YOU’RE THE ONE
To love, honor, and protect the woman I love.
The line between fate and free will is fluid. That’s what I discovered on my sojourn.
Still today, I don’t know if it was fate or free will that nearly destroyed my family.
I’m equally torn when I think about the woman I killed. It was against everything I held sacred.
It was the old Tigua shaman, Sakani Nambe, who told me that it was a compassionate act to stop the woman before she did any more damage to her karma.
But I know the truth.
It was hate, and it was revenge.
My name is Bill, and this is my story.
“I do.” With those words, Sandra Holley officially became the wife of Bill Dukane. When the Calebs came for her, and she knew they would, they’d have a big surprise waiting for them.
Bill would make sure they’d never hurt her again, because Bill was a man who could and would protect his woman above all else. This she knew with every fiber of her being, every beat of her heart.
She’d been safe when her brothers had lived at home. But without them and the shield they’d provided against her monsters, she’d…well…she hadn’t been free. And she couldn’t stand being alone. Now she would never, ever be alone again.
On top of all of that, she loved Bill desperately. She was a slave to her feelings for him. He owned her heart. He owned her soul. He owned her desire. Tonight, he’d own the rest of her. And, God help her, she wanted to be owned by Bill Dukane.
Like the church where she stood, her worries were quiet. They were behind her because she had Bill. No one screwed with Bill Dukane.
“I do.” If Bill’s heart swelled any more, his chest was going to burst wide open. He loved Sandra so damn much. A physical pull emanated from her heart and wrangled him in, and it was a heart so full of goodness that he could feel that, too. He didn’t know what he’d done to deserve her, but he thanked his lucky stars for it.
Of course, he knew about the whole Caleb/Holley feud, and there was a good reason for Sandra to want his protection. From now on, the only way someone would get to her or hurt her in any way would be if he were already dead.
She didn’t see it, but she was one hell of a woman. She had a lot of grit, despite her self-doubts. But Sandra was his now, and he’d convince her how wonderful and strong and beautiful she was.
She stood beside him in front of the preacher. She was a vision in white. Her veil covered her face and fell over her thick, dark hair. The bluest eyes he’d ever dreamed about looked up at him, into his eyes and into his soul. He was the luckiest man in the whole wide world.
The preacher said, “You may kiss your bride.” Bill lifted Sandra’s veil and kissed her softly on the lips. Then he smiled at her and almost forgot they were surrounded. He was going to spend his life with this woman. He wanted to be perfect for her. Would be perfect for her.
They turned and led the wedding party down the church aisle and into the reception room. They were supposed to mingle and thank people, but he couldn’t let her go. He just wanted to hold her and dance. Feel all five and a half feet of her softness against his hardness.
He looked at the clock for the hundredth time. Finally, it was midnight. He whispered to his mom and dad, told the band to play Sandra’s favorite song, and pulled her onto the dance floor.
When the dance ended, he held on to her hand and pulled her up onto the stage. He grabbed the mic and said, “Thanks to all of you for coming and celebrating with us tonight. But now, I’m about to take the best thing that ever happened to me away. So if you’ve got goodbye’s, yell them out now because as of this minute, this woman is all mine.”
Everyone laughed, clapped, and yelled goodbye. Bill jumped off the stage and held his arms out for Sandra. She jumped immediately, and he carried her out, pelted with birdseed all the way to the end of the walk.
Bill whistled, and his dad released his hold and snapped a hand against the rear of Bill’s horse. The crowd howled when they saw Bill’s horse gallop up, streamers flying; it was something he’d had to work hard on so as not to spook his horse.
His new brother-in-law, Jake, grabbed and held the reins, and Bill swooped Sandra up into the saddle. He put on his cowboy hat, courtesy of his mom because Sandra didn’t think it went with his tux, and jumped up behind her. He turned the horse, waved his hat at the crowd, and trotted off with his bride.
Nine exciting months later, Jesse was born. Two beautiful years after that, Paul was born. Both times, Bill drove himself crazy worrying that Sandra would die in childbirth like his mother had.
Four happy years later, Bill’s perfect life began unraveling. His good deeds, his hard work, his adored children, the love of his wife—none of these things could save him from himself.