“Damn all men for being so overbearing,” she yelled from inside the cabin. His lips curved in a smile. She was right about the one thing he had understood from her tirade. No man would, or should, ever own her. She was strong willed, full of spirit, and irresistibly beautiful. Could he let her go back to a man who no doubt would try and break that spirit?”
“I wish I understood their language, and could speak with them,” she said when they were alone again. “I think I did learn a few words, though, Dosa bia’isa.” She glanced up at him expectantly. Daniel’s eyebrows raised in surprise. “I know that’s what they call you, and they call me Dosa haiwi, although I don’t know what these words mean.” Daniel smiled. “To the Tukudeka, I am known as White Wolf, and Elk Runner gave you the name White Dove. But I prefer to call you gediki.” “Meaning?” She faced him, her hands on her hips. “It refers to a wild cat.”
“The cabin door creaked open slowly, and she tensed, then pounded the dough more forcefully than before. She glanced up briefly. Daniel appeared in the doorway. Her focus returned to her work. “I’m making bread,” she announced tersely. He hadn’t moved further into the cabin, prompting her to look up again. His lips curved in a wide grin, and his eyes roamed over her. She shot him a questioning look, her eyebrows raised. “I will teach you,” he said quietly. “Teach me what?” Her eyes narrowed suspiciously. “You asked me to teach you to survive in the mountains. I will teach you.” She stared up at him, wide-eyed. The anger melted out of her, and a smile formed on her lips. “Really?” she asked excitedly. “Your first lesson will be how to skin and dress a deer. Come outside.” He turned abruptly and walked out the door.”
“placed her hand on his upper arm. It was an innocent gesture, but the sensation was like a jolt of lightning, even through the fabric of his shirt. His body reacted instantly. He swallowed hard and cleared his throat. Right now, his emotions spiraled out of control. “Aw, hell!” In one fluid movement he pulled her to him, one hand at the back of her head, his other arm coiled around her waist. He tilted her head and claimed her mouth with the hunger born of weeks of pent-up desire for this woman. Kissing her like a starved man who’d finally been given a morsel of food, Daniel savored the feel of her soft body pressed to his. It’s what he’d longed to do since he first laid eyes on her.”
“His beautiful, brave little wildcat had once again amazed him with her quick thinking and actions.”
“Consumed by a burning love for this woman he held in his arms, he suddenly realized he couldn’t let her go. The thought of losing her today had tested his strength and endurance to the limit. Daniel knew he would do it all over again if he had to.”
“You came for me.” Her voice was a mere whisper. “I would follow you to the ends of the world if I had to,” Daniel said in a sultry tone.”
“No man will ever touch you again.” Then, in a whisper, he added, “No man but me.”
“I have done everything to try and get you out of my mind. I thought sending you away would be the solution, but I realized today that . . . by God, I can’t let you go.”
“Something wet and cold fell into her lap. Aimee jumped in surprise, jolted out of her sensual daydreams. She stared as a large trout flopped up and down on her legs. Her gaze shot toward the river. Daniel wore a wolfish grin on his face. “You threw a fish at me?” she shouted in false anger. “I can’t believe you threw a fish at me!” In truth, it was hard to believe. Mr. Tall, Dark, and Scowly had actually done something funny. Imagine that. She bent down in pretense of picking up the wiggling fish, and gathered a handful of river mud from the bank, and squeezed it into a ball. As Daniel slowly waded toward her, still grinning from ear to ear, she aimed and threw the mud, hitting him in the shoulder. “Hah! Take that!” Daniel’s grin faded quickly. “Two can play at that game.” Aimee kept taunting him, her hands on her hips. Daniel emerged from the river, and she swallowed hard. Her eyes roamed over his glistening wet body as he advanced. His feral virility stunned her. Several large jagged scars on his chest stood out against his olive skin. Why hadn’t she noticed them the day before? She swallowed nervously as her gaze traveled lower, and sighed in relief. He wasn’t completely nude. He wore a breechcloth, but it didn’t leave much to the imagination as to what it covered, and only served to accentuate his flat, rippled stomach and muscular thighs. The smoldering look in his eyes as he advanced sent her a few steps backwards, and the smile on her face froze. Oh God! Is he really this angry because I threw some mud at him? In one lightning fast, predatory move, Daniel grabbed her up and flung her over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes, and turned back to the water. “What are you doing? Put me down!” Aimee shrieked. Her fists pounded his hard back while her feet kicked uselessly in the air. He waded into the water a few feet, and unceremoniously threw her into the river. Before she hit the water, her thought was one of disbelief that he carried the game this far. It seemed so uncharacteristic of him. “You slimeball,” she yelled as her head emerged from the water. She was actually pleasantly surprised at this new, playful side of him. At least it solved her dilemma of wanting to go for a swim earlier. “How dare you!” she squealed in mock anger. Daniel dove into the river after her and came up inches from her face. She splashed water at him to ward him off. Daniel’s hands shot up and encircled her wrists. Flashing a devilish grin, he asked, “What is a slimeball?” She couldn’t keep up her false anger any more. “A slippery snake,” she laughed. “Like you, who preys on helpless women.” Daniel’s eyebrows shot up. “I thought you said you weren’t helpless.” “You’re right, I’m not helpless,” she confirmed, and flapped like a fish to try and free herself from his iron grip.”
