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Waking Up Dead (The Western Werewolf Legend Book 2) By Catherine Wolffe Copyright 2013 Catherine Wolffe All rights reserved Discover other titles by Catherine Wolffe at www.catherinewolffe.com. Cover design by Ally homas Smashwords Edition License Notes his eboo! is licensed for yo"r personal en#oyment only. his eboo! may not be re$sold or given away to other people. %f yo" wo"ld li!e to share this boo! with another person& please p"rchase an additional copy for each recipient. %f yo"'re reading this boo! and did not p"rchase it& or it was not p"rchased for yo"r "se only& then please ret"rn to (mashwords.com and p"rchase yo"r own copy. han! yo" for respecting the hard wor! of this a"thor. d!lt "ontent %n order to protect minors from viewing inappropriate material& please !now that this boo! may contain lang"age& sit"ations or images inappropriate for children "nder 1) years of age. #ther Books $% "atherine Wolffe Comanche *aven + ,ree (ample Comanche *aven - he .oflin .egacy/ 0 11 he .ady in the 2ist -A Werewolf's ale1 + ,ree (ample he .ady in the 2ist - he Western Werewolf .egend 011 A Dance in ime -3. . .eighton& ime raveler 011 Ta$le of "ontents Chapter 1 he 4an!ees Chapter 2 Belief
Chapter 3 ,or the (a!e of Brothers in Arms Chapter 5 he 3o"rney Begins Chapter 6 Challenges Chapter 7 8esponsibilities Chapter 9 Control Chapter ) Close :"arters Chapter ; he Dead .ive Chapter 10 8esc"e Chapter 11 Celebration Waking Up Dead (The Western Werewolf Legend Book 2) "hapter & The 'ankees <4o"'ll be fine. he old witch& *ortence is with yo"&= y said. he devil may care twin!le danced in his eyes as he searched (on#a's face. <Don't worry abo"t me. %'ll be caref"l.= *e pa"sed& ta!ing her face in his hands. he warm bl"e of his eyes always mesmeri>ed her. < his is something % have to do& ?ymph. Do yo" "nderstand@= *e traced the dimple in her chee!. (he'd nodded. .ying to the man she loved seemed wrong& b"t how co"ld she tell him of her fears when his own determination was so strong@ he moon glowed thro"gh the window bathing the room in a "reteral light. *is face lay in shadowy planes on the pillow neAt to hers. With one strong hand& y p"lled her close and t"gged at the hem of her gown. <% told yo" % li!ed yo" na!ed when yo" come to bed. Why do yo" insist on wearing anything@= <%t's cold. %'m cold. *old me& y.= he tr"th remained that the entire world stopped when he held her. *is heart beating inside his chest gave her strength despite her woes. < hen let me warm yo" as % want to do.= With a wic!ed wolf's gleam in his eyes& y p"lled her close fitting her near his aro"sal. <4o" do this to me. % can't help the need that bloc!s
everything else in its path when yo"'re close to me. B"sh reality's concerns o"t of yo"r mind and let me ma!e love to yo"& ?ymph. and craving. (on#a closed her eyes and breathed in his scent& all male and fervid wolf. her and give her what she craved. *is hands traced her breasts before centering their attention on her rosy pea!s. Dropping to s"c! one areola into a hard crest of desire& y moaned sending a delicio"s shiver "p her spine as her core tightened with each t"g of his mo"th. (he arched her hips to meet his& her seA r"bbing provocatively against his erection. <Blease y& ma!e love to me. ?ow& % want yo" in me&= she pleaded. %mpatience rippled along her nerve endings and played havoc with her emotions. he battle to remain in control wavered with each assa"lt of his mo"th on her flesh. *is tong"e traveled to her belly ma!ing the m"scles in her center spasm. ?o amo"nt of concentration on her part co"ld !eep the desire from rising in her. Wrapping her arms aro"nd the wide eApanse of his sho"lders& (on#a gripped his slim hips with her legs drawing him f"rther down between her thighs. *er head fell bac! on a soft eAhale of breath. y wasted no time in driving deeper. <4o"'re the most bea"tif"l woman %'ve ever !nown. 4o"r desire is "nli!e anything %'ve ever eAperienced. % want to stay right here with yo" wrapped in yo"r arms and b"ried deep in yo" forever. Don't ever consider leaving me. % co"ldn't ta!e the pain.= *is words were a h"s!y threat. <Don't even consider the possibility. % love yo"& y. %'m not going anywhere.= (he feathered wet !isses over his face& mar!ing every spot with love. <% never tho"ght %'d find someone li!e yo"& especially&&&= <(hhh& don't spea! of it. 3"st !iss me and let me show yo" what yo" mean to me.= With his simple words& he warmed her from the inside o"t. "rgent as he claimed her for his own. (he'd never felt the !ind of bliss she fo"nd in his to"ch. (on#a moved in rhythm with him "rging him to forge their bodies into one. *er body was on fire and he held the torch of her desire. he stro!e of his male pride grew forcef"l and he vag"ely m"sty aroma of male passion wrapped aro"nd her sh"tting o"t all else eAcept the h"nger for y to fill ime is short and % wo"ld have yo" spend it on more l"sty he low growl in his throat spo!e of heat p"rs"its than concerning yo"rself with my leaving.=
<4o"r need shows in yo"r eyes& when yo" ma!e love. % watch yo"r mind relaA and feel yo"r body ta!e over. *ow can % hold bac! when yo" loo! at me that way& ?ymph@= AhhhC his head bac! as the sensation raced thro"gh him. .i!e a Dree! god& he rose "p and thr"st himself once more into her& filling her to the hilt. (on#a bowed "p and wrapped her arms tightly aro"nd his nec! as she rode passion's completion with her mate. EEE he morning song of the birds& the woods' so"nds as the forest awo!e to a new day all disappeared with his embrace. Fven the bite of the early spring chill waned and her blood warmed with his to"ch. *e did that and so m"ch more to her and yet& she co"ldn't share her fears with him. Fverything in her world was perfect when she'd awo!e a little over an ho"r before. he light filtering thro"gh the leaded glass window of her small bedroom had danced in a #agged pattern across the G"ilt. (he'd lain resting on his sho"lder& his warmth enveloping her as he sl"mbered. 8emembering their lovema!ing the night before& she shifted to an elbow and watched him sleep. *is feat"res always softened with rest and he loo!ed yo"nger& more innocent as he lay with one arm fl"ng o"t& his face t"rned toward her. hose long& thic! lashes splayed over s"n$!issed s!in. *eavens& the man was something to loo! at& all that dar! hair m"ssed with sleep& his chin so strong and those eyes& as bl"e as the s!y& co"ld open at any moment and heat with the slightest to"ch from her. he memory stirred the slow simmering fire she en#oyed deep in her core he Confederate lie"tenant whenever her lover was near. (he wanted him to stay with her. y threw
wo"ldn't& co"ldn't stay. (he leaned close and br"shed a fingertip across the swell of his chee!bone. *is Choctaw blood& so evident in his profile called to her in a primitive way. (he whispered a prayer to the gods for his safe ret"rn and with her fingers shifted his #aw to face her. *is eyes fl"ttered open. he groggy smile he gave her filled her for a moment. Hnly he co"ld do that to her and she t"c!ed the sight of him stirring from sleep to her memory for safe!eeping. Iissing him softly& she laid her head neAt to his as she watched him. <What time is it@= *is voice was thic! with the dregs of rest. <,ive o'cloc!.= Jnable to as! the G"estion she wanted to as!& (on#a n">>led his nec! and breathed him in. <Did yo" sleep well@=
<4es& % always sleep well with yo" beside me& ?ymph.= *e p"shed bac! and loo!ed into her face. *ow are yo" this morning@= (on#a "nderstood the meaning of his G"estion. <(omewhat resolved.= y's face bro!e into a wic!ed grin. <Berhaps& % can convince yo" of my plan with more than words& h"m@= (he shoved playf"lly at his sho"lder. <Don't tease me so& yler. his is serio"s. (omething co"ld happen to yo"& alone& o"t there.= (on#a didn't want to spend the last bit of time she had arg"ing with him so she p"lled him close and b"rrowed into his nec!. Diving his collarbone her "ndivided attention& she smiled when he growled low in his chest and reciprocated with nips along her sho"lder and "pper arm. *e threw his long& lean leg over her thigh drawing her close. *is erection strained against her stomach as she moved to meld their bodies together. *e wasted no time in clamping his large hand across her ass and "rging her to foc"s on his coc!& warm and hard against her stomach. (on#a's tho"ghts disappeared with the feel of him against her& stiff and wanting her so badly. <2y man wants me& % wager. 4o"'re going to miss me when yo" leave. All the more reason& % sho"ld go along.= <(hhh. Don't tal!& ?ymph& #"st let me pleas"re yo".= *e rose "p and hovered over her for a moment before spreading her legs with his !nee. (lipping two fingers into her wet heat& she stro!ed her slowly at first and then with more force as she went liG"id "nder his to"ch. <% can never imagine being witho"t yo" for long. ?ever worry that % won't ret"rn as soon as possible.= With the vow& he lowered himself to her and slid inside& gliding and filling her completely with his fiery need. EEE (on#a lingered in the !itchen as y prepared to depart. After defeating the vampires in a battle to end all others& she and yler had made plans to leave Bennsylvania and travel to his father's place in eAas. Hf co"rse& the discovery of his men changed their plans. *e'd ref"sed. (he hated the ever present worry that crept "p between them. <Hne so newly t"rned needs time to hone his s!ills&= she told him& her stomach m"scles tightening. hey'd been ta!en as prisoners of war in a nearby compo"nd. (on#a had pleaded with him to let her go along.
<We don't have the l"A"ry of time.= fallen comrades.
y's face was a mas! of d"ty and dedication to his
Witho"t pa"sing& he contin"ed by pointing o"t an obvio"s responsibility she hadn't wanted to consider. <One doesn't desert his friends witho"t at least attempting to save them from the evil in these woods. 4o" of all people sho"ld "nderstand& (on#a.= *is words st"ng. (he fisted her hands together. *ow dare he remind her of the werewolf he'd become beca"se of her actions. *adn't she saved him witho"t consideration of her own discovery that night in the swamp@ Hf co"rse& she wo"ldn't have left him to die in the mist shro"ded battlefield that dreadf"l night anyway& b"t being reminded of his sacrifice& his becoming a werewolf beca"se she was the one to help him& weighed heavily on her heart. 8esol"te& she laid a hand on his arm and tried for peace. After all& those men were his friends. <Blease be caref"l.= *er words had been simply stated b"t held s"ch emotion. EEE he cold air of 2arch& 1)75 whipped aro"nd the corner of the cabin and t"gged at (on#a's long robe. (he gritted her teeth not only against the cold b"t against y's decision. <Are we ready to go@= yler glanced at Abram Clemons and got a nod in response. he Confederate private who'd appeared on *ortence's front steps had shared information y fo"nd "sef"l. With Abram as a sco"t& they'd leave to see! o"t a Jnion prisoner$of$war camp& not far from (potsylvania where his men were being held. Abram had told them it was a vampire coven. y t"rned bac! to (on#a and gathered her close& n">>ling her ear and whispering& <%'ll be bac! as soon as % can.= *e held her tight for a moment more before stepping bac!. %mmediately& the air chilled and (on#a's chest constricted for a second. ,orcing her face to remain calm& she placed her silver cross in his palm. veneer. (on#a marveled as she watched them go. ?othing had prepared her for the empty hole in her chest where her heart had been moments before. (he wheeled and raced bac! inside to the bedroom. Wrenching open the armoire& she shoved bac! the boAes at the base of the massive cabinet. (he'd placed y's g"n "nder her most personal of clothing& her camisoles and lingerie& only wee!s before when she'd bro"ght the dying 8ebel bac! to her cabin. he lie"tenant hadn't y's feat"res stiffened into a hard planed
(ome ancient wisdom told her he wo"ldn't abandon her& yet he had to try and save his men. <A mortal's feelings held little conseG"ence in the overall balance of a safe world.oflinC= Jttering his name bro"ght her bac! G"ic!ly. . *e'd been with those men for almost five years. he fact she'd never had the chance to wear any of the lacey& all"ring garments for yler after they'd become lovers briefly pric!ed her womanly conscio"s.= B"ffs of breath drifted before evaporating in the room. Hne never !new when the weapon wo"ld be needed or against whom. ?ow& as she stood going over the words he'd "sed to placate her& (on#a had to gather her hands together& less she ha"l off and hit something. apping the bottom of the armoire& (on#a frowned. (hoving s"ch nonsense aside in light of the sit"ation& she fo"nd fr"stration b"bbling as she ga>ed deeper into the armoire's base one more time.= 8eminded of the danger y faced& she stamped her foot on the icy floor. <Where is the damn g"n@= Drowing more veAed by the second& (on#a vowed she wo"ld annihilate each 4an!ee vampire as soon as the bloods"c!ers arrived. he wolf rose in her and she recogni>ed the signs. <% reloaded the revolver with siA wooden b"llets and p"t it right here. When she'd as!ed him why he had to go& he'd gathered her close in the very bedroom where she now stood and offered her his patented grin& which co"ld melt her heart in a snow storm. *ortence's words came to her. 8eceiving the <gift= as *ortence li!ed to call the change had been both a c"rse and a miracle. (ince her attac!& her compos"re frayed easily& her aro"sal for her mate proved more primal and her senses had evolved into tools of ac"te awareness. he anAio"s tr"th was she co"ldn't "nderstand why he'd left her at this partic"lar time to search for 8ebels held in a prisoner of war camp. <?ow where was that g"n@= y's words filtered bac! thro"gh (on#a's memory as she stood there in front of her armoire staring at the #"mbled contents. %mmediate g"ilt washed over her. (he cared little for which side a man's loyalty lay with + preservation had been her main goal since the death of her h"sband. (he !new the sit"ation was of dire concern to him. < yler .7 regained conscio"sness yet& and witho"t !nowledge of why he'd been in the swamp to begin with& she considered hiding the g"n the only pr"dent thing to do. A low growl left her lips "nbidden. D"arded toward anyone she didn't !now& the way (on#a had remained alive for the past three years had been by relying on her wits to protect her.
he sigh she emitted came o"t in a p"ff of smo!e on the cool morning air.8 Jnder her feet& the boards of the bedroom vibrated and (on#a sensed the danger headed her way. A small reminder of the gift's power rippled thro"gh her. hey'd t"rned into bl"e$bellied traitors to the Jnion. han!s to the fog& if she wanted to challenge her adversary& she too& wo"ld be limited to the shadows of the trees. (he wo"ld face the enemy alone and the !nowledge made her heart rise into her throat. wo by two they rode& their horses' hooves stri!ing the hard pac!ed clay of the main road. Oh. iny hairs bristled as she listened to the hoofs he ever$present wolf inside (on#a s"rged forth. Ber!ins needed a o"t on her lips as she emitted one low growl. Hnly& this time& the blood was hers and hers alone. po"nding the dirt. By all acco"nts& Ber!ins intended to intimidate her with their sheer n"mbers. A sneer bro!e and played he bloody bastard simply wo"ldn't dieC Arrogant ass& he proved a thorn in her side even now. ?o& in fact& they still thirsted for victory in the form of blood. *aving already faced him once and s"re she'd ripped the life from him& (on#a was mildly annoyed to find him hale and hardy as he headed her way. With a fro>en smile& (on#a remembered the responsibility she bore as a tingling began to b"rn along her nec!. 2ere seconds passed before she swiped absently at the beads of perspiration along her temple. The Yankees were coming! (he closed her eyes. (everal do>en horses moved& in "nison& down the road. A line of perspiration tric!led down the valley between her breasts as she fo"ght to control the blood l"st rising in her veins. You have to gather your wits. 4an!ee troops on dispatch from (potsylvania with her old enemy& Ber!ins in the lead. Lampires sho"ldn't move d"ring the daylight ho"rs& b"t ironically& a heavy fog had rolled in with the brea!ing of dawn& ma!ing for an overcast s!y. %n her mind's eye& (on#a recogni>ed her old enemy + 2a#or Ber!ins clearly. Being vampires hadn't diminished their military tactical s!ills one iota. why couldn’t the tremor be something else? %n her mind's eye& horse hoofs po"nded the gro"nd in reso"nding reverberation. woman! There’s no one here to help you now. *e co"ld hold his own against these bloody bastards. sta!e thro"gh the heart as the witch& *ortence& had s"ggested. *e wo"ld've "nderstood Ber!ins' plan for attac!."tilely& she wished for y once more. Drawing the bloods"c!ers into the deadly light wo"ld test her newly honed Wolfen s!ills. (on#a managed a smile as she lifted her chin. Alone againK (on#a frowned agitatedly. . ?ot a small tas! for one so recently reborn a werewolf. *er !een sense of hearing& also given to her as part of the gift& pic!ed "p the 4an!ees' movement& tho"gh the dispatch was still miles away. amping the call .
Danger rode the morning's bree>e. his disappearance from his confederate detail had nothing to do with desertion and everything to do with love. (he'd gain nothing if she let fr"stration ride ro"gh shod over common sense. (till s"ch !nowledge needed to remain between the two of them beca"se (on#a had "sed an "northodoA eliAir one the 4an!ee vampires wo"ld love to get their hands on + her blood + the blood of werewolves to heal yler. Before panic shredded what was left of her compos"re& she too! a deep breath as she fingered the medallion aro"nd her nec!. (ince the lamps contained coal oil& they were highly comb"stible and wo"ld serve the . against him were false. Hne tear tric!led down her face. o her favor& the !een vision provided by being a werewolf didn't miss a thing. *er heart stopped for a second. yler had given her the medallion on the eve of his co"rt martial. (he'd s"rprised the Confederates& incl"ding 3eb (tewart& 2a#or Deneral with a valiant daytime resc"e of her handsome lie"tenant.9 of the wolf down& (on#a willed the beast to calm. (he glanced down the road to act"ally see Ber!ins troop growing ever closer. (on#a comprehended little of this information& being preocc"pied as she was with s"rviving. %nstead& (on#a breathed deeply and drew strength from the tas! at hand. Why'd yo" have to leave me li!e this@= she as!ed the empty bedroom. <Damn yo"& y. *er eyes gleamed gold in the meager light as she ca"ght sight of her reflection in the bedroom's small mirror. When the wolf was "pon her& the s"rge of anger she battled proved an obstacle instead of an asset. (he glanced o"t the window as the vibration of horse hooves grew stronger. A small footstool garnered her ab"se as (on#a !ic!ed o"t. (he remembered too& *ortence spo!e of her gift& eAplaining she was the start& the beginning of a new order& the order of the Western Werewolf. (on#a cl"tched the medallion in her hand and remembered y had promised her they'd leave as soon as he fo"nd his missing men& those capt"red by the vampires disg"ised as 4an!ees. he deserter charges he tr"th behind o prove s"ch wo"ld p"t both their lives in #eopardy. "rning from the window& (on#a r"shed abo"t gathering the oil lamps scattered abo"t the cabin. Hnly min"tes remained before Ber!ins' men arrived at her doorstep. (miling to herself& (on#a remembered the feeling of being clad in only her s!in and f"r. When the 8ebels had charged him with desertion and attempted to co"rt martial her lover& (on#a had saved him once more "sing yet another part of her gift + the ability to shift into a werewolf.
A test to prove her worth& she m"sed. *opef"lly& *ortence's spell wo"ld last long eno"gh. 4et& she co"ldn't eApose them to the vampires. stronger. Despite the danger& the one thing (on#a never concerned herself with was her prowess as a !iller. Witho"t information li!e& how long one of her spells wo"ld protect (on#a and her small cottage& *ortence had simply vanished into thin air earlier the same morning& leaving (on#a alone. (on#a stepped to her front door and glanced east and west. Werewolves wo"ld s"rvive beca"se of her& or so she'd been told. Hnce the wolf was "pon her& she relied on her sense of right and wrong in destroying her enemies. he smell of death grew he stench always heralded the vampiresM arrival. he tr"th was (on#a hated the idea of what she might do when she shifted into the wolf. When had she made the delineation between herself and those she'd lived with all her life@ he answer came in clipped notes of warning $ when she'd acG"ired <the gift. he woman came and went as she pleased. (he wo"ld dominate the day& rise to victory& and vanG"ish this latest ins"rgent of the dreaded coven.10 p"rpose she had in mind. Berhaps the entire thing was a test. ?ever s"re if she harmed an innocent or did something she wo"ld regret& while in the li!en state& she wo"ld always come bac! to herself and see! o"t any and all to ma!e s"re of their well$being. (on#a shoo! her head when her tho"ghts strayed to the old witch. . *ortence had emphasi>ed the fact time and again& always instr"cting her in the ways of the wolf. %f she chose the path to town& she wo"ld blend and move "ndeterred among the h"mans. ilting bac! her head& she sniffed& testing the air aro"nd her. 4es& (on#a m"sed as she do"sed the walls with coal oil. Well& by the Dods& she'd show themC ho"gh irritated at the old hag's behavior& she had to admit& she wo"ld've been hard pressed to fight vampires effectively witho"t concern over the old woman's safety had she remained. *er s!ill wo"ld protect her from harm. (oon& she'd face those who coveted the blood flowing thro"gh her veins + the blood of legend + the blood& which held the f"t"re for her !ind. <Among the h"mansK= he words so"nded strange to her tong"e. (o she was reminded of her responsibility& the one she& (on#a Broo!s& held within her life on a daily basis. Hne way in and one way o"t for everyone involved in their little get$together. *er s"bconscio"s always seemed on high alert these days. (o if she was the f"t"re& g"n or no g"n with wooden b"llets or not. he swamp formed her property line to the west while the hills of (potsylvania flan!ed her land to the east.
*is ran! as a ma#or in the Jnion Army gave him a perfect cover for his death dealings. Hn a silent oath& she wheeled as the bed went "p in flames. "rning from the front door& she finished do"sing the he gift's recall was eAcellent& complete cabin's interior with the f"el. <*ello& 2a#or. ?ever loo!ing bac!& she stal!ed to the front door and o"t on the porch to meet her g"ests. *is "niform bore the embellishment of an officer. (he pa"sed when she reached the bed where she and y had made love only ho"rs before& closing her eyes for a moment. Broo!s& we meet again. place with a smooth "tterance from his master. *is pallor was mil! white with gray "ndertones. Coal blac! eyes rested so"llessly in their soc!ets on either side of a prominent b"t straight nose. EEE Fmerging from the shadows of the b"rned off mist& a magnificent #et$blac! horse gave a snort as he halted within the fog& #"st shy of his rider's legs.= *er sarcasm wasn't lost on the men with Ber!ins. 2ost tall& s!inny chaps presented a gangly& aw!ward mo"nt. ?ot Ber!ins + who& even now& ran a cool eye over (on#a.= Ber!ins' low& calm voice crept along her s!in li!e an "nwelcome seA"al advance. he magnificent animal pranced in . (he wasn't in a #o!ing mood. Lampires did en#oy their dress bl"es. hose not of his !ind s"spected nothing of his tr"e identity as a right$hand lac!ey to the coven's leader. Ber!ins' #et$ blac! hair framed his thin face with a pointed chin. 4o"'re loo!ing good for a dead man.11 Calmer now& (on#a's resolve grew stronger. (on#a made s"re she showed no reaction to their am"sement other than the narrowing of her eyes on Ber!ins. Being over siA feet tall& he sat the horse admirably. (he sG"ared her sho"lders as several snic!ers er"pted behind him. <2rs. %f she m"st fight the vermin& she vowed to allow them nothing of her former self as bo"nty. *e appeared no different than he had at their last enco"nter.(. *e shifted slightly& sitting taller in the saddle and stretched to sG"are his sho"lders& probably in defense of her inn"endo. With a #er! of his head& as if anno"ncing his presence& he snorted and pawed the hard pac!ed gro"nd. Army insignia gleamed in brass laced by gold braid. Ber!ins rode a d"s!y gray Dapple with blac! soc!s. he cavalry hat sitting #a"ntily atop his head was clean and the J. with physical sensations to the point of tort"re.
<Come and get it& demonsC= she sho"ted.12 <As yo" might recall& % seem to have r"n into a bit of diffic"lty d"ring o"r last meeting& b"t % overcame yo"r pathetic little attempt at destroying me. With the pine !not aflame& (on#a held the he flames cast a yellowish glow on the vampires seated inside the heir pallor reflected in shadows of the great cypress trees flan!ing either side of the dirt path. <4o" can try and we can perform the dance again and again& b"t yo"'ll lose& and in the end& %'ll have what % came for + what %'m destined to have + yo"r blood. Apparently& vampires regenerated G"ite well. We will s"rvive and live for all eternity long after the rotting carcasses of yo" and the vermin with yo" are b"t the stench of a memory. <4o" sho"ld reali>e by now& yo"'ll never be rid of me N or "s for that matter& wolf girl. he heartless ma#or smir!ed. *e appeared whole and hearty to her. he smell of b"rning wood lay heavy in wooden stic! before catching with an a"dible whoosh. (ome of the vermin hissed.= (he sniffed the air with disg"st.ear not& men. (he is a beast that wal!s on fo"r legs and spreads not those legs for her mate to mo"nt her b"t bears his weight atop her r"mp as any whore wo"ld do. (on#a smiled at the reminder of their last enco"nter. the morning mist.= <4o"& sir& are del"sional if yo" thin! yo"'ll ever defeat me or my clan. torch in front of her. *er tr"th isn't cloa!ed in the "n!nown.i!en is no different from the rest.= With those words& he eased his ramrod post"re before settled over the elbow he rested on the saddle horn as his eyes narrowed on her. (on#a hesitated. ho"gh her heart constricted& (on#a ref"sed to let it show. his .= he sneer in his tone made her wolf want to po"nce. With abo"t as m"ch of the demon's words as she co"ld stand& she sG"ared her stance and readied for battle. here is no sorcery or witchcraft hidden within the folds of her s!irts."cifer's own&= (on#a m"rm"red. A co"ple even threw "p a hand to shield themselves from the potential predator of bloods"c!ers + fireC <. (he'd ripped the head and bac!bone from his flesh. 8ather& with an ease of grace& he fire lic!ed greedily at the she reached o"t toward the flames with the pine !not in her hand.= <. . their eyes li!e a yellow$fever victim's sentence shown in their stric!en eyes. With a wrin!le of her nose& she flic!ed a glance bac! as fire leapt from the window behind her.
(teadying her stance& fists in front of her face& as y had ta"ght her& she rested lightly on the balls of her feet. . he fighting stance& as her lover called the position& reminded her of dangling from an invisible rope operated by an "nseen p"ppeteer. he pain alone of a temper born shift was eAcr"ciating and for a fleeting second& (on#a considered what y dealt with on a reg"lar basis. *opef"lly& the pac! wo"ld heed her call and come. hrowing bac! her head to the ha>y s!y& hose bo"nd by werewolf blood.rom bla>ing gold eyes she s"rveyed her prey. *is clothing began to smolder as the s"n's rays hit his bac!. %mitating a low menacing growl& she didn't pa"se to as! herself if she was ready for the hatred she read in his eyes. from her l"ngs. *air sprang along the ridge of her bac!bone& claws shot o"t from her fingertips& which now resembled st"bby paws. he vampire sprang at her with !narled fingernails splayed in attac! mode. Within his eyes& there lay the answer to her challenge. Dropping to all fo"rs& she shoo! her white mane trimmed in silver and glowered at the vermin standing before her. (on#a's grin t"rned wic!ed as she l"nged for him even as Ber!ins met her attac! with s!illed lighting G"ic! movement. (on#a's howl rose in the mist and floated on the damp bree>e. (oon the smell of scorched decay filled the air. A tingling of sorts set "p in her #oints and m"scles. Willing the errant image to the bac! of her conscio"sness& she foc"sed instead on thwarting the vampire's neAt move. (he co"ntered with a bloc! of his forearms& thr"sting "pward and o"t. . (on#a with only seconds to react as the downward thr"st of Ber!ins . *is sic!ly stench permeated the air. hey wo"ld tangle once more and she relished in the prospect. (on#a didn't have m"ch time to so"nd an alarm. (o close& their breaths mingled& they grappled. he signs of the change began and (on#a strained to control her body as her body shifted into that of a werewolf.13 (tepping o"t into the meager light of the pale s"n shro"ded in veils of fog& she stood silently waiting. *is grip eased. *e scratched at her face aiming to blind her. Ber!ins thr"st with a silver dagger.ire si>>led in her eyes& the sensation a star! reminder of how fragile she was in a half state of transformation. he vampire managed to wrap his hands aro"nd her nec!& sG"ee>ing the air he breath G"ic!ly r"shed bac! into her l"ngs. *er senses& already in t"ne with her s"rro"ndings& began to heighten. A cleansing breath and she rebased for the neAt thr"st of his blade. Ber!ins flic!ed a glance her way.
(lowly rising li!e a res"rrected saint& he hovered above the second wave of gnashing& wonton v"lt"res on horsebac!. he so"nd of bones crac!ing& cloth renting and snarls s"rro"nded the two advisories. Fng"lfed by the bodies of the agitated cavalry mo"nts& Ber!ins growled from somewhere on the gro"nd& < a!e her& yo" foolsC= he command set the vampires in motion. Ber!ins tried to "se what little magic he possessed to hypnoti>e her. Dropping low "nder the horse's nec!& Ber!ins leapt once more with ferocity. <Come on& yo" bastard& come and get me&= she growled in her wolfish tone. <(o& yo"'ll try yo"r pitif"l attempts at a spell& h"h& Ber!ins@ *"m& too bad. *is cold& dead eyes bore into hers. he so"nd of his sic!ly am"sement made her blood boil. With the change complete& (on#a l"nged for his throat& snarling and snapping with her displeas"re. wisting& he threw "p a forearm to co"nter her ret"rn blow.14 talons drew blood b"t did no ma#or damage. (on#a dodged the l"ng. Hver the screams& came Ber!ins' la"ghter. A glimpse "p showed him seated in a tall oa! watching the clan at wor!. With no time to thin!& (on#a& the she$wolf str"c! o"t& delivering blow after blow. With a benevolent sweep of his arms& Ber!ins gave the order& <(ei>e her&= as if bored with the whole affair. *er blood s"rged thro"gh her warding off the vampire's power& whose dar! magic fi>>led wea!ly as they stal!ed each other.= Wheeling& she balanced on her hands and raising both legs and fl"ng her heels sG"arely at his head. he second wave of his men swarmed her. Drappling with the s"rge of vampires& (on#a co"ntered& bloc!ing and in t"rn ripped flesh right and left. (tri!ing the first vampire she enco"ntered across the chee!& she drew blood& a minor flesh . Bloc!ing in time& she managed to halt his advance. <What@ 4o" will not give me the chance to shift& bloods"c!er@= *e snarled and spat near her hind legs& eAposing his yellowed teeth as fangs sprang forth to hang menacingly over his lip. *er small h"man feet wo"ldn't have been m"ch "se against the vampires' vicio"s fingernails and teeth& b"t f"r covered paws with ra>or sharp talons proved more of a challenge for Ber!ins' men. (he shoved at his chest sending him h"rtling bac!ward into the midst of his men. (he paced o"t of reach of Ber!ins' blade "ntil with the pain of the transformation "ntil it ended. he s!ills y had drilled into her came in handy as she str"c! with an attac! of her own. (t"mbling bac!& he regro"ped.
