An Eye for an Eye(Redwood Falls: Book Two)By: Lynda Chance
Zach and Katie's Story
A Promise Given
Redwood Falls, Texas
Katie Turner hopped down the school bus steps and waved to the driver as the bus sped away. She was in an almighty hurry as excitement sent a happy thrill straight to her tummy. Her class was going to have a math quiz tomorrow, and she had to get home as fast as she could to try to find her cousin, Josh. Their teacher was finally going to give away Molly the math bear, and the toy was filled to the top with jellybeans. Josh knew his multiplication tables better than anybody in their class, and he just had to come to school tomorrow.
She had no idea why her cousin hadn't been at school the last couple of days, but she knew that her mother was worried about him again. Josh lived in one of the small cabins on the property with his father, and lately, it seemed he'd missed more school than usual.
Katie was on a mission to find him as quickly as she could, and she took off running down the dirt and gravel road that lead to the entrance of their farm. As she rounded the corner next to the mailbox, her right foot lost traction and she came tumbling to the ground in a dead stop.
As she fell, pain shot through her knees and up her legs until it seemed to radiate all over her body. Too late to save her knees, Katie twisted to her side, thrust out her hands to break her fall and landed on her bottom.
Tears came to her eyes as she sat, dazed and in pain, while blood welled from her knees and her scraped-up palms. Abruptly, she forgot all about the jellybeans as misery settled like a lead ball in her stomach.
She began to cry in harsh sobs until she realized that she was acting like a baby, and then angrily brushed the tears away. She took a deep breath and gritted her teeth. She was in second grade, she wasn't a little kid anymore, and she was ashamed of herself for crying. Thank goodness nobody was around to see her.
Katie tried to stand up, but a wrenching pain in her ankle knocked her to her bottom again, and with a wave of self-pity she realized that she wouldn't be able to walk the half-mile home like she usually did.
She almost started crying again, but before more tears could form, she was distracted as a gleaming black pick-up truck came barreling down the dirt road and stopped in a cloud of dust, just a few feet past her. A teenaged boy got out of the truck, walked up beside her and went down on his haunches next to her.
She had no idea who he was, she couldn't remember ever seeing him before. Except for her family's small farm, the huge McIntyre spread took up all the land the eye could see around here, so she had no idea where this boy could be going out here in the middle of nowhere.
Katie didn't say anything as he glanced at the blood running down her shins. "Hey, kid," he said amiably, as if she wasn't hurt at all.
She frowned at him but went ahead and answered. "Hey."
"Do you think you can walk?"
Katie bit her lip to keep it from wobbling. "Nope. I already tried."
He nodded his head. "What's your name?"
He smiled at her and when he did, Katie thought he looked cute enough to be in a boy-band. "I guess I better take you home," he told her as if the decision had already been made.
Katie narrowed her eyes in suspicion. She wanted to go with him, but there was this thing her mom always preached about called stranger danger. "Who are you? I don't know who you are."
"I'm Zach McIntyre."
Her eyes widened. She knew all about the Bar M ranch and how big it was, but she didn't know they had an almost grown boy living there. She knew there was a little kid named Hannah who lived on the humongous ranch, but she didn't know anything about a teenaged boy.
While she debated the idea of him taking her home, he said persuasively, "Come on, it'll be okay." He made a move to pick her up, but Katie sucked in her breath and flinched away from him. He pulled back immediately. "I'm just going to pick you up and put you in the truck, okay? Then I'll drive you home."
She pursed her lips and shook her head.
"Your hesitation is admirable, kid. I'm sure your parents would be proud of you." He let out a sigh and glanced around at the empty countryside before turning back to face her. "Look, do you know Hannah?" At her nod, he asked, "Would it make you feel any better if I told you that Hannah is my little sister?"
Katie nodded her head again.
"And would it make you feel safer to know that Hannah's in my truck right now waiting to get home?"
Katie twisted, looked past him, and saw the little girl, with her missing front teeth and curly blonde hair, waving through the window and smiling widely. Katie recognized the kindergartner right away and smiled back at her. Then she looked back at the boy. "I guess it'll be okay if you take me home."
"I'm gonna have to pick you up, okay?"
Katie sucked in a quivering breath as she realized that the move to his truck wouldn't be done without added pain. She steeled her nerves. "Okay."
He must have recognized her fear, because he reached out and tipped her chin up with one finger, until she was looking into his concerned brown eyes. "It won't hurt, okay?"
Katie's resolve crumbled, and she tried like the devil not to cry, but a tear escaped anyway. "Are you sure?"