya?" he noticed her pale appearance.

"I... I wasn't expecting you home until tomorrow," she ran her hands up and down his arms.

"Sorry," he grinned. "Want me t' go back outside an'...."

"Certainly not!" she tapped his side.

"Any supper left?" he glanced toward the stove.

"Are you hungry, Mr. Sully?" her voice was sultry.

"Mmm," he enfolded her in his arms. "Sure am."

She backed away teasingly, "Then I'll see what I can do."

As she prepared a snack for her husband, he sat down at the table.

"Kids okay?" he asked.

"Well, let's see," she recounted. "Katie suggested this evening that Josef might be throwing his food in order to get our attention. His table manners are becoming atrocious."

"Throwin' his food again?" his brow wrinkled.

"Peas were the vegetable of choice this evening," she chuckled. "But the big news is a faith healer is coming to town. Brian is planning to do an article on him."

"Faith healer," he rolled his eyes. "Glorified con man more likely."

"Reverend Silas Healey," she recalled the name as she set a plate before him.

"Thanks," he clasped her hand. "Care t' help me?"

"Can't you feed yourself?" she turned up the corner of her mouth.

"I could use a lesson in some o' those table manners," his eyes were inviting.

Michaela sat on his lap, "First, comes the napkin." She unfolded it and draped it across her legs, "Of course, this should go on your lap, but I see that it is otherwise occupied."

"Right," he nodded playfully. "What's next?"

"Your fork," she lifted it from the table and placed it in his right hand. "Used to spear the food."

Sully glanced down, "But it's mashed potatoes."

"Oh, in that case...." she picked up his spoon. "You may use this to scoop up...."

Before she could finish her sentence, he stood up with her in his arms, "Think I'd rather scoop up this."

"Sully," she was caught off guard. "What are you doing?"

"Michaela," his voice was raspy. "I been missin' ya real bad."

"I've missed you, too, but...." she was cut off when his lips met hers.

Their kiss set longings aflame.

Melting in his arms, she pulled back for air, "What about your appetite?"

"I'm thinkin' about my appetite," he carried her toward the steps.

"What about Wolf?" she remembered the animal was outside.

"He'll be okay," he reached the top floor.

"But..." she became speechless at his boldness.

Upon entering their bedroom, Sully gently set her on the bed. Slowly, without breaking his lock on her eyes, he began to unbutton his shirt. She watched him, each motion of his muscular body stirring her passions. Then he turned his attention to her.

"Afraid I don't have rose petals for ya," he lifted her hand.

His touch awakened her ardor, "Your coming home a day early is very romantic to me, Mr. Sully."

"Ah," he trailed kisses down her neck. "But not quite like the scent of roses."

"Sully," she framed his face between her hands, her heart beating faster and faster.

He slowly undid the top few buttons of her blouse and slipped his hand beneath the material. Michaela closed her eyes and tilted her head back to savor the effect he was having.

Sully positioned himself so close, his breath captured her soul:

"And the rose like a nymph to the bath addressed,
Which unveiled the depth of her growing breast..."

Sully's fingers caressed where his words had spoken. Michaela felt nearly faint with desire for him, but he continued his touches and gentle words:

"Til, fold after fold, to the fainting air
The soul of her beauty and love lay bare."

She trembled at the sensations stirred by the placement of his palm, "Was... was that Byron?"

"Shelley," he identified the poet. "This is Byron," he squeezed lightly.

Again, Michaela caught her breath, "I dreamed about our being together."

"Me, too," he kissed the lobe of her ear. "I love you, Michaela."

"And I, you," she murmured.

"Sorry I scared ya," he spooned his body to hers.

Michaela slipped her hands around his sides, inviting and encouraging him closer.

He grinned, "Gettin' anxious, are ya?"

"Very," she did not contain her enthusiasm.

Slowly, Sully initiated their union. Magically, rhythmically the two commenced their dance of love. At first, there were teases, heightening the ardent anticipation. Then physical longings brought a greater urgency to their movements, culminating in the unrestrained consummation of their burning need.

When at last, they lay breathlessly back against the cool sheets, he smoothed back the hair from her face.

Then he touched his lips to the moist skin of her forehead, "It's sure good t' be home in your arms."

She made lazy circles in the hair on his chest, then leaned closer to kiss it, "It's good to have you here."

They were quiet for several moments, absorbing the profound effects on their bodies.

Michaela broke the silence, "How did your meetings go?"

He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, "They didn't give me much hope."

"No?" she turned to gaze into his eyes.

"A few of 'em listened," he amended. "I even talked t' Charles Perkins, president of the Chicago Burlington & Quincy Railroad. He showed some interest in buyin' up the land around the Red Rocks, but it's prob'ly t' put in a railroad an' hotels.

When he paused, she rubbed his arm.

He smiled slightly, "I don't know, Michaela. I hate t' get my hopes up where politicians an' businessmen are concerned."

"I don't blame you, Sully," she stroked his face. "But we don't give up trying, do we?"

He paused.

Then the expression on her face melted his cynicism, "No. We don't."

"Close your eyes," she tenderly placed her hand on his cheek. "I know you haven't had much rest."

"Never do when I'm away from ya," he grinned.

"Good night," she snuggled closer.

He embraced her, "Good night."

************

An urgent knocking at the bedroom door at dawn startled Michaela and Sully.

"Mama," Katie's voice beckoned.

Sully rose and pulled on his buckskins while Michaela reached for her robe. Once decent, she nodded to him, and he opened the door.

"Mama, I...." Katie's eyes widened. "Poppy! You're home!"

"Sure am," he lifted her into his strong arms.

"Well, le' me give ya a kiss," the little girl placed her lips on his cheek.

Sully's heart filled with love, "I missed ya, Kates. Were ya good for your Ma?"

"I was," she emphasized herself.

"But..." he sensed there was more.

"Poppy, ya gotta have a talk with Joey," she shook her head.

"Did he give ya a hard time?" he set her on the bed to kiss her mother.

"Not just me," she hugged Michaela. "Ask Mama."

"I'll be back," he turned and left the room.

Katie started to climb down from the bed.

"Where are you going?" Michaela beckoned her back.

"I don't wanna miss this," the little girl smiled.

"Katherine Elizabeth Sully," the mother spoke in amazement. "If I didn't know better, I'd think that you wanted to see your brother get into trouble."

"Not trouble, Mama," she corrected. "I just wanna hear what Poppy says."

"I believe if your father would have wanted us to hear...." she stopped speaking when Sully reentered the bedroom carrying Josef.

"Good morning, Sweetheart," Michaela reached for him.

The little boy yawned and rubbed his eyes.

"Joe," Sully sat beside them on the bed. "Were you good for your Ma?"

The child hesitated and folded his hands. Then his leg began to restlessly move back and forth.

"Josef," Michaela leaned closer. "Tell, Papa."

"I bad manders," his lower lip curled under.

"Bad manners?" Sully raised an eyebrow. "Were you throwin' food again?"

"Yep," Josef resumed his leg swing.

"Well, Michaela, I reckon we're gonna have t' stop feedin' him," his voice was sincere.

Katie's mouth opened wide in astonishment, "Poppy! Ya gotta feed Joey."

"Not if he's gonna throw food," he continued his facade of seriousness. "It'd be a shame t' not have any more pickles."

"Mama?" Josef's eyes darted to his mother.

"Papa, isn't there a better way to teach Josef to not throw his food?" Michaela played along.

Sully stood up, took a deep breath and pretended to be deep in thought.

Then he lifted his son, "If Josef promises that he won't throw food anymore, then...."

The little boy contritely leaned his head against his father's chest, "I pwomise, Papa."

Sully raised the little boy's chin, "Tell your Ma an' sister that you're sorry for your bad manners, an' ya won't do it again."

Josef looked down at them, "Sowwy. I won' do 'gain."

"Whew!" Katie jumped up. "Good thing, Joey. Now they'll feed ya."

"Pokle?" his face beamed.

"Come on, you two," Michaela summoned. "Time for breakfast."

************

At Bray's Mercantile, a morning gossip session was in progress regarding the impending visit of Reverend Healey. Loren, Jake, the Reverend, Hank and Horace sat or stood drinking coffee and speculating on the merits of the visitor's powers.

"So what d' ya make o' this faith healer?" Loren leaned on the counter.

Jake tilted back his hat, "Saw 'em pitchin' a big tent in the meadow by the church."

"I gave them permission," the Reverend chimed in.

"You believe in all this hocus pocus, Padre?" Hank chuckled.

"I believe in the power of God to heal," the minister nodded. "The Bible is full of hundreds of instances."

"I ain't talkin' about the Bible," Hank countered. "I'm talkin' about this... what's his name?"

"Healey," Loren answered. "Reverend Silas Healey."

"Don't that sound made up?" Jake folded his arms. "A healer named Healey."

"It could be coincidence," Reverend Johnson pointed out.

"Or could be he's a phony," Hank speculated.

"Wonder if he could help my gout?" Horace spoke up after listening to the conversation.

"An' my lumbago," Loren clutched his back.

"Maybe if you did what Dr. Mike tells you, it wouldn't be so bad," the Reverend interjected.

"It's all nonsense, if ya ask me," Jake stepped to the door to look out.

"That mean ya ain't gonna go hear him?" Hank lit up a cigar.

"Course I'll go," the barber turned. "As mayor, I should be in attendance."

"Well, I know I'm goin'," Horace contributed.

"Aw, I reckon it wouldn't hurt t' go listen," Loren admitted.

"What time does his meetin' start?" Hank inquired.

"Poster says 7 o'clock," the storekeeper replied.

"I'll see if I can get away from my boomin' business," Hank exited.

"That means most o' his customers will be goin' t' see Reverend Healey," Jake chuckled.

"It'll be interestin'," Horace neared the door. "Wonder what Dr. Mike will say about it?"

************

"Grace," Michaela completed her examination.

"No need t' tell me, Dr. Mike," she sat up. "I can read it on your face."

"I'm sorry," the doctor removed her apron.

Grace took a deep breath and nervously exhaled, "I guess it ain't meant t' be."

"After your miscarriage four years ago, I told you that I believe you can still have children," Michaela took her hand. "I'm afraid I'm at a loss to explain why it hasn't happened yet."

"It ain't your fault," Grace buttoned her dress. "Maybe Robert E an' me ain't worthy."

"Please don't say that," Michaela was adamant.

"I pray night after night on my knees," the woman was tearing up. "But I don't know what else t' do. First Anthony, then the baby we were expectin'."

Michaela had a thought, "What about a specialist?"

"Specialist?" Grace asked.

"Dr. Bernard in Denver," she clarified. "I've consulted him professionally and personally since before Katie's birth."

"Do ya think he might...." there was excitement in her voice. Then she quickly dismissed the notion. "I can't take gettin' my hopes up again."

"If you change your mind, I would be happy to arrange for him to see you," Michaela offered. "Perhaps you should speak with Robert E about it."

"I don't know," Grace straightened her hair. "I don't think I can bear t' see the hurt in his eyes again." She started to depart, then paused, "Dr. Mike, can I ask ya somethin'?"

************
Chapter 3
************

"What is it, Grace?" Michaela sat at her desk.

"My drinkin'," she mentioned. "Could my drinkin' cause this?"

"How long has it been since you've had a drink?" the physician queried.

"Over four years," Grace told her.

"Then I don't believe it has any bearing after all of this time," Michaela noted.

Grace noticed the anteroom door open, "Children not with ya t'day?"

The doctor smiled, "They wanted to spend the day with their father."

"Sully don't mind?" she teased.

"Mind?" Michaela's eyes gleamed. "After being away for a week, he relishes the time with them."

"Ya sure are lucky, Dr. Mike," Grace's voice hinted at melancholy.

Michaela stood and went to embrace her, "I thank God every day for what I have, and that includes your friendship."

Grace opened the door, then paused, "You goin' t' see that Healey fella t'night?"

"The faith healer?" she specified. "No."

"Okay," she stepped out. "Thanks again."

Michaela watched her friend round the corner, then shut the door. Perhaps she had missed something in her medical books... something that could explain Grace's inability to become pregnant.

************

"Excuse me," Brian approached the attractive young woman who was watching the raising of Reverend Healey's tent.

"Hello," her blonde hair and features reminded Brian of his sister.

"My name's Brian Cooper," he shyly admired her. "Are you with Reverend Healey?"

"He's my father," she smiled back. "My name's Nancy."

"I'm writin' an article for our local paper," he explained his purpose. "Do ya think I could ask some questions?"

