There was cold wind blowing in from the North, colder than anyone in the town of Little Rock could remember. It brought with it more than the shaking of shutters and the violent toss of tumbleweeds... the chill brought the winds of change.

He rode into town on a stallion so white that many that saw it, swore that it was nothing more than a phantom. It was the man who rode on his back that was the focus of their attention, a wraith with eyes ablaze with a deep seething hate.

There in the center of town she stood, her hands bound behind her and her short hair flowing across her face. He approached her as if each step covered a mile. His boots split the ground beneath his feet, the sound of each approaching step thundered with the sound of denied justice.

She did not fear him, but there were those in town that did.

It had been her close association with the Dark Rider that had earned her their scorn. She did not see their reasons for hating him. His heart was purer than anyone else would believe and she'd seen his gentle spirit like a beacon of light in the night.

She'd given herself to him, shown him the glowing light of love as he'd been wrapped in her arms, and they'd been seen. The town had turned against her, plotting her death to cleanse their own fears and their meager lives.

Hiding, she'd tried to run away, but they'd found her before she could leave, found her and humiliated her in the center of town. There had been no crime that a judge could prove, nothing but the fears of small minded people. Sadly, fear can kill.

He stood before the gallows the wind swirling at his feet. His eyes reached her and she felt near to tears.

"You came!"

"Of course I came... for you."

She struggled against the ropes that bound her arms and hands and felt the rough scrape of the rope against her neck. The tender skin offered up a collar of blood where it had been rubbed raw and red.

He ran up the steps and with a single slice of his knife he cut the noose from her neck and then the ropes from her arms and hands fell to the wood at her feet.

She wrapped her hands around his collar and pulled, bringing his lips to hers and causing more tears. The abuse she'd suffered at the hands of the Marshal had bruised more than her skin, it had bruised her spirit. He held her close and fed her hunger with his passion.

In the crowd of people the marshal seethed with hate.

With the single gesture of his hand, the Dark Rider called to his mount. The horse lurched forward to greet her master at the foot of the gallows.

No one would go near his horse for fear that the animal would pound them into the ground underneath his hooves. No one except the Marshal. There are those that would say that the Marshal was not a man that believed in his badge, he'd railroaded too many people into and early grave for anyone to truly believe that he was law-abiding himself. He dared step too close to the ghostly stallion and the animal reared up and suddenly the marshal was faced with the frightening image of two shiny metal horseshoes descending down toward his head.

The marshal stumbled back into the crowd, clutching at the townsfolk around him but found no helping hands to hold him up.

The Rider lifted her onto the saddle and swung up behind her only to wrap his arms around her slim form.

Huddled in her savior's arms, the woman clutched the front of his shirt as the lightning lit her face with a heavenly light. Her soft brown eyes stared out at the gathered crowd with sad regret. He touched her cheek, his hand in stark contrast to her ivory skin. "I'll always come for you." The promise was spoken with quiet determination and filled everyone with dread.

The horse wheeled around to escape the confines of hate and intolerance. Their eyes on the future ahead, due west. It was only at the last minute that their future turned dark and sinister, the marshal was not a man to lose. He found the thought of this mysterious man taking what he had long desired more vile than anything he'd ever felt.

Hate, like cold iron, leapt in his eyes. His hand reached down to his gunbelt with a mind of it's own and in an instant he put them in his sights. With the chill of anger in his heart he started to squeeze the trigger.

Lightning spat from the dark hanging sky and seemed to freeze in the air. The frayed end of a whip flayed open his hand and pulled the gun from the harsh grip of his fingers. "Who are you? What do you want?"

"I am your judge and jury and I want you to leave her alone."

"Or what?"

His eyes glowed like fiery coals, "or I'll be your executioner as well!" With a quick look to the gathered crowd he made his point with a withering gaze, "Go home all of you!"

Fearing for their lives they ran from the street leaving the marshal alone and quivering.

He placed a kiss on her head, smoothing the soft brown strands with his lips. "Let's go."

She looked up into his face, taking in the tender look in his eyes. "Where?"

"Home."

Quietly she blinked her eyes, forcing away the tears, "I have no home."

His lips silenced her cries with a consuming kiss. When he paused, he looked into her bewildered eyes, "You do.. with me."

She wrapped her arms around his neck and held on as his mount flew into a gallop. The thundering of hooves seemed louder than the storm around them and between their bodies she felt the cool silver handle of his whip pressing against her ribs. She felt no pain, only the calming drug of peace flood through her veins. The whip had saved her and now had given her a chance for a future.

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