"Don't come any closer," she called out, holding up a hand to show
what she meant.
Silently, the warrior's
dark eyes raked over her body, pausing at her upheld hand, then
drilled into hers. Her blood thundered in her ears as she returned
his frank stare.
He sat tall and proud on the colorfully woven blanket that served
as his saddle. His broad chest gleamed smooth and bronze under a
peculiar covering designed of pipe-beads and quills. The thighs
that hugged his painted horse's sides were powerful, every corded
muscle emphasized by the supple leather leggings covering them.
A long knife was sheathed at his hip. She shivered, instinctively
reacting to the man's raw virility, and her own vulnerability.
She tried to reason with
him. "There's a wagon train just over there," she bluffed in a shaky
voice, "and they'll hear me if I scream. They'll kill you
if they find you this close. Go away and I won't say a thing about
seeing you here."
Her courage flagged badly
when it occurred to her that, even if he understood what she was
saying, he no doubt knew exactly where the wagon train was, and
that there was no way in hell anyone would hear her if she screamed.
Her courage failed completely when he holstered his rifle, slid
lithely from the horse and started moving toward her.
His graceful, wolf-like
gait, and the exotically sensual angles of his handsome face momentarily
captivated her. There was a feral, predatory look in his eyes. And
he was coming straight for her.
She screamed and jumped
off the rock, slogging as fast as she could across the stream. She
couldn't let him take her! She'd heard tales of what women were
forced to endure at the hands of these renegades.
Sure-footed steps splashed
right behind her as she lurched and tripped over the river cobbles,
desperate to reach the other bank of the stream. He caught her by
the hair and yanked her to a stop in the middle of the whirling
"No!" she shouted.
She turned and pounded at him with her fists. Her head jerked back
and she felt his hand winding 'round and 'round in her long hair,
reeling her in like a fish on a line. He tugged at her again, bringing
her tight against his chest, and grabbed one of her wrists in mid-punch.
"Let me go!"
She pummeled his thick
biceps with her free hand until she was
bruised and exhausted. He just stared down at her, holding her by
the hair and wrist, crushing her to him with an arm on her back.
She hadn't a prayer of escape. He would take her. She knew it.
Panting and close to
tears, she stopped fighting. "Please, let me go."
She drew in a deep gulp
of air to steady herself and was assailed by the scent of him. He
smelled purely male, of musk and leather and horse, a hint of berries
and sweetgrass, and something she couldn't identify. An earthy,
erotic smell that spoke to her of forbidden acts and desires.
He shifted against her.
Her body pressed firmly
into his solid frame. Strong fingers circled her wrist securely.
Her other hand rested on smooth, warm, slightly damp skin. Her bare
breasts were squashed to his chest plate, her naked thighs surrounded
by the powerful columns of his legs as he braced himself against
her attack. She felt the bulge between them grow long and thick
against her belly.
An irrational, unwanted
flutter of arousal skated from the tips of her breasts down her
abdomen and straight to the moist center between her legs.
She met his eyes, and
knew that he knew.
Her face heated in horror
at her reaction. She had to get away! But her renewed struggles
were as ineffectual as a daisy fighting a hurricane.
Startled by his utterance,
she froze. "You speak English!"
He adjusted his grip
in her hair and silently studied her face, taking in her cheekbones,
her eyes, her forehead, her nose. Her lips.
Her heartbeat doubled.
His gaze lingered on
her lips, and when they parted * completely against her will * he
let go her wrist and reached up to glide a finger over her bottom
lip. It felt so good she almost moaned.
The feathers tied in
his hair fluttered on the breeze. The chilly stream swirled about
their legs, churning up pebbles and mud in a cloud around them,
but she barely noticed. He unwound his hand from her hair and spread
the thick strands over her shoulders, fingering the texture, examining
the golden color in the sunlight. He reached up and brushed her
cheeks with both hands, tracing over her trembling jaw and down
her neck with the rough pads of his fingers.
She watched his fierce
expression as he touched her, mesmerized by the hunger she saw reflected
in his eyes. He wanted her. He meant to have her. Her heart hammered
in her chest, telling her to run for her life. But the cold water
must have numbed the muscles in her legs for they were as leaden
two anchors holding her in place.
His gaze latched
with hers as he slid his hand along her collarbone, then dropped
it in a slow glide to cover her breast. She gasped. Her shamelessly
eager nipple hardened at his touch, sending an agonizing stab of
desire all the way to her toes and back up to lodge in her most
intimate place. She jerked away, embarrassed by the intensity of
her body's response to his trespass.
"No!" she cried
again and bolted. She got as far as the bank before she heard his
deep, rumbling laugh. She whirled in surprise.
"I will catch you,
Pale As Moonlight," he called to her, the devil's own smile on his
face. "And then I will make you my woman."
Pale as-- "W--
"But we can play
eagle and mouse if it is what you want." His eyes challenged her
to either come to him or run like the wind.
Panic flooded her as
she realized she had little hope of escape. She swallowed. What
would it be like to lie beneath this savage stranger, to open herself
and accept his body into hers? Terrified of the answer, she turned
and flew across the meadow.
He gave her a head start,
but was never far behind. She could hear his quiet footfalls, his
steady breathing, the rustle of dry leaves beneath his moccasins.
"You're making a
big mistake," she panted. "They won't allow this to go unpunished.
They'll send the cavalry to hunt you down."
She ran and ran, darted
around the trees and bushes, trying her best to elude him. But he
was always there, closing the gap between them, slowly but surely.
It was useless. She felt
his hands grasp her around the waist, hauling her to a stop. Winded,
she grabbed for the knife at his hip. He easily brushed her off.
She squealed a protest when he hoisted her like a sack of feed over
his broad shoulder. Oh, Lord. Images of what would happen
to her flashed
through her mind, galvanizing her resistance.
He carried her like so
much kindling, despite her kicking and screaming.
admonished. "The others will hear you."
yelled at the top of her lungs, "Heeelllllp!" beating his back with
"They'll want their
She clamped her mouth
How could she have been
so foolish? Of course he wouldn't be alone. A war party,
Ernie had said.
He walked back to the
meadow with her, and whisked the blanket off his horse, tossing
it on the ground and her on top of it.
She peered up at him,
frightened. "You'd let them?"
"I'd kill them first,"
he said calmly.
He swiftly straddled
her, gripping her hips between his knees, and
stuck his knife into the ground beside the blanket. He unwound the
thin sweetgrass rope from around his shoulder, wrapped the middle
of its generous length a couple of times around the trunk of a sapling
at the head of the blanket, and with the rope's end proceeded to
bind her hands over her head. It didn't seem to bother him that
the other end was still looped around his neck so he was as much
a prisoner as she.
His eyes captured hers
in a piercing gaze and he reached down to slowly withdraw his loincloth
from under the belt of his leggings. The soft leather rectangle
slid away from his hand and slithered onto her stomach. Suddenly
she found it impossible to breathe. The sight of his huge, erect
rod, erotically framed in the cutout of his chaps-like leggings,
its angry head bobbing inches above her, filled her with terror.
And something else.
Something that felt strangely