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Bucking Bronc Lodge 04(6)

By:Rita Herron



No, he was mad at him. He hadn’t come home...

His eyes blurred and then it was dark. So dark everything went black.

Like night all the time. Scary night.

Scary night when the monsters came...

He buried his head in his arms and rocked harder. Pushed at his ears to make the noises be quiet.

He didn’t want to see the monsters. They were bad. They were going to get him.

He had to run....

But he couldn’t run...he couldn’t move. Couldn’t do nothing to stop the noises and the dark from coming...

Or the red from splattering the walls...

Or his mommy’s cries...





Chapter Two




Miles had never wanted to be anything but a lawman. Not since he was young and Sheriff Silas Weatherby had saved his butt from jail and taken him in as his own.

Miles’s old man had used him to help carry out his own crimes. Cattle rustling—not murder like Robert Dugan—but it was illegal and every crime, no matter how small, hurt somebody.

Still, Silas had a code of ethics, which meant that he tried to save kids when even their own families had taught them to lie, cheat and steal.

Which was the main reason Miles had chosen to contribute to the BBL. He figured it was payback time.

Yes, Silas had taught Miles right from wrong and given him a chance to become a man and protect others.

Only that job had gotten Timmy’s mother killed.

He fisted his hands, sweat beading on his lip as he tried to control the rage burning through him. His son was drowning in a world of hurt because Miles had chosen to do the right thing.

Worse, he was hurting because he’d witnessed a crime that nobody, much less a five-year-old, should have to see.

Miles’s gut churned as he stared at the swirls of black and red Timmy had savagely drawn on the pad of paper. Not signs of a happy Christmas or the new bike Santa had brought.

No, dark swirls of colors that Timmy hadn’t even seemed to realize he was drawing.

Swirls of colors that it didn’t take a rocket scientist—or a shrink—to decipher because that sea of black and red represented the darkness and the blood that his son had seen.

Timmy’s mother’s blood.

Had he watched Dugan viciously slash her throat?

For just a moment, those images became his own, and Miles’s legs nearly buckled as guilt and pain suffused him. If only he’d gone to get Timmy that night and brought him back in the morning like Marie asked, he could have saved her.

Damn Dugan—just like the other murders, he’d left no evidence. And somehow he’d managed to fabricate an alibi for the time of Marie’s death.

It had to be a lie.

Even though Blackpaw had suggested that Marie might have had a lover or boyfriend who had killed her and copied Dugan’s M.O. to throw off the cops, he couldn’t believe it.

Dugan had promised payback and he’d gotten it.

“Mr. McGregor—Miles—” Jordan said. “I understand that you’re angry—”

“Wouldn’t you be?” Miles’s temper exploded, and he whirled on her, needing to vent his frustration, no matter who took the brunt. “Just look at my son. He’s traumatized and motherless yet his mother’s killer is walking around free. Hell, he’s probably bragging about it as he plans his next kill.”

Jordan released a low breath, then eased back a step as if she thought he might use his fists instead of just his words. But he was shaking too hard with rage to care that she was half his size and looked as if the wind could blow her over. Her expression showed concern, but she was too damn beautiful with all that flowing golden hair, he couldn’t yell at her.

His friend and the cowboy who’d started the BBL, Brody, had said she was good at what she did because she’d had problems of her own.

Hell, he didn’t care about her problems. He hated everything about this counseling BS.

Talking did no damn good. Only action did. And finding solid evidence that would put Dugan away for good.

Evidence that he might have if the sadistic monster hadn’t totally traumatized his child.

His gut tightened as he watched Timmy cover his ears with his hands and rock himself back and forth. The poor little guy was not only motherless but lost in a silent hell, and he didn’t know how to help him.

Except track down the bastard who’d done this to him.

But worry gnawed at him, unsettling and cutting deeper than any physical pain ever could.

Even if he did lock up Dugan, would Timmy, the kid who liked to chase frogs, swim in the creek and play horseshoes, ever be the same again?

* * *

JORDAN BIT HER TONGUE to stifle a gasp at the raw emotions in Timmy’s drawing. A page reflecting the horror and violence he’d witnessed.

A page he’d drawn with his eyes closed.

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