Tank snorted and tossed his head, breaking Colt out of his somber reverie.
“What’s up, boy? Smell something?” That’s when he noticed that the daylight had darkened considerably.
The wind that had been a gentle, humid, summer breeze now whipped tumultuously through the trees. He glanced up and his stomach dropped. Shit.
Dark clouds advanced on a warpath across the sky. Bright flashes of lightning arced across the heavens. And a deep rumble of thunder crashed, increasing in sound and tenor as the storm barreled into the area.
A midafternoon squall was common at this time of year. They could also be deadly this high up. There was a cabin nearby, one of the higher elevation getaways that Colt knew was vacant at the present time. Without a second to lose, he veered Tank off the path, and plodded toward the back-country road. He prayed that they would make it before the storm unleashed its fury in earnest.
Tank sensed his urgency with the approaching tempest, and increased his pace.
Luckily, the cabins all had a small barn with two stalls inside that were attached on the side, for visitors who brought their own horses with them for the trails and didn’t want to pay to stable them at the main barn. He’d get Tank settled out of the elements and would then chill out in the cabin while the storm raged. He might be spending a night up here after all. It could be exactly what he needed. He had a satellite phone in his bag in case of emergencies. The cabins were stocked with wood for the fireplace. And while all he had was a sandwich and water, he’d make do with what he had. At least the house keys in his saddlebag also had master keys for the ranch. Directly inside each barn door was a small lockbox on the wall that held a key to the cabin. The lockboxes were all keyed the same for maintenance. Since so many of their cabins were quite a way from the main hub, it was easier when they were on calls to be able to head directly to the next cabin and not have to worry about whether they had a key to enter.
When they were about an eighth of a mile out from the cabin, the rain began to fall in thick, heavy sheets. Lightning flashed. Thunder boomed. Tank snorted, tossing his head at the bellowing roar as the storm arrived with vehemence. Colt raced Tank as fast as was safe. He wouldn’t risk hurting the stallion. Rain dripped off the rim of his ivory Stetson. Water coated his blue jeans and gray tee shirt, and slipped down his calves into his brown leather cowboy boots. At least they were one of his older, well-worn pairs he reserved for working the stables.
They crested a tiny ridge. The hickory cabin sat on an open half acre of land encircled by a grove of trees—a mixture of aspen, cottonwood, and spruce. Hail began to fall with the rain, pelting them. The trees receded and in the open terrain, Colt pressed his knees against Tank’s flanks to increase their speed. Tank needed no urging from him.
But as the cabin came into full view, Colt spied a battered, tan SUV parked in front of the wooden structure. And there was a sprite of a woman, long dark hair plastered to her body, carting what looked like telescopes inside the building.
What the hell? Who was she, and what was she doing here?