Leave a comment and be eligible to win an e-copy of THE WREN, the first book in Kristy’s Wings of the West Series (historical western romances). One book will be given away each day.
Also, for the month of May visit Kristy’s Facebook page and “Like” it to be eligible for a drawing for two $10 Amazon giftcards. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kristy...45328892197533
Nathan awoke early. Emma still slept, her face turned away from him, her dark hair in disarray. She must have unbraided it during the night. He liked her this way, relaxed and natural, her rumpled appearance far more enticing than any perfumed saloon girl. Not that he spent much time with such women, although there’d been a few. But generally he preferred less flash.
He left her, sweetly slumbering, and walked to the river. Sunlight had yet to reach the canyon corridor. Opposite their camp an exposed inlet cradled a sandbar—not quite large enough to beach a boat—and led to a cave-like indentation. Nathan wondered if critters made homes in areas like it along the water. This place was so barren and isolated, but at the same time offered a strange solace to the soul. It was beginning to grow on him.
Using a knife Emma had brought for cooking and a bar of soap he’d located among her supplies, he set to work shaving his face. After he scraped as much of the whiskers as possible, he rinsed his cheeks as well as the knife. He moved to the left of the cavern where there was just enough beach to get him out of Emma’s line of sight should she awaken. He stripped out of his clothes.
Wading into the water he scrubbed and rinsed his shirt and trousers, then laid them across a mass of rocks. He reentered the water, soaped himself completely, and washed his hair. He returned to shore and lay back on a blanket, enjoying the cool chill on his skin in the pre-dawn haze.
A faint snarl brought him to full alert. Slowly he sat up and looked behind him.
A mountain lion crouched several feet from him among a pile of boulders, her gaze focused and lethal. She looked to be eight feet long or more, and was clearly an adult capable of defending herself to the death. Her whiskey-colored eyes never left Nathan’s face, her light brown hide almost the same shade as his rocky refuge. Had she not growled, Nathan might never have seen her.
But the mountain lion’s clever hiding place also impeded a swift escape. Nathan knew if he spooked the cat, the creature would most likely lunge directly at him. If the animal ran into the protection of the cave, she would plow directly into Emma.
Nathan carefully rose to his feet, grabbing the blanket as he did. He wrapped the material around his waist. His gun—and Emma’s—was in the cave. He moved backwards in snail-like fashion in that direction.
The cougar growled again and shifted back onto its haunches. The skittish animal wouldn’t stay put for long.
“Nathan.” From behind Emma’s quiet voice startled him, which he held in rigorous check.
He took a quick breath. “Don’t move,” he said under his breath, still facing the cat.
“I see her,” she whispered. “She’s amazing.”
A thought struck him. “Get in the water.”
“You just said not to move.”
“I changed my mind. Get in the water. She’ll be less likely to attack you there. You don’t by chance have my gun?”
“Are you going to shoot her?”
“Not unless she attacks.”
Cold metal touched his fingers as Emma slipped the weapon into his hand.
Without warning, the cougar lunged toward them. In a rush, Nathan grabbed Emma and pushed her into the water. They fell with a splash and Emma’s startled scream echoed around them. Nathan quickly stood and tried to pinpoint the animal’s location. A sleek tan movement on the cliff face to their left, far past the cavern’s opening, caught his eye. Thankfully the cat wanted nothing to do with them. The steep rock walls along the river corridor appeared impassable, but somehow the mountain lion found a way up.
Nathan took a deep breath as his mind accepted that danger was no longer present. His heartbeat began to return to a normal rhythm. The weight of the gun in his hand drew his attention.
It was wet. Again. Hell.
Emma gasped from behind him.
He stood buck naked as the blanket floated near his legs.
“Sorry.” He waded into the water, but couldn’t resist a glance in her direction. Wet hair clung to her head and a nice rosy blush kissed her cheeks.
She stood. “No, I’m the one who should apologize.” She looked everywhere but at him. “I didn’t mean to intrude.”
She wore trousers, but instead of the heavy white shirt only a thin sleeveless undergarment covered her top half.
The dunk in the river molded it to her body and embraced her like a second skin.
He diverted his gaze but the image of her lingered in his mind.
She trudged out of the water. “Take all the time you need,” she said over her shoulder and hurried into the cave.
Nathan remained in his river bath for a long moment.
There was no doubt about it.
He was in serious trouble.