Stone Cold Cowboy

By: Jennifer Ryan

“Hand me that tape. Let’s get her patched up and to the hospital.”

They worked in silence, unwrapping and rewrapping her wrists with clean bandages. Colt took one foot; he took the other.

“This is inhumane.” Colt shook his head, dabbing at the caked, dried blood on Sadie’s thigh.

“Just do the best you can for now. They’ll clean her up at the hospital.”

“I called Ford, told him you needed help. Take the truck. I’ll take your horse back to the ranch. Ford and I will meet you at the clinic.”

“You don’t need to come. I’ve got this.”

“We’ll meet you there.”

Rory nodded. Since their parents died, even before but especially since, they did everything together. None of them went through anything alone. He appreciated his brothers’ support and understanding.

With Sadie tended to the best they could for now, he bundled her in the blanket and carried her to the passenger side of the truck. Colt opened the door and he stood on the running board and slid her in headfirst. Colt pulled out the blanket from the floorboard and shook it out. Rory took it and tucked it over and around Sadie.

“She’s out cold,” Colt said.

“Exhaustion. She’ll do better once she’s had some rest.” Rory spotted the bottles of water on the floorboards. He grabbed one, uncapped it, and held Sadie’s head up again. “Drink some water, sweetheart.” He tipped the bottle to her lips. Again, she sputtered, but drank a few ounces.

He laid her back down, drank the rest of the bottle himself, then jumped out of the truck and closed the door.

Colt peeled off his jacket and the thick flannel he wore underneath. He held the dark blue and white plaid out to Rory. “Take this. It’ll be too small, but at least you’ll have something to wear.”

Rory stuffed his arms into the sleeves. If he flexed too much, he’d probably tear the material. He pulled the sides together and barely managed to button the thing at his sternum. No way he buttoned it across his chest.

“You look like the Hulk in that thing,” Colt teased.

Rory couldn’t even muster a smile at the stupid joke. “Take my horse back. It’ll be a long ride, and I’m sorry for that.”

“No worries. I got this.”

“Swing by Sadie’s place on your way to town. Tell her father what happened and where she is.”

Rory ran around the truck, hopped into the driver’s seat, started the engine, and turned the heat up to warm him and Sadie, though she was bundled well in the blankets. Rory turned the truck and headed down the road, Colt already in the saddle and riding back home.

Rory drove like the devil was after him. He sped past other vehicles, ignoring the honks when he cut things too close between a slow car and oncoming traffic. He didn’t care if the cops came after him; he needed to get Sadie to the clinic. With that thought in mind, he pulled out his phone, scrolled through his contacts to his grandfather’s favorite doctor, and hit the call button.

“Dr. Bowden.”

“Bell, it’s Rory.”

“Hey, Rory, how is Sammy? Everything okay?”

“Granddad is fine. Ornery as ever. Are you at the clinic?”

“Yeah, I get off in an hour.”

“I’m on my way. I need you to get ready for a woman I’m bringing in. She’s suffering from hypothermia. She’s got three deep cuts that will need stitching. She’s covered head to toe with puncture wounds from being tied up with barbed wire. Her wrists and ankles are raw and bleeding badly. She was hung from her hands, so her wrists and shoulders are sore. Maybe she’s got some pulled muscles and tendons, I don’t know.”

“Got it. Is she awake and lucid?”

“No. Not really. I’ve got her warm now, but I don’t know how long she was hanging there.”

“Oh God, Rory. Okay. I’ll get everything ready for when you arrive. How far out are you?”

“Twenty minutes.” A long fucking time in Sadie’s case. She must be in so much pain. The thought drove him to push the gas pedal harder, drive faster, regardless of the danger. “They hit her, Bell. They cut her. She’s in bad shape.” The words came out softer than he intended since he could barely choke out the words past the lump in his throat, but Bell heard him.

“I’ll take care of her, Rory.” Bell’s calm assurance bolstered his waning confidence that he’d gotten to her in time.

“Thanks, Bell. I’ll be there soon.” Choked up, he disconnected the call. He reached down to touch Sadie’s shoulder to reassure her in some small way, but he pulled his hand back, afraid to touch her and disturb any of her wounds. In the end, his unusual need to comfort made him brush his fingers through her long blond hair. She stirred beside him, tilting her head into his soft touch. He did it more, hoping that small comfort gave her strength to get through this. Her small bloody hand reached out from the blanket and settled on his thigh. He pressed his hand over hers and swore he’d keep her safe from now on. No one would ever hurt her again.

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