An expectant nicker welcomed Karin from the first stall. She brushed chilled fingers over the mare’s soft black muzzle and fed her searching mouth the apple she’d brought. Velvet lips crunched the juicy fruit and nudged her for more.
“That’s all.” Her voice was lost in the rattling wind.
She walked past the remaining stalls and nuzzling lips. McNeal bloodlines were heralded in these parts and painstaking attention given to their horses. More brood mares and foals were out in the pasture and Joseph waited in the lean-to they’d built for foaling.
As for Jack, Karin spotted his shadowy figure inside the farthest stall. He’d bridled his mount and looped its reins around one of the stout poles joined to the wide beams overhead. His back to her, he curried a magnificent strawberry roan stallion, its chestnut coat heavily mixed with gray. The horse snatched hay from the manger and stood quietly, seemingly good-natured and well-trained.
How on earth did he come by such a superb mount? Karin had no more opportunity to wonder, and it wasn’t the stallion she kept close watch on as she approached the two, unsure what Jack might say or do.
“Mister McCray!” She was careful not to take him by surprise as she’d done last night, ready to turn and race back outside in an instant if need be.
Jack turned his head, eyes narrowed beneath his hat. Tension ran the length of his jaw. She faltered at the anger in his face. He must still be vexed with her grandfather; possibly with her too. Uncertain, she said, “Jack?”
A smile turned up the corners of his drawn mouth, making him appear even more youthful and less like a hardened frontiersman. “So, you’ve come. I figured John McNeal would hold you prisoner before ever letting you go off with me.”
Maybe he should have. Karin stepped nearer to Jack, the hay cushioning her shoes. “Grandpa can be prevailed upon by your bonnie mother.”
He paused, the brush in his hand. “And you?”
Karin shifted from one damp sole to the other and ran her tongue over her lips. “Perhaps.”
His smile widened. “Come and meet Peki.” He opened the short stall door.
She hesitated outside the narrow space.
“You’re not afraid, are you?”
“Not of the horse.”
“For a warrior or a soldier?”
Keeping her eyes on his broad back, she said, “I’m not sure if that’s good or bad.”
She slipped inside the pen bedded with clean straw and turned almost in awe at the horse towering above her. She patted his sleek neck. “He’s beautiful. You could start a new line with him.”
“Yes. He’s the finest I’ve ever known. But God help me, Karin, so are you.”
A current charged through her at his words and the emotion behind them. She swiveled, lifting her eyes to the intensity in his. “Why do you need the Lord’s help?”
“You have no idea,” he said huskily.~
The Bearwalker’s Daughter is a historical romance novel interwoven with an intriguing paranormal thread, set among the clannish Scots in the mist-shrouded Alleghenies. The story is similar to others of mine with a colonial frontier flavor (Red Bird’s Song, Through the Fire, The Lady and the Warrior) and also features Native American characters. My passion for the past, and some of the accounts I’ve come across while researching my early American ancestors and the Shawnee Indians, is at the heart of the inspiration behind this novel, available at Amazon kindle for the sweet price of .99.
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