“Good job, greenhorn,” Jonah said, slapping me on the back.

“Dude, what in the hell is a greenhorn?” I asked, eyeing Cricket as we made our way toward the main house for breakfast.

She and Ethan had two stalls left. I reveled in the fact that she watched me the entire way.

Jonah laughed. “You’re a greenhorn. It’s essentially a newbie, Spencer.”

“Ah, guess there’s nothing I can do about it then.”

“Nothing,” he said, but smiled and slapped me on the shoulder again. “Hungry?”


Chapter Sixteen

At breakfast, Cricket came in a little too late for my taste. In fact, I knew for a fact they should’ve been in shortly after Jonah and me. I studied them from across the room. Cricket’s raw lips gave away her little game, and Ethan’s fucking grin pissed me off beyond belief.

“Hello?” I heard to my left.

“Huh?” I said.

“I was talking to you, Spence,” Bridge said, rolling her eyes when I finally made eye contact.

“Never mind,” she huffed. “I’m going to pee for the seventh time this morning. I hope Ellie didn’t think I was trying to get out of work.” She got up and headed for the restroom.

Cricket looked at me from the corner of her eye. I raised my brows in question but she ignored me. I began to stand up to join them, but Bridge rushed back into the dining room, startling me. There was a look of panic on her face.

“I’m bleeding,” she whispered.


She shook her head up and down, her eyes glassing over, biting her thumbnail.

My heart jumped into my throat. “Okay, okay, let’s not panic. Uh, let me think,” I said, running my hands through my hair. My eyes searched the table and met Cricket’s.

She read something in my expression, jumped up and crawled over her bench, practically sprinting over to us. “What’s wrong? You okay, Bridget?” she asked, reaching up and running her hand over my sister’s hair.

“I’m bleeding,” she whispered again.

“Oh, God. Okay, don’t panic. I’ll be right back.”

Cricket approached Ellie and they spoke in hushed whispers.

“Hey, Spencer, do you have your keys?” she asked.


“All right, we’re going into town. Grandma’s got a doctor she’s going to call for us.”

“What about all the work I need to help her with?” Bridge asked, an edge to her voice.

“Don’t worry about that, darlin’,” Cricket smiled. “Let’s go figure you out.”

Bridge nodded.

“You both stay here,” I said. “I’ll run down and get the truck for you.”

I stood and made my way toward the door.

“Everything okay?” Jonah asked.

“Yeah, uh, well, Bridge might be having some complications. I need to run for my truck to take her into town.”

Without thinking, Jonah ran across the deck, down the stairs and started his four-wheeler.

“You’ll get there faster on this thing!” he said. “Just leave it down there with the keys in the ignition. I’ll fetch it later.”

“Thanks, Jonah.” I was grateful to him.

I raced down the drive, passing the cattle barn and carriage house, rounding the horse barn, then winding down the trailer’s drive. It was still pitch black, but the four-wheeler had headlights. It would have only been a seven- or eight-minute walk, but I was so anxious, walking that would have felt like a lifetime. I turned off the engine but left the keys in the ignition as Jonah had asked then propelled myself into my truck, started the engine and threw the gear in reverse before I realized I’d probably need some cash. Then I thought it would probably be a good idea to take all of it. I placed it in park and went inside, stuffing the wads of bills in a small pack.

I drove like a banshee, but it felt like it took forever to get to the main house. I sat idle for a moment, the exhaust from the truck billowing out around me when they finally emerged. I jumped from the truck and ran up to them, helping Bridge get in, then tiny Cricket right after her. Bridge insisted on sitting in the back so she could lie down if she wanted to. We were bumbling down the road in less than a minute.

“Thank God the roads are clear today and there’s no snow,” Cricket said, buckling herself in.

“Is your heater working?” I asked Cricket, placing my hand over Bridge’s vent in the back to make sure hers was also heating up.

She looked at me strangely. “Uh, yeah, it’s fine.” She cleared her throat. “Thank you.”

She peered behind her. Bridge was resting her head in her hand, her elbow sat on the armrest.

“You okay?” Cricket asked.

“I-I don’t know. We’ll see, I guess.”

Bridge tried to sound cool but terror laced her voice.

“Do you mind me asking? Was there a lot of blood?” Cricket asked.

“Uh, no-yes...I don’t know.”

“Okay, that’s okay. We’ll see what Dr. Harmon says.”

Bridge nodded.

Cricket turned toward me and I looked at her. We didn’t speak. I hated to have to turn back toward the road. I wanted so desperately to know what she was thinking. I wanted to blurt out all my questions, but I also didn’t want to alarm Bridge. So we drove the half-hour drive southeast into Kalispell in almost complete silence. Bridge would chime in occasionally to see how much longer or to ask if we thought everything was going to be all right. “Not long,” we’d tell her. “You’ll be fine,” we’d offer with no real idea if that was the truth.

