For personal use and select distribution only ©1997 by Sarah Delligatti

Love at First Sight
By Sarah Delligatti

"I need a doctor, I need a doctor!" the cries echoed down the street. From inside her office, Dr. Mike heard the man's shouts. She jumped up and raced out into the street. The man turned in her direction and shouted in a panicked voice, "my sister needs a doctor!"

"What's happened?" asked Michaela.

"My sister and I were traveling in a stagecoach that was held up. The robbers shot my sister and our driver. I fear the driver is dead, but my sister is still alive, although for how much longer I don't know. She's lost a lot of blood," the stranger replied.

Miss Dorothy and Grace approached as the newcomer finished relating his story. "They stole our money and most of our possessions. I unhitched one of the horses from the stage to ride to town, he said. "Please, is there a doctor in town?" he inquired again.

"Yes," replied Michaela, "I am a doctor. My name is Dr. Michaela Sully.

"Who are you?"

The man appeared stunned, but answered, "My name is Frank Storm and my sister is Christina." His brow creased with concern and he said, "you must come with me at once."

Dr. Mike turned to Dorothy and Grace, a question in her eyes. "Don't worrry," they said in unison, "we'll look after Katie."

Michaela turned to Mr. Storm and said, "I must get some things from the clinic, I'll only be a minute."

Dorothy followed her into the clinic whispering, "Michaela, you just can't go racing off with that man."

"Dorothy, his sister needs immediate medical attention!" exclaimed Michaela.

"But you don't know anything about them or even IF there is a sister,"replied Dorothy. "Someone should go with you."

"Who?" inquired Michaela. "Brian's in school, Matthew's gone out to check on the McFeely's homestead and Sully is off hunting."

"What about Robert E.?" asked Dorothy.

"He is still recovering from his fall last week. He can't travel for at least another two days on his leg," answered Dr. Mike.

Just then, Hank's voice boomed outside, "what in the devil's all the commotion about?"

Miss Dorothy stepped out into the street and exclaimed, "Hank, you are just the man we need."

A grin spread across Hank's handsome face and he gave out a chuckle. Miss Dorothy's lips drew together in a stern line and she said, "you will accompany Dr. Mike to attend to Mr. Storm's sister."

Hank opened his mouth to protest, but Dorothy continued, "their stagecoach has been robbed and Mr. Storm's sister and their driver have been wounded. Dr. Mike simply cannot go out there unattended since no one knows whether or not the robbers have left the area."

Hank's mouth snapped shut as he glared at Miss Dorothy. Grace, who'd come out of the clinic holding Katie agreed, "she can't go alone and you are the only one available."

Dr. Mike looked from Grace to Dorothy, realizing that neither would budge.

She sighed and said, "they are right Hank, will you please come?"

Hank muttered something under his breath and climbed into Michaela's wagon. Michaela threw her supplies in the back, kissed Katie atop the head and climbed in next to Hank. She went to reach for the reins, only then realizing that Hank already had them. Hank slid her a look and said sarcastically, "I'll be driving today, doctor!"

Dr. Mike returned his look and announced, "then drive!"

Mr. Storm anxiously awaited while Hank shot Dr. Mike one final glare. Hank gave Michaeal a curt nod, turned to tip his hat at Grace and Dorothy, and said to Mr. Storm, "lead the way." Frank Storm, Dr. Mike and Hank raced down the road.

"How much farther?" yelled Dr. Mike.

Frank looked back over his shoulder at Dr. Mike and Hank in the wagon. He sure didn't like the looks of that Hank fellow and Dr. Mike didn't seem all that found of him either. "It's about another quarter of a mile," replied Frank.

Within several minutes, the stagecoach came into view. The luggage had been thrown out upon the ground and almost every box, suitcase, etc was spilling out. The bandits had evidently been choosy fellows. The driver was slumped over in his seat, blood seeping from his chest. Michaela was off the wagon before it came to a complete stop. She ran over to the door, which was standing open and looked inside. There lay on the floor, Christina Storm's crumpled body. She was lying in a pool of blood. Dr. Mike reached over and felt a pulse, a weak one, but a pulse. "Hank, Mr. Storm, I need you both to help me get her out of here!" shouted Michaela.

