Endless Trails(8)

By: Bonnie R. Paulson

Cody didn’t take up that much space. She would sleep with him in her arms. Since she didn’t move throughout the night, it was the only way she could sleep and not worry about Cody disappearing.

Ryland unbuttoned his flannel shirt, revealing a soft white cotton tee underneath it. He draped it over the chair and kicked off his boots. Claiming a spot on the bed situated not too far from hers, he sighed. “I’m tired. Do you ever just feel bone tired?”

“You just described the last few years of my life.” Amy tried covering it with light laughter, but she cut off the sound in case she woke her son.

Cody didn’t bother to open his eyes as he took the bottle nipple in his mouth and hungrily suckled. He was a hungry boy and most of the time Buck limited how much Amy was allowed to feed him. Well, now, that she was away from Buck, maybe she could get Cody as fat as she wanted to. She didn’t believe in a baby being on a diet or having food restrictions.

Not so for Buck. He constantly said his son wasn’t going to be fat.

She traced her finger over the soft smooth skin of Cody’s forehead. Looking down at him, she muttered to Ryland. “Can you believe anyone would think he’s not perfect? His dad...” She swallowed the sudden lump in her throat. “His dad didn’t want me to be happy with him. That man wants to take him away from me.”

Ryland spoke softly, his tone tender and warm. “Why wouldn’t he want you to be happy? I don’t even know you yet and I just want you to smile all the time.”

Amy’s gaze snapped up to his. They weren’t more than a few feet apart, as he had leaned over the space separating them to look down at the baby.

His proximity took her breath away, but not in a scary way. He was comforting and warm and he smelled like the outdoors with a hint of vanilla. She licked her lips with the tip of her tongue. “Do you like children?”

One could always tell the measure of a man by how he treated or talked about children.

Ryland continued staring at Cody. He nodded slowly and then lifted his gaze to hers. “I think children are amazing in their tininess – if that’s a word. I’ve always wanted some of my own.” He dropped his tone to a whisper and he raised his gaze to hers. “Don’t worry about your ex. I won’t let him get you.”

She shook her head, softly petting Cody’s head. A wry smile lifted the corner of her mouth against her volition. “You don’t know my ex. He’s threatened to kill me more than once. He’s threatened to kill Cody more times than he has said the boy’s name. If he’s determined to find me, he will.” She smiled sadly. “He will.”

“How long do you plan on running?” Ryland lifted his head from inspecting the baby and Amy could feel his gaze as he searched her face.

A tremble of fear shivered down her spine. “As long as I need to.”

“I can’t guarantee your son’s safety as far as I’m going. I have to find my cousin and get him back home. But, I can help you find a safe place to shore up until I can come back and get you. You’d be welcome back at the house, but I’m not going back that way immediately. I’ve lost too much ground already. I’m sorry.” He shook his head regrettably, as if he was responsible for the outcome of her life.

Before she could interject that she didn’t need him, he continued, “If I can find Nate here, and get him to come back with me, then you can come back, too. No strings attached. No expectations. There’s plenty of growth over in Taylor Falls and the rest of Clearwater County. I know you would be welcomed. The community is tight knit. They would rally around you and protect you. Your ex and his crud wouldn’t be tolerated.”

Amy looked at him, the earnestness in his face consoling. She nodded softly. “Well let’s see what tomorrow brings us. Thank you again. You really are a lifesaver.”

And for the first night in longer than Amy could remember, she slept... hard.


The next morning dawned bright, and hopeful. In the last twenty-four hours she’d gone from desperate desolation to hopeful optimism. The swinging pendulum of emotions could only be attributed to Ryland’s presence.

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