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Authors: Cerian Hebert

Sweet and Wild

BOOK: Sweet and Wild
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2013 by Cerian Hebert

rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner
whatsoever without written permission of the author except in the case of brief
quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.

Information: [email protected]

Art by Cerian Hebert

Image from 123RF

me at

in the United States of America

is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are 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. 


Kim, who has gone back and forth with me over these characters, helping me to
give them their Happily Ever After.
















“Come out now,” Quinn Emery demanded
irritably. She refused to go inside the decrepit bunkhouse to talk to Robby.
The place held too many memories. She needed to be outside and keep her temper
in firm control.

The doorway remained empty, but she
heard the creak of the old cot inside.

“I’m not going in there, Robby, so you
might as well come out.”

Quinn put her fists against her hips and
glared at the dilapidated building. She knew why he chose this location for his
attempt at seduction. This had been the site of many a romantic rendezvous back
when they were teens. She hadn’t thought him an idiot back then. At sixteen,
Robby Lynch enthralled her. Now she was twenty-five, he wasn’t so cool and she
was determined to set him straight about his place in her life.

After a few seconds, there was another
creak then Robby appeared through the gloomy gray light in the doorway.

If Quinn had been a photographer for
high fashion male models, she would’ve been in heaven. Robby leaned against the
doorframe, crossing his arms over his chest. Somewhere along the way he’d lost
his shirt and the sun that simmered down made his skin glow with a healthy tan.
Under his black Stetson, his eyes glittered a tropical sea blue. He had half a
smile on his lips, meant to make women swoon.

Quinn remained unmoved.

“You are a stupid, thoughtless man,” she
told him, tight anger in her voice. “What in the world were you and Tweedle Dee
thinking by calling me and telling me you were hurt and lost the cattle? You
better hope Jacob doesn’t catch wind of this. He’d fire you on the spot.”

Robby frowned and tilted his head. In
the past, that expression had been a sure way to win her over from a sour mood,
but no more. “Could be worth it. You sure got yourself out here in a hurry. And
bareback at that. You were so worried about me that you couldn’t saddle up?”

Quinn rolled her eyes. “I’m concerned
about all the employees here, not just you. Get your shirt on so we can get
back to the barn. You’re wasting both our time.”

She stalked back to Piper, took the
reins and swung easily up onto the mare’s bare back.

Robby disappeared into the bunkhouse and
came out with his shirt hung over his muscular arm. He held out a single daisy.

Against her better judgment, Quinn felt
the glacier around her heart melt a bit, as she took the flower from his
outstretched hand.

“Thanks,” she muttered.

“You’re very welcome,” he replied with
his most charming smile. Apparently, her cold demeanor didn’t put him off one

Quinn threaded the flower through the
buttonhole of her blouse. “You’re still not off my shit list. And you’re still
selfish. That was a completely thoughtless and unprofessional prank.”

“So you’re not going to cut me any

Quinn shook her head. “Not while you’re
on the time clock.”
Or any other time of the day or night.

Before he could reply, she swung Piper
around and left him. He soon caught up and kept up for a good quarter mile
before they slowed their mounts to a jog.

“Why are you trying to avoid me?”

Quinn pressed her lips together tightly
before replying. “Why do you keep trying to rekindle something that’s long dead
and buried?”

“I can hope. And who says it’s dead and

Quinn glanced at him. His unsmiling gaze
stuck hard on her. The last thing she wanted was to have this conversation with
him, but like ripping off a bandage, it was best to do it quick.

“I say it is. You ended our relationship
when you took off to California with not so much as a goodbye.”

“I did,” he protested but she cut him

“A letter two weeks after you’d left
does not constitute an adequate goodbye to someone you claimed to love.”

“I’m back now.”

Quinn glanced at him again and
acknowledged he was about the best-looking guy she’d seen. Hollywood should’ve
been a perfect spot for him.

After some independent film company shot
a movie not far from Falstad and used Robby for some bit part, he’d become
obsessed with the dream of being a big movie star. He left without saying a
word to her and in the cliché-riddled letter she’d received, he’d given her a
light apology and a promise always to remember her. It hurt immensely at the
time, but she moved on as soon as she went to college and realized true love
didn’t really exist. Not with guys like Robby.

Hollywood had been tougher than Robby
had expected. He’d landed a couple small parts, a commercial or two and a few
modeling jobs, but nothing that could support him in the manner he’d believed
he should be accustomed to. Waiting tables didn’t work out so well for him
either, so instead of sticking it out and paying his dues, he returned to Falstad.
By then his folks had sold the family ranch so he came to Long Knife Creek
Ranch and Jacob hired him.

