Stone Cold Cowboy

By: Jennifer Ryan

The horse made it up to the rise and he scanned the area, making sure the bastards who took his cows and did this to Sadie weren’t near. He pulled his cell from his back pocket and swiped his thumb across the screen. Great, not only was his battery at twenty-four percent, but he had only one bar. Even if the call went through, it would probably be dropped.

“Come on, give me one small break,” he said to the sky, knowing his chances were slim.

He hit the speed dial for the ranch, hoping his grandfather or one of his brothers actually picked up.

“Yo, what’s up?”

Rory had never been happier to hear Colt’s voice. “Grab some blankets, the first aid kit, and hall ass down to Miner’s Road where it cuts close to the creek. You know the place?”

“What the hell happened? Why are you way out there in the boondocks?”

“Don’t ask questions, just get moving, or a woman is going to die.” He hated to speak his worst fear. Her still body, shallow breathing, and utter quiet sent fear shivering through him that had nothing to do with the dropping temperature.

“On my way. Need anything else?”

“Water. Hurry the hell up. Break every speed law you ignore anyway.” Giving in to the desperation gnawing at his insides, he begged, “Please, Colt. Hurry the hell up.”

“On it.” Colt hung up. Rory lit a fire under him. Rory hoped Colt got there before things got worse.

“Come on, Sadie, hold on. Help is coming.”

He nudged his horse down the hill. Since Sadie passed out, which only made him worry more, he kicked the horse into a trot. He’d beat Colt to the meeting point, but he needed to get Sadie off his horse and check her wounds again. He glanced down at her bruised face. Whoever did this hit her. He didn’t tolerate others who got off on teasing or hurting other people. It wasn’t right to make others feel bad for any reason, but especially because you thought you could get away with it. This went beyond anything he’d ever seen or thought could happen to a person. To string her up like that, using the barbed wire they’d cut from his own fence lines. Bastards. He wanted to get his hands on them and make them pay.

Rory halted the horse by the road, noting the cow and horse tracks, along with the deep ruts from the trucks and trailers that hauled away his herd. He kind of wished the thieves were here so he could teach them a lesson about hurting innocent women. He’d like to show them how much the kind of torture they inflicted on her hurt. Whoever did this to her liked cruelty. Rory vowed to take him down, because no way in hell Rory let him get away with hurting Sadie, or anyone else.

He turned his focus back to the woman in his arms. He gave in to the strange need overtaking him and pressed his cheek to her head and hugged her close.

“Help will be here soon.” Hurry the hell up, Colt.

Sadie’s legs hung over his arm. Her feet remained bundled in his scarf, but her legs had to be cold. He swung his leg over the horse’s neck and slid off the saddle, landing hard on the ground. It wasn’t easy, but he managed to untie the saddlebags and toss them to the ground. He turned and pressed Sadie’s legs to the horse’s side, hoping the heat from the animal and him would warm her up even more. The cold breeze blew against his back. If he was this uncomfortable, he could only imagine how Sadie felt tied up and hanging in the biting wind, practically naked, for God knew how long.

Torn from his dark thoughts by the sound of an engine, he stared down the road as Colt skidded around the bend, driving way too fast. Thank God for little brothers who like to live on the edge because they haven’t learned they aren’t invincible. Colt made him worry far too often, but today he’d take his brother’s devil-may-care attitude.

Colt hit the brakes, and the truck slid to a stop feet from him. Rory pulled Sadie close as his horse shied away. Rory rushed Sadie to the back of the truck. Colt let down the tailgate, spread one of the thick blankets, and Rory laid Sadie down, tucking her legs up on the bed of the truck.

“Open that medic kit. Pull out the bandages and gauze,” he ordered his brother, who stared down at Sadie, not saying a word.

Rory slapped him on the shoulder. “Colt. Move.”

Colt got busy, basically dumping the contents and sorting through them. Rory pulled open the jacket, undid his tied shirt, and pulled the bloody swatch off her side. The ride had been hard on her, tearing open the cut and making it bleed freely again.

“Holy fucking shit, what the hell happened?” Colt asked, finally finding his tongue.

“Some twisted fuck hung her from a tree with barbed wire.”

“Is that what all those holes and scratches in her are?”

“Yes,” Rory bit out the single word, trying to hold on to his temper. Every time he saw the wounds, his fury surged, but with no outlet, it burned in his gut.

Rory took the thick gauze pad and pressed it to Sadie’s side, staunching the blood.

“That’s not from the wire,” Colt said.

“No. I think they used a knife.”

“Someone punched her in the face.” Colt’s words held a world of sympathy.

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