"You're a writer?" she was intrigued.

"Studyin' t' be," he corrected.

"What did you want to know?" she turned her gaze back to observe the workers.

Brian took the liberty of sitting next to her, "How long has your Pa been doin' this?"

"Since before I was born," she said. "Nearly 20 years."

"Have you traveled around with him all your life?" he began to write in his tablet.

"Yes," she stated simply.

"Where all have ya been?" he continued.

"We've been all over the country," she informed him. "And to Canada."

"That sure sounds excitin'," he looked up.

"Will you be coming to hear my father tonight?" she became the inquisitor.

"Yep," he nodded. "Almost the whole town will be here from what I gather."

She glanced over his shoulder toward the bustling streets.

"Tell me about the people of Colorado Springs," she smiled. "I like to learn as much as I can when we travel. It helps me to put a face on the towns."

"Well," he set down his pencil. "We aren't a fancy place like Denver or Boston."

"I like small towns," she indicated. "You obviously have a newspaper. Begin with that."

"Miss Dorothy Jennings is the editor," he narrated. "Then there's the Medical Clinic. That's run by my Ma, Dr. Michaela Quinn."

"Your mother is a doctor?" Nancy's mouth dropped.

"Yep," he was becoming more comfortable with her. "Then there's Jake Slicker, the town barber and mayor. His wife is our teacher...."

************

Sully sat on the edge of the creek bank holding a fishing pole, as his children frolicked nearby.

"Poppy," Katie turned up her nose. "Joey's got a worm in his hands."

"Bring it here, an' I'll put it on your hook, Joe," he smiled.

"No, Papa," the little boy shook his head.

"Don't tell me you don't like fishin' either," Sully's shoulders slumped.

"He likes fishin'," Katie related. "But he likes savin' the worms more."

"Savin' 'em?" Sully chuckled.

Katie came over to whisper in her father's ear, "Poppy, he saves all kinds o' stuff."

"Where?" he was amused at the thought.

"In our room," she stated.

"Kates," he hugged her. "Your Ma would find all that.... stuff with how often as she cleans the nursery."

"Joey hides it," she claimed.

"Josef," Sully eyed his son.

The little boy toddled over to his father.

"What do ya do with worms ya catch?" Sully came to the point.

Josef proudly replied, "Keep 'em."

"Keep 'em?" he wondered.

"Yep," Josef returned to his task of digging.

************

"Ma," Brain entered the Clinic. "I wanted t' let ya know I'm stayin' in town for dinner so I can go t' Reverend Healey's meetin'."

"All right," she glanced at the clock. "Sully and the children should be here shortly, and we'll go on home."

"I think everyone in town is plannin' on going t' hear him," her son voiced his excitement. "Oh, an' I met his daughter Nancy. She's real nice."

Michaela detected more to his statement, "She caught your eye?"

"Nothin' like that," he glanced down, a bit embarrassed.

She rested her hand on his arm, "Just observe the events with a healthy skepticism, Brian."

"I will," he understood her intention. "Think I'll stay with Matthew in town t'night after the meetin'."

"All right," she embraced him. "You seem to be doing more of that lately."

"Ya don't mind, do ya?" he was sensitive to her feelings.

"I miss you," she straightened a stray lock of his hair. "But I understand your need to spread your wings a bit."

"Good," he grinned. "Bye, Ma."

Before she could tell him she loved him, he was out the door. Michaela sighed and went to her desk.

************

At the homestead, Sully supervised his children as he finished scaling the fish he had caught.

"Poppy, why we cuttin' out stars?" Katie carefully held the scissors.

"It's a surprise for your Ma," he sat down and pulled Josef onto his lap. "On each star, we're gonna put a reason why we love her."

"I love Mama," Josef tapped his father's arm.

"Don't she know we love her?" Katie was puzzled.

"Sure," Sully grinned. "But it's always nice t' be reminded."

"Ten," Katie set down the scissors. "That makes ten stars."

"Good job, Kates," he handed her a pencil. "Now let's think about what t' write on each one."

************

The tent was full of the curious, the believers, the nonbelievers and those seeking for Reverend Silas Healey to lay hands on them. Brian glanced around in awe, pausing every so often to feverishly write down his impressions.

First he noted those in attendance whom he knew: Loren Bray, Jake Slicker, Robert E and Grace, Horace Bing, Dorothy Jennings (also with note pad in hand) and Reverend Timothy Johnson.

Turning to look over his shoulder, he noted Hank Lawson standing near one of the tent's openings. Brian smiled to himself. It almost appeared that the saloon owner was poised to leave.

He felt a tap on his shoulder, "Mind if I join ya, little brother?"

"Matthew!" his eyes lit up. "I thought you weren't comin'."

"My curiosity got the better of me," he removed his hat. "Sure are a lot o' folks here."

"I was just writin' down everyone I recognized," Brian continued. "Look over there. Mrs. Lambert's here."

"Lot o' folks I never seen before, too," Matthew surveyed the scene.

"What d' you think about faith healin'?" the young man inquired.

"I'm open t' hearin' what it's all about," Matthew answered. "How 'bout you?"

"Ma said I should view it with a journalist's quest for the truth," Brian responded.

"Sounds good," Matthew lowered his voice. "Looks like they're startin'."

"That's the Reverend's daughter Nancy," Brian elbowed him as the young woman stood up before the crowd. "I met her this afternoon. She's real nice."

Matthew smiled, "An' real pretty."

"Shhh," the stranger beside them chided.

"Ladies and gentlemen," Nancy raised her hands. "Before Reverend Healey begins, I would like for us all to stand and join in the singing of the wonderful hymn 'Faith of Our Fathers.'"

The assemblage rose and with the accompaniment of a pump organ began to sing.

************

"Josef, Sweetheart, eat your vegetables," Michaela encouraged.

"Not hunry, Mama," he shuffled the carrots around his plate.

"The fish is delicious, Sully," Michaela complimented her husband's culinary skills.

"Can't say I had much help catchin' 'em t'day," he smiled.

"Oh?" she knew Katie's disdain for fishing. "Didn't Josef help you?"

"Nope," he wiped his mouth. Then tickling his son's side, he added, "I think we better check this little fella's room for some critters."

"What?" Michaela was aghast.

"W-O-R-M-S," he spelled. "Seems he's takin' t' collectin' things."

"And placing them in his room?" her appetite suddenly left her.

"If you're talkin' about worms, Poppy's right," Katie spoke up.

"If you'll excuse me," Michaela rose from the table and headed up the steps.

Josef turned his head to watch her, then pivoted around and smiled at his father and sister.

"May I be excused, Poppy?" Katie requested.

Before he could respond, they heard a scream from overhead.

************

Brian jotted down his first impressions of the faith healer as he began to speak in a fiery tone. Tall, in his early forties, Silas Healey had a booming voice. His eyes were the most distinctive feature on his countenance. They were blue, but when he looked at someone, it was as if he could see into their soul.

Everyone under the tent was mesmerized by him. Even doubters like Hank hung on his every word. He spoke of the Bible, quoting passages in which people, who believed, were healed.

Next the faith healer called forward by name some folks whom Brian did not know. One man could not walk without the aid of crutches. A woman, whom Healey said was mute, was brought up, along with a deaf man.

Brian stopped writing to look at his brother, "How's he know all this?"

"I don't know," Matthew shrugged.

With the three affirmed people standing before the crowd, Reverend Healey began to pray. He impressed upon the audience the importance of their belief in God and in him as a channel of His powers to heal.

"If any of you are doubters, depart now!" he closed his eyes and raised his hands. "Get out! Go with Satan! For the power of the Lord is at work here."

Then he placed his hands on the cripple.

"Throw down your crutches," he released the man.

A collective gasp was heard as the man tossed aside his crutches and began to walk, all the while singing praises to his healer.

Next, laying his palms against the ears of the deaf woman, Healey called upon the demons to leave her.

When he let go of her, he shouted, "Hear the word of the Lord!"

"I... I can hear you!" she kissed his hand. "I can hear!"

The audience erupted into applause. Last, he went to the mute man.

Covering the man's mouth, the Reverend spoke, "The Lord has heard your prayers. Believe in Him, and you will be healed! Speak now."

The man began to mumble. Then his words became clearer. Again, the assembled townsfolk applauded. In a dramatic move, Healey fell to his knees, exhausted from his work.

Nancy came to him with a blanket, and draped it about his shoulders. She escorted him off of the wooden stage and out of sight of the crowd.

Returning to the group, she announced, "The healings drain a great deal of energy from my father. However, after a day of prayer and recuperation, he'll be back here again tomorrow at 7 p.m. ready to heal those of you in need."

There was a murmur of excitement in the audience.

"I'm sure you can understand that my father's ministry cannot function without money," she continued. "In order to support his efforts, we request that you please donate whatever you can afford. As a reminder of what he has done here tonight, I'm going to ask the three people who were healed by him to station themselves at the exits to the tent. As you leave tonight, please drop your donations into the collection plates they hold."

Brian sat back and observed the collection process. It seemed to him that hundreds of dollars must have been given.

"Comin', little brother?" Matthew stood up.

"I'll be right there," Brian spotted Nancy's exit. "I'm gonna see if I can speak t' the Reverend."

************

"Michaela," Sully called from the bottom step. "You all right?"

At first there was no reply. Then she appeared at the top of the stairs with a small box in hand. She descended the steps and set it on the table.

Josef pointed to it and smiled, "Woms!"

"What is it?" Sully looked at his wife.

"Open it," she swallowed hard.

The moment he lifted the lid, a terrible stench hit him. He quickly closed it.

"That's where Joey keeps 'em," Katie stated.

"What all's he got in there?" Sully held his nose.

"My preliminary examination found worms, bugs, and...." Michaela hesitated. "I believe a mouse. All quite dead."

"A mouse?" Sully folded his arms. "Must be one Wolf caught."

Josef clapped his little hands together.

"What are we going to do?" Michaela shook her head.

"First thing is t' get rid o' this," he lifted the box and headed for the door.

"No, Papa," Josef implored.

Sully paused, "Joe, we're gonna have a talk when I get back."

"Ya shouldn't bring that stuff in the house, Joey," Katie rested her elbows on the table.

Michaela lifted her son from the high chair and, sitting in one of the wing back chairs, settled him in her lap. Katie followed closely on their heels.

Josef leaned his head against his mother's shoulder, sensing that he was in some sort of trouble, but not knowing exactly what he had done wrong.

Then they heard Sully reenter the house. He came over and stood before his wife and children. Then he knelt down and reached out for Josef to come to him.

Michaela handed their son to his father as Katie sat down beside them.

"Joe," Sully began. "Did ya smell what was inside the box?"

"Yep," the little boy nodded. "Bad."

"Sure was," Sully agreed. "Do ya know why it smelled so bad?"

Josef pondered it, then replied, "Nope."

"Sweetheart," Michaela leaned down. "When animals die, they begin to decay."

"That mean they're goin' back t' Mother Earth?" Katie queried.

"Yes," Michaela explained. "The process of decay causes that bad smell."

"Joe," Sully took his hand. "Ya can't bring dead stuff in the house."

"Not dead," Josef avowed.

"Well, if they're not dead when ya first bring 'em in, they die in the box," Sully said. "An' that's cruel, Joe. Puttin' livin' things in boxes without food an' air."

Josef's contemplated his father's words, "Cwuel?"

"It's mean," Sully defined. "You don't wanna hurt animals, do ya?"

"No, Papa," Josef was beginning to comprehend. "Wanna play."

"Ya can't bring 'em in the house," Sully counseled. "If ya wanna watch the worms, an' bugs, an' mice outside, that's okay. But not in here. Ya understand?"

"Uh huh," the toddler nodded.

"I suppose he has a certain natural curiosity about living creatures," Michaela smiled.

Sully lifted his son up, "Kates, what ya think we should do with your brother?"

She laughed, "I think we should.... tickle him!"

Sully swiftly set him down, "Better watch out, Joe. Katie's gonna tickle ya."

Josef took off for his favorite hiding place under the stairs, and Katie pretended to look for him.

Sully sighed and shook his head, "I'm thinkin' about another curious child who most likely did the same thing."

"Katie?" Michaela smiled.

"Nope," he touched her thigh. "You."

"Me?" she placed her hand atop his.

"I reckon you were the same way as a little girl," he envisioned. "Tryin' t' figure out what makes livin' things tick."

"All I had to do was look at father's specimens," she replied. "He had them in jars at his office."

