Read Fired Up Online

Authors: Mary Connealy

Tags: #FIC042030, #FIC042040, #FIC027050, #Physicians—Fiction, #Texas—Fiction

Fired Up

© 2013 by Mary Connealy

Published by Bethany House Publishers

11400 Hampshire Avenue South

Bloomington, Minnesota 55438

Bethany House Publishers is a division of

Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Ebook edition created 2013

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—for example, electronic, photocopy, recording—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC.

ISBN 978-1-4412-6277-6

Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, incidents, and dialogues are products of the author's imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Cover design by Dan Pitts

Cover photography by Mike Habermann Photography, LLC

Author is represented by Natasha Kern Literary Agency

Fired Up
is dedicated to my daughter Wendy. When I talk about what inspired me to write a book, I always mention Wendy because she wrote a book when she was ten years old and it was really good. I asked her if I could take it and work on it, make it longer. (It was really short, but not all that short for a ten-year-old!) Wendy said, “Write your own book. Leave mine alone.”

So I did. And here I am today a published author, thanks to Wendy.

Wendy has the sweetest heart of anyone I know, and a great sense of humor. She's also got an independent streak that I admire and she loves reading. When she got up to mischief as a kid, I'd say, “Go to your room!” And she'd perk up and ask, “How long can I stay in there?” She always had a book she wanted to read.

Chapter 1

10, 1868

Sitting high on the wagon seat, a breeze fluttered Glynna Greer's skirt. The near horse reared, sending the buckboard rolling backward. The other horse in the team whinnied and shifted nervously.

“Whoa there.” Jonas Cahill dragged on the brake.

Glynna's blond hair whipped into her eyes and blinded her for a moment as she grabbed at her skirts to control them. They were a half mile down the trail heading for home, nearing a narrow pass.

“Mama!” Janet cried out from right behind Glynna.

Glynna had sworn she'd never let her children feel another moment of fear. A stupid oath to take as it turned out.

Janny and Paul were tucked into the bit of empty space in the back of the small buckboard. Glynna turned to ease their fears, and a gust of wind blew her skirt again and set the horse to rearing.

Dare Riker rode up to the wagon, wrapped an arm around Glynna's waist and wheeled his horse, carrying Glynna away. “Let Jonas calm the team.”

Dare turned to Vince. “Your horse is as steady as they come. Switch that mare for your gelding.”

“No, wait.” Glynna was so eager to leave, she couldn't bear to have to wait around to change horses. “There's no need for that.”

It had taken her weeks to come out and get her meager possessions from that house she'd lived in before her loathsome husband died.

She didn't want anything that was his.

Glynna hadn't thought to gather so much. But despite her protest, her friends hauled things out until the buckboard was stacked high with crates. She had to admit that the very sparse rooms she lived in with her children could use a lot of these things, detestable memories or not.

Redheaded Jonas, Broken Wheel's parson, quieted the horses. Dare, with his shaggy blond hair and droopy mustache, and Vince Yates, tidy and dark and too charming for his own good, each had a horse and rode alongside the wagon. These men had risked their lives to save Glynna from her husband, and they were still helping.

Glynna realized how nice it felt to be held in Dare's strong arms. She looked at her son, Paul, who sat beside Janny in the wagon box. Her young daughter's golden eyes were brimming with tears, while Paul's blue eyes blazed with fury that his newly widowed ma was so close to a man.

Quietly, Glynna said, “Put me down, Dare.”

They exchanged a look. Dare glanced at Paul, gave a quick nod, and set her on the ground well back of the wagon.

“My skirts spooked the mare, but I've got a firm grip
on them now.” Glynna looked from the horse to her young'uns. She had to sit up on the high buckboard seat beside Parson Cahill, as there wasn't room for her in the wagon box. “Changing the horse will take some time. I'd just as soon get going. Let's give the mare another chance.”

Dare rubbed a hand thoughtfully over his mustache, then swung off his horse, handed the reins to Vince, and went over to the hitched mare's head and held her. He moved so his body blocked the horse's view of Glynna. “Okay, try it. Move easy now.”

Glynna gathered her skirts securely against her body and moved toward the wagon. But the horse must have smelled her. It tugged on the reins, twisting its head to watch Glynna. Its eyes were white all around, wide with fear.

Stepping back until the horse calmed down, she crossed her arms, annoyed by the delay required to hitch up another horse.

