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Stone Cold Cowboy(9)

By:Jennifer Ryan

“Come on, Sadie, hold on. Help is coming.”

He nudged his horse down the hill. Since Sadie passed out, which only made him worry more, he kicked the horse into a trot. He’d beat Colt to the meeting point, but he needed to get Sadie off his horse and check her wounds again. He glanced down at her bruised face. Whoever did this hit her. He didn’t tolerate others who got off on teasing or hurting other people. It wasn’t right to make others feel bad for any reason, but especially because you thought you could get away with it. This went beyond anything he’d ever seen or thought could happen to a person. To string her up like that, using the barbed wire they’d cut from his own fence lines. Bastards. He wanted to get his hands on them and make them pay.

Rory halted the horse by the road, noting the cow and horse tracks, along with the deep ruts from the trucks and trailers that hauled away his herd. He kind of wished the thieves were here so he could teach them a lesson about hurting innocent women. He’d like to show them how much the kind of torture they inflicted on her hurt. Whoever did this to her liked cruelty. Rory vowed to take him down, because no way in hell Rory let him get away with hurting Sadie, or anyone else.

He turned his focus back to the woman in his arms. He gave in to the strange need overtaking him and pressed his cheek to her head and hugged her close.

“Help will be here soon.” Hurry the hell up, Colt.

Sadie’s legs hung over his arm. Her feet remained bundled in his scarf, but her legs had to be cold. He swung his leg over the horse’s neck and slid off the saddle, landing hard on the ground. It wasn’t easy, but he managed to untie the saddlebags and toss them to the ground. He turned and pressed Sadie’s legs to the horse’s side, hoping the heat from the animal and him would warm her up even more. The cold breeze blew against his back. If he was this uncomfortable, he could only imagine how Sadie felt tied up and hanging in the biting wind, practically naked, for God knew how long.

Torn from his dark thoughts by the sound of an engine, he stared down the road as Colt skidded around the bend, driving way too fast. Thank God for little brothers who like to live on the edge because they haven’t learned they aren’t invincible. Colt made him worry far too often, but today he’d take his brother’s devil-may-care attitude.

Colt hit the brakes, and the truck slid to a stop feet from him. Rory pulled Sadie close as his horse shied away. Rory rushed Sadie to the back of the truck. Colt let down the tailgate, spread one of the thick blankets, and Rory laid Sadie down, tucking her legs up on the bed of the truck.

“Open that medic kit. Pull out the bandages and gauze,” he ordered his brother, who stared down at Sadie, not saying a word.

Rory slapped him on the shoulder. “Colt. Move.”

Colt got busy, basically dumping the contents and sorting through them. Rory pulled open the jacket, undid his tied shirt, and pulled the bloody swatch off her side. The ride had been hard on her, tearing open the cut and making it bleed freely again.

“Holy fucking shit, what the hell happened?” Colt asked, finally finding his tongue.

“Some twisted fuck hung her from a tree with barbed wire.”

“Is that what all those holes and scratches in her are?”

“Yes,” Rory bit out the single word, trying to hold on to his temper. Every time he saw the wounds, his fury surged, but with no outlet, it burned in his gut.

Rory took the thick gauze pad and pressed it to Sadie’s side, staunching the blood.

“That’s not from the wire,” Colt said.

“No. I think they used a knife.”

“Someone punched her in the face.” Colt’s words held a world of sympathy.

“Hand me that tape. Let’s get her patched up and to the hospital.”

They worked in silence, unwrapping and rewrapping her wrists with clean bandages. Colt took one foot; he took the other.

“This is inhumane.” Colt shook his head, dabbing at the caked, dried blood on Sadie’s thigh.

“Just do the best you can for now. They’ll clean her up at the hospital.”

“I called Ford, told him you needed help. Take the truck. I’ll take your horse back to the ranch. Ford and I will meet you at the clinic.”

“You don’t need to come. I’ve got this.”

“We’ll meet you there.”

Rory nodded. Since their parents died, even before but especially since, they did everything together. None of them went through anything alone. He appreciated his brothers’ support and understanding.

With Sadie tended to the best they could for now, he bundled her in the blanket and carried her to the passenger side of the truck. Colt opened the door and he stood on the running board and slid her in headfirst. Colt pulled out the blanket from the floorboard and shook it out. Rory took it and tucked it over and around Sadie.