Home > Saving Liliana

Saving Liliana
Author: Elle James

 

CHAPTER 1

 

 

“I’m not here to make empty promises. I’m here because I care what happens to our country, our great state of Wyoming and the people who live here. You are why I’m campaigning for U.S. Congress. I promise to represent you and what you want for our country, state and people of all races. I’m Liliana Lightfeather, born and raised here in Wyoming, one hundred percent American and one hundred percent Shoshone. I will represent you. Please, get out and vote for the one person who will have your best interests at heart.” Liliana stood tall, her shoulders back, chin held high, projecting the confidence needed to win the election.

Back when she’d been a struggling high school student, if anyone had asked her whether she’d ever run for a political office, she would have said no way in hell. Yet here she was a dozen years later, doing just that. If the polls were right, she had a real chance at winning the election. She just had to keep up the momentum until election day, which meant traveling all over the state, connecting with her constituents, and thus, putting a face to the name on the ballot.

She smiled, answered questions and finally held up her hand. “Thank you for coming out to greet me. Please, vote. If not for me, then for the candidate of your choice. It’s important for every voice to be heard.”

She turned and started down the steps of the outdoor stage, waving with one hand and holding the handrail with the other.

When Liliana was only halfway down the steps, the stage behind her exploded. The force of the blast sent her flying down the remainder of the wooden steps, where she landed on the pavement and skidded on her hands and knees before coming to a full stop, face-down on the asphalt.

Women screamed, and people ran past her.

Liliana lay still, trying to make sense out of what had tossed her to the ground. When she lifted her head, blood trickled down her forehead into her eye. She pushed to a sitting position and brushed the blood away, touching her fingers to its source. Her hands and knees burned, and her new black suit jacket was torn at the elbow.

“Liliana!” Amanda Small ran toward her and dropped down to her knees. “Are you all right? Oh, sweetie, you’re bleeding. Her friend and fellow tribeswoman fumbled in her handbag, pulled out her cell phone and punched in three numbers. “Yes, this is Amanda Small. I’m at the Riverton town square. There’s been an explosion. Please, send an ambulance. ASAP!”

Liliana laid her scraped hand on her friend’s arm. “I don’t need an ambulance. I’m okay.”

Amanda frowned, her phone still at her ear. “Good. The sooner they get here, the better.” She ended the call and looked at Liliana. “First responders are on their way.” She dug in her purse again, pulled out a small package of tissues, tore it open and pressed one to the wound on Liliana’s forehead.

Liliana winced. “Ouch.”

Amanda grimaced. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to cause you more pain. Just trying to stop the bleeding.” She gripped Liliana’s hand and lifted it to the tissue over the wound. “Apply steady pressure. The bleeding should stop soon. And we need to get you somewhere safe.”

Liliana pressed gently on the tissue as she glanced around at the thinning crowd. “Is anyone else hurt? We should get everyone away from the stage. We don’t know if that was the only explosion.”

A man was helping one of the members of the tribal council up from the ground. The councilman appeared dazed but able to stand on his own.

After a quick inventory and test of all her limbs, Liliana lurched to her feet.

“Normally, I’d say you shouldn’t get up, but I don’t want to stand around and wait for something else to go explode,” Amanda said. “I worry, that you hit your head. What if you’ve suffered an injury to your spinal cord?”

“I’m okay,” Liliana said, stepping past Amanda and heading for the injured older man she recognized as Bill Running Bear.

“Bill, are you okay?” she asked.

He nodded and winced, touching a hand to his head. “What happened?”

A member of the tribal police force hurried forward. “Someone set off explosives beneath the stage.” He nodded toward the platform Liliana had been standing on moments before. “Everyone needs to move away from the stage.”

“Wow,” Amanda said, her eyes wide as they moved away from the blast zone. “If you’d talked a few minutes longer, that could’ve been you.” She lifted her chin toward the rubble that was left of the wooden stage that had been erected for Liliana’s campaign speech.

The blood rushed from Liliana’s head, and her knees wobbled.

“Thank you for being brief and to the point,” Amanda whispered.

The tribal police officer nodded. “A long-winded candidate wouldn’t have survived that. Or, at the very least, would’ve been terribly hurt.”

Liliana shook her head and regretted it immediately. She raised a hand to pinch the bridge of her nose. “Who would do such a thing?”

A siren sounded, increasing in volume as it neared the center of town where they’d set up amid the craft show that always accompanied the annual county fair at the edge of town.

Liliana’s vision blurred, and she swayed.

Amanda brought her arm up around her waist. “Steady. You are definitely going to see a doctor. You were one of the closest to the explosion.”

“I’m okay,” Liliana insisted, though her voice didn’t hold as much conviction as she’d have liked. “I’m just sick.”

Amanda turned her head left and right. “Let’s find you a place to sit.”

“Not that kind of sick.” Liliana sighed. “I’m sick that because someone decided to sabotage my stage, others have been injured.”

“You didn’t set off the explosion. Sweetie, this wasn’t your fault,” Amanda said.

“I know that, but the people injured were gathered to see me. I feel responsible, even if I didn’t set those charges. Because I was here, I endangered the lives of those good people who came to hear me talk.”

Amanda’s lips pressed into a thin line. “This isn’t the first time someone has tried to sabotage your campaign.”

Liliana sighed. “I know. I gave the curtain collapse in that theater in Casper the benefit of the doubt.”

“Then the sprinkler system going off in the conference center in Laramie…” Amanda reminded her.

Her fist tightened. “That could’ve been faulty sensors or something.” Liliana shook her head. “But this—”

“Was a downright deadly attack that could’ve gotten someone killed,” Amanda finished, her frown deepening. She lifted her cell phone and scrolled through her contacts.

“Who are you calling now?” Liliana wanted to know.

“I’m calling in the big guns,” she said, her voice steely, her expression resolute.

Liliana shook her head, the motion causing her to sway dizzily. “What big guns?”

“The Brotherhood Protectors.”

Liliana’s eyes narrowed. “The group of mercenaries Carter works with?”

Amanda’s tight countenance softened.

A stab of envy hit Liliana square in the gut. Her friend, Amanda, had fallen for Carter Manning, a former Navy SEAL, working with a group of mercenaries out of West Yellowstone, Montana, the Brotherhood Protectors.

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