“Daniel smiled to himself as he held this precious woman in his arms. A sense of peace and contentment that he hadn’t felt before washed over him. It was as if he finally found something he’d been missing all his life.”
“I am not good with words, but you make my heart sing, Aimee.” He kissed her forehead, and caressed her face. “I swore I would never have feelings like this for a white woman, but I was lost to you the moment I first saw you.”
“I know now that my infatuation with Emma was only that. It wasn’t love. And I didn’t love Morning Fawn. I was fond of her, but my mind and body didn’t burn for her the way I burn for you. I have fought my affection for you all these weeks. I can’t fight it anymore. You are my heart song,” he whispered.”
“If you don’t wish to stay in the mountains, I’ll go to the city with you” he said soberly. “You would do that for me?” “I would.” “I could never ask you to do that.” She shook her head. “You are a part of these mountains, and they are a part of you.” “You are part of me. You belong to me now,” Daniel said softly, stroking her cheek.”
“I wish to be your man . . . your husband. I want you for my wife.” He gazed intently at her. His eyes spoke of hope and expectation. Her own eyes widened in surprise. “You want what?” She exhaled incredulously. Her heart pounded in her chest, and her mind raced so fast, she couldn’t hold on to one coherent thought. “I am a good provider, and I will protect you with my life,” Daniel stated passionately.”
“There are so many things about me that you don’t know,” she whispered. Should I tell him? God, this was torture. “All I know is that I can’t give you up. You belong with me.”
“Daniel, I love you . . . you are my heart song.”
“Do you disapprove of my choice of clothing, too, like you disapprove of me having an education or being a . . . a spinster? And don’t you even dare tell me to put my hair up!” She wagged a finger at him. Daniel’s grin widened. “I don’t mind your clothes. They are much more practical here than if you wore a dress. And I never said I disapprove of you being educated or unwed. As for your hair,” Daniel paused and she noticed his eyes darkening. “It would be a shame to hide it away under some cap.”
“I told you to go to the cabin! Dammit, woman. Don’t you ever listen?”
“She is a brave woman, White Wolf. She will make a good wife and give you strong sons. She also has powerful medicine,” he said in awe. “Tell her I am forever grateful to her for my life. And if you do not take her as your wife soon, I may take her back as my second wife, no matter that she is too small.”
“Perhaps Elk Runner was right, and you did fall out of the sky.” A grin spread across his face. “You are most definitely a great mystery.” “What else did Elk Runner say?” Aimee’s eyes narrowed. “He said he is grateful for what you did for him, and he considers taking you back and making you his second wife.” He could barely maintain a serious facial expression. “Even though you are too small for his taste,” he added. “Oh, you men are just infuriating.” Aimee spun on her heels and disappeared into the cabin.”
“Men always complain that the minute they think they’ve got a woman figured out, the woman does something to completely confuse the man again.” Daniel nodded. “I would agree with that.” “Well, that’s because men are simple-minded and uncomplicated.” Why was she having this conversation with him? “All a man needs is food and . . .” she stopped herself. Oh, she really didn’t want to go there! Why did she have to open this can of worms? “Food and what?” Daniel pressed. She took a deep breath. “Give a man food and sex” – there I said it – “and they’re as happy as clams.” Daniel coughed and almost choked on a piece of venison. A split second later, a thoroughly devilish smile spread across his face as he intently peered up at her from across the table. She held her breath. God, why did he have to be so damn good-looking, especially with that heart-stopping smile of his! “Well, your cooking’s been real good so far,” he drawled. His eyes smoldered as he stared at her. She waved her hands in front of her, palms out, and abruptly left the table. “Okay, this conversation has gone far enough. You are a typical man, Daniel, and it brings me to my final point,” “Point?” “Men are pigs.”
