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An excerpt from:
The Renegade's Woman
Nominated for the 2001 Dorothy Parker Award of Excellence
# 1 on the Ebook Bestseller List for 5 months in a row
#7 overall Bestselling Ebook for 1999
Copyright 1999 by Nina Bruhns. All rights reserved.
Colorado Territory, 1862
Sally Hewitt lay back on a low granite slab, relishing the feel of the sun's dappled rays on her naked skin. Her long, honey-colored hair was spread out on the rock to dry, her calico dress and camisole draped over a nearby bush. Lord have mercy, it felt glorious to be clean again.
She slipped a hand into the stream swirling below the rock and dribbled water over her face and neck, shivering at the contrast between the early summer heat and the chilly Rocky Mountain snowmelt. The scent of warm pine needles drifted up from the meadow surrounding the small pool where she'd bathed, and she could hear the chatter of jaybirds in the trees overhead.
She dipped into the cool water again, this time letting it run in rivulets down between her breasts and over her stomach. Her muscles clenched in sensual delight. God, she missed the simple pleasures of life on her gramma's Virginia farm. Swimming in the pond, clean feather beds, riding old Dancer, eating anything but biscuits and beans.
The memory of the boy from the farm next door made her smile. She'd let him kiss her once. That had felt glorious, too.
Slowly, the stream water dripped down between her fingers and over her body. She let out a gasp when a cold drop landed on her sensitive nipple. The impertinent bud beaded up and begged for more.
Mmmm. Yes, like that. It had felt exactly like that when Gregory had pressed his lips to hers. She'd quickened then, too, and would have begged for more. But the polecat had just chucked her under the chin and gone looking
for her sister, Alyssa.
Not that she blamed him, she thought with a sigh. Alyssa had always been the pretty one. The feminine one. Sally was the tomboy. What they called 'sassy,' for lack of a more flattering term.
She closed her eyes and grinned. Well, that was just fine by her. She was the clean one now, and Alyssa was cowering back at the wagon, safely ensconced in two weeks' worth of dirt and grime, scared witless by Ernie Tompkin's campfire stories about a war party of Arapaho renegades which he claimed roamed this part of the Territory.
She snorted. Like Ernie Tompkins would know anything about wild Indians.
The water lapped peacefully against the granite, and she pushed out a breath. How would she ever make herself quit this green, tranquil eden to go back to the clouds of dust, the ever-present smell of ox manure, and the eternal squeaking of ungreased wagon wheels?
But go she must. The wagon train waited for no one, and she didn't want to have to kill herself getting back to the Tompkins' covered wagon before it got too far ahead of her.
She sat up and ran her fingers through her hair to comb out the worst tangles the breeze had woven into it as it dried. The sharp snap of a twig behind her made her quickly turn.
Holy mother of God! She froze in terror.
An Indian! On a horse, holding a rifle on his buckskin-clad knee, feathers flying from his long, black hair, and red war paint slashed across his face. A warrior, who was staring at her naked body in a way that told her men were men, regardless of the language they spoke or the color of their skin.
Her heart slammed into her throat and she tried to cover herself with her hands. She bit down hard to keep from screaming. Screeching like a ninny would accomplish nothing. She had to use her wits to get herself out of this. Fingering a thin rope slung bandoleer-style around one of his shoulders, the warrior urged his horse a step toward her.
Sally scrambled to the back edge of her stony perch. "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 current.
"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.
"Stop," he quietly ordered.
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 as
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-- What?"
"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. Effortlessly.
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.
"Quiet," he admonished. "The others will hear you."
"Good!" She yelled at the top of her lungs, "Heeelllllp!" beating his back with her fists.
"They'll want their turn."
She clamped her mouth shut.
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 thrilling.
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