“Why corral a horse out in the forest at all?” Rose said. “I really don’t know. I’m afraid…” She finally voiced the fear she’d held inside her for several days. “I’m afraid she might have stolen it.”
It was silent while they thought that over. Rose figured she should have pressed Hannah for more details before agreeing to the corral at all. Hannah had always seemed like the steady sort, but now that she’d gotten to know Cody, she didn’t trust Hannah’s judgment as much as she had previously. A stolen horse was a big deal. If it were true, she’d have to tell Hannah to take it back again—before Cab got wind of it. Before they all landed in jail.
“She’s getting it out,” Rose said, and Fila nodded in the darkness. Those were definitely the steps of a heavy beast down the ramp.
A few seconds later, a female voice cried out from the woods, “Hey! Not that way, Gladys! Damn.”
Rose released the breath she was holding. “That’s Hannah, all right. I’d better go help her.”
Rose stiffened at Hannah’s shout, then shrieked when something large and dark hurtled through the clearing beneath them, shaking the ground, and took off into the woods at an alarming rate. She clung to the windowsill as the tree house swayed.
“What was that?” Fila cried.
“That was way too big for a horse!” Rose said.
“Was that…” Fila turned to her, her eyes huge. “Was that a bison?”
Were there bison in Afghanistan? Rose thought crazily. Of course not. Fila must have learned about them in school as an American child. “I think so,” she said. “But…” She wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. Hannah thought she could keep a bison in the corral out back?
“Where did it come from? Do they live here?” Fila whispered.
“They don’t run loose, if that’s what you mean.” But this one certainly was. “It’s because of Cody—her boyfriend,” she exclaimed. “He was going on and on about that damned bison hunt last time we got together. She must have stolen it.”
Fila stared at her in incomprehension.
Below them, Hannah raced into the clearing. Stopped and looked up at the tree house. “Hello?” she called softly. “Rose, are you up there?”
Rose wrenched open the door and stuck her head out. “Was that a bison that just ran by?”
“Uh… yeah. I’m sorry; I thought I could get her into the corral without waking you.”
“It’s all right; I know how to get her in there,” Hannah said. “I just wanted to warn you she was out here, just in case.”
“Thanks for the warning. How will you get her into the corral?”
“She loves corn on the cob. I have a sack of them; I was going to use them to keep her calm while she got used to her new digs. I’ll guess I’ll put them in the corral and wait for her to find them.”
“As simple as that, huh?” Rose said, exasperated. How much could go wrong in a single night?
“I hope so.”
“Damn it, Hannah, pick up your phone!” Cab wanted to smash his own phone to bits in frustration but he forced himself to keep his eye on the road ahead of him. After clarifying that Autumn, Morgan and Claire really had no idea where Rose had taken Fila, he’d wracked his own brain for where she might go. Her parents’ place was out. So was the carriage house. Could she be staying with Hannah and Cody? When Hannah didn’t answer her cell, he tried their landline.
“Hello?” a man answered sleepily as Cab pulled up in front of the house where Hannah and Cody lived.
“Who’s this?” Cab demanded.
“Who’s this?” the man said, more awake now.
“That you, Cody?”
“It’s Cab Johnson. You got Rose in there with you?”
There was a pause. “Rose?”
“I mean, is she staying with you and Hannah?”
“Nah. No one here but me. Hannah said she was spending the night with Autumn at the Cruz ranch. Something about a girls’ night.” His tone made it clear what he thought about that.
“Wait, Hannah is at Autumn’s place?”
“Because I was just there and I didn’t see…” Cab trailed off. Whoops. Might have put his foot in it there.
“You were there? And Hannah wasn’t?” Sure enough, Cody was angry now. “You positive about that?”
“I’m not positive about anything.” Cab got out of his truck. The front door of Cody’s house opened and Cody stepped out onto the stoop still holding his cordless phone to his ear. Catching sight of Cab, he tossed it back in the house and came down the front steps. Cab shut off his phone, too.
“Why are you calling Hannah, anyway?” Cody demanded.
“Because I’m looking for Rose,” Cab said. “I thought she might be here.”
“Well, she ain’t. She’s probably off at some bar with Hannah cheating on you like Hannah’s cheating on me.”
“Don’t get all fired up before you know what’s happening.”
“I’ll get fired up if I damn well please.” Cody strode toward his car.
“Don’t do something you’ll regret,” Cab called after him.
“Oh, you better believe I won’t regret anything I do,” Cody said. A minute later he had backed his car out of the driveway and sped off into the night.
“Fuck,” Cab said, jabbing his phone on again. He called the detachment and filled a deputy in on the situation. There wasn’t anything they could do until Cody broke a law, but the deputy could alert the officers on patrol tonight and they could keep an eye out for him. He hoped Hannah was with Rose. Then Cody would have as much luck finding her as he was having.
Now what? Who else might know where Rose had gone? He scrolled through his memory, trying to think of all her friends. When the answer came, he felt a surge of adrenaline.
He clicked through his recent calls until he found hers and hit the call back button. As the phone rang he held his breath.
“Hello?” Mia’s little-girl voice answered.
“Mia? Where’s Rose!”
“I know she told you not to tell me, but she’s in danger. I need to know.”
“Why is she in danger?”