Unpublished Chapters

      The original manuscript for Yellowstone Heart Song included a prologue and several chapters at the beginning, before Aimee time travels, that didn't make it into the final book. Please keep in mind that these are first draft, unedited chapters.


January, 1785     Rocky Mountains, A region known today as Yellowstone National Park

The wind howled fiercely, and the snow fell so heavily that the visibility was almost zero, but Zaccharia Osborne trudged on through the heavy snow. With great effort, he set one foot on front of the other, his snowshoes sinking in the soft powder. The trapper kept his head bent into his chest to ward off the icy wind that blasted him from all directions. With his rifle tucked firmly under one arm beneath his heavy buffalo robe, he readjusted the rope over his shoulder, and tugged harder. The deer he’d killed and dragged behind him seemed heavier with each step.  
Gritting his teeth, he labored on, determined to reach the shelter of his cabin before dark. The scent of a fresh kill would most likely lure hungry predators, but a more important reason to get back was Marie. The thought of his wife alone at the cabin in this blizzard renewed his efforts.  
Marie was not cut out for living in the wilderness as he had hoped when he brought her to the mountains six months ago. He had promised her he would return her to civilization as soon as the snow melted and made passage possible to reach the Roche Jaune and a way to get back to St. Louis. He would not have gone out hunting either, but they were in need of meat. She would need all her strength, what with the birth of his child so close. Had he known she was with child before the passes closed due to snow, he would have taken her back to civilization right away.  Marie had kept the pregnancy hidden for months. She’d been determined to make him happy by following him into the wilderness. Zach soon realized, however, that she was too frail to survive in this harsh and unforgiving land. Now her health and his unborn child were at risk because he had brought her here.
Zach carefully picked his way along the banks of the Little Buffalo River, about a mile from his cabin, when his keen sense of hearing picked out a noise through the howling wind. It sounded like an animal in pain. Zach dropped the rope that he was dragging the deer with, and pulled his long rifle out from beneath his robe. He listened intently, and cautiously moved in the general direction where the sound had come from. After a few steps, one of his snowshoes bumped into something on the ground. Zach glanced at a human form half buried in the snow. He quickly knelt down and pushed the snow off the body. He saw that it was an old Indian, and he looked ghostly blue and near frozen. A low moan escaped the Indian’s mouth, and his eyes opened slightly.
“Help me,” he whispered in the language of the Shoshone that lived in this area. Zach pulled the old man from the snow
 “I will do what I can for you, grandfather,” Zach told the old man.
The frail old man was unable to move off the frozen ground. Zach bent over him, and hoisted him onto his shoulder. He doubted that there was a whole lot he could do to save this man’s life, but he couldn’t just leave him to freeze to death. Most likely wolves would get to him before he was completely frozen. He picked up his rifle and the rope to drag the deer home. Marie required nourishment.
            Nearly dark when he finally reached his cabin, Zach lowered the Indian to the ground, and knocked loudly on the door. It swung open almost instantly. A small woman with a long braid of black hair hanging down her back, her belly swollen with child, greeted him. Her face lit up at the sight of him, and her arms reached up to give him a welcoming embrace.
“I was so worried. You’ve been gone so long,” she said with her face buried in Zach’s neck. He held her close for a moment, noticing her tense body. When he moved back a few inches to look into her eyes, he saw the sweat on her face and the pain in her eyes.
“The baby’s coming,” she said softly in her slight French accent.
“How long have you been in pain?” Zach asked, his face contorting with worry. His hand touched his wife’s swollen abdomen.
“Several hours, I believe.”
“I found an old Indian in the snow. He’s almost dead, but I couldn’t leave him behind,” Zach almost regretted that he had found the old man. “Go lie down and I will bring him inside. There’s not much I can do for him, and you are my more immediate concern.”
Marie stepped aside as Zach carried the man inside.
“Go and lie down, Marie,” Zach insisted, as he gently lowered the Indian to the floor. The old man moaned.
“He needs to warm up,” Marie said, ignoring her husband’s instructions. “I have some broth warming over the fire.”
“I will take care of him, Marie,” Zach said more firmly. Just then, a painful cry escaped his wife’s lips, and she clutched her stomach and bent over. Zach was by her side in an instant, and he gently ushered her to the bed that took up an entire wall of the cabin. “Here, lie down,” Zach instructed. “What can I get you?”
“It’s all right, the pain is passing,” Marie panted, her eyes glazed over with pain. Zach knew she tried to hide how much pain she was in from him. Marie eased down on the bed, and looked at her husband. “It’s alright. It’s the normal process of childbirth. I’ve seen many babies born, and once the contractions come closer together, I will need you. For now, please help this man,” she gestured to the man on the floor. “He needs your help more urgently at the moment.”
Zach searched his wife’s face for a moment. She was always looking out for others, with no regard for her own well-being. It was one of the qualities he loved about her. He once again wished he had never brought her to this wild land. She should be far away from here, in a city with a midwife to tend to her. But she had insisted on following his wild dreams of going into the Rocky Mountain wilderness to try and make his fortune as a fur trapper, rather than settle as a farmer in Philadelphia.
Zach squeezed his wife’s arm, then turned his attention to the Indian on the floor.. He removed the old man’s thick moccasins and began rubbing his feet. Then he took a wool blanket off the bed and covered the man in it. The old man moaned occasionally, and his eyes fluttered open every once in a while. Zach dipped a tin cup into the kettle containing some warm broth that hung over the fire and  gently urged the old man to drink. Every now and then, Marie would gasp and cry in pain as another contraction overtook her body.
As exhausted as he was himself from the day’s work, Zach worked tirelessly to tend to his wife as well as the Indian. As the hours wore on into the night, the old man slowly regained some strength. He was able to sit up as his frozen body warmed. In the meantime, Marie’s labor was getting worse. She was drenched in sweat, and her body contorted painfully with each contraction that came with ever-increasing frequency. Zach bathed his wife with melted snow to keep her comfortable, but he noticed she was growing weaker by the hour.
Sometime in the middle of the night, the old Indian spoke. “Your wife fights bravely, but I fear she will need help for your child to be born.”
Zack looked from the bed, to the old man on the floor.
“I don’t know what else to do for her,” he said, exhausted. “Where am I going to get help? The closest Shoshone village I know of is a half day’s walk from here in good weather.”
“You have saved this old man’s life,” the Indian said. He fumbled with a pounch hanging around his neck. “This holds the key to saving your child. If you do what I tell you, perhaps a life can be saved.”
Zach looked incredulously at the old man. “What help can you give me that will save my wife and child,” Zach asked in disbelief. The old man removed an object from the pouch. It looked like a dried up snake head.
“This is one of the Sky People’s most powerful magical objects,” the old man spoke slowly. “It must be kept secret. It may save your child’s life.”
 “How is a snake head going to save my wife and child?” Zach wondered. The freezing temperature must have affected the old man’s head.
“This snake has magical powers,” the old man stared at the object in his hand. “It has the ability to transport you to another time and place. It can only take you forward in time and bring you back to your own time. It will not change your own past unless it is the will of the Sky People, but it can help you with your future. Touch the snake’s right eye, and you will travel forward in time by two-hundred years. When you want to return to your own time, touch the left eye. It is very simple.”
Marie cried out in agony at that moment, The old man slowly stood up and hobbled to her side. Zach gently wiped her sweat-soaked face with a damp cloth.
“She has but little time left, I fear.” The Indian said quietly. “Listen to me, my son, and listen carefully. I know you do not believe me, and I understand. It is not an easy thing to comprehend unless you experience it yourself. The future holds nothing good for my people. I have seen what the coming of the white man will do. The sacred mountains of the Tukudeka must be protected. Your child is the key to saving our lands. I have seen some of the miraculous things that the white man has accomplished. The white man’s medicine in the future is very powerful. It will help your child be born safely into this world. You must believe this and have faith in this old man.”
The Indian handed Zach the ugly snake head. The eyes were large and shiny red and unnatural looking.
“Why don’t you use it yourself then, and get healed?” Zach asked skeptically.
“I am an old man, and my life is coming to an end. Even the white man’s medicine in the future cannot cure that. Your son must be born into this world.”
“What do I need to do?” Zach couldn’t believe he even asked. Out of desperation, he reached for the object.  If there was even a slight chance to do something to help his wife, no matter how unbelievable it sounded, he would try it.
“Remember, the right eye moves you forward in time, the left eye brings you back. Hold on to your wife, and she will travel with you. It will take but only a moment. When you get to the future, the people will know what to do. Do not let anyone know this secret. You do not believe me, and no one in the future will believe you. Go now, your wife cannot hold out much longer. “
