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Runaway, The

Author(s): Veronica Tower

Delilah is a runaway – an escaped slave desperately seeking her freedom from a sadistic owner. Carson is a lonely sodbuster who finds Delilah’s unconscious body near the outskirts of his dying farm. Two desperate people brought together by chance and threatened by fate in the form of Delilah’s former owner. Can Delilah learn to trust Carson and convince him to help her finish her escape?

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Excerpt

The sun hung high over head by the time Carson found the location of the carcass. He was out in the heat on a broken down burro three miles from home because he’d seen the buzzards circling and there was always the chance that the scavengers had found meat he could eat. It had been another bad year for crops and any meat Carson could put on the table—even scavenged carcasses—helped stave off starvation here on the edge of nowhere in the Oklahoma Territory.

He dismounted and drew his Sharps rifle. It was a muzzle loading long gun with a full charge of black powder behind one of Carson’s precious bullets. He hoped not to need the gun but it was best to be sure. Even dying, a coyote could cause him a world of hurt that just might result in the buzzards getting two meals today instead of one.

Two of the big birds were on the ground now—ugly critters braver and stronger than their fellows. They had pecked at their prey, impatiently testing the dying animal’s remaining strength. It had tried to shield itself from their unwanted attention by crawling between two large rocks and the boulders combined with the buzzards’ bodies and the waves of heat shimmering off the plain obscured it from Carson’s view. He approached slowly, whacking the first bird with the butt of his rifle when it failed to immediately give up its prize and retreat. Bullets and powder were too precious and the long gun took too long to reload to shoot the bird if he didn’t have to.

The buzzard staggered a few steps and returned to the air. Its friend followed it, calling out in anger to their fellows. Carson ignored them, crouching down to peer between the stones to see what sort of animal he had found and how difficult it was going to be for him to get it out. He jumped back in surprise when he found a woman.

She lay stretched out on her stomach, cheek to the ground, dark flesh covered in dust and a torn cotton smock. Her feet were cut and swollen from many days of walking unshod over rough ground. He might have thought that she was dead, but then the buzzards would have already been into her. Chances were that she had been conscious not too long ago.

Carson prodded the body and got no response, so he lay the Sharps down out of the woman’s reach and carefully pulled her out from between the rocks. Her dark skin was dry to the touch—sun burnt no doubt although it hadn’t turned red like his did. Her lips were cracked from lack of moisture, her face swollen with thirst. He went back to his burro to recover his water skin, squirting the slightest trickle onto her parched lips. They opened feebly in response, so he gave her a little more, careful not to do more than dampen the flesh. She couldn’t drink if she wasn’t conscious, but maybe the water would help revive her.

It didn’t.

Carson recapped his water skin and tied it to the burro alongside the Sharps. Then he picked up the unconscious woman, cradling her in his arms until he could set her on the burro’s back. He had to hold her in place as he began to guide the burro on the walk back to his little shack.

She was very light with little meat left beneath the flesh. She’d been on the road a long time—a runaway most likely—and the journey had taken a grueling toll on her body.

He hoped that she would make it.


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ISBN (Print):
ISBN (Electronic): 978-1-4543-0051-9
Genre: Fiction
Date Published: 05/05/2011
Publisher: Red Rose Publishing

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