“It’s going to be okay,” Kaylee said, but it felt like she was saying it more to herself than to anyone else. “She’s an experienced rider. I’m sure she realized that the weather was turning bad too fast. She probably got twisted around and tried to find shelter for her and Rosie.”
Ty walked over and kissed Kaylee on the forehead. “You’re right, baby. Don’t worry, okay? I’m sure she’s fine.”
She bit her bottom lip. “I won’t. She’ll be okay.”
My mother and Kaylee stood off to the side as we got three horses saddled up with Jimmy’s help.
Dad walked up and handed each of us a blanket. “Here, just in case.”
The sound of something running toward us caught everyone’s attention. Rosie was back. When she ran by us, though, my stomach dropped to the ground. No one was on her.
“Timberlynn!” Kaylee called out in fear.
“She’s not on her,” I said as I ran up and grabbed the reins, trying to calm down the mare.
“No! No! Where is she? Oh my God! Where is she!” Kaylee cried out.
Ty wrapped Kaylee up in his arms. “Hey, calm down, Kaylee, calm down. It’s okay.
Rosie looked at me, fear in her eyes. I ran my hand down her neck to calm her down. “Where is she, girl?”
The horse bobbed her head and snorted a few times.
Kaylee turned and looked at me, tears already streaming down her face. “Tanner, you have to find her,” she said between sobs.
I stood there, stunned, as I watched Rosie panting. She was out of breath. Something spooked her enough that she had run back to the barn. How far had she run, though? This horse knew the ranch just as well as I did. She would have easily been able to find her way back to the barn with Timberlynn on her back.
Staring into her eyes, I willed her to tell me where Timberlynn was.
“Tanner!” Kaylee shouted. I jumped, then looked at her. “Find her!”
“She came down the trail that goes to Crystal Lake,” I said as I thought about getting on Rosie, thinking she might lead me back to Timberlynn. But she was clearly exhausted from running. I leapt up onto Pogo, reached for the walkie-talkie my father held out and took a deep breath.
“Channel three?” I asked my father.
“Yes.” I walked Pogo over to Ty. “Someone needs to get the pasture horses in. You and Jimmy take care of that. Brock, you head toward the ridge I took Timberlynn to—she might have gone that way and Jimmy missed her. I’ll head toward the lake.”
He nodded. “Okay, be careful.”
“Every fifteen minutes!” my father called out. “And if you don’t find her in an hour, I’m calling the sheriff.”
The storm had literally come out of nowhere with wind so strong it nearly knocked me off Rosie. I had stayed on the trail that Jimmy told me led to Crystal Lake. He was right. It was too far. Now I was beginning to see why he didn’t want me heading this way. A large gust of wind rushed by, and I heard a cracking sound above me. Rosie reared up when the tree limb fell in front of us, and I fell off her. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw her turn and run back down the trail we had just come up on.
“Seriously, Rosie? You’re just gonna leave me?” I shouted.
She kept running, so I nodded and sighed. “Okay! Go get help,” I called out like a crazy person.
I went to stand and instantly felt a pain in my ankle. I dropped back down and hissed as the pain shot through my entire foot. “Shit. Shit. Shit.”
Ugh. Why had I thought this was a good idea? The lake hadn’t really seemed that far away, but I had known better than to try when I knew a storm was coming. I was the only one to blame here. “I should have listened to Jimmy.”
With a quick look around, I took in the area. This part of the ranch was covered in more trees. One area I saw offered a bit of shelter from the wind. It was only a few feet from the trail.
I closed my eyes and prayed my cell phone hadn’t gotten damaged in the fall. I pulled it out of my back pocket and sighed with relief when I saw it wasn’t broken. But when I slid my finger to open the phone, I nearly cried out in frustration. “No signal. Crap!”
I opened up the text messages and sent a text to Tanner, just in case the service was spotty.
Me: I’m on the trail that leads to the lake. Tree fell. Rosie got spooked. I’m okay, but I hurt my ankle. Staying put until someone can find me.
I hit send, but it didn’t say it was delivered.
Rosie would most likely head back to the barn and alert everyone I was gone. They’d search for me, so it was best I stayed put and close to the trail.
“Okay, so rule number one in Montana. When a storm is coming in, don’t go for a ride like an idiot,” I said as a gust of wind whipped a light dusting of snow around me. I wrapped my scarf tighter around my face and pulled my hat down more. The only thing showing was my eyes. So far, I was okay, just a little chilled. My ankle throbbed, but I didn’t think it was broken. Or maybe that was wishful thinking on my part.
“Stupid storm! You weren’t supposed to come in until tonight!” I cried out as I looked up at the mountains looming above over the trees. I could see the storm moving in, and it didn’t look good. I dropped down and leaned back against a tree. The sound of the wind blowing through the trees was actually calming, so I concentrated on listening to it and trying not to panic.
It had been thirty minutes since Rosie had taken off back toward the barn, and I was beginning to feel colder. I pushed back into the bushes that surrounded the group of trees I was sitting near the best I could, but I still wanted to be able to see the trail. I wasn’t worried...well, at least until I looked to the north and saw the clouds moving in closer.
“Wow. I’m going to guess that’s snow,” I mumbled as I pulled the scarf tighter around my face.
I dropped my head down and rested my forehead on my knees. My ankle still throbbed, but not as bad. I was positive it was because I was beginning to feel the effects of being in the cold. The temperature was dropping, and I didn’t have a signal to find out how cold it had gotten. It was probably for the better that I didn’t know the exact temperature—it would only make me panic.
A wave of exhaustion hit me, and I closed my eyes. Was this what hypothermia felt like? No. No, I wasn’t going to think in the negative. “It’s going to be okay,” I mumbled. “Tanner will find me.”
The colder I got, the more I could feel myself drifting off to sleep, and I fought to stay awake. But it was so damn hard to keep my eyes open. I needed to be able to hear or see if someone was coming down the trail.
Slowly I drifted off into a dream. Tanner stood before me, his blue eyes looking down at me. His hands cupped my face, and he gently whispered my name. “Timberlynn?”
“Yes?” I whispered back.
“Are you okay?” his soft, sexy voice asked.
“Hmm…I am now.”
A soft chuckle came from his parted lips.
“Tanner, make love to me.”
He smiled, but his voice sounded surprised. “Um…you’re colder than I thought.”
“I want you. Touch me.”
“Timber, sweetheart, I need you to open your eyes.”
“Your hands feel so warm.”
Then his mouth pressed against mine, and my entire body melted into a puddle on the ground.
“Darlin’, open your eyes for me. We need to get you out of here.”
I smiled. I loved when Tanner called me darlin’.
Another soft kiss. “Wake up, baby.”
I opened my eyes and saw a beautiful sea of pale blue so striking I was lost in it for a moment. I smiled and Tanner returned it with one of his own. It was mind-blowing to me how handsome he was. And that smile of his. The way it made the corners of his eyes crinkle ever so slightly. The blue seemed to light up the longer I looked into them. And words couldn’t describe the way it made me feel inside. All I knew was I felt safe and cared for
like never before.
“Hi,” I said softly.
“You were dreaming?” he asked, his eyes drifting to my mouth, then back up.
“I was. About you.”