Hank grumbled to himself, something about taking orders from females and stalked over to the stagecoach. Frank Storm was already inside so Hank grabbed hold of her legs. "Easy Hank, she's not a sack of potatoes," exclaimed Dr. Mike.

They carried her out and moved towards a blanket that Michaela had spread upon the ground. In the midst of moving her, her hat had come off and her hair had escaped. Hank was shocked at it's vibrant and intense shade of red. It was long, curly and very beautiful. As they laid her down on the blanket, Christina moaned. Hank moved to the other side of her as Dr. Mike attended to her wound. Frank Storm had gone to check and see if the driver had a pulse. Christina moaned again and said something inaudible. Hank moved closer to see if he could hear and was instantly taken aback at her beauty. She had fine, clear skin that resembled ivory. Her lips were the color of rosebuds. Her eyes were still closed, her eyelashes a fiery contrast to her pale skin. Her lips parted and Hank moved closer still, thinking that she was going to say something again. Suddenly, her eyes opened and their green intensity bore into Hank.

Christina stared up at the man hovering over her. Her mind seemed to be in fog. The light shining from behind him was so intense. It shone off his long hair, almost seeming like a halo. She looked into his face, sensing something familiar about him. Recognition struck her and she exclaimed, "Jesus!"

Both Dr. Mike and Hank gasped. Christina slipped back into unconsciousness, unaware of the commotion she had just caused. Frank Storm came running over at the sound of her voice. "Is she awake?" he inquired.

"She was," replied Dr. Mike, "but she's lost a good deal of blood and she is very weak. How is the driver, does he have a pulse?"

"No," answered Frank, "what should I do with his body?"

"Nothing for now, Christina's my main concern," said Dr. Mike. "With you and Hank's assistance, we can remove the bullet and stop the blood flow. Thankfully it's not too deep and will be easy to remove. It penetrated the side of her abdomen, missing her vital organs. It struck a rather large vein, which accounts for the amount of blood. She's going to be weak for awhile, but she is going to survive."

Relief spread through Frank Storm.

Hank helped Dr. Mike and Frank without really knowing he was. He couldn't take his eyes off of Christina's lovely face. He still couldn't believed that she'd thought he was Jesus. He smiled to himself remembering the look in her dark, green eyes. He couldn't wait for a chance to gaze into them again. Frank was uncomfortably aware of Hank's presence. He didn't like the way Hank kept staring at his sister. Dr. Mike seemed to not to notice Frank's animosity towards Hank as she worked on Christina.

As they moved her into the wagon, Dr. Mike turned to Hank and said, "We'll need to go slow and easy, Hank."

Hank stared at Michaela as if she were speaking another language. They expected him to drive the wagon? "Who will stay in the back with Christina?" he asked.

"I will," replied Dr. Mike.

Slowly, they drove out onto the road. Frank had joined Hank on the wagon seat. Both men tried to ignore the other's presence. Hank had become increasingly aware of Mr. Storm's feelings about him.

Frank had announced that as soon as his sister was settled, he'd come back for their things. Dr. Mike felt sure that the sheriff would be back in town when they got there. Frank hoped that he was and that he'd hunt down the bandits and see them brought to justice. Damn them to hell, thought Frank. He wished he could see to it that they got there in a timely fashion.

He turned to look at Christina in the back of the wagon. She seemed to have regained some of her color, but she was still unconscious. Dr. Mike gave him a reassuring smile and Frank smiled back at her. He turned around and sighed. He shifted uncomfortably in the seat, making sure no part of his body was even close to the man beside him. He couldn't wait to get to town and get himself and his sister away from this man. Little did he know, he was in for a rude awakening. Hank had other plans and wouldn't be going anywhere. Frank Smith shoveled his food hastily in his mouth. He couldn't wait to get to the clinic to check on his sister. Sully laid his hand on Frank's arm and said, "easy, she's not going anywhere. At least enjoy your breakfast, Grace is an excellent cook."

