The Cowboy Rescues a Bride (Page 36)

The Cowboy Rescues a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #7)(36)
Author: Cora Seton

Her words didn’t make sense. Ned’s world had diminished into a small circle of his aching head and the sharp, stabbing pain in his leg. Waves of nausea washed over him. He wanted to curl up, but he couldn’t move his body that way. He wanted to thrash, but every jostle of his leg threatened to send him unconscious. He was dimly aware of Fila racing off again and returning several minutes later. She fiddled with the splint on his leg and he nearly howled with pain, his breath coming in great, shuddering gasps.

“Ned? Can you hear me?”

“Hnnhhh.” He still couldn’t form any words. She held the glass to his lips again and he drank greedily, then swore and sputtered as the liquid burned a path down his throat. Alcohol.

“Drink more. It’s the only thing I have to dull the pain.”

Ned tried to avert his mouth but she was relentless and he did drink more. The liquid pooled inside him, warming his throat, his stomach, his limbs. His concentration slipped. He struggled awake again when she dragged the toboggan he still lay on toward the archway between the living room and the kitchen. When she got him into position, she maneuvered the plastic sled out from underneath him. “What the hell?” he slurred.

“It’s the only thing I can tie you to.” She tugged him close to the decorative post that defined one side of the entryway into the kitchen and Ned’s gaze darkened around the edges as she hauled him upright to sit against it. Fila went to fetch something else, came back again, and began to wrap rope around his chest and under his armpits. After several long moments, he realized she was wrapping it around the post, too.

She was tying him to it.

Why?

Pain swirled around him as she tightened the rope, until he was held so snugly against the pillar he could hardly move. “What’re…y’doin?”

“I’m sorry,” she said, crouching down beside him. “I have to do this. Otherwise, I don’t know what will happen.”

“What?” He could barely form the word. Could barely follow what she said.

She moved away from him down toward his feet, and wrapped her fingers around his ankle. In one quick movement she wrenched his leg straight.

Ned howled and passed out cold.

Again.

Fila just made it to the toilet before she was violently ill. Luckily, there wasn’t much in her stomach to dispose of, and as soon as the nausea passed, she returned to Ned, re-splinting his leg quickly. She untied him, brought him back near the woodstove that was finally throwing some heat, and made as comfortable a pallet for him on the floor as she could. She heaped him with blankets and comforters and touched her hand to his brow. He was burning with fever, which scared her more than she wanted to admit. If an infection had set in at the break, she was in way over her head. She had no idea what to do to stop it.

First things first, she would search the cabin for medical supplies, food and anything else that might help. From the things Ned had said, Fitzgerald lived here year-round. He must have stockpiles of provisions that the Matheson cabin didn’t contain.

A quick run-through of the house found it amply stocked with food, oil for the lamps, and other household goods. The back porch covered a large pile of firewood and she could see more under a shed roof at the end of the backyard. She found a first aid kit in the bathroom, but it only contained the usual things. The medicine cabinet revealed some pain reliever, for which she was grateful, but no stockpile of antibiotics.

She didn’t find a phone, either. Ned had mentioned his neighbor had a satellite phone he used for emergencies, but he must have taken it with him when he decamped. It certainly wasn’t in the house. Once she’d searched everywhere she could think of, and checked on Ned again, Fila decided food was the next priority. When Ned woke up, she needed to make him eat. Canned soup would work for the short term, she decided, but when she found dried beans in the kitchen pantry and onions in a cold storage room in the basement of the cabin, she decided to start a homemade soup for later. She ate some of the canned soup herself without relish. She knew she had to keep her strength up through the coming days until someone came to rescue them, but the food was tasteless as it crossed her lips.

Ned could get very ill if he had an infection. Untreated, the wound could fester until it sent poison through his bloodstream and finally killed him. Fila’s chin wobbled and a tear slipped down her cheek. Surely someone would come for them soon. Wouldn’t they?

Maybe not soon enough. This was only their second night here and Ned’s father expected them to be gone for at least four days. That meant two more nights before someone came after them. She moved back into the living room to be closer to Ned. Touched his cheek again. She didn’t want to lose this interesting, infuriating man now that she’d just found him. She didn’t want to lose this friend who understood her better than all the others.

“Ned,” she whispered softly as she stroked a hand over his cheek again. She bent over and pressed a kiss against the side of his mouth.

Chapter 21

Ned’s eyes fluttered open in time to see Fila withdraw. He felt like he’d been hammered with a blunt instrument all over his body. His tongue was thick and his throat hurt worse than if it had been attacked with sandpaper. But the pain in his leg has lessened to a dull roar. “Fila?”

“I’m here. You have to rest.”

“Water?”

She held a glass to his lips and he prayed it wasn’t whiskey this time. Then thought maybe it would be better if it was. Cold, clear water quenched his thirst a little, but it didn’t soothe the pain.

“Throat’s sore.”

She frowned and peered at him. “You have a fever. Can you swallow some food?”

Ned nodded. “Think so.”

She soon returned with soup, giving him a spoonful at a time. He swallowed it as best he could until his stomach threatened to rebel. When she gave him two pain reliever pills, he managed to choke them down with more water. Then he lay back and fought to keep his stomach from sending it all back up again.

“Bad.” He wanted to say they’d gotten themselves into a bad spot. She seemed to understand.

“It’s nearly nine o’clock. Two more nights until your family comes. We can do it.”

Ned figured he should tell her his family might wait a day or two more—he was known for going off on his own, so they might think he was staying away voluntarily—but he couldn’t form the words and besides, what was the use? They’d either come or they wouldn’t.