The Sheriff Catches a Bride (Page 51)

The Sheriff Catches a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #5)(51)
Author: Cora Seton

Was she his new girlfriend?

Then why would he attack Cab?

“Is that yours?” the woman asked when they passed the tree house.


“It looks… safe.”

Rose nodded. “It’s secret. No one knows about it. At least, no men know about it.”

“No men,” the woman said thoughtfully. “That’s good.”

Twenty minutes later, Claire, Morgan and Autumn stood at Carl’s front door. Rose let them in, saying, “She’s really spooked so go easy on her.”

“Jamie nearly didn’t take no for an answer when we told him he couldn’t come, too,” Claire said. “He was dying to tag along and find out why we were coming over here unexpectedly. Why is she so afraid of men?”

“I don’t know. She hasn’t told me much. Just that she’s come a long way to meet Aria’s daughter.”

“Aria’s daughter?” Claire’s face lost some of its color. “Is that how she put it? She knew my mother?”

“Our mother,” Morgan said softly. The two women glanced at each other, and Rose knew they were remembering the day Morgan had arrived in Chance Creek on a similar mission. Back then Claire didn’t know she had a half-sister. Morgan didn’t know Aria had died. Their first meeting hadn’t gone very well, from what Rose had heard.

Rose nodded and led the way into the living room. Claire and Morgan followed with Autumn trailing behind. Rose was glad Autumn had come as well; she always was a voice of reason when Claire’s hot temper flared.

“Fila, this is Claire Lassiter and Morgan Matheson. Claire and Morgan are both daughters of Aria Cruz. And this is Autumn Cruz. She married Aria’s son, Ethan.”

Fila stood and searched each woman’s face with her worried gaze. “I… Thank you so much. Your mother—she was a wonderful woman. She did so much…”

Rose thought Fila might faint and she hurried to her side and then helped her back to the couch.

“Are you from… Afghanistan?” Morgan said in wonder, moving to sit across from her. “I know my mother did some work there, helping women.”

“Your mother did much work there.” Fila leaned forward earnestly. “Great work. When we heard she died, the mountains themselves cried out with our sorrow.”

Rose couldn’t get over how American Fila looked, but how foreign she sounded. The mountains cried out? “You came all the way from Afghanistan? Just to thank Aria’s daughters?”

“No,” Fila looked down at her hands. “I should have; we all should have come just to say thank you, but no—it’s more than that. I… escaped.”

Comprehension dawned on Morgan’s face. “You were to be married? To someone you didn’t choose?” she prompted.

Fila nodded vigorously. “Yes, to a very bad man.”

“And you got away? You escaped all the way here? How is that possible?” Claire’s harsher tones made Rose want to jump in and protect Fila from her. Claire meant well, but she wasn’t always the softest touch.

“I know it sounds unlikely.” Fila looked from one to other. “But it wasn’t all the way here. They brought me to America. To marry a man here.”

“Someone brought you here to get married in America?” Claire sounded like she didn’t believe it.

“To reward him for his patience. For the service he was doing for his country.”

Rose got a bad feeling in the pit of her stomach. “Let me get this straight. There was an Afghani man here, being patient, and you were his reward?”

“Yes.” Fila watched her, as if willing her to understand.

“Oh, my God,” Morgan said, turning a stricken gaze toward the rest of them. “A terrorist?” She turned back toward Fila. “Was this man a terrorist?”

Fila nodded, her eyes bright with tears. “Yes, I think so. He’s a bad man.”

“How did you get away?” Morgan asked. “You must have been terrified!”

“Are you hurt?” Autumn said. “Should we call a doctor?”

“Wait,” Rose said, feeling like she’d lost the thread of the story somewhere. “Are you talking about the Taliban? Are you one of them?”

A tear spilled down Fila’s cheek. “I am an American,” she said, her voice breaking. “I was born here, I grew up here until I was twelve. I never wanted to leave. My family went back to Afghanistan for a visit.” She held her hands up in a pleading gesture. “My parents were killed by the Taliban. I was taken. I was raised by them. They thought they had made me one of their own. You have to understand how badly I wanted to come home. I waited so long.” Emotion clogged her voice and Rose wanted to comfort her but she knew they needed to hear it all. “I finally got my chance. When I learned I was coming to America, I knew I could get free.”

Rose was speechless. But Claire remained focused. Once again her sharp voice pierced through the rest of their murmurs. “Do these terrorists know where you are?”

Fila shook her head. “They don’t know what I look like. The men who brought me here are not my relatives, so they have not seen me without my burqa.”

“What burqa?” Claire pressed.

“How did you get away?” Rose asked, finally able to speak again.

“In the airport in New York. I said I needed…” she waved a hand as if struggling for the words. “I went to the ladies’ room, I took off my burqa, and…” she shrugged expressively. “They did not know who I was when I walked out!”

Rose laughed in disbelief. “That’s amazing.” Claire looked skeptical.

“I took trains, a bus, a car…” Fila said. “I kept coming until I made it here.”

“Because you wanted to see my mother?” Morgan said.

“No, I knew she had passed and I am so sorry for this. Many women in my country are sorry. But I had to thank the daughter who made a donation in her name. Without it, I would not be here today. I would not be free.”

The women looked at each other. “That was me,” Morgan said slowly. “When we found out what Mom had been doing when she traveled each year, I sent a donation to the organization she worked for over there. I thought she’d want me to.”

“Looks like it paid off,” Autumn said. “What will you do now, Fila? Do you have somewhere to go?”