His request surprises me. I expected anger, but he leans forward as if he doesn’t want to miss a word.
I draw in a deep breath and explain. “I was heartbroken, thinking about Joey, lost in the
woods. He’s so little I knew it must terrify him. I felt helpless wandering around the ranch, not
able to help with the search.”
Cole’s watchful expression urges me to continue.
“Janey said the searchers were looking in the wrong place. At first, I thought she meant Joey was still near the stables, so I started there, even though we searched it a dozen times. When I saw Daisy in her stall, I guess I reacted. I figured a quick ride to check wouldn’t hurt anything.
Since there’s no cell service in the woods, I couldn’t tell you what Janey said. Trust me, meeting the cougar was not in my plans.”
Cole’s jaw tightens. “I’m sure,” is all he says. “Go on.”
I describe meeting Outlaw near the creek and spotting Joey under the leaves. When I get to the part where Outlaw hit something, Cole’s eyes widen.
“God saved our lives. There’s no other explanation.” I shiver, remembering the strange expression in the animal’s eye.
Cole sits quietly for a minute, staring out at the mountains. “You’re right,” he says. “Only God could do that.” He turns to face me, his gray eyes serious. “But you can’t keep taking risks, assuming God will protect you. You have a responsibility to make wise decisions.”
“I know,” I agree. “I’m thankful God protected me in the past few months, first with Robert Sinclair and then Outlaw. But I don’t plan to take advantage of His faithfulness by being
Cole studies me for a minute. “Did Amy Sinclair have anything to do with your decision to ride Daisy?”
A flush warms my cheeks. I desperately want to turn away but force myself to hold his gaze. “A little, I guess. I’d like to think I did it only for Joey, but when you two rode away together …” My voice trails off at Cole’s tense expression.
“We weren’t riding together. We had different partners by the time we got to the woods.” He sighs and reaches for my hand. “Jess, I need you to listen to me. I’m not interested in Amy
Sinclair. I’ll never be interested in Amy Sinclair. I don’t like to say anything bad about her, so I’ll only tell you this once. Amy is everything I don’t like in a girl. She’s arrogant, spoiled, and sometimes, just plain mean.”
For a minute, Cole stares at the mountains, and I wait, sensing what comes next is important. When he faces me again, I’m surprised to see a flush creep up his neck and under the stubble on his cheeks.
“Jess, do you trust me?”
While the hurt in his gray eyes creates a tiny crack in my heart, his vulnerable question fractures it. I nod, unable to speak.
“Thank you,” he says.
And I realize it’s the truth. Cole’s never given me any reason not to trust him.
“When you’re jealous of Amy, I feel like you doubt me, not her. Do you understand?”
Hot tears sting my eyes, and I lay my head over to nudge his shoulder. “I’m so sorry,” I say. “I hadn’t thought of it that way. She’s just so …” I try to think of the correct word, wishing I had Grace’s word a day calendar.
“Persistent?” His voice carries a smile.
“A little bit.”
“I can’t do anything about that,” Cole says. “Other than telling her I’m not available, which I’ve done several times. I think she’s more interested in annoying you than she is in pursuing me. If you don’t react to her, she’ll give up.”
I consider his words and nod. “You may be right. I’ll work on it.”
Cole lifts my chin with his finger, looking into my eyes. “Can you work on one more thing? Be more careful and not take so many risks? Don’t get me wrong; I like your courage and sense of justice. But putting yourself in danger is not the answer.”
Before I can respond, Cole tips my face up for a kiss, and the warmth of the sun is like a blessing.
Cole sits back and sighs. “We need to go,” and regret is in his voice. He stands and grabs my hand, pulling me to my feet. “C’mon,” he says, and I’m relieved by his genuine grin. “I’ll race you to the truck.”
As we drive back to Justice, I realize not only did God protect me from Outlaw, but He also protected my relationship with Cole.
He catches me watching him. “What?”
I reach over to slide my hand down his arm. “Nothing. Just happy.”
Cole gives me the sweet, slow smile that always makes my stomach flip a little.
About Debbi: Debbi Migit lives in central Illinois, surrounded by pumpkin patches and cornfields. Her first book, Child of Promise, is the true love story of a family formed through adoption. After ten years of infertility, Debbi and her husband Phil were just months from adopting when God said, “Not this way.” Child of Promise is the story of audacious faith resulting in multiple miracles. It encourages readers to remember their own promises and believe again.
Debbi has won multiple awards and contests, writing stories that are filled with faith and hope. She loves to share personal anecdotes about God’s faithfulness, infusing her talks with authenticity and humor.
Her hobbies include reading, writing, and avoiding arithmetic. Her favorite color is turquoise, and she collects Trixie Belden books and typewriters. If playing Candy Crush was a paying gig, she would be rich. Learn more & connect:
About the book – October Outlaw:
Two sisters. Two brothers. Two Outlaws. All headed for Justice.
Jess Thomas is being tracked by two outlaws–one is a man, and one is a beast.
When Jess uncovers new evidence concerning their parents’ deaths, the Thomas sisters gain the attention of a very dangerous man. And when a cougar terrorizes Justice, Montana, Jess risks her life to save those she loves.
Cole McBride respects Jess’s courage, but he fears someday she will take one risk too many.
Sly Thomas is adjusting to her new responsibilities as guardian of her two sisters. But just as she begins to hope for the future, her blossoming relationship with Deputy Nick McBride is threatened.
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Debbi’s Justice, Montana series begins with September Shadows, released in February 2021. After the mysterious death of their parents, Jess Thomas and her sisters are determined to stay together and make a new life for themselves, which includes faith-testing danger, adventure, and romance.
October Outlaw, book 2, released in the fall of 2021, followed by November Knight, and December Dreams in 2022-2023.
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