The Cowboy Rescues a Bride (Page 42)

The Cowboy Rescues a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #7)(42)
Author: Cora Seton

The rest of the night’s events flooded his mind.

Ned sat up this time, groaning with the pain in his thigh and his throat. He was dizzy from lack of food and water. His head felt too big and his throat too thick.

Across the room, a man stared back at him, his gaze so full of hatred Ned blinked. The would-be rapist was awake too, but trussed up so tightly he couldn’t move. Fila had gagged him. Ned applauded her inwardly for that choice.

Finally, he placed the sound and his heart leapt. “Fila!” He reached out and touched her arm. She jolted awake, on her knees in an instant. “It’s okay. You’re safe. I think someone’s here.”

She hesitated, cocked her head, then sprang to her feet and crossed the room, her step stuttering when she took in the venomous glare of the killer she’d defeated the night before.

She continued her path until she reached the front window. “It is someone! They’re plowing the road! It’s Jake!”

Ned let out a long breath. He met the gaze of the trussed up man across the room as Fila nearly danced to the front door. “Looks like the cavalry’s arrived.”

The man grunted and struggled against the ropes.

Several minutes later, Jake was inside, stamping off the snow from his boots and pulling Fila into a rough hug. “Am I glad to see you two! When I got to the cabin and saw your truck and the state of the place—I thought you were dead for sure. I couldn’t see hide nor hair of either of you in the wreckage, though… what the hell?” Jake took in the man bound to the post and looked from Ned to Fila. His eyebrows rose as he took in Fila’s bruised and scraped forehead and Ned shivering on the floor near the stove. “I finally noticed your footsteps,” he continued in a more subdued tone. “They led me here.” He turned back to the man on the floor. “I’ve already got an ambulance coming. Should I call the police?”

“If you can get reception.”

“I borrowed a satellite phone from Ethan to bring along. It’s out in the truck.”

“Go get it. He’s not going anywhere.”

Jake faced the man. “I guess you’re Oliver Handel.” At Ned’s surprised look, he added, “He’s why I’m here. We heard about the jailbreak on the news. Heard he was heading this way. Figured someone better give you a head’s up, just in case. To tell you the truth I thought it was a fool’s errand Dad made up to interfere with you and Fila.”

“I’m damn glad you came.”

Fila heated up soup for all of them while they waited for the ambulance to arrive. Ned filled Jake in on the details in a voice too low for her to make out. She was glad she couldn’t hear. The last thing she wanted was to relive the last three days. Her hands shook as she opened the can and spooned out its contents into a pot, but she felt more peaceful than she had in weeks. Months.

Years, maybe.

She had decided that when she returned home she would think more about the girl she once was and the woman she now wanted to be. Ned was right; she couldn’t let the Taliban win by remaining caught in their web of fear. They couldn’t touch her now. That time was past.

Now she needed to create a new life. A life in which she stood on her own two feet. A life which included a restaurant, a lot of friends, and a man she loved.

She looked up when Jake entered the room and got out three bowls and spoons.

“Thank you,” he said, coming to lean against the kitchen counter. “For saving my brother’s life. Several times.”

She shrugged, not knowing what to say. She spooned out the soup and passed him two of the bowls. The puppy trailed in and sniffed around its food bowl. Fila moved to refill it automatically. She wondered where Handel had found Dell. Had he stolen him along the way? Would they have to give him back? She hoped not.

“Ned says you’re a hell of a lot braver than we’ve given you credit for. He says we have to stop babying you and start treating you like the woman you are. I think he’s right.” He leaned closer. “And for what it’s worth, I think my brother’s in love with you. I hope you don’t throw that away because of what those people did to you, or because of my father.”

Fila felt a blush creeping up her cheeks as she put the bag of dog food away. Ned was in love with her? Good. Because she was in love with him, too.

Jake waited for her to answer, and when she didn’t he chuckled. “Well, I guess things won’t change overnight, but I think you’ll find they’re different now. People will know how strong you are. There’s a place for you in Chance Creek, you know. You just have to find it.”

She nodded, thinking of the restaurant, and a smile lifted the corner of her mouth. Maybe she already had.

Chapter 26

Once the ambulance and police arrived, there was a hustle and bustle of questions and logistics. In the end, Jake accompanied Fila to the police station in Libby to give her statement, taking the puppy along in the truck. Several hours later they were able to meet up with Ned again at the hospital, where his leg had been properly cared for and a brand new cast put on.

“The doctor commended you on your handiwork,” Ned told her. His voice was still rough and his breathing labored, but he’d started an antibiotic drip. “He said my leg will knit up fine since you did a good job setting it.”

“What about the pneumonia?”

“A few days on antibiotics will do the trick. I’m supposed to take it easy for a little while.” He made a face. “Guess Luke will get his shot at running things.”

Jake snorted. “Like anyone other than Dad ever runs things.”

Fila held her tongue. She’d seen the way Holt consulted Ned when he was supposed to be in charge. She wondered if he’d do the same with Luke. “You should follow your doctor’s orders so you get well as fast as you can.”

“I’ll be back on horseback before the snow melts. Or so he says. We’ll start those riding lessons then.”

Fila smiled at the thought, but a pang of sadness filled her. Where would she be when the snow melted? Now that the danger was over, she remembered Holt’s dislike of her. Was there some way to change that, or would she have to leave the Double-Bar-K? The thought of not living with Ned anymore made her chest hurt.

She and Jake stayed several nights in town in a motel that accepted pets, until Ned was released with strict instructions to take his antibiotics religiously and stay off his leg. The long ride home in Jake’s truck wasn’t comfortable for him, especially with Buck, as Ned had renamed the puppy, making a nuisance of himself, but they made it in the end and found the whole family gathered to greet them at the main house at the Double-Bar-K.