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Authors: Kristi Hudecek-Ashwill

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BOOK: For the Love of Suzanne
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She took it. “Thank you.”

He picked up the rabbits and walked away, heading
away from her so he could clean them without making her sick.

She could still see him and watched him even
though his back was to her. He was definitely sexy, and she was sure
he had no idea that he was. His straight, black and shiny hair hung
between his shoulder blades, the muscles in his back rippled with his
movements and his legs were long and lean. She wondered who cut his
hair and how they did it. It was nice and even, unlike her own.

He came back empty handed and scavenged around
until he found some suitable wood and arranged it in a pile,
surrounding it with small rocks.

She watched him take two sticks and rub them
together with fast motions and reached into her pocket, pulling out a
dark blue disposable lighter to show him. “I used to smoke,”
she explained and lit it.

He jumped back in horror. “What is that?”
he gasped.

She smiled. “It’s a lighter. You start
fires with it. Watch,” she said as she gathered some dry brush
and placed it between the small pieces of wood. She lit a piece of
brush with the flame and sat back as it slowly made its way to the
wood.

He looked at it with awe on his handsome face. “A
lighter?”

She nodded. “Would you like to look at it?”

“Yes.”

She handed it to him and watched him turn it over
in his hand several times as he examined it with interest. He was
enamored with it and even though he knew what was going to happen
when he turned the metal wheel, he tossed it away in fear when the
flame appeared.

She smiled as she retrieved it. “It won’t
hurt you,” she assured him and lit it again and let it burn.
“See?”

He sat down beside her and looked on. “Where
did you get that?” he asked her slowly.

“I bought it at a gas station,” she
said casually, looking at him with a slightly anxious feeling. His
nearness was not unpleasant, but it was kicking up her hormones a
notch. It had been a long time since she’d been with a man, but
she promptly dismissed the awkward feeling.

“Gas station,” he echoed. “What
is this gas station?” he asked curiously, looking into her
eyes, thinking again she may be a person of the stars.

“It’s where you buy gas for your car,”
she said simply. “Cars run on gasoline and the only place you
can buy it is at a gas station. They sell other things, too, though.
They sell coffee, cookies, candy, soda, chips, bread, that sort of
thing.”

“I don’t know what soda and chips are,
but it sounds like a general store.”

She nodded with a slight smile. “Yes. Kind
of like that.”

He diligently took the lighter from her and lit it
again, staring at the flame in awe. “I have never seen anything
like this.”

She smiled at him, feeling the tension ebb from
her body. “It is pretty cool. Sure works a lot faster than
rubbing two sticks together, huh?” she said brightly, nudging
him playfully with her elbow.

He was surprised she’d done that and didn’t
know if she meant to shove him away or if she was teasing him.
Deciding not to respond, he handed her the lighter. “Pretty
cool?”

“It’s a term that says you like
something.”

He smiled. “Pretty cool.”

She laughed, sure that he had never heard that
before, either. His innocence was endearing and she’d been
right. He did have a great smile and perfect even white teeth.
“Pretty cool.”

He laughed as he made his way to the horse and
took the saddle off him and set it next to the fire, followed by the
blanket. He then guided him closer to the camp and pulled a bag of
feed from one of his saddle bags. He scooped some into his hand and
fed it to the horse, knowing they had to make it to camp tomorrow or
the horse would die from lack of water and the heat.

She watched him speak to the horse in a language
she didn’t understand and stroke its powerful neck with
affection. She admired any man who was kind to animals and thought it
said a lot about their character.

She had taken in a stray cat after she and Beau
first moved into the trailer. It had been a big gray male with green
eyes. Beau had complained bitterly about the cat getting hair all
over and how much food he ate. She never thought he’d hurt the
cat, but the cat had mysteriously disappeared. When she’d asked
Beau if he’d seen him, he had shrugged casually and told her he
had no idea what happened to him and didn’t care.

Cody came back a short while later and mounted the
rabbits on sticks and held them over the fire to cook, trying to
avoid looking at her. She rattled him like no woman ever had and it
was disconcerting.