As a v"lt"re wo"ld wait for the last deathblow& Ber!ins hovered o"t of reach "ntil only the two of them remained. With feat"res contorting& he transformed into a creat"re so void of life& (on#a co"ld find nothing of the ma#or which remained. he third vampire ca"ght her along the ribs. (he didn't want to share even the first drop of her blood with these vile coffin robbers. 4o"'ve only to ta!e a step over here and % will send yo" home.isten& Ber!ins.= (he coc!ed her head and raised an eyebrow. . (tepping into the light from the s"n& (on#a smiled !nowingly.= *is voice rasped over his tong"e.= *is dingy fangs showed gray in the pearly mist swirling abo"t them. he wo"nd wasn't deep& irritating more than anything. <%t's s"ch a pity % can't !eep yo" as a pet.= .= *is eyes flashed li!e red embers deep in the s"n!en soc!ets of his grotesG"e face.= <?ot before % get what % came for. *owever& as she str"c! o"t again with renewed force and prowess& the vampires went on the offense. < he hollows of *ell are calling. <. *e was t"rning into his tr"est form $ the spawn of *ell& and as he did& he grinned baring all his rows of fangs. (lowly he transformed into his tr"e self and lifted with a sense of one floating mere inches above the gro"nd. Watching the creat"re sway bac! and forth in ab#ect demonic defiance& (on#a grinned devilishly.= *is eyes glowed red as his words sl"rred. he other advancing bloods"c!ers didn't pa"se. *is eyes vacant and brittle dropped atop the heap of d"st at her feet.lic!ing o"t his tong"e to sweep over his fangs in sic!ening anticipation& he hissed at her. With two more down& she ca"ght the movement of another o"t of the corner of her eye. <Don't worry& mates& dying will be a boon for s"ch as yo"&= she told the snarling& snapping bloods"c!ers.= . After a demonstration& %'m s"re yo"'ll agree. With a nearby limb& she "sed all her strength as she pl"nged the wooden dagger deep into his chest. <% !new it wo"ld come to this& my dear.or Ber!ins to follow her wo"ld mean the beginning of his demise. <4o" "nderstand& my dear& yo"'re worth more to me dead than as my lac!ey. <4o" see& % !now everything& one of the strengths provided me by my considerable age. <4o"r training and t"telage are min"sc"le to my edification over the cent"ries.lic!ing a long nailed finger of sic!ly gray at her& he ta"nted her with words. . < a!e a step& yo" bastard.= With a tap of one finger against his chee!& he smir!ed.15 wo"nd& b"t eno"gh to raise the sta!es.
co"ld to save them.16 Ber!ins staring bac! too! her breath. Hh& what a time to forget *ortence's spellC (on#a br"shed her sno"t with the bac! of her paw. (he'd wanted to accompany him in the search for his men. (trength li!e he'd never !nown before allowing him to travel great distances witho"t the need for rest. Being a werewolf provided a benefit in dealing with the bloods"c!ers. What to do abo"t (on#a as a werewolf was a sit"ation of m"ch greater magnit"de. EEE A contained rage drove y forward. A heightened sense of sight and smell beyond anything he'd eAperienced in his life came with the gift. Ber!ins did& indeed& forgot himself and followed. *is men had gone thro"gh hell with him. White f"r flew thro"gh the air as the vampire's claws left their mar!. *e'd do anything he . *e wo"ld spea! again with the D"ardian concerning the problem. *is body restored itself faster. Fver since *ortence had told him of a prisoner of war camp in the vicinity& he'd planned for their resc"e. %t was en#oyable to see smo!e seep from his booted foot. *e co"ldn't sleep witho"t visions of the awf"l place being his men's last resting place on the earth. Hn the other hand& his temper reG"ired a certain amo"nt of control& which he still didn't possess. %n the mist& the ma#or's foot sp"ttered and went o"t. *is eyes t"rned red as he centered all his energy and dove o"t of the mist directly for her. %f she co"ld #"st get him to step o"t into the light& she co"ld destroy him and all those who followed after. Ber!ins' gray nails s!immed her forearms. he old witch had shared the magic with her only the night before. Confident she co"ld help& she co"ldn't "nderstand his concern over her safety. <As the s"nlight seeps thro"gh the treesK= (on#a bit her lip in fr"stration. Avoiding yet another blow& she leaped sideways into the air. *er blood was the thing the vampires wo"ld he !nowledge ate at his insides "ntil he'd have wal!ed thro"gh hey didn't deserve to die at the hands of vampires. <While the vampire smolders& sei>eK= *er brow f"rrowed as her head po"nded with the effort to remember the words. Bain seared her wolf's flesh as she shoved the bro!en words of the spell to the bac! of her mind. Discovering only days before& a vampire pit disg"ised as a prisoner of war camp and ran by Ber!ins made his blood boil. Doing her best not to give away her plan& (on#a eased into the light. <% will have it nowC= *is last words "ttered as his right foot ca"ght fire& Ber!ins lifted off the gro"nd& rising "pward over her head. fire to set them free.
A frown creased his brow as he considered the phenomenon. <4o"'re moving so fast& % can hardly !eep "p. Iilling her was their main goal. thro"gh these woods. %f the events of the past several wee!s had ta"ght him anything& it was the fact that another "niverse s"spended precario"sly "nder the reality he'd !nown all his life.= *is hands settled on his hips. *aving grown "p on a he vegetation co"ld capt"re an "nass"ming traveler by winding their tinicals aro"nd the victim. he "ndergrowth seemed alive& not in the sense of springing forth and m"ltiplying as nat"re had intended. <We don't have time to rest. <Confo"nded briars.= 3eb's comment reminded y of something vag"e he'd managed to discard from his collection of tho"ghts. y halted to allow his slower companion to catch "p. he remembrance centered on these wooded glades. (mall vines moved witho"t provocation and followed a person's movements. ?o& the phenomenon proved more otherworldly. %f danger l"r!ed nearby& tiny so"nds went "p as the warning call echoed thro"gho"t the forest. <*ow yo" gonna find this here place witho"t me@ %'m the only one who !nows where it is. (t"mbling yet again& 3ebedia growled and yan!ed hard at his boot.= y peered at his companion and narrowed his eyes.= Waving a hand to br"sh away y's concern& Abram went on& <%'ll manage& b"t yo" need to listen to what % got to say. 4et& his movements had been hampered in a solid attac!.= *e spit and glared at y. *e'd discovered this all too well on his last attempt at ma!ing it he str"ggle to breath prevented him answering right away. (he carried the blood. <%f we co"ld #"st rest a min"te& . %f yo" can't !eep "p& go bac!& and stand g"ard for (on#a. <*ow m"ch farther& Abram@= !eep "p with y's accelerated pace.17 contin"e to try to steal. tellin' ya what the monster said when % came "pon him. While the "ndergrowth thrived in a s"nless environment& it too! on powers he'd never witnessed in other plant life. <Beers to me& yo" need my information more than yo"'re lettin' on.= *"ffing o"t another impatient breath& Abram str"ggled to !eep "p with y as he bo"nd off down the dim trail once more.= 3ebedia straightened. he blood of werewolf$gods allowed the vampires to wal! in the daylight. 8easoning the things he'd witnessed nothing more than an overactive imagination bro"ght on stress& y tried ignoring his senses.ie"tenant& %'d be able to finish . Abram Clemens& the Confederate who'd st"mbled "pon the horrid encampment& strained to Bending over& Abram grabbed both !nees with his hands.
. *e'd traveled in search of the white wolf& the one that was (on#a. he mental pict"re he carried with him eased some of his foreboding and he dropped his head a moment to regro"p. <% can't recall them firing the first shot come to thin! of it.18 cattle ranch& the growth of plants was a point of concern most of the time. <B"t what@= y "rged Abram to finish. < ell me what yo" !now of 3eb (tewart's death. . Hne of those confederate rifles had !illed 3eb (tewart in the hands of a 4an!ee soldier. % #"st fig"red they "sed their !nives and swords.owering himself to the moss covered earth& y's eyes ca"tio"sly trac!ed to a nearby 2orning Dlory vine. Was he letting his emotions get the better of him@ his tre! thro"gh he fact he the woods co"ld be a fool's errand + both ladies had said as m"ch when he'd anno"nced his decision to save the men he'd lost beca"se of the attac! on the 8ebels' s"pply train. H"r men were o"t manned and % wo"ld say o"t g"nned b"t. When the plants reached o"t and wrapped their vines aro"nd a man's leg& bringing him to his !nees and binding him in order to prevent his movement& the phenomenon became G"ire. he bastards amb"shed "s at the 4ellow (choolho"se.= Wiping the sweat from his temple& he pa"sed with a s"dden change of heart. A gnawing feeling of dread crept past his g"ard. <All % heard was the men screaming& begging for he idea of a brief rest wo"ld do them both good. When the s"pply wagons ended "p ditched o"tside of (potsylvania& spec"lation went "p abo"t where all the g"ns had disappeared. was responsible for that mission weighed heavily on y. going.= <Well& it's #"st pec"liar the way they all b"t swooped in and attac!ed.= Abram dropped his head& sighing. ?o sense in p"shing his sco"t to eAha"stion. After all& Abram was the only person with an idea where they were .= *e shoo! his head. <%t's a powerf"l sorry story& sir. *ere it proved a point of ma#or concern. he vine twitched in response ca"sing y to roll his eyes s!yward.. <Wo"ld yo" pic! "p the pace& Abram@ We'll never ma!e it before nightfall at this pace. (lowing& y glanced bac! at his companion. %t happened so G"ic! and witho"t m"ch g"nfire. ?o& they didn't fire a shot&= he said with a loo! of bewilderment creasing his brow. (lapping his (tetson against his thigh& y's mind went to her gleaming blonde hair li!e gold in the s"nlight. Hnly a few days before& he traveled this way in search of (on#a after she'd become a wolf right before his eyes. 2entally chec!ing his statement& he corrected himself.
< hat ain't no ordinary bird& . . <("re was odd how the strangest feelin' came over me. (t"mbling toward her home place& her ears ever alert& her !een wolf sight ta!ing in every twig and fl"tter of a new leaf& (on#a limped toward home. <% !now. ?ight came G"ic!ly to this part of the forest. (he needed time& she m"sed& time to heal and a safe place from f"rther attac!. *is eApression reminded y of a whipped dog. % s!edaddled bac! the way we'd came.ie"tenant. he gro"nd "nderneath her was warm still. he conf"sion he'd eAperienced was something he'd never forget. *ell& % he witch fo"nd me and too! me to didn't even hear a cannon go off. location. *ow long had she been there@ ?o twilight stars pee!ed from behind the clo"ds blan!eting the spring . (on#a too! small "neven breaths as she rose. %f a man st"died on the perpleAing aspects of the whole thing& he'd y considered how he co"ld best relieve Abram of the worry over things& which didn't ma!e sense.et's get the hell o"t of here. he effort to rise bro"ght on more waves of stabbing discomfort and na"sea. Bem"sed& he flic!ed a hesitant glance at y. he 4an!ees was gone.= Abram's sho"lders h"nched. general was dead.19 mercy. he pain seared thro"gh her in waves& stealing he havoc her beastly so"l wrec!ed in the her breath& robbing her conscio"s mind of calm. B"t she said % co"ld lead the 8ebels to the 4an!ee vampires' hideo"t. (he said % was l"c!y. his place gives me the creeps&= y growled. % heard lots of screaming before things got real still.= *e t"gged off his cap& scratching at his s!"ll. *er mortal part reali>ed she wo"ld live while the beast in her raged at the atrocities she'd end"red. (ince her ho"se lay in r"ins& she set her hopes on the barn. he sensation wasn't new yet at one point not long before& he'd had the same feelings assail him.elt li!e % !new #"st what she was tal!in' Obo"t& yo" !now@= y "nderstood eAactly what Abram meant. <Bec"liar how % didn't feel all that l"c!y. (he'd best be getting to a safer clime. Dingerly& she tested the arm& which sang o"t in agony with a to"ch. While he pondered the answer& a bird call went "p some place close to their "hapter 2 Belief (oft& wet fla!es of snow fell aro"nd her. s"rely go mad. d"s!. Before any of "s !new it& the whole mess was over and the her place. time before she ret"rned from her romp with the vampires was yet "n!nown to her.= Abram peered owl eyes first left and then right. .
(on#a recogni>ed the so"ndless appearance of the one called D"ardian.= Blin!ing at his great presence neAt to her& she as!ed& <Can yo" get me to someplace safe@= he pain shot thro"gh her side again and she ca"ght herself before she winced. <% sho"ldn't be here&= she told him as he !noc!ed on the portal for her. <4o" co"ld have helped& yo" !now&= she snapped the words o"t before thin!ing. he D"ardian's long wolfish silho"ette gleamed with droplets of dew clinging to the co"rse& straggly hairs on his sno"t and chin. <% seemed to have b"rned down my ho"se. <*ow wo"ld that have benefited yo"r training@= did well. *is disappearance and reemergence "sed to bother her.= he D"ardian stood alongside her and (on#a reali>ed he'd "sed his transport powers once more. (he reached o"t with her good hand to grip a nearby tree for s"pport. he steps down to the gro"nd were steeper than (on#a's steps and immediate gratit"de to the great one came over her& when he deposited her on the plan!s of the porch rather than ma!e her wal! "p the small flight of stairs to the door. alons of a bl"e$green intensity #"tted from his hairy fingertips and reminded her of an eagle's claws.20 (he'd ta!en no more than a handf"l of steps when a h"ge shadow stepped into the path ahead. <Hf co"rse yo" watched. A trail of flowering 3asmine pea!ed o"t from the trellises on either side of the front porch. <%'ll be fine with some time.= A small s"rge of pride spar!ed inside her chest. Berhaps she was growing acc"stom to his strange talents& or possibly madness was slowly ta!ing over. Wo"ldn't do to antagoni>e the first assistance she'd garnered since the battle began& (on#a m"sed.= *er short snort of la"ghter ended in pain. (topped by the sharp thr"st of what seemed li!e a blade piercing her side& (on#a swayed. A big strapline C"r dog rested in the doorway to the modest b"t comfortable loo!ing cottage. (till in the aftermath of a battle& she senses remained on high alert. 2ore of a smir!.= With the statement& he whis!ed her into his massive arms and the neAt place they came to was her sister's ho"se. <4o"r in#"ries are many& (on#a. <%'ll have yo" safe in a few min"tes. <Damn it& G"it doing thatC= (he'd grown more acc"stom to his appearing and disappearing on whims. *is long arms h"ng well past normal& ma!ing him appear to drag his !n"c!les on the gro"nd o"t of habit.= he grin& which appeared on his "gly m"g& co"ldn't be described as pleasant. <4o" .
< his mess& which has "nwittingly become my sister's life % wanted to blame on yo". Waiting on the moonlight rising over the ridge& (on#a said& <(he disappeared this morning before the f"n started. *e formed s"ch a strange sight in the otherwise warm& homey room& (on#a forced her eyes from him before addressing her sister and eAplaining f"rther why he was there to begin with.= With a win! at D"ardian& she relaAed a fraction as they settled her on a daybed near the fire.= (he glanced at (on#a.= (on#a did her best to calm Briann's concerns before her older sister fell on her li!e a mother hen. <%'m sorry to barge in li!e this& b"t % seem to have no place to stay.21 <4o"'ll be safer here than in that r"ndown barn of yo"rs. <*ad % not the power of reading people's minds& % wo"ld have shot yo" a long time ago& D"ardian. 4o"r mind is "nreadable. he old witch& the D"ardian spo!e of was both her trainer and friend. < oo many memories anyway. <%'m fine& sis& no need to loo! so "pset. %'ll be o"t of yo"r hair tomorrow. D"ardian opened the door wider and g"ided them both bac! inside. % have to admit& if anyone or thing co"ld protect my baby sister& (on#a& it's yo"& despite yo"r grotesG"e animal appearance. <4o" sister sho"ld be concerned.= *er sister's mo"th dropped open and (on#a shr"gged. he woods aren't empty of danger. <B"t % can't.= "rning her foc"s on (on#a& Briann win!ed& <At least yo"'re alive and we can deal with the c"ts and wo"nds "ntilK= .= Briann paid little attention to the creat"re as his b"shy brows winged "p. Are yo" two planning these disappearances or #"st scared of vampires@= *er wry po!e at her mentor's behavior bro"ght an arched brow from the D"ardian. *er only living relative lived only a few miles from (on#a with her two boys since the passing of her h"sband& (tephen.= 8esting his great claws on her sho"lder& he reminded her& <Besides& there are few who can cross one of *ortence's protection spells. Witho"t giving her room to arg"e the point& D"ardian simply scooped her "p again when the door opened to reveal a tall& slim redhead holding a large bowl f"ll of flo"r. <3"st a few scrapes and scratches is all&= she said trying to so"nd nonchalant.= he tr"th of his words gave (on#a a moment's comfort. Being an empath gave Briann more defenses against danger than most. <(on#a@= he yo"ng woman's voice G"ivered for a second before the bowl th"dded on a nearby table and she too! a step forward& gathering (on#a in her arms.= D"ardian wandered over to the small window of leaded glass and peered o"t.
<Deneral@= <(on#a Broo!s& % believe.= for the change.= he D"ardian's words tightened. <2a!e yo"rself "sef"l woman and show me to a room % can "se .= Jndeterred by his gr"ff command& Briann pointed toward a set of doors against the bac! wall& one led to her bedroom and one to the bedroom of her small sons& Fthan and ?athaniel. he change wo"ld come on violently if he remained in the room with the new g"ests. y . he pict"re of y's hand fisted in her c"rls wavered a moment before she shoved the idea to the bac! of her foolish head.22 Biting her lip& her sister faltered over her neAt words& <Jntil the healing yo" do commences. <Hh& baby girl& yo"'ve been getting into more and more tro"ble ever since this whole wolf thing started. With as polite a nod as a werewolf$god co"ld manage& he disappeared into her bedroom. %n secl"sion& he wo"ld transform into a man with m"ch more grace and less noise. With his eyes& volatile and dar!& the wolf$god so"ght Briann's help. When will it ever end@= <(omeone's coming. <Be G"iet& the baby's sleeping&= she admonished D"ardian. he tears welled in her eyes. he d"s!y gray cavalry hat& which "ntil moments earlier had sat #a"ntily atop his thic! mane of dar! brown c"rls& now rested in his large& strong hands. When she glanced "p she co"ldn't believe her eyes. he room sp"n b"t slower than before. <% have word from o"r loo!o"ts. *is face framed by a well$ trimmed beard and matching chops gave him the "nmista!able appearance of a gentleman. (pilling in a slow tric!le down her face& she gave in resting her forehead against (on#a's and simply sighed.oflin has been capt"red o"tside the Jnion prisoner of war camp& Conner's Breach. <Who is it@= (on#a as!ed as she rose onto an elbow.= (tewart bowed low over his arm and sent his gold braid dancing from the insignias fastened to his sho"lders. Dratef"l the healing didn't show overly& she dropped her head and covered most of the c"ts abo"t her face with her long& blond c"rls. *er life depended on what she did now& not what she dreamed of doing with the man she'd t"rned into a werewolf after sharing her gift with him. *is gray woolen long$coat over slim charcoal gray s"it tro"sers didn't show a sign of wear.= (he tried valiantly for a positive smile and managed a trembling tight$lipped p"rse. (on#a co"ldn't believe her eyes. here in the doorway stood the Confederate Deneral 3eb (tewart.
% want to help right a great wrong when % smeared his record and prove to yo" %'m not li!e them& 2rs. <% come in peace and want to help yo" if yo"'ll allow me.= With a slight croo! to her mo"th she eAplained for (tewart.= *is hat remained in his hands as he glanced from her to her sister& who moved to stand beside (on#a. Ber!ins and his men !illed or changed most of my men before we co"ld even draw o"r weapons. What do yo" want me to do& find him so yo" can finish !illing him@= With her temper rising to the boiling point& she shoved past Briann& who tried to help and positioned herself between her sister and the vampire. (tewart raised his hand in s"rrender.= *e pa"sed waiting for their response. < yler . <Why have yo" come here with s"ch news@ 4o" tried to !ill yler . he vampires drained most of my men. (he fo"nd him indeed& dead. ?ow yo" stand here telling me he's been capt"red by the 4an!ees.oflin is a loyal Confederate soldier. <4o"r observation is correct&= (tewart said h"mbly. (tewart glanced from (on#a to Briann. hey'd decided to ma!e me one of them for sport& % s"ppose. % deeply regret the charge leveled against him. <4o"'re dead. With effort& she stepped toward him.= A m"scle #"mped in his #aw. *e didn't even get a trialC Why sho"ld % believe yo"& 8ebel@= <As yo" already !now& my regiment was attac!ed at the 4ellow (choolho"se o"tside of (potsylvania.= Dold fire spar!ed in (on#a's eyes and glowed tawny in the meager light. <%t's o!ay& (ister.oflin the last time % saw yo".23 (on#a got "p slowly and stared bac! at the general.= With that& she presented her bac! to him. <% !now what yler is now. he fear doesn't rear "p any longer li!e the sensation "sed to.= (on#a's breath came in short b"rsts. <(on#a@= Briann as!ed hesitantly. <% managed to escape. And % !now what yo" are as well. Before& % was scared to death when my wolf nose smelled yo"r !ind l"r!ing in the woods beyond Briann's door. Broo!s. ?arrowing her eyes on (tewart& she said& <4o" eApect me to believe yo" dropped by here to warn me the lie"tenant is in danger and offer yo"r assistance@ %'m not that st"pid& Deneral. *e is no traitor to the Oca"se' yet yo" tried to co"rt martial him. <Why have yo" come here with s"ch news@ 4o" ordered a firing sG"ad to shoot yler. <% want to eliminate the bloody bastards down to the last leach.= (he wasn't trying to ignore his information or be insensitive. % came to warn yo". Waiting for (tewart to answer& she reached o"t to chec! his p"lse. (tewart didn't flinch. ?ow& almost single handily& he's trying to stop the bastards. <% am dead.= .
<What + %'m s"pposed to tr"st yo"r lead and brea! into the bloods"c!ers den to save a man who can ta!e care of himself simply beca"se yo" say he needs me@= he gr"nt of disg"st so"nded harsh even to her ears. <A man named Abram Clemens is with him. he vampires wo"ld "se him as a living science he pain shot eAperiment to allow them to travel in the daylight.24 (tewart pa"sed in the slow& calc"lated way of a general and waited for her decision. <A lot of them are daggers into her brain. <?o& % came to help yo" and y free those Confederates. whether she believed the general or not. *is demeanor seemed sincere + a common ass"mption (on#a had made before when dealing with a man in "niform. need his blood. *er head throbbed $ probably from one of the blows sheMd ta!en at the hands of one of the more powerf"l vamps bac! at the farm. <4o" eApect me to believe yo" weren't sent here to try and l"re me into showing "p at this compo"nd where %'d be capt"red myself@= %rritation bloomed o"t of the pain in her head as (tewart contin"ed to stand before her. (he'd done this to him& she'd made him a wanted man or wolf beca"se she'd shared her blood with him to save his life. Htherwise yo" wo"ldn't have eAplained what they planned to do to the lie"tenant in s"ch detail. later. Diving nothing away& she too! a step toward the "ndead (tewart. apping one slim foot on the stone floor& (on#a eAamined the general's face and waited intently for his answer. D"ilt reared "p& threatening to strangle her. <4o" !now those v"lt"res want my blood beca"se of the power it contains.= With a glance thro"gh the front window& (tewart foc"sed on the encroaching dar!ness& his s!in b"nched aro"nd his eyes in a pained stare.= (on#a whirled away before t"rning bac! to glare at the new vampire. (he needed to save him he vampires plan on draining Abram's blood hey will drain yler slowly as they and feeding him to their hellho"nds tonight at midnight. ("rely he wo"ld give himself away sooner or . (he recogni>ed what (tewart referred to + the fact y's blood contained the gift. <Do yo" ta!e me for a fool& sir& or has yo"r change addled yo"r brain@= (tewart dropped his eyes before meeting hers with a steadfast stare. (he reached "p& r"bbing at the pain behind her eyes.= A simmering rage began to pool in her stomach. Casting eyes from one sister to another& he held his cavalry hat in front of him with those long& slim fingers. When she raised her face& her compos"re was again in place.
We'll be ready to ride within the ho"r.= *er sister smiled tentatively for (on#a before flic!ing a glance bac! at (tewart. Js"ally the healing didn't incl"de so m"ch diffic"lty. *e can read minds& yo" !now@= (he sat in a nearby chair as a wave of pain str"c! her sG"arely. <Don't worry& 2rs.i!e a schoolgirl& her older sister giggled. he time for do"bt passed and she relished in the contact of her family. When he'd gone& (on#a t"rned to Briann. <%f % believe yo" and yo"'re lying& %'ll !ill yo" witho"t hesitation. <4o"'re always right. % heard his tho"ghts before % offered an answer. <*e's sincere. <%'m s"re he's telling the tr"th. % can't promise yo" anything "ntil we see what we're "p against.= (tewart settled his cavalry hat atop his dar! hair.25 my men& good men& who don't deserve to die at the hands of those monsters. <All right& we'll go and see what we can do. <4o" sho"ld be more caref"l with yo"r power to hear a person's tho"ghts. *e's no fan of the vampires who t"rned him. ?o vampire who !nows yo"r gift comes alone to see! yo" o"t "nless he spea!s the tr"th. %s that clear@= *er voice& filled with a"thority& so"nded assertive. here was a"dible (on#a clenched her teeth while s"c!ing in air and releasing the breath slowly.= stress in his voice. %sn't he manly@= . ?ow she fanned her face with those same fingers she'd "sed to dismiss (on#a's concerns.= With two fingers to the brim of his hat& (tewart considered Briann with a small appreciative smile before t"rning for the door. *e's G"ite the gentleman. % only want to free my men.= With her point made& . Waving a hand in the air& Briann grinned wic!edly. *e holds h"mans and werewolves in high regard tho"gh. Briann ran a hand down (on#a's tattered sleeve. <%'m going to get y& and if we're able to free some Confederates& we will. <Don't worry abo"t me& sister.= (he offered a faint smile.= Wrapping her arms aro"nd Briann& (on#a moved into the embrace. <%'ll bring horses and s"pplies if % can locate any.= <%f %'m lying& %'ll gladly stand witho"t ob#ection for yo"r blade.= (he wagged one tiny finger at the Jnion general.= (tewart's gray eyes never left her face. Briann hadn't made the delicate& feminine so"nd in a long time. ?o G"estions or s"ggestions will be forthcoming from me concerning how we manage the feat.= (on#a reached across and gripped her sister's hand. Broo!s. <% believe him& sister. he eAtent of her in#"ries m"st've been greater than she believed.
We'll rest "nder the witch's spell before travel.= (etting him to rights& (on#a smiled and glanced into his face. *ow odd life was& she m"sed. <4o" heard what o"r visitor had to say@= <4es& % heard.oo!ing from the D"ardian to her sister and bac! again& she contin"ed "ndeterred. here was no need to reiterate her G"estion. 4o" haven't eaten today have yo"@= (on#a remained silent. %t seemed she had eyes for the general.= Briann stepped toward the werewolf$god and spread a hand. <% can't "nderstand how they don't !now yo"'re not who yo" appear to be. <Do yo" ever get a feeling li!e they're on to yo"@= he D"ardian smiled benignly and shr"gged one elegantly clothed sho"lder.= he wolf$god stepped toward the front door& searching the road in both directions. .= (he co"ld remember a time when the mere sight of him str"c! terror in her chest. <% don't have to depend on beliefs& % !now what Deneral (tewart said was the tr"th. <%'m going to ma!e yo" some of my special tea. he first time she'd met him& he'd wal!ed "p behind her and laid his talons on her sho"lder. <?o& % s"ppose yo" wo"ldn't.= (on#a narrowed her eyes at her mentor. Diving the lent a flic!& she smiled at the fig"re he made in his dar! bl"e coat and white r"ffled carafe. *e wasn't recogni>able as the creat"re all h"mans feared.= 2otioning him to step closer& she st"c! o"t her hand. <4o" have something on yo"r sho"lder&= she said.= . <Come here. ?o& he'd ta!en on the disg"ise of an ordinary co"ntry gentleman& a loo!& which gave him more mobility and freedom to spy on the vampires. <*is heart may be dead& b"t his so"l lingers and his spirit see!s #"stice.= < he s"n has finally set. *e's not li!e the others. Will yo" eat with "s& D"ardian@ % fear %'ve gone again and made too m"ch.= With those simple words he t"rned bac! and followed the women into dine.= < he general will ret"rn. <% have no in!ling of s"ch a feeling& no. <We'll see what happens when he comes bac!. (on#a cringed inwardly when recalling his face so close to hers. he D"ardian reappeared and glanced from one sister to the other.= Dlancing at Briann& the D"ardian as!ed& <4o" believe he is telling the tr"th@= Briann's eyebrow winged "p. <All right.26 (on#a's sister t"rned to the !itchen and a !ettle on the stove. <Come& we'll let good stew go to waste if yo" don't. < here.= (on#a rolled her eyes to the ceiling.
*e sat he yo"ng private alongside them with no more talent for getting o"t than they did. *is large brown eyes set in his frec!led face belied his eighteen years. hey needed a plan. 2ost of the men were s"re he'd lied abo"t his age to get into the regiment. <Dood&= y breathed with a loo! aro"nd the small cage "sed to ho"se twenty men. hey come when they feel li!e it& "s"ally dangling something in front of o"r noses to get a rise o"t of "s. Fach face he scanned wore the blan! loo! of despair. A faint glint of candle light showed thro"gh the bars.27 "hapter ( )or the Sake of Brothers in rms (omething slithered across his bare toes. y resigned himself to the sit"ation.ie"tenant&= a yo"ng p"p named 8ogers answered. When they needed an innocent face& the men always so"ght o"t <Baby= as they'd affectionately nic!named him. he men loo!ed "p to him& tho"gh y co"ldn't say why. %f we don't fight& . he faces of the men in the cell reflected their state. Fnlisted men as well as officers coveted (tewart's cavalry "nit for the prestige one garnered being a part of s"ch a honored regiment. 2ost of them were thrown into this dan! hole when (tewart met his "ntimely end. ?o more overcast s!y. <Conner's holding on& . 2ost of those in the cage grew wea!er from h"nger and ill from poor living conditions. he fact they'd been capt"red and thrown in the hellhole called Coggan's Breach was doing a good #ob of finishing off what little 8ebel spirit remained. Hne of the officers from (tewart's "nit shifted on his pallet and spo!e "p. . a"nting those half$cra>ed with h"nger to fall on over the edge. <(ee if Conner's needs more cover. resembled a twelve$year$old& all gangly arms and boney legs. <?o set time& sir. < y's sergeant and friend glancing "p at the flic!ers of moonlight shining thro"gh. Cold air s"rged down the dar! hallway. he men lining the walls of the cell didn't arg"e as someone near Conner's shivering form& shared his cover with the 8ebel. *is chills were getting worse when % chec!ed&= y instr"cted. <Donna be a cold one tonight&= (mitty said.= *is voice trailed off as if his tho"ghts remained tangled in memories he co"ldn't tal! abo"t.orcing the "rge to #er! his foot o"t of harm's way& y repositioned himself against the cold& damp wall of the prison cell. <Do we !now if the v"lt"res have a set time they feed "s or is their benevolence on a whim@= here was moc!ery in the man's tone ma!ing it hard not to give in.
Berating himself for not being more c"nning in his wolf s!in& he labored with g"ilt and wallowed briefly in despair. <Det him o"t of here no matter what happens. (pea!ing to the D"ardian's mind& (on#a eAplained her plan. he great h"l!ing werewolf$god appeared at the other end of the compo"nd.28 we're neAt Oto be saved' as they call the drin!ing o"r blood. When given the choice& she became the white she wolf with a coat the color of snow. <We're EEE (on#a stood straight and tall as she closed her eyes to concentrate. (ometimes he fig"red he almost gained control of the transformation and something wo"ld trigger his anger li!e the plants o"tside the compo"nd. Do yo" "nderstand@= D"ardian's blain stare told her he wasn't ta!ing anything she said serio"sly. oday's he D"ardian contin"ed to remind her the getting o"t of here tonight. Conner's Breach was a desolate place with nothing to spea! !indly of its ro"ghhewn eAterior or its chains and shac!les hanging near the main gate. *e'd shift into the werewolf. *e'd planned on getting his men& pl"s as many others as he co"ld gather& o"t of the hell hole before the forest had t"rned on him. As the wolf& she approached the wall of the compo"nd. (lowly a white light emitted aro"nd her and swirled with facets and spar!s. Death is a sweet relief for most who've given "p. (he co"ldn't help the shiver racing down her spin. brilliant s"nlight !ept them all in their cas!ets. %mages of (on#a contin"ed to flash thro"gh his mind's eye. Admitting his temper bro"ght on the change didn't set well with him at all. Aro"nd her nec! a silver band of f"r framed her wolf face where Brandy colored eyes saw everything. he men on the floor t"rned their faces toward him. *e merely leapt to the top of the high wooden wall and disappeared over its side. %t resembled a d"ngeon from the dar! ages and (on#a co"ldn't !eep . *e'd transformed bac! into the long armed wolf$ god for their brea!$in attempt. Daylight had its advantages when it came to dealing with vampires. Alarmed by the danger l"r!ing in the vision& y scrambled to his feet. he glow grew stronger and stronger "ntil (on#a's whole body shimmered with the change. ?o way %'m letting any of yo" stay any longer& do yo" hear me@= vampires coveted her blood more than all others beca"se if a vampire dran! from her& he co"ld wal! in the daylight "nharmed. y absorbed the officer's answer with a heavy heart. Besides strength and end"rance& which the vamps always wanted more of& her blood's s"nlight protection made them long for her life so"rce most.
