June 1758, the Colonial Frontier, the Allegheny Mountains of Western Virginia, the Shawnee Warrior Camp.
Mild breezes caressed Rebecca’s face, wafting the tang of wood smoke and the meaty aroma of roasting venison, nudging her from a place of no dreams. Water gurgled over stones. She must lie near a stream. Earthy humus cushioned her beneath, and a woolen blanket covered her. She traced the cloth with her fingertips.
The ache in her head made it hard to think. Groaning softly, she opened her eyes to the branches of a great oak silhouetted against the saffron sky. Sunset. How had she come to be lying sore and bruised on the forest floor? Was Kate here?
Men’s voices drew her. She strained to understand their words. Bewildered and frightened, she shifted gingerly onto her side, peering through smoky shadows at a series of campfires.
Dear God. Warriors, not soldiers, encircled each blaze—dozens of them. Memories of the ambush rushed back as she covered her mouth in a futile effort to stifle a cry.
All heads turned, and a host of dark eyes glinted at her.
She went rigid with dread, her heart pounding. She was as good as dead. Why did she yet live?
After an agonizing moment, the men resumed their banter, some smoking pipes. One tall warrior rose from the cluster seated around the nearest campfire. His muscular body was clad only in an elk skin breechclout, blue cloth leggings, and buckskin moccasins that reached well up his calves; the same skins fashionable men wore with a far more primitive use. A sheathed knife hung from the woven belt at his waist. He’d slung a tomahawk at his side. The blade protruded above his belt and the carved handle below, ready to grasp in an instant.
She watched him intently. Her life hung on his every move. But he didn’t reach for either weapon.Rather, he bent to dip a cupful of steaming liquid from the kettle near the fire then walked to her.
Icy fingers clenched, every muscle taut, she stared up at him. Even without dry-mouthed fear, her eyes would have been fastened on this formidable male, like some New World god sprung from this wild land. A shudder coursed through her rigid body as he knelt beside her.
“I’ll not harm you.”
His assurance in clear English took her by surprise. Not only that, but there was a familiar quality about his face, his voice. Striving to remember, she searched every contour: eyes as black as a night without stars, high cheekbones, sculpted nose, strong chin. His lightly tanned skin was unstreaked by red and black paint. No silver cones hung from his ears. No ornament pierced his nose. Instead of the scalp lock worn by most braves, his black hair hung loose around his shoulders.
She shifted her gaze to the muscled planes of his bare chest, an eye-opening sight for a woman accustomed to long-sleeved shirts, waistcoats, and cravats.
She let her eyes drop lower. His narrow breechclout revealed a great deal of masculine thighs. She hurriedly returned her widened stare to his dark scrutiny. Gaping at a man, even a potentially deadly warrior, wasn’t her nature.
For a moment, he simply looked at her. What lay behind those penetrating eyes?
Through the Fire is available in print and ebook at Amazon Kindle, The Wild Rose Press, Barnes & Noble and other online booksellers.
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