Zach searched the old man’s face for any sign that he was mocking him, but found none. He draped his arm around Marie, and pressed his thumb to the snake’s right eye. Instantly, the world went black. When next he opened his eyes, Zach was lying on hard ground, Marie at his side. He heard strange loud noises all around. He quickly sat up, stuffed the snake head in his pouch around his neck, and glanced around. What he saw shocked him. Nothing looked at all like the world he was used to. There were no trees, no dirt, but he was lying on hard ground not unlike cobblestones, only smoother. Tall buildings rose high into the sky all around him, but none looked like buildings he was used to seeing in Philadelphia or St. Louis.
“Hey man, are you ok?”  Zach’s head whipped around, and he stared into the face of a black man. He had seen black people before, working as slaves for some of the wealthier farmers back home. This man did not look like a slave.
“My wife, she is in labor. We need to find a midwife,” Zach said quickly. In his arms, Marie moaned, and she was  drenched in sweat.
“Yeah, she don’t look so good,” the black man said. “The hospital is a couple of blocks from here. I’ll get you guys a cab.” He moved to the side and let out a whistle, Zach noticed several other people staring at him, and the fast moving carriages going by. It was unlike anything he had seen before. He had no idea how these carriages were moving on their own, and at the moment he just didn’t care. When one of them stopped next to the black man, Zach quickly scooped Marie up in his arms. The man waved him over.
“Take these folks to the nearest hospital. The lady is having a baby,” the black man spoke to another man inside the carriage. He held open a door, and Zach placed Marie inside and followed.
“Thank you,” he said to the black man.
“Don’t mention it,” he replied, and then yelled to the man sitting at the front of the carriage. “Get a move on, or you’re gonna be deliverin’ a baby in your cab.”
The carriage lurched forward, and Zach held on to Marie for fear she would fall off the seat. Never in his life had he traveled so fast. If it had been under different circumstances, he would have enjoyed the ride, but at the moment he could only think of his wife. He knew that she was fading fast.
Moments later, the carriage stopped again, and the man in the front seat said, “Anaheim Memorial Hospital.”
Zach scrambled out after fumbling with the door handle, and scooped Marie in his arms. He ran for what he assumed were the doors to the huge building. The cab driver yelled to him, but Zach paid no attention. He pushed through the door and found himself in a huge room with many people sitting around.
“Please, I need help. My wife is in labor,” he called out. A woman dressed in blue pants and shirt approached him quickly, took one look at Marie, and said “bring her this way, quickly.” The woman led him through a double door that opened by itself with a  hissing sound, and Zach followed. She stopped by a chair on wheels, and said “Put her in the wheelchair. I will take her to emergency right away. You can fill out some paperwork on the way.”
Zach gently placed Marie in the chair, and the woman wheeled her off. Zach ran to keep up.
“How long has she been in labor?” the woman asked.
“I believe for almost a day and night,” Zach said. “I was gone from her most of the day, and when I returned, she was already having pains.”
The woman wheeled Marie through another set of doors, into a room busy with men and women dressed in the same way as she was. Two more women came over and helped Marie onto a bed. Zach was pushed out of the way. A fourth woman shoved a board with a sheet of parchment under his nose.  “You need to start filling this out while we take care of your wife.”
Zach looked anxiously at the paper, then at Marie lying on the bed, with several people hovered over her. He saw them stick things in her arm, and something around her neck that went to her nose. One woman held something to Marie’s chest and belly, apparently listening for something.
Zach swallowed hard, trying not to panic. He was more scared than he had ever been in his life. He was scared for Marie, and also scared of this strange place and world he had come to. All he had was his trust in the old Indian man that the people in this time could save his wife and child. No, he actually had not said they could save his wife, but Zach could not think of losing Marie.
Zach stared at the parchment in front of him. He read the words that were type-set on the page, but he understood very little of what he read. He was able to put down his name, and used his childhood address in Philadelphia. He had no idea what a phone number or driver’s license was. He couldn’t concentrate on the paper in front of him, there was so much noise in this place. Suddenly his head jerked up. Marie had let out a loud cry and called his name. The next thing he saw was her entire body convulsing violently.
“She’s seizing,” one of the medical workers shouted. “We need magnesium sulfate, now!”
Zach rushed over to be by his wife, but strong arms of a man in the same blue attire as most of the women held him back.
“I’m sorry, sir, but you need to stay back to let the doctors do their job,” he said firmly.
“I want to be with my wife,” Zach pleaded in desperation. “What is happening to her?”
“The doctor will talk to you as soon as we have her stabilized,” the man said.
Zach craned his neck. More people moved to Marie’s bedside, and he couldn’t see what they were doing.
One woman stepped away from the bed and walked over to Zach. She gave him a quick curious look, then said, “I’m Doctor Murdock. Your wife is having a seizure, probably due to eclampsia. We are giving her drugs to try and control the seizures, but she needs a C-section immediately. The nurse will give you the consent forms, but we need your permission right now.”
Zach didn’t understand any of what the woman said. “Anything, just save her,” he said in a low tone, running a hand over his face.
“Set up for a c-section,” the woman called to the rest of the workers. To Zach, she said, “We will do what we can.” She turned and rushed off.
Gentle hands ushered Zach away from the scene, and prodded him into a seat in a far corner of the emergency room, away from Marie. A partition prevented him from seeing fully what was going on. A curtain had been drawn around Marie’s bed.
Another woman came over to him and started asking questions about Marie’s medical history, who her regular doctor was, when she had seen her doctor last, and a multitude of other questions. Zach didn’t understand any of it, and simply shook his head.
The woman patted his hand, and smiled a sympathetic smile. She continued to ask him questions while telling him the doctor was doing everything she could for Marie. The woman remained with him as time passed. He wanted to be alone, but more importantly, he wanted to know what was going on with his wife.
He saw people rush in and out from behind the curtain where the doctor was working on his wife. Elsewhere, people all dressed in similar blue clothes moved hurriedly up and down the halls. Zach had never seen so much chaos in his life, not even during a skirmish with hostile warriors.
He craned his neck when two people pushed an object out from behind the curtain, running with it toward the wide doors through which he’d brought Marie earlier, and disappeared. Moments later, a young woman rushed down the hall from the opposite direction and pushed her way behind the curtain.
After what seemed like forever, Zach heard the loud wails of a baby over the multitude of other unfamiliar noises coming from behind the curtain. He sprang from his seat, unable to stay put any longer and hurried back to the scene of all the chaos.
The young woman he’d seen a moment ago emerged with a bundle in her arms.
“My wife,” he stammered, stepping in front of her. She looked up and smiled at him. Momentary confusion registered on her face, no doubt at the sight of his clothes, which were so out of place in this time.
“You have a beautiful baby boy,” she said, the smile on her face widening, and held the bundle so Zach could see.
A red-faced, black-haired infant was swaddled in a white and blue-striped blanket. Zach looked at his little son in awe. He felt the tears forming in his eyes. Suddenly, the beeping noises behind the curtain changed to a steady drawn-out beep. The woman quickly turned her head in the direction of the curtain, and Zach heard her say quietly, “oh no.”
“What does it mean?” Zach asked with a sinking feeling in his gut.  The woman didn’t say anything, but looked sadly from him to the baby in her arms.
 “Time of death 12:33pm,” someone said behind the curtain.
Zach stood motionless, staring. His wife, his beloved Marie, was gone. His eyes moved to his son cradled in the woman’s arms.  “Can I hold my son,” he asked, his voice cracking.
“Sure,” the young woman said solemnly, and gently placed the bundle in Zach’s arms. Zach gazed at the infant, and whispered, “You will be called Daniel, for your mother’s name was Marie Daniella. You will grow up to be a mighty hunter and trapper some day, this I swear to you. It is what your mother would have wanted.” He looked up to see the woman studying him. He realized he must look and sound as strange to her as she did to him. They were from different worlds, and Zach knew he had to return to his own. But he would not leave without his son and wife.
Just then, the woman doctor and the people who had helped her emerged from behind the curtain. She walked over to Zach.
“I’m sorry, we did everything we could. Your wife had a condition called pre-eclampsia, which turned into eclampsia during her labor. It is a life-threatening complication in pregnancy. Surely her doctor told her about the proper precautions?” When Zach just shook his head, the doctor said, “I believe the seizure caused an aneurysm in her brain, and that’s what caused her death. There is nothing we were able to do to save her.”
“I wish to see my wife,” Zach said simply. Nothing this woman said to him made any sense. She was speaking in a language that was foreign to him.
“Sure.” The doctor offered a sad smile. “Please take all the time you need. We can go ahead and take this baby to pediatrics.”
“No,” Zach said quickly. “I want him with me for now.” The ringing in his ears drowned out whatever else the doctor may have said. Her lips moved, but he didn’t hear, nor did he understand anything she said. Marie was gone.