(he didn't want any harm to come to the man she loved.= *ortence held "p the medallion (on#a wore all the time of late. he mere fact y hadn't wanted her to accompany him on this little resc"e mission still weighed on her heart. (o attached was she to the nec!lace& her heart rate increased in tempo when the old hag held the piece "p for the s"n to glint off its gold face. As a werewolf& she wo"ld be in charge of a new order of wolves destined to eradicate all vampires& who feed off h"mans and wolves ali!e. (he blin!ed in the direction the D"ardian had ta!en. Dods were strange. Da>ed and conf"sed& (on#a had fo"ght. (he'd awo!e a new creat"re with "nimaginable powers. (oon she lay on a table in a glade clearing in the tall pines of the Bennsylvania wilderness. (lowly over the days& which followed& she began to "nderstand some of what the witch !ept telling her. *er life too! a big t"rn only a co"ple of wee!s before when she'd been attac!ed by a wolf posing as a stranger. ("ch a rare #ewel + love& especially if yo" became something as strange as a werewolf. he witch& *ortence& eAplained everything yet she co"ldn't wrap her head aro"nd the facts. he thic! braid of silver with a circle of gold embla>oned with a crest hanging from the rope warmed in her hand. *ow'd the piece been removed@ (he didn't recall having ta!en the piece off. A certainty they wo"ld win the day washed over her and she even smiled at the idea. %f not for the D"ardian appearing& she'd certainly have perished. < han! yo". <4o"'ll need this& my dear. %neAperience had stopped her from bringing them to tas!. hey intended to drain he neAt her of all her blood. o do this for y wo"ld bolster her considerably. Wanting to please him meant everything to her.29 the vision of its dan!& dismal interior from s"rfacing in her brain. Why she'd tho"gh he'd "nderstand her plea to remove y "nharmed& she didn't !now. Berhaps he remained aloft to remind them all of his s"periority or perhaps he was an asshole. *er spirits immediately rose and her anAiety evaporated. %rritation rippled along her nec! in the form of tension she hadn't been able to sha!e. *er first enco"nter with the bloods"c!ers came as the f"ll moon appeared in the night s!y. With a newly created sword the D"ardian gave her& (on#a approached the gate of the thing she remembered was y holding her and repeating the same words over and over& <(on#a& . yo"'re hereC= he old witch gripped her arm& effectively bringing her o"t of her head.= a!ing the slim chain& she slid the medallion in place. A s"rge of confidence filled her as she strode forward with p"rpose. Disg"ised as Jnion soldiers& they'd capt"red her right after the change.
ort"nately& she wasn't most men. shifted over the years he'd been of service. (o be it.atin words <Fternal Allegiance= were carved deep into the stone. he reminded the man inside. he leader of the coven slept the D"ardian told her.30 compo"nd. 8ealistic to a fa"lt& y "nderstood their efforts wo"ldn't be eno"gh for all of them to ma!e it bac! to their families safely. (harpened to points the tall members wo"ld stop most men. All she needed to do was what she'd been trained to do& and the end& wo"ld play o"t in their favor. <Det readyC= 2"mbled words& n"dges and glances filled the crowded cell. he location of the lair was well concealed in the "ndergrowth s"rro"nding the thic! slabs of pine po"nded into the earth side by side to form a cr"de fence. he air fairly si>>led with the renewed s"rge of p"rpose. As the g"ard moved down the line of cells set one after the other in the stonewalls of the cave& y co"ld hear his own heart beating in his ears. . Above each& the . %n the time since the change& she'd enco"ntered vampires in droves and with a lesson or two from y& been able to vanG"ish her foes witho"t "ndo effort. (he wo"ld've answered with a reso"nding Oyes' if as!ed s"ch a G"estion only days before. <4o" ta!e this corridor and %'ll ta!e the other one&= she whispered& pointing at the arched passageways carved o"t of p"re stone. What faced them behind these walls wo"ld be more concentrated and well prepared for battle. . Fach man tensed at the opport"nity abo"t to occ"r.inding the vampires was the first order of b"siness. behind their leader. <D"ard@= he !nowledge weighed heavy in his chest& b"t war was a harsh teacher and m"ch of his val"es had a!ing all of them to safety wasn't going to happen he wolf didn't give a rat's ass what reality wanted. What they planned on trying wo"ld either prove a pl"g for his inventiveness or a disaster. y glanced from Clemens to (mitty at the head of the line of ragtag& malno"rished h"mans leaning or lying against the stonewall of their cell. (he wo"ld face him witho"t do"bt or dread someday. Chains rattled as the men shifted their position& bargaining on a G"ic! s"rge for the door .orce of will drove him to stand. *** < he g"ards are comingC= (mitty's hiss passed from one to another of the men down the line. <Watch yo"rselves& o!ay@= y's words held a wealth of meaning each of them "nderstood. he fact she& a slight woman& co"ld wield the sword as well as a man didn't seem odd to her. ?o so"nd emitted from the interior eAcept the tedio"s dripping of a well p"mp in the co"rtyard. . With the g"ards' throats ta!en care of& (on#a along with *ortence slipped G"ietly into the compo"nd.
<4o"'re right& of co"rse. Ieys rattled and hinges sG"ea!ed before the heavy iron gate finally opened wide eno"gh for the g"ard to slide thro"gh. <(hitC= Dri>>le gave the body another hard boot. Do % need to remind yo" where yo" are@= he g"ard tapped the cell bars with his stic!. <3es"s& 2ary mother of K= railing off& he followed Dri>>le to the door. < wo Bits + come hereC= he other g"ard ro"sed slowly and leaned bac! giving his sho"lders a good stretch before he slowly wandered toward his colleag"e.= <4o" don't tell me what % need to do& ya filthy 8eb. As if in deep concentration& he scratched his straggly beard and peered first to the right and then the left.ever on o"r hands. % tho"ght yo" might be concerned for yo"r safety as well as the rest of the g"ards on d"ty. 4o" need to ta!e a loo! at him. y dropped his head trying for the h"mble& whipped attit"de the g"ard eApected. he g"ard !ic!ed Connors in the side. With his stic! in one hand and his revolver in the other& Dri>>le moved to the center of the cell.= wo Bits made the sign of the cross across his chest.ever can do to a man& right& (ergeant@= he gri>>led& veteran soldier eyed y spec"latively. < he rest of ya bac! "p against the far wall. . 4o" !now what the .31 he one on d"ty sa"ntered "p to the iron door of the cell. <Bac! away from the door& all of yo" filthy vermin. Drenched in sweat& Connors moaned b"t never ro"sed& nor did he move from the fetal position he'd c"rled into d"ring the night. y ban!ed the s"rge of wolf anger fighting to ta!e control over the ins"lt. Do onC All of yo" git into a line so % can see ya. <4eah@= <(tand g"ard at the door& % need to chec! on the son$of$a$bitch shivering in the corner.ever. <%'ve got a man here who % thin! has 4ellow .= Waving his pistol to direct them& Dri>>le spo!e again& <Any of yo" feel l"c!y this day& that's all right with me. 8emembering the stic! across his own bac!bone& y's ire rose.= Bointing a grimy th"mb in y's direction& he said& < his one claims we may have a little 4ellow .= Waving his stic! at them& he yelled o"t for the other g"ard. <4eah& whatta ya want& crac!er@= he g"ard spit tobacco #"ice into the cell hitting several men resting close to the door. %'ll p"t a sl"g in ya so G"ic! yo" won't !now what hit ya. ?ow gitC= Fach man stood as well as they co"ld and clan!ed in "nison toward the damp stone wall.
(weat streamed liberally down wo Bits face and onto his stained "ndershirt. 4a thin! he's gonna be able to p"ll the hammer bac! on that r"sty eAc"se for a g"n before yo" p"t a b"llet in his head@ Where's yo"r senses& man@ (hoot himC= he so"nd of a hammer p"lling bac! echoed in the stillness of the room.= *e motioned at Connors.= Dri>>le #er!ed aro"nd at his cowor!er's words.= Bointing the g"n at y& he gave a #er! of his head at Connors. Drowsily watching Dri>>le with his pistol drawn he wavered between present and o"t cold. Dri>>le began to sweat. *is attention span hovered somewhere near semi$conscio"s. <%t's "p to yo". As he did& y made a move to lift the sic! man by his armpits. <Do on& Connors& he can't ma!e "p his mind.ilthy bastard done gone and got the . Wondering if wo Bits may pee his pants& he motioned toward the rebel with the g"n. < his here 8eb's got the . Connors rolled G"ic!ly to a cro"ch position& yan!ing Dri>>le's g"n o"t of the g"ard's holster as he went. <Dive me a hand with him.32 y made eye contact with Abram& who sat nearest the g"ard at the door.ever. *e twitched as he considered Connors' words. <2aybe yo" can let both "s go when we show . *ell& we can come to some agreement& can't we@= *is hands he held over his head trembled. Diving his sho"lders a little shr"g& he offered "p a lopsided grin. <%K % g"ess %'m a comin' with ya. Connors never too! his eyes off wo Bits. (hoot this one. OCa"se yo" !now them vampires are gonna ma!e yo" pay for not stopping "s. <Bat an eyelash and %'ll blow yo"r friend's dic! into tomorrow.= y glanced from Dri>>le to the g"ard at the door.ever. Connors leveled the g"n "p against the g"ard's genitals and gave the barrel a shove. *is face& slac! #awed& lost all color. < here ain't no need to get all cra>y or nothin'. %t didn't come from wo Bits g"n either. <.= B"lling a !erchief over his mo"th& Dri>>le holstered his g"n and t"gged at Connors' feet. <Are ya daft@ hey'll !ill ya first thing& yo" idiot. *e barely can move.= *e motioned at Dri>>le. <4o" comin' with "s or eatin' yo"r own b"llet@= wo Bits' face went slac!. 4o" can stand here and watch him bleed all over& wishing yo"'d done something to prevent his dying. ?ow all the rest of "s will get it too. 8ight@= *is eyes honed in on wo Bits and he sG"inted. he man !nown as he open wo Bits stood propped against the doorframe in his gr"ngy (ergeant's "niform. collar revealed a stained "ndershirt. With a wry grin& he pointed the g"n at Dri>>le's balls.
<%f he tries anything& g"t him. %gnoring the sp"ttering g"ard& he cro"ched to "nloc! a man's leg irons.= *is eyes& big now with nerves and tr"th& glanced "p and down the corridor.= y grinned wryly. With the prisoners in the cell freed& y passed the !ey to the cell neAt to theirs. hey'd gone no more than a h"ndred yards when the noise& which bro!e o"t gave rise to tho"ghts the vampires awo!e early. he vampires are gonna be glad to see yo"r sorry ass either way. Brisoners plastered themselves against walls in the dar!ened hall. 2ice sG"ea!ed and sc"rried o"t of harm's way. < hose of yo" who can& carry somebody who can't wal!. Jnloc! as many as yo" can. < wo . he faces loo!ing bac! nodded.33 yo" how to get o"t& h"h@= *is head began to bob "p and down as if attached to a p"ppeteer's strings. *olding "p a fist to halt those behind him& y "sed his amplified hearing to scope which direction the so"nd came from. Dot that@= 2a!ing s"re Dri>>le "nderstood& he grabbed the !eys Connors threw at him. 4o" get lost and ya dead for s"re. <Connors& get the !ey. <B"t whoK what@= <?o need to worry& 4an!ee.= *e wiped G"ic!ly at his forehead. Damn vampires'll be loo!in' for deserters anyway. < here's seven more li!e "s.= Bits& can yo" show "s where the others are@= wo Bits nodded rapidly. %f we can go with yo" + to hell with the rest. Braying inwardly the others wo"ld follow G"ic!ly behind them& he "rged wo Bits to lead the way.= y glanced at wo Bits. B"t the chains on that one. <Dlad to see yo"'re s"ch a loyal employee.= Dri>>le tone t"rned traitoro"s G"ic!ly as he ga>ed anAio"sly at y. <What we gonna do with all the rest@= <*ell& set O"m free. Fach man gathered "p somebody to help. <%s that tr"e@= wo Bits a"tomatically nodded.= *e pointed at Dri>>le. <All right& let's goC= y slowed at the cell door and glanced aro"nd. All the g"ard co"ld do was stammer. ?o so"nd came. < he vampires let "s feed off O"m and we watch d"ring the day. 2ight as well help "s o"t or die tryin'. y's brow coc!ed with the statement. <(ee& the thing is& ya got several to get past before ya clear the t"nnels in this here place.
Act"ally glancing abo"t& he circ"mstances for s"ch a tryst& at the moment& proved impossible. *e epitomi>ed the decor"m of a tr"e so"thern gentleman& y m"sed. < y@= (on#a's voice strangled b"t "ndeniable reverberated thro"gh him. ilting her head in he need for her never waned nor sated. y c"rsed low. . <%'ve got abo"t twenty men with me&= y eAplained as some of those men appeared behind him. Jp ahead was another Jnion foot soldier with his bac! to them.i!e a physical blow& she stopped his heart& no matter how many times she appeared& she managed to alter his world. With his r"sty shan! in hand& y forced himself aro"nd the corner and rolled to the he + soon she wo"ld rest "nder him and open for him to sin! deep into the heat which only she . At the last o"tpost& wo Bits hailed the g"ard as a gro"p slid past on his blind side. he gift he first g"ard fell witho"t a word as the neAt only had time to raise his rifle. (omeone was coming. Daining the information& they needed to contin"e& wo Bits motioned for the rest to move forward.ootfalls padding down the corridor pric!ed y's attention. Abram and Connors nodded at her. he small screech& which er"pted echoed thro"gh the dan! corridor despite the owner's effort to G"ell the errant noise. With lightning speed& which had the 8ebel escapees blin!ing in awe& y bro!e the second's nec! before searching the dar! corridor ahead. Come on& we have to h"rry. <What@= (on#a searched his face. <2a'am. *esitantly y dropped his hand in the advance command. other side of the hall. gave y swift& "nseen reaction ability. <%s that yo"@= <What in the hell are yo" doing here@= ?eeding desperately to r"b away the pain gripping him #"st behind his ribs& y stared at the one person who co"ld drive him to do things he'd regarded as foolish only a wee! before& y faced (on#a with a grim set to his mo"th. <We have to h"rry.= (he started to t"rn& b"t he sna!ed a hand o"t and grabbed her wrist. . co"ld offer.34 Berhaps the noise didn't mean what they'd ass"med. Bracing for an attac!& y waited. B"t soon he so"nds grew closer b"t the feet weren't a man's& they belonged to a female.= Clemmons never failed to address a woman with respect& even if the timing proved less than social. third g"ard with a s"dden change of loyalty and #oined them.. <Well@= <Dod& am % glad to find yo". Come onC= G"estion& (on#a waited impatiently.
We'll be deciding where to go when we get there. Do yo" hear me@= (on#a merely too! another step o"t of his reach and t"rned to her mentor and her t"tor as they approached. 4o"'ll be on yo"r own if we get separated. Don't dally. <Connors& how yo" doing bac! there@= he world co"ld be going to hell in a hand y glanced behind him as he too! (on#a's arm. 4o"rs or D"ardian's. bas!et& b"t manners wo"ld r"le the day. <8ight as rain& .= Diving her long tresses a toss over her sho"lder& she t"rned from him as the D"ardian and *ortence appeared. y prayed he'd made the right decision. a!e the road leading he s"n will be so"th to the swamp and %'ll meet yo" in the clearing near the cree!. *e's filled with vermin. his is it. <Are yo" ta"nting them or simply trying to give me a heart attac!@= (on#a's brow !nitted and she gave him a pet"lant reb"ttal. With a low c"rse& he gritted his teeth before stepping closer. (et as many fires as yo" can to ward off the vermin& do yo" "nderstand@= *is words needed no eAplanation.= (nic!ers rippled "p and down the corridor. <All right men. <Why did yo" ta!e the chance of coming here@= 8"nning his hand thro"gh her golden c"rls& he sighed. <We aren't thro"gh with this disc"ssion. <Besides& % learned several interesting things abo"t mine + o"r powers d"ring the s!irmish. %t was clear which vermin he meant. Can't say as % want to ma!e him a pet tho"gh. <%'m perfectly capable of ta!ing care of myself. never get "sed to their arrival witho"t so"nd.= %gnoring the scowl on his face& she waved a slim hand at him.35 Diving his head a slight sha!e& he grinned inwardly. hese so"therners& who'd c"t their teeth on h"nting and living off the land& didn't hey hobbled down need to have it spelled o"t for them. y co"ld .= Connors toothy grin shown in star! relief against the dar! walls of the cave. going down soon.= (hoving from his arms& she t"rned away& ta!ing several steps before wheeling to face him. the road. %t's every man for himself b"t %'ll do my best to !eep them off yo"r tails "ntil we reach the cover of the swamp. <Dots me a real live 4an!ee prisoner of war here. "rning to (on#a& he p"lled her close.ie"tenant. <% eAting"ished a whole regiment of them yesterday witho"t help.
= <*e's deadC= *is G"i>>ical glance t"rned to horror as he stared at the man on the horse. <4o"'re a vampire@= (tewart nodded solemnly. < he general stopped by Briann's early this morning. <% don't recall yo" coming to my aid when my own side wanted to co"rt$martial me for treason. them. <*e wants to help. <. *ortence leveled a spell& which removed the other prisoners' shac!les. <?ot something %'d dreamt of happening& b"t one has to ma!e the best of all sit"ations.= (he pa"sed to give him a chance to catch "p. Jnable to fathom why she contin"ed to disobey him& y co"ld only gr"nt his agreement before stal!ing off to relieve himself behind the nearest b"sh. <Berhaps not& b"t % can state emphatically& % was wrong. (on#a stepped closer and laid a gentle hand along his sleeve.= he D"ardian laid a hand on y's sho"lder.eave that to me&= D"ardian s"ggested.= (tewart's roan pranced in place as he materiali>ed in front of them.36 he D"ardian met y's ga>e. Dood. Hld habits died hard& b"t if he wasn't mista!en he was tal!ing to a ghost.= *is deep baritone voice reverberated thro"gh y's already agitated nerves. %n consideration& he spo!e over his sho"lder& <We'll need fast horses and weapons. y fo"ght the "rge to sal"te and at the same time& tried to control the disbelief on his face.= as (tewart gave the order to fire. <4o" managed to escape. <4o"'re dead. ?o& % don't thin! yo" came to my defense he vampires will !ill hey need training in defending themselves against this new enemy.= (he glanced bac! at the general seated atop his fiery steed. <?o& they're my men. % can't leave those men. directed the men to leave the area post haste.= he g"ards are fast asleep than!s to her and % .= Dlancing aro"nd to see if anyone else saw the same ha"nt& y sG"ared his sho"lders. y spat on the he D"ardian appeared as sympathetic as a wolf$god co"ld& y s"pposed.= <4o" !now yo" weren't responsible for their capt"re. Agreed& Werewolf@= gro"nd as if something distastef"l lodged in his throat. he woman wo"ld drive him to drin!& he m"sed. ?o need to !eep beating yo"rself "p for what happened. % sho"ld be the one to see to their safety. A more headstrong& obstinate creat"re& he'd never met. < his is what % wanted to tell yo". ?o figment of a stress$filled imagination was going to get the better of him.
With y grinning in agreement& he accepted the reins of the horse *ortence handed him.ie"tenant. EEE Convening near the glade where y'd resc"ed (on#a from the first night she'd eAperienced the change& the small band of ragtag ref"gees h"ddled close to listen to plans for the neAt day. <4o" !now& . <We best be going& soon the s"n'll set and night will fall. ?ow if he co"ld fig"re o"t how to get her to forgive his st"pidity they co"ld go bac! to !illing vampires.= *e flic!ed a glance at (on#a.= man once more and (tewart blin!ed. (tewart's eyes widened before he dropped his head in ama>ement. <%'m glad things t"rned o"t the way they did for yo". <%n more ways than one. <2y apologies& (ir. %mmediately regretting the move& he tried to regro"p.or an intelligent man& yo" can be thic!$headed sometimes.oflin&= (tewart said& <. ?o& there was only s"rvival and each min"te a precio"s reminder of how G"ic!ly their fates co"ld change.= . Jnable to #"stify even the h"man 4an!ees position& she had no he D"ardian addressed them as a .= A ch"c!le and the general slipped nimbly from his horse. *is great strides ate "p the gro"nd between them. ?one among them held any far$fl"ng notions of tomorrow. Jnder the scr"tiny of those nearby and with a profo"nd sense of ignorance toward every thread of reality& y too! the general's cold& dead hand and shoo!. <When % thin! %'ve seen it allK= he trailed off. As she considered all the so"th had s"ffered at the hands of these bastards& a !indred spirit emerged regarding their plight.= With a conspirator's grin& he leaned a fraction closer. Jnderstanding y's hatred of the 4an!ees and how hard it was to contain his f"ry& (on#a said little. <4o"'re a l"c!y man& erK wolf.= he general smiled warmly.= FAtending his white hand& he waited for y's answer. *e was a l"c!y wolf.ollowing the general's meaning this time& y agreed. Fach man among them had long ago relinG"ished dreams of the f"t"re. 8eaching for her hand& she slipped from his grasp and wal!ed away& leaving him to bear his h"miliation alone.37 he acc"sing glare t"rned to bem"sement as y str"ggled with who'd given away his secret. Diving y a sal"te& (tewart hoisted himself bac! in the saddle and followed the menagerie of warriors. <% owe yo" an apology& . *e compo"nded his lot with a G"estioning loo! for (on#a.= <?o need.
y's hands s"rro"nded her waist& p"lling her close. many& she worried for his safety even with the gift of s"perior power. 2ore br"ising and discoloration disappeared& she noted. <4o" certainly !now how to ma!e an entrance& . *is pride swelled with their combined heat and she moaned alo"d with pleas"re. *e stood strong and solid he delirio"s sensation of desire warmed her& as he before her and aro"sed against her stomach. . he vampires advanced toward her in a s"rge of ins"rmo"ntable proportion. Was y in tro"ble@ grew and (on#a co"ldn't reach himC ("ddenly& an almost discernible ripple in the water ca"sed (on#a's eyes to open and a soft gasp left her lips. *e didn't deserve to end"re the hardships d"mped "pon him. *er attraction to this man co"ldn't be ignored& nor co"ld she deny how m"ch she cared for him and wanted desperately to protect him. echoed in her mind as she lashed o"t at the oncoming vampires. A dream& which had ha"nted her sleep the last few days& came bac! to her in great detail. With *ortence standing g"ard& she stripped down and waded into the stream. Another growl& this time more pained. his time& the bloods"c!ers y's growl of f"ry appeared in "nco"ntable n"mbers. ho"gh the spar!s flew whenever the s"b#ect was bro"ght "p& she secretly vowed she'd leave before she'd let that happen. Fvery nerve in her body went on high alert. Closing her eyes& she allowed her mind to wander a bit.ie"tenant. Awa!e& she began to go thro"gh the images forming before her. Fven if his male ego wo"ldn't recogni>e her efforts. *er nerves& so frayed& from by the battle as well as finding and resc"ing y began to "n!not. *aving the stench of vampires lingering on her s!in and in her nostrils warranted a bath. he sea of bloods"c!ers aro"nd her made s"re their bodies came together& ma!ing her aware of him all along her length. %n the dream& (on#a and y battled the vampires bac! yet again.= *e grinned that wolfish grin of his. Being only two against so he growl er"pted to her left& she wheeled and flipped the vampire to the gro"nd before sta!ing him thro"gh the heart. After ma!ing love at night& (on#a wo"ld lie awa!e as her eAha"sted brain tried desperately to devise a way to !eep him safe. *e may have feelings for her& b"t this mess wasn't of his ma!ing.38 intention of letting him die for her. y lowered his head and capt"red her lips& bringing her bac! to foc"s on the man. (on#a waited "ntil the briefing ended to separate herself from the men and clean "p. (omehow separated& each battled the 4an!ees on their own. Chilly& tho"gh it was& she revealed in the pleas"re of a few moments to relaA. (till stiff from the battle& she san! into the water.
What's a poor defenseless girl to do@= <Well& since yo" as!& % can thin! of a thing or two she co"ld do. . hey will come. <%f % wasn't& wo"ld it matter@= she chided. <*ave yo" finished yo"r bath& my lady@= he G"estion seemed rhetorical to (on#a. <Ah& my woman wants me& % wager.= *e nipped her bottom lip before switching his attention to her earlobe followed by the tender s!in along her nec!. Before she co"ld ob#ect& he'd ta!en her mo"th again in a !iss more forcef"l than the first. (he was wrong. (on#a considered he wo"ld deposit her on the ban! and allow her to get dressed. <Hf late& % thin! a lot. <4o" sir& aren't behaving li!e a gentleman. Jnable to ta!e her eyes off his profile& (on#a's breath ca"ght in a s"rge of yearning so abr"pt and intense it was painf"l.= Witho"t another word& he scooped her "p and sloshed o"t of the water. %nstead& y carried her farther from the water's edge before gently laying her bac! on a blan!et. *is teeth fo"nd the taste of her enticing. . (corching her with its intensity& branding her with its fire& the !iss drove (on#a to simply stand& "nable to move in the si>>ling heat of his embrace.= y's breath& warm and moist on her s!in& shoved rational tho"ghts to the bac! of the line as he traced the swell of one wet breast to he sensation of his mo"th on her flesh& n"rsing her nipple t"gged at her coherency.= (he dropped her head bac! as his tong"e lingered near her collarbone.39 <2y woman is thin!ing again& % see. 4o"'ve missed me while % was gone@= *is voice went low with desire. Wanting to pric! his conscience& she ran a slim& damp finger along the bridge of his perfectly straight Choctaw nose. *er body h"mmed with anticipation as he ran his long& lean hand slowly down her slight c"rves to the crisp hair of her mo"nd. (oon the p"ll on her womb from his attention bro"ght a creamy warmth to pool between her legs. (lipping two fingers inside the heat of her need& y stro!ed steadily. Jnder the cover of a great old oa! tree& he stretched o"t beside her and "sed his shirt to dry her limbs before throwing her vol"mino"s dress over them both as protection from anyone who sho"ld happen "pon them.aA with desire& (on#a held on with everything she had left. <4o" needn't worry abo"t answers. the ta"t pea!. (till& % can't find the answers.
With hot& whispers of breath& he feathered his mo"th along the sil!en s!in in a path to her core. . ?o one ever made her feel li!e this man did. B"t first& % want to taste yo". *is thr"sts spo!e of procession as he capt"red her eyes with desire lighting his.= Barting her legs& he slid between her thighs. What will we do now& y@= *er G"estion came from the pent "p emotions she !ept "nder loc! and !ey."rthering the fever of her need with the eAhilaration of seeing his so ripe and ample. *er h"nger for him drove her on. *is slow& steady breathing spo!e of contentment.= <(oon& (on#a& soon. %n the G"iet of love's aftermath& (on#a stro!ed the lines of her lover's m"scled chest. Any other tho"ghts he thinly veiled passion in his eyes stirred her longing to new heights as he wor!ed a third finger inside her. Dra>ing his #aw against her stomach as he traveled lower& he growled low in his throat. vanished into oblivion. % want to capt"re yo"r need and drin! yo" in li!e wine.40 (on#a co"ld've floated on s"ch a whisper thin clo"d of sensation forever. % want yo" inside me. (eA was merely a means to an end with him& nothing to compare to this dissent into paradise with y. (on#a arched with a groan from deep inside her depths. he t"g of his mo"th sent her spiraling down into a world where only need and desire reigned s"preme. With a so"nd a!in to a howl& y rose "p and thr"st himself inside (on#a& b"rying himself to the hilt. (on#a's . (on#a arched with the contact of his mo"th on her breast.= *is mo"th gra>ed her nipple as his fingers contin"ed their onsla"ght. < ell me& (on#a& did yo" miss me@ % want to hear the words. <Blease& y. his man wanted her li!e she co"ld never have imagined and she wo"ld give herself to him completely. (lowly at first& he moved& setting a steady pace. 2arveling at the complete sensation of f"lfillment& (on#a rested her head on his sho"lder& closing her eyes in the twilight of their mating. With release "pon him& he forced his head bac! and growled at the moon overhead as he filled her with his seed. %t was li!e loo!ing into his so"l for (on#a. . ?o G"estion of holding bac! s"rfaced in the assa"lt on her senses. Certainly not her first h"sband& 8obert& rest his dead so"l. <Jm& this is what a man wants to come home to.= 8eaching "p& she san! her hand into his long dar! hair& which was still damp from the stream. *e was her mate and she wo"ld give herself freely to him now and forever. <4es& % missed yo" so m"ch.orcef"lly he pl"nged again and again as he rode the wave of passion's f"ry.= m"scles tightened as desire warmed her to the core.
y let his hands roam freely over her bac!side& molding his hands to her behind. he idea didn't alarm her as it he once did. (on#a t"rned to him and n">>led the warm s!in along the strong col"mn of his nec!. ?ow the mention of the area p"t her on high alert. *is attention shifted from the groggy state of semi$conscio"sness to f"lly awa!e and with him spooned behind her& his mind wasn't the only thing f"lly awa!e. With the taste of her still on his mo"th& the !iss managed to aro"se and tantali>e her . (o glad they were leaving the dreaded area& which she'd called home only a little over a wee! before. *ard as granite& he plied her for what they both wanted& which was more.inding it impossible to get eno"gh of each other& soon& (on#a wo"ld find herself with child. %n this man's arms& she en#oyed seA li!e never before. (till& the endearment warmed her li!e the man did. *is breath was on her nec!& as he tasted her nape& lingering over her sho"lder to en#oy the sweet flavor he ass"red her only she processed. y n"dged closer to her bottom& giving her chee! a good r"b with his aro"sal. distinct warmth flooding the area between her legs didn't ebb tho"gh she attempted to concentrate on something else. <We'll ma!e plans to leave tomorrow&= he said. *ortence and the D"ardian referred to him as her mate.41 ?o real p"rpose in them& eAcept to plan for the morrow. A g"sh of feminine awareness bro"ght her bac! as his magical hands followed a familiar path between her legs. he term agreed with her despite its relationship to her being a werewolf& to both of them being werewolves. %t was as if a primitive force inside him demanded he reach for her. . <% needed to do this. With one hand on his chest and the other fisted in his long mane of dar! hair& she moved in capt"ring his bottom lip& giving him a hard nip. 4o" "nderstand& (on#a. Where he'd gotten O?ymph' from she co"ldn't be s"re. *is readiness to please her& his stamina and above all& his inherent talent for giving her eAactly what she needed made yler .oflin "niG"e among men. he warmth of his attentions "rged her to forget all the tro"bles& which never left her conscio"s person. here his heart beat strong and solid against her lips. (he sighed and a small smile crept over her face. *e'd called her his woman and she co"ldn't thin! of him in any other frame b"t her man. (omehow& she recogni>ed the call.= *e seldom "sed her proper name& choosing to call her by his pet name instead. ?o& in fact& having yler's baby was something she daydreamed.
