Standoff at Mustang Ridge

Standoff at Mustang Ridge by Delores Fossen Read Free Book Online Page A

Book: Standoff at Mustang Ridge by Delores Fossen Read Free Book Online
Authors: Delores Fossen
hadn’t been expecting anything since he was Diane’s stepson, but he darn well should have expected it since Diane had helped raise him. Stanton had only been five years old when Diane and Eldon had gotten married, and for all and intents and purposes, she’d been his mother.
    Sophie returned her attention to her father—someone else her mother hadn’t included in her will. She cursed that will now.
    And her mother.
    Because Diane had ripped the family apart by leaving Sophie everything and then forbidding her to give her father and brother a penny.
    Her father finally looked up but not at her. At Royce. “I made some bad investments, and I used the ranch and land as collateral. I was on the verge of losing everything so I got a loan from someone. The wrong someone,” he confessed.
    “A loan shark?” Royce asked.
    Eldon nodded, and her mouth went dry. Mercy. This was worse than she’d thought.
    Royce turned to her, his eyebrow already lifted. “Did you know?”
    It took her a moment before Sophie could speak and tamp down some of the wild ideas flying through her head. Or maybe not so wild. After all, a loan shark and the attack could be connected.
    “I knew about the debts,” she said. “But not about this extra loan .”
    “That’s why Sophie was marrying Travis,” Stanton added. “So he’d pay off all our father’s debt, including the most recent one.”
    Sophie’s gaze flew to Travis. “You knew about the loan shark?”
    He lifted his shoulder. “Not specifically. I just knew your father was in financial hot water.”
    “And Travis wouldn’t give us the money in advance,” Stanton volunteered. “He insisted we wait until after the wedding.”
    Another lift of his shoulder. “A deal’s a deal, and the deal was for Sophie.”
    “Well, that’s off now, isn’t it?” Stanton snarled. “And this loan shark threatened to get his money one way or another.”
    Royce jumped right on that. “By kidnapping Sophie?”
    The room went completely silent for several long moments. The silence didn’t help steady her nerves, that’s for sure. Neither did her father’s dire expression.
    “Maybe,” her father finally admitted.
    She wanted to scream and pound her fists against the wall. How the heck had her father’s finances come to this? And why had he kept something this important from her?
    Sophie went to her father, latched on to his chin and forced eye contact. “Did this loan shark actually threaten to come after me?”
    Her father didn’t answer. Didn’t have to. She saw it in his eyes.
    “I’m sorry,” he said, his voice a hoarse whisper. “He didn’t threaten you specifically, but he said I’d be sorry if I didn’t pay up. I thought he’d send one of his goons after me.” Her father shook his head, groaned. “I didn’t know he’d go after one of my kids.”
    Sophie backed away, and she hadn’t realized that she was wobbling until she felt Royce take her arm to steady her.
    “I should be the one comforting Sophie,” Travis said, and he went to her as well and caught onto her other arm. “I think you and the cowboy can see now that I didn’t have any part in the attack.”
    Sophie couldn’t argue with that last part, but she shook off Travis’s grip. After everything that had happened, it turned her stomach to have him touch her.
    “As far as I’m concerned,” Travis continued, “you’re still my fiancée, and the wedding is still on. Once we’ve said our I do’s, your father will have the money to pay off the loan shark and his other debts. The threat to your life will stop.”
    Everyone turned to her. She saw the hope in her father’s eyes. The smugness in Travis’s. Her brother just looked disgusted by the whole situation, but some of that disgust might be aimed at her since she hadn’t been able to find a way around the terms of her mother’s will.
    But it was Royce’s reaction that grabbed her attention.
    He was staring at her, waiting, and he seemed to be

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