“Did you?” He pointed to Abe’s truck. “A pickup that size could do some damage.”

“But my truck would show damage if I’d purposely rammed another vehicle?”

“Yes, it would.”

“Then go ahead and check my truck, Deputy. Take pictures. Do whatever you have to. Match up the damages from Janie’s car because you’ll see I didn’t do this. I’d never . . .” His voice broke.

Hank and Celia flanked Abe and faced down McConnell. “Abe didn’t do this,” Celia retorted hotly.

When Abe realized Janie was out of the car, he stepped around the deputy and raced beside the EMT. His stomach knotted. God. She looked so pale. So tiny. So helpless. He was afraid to touch her but couldn’t stop from enclosing her small fingers in his large hand. “Janie?”

Her eyes opened but held a blank look of shock. “Abe? What’s—?”

“Don’t try to talk. You were in an accident. They’re takin’ you to the hospital in Rawlins.”

“Will you—”

“Yes. I’ll be right behind them. I promise.”

Janie swallowed. “Okay. Will you call Renner?”

“Don’t worry about that now.”

She tried to pull him closer. “No. I’m serious. You have to call Renner. Right away.”

“Why? He can find someone to cover for you tomorrow, Janie.”

She blinked at him. “Please. Will you just call him as soon as possible?”

Jealousy and anger consumed him but he managed a curt, “Fine. What’s his number?”

“It’s in my cell phone. In my purse. It was on the front seat. Just . . . bring it to the hospital.”

Abe reluctantly tore his gaze away from her and grilled the EMT. “How bad are her injuries?”

“Bumps and bruises mostly. She’s lucky she wore a seat belt and the air bag deployed. They’ll run more tests at the hospital.”

Janie shivered and they whisked her away.

He hated he didn’t have the right to ride in the ambulance with her. To comfort her. To give himself peace of mind that she wasn’t dealing with this alone. He stuck his head inside the driver’s side door and spied Janie’s purse on the floor.

Deputy McConnell glared at him. “What exactly do you think you’re doing, Lawson?”

“Takin’ her purse to the hospital. She needs it for insurance. Is my truck cleared to go?”

“It wasn’t involved in the accident as far as I can tell.”

Abe looked at Janie’s crumpled car, then back at the deputy. “Lemme know as soon as you’re done doin’ whatever you need to do and we’ll get this towed outta here.”

“Do you need someone to ride into Rawlins with you?” Celia asked after the deputy wandered away.

“Nah.” He blew out an impatient breath. “Thanks for coming. I’ll keep in touch.” He climbed into his truck and took off, his thoughts a jumbled mess. He didn’t remember he was supposed to contact Renner Jackson until he’d parked in the hospital parking lot. Her command “call Renner right away” didn’t sit well with him, but he shoved his annoyance aside and scrolled through Janie’s contact list.

Chapter Three

Home at last.

Inside her modular log cabin, Tierney Pratt pressed her back against the door and inhaled a deep breath. Although it was tiny compared to her Chicago apartment, she loved the coziness of the space. She loved that it was one hundred percent hers.

Daddy had to buy you a brand-new house? You too good to live in a used trailer, brainiac?

Once again she’d allowed Renner’s rude opinion to intrude on her thoughts. The man was everywhere. She’d run into him while buying groceries. Granted, Muddy Gap had only one store, but his smug comment irritated her—how it must be a real hardship she couldn’t find caviar and lobster rolls at the C-Mart.

How little the man knew about her. How much he assumed.

Tierney remembered the tipping point last night at Harper and Bran’s wedding reception as she silently reeled from the insufferable man’s incendiary comments. On impulse, she threw her martini in Renner’s face, and secretly basked in his total surprise as the vodka dripped off his stubborn chin. She’d sidestepped him and headed to the bar. No one had intercepted her, but plenty of curious eyes had followed her across the room. Sometimes she felt like a character in a Clint Eastwood movie—an unwelcome stranger in a small Western town.

Dwelling on it won’t change anything because you’re here for the duration.

Faced with a boring Sunday, Tierney opened the Sudoku program on her computer. When her cell phone rang ten minutes later, she answered, “Hello,” without checking the caller ID.

“Tierney. How are you?”

Great. Now she’d have to hide her sour mood from her father. Then again, it was doubtful he’d notice. Forcing a chipper note in her voice, she said, “I’m fine. And you?”

“Can’t complain. The stock market is up. The weather has been decent. Now the reason I called is . . .”

Of course you have a specific reason to call. You’d never ring me up to shoot the breeze or ask what’s been going on in my life besides work.

There was a situation of her own making—her life had revolved around work, work and more work for the past four years. Slaving in front of a hot computer seventy plus hours a week hadn’t done a bit of good when push came to shove; her father had passed her over for a promotion again. In a rare show of backbone, she’d handed in her resignation and escaped the Windy City for the windswept Wyoming prairie.

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