"Maybe we oughta give Josef some specimens t' look at," he joked.

"I don't think I would want them in the house either," she turned up her nose.

************

Before Brian could reach Nancy, she had disappeared back behind the tent. He started to turn and follow Matthew out but was prompted to linger a while longer when he overheard snippets of a conversation near the exit.

"How much?" a man asked.

"Over $200," a voice informed him.

Then Brian heard a third voice, "I think.... new crutches. I damn near broke ....up on stage."

"After tomorrow.... all the crutches you want," the first man laughed.

"At least we don't..... props," a woman said.

Brian began to suspect that the miracles of healing performed by the good reverend were nothing but a sham. He leaned closer to the tent opening to hear better.

"Brian?" Nancy's voice interrupted his thoughts.

************
Chapter 4
************

"Ah..." Brian stammered after being caught eavesdropping. "Hey, Nancy. I was.... just lookin' for ya. I... I was wonderin' if I could interview your Pa."

"Not tonight," she shook her head. "As I told everyone, he is very tired."

Brian searched for a way to express his feelings, "Nancy, your Pa don't know those folks he healed t'night, does he?"

"He often gets to know the people," she related. "They're so grateful, they stay after the meetings to offer their thanks."

"I see," he looked down.

"Is something wrong, Brian?" she noticed.

"Nope," he forced a smile. "Gotta be goin'. I'll see ya t'morrow."

************

"Story, Papa," Katie implored as her father and mother tucked her into bed.

"Yea!" Josef seconded.

Sully sat on the edge of the bed as his wife and children listened intently.

"This is the story of the lost children," he began.

"Sully," Michaela feared that the topic might frighten them.

"Shhh, Mama," Katie patted her hand. "Let Poppy talk."

Michaela shrugged and held Josef closer.

Sully resumed, "There were once six young brothers who were orphans."

"Like Marjoy?" Katie recalled her friend from Denver.

"Right," he said. "These brothers lived on handouts and clothin' that others threw out. No one cared about the boys except the camp dogs. The kids loved the dogs an' played with them all day."

"Woh?" Josef interrupted.

"Right, Joe," Sully ruffled his hair. "Like you play with Wolf." Then he continued, "People in the village were real mean t' the boys 'cause o' how they looked. Other children made fun of them. So, the boys decided they no longer wanted t' be people."

"Can ya stop bein' people?" Katie sat up.

"No, Sweetheart," Michaela guided her back.

Sully returned to his story, "The boys started thinkin' about what else they could be."

"Could be flowers," Katie recommended.

"But then the buffalo might eat 'em," Sully ticked her side.

"What about rocks?" Michaela played along. "No animal would eat them then."

"Good thinkin', Mama," Katie agreed.

"Ah, but the rocks could be broken," Sully countered.

"Water," Josef suggested.

Sully leaned closer to his son, "Then folks could drink 'em."

"Trees," Katie offered.

"They might be chopped down," Sully responded.

"What else could they be, Poppy?" the little girl was captivated by his story.

Sully paused, then in a low voice said, "Stars."

"Stars!" Katie's eyes widened. "Just like...."

He quickly interrupted her, "Just like in the sky at night. The children thought about it some more. Stars are always beautiful an' safe, an' people admire 'em. So, up the boys went int' the sky t' become stars. The Sun welcomed 'em, an' the Moon called them her lost children."

"The Sun an' Moon became their father an' mother?" Katie warmed to the notion.

"Yep," Sully grinned. "But the Sun wasn't happy about the way people had treated the boys, so t' punish everyone, he brought on a drought."

"Dwowt?" Josef asked.

"No water," Sully's voice became serious. "Nothin' could grow or live without rain."

"But the dogs treated the boys nice, Poppy," Katie reminded him. "Why'd the Sun punish them?"

"Good question. Every night, the dogs would howl up at the Moon, 'cause they missed the boys," he related. "Finally, the dog chief asked the Sun for pity because a drought hurts all creatures. Then the rains came."

"Whew!" Katie sighed.

"Whew!" Josef imitated his sister.

"So when ya look up at the stars at night," Sully lifted his son from Michaela's arms. "Think about how much a mother, the Moon, an' a father, the Sun, love their children."

"I'm glad you're my father an' mother," Katie sat up to kiss her parents.

"We are, too," Michaela felt a lump in her throat. "Say your prayers now."

************

"So what d' you think, Matthew?" Brian finished relating what he had overheard.

"Ya don't know who was doin' the talkin'?" the older brother said.

"No," Brian replied. "But one of 'em sure sounded like Reverend Healey."

"It does seem pretty suspicious," Matthew agreed.

"I'm goin' back again t'morrow night," he mentioned. "Maybe I can find out more."

"Just be careful, Brian," Matthew cautioned. "If this man is a phony, he could be dangerous."

"Don't worry," the young man smiled.

************

When Michaela entered her bedroom, the light from the fireplace and low lit lamps gave a surreal glow to the room. Then she noticed movement above the bed. Sully arrived at that moment to capture her reaction.

"What's this?" she pointed to the ceiling.

There, suspended by strings, were cut-out paper stars hovering over the bed.

"Looks like stars," he rubbed his chin. "Wonder how they got there?"

"Mr. Sully," she grinned.

"Maybe Katie an' Josef put 'em up there," he pretended ignorance. "Let's take a closer look."

"There appears to be something written on each one," she reached up.

"Humm," he tilted his head. "What's that one say."

"I love you because you help sick people," she smiled.

"How 'bout this one?" he pointed.

"I love you because you are beautiful," she began to feel flushed.

"Do all of 'em mention lovin' ya?" he teased.

"It appears so," she continued to read them. "They're in Katie's handwriting."

"All of 'em?" he scratched his head.

"Well," she lovingly grasped one. "This one is just scribbling. I'll assume it's from Josef."

"Even that one there?" he reached for the furthest star.

She clasped it in her hand, pausing to ponder its message.

"What's it say?" his voice had a rasp.

"This one is in your handwriting. It says '...Stars....the poetry of heaven,' Byron," she glanced toward him.

"Turn it over," he urged.

She read aloud:

"'Twere all one,
That I should love a bright particular star
And think to wed it....' Shakespeare."

"Mmm," he encircled her in his arms, "Sure am happy I thought t' wed my bright particular star."

"Sully," she turned to face him. "This is so romantic."

He grinned impishly, "Glad ya think so."

"Is there a special reason?" she toyed with the hair at the base of his neck.

"You're my special reason," he pulled her closer.

"You've arranged this all quite nicely," she complimented him. "I take it you had some assistance from our two little ones."

"They're good helpers," he agreed.

"And their bedtime story was quite appropriate for setting the stage," she ran her finger along his jaw line.

"I was thinkin'...." he paused.

"Yes?" she waited with anticipation.

He took her hand and led her to the bed, "Would ya like t' sleep with me under the stars t'night?"

"It would be my pleasure," she cupped his cheek in her palm.

"My pleasure, too," he winked.

"May I help you?" she pulled his shirt from his buckskins.

Next she slid her hands up under the material to caress his chest. Sully closed his eyes and swallowed hard, enjoying her attentive touches. Gradually, she lifted the shirt over his head. Pulling his arms from the sleeves, he tossed the material aside.

Michaela smiled coyly as she lightly ran her hands across his shoulders, then leaned forward to kiss his chest. As she concentrated on stirring his passions, he reached behind her and began to undo the buttons of her blouse. Soon, it joined his shirt on the floor.

Pulling down the straps of her camisole, he gently let the tops of his hands glide across her breasts, instantly drawing the desired reaction. She gasped slightly at the sensation. Then he pulled her closer so that, flesh against flesh, they could feel the other's heartbeat.

Sully lowered his hands to the back of her skirt and unbuttoned it. As it fell to the floor, she stepped out of it. Then she loosened his buckskins and slipped them past his hips.

Soon divested of their clothing, they snugly matched their forms together and shared light kisses.

"Thank you for this romantic evening," she was breathless.

"It ain't over yet," he stroked her hair.

"Were there ever two more lucky than we?" she gazed up into his eyes.

"Never," he smiled down at her.

She tilted her head against his chest. Then Sully felt the moistness from her eyes.

"Here now," he lifted her chin with his finger. "What's this?"

"I'm sorry," she quickly brushed away her tear.

"Michaela," he guided her to the bed. "What's wrong?"

"I was thinking about Grace and Robert E," she averted his eyes.

"We're about t' make love, an' you're thinkin' about them?" he smiled. "I must be losin' my touch."

"No," she clasped his hand. "You definitely have not lost your touch, Mr. Sully."

"What made ya think about them, then?" he asked tenderly.

"I don't know how to help her," she confided.

"Somethin' wrong with Grace?" his heart sank.

"They've been unable to conceive another baby, Sully," she linked her fingers in his. "I've exhausted all of my medical books and journals trying to find a reason why."

"Maybe the answer ain't in one o' your books," he spoke low.

"What do you mean?" she queried.

"Maybe they just been tryin' too hard," he speculated.

"Trying too hard?" she smiled at his attempt to explain it.

"Well," he raised an eyebrow. "I ain't a doctor, but I do know a thing or two about.... that."

"We've been blessed with beautiful children, Sully," she ran her finger across his lips.

He captured her index finger between his lips, then teasingly released it.

"And you do know about.... that," she grinned. "But Grace is starting to believe that they're unworthy."

He proposed, "Maybe they oughta get away for a spell. Someplace romantic."

"I don't know if they can afford to do that," she shivered.

"You cold?" he pulled her into his arms.

"A little," she leaned into him. "I'm sorry I put a damper on your plans this evening."

"You didn't put a damper on anythin'," he pulled back the covers. "Come on. Get under here."

They snuggled close beneath the sheets and quilt.

"Remember when you worried that we might not ever have a baby?" he turned on his side to face her.

"I remember," she nodded.

"An' remember how nervous we were? Hopin'.... tryin' t' the point we were almost uncomfortable with each other," he held her gaze.

"So you believe they might not feel relaxed around one another?" she concluded.

"Well," he touched her thigh. "I ain't a doctor."

"But..." she felt her body respond to his hand. "You... do know a thing or two about that."

"Right," he grinned at her.

"You may have a point," she guided her hand down his chest and abdomen.

"Michaela," he felt her touch reach a sensitive spot.

"Yes?" she relished his expression.

"I love you," he kissed her.

"And I love you," she deepened the kiss. Then breathlessly, she pulled back, "I don't think I'm cold anymore."

"I'll say," he returned to their kiss.

They began to make love beneath the stars created by their children. Their ardor culminated in a richly satisfying conclusion. Michaela felt herself transported by his warmth, and Sully's heart had never felt fuller. Afterwards, their bodies calmed with sweet caresses and kisses.

"Thank you for my stars," she reached up to touch one.

"Your children did all the work," he grinned.

"Their Papa was the inspiration," she draped her leg across his.

"You're my inspiration," he toyed with a strand of her hair.

"And you're my star," she pulled his arm across her. "Good night, Sully."

"'Night," he closed his eyes.

************

Brian sat at the Clinic awaiting his family's arrival. He smiled as he watched the town of Colorado Springs come to life with activity, knowing folks would be gathering at Grace's Cafe for their morning gab fest. He was also certain the topic of discussion for the day would be Reverend Silas Healey.

Brian's heart was heavy. He had gone to Reverend Healey's meeting the previous night with an open mind. But now doubts filled his thoughts. What if the man was only duping the citizens of Colorado Springs? What if the people he helped were merely planted there?

His reverie was interrupted when the wagon containing his family pulled up.

"Ma," he helped his mother from the wagon. "Could I talk t' ya?"

"Certainly," she kissed his cheek. "How was the meeting last night?"

"That's what I wanna talk t' ya about," he lifted Katie.

"Bran," the little girl hugged him. "Wanna see what I drew?"

"What is it?" he examined the paper.

"It's what was in Joey's box," she pointed.

"His box?" Brian looked to his mother.

"Your brother has been collecting small creatures in it, and...." she hesitated.

"An' I guess it was pretty disgustin'," he reviewed the drawing with a better understanding.

"Sully!" Hank called from across the street. "Need t' talk with ya!"

"I'll see ya later," the mountain man kissed his family and met up with the bartender. "Ya wanted t' see me?"

"Yea," Hank folded his arms. "I was wonderin' if you'd like t' ride up t' Mays Peak with me. One o' the men at bar last night was talkin' about a legendary Civil War soldier who's still up there. Don't know the War's over."

"Who's he fightin' then?" Sully was uncertain if Hank was serious.