42 f"rther. men and plans made his search a bit more "rgent."nny how nothing good ever followed. he call grew stronger. With the b"ttons of his shirt almost sec"red& he glanced aro"nd for his boots. . While the stars spar!led overhead and the old oa! sheltered the two& y and (on#a s"cc"mbed to the desire b"rning beyond their control. (hifting& he gently eased his arm from "nder (on#a's weight and with cat li!e agility& rose to stand before slipping into his pants.= *e glanced toward the camp where the gro"p began to stir and ta!e care of the things men "s"ally too! care of when they first wo!e. Will yo" be o!ay here@= (he nodded before peering at him with a sleepy eApression. hey need to see to his . y'd already noted& after he "nderstood what happened with the change& merely becoming angry co"ld bring abo"t a shift. <%t's all right. %'ll send *ortence to yo" with some coffee. %n a few seconds& two slender hands appeared. <%'ll be bac! once we come to an agreement on a plan. from the men's eyes. *is g"t clinched with one of those int"itions of his. (lowly rising to stand& he waited. %t's not li!e % can't watch o"t for myself. (himming the bodice over her breasts and settling garment in place& (on#a p"lled bac! her c"rls and presented her bac! to him so he co"ld do "p her b"ttons. (he rose on one elbow& cl"tching the gown to her breasts. "hapter + The . <What rende>vo"s@= y didn't try to hide the softer& more menacing tone to his voice. *er little rende>vo"s with Ber!ins reincarnate wasn't !ids play. he one word& <Wait&= and a simple shr"g and she p"lled her legs "p to a cro"ch as she "sed the billows of material as a cover hrowing the gown over her head& she wiggled her hands into the sleeves of the gown. Det a little more sleep.o!rne% Begins y wo!e to the old familiar so"nds of men in camp. (he'd been "p to something while he'd been gone and he damn well wanted to !now what it was. he flames of passion fanned o"t and ca"ght them "p in the fireball. Wanton need swelled in them both. < y@= *er drowsy voice held a rare seA"al a"ra for him. *"n!ering down& he grinned when she r"bbed at her eyes and yawned wide& obvio"sly "naffected by his presence. (o to forestall any s"ch occ"rrence& he foc"sed instead on breathing deeply with his eyes ever on her reG"est for assistance. ?o woman ever aro"sed him li!e she did.
= to absorb their words. <B"t everything t"rned o"t for the best. <(on#a baby& yo" don't seem to "nderstand how important it is that yo" remain safe. (on#a's calm snapped in the brief span of time. %mmediately regretting the move& y tried to remain calm.= (he ran slender fingers thro"gh her hair as she spo!e of the incident as if the fact she s"rvived and healed& all while he was abo"t other matters sho"ld be of no conseG"ence to him. *er matter of fact description of the events stro!ed a smoldering irritation at the chances she too! with no more concern for her well$being than if she washed clothes on a roc! in the nearby stream. <Who do yo" thin! yo"'re tal!ing to@= she charged. 4o" co"ld have been maimed or worse + yo" co"ld've been capt"red. <*ell's on fire& woman.= < r"e&= (on#a admitted& tho"gh the response came o"t stilted. <What ifs= began to invade his control& eliminating the little g"ard he held tightly within his wea!ening grasp. 4o" !now what %'m tal!ing abo"t.= y glanced past her to see the faces of several of the men peering covertly from "nder hats& behind !erchiefs and collars he fact the early morning air ca"sed a rise in her nipples to erect points "nder her meager attire did nothing to .= *ating the coddling so"nd creeping into his voice& he closed his eyes for a moment to regro"p. % concl"ded yo" m"st've ta!en yo"r pistol from the armoire where %'d hide the weapon. appease his fr"strations. *is voice low and grave sho"ld have done the tric!& b"t she remained where she was and contin"ed to glare at him with m"tiny riding high in her face. (norting o"t a la"gh& (on#a's fists landed on her hips. %n the flash of an eye& he reached o"t& snatching her close by both arms. (he'd handled things she said. A fl"sh raced "p his throat& eng"lfing him in a wave of sic!ening reality.= *er flippant attit"de did G"eer things to his bac!bone. With fire leaping in the depth of those whis!ey colored eyes of hers& she "nleashed her version of hell's$own$f"ry at him when she t"rned once more to loo! him dead in the eyes. <Hh& yo" can be s"re of it& sir.43 <4o" weren't here. <We'll tal! abo"t this later&= he snapped. %'d loaded the colt with wooden b"llets to "se in case of an attac!. *er chest rose and fell with the effort. *er hands clenched in fists at her sides. "gging free of his iron grip& she wheeled away& gathering steam as she went. <Don't ma!e this abo"t the wolf.
= With temper smoldering to the boiling point& y c"t a cold sho"lder aro"nd her and headed for the gro"p.ig"ring himself a fool for p"tting so m"ch store in an inanimate ob#ect& he blamed his Choctaw blood for his channeling of s"ch a s"perstitio"s notion as to depend on his possession of the nec!lace in trade for (on#a's safety. he nec!lace& which had h"ng aro"nd (on#a's nec! "ntil the night of her first f"ll moon& was the one to!en he carried with him of late. here lay the chain of the (t. Damn her wayward notion she co"ld ta!e care of herself.44 he fact he wanted to ta!e her across his !nee and paddle her behind for confronting him in front of the men warred with how fool hearty it was to arg"e with her when she had a head of mad on. (tewart& who by all acco"nts co"ld wal! in the daylight& stepped "p with a c"p and handed the tin m"g to him. When had he become so romantically s"perstitio"s@ ?ever professing he was anything b"t what he was& a cowboy with miAed blood& y fo"nd the last few wee!s a #o"rney of mo"nting fr"stration. <(he ma!es it diffic"lt to reach for calm sometimes.= <4es& sir& % don't !now what % was thin!ing. <Dather yo"r things. %nstead& . Christopher's he !ept there all the time these days. *e'd vowed to protect her with everything he possessed and this he wo"ld contin"e to do. y too! the proffered c"p and reached for the pot. Dlancing "p& y ga>ed into the dead eyes of his general and winced inwardly at the pang of regret for his fallen comrade. ?o one said hey'd most li!ely overheard the disp"te between (on#a and him. a word in greeting. he old witch glanced his way as he stal!ed toward the small fire where the men h"ddled G"ietly. 8eminded of the gleam his medallion against her warm breast gave him a moment's consignation as to his mental state. Brobably fearf"l of his reaction.= *e st"ffed his hand deep in his front poc!et.= he general didn't give him time to wallow in the images of what occ"rred on the fatef"l day near the 4ellow (choolho"se. <4o" !now arg"ing with a woman is in poor taste& don't yo"& . % have to see to b"siness. % do !now better. (omeone& perhaps *ortence& since the rag tag b"nch bore no possessions& prod"ced a pot and coffee smelled rich and soothing to his senses as he approached the clearing.ie"tenant@= (tewart's words held a dry wit aimed directly at def"sing y's temper. . <Besides being a waste of time. 2y apologies for what yo" overheard.
(tewart glanced at y.45 <?o need to apologi>e& son.= (ha!ing his head& he waited "ntil the comment eased some of his companion's trepidation. 8iding for (tewart was something y wo"ld never forget. ?ever one to shir! responsibility& y nodded& giving (mitty the information necessary to get the men ready. *** < a!e me.= (on#a's head lolled as he s"c!led her pea!& yet again.= 8eali>ing he'd inadvertently st"c! his foot in his mo"th& y's color started to rise despite his %ndian roots.ie"tenant. <% !now it will be "nsettling& to say the least& however& %'d li!e to travel with yo". <% !new yo"'d be big&= she told him as . % want yo" tooC % want yo" inside me. We've all been in yo"r shoes. A bit ta!en abac!& b"t G"ic! to comprehend& y glanced from his general to (mitty before sG"aring his sho"lders slightly.= *is croo!ed grin s"pported his belief and wor!ed to sooth y's recent o"tb"rst. %'m strictly coming along in an advisory capacity. Women are a mystery which no man is s"re of the answer.= (mitty approached and waited for the two men to finish before he inter#ected. ?ow that we have the men o"t of that hell hole& % want to travel so"th and get away from these bloods"c!ers.= y's eApression relaAed and brightened with the idea of sharing the trail with the man he admired more than anyone. <We're ready to go& sir. %'ll be o"t of poc!et m"ch of the time d"ring yo"r #o"rney as % have a need to !eep watch over yo" all. % "nderstand what yo" mean. Dently& he lowered her to the gro"nd and shoved at the vol"mino"s s!irts "ntil he fo"nd her. Berhaps& % can be of some help along the way. y was as hard as a roc! and his s!in b"rned with the need to b"ry himself deep inside her heat.= Diving y and (tewart a slight nod& he waited for orders. (he wore no drawers and y's coc! thr"mmed with a wild need. (on#a reached o"t and too! his hide pants& "nlacing the leather and t"gging them from his hips.ie"tenant.= <?o need to& . <Beginn' yo"r pardon& sir. *er words s"rprised him as well as aro"sed him. <%t wo"ld be an honor& (ir. <*ave yo" considered what yo"r plans will be from this point forward@= <4es& sir& % have. (ince the D"ardian wasn't anywhere to be fo"nd& the small band of ref"gees headed o"t with the rays of s"nshine pee!ing over the hori>on and a vampire riding among their midst. <% believe yo"'re in command here& . (he gasped when his erection stood from his loins. *e almost lost control. % agree with yo"r opinion.
hey eAisted in a world . 2arried to a man who considered women there for his own comforts& she'd not been given the opport"nity to share in a tr"ly companionable relationship. (oon she b"c!ed and shoved him down. <4o"r gift to me. lower to the thatch of gold c"rls at her core& the assa"lt began in earnest as the she moaned with his tong"e inside her. Being with her li!e this was all he'd ever dreamed of. 2oaning his name& (on#a too! his head and shoved it into her chest. he need for her drove him to s"c!le and nip at her breast. *is and only his& no one else's.46 he lowered himself between her thighs. EEE here was no one to hear. (he was lost in a sens"o"s ga>e as he rose "p and too! her mo"th in a savage !iss. <8obert cared not for a woman's needs&= she told him.= (he smiled. Bent "p press"re b"ilt G"ic!ly and the release was so sweet as he let go filling her with his seed. (ometime later& when she lay in the cradle of his arm and the time they'd spent together was nothing more than a memory& y vowed he wo"ld ma!e s"re she didn't soon forget what they meant to each other. <?o&= (on#a shoo! her head gently.e petit.= y's finger traced the angle of her face while bas!ing in the aftermath of their lovema!ing. With his head neAt to hers& y stared into her eyes once more. *is confidence grew with !nowledge he wo"ld have her in ways few dreamt abo"t. he !iss sealed their bond with tenderness and promise of more to come. B"lling her closer& y's mo"th fo"nd hers. Will yo" let me@= *er eyes clo"ded. heir comforts were the only ones& which mattered. *er h"sband had been m"ch the same as others. (he was a gift cherished. (on#a's head fell bac! as she cried o"t "nto themselves. *er fingers digging into his bac! "ntil the pain mingled with the pleas"re sent ripples of need s"rging to his manhood. he women in their lives were there for their "se and convenience + nothing more. Branded and claimed& y b"ried himself inside her. Hver the length of her sil!y white s!in& their eyes met m. he color in her chee!s rose. <% want to taste yo". < he small death&= she p"rred. (on#a's eyes trac!ed him as y lay his body neAt to hers. (o bea"tif"l& she was. 8ising to r"b at her mo"nd after the flash of an orgasm and she screamed his name& y breathed her in. *e p"shed bac! and railing hot& wet !isses stared into her eyes. <. <4o"'ve not eAperienced a c"lmination of yo"r lover's to"ch@= he as!ed tenderly.
(he tried not to thin! of what she wo"ld do if anything happened to them. was bea"tif"l with her long waves of coppery fire. % won't let anything happen to yo" or the boys& % promise.= *er sister's bea"tif"l green eyes gleamed with "nshed tears. <(on#a& if anything sho"ld happen to me& will yo" see to the boys@= he pain of her sister's statement weighed heavy on her chest. (he gripped the reins tighter. (he slapped the reins over the horse's r"mp and steered the team to follow the wagon ahead of theirs. (on#a drove one& while (mitty and Connors drove the other two. We'll be fine. *er hands wanted to sha!e. A little sad to have grown "p and lived in the same place for so long and now to be driven away by Ber!ins and his v"lt"res. . Dlancing at his profile astride the doe colored mare& (on#a wasn't ready to forgive y. Where are we headed@= . sorry % got yo" into this mess. *er family + in all their innocence $ what was left of them was precio"s to her. Briann G"ieted again. *e certainly hadn't been of any "se. (o"th so"nded li!e a far$away place and the idea made (on#a nervo"s. <Don't promise things yo" can't deliver& sis. <(o"th.= he road "p ahead wo"nd aro"nd bends and "p hills before he words came "nbidden. *owever& the danger they all faced remained a grave deterrent. Are yo" sorry yo" came with "s@= <?o& %'m not sorry. (on#a wanted to give her sister some comfort& some s"pport. *e paid little attention to her. A smattering of bright frec!les d"sted their noses and pert& pin! lips formed perfect bows in their cher"b faces.= (on#a peered "p ahead at the wagons they'd proc"red for the #o"rney.= <4o" don't thin! % can protect yo"@= . <Don't tal! li!e that& please. he men sec"red several wagons to help with the ref"gees who co"ldn't wal! properly. (on#a reminded herself she wanted things to remain so.ove swelled in her chest. he Confederate soldiers now wore civilian clothing than!s to *ortence and her spells. secretly hoped they always wo"ld.aying a hand on the boys' weary heads& she smiled when her children yawned openly. he woman he boys resembled their mom and (on#a spilling into another valley with new growth greening more readily the farther they went.47 *e had no right to plag"e her abo"t her meeting with Ber!ins. <%'m (on#a didn't give them time to linger before she smiled for her yo"nger sister. <Briann& yo"'ve said little since we left town. ?o way she'd allow him the !nowledge she'd been h"rt by his reaction. ?o way.
<*ow are yo" ladies doing@= he voice was deep and laced with real concern.= *er own plight seemed paltry in the face of s"ch loss. hat's all. the wagon. <4o"'re in my prayers& Deneral.= from him than #"st his life.= *is small finger pointing "p toward the general on his horse.= hey rode side by side for a long time witho"t saying anything. <8ide& momma& ride. Well + had a he bastards had stolen so m"ch more family. he general had a family. r"th sometimes had a way of crippling one's notions of their abilities. <*e reminds me of my own. <We're fine&= she said. With her head tilted bac!& Briann shared a warm smile with the general. Briann didn't pa"se and (on#a fo"nd herself beaming with pride for her sibling.= *er lips thinned over the image in her mind's eye. (he allowed the general to grip the boy "nder his arms after she hoisted him high& allowing (tewart to settle him in place in front of him in the saddle.= A sharp reali>ation hit her sG"are in the chest. he yo"ngest boy groaned before glancing at the horse. As a career officer& %'ve long ago resolved myself that someday % wo"ld face what so many have faced before me. <4o"rs is not "ncommon& still& % regret yo"r plight. <Blease& 2rs. Broo!s. 8eleasing a breath& (on#a r"bbed at her arms. (on#a recogni>ed Deneral (tewart witho"t seeing who rode the magnificent blac! stallion coming "p behind them. (on#a wo"ld spea! to *ortence and the D"ardian abo"t Briann's visions. Admiring the sil!en mane as the animal came along side& she considered the horse may be as "ndead as the rider. %f she had to give "p her gift to save her sister& she'd gladly do it. A cool wisp of air s"ddenly enveloped her. ("rely& her sister was mista!en abo"t her abilities. % !now yo"'d do everything yo" co"ld to see "s safely o"t of harm's way. *ow wo"ld he ever go bac! to them now@ <%'m sorry. . (he was her sister whom she loved more than life itself. he yo"ngster fo"nd the reins the best thing to play with and (tewart smiled G"ietly.48 <%t's not that. (he stared straight ahead& "nable to meet his eyes as he rode beside . Don't concern yo"rself over the past. <4o"'ve made a new friend&= (on#a observed.ate may have other ideas.= Candor of s"ch a degree pained her in several waves. ?o wonder he wanted to help them.
<%'m beyond prayers& ma'am& b"t % wo"ld appreciate those prayers for my wife and children. efforts. Fach member of the small band of ref"gees was dealing with the "pheaval of their world. Wanting desperately to change the s"b#ect& (on#a as!ed& <Are we really headed to eAas@= < o eAas@= he D"ardian searched the trees flan!ing the roadside.= Briann's voice laced with sympathy. <%n time yo"'ll shimmer from h"man to werewolf witho"t he only so"nds between them& the light sG"ea! of the wagon wheels as the gentle sway of the rolling boAes l"rched forward with the m"le teams' iny sG"eals of eAcited la"ghter . floated bac! to them on the gentle bree>e. <*e grieves for his life. %n the g"ise of a man& the D"ardian appeared so normal& he co"ld have passed as a gentleman of disting"e. he weight of all their woes seemed ins"rmo"ntable. <Will % ever be able to view this as a good thing@= *er G"estion was one she considered often& b"t hadn't spo!e of before. Jneasy with her own insec"rity& she dropped her ga>e from his. (he slapped the animal across the bac!side with her whip. 4o"r change can occ"r witho"t witness and little danger will come to yo" or others. hey will need all the prayers now. *is gentleman's face wreathed in concern bore a tr"e meas"re of the gro"p's plight. Hne of the m"les bal!ed. he D"ardian spo!e from behind them. As his eyes narrowed in the dimming light& his attention ret"rned to (on#a.= *e sp"rred the great steed& galloping toward the front of the line of slow moving men. %'ll ta!e good care of him.= apping his horse lightly with his G"ip& the D"ardian stared straight ahead at the general's shrin!ing image. ?o one wo"ld have g"essed he was overly grotesG"e& a hairy monster with bleary eyes and slobbering #owls.= ipping his cavalry hat to them both& his tone warmed as he ass"red Briann& <Don't worry. (ome for obvio"s reasons and others for something imagined only in horror stories. <4es& as yo" already !now& the lie"tenant has a ranch there where these men will be safe. <Boor man.= *e spo!e of the fact she'd became a werewolf at the onset of each f"ll moon li!e she changed clothes& witho"t the notion of reperc"ssions or reprisal. (on#a glanced as!ance at the D"ardian.49 *is stony eyes held no emotion as he spo!e. Were it in my power& % wo"ld set him free from the hell the monsters sentenced him to end"re. As he rode off& the d"st clo"d er"pting behind his mo"nt.
<%'m so pro"d of yo". "gging at her shawl as the night air began to set in& (on#a recalled the many nights her sister wo"ld cry herself to sleep with the pain of being an o"tcast in a world of cr"el& small$minded fools.ightning fast& she whirled to find *ortence& the witch seated in the covered wagon. Werewolves don't set o"t to h"nt vampires. <4o"'re !idding& right@ % co"ld be a !iller. Briann's gift was a battering ram for their ta"nts. Jnable to fa"lt Briann& she s"pposed her sister co"ldn't help it.= Briann gathered her sister's slender hand in hers and sG"ee>ed. 4o" co"ldn't h"rt a fly. < hat's ridic"lo"s. (till % cannot offer relief with a shift in temper.= Briann gave (on#a a G"ic! sisterly h"g. he D"ardian steered the older of Briann's he facts still aren't children o"t of her direct path. . <Don't concern yo"rself over the wooded glade or the swamps& my pet&= the old witch crooned.= A wrin!led smile creased her ancient face. %t was probably the reason she considered herself a loner. <2y wish for yo" is that yo" are able to acG"ire the s!ills necessary to "tili>e yo"r gift to the best of yo"r ability. he old witch spo!e in nothing b"t riddles and vag"e references. . . % dare say we sho"ld be on the loo!o"t for vampires l"r!ing in the dar! shadows. 4es& the change will be as nat"ral as breath. After all& the gift of reading a person's tho"ghts came with drawbac!s as well as advantages.= Briann snared her hand once more and gave her sister a t"g. Within the dismal gloom beneath the heavy foliage& the demons waited with baited breath.= (tartled& (on#a simply stilled for a moment. *owever& vampire is a different story. <Don't be silly. < he way of things isn't for "s to !now. <What do they wait for@= he so"nd behind her wasn't a"dible eAcept those with the sensitivity she possessed. <Wo"ldn't it be grand if yo" were destined as a slayer in werewolf form@= (on#a h"ffed o"t a la"gh before she co"ld stop the so"nd. Being different wasn't easy for most to "nderstand and the girls had weathered many a hard time at the hands of those aro"nd them.= (he spo!e as if an eApert. (he co"ld ill afford her own sister doing the same. clear as to what % do when % go into the werewolf. 4et& fr"stration filled (on#a.50 consideration or concern. 4o"'ll see what he means in time& dear.ore has werewolves h"nted by vampires.= (he glanced from one side of the road to the other.= (he released (on#a and h"gged her arms abo"t her chest. <4o"'ll have a reprieve from those monsters as long as there's powers left in me.
<4o"'re gonna lose a finger wrapping the line li!e that. drenched.= *e snapped the words o"t with more irritation than he'd intended as he approached her. (he had no b"siness o"t here attempting not for the blac! oil$s!inned slic!er covering him from his nec! to the tips of his boots& he'd be . 2oving with p"rpose& y sloshed thro"gh the torrent of water toward the str"ggle& which ca"ght his attention. (on#a's slim frame #er!ed and her blonde head snapped "p with the force of his words. he petite form of (on#a t"gging on a m"le's reigns. y's heart s!idded to a halt. he rest of the world loomed aro"nd them in pitch blac!. A distinct tremor shadowed her movements as she stepped sideways in defense of his c"rt observation. %f y peered down the line of wagons forming the train from "nder the protection of his well$ worn b"t ever$present (tetson. *is heart stopped as she blin!ed at his words. (omething started to coil inside y's g"t. he rain pelted his body in increasingly wind$blown sheets. Beneath the water$logged bonnet& the slight creat"re wore as protection against the storm& a set of the most bea"tif"l eyes y'd ever seen stared bac! at him in the meager light of a forgotten lantern. he old hag had been with her from the start and despite her coming and going on a whim& her tactless nat"re& and spea!ing in riddles& she'd proved inval"able as a friend and t"tor in the magic arts of warfare. Dar!ness had fallen& the only light being a few forgotten lanterns hanging from hoo!s on the sides of a co"ple of the b"c!boards& which had G"ic!ly h"ddled together in the "neApected downpo"r. you ool. Probably scared her witless. (o they traveled by the dim light of the s"n dappled trail farther and farther away from the vampires lair."hallenges he rain didn't show any sign of letting "p as the water came down in b"c!ets. "hapter . Alarm and s"rprise registered in their depths ma!ing the amber glow almost topa> in the lamp light.or once& (on#a breathed a sigh of relief. (o far& she'd managed to eAert eno"gh press"re on the determined beast as to corral it not a whit. 8"nning in great& r"shing rivers "nder the wagons p"lled h"rriedly together in a hapha>ard semi$circle& the rain c"t deep grooves in an already weathered landscape.51 .
Agilely shimming "p the wooden rails& she presented y with a pleasant view of her trim bac!side. <% heard ya coming. *e'd li!ed to have been done with the #ob and inside the safety of the coo! wagon before things went this far& b"t s"ch wasn't the case. %nclining his head toward her wagon where one thin flic!er of light shown from a lone lantern inside the bac! entrance& he s"ggested sternly& <Best be gettin' bac! inside now& before yo" catch yo"r death. With a flip of the tarp& he eAtended his hand for y. y pa"sed with two fingers to the brim of his (tetson.= (he lifted her chin a fraction. <Dood night& ma'am.52 to tie the team down in the downpo"r.= (ince there wasn't a so"l to hear& he ad#"sted his (tetson and t"rned smoothly& coat tails flapping as he tr"dged toward his own shelter o"t of the storm. % was simply trying to help. *e didn't see the point of arg"ing with her tonight."c!y for him& common sense won o"t. good. With something a!in to a nod& she wheeled& moving smooth as a cat to the wagon's ladder. %f she'd allowed him to travel with her in the same wagon& this wo"ldn't be happening.= (he had the most ama>ing eyes y'd ever seen. *e wo"ldn't be off in ass"ming she weighed the options of berating him f"rther for believing her incapable of ta!ing care of herself with gratit"de for the assistance. (hoving the concern to the bac! of his conscio"s& y too! the line from her and deftly mane"vered the bal!ing m"le to the tie$o"t line alongside the others in the team. y to"ched his fingers to the brim of his hat and spo!e over the rain. <%'ve no do"bt yo" co"ld've& ma'am& b"t the storm's setting in good and proper now. Fven in the meager light& they seemed to glow with a fiery heat as if from the depths of her so"l. . he rain fell in earnest now as if in agreement with his statement. *** (mitty 2cCready& long$time friend& y's sergeant& and one hell of a coo! waited on him.= he mess is settin' in . *opef"lly& (mitty wo"ld have saved him something from s"pper. <% co"ld have managed fine. <Are yo" h"rt@= y glanced bac! at (on#a standing an!le deep in water.= A grin teased his mo"th when she gave him a st"bborn thr"st of her delicate chin.= A miAt"re of calc"lated temper and resignation warred behind those violet eyes. (he disappeared behind the oil$slic!ed cover witho"t as m"ch as a civil than! yo". <?o.
<Dot anything to eat@= <Dot some stew % saved for ya. <(he's a bad one. 4o"'d be wantin' some now& %'d wager.= y shoo! water from his head of dar! blac! hair before spooning "p a mo"thf"l of (mitty's stew. here's signs of %ndian activity in the same direction.53 y allowed (mitty to help hoist him over the wagon's side. <We sho"ld get siA to eight inches o"t of her easy&= he said between mo"thf"ls. y gr"nted in agreement& more concerned with the stew than f"rther disc"ssion on the matter.= *e accepted the tin plate (mitty handed him and co"ldn't help the grimace. . <Can't catch a brea! this time o"t. . %t's a bad one& this storm. got any more@= (pooning "p more stew& (mitty glanced at his friend with a G"i>>ical coc! to one brow. <2other of Dod& bless "s.= . <. < he bridge at Collier's bl"ff is o"t. Comm"nication was sparse& almost a year had passed since their last missive.ong since he'd left home and well after the war dr"g on& contact with his family had waned.= (ha!ing his head in disg"st& y glanced "p at (mitty.linging his wet coat on a nearby peg& y r"bbed his cold hands together and hoped for some feeling in his n"mb fingers. *is friend was the closest thing to a brother y'd had in several years.= 2a!ing the sign of the cross across his heart& the coo! reached for the (t. Bointedly ignoring his friend's good$nat"red po!e& y removed his hat and h"ng it alongside the slic!er. % tho"ght %'d never get bac!. hat's the tr"th of that there& Boyo@= he land of %reland so"nded heavy on his tong"e in the #ib. <4o" bro"ght this one with ya& thatMs for s"re.ollowed me siA or seven miles before barreling in and d"mping a del"ge on me this side of ("tter's pass. < hat'll delay "s by at least two days.= y nodded as he yan!ed off one boot and then the other.= (mitty's mo"th set over the news. Christopher's he wore constantly beneath his flannel shirt. he ch"n!s of potatoes and precio"s he tho"ghts of c"bes of dried meat tasted so good& y'd tipped bac! his head and drained the broth from the bottom of the metal plate. (on#a wo"ld have scolded him for his table manners. Fach campaign landed them both in more hot water than either had ever dreamed was possible. y'd saved (mitty's life in O72 and (mitty reciprocated by watching after y ever since. (hoving the plate in the coo!'s direction& y as!ed& <4o" he %rishman shoo! his head woef"lly. <D"ess yo" went thro"gh the change o"t there& h"h@ her came witho"t warning these days.
<4eah& got in some training from the wolf$ god.= him a glance.= *e wiped his mo"th on his sleeve. <Doing to get her in tro"ble& that's for certain. <*e watches over all of "s li!e the sainted Christopher watched over the ch"rch. <?ow& yo"r woman's a sassy little thing. %t's as if he's able to calm the fears of everyone with his mere presence. < he werewolf$god has compassion.= (mitty's frown p">>led y. What was his he %rishman pa"sed as y flic!ed hey can act pretty m"ch any way . <% !now what yo" mean.= friend getting at@ < hat a tr"th we "nderstand. < hin!s she's bigger than she is. he needling concern he'd harbored since beginning this #o"rney& s"rfaced again with (mitty's reminder. < hat was my first reaction too. Why bring it "p now& (mitty@= handed it bac! to the %rishman. With their faces only a foot apart in the confines of the wagon& he wagged a finger. *e fiAed his attention on his y cleaned another plate and y didn't follow b"t waited beca"se he was s"re (mitty wo"ld eAplain.eaning bac! against the side s"pports of the wagon& (mitty r"bbed his f"ll belly. <*e has a heart& yo" !now.54 y nodded between spoonf"ls of meat and broth. < here's nothing b"t hard times ahead for "s.= (mitty spooned "p another potato s"rro"nded by the thic! broth for y as he made the observation.= *e pa"sed as if he co"ldn't get the words to come. he wariness ebbs when yo" get to !now him. . <*e gives me the creeps. 4o" co"ld do worse to lead yo" thro"gh this time& y. they want& % g"ess.= y flic!ed a glance at (mitty and only nodded. *e's a Dod.= *e wagged his finger at y.= y nodded. <Ah& that was tasty& if % do say so me self.= Dest"ring with his spoon& he leaned forward. (mitty cl"tched at the Christopher again. % get the same feeling when he's aro"nd in the man form. <4eah& % hope so.= (mitty peered intently at his friend before shr"gging and settling the stew plate in a rinse b"c!et.= (mitty nodded tho"ghtf"lly.= (mitty nodded and st"ffed another piece of soda bread in his mo"th before finishing with a gr"nt in agreement. *e's different.
<Worthless&= y m"ttered good$nat"redly to himself before pic!ing "p (mitty's plate along with his own and slipping them both over a nail . Fven with g"nfire bla>ing all aro"nd them d"ring a 4an!ee attac! and nothing b"t hardtac! in his belly& (mitty co"ld sleep the sleep of the dead. m"ffle the so"nd of his friend's snoring. (mitty cleaned the last of the broth from his plate before smac!ing his lips and belching for good meas"re. hrowing a blan!et over the big bear of a fellow who co"ldn't h"rt a trail y hoped it wo"ld mite& y t"c!ed the cover over (mitty's feet and covered his head with the well$worn Confederate Hfficer's hat (mitty preferred to a reg"lar cowboy's (tetson.lic!ing a glance at his friend& y resigned himself to getting nothing more o"t of (mitty "ntil the morrow.ay yo"r la>y ass down before yo" pass o"t where yo" sit. <*ow's she managing@= *is tone grew intrepid as he eyed (mitty from "nder the brim of his hat. Diving the %rishman a n"dge with his soc! foot& y ordered G"ietly& <. % ain't gonna listen to how it was my fa"lt yo" got the cro"p from the night air witho"t a blan!et. What has she done now@ Wore (molt> down with all her badgering@= <?o& she wants him to ta!e better care of the stoc! or she's gonna set them free. A strong g"st of wind sent the wagon's leather flap sailing into the bac! of the wagon. Det in that bed.= (mitty m"mbled something "nintelligible and lowered himself to the cot's s"rface. C"rling his legs& he rolled toward the o"ter boarding of their rolling home and almost immediately started to snore.= Before contin"ing& y wagged his own spoon at his companion. Already& his companion's eyes grew heavy. <What good does she thin! that will do@= he as!ed.= <(et them free@= y's tone too! on disbelief and a h"ff of la"gh escaped despite his attempt to control his ama>ement.= When (mitty didn't respond& y reached o"t and shoo! his friend's leg& <Do on. <(he thin!s she's ramrod over this o"tfit with yo" gone o"t sco"ting. %n all the years they'd !nown each other& y had never seen anyone who co"ld fall asleep faster than (mitty 2acready after a meal.55 plate instead& foc"sing on cleaning the metal with the soda bread in his big hand. . Droplets of water rained down dampening the pair's clothes as well as the G"iet. <4o"'d be right of co"rse. %t made y smile. When (mitty simply gr"nted and r"bbed his belly& y "nderstood (mitty wasn't far from falling asleep. % swear& y& she's gonna r"n the wagon master yo" hired off if she !eeps it "p.