Frank smiled at his new friend. He had liked Sully instantly and had thought to himself that he would have made a fine husband for Christina. But she'd made her choice and was marrying a man she didn't even know. Why he'd ever let her answer that stupid ad was beyond him. Mail order brides, who thought up that fool's nonsense anyway? At least she'd decided to let him accompany her to San Francisco. Thank the good Lord that she had.

Christina had become convinced, in the months following their parent's untimely death, that she was going to become a spinster. He'd tried to reason with her and told her that 24 years old was by no means spinsterhood, but as usual, she gone on and done what she wanted to anyway. Frank was two years her senior, and had no intention of getting married or doing anything for that matter, until his sister was safely in San Francisco.

Sully looked at Frank with concern. His haggard appearance spoke of his restless night. He'd had one himself, being away from Michaela. She had stayed with Christina at the clinic to monitor her condition. She'd insisted that Sully take Frank to the homestead for the night. Sully was thankful that Colleen was home and had been able to help with Katie through all of this.

The two men finished their coffee and walked over to the clinic. Sully admired Frank's dedication to his sister. He had liked Frank the moment they had met. They had spent a good part of the evening talking and Frank had shared his worries and concerns with Sully about Christina. Sully realized that her stubborness made her sound an awful lot like a woman he was very familiar with.

Frank and Sully walked into the clinic and Michaela stood up from behind her desk. "Good morning, you two," she said. Sully gave her a quick kiss and smiled down at her. Her beauty never paled, even after a long, sleepless night.

"Christina is doing well. She woke up in the night and was a little frightened, but I explained to her where she was and what had happened. I told her you'd be here in the morning and she was able to rest for the remainder of the night. Why don't you go see her now, perhaps she's awake?" remarked Michaela.

Frank left the room and Michaela moved into Sully's embrace. They held each other close and said nothing for several minutes.

Sully broke the silence and said with a sigh, "I missed you last night."

"I missed you too," replied Michaela, "It's been a long, strange night."

"Strange, how?" inquired Sully.

"Strange in the fact that Hank was here most of the night," answered Michaela. Sully's shocked look prompted her to giggle. "I think our Hank is experiencing love at first sight." Michaela went on to tell Sully about how Hank had insisted on checking on Christina himself through out the night. He'd even spent part of the night asleep in the chair beside her bed. Michaela had become aware of Frank's feelings towards Hank yesterday, so she'd sent him home this morning. She hadn't wanted to upset Frank by having him face Hank first thing in the morning.

"I don't think Frank's the one who is going to be upset," remarked Sully,

"Hank will be when he finds out."

"Finds out what?" asked Michaela.

"That Christina is a mail order bride. Her and Frank were on their way to San Francisco where she is to be married," Sully answered.

Michaela's mouth fell open and she stared at Sully. Just then the door to the clinic flew open and Hank rushed in. He was freshly bathed, wearing a suit and holding a bouquet of flowers. Sully and Dr. Mike returned his questioning look. After a few moments, Hank spoke, "Well, is she awake?"

Frank Storm quietly opened the door to his sister's room. He walked in and sat down on the chair beside her bed. She was so beautiful that it made him sad. Sad that she was never going to know true love. He picked up her hand and held it.

Christina felt the warmth of Frank's hand in hers and opened her eyes. "Frank!" she exclaimed.

"Good morning, pumpkin," answered Frank with a smile.

"Frank, I told you to quit calling me that, I'm not a little girl anymore," stated Christina. She gave a small cough and cleared her thoat.

"I'm sorry sis, I shouldn't be teasing you after what you've been through."

I am so glad that you are alright," said Frank.

"Dr. Mike told me about what happened. I hardly remember anything. I thought that I had died and gone to heaven, I even saw Jesus!" said Christina.

Frank stared at his sister, shocked by her statement. Before either of them could say anything, the door to her room opened and Hank stepped in.

