Home > Fractured Sky (Tattered & Torn #5)(2)

Fractured Sky (Tattered & Torn #5)(2)
Author: Catherine Cowles

“Everly, go back to the house. Now,” the man barked.

The girl still didn’t move. “She didn’t do anything wrong. I can take her back to town and—”

“Ian!” the man bellowed.


I jolted at the new voice. It was younger than the man’s—much younger. A figure stepped into the light on the outside of the shed. He was older than me but still a boy. Maybe my brother Hayes’ age.

His face wasn’t twisted in rage the way his father’s was. It was almost…gentle. But something about it made my insides feel funny, a little sick. Like I might throw up. But there was nothing in there to empty.

“Take Everly to her room and make sure she stays there.”

The boy nodded and stalked towards the girl. She stiffened, but when he got close, she turned and ran for the house. The man watched as they went, so focused that I knew it was my only chance.

I launched myself from the mattress and ran for the door. Even though I was tall for my age, I was slender. I just needed to duck under his side. I tasted the fresh air and the scent of pine. A hand fisted in my t-shirt, yanking me back. Hard.

I slammed into the mattress as hands tightened around my throat. The man shook me, his face a mottled red. “I’m trying to save you! You will obey!”

Spittle landed on my face as my vision went dark around the edges. He shook me harder, and all I could think was that this was the end. There were so many things I wanted to do, and now, I wouldn’t get to do a single one. But most of all, I wanted to tell my family that I loved them. To make sure they knew.

Just as the darkness was about to claim me, the man released his hold on my throat. “I won’t let the evil take hold.” He stormed out, the door slamming in his wake. Even through the howling wind, I heard the lock clicking into place. Then, I was alone.

I shook violently against the flimsy, stained mattress. Every part of me trembled so viciously it rattled my bones. I was going to die here. And no one would ever know.

I shook harder as the rain started to fall. The roof of the shed was cracked in places. A spiderweb that I could see flashes of lightning through. Splashes of wetness hit my skin.

My teeth chattered violently, but I wasn’t any colder than I had been moments ago. Raindrops hit my lips. Water. I forced my mouth open, taking in all the liquid I could—water that couldn’t be poisoned because it came from the Heavens above.

I stared up at that fractured sky, my only salvation. The faintest glimmer of hope took root in my chest. I opened my mouth wider and prayed for home.










The sun lit the fields in a way that said it was showing off. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, just that dazzling sun. I pulled my flat-brim hat lower to shade my eyes as I scanned the pasture, looking for a telltale speckled coat.

There were a number of horses that I rode on my family’s ranch, nestled in the mountains of eastern Oregon. Far more that I trained myself. I tried to give them all love and attention—long rides as often as possible and plenty of treats. But only one was truly mine.

She was the first horse I’d bought with the money I’d made working the ranch. It was a little piece of independence when every sliver was hard-won. I didn’t take any for granted: each first and bit of freedom. Paycheck. Bank account. Post office box. My apartment over the barn.

They wouldn’t seem like much to most people, but most people didn’t have a family who had been through what mine had. It was impossible not to hold on too tightly when you almost lost someone. So, I’d had to fight for each little freedom. And every one represented a carefully fought battle.

I unlatched the gate to the pasture, my gaze moving across the dips and rolls of the field. It caught on that familiar coat. The mare’s markings had called me to her ten years ago. She’d been just two years old, and I knew it was meant to be.

Most of her coloring was that of dark bay, but the pattern across her hind end revealed her true heritage: Appaloosa, through and through. That white with dark spots had been a sucker punch to the gut. A reminder of the darkest moments of my life. But more than that, a remembrance of the one piece of hope I’d had.

That fractured sky. The rain that had given me the water I’d so desperately needed. After I’d been rescued and was in the hospital, I’d overheard the doctor talking to my parents. She’d said that she didn’t think I would’ve made it another twenty-four hours. And that was when I knew the truth: The sky had saved me.

And Everly. The daughter of the man who had taken me. She’d snuck out and ridden through the night to the sheriff’s station to help me make my way home. I’d never be able to repay her for what they’d given me—her or the sky. But now, Ev was a part of our family, something that would be official in a matter of months when she married Hayes.

I did what I could to show my gratitude. Helped her at the animal sanctuary she’d built on the land that had once been her family’s. Tried to say yes when she and Hayes invited me for dinner. It wasn’t much, but it was what I could give.

I had no way of repaying the sky. I tipped my face up to it, letting the sun warm my skin. I felt the vibrations of hooves against the ground but kept my eyes closed, soaking in the heat. A muzzle nosed my shoulder.

My hand found the mare’s cheek before I opened my eyes. Pulling off my hat, I dropped my head to hers, our foreheads touching. “Hey, Sky.”

She blew air out of her nostrils in greeting.

“How would you feel about a ride?”

I swore her eyes sparked in excitement, and I couldn’t help my smile. Hooking the lead rope to her halter, I started for the gate. “You’re gonna need a good groom.”

Sky looked as if she’d taken a roll in a patch of mud. Those patches were too plentiful to avoid this time of year. Spring in Wolf Gap could be unpredictable. You could have sun like this one day and snow the next. It made for mud city anywhere the snow or rain gathered. But that made Sky as happy as could be.

Movement caught my eye. My mom unhooked the gate and held it open for us. “Where are you two headed?”

I didn’t miss the lines of tension around her mouth as she asked. Most would’ve, but I’d become an expert in human behavior. In reading their movements and expressions. It was my first line of defense. I never wanted to miss the mean or unstable again.

That awareness was both a blessing and a curse. I felt safer, but I never missed just how much my kidnapping affected the people I loved. How much it weighed on their shoulders, even after all this time.

That familiar gnawing sensation took root in my belly, and I focused on the ground instead of my mother. “Just for a trail ride.”

Mom shut the gate behind Sky and me, latching it back into place. “Want some company?”

She always offered—every single time. My skin itched as if it were too tight for my body. “Maybe next time.”

My mom worried her bottom lip. “How long will you be gone?”

Annoyance flickered to life as my grip on the lead rope tightened. “Not sure.” I started walking towards the barn. If I didn’t move, the panic that came with the feeling of being hemmed in would grab hold. Even now, my fingers fluttered against my thigh. Stretching and flexing, then taking up a rapid tapping.

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