. Hf co"rse& (molt> meant he'd want y to ride point and !eep an eye o"t for tro"ble. <4es& ma'am. As the rain pelted the coated canvas cover& y tic!ed off in his mind the things he needed to do the neAt morning. (hifting irritated on the cot& he p"nched the pillow. hin!ing of her always bro"ght abo"t the same res"lt. (he'd made the decision for proprietary reasons& they'd best !eep their distance from each other while they traveled with the train. *e fig"red (molt> wo"ld want to get aro"nd the downed bridge and to the neAt layover as soon as possible. *e tried to relaA again as his attention wandered to the lit movement of a flo"ncing s!irt& which sent droplets of water flying in a smooth fan. *e didn't thin! he'd spo!en the words alo"d& b"t neither co"ld he be certain he hadn't. 4o"'re the only man %'ve ever loved. he "pt"rned nose of defiance& the swell of a pro"d bosom& the sway of comely hips all came together with determination to give him a pro"d pict"re of his woman. !" can do it mysel !# absence. Dar! bottomless pools of opa> peered defiantly down at him from a face of creamy ivory. (till he wo"ld have a tal! with (on#a abo"t her ideas for the wagon train in his . With his own lids growing heavy& y threw the blan!et over his legs& chec!ed his revolver& and re$holstering it before laying the belt "nder the bed& and covered his face with his (tetson. *e'd see Farl (molt>& the wagon master they'd hired& first thing and report on what he'd fo"nd on the trail "p ahead. < yler& % want yo". A l"sh& f"ll mo"th of dewy pin! formed a thin line of irritation. ?o need to worry abo"t washing dishes tonight& he m"sed.ight bo"nced off those water droplets and landed at his feet li!e tiny #ewels before disappearing into the torrent of r"shing water.= lovely mo"th. Besides& Briann and the boys needed protecting. At the moment it didn't matter. he woman's steadfast determination wrapped him in a gentle swaying dance and her hypnotic spell t"gged at him. (ettling bac! on his cot& y stretched o"t to G"iet his mind.56 protr"ding from the o"tside of the wagon.= y read#"sted his swollen hardness straining behind his pants.i!e an errant siren& her voice came to him. (lender hands fisted on trim hips and a genero"s bosom heaved in eAaggerated fr"stration. *e co"ldn't even en#oy her body spooned close to his tonight. . y had no do"bt she co"ld. he soft twang of so"thern Bennsylvania dripped liG"id smooth and artic"late over each word "ttered from her he mere so"nd of her voice did something to him.
*** 2orning bro!e clear with only a few whisper$thin clo"ds to offer testament to the fact last night's storm had d"mped a si>eable amo"nt of water on the wagon train. (he gathered her mane in a twist and wrapped the long length of it in a b"n at the nape of her nec!. (he glanced at the sleeping form of her sister and the children. *er decision to !eep her distance from y "ntil they co"ld be away from the people on the wagon train needled her desire. (till "rning bac! to the opening where there was nothing b"t empty space& (on#a sighed. (he missed him so. (on#a dropped the corner of the flap she'd raised and stretched li!e a cat in the s"n.57 ?ever one to waste an opport"nity& y's mo"th creased in a smile as (on#a's face filled the dar!ness. (on#a sat "p& stretching her arms one more time before finding her cotton slippers and r"shing to get her dress from the ma!eshift closet set "p in the corner of her little home$away$ from$home as she li!ed to thin! of the wagon transporting her sister along with Briann's boys to eAas. %n the twin!le of an eye& she glanced at the bac! of the wagon. When he was gone and a part of her was missing. he nights co"ld be long and cold& she m"sed. (miling to herself& she r"bbed her arms in the chill lingering in the early light of dawn. (imple ref"gees from the war headed to eAas and a new start. %n the wooden boA beneath her cot. here stood her late h"sband as she remembered him. B"rposely shoving the sensation aside& she slipped the glass bac! in its sil! and down$filled po"ch before nestling the po"ch in between a petticoat and the only other dress she owned. m"ch more& yet he'd wanted her to have the lovely glass. When he ret"rned& they'd have a tal!.orcing a smile on her face for the loo!ing glass& (on#a shoo! her head and her c"rls fell abo"t her face before she shoved them bac! and wrapped a leather thong abo"t the mass of thic! honey gold hair she'd inherited from her mother. asleep. A pang of longing assailed her as she was reminded of her y and how he'd bartered for the loo!ing glass with a traveling salesman. hey needed so he r"se was . . *oping for some time alone with him& (on#a r"bbed harder at the chill in her blood. (he had to remember what her goal was and contin"e to strive for that end. wor!ing. Covering it finally in a lace cl"tch& she tied off the ends of the string gathering the delicate material aro"nd the b"n and chec!ed her appearance in the tiny oval loo!ing glass.
<4o" made a fire. *e wore a blac! felt (tetson& a chambray shirt "nder a leather vest and moccasins "p to his !nees over his slim fitting pants. (he wo"ldn't mention s"ch nonsense to anybody else. (he rose and tiptoed to the bac! of the wagon so as not to wa!e Briann and the boys.= *er voice held pleased s"rprise. (he eAamined each item he'd set "p over the fire from the grate to the coffee pot to the tongs and the inventory made her feel marginally better. (he m"st be tired. Wheeling& she came face to face with y. stepping aro"nd him.oo!ing down the long col"mn of his nose at her& she swore his #aw hardened in defiance. *is feat"res held chiseled& ang"lar planes. *e was ma!ing coffeeC <What are yo" doing@= (on#a raised one slim brow. . *ow did things go here while % was gone@= (on#a mentally shoo! herself. <As well as can be eApected. *er new gift probably went against everything the Ch"rch stood for& yet (on#a hoped if Dod heard her& he "nderstood she needed his help. Daylight was b"rning. he phenomenon of seeing 8obert had occ"rred several times since they'd left Bennsylvania and again this morning. <Did everything go all right@= (he too! a bac!. <% didn't eApect yo" bac! so soon. <We're all fine&= she offered as cas"ally as she co"ld manage before .58 B"t the battle of wills between her longing and her determination raged despite her efforts to vanG"ish the enemy. *is eyes grew cool now and held a hint of h"mor as he stood directly in front of her now holding a c"p of steaming blac! coffee. *e stood a good head taller than she did.= *er hands rested on his chest momentarily before she remembered they were never alone anymore. a!ing a potholder& she made a point of ad#"sting the pot over the fire as if she claimed her fire grate and her coffee pot as her own once more. ?othing more than her mind playing tric!s on her beca"se she was so tired. ho"gh she yearned to reach o"t and wipe the strain from his face& she too! another step in retreat. Braying to a Dod these days seemed strange. (he didn't wait for an answer& t"rning instead and stepping nimbly down to the soft earth. While one booted foot still rested on the wagon stoop& (on#a fro>e and stared at the dar! haired fig"re of the man bending over her fire pit. (he stepped to the bac! and t"rned to go down the ladder. A wea! smile croo!ed one corner of her mo"th at the memory of 8obert and how G"ic!ly he'd died. (ighing heavily& she sat down on the cot and closed her eyes.
*e'd cleared o"t the debris from her fire grate after last night's storm and started a d"ng fire. head$of$mad& she too! the c"p from him. (he fo"ght the "rge to reach "p and grab him by the shirtfront. *olding her hands over the flic!ering flames& she noted the d"ng fire eApertly started with a slim piece of fat$lighter pine. *oping for a clandestine glance in his direction& she fro>e when she fo"nd him watching her intently. As if by magic& the meat landed in the pan in several slender slices.59 *is eyebrow went "p in mild sarcasm.= Witho"t waiting for a reply& (on#a strode past him. With a grace& she often admired& he shifted and filled a tin c"p with hot coffee. <%t was the least % co"ld do.= he so"nd of his voice rippled along her s!in li!e a velvet to"ch. (he did appreciate his help& tho"gh to voice her gratit"de seemed aw!ward. %magining a !iss to end all others& color rose into her chee!s and she t"rned from his nearness. Where had s"ch an idea come from@ A definite tingling started in her stomach. <4o"'re awf"l G"iet this morning. y eased the s!illet o"t of her fingers and onto the grid above the cheerf"l flames. (omething wrong@= (on#a co"ld only stare. rying hard to wor! "p a . (he r"bbed at her arm as his voice led over her li!e the low growl of a tiger. <%t'll get yo"r voice wor!ing again. 2ildly p"t off by his smir! and moc!ing tone& she lifted her nose past the hori>on. With a moc!ing bow& y bent and spo!e low for her ears only. (on#a had seen one once in a traveling circ"s in (potsylvania. (he ass"med he'd fo"nd her store of fat$lighter& beca"se everything else was still wet. *is presence was "nsettling to her sense of privacy and she needed the distance.= *is mo"th creased in a faint smile. < han! yo" for yo"r help. < ho"ght yo" might need this&= he said with a hint of h"mor. Bivoting& he offered her the c"p. he salt meat began to si>>le. (o did her insides. *er nerve endings stretched ta"ght with the gentle barb. With an affable lopsided grin& he rested on his ha"nches and began to move the meat aro"nd in the pan "sing the tip of a bowie !nife. Whether from her boA or his friend (mitty's& she co"ldn't say. (he had wor! to do. Hpening her coo!ing boA and removed the oil$s!inned bag containing her most pri>ed coo!ing tool& her blac! iron s!illet& she ret"rned to the warmth of the fire. Before she co"ld stand once more& salt meat appeared at the corner of her vision. (he bent and lovingly removed the smooth& blac! s!illet from its protective cover.
he bree>e carried his scent.= he low tremor of his voice made her insides swim with l"sty con#"rings. . *e was pretending for the preacher's sa!e and moc!ing herC 2a!ing f"n of the stip"lations& she'd insisted on when they #oined strangers' wagons a ways bac!. %t was his only response before he rose li!e the wild cat and stepped away from the fire.oflin. With he tingling in her stomach grew . *is eyes didn't miss what was going on at the widow Broo!s' fire. :"ic!ly loo!ing bac! into her coffee& she released a slow breath and po!ed at the meat with the !nife for something to do. With an interested eAamination& she tried to offer a compliment instead& saying& <4o"'re doing a m"ch better #ob at this than % co"ld. <?ame's y& yler . he one centering aro"nd their living arrangement while among the h"mans. <What went on while % was gone@ 4o"'re all #ittery this morning. hree bird's eggs lay in his broad palm. <*ere. hey're Droesbec! eggs&= he offered <Where did those come from@= <% fo"nd a nest in the br"sh on the way bac! yesterday. A barrel bath& she s"pposed and glanced at him from "nder her lashes.= *e peered at her with something a!in to h"mor in his smile. <?othing. y lifted two long fingers to the brim of his dar! (tetson. *e smelled li!e soap and water& she m"sed. <2other has plenty& so she won't miss these.= rying for cheerf"l& she offered one word. What's yo"rs& ma'am@= *er eyes bore into his.= (he didn't want to contin"e the same arg"ment they'd had a half$do>en times before.60 < han! yo"&= she said in a small voice as her color rose. *is long m"scled legs ate "p the gro"nd eagerly as he moved to a saddlebag leaned against her wagon's bac! wheel.rom the wagon neAt to hers& the preacher emerged and stretched. *is hips shifted from agile side to agile side before he bent to retrieve the bag. (on#a wanted desperately to throw her arms aro"nd him and !iss him deeply. matter$of$factly. Why co"ldn't she remain calm@ *er inner control rolled eyes at the G"estion.= As the egg began to si>>le and coo!& (on#a stared into the s!illet.= *e gave her another of his patented lopsided grins& before crac!ing the first one open and plopped it in the s!illet. Jnable to stop herself& (on#a flinched before trying to cover the errant move by glancing at what he held in his hand. <4o" thin! % have s!ills@ % have a few besides sco"ting for the train. in intensity as a r"sh of heat filled her chee!s.
Broo!s is my name.= (he had her comebac! on the tip of her tong"e b"t co"ldn't get it o"t. 2entally sha!ing herself& (on#a dodged his hand when he moved to grip her forearm.= (he nodded in affirmation and tossed her head for effect. <*ow do yo" feel this morning@= *is vibrant bl"e eyes bore into her. <2rs. Alone& she'd remind him how arrogant and intr"sive he'd been. wo co"ld play at this game.61 the preacher standing so close& the sit"ation wo"ld seem "nseemly if he didn't act as tho"gh they'd #"st met. B"rsing her lips& she sat straighter and glared at him thro"gh sG"inted eyes. . (he'd show him. <Well& it was the first storm we've been thro"gh sinceKsinceK= she stammered slightly. %t's #"st with the storm last night. <?o& ma'am. *e flic!ed a glance of disbelief at her before po"ring himself another c"p of coffee. ("rely he didn't find the fact neither of them co"ld lay in each other's arms at night li!e they'd done only a few wee!s prior& or even !iss witho"t raising G"estions a point of sport. <%'ll go when %'m ready.= ?o inflection in those words for certain. hat's all. . <4o"r !indness is appreciated& b"t yo"'re free to go now. lie"tenant was grinning yet his #aw wor!ed. (on#a t"rned to find him watching her. B"t % can ta!e care of myself #"st fine. H"t of the corner of her eye& the preacher h"ng on every word spo!en between them. !(ince we left Bennsylvania& for s"re. he . *is feat"res never wavered.oflin& do yo" ma!e a habit of intr"ding on other people's fires and ma!ing brea!fast for yo"rself@= (on#a fo"nd the irritation in her voice necessary since her g"t swam with seA"al tension. *is face held s"ch honest concern& she faltered. <Are yo" still here@= she as!ed c"rtly.et me as! yo"& 2r. An intense seA"al draw spar!ed between them and she fo"nd she needed to move away from the so"rce of her "neasiness. A thin swirl of steam c"rled "p and aro"nd his eyes li!e smo!e from a voodoo incantation candle. *e eyed her as if she didn't have on a stitch. *is answer came with s"ch plain candor& (on#a fo"nd she co"ld only stare. (he flic!ed a glance down at her clothing to ma!e s"re she hadn't missed a b"tton. 4o" co"ld "se a hand.= *ad she #"st dismissed him li!e one wo"ld a servant@ (he was probably carrying the game past the limit.
Again her words came clipped and stern. he preacher moved away& probably to relieve himself. han! yo". % as!ed yo" how yo" feel. here was pet"lance in her voice.= <4o"r food is getting cold. <%t wo"ld seem yo" have been inG"iring abo"t me& sir.= (he eased bac! down near her plate. . (on#a flinched. <4o" decided. %t was time to G"it playing parts for the c"rio"s minds of others b"t she . Broo!s. (eeing as yo"r campfire was wet& % cleared the debris and started yo" a new one.= (he made s"re her nose came "p a fraction. <%K no& that won't be necessary.= *is growl was deep and wolfish. (on#a dropped her eyes to the food on her plate. *e'd eApertly scrambled the small eggs and the salt meat was crisp and brown.= *e inclined his dar! head and a m"scle wor!ed along his #aw. . y stepped to her& gripping her arm. <% rested well& yo"@= %nwardly& (on#a relished in the heat of his stare. < o holy hell with what people say.o"is. <Wo"ld yo" li!e me to warm it for yo"@= <Warm it "p@= (on#a spo!e the words before she co"ld stop it.one women weren't he only reason he'd made an eAception was d"e to the si>e of the deposit she'd p"t down.= (on#a co"ldn't help the cool eyes she "sed to st"dy him. ?o one will find fa"lt with me trying to be a Dood (amaritan& ?ymph&= he said for her ears only.62 (top staring at me to get people tal!ing& her mind pleaded.oflin. %t's the only damn thing %'m allowed to do these days. <Don't yo" have wor! to do@= co"ldn't help herself. allowed to travel with them. . <%'m fine. 4o"r assistance is appreciated& 2r. % don't appreciate being the ob#ect of idle gossip. <After last night's storm& % considered helping o"t if % co"ld. <*ow was yo"r sco"ting trip@= <%t went well. <%s it part of yo"r #ob to access a person's sit"ation and simply ta!e action@= <4es& it is& 2rs.= *er mo"th set over the last words. he trail boss had made a point of voicing his disli!es abo"t her when they'd reG"ested he ta!e the train to (t. A gentleman sho"ldn't loo! at a lady so. % haven't seen yo" in five days and %'ll loo! my fill. <% s"ppose %'m a special case.= ?o f"rther eAplanation was forthcoming.= he calm in his eyes more frightening than if he'd sho"ted at her. (he'd handed over y's medallion and her silver cross with the promise she wo"ld eAchange it for cash when they arrived in eAas.
Witho"t so m"ch as an inflection& he st"died her. Why that irritated her she co"ldn't say. < he Deneral is fine or as well as can be eApected.63 <Hn the trail& a person's living conditions are p"blic !nowledge& 2rs. (on#a's white golden c"rls& a direct opposite to Briann's dar! a"b"rn mane and her stat"e slight to Briann's c"rves& the two sisters favored little& b"t they shared similar personalities.= (he hoped the finality in her words got thro"gh his thic!$headed brain this time.= (arcasm dripped from his mo"th with the retort. (he fisted her fingers in the folds of her s!irt and recalled how good his b"tt felt in her hands. <And& f"rthermore& % wo"ld appreciate yo"r depart"re now. Why@= <Hh& % wondered how he was doing is all. Broo!s. %'m s"re yo"'re aware of that fact. . <*ave yo" seen Deneral (tewart this morning@= (on#a tried to !eep the acc"sation o"t of her words b"t failed. (he . he sisters& as different as night and day b"t fiercely loyal to each other. <% saw him before s"nrise this morning. (tewart was an honorable and decent man in life an after his creation. sat her plate down and stood.= With two fingers to the brim of his hat& he t"rned smoothly and sa"ntered off in the direction of the coo! wagon. Watching him go& (on#a reali>ed he'd given "p so easily. (he only wanted what was best for her sister. "hapter . <%'ll be nearby if yo" decide yo" need help hoo!ing "p the team this morning.= (he b"sied herself with slipping the bit and bridle on one of the m"les. hose chiseled feat"res firm and "nyielding. (on#a's mingled fr"stration was at a boiling point. (he'd had abo"t all she co"ld stand.= Briann's eyes flic!ered warily at her sister.alling in love with a shifter or a vampire didn't ma!e for a happily$ever$after match. <As yo" wish. <Does he chaff with the responsibility of watching over "s@= (on#a's heart did go o"t to the 2a#or Deneral.= *is wry smile co"pled with those devastating bl"e eyes spo!e for him. <?ot h"ngry@= <?o& %'m not&= (on#a lied. *e sho"ldn't have been t"rned. /esponsi$ilities With yler still on her mind& (on#a engaged Briann's help with the team.
= (on#a's color rose.= With tiny$gloved hands& (on#a t"gged on the lead rope. <% didn't mean to wa!e yo". he bac! to her. % "nderstand yo"r eAcitement in seeing him.= <Hh. <4es& % !now. *e will do what he has to do to protect "s.= Briann read her tho"ghts. . he rope& looped over her small hand& pinched her he pain too! the rest of her fingers before she co"ld finish the notion. (trong& nimble hands came aro"nd her and releasing the tension on her fingers before (on#a's tears spilled over.= (miling at the mere mention of his name& she glanced aw!wardly at Briann. (on#a& y and now Deneral (tewart !new of her s!ills.eeling the barb& (on#a changed the s"b#ect to one more easily handled by them witho"t sG"abbling. Bro"ght o"t of her head& (on#a glared at the m"le. <*ere& p"t this one on Daisy.= (he shifted to the neAt m"le with a bridle in her hand. still hard. he m"le named Daisy saw her opport"nity. With a low bray& the animal planted her feet and ref"sed to b"dge. % heard yo" both o"tside at daylight. <Woo& stop itC WooC= words as the m"le t"gged on the rope and dr"g (on#a forward. < y came bac! last night d"ring the storm. . *er sister m"st be in love.= (on#a too! the bridle and started to slip it over the m"le's head. *er sister's empathic s!ills weren't something she spo!e of freely.or Briann to have shared her secret with (tewart pric!ed (on#a's ire some. y's instr"ctions from the last time he'd helped hitch the team came he low growl she emitted startled the m"le. al!ing abo"t her relationship with the lie"tenant was .= <?ot to worry. animal fro>e in place and stepped away in fright as if he'd come across a wild animal.64 <4o"r tho"ghts give away yo"r opinion of 3eb's plight& sister. <4o"'re not going to start this again. (on#a winced in pain and cried o"t. (orry. % have a team to hitch& and yo"'re going to obey me or else. <Don't hold the line li!e that& yo"'ll lose a finger. Covering her from behind& the hands too! the press"re off her fingers and the deep voice stilled the m"le's protests with one word& which was "nintelligible to (on#a. <Are yo" all right@= Briann hovered close& eAamining her sister's hand.= (he anchored herself deeper in the rain$softened earth and sl"ng her head.
move away to a presentable distance. ("c!ing gently& he eased the pain with his tong"e as .= Briann headed for the wagon. *is command didn't hold the temper sheMd grown acc"stom to since his change& nor did his eyes bore into her li!e molten points of heat. hand wo"ldn't b"dge. *e eAamined her in#"ry with a tight grip on his control. A tiny coil of pleas"re moved inside. Jsing all her power to slip from his hold& (on#a trembled as she bac!ed away from his heat. (he t"gged at his hold and fo"nd her *e stared intently. <. 8emoving her fingers& he st"died her hand. rooted to the spot. <% told yo" abo"t that grip of yo"rs the last time this happened. it massaged the digits. *er core heated and her blood warmed despite her best effort to the contrary. (he needed to hey co"ld ill afford their cover blown. (he ca"ght the scent of sandalwood and soap& leather and male heat as y's presence wrapped aro"nd her li!e a glove. Before she co"ld thin!& (on#a handed him her hand. <4esK= he sensation& which his tong"e invo!ed& still simmered slow and he word slipped o"t in the form of a plea. (on#a blin!ed and held tight to her aching fingers.oo!ing into his eyes& she relaAed fractionally. hot in her depths. Again& as if str"c! d"mb& (on#a only stared.et me see& (on#a. (natching the glove off& he eAamined the s!in& which was already bl"ing. <Better@= (he didn't ma!e a so"nd.= (hot with irritation& y fired the words at her as if an errant child stood in her place. Hf co"rse& he meant to berate her for her st"pidity. he top layer of y too! her s!in was peeled bac! and tiny drops of blood started to oo>e to the s!in's s"rface. <%'m fine. <Do yo" have any s"ave@= <%'ll get it. Berhaps the wolf in him was learning some control. An oath in Choctaw and he released the press"re on her fingers. *is words& clipped& broo!ed no arg"ment& and s"rprisingly held concern.= (he flinched.= Bain mingled with temper managed to "nsettle her completely. . (till she stood her fingers and closed his mo"th over them. <Dive me yo"r hand. hose nearby saw everything. (on#a co"ldn't stop her G"ic! inta!e of breath or the way her stomach clenched with the feel of his mo"th and tong"e massaging her fingers.= A shadow fell over her as she s"rveyed the damage.65 %n pain& (on#a co"ldn't move.
= <(on#a& where's the s"ave and %'ll get it. (imple as that. <JhK yes& % thin! so. saliva ca"sed on her fingers was easing the pain. wagon. he cooling sensation y's he man had p"t her fingers in his mo"th and he tong"es wo"ld never cease waging. straightened o"t.= . (he shoved the contact with him to the bac! of her mind as she shoved the wooden storage boA bac! "nder her small cot. %t pric!ed her ire before she heard another voice. %nside& as Briann got o"t the s"ave& (on#a stared at her hand. ?ot wanting to die before he got the matter straightened o"t& y wor!ed on foc"sing as the D"ardian had ta"ght him. he god$li!e .i!en did share certain val"able tactics with y to control his temper born change from occ"rring. Complications wo"ld abo"nd with s"ch an order. <%K % thin! Briann went to get the s"ave. EEE <What are yo" saying@= y didn't try and hide his fr"stration with the wagon master's latest he directive. 4o"'re gonna have to escort 2rs. We're low on healthy men to drive the teams and yo"'re gonna have to help o"t.= (he wasn't abo"t to let him in the wagon. (he was no stranger to her reaction aro"nd him.= *is tone so"nded polite b"t "ndeterred.66 <2rs. <*ere& let me wrap yo"r hand.= (on#a stared "p into his face. *is intense bl"e eyes held the world for her. s"c!ed them in front of Dod and the train. (oon& she reminded herself& soon they wo"ld be far away from the vampires and near the 2ississippi. <3"st what % said.= *er words so"nded li!e those of a mother and (on#a co"ldn't help the smile across her fl"shed face. <Beople are starting to gather. <4es& sister dear. *is temper began to emerge. Broo!s@= *e persisted by giving her hand a gentle sha!e. %f he co"ld remain calm "ntil he got the mess y stepped toward (molt>. 4o" can't afford the chance of infection.= he slight #ostles and vibrations meant the lie"tenant was ta!ing things in hand once more. *aving to control s"ch a reaction was something altogether foreign& tho"gh. blood r"shed to his ears& a s"re sign he was in #eopardy of t"rning& something& which co"ld not happen. <We need to separate&= she whispered. H"tside the team brayed as he eApertly hoo!ed them to her wagon. Broo!s to eAas. (on#a t"rned and st"mbled only once as she headed for the he blood filled her chee!s when she considered the G"eer things that action did to her stomach& not to mention the moistness between her legs.
(teady& boyo'. some !ind of #o!e& right@= eApense& right@= his head. <Wait a min"te. Always stirring "p something& that one.= his is y too! a step bac!.= 8eaching o"t& y did the "nthin!able and gripped the Farl's arm. Despite his short stat"re& he stared right bac! at y& tho"gh at an incline.= here was a pregnant pa"se as both men glared at each other. ?eednMt give away everything right here. o his credit& the wagon master didn't yan! free.67 <Farl& loo!. <% get it.oflin temper abo"t to eAplode& y str"ggled hard to corral the beast. <% didn't as! yo"& did %@ (eems to me& %'m still the ramrod of this o"tfit. . Jnable to stop& y pressed on.= *is hand c"t the air between the two men in an %ndian gest"re meaning O?o'. <%f yo" don't mind& %'ve got a wagon train to move. <4o" were p"llin' my leg& right@= (molt> didn't say a word. %'m a sco"t& not a babysitter. Why don't yo" as! her@= he s"rge of the werewolf came on witho"t delay. *is b"shy eyebrows formed a single line across his weather beaten face. <. %f yo" don't li!e the way % r"n things& yo" can always head o"t on yo"r own. <'Ca"se yo" !now % s"re as hell ain't escorting' a helpless socialite to eAas. % didn't agree to drive anybody's team to eAasC= (lapping his (tetson against his thigh& y glared at the man with the (molt> didn't b"dge. With his infamo"s .oo!& Farl& yo" can't be serio"s. *e simply glared coolly at the persistent hand attached to his "pper arm. ?either wanted to give an inch.etting go& y raised both hands in s"rrender.= (preading his hands wide in a plea for "nderstanding& he started to la"gh& a sha!y brittleness to his tone. % told yo" when % hired yo"& % was going as far as eAas and that was all. Farl said nothing. rying to def"se his anger& he shifted to a different tactic.= (molt> gave y one good clear loo! at his faded bl"e eyes and wheeled on his boot heel. <4eah& this is a #o!e at my y waited a beat. white handlebar m"stache and leather vest. he apprehension over s"ch a tas! rode ro"ghshod over his common sense& ca"sing his press"re to b"ild in his head. A"thority rang in every word the man "ttered& b"t y co"ldn't leave it be. <(he doesn't need my help with ma!ing the trip.= . < he boys are behind this& right@ Where is Connors@ % !now y shoo! he's the ringleader behind this one& for s"re. his isn't my #ob.
(molt>@= (he wrapped her good hand aro"nd her in#"red one only min"tes before in what y co"ld only thin! of as a defensive move. <Well& beggin' yo"r pardon& ma'am& b"t yo"'re not as eG"ipped as yo" need be to travel li!e this. he pain of his s!in growing ta"ght began to n"dge at his conscio"sness.= Dlancing again at (on#a& and recogni>ing the spar!s heating in those hypnotic eyes& y pa"sed. (he t"rned from y s"spected (molt> s"rmised (on#a needed help and from the loo! on her face& he wagered he was right. . Jsing his fledgling telepathic abilities& y tried to calm (on#a. <4eah& probably well paying c"stomer for s"re. <2a'am.= (atisfied with his eAplanation& (molt> folded his hands over his pa"nch and roc!ed bac! on his booted heels. <2r.= ?odding his head in the direction of her wagon& (molt> tried to pacify all concerned. 2r.= When Farl tipped his hat and smiled at a point over y's sho"lder& it sent the hac!les on his bac! "p. (he had to !now& tho"gh& if they protested& (molt> wo"ld s"rely reveal their secret before casting them o"t there& where life had teeth. 2aybe she wanted him to ref"se. *is eyes bla>ed bl"e ice b"t he co"ldn't stop them.oflin accompany yo". Wishing the whole thing a #o!e at his eApense& y trac!ed (on#a's eyes from (molt> face to his.68 <(he's a paying c"stomer.= y's eyes b"rned with the temper rising "nbidden in his temples. them& least (molt> witness her temper. (he was magnificent. . <What ma!es yo" thin! %'ll be agreeable to s"ch an arrangement& 2r.= EEE "rning slowly& y came face to face with (on#a.oflin's gonna drive the team for yo" and watch o"t for yo"r family's safety. %t's pr"dent to have .= *e shoved his beefy hands into his poc!ets and peered at her over his b"lging nose as if she'd gone daft.ie"tenant . <Fasy& what yo" say& ?ymph. (on#a thinned her lips into a tight line. (molt>& what's the meaning of this@= *er tone was cool& her bac! straight and her head tilted slightly. (on#a glared hard between the two men. Werewolf's hair pierced his flesh and sprang along the bac! of his nec!.ie"tenant .oflin& to ta!e care yo". <*e's gonna ma!e s"re yo"r sister& her !ids& and yo" are protected the rest of the way. <Well& ma'am& %'ve assigned yo"rK"gh& . he tawny color of her eyes fired.
y co"ldn't believe his ears.rom "nder the cover of his (tetson& he st"died her. he wagon master sensed he'd overstepped his bo"nds and glanced at y as if in a plea for help. % believe yo" when yo" declare yo"'re perfectly capable of ma!ing yo"r own way. When none came& he cleared his throat and tried again. <%'m sorry& 2rs.69 <% can't be watchin' o"t for yo"r !ind and drivin' the train at the same time. <%'m not capable of ta!ing care of myself and my family@= B"mping the air between them with his palms& (molt> smiled friendly li!e. Broo!s& % don't want to deal with yo" or any other widow any more than yo" want to p"t "p with me. %ntent on s"pporting her opinion they'd be less fodder for gossip& if they remained separated d"ring the trip& he tried again. %t's my #ob to see to everyone safety. < hat's pec"liar beca"se % co"ld've sworn % heard yo" tell the trail boss that % didn't have any b"siness being on this train. here's a lot of dangero"s things o"t here on the trail for a lone woman to get into. (molt>'s shoo! his shaggy head and the #owls of his chee!s drooped lower with the serio"sness of his words. Broo!s& b"t if yo" don't ta!e my offer of assistance& %'m afraid %'m gonna have to as! yo" to leave the train. hat's all. Broo!s& of co"rse yo" do. <8eally@= (on#a drew the one word o"t as she too! a step toward him.= .= *e c"t his eyes at y and missed the flash of p"re contempt in (on#a's. <2rs. Being in close G"arters with the totally intoAicating (on#a wo"ld drive his l"st for her beyond his control. <Don't worry& 2rs.= y co"ld tell she was mentally calc"lating the predicament this new tas! wo"ld p"t them in with the possibility of a change into the werewolf state. Why was she acting li!e this@ *e was the one who wo"ld have to face her every day. % mean yo"'re a widow& witho"t a man to protect her from others who'd ma!e "nwanted advances. (o& %'ve as!ed the lie"tenant here& to loo! o"t for yo". % wo"ldn't pres"me to intr"de.= *er dismissive sniff ir!ed him on a tr"ly basic level. . <Does the lady in G"estion have any say in this& sir@= (on#a raised a brow. y admired her sp"n!& even if she was bar!ing "p the wrong tree. *e garnered her attention with the inclination of his head. <?o& % didn't say that. *e'd said no s"ch thing to (molt> + maybe to (mitty.= 2arginally pleased with his own eAplanation& (molt> patted his belly and nodded nervo"sly. <What are yo" saying& (molt>@= (on#a's hac!les grew with the wagon master's placating words.= *er pencil thin lips t"rned "p at one corner with disdain.