“She has a gentle hand.” Elk Runner grinned at Daniel. “But you would not know this, would you, White Wolf?” ”
“She is not yet your wife. You have more endurance than any man I know, White Wolf. Her man is not coming for her.”
“She would have to be more careful from now on how she behaved around him. What would be considered innocent behavior in her time could definitely be taken as forward and suggestive in this day and age.”
“What did he want, anyways?” She was in no mood to start this old argument again. Daniel’s eyes traveled up and down her body in a way that made her shift weight from one foot to the other. “You.” His eyes burned holes right through her. “Oh.” She had already guessed as much. “So, you explained that I’m not available?” Daniel’s face actually lightened, and his lips curved in a grin. “He made me an offer for you that I had a hard time refusing.” “He what?” She stared at him in stunned disbelief. “So, how much am I worth?” she asked angrily. “He offered three ponies, two buffalo robes, and various other pelts,” Daniel answered casually. “I told him I wouldn’t take less than seven horses and six buffalo robes.” ”I can’t believe you think you can just barter me away like that. I don’t belong to you. What if he meets your price?” She stated heatedly. Daniel’s grin widened. “He won’t. No woman is worth that much, and this was the only way to peacefully settle this situation.” He paused, and all humor left his face. His eyes turned even darker as he stared down at her. “Understand this: you will know when I consider you to belong to me.” With those words, he left Aimee standing in stunned silence to ponder his meaning.”
“He gently brushed some strands of wet hair out of her face as he leaned over her. Slowly, he lowered his head and brushed his lips over hers for a feather-light kiss, while his fingers caressed her cheek. Molten heat coursed through his veins and he quickly pulled back. “My brave little gediki,” he whispered. His lips widened in a smile.”
“Daniel observed her from afar, and tried in vain to conceal the hunger in his eyes. She showed none of the disdain against the Indians that he had encountered from whites back east. Aimee was genuinely warm and friendly with these people who were like family to him. She obviously loved children. She played games with the younger ones, and each time she held Elk Runner’s infant in her arms, a new wave of desire spread through him. He tried not to think about what it would be like to see her holding a child, their child, in her arms. That could never happen. His white mother had died in this wilderness, giving birth to him. No matter how she dressed, or her abilities on the trail, Aimee was still a white woman. Like a beautiful spring flower, she would wither and die in these mountains. Neither lasted long in this harsh environment.”
“If she is promised to another man, how long will you wait to see if he comes for her?” “I have no intention of keeping her,” Daniel said in exasperation. Elk Runner gave a hearty laugh. “Your eyes betray you, White Wolf. As sure as the sun comes up every morning, you want this woman.” Daniel ignored his brother’s remark. “If I have to, I’ll wait until my father returns, then I will take her back to St. Louis myself before the first snow.” “You will not be able to stay out of her sleeping blankets that long,” Elk Runner predicted with confidence. “This woman has you bewitched. It is like I said before. Perhaps the spirits brought her to you because they know a man should not live without a woman.” Daniel threw a stick in the fire, sending glowing embers into the air. Elk Runner tore a piece of meat from his skewer, and laughed.”
“I wish to be your man . . . your husband. I want you for my wife.” He gazed intently at her. His eyes spoke of hope and expectation.”
“Here I am with a seriously hunky guy and I'm covered in demon pee. Why does the universe hate me?”
“Adesso che son qui, ad analizzarmi, sono colto da un dubbio: che io forse abbia amato tanto la sigaretta per poter riversare su di essa la colpa della mia incapacità?”
“Wanting and needing are two different things.”
“Whose SUV is this?” I asked once we were out of Carnal.
“Mine.” He answered.
I looked at him. “You drive a Harley.”
“Not big on puttin’ bad guys on the back of my bike when I hunt them down, Ace. Fucks with my street cred.”
“the sky dark with wheeling birds.”
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