Brothers of Cooper Ranch

By: Leslie North


"You said that the first time you saw them," he grunted. His words had the same effect as someone dumping a bucket of ice water down her back. Goosebumps erupted all along her arms beneath the jacket, and she ran her palms along them quickly to try to regain some warmth.

"Did I?"

"What are you wearing?" he demanded suddenly. "Please tell me you've got something on beneath my jacket."

"I think it's…somebody's nightgown? My nightgown? I don't know. I don't remember buying it." She felt delirious, on the verge of hysterics as she listened to herself list off facts she had only just learned in the past hour.

Sawyer crossed to her. "It's yours," he affirmed. "I bought it for you." He reached out, and for a breath-catching moment, Bella thought he would pull her into his arms like he had back in the bedroom. Would she go? What was the harm? But she didn't know this man, at least not as well as he seemed to know her.

Instead of drawing her into an embrace, Sawyer's hands came to rest on her shoulders. He rubbed her arms awkwardly, but Bella didn't draw away. In a way, he must be as confused as she was, even if he still had all his memories intact.

"You shouldn't have come out here," he murmured. "I thought the doctor told you to stay put."

"I have a feeling people are going to be telling me a lot of things in the coming days," Bella muttered mutinously. She didn't pull away from him, though. Once again, she was struck by how comfortable she was having him close. "In fact, I'd appreciate it if you told me everything."

Sawyer drew back from her then, although he appeared to do so reluctantly. "I can't. Doctor's orders. I'll help you where I can, Bella, but you're supposed to piece it together on your own, when your brain is healed and ready to process again."

"Are you saying my brain is broken, Sawyer Cooper?"

"Your words, not mine."

"After you left, I did some snooping," she admitted.

Sawyer smiled faintly. "Of course you did."

"I believe you. That we got married."

"I'm glad to hear it."

"I just want to know why," Bella pressed.

"Can't tell you why," Sawyer replied as he steered her towards the door. Bella dug her heels in to stop him, but his grip on her was too gently insistent. "Come on. Let's get you back to your room."

"Don't you mean our room?" she asked, but Sawyer didn't respond. The Montana night plunged his face into shadow as they walked across the yard together.

It was only when they were back in the bedroom Bella had woken up in that she saw what he intended. She seated herself on the bed—she would never admit how good it felt to sit again after so little exertion—and watched as Sawyer pulled a duffel bag out of the closet and began to empty his dresser drawers into it.

"What are you doing?" she asked quietly.

"I've been thinking it's probably better if I move to the room next door for a bit." He didn't turn around to face her as he said it. "Give you some space."

Bella's mouth went dry. "I…"

It only made sense, didn't it? Even if they were married, had she expected to sleep in the same bed as Sawyer, right next to Sawyer?

Bella brushed hair off her forehead and glanced down as he continued packing. She tried to convince herself the sudden spike in her temperature, the heat she felt surging into her cheeks, was a result of coming in from the chill evening. She slipped out of his jacket and laid it beside her on the bed. When he reached for it, she laid her hand tentatively on his.

"I don't want you to move your things out, Sawyer."

"You want me to stay here with you?" His eyebrows shot up in surprise.

Bella shook her head furiously. "No! I mean…! I'm not ready for…that…yet. I'd like to sleep separately, but…" She nodded toward his half-packed duffel. "I was just thinking if you left all your things here, it might help jog a memory or two. I don't know. I really don't know how this whole thing works."

"I think that's what we're waiting to find out." Sawyer sat down beside her on the bed. Bella broke contact with his hand; she hadn't meant to keep it there that long to begin with. Sawyer sighed heavily and ran his hands through his hair.

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