The Sheriff Catches a Bride (Page 53)

The Sheriff Catches a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #5)(53)
Author: Cora Seton

Autumn frowned. “Why can’t you tell us?”

“Because I’ve been surrounded by guards for years, too,” Rose said. “I have to have one place I can run to when I need to be alone. Somewhere I can think things through without anyone influencing me. I just found this one. I’m not ready to give it up yet.”

After a long moment Autumn nodded. “I guess I understand that.”

“I don’t,” Claire said.

Autumn put a hand on her arm. “Rose knows what she’s doing.”

Rose set about gathering supplies, hoping Autumn was right. “The only thing is, I need a car. My truck is still in the shop.”

“Take mine,” Morgan said and handed her the keys.

Chapter Fourteen

Fila kept quiet as the women bustled about, preparing for their departure. She didn’t say a word when Morgan handed Rose a set of keys and Rose led her from the enormous house to a shiny pickup truck. She even held her tongue as Rose drove down the long driveway and turned in the opposite direction of the woods. The fact that Rose took great pains to hide their destination comforted her.

Even after the car behind them took the rest of the women down the lane to another ranch, Rose continued. She drove in a wide loop around dark country roads. Finally, a half-hour later, she slowed down, pulled to the side of the road, then eased the truck between the trees until it was hidden behind them.

“The fewer people who know where we are, the better,” she said to Fila.

Fila agreed. She was so tired she could barely stand, but she took the bags that Rose handed her and followed her into the darkness a quarter-mile or so into the woods until Rose’s flashlight lit on the ladder to the tree house.

“Here we are,” Rose said brightly.

They clambered up and Rose quickly arranged the contents of the small space, setting the flashlight on the ground and covering it with a cloth so its glow was muted. She clicked a canister into the small propane heater in the corner of the room. She made two beds out of the sleeping bags and other covers.

“Keep your clothes on,” Rose said. “It’s going to be cold out here tonight, but these are down sleeping bags. They’re meant for it.”

To Fila the makeshift bed felt like heaven. No one would look for her here. She was safe.

“I’m so glad you made it here.” Rose reached out from her own bed and squeezed Fila’s hand. She turned off the flashlight and Fila could make out stars in the sky outside the tree house’s windows. She’d seen those same stars in the village a half a world away just a few nights ago. But while the stars kept to their places in the sky, her whole life had changed.

“What do you mean they left?” Cab looked from one guilty face to another. Autumn, Claire and Morgan sat in a line on the sofa in the Big House living room, and he planned to keep them there until he got some real answers. He’d returned to Carl’s house to find the lights blazing, but no one home. Rose left a note saying she was tired and was calling it a night, but she didn’t say where she intended to spend it and she said nothing about a foreign woman, either.

Cab had searched the house thoroughly and made a circuit outside, then remembered Jason said Fila’s destination was the Cruz ranch. He drove the few miles there quickly, sure he’d find both Rose and the stranger ensconced in the Big House. When he arrived he found Autumn, Claire and Morgan, but Rose and the stranger were nowhere to be seen. The other women were shocked to find out he knew about Fila, and he was able to bully them into exposing most of the information he wanted. But not the most important piece.

“Rose took Fila somewhere safe for the night,” Claire said.

“Where?”

Claire shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know.”

Cab didn’t believe her. “Why wouldn’t she tell you?”

“She thinks Fila may be in danger,” Autumn said. “We all do.”

“Which is why you’re going to tell me where she is—so I can go protect them.” Cab’s voice rose. Normally he didn’t have a problem keeping his cool in sticky situations, but not where Rose was concerned. She was out there somewhere with a woman no one knew, a woman more than one person thought was in danger.

The women exchanged a look. “Cab,” Morgan said. “Fila has come a long way.” She retold the story in a few sentences and the knot in Cab’s stomach tightened by the minute. He didn’t recognize his own voice when he spoke again, it was so twisted with anger.

“She’s got terrorists coming after her? Are you shitting me?”

“Fila said there’s no way they could know she’s here,” Morgan said. “They don’t even know what she looks like.”

Cab couldn’t believe what he was hearing, and he couldn’t believe Rose—his Rose—was mixed up in all of this. Suddenly Kevin’s paranoia didn’t seem so paranoid.

“What if those men have been in touch with people back in Afghanistan? Do you really believe there aren’t any pictures of this girl anywhere? All it takes is a text or e-mail and they’ll know exactly who she is. The Taliban don’t just let people go—certainly not some woman who knows details about their operations in this country. Are you forgetting 9-11? These people are not stupid.”

The women exchanged another look.

“It doesn’t matter,” Autumn said, her eyes wide with concern. “In any case, we can’t tell you where they are.”

“Why not?” he thundered.

“Because we don’t know.”

Rose surged awake when someone gripped her wrist.

“Someone’s outside,” Fila whispered in her ear. “I just heard a car door slam.”

She stilled and listened. At first all was quiet, but then she heard a strange metallic creak, like a heavy door being opened. There was a clunk as something hit the ground and all was still again.

She knew that sound. She’d heard it a dozen times, although she couldn’t place it right away. It brought to mind ranches—Ethan and Rob and Jamie on their horses…“That was the tailgate of a horse trailer,” Rose whispered.

Could it be Hannah, delivering her mystery horse in the middle of the night? She climbed carefully to her knees and peered out the main window. Fila joined her there.

“It might be a friend of mine. Hannah,” Rose said to her. “She’s been building a corral for a horse near here.

“Why would she come in the middle of the night?” Fila asked.