"Story is he fires at anyone who comes near," the saloon owner replied.

"Why are you so interested?" Sully posed the question.

"Business," Hank looked around.

"Business?" Sully adjusted his belt.

"If I can convince him that the War's over an' bring him back here, he'd make an interestin' attraction at the Gold Nugget," the bartender reasoned. "He's sure t' have a lot o' stories."

"Seems like you're only usin' the man for...." Sully was interrupted.

"He's dangerous up there," Hank interjected. "He oughta be enjoyin' life an' not have t' hide."

"Sully?" Michaela approached.

"Don't say nothin' t' her," Hank lowered his voice. "She'd only think o' some reason t' not do this."

"Is something wrong?" she observed the expression on her husband's face.

"Hank here was just askin' me t' go...." again his sentence was cut off.

"T' go huntin' with me," Hank grinned.

"Hunting?" she found it odd for the saloon owner to ask her husband. "Why?"

"I hear there's some good huntin' ground around Mays Peak," the saloon owner fabricated. "Sully knows that area better 'n me."

"Michaela," Sully shook his head.

"Ma!" Brian called. "Can I talk t' ya now?"

"Excuse me," she placed her hand on her husband's arm. "Brian wants to talk with me about that meeting last night. Good luck with your hunting."

As he watched her return to the Clinic, Sully felt uncomfortable.

"You henpecked or somethin'?" Hank joked.

"Henpecked?" Sully resented the accusation. "'Course not. I come an' go as a I please."

"Then go with me," the bartender baited him. "Please?"

"All right," Sully sighed. "But I'm only goin' t' make sure nobody gets hurt. Come on, Wolf."

************

Michaela removed her coat, then walked to the anteroom to see that the children were occupied.

Stepping over to her desk, she sat down, "Now, tell me about last night."

"Well," Brian began. "Reverend Healey's a real powerful presence up there on stage. He preached an' talked about faith. Then he started callin' up people by name."

"People who had asked to be healed?" she was curious.

"No," he shook his head. "That's the thing, Ma. He's real reclusive. Don't see anyone before the meetin' or after. But he called up three people, an' right there on the spot healed 'em."

"What was wrong with them?" she was interested.

"One couldn't walk, one was deaf, an' one mute," he recounted.

Michaela mentioned, "Did you recognize any of them as patients of mine?"

"No," he replied. "But here's the strange part. After the meetin', I went t' interview him an' overheard some people talkin'. One of 'em sounded like Reverend Healey. I couldn't catch every word, but...."

"But what?" she probed.

He swallowed hard, "It sounded like he was talkin' t' the people he healed."

"Perhaps they were merely expressing their gratitude," she suggested.

"No, Ma," he countered. "They were talkin' about how much money they collected."

"How did the town react to his meeting?" she rose from her desk.

"They were takin' in by him," Brian said. "He's got these eyes that.... I don't know.... it's like they look right through ya. I think he convinced everyone that he has powers. They're havin' another meetin' t'night. I know the place'll be packed."

"Have you spoken with Matthew about it?" she wondered.

"Yea," he nodded. "Matthew thinks it's suspicious, too."

"I think I'll come to the meeting tonight," Michaela stated. "We'll just see how authentic he is."

************
Chapter 5
************

Approaching the forested summit via the Gold Camp Road, Sully, Hank and Wolf neared Mays Peak. Rising over 8000 feet high, it was a vivid reminder to Sully of the beautiful land he hoped to preserve.

"What ya gawkin' at?" Hank noticed his look.

Sully ignored the jab, "How high up we gotta go?"

"Rumor is he's hidin' out in some cave, 'bout two or three hundred feet up," Hank answered.

"Let's go then," Sully encouraged his horse. "I think I know where it might be."

************

"Joseph Michael Sully!" Michaela commanded her son to stop running through her examining room. "Where are your shoes?"

"Huwt, Mama," he pointed toward the anteroom.

There came a knock on the door of the Clinic.

"Come in," Michaela beckoned.

Dorothy entered, "Michaela, I wanted t' get your opinion on somethin'."

"I'll be right with you," she lifted her son. "Katie, would you bring me your brother's shoes, please?"

"No, Mama!" the little boy insisted. "Huwt."

"What hurts, Josef?" she was puzzled.

"Foot," he lifted his leg.

"Your foot hurts?" the physician became concerned.

Removing his sock, she noticed a red area beside his big toe.

"Did you fall or bump it, Sweetheart?" she felt for a break.

"Looks like his shoe's too small, Michaela," Dorothy observed.

"Too small?" she was offended. "That's ridiculous. He's only had them for a month."

Katie arrived with the shoes. Michaela held one up to his foot to compare the size.

"Why..." she was mortified. "Dorothy, you're right. I don't understand."

"Got yourself a growin' boy, Michaela," her friend patted her hand.

Michaela set her son down, "We'll buy you a new pair before going home this afternoon, Josef."

"Tanks," he quickly headed for the anteroom to play with his sister.

"I'm afraid I didn't notice," Michaela was embarrassed.

"It happens t' the best of us," Dorothy assured her.

"You wanted to speak with me?" she recalled her friend's request.

"Yes," the redhead nodded. "Brian says you're comin' t' see Reverend Healey t'night."

"I am," she avowed. "Why?"

"I was hopin' you could help explain how he does it," Dorothy stated. "He has these real hypnotic eyes."

"Brian mentioned that," Michaela nodded. "It's one thing to make the audience believe that strangers are healed, but he has shown no powers when it comes to people we know."

"So, it could be those folks last night were just planted t' make him look authentic," the redhead figured.

"He will probably have some more of his cronies in the audience tonight," Michaela speculated.

"What if ya challenged him?" Dorothy thought about it.

"Challenged him?" she did not understand.

"What if ya offered t' examine the people before he healed 'em, just t' verify that there's really somethin' wrong with 'em?" the editor explained.

"I doubt if he would permit me to do that," she answered.

"Well, we'll see t'night," Dorothy pulled the pencil from behind her ear. "I wrote down the names o' the three people he claimed t' heal last night. I'm gonna go check with Jake t' see if there's any records of 'em livin' around here."

"I'll see you later, then," Michaela pulled on her apron.

************

As Sully and Hank rounded a turn in the dirt path, a bullet whizzed past their heads.

"Looks like we found him," Hank quickly dismounted and drew his gun.

"Put that away," Sully indicated his weapon.

"Someone's gotta protect us," the bartender stated. Then he noticed blood on Sully's temple, "You're hit."

"Just grazed me," he passed it off.

"Looks like it's gonna use some stitchin'," Hank assessed. "What now?"

"Maybe I can reason with him," Sully turned and raised his hands nonconfrontationally.

He slowly approached the direction from which the shot had been fired.

"Hey!" Sully called. "My friend an' me were out huntin'. We got lost. Think ya could help us?"

"We're in the middle o' a war!" a man's voice replied. "Why ain't you in uniform?"

Sully debated telling him the War was over, but doubted the man would believe him.

"I was discharged," Sully spoke the truth.

"Which side ya fight for?" the man asked.

"Union, o' course," the mountain man answered.

"How 'bout your friend there?" the voice sounded less confrontational.

"Uh..." Sully stumbled.

"Union, too," Hank called up.

Sully saw a form emerge from behind a small rock formation. The man appeared to be in his late thirties, wearing a tattered Union Army uniform. He made his way down, still keeping his gun trained on them.

"I guess ya don't get much company up here," Sully searched for a way to disarm him.

"Didn't know there were any Rebs around these parts t' fight," Hank quipped.

"You men sure ya ain't in the Army no more?" his eyes questioned.

"Yep," Sully answered. "Why?"

"I been hidin' from the Army," the man informed them.

"Hidin'?" Sully rubbed his hand across his lip.

"I deserted," the soldier revealed. "Come home t' be with my wife when she had our baby."

"What happened?" Sully inquired.

"They died," the man's voice choked.

He immediately felt empathy for the soldier, "Uh... my name's Sully. This here's Hank Lawson."

He held his rifle to the side and shook hands, "I'm Will Carter."

"Will," Sully attempted. "About the War..."

"Who's winnin'?" he inquired.

Hank was direct, "War's been over for twelve years."

"What?" Will lifted his rifle again. "You're lyin'!"

"No he ain't," Sully remained calm. "It is over."

"What year is it?" the soldier looked at them skeptically.

"1877," Hank told him.

Will stepped back, "I been up here for 13 years?"

"If ya deserted in 1864, ya have," Sully noted. "The Union won the War a year later. Colorado's even a state now."

"You're the first men I talked to in all these years," Will's shoulders slumped. "I been runnin' everyone off 'til now, but I finally ran out o' ammunition. I used up my last shot on you boys."

"Just your luck, Sully," Hank referred to his cut. Then he turned to the soldier, "If ya wanna come back t' Colorado Springs with us...."

"I got nothin' t' go back to," the veteran's jaw clinched.

"I'd be happy t' help ya," Hank grinned. "I got a Saloon an' Hotel in Colorado Springs. You can stay with me."

"Why?" the man looked down. "I got no use for people anymore."

"I understand how ya feel, Will," Sully spoke low.

"You can't possibly understand," he turned away.

"Sully here lost his first wife an' daughter," Hank informed him. "He spent a lota years livin' with the Injuns."

"I understand if ya don't wanna be around civilization," Sully was sincere. "Hank's offerin' ya the chance t' come see how things have changed. If ya don't like it, ya can always come back here t' live."

"Looks like ya could use a hot bath, a shave..." Hank eyed him.

"That does sound mighty temptin'," Will smiled.

"Come on then," Sully said. "You can ride my horse. I'll walk."

"It'll take longer t' get home that way," Hank pointed out.

"Well, go on ahead without me then," Sully motioned.

"What about Michaela?" the bartender smirked.

"Tell her I'll be home later," the mountain man waved them on.

They speeded up, leaving Sully to make the trek back on foot. The truth was, he wanted to enjoy the mountain peak and its splendor. He pulled out a piece of paper and pencil from his pocket, and began to make notes on what he observed. Wolf wagged his tail and followed along.

************

"Hank?" Michaela saw him ride up with a stranger. Then she recognized her husband's horse, "Where's Sully?"

"He'll be here, prob'ly by nightfall," he dismounted. "We found this fella up on Mays Peak. Been up there for years without any human contact. Sully loaned him the horse an' said he'll return on foot."

Michaela's curiosity was aroused at the man's disheveled appearance, "I'm Dr. Michaela Quinn. Sully is my husband."

"Nice t' meet ya, Ma'am," he nodded. "I'm Will Carter."

Hank stepped closer for only her ears, "He's been hidin' from the Army. Didn't know the War was over."

"My goodness," her eyes widened.

"So, I'm gonna fix Will up for a spell at the Gold Nugget," he patted his back.

"Well, if you need my services, don't hesitate to ask," she smiled.

As the two men stepped toward the saloon, Michaela returned to the Clinic.

"Ma, can we go t' dinner at Grace's?" Brian glanced at the clock. "I want a good seat for the meetin'."

"Yes, Brian," she agreed.

He added, "Think Pa might like t' come?"

"I'm afraid I don't know when he'll be home," her voice hinted at disappointment.

"Matthew said he'd watch the kids," the young man noted.

"Come, let's go, then," she smiled. "You seem quite anxious."

************

Michaela was amazed at the size of the crowd that crammed into the tent to see Reverend Silas Healey. She observed many of her patients and tensed at the thought that they might believe in the methods employed by this man. She determined to watch him very carefully.

The meeting began with Nancy's leading a prayer and the singing of "Faith of Our Fathers" as she had the night before. Finally, the mysterious healer stepped forward. The audience fell silent.

Healey then did something incredible. Unlike the night before, he began to speak of the ailments of many there who were familiar to the town. Loren with his lumbago, Horace and his gout, Grace's inability to have children, Effie Lambert's tumor.

Leaning toward his mother, Brian asked, "Ma, how's he know all that?"

"I don't know," she was surprised.

One by one, those whom he summoned began to step forward. Then, Healey called upon those gathered to have faith, to cast aside all doubt in order for the healing to work. By laying on of hands, by shouts of scripture phrases, and by his mesmerizing stare, he claimed to cure each ailment.

Loren stood up straighter than he had in some time. Horace's faint limp was gone. Grace's face radiated a smile of complete joy. And Effie Lambert felt better than she had in weeks.

Tears flowed from Healey's eyes as he praised God for the miracles they had witnessed. Then, as before, he seemed spent of all energy and had to be led off by his daughter.

