Hattie stared up at the early morning rays as they glistened through her watery grave. She should have known better than to ride out before the sun rose above the craggy peaks, but she had to prove herself day after day, if to no one else but herself.
Glen Meek, her foreman, scolded her two mornings ago when he learned that she’d been heading out on her own in the mornings before he and young John, his nephew, had even put their heads on the pillow from the night before.
Hattie had waved off Glen’s concern with a distracting grin and a load of grit. The McBride Ranch was Hattie’s responsibility, her late husband’s legacy, and no one would take it away from her.
Lights swam through the sky above her. If she reached out far enough, her fingers might be able to skim the surface of a star before the sun’s light washed them all away. She must have fallen into the river. Her shift clung to her body as though wet, but she knew how to swim. Why, then, did the black waters of unconsciousness seem determined to carry her away?
The raging fire burned within as her lungs expanded. The pounding on her chest surely couldn’t be good for her ribs.
“Don’t do this. Stay with me.”
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