The Cowboy Wins a Bride (Page 42)

The Cowboy Wins a Bride (The Cowboys of Chance Creek #2)(42)
Author: Cora Seton

"I guess."

"I could call Ethan back."

"Forget it, we don’t need brawn, we need stealth."

They’d stopped in a home and garden store on their way out of Billings and purchased a crowbar and pair of long-handled snips. "We should just grab a couple of ski masks while we’re at it," Morgan had said, but the cashier didn’t look at them twice when they checked out. As they exited the car, Claire hefted them and realized she was now the better armed of the two.

She hoped it didn’t come to violence.

Although she’d like to punch Daniel right between the eyes.

"Do you think anyone’s home?" Morgan said as she came around the car and joined Claire where she stood surveying the small house. There was a low light burning inside but nothing was visible through the thick curtains. No vehicles were parked in the driveway, but several cars and trucks were parked on the road nearby.

"Maybe. We’d better be quiet. We’ll check around and see what we can see. If we spot my stuff we’ll call the police and sit tight until they get here."

"I don’t know. Maybe we should wait for Rob and Ethan to arrive."

"They’d want to call the police first, and then the police would say they needed a search warrant. If we can tell them we’ve seen the boxes, maybe they’ll actually come and look."

"It might be dangerous."

"Fine. Stay here. I’m going."

Claire crossed the road and after a moment, Morgan followed her. They kept close to the side of the property, hugging the bushy hedge that ran between the house and its neighbor. The shadows were thick here, and nothing moved in the yard except for them. Claire held her breath as they passed the small, old-fashioned house. Moving into the back yard, she let it out in relief. Back here no one could see them except from the house itself and while the windows in the rear of the building were uncovered, the rooms beyond them were dim and most likely empty.

"Should we peek in?" Morgan asked.

Claire shook her head. "He’ll put it in the garage." She pointed to a large structure at the end of the driveway near the back of the property. "He could drive right up to it and unload everything without anyone noticing."

Once more Claire led the way. The garage was shabbier than the house, a shingled wide building with two sliding doors whose rows of square window panes were blacked out with paint. Claire looked it over and her stomach sank. Could they break a window without waking up the entire neighborhood? She didn’t see how they could get in this way.

"Let’s go around – there might be another door in back. A regular door," Morgan said.

"Okay."

They crept along the edge of the building, fumbling their way along as the shadows grew deeper.

"Here it is," Morgan whispered.

Claire peered in the glass in the upper half of an old-fashioned door. The interior of the garage was very dark but it was filled with something that looked like boxes.

"Let’s check it out," Claire said.

Morgan nodded.

Claire turned the handle of the knob. It didn’t open. She tried again with the same result. Anger surged through her. Anger at Daniel, at her own stupidity – at how nothing ever seemed to go her way. She lifted the crowbar and jabbed one end sharply through the glass.

"Claire!"

She dropped the crowbar, stuck a hand through and turned the knob from the inside. "No one’s around. I have to see if it’s my stuff." She tip-toed through the open door and peered inside, not willing to turn on the light despite her bold words. She took several steps forward before bumping into something. She ran her fingers over it. A box – definitely a box. Reaching out, she felt another one. And another. They were piled high. She used the snips to cut through the packing tape on the first one, set them down and felt inside. Tiles. She was sure of it.

"We were right – these are mine," she hissed as Morgan came up beside her.

"They were yours," a deep voice corrected. The lights snapped on and Claire whirled to see Daniel in the doorway, backed by two other men she didn’t know. Two other large men – one in a blue windbreaker, the other sporting a leather jacket. They nudged each other and giggled, an incongruous sound that made her insides tighten with dread. There was something off about all three of them. Something that told her they were drunk…or high.

Definitely high, she thought. Daniel looked furious, which set her heart thumping, but the two behind him terrified her. One had begun to smile, a feral expression like a pit bull spotting its prey.

"They’re still mine," she said loudly, desperately hoping that if she acted tough she could bluff her way out of this. Beside her, Morgan pulled out her phone and lifted it to her ear.

"Ethan," she managed to say before Daniel lurched forward, ripped it out of her hand and threw it across the garage. Morgan retaliated with a swing of her bat, but she only held it in one hand and the blow bounced uselessly off Daniel’s shoulder. Claire scrabbled for the crow bar, realized it was outside and grabbed for the snips, instead. She held them in front of her like a shield. Daniel just laughed.

"Kyle, take care of that one." He pointed to Morgan.

One of the goons in the doorway lunged at her and she walloped him hard with the bat. He grunted, grabbed it and yanked it away from her, tossing it to Daniel, who caught it easily.

"Take her up to the house," Daniel said. He ran a hand down the bat’s length and grinned. "Have your fun, but make sure she doesn’t make any noise." Before Claire could react, Morgan scrambled onto the pile of boxes, but Kyle grabbed her ankle, jerked her back, and tossed her to the floor, pinning her wrists behind her back.

"Morgan!" Claire cried, trying to push the man off of her. She shoved against his nylon-covered shoulders, but he elbowed her, knocking her to the ground as he stood up, tossed Morgan over his shoulder like a saddlebag and hauled her outside. The other one followed, shutting the door behind them.

Claire surged to her feet, desperate to go after her, but Daniel stepped into her path, the bat held high as if he were about to swing. "Don’t worry about her," he said as the men’s ugly laughter and Morgan’s muffled shrieks died away in the distance. "Worry about yourself. Ron and Kyle like to have their fun, but who knows? Maybe she’ll like their games." Her stomach curled as she watched him warily. If he was saying what she thought he was saying, she would tear him to pieces with her bare hands. He took a step forward. "I don’t play games, though. I’ve had enough of your interference."

Morgan was right, she thought wildly as he advanced. Daniel was definitely on something. His eyes had a gleam she didn’t recognize, and his wiry body was taut with energy. He tightened his grip on the bat and raised it.