“Christmas in Cripple Creek”

Chapter One, Scene One

Katherine Sullivan stepped back and looked at the large tree. It stood tall and proud in the center of the town’s main street, a testament to the merriment of the season they entered.

It happened to be Katherine’s favorite. The spirit of the season gave her chills. Or it could be that she needed to pull her wrap more tightly around herself.

She did so, but it didn’t take away the thrill that shot through her. Memories of times spent around each tree placed in this very spot, carols and hymns sung by the whole town surrounding the fir branches and ribbons with lit candles in hand.

And this year, she bore the responsibility of ensuring the town decorations were just so. How had she landed such a heavy load again? Oh yes, the mayor and his wife were off visiting their eldest for the next few weeks.

“Mama!” A little flash of red ran straight for her legs.

Katherine turned as the small girl collided with her. “Susie, be careful.” She kept her tone soft, but firm.

The small girl looked up at her mother, a smile on her face. “For baby?”

Placing a hand on her rounded stomach, Katherine nodded. “Yes, love, for baby. We have to take care of baby.”

Susie flashed her teeth at Katherine. How could she scold that cute face? It was impossible.

Leaning over, she put a hand on the child’s cheek. “I think we can find something we need in the General Store, hmm?”

This was no secret between them. Katherine wasn’t surprised when Susie’s smile became wider. As did her eyes.

“Yes, please.” She bobbed her blonde curls.

Katherine reached for her hand and together they walked down the wide dirt-packed road toward the wooden planks that made up the boarded sidewalk around the stores.

Breathing in the chilled air, Katherine’s over-sensitive nose alerted her that Mrs. Abby’s cafe had stew roasting. Perhaps when Wyatt returned from his house calls, that could be lunch. Her stomach grumbled.

Perhaps she would have to sneak some of the candy promised to Susie.

Nearly to the boarwalk, the thundering of hoofbeats shot alarm through Katherine. She jerked her head toward the sound to the right. A cart came careening down Main Street. The driver pushed the horse to move quickly, not minding the fact that she and Susie were in the road.

The man flung indistinguishable words in their direction.

But she had not the mind to work them out. She grabbed for the toddler and pushed her legs to work faster than they every had.

As the out-of-control horse sped past, Katherine jumped toward safety, pushing Susie as far out of the way as possible.

Arms gripped Katherine, swinging her farther from danger.

She blinked as the cart passed, pressing Susie’s face to her chest. Who had pulled her to safety? The arms still held her fast.

After the man steered the wooden vehicle to the clinic, she peered up at the man who had rescued her and Susie. His hands were only then letting loose her arms.

“You all right, ma’am?” The dark-skinned man tipped his hat up.

This gave her an excellent view of his dark amber eyes and concerned features, cut into the mahogany skin.

“Yes, sir. I thank you. If you hadn’t reached out and…” Tears pricked her eyes. These cursed mood swings!

“Don’t you worry none about it. Just glad I could help.” The man jerked the brim of his hat downward. “If you’re sure you don’t need anything, I best be finding my wife.”

“Of course.” Katherine wiped at her tears. “Thank you again, Mister…”

“Jeffries, ma’am. Mr. Jeffries.”

Katherine nodded. “Mr. Jeffries.”

With another nodd, he stepped off into the crowd, which parted around him as he sought out his wife.

In seconds, there was another tug on her arm. “Katie! That was terrifying!”

She knew the voice before she turned. Her brother’s wife, Mary. Setting a hand to the one on her arm, she patted it. “Yes, but all is well now, is it not?”

Mary’s eyes were still wide. “But you can’t imagine how afeared I was…certain you would be run over and all.”

Katherine rubbed her sister-in-law’s fingers as she attempted to look around her to spy what might be happening at the clinic. “We can’t think of what might have been. All we can be is thankful for what is.”

Mary nodded. “I suppose…” her voice trailed as her eyes followed where Katherine’s gaze had landed. “Where is Doc?”

They watched as the driver knocked on the clinic door.

Oh, he wasn’t there! He was out on calls. Katherine must tell the man. Could she find someone to attend to whatever injury or situation had occurred until Wyatt returned? Perhaps have someone ride after Wyatt?

She pushed past Mary, handing off Susie to Mary’s capable care, and moved toward the clinic.

“Excuse me, sir,” she called as she approached.

The man turned, his features spoke of his urgency. “Where is the doctor, Mrs…”

“Sullivan.” She pressed a hand to her chest. “I’m the doctor’s wife. He is out making house calls for the home-bound today.”

“What am I supposed to do with this here fella?” The cart’s owner moved to the back. “I found him out on the trail all busted up. He’s in a bad way.”

Dare she peer into the cart? She wasn’t one of those doctor’s wives that could stomach any manner of injury. But she swallowed hard and stepped up beside the driver.


It couldn’t be!

Her hand flew to her mouth and she let out a muffled cry.

She flung a hand to the driver’s arm to keep herself upright.

“What is it, Mrs. Sullivan?”

The world spun.

“S-send for the doctor in Victor.”


“Just do it!” she screamed.

The man ran off. Hopefully he would make haste.

She clung to the side of the wagon and reached in, fingers grazing the unconcious face of her husband.

“Wyatt…” she cried. “Not now.”


Chapter One, Scene Two

What was this darkness that pained him? All Wyatt knew was pain. From everywhere. But there were hands. Working on him. This he was only vaguely aware of. These hands brought sharper pain.

Where was Katherine? Was she safe? The children?

What had happened to him?

Everything was hazy.

But the hands…they begged him to return to awareness. Calling him upward and upward…toward brightness.

Dare he follow? Would the pain become too great?

Would Katherine be there? If so, he could manage.

Yes, for her, he would chance it.

Pushing his mind to clarity, he forced himself to focus. And open his eyes.

Light overwhelmed him. All that existed was light. Was this heaven?

No, there wouldn’t be so much pain.

The darkness invited him back. Tempted him to fall back into the peace and warmth of its depths.

But there would be no hope of Katherine there. And she needed him. He would press on.

Continuing to blink and focus, he turned his head.

A voice cut into his haziness. What did it say?


Don’t move? But he must. He would lose his fight if he lay still.

Working through the thick cotton-like confusion, he moved fingers.

The presence was above him now, its voice louder, more insistent.

But he made no sense of the words this time.

Was this presence friend or foe?

He concentrated. What was his last memory?

The last home visit…Mrs. Shelton. It had been routine. But on his ride to town. That had not been. What happened? He had heard a sound. It concerned him. Why? And he pushed Rusty to go faster. But something struck his leg. Something bad.

Rusty had been spooked. The beginning of the end. Bucking and rearing, Rusty would not calm. Wyatt had been thrown. But he could not roll away. His leg had been so heavy…too heavy. Had Rusty kicked him? Would he be alive if the horse had?

Perhaps he should have heeded the dark. Let it pull him in.

Then Katherine’s face appeared before him. She called to him. Yes, she did need him. And their child. Their children. He couldn’t give up.

Fighting with everything in him, he pressed up from the surface underneath him.

The presence spoke in a harsh tone once more. And a cloth covered his nose and mouth.



He held his breath.

But he knew even so it was no use.

He would pass out from lack of air or breathe out of need and take in the medicine.

Arms, work. Push it away.

But they couldn’t hold him up and push the presence away. How could he do both? There was a way…but he couldn’t make it work out in his mind.

Slowly, he did breathe in the chloroform and his body began to succomb to the medicine.