Sometimes your past is the only future you’ll have.
Matt Reynolds was born and raised in the shadow of the Windys. Ranching is in his blood, as are the ties to family and friends. Ties he broke when he made some poor choices, leaving that life behind and finding a place to hide where he kept his secret and his shame safe. But not all secrets remain hidden forever.
Matt Reynolds is still running…
Ash turned in the saddle. “You remember this, Matt?”
“Like it was yesterday, MacBryde. What is it, half mile or so to the split?”
“More like three-quarters. We can make time here. Bennie, give Reynolds the lead rope.”
Matt reached for the lead line, curious why he was now designated babysitter. Their fingers brushed during the transfer. Matt shivered. When he glanced at Ben, the man was giving him a perplexed look, but he recovered and explained, “Oak’s mare is off the track.” He grinned, his teeth flashing in the dim ambient light. “They send her ahead to work out the kinks. You might not want to wrap that lead line around your hand. Your shoulder wouldn’t be the first one to get dislocated when the string bolts.” With a smirk he spurred the small grey mare into a canter and disappeared into the gloom.
The path was a single track indentation extending into the distance in a gently curving line. He trotted up toward Ash who was sitting easy on his horse, his long legs wrapping around the tall gelding like he was born to the saddle. In a way he was, always had been. Riding was a natural as breathing to Ash.
Matt thought of himself as competent, but he made no claims to being the horseman that his best friend was. Nor was he going to compare himself to the rider racing like a bat out of hell into the distance, the mare’s pale grey rump like rear tail lights beckoning them to follow if they dared.
Ash asked, “You ready, Matt?” When Matt nodded, he said, “Better hang on to your hat, buddy.” Spurring the gelding into a canter, he called back, “Don’t forget to turn at the outcrop,” and left him in the dust.
Matt wasn’t sure what he wanted to sacrifice—his hat, the spare horse, or the reins. Opting for steering he nudged the paint into a rocking horse canter, gradually increasing speed until he made out the shape of two riders circling each other beside a granite monolith. As the riders watched him approach, their inspection turned his insides to mush. The last thing he wanted was to be held to some standard in a game he wasn’t the least bit interested in playing.
While he talked himself out of caring what they thought about his horsemanship … about what Ben Kincaid thought … he shifted in the saddle, adjusting his posture like he’d done when his dad was giving him lessons, back when Ted Reynolds was still proud of his son. Back when his father saw them together, sharing a future with ranching at its core. Back before he’d discovered that his vision was different from others and had nothing to do with drag riding behind the herd, or bringing in hay for the winter, or the dozens of other ways a man found meaning and purpose doing a job he loved. Living a life he loved.
When Matt eased back, bringing the obedient gelding to a walk, he took note of Ash’s approval, his lips twitching as he considered saying something snarky. But the teasing look vanished like the wind. Instead he got a nod as Ash led them onto the trail that rose sharply to their left.
As a group they settled into formation, Ash leading, Matt and Ben behind. Ben reached over to the mare and unhooked the lead rope. She kept pace for a few strides, then fell back, bringing up the rear.
Ben wrapped the rope into a coil and tied it to his saddle with rawhide strips. When he finished, he grinned and said, “Nice riding, Tex,” and held his fist out for a bump.
The contact and the compliment had Matt wondering why, suddenly, he felt like he’d just won the lottery.
Facing down the wilderness is nothing compared to facing down your demons.
COMING MARCH 10th: MENDING FENCES
Book 6 in the Crow Creek Series
Available for Pre-Order
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