Don't go getting' all bent o"t of shape& Farl. hat's settled. %'ll watch the widow.= (on#a's face tightened as she whirled on him. ?obody will have to t"rn bac!.= *e t"rned& and giving (mitty& who'd arrived& an absent pat on the bac!& left them all standing there staring after him. <4o" said it yo"rself. <*ere now& don't go gettin' all bent o"t of shape over (molt>. Damn& b"t he co"ldn't let her be t"rned bac!. Hne of "s will escort her to (t. <After all& she's yo"r woman. <% co"ld've sworn we were caref"l aro"nd (molt> and the others. *e's only doing what he sees as pr"dent. *e gave (on#a one good glaring scan before stomping after (molt>.o"is. y co"ld see the reali>ation in (on#a's eApression. *adn't yo" rather it be yo"@= Diving his friend a solid n"dge& (mitty managed to t"rn y aro"nd. what yo" wanted isn't it@= y shr"gged.= him relaAing some.70 he color drained from her face.= (mitty let o"t a little snort and a c"rt nod before n"dging y in the arm again. 4o" sho"ld be loo!in' o"t for her. <Fasy& Boyo. (omething t"gged at his heart. <H!ay& o!ay& %'ll do it. . Jse that tent yo" bro"ght with yo" when yo" ran off from the Confederates.= *e patted y's chest good$nat"redly b"t with eno"gh force to !eep his friend in place "ntil y's breathing slowed. 4o" can b"n! "nder 2r. <Well& good. And& besides& yo" hired him. y co"ld only stare at her. Den"inely irritated by (molt>'s directive& y sighed deeply& before throwing his hands "p in a dramatic show of s"rrender. (he needs help whether she's willing to admit it or not. Was she act"ally willing to ta!e the chance of (molt> t"rning her bac!@ (molt> didn't have a sta!e in her latest attac! and smiled with satisfaction. (on#a has this idea that the others will ob#ect to o"r sharing G"arters witho"t being man and wife. <%'d appreciate it if yo"'d stay o"t of this&= (he snapped. < y& get yo"r gear.= Batting his protr"ding belly& he t"rned on his heels and sa"ntered off with a whistle and a command.= y scanned the distant he grin he shot y had hat's a fact. Broo!s' wagon tonight. Besides& this is . y fisted his hands and gro"nd down on his bac! molars. (mitty intervened and held o"t a hand bringing y "p short. (he'd mis#"dged the old wagon master and he'd managed to t"rn the tables on her.
<We need to get a move on. Witho"t missing a beat& he shifted his foc"s. (he wheeled on him. him& only grated on his already inflamed nerves. . Damn the wolf& he had to regain his control. (mitty was right again. <Why is it yo" get all the good #obs aro"nd here& h"h@= he gr"nt y released said it all. War co"ld bl"r a man's sense of right and wrong& b"t y hadn't not r"n off from the conflict. Jns"re of where the revelation came from& he stepped toward her. < his is yo"r fa"ltC= <2y fa"ltC= y's eyes narrowed. After all& the %rishman's he loo! of sympathy (mitty sent levelheaded thin!ing had been the reason for his sec"ring him as his sergeant in the first place. <% didn't r"n off&= y reminded (mitty between his teeth. <% reminded him how independent your kind were. A gentle bree>e played at her s!irt.71 tree line. <AhC= (on#a wheeled on her heel and stormed off in the opposite direction& s!irts swaying. (he stood staring o"t at the land& which seemed to roll on forever. he %rishman !new the tr"th abo"t y's gift y tr"sted (mitty to !eep their secrets. *e co"ld feel the blood boiling in his veins. . *e glanced away& wor!ing his #aw bac! and forth before t"rning bac! to face her. y flic!ed a glance at (mitty before the twitch at the corner of his mo"th became a f"ll$ fledged smile. *e glanced in (on#a's direction. <At least he didn't say anything abo"t yo" haven' to eat with her&= (mitty offered good$ nat"redly. %ntent on ma!ing his point& he fl"ng a hand behind him in the direction of the receding wagon master. Witho"t a glance in (mitty's direction& he gripped his friend's sho"lder& m"ttered an oath in Choctaw and headed after (on#a. (ilent& brooding& b"t determined (on#a resembled a so"l trapped in the confines of her own eAistence. (he resembled one of the stone stat"es in front of the Catholic Ch"rch bac! home in yler. Behind them& the whoops and hollers for men& braying of m"les and leather slapping against hide danced on the early morning air. (omehow& y "nderstood. and how he'd come by it. he %rishman !new eAactly what to say to def"se y's ire. (mitty wal!ed bac! with y before heading o"t to get his own rig ready to move. Fyes spar!ed li!e golden diamonds as she fisted her hands in the folds of her dress. With his hands shoved into his front poc!ets& y released another breath.et's ma!e the most of this daylight and !eep yo"r eyes peeled for %ndian tro"ble. (he'd been the reason he'd disappeared. (he ignored his stare.ran!ly& yo" . (mitty b"mped y rib with his elbow. (on#a's s!irts swayed sed"ctively as she left in a heat.
= (he laid her hand on his chest and y co"ld feel the intense heat of her to"ch& his mate& his lover. (he considered him in on the conspiracy and that st"ng.or everyone's sa!e& we can't ta!e the chance of intimacy now. <?either does heC= didn't yo"@= <What@= y's h"ff of breath came o"t with an oath.= y brow f"rrowed as he ga>ed intently at her. <?either of "s is strong eno"gh yet to stop the wolf inside "s and everyone on the train co"ld be in danger. <4o" !now we're being watched by everyone on this god$forsa!en train. We'll be better off if we try to not thin! abo"t how we feel.r"stration creased his face.= he pain in his eyes made her add& <Beca"se of where we areC= he hand she "sed to stop his advance p"shed bac! as she made a space between them. Damn it& ?ymph. <Damn it& (on#aC % don't !now how m"ch more of this % can ta!e. <Hh& % wish it weren't so& b"t we aren't well trained eno"gh yet to control the wolf side of o"r nat"res. <Don't spea! of it& . <%f % harmed one of my family or someone in my wolf s!in& %'d never forgive myself.= *e scr"bbed a hand down his face. *e shoved her against the side of the wagon with a growl. < his forced abstinence is driving me mad. ?ot now with so m"ch going on. ?ot yo". <. % miss yo" so m"ch % ache. What if the change occ"rs in the heat of passion@ Will yo" be able to control the beast@= (on#a shoo! her head as she answered for him.72 or any woman won't ma!e it another ten miles witho"t somebody's help.= . <4o"'re p"tting words in my mo"th& now. <4o" probably s"ggested he get rid of me too& . <We'll be able to p"t all this behind "s soon and start over in a hose eAG"isite hands dropped resting on either side of her slender hips before she glowered at him. <(ee& that's what %'m tal!ing abo"t.= he need for his mate rose "p "nbidden& raw and primal.ie"tenant. <Don't do thatC= *er eyes flitted side to side.= *e immediately regretted his statement when the pain rose in those magnificent eyes. Dossip will r"n rampant and % can't have that.= (he peered deep into his eyes. 4o" don't believe % can do this either beca"se %'m #"st a woman + your kind indeedC= (niffing and wagging a frantic finger in the direction of the wagon master& she charged.= rying for a tr"ce& he too! a step toward her and met the palm of her hand as she stopped his advance.= <.= (on#a bowed her head and gave in to a light sha!e of her golden c"rls.oo!& darlin'& %'d never s"ggest he send yo" bac!.
in the middle of the night was something she held close in her woman's heart. (on#a imagined they resembled a gaggle of gypsies meandering along in "nison. Why did his s"dden aptit"de for orders irritate her so@ ("rely the reason lay with the change they'd both end"red. (he'd warned (on#a to be vigilant.73 new place where we're alone.= . he enemy wo"ld come disg"ised as another. Fach animal harnessed neAt to one another in pairs moved laborio"sly forward always following the wagon in front of them. Briann popped the whip atop the nearest m"le hindG"arter and the team responded. hey eApected to arrive within the wee! and (on#a tried to hey'd enco"ntered nothing along the ro"te which G"ell the anAio"s concern rising in her throat. ho"gh slow and ard"o"s& the procession wasn't witho"t eAcitement as each wagon's yler drew her attention at every t"rn. When they rolled "nmercif"lly down her face& she wheeled& heading for the front of the wagon. EEE . H"t there& somewhere the enemy wo"ld be lying& waiting for her to ma!e a mista!e. *is strong& he feel of his body close to hers l"rched along behind the other. (omewhere o"t there her advisory patiently waited. hey tow heads lying close together with Fthan's arm resting comfortably over ?at's sho"lder in peacef"l& innocent sl"mber.owering her lashes& she str"ggled with the tears threatening to fall. Diving her head a good sha!e& she remembered how eApertly he'd hitched her m"les incl"ding the cantan!ero"s Daisy in place and marveled at the s!ill with which he chec!ed her wagon before they'd bro!en camp. (oon they wo"ld be together again she prayed. masc"line body& trim at the waist and long of leg called to her. Briann slapped the nearest m"le on the r"mp with the reins and made a clic!ing so"nd as she s"c!ed in air with her tong"e against her teeth.acing west& (on#a searched the hills. Fthan and ?athanial rested on the cot in the bac! of the wagon. (he co"ldn't help b"t loo! for him. *er wolf wanted the self$ . made her gratef"l& yet edgy. Berhaps it was her overactive imagination or there was something to the prophecy the old witch& *ortence had shared with her a co"ple of nights bac!. Fven giving her an order to sec"re several of her items inside the wagon for safe!eeping made sense b"t still didn't sit well with her. %f not for the D"ardian& *ortence& and the good Deneral (tewart's efforts& they'd already have been dead. he trail spread before them li!e a winding cree! ever b"sy as it wo"nd its way to the sea or in this case the 2ississippi 8iver.
.orcing her misgivings down& (on#a peered behind at the others in the slow moving procession. *er world t"rned "pside down with the change. (he was responsible for him being a wolf li!e her and despite his denial& the tr"th remained. (he let o"t a sigh before glancing abo"t at the wagons behind hers. (on#a tried her best to !eep her distance.eaving behind several generations b"ried in family hat . Carpetbaggers and taA collectors as well as contin"o"s "nrest wo"ld ha"nt the so"th for years to come. 8everend 3acobs was a devote Baptist minister with a strong opinion on Dod and his floc!.irst in the line& the preacher's wagon swayed side to side in a rhythmic dance. (he didn't miss an opport"nity to point o"t the diffic"lties the wagon train came "pon& <Were the vengeance of Dod on an "nr"ly people=. . Hn edge and "neasy& (on#a co"ldn't sha!e the sense of foreboding that ho"nded her wa!ing ho"rs. *is wife was no different. wasn't the complete tr"th& she m"sed. he wagon was large& one of the biggest in the train. (on#a fo"nd his constant scr"tiny of the members of their little band of wandering so"ls tedio"s to say the least and o"tright intr"sive at times. . Did he silently resent what she'd done to him@ ?ightmares over that do"bt contin"ed to wrec! her sleep. A former officer of the Confederacy in 3eb (tewart's regiment& along with his wife& Fffie& their #o"rney beg"n as many of the others did& in secrecy beca"se of his position in the (o"th's failing attempts at s"ccession. hey'd become his floc!. (on#a smiled at the way he'd adopted them all as his concern. *aving #oined them only a few days prior& his d"ty was to !eep a !een eye on all the members of the train. %ll winds blew in their f"t"re. here was a bit of a soft spot in her heart when she considered all he and his family end"red d"e to the alliances he'd made. (he grieved over the fact she'd given him her blood to heal him. *e was a werewolf beca"se of her. (on#a already s"rmised y's wolf was the alpha male she needed. (he fo"nd his efforts honorable and sympathi>ed with his wife& Fffie& mo"rning the loss of their home as well as their way of life.or them& eAas seemed li!e a good place to begin again. he neAt wagon in the procession was 2a#or Bla!ely.. *e wo"ld !eep their eternal so"ls in chec! b"t leave the labor of wor! and wal!ing to them. Dying and "nable to prevent the c"rse& which came with the c"re& y dran! what she'd told him was HA's blood. he members of their little band of nomads as varied as the trail they followed& ambled along in a ma!eshift white thread. .74 reliance& which came with being a wild creat"re.
Did he have a reason to wish (molt> to die a slow death@ 4es& he s"pposed he did.75 plots& many so"therners li!e the Bla!elys& hoped for the possibility of a new beginning with peace and normality their main goals. *e glanced behind the wagon as he steered the wooden conveyance$on$wheels while a slim dar!$haired bea"ty sat beside him. Behind them was a new wagon& (on#a didn't recogni>e at first& not "ntil the familiar cavalry hat belonging to the lie"tenant came into view.oflin@= (he spread her lace fan. A Bec"liar scent that was somehow familiar. *aving to p"t "p with being an escort yet again for another widow& tried his patience to its limit. <What's wrong& dear@= <?othing&= (on#a shifted her ga>e to the land stretching before them. (on#a loo!ed forward to a c"p of camp coffee with Fffie whenever the chance arose. Fffie Bla!ely was a gentle so"l who did her best to !eep an optimistic view of the world and her place in it at all times. (ilently& (on#a hoped her sister's reasoning was so"nd. 2y hand began to throb& that's all. 4et& he co"ldn't place the faintly earthy aroma.= Batting her sister's leg& she foc"sed forward on the team and their path. 3ohn batted her lashes. Briann noted (on#a's pale face. 2rs.= he loo! Briann sent her spo!e of "nderstanding. Determined he wo"ldn't give into the temper brewing& y clamped down on his teeth and nodded. (he blin!ed with the pain of the new emotion. <% m"st've gripped the b"c!board too tightly. (he s"pposed their tal!s reminded her of the way of life she left bac! in Bennsylvania. spo!e of tro"ble.rench decent possessed. 3ohn& she concl"ded& was breathta!ingly bea"tif"l in the delicate way those of . . *er efforts at stirring the air wafted a scent in y's direction.= he widow (t. All will be right once more. <% don't !now what %'d have done if yo" hadn't agreed to help me& 2r. (t. "hapter 0 "ontrol <% appreciate yo"r help. 4o"'ll see. he pang of #ealo"sy hit (on#a in the chest was sharp and ragged of blade. he dread she held a tight rein on . <We'll be there soon& (on#a. ?ever before in her life had she been so stric!en by the one scene as she was with the woman sitting neAt to the man she loved more than life itself.
EEE (on#a #er!ed bac! to face the trail and the wagon master's lead.= With one leap& he was astride his horse& "ntying the animal from the wagon and leaving the heiress to ma!e it on her own. % got some d"st in my eyes& that's all. (t. 3"mping down& he t"rned. 3ohn.= *er fib fooled the child and he settled bac! against the plan! bac!rest& nodding in "nderstanding. < ry driving the team& 2rs.= <Well& what am % s"pposed to do now@= she wailed in disbelief.76 *e had a hard eno"gh time !eeping the widow's hands and eyes off him and his hide. Htherwise& yo" won't get far. (t. 2aw says we sho"ldn't ma!e yo" cry Oca"se that wo"ld h"rt yo" and we don't want yo" to h"rt& A"nt (ony. <%t's my #ob& 2rs. y slid to the opposite side of the b"c!board. <Dood. *er sister and the boys co"ld be in danger at any moment beca"se of her. *e co"ldn't cross the man tho"gh& beca"se (molt> recogni>ed something was amiss with them. <A"nt (ony@= *is cher"b mo"th wor!ed over the words as he tried with diffic"lty to prono"nce her name.= do. 3ohn. ("ch a thing wo"ld never do& she m"sed and stiffened to sit straight as a rod on the wooden b"c!board& swaying gently with the team's progress. <4es& sweetheart& what is it@= <4o" gonna cry@= *is concern was so p"re and innocent& (on#a had to s"c! in air and hold it before she bro!e down and sobbed right there on the seat. <?o& (ony's not gonna cry.= . Briann's small son& Fthan reached o"t ta!ing her s!irt in his small fist. <%'ve got things to he #ob didn't incl"de fringe benefits for the widow. *is face hardened witho"t allowing even the slightest eApression.istening to the small boy's words& (on#a reali>ed she'd been insensitive to the feelings of those aro"nd her. y stiffened when her petite hand closed over his thigh. Damn& (molt>C *e tried y's patience at every t"rn. . Doing everything in his power to !eep from ac!nowledging the widow's provocative smile or the swell of her bosom beneath the sheer lace of her bodice proved the hardest of tas!s. he ears b"rned the bac!s of her eyes. Don't yo" worry& son.= <Wo"ld yo" mind if % holdK= <As a matter of fact& % wo"ld.
What did yo" say@= (on#a wasn't s"re if she was overcome with the heat or a s"rge of wolf blood made her woo>y b"t she slowed her team& hoping the sensation wo"ld pass. %t wo"ldn't do for him to see her having diffic"lty. <Briann@= he scrape of leather on wood from the bac! of the wagon anno"nced her sister's arrival.77 bloods"c!ers wo"ld do whatever it too! to get to her. *ow st"pid& she'd been feeling sorry for herself when others depending on her for their safety. (he wasn't a fool. (he perspired in the noonday heat. *ave yo" forgotten to drin! eno"gh water@ 4o" !now what *ortence said abo"t getting fl"ids down after a change. %t's only been a wee! since the f"ll moon.= <4es& yes& %'m drin!ing eno"gh water. ?either did she have time for wallowing in self$pity over the lie"tenant. he wagon hit a hole& ca"sing (on#a to l"rch sideways almost "nseating her. Fthan's insistent voice droned on in her ears. <Woah& girl. he smallest hand t"gged at her shirtwaist sleeve contin"ed to apply press"re to the material. .= Coc!ing a brow at Briann& (on#a t"rned to slide bac! to the relatively cool interior of the wagon. 4o" do seem clammy. he fact Briann warned the children to be considerate of her feelings sent a pang of g"ilt straight thro"gh her heart. B"lling harder on the reins& (on#a was finally able to calm the m"le before Daisy ca"sed the whole team to act "p. What she wo"ldn't give for a . (eems yo"'d remember who's the oldest here. (oon Briann appeared in the opening of the canvas cover. he s"n m"st be getting warmer. <% said Deneral (tewart came by last night to chec! on "s.i!e (on#a& Briann was also "prooted by the discovery of vampires among the Jnion army's ran! and file. 2anaging to ret"rn to the present& she whispered an %ndian prayer y had ta"ght her. *e was a grown man and capable of controlling himself& wasn't he@ *e'd better beC *er chee!s flamed at the idea of another woman wor!ing her wiles on him and y s"cc"mbing to her charms in a moment of wea!ness.= Bryan chec!ed her temple for a fever. <Wo"ld yo" ta!e the reins for a bit@ %'m seeing spots and my face feels fl"sh. FasyK= (on#a p"lled hard on the reins and slapped with the whip to remind Daisy what her place in the team meant.= %t was hard to hear him over the roaring in her head. When had Fthan become so strong@ <A"nt (ony& are yo" listening@= <(orry& Fthan. 4o"'re worse than a mother hen always cl"c!ing aro"nd me. <Hf co"rse& sweetie. Jp ahead she spotted the wagon master ambling along. (tars danced aro"nd the corners of her vision.
(hoving his (tetson down f"rther on his head& y #er!ed his mind bac! before sliding boneless from (oldier's bac!. . *er shirtwaist& opened and revealed the creamy swell of her breasts above her chemise.= (on#a m"mbled her than!s and fell into the comfort of the cot. *is recent tas! proved a challenge.oflin clan. *e gave the horse's nose a r"b as he eyed (on#a's wagon. %'ll drive while yo" lie down. *is older brother& 3ohn brooded. Being the oldest& the d"ty to loo! after the other members of her family fell to her. *er cool attit"de toward him did a good #ob of !eeping him "p. What with watching o"t for vampires& !eeping a low profile and yearning for the arms of the lie"tenant aro"nd her in the wee ho"rs of the night& she was a mess. ?o good wo"ld come of s"ch tho"ghts. *e was a realist.78 little sleep& she m"sed. he slender shape was all hers. Dreams abo"t her body wrea!ed havoc with his control. Damn (molt> to hell and bac! for ordering him to ride with her. he widow (t. Brooding& he'd been told did a man no good. %t m"st be him leaving to do whatever sco"ts did on a y co"ld only stare as she came aro"nd the wagon and sat down neAt to the small fire she'd b"ilt in the grate. 3ohn was an heiress from ?ew Hrleans. co"ld tell she wore no corset. EEE y allowed the horse to have his head. *is tho"ghts t"rned to the (on#a. here m"st be some family gene for brooding in the . . 2ost of the incidents since he'd met (on#a were gro"nded in magic and fantasy. otally ignoring his sensible side& he wagon's sway l"lled her into sleep despite her better effort %n the distance& she spotted a small clo"d of d"st.ittle Fthan stood watching her as he held tight to the side. trail. *e hadn't slept well since he left the wagon train. to stay awa!e. *e sho"ld go straight over to (mitty's coo! wagon. Another search for y left her disappointed. ("re& d"ring the day& he co"ld sco"t and !eep his distance& b"t at night& things co"ld get o"t of hand. With her arms above her head& the linen wrap fell away from her hair. <*ere& let me switch places with yo". y (on#a stepped from the other side of her wagon with a linen towel sl"ng over her sho"lders. hen his !een eyes fo"nd her. (ince leaving Bennsylvania& there'd been one thing after another. All he co"ld thin! of was (on#a.
y'd been standing in the same spot for some time. (he wor!ed the towel down the length of the glossy mane to her waist. <And don't snea! "p on me li!e that again. <Dot any coffee@= he as!ed& rather innately. *er hands stro!ed down the length of her hair in the soft firelight. <What are yo" doing@= y as!ed in a sharp tone as he shoved his hands into his poc!ets.79 *er long hair fell to her waist. *e co"ghed. %magining what those fingers wo"ld feel li!e on his s!in& made y snap bac! to his senses. Hnly the thin cotton of her chemise covered the crests of her breasts. <%t's not too old&= she m"rm"red. (on#a's first reaction was more or less& what y eApected. . (on#a flic!ed her ga>e "p at him before "sing her chin in pointing at the pot sitting on the grate. <% got bac! from the trail&= y eAplained. he firelight played over her s!in giving it the glow of warm .ong& agile fingers smoothed o"t any tangles before she pic!ed "p a large comb and ran it thro"gh the sil!y loc!s. A tric!le of sweat began to r"n down his bac!bone. cream. (he h"mmed G"ietly to herself. Apparently& she'd forgotten abo"t her open shirtwaist. <What are yo" doing@= she as!ed c"rtly.= (he p"nct"ated her statement by whirling and flo"ncing away. <B"t if yo" m"st !now& % was washing my hair in some of the rain water. (tanding& she fisted her hands on her hips& which ca"sed her bodice to open wider. *is fingers tingled.= y glared at her and winced inwardly as she trailed those long& agile fingers down the sagging sleeve of her dress& effectively p"lling it f"rther down and increasing the view.= *er nose tilted "pward. *e sho"ld ma!e himself !nown& b"t something prevented him from doing so. *er eApression f"ll of s"rprise and irritation showed plainly on her face. <%t's none of yo"r b"siness. *e'd died and gone to heaven. he sensation miAed with the conf"sion in his brain prompted his throwing of the G"estion bac! at her. y co"ld see her color deepen in the glow s"rro"nding the fire. A G"ic! glance and in the direction of his ga>e and (on#a G"ic!ly t"rned away as she wor!ed at the b"ttons of her shirtfront. (on#a #"mped and t"rned.
he good preacher was by here and said the same thing. 2rs.= (molt> nodded in agreement.= < hen what@= (molt> eyes sG"inted into the smo!e that wreathed y's face. <Are yo" s"re yo" !now what yo"'re doing@= (molt> glanced "p from the fire. < henKthen weKthen % stayed for s"pper. *e'd go see (mitty and maybe he'd have a bowl of something to p"t in his belly. <*e says %'m breeding iniG"ity N whatever the hell that is.eeling li!e he'd stepped in it& y shoved his hands in his poc!ets. 4o" ordered me to watch her and widow (t. %'m not gonna come down on yo" beca"se yo" too! care of some horny farmer who fig"red he'd come across easy pic!ens'. ?ow that ?elson has it in for yo"& he won't let it go. <What % am gonna say to yo" is watch yo"r bac!. % wasn't gonna let him get his hands on her.= *e eyed y as he wal!ed "p. With a #er! of his wrist& coffee went sailing into the air and the c"p settled not far behind.= y tipped his hat to her retreating form before stooping to pic! "p the pot.= . y's eyes fired with the temper .= flowing thro"gh him.= (molt> san! his teeth into the cigar b"tt and blew o"t a stream of fragrant air. 4o" created this mess& Farl.= ?ot saying anything& y simply stared. Broo!s or the Widow (t 3ohn& are able to stand off an %ndian attac! alone.80 <4es& ma'am. < he filthy son$of$a$bitch was sniffing' aro"nd her s!irts li!e a rancher chec!ing a brood mare. he first sip tasted bitter in his mo"th.= *e shifted his b"l! and stood. *ere it is. <4eah& % g"ess yo"'re right abo"t that. (on#a Broo!s is yo"r woman& % !now that and % !now too that neither of them& 2rs. <Don't worry. $amn the situation to hell and back! *e didn't need these feelings ch"rning inside him. And yo" can forget telling me& it's none of my b"siness& Oca"se you’re the one who made it my b"siness. <And what is it %'m doing& h"h@ What am %'m doing@ 4o" ordered me to do this. %'ve already heard what happened. 3ohn. Broo!s invited me. (ettle down. <?elson's already been by. <Fasy& y. *** (molt> rested on his saddle and stared into the fire. Blowing a stream of cigar smo!e high into the night air& he watched it rise.= <*e was messin' where he had no b"siness and % eAplained that to him in a lang"age he co"ld "nderstand. hat's all.
he braying of a m"le bro"ght him f"lly awa!e.ying there with his (tetson over his face& y let his mind relaA. he m"le contin"ed to bray while somebody . Drowls& yelps and then a g"nshot and y's heart stopped for an instant. <(he as!ed for yo" in partic"lar.= *e lowered his head. 4o"'re ta!en. *e'd had no idea.81 .= y fl"ng o"t an arm and shoo! his head in disg"st.istening to (mitty snore& y considered the things (molt> had said. %'m doing what % thin!'s right here& that's all. A scream settled the dilemma as (on#a's call for help came to him over the m"le's bal!ing. <Besides& !eeps the preacher off my bac! abo"t my men dallying with the widows was worth yo"r mad.rom what yo"'ve bro"ght bac! these past few days& we're headed for an attac!. 3ohn wagon. (G"inting into the dimly lit gro"nd aro"nd the wagons& y attempted to co"rse the so"nds.= When y's brow f"rrowed& (molt> went on to eAplain. ?earing the str"ggle& y got a whiff of the hairy beast. %t was late and the moon was noneAistent. *e waited a beat before as!ing& <Why me@= (molt> sent him a G"i>>ical loo!. (molt> ch"c!led dryly before hoc!ing and spitting into the flames. bones started to shift. Why me@= (molt> ch"c!led. <%'ve got several able bodied men with me from my "nit. <(on& here's another thing& yo"'re the best damn sco"t %'ve ever had and that’s why % got yo" watchin' them. hissed and groaned alo"d. When no m"le appeared& y scrambled "p and t"gged on his pants. . he wolf sprang to the defense.= y considered the wagon master's words. 8acing toward the so"nd& y co"ld see (on#a str"ggling with a hairy beast standing on its hind$legs. ?ow& get some damn sh"t$eye and be ready to find o"t what's ahead of "s tomorrow. *e had to regain control + foc"sC he beast y's fo"ght with (on#a over a g"n $ no the m"le's line. *ell& y co"ldn't ma!e o"t what. Blin!ing and !n"c!ling his eyes& y searched the wagon for the so"nd. <(eems to me& we've got abo"t a two day tre! thro"gh the Chero!ee nation before we can get to the 2ississippi. All right@= *** .= Waving a hand he contin"ed& <% !now what yo"'re gonna say& b"t if she was after somebody& yo"'re the only one % co"ld co"nt on not to let her have her way with yo". Any of them co"ld watch the (t. With his rifle in hand& y slid from the bac! of the wagon and landed with a barefooted th"d on the cold gro"nd.
Apparently& she'd managed to nic! the wo"ld$be thief.oo! at her eyesC= ?elson slithered into view and the crowd parted for him as he stepped forward with an acc"sing finger pointed at (on#a. (he wore nothing b"t her nightgown& which lay torn at the sho"lder with blood staining the front. <We sho"ld have 2r.= . (lipping "p behind the trapper& y hoo!ed his rifle aro"nd the man's nec! and tightened his hold& effectively c"tting off his wind.82 he attac!er stood on two legs + h"man@ *is bac! was covered in f"r + Werewolf@ he stench coming from him was strong& li!e rotting flesh + vampire@ A clos"re loo! revealed a man& tho"gh hairy and filthy& still a man str"ggling with (on#a. <. <Det bac! yo" filthy gaw!ersC= *ortence shoved at the bodies& ma!ing a path with her short& sto"t frame. *er breathing was erratic and her still glowed in the werewolf state.i!ens and too! care of this trapper witho"t delay. y had to get to her and stop the change before both of them became . <(he has no b"siness o"t here. y !nelt beside her as several c"rio"s people incl"ding Breacher 3ones crowded in close. (on#a glowered at him with the gold of the change shimmering in her eyes. (on#a wiped spit from her lip as the c"rio"s onloo!ers tried for a better view of her condition. (he'll bring "s nothing b"t tro"ble. (he shoo! in his hold. Briann and *ortence made it thro"gh the c"rio"s onloo!ers. <(he has fangsC Christ on a cr"tch& she bit meC= he man str"ggled with y to display his wo"nds. (on#a sl"mped to the gro"nd in a heap& cl"tching her arm to her side and wincing in pain. <Act li!e yo" never seen a woman attac!ed before. y h"n!ered beside her and gathered her in his arms.= 3ones inter#ected as several more onloo!ers moved in for a loo!. Belts flew and gr"nts so"nded from the t"ssle to regain control of the sit"ation. *is plea was lost in the melee tho"gh he still tried to fight. *er eyes bore their werewolf gold. Within seconds& the str"ggle was over as the trapper fell to the gro"nd gasping for air. <Det bac!& will yo"@ Dive her some room& for Christ's sa!e. (oon men& who'd followed y& sec"red the trapper G"ic!ly to a wagon wheel. (molt> drop her at the neAt town if not before. Diving her time to calm& he motioned the c"rio"s to step bac!. *eed my wordsC (he has the mar! of the "nworldlyC= *e'd positioned himself in front of (on#a and raised his hand as if toward heaven in a beseeching attempt at gathering others opinions.
y gathered the shawl closer. he s!in was p"ffy despite the cool compresses *ortence had insisted on when she left her the night before. Watching as breath by breath& (on#a slowed her heart rate and fo"ght to control the wolf& he wrestled with his own erratic wild side as well. <%'m fine&= she said& < han! yo" for coming so G"ic!ly to help me. <Breacher& yo" got something yo" want to say to me@= *is stare bore into the pasty face of the clergyman.= Certainly& the woman m"st be in shoc! beca"se he never dreamed he'd hear her admit she needed help. (molt> and (mitty lead the trapper away. %t became G"ite apparent who'd fired the bear g"n at whom. (on#a sent Briann a warning frown and tried valiantly to hitch the shawl higher over her sho"lder. *er sho"lder was blac! and p"rple. he tingle went all the way "p his arm. <(he's tro"ble.= <*e was after the m"le@= y recogni>ed the effort it too! for her to admit s"ch a thing to him and those standing aro"nd. Briann handed y a wet cloth to place on (on#a's in#"ry. *is complaint drew a few stares from the crowd.= (molt> stepped closer and positioned himself in front of 3ones.= *e gripped his nightshirt as if it was a s"it coat. <4o"'re gonna have yo"rself a healthy br"ise there before daylight&= Briann observed as she eAamined at the mar!s growing dar!er by the min"te on her sister's sho"lder. 8emembering the way she'd fo"ght with the wo"ld$be$ .aying a hand over hers& y didn't !now whether he tried to reass"re her or himself. *er body ached all over. Det on bac! to yo"r wagons. 2ore movement from the side and (molt> came into view. (molt>@= Briann h"ffed o"t a breath and wrapped a shawl aro"nd (on#a's sho"lders. We thin! yo" o"ght to do something. % don't thin! % co"ld have !ept him from ta!ing Daisy by myself. ?othing to see here. <4o" did #"st fine& 2rs.83 <(he bit meC= he trapper whined from the wagon. *** Before s"nrise& (on#a was "p and attempting to dress. 8egaining some of her lost compos"re& (on#a laid a trembling hand on his. <Brea! it "p now. When he ran his fingers over the sensitive area& (on#a drew bac!. Broo!s& #"st fine. . *is heart felt as tho"gh it wo"ld race away with him. (he gripped his forearm for s"pport. <4o"'re all right now&= he said with his hand on hers. <What are yo" going to do abo"t this& 2r. A large patch of bl"ing had already started to mare the alabaster of her s!in where the bear g"n recoiled and shoved her bac!ward.
