The Ranger and the Redhead

Excerpt from The Ranger and the Redhead by Lynna Banning....

     A faint scratching sound behind her turned her blood to ice water. A pause, then another scritch-scritch on the teepee wall, as if a fingernail were scraping over the tight deerskin. Then came a voice, speaking so quietly Charlotte wasn't sure she really heard it.

     "Ma'am? Are you in there?"

     She moved toward the voice, pulling her arms tight over her belly. "Who are you?" she whispered.

     "Name's Bondurant. Followed your trail."

     Charlotte felt a sudden urge to cry. The strips of petticoat she had torn off and dropped along the way had worked. Someone had seen them, followed them to the Indian camp. She clamped her teeth shut over a sob.

     "Ma'am? Are you ... " He hesitated. "...all right?"

     No! She wanted to scream the word, but caution held her tongue in check. "I am unharmed," she murmured. "But awfully thirsty. Have you come to take me away from here?"

     "I've got a plan. Can you hold on a little longer?"

     A plan! Oh, thank the Lord, the man had come to rescue her. "Y-yes, I can," she replied.

     "Okay, listen up. I'm gonna circle around and ride straight into the camp."

     Charlotte sucked her breath in. "You cannot be serious. They will kill you!"

     She thought she heard a tired sigh. "Don't talk, ma'am. Just listen."

     She nodded, then realized he couldn't see her.

     "Whatever you see or hear, don't do anything. Don't react in any way, no matter what."

     Again she nodded. "I understand, Mr. Bondurant."

     She huddled in the airless enclosure, reminding herself to stay calm, for what seemed like hours, until an outcry of voices rang through the camp. Creeping forward, she pushed aside a corner of the tent flap.

     A tall, hard-looking man in a black hat banded in silver conchas stepped a dark horse into the center of the camp. He waited for some minutes, his hands folded loosely on the pommel, his face unsmiling.

     She squeezed her lids shut. She couldn't watch.