I bet you thought I’d forgotten my promise to post another excerpt from book three in my Texas Druids trilogy (coming in spring 2013.) Actually, I waited to post it just in time for Christmas, my little gift to you, dear readers. Enjoy!
Choctaw Jack needs Rose Devlin’s magical touch to heal someone he loves. In this scene she awakens as his captive.
Rose regained her senses slowly. Feeling herself rock to and fro, she groggily recognized the loping gait of a horse beneath her. But how could that be?
She forced her eyes open, taking in the starlit sky and the dark landscape passing by. Blinking at the sight, she realized she was seated crosswise on the horse – in a man’s lap. Just like that, the scene in her bedroom with Jack came back to her, and she knew whose chest she leaned upon and whose arm was locked around her.
Panicking, she cried out in fright. Pain lanced through her jaw, reminding her of the blow her teacher-turned-abductor had delivered just before she’d sunk into oblivion.
“Easy now,” the brute murmured. “You’re all right. Noboby’s gonna hurt you.”
She threw her head back to see his shadowed features. “I’m not all right, ye . . . ye kidnapper!” Cupping her painful jaw, she demanded, “Take me back this instant!”
“Can’t do that, Toppah.”
“But ye must! Tye and Lil will be looking for me.” Catching the odd word he’d spoken, she repeated it. “Toppah? What’s that?”
“It’s you. It means yellow-hair.”
“Oh. Well, don’t be calling me that again. Now turn this horse around and take me back,” she again demanded.
“Nope. We’re heading for the Nations. You might as well relax and enjoy the ride.”
“Enjoy the ride, is it? You’re daft!” She pushed at his steely arm and attempted to twist free, but, although his hold caused no pain, it was unbreakable. Feeling smothered and panicky, she shoved at his chest, managing to create a small space between them.
“Be still,” he ordered sharply. “Do you wish to fall off and break your neck?”
Before she could reply, another man’s voice sounded nearby, speaking in an unfamiliar tongue. Unaware of his presence until that moment, Rose uttered a frightened cry and instinctively shrank against Jack, no longer trying to free herself. His arm tightened around her for a second. He said something to the other man, then spoke softly to her.
“Don’t be afraid, Poe-Lah-Yee. That’s only my friend Tsoia. He won’t touch you as long as he thinks you’re mine.”
“Yours! I’m not yours!” she shrilled, once more stiffening against him.
“You might not want to let him know that.”
Ready to unleash a tirade – uncharacteristic for her – she thought better of it. Twisting her upper body and craning her neck, she caught a glimpse of the other Indian’s shadowy form. He rode near them and, unless she was mistaken, he led another horse.
“What did he say?” she warily asked.
“He said you screech like an owl,” Jack replied, a grin in his voice.
Rose huffed in annoyance, not liking the comparison. After a moment’s silence, she asked in a softer voice, “And what did ye call me a minute ago?”
“Poe-Lah-Yee. It means rabbit.”
“Rabbit! I told ye before I’m no scared rabbit.” Although, to be truthful, she felt like one just now. “Oh, and my hair’s not yellow. It’s strawberry-blonde. That’s what they’re calling the color back in Chicago.”
“Mmm. I guess I could call you Poe-Aye-Gaw. That means strawberries.”
“For goodness sake, can’t ye call me by my real name?”
“I dunno,” he drawled. “Poe-Aye-Gaw is kinda nice, or maybe P’Ayn-Nah. That means sugar. Yeah, I like that one.”
Sugar? Did he think her sweet? And what if he did? It made no nevermind to her. Snorting in disdain, Rose squirmed uncomfortably in his lap. She remained silent for several minutes, racking her brain for a way to escape, unable to think of anything. When she squirmed once again, Jack gave her a sharp squeeze.
“Be still,” he ordered again. “What’s wrong, you hurting someplace?”
She felt a blush warm her face and was grateful for the darkness. “I . . . I need to relieve myself if ye must know.”
“Oh. Why didn’t you say so?” He called out to the other Indian and both men drew their horses to a halt. Easing Rose to the ground along with the blanket she was encased in, Jack said, “You’d best put your boots on. You don’t want to step on a cactus with bare feet.” Reaching into a bag tied to his saddle, he produced the boots and handed them down to her. “Go on behind those bushes. See them over there?” He pointed off to the left as she struggled into her boots.
“Aye.” She barely made out the shadowy foliage.
“Be quick about it, and don’t try to run.”
Not bothering to reply, she picked her way cautiously toward the small clump of bushes. As she took care of her urgent need, Jack’s warning echoed through her head. It was very dark, the moon having set. If she stayed low, perhaps she could make it to some hiding place before Jack and his friend noticed she was missing. She didn’t give herself time to rethink the idea. Bunching up her blanket and nightdress – her only garment — she crept stealthily away, praying for a hidey hole she could duck into.
She hadn’t gone far when a hand clamped around her arm, wringing a terrified shriek from her lips. Dragged upright by that iron grip, she lost her hold on the blanket but hardly noticed as her captor shook her.
“I told you not to run,” he growled. “Little fool! Did you really think you could escape me?”
“I had to try!” she cried.
He gave her another, harder shake. “What if you had fallen and broken a leg or cracked your head open? And where did you think to go when you don’t even know where you are?”
“I . . . I don’t know.” Trembling with fear and cold, she couldn’t hold back a despairing sob.
He sighed impatiently and raised his hand to strike her. Cringing in terror, Rose threw up her free arm to ward off the blow, but it never came.
“What the . . . ? I’m not gonna hit you, woman. I told you I wouldn’t hurt you, didn’t I?
Lowering her arm a little, Rose peeked at him. She couldn’t see his expression in the dark, but he sounded more disgusted now than angry.
“Course, if you try running again, I just might have to beat some sense into you.”
“No, please!” she begged, voice quaking like the rest of her. “I-I won’t, I promise.”
Jack felt her tremble and knew he could never carry out his threat. Retrieving the blanket she’d dropped, he wrapped it around her shoulders. As he led her back to the horses, more gently than he’d first intended, he puzzled over her terror-stricken behavior. True, he’d meant to frighten her so she wouldn’t do something stupid again, but he hadn’t expected her to cower before him as if waiting for him to strike her tender flesh. She’d made him feel like a brute when all he’d meant to do was brush a lock of tangled hair from her face.
Once they remounted and set off again, he continued to mull over Rose’s reaction. The fear and timidity she’d shown him on other occasions had angered him because he’d thought it due to him being an Indian. Now, he was beginning to suspect some man, somewhere, had treated her cruelly, causing her to fear all men. The thought spread vengeful fire through his blood, making him want to give the coyote, whoever he was, a strong dose of his own medicine.
For a while, his captive sat stiff as a statue, not making a sound, never looking at him, but exhaustion caught up with her. Her head drooped and she relaxed against him. He carefully adjusted her position so that her head rested upon his shoulder. Dawn was breaking, allowing him to study the delicate curve of her cheek, her dainty nose and the fine, slanted arch of her brows. They were a rich reddish brown the same as her lashes, like a pretty chestnut pony he’d once owned. He found the dark color startling in comparison to her light hair, but not unpleasant to look upon. No, not unpleasant.
She sighed, lips parting in sleep, and Jack was caught by the tempting sight. He wondered dangerously if she tasted of sugar, as he’d called her earlier. Unhindered, his gaze slid downward to the swell of her breasts and his pecker began to rise. Shit! He quickly aimed his gaze straight ahead and shifted beneath her, trying to alleviate his sudden discomfort. He’d better keep his eyes off the woman, and his thoughts too, or he’d end up proving she was right to fear him.
Merry Christmas, y’all!