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Authors: Debra Webb

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BOOK: Dark Whispers
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Tyler wrote the sentiment off as the result of learning that his parents had been murdered. He would like nothing more than to solve the case that had been made to look like an accident. Thinking about it made him angry. Who would want to hurt his family?

He shelved those thoughts for now.

Another one struck him about the mystery woman. If the scene back there had been an attempted murder, then the murderer could still be around. With her lying there vulnerable and alone, it wouldn’t take much to finish the job.

Tyler crested Diablo’s Rock and took the back side just as fast shivering in the cold breeze. He’d tied Digby to a tree in a spot where his horse could decide if he wanted to be in the shade or not.

The gelding was standing in the sun, right where Tyler had left him. He blew out a breath as he pulled his walkie-talkie out of his saddlebag and got hold of his foreman, Russ.

“What can I do for you, boss?” Russ asked.

“There’s been a four-wheeler incident at the base of Diablo’s Rock. A woman took a pretty bad hit to her head. She’s not going anywhere without help.”

“You don’t know who she is?” Russ asked. It was more statement than question.

“Never seen her before. She doesn’t have any ID on her and I’d put money on the fact she has a concussion.”

“Sounds like a mess,” Russ agreed. “Hold on for one second, boss.”

Tyler would never get used to the title even though he owned just as much of the ranch as his brothers. Together, they had a ninety-five percent interest—or would as soon as the will was out of probate, which would take another ten months. The other five percent had been divided between Pop’s only living brother and sister a few years ago. Uncle Ezra and Aunt Bea didn’t agree on much of anything except being taken care of. The two of them were as alike as a water moccasin and a frog.

Pop had included them both in ownership of the ranch to help take care of them financially as they aged, since Bea’s daughter had left for California and Ezra’s only son had died before his tenth birthday. The family cattle ranch was the biggest in Texas, both in land and net profit. As if that wasn’t enough, the hunting club brought in more money than they could spend, much to the benefit of the many charities their mother had loved—a tradition Tyler and his brothers had every intention of continuing in her honor.

Even though the family had money and the boys had grown up knowing that they stood to inherit the highly successful family business, none had relied on that inheritance. All six O’Brien brothers had a deep-seated need to make their own way and depend on themselves. None were like their aunt or uncle, who seemed content to ride their successful brother’s coattails. Especially Uncle Ezra, who had been angling to sell his interest or be given more control over the hunting club in recent months. Tyler’s older brother Dallas figured the man was getting bored in his old age and wanted more to keep him busy.

Tyler hoped that was all there was to it, especially since it was his job to keep the peace. Of all the sons, he was the best negotiator and he’d talked Ezra down for the time being. They’d already set aside one percent of theirs for Janis, their housekeeper, who would be wealthy enough not to work for the rest of her life. Although, she’d said she was way too young to retire.

“I have emergency personnel on their way to the Rock,” Russ said, interrupting Tyler’s heavy thoughts—thoughts he’d volunteered to ride fences to try to stem in the first place.

Ranch hands called Tyler a Renaissance man for doing things the old-fashioned way, but the truth was that it was as good for Tyler’s soul as it was for Digby’s health. Being out on the land on his horse made him feel connected and whole in a way he couldn’t easily explain, nor did he care to examine.

“Let Tommy know about this, will you? Someone might be sick with worry looking for her,” he said. The sheriff had been Dallas O’Brien’s best friend and like a brother to the rest of the O’Brien boys. He’d grown up on the land. His uncle, Chill Johnson, had worked for Pop as long as Tyler could remember. Tommy had come to live with his uncle after his parents died.

“Will do, boss. I’ll see if the sheriff can meet you at the hospital to take statements. Maybe he can help figure out who she is.” Russ knew Tyler well enough to realize that he wouldn’t be able to walk away until he knew the mystery woman was all right.

Silence meant Russ was taking care of that phone call right now, which was good because if someone had already reported her missing, then Tyler might be able to bring back more than medical supplies. He might be able to give her an identity. And if that second set of tire tracks had someone frantically searching for help, Tyler could ease that burden, as well.

