Texas Mail Order Bride(12)

By: Linda Broday

Cooper held his breath, sure that the horse would plow Brett down and leave nothing but blood and bone and past glory. The animal was majestic, no doubt about that, but the stallion had the eyes of a man-killer. That, too, was a true fact.

Setting the brake on the wagon, Cooper jumped down and took a ringside seat on the top rung of the corral to watch, ready to charge in and rescue Brett if needed.

Brett had a knack for this line of work. He seemed to know before the horse what it was going to do next. And Brett showed no fear. He spoke to the mustang in a gentle calming voice, no matter how near the animal came to running over him.

Finally, the mighty beast got tired of fighting the inevitable and came to a sudden stop. He stood there with his powerful muscles quivering and let Brett put a blanket on him. Brett put it on and took it off, repeating the action several times. Brett showed uncommon patience in getting the animal accustomed to the feel of something on his back.

Brett finally walked over. “Hey, Coop. What brings you out this way?”

“Got something to talk to you about. Besides, I haven’t seen you in a coon’s age.”

Brett wiped the sweat from his forehead. “I’ll let this stallion into the pasture and meet you at the house.”

Cooper nodded. Minutes later, he pulled up at the “house,” which consisted of a canvas-covered wagon. Brett cooked over an open fire and took his baths in the nearby creek. From all appearances, his brother was content, though.

Brett Liberty was as wild as those mustangs he tamed. He hadn’t had an easy life and had the scars on his back to prove it. Everyone had picked on him in the orphanage, mostly because of his Indian heritage. With a white father and Indian mother, he’d had to endure being called a half-breed…and worse.

It was in that orphanage that a bond stronger than steel formed between the boys. They’d each nicked their thumbs and swore they were brothers in every sense of the word. Nothing had come between them and nothing would. They were the only family each other had, and it was more than enough.

Cooper had built a fire and had the coffee makings out by the time Brett joined him. Standing a good six feet, with broad shoulders, Brett got no shortage of female attention on the rare occasion he went into town. Not that he sought a speck of it. Like him and Rand, Brett was a confirmed bachelor and liked it that way.

Though his baby brother was tall, Cooper still beat him by a few inches and never let him forget it. He knew the fact that Brett and Rand had to look up to him stuck in their craw. But that’s the way it should be, seeing as how Cooper was the oldest of the three. It seemed reasonable he’d have the most height. Besides, he’d needed it for all the fighting he’d had to do to protect them.

Brett removed his hat—which had an eagle’s feather sticking from the band—and shook his long hair back. “Glad you came. I have need of your help.”

“Doing what?” If Brett was going to ask him to go toe to toe with that mustang, Cooper would have to give that some serious thought.

“Putting up my tepee.”

“A tepee?”

A wide grin covered Brett’s face. “Every self-respecting Indian needs a tepee.”

“Yep, I reckon so. It’s a damn sight better than living in a wagon.” Cooper squinted into the distance, wondering when Brett would finally find the peace he yearned for. “Any other ideas about what you think an Indian needs?”

“Plenty of wide open spaces, sweet grass, and cool water.”

“Well, you’ve got all that. Shoot, Brett, you’ll be chewing peyote and doing a war dance before I know it.”

“It’s time I remembered my heritage,” Brett said quietly.

Cooper considered the fact that Brett was lucky, though his life had been far from easy. At least his little brother had a heritage that he could be proud to claim. Cooper thought about the different types of cloth he, Rand, and Brett had been cut from while they got a decent pot of coffee made and sat cross-legged on the ground to drink it.

“What did you come to talk about?” Brett finally asked.

“We have trouble over at the Long Odds.” He told Brett about the hoof-and-mouth disease.