She watched him as the sky began to darken and the
first stars appeared. She’d always loved the desert sky at
night. There seemed to be more stars and the moon was always
brighter. She rubbed her arms to ward off the chill and stood up.
“Where’s the bathroom?” she asked looking around.

He looked up at her. “Bathroom?”

She nervously ran her hands over her back pockets,
not knowing how to explain it. “I have to pee.”

He knew what that was and pointed away from the
camp. “Go wherever. I won’t watch, but be careful of
snakes and scorpions.”

She hesitated at that. Both snakes and scorpions
could be deadly and she had no wish to tangle with either of them.

“Do you want me to go with you?” he
offered politely.

She shook her head. “No, thanks. I can
manage.”

“Don’t go too far,” he called
after her as she started to walk away into the darkness.

“I won’t,” she called back and
disappeared behind a big rock, thinking this was not fun. It sucked.
She’d never liked to use the great outdoors for this purpose.
She knew it didn’t bother most people, but she’d always
had a hang up about it. She figured it was just for tonight and she
would be back home in the morning.

Cody waited for her, keeping an eye in her
direction as he continued to cook the rabbits, turning them slowly to
cook them evenly. He always had his guns close to him, but looked to
make sure they were by his feet in case he had to go after her for
whatever reason.

She came back a few minutes later and took her
place by the fire, rubbing her arms to try to warm up, silently
wishing the fire were a bit bigger so it would provide some real
heat. It wasn’t that cold, but she wasn’t prepared for
it.

He handed her the sticks and went to retrieve the
blanket that was on top of the saddle. “I’m sure it
smells bad,” he said apologetically as he handed it to her.

She didn’t take it, but looked up at him
uncertainly. “What are you going to use?”

“We’re going to share this,” he
said simply and knelt beside her and wrapped it around her.

“Thank you,” she murmured.

He sat next to her and took the sticks. “You’re
welcome,” he told her with a little smile.

After a moment of tense silence, she asked him
quietly, “What do I call you? Cody or Black Fox?”

“It doesn’t matter here, but when we
get to my village, you will call me Black Fox.”

She nodded. “Okay.”

They sat silently for awhile, mesmerized by the
small crackling flames, both acutely aware of the other. They sneaked
peeks at each other as the flames illuminated their faces.

He pretended he didn’t notice her, but his
senses were more alive now than they’d ever been. It was a
strange feeling. He wanted to keep her for himself, protect her and
do things he’d done only with the whores at the fort. He knew
it would be different with her. She was no ordinary woman; he
respected that and kept his hands to himself.

She was incredibly attracted to him. Beau had been
gone for only a month. She didn’t miss his beatings or his
yelling and drunkenness, but he had a few moments of tenderness and
she did miss those. The last year of their marriage had been more
like a war zone and the finer moments had diminished to nothing. She
missed male attention and knew Cody would treat her a lot better than
Beau ever had. At least, he’d been kind to her so far.

The baby hadn’t even been conceived in a
tender moment. Beau had been drunk; she had been unwilling and he’d
taken her anyway. He didn’t remember what had happened when he
woke the next day nor did he apologize for the welts and bruises that
he had left on her body. He had never apologized for anything past
the first beating and that wasn’t the type of environment she
wanted to raise her baby in. They were both better off without him.

She couldn’t deny that she missed him,
though. She had still loved him when he died, but now felt relieved
the beatings had stopped, freeing her from fearing even going home
from work. There were no more phone calls in the middle of the night
and people weren’t hanging around the house anymore.

It had torn her heart out to come home in the
middle of the day to find him in bed with one of his girlfriends.
She’d walked in on them while the woman was on top of him,
gasping and moaning with him. She’d merely pulled the door
closed on them and left the house without saying a word or making a
scene. He hadn’t come after her and when she’d come home
hours later, he’d made no apologies. Instead, he’d blamed
her for making him seek female pleasure elsewhere because she was as
cold as ice. She knew she wasn’t capable of adequately pleasing
a man and had decided that she would never try again. That hadn’t
been all that long ago and she’d just let him have his way with
her as rough and as uncaring as he was.