The collection plates overflowed when the meeting ended and the throng departed. Michaela, Dorothy and Brian remained.

"So, what do ya think?" he queried.

"I don't believe one bit of this," Michaela kept her volume down. "I want to speak with this charlatan. I'll prove this entire display was bogus."

"It's hard t' find him after the meetin's," Brian replied. "Nancy don't let anyone near him."

She glanced around to see if anyone was looking, "Why don't you find Nancy and have a nice chat with her?"

"Nice chat?" he tilted his head.

"So I can speak to Reverend Healey," she hinted.

"I don't think ya oughta talk t' him by yourself, Ma," he protectively responded.

"I'm perfectly capable of handling him," she avowed. "Besides, you'll be nearby."

"Think I'll go talk t' the folks he claims t' have healed t'night," Dorothy stepped toward the exit.

An opportunity arose at that moment when Nancy Healey approached. Brian introduced his mother, who soon excused herself to leave the young couple alone.

************

"Hey, Sully," Matthew smiled when his father entered the homestead.

"Matthew," he removed his coat. "Where's Michaela an' the kids?"

"Katie an' Josef are in bed," he motioned toward the steps. "Ma an' Brian are in town at that faith healer's meetin'."

Sully washed his hands, "Why'd Michaela go see him?"

"Brian's convinced the man's a fraud an' wanted her t' help him figure out how he's operatin'." Then he noticed Sully's cut temple, "What happened?"

"Long story," he dabbed the wound with a damp cloth. "I'll tell ya later. I reckon I should go int' town t' check on things."

"The meetin's prob'ly over by now," Matthew glanced at the clock. "They oughta be home soon."

"I'll check on the children then," he winked at his son.

************

Michaela spotted the Reverend Healey standing with two other men and determined to confront him.

One of the men stepped toward her, "Reverend's too tired t' see anyone, Ma'am."

"Too tired to answer questions about his authenticity?" she asserted.

"Maybe ya oughta head home now," he stood taller.

"I'm not leaving until I speak with Reverend Healey," she stood firm.

Healey overheard and approached them, "Is something wrong here, Simon?"

"Nothin' I can't handle," the man folded his arms.

Healey locked his eyes on Michaela, "Why don't you and Gideon take care of .... those financial matters we were discussing? I'll see to this lady's needs."

Simon shrugged and retreated. Soon Michaela stood alone with the faith healer. The darkness of the locale and the scrutiny of his hypnotic eyes made her immediately uncomfortable.

"I noticed you at the meeting," he held his gaze on her.

Her discomfort increased, "My name is...."

"Michaela Quinn," he finished her sentence.

"If you know my name, then perhaps you know my profession," she was sarcastic.

"Physician," he raised an eyebrow. "Very well respected."

"And do you also know why I'm here?" she averted his glance.

"You don't believe in my powers," he smiled. "Yet you saw with your own eyes."

"I saw nothing but innocent people wanting to believe that you have some gift of healing," she worked up the courage to stare back at him.

He noticed, "You're a fiery woman, Michaela Quinn. But 'Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God.' You heard and saw tonight, yet you don't believe."

"You have led my friends and my patients to think that they're cured," Michaela countered.

"Their faith has cured them," he maintained.

"We'll see about that," she charged.

************

Sully arrived at the meadow and saw a few lights still illuminated in the tent. Upon entering, he spotted his son speaking with a young woman.

"Hey, Brian," he smiled.

"Pa," the young man grinned. "I'd like ya t' meet Nancy Healey."

"Pleased t' meet ya," Sully nodded. "Where's your Ma?"

Brian did not want Nancy to become suspicious, "Ah... maybe she went back t' the Clinic."

"Just came from there," Sully shook his head.

Again, Brian attempted an exucse, "Maybe she had an emergency."

"You all right?" Sully noticed his behavior.

"Yea," Brian nervously fidgeted with his tablet.

"Well, I reckon I'll go look for her then," he backed away. "See ya later."

************

Silas Healey stepped toward Michaela, "What exactly do you want, Dr. Quinn?"

"I want you to return the money you have taken from the people of Colorado Springs," she stated. "And I want you to leave town."

"Well, I'll be leaving after tomorrow's meeting," he stepped closer. "But I'm not returning anyone's money. It was given freely by the good folks who believe in me."

"They believe in a charade," she became bolder.

"Careful, Dr. Quinn," his voice was firm. "There are ways to silence the nonbelievers."

"Are you threatening me?" she hid her fear.

"Certainly not. I'm here to offer a path to salvation," he again attempted to control her with his eyes.

She gulped, "I don't need your kind of salvation."

He stared at her intently. "What do you need then?"

"I.... I must be getting home to my family," she swallowed hard again.

"Believe in me," his look was mesmerizing. "Believe and you will be saved."

Michaela found herself unable to respond. His voice... his eyes. She was losing control of her will. And he was stepping ever closer to her.

************
Chapter 6
************

"Dorothy?" Sully caught sight of her at the edge of town. "Have ya seen Michaela?"

"At the meeting, yes," she informed him. "Why?"

"Brian didn't know where she was," he put his hands in his pockets.

"Oh, my," she suddenly thought.

"What?" his brow wrinkled.

"She was goin' t' try t' speak t' Reverend Healey.... by herself," Dorothy's face grew pale.

"Why?" he grew concerned. "What ain't ya tellin' me?"

"Sully, I don't trust the man," Dorothy stated. "T'night he claimed to have healed some of Michaela's patients. She was bound and determined t' confront him about it."

He bolted across the meadow back toward the healer's tent.

************

Michaela stared at Silas Healey, incapable of moving.

He placed his hand on her shoulder, "The nonbelievers cannot be saved until they admit their sin."

She was unresponsive.

"Your sin?" he supposed she wondered. "The sin of doubting. It's a shame that you are jealous, Dr. Quinn. Jealous that I was able to cure those whom you did not. And how is it going to look to your patients... to your practice for you to make a fool of yourself like this?"

"She ain't the one makin' a fool," Sully grabbed him.

Immediately, the mountain man shoved the healer back from Michaela.

Sully turned to his wife, "Michaela?"

"Sully...." she was disoriented.

"You okay?" he held her arms.

"Yes," she nodded. She saw his head, "You're injured."

"I'll be okay," he assured her. Taking her arm, he spoke low, "Let's get outa here."

"Your wife isn't the saint she portrays, you know," Healey tried to plant seeds of doubt. "She is trying to undermine the faith of my followers."

Sully stopped cold, "I think you oughta stop talkin' now."

"She's digging an awfully deep hole," the man tried to bait him.

"I told ya t' shut up," Sully reacted.

"You'll pay," Healey set his hypnotic eyes on him.

Sully grabbed the lapels of the minister's jacket, "You don't make threats t' me or my family."

Healey was finding it hard to breathe.

Brian came on the scene, "What's goin' on?"

"Just havin' a little chat with the great healer," Sully stepped back.

Nancy quickly appeared.

"Papa!" the young woman saw her father's appearance. "What happened?"

"A little debate, my dear," he downplayed the events. "Come, we'll go now. I'm very tired."

************

"Sully," Michaela applied disinfectant to his temple. "Hold still."

"Michaela," he was curious about what he had seen. "What happened 't you back there? Did he try anythin'?"

"He..." she tried to calm herself. "He tried to hypnotize me."

"Hypnotize?" he did not understand.

"He has some ability with his eyes and voice to place people in a trance," she explained. "I found that I couldn't move... I couldn't speak... or anything else."

"You had no idea what he was doin' when ya were in that... trance?" his brow wrinkled.

"No, I...." she stopped when he stood up suddenly. "Please let me take care of your injury," she directed. "How did this happen? How were you cut?"

He told her, "It's from earlier t'day."

"What happened?" she completed her treatment.

"I was shot," he replied casually.

"What?" she was aghast.

"Hank an' me found a man up on Mays Peak," he responded. "He shot at us. Just grazed me. He was afraid. Thought we were the Army comin' after him."

"You could have been killed!" she felt a chill.

"An' you could've been..." he paused, unable to say the words.

"I'm sorry, Sully," she looked down. "I had no idea...."

They were interrupted by a knock at the door, then Brian's arrival.

"Ma?" the young man peered in. "I just wanted t' see how ya are."

"I'm fine," she smiled.

"I shouldn't have let ya go see him alone," Brian looked down.

"You knew she was with him when I was first lookin' for her?" Sully questioned.

"I...." he stammered. "I didn't want Nancy t' know Ma was talkin' t' her father."

"Your Ma could've been hurt," his volume began to rise.

"Sully," Michaela hoped to temper him. "Brian had no idea that Healey would attempt something like this."

"He could've excused himself from the girl t' tell me in private," Sully was even more upset. Turning to his son, he accused, "Do you have any idea how close..."

"Sully!" Michaela interceded. "Please don't. Brian didn't know."

Brian's voice choked, "I... I'm sorry."

He rushed out. Michaela started to follow, but Sully pulled her back.

"Let me," he regretted his words. "I'll speak t' him."

************

Sully caught up with his son just outside the Clinic, "Can we talk?"

"I don't know what else t' say," the young man was contrite.

"You don't have t' say anythin' then," Sully put his hand on his shoulder. "I wanna apologize."

"But you were right, Pa," Brian agreed.

"Not in how I spoke t' ya, Brian," he hoped to make amends. "The main thing is your Ma's all right."

"What's gonna happen t' Reverend Healey?" his son wondered.

"He's gonna keep on takin' folks' money, I reckon," Sully presumed. "Then.... he'll move on t' another town."

"I wish there was some way we could prove he's a fraud," Brian pondered.

"How 'bout on the way home, you tell me everythin' that happened at his meetin's," Sully requested. "Maybe we can figure out a way."

************

"Reverend Healey," a voice beckoned from outside the minister's tent.

"Reverend Johnson!" Healey recognized. "Please come in."

"Could I have a word with you?" Johnson requested.

"Certainly," he was cordial. "Let me help you to this chair."

"Thank you," Johnson removed his hat. He took a deep breath, "I want to speak to you about what you've done."

"There's no need to thank me," Healey sounded sincere. "I am merely the vessel of the Lord."

"Well...." Johnson hedged. "I guess, I'm just not so sure that's what healed these people tonight. Or.... even if they're cured at all."

Healey reminded him, "Hast thou lost thy faith?"

Timothy Johnson retorted, "I guess I need a little more convincing."

"Well, good," Healey smiled. "Because tomorrow night, I plan to hold the meeting of all meetings. No one will doubt the power of the Lord after that."

"I... I don't know..." Johnson hesitated.

"Once there was a sinner," the faith healer began. "He deceived and conned people out of their hard earned wages for many years. He led the life of a gambler until the Lord spoke to him."

Johnson nervously adjusted his collar, "If you're speaking about me..."

"You know what prayer and faith can do," Healey struck a chord.

"How.... how do you know so much about our town?" the man of the cloth questioned.

"The Lord has enabled me to see these things," Healey stood. "And tomorrow night, all of Colorado Springs, saints and sinners alike will have no doubts."

************

Loren, Jake, Preston and Horace stood at the Gold Nugget bar, listening to the tales told by Will Carter. They were fascinated to learn how the man had survived without human contact for so long, and they were saddened as he related the story of his wife and child.

"I been doin' all the talkin'," Will finally said. "Now, I'd like t' know what all I missed."

"For starters, ya missed Lincoln's assassination," Horace sipped his sasparilla.

Jake was drinking the same, "An' the elections of Grant and Hayes."

"Grant was president?" Will was intrigued.

"And not a very good one, at that," Preston was sarcastic. "His actions with regard to gold...."

"Aw, he don't wanna know 'bout that kinda stuff," Loren waved his hand.

"The states are all united again now," Horace returned to the subject. "Hey, maybe ya oughta go talk t' Dr. Kelly. You can find him over at the Library. He used t' be a history professor."

"I may do that," Will was beginning to feel the effects of his liquor.

"You fellas hear what happened after Reverend Healey's meetin' t'night?" Jake lowered his voice.

"No," Loren was interested. "What?"

"Accordin' t' Dorothy, the faith healer tried t' hypnotize Dr. Mike," Jake went on. "Then Clem Fisher told me Reverend Healey got fresh with her, an' Sully darn near beat him t' a pulp. Hank's got him over at the jail now."

"Sully?" Horace did not understand.

"No," Jake rolled his eyes. "Reverend Healey."

"What d' ya think really happened?" Loren posed the question.

"If Dr. Mike said he tried somethin', I believe her," Horace trusted.