“Sheriff said no one called in an emergency or missing person’s report,” Russ said.

Tyler feared as much.

“Said he’ll meet her at the hospital since he’s tied up on another interview right now,” Russ continued.

If no one was looking for her, then Tyler had to consider other possibilities for those tire tracks.

“Much appreciated,” he said to Russ. “Have someone ready to take Digby from me so I can head to the hospital as soon as I get back to the barn. And send out a search team in the chopper to make sure there’s no one out here lost.”

Tyler thanked Russ before ending the transmission and starting the journey back toward the redheaded mystery. He couldn’t completely ignore the fear that he’d return to a lifeless body. She’d been upright and responsive so he’d take those as positive signs. Being away from her while she was vulnerable had his blood pressure spiking faster than a pro volleyball player. He picked up his pace, needing to see for himself that she was still okay.

At the faster speed, he crested Diablo’s Rock in half the time. Part of him wondered if she could have managed to crawl away. She’d seemed determined and half-scared out of her wits—a combination that could be dangerous—or deadly—and left him wondering what really had her so freaked out.

He found her right where he’d left her. His pulse had slowly wound back to a decent clip when he saw that she was still conscious. And yet something else he couldn’t quite put his finger on was eating away at him. What was the creepy, fire-ants-crawling-on-his-spine feeling about anyway?

Danger, for one thing, in the form of poachers. Sure, there were poachers in South Central Texas. People looked for trophies and illegally hunted on the large ranches in the area, which created a dangerous situation for all involved.

The O’Briens worked diligently to keep the land free of people who trespassed to hunt or steal game, so that risk should be minimal. If it wasn’t poachers, then what was it? The fact that so many things didn’t add up?

A beautiful single woman alone on a four-wheeler in territory she didn’t know and wasn’t dressed for? Yep. That made about as much sense as a deer eating barbeque.

“Help is on the way,” he said, trying to give her hope to hold on to, wishing he could do more. He knelt next to her and opened his medical supply kit.

“Thank you,” she managed to get out.

“My apologies if this hurts.” It was going to hurt. That gash on her forehead was deep and had him worried. He poured clean water over it and then dabbed antibiotic ointment onto an oversize gauze bandage, pressing it to her forehead to stem the bleeding. She seemed determined not to give in to the pain. Or maybe she was just too weak.

It didn’t take long for the cavalry to arrive. Tyler heard the chopper moving toward them before he got a visual on it. A helicopter was the only logical choice for rescue workers to use in order to access this part of the land. Otherwise, they’d have to take her on one helluva bumpy ride to get her to a main road, and that could jeopardize her condition.

Tyler saw the chopper moments before the pilot landed.

From there, it was only twenty yards to reach him and Red. The land was flat enough to manage easily on foot.

As emergency personnel neared, the mystery woman squeezed Tyler’s hand.

He glanced at her and saw that same look of fear in her eyes. What was that all about? Didn’t she realize this was the help she needed?

Depending on how bad that blow to the head was, she might not recognize them as the people who would help her. That had Tyler more worried than when he’d found her. Just how badly injured was she?

The blow she’d taken to the head looked bad. He’d give anyone that. But her panic looked like she was in one of those horror flicks being chased by an ax murderer.

“It’s okay. I know these men. They’ll take care of you,” he tried to reassure her. Tyler had known the EMTs, Andy and Shanks, for years. They were good guys. Dougherty would be piloting the chopper. Tyler didn’t need to see him to know that.

So what was up with the way she kept squeezing his hand, looking like she was trying to say something?

Copyright © 2016 by Barb Han

ISBN-13: 9781488005770

Dark Whispers

Copyright © 2016 by Debra Webb

All rights reserved. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical,
now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of publisher, Harlequin Enterprises Limited, 225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental. This edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

® and ™ are trademarks of the publisher. Trademarks indicated with ® are registered are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the Canadian Intellectual Property Office and in other countries.

BOOK: Dark Whispers
3.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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