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A hand settled on his shoulder and shook him. He groggily moaned and tried to open his eyes. The bright sun blinded him until his father leaned over and blocked the light as he stared down at Dane.
“Are you okay, son? Is anything broken?”
“My head hurts. Ankle, too, but nothing is broken but my pride. I fell off my damn horse.”
“Okay, now. I’ll get you home. Can you get up?”
“I think so.” Dane pressed his hands down at his sides and rose to sitting. The wet piece of fabric fell from his head and landed on his bare belly, along with the blue feather that fluttered into his lap. “Where is she?”
“Dane, no one is here.”
“She helped me. She’s got to be around here somewhere.”
“There’s no one for miles.”
“How did you find me?”
“Your horse came home without you. I know you like to ride along the river, so I followed your trail.” His dad cocked his head, his eyes taking on a thoughtful gleam. “I did think I heard you whistle for me.”
“I passed out.”
“Must have been the wind in the trees.”
Dane didn’t think so. He pinched the end of the feather between his thumb and index finger and stared at it. He scanned the riverbank and out toward the hills. He didn’t see her anywhere. He didn’t understand the way his chest went tight and the sadness that overtook him. Nothing but his regret that he didn’t get to thank her or say goodbye. He never got her name.
His dad held out his hand. Dane took it. His father pulled him up, and Dane stood on his good leg. He tested out his twisted ankle. The slight pressure sent a bolt of pain up his leg.
“How’s your vision?”
“You did a good job using your shirt to bind that ankle and staunch the bleeding on your head.”
“I didn’t. She did.”
His father eyed him, shaking his head side to side. “Dane—”
“I’m telling you, Dad, there was a girl. She helped me.”
“Okay, son. I believe you, but I didn’t see anyone out here with you. I don’t know where she could have gone. We’re in the middle of nowhere.”
Which was the reason Dane liked it out here so much. Still, how did she get out here, and where did she go?
He lifted himself up into the saddle and grabbed the reins on the horse his father brought back for him to ride. He kept his eyes trained, searching the entire area the whole way back home, but he saw nothing, no one.
Dane went back to the spot beside the river more than a dozen times, looking for his dark-haired, blue-eyed angel. He never found her, but he’d never forget her either.