{Chapter} 21

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{Chapter 21}

The time came to move on toward Grayson City. Toni felt her pulse quicken by the mile. Soon she would be back home in Texas where her family and heart was. Back where the wind didn’t blow so hard.

It was hard to keep going with the wind blowing her hair every which way. The days grew longer as the anticipation of reaching the end of their journey came closer to an end. She was anxious to end it before another storm came and another cowboy was hurt or killed like J.T.

It still nagged at her that two cowboys had been killed on her watch in the past years with her running the ranch. That was two too many. She needed to be more careful. They weren’t ten feet tall and bulletproof. Justin already had too much of a tan for his little self, but Toni didn’t see that as a problem. As long as it didn’t hurt him, she didn’t mind. She didn’t see herself as a protective mother, and most women were protective of a newborn. As a matter of fact, Erik was more protective than she was. Was that a problem?

Sighing to herself, Toni roped another cow and drove her back to the rest of the herd.

Looking to her left, she noticed one of the new cowboys eyeing her closely. Marshall Heath, she believed his name was. One of the ones her uncle had hired. She had never liked the man’s looks, but she trusted her uncle.

She had to trust him.


Katie huffed and waved her hand around her head to shoo away what seemed like swarms of flies around her. She was glad that there were only a few more days left of the drive, and couldn’t wait until she could soak in warm water and scrub until her whole body shone. Her neck hurt and her back was sore from the weeks of sitting in the uncomfortable wagon seat. She wasn’t about to complain to Mark, though. She was the one who begged to come along on the drive, and she took full responsibility for her decision.

“Harrison, what are you doing?” She heard Mark hiss suddenly.

Katie jerked her head to the side and spotted one of the new cowboys riding beside Mark.

The cowboy, Alex Harrison, whispered something in Mark’s ear and Mark turned a few shades of red. He whispered back, his voice louder than she suspected he wanted due to his anger.

“You tell Blake to do what he has to. I won’t have this ruined. I don’t care if he has to get rid of the deputy all together, just take care of it” she overheard him say.

Her breath caught and she gripped the reins harder. Was Mark conspiring against the drive? What did he have planned? Was he planning on hurting someone? So many questions ran through her head that she couldn’t’ ask herself all of them. She diverted her eyes from Mark and Harrison and focused back on the trail in front of her. Her teeth clenched together as she set her jaw. She was going to watch Mark’s every move. There was no way she was going to let him hurt Adam.

For the rest of the day, she kept an eye on Mark Curtis’ every facial expression. He had hard-set eyes for the first little while, then his face softened into it’s normal disapproving look. Not one thing got past Katie.

If she didn’t hate the man so much, she would match him with the Widow Baker. They would make a good match. Not that she would put the poor widow through that. Mark was a despicable man. Katie could have sworn that she hadn’t seen him smile once since she’d known him. Yet somehow Toni trusted him. Of all people, Toni would be the one who wouldn’t trust Mark before any of the rest of them would. That meant that she respected Mark more than the rest of them - and Mark abused that respect.


She was setting up camp that night, jerking things out of the back of the chuck wagon with her anger and worry written all over her face. She would have moved faster had not Justin been strapped to her back. She turned around after jerking a pot out and nearly hit Adam with it.

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