The doctor nodded. The other young woman gestured for Zach to step behind the curtain. She remained for a moment, then excused herself and ducked outside the curtain. Once he was sure he was alone, Zach sat on the bed next to Marie and reached for her hand. She looked beautiful, at peace, as if she was sleeping and having a pleasant dream.
“I love you, Marie. Thank you for this wonderful gift you have given me. We have a fine son. It’s time we got back home.” With those words, he reached for the snake head in his pouch, and, with one arm firmly holding his infant, and his other hand holding his wife’s wrist, he put his thumb on the snake’s left eye.

Chapter 1

Orange County General Hospital, California 2010

“Where the hell is that bloodwork I asked for?” Dr. Ashwell barked. “And why doesn’t the patient in bed two have his IV in yet? He also needs a an EKG and a chest xray.” The emergency room at Orange County General was busy tonight.
“I called down to the lab, and your blood results should be up shortly. Mrs Keets in bed four was throwing up, so I took care of that. I’m on my way now to bed two,” The young nurse answered the doctor’s demands calmly but with a firm voice. She was used to dealing with arrogant doctors who thought having a medical degree gave them license to be rude to the rest of the world.
Aimee Donovan gathered her IV tray and made her way across the busy emergency room to a cubicle with the sign that said “Bed 2”. On her way, she quickly glanced at the patient in room six, and was stopped short by a small plump woman with her hands on her hips, glaring at her. “Nurse, when is the doctor going to see my husband? He has been lying in that bed for an hour, and no one has checked on him.”
“I was just there a few minutes ago, Mrs. Wilkins. Your husband is stable. The doctor will be with him as soon as possible. We have a lot of trauma cases tonight, and we’re short-staffed,” Aimee answered patiently.
“Well, someone should do something and get more doctors and nurses in this place,” the woman said indignantly.
“Tell me about it,” Aimee mumbled under her breath.  She excused herself with the promise of returning shortly to take another look at the woman’s husband.
Aimee smiled as she entered the cubicle of Bed 2, and picked up the chart hanging at the foot of the bed. After skimming over it for a second, she looked at the man in the bed, who was staring back at her.
“Hi, Mr. Osborne, I’m Nurse Aimee, and Dr. Ashwell has ordered an IV and some x-rays for you. How are you feeling?”
“Not too bad,” the bearded man answered kindly. “It gets hard to breathe sometimes, and my chest hurts a little, but no complaints otherwise.”
“Well, this shouldn’t hurt a bit.” Aimee smiled as she pulled the stethoscope from around her neck. “Let’s have a quick listen to your heart, and then we can get to the IV.”
Aimee listened to the man’s chest, and could hear the distinct swush, swush of a murmur.
“Can you sit up for me and take deep breaths while I listen to your lungs?”Aimee asked gently. The man obediently sat up and inhaled as Aimee moved the stethoscope along various point around his back. The hospital gown he wore revealed the man’s nude backside, and Aimee caught herself staring. Many old scars criss-crossed this man’s back, and Aimee wondered if she would see the same thing on his chest if she were to check. What had happened to this man to cause all those scars? Curiosity ate at her, but she forced herself not to ask.  
“Ok, let’s get this IV in you,” she finally said.
Aimee worked quickly and efficiently, and had the man’s arm taped up in no time with a fresh IV in his vein. A she went to pick up the trash, she noticed the man’s clothing in a pile on the ground in the corner. A faded red flannel shirt, and pants that were clearly tanned leather with fringes along the sides lay in a heap on the floor. A pair of moccasins sat next to the pile.
“Those clothes look pretty authentic,” Aimee commented. “I love old west re-enactments. That period in history has always fascinated me.”
“Oh, and what time would that be?” the older man asked.
“Pioneers, cowboys and Indians, the mountain men,” Aimee listed off. “Life must have been very hard, but also exciting for these people.” She studied the gentleman’s face, and tried to picture him in the clothing on the floor. He certainly would look the part of the mountain man. His face was deeply tanned and weathered from many hours in the sun. His once brown shoulder-length  hair had turned gray in most places, and he was sporting a short beard, also grizzled with gray.
“There’s no better life than the freedom of being a trapper in the Rocky Mountains,” Mr. Osborne answered.
“Oh, you’re thinking even earlier than I was. The trapper era ended in the early 1800’s. They weren’t around that long, but I guess they were the first explorers of the west, like Lewis and Clark.”
The man snorted loudly. “Lewis and Clark were greenhorns. If not for the Indian guides they had with them, they would have been utterly lost in the wilderness.”
Aimee looked at the man long and hard. What an odd thing to say, as if he had actually been there.
“Are you a history teacher?” she asked.
“Not really.” He shrugged, and avoided her stare.
“Well, I need to get back out on the floor, and see about getting the x-ray technician in here, or Dr. Ashwell will yell at me some more.  Not that I can’t yell back, though,” she added conspiratorially.
Zaccharia laughed. “You don’t cower like the rest of these nurses, do you?” he asked, searching Aimee’s face.
“Well, it does bug me, but I’m not about to show that. A lot of these emergency doctors are under a lot of stress, and unfortunately they take it out on us nurses. I just give them back what they dish out. And no, I’m not one to cower.”
Aimee left the cubicle in search of the x-ray tech. Now why couldn’t all patients be as kind as Mr. Osborne? It would make her job much more pleasant. Aimee glanced at the clock. It was still early in her twelve-hour shift, and she was already mentally exhausted. She loved her job of helping people, but it always amazed her how rude some could be, and of course, putting up with the doctors was another matter. She was looking forward to her vacation time in a few weeks, when she and her best friend Jana would go backpacking together as they did every year. Aimee enjoyed these outing more than anything else. She loved getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city, to go at a slower pace and enjoy nature.
Every year since she had graduated from high school five years ago, her long-time friend and roommate Jana and she headed into the wilderness several times throughout the year. They had gone whitewater rafting, mountain climbing, had taken courses in back-country first aid and survival. Each year, the thing Aimee looked most forward to most was the two weeks they would spend backpacking in Yellowstone National Park. It was Aimee’s goal to hike every trail in the park. She felt a certain peace when she was there, and it always felt like a homecoming. Someday, she thought, I will live in that region permanently. For now, she needed the experience California afforded. Out of nursing school only a year, she didn’t have the years of experience on her resume that would allow her to pick where she wanted to work.
She enjoyed the adrenaline rush of emergency medicine, and there was certainly a lot of trauma patients to work on here in the city. But something just didn’t feel right to Aimee. She often felt out of place, and the people were definitely getting on her nerves.
This year’s trip was complicated a bit by the fact that she had just gotten engaged.  To Dr. Brad Bigsby, surgical resident.
 Aimee never imagined the cliché of nurse dating doctor would be her someday, but Brad had asked her out during her first week on the job, and there was no doubt she was attracted to him. All the nurses were. He was smart and good -looking, and he was going to be a great surgeon someday, she had no doubt. Three weeks ago, on their first anniversary together, he had proposed. Looking back on that evening, Aimee knew she had said yes more on impulse, and if truth be told, she just didn’t feel one-hundred percent sure about the relationship. Brad liked to wine and dine her, which just wasn’t her thing. She preferred simple things, like a walk in the woods, and definitely camping. When she had first suggested he accompany her on a camping trip, he had laughed and declined. He then promptly offered to take her to Hawaii for a week, or on a cruise to the Carribbean. Aimee figured she could always work on making Brad more of an outdoorsy kinda guy, and in the meantime, she would have to be content with hiking with Jana. Girl time was always good.
Aimee located the EKG cart, and wheeled it back to Cubicle 2.
