Endless Trails(2)

By: Bonnie R. Paulson

Especially not Ryland.

“Just find Nate and get home. Drake and Stephanie got more than just bison and we need all the hands we can get. I’ll let you know, if I hear anything else.” Damon’s concern carried over the phone as easily as his frustration had.

“Got it. Thanks, Damon.” Ryland meant it. He hadn’t felt whole in the last few weeks since Emma had died.

“Hey, Ryland, no one can make you happy. You have to give yourself permission to find it. And for the record, it’s not Nate’s fault Emma died.” Damon’s tone shifted from consoling to admonishing.

Clenching his jaw, Ryland shook his head, pulling off the window. “Well, I don’t think it’s fair. Why fall in love, when you’re going to lose them anyway? Doesn’t seem to be worth it.”

“When you find Nate, I want you to ask him.” Damon sighed.

Ryland set his jaw to the side. Of course he would have another task piled on top of retrieving the older cousin and getting him home. “Ask him what?”

“If any of it was worth it. Would he have traded his time with Emma for never knowing her so he wouldn’t hurt so badly?” Damon’s tone hardened and then softened as he continued. “Look, there’s more to happiness than just grinning all day. Once you realize that, you’ll see nothing is perfect and you’re going to find happiness in imperfection.”

“Yeah...” Ryland didn’t really believe him. “It still doesn’t seem fair.”

“Life isn’t about fair. Life’s about making it, leaving, learning, finding people to love again along the way and trying to survive. That’s what Nate needs to do. He needs to figure out a way to live after something like that.” Damon’s end of the phone rustled. “Look, I gotta go. Rachiah’s hollering for something. I’ll call you, if anything comes up.”

“Got it, thanks.” Ryland hung up and tucked his phone back in his shirt pocket. The sun would set soon and the oranges and purples streaked across the sky as the sun got lower in the sky. He’d heard once that all the colors in the sunsets were from chemicals in the atmosphere. Hopefully, that wasn’t true. Something so beautiful shouldn’t be attributable to something so awful.

The new angle to the sun gave a better view of the road ahead.

Just past Nissler and the southbound I15 junction toward Dillon, the silhouette of a vehicle flashed emergency hazards in the far distance.

As he got closer, Ryland squinted his eyes, searching for the occupant or signs of life. If there was someone there, he’d stop to help. If not, he’d keep on driving. Most oftentimes, people stopped right away in Montana. Courtesy and helping their neighbors were unspoken state mottoes. Ryland lived it and he knew many more that did, too.

The sedan’s hazards blinked in a slow pattern that didn’t really scream urgent. The battery was probably running down which meant the car had been out there long enough to burn it out.

He just about decided to pass the abandoned-looking car when movement caught his eye from beside the back tire facing away from the highway.

Ryland would never pass up the chance to help someone, let alone a woman whose hair flew about in the hot breeze.

Chapter 2


Amy ducked behind the rear panel of her old Buick. The car fought her on everything, but she’d been certain it would carry her to Basin, but she hadn’t even made it to Butte.

Why couldn’t anything go her way? She reached in and turned off the A/C which really wasn’t working with the engine frozen anyway, but the breeze through the car was better than nothing.

Cars didn’t fly by on the freeway very often, but when they did, she had to hide. What if it was Buck coming for her?

She wouldn’t survive being caught. Not again. And now, she had so much more to live for than just making him hot dogs and mac and cheese, and being his punching bag.

She had to.

The end of the summer heat had a popular name of Indian summer. Amy usually loved the lingering warmth when night fell. Trying to escape with the sun beating down on the sagebrush and blacktop covered shoulder during the day was only worsened by the heat.

She worked her dry tongue to try to swallow something, anything. Amy would give anything for some water. Or almost anything. She couldn’t use the small amount she’d brought for her. She needed that. Who knew when she’d get to a place she could get more.

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