Endless Trails(10)

By: Bonnie R. Paulson

Ryland and Amy looked at each other but said their goodbyes.

As they walked back to the truck, Amy couldn’t help glancing back at the house. She’d felt a spark there, like she might connect with those people. She hadn’t needed to say much, but in the best types of places you didn’t have to.

Would she get to go back? If she did, how long would it take for Buck to find her there?

Chapter 5


Ryland wasn’t sure how he had gone from chasing after Nate to being responsible for a single mother and her child. Where he thought he would be upset, he strangely wasn’t. He liked having her around and the little boy was almost like a balm on his loneliness.

Laying there in the dark and listening to them breathe in the quiet hotel room had made his stark loneliness poignantly clear.

He carefully edged the truck down the drive, passed the other ranch hands that were trying out for the vacant jobs. Ryland glanced at Amy, as she held onto Cody’s fingers. She was always touching him which brought a smile to his lips. “What do you think about their offer?” He didn’t know what he thought about it for himself.

A safe place like that was rare. Especially when they seemed to be more interested in taking care of Amy and her baby than they were in making her work hard. As far as places to leave her and Cody, it was ideal, if he had to.

Bouncing on the edge of the seat, Amy tossed her hair back. “It’s amazing. She reminds me of how my mom used to be, sweet and just wanted to be around kids.” She glanced at her son and then back out the windshield. “My mom would’ve loved Cody.”

“She hasn’t met him?” Ryland’s forehead scrunched at the possibility of family not being involved in each other’s lives.

“No. She doesn’t know I had him.” She blinked hard and avoided looking at Ryland as she stared out the window.

“Where does your mom live?” Ryland didn’t understand why her own mother didn’t know about something so huge. Maybe she lived far away or she was so poor she didn’t have a phone. He didn’t know what reason justified keeping something like that a secret, but knowing Amy’s sweetness, she wouldn’t do it out of spite.

Sighing, Amy’s shoulders slouched forward as she huffed. “I didn’t like the way Buck treated her when she came to visit, so I asked her to stop coming. She really just didn’t like anything about him, but it embarrassed me... her seeing me like that. She told me once I had a baby with him, I’d never be free.” She sniffed, her chest rising rapidly. “She was right.” She glanced at him. “Sorry, that’s not what you asked.” She laughed at herself. “Missoula. My mom is in Missoula.”

Ryland let the silence sooth the shock of her answers. After taking a second to compose himself, he finally allowed his natural optimism to come out. “Well, Mary and Dean sounded sincere. You might keep their offer as an option.” Depending on Nate’s answer, Ryland might have to keep it as an option for himself as well.

Ryland pulled into a diagonal parking spot on the street in front of The Hardware Store. He stared at the sign with big block letters indicating the store The Hardware Store, The Grocery Store, and a small gas station that looked like it had seen better days and more cars than were measurable.

Amy climbed out of the truck, pulling Cody back into her arms. “I’m going to go to the store and see if they have any formula. Can I meet you at the hardware store?” The yellow sunlight shone off her colorful curls. She smiled at him.

There was something about her that tugged at Ryland’s insides. He returned her smile like an idiot, nodding with a dopey grin. What was he doing? Get it together. Even his tiny pep talk didn’t keep him from calling out reassuringly. “I’ll be right in there. I won’t leave without you.”

He watched her walk away, her shapely curved hips swayed with each step as she carried her son in the store.

A soft nicker to his left drew Ryland’s attention. As if the pretty caramel colored mare had missed Ryland or knew that he was way too far from home, Nate’s horse shook her head at Ryland. The animal must have recognized Ryland.

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