Read 1st Chapter of Sadie’s Texas Cowboy Saviors Here

23 Oct


Raw Texas Heat 2
KAYLA KNIGHTCopyright © 2011

Sadie’s eyes flicked wide open. Dazed and in a stupor, she tried to see, but the darkness seemed impenetrable. Panicking, she attempted to move, but couldn’t. What was happening? Where was she?

Then she heard it—the slow sloshing of fluid above her. She wanted so much to scream, she tried to scream, but nothing came out.

Slowly, she gained some space and managed to free her arm, which had been trapped behind her back. Footsteps echoed, and moved away. The unmistakable fumes of liquid gasoline hit her nostrils. Close to hysteria, she froze solid.

No, no, this can’t be happening. Crippling fear overwhelmed her. When she struggled frantically in the confined space, the sleeves of her blouse rose up, and she recognized the material that brushed against her bare skin. It felt and smelt like roughened wool. Fear invaded her senses when she realized she was tightly wrapped in a roll of carpet. “Please, God, don’t let me die, I don’t want to die.” Trying to quell the rising panic, she fought for space, kicking out her feet to make more room. The carpet was wrapped so tightly, the buckles on her leather boots caught against each other, and her jeans twisted on her legs. Something touched her. Using her free hand she frantically probed the darkness. When her fingers came into contact with cold still flesh, she immediately recoiled in fear. Dear God, there was someone else here, too.

It was only when the footsteps returned that she stopped moving, and lay perfectly still, just listening to her own frantic breathing. The unmistakable noise of a match being struck and then a crackling roaring sound brought absolute terror. She wanted to shout out, help me, help me, please help me, but the words just wouldn’t come. Her heart thumped in her chest as panic threatened to overwhelm her completely. “I’ve gotta get out. I’ve gotta get out,” she panted hysterically. With the flames taking hold, Sadie could just make out a small opening with something wedged in it. Frightened, so very frightened, in desperation she reached out. Beads and soft suede tassels felt familiar. Her purse, her purse, it was her purse. What was it doing there? How had it gotten there? Smoke began to fill the confined space, and she caught sight of the other occupant in the dim light. Her best friend Gina lay dead beside her. Blood caked her forehead.

Her eyes were open, terrified and unseeing. “Please, God, no!”

Her mind froze and went blank. At all costs she had to survive. She just had to.

With the last of her strength she pushed past the purse blocking her path, and wriggled free. Close to exhaustion she crawled across the ground, dragging herself over the damp soil and away from the burning flames. A series of wheezes and coughs wracked through her body, and she collapsed on the cold earth, fighting for breath. The constant dripping of water from the curved brick ceiling her only companion as it splashed down into giant puddles.

Drip, drip, drip, drop.

Drip, drip, drip, drop.

Drip, drip, drip, drop.

Darkness invaded her peripheral vision once more, and she slipped into unconsciousness…
* * * *
…She opened her eyes and looked around, not recognizing anything. In the distance she could just make out an arched entrance, and she guessed she was in a disused railway tunnel. How did she get here? Debris filled the space. Bicycle wheels, old refrigerators, and abandoned shopping carts, lay all around. An old burnt-out carpet still smoldered close by. She guessed it belonged to a vagrant and had been torched by youths, just for the fun of it.

How long had she been here?

She pulled a hand through her blood-matted hair. Her head hurt so, so bad. Where was she? Who was she? She picked up a dark brown purse with pretty beads and tassels that lay discarded on the ground. Was it hers? Surely she’d recognize something so distinctive? Inside there was nothing at all. With uncontrollably trembling hands, she feverishly checked all the pockets. “Nothing, nothing, there’s nothing.” Almost on the point of breaking down completely, she found a hidden compartment. Inside was a photograph.

She stared at the image, unable to identify the small child. She turned the picture over. The single word Sadie was written on the back. Who was Sadie? And more to the point who was she? For the life of her she couldn’t even remember her own name. Perhaps she was Sadie.

She stared at the photo. A young girl aged about eight stood, smiling by the entrance to a cattle ranch. A large sign with the words The Connors Ranch. Silver Grove, Cedar Creek, Texas piqued her curiosity. Would the people who lived here have any answers?

Chapter One

Matt Connors slapped his younger brother on the back. “Come on, Joe. Let’s call it a day. I think we’ve earned ourselves a big juicy steak with all the trimmings.”

“Sounds like my kinda dinner, Matt. I can almost taste it. I’ve just about had it with these here repairs.”

With no time to lose, they collected their equipment and slung everything into the back of the blue pickup. Matt gunned the engine into life, and they were soon on their way, rough tracking it through their land, dust billowing in their wake.