<2rs. he fl"tters in her belly started "p again and she hated the "nease he made her feel when he was near. ry as she might& she co"ldn't seem to get the tie to tighten eno"gh to rest aro"nd her waist. (he m"st've been ma!ing a lot of noise beca"se the neAt came a hard& G"ic! rapping at the bac! entrance to the wagon. . "rning to the old witch& she as!ed& <% wonder if yo" might help me tie my s!irt@= he fl"sh of embarrassment rose in her chee!s. Contin"ing to str"ggle with the ties of her s!irt& (on#a sighed in eAasperation. here had been a point in the str"ggle when the man co"ld have easily bro!en her h"man arm or leg.= Bl"shing completely& she searched the gro"nd for something to pin her attention on besides y's steely consideration. (he was gratef"l she didn't have to find o"t. Deciding she co"ld& either wait for Briann& who may or may not show "p to chec! on her or she co"ld as! *ortence if she co"ld tie her "p and be done with it. (he f"lly intended to dress herself. Wea! with fatig"e& she sat down on the edge of the cot while she waited "ntil the trembling in her limbs s"bsided. When she peered ca"tio"sly o"t a slit in the canvas cover& she co"ld see him standing in his soc! feet neAt to the wagon scratching his head and yawning. <All right.= he so"nd of his voice receded from the bac! of the conveyance as he b"sied himself with starting the coo! fire. <%'ll see to brea!fast. y t"rned as she approached and coc!ing a brow as!ed the G"estion witho"t saying a word. (lowly getting her shirtwaist on and b"ttoning the b"ttons "p the front of the garment& (on#a pa"sed and too! a moment to rest. %'m getting coffee started. <% can't seem to tie it tight eno"gh for the st"bborn thing to stay p"t.= . Broo!sN= (he didn't let him finish. he man had the most irritating way of "nnerving her.84 thief& she had to admit& at least to herself& she was glad she co"ld still wal!. <%'m fine&= (on#a ret"rned and got the "neApected pleas"re of seeing him flinch slightly as if he hadn't eApected her to be so close. *ortence is here. <% said are yo" all right in there@= y's voice was groggy with sleep.et me !now if % can help yo". <. *ortence hadn't eAplained if she wo"ld heal from a h"man in#"ry as rapidly as a werewolf's.ogic won o"t and (on#a swallowed her thin s"pply of pride as she gathered the ends of the garment and descended the steps of the wagon.et me help yo"&= he offered blandly. .
<4o" don't need to be lifting anything heavy today. When she ret"rned& *ortence stood grinding coffee beans for the pot.oflin in her head. <?ot a morning person& 2rs.= With a for! in her hand& (on#a glanced "p from the bacon she t"rned in the s!illet. <Wo"ld yo" li!e another c"p@= y's brow arched as he ca"ght the hard gleam in her he he glib G"estion did a good #ob of centering her world again and when he'd accomplished the tas! of completing her dressing& she t"rned and faced him . % love to watch the s"n come "p over the hori>on and wash the new day in its light. (he co"ld feel the heat from his body and it stirred a slow& simmering fire in the pit of her stomach. <2y pleas"re& ma'am&= he replied with a grin. Caref"lly refilling his c"p& he inclined his head in her direction. <*ere& let me.oflin& %'m m"ch a morning person. slight sensation of someone behind her ran "p her spine& setting her senses on alert.eeling steady again& (on#a t"rned to gather the iron s!illet o"t of its protective boA. ho"gh (on#a ran over several things& he po"t she sent him she wanted to get straight with 2r.= (tilling& (on#a released her grip on the s!illet and waited "ntil the old witch had ta!en a step bac! before t"rning to escape y's close proAimity. Closing her eyes momentarily& she concentrated on forcing the irritation at his opinion of her condition as well as the b"tterflies in her stomach to the corner of her mind before going to the other side of the wagon and gathering flo"r for bisc"its.= *ortence's hand came into her peripheral view and grasped the s!illet before she co"ld f"lly lift it o"t of the boA. Co"nting them off mentally did little to ease the nagging sensation she'd lost control somewhere along the way. s"rmised her mood. <4o"'re going o"t today@= ("re he "nderstood her meaning& she flic!ed a glance at him as he r"bbed at the !nees of his hide britches. *is ga>e held an intensity& forcing her shift to another s"b#ect. <?o& 2r. . What wo"ld yo" li!e with yo"r hardtac!@ Drits or grits@= with a warm smile.oflin.= (he smoothed the front of her s!irt. With a long& fl"id movement& y leaned across the fire and lifted the coffee pot. As they wor!ed& things remained G"iet concerning the sit"ation. < han! yo"& 2r.85 (on#a presented her bac! to him and co"ntered& <% can see to brea!fast. . . (tr"ggling to concentrate on the meat in the pan instead of the man across the fire& (on#a ret"rned her foc"s to the s!illet. Broo!s@= eye. .
Are yo" s"re yo" aren't needed elsewhere today@= Jnable to !eep the sarcasm o"t of her tone& (on#a c"t cool eyes at the ro"gh as nails male fig"re sitting only feet away. % do. <4es& please. <Don't see many women who ta!e their coffee blac!&= he commented. memories.= (he shoo! her head slightly. <% don't mean to r"in yo"r brea!fast& b"t % have to tell yo"& % won't be going o"t today. <4o"'re thoro"ghly inf"riatingC= (he didn't care if Dod himself ordered him to drive her team.= *er eyes spar!led with tears when she tho"ght of her mother. What wo"ld she thin! of her da"ghter as a werewolf@ <Bisc"its are ready&= y observed as he raised the lid on the D"tch oven nestled in the coals of the fire. <%s that beca"se of the lac! of cream o"t here in the wilderness or have yo" always en#oyed it that way@= *ortence la"ghed. 8ather than being "pset with his handling of the sit"ation& li!e she sho"ld be& her mind raced ahead and imagined herself seated neAt to his m"scled body on the wagon seat. *is G"estion was conversational in tone and (on#a fo"nd her bac! relaAing once again as she gave him a slight G"ir! of her lips. (molt> wants me to drive yo"r team since yo"'re in#"red. <4o" co"ld've had the decency to at least as!.= *ortence la"ghed again. (on#a co"ldn't say what crossed her mind at s"ch a point& eAcept to be startled at her wayward tho"ghts. Ca"tio"sly mane"vering it to her plate& y offered her the tin can of syr"p with his free hand. %n her condition she didn't have the strength to drive the team today. <2"ch to my mother's chagrin. . he gentle smile creasing his tanned face bro"ght her bac! from her .ie"tenant@= Jnable to help the temper rising in her eyes& (on#a shot him a ca"stic loo!.86 he smile she gave him was brittle& b"t s"fficient& she m"sed. <% sho"ld have !nown&= she fairly breathed. <Do yo" always get yo"r way& .lat and to the point& she m"sed. Again with the mitt& he p"lled the blac! pot o"t of the fire and gently retrieved a bisc"it from it with a for!.= (he noted the strong length of his fingers as he mane"vered the pot to hover slightly above her c"p. <2y father ta"ght me to li!e coffee the way he did. hey were her team. What bothered her was how he'd made the decision for her witho"t as m"ch as a word.= *e glanced "p from his plate. <4es& ma'am.
< he br"ising ma!es it loo! a lot worse than it really is. . %t wo"ld ease my concern over yo"r well$being considerably.87 <?o& ma'am.= *e was placating her& she was s"re of it. A little s"rprised at her own m"sings& (on#a agreed. ?ever had her late h"sband shown any concern over her well$being. *e'd changed the s"b#ect& which was almost as inf"riating. B"t she co"ldn't bring herself to reb"!e his reG"est. he one reason it prospered was the springs that he frigid& crystal clear water was a lifeline in an otherwise barren land.rom the discovery of the springs& people came and settled& those loo!ing to prosper from the essential element the Argentine springs provided. <We'll be in Balch (prings soon. 2"mbling "nder her breath& she went abo"t the chore witho"t any more interest in the conversation.= he confident smile she sent him fell short of her own beliefs b"t no one needed to !now of those beliefs. <All right& %'ll see a doctor&= she said. his will be o"r only opport"nity to get a medical opinion for several h"ndred miles. "hapter 1 "lose 2!arters he city of Balch (prings came into clear view abo"t a mile o"t. After st"ffing the remainder of the bisc"it in his mo"th and swallowing& y inclined his head as he rose to wash his plate and tidy "p. he idea str"c! her as pleasant and a bit self$ind"lgent& b"t she chastised herself for thin!ing s"ch tho"ghts& since that wo"ld've been 8obert's comment "nder the circ"mstances. < hat may be tr"e& 2rs.= *e glanced "p from his bisc"it as he mopped the syr"p from the plate with it. Why& by tomorrow& % sho"ld be right as rain. 3eremiah Balch discovered thirteen years before. Broo!s& b"t %'d appreciate it if yo"'d do it for me. We can get a doctor to ta!e a loo! at yo"r sho"lder. ?othing more than a small conglomeration of b"ildings& shac!s and tents. *ortence let o"t a h"ff of breath and got "p from her spot to clear dishes.= (on#a's spine stiffened. <%'m fine& really&= she emphasi>ed. (he fo"nd the gest"re considerate& which happened to be a reaction she fo"nd new and slightly pleas"rable. With a strong hand& y r"bbed the bac! of his nec! below his braid and considered the statement as he st"died the fire. *e hadn't arg"ed with her over her right to choose whether to drive her team herself or not. . Dlancing once more into the fire& (on#a was reminded of how 3eb hovered over Briann and made s"re she was ta!en well care of& sometimes at the eApense of his own comfort.
Briann's face held the slac!$#awed awe of someone who never dreamt of standing in s"ch a place. <% never considered one day %'d be able to eAperience s"ch a l"A"ry. (on#a wanted to capt"re the relaAed confidence he eA"ded to memory. <4o" sho"ld say things li!e thatC= he light la"ghter that filtered bac! to her came with a price. *er face b"rned red with the embarrassment of Briann's inn"endo. <What@ Hh& %Kyes& the lie"tenant is a stri!ing fellow. Warmth& yearning and a thrill spiraled thro"gh (on#a and she considered the possibility there was m"ch more to the eAperience between a man and a woman than she'd ever eAperienced before. (till& with y& the sensation was witho"t limit. (on#a fo"nd herself drawn to him. <% can't wait. <Are we ready& ladies@= *e offered each of them an arm. endowed& to be s"re. (omething inside her stirred& li!e cooled molasses heating on a s"mmer's day. *is thatch of thinning hair was d"ll blonde with white threaded liberally thro"gh what remained atop he man's well . Don't tell me yo" don't "nderstand what % mean. <("ch a fine specimen of a man. he proprietor was a gangly fellow who peered at them with be$spec!led gray eyes. (he grew silent as she ga>ed at the man approached them.oflin was a mysterio"s man. *er eyes c"t to Briann's as she bro"ght "p a trembling hand. *is cowboy's hat sitting #a"ntily to one side& his pants hanging low over m"scled hips and sp"rs #ingling on his worn cowboy boots. *e sG"inted at her from "nder that ever present (tetson and sent her heart to po"nding. <Are yo" eAcited to be visiting the baths@= (on#a smiled warmly for her Briann. *e'd reached over and gripped her hand a few ho"rs before and a shimmer of sensations bloomed inside her. (on#a's gasp was a"dible. 8eminded of the !iss they'd shared near the cree! made the depths of her ache in a way she remembered. y told her of the bathho"ses and the pleas"rable eAperience offered there. relaAing and allowing the conf"sion inside her to abate. he stoic persona he wore so convincingly mas!ed a tro"bled so"l.= *er sister's words ca"ght (on#a off g"ard. <%t's lovely&= she breathed.= *er companionable giggle stalled o"t as y approached. (he'd been a married woman and fig"red she "nderstood the reaction of a woman for a man. (he was loo!ing forward to yron .= < hat loose #ointed wal! of his isn't #"st for show& %'d wager& sister. (on#a sG"ee>ed Briann's hand.88 (on#a co"ldn't control the anticipation blooming as they neared the small town.
<We'd li!e three soa!s& one for my wife. <4o" !now& it was awf"l nice of 2r.= 8eaching o"t& he too! (on#a's arm and wrapped it possessively aro"nd his forearm before inclining his head toward Briann. *e co"ld have simply left "s behind. he chilly waters of whatever stream they co"ld find or the birdbath's she stingily resorted to on the trail became a bad memory as she lang"ished in the sil!y water. As she s"n! into the fragrant water& (on#a sighed happily. *e pointed to a board above him& which held the prices of the establishment's services. 2otioning (on#a to "ndress& the girl caref"lly h"ng her clothing on the hoo!s lining the wall.89 his s"n spotted scalp.= Hpening one eye& (on#a peered septically at her sister's smir! of a smile before as!ing the G"estion Briann was waiting on. <% don't g"ess yo"'ll be needing that& will ya %n#"n@= (neering& he c"rled his lip and bared his decayed teeth at y. and what (on#a g"essed m"st be a foot bath. part of his #ob description& %'d wager.oflin to thin! of "s. Briann perched on the edge of the small table and allowed the yo"ng Chinese girl to r"b the m"scles in her nec! while she waited her t"rn. %t was a wonderf"l feeling to relaA in a t"b after so long a time.= *is tone broo!ed no arg"ment as his eyes roamed the man in disinterested s"mmation. <We'll ta!e three twenty min"te soa!s with soap and a hot towel. here's the del"Ae with soap and a hot towel& the gentlemen's special is a twenty min"te soa! with soap& a hot towel and a he smo!e from his cigar c"rled aro"nd his head giving him the loo! of a goose egg nested in a cobweb. y glared at the man with something a!in to disg"st. shave. < his yo"ng lady is her sister.= *e eyed y spec"latively. <And #"st what are yo" getting at& Briann@= he invitation to accompany him to town isn't he small room& which wasn't m"ch bigger than the wagon they traveled in& held a copper t"b& a small side table he small copper pot sat neAt to the small table. <4a got yo"r ten min"tes with soap + it's o"r most pop"lar.= (cr"tini>ing the odd gro"p& the bathho"se proprietor p"rsed his gri>>led mo"th before G"oting the price and opening the door for them. water in the t"b. . <Which one of these women is yo"r wife@= he man's derision was obvio"s. Hnce inside& (on#a and Briann went to the women's side of the bathho"se. A yo"ng Chinese girl of no more than thirteen years stirred a sweet smelling salt into the steaming .
(ecretly tho"gh& (on#a ind"lged in where y wo"ld place some of his more foc"sed intentions. he smo!e spiraled toward the ceiling in the bathho"se parlor giving him a certain dar! and seAy air. Almost an ho"r later& when both ladies finished soa!ing& cleaning and being pampered& they emerged to find y waiting for them. *er s!in tingled. *is voice& low and warm wo"ld breathe o"t her name& then his pet name for her as well as his desires. %deas formed abo"t his invitation. *e'd swoop down and capt"re her mo"th with his& r"nning his tong"e along the line of her teeth in a testing& probing search. Water sloshed and her sister giggled when the Chinese girl handed her a scented soap and another towel for her hair. of the pain away. (on#a's first consideration was how handsome he appeared standing in front of the window with a hand t"c!ed cas"ally in the vest he now sported. ?eAt& he'd find a G"iet spot away from prying eyes for them to pass the time while the train was in town.90 <Hh& nothing. 8eveling in the idea of openly sharing s"ch a declaration made her feel bold and she relished in the sensation.= Briann consideration flitted away to some pict"res hanging on the opposite wall. . *er core heated and ached to be filled with yler's shaft& the thic!& throbbing member that only he possessed. (he #"mped when cool fingers to"ched her sho"lder.= (he smiled r"ef"lly before st"dying something else on the nearby wall. hose same warm brown eyes c"t mischievo"sly bac! to her best friend while she r"bbed ideally at the length of her leg. *e stood near the only window in the establishment and drew long and leis"rely on a cigar. (he wanted to hear him spea! of his desire for her& his need to be sated and how she'd crowded his mind the whole time since they'd last made love. <%'d consider him a nice man& don't yo" thin! so@= (on#a's brow f"rrowed. (till& she drifted on bl"e eyes and a deep& male voice whispering her name. *e'd loosened his braid and his he heat was wor!ing on her stiff sho"lder and the water wo"ld draw some . (on#a smiled to herself as she considered what the bit more might be. *e'd ta!e her for a stroll down along the pool formed by the springs the town was named for #"st o"tside of town. <% was #"st thin!ing how !ind it was of 2r.oflin to incl"de "s in his little trip to town. With a well$placed hand& he'd claim her as his for everyone who passed. (he closed her eyes and san! a bit deeper in the t"b.
*is gate was the sameC (he wasn't at all certain she wasn't loo!ing at her h"sband. ("rely the feeling was bro"ght on by some belated reaction to the steaming waters or the massage Briann and she'd en#oyed afterward. *e wore no hat at the present and (on#a fo"nd her fingers tingle with the need to r"n her hands thro"gh the thic! mass of his coal blac! mane. After stepping to the entrance& he t"rned and his crystal bl"e eyes met hers& her heart stopped& the breath left her l"ngs and she fo"nd she co"ldn't wal!. *er heart leapt in her chest when he started to wal! in their direction.= y's words& deep and reverberated in the still air ca"sed a ripple "p her spine.91 gleaming #et$blac! hair h"ng abo"t his sho"lders. *er heart was racing as she stepped o"t into the daylight. *e'd practiced their polite decor"m faithf"lly since the trapper's attac!. *e moved to stand beside her and laid his warm hand against the small of her bac! as he held the door open for her to go thro"gh.= *is fingers rested protectively against her bac!bone. Broo!s. (on#a fo"nd she co"ldn't brea! the connection. Jnable to loo! bac!& (on#a instead concentrated on p"tting one foot in front of the other as they progressed down the plan!s of the sidewal!. (illy& she m"sed. %'d li!e to share a piece with yo"& if yo" don't mind. (lowly& deliberately his eyes moved over her c"rves& leaving a trail of b"rning need in its wa!e. *is height was the same as 8obert's and he wore a dar! s"it similar to the one she'd b"ried her h"sband in. (he needed to remain calm. <2rs. (he needed rest + that's all. < here's small cafP down the street and they serve the best apple pie yo"'ve ever tasted. . he man's hair was c"t m"ch li!e 8obert preferred and danced abo"t his face in the bree>e. B"t how co"ld that be@ 8obert was deadC (he repeated the mantra several times "nder her breath. BerpleAed& (on#a stared hard at the apparition who stood at the opposite end of the long board wal!way. (on#a& more g"arded than "s"al . Beople were watching& weren't they@ %n the distance& there appeared a man who resembled (on#a's late h"sband. <%'d li!e that m"ch& 2r. *is growth of a slight beard& shaved& now eAposed the cleft of his chin again.= *e waited "ntil he'd gained her f"ll attention. here was s"ch a heat in his ga>e. he bath m"st have done something to addle her brain.= (he co"ld almost taste his lips on hers. *is eyes traveled slowly down her body with a loo! so a!in to desire it made (on#a wea! in the !nees. <Jm& lilacs.oflin. 2arveling at how right the sensation felt& (on#a bas!ed in the sensation. *er heart rate increased with his dar! ga>e settling on her. *er reactions to things proved all a #"mble of late.
All eyes t"rned to eAamine the new patrons& before shifting bac! to their plates and conversation. he cheery red$chec!ered tablecloth covered tables lined the windows r"nning the length of the dining room wall. (he haled y and motioned them to a G"iet table along the s"nny window side of the b"stling cafP.oflin held himself apart for reasons (on#a didn't f"lly "nderstand& yet. ?oticing the tightening of Briann's mo"th as she settled& (on#a reached o"t and gathered her hand in hers. (he smiled to herself when she considered the implication. :"ite impressed with the establishment& (on#a allowed y to p"ll o"t her chair. 2r. With a slight smile for no one in partic"lar& (on#a proceeded along with the others to the small cafP and a lite repast. <%s everything all right@= Briann smiled and t"rned her hand over to grip her sister's. (he steered conversation to topics both co"ples co"ld appreciate as the meal progressed. Bositioned eight rows deep& the dining room was s"rprisingly big and for the mid$afternoon& s"rprisingly b"sy. (on#a co"ldn't help the anticipation b"ilding inside her to see yler's eAas. the waiter their orders. (he hoped she'd be able to share in his !indness again soon. *e had a !ind and concerned heart.= Dlancing at 3eb& she c"t him a steady stare before t"rning to her men". 2aybe his change in attit"de had something to do with his eAamination of her in#"ries. A #olly woman& probably in her mid$fifties greeted them as they entered. (on#a fo"nd the eAchange p">>ling. <4es& everything is fine& #"st fine. Doing their best to be open$minded of a woman's place in their man's world& the men earned more of her respect.92 appreciated his attention to her wishes. Berhaps it had something to do with the frontier and a new beginning& which gave a man the co"rage to ease the restraints placed on a woman by their society. (hooter Cree! and eAas. (on#a spo!e confidently of eAas. (everal waiters h"stled among those seated at the wooden tables serving drin!s& food and smiles. heir #o"rney was proving beneficial in many ways& she m"sed. he waiter ret"rned and her attention t"rned to giving o his credit& y allowed (on#a to order for herself and 3eb& who (on#a was certain held Briann in the highest regard& allowed her to ma!e her selections as well. . here'd been something a!in to pain in his face when he'd seen what the attac! had done to her. 3eb eased Briann into the straight$bac! wooden chair and f"ssed over whether or not she was comfortable. y's descriptions t"rned vivid when he shared tales of . Briann was right.
Why& even gas lampposts dotted the main street. Hnce they were o"tside& he s!irted the gro"p and too! "p the position closest to the street.93 3eb commented only briefly each time (on#a tried to draw him into the conversation. Dlancing abo"t& she G"alified the eAclamation with a small smile. *is attention !ept ret"rning to Briann& who spo!e little and only pic!ed at her food. shop and she pa"sed grinning "p at y who'd halted as she did. <Are yo" all right& sister@= With a less than vibrant smile& Briann shoo! her head. *er sister's eyes held a strange eApression for 3eb. <Wo"ldn't a pict"re to commemorate o"r travels be nice@= she as!ed him.= *is wry smile told her he didn't harbor the same opinion& so with her arm wrapped cas"ally abo"t his& they stepped into the cool interior of the establishment. % wo"ld be happy to help yo" decide on a seating arrangement for yo"r photograph. What the comm"nity lac!ed in options the people made "p for in pride. a!ing in the G"aint and interesting displays in hey past a photography the shop windows& (on#a didn't notice Briann and 3eb lagged behind. After the meal& y gathered the chec! and escorted (on#a from the establishment once more. <A little t"mmy tro"ble. .= With a glance in Briann's direction& she co"ld only s"rmise their eAchange was on her sister's "nspo!en& empathic level.= *er bright& green eyes twin!led as she spo!e. With a wide sweep of her hand& she g"ided them into the bac! of the shop where a large brown boA sat atop a tripod stand. <HhC= Briann cl"tched her stomach and winced briefly. %f she wasn't mista!en& there was tension in his #aw as she eApo"nded on the dreams awaiting them in eAas. When she referred to the wealth awaiting them f"rther west& y's demeanor became bland and his eyes steadfast on his plate. After all& the town was in its infancy seeing as how its fo"nder discovered the springs only thirteen years prior. <2y ancestors believe a camera steels the so"l of a person. %ts streets were clean and well maintained. (he almost as!ed again& what was wrong& b"t tho"ght better of it as they were in a p"blic place. <2y name is Caroline. 8"ffians and rife$raft co"ldn't be ignored& (on#a s"pposed. *e st"died her a moment and bro!e into a grin himself. 8eaching o"t& (on#a too! her sister's free hand in hers and sG"ee>ed. he !ind faced woman behind the co"nter introd"ced herself and offered them a seat. ?othing to worry abo"t.
%f yo" don't see one yo" li!e& % can wor! with yo"r idea as well. %'ll slip "nder the cover so as not to eApose the pict"re to any more light and when % co"nt to three& the frame % hope "p with go "p in a clo"d of smo!e. (he win!ed for the sisters& <Come& loo! at the vario"s seating arrangements % have on display. he whole process ta!es less than a co"ple of min"tes from set"p to the finished pict"re. < y& we're capt"red for all eternity. Briann gave her a positive smile& so she let it drop. Dlancing briefly at y& there was a glimmer of something she considered might be gen"ine appreciation and as G"ic!ly as it had appeared the eApression was gone. (he opened the boo! to the first page and smiled broadly. % wo"ld li!e so m"ch to doc"ment o"r travels with the people who are most important to me.= When the words slipped o"t of her mo"th& (on#a fl"shed with what she'd implied. they entered. <Blease #oin "s.= *er smile was warm and companionable. Draping Briann's hand over his arm possessively& he smiled down at her with h"mor playing on his lips. 4o" aren't worried abo"t yo"r so"l or something li!e that& are yo"@= 3eb's tone was serio"s. he ladies didn't ta!e long to decide on a pose. When Caroline ret"rned& she positioned her s"b#ects and within min"tes their images were embla>oned within the camera's lens.= (on#a glanced "p as Briann and 3eb appeared in the doorway. <We're having o"r pict"re made&= she anno"nced cheerf"lly. *is eyes twin!led with mirth tho"gh& at his own #o!e. Don't be dist"rbed by the eAploding powder or the noise& it's all G"ite harmless& % ass"re yo". <Bic! any stance yo" li!e and we'll do o"r best to reprod"ce it for yo". <We heard voices. Briann's face grew strained and (on#a was again concerned.= 3eb escorted Briann ahead of him as . Caroline went to a nearby table and gathered a small boo! before bringing it to them. %n defense of nerves& (on#a eAtended her hand and grasped Briann's as the yo"ng woman stepped over to sit beside her and view the lovely scenes available in the photographer's portfolio. <%'ll set everything "p and we'll be ready in #"st a few min"tes.= (he t"rned and went bac! to the table across the room. ho"ght yo" might be bac! here.94 When she noted the women's c"riosity with her eG"ipment& she laid a hand atop the large blac! boA with a drape hanging from behind and smiled& < his is the camera.
< y didn't tell yo" everything.aying a hand on his forearm& she tried her best to comfort him.rom what she co"ld tell& Briann wasn't feeling well. Apparently& being "ndead hadn't altered his ability to care and deeply. .= A mas! of solemnness shro"ded hat can't be possible. 3eb managed not to brea! o"t in a grin when y simply shr"gged and shoo! his head.= his tr"e feelings. <What do yo" mean& there isn't one@ %n a town this si>e@ the edge of he sharp edge of hysteria lined her voice. <War changes a man. 3eb went straight to the bed& gathering Briann's hand in his.= (on#a "nderstood his reference to the war.95 Being able to appreciate the Deneral's wit eased some of (on#a's concern over her sister's choice of a companion.= *is face tightened over the words. hey've decided it's a fever.= (he heard . he hallway was small and several people loitered in the area. <%t'll be o!ay. *e said little abo"t his service& yet the dreams contin"ed. Briann bro"ght them all bac! from their individ"al m"sings with a groan.= 3eb glanced o"t toward the rolling hills thro"gh the photographer's window and sG"inted. hey sho"ld leave. (on#a sent a co"ple a withering loo! before closing the door so"ndly. . ?obody will even answer a G"estion. *is voice& filled with reproach& so"nded lost. < here isn't one&= y growled as he stal!ed past her. ."c!y to find one after so many people ascended on the town& she'd stayed with Briann while 3eb and y went for a physician. A pale set to his mo"th made (on#a more "neasy. "hapter 3 The Dead Li4e <Where's the doctor@= (on#a appeared in the doorway to a room they'd ta!en at the hotel. < he town doctor won't have anything to do with someone from the train. We'll find someone who !nows what to doC= (he glanced hopef"lly at y. <*ow is she@= 8eal pain showed in his eyes. 3eb spo!e "p at that point. Don't s"ppose % will. 3eb was chec!ing on her before either (on#a or y co"ld rise. <*aven't lost it over the past fo"r years.
(ee!ing y's co"ncil& (on#a spo!e low& < he townspeople m"st have one hell of a gossip vine for Briann's condition to have already been diagnosed by the street doctors. *er feat"res hardened to stone. <%'ll go for *ortence. he war had made him what he was. hat was the tr"th& b"t conflict also gave him a strength few co"ld say they possessed. ?ot wanting to allow do"bt to rear its head in the sit"ation& (on#a reached o"t and gripped her sister's hand giving her a great big smile meant to enco"rage her. <We've got the best there is& honey.= Agitated& Briann called o"t. Dlancing at the general& she reached o"t and too! his cool hand in hers. Chec!ing her temple& she glanced at y. At least we won't have to worry abo"t eAplaining his presence or the old witch's for that matter to any b"tcher pretending to be a man of medicine. While he faced the woman he obvio"sly loved& he showed no signs of do"bt.= y bro"ght her close in s"ch a tender embrace& (on#a searched o"t the heat of his nec! to rest her head for a brief moment. . % won't leave yo" either. (he was glad to have him there. *er own concerns ebbed with his stalwart presence.= (he t"rned bac! to y. 2aybe she can help and contact the D"ardian as well. he dar! bl"e of his eyes remained calm. (tetson lower on his head.ear moves li!e a wildfire. (on#a fo"nd a new confidence anchor her. had to be done& she m"sed. y disappeared o"t the door. Don't worry& dear& the doctor's on the way. <(he r"nning a fever. Comforted by his strength of co"rage& (on#a released a sigh. *is face remained solid and strong. *er eyes& gla>ed and blan! stared o"t blindly. <Do get *ortence nowC= right here Briann. Briann was l"c!y to have him in her life.96 (on#a gro"nd down on her teeth.owering to !neel beside the bed& 3eb spo!e softly. (on#a discovered his presence alone proved eno"gh for her& so if he helped Briann& she wo"ld be gratef"l to him forever.= enderly br"shing a damp c"rl from her sister's forehead& she whispered& <%'m hro"gh clinched teeth& she whispered.= <. *is "sed his big& weathered hand to br"sh the perspiration from Briann's temple. "rning& (on#a stepped bac! to the bed. EEE hey'd do what <%'ll be bac! as soon as % can&= he stated thro"gh his own clinched teeth and shoved the .= When Briann searched 3eb's face for affirmation of his words& (on#a's chest tightened over the love visible in his face. ("ch bac!woods ass"mptions based in gossip and inn"endo co"ldn't be helped + at least not in time to help Briann.
