Putting it all on the line for love…
Cowboy musician Tyler Garrett has a once-in-a-lifetime chance to put aside his rough-and-tumble rancher’s lifestyle and realize his dream. He’s on the road to Dallas to record a demo when that dream gets kicked sideways by a beautiful woman on the run.Leah Benson will do whatever it takes to keep her daughter safe. But when her dangerous past catches up with her, she needs a hero—and luckily for her, Tyler Garrett was born and bred for the role.
Leah stood as if frozen, gripping a handful of papers to her breast. She couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t think. She couldn’t feel.
The sound of the diesel motor starting up ripped into her soul like a chainsaw. If her feet could move, she might run outside and beg Ty to stay, but that was not an option. He had already given his time and energy to helping her and her family in so many ways she couldn’t keep track of them. Now, she had to be strong enough to let him go.
She willed her taut muscles to relax. To feel the flow of energy return to her extremities. To be able to breathe, and think, and move.
Sucking in a lungful of air, she blew it out forcefully. She didn’t cry. No, that wouldn’t do at all. She owed it to him to be more of a woman at his departure than she was when he had arrived in her life.
A strangled sound escaped her throat. She swallowed hard. No. None of that. I will be strong.
She swallowed and fumbled with the documents she held. Her fingers felt clumsy and wooden, but she managed to place her papers on the desk. It was almost time to lock up and go home, but she slumped into her chair, staring off into the corner. She slipped away from her surroundings and relived every moment of her life that Ty had touched.
She recalled when he had first bought a meal for her and Gracie. How fearful and wary she had been. And then when he’d caught up to her on the road in the broken down car. He never hesitated to do the right thing. To offer a hand. To be a hero.
She swiped at a tear that rolled down her cheek. “No!” she said aloud, startled at the sound of her own voice rebounding back from all the hard surfaces. “No,” she whispered.
It was after five o’clock and she could escape, but she was reluctant to return home and see the faces of both Gran and Gracie. What would they think? Did they know already?
Biting her lip, she groped for the keys and for her small bag. She pushed her chair up tight to the desk and turned out the lights. She locked up, noting the sign in the window and a reflection in the glass gazing back at her. A distraught woman. A victim.
No! Her voice shouted in her head. I am not a victim.
Straightening her spine, she stomped off to her car and threw herself inside. Not a victim. Never again a victim. Slamming the door, she stuck the key in the ignition and started the car, revving the motor too hard. People on the sidewalk turned to stare at her. Embarrassed, she backed out and quickly pulled into the street wanting to escape the questioning gazes. By the time she reached the edge of town, she could almost breathe. The tightness in her chest was abating, only to be replaced by a hollow ache.
How could I fall in love with him when I knew he was just passing through? How could I be so stupid? She hammered herself with recriminations all the way back to the ranch. She turned onto the caliche road and slowed to turn into Gran’s drive.
Her throat closed up when she saw the empty space where Ty had parked his big red truck…and the horse trailer was missing too. Of course he would take his prize horse. She felt as if she were choking, as she coasted to a stop. She turned off the vehicle and sat for a moment, gathering her courage. Okay, I can do this. I can’t let Gracie see me this way. She stepped out of the car, just as the screen door burst open and Gracie came running out.Gracie threw herself at Leah, grabbing her neck with both arms, the cast encircling her like a vise. “Mommy! Mommy! Guess what?”
The screen door banged again and two dogs came running after Gracie.
“What?” Leah managed weakly.
“Ty had to go to Dallas.”
Leah squatted down in the dirt to embrace her daughter. Eddie came up to lick her arm and jump up against Gracie. Lucky came on the other side and sat beside her.
“And he said he thought I was responsible enough to take care of Lucky, so I’m baby-sitting him.”
The weight of this announcement hit her like a fist. Leah blinked rapidly. “He left his dog?”Gracie nodded furiously.
Leah glanced from Gracie to Lucky and back again. “Oh,” she whispered. “He’s coming back! He’s really coming back.” She collapsed in a heap, falling on her rear in the dust and taking Gracie with her. Both dogs clustered around, poking her with their cold noses and giving her reassuring licks. She lay on her back, staring up at the early evening sky with a big grin on her face, tears of joy rolling into her hair. Just like that, everything changed.
“Mommy, what’s wrong?” Gracie stared at her with concern.
“Nothing, Baby. Nothing at all.”