{Chapter} 26

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{Chapter 26}

“What do you mean ‘steal the ranch’?” Katie couldn’t believe the words that were coming out of Adam’s mouth.

“You remember that paper I was telling you about that Mark made Toni sign without letting her read it?” Adam asked.

Katie nodded.

“Well, I’m thinking that it could be a legal document giving Mark full ownership of the ranch. I’m not a hundred percent sure, so we’ve gotta keep this hushed.”

Katie sighed. “It seems so unlike Toni to go into something like that blindly. She’s usually more cautious, especially when it comes to legal papers.”

“Let’s hope she didn’t make a big mistake this time.”

Katie packed up the last of the breakfast dishes and they were ready to move out again.

Before long, they were all back on the trail. Mark rode back with the other cowboys on the way home while Toni rode with Katie.

“Are you sure you like Mark being the trail boss?” Katie asked, hoping to tactfully get the reason why Toni trusted her uncle.

Toni shrugged. “He’s the best man for it.”

“Pfft. We both know that Wade would make a better trail boss. Even the new cowboys respect him more,” Katie reasoned.

“Why are we talking about this? The drive is over.”

“I’m talking about next year, Toni. Don’t you remember what Mark did to us? He worked us to the bone while you were off in Georgia. What makes you think that four years has changed his heart?” Katie asked.

“He’s a saved man now, Katie.”

“Are you positive?”

Toni sighed. “Ye- No.”

“There’s something going on behind those eyes of his that I don’t trust.”

“He’s my uncle, Katie.”

“Even family can turn on you like a dime.”

Toni groaned. “Don’t you see? I haven’t had a family member stick by me all my life. Now I finally have one that wants to help me, and you’re trying to convince me that he’s a scalawag too.”

“It’s nothing against your family, Toni. I’m just trying to warn you,” Katie said softly.

“Do you know what it’s like to be alone, Katie? To not have a single person on earth you can trust?”

Katie shrugged.

“Well, I do. It’s not a fun place to be. Then my uncle came back to me. Now you’re telling me he’s plotting against me?”

“Need I remind you that he was the one who left you in the first place? Who made you alone? Who made you into a hardened, heartless person before you found God? Also, I’m not saying that he’s plotting against you.”

Toni looked away from Katie, her jaw set in the determined way she had when she was ticked off.

Katie sighed. If Toni only knew what Mark was up to.

**********

Adam watched Brant Alexander closely. The man was good at hiding the things that normally caught Adam’s eye and convinced him they were criminals. Brant made sure his eyes didn’t dart back and forth, he didn’t repeatedly look behind him, he didn’t keep looking at one person in particular, and he didn’t fidget that much. But Adam already knew that the man was crooked, so that didn’t bother him. What did bother him was the way Brant had ridden beside him all morning since they left camp. Adam didn’t like a man sticking that close to him. In all likelihood he was obeying Mark’s orders to keep a close watch on him. Well, Adam didn’t like being that close to him.

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