“Watch it, Ashwell is on the warpath,” Doreen Jamison said as Aimee passed the nurse’s station.
“Yeah, I’ve already had my run-ins with him.” Aimee smiled. “Are we getting any help from one of the floors?”
“I’ve called up to ICU twice, and they are as short-staffed as we are. I’ll get us some coffee when things calm down a bit. I haven’t heard of any more ambulances coming in, so hopefully it’ll calm down a bit.” Pointing at the EKG cart, Dorren asked, “You goin’ to take care of that crazy guy?”
“What crazy guy?” 
“You know, Mr. Osborne in bed 2. That dude comes in here about every six months or so, has a heart work-up, and leaves with a prescription. No one knows for sure, but we all think he’s homeless. Always wearin’ them same silly clothes, like he came out of a wild west movie. He ain’t got no insurance, neither.”
“He doesn’t seem all that crazy to me. I think I prefer him over old Mr. Wilkins and his wife over there,” Aimee said.
“Just wait til you talk to him for a while. You’ll think he’s crazy, too.”
“Okay, well I’d better get it over with then, “Aimee said and rolled hey eyes. She plastered a smile on her face as she entered Mr. Osborne’s cubicle.
“Miss me?” she asked.
“You are a sight for these sore eyes.” Mr. Osborne smiled back.
“I’ll need you to remove your gown off your chest, so I can place these leads for  your EKG,” Aimee said.
When Zach removed the hospital gown by slipping his arms out of the sleeves, Aimee stared at his chest. The man was in his early sixties, but he was solidly muscled. Her thoughts earlier were confirmed. He did have scars criss-crossing his chest to match those on his back. As she placed the EKG leads on his chest, she noticed a couple scars that could have been from bullet holes.
“You’re wondering about all these cuts and holes, aren’t you?” Zach asked, studying Aimee’s face. Heat crept up her neck at being caught staring, but she composed herself quickly.
“Yeah, actually I was. Sorry for being rude.”
“No need, and if you want to know about them, I’d be happy to tell you.”
“Well, go ahead then, spill it,” Aimee said. “You look like you’ve been through hell and back.”
“Something like that,” Zach said. “But most of these here scars come from wrestling with bears. I got shot a couple of times by some no-good voyageurs trying to steal my cache of furs one time, and this one here,” he said, pointing at a rather large indentation, “is from a knife from one of them stinkin’ Blackfoot.”
Aimee blinked, then stared at him for a moment, trying to comprehend. “Okay, Mr. Osborne, I need you to be real still while I get a reading on this EKG,” she said, trying to buy herself some time to come up with a response to what he had told her. As she thought about this man, and what Doreen had said about him being homeless, a picture began to form in her mind. He was obviously coping with his situation by putting himself in another time and place, apparently as a fur trapper. She felt sorry for the man, and instead of trying to tell him he was koo-koo, she decided to let him live his fantasy and tell her about it.
“There, we’re done. The doctor will have to read and interpret this,” she said, but had seen enough EKG’s to know this one was not looking so good.
“I know my heart’s not strong anymore,” Zach said, studying her face.
Boy, he’s perceptive. I’d better put on my poker face.
 “So, you’re saying you’re a trapper?” Aimee asked, changing the subject. She knew a little bit about the history of the mountain men who made their living trapping beaver and other animals for their livelihood in the early 1800’s. She always thought that to be an exciting and romantic period in history. The adventure of it must have been something else. And these men were the ultimate survival experts. She was curious to hear what this man had to say, and to see if he was just full of it, or if he actually did know a bit about what he was talking about.
“I know folks don’t believe me, and I don’t expect them to. If you want to hear some stories about fur trappers, if that interests you like you said, I got lots of stories to tell,” Zach said, his eyes constantly moving across her face.
“Okay, I’m interested,” Aimee said, refusing to be intimidated by his perceptive stare. “But I can only stay a few minutes while I pretend to be working on you. Things are slowing down here and I’d love to sit  with you and hear your stories.”
“Then you go tend them other sick folks and come back when you can,” Zach said.
“How did you get to be a fur trapper, Mr. Osborne?” Aimee asked, unable to walk away.
“I didn’t want to be a farmer, and like my pa, lived in the mountains all my life.”
“So what’s it like? It must be a life filled with adventure.” Aimee pulled up a chair.
“It’s got its share of adventure, yes. But mostly it’s hard and lonely work. One summer in New Orleans, I met a woman I fell in love with, and married her. She would have followed me anywhere I asked her to.” A sad, faraway look came over the man’s face. “I should never have asked her to join me in the wilderness.” Zach shook is head.
“What happened?” Aimee asked. “If you marry someone, and they love you, it’s only natural that they’d want to be with you.”
“Marie wasn’t cut out for life in the wilderness. Heck, no woman is. It’s just too dangerous and hard. The winters are bitter cold, and the rest of the year you’re fending off wild animals and wild Indians.”
“That’s a pretty broad statement to make, “Aimee argued. It always got her back up when men would say wilderness survival was something only guys should do. “There are a lot of women I know, me included, that love to go backpacking in the wilderness.”
“That ain’t the same as living there,” Zach disagreed. “The only women up to the task are the Indians. They’re hardened up for it. Heck, even most of the Indian tribes stay clear of the Rocky Mountain region part of the year. There’s only one band o’ Shoshone crazy enough to live there all year.”
“Are you talking about the Yellowstone region?” Aimee asked with renewed interest. “I go backpacking there every year. It’s my favorite place on earth!”
Zach searched her face again. “You’re either crazy or just plain dumb,” he said. “Have you ever spent a winter in them mountains by yourself?”
“Well, no” Aimee admitted. “I didn’t say I could survive an entire winter on my own, but the Indians were able to do it, so it must be possible.”
“Oh, it’s possible, all right,” Zach said. “I’ve lived there more than twenty-five years. I raised my son in them mountains, and he won’t leave. It’s in his blood.”
“Your son lives in the wilderness now?” Aimee asked, amazed at how deeply this man was immersed in his fantasy world. Zach nodded.
“What happened to your wife?” she asked gently.
“She died, giving birth to Daniel,” Zach said. His voice cracked a little.
“I’m so sorry,” Aimee said, putting a hand on the man’s arm. “That must have been really hard.”
“I took Daniel to some Shoshone women. He grew up amongst the Indians, and with me. I sent him back east for some proper schooling when he was sixteen. He came back to the mountains two years later. Sometimes I think he’s more Indian than white.” Zach chuckled. “He knows those mountains better than anyone, and everything that lives in ‘em,”
“Nurse Donovan,” a voice behind Aimee boomed. “If you’re finished with this patient, I need your help,” Dr. Ashwell glowered from the doorway. “I hope you’ve had time to get the EKG?”
“Yes, doctor,” Aimee said, handing him the EKG printout. “I’ll be with you in a minute.”
“Now, Nurse Donovan,” Dr. Ashwell bellowed.
“I’ll be back when – or rather if - I get a break.” Aimee smiled at Zach.
“You give him hell, young miss.”
Zach smiled after the nurse left. The way she talked, and her confident manner impressed him. Perhaps she was just the type of woman who could live and survive in the mountains. She certainly appeared strong and healthy, even if she was just a little thing. A thought started taking root in his head. It was crazy, but it was something he just might consider. He knew he wasn’t going to live much longer. The doctors had told him that the last time he time-traveled to get medical treatment. They wanted to cut him open and do something to his heart, but he was not going to let them do that. He was ready to go meet his maker, if that was the plan, and at least then, he would be back together with his Marie.
He had been careful over the years for his son’s sake, while Daniel was still a child. But Daniel was a grown man now. He hadn’t needed looking after for many years. If truth be told, Daniel took more care of Zach than the other way around.  So, now seemed like a good time to do something crazy while he was still able. He was looking forward to his next conversation with nurse Aimee Donovan.

