The Cowboy Rescues a Bride (Page 32)

The Cowboy Rescues a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #7)(32)
Author: Cora Seton

“I’ll get some of that soup.”

“Great,” Ned said absently. He half-listened to her move about the kitchen, the distant clang of pots and dishes forming a backdrop for his thoughts. Was there a better way to get the snow off the roof? A better tool to use to break through the ice?

“Do you want tea?” Fila appeared around the doorframe. “I found some in the—”

With a roar like a tidal wave, the cabin shook, nearly pitching Ned from his bed. He held onto its frame for dear life as Fila lurched forward, fell to her knees and clung to the chair by his bedside.

“What is it?” she shouted.

“The roof.” Ned reached for her. The part over the living room was caving in. Any minute the rest of it would come down. “Fila!”

She clawed closer, grabbing his hand as another crash shook the foundation. Ned leaned over the edge of the bed and wrapped his arms around her, trying to shield her from falling debris, clenching his jaw against the pain in his thigh at every movement and shudder from the house.

“Fila!”

She reared up and caught the oil lamp just as it spun off the bedside table. Ned could barely see through the cloud of dust that swirled around them. The last thing he wanted was a trail of oil leading right to them. Luckily it was daylight and the lamp wasn’t lit. As the horrible sounds subsided, he held his breath, waiting for the next crash—the last one—as their haven disintegrated. He couldn’t see out the door to the hall anymore, but the bedroom remained intact.

So far.

Fila’s breath was coming in short pants. He wondered how much time they had left; would the rest of the building collapse in a minute? An hour?

They had to get out of here. Fast.

Chapter 19

“Are you okay?” Ned asked.

Fila got to her feet shakily. “Yes.” Splintered lumber filled the hallway. Without him asking, she approached the doorway and shook her head. “It’s blocked.” Blocked under tons of wreckage. The hall gone, the living room gone. The kitchen, where she’d stood just moments ago—destroyed. She was shaking as she turned back to face him.

“We’ll have to go out the window.” Ned threw back the covers.

“Our coats—”

“Forget the coats. The rest of this place could go any second. Hand me my crutches.”

She set the lamp down and did so, hovering around him as he got up. As they made their way to the window, Fila scooped up their duffel bags. “It’ll only take a second to throw them out the window,” she said when he glared at her.

“That second could be our last.” But when they reached the generous window, he helped her open it, pushed out the screen and tossed the luggage out in a matter of moments. “You next.”

“What about you?” The beams above their head groaned, silencing them both.

“Get out the damn window.” Ned held back the curtain as best he could. Since the room was at ground level, it was nothing to Fila to climb up and over the sill. Ned was a different matter. He handed her the crutches, sat carefully on the sill and pulled his good leg up and over.

“I’m here,” Fila said, bracing herself under his shoulders. “Just pull back as carefully as you—”

The remainder of the roof gave way with an enormous groan. Fila shrieked and hauled back on Ned. He pitched out of the window backward, bowled her over and landed on top of her. “Sonofa—” Ned writhed in pain on the cold ground as Fila fought her way out from underneath him. Wasting no time, she gripped under his arms and pulled with all her might.

Even in his pain, Ned seemed to know what she was trying to do. He kicked with his good leg, pushing against the frozen ground, helping her move him clear of the remaining cabin walls, in case they should give, too.

When they were clear, Fila dropped him and Ned didn’t protest. They were both too busy gasping for breath. Ned was as pale as the snow soaking through the slippers she’d put on when she’d last taken off her boots. One look at the cabin told her they’d barely escaped with their lives.

“Now what do we do?” She peered around them frantically. The cold was already seeping through her clothes. She had to get Ned up before he was soaked to the bone. His torn sweatpants flapped in the freezing breeze, exposing his leg to the elements.

“We have to get to the Fitzgeralds. The neighbor’s place,” he went on, seeing her bafflement.

“Where is it?” She looked around her at the thick woods and the truck still upside down near the driveway.

“About seven miles up that lane.”

Seven miles.

How the hell was he going to walk seven miles through the snow, on crutches, with a broken leg—barefoot? Already his feet, hands and ass were going numb, a strange counterpart to the fire burning where the break had occurred. Waves of pain washed through him at uneven intervals, making his stomach uncertain. He pushed down his nausea as Fila rushed forward to drag their luggage farther away from the devastated cabin and quickly rummaged through the bags, bringing up handfuls of clothes.

“We have to stay warm and dry, no matter what we do. That’s the most important thing.” She pulled out several shirts and sweaters for him. Ned knew she was right and he quickly sat up to don them, grimacing at the pain, even as she found more layers for herself.

“You came prepared,” he grunted. He watched her swathe herself in several long-sleeved T-shirts, a couple of sweaters and a fleece.

“I was cold all the time back in the village.” She rummaged further in her bag and pulled out a pair of men’s house slippers. “I found these in the closet in my room. I was going to give you a lecture about not wearing them at home instead of your muddy boots.”

He took them from her. “My mom gave them to me last Christmas. I never wear these things.”

“You’ll wear them now.”

He shrugged. “Sure, but they’ll soak through in a couple of minutes.”

She shook her toiletries out of several plastic shopping bags. When she caught him looking, she blushed. “I don’t have your little pretty zipper bags,” she said defensively. “I didn’t even have a suitcase before Autumn gave me this one. Didn’t have anything to put in it before she bought me clothes.”

“I know. What are those for?”

She pulled out two brightly colored hair ties and brought everything over to him. “Put on two pairs of dry socks, the slippers, and then wrap the bags around your feet and fasten them with the hair ties. Hurry. You’re getting wet and it’s getting colder.”