Charming the Cowboy (Grape Seed Falls Romance Book 3)(6)

By: Liz Isaacson

“She’s alive,” Levi said, and then Dwayne said, “Heather. Heather?”

“Her arm’s broken,” Levi added, his voice full of sorrow and dark like pond water.

“What happened?” Dwayne asked.

Heather’s eyes fluttered. She needed to tell him she was fine. That he should be at the ranch, getting it ready for his wedding. He and Felicity had been engaged for nine months now, with their autumn wedding on his ranch right around the corner.

Levi’s voice got lost among the others, and Heather faded from consciousness once more.

The next time she woke, her eyes flew open and bright light assaulted her retinas. She did more than groan, but a cry tore from her mouth. All she could see was white, and all she could feel was needles in her arm.

Far away, a man said something. Levi’s gorgeous face filled her view, and Heather thought she must’ve died and gone to heaven. He was here, and he was looking at her with more emotion than she even knew he could possess.

“Are you okay?” He glanced down at something and back at her. “I’ll call the nurse.”

All at once, the whiteness faded into normal colors, and Heather gasped in a breath. “I’m—okay.” But she wasn’t. Not really.

She only needed seconds to take in the beeping monitors, the thin blanket, and identify the sterile, bleach-like smell of the hospital. “What happened?”

“Starscape spooked, and you got thrown.”

Heather shook her head, but it made her brain jostle from side to side uncomfortably. She moaned as she leaned back against the mattress, which had been raised to a semi-sitting position.

“I haven’t been thrown since I was seven,” she muttered.

The strangest sound reached her ears. Was that laughter? In a hospital? Was that Levi laughing in the hospital? The low notes of his voice rumbled in her chest, making goose bumps erupt on her skin. His laugh was as delicious as his handsome face. Heather hadn’t heard it in years, as Levi had left Grape Seed Falls about a decade ago and come back a shell of the boy and man she’d known growing up.

Her desire for him hadn’t started until her thirtieth birthday, when he’d shown up at the ranch with a jewelry box and a swift kiss on her cheek. “Happy birthday,” he’d said as he’d moved effortlessly past her, leaving her dumbstruck and wondering when she’d started developing feelings for the man.

She’d worn the horseshoe charm on a silver chain under her blouse for a solid six months, sure it was a sign of good luck. But Levi had barely glanced at her again. It was like he didn’t even remember he’d come to her birthday dinner. Upon Dwayne’s invitation, sure. But still. He’d come.

His hand curled around hers, and she practically shot out of bed.

“Heather,” he said, his voice filled with emotion, the way she’d once heard it. “I’m so sorry.”

She blinked at him, unsure of where his grief stemmed from. “I’m sure my getting thrown has nothing to do with you.” She couldn’t believe she’d been thrown. She and Starscape had been getting along just fine.

“You were on my land,” he said. “Riding my horse. And it was my storage shed that was getting ripped apart that caused Starscape to spook.”

The events leading up to her getting thrown from Starscape’s back washed through her mind. “Ohh….”

“Yeah.” Levi lifted her hand to his lips and pressed them gently to the skin near her knuckles. “I don’t know what I would’ve told Dwayne if anything serious had happened to you.”

Heat exploded through Heather at the intimate contact, only to be iced over a moment later when she realized his concern was for Dwayne. Dwayne’s reaction. Not her.

She pulled her hand away. “What has happened?” Her arm had been cast, and it felt bulky and heavy, but at least the pain had dulled to an ache somewhere in the bones she couldn’t identify. “I obviously broke my arm. And this is my dominant hand.” She lifted her eyebrows at him as if to say, Good job, buddy.

“Bruised ribs on your right side, where you landed. Sprained ankle.” Levi ticked off the more minor injuries, like, “Black eye,” in an almost clinical fashion. But horror started in her toes and landed in her face. She felt hot everywhere, and she knew Levi would never be able to look at her now. Not without seeing her bruised, and broken, with her eye blackened and her lip bleeding.