How had he gotten here so damn fast?
“Jesus. Are you okay?”
“Banged up. Mad. But yeah, I’m okay.”
An unspoken communication passed between them.
The dark-haired woman Renner called the tyrant leaned against the wall.
Janie stared at her. “What are you doing here?”
“Me’n Tierney were chatting when you called,” Renner answered. “And because she never listens to a f**king thing I tell her, she opted to follow me instead of staying put and handling resort issues, like I asked.”
“If you call the ear-blistering diatribe you treated me to a chat, I shudder to think how an actual conversation with you might go. And you didn’t ask me a damn thing. You commanded. Big difference.”
Renner sniped. Tierney sniped back. Abe wondered how much of Janie’s job entailed refereeing.
A guy in a white coat entered the room. He flicked the arguing visitors a perfunctory glance and they both shut up. He tapped on his clipboard. “You’re cleared to leave. No signs of head trauma or internal bleeding. You’ll have a nasty headache and body aches, but the pain meds should make it bearable.” He looked up at her. “Any questions?”
Janie shook her head.
“Got someone who can stay with you tonight?”
“She’ll stay with me,” Abe and Renner said simultaneously.
Tension distorted the air.
“Sort it out. She doesn’t leave until it’s decided, understood?” The doctor ducked out of the room.
Abe tried to reiterate his point as Renner talked over him.
Janie whistled loudly. “Someone just get me back to my place.”
“I’ll take you,” Tierney offered. “I’ll stay with you too.”
“You?” Renner scoffed. “You’d give up the mini princess palace to cool your heels in a trailer? I don’t think so.”
Tierney drilled her index finger into Renner’s chest. “You don’t think at all, which is your problem. I’m staying with Janie tonight. Period. So why don’t you trot your smarmy cowboy self back to the Split Rock to handle any issues that might’ve come up in your absence?”
Renner’s lips flattened into a thin line.
Abe would’ve enjoyed Renner getting his comeuppance if not for Tierney directing her attention to him next. “You can take off too.”
“Save it.” Tierney grabbed the pile of clothes on the dresser and pointed to the door. “Move it. Both of you. Leave her be. She needs to rest and won’t get any if you two are peeing circles around her. I’m perfectly capable of taking care of her.”
She gave Janie the stink eye. “No negotiation.” Then her face softened. “I want to help out, okay?”
Janie nodded. And seemed relieved.
Neither man spoke until they stood outside the emergency room doors.
“She’s a tough little thing,” Renner said.
“Janie? Yeah. At least on the outside.” Abe rubbed his jaw. “Just so you know, Deputy McConnell said this wasn’t an accident. Someone hit her car from behind a couple of times. Any idea why anyone would wanna run her off the road?”
Renner’s face remained blank. Too blank. Then his gaze shifted to the back of Abe’s truck. “Are those the boxes Janie was picking up at your place?”
Not a subtle segue and it left Abe uneasy. “Yeah. I was on my way to drop them off when I saw . . .” He cleared the lump from his throat. He doubted he’d ever get that image out of his mind and his immediate, almost paralyzing bone-deep fear he’d lost her. “I need to unload because I have other stuff to haul tomorrow.”
Renner scowled. “I don’t even wanna think about tomorrow being the opening day of the Split Rock and Janie being out of commission.”
No wonder the man was in such a piss-poor mood. “I assume you have keys to the store?” Abe sent Renner a sly look. “Or do you need to ask Tierney for them?”
“Fuck off. I don’t answer to Tierney. Let’s go.”
The opening day of the Split Rock Ranch and Resort was a total cluster-fuck.
They’d forgotten to designate a baggage handler, so Renner was stuck schlepping luggage.
The ice machine went crazy and shot out every cube of ice like a baseball-pitching machine. Then it gave up the ghost entirely in a wire-sizzling pop.
The damper hadn’t been opened in the stone fireplace and the main area of the lodge filled with smoke, forcing the guests to evacuate for two hours.
The second day? Worse. Way worse.
The power went out due to a freak electrical storm.
It began pouring before dawn. It rained so hard the hunting party was called off and the guests were trapped inside the lodge. With nothing to do but drink, play pool, and drink.
Which meant they ran out of beer. And whiskey.
But the awful part? The food. It’d been a nightmare watching the guests’ faces as they were subjected to another lousy evening meal: overcooked roast beef, lumpy mashed potatoes, salty gravy, and undercooked root vegetables.
After the disgruntled guests adjourned to the main room, Tierney sagged against the wall inside the kitchen. Willie and Denise finished cleaning up quickly and got the heck outta Dodge, not that she blamed them. She wished she could retreat to her cabin, because she hadn’t slept in her own bed for two nights.
Renner approached and opened his mouth—probably to growl a command at her—but she held up a hand, warning him off. He rested his shoulders on the wall right next to her. After a few beats of silence, he said, “How’s Janie?”
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