Finally, we entered downtown Kalispell. It was incredibly charming. Brick buildings built in the early nineteen hundreds, original cobblestone streets and the sidewalks filled with shopping people. The streetlights were still strung with garland and ribbon. It was beyond picturesque and looked like one of the last places on Earth you could photograph in black and white and people wouldn’t be able to discern whether it was turn of the century.

“Here it is,” Cricket said, as I turned onto Main. “This is Dr. Harmon’s.”

Bridget peeked out her window. “This looks like a drug store straight out of a Victorian-era film.”

“Probably just a little after,” I corrected.

Bridge speared me with a look, silently beckoning me to shut my trap.

I got out and ran to the other side and let Bridge and Cricket out. There were two entrances, one for the drug store on the first floor and another with a narrow staircase leading to the second floor doctor’s office. We all climbed the stairs, our boots echoing in loud booms in the small enclosed space. The top of the stairs had a small landing and a frosted glass door. It read Marshall Harmon, M.D. and centered underneath his name it continued, Obstetrician-Gynecologist. Everything in me as a dude screamed to run.

We walked in and approached a little metal desk. It looked like something you’d find in a teacher’s classroom in the fifties.

“Cricket!” the little receptionist with the beehive chirped. Her eyes slid to Bridge and she stood. “You must be Miss Blackwell. Come on back. Dr. Harmon’s been expecting you.”

Bridge followed her, the wood creaking beneath their feet.

“You’re going to be all right?” Cricket asked her.

“I’ll be fine,” Bridge offered with a small smile. She stopped. “I don’t know how long I’m going to be. You guys should run those errands, Spencer.”

“Oh. Okay,” I said.

I watched her walk to the room by herself, and I felt so heartbroken for her going in there alone. My mom should have been here. I hated my dad for that. I hated the boy who did it to Bridge, even if he wasn’t all to blame.

I thought back to all the times I’d slept with a girl and not thought twice about it and my gut ached. If a girl doesn’t safeguard herself, who will? I’d always had the mentality that men will change when women change, but I never thought about how safeguarding the girls around me was just as much my responsibility as it was theirs.

I looked over at Cricket. I studied the girl before me. She was beautiful beyond belief, but she wasn’t some object to conquer, she was someone to be cherished, someone to be loved, someone to be revered. I wondered if Ethan did all that for her. I wondered if she gave all that in return to him, and that made my blood burn in my veins. That initial attraction between us was apparent, no doubt, but I wondered if I should give up on trying. I wondered if my infatuation for her even had a future, especially because she was with Ethan.

My mama would always say, “Whether they’re aware of it or not, if their heart beats your name, answer the call.” Stupidly, I always thought that meant any girl was pretty much open game, but I understood in that moment that it meant that nothing was ever final.

Did I want to rock the boat, though? Her whole family loved Ethan, and everyone was being so generous by letting us hide out there. What are you doing? I asked myself. This whole thing is about Bridge. Get out. Make your future. Stop obsessing over this girl. Focus.

“I know an outfitter just down the road. Close enough to walk,” Cricket said. “We can get you some decent working clothes if you’re up to it.”

“That’s fine,” I said, feeling deflated.

I followed Cricket out, knowing that although I wanted her more than I’d ever wanted anyone else, she was far too out of reach. I had goals.

I constructed a hundred-foot steel wall between us and sealed all the bolts, leaving only Bridge and myself on my side. Who cared if I could still hear Cricket’s heart beating my name loudly as a drum on the other side?

Chapter Seventeen

At the outfitter, Cricket helped me find a couple pairs of decent jeans. I refused the Wranglers because I looked ridiculous. She also found a few shirts, long johns (I’m not shitting you), a wool-lined suede jacket, which seemed pretty standard among the other hands, and two pairs of sturdy work boots. I’d noticed most of the ranch hands would wear a bandana-like scarf instead of anything long. I assumed this was for practical reasons and told Cricket I’d like the same as well.

She came up with a couple of cowboy hats, but I couldn’t bring myself to wear one. I looked comical in them. I tried one on and did a little jig, trying to lighten the moment. Cricket laughed and my gut twisted. I took it off immediately, desperate to get her lovely voice out of my head.

I settled for a fleece-lined visor beanie instead. She said those were pretty common around the ranch, so I wouldn’t stand out or anything, to which I was grateful. I didn’t want to stand out anymore than I already was.

“What about chaps?” I asked.

She looked at me, waiting for a cheeky remark, but I held a stoic expression. She cleared her throat. “We’ve got a million pairs back at home. Ellie makes them herself.”

“No shit! She’s pretty talented.”

“At everything she does.”

I nodded.

“I’ll pay for these then,” I said, dragging the rest of the stuff toward the front.

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