Chapter 2

It was 2:30 in the morning. With a loud groan, Aimee plopped down in a chair at the nurse’s station. The emergency room had quieted down considerably. The rhythmic beeping of several heart monitors filled the room.

Doreen was waiting with that promised cup of coffee.

“Here you go,” the woman said, handing it to her.

“If Ashwell barks one more order at me, I swear I’m going to punch him in his arrogant face,” Aimee muttered.
“Well, at least things are calmed down now and we can take a break,” Doreen said kindly. “Ashwell went to take a nap.”
“Good riddance,” Aimee said. “I’ve got treatments in about a half an hour. I just need to rest my feet for a few minutes.” She put her head down on the desk and closed her eyes. “Whatever possessed me to become a nurse in the first place?” she said absently. She looked up again and over the nurse’s station to the bed in cubicle 2. She wanted to speak to Mr. Osborne some more. She had found him quite entertaining earlier. He looked to be asleep, so she wasn’t going to disturb him at the moment. She pulled up his chart on the computer monitor.
“Is Mr. Osborne going to get transferred to ICU?” she asked Doreen.
“They’re waiting on a bed for him,” Doreen replied. “ICU is full, so we’re keeping him down here with us.”
“So, how are the weddin’ plans coming along,” Doreen asked, changing the subject. “You are a lucky girl, you know that? I know a lot of nurses who would kill to be marrying Dr. Brad Bigsby. And the two of you make such a nice couple.”
For some reason, talking about her wedding and Brad was not something Aimee wanted to do at the moment.
“Do you sometimes get the feeling like you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, doing the wrong thing?” Aimee asked, sipping at her coffee.
“You getting second thoughts about Brad?” Doreen’s forehead wrinkled.
Aimee shook her head. “It’s not that, but I just sometimes get the feeling like I’m out of place here.”
Doreen shot her an incredulous stare. “What are you talking about? You are a great nurse. You care about your work, and you know your job better than some of these doctors do. What do you mean, you feel out of place?”
“I don’t know…” Aimee expelled a long breath of air. “Like there’s something else out there for me. All I can think about is how much I enjoy the outdoors, and I’m always planning my next backpacking trip. And when I get back from Yellowstone, all I can think about is being back there again. You know, it’s not like taking a vacation, and thinking how nice it was. It’s like, I should be there all the time.”
“So how you gonna be married and wandering around in the mountains at the same time?” Doreen asked. “Seems to me that fiancée of yours would rather stay in a five star hotel than in a tent. I just don’t see him doing that.”
“Yeah, that’s what I think, too. Truth be told, Brad and I really don’t have much in common.”
“Well, you better think about this long and hard, girl, and don’t be doing something you might later regret. If you love the man and he loves you, there ain’t no reason why the two of you can’t do things together you both enjoy.”
“But that’s just it, Doreen,” Aimee met her co-worker’s stare. “Brad shows no interest in ever going out backpacking with me, and I have no interest in lying on a beach in Hawaii somewhere. Sometimes I just want to leave all this hustle and bustle behind. I wish I had been born a hundred years or so ago. Life was so much simpler.”
“Yeah, sure,” Doreen scoffed. “People was dyin’ all the time, too. Imagine not havin’ any penicillin. Doctors were nothing more than butchers.”
“And yet the human race survived,” Aimee mocked.
“Women had no rights,” Doreen pointed out. “You would be married off to some old geezer, poppin’ out a baby every year. Is that the kind of life you think you want?”
“No, and not all women got married and had babies.” Aimee sighed. “Let’s just drop it.”

* * * *

            Zach listened to the conversation between the two nurses with interest. They weren’t talking too loudly, but he was able to make out most of what they said. It was time he had another chat with Miss Aimee.
He feigned a cough, and stirred in his bed, pretending to wake up.
“Could I get some water, please, Nurse?” he called out.
Aimee’s head popped up from behind the nurse’s station.
“I’ll be right there, Mr. Osborne,” she replied.
Moments later, Aimee held a Styrofoam cup out for him.
“Thank you,” he said, and took a long drink.
“Did you sleep well?” Aimee asked. “And are you comfortable. Can I get you anything?”
“I’m fine, “ he said, looking up at her. “I was hoping you could sit with me for a while, and we can continue our conversation.” He smiled, and nodded with his chin toward the nurse’s station.  “I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation with that other nurse, and I think you might like to hear what I gotta say to you.”
“Oh?” Aimee’s brows wrinkled. Her blue eyes sparkled with interest.
“Listen,” Zach whispered, beckoning her to sit next to him. “I know you people all think I’m crazy the way I talk, and for the most part, that’s fine by me.” He held her inquisitive gaze.
 “I don’t think you’re crazy, Mr. Osborne.” Aimee shook her head. “I think you have had something tragic happen in your past, and this is your way of coping with it.”
“My way of coping with my past is to come to the future sometimes,” Zach said, staring straight at her.
“What does that mean.” Aimee’s forehead wrinkled even more.
“I travel through time,” Zach said. He paused for a moment to let this sink in, then continued, “you don’t have to believe anything I tell you, and matter of fact, I never even told any of this to no one, so why I am telling you I still can’t figure out. There’s something about you I really like, and so I want to give you the opportunity to experience what you are longing for firsthand.”
Aimee shook her head. She laughed nervously. “Now you are sounding crazy. I have no idea what you just said.”
“Look,” Zach reached for her hand, and gave it a quick pat.  “Believe me or don’t believe me, but let me ask you one thing. If you had the chance to go back in time to the era of the fur trapper, live like you wanted to in the wilderness, just for a while, and experience it for yourself, would you do it?”
Aimee hesitated, “I guess I would be curious, yes,” she said slowly. Her eyes narrowed suspiciously.
Zach nodded. She hadn’t laughed him off completely. “And you say you have been out in the wilds, completely dependent on yourself, and you’ve been able to fend for yourself?”
Aimee shook her head. “Well, not exactly all by myself. My friend Jana and I always do the survival stuff together. We did one extreme survival camp where all you had was a mulit-tool and nothing else, and we had to survive on our own for a week. That was tough, but it was a lot of fun. So, if you’re asking me if I can find my own food and shelter in the woods for a week, the answer is yes.”
“Nah,” Zach scoffed, and  shook his head. “I ain’t talking for a week. I’m talking three months. “Could you survive in the Yellowstone region for three months?”
“I … I’m not sure, but if given the chance, I would take up that challenge,” Aimee said, a determined gleam in her eyes.
Zach looked at her long and hard again. “Then I will grant you that wish.”
“Are you a genie now?” Aimee laughed.
“Listen,” he lowered his voice again, and shot a quick glance toward the nurse’s station.  “You go home after you’re finished working here, and pack some supplies that you think you would need to survive alone. Mind you, you’ll be traveling back in time, so anything you take with you will be stuff no one has ever seen or heard of before, so you need to choose carefully. No one in my time, and I’m talking other trappers and especially the Indians, can know that you are from the future. They will think you are just as nuts as you think I am. I ain’t never tried sending someone back to my time, so I’m not sure if this will work, but I’ll give it a go. I need to stay here and finish getting doctored up.”
“This is really crazy, you know that?” Aimee said, uncertainty and unease in her eyes.
“Well, like I said, I can’t explain it to you. You just need to experience it for yourself. I didn’t believe it either when I was given the choice to time travel. So, that’s where we’re at. You can think me crazy, go home, and go on with your life, or you can go home and gather some stuff and come back here and just trust me.”

