“Oh, Miz Pratt, I do not like the look in your eye.”

“I imagine Renner will like it even less, Mrs. Lawson.” She smirked and pushed her chair away from her desk. At the door she grabbed her coat, her mind already racing a million miles an hour.

“Where are you going?”

“To the barn.”

“For what?”

“Kidnapping supplies.”

Renner’s phone vibrated at five thirty in the morning. He’d been asleep exactly two hours. He blindly reached for the buzzing object on the nightstand and rolled over on the lumpy mattress. “This’d better be good.”

Hugh Pritchett released a stream of gibberish that instantly jolted Renner awake. “Whoa whoa whoa. Slow down. Start over from the beginning’cause I didn’t understand a word you said.”

“BB is gone.”

“What the f**k are you talking about, Pritchett? BB, our bull, is gone? As in . . . ?” His heart nearly stopped. “Dead?”

“No. Gone. As in vanished. As in stolen.”

Renner scrambled upright. “What? How could that’ve happened?”

“No clue. But here’s the damndest thing.” Pritchett laughed awkwardly. “It’s gonna sound stupid.”

“Tell me.”

“BB left a note.”

“If this is some kinda big f**king joke, Hugh, I ain’t laughing. At all.”

“I swear, boss, I’m not kiddin’. I hadn’t checked on him in two days. So this morning when I went to check he was gone from his pen. And there was a note tacked to the fence post.”

“A note. From BB,” Renner repeated dully. Jesus. He felt like an idiot asking, but he did anyway. “What did the note from BB say?”

“It said, and I quote: Headed to my new home, where the heifers are hotter, the view is better and the mountain air is sweeter.” Hugh was quiet for a couple of breaths. “Does that make any sense to you?”

“Yeah, believe it or not, it does.”

Tierney. Damn her hide. She’d stolen his damn bull.

How?

Why?

Her last voice mail warned, Losing my patience with you, cowboy. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

He should’ve taken her warning seriously.

“So do you want me to call the sheriff and report stolen livestock?” Pritchett asked.

Renner sighed. “No. I know exactly where BB is.”

“You do?”

“He’s been hauled to the Split Rock.”

“Shit.” Then, “Wait. Was this planned?”

“By me? Hell no.”

“What’re you gonna do?”

“Hit the road. Guess it’s a good thing I was already on my way to Wyoming.”

Renner thought about giving Tierney a heads-up that he was on his way. He’d also considered scaring the crap outta her by having one of his buddies from Kansas call her, pretending to be an investigator with the CRA regarding the recent rash of livestock thefts.

But ultimately, he’d just decided to show up.

He’d been thinking about her nonstop for the last twenty-two and a half days. He missed her. God, did he ever miss her. He wondered how he’d survived the loneliness on the road before she’d come into his life. It’d killed him, not texting her a hundred times a day. Not talking to her for an hour before his head hit the pillow every night. The woman had wormed her way into his heart. She owned his soul. As much as he’d loved what he’d built at the Split Rock, he loved what he’d begun to build with her more.

As Renner passed between the twin stone pillars marking the entrance to the ranch, his pride was tinged with sadness. Although he’d thought of little else except her on the six-hundred-mile drive, he needed time to get his bearings before they met face-to-face. He drove down to the barn. Snow was several feet deep and he found himself looking at the pens. No sign of BB.

Renner parked and entered the barn from the side door.

Tobin poked his head around the corner. His eyes widened, but so did his grin. “Looking for something?”

“You’d better have my goddamned bull in here, Tobin. BB better be getting daily damn massages and the best fresh mountain hay money can buy.”

“He’s in the big stall.”

“I can’t believe she roped you in—”

“For the record, Tierney gave me no choice but to help her temporarily liberate BB.”

“She threaten to fire you?”

“Ah. No. She threatened to grab BB on her own. I knew she’d hitch up a cattle trailer and try to coax a two-thousand-pound bull into the trailer by herself. I figured it’d be better for me to be with her, helping her, even when I didn’t agree with what she was doin’.” Tobin beamed. “Although she was right in knowing exactly what it’d take to get you to come home. I had August Fletcher check BB out as soon as we unloaded him. Mean SOB is perfectly fine.”

“Good thing. I was worried.”

Tobin looked confused. “Tierney didn’t assure you everything went okay when you talked to her?”

When Renner didn’t answer, Tobin swore.

“Please tell me you didn’t come down here and check on your bull before you saw Tierney? Dude. What is wrong with you?”

He threw up his hands. “I’m an idiot, all right?”

“Damn right you are. You’ve been gone three weeks. Three weeks in which she’s been so damn miserable—”

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