Endless Trails(6)

By: Bonnie R. Paulson

Ryland glanced at Amy, then back at the road before answering. “Yeah, I can do that. Thanks for the heads up.”

They hung up and he replaced the phone in his pocket. He tapped his thumb on the steering wheel, the turnout was up ahead. He’d have to change course immediately. “Are you sure you want to get off a main highway? If you’re deadest on the direction of Butte, I can drop you off, but I need to get northwest to Godfrey. I don’t want you to feel pressured, but I have to get up there as soon as possible. You’re welcome to go that way with me, if you want.”

She didn’t hesitate, but nodded, her curls bobbing as she moved. “Yes, I’ll stick with you.” She absently put her hand inside the car seat to hold the tiny fingers of her son.

The tender touch reminded Ryland of his own mom.

“When we get to town, I’ll get us some rooms. You need to get some real rest tonight.” He made himself a promise, no matter how she’d felt to that point, as far as he was concerned, she would be safe. Single moms deserved more than fear and uncertainties.

They deserved everything.

Chapter 4


The idea of getting a hotel room with Ryland didn’t scare her. The guy was as gentlemanly as they came, he even averted his gaze while she changed her shirt when Cody spit up on the one she was wearing.

The sun had set solely by the time Amy and Ryland pulled into Godfrey, Montana. The small town was nestled at the base of two mountains that seemed to want to dance together.

Stars twinkled in the cloudless late summer sky. “How long do you think this Indian summer will go?”

“I think this recent heat wave will be gone in a couple weeks. There’s not much holding it here and with November around the corner, we’re guaranteed a long, white winter.” Ryland pulled into a spot as close to the neon sign that screamed in startling green, “Vacancies”.

Situated in the back of Main Street, a very small motel hunkered down on top of the bar like a frog on a log, waiting for visitors. Music from the sluggish jukebox pulsed along the cement stairs to the manager’s office.

Amy pulled Cody closer to her chest. She’d wrapped him pretty good in his sleeper, but she was running low on milk. The formula she’d been able to grab from Buck’s house hadn’t been very much. He usually made her store the formula in his truck so that whenever he left she couldn’t leave because she needed food.

This time, though, she’d left anyway.

Ryland ducked into the manager’s office while Amy enjoyed the cooling air outside with her baby. She leaned against the slatted walls and rocked the little boy back and forth with the barest of movements. “Sh. I’m not sure how, punkin, but I’m gonna make sure we’re okay.” She leaned down and brushed her lips across his forehead. “I promise.”

After a few more moments, the door opened, Ryland came out with one key. He brandished the diamond shaped key fob and shook his head, sheepishly muttering, “I’m sorry. They only have the one room down on the end. Apparently, there was a job call and the interviews are going on this week up at Bess Ranch. That explains why Nate’s up this far north and so far west.” He motioned down the catwalk for Amy to precede him. “A lot of the ranch hands looking for work are staying here. That explains the full parking lot.”

Ryland led the way down the small balcony-style hallway that led to the external doorways of the rooms. A wrought iron guardrail separated them from falling off of the one-story catwalk and they walked all the way to the end.

“If it’s okay, we’ll share the room, but I’ll sleep on the floor.” Ryland reached the room that matched his key number and he unlocked the knob, ushering her inside. “Hey, here’s a plus! There are two double beds. That’s convenient.”

Amy hesitated at the doorway. The details didn’t matter. She could’ve slept on the floor just as easily, but rooming with a man she didn’t know? With a brand new baby? She glanced back at the parking lot.

Ryland spoke calmly, like he might to a nervous horse. “If you’re not comfortable, I’ll sleep in the truck. I don’t want you to be worried at all.”

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