Strong Silent Type(42)

By: Lorelei James

The bastard was married. He’d lied to her. Guilt, shame and fury arose inside her.

Jared spun on Cash to chew him out.

Without thinking, Channing blindly swung the trophy and clocked Jared in the back of the head.

He crumpled to the floor.

She froze. Shit. What had she done? What if she’d killed him? Spending her life in a Southern prison wearing orange paper shoes wasn’t part of her big adventure.

Clutching the trophy like a shield, she dropped to her knees and accidentally squashed Jared’s hat. She gingerly touched his head. A big bump protruded from the back of his neck. No blood though. Good thing she had lousy aim. His chest rose and fell so she knew he wasn’t dead.

A sick sort of relief swamped her.

“Hey, slugger, you okay?”

She looked up at Cash. “No. I didn’t know—”

“I figured you didn’t, sweets. You don’t seem the type to mess around with a married fella.”

“I’m not.” New experiences did not include becoming a home-wrecker. Her stomach churned. “Please get me out of here. I can’t stay with him.”

“Well, he can’t stay here to get trampled. Grab his boots. Let’s move him outta the way first before we figure out what to do with you.”

After they’d hauled Jared through the sawdust to a dark corner, he came around. He plopped his lopsided hat on and kept his face aimed at the floor.

She doubted the jerk felt any shame. Only anger that he’d gotten caught.

Cash took her aside. “You stayin’ at the Silver Spur tonight?”

She nodded and hugged her trophy.

“Get your stuff and head over there. Double-lock the door. I’ll make sure he don’t follow you and cause more trouble. I’ll check on you in the mornin’.”

“Thank you, Cash.”

“No problem, sweets. Just sorry you found out the way you did.”

Channing snuck out of the bar without talking to anyone else from the circuit. She unloaded her three pieces of luggage from Jared’s truck—and liberated his bottle of whiskey.

A six-foot neon sign shaped like a cowboy boot, announcing The Silver Spur Motor Inn, flashed NO VACANCY. Luckily she’d already secured a room. She dragged her belongings across the highway and let herself into number 111.

Once locked inside, she panicked. What was she going to do? No way did she want to turn tail and run back to the tiresome life she’d fled.

Served her right for trusting someone. It would’ve been nice, for once in her life, not to have to be so damn self-reliant. Wrong again.

She should leave. Right away. Tonight.

Colby’s words surfaced: Come talk to me before you do anything rash.

The scared part of her wanted to run to Colby right now. Demand to know why he hadn’t told her Jared was married.

But in his own way, Colby had warned her.

Reality check: She doubted this one-stoplight town had a rental-car agency or even a bus stop. Nothing she could do about her predicament tonight. She’d deal with it all tomorrow.

A steaming hot shower and three generous slugs of whiskey later, Channing drifted off into an uneasy sleep.