How about you introduce yourself by providing the basics?
My name is Frank Dawson, and I am a First Lieutenant at Fort Robertson in Nebraska.
Where were you raised?
I was raised in a town in Texas called Pikes Run.
Uh….several. Too many to list here, really. But each one is so important to me. Can’t get through life without them.
Did you always want to be a soldier?
Not at all. The woman I loved since I was fourteen decided to go to college instead of marry me. I didn’t take that well, so I left Pikes Run and joined the army. Truthfully, I hoped someone would put me out of misery, but thankfully that didn’t happen, and now I’m happily married to the woman who turned me down. We’re waiting for my papers of release to come through so we can go back to Texas, and I can go into the realty business with my pa.
List your favorite book of all time.
My favorite book will be The Chronicles of Sir Pendergast. My wife has a penchant for making up stories, and I’ve finally convinced her to write them down. She’s gonna be an author, I’m sure of it.
Talk about your favorite setting for courting a woman.
I’ve only courted one, but I’d have to say I did it well. We spent a lot of time on the banks of Pikes Run. With the moonlight, the babbling brook, the crickets singing….She didn’t stand a chance.
When Jane Lonnigan refused to marry him, Frank Dawson got the hell out of Pikes Run and joined the army. As he took risk after risk, hoping someone would put him out of his misery, he consequently rose in ranks. Now he’s a First Lieutenant stationed at Fort Robertson, a crack shot, and the main communicator to the Chipsa tribe.
Frank broke Jane’s heart when he refused to wait for her to complete her education. Still, as she embarked on her journey to becoming a teacher, she couldn’t stop loving him. Her first teaching post is for the children of Riley Creek, the town Fort Robertson protects.
When Frank realizes Jane has become a fixture of the settlement he is a part of, he sets out to guard himself from being twice a fool. But as life swirls around them, Frank can’t help but return to her again and again.
A mistake causes Frank to hurt Jane and make her believe all hope is lost. She runs home, needing the welcoming arms of her family. When Frank learns what he’s done, he realizes he’s been a fool. He races after her, intent on winning her back. Can he mend her heart and have Jane as his wife?
First Lieutenant Frank Dawson raced across the newly fallen snow, the bite of the wind searing his cheeks and burning his throat. He kept his gaze on the road ahead, galloping over the land, searching for the stage carrying the schoolteacher.
Three Rivers had come to him, his old eyes worried. Chief Etu had sent his trusted scout to tell Frank warriors had rebelled against his orders and went to intercept the coach. Frank had reassured the Chipsa chief the arrival of the teacher wouldn’t threaten his lands, and the wise chief had agreed. Despite Frank and Chief Etu’s efforts, there were factions of Chipsa seeking war, and now Frank raced to stop the renegades.
Other riders galloped beside him, his Second Lieutenant, Hunter McCoy, and Privates Timothy Elliott and Quincy Peterson. They hadn’t had time to assemble an adequate response of soldiers, but Three Rivers had told Frank only a few rebels had ignored Chief Etu’s command.
His heart pounding hard, he pushed Rounder, his horse, to go faster, desperate to save the woman courageous enough to educate the children of Riley Creek. The ground gleamed white against the deep blue of the sky. The land flattened ahead of them, and Frank bent low over Rounder’s neck, the beast breathing mightily as they bolted down the snow-covered road.
His blood pumped with determination when he heard the wild jangle of horse livery, the frantic rumble of the wheels and the whoops of the braves hunting the coach. Frank and his men crested the rise, giving their own cries of attack as their object came into view. Frank pulled sharp on the reins as his comrades flew past him. Rounder reared against the abrupt stop, but Frank kept his seat.
As the other soldiers darted toward the racing stage, Frank pulled out his long range rifle and took aim. Rounder had been trained to recognize his master’s intent and moved not a muscle. Steadily, Frank drew a bead on the lead warrior. Tracking his progress, Frank didn’t hesitate and pulled the trigger. One second after the shot rang, the rebel’s arms flew skyward, and he somersaulted over the back of his horse.
