Stone Cold Cowboy

By: Jennifer Ryan

Tony left without another word and without bringing his gaze up from his toes.

The devil dude glared at her. “You’ve cost me a lot of time.” He wound the wire around her hips, then around one thigh several times and across to go around the other. The wire bit into the knife wound, making it bleed even more. Tighter and tighter he bound her legs until he had her feet wrapped so tight her ankle bones ground against each other.

He tossed the rest of the wire to the ground at her feet. He pulled the knife out again and held it up in front of her. The waning sunlight glinted off the already bloody blade. Her heart stopped. She didn’t dare breathe or take her gaze from the deadly weapon and the man who liked to use it.

He jabbed her in the gut with his fist and the air whooshed out of her. She tried to suck in a breath, but ended up coughing before she could refill her lungs. She prayed he didn’t hit her again.

“If you somehow manage to get out of this, you say one word to anyone, I’ll hunt you down and make this”—he pointed the knife up and down her bloody body—“feel like a hug compared to what I’ll do to you next time.”

“Please, let me down. You can’t leave me here.”

The sharp point of the knife dug into her side between two ribs, piercing her skin, but not sinking deep. Damn, those shallow punctures hurt like hell. Exactly his intention. He pushed, sending her swinging and the knife slipping free. Lucky for her, he didn’t hold the knife there for her to swing back into.

“Pray the cold gets you before the wolves.” The devil dude lived up to his wicked tat with that parting shot.

“You can’t leave me here,” she screamed at his retreating back. “Help me! Connor, you can’t leave me here,” she bellowed. “Connor!”

She waited, hoping he’d do the right thing for once. For her. She’d saved him so many times. This time, she needed him.

The wind whipped up again, pushing against her back. Not a sound reached her. From her place on the hill and behind the cover of trees, she couldn’t see the valley, the cows, or even her brother.

No one came.

He didn’t come.

Tears spilled down her cheeks. She shook with the sobs wracking her body.

I’m going to die here.

Not one to give in easily, she wiggled, trying desperately to get free. Her toes barely touched the dirt. The more she moved, the more dirt she displaced, until she hung with no purchase on the ground. If he wanted to torture her, he’d picked the perfect way to do it. The more she moved, the worse things got. The wires bit into her skin, sending fresh dribbles of blood down her body. The cut on her side bled freely down her stomach, soaking her panties. She couldn’t hold up her weight, so her body dragged her down, making her wrists and shoulders ache.

A branch snapped. Her gaze shot up. The devil dude stood ten yards away with her clothes tucked under his arm. He shook his head and smiled. He liked making her crazy, seeing her struggle, and knowing she didn’t have a chance in hell of getting out of this alive.

She stared him down, not letting him see the fear growing inside her anymore. She used what little strength she had left to curse the bastard. “I hope those Kendricks find you. I hope Rory Kendrick finds you. Then you’ll be sorry. You’ll see. He’ll make you pay.”

Yeah, Rory would make him pay for the cows. Who would make him pay for what he’d done to her? No one. She’d die here abandoned by her brother and alone.


Rory followed the tracks in the mud. After four hours in the saddle, his anger simmered. If he caught up to the men who’d stolen his cattle, he’d kill them just for making him chase them across his land and that of two neighbors. He’d noticed the thefts over the last three months. It started off slow. A couple cattle here. A few more there. At first he’d thought it nothing but strays working their way deep onto the property. He’d eventually find them. That all ended when, on a part of the property they rarely used, he spotted truck and trailer tire tracks on an old dirt fire road that wound its way out to the highway. If his guess was right, whoever stole his herd today was headed for another rarely used road and a bunch of cattle trucks. If he didn’t catch up to them soon, they’d get away and he’d never find out who’d been stealing from him and his family.

The cold wind pushed him and his tired horse forward. He pulled his coat tighter around his chest, thankful he’d remembered his gloves and hat. When he started out looking for the cattle, he never expected to ride this far and long. He craved a hot cup of coffee and a bowl of chili. His empty stomach grumbled with the thought.

The wind shifted direction and blew down from the hills to his right. His horse slowed and shied, stepping back several steps and turning to face the hill. Rory searched for any sign of a predator that might have spooked the horse. He didn’t see anything, but he did notice the muddled tracks in the dirt. Several horses had converged at this point. He spotted human tracks. Three men and either a younger teen or a woman, judging by the smaller shoe prints.

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