"Michaela is a very desirable woman," Preston had consumed too much alcohol. "Perhaps the Reverend could not resist her charms."

"You sayin' she asked for it?" Jake queried.

"No," Preston finished off his glass. "I'm saying that she might have misunderstood the man's intentions."

"Reckon we oughta send for a judge?" Horace speculated.

"That's my decision," Jake folded his arms. "The mayor's the one who...."

Hank cut him off when he entered the saloon, "Well, ain't this a meetin' o' the minds."

"We was just talkin' about what happened t' Dr. Mike," Horace stated.

"What happened?" Hank went to pour himself a drink.

"Well, you're supposed t' know," Loren asserted.

"We heard ya have Reverend Healey over at the jail for attackin Dr. Mike," Jake added.

Hank laughed heartily, "Well, ya heard wrong. Not a bad idea lockin' him up though. I don't trust him."

"But he cured my lumbago," Loren pointed. "An' helped a lot o' us."

"An' Michaela's saved your lives," Hank reminded them. "Healey's talk is hogwash."

"My foot is feelin' better," Horace mentioned.

"It's all in your mind," Hank shot back. "Or what mind ya got."

Hank then noticed that Will Carter had withdrawn from the conversation.

"Another drink, Will?" he held up a bottle.

"No, thanks," the veteran said. "It's been a long time since I done this."

"I'll have one o' my girls show ya t' your room," the bartender motioned. "Ya look like ya could use some shuteye."

"Thanks," he smiled faintly. "I think you're right."

************

Sully stood staring into the fireplace of the bedroom. Michaela finished brushing her hair and turned to him. His bronzed, muscular shoulders caused her heart to flutter. She stood and went to him.

"How's your temple?" she lightly touched it.

"Feels okay," he took her hand in his and kissed her fingers.

"What were you thinking about just now?" she asked.

"Thinkin' about Healey an' how t' prove he's a fraud," Sully replied.

"It was amazing how he knew what was wrong with so many of my patients," she walked to the bed and removed her robe.

Sully followed her with his eyes, his heart skipping a beat as he drank in her shapely form. He smiled and came to her.

"You sure look beautiful," he toyed with a strand of her hair. Then pulling her into his arms, he added, "An' ya smell irresistible."

"You gave me that fragrance after Josef was born," she reminded him.

"I got good taste," he teased. "An' I ain't just talkin' about perfume."

She stood on tiptoes and kissed him lightly, "Thank you, Sully."

"Somethin' on your mind, too?" he noticed her reserve.

"I was thinking about Grace again," she stroked his cheek. "Healey claims to have cured her problem."

Sully shook his head and sighed, "We gotta do somethin' about him. The key is findin' out how he knows what folks got wrong with 'em."

"I believe his hypnotic abilities play a role in his so-called cures," she added.

"What do ya know about hypnosis?" Sully queried.

"It dates back to ancient times," she explained. "But more recent scientific studies have been conducted by an English medical writer, James Braid. He studied the practices of an 18th century Austrian physician named Franz Mesmer, who was convinced that the sun and stars give off a magnetic fluid which bathed all individuals on the earth. When that magnetic fluid was disturbed or cut off, Mesmer believed disease developed."

"Magnetic fluid?" Sully questioned.

"Mesmer called the belief animal magnetism," Michaela continued. "He asserted that with the use of magnetic wands, the fluid could be directed at will, and the sick could be made well. He developed such a large following that the Academy of Sciences and Faculty of Medicine in Paris demanded an investigation. Their commission consisted of many distinguished scientists, including Benjamin Franklin."

"What did they find out?" Sully was fascinated.

"Basically, they concluded that there was no such thing as magnetic fluid," she stated. "But the mesmerists continued to flourish, not only in Europe, but also in America. They put people into trances and claim to cure their ailments."

"What about Baird?" Sully returned to recent developments.

"He pointed out that a trance differs from natural sleep," she resumed. "He suggests the possibility of double consciousness."

"Double consciousness?" he was intrigued.

"It would explain a hypnotized person's remarkable memory of long-past events," Michaela recounted. "And there is another physician who is doing incredible things with hypnosis. Dr. James Esdaile has been in India performing surgery on patients using hypnosis as an anesthetic."

"That's amazin'," he was in awe.

Michaela pulled back the covers and slipped into bed. Sully returned to the fireplace to stoke the logs. Again, he was caught up in deep thought as he stared into the flames.

"Are you joining me, Mr. Sully," she beckoned.

He turned, "Never can turn down an invitation from you."

Sully climbed into bed beside his wife. She snuggled closer and began to caress the hair on his chest.

"Michaela," he pondered her explanations. "Did Healey hypnotize you t'night?"

"I... I'm not certain," she considered it. "I was aware of everything he was saying and doing, but I was incapable of responding."

"Could he have... tried t' get ya t' do somethin' ya didn't wanna do?" he phrased his words carefully.

"Sully," she gazed into his eyes. "Nothing happened."

"I know," he nodded. "But what if I wouldn't've showed up when I did?"

"I would have called for help," she assured him.

"But ya said ya couldn't respond," he reminded her.

"I would not have let him do anything to me," she pledged.

He was silent, horrified at the thought that Healey could have tried to take advantage of his wife.

"Mr. Sully?" she rubbed her leg against his.

"Mmm?" he grinned at her overture.

"I love you," her voice was low.

"I love you, too," he kissed the top of her head.

"Are you still thinking about Healey?" she saw the faraway look.

"If people can be hypnotized int' believin' they're well when they ain't...." he paused.

"Sully," she held her hand against his chest. "He could not have manipulated me to do something like that. I would never betray my heart or yours."

"I know," he enfolded her in his arms.

"There is no power on this earth that could make me turn away from my vows to you," she affirmed.

He smiled and raised her chin with this finger. Then he commenced a kiss. She parted her lips slightly as they deepened their connection.

"I think I feel some o' that magnetic fluid flowin' through me," he quipped.

"Would you like to share it with me?" she suggested.

"I don't know," he hesitated. "It could make me sick if I disrupt it."

"But you have a doctor right here to make you well again," she rubbed his chest.

"Good point," he kissed her again.

Sully guided Michaela onto her back and planted loving touches across her body. Her skin tingled, and her body instantly reacted to the contact of him. Quivering, she tilted her head back to invite his further advances.

"Mmmm, I love your perfume," he maneuvered himself over her.

Adjusting her position to accommodate him, she gasped slightly in response to his closeness. She tantalized him with her avid acceptance of him. Their hunger for one another speeded their pulses, and soon neither was capable of speaking. In a blaze of blinding fervor, they gave into their passions. Nothing else existed in those blissful moments.

Finally, awash with the other's love, they fell still.

Sully tenderly spoke softly into her ear:

"Thou art my way; I wander, if thou fly;
Thou art my light; if hid, how blind am I!
Thou are my life; if thou withdraw, I die."

"Was that Byron?" she attempted.

"Francis Quarles," he brushed his lips across hers.

"How are your magnetic fluids?" she suggestively inquired.

"Totally disrupted," he grinned. "I think I'm gonna need my doctor real close by t'night."

"I'm happy to oblige," she kissed him.

Enfolding her in his arms, he returned the kiss, "'Night, Michaela."

************

"Pa," Brian spoke as he helped Sully with the morning chores in the barn. "Did ya think o' somethin' yet?"

"Somethin' about Reverend Healey?" Sully paused.

"Yea," the young man saddled his horse.

"Brian," Sully rubbed his chin. "Tell me about Nancy."

"The Reverend's daughter?" he said. "She's real nice. Shows a lot o' interest in the people of.... Wait a minute."

"What?" Sully noticed his reaction.

"I told Nancy all about the folks in town," Brian felt betrayed. "She must've told her Pa. That's how he knew folks an' what was wrong with 'em. What a fool she took me for."

Sully patted his back, "Ain't the first time a pretty girl used a man for her own ends."

"But all those people gave their money t' him because they believed his lies," Brian looked down.

"Maybe we can turn the tables on the Healeys then," Sully suddenly thought of a plan.

"How?" the young man wondered.

"Come on," he stepped toward the door. "I got an idea."

************
Chapter 7
************

"How's Will doin'?" Sully spoke to Hank on the front stoop of the saloon.

"Still sleepin', far as I know," the bartender replied. "Ain't seen him since last night."

"It's almost noon," Sully was puzzled.

"He had a real snoot full o' liquor last night," Hank grinned.

"How were his spirits?" Sully asked.

"Seemed okay," Hank casually commented. "Why ya ask?"

"The man ain't been around people for years," Sully reasoned. "An' the last time he was, he buried his wife an' baby. I think that's a good reason t' ask how his spirits are."

"Yea, well..." Hank hesitated. "I guess he's all right."

Sully replied, "Good."

"That the only reason ya stopped by the Gold Nugget?" Hank suspected.

"No," Sully admired his perceptiveness. "I wanna know what ya think o' Reverend Healey."

"What I think?" he pulled out a cigar. "Think he's got about as much healin' power as a piece o' wood. Why?"

"How'd ya like t' prove it?" Sully raised an eyebrow.

"Depends what I gotta do," he was cautious.

************

Sully entered the church and walked toward the altar where Timothy Johnson sat in quiet meditation.

"Reverend?" the mountain man spoke softly.

"Sully," he recognized the voice. "What brings you here?"

"I guess ya could say that faith healer," Sully responded.

"What about him?" Johnson's tone changed.

"I wanna know what ya really think o' him," Sully queried.

************

"Mama," Katie held up a bouquet of flowers as they walked toward the cemetery. "May I put a red one on Aunt Marjoy's grave?"

"Yes, Sweetheart," she shifted Josef on her hip.

"An' a pink one for Hannah," Katie pointed.

"That would be nice," Michaela smiled.

"A white one for Abigail," the child mentioned Sully's first wife. "A gold one for Anthony an' a yellow one for Miss Charlotte."

"That leaves one flower," she looked at her son. "Josef, to whom should we give the violet flower?"

"Ingwid," he answered.

"Good," she set him down to walk the remainder of the way.

"Looks like somethin's in the tree," Katie saw an object swinging to and fro slightly. "Mama, is it a man?"

Michaela squinted to make out the form. She suddenly went cold. "Katie, run to the church and get Papa. Tell him to come quickly. Take Josef with you."

"But what about the flowers?" she held up the bouquet.

"Hurry, Sweetheart," she did not want her children to see.

Katie sensed a serious tone in her mother, and clasped her brother's hand, "Come on, Joey."

The moment the little ones departed, Michaela rushed to the tree. Recognizing the man, her heart sank.

************

"So what do ya think, Reverend?" Sully rubbed his chin.

"Well, you know that I'm opposed to...." he paused.

"Will ya do it?" Sully persisted.

"Yes," the minister smiled.

"Poppy!" Katie suddenly ran into the church, her brother at her heels.

Sully was surprised, "Kates, what's wrong?"

She composed herself, "Mama says ya gotta come quick."

He jumped up, "Where is she?"

"At the graves," the little girl indicated. "I think there's a man in the tree."

"Reverend?" he thought his children should stay.

"I'll take care of them," the minister assured him.

************

As Sully neared the cemetery, he caught sight of Michaela. As soon as he reached her and saw the man, his stomach turned. Quickly he pulled his knife from his belt and cut the rope.

With Michaela's help, he laid him out on the ground. Michaela examined him, but knew Will Carter was dead.

"Why?" her shoulders slumped.

He glanced toward his wife, "I should've known. I should've talked t' him."

"You had no way of knowing," she comforted him.

"Shouldn't've brought him back here t' begin with," his heart was full of guilt.

Sully stood and folded his arms, unable to make sense of what had happened. Then he stepped toward Abigail and Hannah's graves.

Standing and going to him, Michaela placed her hand on his shoulder.

"He lost his wife an' baby durin' the War," he sighed. "That's why he deserted the Army an' went int' hidin'."

"The poor man," she knew her husband could relate to the situation. "Please don't blame yourself for this, Sully."

"It's hard not t' feel I might've been able t' stop him," he said.

"Are the children with Reverend Johnson?" she changed the subject.

"Yes," he swallowed hard.

"Katie saw him," she knew there would be questions from their daughter.

"I guess I oughta go get Jake t' take care o' things," he thought ahead.

"I'm sorry, Sully," she knew he was deeply affected by the death.

"I'll be back shortly," he started back to town.

************

At the dinner table that evening, Katie sensed a solemn mood, "Mama, why was the man in the tree?"