* * * *

Aimee laughed inwardly. If only this was something that could be done. Isn’t that what she had often yearned for – living in the past? She was having fun playing along with this crazy guy, because he was a nice man and refreshing after some of the rude people she dealt with every day. At least he seemed very genuine and sincere.
“So, where are you going to send me?” Aimee asked, and couldn’t suppress a smile.
“To an area you know of today as Yellowstone National Park, to the year 1810,” Zach said with a grin on his face.
1810? He sure didn’t know his mountain man history very well. “But there were no white men in that region then.” Aimee glared at him, satisfied that she had finally caught him.
“That’s what you think,” he scoffed. “I’ve lived in that area since 1785. I seen them geysers and hotsprings way before anyone else, except the Shoshone. I’ve always kept to myself, and I didn’t make a name for myself. I’ve had some time to do some reading on my trips here to this time, and your history says John Colter was the first white man in the area. I can tell you that’s not true. I never even heard of John Colter before, and I’m pretty sure he was never in my neck of the woods.”
“So, how am I going to survive for three months on my own?” Aimee leaned toward him, intent to play along and continue the charade.
“Oh, I don’t think you’ll have to be on your own. It’s kinda hit and miss where you end up when I send you back there, but I usually end up within a couple of miles from where I left to come to this time. I don’t know why it always sends me to Los Angeles, but this is where I’ve always ended up when I move forward in time. And it’s always exactly 200 years, give or take a few weeks. But anyways, you’ll probably end up somewhere within a day’s walk of my cabin. It is located in a small valley where two rivers come together to form what Lewis and Clark named the Madison River.”
“You’re kidding, right?” Aimee’s eyes widened in disbelief. “I know that exact area. “There’s a campground there.”
“Well, that’s where my cabin is, and if you’re in luck, my son Daniel will be there. Sometimes he goes traipsyin’ around the mountains for weeks on end with his Indian brother.”
Zach must have misread the frown on her face for a worried look. He quickly added, “Don’t you worry none about Daniel. He may be rough around the edges, but he was educated in the east for several years, and he knows his manners. I’ve always taught him to be respectful of the ladies, because that’s how his mama would have raised him.”
“Does he know you’re a time traveler?” Aimee wondered.
“No, I ain’t never told him. And I ain’t goin’ ta, neither.”
“But yet you’re telling me,” Aimee prodded.

* * * *

Zach looked at her pretty face. She had the most bewitching blue eyes, and her hair was the color of buffalo grass in autumn, with some strands much lighter than others. It would reach halfway down her back if she untied her pony tail. He guessed she was probably no more than three or four inches taller than five feet, and she was very slender, with curves in all the right places.
For a moment he wondered if he was doing the right thing. He would be sending her to a dangerous place. He was quite sure the Shoshone wouldn’t bother her, and he hadn’t come across any Blackfoot lately, so he was reasonably sure she wouldn’t have any problems with them. His big concern was that she might run into another trapper, other than Daniel. Most of the men he knew were French trappers, and they went months without the company of a woman, unless they had an Indian wife.
The idea of a white woman in those mountains was actually ridiculous. And Miss Donovan would stand out like a sore thumb. At least his Marie could have passed for an Indian from a distance, with her dark hair. Even now, he felt a huge wave of regret and sorrow wash over him. He should have never brought her to the wilderness. It was just no place for a woman, as he had told Daniel many times. His son knew how he felt  about that.
Daniel had made the mistake of falling in love with a young lady back east while at school. She hadn’t returned his feelings, and looked down at his backwoodsman ways. Daniel had come back to the mountains swearing he would never fall for the charms of a female again, most of all the whites. His overall experience with white people had been quite limited, and Daniel seemed to have no interest to live in the white man’s world.  He had come close to marrying an Indian girl, but that had ended in tragedy. Even so, Daniel seemed quite content. Zach envied him that. At least his son would never have to experience the kind of pain he had gone through with the loss of Marie.
Zach was firmly convinced that Daniel would take good care of this little miss, if he found her. Which Zach had no doubt he would. Daniel always knew when there was someone in the area. He kept telling himself that he was doing this little lady a favor by letting her live the adventure of her dreams.
Besides, she seemed to be more equipped and schooled to handle it than his Marie had been. And it was only for a few months. With Daniel there to protect her, she would not come to any harm, otherwise he wouldn’t considered sending Miss Aimee to the wilderness. Of course, Daniel would be more than baffled at finding a white woman in his mountains, so how he would actually handle that situation, Zach did not know.
“Yeah, I’m telling you,” Zach responded to Aimee’s skeptical question. “You’re different that most folks I’ve met here, and something tells me this is the right thing to do. Just like it was the right thing for the old Indian to do for me when he let me in on the secret.”
“Okay, this I’ve got to hear,” Aimee said with renewed interest.
Zach cleared his throat, and began telling the story of how the old Indian had given him the time travel snakehead. When he finished, both his and Aimee’s eyes were moist.
“Um, I think it’s time you get some more rest, Mr. Osborne. Thank you for telling me your story, and I will think about what you told me.”
“Listen,” Zach said, his face turning somber, “this time travel business is not something I wish on anyone. I didn’t use it again for a long time after I brought Marie here. Don’t get me wrong. If it hadn’t been for the old Indian and the device, my son would be dead just like his mother, and I’m always gonna be grateful that he’s alive. But it ain’t natural to be livin’ in two different worlds.”
“Then why did you come back?” Aimee asked quietly.
“Because I was scared,” Zach said slowly. “I realized my heart was startin’ to give out some, and I kept thinkin’ that I had the means to get myself fixed up. Well, here I am. I’ve been back every summer when Daniel thinks I’m off in St. Louis. I come here to get doctored up and for some medicine, and then take care of business in my time. But it ain’t right. I’ve made up my mind that after this trip, I’m gonna get rid of the device. And no one else is gonna use it ever again. I ain’t got much time left, and I don’t want them doctors cuttin’ me open, neither. After meetin’ you, I just thought before I go, I want to do something good for someone else, and I’ve taken a shine to you.”
Zach smiled. Aimee smiled back. She seemed to be at a loss for words.
“I think you’re just the right kinda person who can handle this. You get to experience the wilderness like you want. It’ll be dangerous, make no bones about that. But a few months should be all right, if you’ve got someone to look out for ya. And Daniel will do that. ‘Course, you’ll have quite a time trying to tell him where you came from.” Zach chuckled. “I’d like to see the look on his face when he meets you. He plumb won’t know what to do.”
* * * *
Aimee had to get back to work. She felt a deep sorrow for this man, who had lost his wife twenty-five years ago, and was left to raise a baby on his own, if that part of the story was even true. How someone could drown so far in sorrow to actually believe in this alternate world he had created in his mind, she wasn’t sure. Psychology was not her field of expertise. She decided she would play along with Zach’s version of reality, and after his “unsuccessful” attempt to send her into the past, she would offer to get him some help.