(he noted the general contin"ed his steadfast demeanor for Briann's sa!e. Watching the cloc! became a secret tas! for (on#a. <*ortence can yo" save her@= . he room grew overheated and witho"t a !nowledge of what the fever harbored& (on#a was afraid to open the windows. 3eb never left her side& tending her as any family wo"ld. *is presence seemed to calm her sister as well and for that& (on#a said a silent prayer. <4o"r defiance of the evil is admirable. (on#a recogni>ed 3eb's worry that witho"t a change in the sit"ation soon& Briann co"ld die. 8eali>ing *ortence's arrival bro"ght a new !ind of tension to the room& (on#a engaged the men in gathering linens and hot water. (he'd listened to the old woman babble on for over an ho"r witho"t any change in her sister's condition. 3eb's G"iet eyes didn't miss the passage of time either. 4o" of all people sho"ld "nderstand the evil that can invade a body and the havoc s"ch a thing can render. (till& the G"estion remained on everyone's mind. Briann's strength began to wane tho"gh& as the time contin"ed to slip away. %n the blin! of an eye& her !narled hand thr"st toward 3eb.97 Briann's pain progressed steadily as the fever increased.= (on#a's nerves stretched to a brea!ing point. *is words of s"pport and comfort bro"ght an ease to (on#a. *old fast to yo"r faith. (on#a's inability to hide her concern hadn't escaped *ortence either. he solid !noc! on the door had both of them rising. With Briann condition complicated by the length of time& which passed& both (on#a and 3eb began to swap "neasy glances. ?ever do"bt her ability to s"rvive&= the old witch told (on#a. *ortence b"stled in dragging y in tow. <4o"r sister is going to be all right. 4et& (on#a co"ld see the tension tighten the m"scles of his face as the time wore on. Jsing a different approach& (on#a helped the old woman with her potion in order to remain foc"sed on the moment. 3eb p"lled his revolver and pointed the barrel sG"arely at the portal as (on#a gingerly opened the door. ?either dared voice an opinion as if to mention their concerns wo"ld ma!e them all the more dangero"s to Briann.= he old woman's face t"rned "p and thro"gh beady eyes& she peered abo"t the room as if in search of the evil. he brew which *ortence instr"cted her to !eep warm hadn't shown any signs of helping as of yet. Wo"ld *ortence be able to heal Briann with magic@ < here is a powerf"l force at wor! here& (on#a. Dood for yo" and yo"r woman. *old fast to the tr"th of yo"r love for her.
(he'd imagined the man below in the street. he flash of light& which followed threatened to blind them both. *er mood bro"ght abo"t a s"dden "rge to feed. With the sensation& coiling in her (on#a str"ggled to foc"s. What did she say to him@ *ow did she eAplain what she'd seen witho"t so"nding completely cra>y@ After all the things they'd been thro"gh and his solid belief in their tr"th& he'd most probably thin! her mad. he so"nd of her own voice had left her. Jnable to see briefly& both cl"ng to each other for s"pport. <(he will s"rvive. he demon's power is in the air. *ortence's brow f"rrowed and she cl"c!ed her tong"e at (on#a's G"estion. <%K% tho"ghtK= . Below in the middle of the street stood a man dressed in a blac! broadcloth s"it who reminded her of someone. <*ortence& now's not the time for yo"r riddles&= (on#a chided heatedly. %f she remained with the ever obstinate& el"sive& totally irritating *ortence& she wo"ld be hard pressed not to lash o"t at the old woman. (on#a y ca"ght her as she fell. <What is it& (on#a. <Briann needs yo"r help. (he co"ld feel the first pric!le of wolf hairs along her nec! start to rise. Attendants started lighting the gaslights.= < al! to me& damn it. nothing there eAcept the moon's glow starting to shimmer as night fell. Alarm rippled thro"gh her as she here was no way here was str"ggled to regain her bearings. (hoving from y's arms& she made her way bac! to the window. *er voice rose to a sho"t as she slammed her fist on the side table sending bottles and spoons clattering. <(on#a& say he was tr"ly there.= With her temper rising& (on#a stal!ed to the window. <What was that@= somethingC= (he co"ldn't. ension rippled along his arm and circled her in his grip. Hf co"rse % can save her. 4o" loo! as tho"gh yo"'ve seen a ghost. he grip he held her in tightened as she sl"mped against him.98 Braying the old witch wo"ldn't see how badly she was sha!ing& (on#a !nelt on the opposite side of the bed.= (he he G"estion is& will you@= swept her hands wide and her beady eyes b"lged. he reali>ation str"c! her with the force of a lightning bolt. (he shoved at him.= y gripped her arm and shoo!. <4o" of all people wo"ld as! me that& my dear@= *er bottom lip protr"ded in disg"st at her st"dent's obvio"s do"bt. (on#a gripped y's vest front. Blin!ing she tried to clear her vision. st"mbled bac!.
2ay we come in@= y's eyes narrowed as he glanced from 3eb& who stood near the bed to (on#a and bac! to 3eb. *ow co"ld she warn y@ blood s"rged in her veins with the b"rgeoning !nowledge they'd "nwittingly invited the bloods"c!ers into their safe haven. <We've . (ince he wasn't certain what lay on the opposite side of the portal& y drew his g"n before calling o"t& <Come in. With her telepathic s!ills still in their infancy& she prayed he co"ld "nderstand. 3ohn had moved to stand near 3eb.99 here came a lo"d !noc! at the door. When he released her with a wic!ed grin& she stepped bac!& s"re she'd #"st peered into the eyes of a vampire. his weapon. 3eb was in deep tro"ble& she was s"re.= <*ello& 2rs. (he glanced "p and into his pale face. (t. he men both t"rned.= <Hh& p"t that old thing away& won't yler. We're friends here.= he sed"ctive per"sal she gave him didn't escape (on#a's wolf senses. <Who is it@= <%t's 2rs. 8everend 3ones stepped "p and drew (on#a's hand into his. glint& which made her t"g on her hand in his. We have a long wait& %'m afraid. <Dear& when we heard that poor Briann was feeling poorly& we had to come and chec! on yo" both. here was a stench coming from here was a he the preacher as well. <2y dear (on#a& how's yo"r sister@ (on#a stood li!e a stat"e still reeling from what she'd seen below in the street. 3ohn and 8everend 3ones. Waiting for confirmation& he sho"ld let them in& y motioned for 3eb to flan! the other side of the door. Diving him a good long loo! into her face& she blin!ed and glanced in the direction of 3eb's place beside Briann.= *er hostess s!ills& tho"gh r"sty !ic!ed in and she managed to indicate the reverend sho"ld sit while she stepped closer to y. 3eb motioned to y as he drew y flic!ed a glance at (on#a before stepping to the entryway. ?ow what@ he widow (t. 3ohn b"stled in arms o"t stretched "rning to y& she smiled dem"rely& to gather (on#a into an embrace of sympathy. (on#a had to do something. Hf co"rse& with the acc"m"lation of trail wear on a body& one co"ld eApect an odor& still this was somehow different. < y& get o"r g"ests some refreshments won't yo"@ %'ll see to ma!ing s"re everyone is comfortable. (he tried to ta!e bac! her hand as the reverend's cold fingers d"g into hers. Broo!s& how is yo"r sister@= he widow (t. 2ore hairs sprang "p to tingle along her nec!.
y shot first& the so"nd of the g"n's discharge ma!ing (on#a #er!. he sensation si>>led "p the he vampires y glanced "p startled at the sensation and flinched b"t (on#a wo"ldn't let go. side so G"ietly& anyone watching wo"ld thin! he'd merely bent to Briann's attentions. he moan& filled with pain and alarm& bro"ght 3eb bac! to he blade in her hand thr"st forward. <Bitch has a problem with improvisation@= *e dropped the g"n and h"rled a wooden chair leg directly at her heart. <4o"r aim is good& y& b"t % don't thin! yo" "sed the right tools. her side. before she told y what she intended to do. y threw the G"estion to the room at large. he widow b"c!ed once before loo!ing down at her left side where a crimson stream appeared in her taffeta #ac!et. Briann's hand reached o"t to 3eb. co"ldn't see their comm"nication or everything wo"ld be over in a few seconds. (he t"rned and smiled.= (miling sweetly& she ga>ed into his eyes steadily. 3ohn do"bled over and t"rned to as!& <3onesy@= A clap of th"nder and she'd disappeared into d"st.= *ortence flic!ed a glance .= <Can't yo" see we've got tro"bles here@= he fr"strated anger was raw in his voice. (on#a dove for the widow the same time 8everend 3ones aimed a wooden tomahaw! at 3eb.= (he reached o"t and latched on to his arm. (t. length of her arm and she hoped the feeling did the same to his. <4o"'ll eAc"se "s as we weren't eApecting anyone& 2rs. % do hope the hotel has something left from dinner. <Wo"ld yo" get o"r g"ests those refreshments& please@ % fear we are "nprepared for visitors. 3eb glanced "p from his vigil and fire leapt in his "ndead eyes.100 got company& y. With another blin! of her eyes& (on#a wheeled as the change started to occ"r along her spin where co"rse hairs sprang to stand at attention. We haven't had a chance to thin! abo"t eating. A flash of he sta!e pierced his he Widow sei>ed the opport"nity.= he smile she gave him was sardonic and wic!ed all at once. <Why do yo" always tal! in riddles& old woman. Widow (t.= (on#a stepped closer to the bed. he flic!er of recognition stirred a breath from (on#a movement& which no one wo"ld see eAcept another creat"re of the night. <(he was vampire& born in evil and n"rt"red in werewolf blood. <What the hell is going on@= at him. 3ohn. (he coc!ed her head to the left and then the right.
(he's not here to be stolen. 4o"r blood allowed me to do that yo" !now. Briann's trembling fingers reached o"t. <*elp& (on#aC= she cried. stoically smir!ing at them resembled (on#a's late h"sband.= *e threw "p his hand and a pict"re of (on#a and Briann's children sta!ed to a fire pile where torches encircled the pile formed along the ceiling.= he image was so real& (on#a let o"t a gasp. here's so m"ch to lose. <4o" spea! of things yo" !now nothing abo"t& wolf.et this be a warning to yo"& yler . 4o"'ll regret having done this. <*e loo!s hale and hearty to me. *is face began to change and his claws to lengthen. 3ones la"ghed so lo"d the windows shoo!. <All % have to do is snap my fingers and it's over. <Don't do this&= he warned gravely. <Do yo" wonder who attac!ed yo" that first night on the trail or .= *ortence's spared him a narrow glance. his is yo"r h"sband@= he man who stood y remembered a pict"re of him sitting on the fire's mantel in (on#a's cabin. <Hh& % admit at times& % too! on the image of another. <% tho"ght yo" told me yo"r h"sband was dead. <. Do yo" "nderstand& blood sc"m@= *is last words r"shed o"t in more of a g"tt"ral growl than a man's voice. Do yo" "nderstand@= 8everend 3ones stepped toward (on#a gripping her abo"t the nec! in a vampire's claw. (he hadn't said a word. 4o"r mate has been violated& her blood stolen in secret.= *er hand flew "p to her throat.= Bointing at the door& 3ones as!ed sardonically& <Do yo" wish to spea! of it with o"r leader@= ("ddenly& the bedroom door flew open& banging against the wall. y noted the hand trembled before she st"mbled& see!ing p"rchase against the bed frame behind her. <4o" loo! s"rprised to see me& (on#a.= *e waved his g"n freely between 3eb and y. *is eyes glowed icy bl"e as he h"nched forward.101 <%t is tr"e& yo"ng one& yo" have tro"bles. <(tay bac!& all of yo". *is raven hair blew wildly abo"t his thin face. 4o" stay p"t and protect yo"r mate at all times.oflin.= *e strolled ideally into the room. <(he's not yo"rs. y's growl came from deep within. %'d have tho"ght yo" of all people wo"ld "nderstand %'ve been with yo" all along.= y c"t (on#a an icy stare.= (haring a wic!ed smir! for (on#a and y& he eAplained. *is feat"res started to shift& the cold gray of his tr"e self began to emerge. he greatest is yet to come. 8obert Broo!s was never more alive. (he's here to save yo" from yo"r rightf"l end.
%'m older and stronger than the both of yo" combined.= (on#a sl"mped in the reverend's hold. . ?ow& my pet& don't loo! so shoc!ed.= *e flashed his white teeth before contin"ing& <Don't worry& (on#a& yo"'re not pregnant. %'ll b"rn those dearest to yo" or yo" will do as % say. he shift come f"ll circle. Dlancing down& 8ichard flic!ed lent from his elegant blac! s"it coat.= <4o" son of a bitchC %'ll rip yo" from yo"r g"llet to yo"r worthless dic!. 8eleased& (on#a dropped to her !nees gasping for air. *eed my words and obey&= 8obert growled. <8ise& . *e h"rled the wooden spi!e li!e a tomahaw! at 8obert's chest. *er silvery white f"r glimmering in the gaslights eliminating the room. A single tear ran down her face. *e leapt at the vampire with his claws at the ready.= %nclining his head toward 3ones& he gave a G"ic! shr"g.= . he facts had been there all along. Within moments& her feral nat"re s"rged "p and soon she stood as the she wolf. *e'd "sed her and trailed them o"t of Bennsylvania beca"se he was a vampire y's eyes gla>ed missed his heart so he "sed the wood on 3ones. 3"st me $ sampling the gift.102 why Ber!ins !ept ret"rning to fight yo"@ Berhaps yo" were perpleAed over the fatig"e yo" felt while on the trail. < y + don'tC= y absorbed the fact the only way he co"ld.i!en& and r"e the day yo" came "p against me. he sta!e the widow (t.angs gleaming& she l"nged& latching on to 8obert with her claws and tore at his nec!. %gnoring y's attempt to bait him& he flic!ed a careless glance bac! at (on#a. he vampire smoothly bloc!ed the blow and la"ghed softly. <% fear yo" all will "rning to (on#a& he pointed a finger. with a h"nger for the daylight. A movement ca"ght her eye. < a!e heed& Werewolves& yo"r time is now.= over. Jnfort"nately& % always needed more. %'m still yo"rs and will be for all eternity. % even shared some with the good reverend and the widow. < he new ones are still learning %'m afraid. <4o" see& dearest& yo"r blood allowed me to do things % never dreamed of doing. (he glanced from her h"sband to y's wolf and the general. A loo! of disbelief showed on the pallid face of the vampire. *e st"mbled bac!ward. (on#a glimpsed 3eb's retrieval of the sta!e. 3ohn had "sed 3eb too! the opport"nity to l"ng at the reverend. y's sheer weight atop the vampire held him down for a few seconds before he fl"ng them off li!e dirt and hovered near the window.
meet yo"r new master. %'ve waited so long for this moment.= (miling& he reached o"t as (on#a's wolf rose from the floor and floated toward him. (he str"ggled& protested and attempted to claw his face& b"t in the end& his cold hand wrapped aro"nd her silver collar of f"r and held on. y's wolf paced o"t of reach of the 8obert's lechero"s cl"tches. str"ggled with the need to protect his mate. 3eb reached from "nder his coat and drew o"t a revolver. <4o"'ll have to ret"rn to hell where yo" came from bloods"c!er.= *e fired the first b"llet and 8obert's face fro>e. bac! at 3eb. he reali>ation came in the twin!ling of an eye. hey've s"re come in handy.= 3eb's smile never reached his eyes. EEE (on#a came bac! slowly. *ortence crooned her name and offered enco"ragement. (tr"ggling to sit& she searched for y. <Where is he@= (he so"ght her mate in all fo"r corners of the room. <3eb@= *ortence reached o"t and stro!ed her glistening blonde c"rls. <Fasy& my love. to chec! on the children.= (on#a blin!ed to foc"s. (he rolled her sho"lders. for the first time in over five ho"rs. <*er head is cool. he change bac! to h"man was almost he fever's gone.= hose complete. (crambling to her feet& she went to the bed where her sister lay sleeping peacef"lly <*er fever came from blac! magic.= *ortence appeared on the other side of the bed. hey've gone he second followed and 8obert lost his grip on (on#a's wolf. *e glanced down at his chest and <4o" see vampire& % !now what !ills yo"& too. %'ll have to than! yler for giving me his wooden b"llets. 8obert fell to the floor and cr"mbled into pieces before fire swallowed him "p. he desire to attac!
vampires are gathering s"pport in any form they can.= (he cl"tched at a small po"ch hanging from a string aro"nd her nec!. <(he will be fine now.= *er eyes narrowed and searched the ceiling. < he train is in danger tho"gh. 4o" m"st goC %'ll stay with her.= With *ortence words& (on#a's alarm grew. <% won't be in time.= <4es& yo" will. 4o" are stronger now. the spell happen.= (on#a obeyed with fear r"nning cold in her blood. (he co"ldn't see what was happening. Dar!ness s"rro"nded her as the r"shing of the wind fanned her from all sides. Co"ld the a!e my hand and close yo"r eyes. Don't worry& let
vampires have done something to bloc! her sight@ (oon the train appeared in front of her. here was no response. (tr"ggling to drive down the panic& (on#a raced toward her wagon where fire rose angrily from its bed. co"ld they be@
wagons swam in an irry ha>e of smo!e and heat. (on#a tried to contact y with her wolf senses. he children weren't there. <Fthan@ ?athaniel@= Where
he shotg"n blast too! the last of her words away on the wind. (oon other shots #oined the first and (on#a whirled in horror to see an %ndian riding hells$bells for her. *is war cry was spine n"mbing. Witho"t thin!ing& she dove "nder the wagon. %f y'd been there& he'd have already snatched his revolver from the holster and shot the red man sG"are between the eyes. (he frantically searched the wagons to locate Briann before remembering her sister didn't need her worrying abo"t her. she was safe. %n a flash y's familiar face filled her vision. *e was so real. <(tay here&= he commanded and shoved the bear g"n in her hands. <%'ve got to go help the others.= (on#a nodded& while her eyes darted from one wagon to another. 2"ffled sobbing and screams permeated the air. (mitty and the others of y's detachment came r"shing o"t from everywhere. (ome in their long #ohns& some wearing pants and nothing else. ,ire er"pted near the (tevens wagon and she sc"rried from "nder the wagon before she remembered y's order to stay p"t. %f 2rs. (tevens needed help& she wo"ld go. Darting across the semi$circle at a dead r"n& she spied 3eb fighting with an %ndian before sin!ing his fangs deep in the %ndian's nec!. 8eaching the wagon& she helped 2rs. (tevens po"r water o"t of her precio"s s"pply barrel to do"se the flames. With water sloshing& she aimed at the flames lic!ing at the bac! of the wagon's canvas cover and threw the liG"id as high and precise as she co"ld. Disappointed at the o"tcome& (on#a h"rried bac! for more water. mar! completely. he ma#ority of the first b"c!et had missed the he fire pic!ed "p in intensity. he second b"c!et made more of an impact. (mall flames still "c!ed safely in Balch (prings with *ortence watching over her&
(tr"ggling "nder the water's weight& she didn't have time to see where y had gone or what was happening at the moment. si>>led and smo!ed aro"nd the perimeter of the fire& b"t most of the bla>e was o"t.
< han! yo" so m"ch&= 2rs. (tevens said breathlessly as the women cro"ched near the bac! opening of the wagon. (he wor!ed loading pistols and a shotg"n almost as big as (on#a's before handing them over to anyone who needed a g"n. <Where's yo"r bear g"n@= (on#a's mind went bac! the moment when y'd shoved the bear g"n at her "nder the wagon and commanded her stay p"t. .aying a hand on 2rs. (tevens& she yelled over the noise and conf"sion. <% have to goC= 8acing bac! across the opening where men now lay sprawled& she tried to find y. ("ddenly& the so"nd of the m"les braying& stomping and stirring in fright came to her ears. <DaisyC= A large %ndian held her rein while he t"gged her bac!ward. Witho"t thin!ing& she snatched "p the bear g"n. (mo!e po"red from the wagon as she flew by. *e yan!ed harder on Daisy's led. Diving a lo"d yell& she tried to fire the g"n. %t didn't go off. <DamnC= (he'd forgotten the shells. ,rantic to stop him from stealing Daisy& she charged the %ndian swinging the g"n b"tt wildly. <.eave them aloneC Det bac!C Det away& yo" v"lt"reC= he %ndian threw bac! his head and la"ghed from deep in his g"t. *e moc!ed herC A s"rge of adrenalin f"eled her temper. (on#a's eyes glowed golden. he %ndian smir!ed. <L"lt"re indeed.= (on#a fro>e. (he'd seen that smir! before. he Crow %ndian stepped toward her. <Did yo" thin! yo"'d be rid of me so easily& my pet@= 8obert had always "sed the endearment for her. <8obert@= <%n the flesh& or sho"ld % say in the undead flesh.= *e spread his hands and !ept advancing. (on#a st"mbled bac!ward and t"rned to flee. *e grasped her aro"nd the nec! and threw her to the gro"nd. Fvery bone in her body shoo! with the #ar of hitting the hard pac!ed earth. *er foc"s was gone. (he str"ggled to see. wo and three of 8obert swam in front of her eyes. < yC *elp meC= (he cried. 8olling sideways& she did her best to escape. 8obert's strength was immense and (on#a& so addled& co"ldn't foc"s on shifting. *e p"nched her hard across the face. Lampire fangs hovered over her face before the lights went o"t. "hapter &5 /esc!e hat voice + so familiar b"t G"iet impossible.
<4o"'ve got more sense than % gave yo" credit for. Berseverance and % managed to s"rvive "ntil % have her at last. nec! and tore at his airway. (he didn't move. <Hh& % forgot& yo" still hold on to Oright and wrong'& don't yo"& wolf@= oo bad& yo"'re a . % !new she was the one. Jsing all his weight& he charged the attac!er. *er gift is powerf"l.= *e spit in y's wolf face& the blood of (on#a's mingled with his spit.106 After all they'd been thro"gh& why wo"ld the %ndians wo"ld pic! this partic"lar night to show "p. y c"rsed low as he shot another. (tanding& he s"rveyed his condition. 8olling with the Crow& he managed to pin him on the gro"nd before he recogni>ed the stench of 8obert. % co"ld "se yo"r intelligence.= ("rging toward her& y berated himself for ta!ing time to finish off the other bloods"c!er.lic!ing a glance in (on#a's direction. <4o"'re their leader& aren't yo"@= y said as his eyes widened with the reali>ation.i!en. *e'd never enco"ntered an %ndian attac! after the s"n went down.= *e str"ggled to loosen y's stance on his body. ?o one will defeat me nowC= With his words& the vampire !noc!ed y off him as if he weighed nothing. <?o. he %ndian dissolved into d"st. . Don't yo" agree& . <4o"'ll be sorry yo" were ever born& wolf.= 8obert's mo"th& coated liberally in (on#a's blood& shown plainly in the glimmer of the f"ll moon. Jsing his telepathic connection with (on#a& he co"ld see the %ndian vampire bit her nec!. <%f yo"'ve !illed her& %'ll !eep yo" alive for as long as % can to ma!e s"re yo" s"ffer as m"ch as possible. <Jm& % can feel her life's so"rce co"rsing thro"gh my veins. he so"nd drove the wolf to s"rface in record time.= . Fven when *ortence's spell didn't bring me bac! to life& % waited patiently to reclaim her as mine. he %ndian sl"mped and fell. <4o".= he vampire's eyes grew red. % fo"ght my way to the top and too! him o"t as well.i!en@= *e waged a finger at y.= <What yo" co"ld "se is a long& slow death& yo" son$of$a bitch. Dratef"l 3eb had been able to locate the children and whis! them to safety& he str"ggled hand to hand with yet another Crow %ndian. (narling at the startled %ndian& y l"nged for his (t"nned& a co"ple of seconds passed before y reali>ed the tro"ble all aro"nd them. he fact they attac!ed after nightfall dist"rbed him most. he vampire leader was an old one and co"ldn't stop me from ta!ing over the coven. <Bravo& wolf& yo"'ve solved the p">>le of how % can still live. <*"mans are so simple to !ill. (heer terror filled him as the call of his name came to him on the smo!e coated bree>e.
y co"ldn't contain the smile creasing his lips. . heir blades sang o"t in "nison and 8obert's head went flying off his sho"lders. (tevens reached "p and !issed him on the chee!. <4o" did it. <We're so gratef"l to yo". %'ve been s"ch a fool& y& trying to protect yo" and attempting to do everything myself.107 A glimmer of something flew past y's side. <WhereN= <%'ve been with yo" since the start& yler. <%'ll en#oy this for s"re.= 2rs.= 2a#or (tevens and his wife gripped y in a h"g. *e'd lost the sword the night of the battle. ?either of yo" have needed my help. yo". he others will r"n witho"t their leader. We weren't s"re what happened.= "hapter && "ele$ration Cheers rose "p from the 8ebels as they gathered aro"nd. <Don't worry. < here's nothing to forgive& ?ymph. . <D"ardian& come to protect yo"r protPgP@= 8obert lic!ed his lips. % love yo" no matter what and % always will.= D"ardian tossed y a sword. 4o"'ve had each other from the start. (on#a st"died y. <Are yo" s"re he's dead this time@= a!ing a vampire's head is the s"rest way to rid those yo"'re he werewolf$god smiled wic!edly with the comment. < han! .inish the hell bo"nd sc"m so we can be on o"r way.oo!ing closer& the gleaming steel was his own weapon. %f yo" hadn't ta!en that vampire o"t& % don't !now what wo"ld have happened. he D"ardian nodded.= him. he werewolf$god stood nearby. he D"ardian flashed a wolfish grin at < y@= (on#a's voice was nothing more than a whisper. 8"shing to her& y eAamined the wo"nd& which had already started to heal. 4o" weren't alone then and yo" aren't alone now.= (on#a smiled wea!ly and glanced behind him to see the D"ardian standing there. *e's gone. 4o"'re my mate. (omehow yo" managed to save "s.= <?o need to than! me. Can yo" forgive me@= y's breath warmed her chee! as he lowered his head and !issed her so"ndly on the lips. <*e's right yo" !now. protecting of his sorry ass.= he people on the wagon train crowded near and shoo! y's hand with enth"siasm.
<%'m sorry.108 <% didn't do anything really.= Briann slipped an arm aro"nd 3eb and smiled "p into his face. he less eApanding on 2rs. <4o"'re wonderf"lC= With relief and #oy& she fl"ng her arms aro"nd y's nec! and h"gged him hard.= y tried to downplay the whole attac!. <4o" are my hero& Deneral.= (he smiled hesitantly at him.oflin& a 8ebel solider dying of his wo"nds& she n"rses him bac! to health.= heir lips met in a coming home !ind of !iss where body parts molded to familiar territory.or the first time in over five ho"rs& she co"ld breathe witho"t a weight on her chest. %'m so happy& %'m afraid % got carried away. When she st"mbles "pon y . Fveryone's watching. < hat's eno"gh& 2arie& the Deneral's had a long night.= 2rs.= *e p"lled her close as Fthan and ?athanial stood neAt to them. (tevens reached o"t and too! his hand in hers& p"mping it in eAcited appreciation. <?o& ?ymph& yo" have every right to share in the victory. he bandage is for the others. han! yo"C= . y's arms came aro"nd (on#a and drew her into his side.= y reached o"t and snatched her bac! into his arms. The End Books $% "atherine Wolffe The %ady in the &ist 'The (estern (erewol %egend )*+ he Civil War too! (on#a Broo!sM h"sband and left her alone. % co"ldn't have done it witho"t yo". <*ow are yo"@= <Better. <% co"ld !iss yo"C= *er arms looped aro"nd his nec! and her mo"th hovered "nder his so close she co"ld feel his breath& all warm on "neven eAhales.= With a wic!ed grin& he growled& <. what had happened the better off for everyone. he wo"nd's almost gone. Are yo" coming down with something@= 2a#or (tevens too! his wife's hand. <We're gratef"l to yo" too& sir. We sho"ld let him get some rest. *er fate as a werewolf is sealed. <2y b"t yo"'re cold. Jnprotected and scared& she r"ns headlong into a life changing event when sheMs attac!ed by a pac! of wolves.et everyone watch. Did he feel that@ he eAG"isite r"sh of fire "p his nec! and down his bac!bone had to be intense& it was for her. (on#a slowly released him and inched bac!. <4o" saved all o"r lives& y. (tevens stepped toward Deneral (tewart. *eMs the perfect mate& b"t will he want her once he !nows the tr"th@ .
?ow he's a good Brivate %nvestigator with special s!ills.comQcatherinewolffeQ http/QQwww. (he was his first love and now the (hooter Cree!Ms ranch boss canMt allow her to s"cc"mb to the danger that stal!s her.faceboo!.com/c24lup9 .109 %n Boo! 1 of this new series by Award$winning a"thor Catherine Wolffe& the Western Werewolf .. %eighton. . 3essie Colter always wanted to be a dancer.oflin reali>es he is on a collision co"rse with the past. B"t (eth ref"ses to leave her side& and his vow to protect her gives Celia the hope and co"rage she needs.eighton& the only person who believes her& and in doing so& "nderstands more than she'd ever imagined.freado.com/asbadal Comanche Haven – Free Sample http://tinyurl. wants her.comQAwardWinningA"thorCatherineWolffe http/QQtwitter. .egend weaves a new blend of western romance with paranormal elements involving werewolves and vampires. Buyers link: Comanche Haven http://tinyurl. (omeone wants to !idnap her and sell her as a slave& b"t now that sheMs in his protective arms& he intends to !eep her safe. B"yer's lin!/ A Dance in Time http://tinyurl.com/bbm7ggk The Lady in the Mist – Free Sample http://tinyurl. *e's on the trail of a woman who's acG"ired a priceless nec!lace. .eighton was a good 2arine "ntil one eAtraordinary night in %raG. *is s"periors want her !illed& b"t 3. .catherinewolffe. And if she stays at (hooter Cree! with (eth& sheMll be p"tting the man she has always loved and his ranch in danger of harboring a Comanche. Celia canMt r"n bac! to the safety of her former life in (o"th Carolina.earn more at www. B"yers lin!/ The Lady in the Mist http://tinyurl.com www.catherinewolffe.wordpress.T.or die trying. /ook *+ . (he t"rns to 3.comQ"sersQ35251QCatherine$Wolffe . Discovering why will p"t their lives in #eopardy. ?ow sheMll fight for her new life with (eth.com https/QQwww.com/bps6rtp 0 $ance in Time '1.omanche -aven 'The %o lin %egacy.com/ammhgwg .. ?ow& her life's on hold "ntil she can "nderstand what the strange reG"est left by her deceased parents means.rom the moment Celia& the emerald$eyed& Comanche half$breed& gets off the stage in yler& eAas& (eth . Time Traveler )*+ 3. .
a"in$ .o!"0 2n+ian"0 "tron$3#ille+ #o*en an+ "tea*! ro*an.len+in$ of the tra+itional #e"tern ro*an.atherine#olffe%.110 ABOUT THE AUTHOR Catherine Wolffe en o!" #ritin$% &he lo'e" e()eri*entin$ #ith the $enre" an+ her late"t .e #ith )aranor*al ele*ent"% /a.raft0 "he *i(e" ele*ent" of the fan.e.if1l or other#orl+l! #ith "oli+ hi"tori.oo.o#.hara.h.t" a .a1"e #itho1t the*0 there #o1l+n4t .ter" #ill follo# their +rea*"0 .al fi$1re"% &ho#..lin$ in ti*e tra'el0 fanta"!0 a" #ell a" #it.e i" her )a""ion% 2n her ro*an.o* .e"0 her heroine" #ill ha'e a *in+ of their o#n0 #hile her heroe" #ill ha'e heart" of $ol+% All her .e a "tor!% 5earn *ore at ###%.refle.
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