Christina gave a small cry when she saw him. Frank turned to see what had alarmed his sister. He gave a sigh and shook his head, Jesus indeed!

Hank looked apologetically at Frank and said, "I'm sorry, I just wanted to see if she was awake."

Christina stared at Hank. She just couldn't believe her eyes. She realized now that this was whom she had seen yesterday and he wasn't Jesus Christ. This was a real man, all flesh and blood. He was also the most gorgeous man she'd ever seen in her life. Hank returned her stare and smiled at her, feeling lightheaded.

Frank thought he was going to throw up. They looked like a couple of love struck teenagers. Of all people in the world for his sister to be attracted to, why did it have to be him?

Frank stood and cleared his throat. "My sister needs her rest," he announced to Hank.

"Oh, please let him stay," pleaded Christina.

"Fine, but then I'm leaving," Frank replied and stormed out.

Hank looked at Christina, unsure of what to do. Christina sighed and said to Hank, "well, he at least lives up to our name."

Hank chuckled and sat down in the chair Frank had vacated. "I brought these flowers for you," declared Hank.

"Thank you, they are very beautiful," remarked Christina.

Silence fell in the room as they just stared at each other. It was finally broken several minutes later when Dr. Mike came and rapped on the door. She opened it and asked, "Is everything alright? I became worried when Frank stormed out of the clinic."

Hank and Christina looked at Dr. Mike, then each other and began to laugh.

Dr. Mike shook her head and closed the door.

"Well," asked Sully, "what happened?"

"I don't really know, but I am sure that Frank was none too happy to see Hank," replied Michaela. "Hank and Christina are simply awestruck with one another. She evidently feels the same way about Hank that he feels about her. I have a feeling that she's not going to be going to San Francisco anytime soon. I think she's going to be changing her plans."

"But she can't," stated Sully. "Her groom-to-be has paid for her and Frank's way to San Francisco. Frank said that even if they didn't continue on, they would have to repay the man his money. Frank said every nickle that they had, is tied up in their parent's estate. He was hoping to get a job out in San Francisco, they are almost flat broke. He said that he was going to wire Christina's fiance and let him know what had happened and that they would still be there, just late."

"Oh my," exclaimed Michaela, "who's going to let Hank know?"

Horace could tell by the look on Frank Storm's face, that it wasn't good news. It was the fifth telegram from Herman Earl in as many weeks. Frank looked up, thanked Horace and walked away with his shoulders slumped. His worst fear was about to come true. If he and Christina weren't in San Francisco by the end of the week, Mr. Earl was coming to Colorado Springs. He hoped that this telegram would be the one to convince Christina that they had to leave. He made his way over to Grace's cafe, sure that she'd be there with Hank, eating breakfast. The two of them had fallen into a routine of sorts. You sure couldn't see one without the other.

The five weeks since the robbery and Christina's injury had brought about a change in her. She was happier than he'd ever seen her. The cloud that had descended over her when their parents were killed was gone. He had to admit that Hank had at least done that for her. Now, if he would just let her go.

Christina and Hank were laughing about something again. Grace turned to look at them. She couldn't help but smile. They were so much in love. She'd never seen Hank act the way he had since Christina had come into his life. People in town had had a hard time at first accepting the new Hank, but the novelty had since worn off. Heads no longer turned and tongues no longer wagged.

From behind Christina's shoulder, Hank saw Frank approaching. "Uh-oh," said Hank. "Your brother is coming and he don't look too happy."

Christina turned to smile at her brother. "Good morning," she called to him. "Won't you join us?"

"Christina, we need to talk, privately," stated Frank.

"We can talk about whatever it is in front of Hank. I have no secrets from him," she replied.

It was true enough. During Christina's recovery, she had told her life story to Hank. He knew everything. He knew about her parent's fatal carriage ride on a fine Spring day. He knew about the depression she had suffered afterwards. A depression that had drove her to do a foolish thing. They had discussed the options of what to do about her fiance. Hank was ready to sell everything he owned to pay back Herman Earl. Christina wouldn't hear of it and by the look on Frank's face they were running out of time.