Michaela looked at Sully, "Let's not discuss that right now, Katie."

"Papa?" her brow wrinkled.

"Your Ma said not now," Sully was curt.

"Is he dead?" Katie did not relent.

"Yes," Michaela answered simply.

"But why was he in the tree?" the child did not fully comprehend what had happened.

Brian thought to distract his little sister, "Hey, Katie, wanna play a game o' checkers."

"Okay," she nodded.

Rising from the table, Katie went to her father and lifted up to kiss his cheek. Sully fought to control his emotions as he kissed her back.

"I play?" Josef wanted out of his high chair.

Michaela rose from the table and lifted him, "Well, look at our big boy. He didn't throw any food."

"That bad," he turned up his nose. "I good boy."

"Yes, you are, Sweetheart," she set him down.

As Josef took off to watch the game of checkers, Michaela glanced at her husband. With folded hands, Sully seemed miles away in his thoughts.

She knew that he needed time to cope with what had happened, but she also was aware that they must leave for town shortly to attend the faith healer's meeting.

"Are you finished eating?" she noticed he had hardly touched his meal.

"Yes," he answered absently.

Michaela rubbed his shoulders, then took the plates to the kitchen. Lost in his thoughts, Sully did not notice when Josef toddled back to the dining room table.

"Up, Papa," he reached his little arms toward his father.

Sully drew him into his arms and rested his lips on the soft hair of his son's head.

"We sad?" Josef looked up with the same blue of Sully's eyes.

"Sometimes Papa don't like t' talk, Joe," he wrapped Josef's fingers around his thumb.

"'Kay," the little boy turned to hug him.

Pensively, Sully sat embracing his son, filled with love and a sense of protectiveness for the little life in his arms.

Michaela paused to watch them, aware that when sullen moods overwhelmed him, Sully found peace and solace in the loving arms of their children. They helped put things in perspective for both of their parents.

Michaela smiled, pondering the profound impact that motherhood had made on her. Once a crusader who would risk her very life to fight for a cause, she now found herself looking at the world through different eyes. Her children's eyes. It was like discovering life anew. With their innocent, unending questions and bright eyed zest for everything, she relished every second of being with them.

She still held strong opinions and beliefs. She still spoke out to voice her concerns, but her actions were now tempered with the realization that these little ones depended on her. She could not risk jeopardizing that sweet bond. She shuddered, suddenly regretful for her lapse in judgement when she went to see Reverend Healey alone.

"Ready t' go?" Sully shook her from her thoughts.

"Yes," she reached for Josef. "Are you?"

"Yep," he smiled slightly.

"We'll drop off the children with Matthew, then go to the meeting," she kissed her son's cheek.

"We see Mattew?" Josef's eyes widened.

"Yes," Michaela answered. "Come now, Katie."

"Mama," the little girl came running. "I beat Bran."

"She still don't jump right," the young man defended.

"We'll go over the rules of the game on the ride into town," Michaela smiled.

************

"Grace, you ain't goin' t hear Healey again, are ya?" Robert E washed his hands in the basin.

"Yes, I am," she asserted. "What's wrong with that?"

"I just ain't so sure I believe in what he says," he walked to his wife as he dried his hands.

"But he healed me, Robert E," Grace affirmed. "I know he did. We'll have that baby soon."

"I...." he stopped to study her expression. "I just don't want ya t' get your hopes up."

"Dr. Mike says there's no physical reason why I can't have a baby," she smiled. "An' now Reverend Healey has given us what we need. Oh, can't ya see, Robert E? It's a new beginnin' for us."

"All I see is the happiness in your eyes," he smiled. "An' I'll do anythin' t' keep it there."

"Then believe, as I do," she finished putting on her hat. "Are ya comin'?"

"I reckon," he nodded.

************

"Faith of our fathers, holy faith! We will be true to thee till death..." the assemblage concluded the hymn.

When Nancy stepped before them, the crowd fell silent, "Ladies and gentlemen, tonight is my father's last evening with you. In his brief time among you, he has healed dozens. He has brought peace of mind and body to those in fear, those in pain and those low in spirit. And now, he comes before you again willing to use his powers to do the Lord's work. Reverend Silas Healey."

A thunderous ovation erupted to welcome the arrival of the faith healer. Sully glanced about the tent stunned by the enthusiastic response he witnessed.

Healey stood quietly waiting for the applause to die down.

Then he spoke in a near whisper as he held up a Bible, "The Lord said, 'Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.'"

He stared straight at Michaela. Sully clasped her hand for support.

In a somewhat louder, almost sinister tone, the Reverend said, "And it is written that 'the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up.'"

Pausing for effect, he resumed, "There are those here who have not believed. You may even know them. But I tell you, you have put your faith in false idols! In plants and pills. In powders and potions."

Healey pointed to his Bible, "This is the only true source of all healing. The word of God. He who gave us life. He who is always with us. I say, cast away the false gods. Repudiate the nonbelievers."

Michaela grew more uncomfortable, knowing his comments were aimed at undermining her medical practice and the confidence of her patients.

"It's okay," Sully whispered, sensing her thoughts.

Healey went on, "I feel that tonight there will be a revelation, however. Someone has come here tonight to be healed. He has cancer and has been given only a month to live. I see the name Henry Nash."

"Who?" Sully wondered.

"I never heard of him," Michaela shook her head.

At first, no one responded. Then a man in the back rose to his feet and began to step forward. Suddenly, in the front row, there was a commotion.

Healey raised his hands for calm.

Loren called out, "It's Hank! He's havin' some kinda seizure."

Michaela and Sully worked their way to the front row. She knelt down beside the bartender.

Hank's entire body trembled, and his eyes rolled back.

"Dr. Mike?" Loren was clearly unsettled by this.

"Step back, Loren," Sully took his arm. "Give 'em room."

Michaela hovered over Hank, then leaned closer to check his eyes. His tremors continued.

"Stay calm everyone!" Reverend Healey urged.

Suddenly Hank began to foam at the mouth.

Michaela finally stood up, "I... I've never seen anything like this. I'm afraid I don't know what to do."

"Reverend Healey," Loren shouted. "Help him!"

"Yea!" shouts emerged from the throng. "Heal him!"

"Please!" the minister was flustered. "I think we should let Dr. Quinn..."

Jake called, "She just said she don't know what t' do!"

"Ya gotta do somethin'!" Dorothy directed her comment to the faith healer.

"Clearly the power of the Lord is in you!" Reverend Johnson rose to speak. "The people of Colorado Springs have donated their hard earned money as proof of their belief in your abilities. I say, if you can't heal Hank, then you took their money under false pretenses."

"Yea!" again the audience erupted.

"If he can't cure Hank, we deserve our money back!" Loren put his hands on his hips.

Timothy Johnson raised his hands to calm everyone, "As your minister, and someone who welcomed Reverend Healey, I must agree."

"All right," Healey took a deep breath and approached Hank.

Nervously, he knelt down beside him.

He laid his hands on the bartender, "In the Book of Matthew, the Lord said, 'Believe ye, that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea, Lord.'"

"Look at him," Loren nudged Sully. "He's curin' Hank."

Healey closed his eyes and in a dramatic crying out of words no one could understand, he struck Hank across the face with full force.

Suddenly, the tremors stopped and the bartender opened his eyes.

"What's goin' on?" Hank was groggy.

"He's healed!" Loren's eyes widened.

Hank tried to sit up, "What happened?"

Healey stood up and stepped back, "I... I have healed even the nonbeliever."

"Healed me from what?" Hank rose to his feet.

"Ya had a seizure," Horace filled him in. "Dr. Mike couldn't help ya, but Reverend Healey stopped it."

Hank clutched his jaw, "By punchin' me?"

"Shut up," Loren chided. "You're cured, ain't ya?"

"Praise the Lord!" Reverend Timothy Johnson beamed. "It truly is a miracle from God."

Nancy Healey took advantage of the opportunity, "My father has proven to you tonight that his power is real. However, I'm afraid that he is now too exhausted to continue with the meeting. As a tribute to his ministry, we ask that as you depart, you deposit into our collection plates...."

"Just a minute!" Michaela spoke for all to hear. "I have proof that Reverend Healey is a fraud!"

************
Chapter 8
************

"What d' ya mean Healey's a fraud?" Loren was incredulous. "He just stopped Hank's seizure."

"I wasn't havin' no seizure," Hank grinned.

"Then ya must have ants in your drawers," Jake pointed. "Ya were movin' all around, shakin' just a few minutes ago."

"It was just an act," Hank laughed.

"You was even foamin' at the mouth," Loren reminded.

"Michaela?" Hank grinned.

"A simple combination of lemon juice and sodium bicarbonate," she opened her medical bag to reveal the substances.

"You.... you ain't cured?" Horace attempted to understand.

"I ain't sick t' begin with," Hank smirked.

"I believe that this proves Reverend Healey is a fraud," Michaela spoke out.

"Just 'cause Hank pretended t' be sick don't mean what he done for everyone else ain't real," a voice called.

"Yea!" another person shouted. "How'd he know what was wrong with everyone?"

"I'll tell 'em, Ma," Brian stepped forward. "I'm the reason, at least for him knowin' about people in town. I told his daughter Nancy all about folks, thinkin' she was genuinely interested. The truth is, she used what I told her so her father could win our faith."

"I believe that your father owes these people an explanation," Michaela turned to Nancy.

"Not t' mention our money back," Jake added.

As voices rose, Sully slipped out one of the openings in the tent. Robert E noticed his departure and followed.

Jake attempted to restore order, "I say we get Reverend Healey out here now." Looking at Nancy, he commanded, "Go get him."

"I... I'm afraid that's not possible," she stalled.

"Why not?" Loren demanded.

"He's...." she stopped.

"He's right here," Sully called as he and Robert E escorted the minister to the stage. "Found him on his horse, tryin' t' skip town."

"With this," Robert E held up a sack of money, which he handed to Reverend Johnson.

"Give us our money back!" a shout came from the crowd.

"Why don't we give the money t' our church?" Horace suggested. "We got no way o' knownin' how much everybody gave for any refunds."

"That's a wonderful idea, Horace," Michaela commended him.

"What about Mr. Second Comin' here?" Hank pointed to Healey. "What are we gonna do with him?"

"We have our money back," Jake reasoned. "I reckon we got no cause t' hold him."

"So another town can be taken in by him?" Dorothy objected.

"If you and Brian write about what he did here, perhaps other towns can learn from our mistake," Michaela stated.

Timothy Johnson did not want the opportunity to pass without reminding the people of something.

"Can I have your attention for a moment?" he raised his volume.

Those gathered quieted to listen.

"It occurs to me that what has happened might be disheartening to many of you," he began. "I hope that your faith in prayer and in the power of the Lord has not been shaken. Reverend.... Mr. Healey used the words of the Bible and our devoted faith for his own ends. But do not let this experience shake your belief in the power of the Lord.

"In Isaiah, chapter 55, the Bible teaches, 'everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.'

"This false prophet who came before us craved money above all else. If it is your wish, I will take what you so hopefully donated and use it to do the Lord's work. Bless you all."

Sully clutched the lapels of Silas Healey tightly and glared at him. The man stared back with his unsettling gaze.

"Save your hypnosis," the mountain man said through clenched teeth. "Ya got 'til dawn t' get your tent an' your con game outa town. An' be grateful that's all they wanna do t' ya."

Sully felt a tap on his shoulder.

It was Hank stepping toward Healey, "Before ya leave...."

Suddenly, the bartender leveled the fake minister with a solid punch to his jaw.

"That's for hittin' me," Hank grinned. "Let's see ya heal that."

************

"Sully," Michaela approached her husband. "Look what Katie drew."

Sitting at the breakfast table, he lifted his head to assess his daughter's artwork.

"It's Will, hangin' from the tree," he swallowed hard.

"We need to give her an explanation," she sat beside him. "This has obviously affected her."

"I feel bad that I didn't wanna talk about it with her yesterday," he lamented.

"Katie!" Michaela called into the living room. "Come here, Sweetheart."

Soon the little girl came to them, "Joey's sleepin' next t' Wolf."

Sully held up her artwork, "Wanna talk about your drawin', Kates?"

She climbed into his lap, "It's what I saw, Poppy."

"I know, sweet girl," he kissed her. "I reckon it upset ya."

"It scared me," she ran her hand along the drawing.

"Tell us why were you frightened," Michaela encouraged her.

Katie hesitated as she pondered it.

Then, after careful consideration, she spoke, "I think that man hurt himself."

