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Booted (Trails of Sin #3)
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The night I’m released from prison, she’s in my bed.
We’re toxic together, but we want the same things. Blood. Vengeance.
Beneath her touch, I’m alive.
Prison made me cold, but losing Raina makes me cruel. Ruthless. Unforgiving.
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The silence in the master suite makes my blood run colder than the air blasting from the floor vent. It’s an accusing silence, articulation without voice, howling with my failures.
Tensing against the tremors is useless, but I do it impulsively, trying to deaden the bleed of anguish.
The bruises and cuts John Holsten left on my body mean nothing. It’s the other damage, the deep hole he cleaved through my heart that wracks me with inconsolable pain. I can’t undo what he did. I have no choice but to survive it.
I drink in the silence and hear what it’s telling me.
It says to end the pity party, pull my ass from this bed, and go.
How long have I been at Julep Ranch? Two nights? Three? I haven’t eaten. Haven’t bathed. Haven’t left this room. I’m bereft of strength, my limbs hanging boneless and brittle, as if karma is conspiring to keep me here. In John Holsten’s family home.
I owe Maybe Quinn for risking her life to save me, but the unexpected freedom doesn’t dare whisper the reassurances I need. I have nothing. Not here or anywhere.
She should’ve left me chained in that room in Texas. I would’ve killed the son of a bitch eventually.
Lying on my side with my back to the door, I’ve only been awake for a few minutes. Daylight fades beyond the window, sharpening the jagged edges of my existence.
A fuzzy sheen glazes my good eye. The swelling in the other has gone down since the night John rammed his fist into it. But it waters and stings unbearably. If the cornea is scratched, there’s no fix for that except time.
Time will heal the small stuff. The worst of my wounds, however, may never stitch back together.
Behind me, the quiet intrudes like a thief, bristling with menace and plundering the cavernous suite. Is someone here?
I hold my breath, listening. Then I feel it. A knot of air. An undeniable presence. I’m not alone.
Maybe checks on me every few hours to treat my wounds, nag me to eat, and ask questions I don’t have the energy to answer. She stomps around and makes too much noise for the presence behind me to be her.
Curiosity shifts me to my back, but I misjudged the weakness in my body. My muscles struggle to take orders, my breaths rasping in my exertion to re-position. I turn my neck and wait for my vision to clear, hoping for a feminine face or friendly expression. I get neither.
Cold green eyes hijack my pulse. Long, lean, and packed with power, the formidable cowboy sprawls on a folding chair a few feet away and glares out the window from beneath a black wide-brimmed hat.
Immersed in the beauty of his dangerous superiority, his gaze slides to me and narrows into judgmental slits. It’s a look without morals or manners, one that says killing me would cause him less grief than putting down a horse.
A gasp hitches my chest, but I keep my eyes steady on his. Two years ago, I met John Holsten’s sons, Jarret and Jake. Yesterday, I met Conor, the only daughter at Julep Ranch. This man must be Conor’s brother, the elusive fourth in their tight-knit quartet.
When I stayed here before, a photo of him graced the fireplace mantle. The smiling boy in that picture has no resemblance to the felon scowling at me now.
If an ex-con has a look, Lorne personifies it. The icy allure reflected on his face makes me shudder as his thumb mindlessly strokes the scar on his palm. Chillingly intense and devoid of sympathy, the man is chiseled in hostility.
Where his eyes are the vivid green of fresh dew on a pasture, his lips are pale and pressed into a severe line. Short black hair peeks from under the hat. A slender nose and prominent, clean-shaved jaw accentuate his bold angles.
Beautiful doesn’t begin to describe him. He’s arresting in the way a viper is deadly. Entrancing. Calculating. Patient. If he strikes, I won’t survive the bite.
His strength flows through the twining cords of muscle that shape his physique—thick biceps, powerful thighs and calves, rock-hard chest and abdomen. The jeans and t-shirt fit too tightly, his broad frame stretching the fabric and testing the seams.
Incarcerated at age eighteen, he must’ve grown over the past eight years. But little inconveniences, such as needing new clothes, are probably not high on his give a fuck list.
He sweeps a cursory glance over my bandages. The marbled coloring on my arms and chest blends together in layers of yellows, blacks, and blues. Every inch of my body narrates the story of my life as John Holsten’s whore.
“Tell me what happened.” His voice scratches, low and rusty, as if out of practice.
“Isn’t it obvious?”
Leaning forward, he rests his elbows on spread knees. Rather than drilling me on how I became a punching bag, he pins me with threatening silence. The kind of silence that wraps my lungs in razor wire.