"Christina, we must leave on tomorrow's stage. If we aren't in San Francisco by the end of the week, Mr. Earl is coming here," Frank told her.

"Here!" she gasped.

"Yes, so we must leave tomorrow," he replied.

Hank jumped up out of his chair. "Now see here, if Christina doesn't want to marry this man, she doesn't have to. You are not her keeper. She can make up her own mind," declared Hank.

"Hank, please, sit down," pleaded Christina. "This won't get us anywhere."

"Christina, this isn't what I want for you either. If I had the money, I'd pay that guy off in a minute," said Frank.

"I've told you both before," yelled Hank. "I'll come up with the money!"

Christina looked from her brother to Hank and could tell this was going to be another one of those heated arguments. Frank had really done all he could. He'd sent pleading telegrams and letters to Mr. Earl. He'd found work so they had been able to stay here, even though he was against it. They'd set up house on an abandoned farm, just so she could be near Hank. Oh, sure, at first they had to stay for her to recover, but she'd been well enough for several weeks to leave. She just hadn't been able to even think about being separated from Hank. Frank had been extremely patient, even himself hoping that they would be able to get her out of this mess. In his own way, he'd even started to like Hank.

As she sat there fighting tears, listening to the two people she loved most in this world yell at each other, she knew what she must do.

Michaela cleaned up the breakfast dishes and got Katie ready to go into town. Colleen and Brian were outside on the porch. They called in through the open door that Sully had pulled the wagon up. She hurried outside and climbed in. She just couldn't believe the turn of events. Christina had really suprised them all.

As their wagon made it's way into town, it looked like everyone was outside, waiting. No one could believe what was about to happen.

Frank saw Sully and Dr. Mike approaching and waved to them. He looked very sad. Sully helped everyone out of the wagon and they went to stand beside Frank.

Sully clapped Frank on the back. "Relax Frank, this is the only solution. It's all working out for the best."

"I know, I know," replied Frank. "I sure am going to miss you guys. I'm glad that our parent's estate is finally going to be settled, but I wish that I didn't have to go back to Conneticut. I had hoped there would be a way that it could be done without me, but I guess not. I promise you, I'll be back to visit soon."

Just then, Hank and Christina stepped out of the saloon. They both were trying hard to smile, but having a tough time of it. All eyes were on them as they made their way over to Frank and the Sullys. Christina said a little prayer in thanks that she had found such wonderful friends. Dr. Mike had saved her life and done so much more. She had really become such a dear friend and it was only proper that she were here today. She moved into Michaela's opening arms and they embraced.

Before they had even let go of each other, someone yelled out. "The stag= e is coming!" People parted to let it through and it came to a stop beside Christina, Michaela and the others. Christina turned and embraced Sully, Colleen, Brian and finally Frank. She gave Katie a kiss on the cheek. Tears were now streaming down her face and she found it hard to speak.

"I will miss you all so much," she cried.

Hank grabbed her and held her tight, whispering in her ear. "Please, reconsider," he begged.

"Hank, I must do this on my own," she replied. "I must go and reason with Mr. Earl myself. If he'll just wait another two weeks, Frank should have the money from our parent's estate. He's going to wire it to me immediately and then I'll be free. "

Christina made her way to the door of the stage and turned to smile and wave at everyone. "Good-bye," she called out.

Hank closed his eyes, fighting the tears. He opened them as she stuck her head out the window and she blew him a kiss. She mouthed the words, "I will be back."

He stood in the street long after the stagecoach was out of sight. Everyone else had gone back to their own lives, but himself and one other person, Michaela. He turned to face her, no longer caring that tears now ran down his cheeks. Michaela put her hand on his arm and offered him a smile. "She'll be back Hank, I just know it," said Michaela.

Hank tried to return her smile. "Thank you Michaela," he replied. "I sure hope you are right."

Hank made his way over to the Saloon. He sure needed a stiff drink. He turned right before walking in and looked once more towards the direction the stagecoach disappeared. She better come back, he thought to himself, she better.