Stone Cold Cowboy(7)

By: Jennifer Ryan


“Who?”

Another soft moan escaped her blue, cracked lips.

“I’m going to cut you down. Hold on, Sadie. I’ll be right back. I promise.”

He ran down the hill to his horse. He shoved the useless rifle back in the scabbard, dug through the saddlebag, and found the wire cutters he kept there in case the cattle broke through a fence and got tangled. He pulled out the scarf he’d forgotten was in there and a knit cap. He’d drunk most of the water he brought along. The two inches of water in the bottle would have to do for now. He’d get Sadie to the hospital.

How? She was in bad shape. He couldn’t ride the four hours back to the ranch with her in the saddle. She’d been tortured enough. He couldn’t put her through a grueling ride, too.

Unsure how to take care of her, he ran up the hill to do what needed to be done immediately. He hated to hurt her, but getting her down meant cutting her free and pulling the wire out of her skin.

Seeing her strung up like that stunned him again. He feared he’d never get the gruesome image out of his mind. He skidded to a stop in front of her and fell to his knees. He started at her feet and snapped the wire around her ankles free. He unwound the wire up to her knees. Whoever had done this had made sure to inflict the maximum amount of pain. The barbs were spread out, but the way they wound around Sadie ensured nearly all of them bit into her pale skin. Some of the punctures would heal, but the deeper ones would leave lasting scars. Not as bad as the ones in her mind, he feared.

“Stop,” Sadie whispered, her body shaking. She barely had the strength to wiggle to get away from him and make herself swing again.

Rory grabbed her thighs and held her still. She tried to kick him away, but he held her in place. One of the barbs sliced his palm. He pulled free, hissing at the sting it left behind. The thought of amplifying that pain more than a hundredfold over his body made his stomach tight and his heart sink. He tried not to imagine the agony Sadie felt, but he couldn’t help himself.

Resolved to the task ahead, he used the cutters to snip the wires up the front of her, then he went to her back and did the same. Some fell to the ground, others remained stuck to her body. Those he gently pulled free at her sides, dropping the bloody mess to the ground. Once he had all the wire off up to her wrists, he scooped it all away from her feet and went to the tree. He untied the knot on the rope and gently lowered her down. With the slack let out, he walked back to her before she fell on her back. He held the rope in one hand and wrapped his other arm around her to hold her up. Once he had her secure against him, he let go of the rope. Her arms fell, her bound hands hitting the top of her head. She yelped in pain.

“I’m sorry. I should have thought about how much your shoulders and hands must hurt from being pulled up like that.” He held her with one arm and worked his jacket off with the other, switching hands to hold her to get the jacket free. He wrapped it around her back and gently laid her in the soft grass and mud. He pulled the jacket around her, hoping his warmth worked its way into her cold skin soon. The shearling lining would help hold in the heat.

At least the snow had thawed and the temps had risen above freezing. Otherwise, she’d be dead by now. She wasn’t in great shape, but he thought she’d make it. If he got her the help she needed soon.

Her arms and wrists were sticky with blood. He cut the wires, but they’d dug into her deep. He peeled them away, his stomach souring at the sickening way the wire pulled out of her skin. He needed something to wrap the raw wounds and stop the bleeding. He pulled off his thermal and used the wire cutters to slit the material. He tore it into strips and used two to wrap around her wrists and hands. He used another thick swatch to press against the deep cut at her ribs.

“Hhmm. Stop. H-hurts.”

“I know, I’m sorry.” Rory pressed harder on the bleeding wound. “Are you cold?”

“N-no. Numb.”

Fuck. A very bad sign. If she couldn’t feel the cold anymore and didn’t shiver, her body was shutting down. Hypothermia had set in. He needed to get her warm, and fast.

He shoved the rest of his shirt under her back and pulled it out the other side. He tied the ends off in front of her, tight around her middle to keep pressure on the small but deep wound at her side. He closed the coat around her, not caring that her arms weren’t in the sleeves. He pulled the knit cap over her head and ears, hoping that helped keep what little body heat she had left from dissipating with the wind.

The cut on her thigh had stopped bleeding. The nick across her knee on her other leg didn’t look bad on its own, but add it to the collection all over her body, and he cringed.

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