In the study, Kat laid the ledgers on the desk and rubbed her tired eyes. She was glad she’d insisted on ordering supplies and meeting the monthly payroll. In the month since the dance, those duties had helped her to focus on the ranch.
Tonight was different, the disturbing thoughts that she kept tucked away seemed to repeat in her mind. Tears clouded her eyes. Jake had every right to assume she’d abandoned him. She couldn’t trust him, not after he’d told Dallas he intended to take the ranch. Hot tears broke loose and slid down her cheeks.
Her marriage would end soon; they couldn’t postpone the inevitable with Angela in a family way. Her lips quivered, and she glanced at the clock. Except ...view middle of the document...
“I’d enjoy the fresh air.”
She reached for her shawl, and he was at her side in an instant. His fingers brushed against hers as he placed the wrap around her shoulders. Her pulse quickened and a brief shiver ran the length of her arms. If he noticed, he said nothing.
His hand slipped lower, to the small of her back, and he guided her outside. The moonlight cast a dim shadow as they strolled towards the dark barn.
“I want to show you something. It’s in the corral.” His eyes sparkled.
She had a notion to protest.
He chuckled. “Stay here.”
Puzzled by his secrecy, Kat wondered aloud as he opened the gate. “What could be so important that you want me out here?”
He motioned for her to enter the corral.
“Come on,” he coaxed.
Curious what lay beyond, she gaped at him and stepped forward. A horse whinnied, shaking its thick mane.
A gasp of pure joy escaped her lips.
She caught Sampson’s halter and kissed the center of the horse’s forehead. “How’d you get here?” she muttered, patting his neck.
Half laughing half crying she ran to Jake and flung herself into his arms. His hands slid down to clasp her waist, swinging her in a full circle.
“Thank you.” She rested her head against Jake’s chest and inhaled the woodsy scent on his clothes.
“Yep.” He tightened his hold on her.
Kat raised her eyes and a flame smoldered between them. In one abrupt motion, she pulled her hands free and stepped back. She crossed her arms in front of her. “Don’t do this.”
He released a long sigh. “I wanted—”
A bullet ripped into the fence post next to them, several chips exploded like tiny spikes, spraying in all directions.
Jake crushed her hand in his. “Barn. Run!”
Even in her heavy skirt, she matched his stride. Another shot echoed, pinging against the wood on the barn. Jake shoved her through the doorway, taking her to the ground with him.
He recovered first and cold fear etched on his face. “Are you all right?”
“Yes. Are you?” Trembling she clenched his hand.
“Fine,” he said, sucking in air.
“Who’s shooting at us?”
He stuck his finger through a hole on his shirtsleeve and his face darkened. “I don’t know, but I’m sure as hell going to find out.”
Levi hollered from the doorway. “Kat, are you hurt?” His eyes filled with concern.
Kat shook her head from side to side.
Jake’s voice, even under present circumstances, held a note of icy irritation. “We’re all right. I need a gun.”
Levi handed him one of his revolvers. “Dallas and the wranglers have taken up positions covering the house and the barn.”
Jake nodded and stared at Kat.
“Go,” she said.
Jake cocked the Colt and covered Levi as they slipped outside the barn.
“Over here,” Dallas yelled.
Jake’s men followed the barrel flash and...