“Can you ride?” Vince asked.

Glynna looked back at the handsome lawyer. “Yes, I've been riding all my life.”

“Instead of switching teams, you take my horse. I'll go with the buckboard.” Then he added the warning, “You'll have to ride astride.”

The chance to leave this instant made her almost giddy. Glynna looked at Dare. She shouldn't look to him, she knew it, yet how often had she caught herself doing just that? “I'd enjoy riding. It's been a long time.”

In fact, it had been a long time since she'd enjoyed much of

She strode to Vince's big red gelding and swung up in the saddle, enjoying the feel of a horse under her. She adjusted her skirts. They were wide enough for modesty, also wide enough to scare a skittish horse, apparently.

Vince climbed up to sit beside Jonas, and soon the heavily laden buckboard was rolling again.

With the buckboard taking the lead, Glynna lost sight of the children. They sat on a bench right behind the driver's seat, surrounded by boxes and furniture and other leftovers from their miserable life with Flint, Glynna's late husband.

Her tension eased as they rode away. Dare guided his horse to her side, smiling. “You ride that horse like you were born in a saddle, Mrs. Greer.”

A twist of humiliation surprised her. “Can we not attach the name Greer to me ever again? Call me Glynna.”

“It ain't exactly proper, but I don't mind burying that sidewinder's name along with him.” Dare's smile was gone. Glynna was sorry she'd had a part in wiping it away. Dare had killed Flint in a gun battle. Dr. Dare Riker wanted to heal, not kill, but Flint had given him no choice.

The buckboard creaked along. The weather had turned cool, as even Texas had to let go of summer at some point. Vivid yellow cottonwood leaves still clung to the trees lining the road to town. A few fell and fluttered down around them, dancing on the breeze.

The bluffs rose to the left and right. The edges were striped red, strange pretty layers of stone in this rugged part of north Texas some called Palo Duro Canyon. Juniper, cottonwoods, and mesquite were strewn here and there among the big blue stem grass and star thistles. Some
places the trees were taller and thick, other places they were stunted and clung to patches of dirt over stone that didn't look deep enough to support roots.

Glynna looked at those highlands, remembering the guards Flint had posted to keep Luke Stone out and to keep her in. In the end, Flint had failed at both.

The bluffs were studded with boulders large and small. Looking ahead at the trail, she saw many had rolled down and been strewn about over the years. The bluffs got closer. A stretch not far ahead was almost a tunnel where the canyon walls nearly formed an arch over the road. It was a tight passage for about a hundred feet.

“Luke said he's going to start an avalanche deliberately one of these days. A rock comes down now and then. He'd like to wipe them out at a time of his choosing.”

“He'll end up blocking the whole road if he does that.” Glynna watched the buckboard ahead enter the narrow mouth of the canyon and realized she was mentally pushing it. She didn't like her children in there.

“If he does, Luke'll just clear the rubble. Not much backup in that boy.”

Laughing, Glynna took a break from her constant worry, a sin she was working on with God's help. “Boy? Luke Stone has to be your age.”

“Close.” Dare was smiling again. “But still younger. The youngest of all of us.”

Glynna was glad she'd teased. It put thoughts of Flint behind her. A sharp crack drew her attention forward, and she realized the buckboard was almost through the passage. She and Dare had just entered it.

The crack, though, what had caused . . . ?

“Ride!” Dare slapped her horse on the rump. “Avalanche!”

Her horse leaped forward as a rock struck the ground behind her. A low rumble pulled her eyes up to the bluff on the left side of the trail. Rocks were pouring down, rolling, crashing into others. Knocking them loose. Bouncing off the far side of the canyon walls, starting an avalanche on that side, too.

Her horse made a wild surge forward, changing from walking to a gallop in a single step. Glynna lost her grip on the reins and fell backward.

Dare caught her wrist and jerked her forward with a hard hand. “Stay with me!”

Clawing at the pommel, she leaned low over her charging horse's neck to make a smaller target. Thundering rocks sped up. One the size of Flint's fist hammered Glynna's shoulder, knocked her sideways and she lost her grip.

She fell between the racing horses and slammed into the ground. Crushing, iron-shod hooves thundered around her. The whole world was a tumbling whirl of hooves and blinding grit and falling rocks. She heard herself scream over the deafening noise that swamped her. Then her borrowed horse ran on.