Cody faced her when he heard her sniff and was
surprised to see tears streaming down her face. He felt an unfamiliar
ache that reached to the depths of his soul. He’d never felt that
before. He hadn’t seen a woman cry since his father died and
left him and his mother to fend for themselves. His mother had wept
bitter tears, but he now realized it had been more from fear than
actual sadness. She was an Indian woman who had been married to a
white man and they had a half-breed son. She hadn’t known what
to do so she’d moved them back with her people only to be
ridiculed, shunned, and mocked for leaving with the white man in the
first place.

Cody had made his way as best as he could. He had
gone to the white man’s schools and learned the white man’s
ways. It had been his only chance of surviving. It had been tough
being the only Indian child in a white school, but he’d made it
by sheer will and determination.

“Why are you crying?” he asked her
softly.

She shook her head, brushing her tears away with
the back of her hand. “No reason.”

He pushed her hair behind her shoulder
affectionately, then gently ran his fingers over her cheek, dampening
them with her tears. “Yes, there is. People don’t cry for
no reason.”

She smiled a little. “I do.”

“No, you don’t,” he said
lightly. “Are you afraid?”

She nodded with a soft sniff. “Terribly,”
she admitted with an uneasy laugh. “What are you going to do
with me?”

He looked out into the darkness with a sigh of
remorse. “Tall Deer needs a woman.”

“Who’s Tall Deer?” she asked
curiously.

“Chief Tall Deer. He can be reasonable, but
if you cross him, he can be very cruel. Be sure not to cross him,”
he warned.

Her jaw dropped and her eyes widened in shock.
“You’re going to give me away?”

“I have to, Suzanne. I owe this man a debt,”
he explained gently.

She shook her head in denial. “No, you
don’t. I’m not a piece of property to be traded or sold
or whatever it is you do,” she said coolly and pointed at the
big black horse. “Just load me up on that beast and take me
back to where you found me. I’m sure I can make my way from
there.”

His compassion came to the surface full force. She
spoke with some anger, but he knew she was scared and understood her
reason. Her future was uncertain and her past had blown up with her
car
. Anybody would be frightened, person of the stars or not.

He set the sticks with the meat on them down on
the rocks. “Suzanne,” he said softly and pulled her into
his arms to hold her close. “I’m sorry, but this is the
way it has to be.”

She should have fought him, but she couldn’t
help but slide her arms around his waist and rest her head on his
strong shoulder. It felt good to have someone hold her again even if
he was going to give her away. It had been so long…so very
long and he’d been more than kind to her. She pushed her fears
away and just enjoyed his strong arms being around her and rested her
head on his shoulder, silently accepting her fate.

At that moment, he wasn’t sure he could give
her up. This woman was unlike any woman he’d ever met. She was
so genteel. Not crass like the whores at the fort or even some of the
women in his own village. She seemed to respect him when so few
people did.

He wanted to be sure that Tall Deer would treat
her right. He didn’t think she could handle it if he got mean
on her. He’d been known to be overly cruel to his
slaves, which often ended in their deaths. He did have his times of
being reasonable, but he was quick to anger and lash out, and Cody
didn’t want Suzanne to feel the brunt of it. She was too soft.

Still, there was the debt, even if Tall Deer
didn’t know about it. It was a matter of honor. He owed Tall
Deer a woman, and there weren’t many to be found. He had to
give Suzanne to the chief.

He gently pulled her head off his shoulder and
gazed into her tear-filled blue eyes for a moment before delicately
pressing his lips to hers. He felt her trembling, but also felt her
weak response.

She clutched his biceps tightly with anxiety. This
was exceptionally nice, but it wasn’t right so soon after her
husband’s death. She pulled away and hid her face in shame.

“Don’t,” he whispered, pulling
her chin around so she had to face him. He felt bad for making her
tears worse and kissed her on the cheek. “It’s okay.”

BOOK: For the Love of Suzanne
3.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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