"Yes, he did," Michaela nodded.

"Why?" the child came to the point.

"We can never truly know for certain," Michaela explained. "But it might have been because he felt so lost."

"Poppy found him," she did not understand. "He wasn't lost no more."

Sully smiled, "Your Ma means he felt lost inside. Sometimes when folks lose people they love, it can make 'em so sad, they don't wanna go on."

"Is that how you felt when the bad men took me?" she wondered.

Michaela and Sully looked at one another.

"We did feel real lost," Sully finally responded. "But we had each other t' get through the hard times 'til we could find you. Will.... that's the man's name. He didn't have anyone."

"We could've been his friends," Katie suggested.

Sully filled with guilt, "I think I should've tried t' talk t' him."

Katie perceived her father's upset, "Did talkin' help you an' Mama when I was gone?"

"What your father is trying to say, Sweetheart, is that when we feel sad or lost... inside, we know that we can talk to each other, lean on one another for comfort and support."

"I see," she looked again at the picture. "Who did Will lose?"

"His wife and baby," Michaela revealed.

"Like Poppy?" Katie's brow wrinkled.

"Like Abigail and Hannah, yes," the mother nodded.

"Poppy," Katie embraced her father. "Please don't ever hurt yourself on a tree."

"I won't, honey," he kissed the top of her head. "I love you, Katie."

"I love you, too," she squeezed more tightly.

Josef chose that moment to enter the kitchen, "Lookie."

In his hand, he held a mouse by the tail.

"Josef!" Michaela jumped up. "Where did you find that?"

"Woh," he smiled.

"Here, Joe," Sully stood. "Let's take him outside, okay?"

"'Kay," the little boy rushed to the door.

Sully helped him down the front steps, then knelt down beside him.

"Let him go now," he spoke softly to his son.

"Keep?" his eyes implored.

"He belongs out here," Sully reminded.

"I let go," he set the rodent down and watched it take off.

"Let's go wash your hands now," Sully picked him up. "It was a good thing t' do, lettin' him go free like that, Joe."

"Mama don' want bad smell," he frowned.

************

Michaela finished updating her patient file on Effie Lambert, who had been in earlier to see her. As she returned the folder to her cabinet, there was a knock at the Clinic door.

"It's open," she called.

"Dr. Mike?" Grace stepped in. "Ya got a minute?"

"Certainly," she smiled. "What can I do for you?"

"I been thinkin' about that Dr. Bernard," Grace mentioned. "I think I'd like t' see him."

"I'll make the arrangements," Michaela placed her hand on her friend's shoulder. "May I make a suggestion?"

"'Course," Grace agreed.

"Perhaps you and Robert E you could spend a few days in Denver while you're there to see Dr. Bernard," Michaela got a twinkle in her eye. "I know a perfectly romantic hotel."

"Does it let colored folks stay there?" Grace asked.

"It's owned by a man of color," she responded.

"What are you up to?" Grace raised an eyebrow.

"A change of scenery," Michaela grinned. "Away from the pressures of your work. It might help."

"I see," her friend giggled. "I never knew you thought about things like that, Dr. Mike."

************

"Sully!" Matthew called as he approached the Depot. "Got some news ya might like t' hear."

"Oh?" Sully approached. "What's that?"

Matthew opened up an envelope and pulled out a letter, "I received this from Charles Perkins. Says he met you in Denver."

"Yep," Sully folded his arms. "He owns the Chicago Burlington & Quincy Railroad. I tried t' interest him in savin' the Red Rocks. Told him t' get in touch with you if he...." Sully suddenly realized. "He's interested?"

"Uh huh," Matthew smiled. "He's asked me t' draw up the papers an' represent him in purchasin' the land."

"I don't believe it," he tried not to get his hopes up.

"Says here, he wants t' save the land for future generations," Matthew read. "Looks like he heard ya, Sully."

The mountain man took a deep breath and closed his eyes as he slowly exhaled.

"You okay?" Matthew observed.

"I'm better than okay," Sully grinned from ear to ear. "Thanks, Matthew."

************

The homestead was quiet as Sully concluded his paperwork. He rubbed his eyes and looked at the clock. It was going on midnight. The children had been in bed for hours, and Michaela had just gone upstairs to wait for him.

He sighed. A glimmer of hope for the land, he thought. A glimmer that his children and their children would be able to appreciate its beauty. He stood up and stretched his aching back.

Michaela. He smiled at the thought of her. He had not told her what he was working on so late. Of course, she was curious, but... he hoped to surprise her with the news.

He paused to drink in the sounds of his home. Wolf breathing loudly near the hearth. The sound of nature outside. And a creaking floorboard above his head. He looked up, knowing that his wife was waiting for him. He wondered if she might be in a mood to celebrate the feeling of victory he had.

He warmed at the knowledge that rarely did she ever resist his desire for intimacy. Could a man be any luckier? He chuckled at what Michaela told him Grace had said at the Clinic today, "I never knew you thought about things like that, Dr. Mike."

If Grace only knew, he mused. But Sully's heart felt full with the private understanding he had with his wife. He knew that beneath her Puritan facade was the soul of his very passionate and enthusiastic wife.

Another creak of an upstairs floorboard reminded him that she was waiting for him. He lowered the lamps and made his way up the steps.

************

A candlelit room greeted him when he opened the bedroom door. Michaela sat at her vanity applying the scent of Sully's favorite fragrance.

"What's all this?" he went to the bed.

There, spelled out in rose petals across the sheets, were the words "I Love You."

"I thought perhaps I could repay your very romantic gesture of the other night," she stood.

Sully caught his breath when he saw the negligee she wore. Every nuance of her shape was visible to him, and each curve elicited the result she hoped from her husband.

"You look beautiful," he stepped closer.

"Thank you," she demurely tilted her head down, but held his gaze.

His senses filling with the scent of her, he tenderly lifted her chin for a kiss. Sully ran his fingers through her long tresses and followed their path down her back.

Michaela tingled from the touch of him, and he felt her reaction against his chest.

"Are you finished with your paperwork?" she lovingly placed her hand against his heart.

"Yep," he smiled.

"Good," she slipped her fingers beneath the material of his top. "Let me help you take this off. I have a surprise for you."

He removed the beads and medicine pouch from his neck, then divested himself of his shirt.

"What's the surprise?" he was tantalized.

"Lay down on the bed," she pointed. "On your stomach."

"On the rose petals?" he indicated.

"Yes," she nodded.

He complied with her wishes.

"Now close your eyes," she urged.

He obeyed. Suddenly, he felt a cool liquid being poured along his spinal chord. Then he felt Michaela's tender hands begin to smooth out the substance across his skin.

"Mmm," he murmured. "You read my mind."

"Only the first few sentences," she teased. "But I'm looking forward to reading the rest."

She continued to massage his shoulders, working on each tense muscle of his back until Sully almost felt as if he were floating.

She leaned closer and whispered near his ear, "Are you still with me?"

"Oh, yea," he opened an eye. "What's next?"

"Roll over on your back now," she invited.

As Sully rotated onto his back, there were rose petals stuck to his chest. He reached to brush them off, but felt Michaela's hand stopping him. He watched her, excited even further by her initiatives tonight.

She climbed up to sit beside him in bed. Lovingly, she ran her hand lightly along his chest, leaning over periodically to kiss it.

Sully tried to control the sensations that she was stirring, but was finding it nearly impossible.

"I'm almost ready t' burst here, Michaela," he clasped her hands.

"So I see," she kissed him again.

"You're so incredible," he cupped her face in his hand. "An' I love ya more an' more every day that I'm with ya."

She tilted her head to draw his finger into her mouth. Then she slipped down to mold her form along his.

Sully rolled onto his side to face her. Running his finger along her lips, he recited:

"There shall be love, when genial morn appears,
Like pensive Beauty smiling in her tears,
To watch the brightening roses of the sky
And muse on Nature with a poet's eye!"

"Tennyson?" she kissed his neck.

"Thomas Campbell," he leaned back.

"Oh," she ran her hand along his chest.

"Oh, Michaela," he was losing himself. "What ya do t' me."

"I want to love you," her voice was low.

Sully slowly slipped the straps of her gown lower, following each movement with kisses, "I want t' love you, too."

Soon they were at a peak of desire. Resting his weight on his wife, Sully positioned himself to share his love. Gently, he initiated his movements, with Michaela's countermovements eliciting even more from him. Their slow rocking motion culminated in the sharing of overwhelmingly satisfying waves of energy.

Tenderly, he kissed the soft skin behind her ear, "I love you."

"And I, you," she breathlessly responded.

Enfolded in one another's arms, their pulses began to return to normal.

"I got a surprise for you now," he pulled the sheet higher around her.

"What?" she lifted her head to look into his beautiful blue eyes.

"Maybe my trip t' Denver wasn't a waste o' time," he smiled. "Charles Perkins wants t' buy the land around the Red Rocks t' preserve their beauty."

"Oh, Sully!" her heart leapt with joy. "That's wonderful!"

"Thank you, Michaela," he kissed her.

"For what?" she was surprised. "You did all of the work."

"Thank you for believin' in me," he stroked her arm. "For makin' me wanna keep tryin'."

"You are an incredible man, Byron Sully," her eyes shone with love. "I have no trouble whatsoever believing in you."

"Matthew's handlin' the land purchases for him," he informed her.

"I'm so proud of you," she traced the outline of his jaw.

The words meant more to him than anything he could imagine, "With you by my side, I feel like I could do anythin'."

"It's been a long time since I felt...." he hesitated.

"I know," she recognized.

It had been some time since she had seen her husband so euphoric, and Michaela savored his victory.

"Let's do somethin' special with the kids t'morrow," he grinned.

"Anything you want, Mr. Sully," she smiled.

"A picnic?" he recommended.

"That sounds delightful," she agreed. "Oh, speaking of doing something special, I was wondering if you could contact Mr. Ford about his hotel in Denver."

"Where we stayed when I went t' work on the new state government?" he raised an eyebrow.

"Yes," she clarified. "The Inter-Ocean Hotel. Would you tell him that some friends of ours are going to be staying there for a few days?"

"Grace an' Robert E?" he recalled her telling him about the appointment with Dr. Bernard.

"Right," she snuggled closer.

"I think you're gettin' sleepy," he discerned.

"And you?" she looked up.

"I'm gonna put out all these candles first," he teased. "They're real romantic, but I don't think we oughta go t' sleep while they're still lit."

As he rose from their bed to douse the candles, she followed him with her eyes. Filled with the warmth of his love, she ached to have him beside her again. In a few moments, he returned.

"Miss me?" he quickly pulled up the covers.

"Of course," she spooned herself against him.

"Michaela, do ya think Katie's gonna be okay with what happened t' Will?" he suddenly thought.

"I believe so," she answered.

"I hate t' see her so upset," he pondered. "An' when she first wanted t' talk about it, I let her down."

"You could never let her down, Sully," she assured him. "She adores you."

He thought about what fatherhood meant, "That's a lot o' responsibility."

"She has faith in her father," Michaela's eyes gleamed. "So does her mother."

"Now if I can just get Josef t' stop bringin' critters in the house," he joked.

"He's our work in progress," she began to feel drowsy.

"'Night, Michaela," he rested his lips on her forehead.

"Good night," she felt secure in his arms.

THE END

While American Indians considered the area sacred and camped near the Red Rocks for centuries, Charles Perkins, president of the Chicago Burlington & Quincy Railroad, purchased much of the land in 1879. At his request, upon his death, his family gave the eastern part of the land to Colorado Springs for a park (dedicated in 1909) with stipulations including it be called Garden of the Gods and would remain free to visitors. The western part was purchased by the city in 1932. The 700 acre park sits at the eastern base of the Rocky Mountains near Colorado Springs. Each year, thousands of tourists visit the unusually shaped rock formations. Its sunrise church services on Easter Sunday are famous.




Return to home page

Return to summary page

Please sign my guestbook. Let me know what you think of my web site and stories. Your feedback is greatly appreciated.


View my Guestbook
Free Guestbooks by Bravenet.com

Feel free to discuss my previous and new stories on the message board. Your feeback is greatly appreciated.



Click here to view Guestbook 1


Visitors to This Page Since March 21, 2000

View Stats
Zcounter.com Free Counters

Disclaimer: This page is in no way officially affiliated with or endorsed by anyone associated with Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, and is not intended to infringe upon the rights of anyone. Please email comments and/or concerns to the Webmaster regarding this site at:

Email:Debby K


© Copyright 1999-2000-All rights reserved by the author.