“Pretty sure that someone had a decent pair of wire cutters,” said the repairman. “But lookie here.” He stuck his index finger into a hole in the dirt. It was a tight fit. “Any idea what might have made these holes? There’s plenty of ‘em.”

Hannah knelt to get a closer look at the trail of holes. “Last night’s vandal wore stilettos,” she said matter-of-factly.

The two men stared at her, confused. “English, please. You’re talking to country boys.”

“High heels. Ultra-thin high heels. You know, women’s shoes?”

Trace’s eyebrows drew in, but he looked doubtful.

“Are you sure?”

“Pretty sure.”

The repairman handed Trace the completed work order to sign, but Hannah intercepted the hand-off.

She signed it, handed it back, then looked up at Trace. She knew only one person around here who could manage stilettos in the dirt. Callie. The thought of that girl being here, sabotaging her phone, awakened a new determination in Hannah, especially now that Trace didn’t seem to buy her stilettos story.

She tried to put herself in his shoes – his boots, rather. He’d known Callie ever since she was a little girl. Now was not the time to argue. She wanted their picnic to go without a hitch. But later, the gloves were coming off.

###

 

Hannah insisted that the bank had made a mistake. She went so far as to suggest that someone there had stolen the money, or there had been a cyber-attack on the account.

“Those are all possibilities, but highly unlikely,” Trace said, mixing concern with logic. It seemed Hannah had considered every reason except the obvious one – that Rick had faked his own death and was now alive and extremely rich. “Hannah, some people would do just about anything to get their hands on that kind of money. Anything.”

She stared at him, wide-eyed. “I know what you’re thinking. If Rick drained the bank account, that would mean he’s not dead and he stole my money. But… then who died in our Range Rover?”

Trace waited, wondering if she’d come to the same conclusion he had. He did not want to be the one to bring it up.

“Oh my God!” she whispered, suddenly pale. “Did Rick murder someone?”

“I don’t know.”

He wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her close. She trembled, and he understood exactly why. If Rick was a murderer, Hannah’s good friend had become a dangerous man. Maybe he’d always been a bad guy. This new possibility changed the direction of his thinking. Now he was more determined than ever to keep her safe if it was the last thing he did.

###

 

He tipped her chin upward and held her gaze. “I never should have left you last night.”

“I should have tried to stop you.”

“I came up with a plan,” he said hoarsely, drawing back a little. “Want to hear it?”

She nodded, so he took her hand, and they walked to the bench by the corral. The horses ambled over, curious, but today Hannah only had eyes for Trace.

“Our current situation is complicated by an abundance of factors.”

She nodded and smiled sweetly. “Today you’re sounding more like a college boy than a cowboy.”

He tilted his head slightly. “I once was a college boy.”

“Really? What did you major in? Cows?”

“I’ll have you know, young lady,” he said, looking indignant, “that I received a Master of Science degree. I am also a licensed veterinarian.” His pride-filled smile became a mischievous grin. “And I like classical music!”

“Well then, Mr. Full-Of-Surprises, back to your plan.”

“Let me preface the divulging of my plan, my four-part plan, with one important caveat.”

She giggled. “Okay, okay. You’ve made your educated point. Now go back to being the cowboy I love.”

That last word hung precariously in the air. Her hand flew to her mouth and heat blazed on her cheeks. Had she really said that? From the stunned look on his face, she must have.

###