As Joe rested his booted feet on the dashboard, Matt surveyed their spread, some two thousand acres in total. With the sun dipping below the horizon, great sweeps of crimson, interspersed with gold, lit up the entire sky. “Don’t you just love Texas, Joe? This land of ours sure is beautiful.”

His brother chuckled, and shook his head. “You sound more and more like Pop every day.”

Matt smiled. “Nothing wrong with that.” When their father had died suddenly of a heart attack, aged fifty-five, he’d left them the ranch in his will. Matt had only been eighteen, with Joe barely sixteen. It had been a huge responsibility, but one he hadn’t shirked. But now, some twelve years later at the age of thirty, he and his brother had turned the ranch around, making it into a very profitable business. Matt felt he could finally relax and enjoy life a little.

He drove over the cattle guard at breakneck speed, and brought the pickup to a sudden halt outside the ranch house. The impressive façade boasted a deep wraparound porch, which glowed an iridescent red as the last vestiges of sunlight gently ebbed away.

Buster, their guard dog, lifted his head from his favorite spot on the porch, but didn’t move. Usually he would bound over to greet them, always eager for food.

“What’s up with Buster?” Joe asked.

Matt shrugged as he climbed from the pickup. He walked over to the elderly mutt. All Buster managed was a flick of his tail. He leaned down and scratched the old dog’s head. Big soulful eyes lifted to his, and he whimpered from his graying muzzle. “Take it easy, old fella.” He turned to Joe. “Best we keep an eye on him. If he’s no better by morning, I’ll take him to the vet.”

“Maybe when we start cooking our steak, it’ll revive him.”

While Joe went for a wash, Matt set about their dinner. He put the griddle on, and prepared the vegetables. When everything was just about ready and the griddle smoking hot, he went to the refrigerator.

What the fuck? No steak. Where the hell was it?

Matt moved several jars out of the way, just in case it was lurking in the back somewhere. Completely perplexed, he rubbed a hand through his hair, then called out, “Joe, what have you done with the steaks? There were two prime thirty-two ounce rib eyes in the fridge this morning.”

At that moment, his brother walked into the kitchen, and replied. “How the fuck would I know where they are?”

“Well, they’re not here. That’s for sure.” Matt rummaged through the refrigerator one more time, convinced they would show up. They didn’t. “That’s funny. I could swear there was some mayo in here, too.”

“You don’t think…” his brother stopped speaking and then shook his head as he looked around the kitchen. “Guess I’m just being paranoid.”

“Go on,” Matt encouraged him. “What were you about to say?”

“Ah, it’s kinda stupid really, but I could have sworn I locked the barn up last night, but when I got there this morning, it was unlocked.“

You’re always forgetting to lock the fucking barn, Joe. Ain’t nothing new there. Why don’t you go and get a couple of pizzas from the chest freezer. I guess we’ll have them tonight instead.”
* * * *
As Joe entered the laundry room, a splintering sound underfoot caught his attention. Quickly he went to the back door. One whole glass panel had been punched through. He called to his brother.

“Goddamn it, Matt. Somebody’s been in here.”

Matt came racing through. After taking in the state of the back door, he immediately said, “I’d better check the ready cash I’ve got hidden upstairs.”

He watched his brother take the stairs two at a time. Moments later he returned with an empty metal cash box. “Fucking hell, Joe, they’ve taken all of it, more than five hundred bucks. I’m gonna give Sheriff Drew a call.”

“I’ll go and check the outbuildings,” Joe announced as Matt began dialing the Sheriff’s number. He took a shotgun from the gun rack and pushed two cartridges fully home before snapping it shut with a loud click. “If the guy’s still here, I’m ready for him.”

As he walked outside, he glanced at Buster. “Damn useless dog. You were a lot of good.” Buster just lay there, his tail twitching occasionally. In irritation Joe strode angrily across the yard. He swung the big doors to the barn open in disgust. A couple of roosting hens fluttered noisily around before settling back on the ground. They looked as disgruntled as he felt.

Nothing seemed out of place. He was just about to leave and lock up when he heard the unmistakable sound of a cat sneeze. Joe stopped short. They didn’t have any cats. Buster wouldn’t tolerate them. Goddamn it, that was no cat sneeze. That was a feminine sneeze.

Joe stared at the hay bales stacked as high as the ceiling. “Come on out, lady. I know you’re in there.”

No answer.

“I’m gonna give you one more chance, lady. I’m missing my dinner thanks to you.”

Like a man possessed, Joe began yanking hay bales out of the way, tossing them angrily aside determined to get to the culprit. “Fucking get out here, right now, and explain yourself.” The hens made a deafening cacophony as they tried desperately to dodge the falling hay bales.

All of a sudden, a petite young woman emerged from behind the wall of hay, brandishing a pitchfork. When she jabbed it at him, he automatically took a step back, laughing at her spunky attitude. She was so small. How could she think she frightened him, especially as he had a loaded shotgun in his hand?

