A storm was coming. Deric could see it. Even if he had not been able to see the dark clouds moving toward him, he would have known by the way the cattle were acting. In preparation for spring round up, he and the men who worked for him were attempting to move a portion of the herd down to the southern pasture, where it would be easier to work. The cattle, nervous at the approaching storm, however, were having none of it.
Deric was not afraid, he had lived out here all his life, after all and knew what to expect from a Wyoming storm. The uneasy lowing of the animals, the darkening sky and the tension in the air were, however, putting him on edge. He was glad he had told his wife to stay with Cookie and the chuck wagon. They would have already found shelter. He was also thankful for his sure-footed mount, a big, ornery stallion who wasn’t afraid of anything, including the spooked cattle. That horse wasn’t letting any thing or anyone bother him.
Cracking his whip over a straying cow, Deric shouted and herded the animal back among the others. The men around him were doing the same, hoping against hope they could get to lower ground before the storm hit.
Glancing up, he tried to guess how long they had and was dismayed to see that the roiling mass of clouds had developed a greenish brown look. Tornadoes did not usually come in April, although it was possible. He studied the clouds and just as a streak of lightning lit up the underside of the boiling mass, he saw something that chilled his blood.
Riding toward them, her back to the storm was his wife.
Now, what was she doing out here? Had she lost her mind?
He wanted to shout to her, to tell her to get off that horse and head for the lowest piece of ground she could. He knew it was futal, though, because she would not be able to hear him.
Trying to remain calm, he made his way through the mass of bodies and clashing horns, praying he could get to her in time.
She turned then and saw him. Waving frantically, she pointed to the storm and said something, but he could not hear her and was not close enough to read her lips. He shook his head and motioned for her to ride. She just sat there, tall as ever, outlined against the ever-increasing bolts of lightning.
Crazy female! Why did she have to get all independent now?
Although Deric had never been one to order a woman about as if he owned her, there were times when he expected to be obeyed. And, right now, in the midst of a coming tornado and at the outside of a full out stampede, was one of them.
Leaning low over the saddle, he pushed his mount, aptly named Lightning, toward the place where his Pamela waited. Thunder boomed, drawing his attention to the steer at his right that was mooing in his ear. Deric jerked back, only to stare in horror at the beast’s horns. They had little bluish bits of light on them. Seeing them, he shied away and pressed himself even lower, grabbing a handful of the horse’s mane. Then, the wind, which had kicked up a few moments before, died down. Left in its wake was what would have been an ominous silence, if the cattle had not been bawling.
Then, without warning, a horn caught Deric from his other side. With a grimace of pain, he pressed his arm to his side. He didn’t think the wound was serious, but it warned him to get moving. He had to get away from the cattle and get to his wife.
He looked up then, searching for her. Ah, there she was. Now, if he just had a clear path…
Just as he was thinking this, however, a flash so bright it blinded him split the gloom and at the same time, there was an awful bang that he felt in his chest. There was no time to react, no time to scream, no time for anything. One minute, he was headed for his wife, and the next, he was deaf, blind and being hurled along. It was impossible to know where he was going.
It felt like forever to him, but in just a couple of minutes, he realized that he and the horse were heading in a different direction than the stampeding herd. He chanced a cautious glance up and froze. There on top of the knoll where his wife had been on her own mount, was nothing.
Her name was a cry on his lips, as he threw himself out of the saddle. After catching himself, Deric ran to where she had been just a minute ago. He would have fallen over her, if he had not been watching the ground. As it was, he only stumbled over her horse, as he made his way to where she lay.
Ignoring the pain in his side, he knelt by her and touched her face. He kept calling her name in hopes of a response, but there was none. He checked her pulse; then her breathing, but with thunder shaking the ground and rain pelting down, he could not feel or hear a thing. He tried blowing in to her mouth, as Dr. Wilson had taught him. He sealed his lips over hers and forced air down in to her lungs, but his efforts, frantic as they were, did not seem to matter.
With a dawning horror, he realized she was gone. His Pammy, the love of his life, was gone.
Throwing back his head, he stared with unseeing eyes up in to the writhing heavens and cried out with all the emotion inside him.