Chapter 3

Aimee unlocked the door to her condo and wearily stepped inside. She tossed her purse and keys on the kitchen counter, then sank down on the couch in the living room with a long sigh. Norris, Jana and Aimee’s black and white cat immediately jumped in her lap and began to purr.
“Hey Norris, how are you, my friend?” Aimee stroked the cat’s head and ran her hand down his back and bushy tail. Petting the cat and hearing him purr always had a relaxing effect on her.
What a night!
Aimee had always known that going into nursing would be a difficult career choice, but she had never backed down from anything challenging. She went to college right after high school, absorbing herself in her studies, mainly to escape the reality of her own tragic past. Her parents had died not two months after her high school graduation. Coming home from a late-night party, their car was struck head on by a drunk driver. Instead of letting the grief swallow her up, Aimee had immersed herself in her studies and graduated top of her class in nursing school.
 She forced her sore and tired legs off the couch after a few minutes, knowing that if she stayed there much longer, she would fall asleep. Almost mechanically, she climbed the stairs to the bathroom, undressed, and turned on the shower. As the hot water soothed the tension out of her muscles, her thoughts drifted back to the bizarre conversations she had with her homeless patient, Mr. Osborne. In her mind, she kept asking the impossible, “What if….”
She began making a mental list of things she would want to pack for such a trip. It would be the ultimate challenge in wilderness survival, and she could plan ahead for it. What would one take? The only dilemma she had was that she wouldn’t be able to take all sorts of modern equipment with her. She would have to travel with a light pack.
“Oh, this is so stupid,” Aimee said out loud as she shampooed her hair, “Why am I even thinking about this?” But it was a fun mental challenge for her to come up with a list of items she would need that wouldn’t be too obvious.
Done with her shower, she slipped into a faded tshirt with several holes in it from obvious wear, and flannel pajama pants, then pulled out an old backpack from her closet, and started filling it with the items she had listed in her mind. She would need an extra pair of hiking pants, so she pulled out two pair of taupe green utility pants – one to wear and one to pack. She added several pairs of underpants, wool socks, a bra, two t shirts, and one wool sweater. She checked her traveling first aid kit for all her usual items she would take on a backpacking trip -  a  bottle of ibuprofen, several packs of  suture material, scissors, bandages, a small bottle of betadine, her vial of lidocaine, and sterile gauze. She added a small bar of soap, and traveler’s size shampoo and conditioner. Then she packed a small mirror, a compass, and a hairbrush.
“What food do I have here that I could take?” she thought out loud. She usually kept several freeze-dried packs of backpacking food on hand. She wasn’t sure if she should bring that – the packaging would definitely not be something to bring to the year 1810. She laughed out loud at the thought. This was more fun than she thought.
“Oh man, I need to get a few hours’ sleep,” she said to the empty room.  At that moment, her doorbell rang.
“How’s my girl?” Brad greeted her, pulling her into a tight embrace as she opened the door. He didn’t wait for an invitation, but pulled them both into the apartment, kissing her soundly.
 “I’m tired, Brad,” Aimee said, trying to escape from his embrace, and slightly annoyed. “I just got home a few minutes ago, and I need to get some sleep. What are you doing here?”
“I was hoping I could take you out to lunch,” Brad said.
“Gotta take a raincheck,” Aimee replied. “I’m too tired.”
“Is it my imagination, or have you been avoiding me lately,” he prodded. “It seems like every time I try and plan something to do, you’re too tired or busy with something else.”
“Sorry,” Aimee sighed. “I guess I’ve been a bit  preoccupied with planning Jana’s and my trip in a couple of weeks. I feel like a kid before Christmas. I always get anxious for the time to go by.”
“Yeah, well, about this trip.” Brad cleared his throat. “I was thinking that you should skip it this year. I mean, we just got engaged, and I was hoping you might want to take a vacation with me.” Brad stepped up to her again, and snaked his arms around her waist. He kissed her deeply as Aimee tried to free herself. She had a difficult time trying to slap his roving hands out from under her shirt.
“I wish you’d wear that silk teddy I bought you rather than these silly old clothes,” Brad said in a sultry tone. “You look like an old bag lady in these.”
“Well, they’re quite comfortable, and what I look like when I go to bed is no one’s business but mine,” Aimee said through gritted teeth. How was this happening? How had she let this man control her life so much that she had to defend her choice in sleepwear?
“You’re welcome to go camping with us,” Aimee offered, trying to change the subject. Finally she managed to slip out of Brad’s embrace.
“You know I don’t do that sort of thing,” Brad scoffed. “Why can’t you take a vacation with me? Anywhere you want to go,” he added as an enticement. He tried to snake his arms around her again, but Aimee moved quickly around the coffee table in the living room.
“I want to go to Yellowstone, and I want to sleep in a tent, have a campfire every night, and not have to see any people,” Aimee said impatiently. “You know this is important to me.”
“Are you planning to continue this activity after we’re married?” Brad queried. He started to sound annoyed.
“Oh, you bet I am,” Aimee said forcefully. She knew this conversation was bound to happen sooner or later, she just hadn’t expected it to be now. “I don’t think now is the time to have this discussion,” she said wearily.
“You’re right, but we will be discussing it over dinner tomorrow night,” Brad said dryly. Aimee felt like a little girl being reprimanded by her father.
“Fine,” she said, faking sweetness. She inhaled a deep breath. It was time to stand up to Brad and take charge of her own life again. She should have done this a long time ago. “We will discuss all the places I will not be going on vacation with you, and all the camping trips I will be taking, whether you will join me or not. If the discussion is going to be how I am not going to be doing the things I enjoy just because you don’t like them, you can save it,” Aimee’s temper was starting to get the better of her. “So, you can just think about the things you would like to say to me, and that they will include things such as how supportive you are of my passion for backpacking. Otherwise, you need to think long and hard about this engagement.”
“I can tell you’re getting upset,” Brad said in a tone used to soothe a child. It only infuriated Aimee more, but she took a deep breath and kept quiet.
“You seem a bit on edge.” Brad said. “Why don’t we go into the bedroom and I’ll rub that tension out of you, “ he smiled that charming smile that worked on all the nurses at the hospital.
It obviously worked on you, too, Aimee.
He stepped around the table caught her around the waist, pulling her down on the couch.
“Brad, please stop.” Aimee struggled and pushed against him with all her might as he positioned his body on top of her and pinned her beneath him. His hands groped under her shirt.
“Come on, baby,” Brad coaxed. “Every time we’re alone together you try to come up with an excuse. You’re going to be my wife, for God’s sakes. I’m going to want to make love to you more than once in a blue moon.”
“We’re not married yet,” Aimee argued, pushing her hands against his chest, and worming her way out from under him. “Get off me now, Brad. I mean it.”
Brad pulled away abruptly and stood up. “Fine,” he said stiffly.
Doreen was right.
Aimee realized that she needed to think about this really hard. The more she thought back on the last year with Brad, it became more clear to her than ever that he called all the shots, made all the decisions. She wondered how she could have possibly let that happen. She considered herself a person fully in control of her own life. She let a good-looking man sweep her off her feet and pulled the blinders over hear eyes.
As Aimee stood up from the couch and adjusted her shirt, Brad pulled her into his arms for a final kiss, then said, “I’ll pick you up tomorrow night at 7:00. Wear something sexy for me, will you? That black cocktail dress I bought you last month and some high heels would be nice, and put your hair up in that French twist style I like.” Without another word, he left.
With an exasperated sigh, Aimee headed for her bedroom. Why did she let this happen? Why do I let him tell me what to do all the time? Is that what being in love is supposed to feel like? Because I’m sure not feeling the bliss.
She crawled into her bed and pulled the covers over her head. Time-traveling to the past sounded really good right about now. Escape from reality. If only it were possible. She sat upright again, remembering to set her alarm for four hours from now. That would give her a nice nap, and then she would go back to the hospital and allow Mr. Osborne to make a fool of her.
On impulse, she removed the diamond engagement ring from her finger. She looked at it for several minutes, turning it in various directions to see the display of lights in the stone. She had made a decision. She was reclaiming her life.  She would not marry Brad Brigsby. What had been a girlish infatuation had become her prison. She picked up her phone and dialed Brad’s home number, knowing she would get the answering machine. Coward, she chastised herself. But right now she didn’t want another verbal confrontation. That would come later.
“Brad, I’m breaking my engagement to you. I’m not having dinner with you tomorrow night. You can come by to pick up your ring, or I’ll give it back to you at the hospital. Your choice. But I want something else out of life than you don’t, and I just don’t think I’m in love with you. I’m sorry.” Aimee kept her voice unemotional throughout the message. Then she turned her phone off on the off chance that Brad would call back. Feeling rather relieved, she climbed back in bed.
* * * *
Five hours later, dressed in a pair of taupe colored hiking pants, a blue t-shirt, and brown hiking shoes, Aimee checked the computer at the nurse’s station in ICU to see where Mr. Osborne had been moved to.  Luckily, she didn’t run into anyone she knew.  Her roommate Jana worked in ICU, and she didn’t want to run into her, either. This would be something they could laugh about later over a big bowl of triple chocolate fudge ice cream.
She found Zach’s room, and was thankful that it was a private cubicle. He looked up the moment she walked in. Obviously he’d been waiting for her.
“Okay, I’m here,” Aimee said. “I’m ready to get sent back in time.” There was a hint of humor in Zach’s eyes, and he nodded knowingly. He knows I’m not buying his story. “Will it hurt? Does it take long?”
“It’s really quick, and you don’t feel a thing. It’s kinda like passing out for a moment, and when you wake up, you’re there. I do need to give you a bit of advice before I send you off, though,” he said soberly.
“Okay.” Aimee shrugged.
“When you get there, find a place to hole up for a day and get your bearings. I need not remind you that, even if you think you know the area in your time, it probably ain’t gonna be the same. Maybe not that much different, but we have no roads in 1810. You gotta make your own trail, or stick to the deer trails.” Zach coughed. “Stay close to a water source, and make your way west. You should be near the vicinity of a large area of geysers and pools. There are hostile Indians the further south you go. I don’t think you’ll end up far enough south to get to the big lake – Yellowstone Lake, it’s called now. If that’s the case, you’ve gone way too far south, and you’ll have to be careful.” He paused, studying her face. Aimee waited for him to continue.
“When you meet up with Daniel, you’ll have to come up with a believable story of how you got there. That’ll be the fun part. The last white women he’s seen was in St. Louis over a year ago.”
Aimee listened silently. She couldn’t believe how deeply immersed he was in this fantasy. The way he talked, it actually sounded very real.
 “So you really think it’s a good idea for me to meet him and spend three months with him?” Aimee continued the charade. “How do you know he’ll let me stay?”
“Because he’ll know that you’d never make in on your own. If I wasn’t sure of that fact, I’d never put you in danger of sending you. But it’s summer, and for three months you should do fine, as long as you’re with Daniel. If it were any longer than that I would never even think of it, so rest assured that I will be back in three months to send you home. As soon as I’m done in St. Louis, I’ll come for you and send you back to your own time. After that, I’m getting rid of the device. No more time traveling.”
Zach stared at her long and hard, as if searching her face for a reaction. “This ain’t no picnic. I just want you to be sure you understand the dangers.”
“I understand, and I accept the challenge,” Aimee said brightly, then couldn’t help herself, and asked, “So, how is this going to work?” She wanted to get the charade over with. Maybe she could get back home in time for a few quality hours on the couch and some Chinese take-out before she had to be back for her shift at the hospital.
“Hand me my pouch there under my shirt.” Zach sat up and pointed at the small closet in the corner. “
Aimee picked up the red flannel shirt and found a leather pouch under it. She brought it over to Zach. He opened it and pulled out a knarly, ugly old… what was that thing?
“What is that?” Aimee asked, leaning in for a closer look. That’s when she recognized it as a snake’s head, with red glassy eyes.  “Is that your good-luck charm?” Aimee asked.
 “It’s what will take you back to the year 1810,” Zach said. “Now, like I said, I ain’t never tried this before. I need to keep this here snake with me, and at the same time send you back. I think it’ll work, if I hold on to the snake, and you put a finger on the eye.”
“Ok,” Aimee said, laughing. “And then what?”
“If all goes according to plan, you’ll wake up in the forest in Yellowstone.”
“I’m ready,” Aimee said firmly.
Zach gave her a hard look. “I know you’re just playing along with an old crazy man, but I ask you again, what are you going to do when you find out I told you the truth?”
“Then I guess I’d better hope I remember all my survival skills.” Aimee shrugged.
“All right, then, here we go, “ Zach took a deep breath. He held on firmly to the neck of the snake. He looked into her eyes. “If, for some reason, you still have this snake with you when you wake up, that means I’m stuck here in your time.”
“Okay,” Aimee said. “So, all I need to do now is press my finger over the eye, correct?”
“Have a safe trip, and I don’t want to find you dead when I come back to send you home, you hear?” Zach said. He looked as if he wanted to change his mind.  
Aimee inhaled deeply, and pressed her index finger to the glassy red eye of the snake. Instantly, everything in front of her vanished, and her world went black.


