Whips (Cherry County Cowboys 3)
Dune Wexley’s unrelenting efforts to take down a local crook ended his law enforcement career and his father’s life. Dune’s lived in seclusion ever since. A Sunday drive to check on his mysteriously disappearing herd of cattle ends with a guest in his house, one who makes him reconsider isolating his shielded heart. But can this stranger be trusted?
Mason LaFleur answered an ad in the paper that held the promise of becoming a real cowboy on an authentic ranch, but that never happened. Instead Mason was forced to run away from a cruel man, but a miscalculation finds him bouncing off the hood of a truck and into the arms of a genuine cowboy.
When Mason is kidnapped, Dune must decide if getting revenge for his father’s death is more important than saving the man who’s offered up his heart and life to heal the broken cowboy.
“Where did you get this gun anyway?”
“It was from his collection. I grabbed it and ran, but he’ll find me, Dune. He’ll find me.” His body shook, and his head dropped forward. “Then he’ll take me back to that place. Back to hell.”
I raised the candle and examined him. He didn’t look like he’d hit his head. With talk like that, I wasn’t sure what was factual and what wasn’t. But just watching his shivering and quickly rising and falling chest, my law enforcement training told me that he believed what he was saying.
“And what type of hell did he have there?” I asked.
It was always better to know how big of a challenge lay ahead. From my past with Bramston there wasn’t anything that would surprise me to hear he’d done. His legend around these parts included stories that I’d heard second- and third-hand, and the grapevine was sour with ex-wives and disgruntled employees who had their own versions of what happened on his ranch that was more of a criminal compound. The stories seemed far-fetched, but even normal people were capable of brutalities. My past had shown that.
LaFleur sat on the edge of the bed, covers pushed back and inviting. I diverted my gaze as a pulse of heat roared through my gut. Being in a bedroom with him was dangerous.
Being in a house with him is dangerous.
“Dune, Silas isn’t a nice man.”
I walked the room, blindly examining old photos like I hadn’t seen them before. “Yeah, I got that information already. Tell me something new.”
“No, you don’t understand. He’s a merciless, sadistic son of a bitch who makes people wish they were dead. And sometimes he grants that wish, Dune.”
My eyes met his. Lightning struck close, illuminating the room. His blue eyes flickered from baby blue to steel gray.
“And he took you?”
“I answered an ad online. All it said was ‘Want to work on a real ranch and be a cowboy?’” His hand rubbed over his knee, the faint purple tint barely visible in the light of the candle I’d placed on the dresser, but it was the real pain under the bruises that was clear. “After a bunch of questions, he paid for my plane and bus tickets here, but I was never meant to be a cowboy, I was his … possession. Sure, he treated me nice in front of others, and part of me liked the attention and he liked what I had to offer. But once I was fed up and wanted to leave, he threatened my family back in Chicago. He locked me in a hidden bunker under his barn, and said he’d find me if I ran away, and I don’t have any one I can…” His body rocked constant quakes of fear. “Now I just wish I’d stepped farther into the road tonight. At least my end would have been on my own terms.”
That fear could take a person down a difficult path, until they couldn’t enjoy touch or attention.
“Don’t say that,” I growled.
The room closed in on us. The walls pushed me to him. Before I knew it, my feet were crossing the floor, the heels of my boots clicking in time to his fast breaths.
I lifted his chin, and his eyes glistened with a shine of tears. “Don’t ever think that. You’re going to be fine. I won’t let him hurt you, Mason.”