Hannah trudged along the dark, snow covered road. The wind whipped around her like a lasso and whistled through the frozen landscape. Her lightweight coat wasn’t much protection against the weather and moisture dripped from the end of her nose. This wasn’t what she had expected when she got off the plane at the airport in Denver and used the last of her money to rent a car to drive here. She didn’t know what to call ‘here’ anymore. It used to be her home. Until she made the rebellious teenage mistake to run away from home ten years earlier to marry her rodeo star prince. Left her chores undone and bolted while her mother was at the beauty shop and her father, brother and ranch hands were on a spring cattle drive.
Some prince he had turned out to be. Selfish. Lying. Pig. Anger. That’s just what she needed right now to keep her from throwing up her hands and just letting the falling snow turn her into a frozen carcass at the bottom of a snow drift that the scavengers would find in the spring and make a feast of. She needed that anger to keep her going. And she would need that anger even more when she finally arrived at the ranch and had to go toe to toe with her father. Colt Daley. Rancher extraordinaire. Headstrong and opinionated. And probably still pissed at his only daughter’s betrayal. She lifted her face to the snow that fell from the dark sky through the trees. Heaven help me.
She should have known better than to try to use a compact car to drive out here in the middle of the Wyoming wilderness in the middle of an anticipated spring snowstorm. Key word being anticipated. But she didn’t really have much choice with only a hundred bucks left in her backpack after purchasing the one-way ticket from Las Vegas to Missoula late last night. On a whim.
Always impulsive and acting without thinking. That was a frequent phrase that Colt used to throw her way whenever she did something against his will. Or his advice. Hannah wished she had five bucks for every time he had said those exact words to her. Then maybe she would have had the money to rent a damned four-wheel drive to make the trip from the airport to the Flying D Ranch situated between Cheyenne and nowhere.
Hannah’s decision to return to the Flying D was one thing she hadn’t done impulsively. Well, at least not completely by the seat of her pants. She had been wanting to do this for a long time but just didn’t know how her arrival would be received. She still didn’t know but she didn’t really care. Anything was better than following Derron around from one rodeo to another only to watch him either gamble his money away or spend it boozing up some bimbo at a bar and not making it back to whatever ratty motel where they were staying in for days.
A strong gust of wind hit her from the back and sent her tumbling into a mound of snow. She sat there and fought tears. Tears of anger. But hell, she didn’t know who to be angry with at this point. Derron or herself. Damn it all to hell! What in the world was I thinking when I followed that flashy, smooth talking bastard on his road to fame and fortune? Fame and fortune my ass! More like the road to Whoresville.
The final straw had been coming for a long time. Probably five or more years. But every time he fed her a line about how it was only one time. How the blonde bimbo didn’t mean anything to him. It was only a one night stand. Then about a week ago the proof that at least one of the times had been more than a one night stand showed up at her motel room door. In the form of a young, brassy blonde carrying a toddler that looked so much like Derron that he could have shit him out of his own ass.
Hannah pushed herself up and brushed the snow off her damp jeans with mittens that were intended for looks instead of utility. What she wouldn’t give for her old Carhartt coveralls and gloves right now. She wondered if they still hung in the tack room in the barn at the ranch or if her father had donated them to the Indian reservation. More, she wondered what he was going to think when she walked in the front door of the ranch and shouted out to her family that she was home.
Headlights penetrated the almost white out conditions and she breathed a sigh of relief. She didn’t give a damn who it was coming down this deserted road in the middle of the night, she was going to flag them down and try to sweet talk her way into a ride the rest of the way to the ranch. Which by her estimate was still a good fifteen or so miles. She pushed the button on the small flashlight that she had tucked into her pocket before she left the compact car sitting where it had gotten stuck in a drift at the edge of the road a few miles back. The battery was almost dead but she thought it would be enough light to get the driver’s attention as she stepped into the path of the oncoming vehicle. She waved the light frantically in hopes that the driver would see her and would be able to stop before he plowed her over and flattened her into a pancake.
The truck slowed but didn’t come to a stop and she stepped back out of its way as it slid past her. A big black four-wheel drive with a trailer hitch on the rear. She was ready to give up that the driver had noticed her when she saw the truck stop and the back-up lights come on. She moved as quickly as her legs would take her and in a matter of seconds, she was next to the driver’s door and looked up as the window came down.
“Thank God you came along! My car slid into the ditch a few miles back and…” She stopped as she recognized the face in the open window. Piercing brown eyes that were as dark as the night around them. The jagged scar that ran from the right temple to the lower part of his jaw. The scowl. The haughty look of arrogance as he stared disdainfully down at her standing in the snow. The son of her father’s foreman and her greatest antagonist growing up. Luke Blackfoot.
“Well, well, well. Look at who we have here.” Luke shook his head and sneered. “Did the years away from here scramble your brain cells? Only a damned fool would be out in this weather. I should have known it was you.”
Alexis turned away from the truck and started walking down the road. She would rather freeze to death than spend five minutes with Luke Blackfoot. He was the biggest ass she had ever met. She didn’t hear the truck door open nor did she expect the sudden assault when she felt herself lifted up by two strong arms. “Put me down, Luke! I’m not getting in that damned truck with you!”
He snorted. “Little girl, you don’t have much of a choice at this point.”