There were three more warriors, and the other soldiers bore down on them, firing their six guns with accuracy and speed. The Chipsa renegades fell, snow flying upwards as their bodies hit the ground. Frank kicked his horse into a lope, the urgency not as great now that the Indians had been stopped.
As he neared, the coach changed course and turned toward Riley Creek, coming at Frank. The driver remained standing, pulling hard on the reins as he worked to get the horses to slow. The shotgunner climbed over the baggage rack and tumbled into his seat.
The stage came to a stop as Frank drew abreast of the conveyance. The driver and shotgunner wheezed in unison, their chests heaving as sweat slid over their red faces.
“Are y’all all right?” Frank asked. “Any casualties?”
“Damn near thought they had us,” the driver panted out. “My girls were slowin’.” He jabbed a thumb at his partner. “And this fool didn’t get a one of ‘em.”
The shotgunner whipped his hat off and started smacking the driver. “You try shootin’ straight on top of a jumpin’ stage!”
The driver howled and put up his arms, protecting himself.
“It was your damn drivin’ what kept me from doin’ my job!”
Frank sighed and left the two to fight it out. He dismounted and walked to the side of the conveyance, ready to handle whatever state the schoolteacher might exhibit. When he opened the door, he found her huddled on the ground, her arms covering her head. Even through her bulky coat and woolen gloves, he could see she trembled.
“Ma’am?” he called. “It’s over. You’re safe.”
“I’m a soldier at Fort Robertson, ma’am. Have no fear.” He wanted to reach out and help her stand, but he wondered if the action would alarm her further. Was she in shock? As he opened his mouth to reassure her of her safety once more, she lifted her head.
His heart dropped to his toes when her blue gaze met his. Jane. As his brain worked to function, his heart seemed to revitalize in an instant, pounding so hard he couldn’t catch his breath. Jane.
“F-Frank?” she said, relief drenching her tone.
The sound of her voice… To hear his name on her lips after an almost two year absence… He clenched his hands into fists, fighting the urge to snatch her to him.
She moved to her knees, her limbs still shaking. Raising her arms to him, she said, “I c-can’t believe it’s y-you.”
Tears swam in the eyes he’d once adored. Her outstretched plea sliced at the organ she’d effortlessly killed when she’d refused to marry him. His spine rigid, he warred against lifting her from the stage. But the shock of seeing her, the fact she’d been the woman the braves had been trying to kill, was impossible to combat.
Moving forward, he fit his hands around her waist, the feel of her so familiar he almost groaned aloud, and pulled her to him. She circled his neck with her forearms, fitting her nose against his neck, just as she’d always done. The feel of her against him had him swallowing hard over the lump in his throat.
Unable to stop himself, he curled his arms around her, noting the weakness of her body as she leaned fully into him.
“I was so s-scared,” she confessed, her voice quivering. “And here you are. I c-can’t believe you’re here. You s-saved me.”
Kara O’Neal was born and raised in Texas. After surviving those awkward years of 7 to 16, she spent two years at Sam Houston State University where she met her husband. He followed her to Texas Tech University and was proud when she graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Human Development. Soon after graduation Kara followed her heart and became certified to teach Special Education.
She married the love of her life in 1998 and had three children. The happiest times of her life are spent with her family and friends. Kara is fortunate to be surrounded by the best and most amazing people God put on this earth.
When she was pregnant with her oldest child, Kara wrote her first novel. And then rewrote it. And rewrote it again. She did this while teaching, raising kids, and traveling across Texas with her husband.
Becoming an author was a dream she stumbled upon. With the encouragement of her family and friends, she didn’t discard this risky adventure. At this time, she would like to express her gratitude to her husband, parents, siblings, children, and friends for their support, love, and suggested revisions.