She scrambled to her feet. A powerful grip sank into the front of her calico dress and she was airborne. Dare yanked her up in front of him. He'd spun his horse around, come back for her, and now turned again to the far side of the pass—closer than going back. Tiny rocks pelted Glynna's face. A boulder whizzed past her eyes, barely missing her.

She looked ahead to see stones tumbling down on the wagon. Jonas slapped the reins and shouted. Vince threw himself back, twisting his body, sheltering her children.

Vince's now-riderless horse sprinted past the wagon and cleared the narrow stretch. A heavy rain of dust and gravel cut off the world outside the deadly corridor.

“Hang on!” Dare yelled to be heard over the onslaught. Overhead, the rumble changed to a roar. He looked up as he spurred his horse forward.

One second they were galloping, the next Dare threw them off the horse and rolled with her toward the sheer rise of the bluff. Dare's weight knocked the wind out of her as he landed on top, shielding her. “Keep your head down!”

A boulder pounded in the ground only feet in front of her. Dare's horse reared and staggered backward, which saved it from being instantly crushed. As the boulder slammed past, the horse leaped forward and disappeared into falling stone and grit.

The huge boulder then bounced. How could something so enormous bounce? It hit the far side of the tunnel and ricocheted.

“Get up. Move!” Dare dragged her to her feet. The chunk of granite was careening toward them. They got past it just as it crashed into the spot they'd just been.

Staggering forward, raining pebbles hit like little bullets, cutting her face and neck. Choking dirt blinded them until they wouldn't be able to see the next boulder coming.

Dare picked up speed to a full sprint. He stumbled in the debris, went down, and she went with him. Soon they were back up, moving again. Surely they had only a few
more yards to go. A jagged rock crashed into Dare's back and knocked him to his knees. Another cascade of smaller stones knocked him sideways.

Glynna snagged a handful of Dare's shirt and yanked him to his feet. She shouldn't have been able to lift him, but desperation somehow gave her the needed strength.

His knees wobbled. His head slumped forward, but he wasn't unconscious, just stunned. She wrapped an arm around his waist and plunged on through the raining stones.

Then out of the tumult, Vince and Jonas appeared. Jonas caught her. Vince got his arm around Dare, and they stumbled on.

The blinding debris finally thinned, and she could see again. A moment later the roar was behind them. They'd made it through.

Dare pitched forward. Vince held tight or Dare would've fallen on his face. Jonas had been hanging on to her, but he left and caught Dare to keep him moving forward.

The intensity of Vince and Jonas as they carried their friend brought tears to Glynna's eyes as she rushed behind them. They'd run
a landslide. They'd risked death to save their friend.

Glynna hadn't known men like this existed.

Her children shouted as they clambered down from the buckboard and hurled themselves at her.

“He's hurt. A big rock hit his back.” Glynna stumbled and might have fallen except her children ran into her, holding her up just by being there.

Jonas and Vince knelt at Dare's side. Glynna saw blood.

Too much blood.

His shirt had a huge tear right by his left shoulder blade. Jonas grabbed the frayed shirt and ripped it right off Dare's back.

“Ma, your face is torn up.” Paul, his voice tight with fear, pulled out a handkerchief and handed it to her.

A crash shook the earth. Glynna looked back at the canyon pass. An immense red rock slab, taller than a horse, fell and crashed into the smaller stones, bounced and rolled straight for them, standing up on its side like a gigantic wheel.

“Run!” Glynna caught her children, saw Vince and Jonas drag Dare to his feet, one of them on each side, and together they ran. How far would that slab come?

Glynna heard an almost explosive thud and looked back. The stone rolled straight for them. The horses—those attached to the buckboard and the ones they'd ridden—were just ahead. The team would be killed, too. Rearing and bugling, the animals pulled the buckboard, but the brake was on.

“Glynna, get the children behind those trees.” Vince shouted with all the force of a commanding officer. “Jonas, get that wagon out of here.”

One glance told her he'd thrown Dare over his shoulder and was charging forward, running at her side. Jonas sprinted for the horses. He shouted at the saddle horses Glynna and Dare had ridden, and they bolted. Jonas threw himself onto the buckboard seat and jerked the brake loose. With a roar at the horses and a slap of leather on their backs, the horses lunged forward.

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