“Whoa now, darlin’, I’m not gonna hurt you, but you’ve got some explaining to do.”

“Keep away from me, mister, or I’ll run you through.” Her voice, although angry, could not hide her true feelings. She looked shit scared.

Covered in muck, and pieces of straw, she wore jeans and a pretty pink blouse. Her hair was wild and spun from gold, her eyes were the color of summer sky, and shone brightly from her small yet dirty oval face.

In all his life, Joe had never seen a woman look more untamed and feral.
* * * *
Sadie swallowed hard, panic rising once more. She felt like screaming. Just what was going on? She’d come all this way to find answers, and yet she still hadn’t a clue, who or what she was.

Now this great bear of a guy, with dark blond hair and a five o’clock shadow, stood menacingly over her, gun in hand. He looked well and truly pissed. Was he going to shoot her? After all, she was on his property, uninvited.

She waved the pitchfork again to show she meant business. “Keep away, mister, I mean it.” He raised his hands and backed off a little.

“Now hold on, little lady. You need to calm down.”

His voice was deep and velvety smooth, and she felt herself begin to calm. Sadie pressed her back against the hay bales. She knew there was another guy somewhere, too. From the safety of the barn, she’d seen them both turn up in the pickup just an hour before. She guessed they were brothers as they had similar looks. Both were broad and well over six feet tall, with dark blond hair.

“Do you want to explain yourself, darlin’? What are you doing here?” he eventually asked.

“Looking for answers.”

“What answers?”

“If I knew what I was looking for, I wouldn’t need to be here.”

Obviously perplexed by her vague response, the guy scratched his head. “Do you have a name?”

She shrugged. “Sadie, I think.”

He stared at her. “You don’t know your own name?”

“I think my name is Sadie, but I’m not absolutely sure.” She felt her mouth tremble. This was a living nightmare. “I’m all mixed up.”

“It’s okay, darlin’, I’m gonna ask you to trust me.”

When he put the gun down and began to move toward her, she jabbed the pitchfork in his direction again. “I’m warning you, stay away.” Her breathing was heavy as panic began to set in once more. She’d hoped that by coming to the ranch she would remember, but it hadn’t happened. Nothing she’d seen here had jogged her memory at all. Now there didn’t seem any light at the end of the tunnel. She felt completely lost and confused.

At that moment the other guy came through the open barn doors. “What’s all the fuss, Joe?” He stopped, becoming motionless when he saw her standing in the barn. “Who’s the woman?” he asked, his gaze sweeping her from head to toe.

His brother shrugged. “She’s the one who broke into the house. This little lady stole our money and ate our fucking steak. She calls herself Sadie.”

“Well, Sadie, I’ll tell you what we’re gonna do. Joe and I, I’m Matt by the way, are gonna sit over here.” He grabbed his brother and pulled him right over to the doorway, where they sat on a bale of hay.

“What do you think you’re doing, Matt? You’re being too soft. We can’t let her get away with it. She’s a thief.” Joe seemed indignant.

“Give her some space. She’s scared shitless. Just look at her eyes. Her pupils are the size of saucers. Maybe she’ll tell us what’s going on if we’re not crowding her out.”

Sadie breathed deeply. With some space around her she didn’t feel so threatened. “I’m sorry about your food, but I was hungry. Your dog looked mean, so I gave him the steak.”

Joe looked incredulous. “You gave that no-good, lazy mutt my rib eye? No wonder he couldn’t move his weary ass when we got home.”

“Yes, I’m sorry, but he was barking something fierce, and he looked at me with those big soulful eyes of his.”

Joe started to mumble something derisory under his breath, until his older brother elbowed him hard in the ribs.

Sadie sagged to the floor and sat on the ground. It had taken four days to walk here from Dallas, and she was exhausted. Her hand shook as she dug into her pocket and pulled out a faded, crumpled photograph. “This is all I have. A few days ago I found myself wandering around Dallas with this in my hand. I don’t remember anything of my life before that. I think that’s me in the photo. It says Sadie on the back. I thought she looked like me.”

Carefully, she smoothed her grubby fingers over the young child with the gapped teeth and the beaming smile. Surely someone who looked so happy must have had a wonderful life? If only she could remember it. “What made you come here?” Joe asked. He seemed to have calmed down a lot, because his voice was now very gentle.

She tossed the picture over to them. “That is the entrance sign to your ranch, isn’t it?”

Matt leaned forward and picked it up. He studied it for a while and then gave it to his brother. “Yeah, that’s definitely our ranch.”

Sadie clasped her hands tightly around her knees, and rocked herself gently from side to side. It felt the only way to hold everything together. “I hoped you might be able to tell me who I am.”

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