A Cowboy for the Twins

By: Carolyne Aarsen

CHAPTER ONE

That did not sound good.

Shauntelle’s hands tightened on the steering wheel of her car as the engine’s whining grew louder. She eased off the gas and the ominous racket quieted, but as soon as she accelerated, it got worse.

Definitely not good.

“What’s that noise?” Millie called out from the back seat of the car.

“I think it’s the sound of trouble,” Shauntelle muttered.

And that’s when smoke streamed out from under the hood.

Shauntelle braked, pulling over as far as she dared to the side of the road as the cloud grew. The scent of coolant leaking assaulted her nose.

“What’s going on?” Millie released her seat belt and hung over the front seat of Shauntelle’s subcompact vehicle.

“Why did you stop?” Margaret echoed her sister’s concern, but she stayed obediently buckled up as she looked up from the book she’d been reading.

“My car is not cooperating with my well-laid plans,” was all she said, turning the engine off at once.

Shauntelle hid her frustration from her seven-year-old daughters. According to her budget, this little car needed to last her at least another year. She had bigger priorities.

After her husband Roger’s death in a car bombing in Afghanistan two years ago, Shauntelle had grieved, railed against life and, to her shame, Roger. He was doing a temporary job, working for Doctors Without Borders, a dream of his since he had graduated med school.

He had died on one of those trips.

Shauntelle couldn’t afford to stay in Vancouver and because she couldn’t rent, let alone buy, a place of her own, she moved in with her parents in Cedar Ridge, Alberta. The girls settled into school, and at her brother Josiah’s urging, she started making plans for a restaurant in Cedar Ridge. It had been a lifelong dream of hers, and things were finally coming together.

However, the dream did not include a car breakdown. Especially not when it was full of baking deliveries she needed to finish by the end of the day.

She clutched the steering wheel as she inhaled, practicing what her grief counselor had told her. Pull back. Let go. Focus on the next thing you can do.

And commit everything to the Lord.

Since Roger’s death, Shauntelle had struggled with God. When Josiah died in a construction accident only a year ago, she really felt betrayed by Him.

But she knew she had nowhere else to go, and so she slowly found her way back to God. After the major things she’d dealt with, however, she didn’t think it proper to pray for a car.

She pulled in another breath, a tiny curl of panic starting in her belly.

She opened the hood, then coughed on the acrid smoke billowing out of the engine.

“What are you going to do?” Millie asked, hanging out of the back passenger window.

“Push this car off a cliff,” Shauntelle muttered as she pulled up the strut that supported the car hood and stood back, her arms crossed over her chest as she fought down the panic.

“You can’t do that, Mommy.” Margaret sounded frightened.

“Just having an automotive temper tantrum, honey,” Shauntelle assured her very sensitive daughter. “I’m not driving it anywhere. Besides, there’s no cliff handy.” The road they were on had only three people living on it. An older couple from Calgary only used their summer house from June to September. Carmen Fisher, the manager of Walsh’s Hardware and the T Bar C, was another resident, and then there was the Cosgrove Ranch.

Carmen was working today, so she wasn’t home. And it was the end of April, which meant no one would be at the other house either.

That left the Cosgrove Ranch, a couple of miles down the road.

Not an option.

“Call Grandpa,” Margaret suggested, getting out of the car and walking around to the front to join her mother.

“Grandpa and Gramma are working.” And she was not putting any extra pressure on them.

She didn’t have any cousins or relatives she felt comfortable calling out to the back of the beyond. Nor did she have AMA, so phoning a tow truck meant she had to pay for it herself. And what would that cost?

“Guess we’ll have to walk to the highway,” she said. Some of the deliveries consisted of meat pies, and though they were in a cooler with ice, she didn’t know how long they would stay fresh.

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