Charming the Cowboy (Grape Seed Falls Romance Book 3)(5)

By: Liz Isaacson

“I’m sure you can bypass the pumpkin pie,” she said. “Maybe we could—”

Her invitation to the Fall Festival—Levi wasn’t stupid—was interrupted by an eardrum-shattering screech beyond her. Metal on metal, it sounded like a truck had smashed into the side of his ten-thousand-square-foot aluminum storage shed, which sat down the road between two pastures.

Inkwell danced to his left, his flank meeting the fence post. Levi was already moving toward the corner, his senses on high alert. “Stay where you are,” he called to the riders. “Sawyer! Cooper! Flynn!” He didn’t know where all the other men were, but something told him to get to the storage shed.

A horse screamed, and Levi’s blood ran cold. It was Starscape, a fairly new addition to the boarding stables. A Tennessee walking horse he’d bought in an auction about fourteen months ago, Starscape had taken twice as long to break as the other horses Levi usually purchased. She was a free spirit, and she loved to run. Levi had felt a personal connection with the horse, and he wished to run freely through the Texas wilderness too. He hoped she would calm quickly.

Another tearing sound, like God himself had reached down from heaven and pried two sheets of metal apart, rent the air. What on earth was happening?

He vaulted the fence, hoping to intercept Starscape, who was sprinting now, bucking every third stride. Levi’s throat turned dry. Even the most experienced rider would be thrown from a horse doing what Starscape was.

Who was riding her?

Or rather, holding white-knuckled as the horse dipped into a turn even the most expert horses in barrel racing couldn’t achieve.

It didn’t matter, because Starscape tossed her head, screamed again, and her rider finally toppled off her back, a blur of blue jeans and honey-colored hair. Levi broke into a run, his only concern the woman who’d just hit the ground with a thud that reverberated through his skull.

He wrenched his phone from his back pocket, still jogging toward the fallen woman.

“9-1-1, state your emergency.”

“It’s Levi Rhodes at the boarding stable,” he said, breathless, his lungs aching. Sure, he worked around the farm, but running? Didn’t happen. “A woman just fell off a horse, and she’s not moving.”

“Is she breathing, Levi?”

“I don’t know.” He panted; his head pounded. “I’m not quite to her yet.” Everything was blurring along the edges. Someone—a human—screamed behind him; footsteps were gaining on him; in the distance, a siren started. All the noise collided into a roar of sound that silenced as he reached the woman and saw that it was Heather Carver.

Her hair splayed out against the grass, a delicious honey color Levi wanted to taste. Her eyes were closed and Levi couldn’t detect any motion in her throat, her chest, her stomach.

“No,” he moaned, dropping to his knees and abandoning his phone. He absolutely could not tell Dwayne that his sister had been hurt at his stable. No way. Wasn’t happening. His hands hovered above her body, unsure of what to do.

Levi swallowed, said a fast prayer, and said, “Heather? Heather, honey, can you hear me?”

Chapter Three

It’s Levi, sweetheart. I need you to open your eyes.

Heather heard his beautiful bass voice, the one she’d sat in front of in last year’s Christmas choir performance at church. She’d dreamed about him calling her sweetheart for months now. Usually before he kissed her.

She basked in the warmth of this dream too, a smile flitting across her lips. Levi’s hands touched her, and her whole body sighed at the contact. She’d waited so long for him to notice her, to even look at her like she was a female, that the rough yet gentle quality of his hands was more than a little surprising.

Other voices joined his, and her fantasy shattered. Her back hurt, and a moan vibrated her lips. Something got placed over her, and Levi spoke in a sharp, commanding tone. Her right arm hurt. Badly. In fact, the other aches—in her neck, her back, her ribs, her right leg—were nothing like the intense, white-hot, shooting pain coursing up her arm and jabbing into her shoulder.

Why wouldn’t her eyes open? She worked at telling her eyelids to lift, but they felt glued shut.