Now finished with college, Quinn had to
deal with him.

“Yes, you’re back and things are
different. I’m not some naïve teenager ready to swoon over any little bit of
attention from you. I’m not interested. Period.”

Robby chuckled, moved his horse over so
their legs bumped intimately. He leaned toward her and pulled the elastic out
from the end of her braid. “I’m going to work on changing your mind.”

Quinn grabbed the elastic back, wrapped
it around the end of the braid and was about to reply when a voice spoke from
the walkie-talkie she carried in a holster on her belt.

“Quinn, this is Jack, you out there?”

She shot one last glare at Robby and
pulled the hand-held out to answer Long Knife Creek Ranch’s foreman. “I’m here,
heading back from Running Foot Ridge paddock. What’s up?”

“Good, you got Robby and Lance with you?
Got a problem over to the Shady H.”

She glanced at Robby. The bad boy glint had
left his eyes. The Shady H was his brother’s ranch, well, technically his
ten-year-old niece’s ranch.

“What’s going on?”

“Little girl has gone missin’. She’s
been gone for about two hours. Can you get going in that direction? Give Craig
and his men a hand?”

Without hesitation, Quinn and Robby
swung their horses around and headed southwest toward the Shady H. “We’re on
our way. Lance is ahead of us. Send him toward the road and we’ll take it from
this direction.”

She replaced the walkie-talkie and
nudged Piper into a steady lope.

“Stupid kid,” Robby muttered.

“Knock it off. You don’t know what’s
going on.”

“I know they’ve been back for only two
weeks and Marisol’s been giving Craig the cold shoulder ever since. Now she
pulls this.”

“We don’t know what she’s ‘pulled’. From
what you’ve said, her life’s been turned upside down the past few years. Give
her a break.” Quinn’s insides went cold. Dealing with lost people out here
happened, especially on a guest ranch. It didn’t happen often, but here were
always some cowboy wannabees who thought they could take a horse and explore
the land on their own. Maybe they wanted to go see the pretty butte on the
horizon, not realizing just how far the ride was, or thought it would be fun to
pretend they were alone on the prairie, a la Kevin Costner in Dances With
Wolves, one with the grass and birds and whatever.

This was different. Not some adult on a
soul search. This was a kid. One of their own.

It didn’t take long to reach the fence
separating Long Knife Creek Guest Ranch from the Shady H. Quinn pulled Piper to
a halt and studied the fence line that, at some point connected with the main

"She's going to find a fence any
direction she walks in," she said when Robby pulled up next to her.
"Hopefully she'll follow it instead of going through it."

"If she follows it the right

Quinn grimaced. “I don't know what kind
of sense of direction she has."

"She's ten. What kind of sense of
direction does a ten year old have?"

"I had a great sense of direction.
But I knew this land like the back of my hand. She's had two hours. She could
make this fence easy in that time, unless she's stopped along the way. We
should ride to the first gate. I'll head toward the road and you go straight
across and up Hat Top Hill. You'll be able to see pretty much anything for
miles. If she's in that direction you should spot her."

Robby nodded and they nudged their
horses into a lope. Quinn scanned the endless landscape for Marisol. They rode
down the fence line until they came to the first gate. Robby went through to
the other side and headed toward Hat Top while Quinn continued to follow the
fence south.

Normally this would constitute a perfect
day. She loved the absolute freedom she felt riding on the prairie. Though
clouds gathered low on the horizon to the west, the rest of the sky remained
clear, and the powdery blue expanse met the pale green and gold hills. High
overhead, two hawks made lazy circles, and lower to the earth, another bird
swooped, climbed and dove. With every breath, she drew in sweet, succulent air,
but she didn’t have time to bask in it. She had to keep an eagle eye out for

She might as well been searching for a
needle in a haystack. But there were always tell-tale signs that could be
followed, not to mention the "what would a ten-year-old city girl do"
mind set Quinn put herself into. At ten, she flew around the prairie on the
back of a little Pinto. She thought she was invincible and nothing in the world
would hurt her. But she was smart enough to know if she did get lost and came
to a fence, she needed to stick to it. Most fences led to civilization at some

She, however, she was lucky enough to
have Tommy Red Tail, one of her dad's best friends back then. He'd taught her
some about tracking, animal prints, being able to tell by the way the grass was
bent what had been moving through it. If only she'd started out from the Shady
H, maybe she could track Marisol that way. But she had to rely on what she
hoped was the girl's common sense. Common sense said stick to the fence line.
If Marisol had found herself here, surely she wouldn't cross over. She'd walk
along it and Quinn would meet up with her at some point.

BOOK: Sweet and Wild
6.23Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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