Digitalis

Digitalis by Ronie Kendig

Book: Digitalis by Ronie Kendig Read Free Book Online
Authors: Ronie Kendig
Tags: Romance
Meredith.”
    That yanked Colton around and earned him another smack from the stallion. Aggravated with both his father and the horse, he left the stall and moved farther down the barn. He eased into Foxy’s stall and grinned as Hershey hesitantly came over to inspect him.
    His mind flicked back to the night Hershey was born, to the way Piper had thrown herself into his arms. She said her grandfather had raised goats. He’d never known anyone to do that intentionally—raise goats? Was she serious? She was the quirkiest woman he’d ever met. Beautiful, too. But there was something …
    “Might wanna move,” his father’s voice—which was all too close—broke into his thoughts.
    He glanced back to his father, who now stood leaning on the gate to Firefox’s stall. “Come again?”
    “Imagine your leg’s about to get a bit warm.”
    Colton looked down just in time to see Hershey take aim to relieve himself.
    “Boy, your mind’s doing a lot of talkin’ for ya. Eventually, that’s going to leak out—either through more flashbacks or through your mouth.” His father tilted his brown Cattle Baron from his brow, revealing the clear blue eyes Colton had inherited. “Now, I’d prefer mouth to flashback, but it’s your call.”
    Armed with a soft lead, he returned to Hershey. With quiet talk to the foal, he eased the harness over his head. When Colton stalked toward the gate, his father didn’t move. He grinned at the man he was becoming more like every day. “You gonna let me out, or you planning to hog-tie me so I’ll listen to your lecture?”
    “Champion rodeo cowboy in my day.” His pop lifted the lead from the tack and entered the stall, where he harnessed Firefox.
    Colton ran a hand along Hershey, whose eyes seemed to widen and flit from Colton to his father. “Yes, sir. You don’t let me forget.”
    “But you’ve been the most pig-headed and the hardest to wrestle.”
    Colton chuckled as his father brought Firefox alongside.
    “What’s eating your brain cells?”
    “Like you don’t know.”
    His father nodded. “Thought so.”
    “I—I’m crazy about her ….”
    “That’s news to only one person—you.” His father laughed, but then grew serious again. “I feel a mighty big
but
coming on. Let’s have it.”
    Colton removed his hat and used his shoulder to swipe away the sweat. “I dread the day she sees me go through a flashback. Or finds out about Emelie. I know it’ll happen, and …” He swallowed hard. “I can’t stand the thought of her thinking less of me.” He fisted a hand. “Who wants a messed-up cowboy?”
    “Can’t believe you’re still trying to lay claim to what happened to Em. Being hard on yourself, aren’t you?”
    “Not hard enough.” Maybe if he had kept his head together, a lot of heartache could’ve been avoided.
    “I might not be the brightest bulb in the pack when it comes to women, but I’m fairly certain Piper likes the man she’s getting to know.”
    “I’m a brand of trouble nobody wants.” Colton stretched an arm around Hershey’s chest and the other arm around his bum. “She deserves better. You and Mom didn’t deserve even this.” He glanced at his father over Firefox. “You ready?”
    “Yeah—and what
this
are you talking about?”
    “Babysitting me! Sticking around because nobody knows when I’ll try to kill someone again because I’m plumb out of my mind.”
    “Son—”
    “No, don’t, Pop. Not now. Please.” He sloughed a hand over his face. “I’m not going to pretend anymore. Don’t nobody need or want that trouble. I hate this about me—”
    “Colton—”
    “Hate
it.” Long-suppressed feelings surged to the surface of his carefully held frustration. “Why? Why won’t God heal me? How could He let me take Em over there just to kill her?”
    “Well—”
    “I pray all the time,
beg
Him to heal those memories, to help me forget—”
    “Colton!” His father’s near shout siphoned the strength from his

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