As they approached the turn that would take them to the Mercantile and the feed store, Faith pointed through the windshield. Up ahead, a well-dressed blonde was struggling to maintain control over a wheeled suitcase as she pulled it down off the boardwalk into the road.
“Lord, that girl’s havin’ a time. Maybe we should stop and help.”
Jared rolled his eyes heavenward. His mother’s heart was as big as all of Wyoming and she had a soft spot for everyone—person or animal—who had a hard-luck story. If he didn’t stop her, Faith would take on this woman’s cause in a heartbeat. “She’s got it,” he said, observing the woman had managed to keep the suitcase upright after it landed, wobbling, on the pavement.
“Where can she be going?” Faith continued. “Pull over. See if she needs a ride to the motel or somewhere else.”
Jared knew better than to cross his mother, so he resisted the urge to gun the engine and swerve onto Shoshone Street where he’d been heading to begin with. Squelching his annoyance, he steered the truck to the side of the road. After pulling to a stop, he shifted into neutral and set the parking brake.
When he cast a harassed, last-ditch glance at his mom, she lifted her chin in a terse nod toward the front of the truck. “Go on,” she said.
Mouth set in a grim line, Jared climbed out of the truck, slamming the door harder than he meant to. He tugged the brim of his cowboy hat and started toward the woman. She was bent over, retrieving the fancy sunglasses that had slipped from her face when she’d stooped to dislodge a piece of gravel from her suitcase wheels. He could tell she heard him coming. As she stood, he saw her stiffen. It made him chuckle. She’d probably be mortified when she saw him standing there in his worn boots and dust-covered Wranglers. Not to mention the beat-up old Ford behind him. Sure enough, when she turned, lower lip cocked to blow an errant strand of hair away from her face, her eyes went wide. Jared stifled another laugh.
“Ma’am,” he said, touching the brim of his hat in greeting.
The woman gave him a cool smile.
“Looks like you could use a little help,” he continued, sliding one hand into a back pocket and jerking a thumb toward the truck. “My mother and I could give you a lift, if you’d like.”
From the truck, Faith gave a friendly wave.
The blonde smiled and nodded, then turned her attention back to Jared. “That’s nice, but it’s not necessary.” She straightened to stand taller on her 3-inch stilettos.
Amused, Jared noted he still towered over her by at least half a foot.
She pointed down the side street she’d been crossing to. “I was just going to that little café, maybe have a late lunch.”
Jared looked down the street. “That’s fine. We’re headed for the Feed N’ Seed and the Mercantile. They’re right across from Cora’s.” He tossed his chin in the general direction.
She shook her head, planted a hand on her hip. “Thanks anyway, but it’s just down the road. I could use the exercise.”
Jared considered the defiant little blonde standing before him stubbornly refusing help. The notion crossed his mind that there was more to h er than her high-toned clothes and her expensive hairstyle. He let his gaze linger for a moment on her wide violet eyes, which seemed to be challenging him. On another day, he might have taken the challenge. Who knew? In another lifetime, she might be one worth keeping an open mind for. Not today, though, and not in this life.
He looked her up and down and shrugged. “Just thought we’d offer. No harm in that.” Jared took a step backward. “You take care,” he called, then strode back to the Ford.
“What are you doing? We can’t leave a helpless little thing like her out here on the road,” Faith protested before Jared had his door shut.
As he released the brake and shifted into gear, he looked out the windshield at the woman. She was guarding her luggage, her hand still perched on her hip.
“She didn’t want a ride,” he said, his aloof gaze locked with the woman’s defiant one. When she slid her sunglasses back on, breaking the stare, he gave the Ford some gas. Wheeling it in the direction of the feed store, he said, “Besides, she may be a little thing, but I’m pretty sure she’s far from helpless.”
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