  1. I so enjoyed this, I didn't want the Yellowstone series to end and this just brought it all back to me. Maybe we could get a book six? Love your work!

    1. Thanks, Connie! I would love to keep the series going. Who knows? I might come back to it at some point. I've got a few other stories I'd like to explore for a while. So glad you enjoyed this series!

  2. So fantastic! I love having more of the back story to show some of the redeeming qualities of Zach. In your first book, he seems selfish and a bit manipulative. Here we see him as a loving husband, primarily concerned for the well-being of his wife and unborn child, as well as concern for a complete stranger (the old indian in the snow). Thank you so much for sharing this! ~ Barb O.

    1. Hey Barb,
      Zach's sympathetic side got cut in the editing, I'm afraid. Hopefully these chapters will let you see him in a different light.

    2. I actually kind of like the guy now! He seems much more like a friendly grandpa in the latest chapter! I can't wait to read more!

  3. Thank you for sharing this. I loved the Yellowstone series. This just helped to understand how it all started out better.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the series, Winona. It's always painful to cut things when writing, and these chapters, I was told, didn't need to be there. Too much back story.......but I'm happy that I can share these with you now, in this way.

  4. For me I would have loved to have had this part of Zack's story in the beginning . It was a great series and I also would like to read more from it, maybe in the future.... Thanks again for this look into Zack's beginning. Deanna P.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Deanna. When I first submitted this story, I was told by people who knew more about writing than I do that these chapters needed to go, that the prologue gave away too much of the mystery at the beginning, and that the hero and heroine needed to meet sooner than in (what would have been) chapter five. I tried to weave a lot of it back into the final book later on, but obviously it couldn't be told the way it is here in these chapters. It's always such a fine line, trying to balance how much back story to include, and what to leave out.

    2. Yellowstone Heart Song is my first book. One thing I have learned on this journey is to follow my own gut instinct, and although I weigh the opinions of others very carefully, I tend to be much less influenced by them in my writing now, and write the stories how I think they should play out.

    3. Peggy thus is the first book I have read of yours and I absolutely LOVEDIT!!I am gaining to continue reading the series just to see where it goes. I've dead some of the other comments here and was also wondering why you didn't include these chapters, but I understand now. Since this was your first book (as you said in one of your comments here) you did a fabulous job!!! Ive loved reading tome travel novels since instated reading (won't say how long lol, this was by far the BEST one I have ever read. I've got a little book I write authors names in that I discover, especially when I find a new author that writes a suburb novel. (I don't remember names so well now that I have MS) And I definitely want to read more from you. Splendid job this this book!! I'll be sure to leave this as a review to this book, Yellowstone Heart Song (I had to look the name up, told you about the memory thing lol)


    4. Thank you so much, Tina! Glad you enjoyed the story and these chapters. :D

  5. I just finished reading book 3. I have read 3 books in 3 days!! I am so excited to read book 4 tomorrow!! Your writing is wonderful. I love how you keep the family involved in each book. I so loved hearing more about Chase and Sarah!

    I am so looking forward to reading your Second Chance series as soon as I finish the Yellowstone series!!

    Thank you for such good books!!

    1. Hi Sharon,
      thank yo so much for taking the time to comment on the blog. I'm thrilled to hear that you are enjoying the books. (and a huge thank you for leaving reviews on Amazon! I'm making an assumption that the reviewer named Sharon is you!) Please keep in touch.


    2. YEP!! It was I Peggy!! I have now finished all of them!! I loved them. I would have loved to have know what happened when Dan Osborne's boss returned to modern day!

  6. I just now found this Prologue. Thanks for publishing it. I enjoyed it. The first book in the series was my favorite but I loved them all!

  7. I so loved this series of time travel historical romances. I read all 5 in less than a week. I just couldn't stop reading them. I just stumbled on this site and read this Prologue. Thank you! I am so enjoying reading more about the Yellowstone series. I also just finished Book 1 of the second chances time travel romance series, Come Home To Me. I'm looking forward to Book 2. I guess it's not finished yet. While I'm waiting for Ain't No Angel, I just purchased and downloaded Book 1 of the Teton Romance Trilogy. I can't wait to start reading it. I love your writing. It feels like I'm living in the story.
    Thank you,
    P.S.: I also "Liked" your FB page :-)

    1. Hi Brenda,

      Thanks for stopping by over here on the blog as well as on the FB page! What a great start to my day! Thank you so much for the nice comments.
      Book 2 in Second Chances (Ain't No Angel), and the final book in the Teton Trilogy, will hopefully be finished before the year is over.


  8. I've just finished book 1, and naturally I had to buy book 2 to see what happened next. Now I need to get the rest of the series, as I know I'll "have" to buy them too! Love your writing skills.

    1. Hi Deb,

      Thanks so much for stopping by! So glad you enjoyed Heart Song. I hope you like the rest of the series.

  9. Good morning, I just found you and finished the first book-read it twice so I wouldn't miss anything. Found your blog-and wow this should have been part of the book for sure-surprised it was not included-but so happy I found this-
    I just purchased the rest of the books last night-totally loved this story, if I had the chance to go back in time this is where I would want to go, my mind is always back in this time period-Merry Christmas

  10. Really enjoyed this story. Looking forward to getting another one.

    Larry Wilson

  11. I just finished Yellowstone Heart Song and it was amazing!! I can't wait to read the rest of the series.

    1. Thank you, Donna! So glad you enjoyed Heart Song! :D

  12. Thank you for sharing I look forward to the rest of thier srory.