A Soul Connection
Before he opened his eyes, C.J. knew that Imala was feeding the morning fire. The small pops and snaps of the wood burning were nothing compared to the flame of passion he carried for the Apache maiden.
He tried to stretch his will out to her. Wrap phantom arms around her and pull her to his chest.
Last night, while the wind shook pine cones out of the tall trees, he and Imala sheltered in a calm spot below the rim—and his life changed.
Imala had invited him to her blanket.
Never A More Glorious Morning
This morning would be better than fresh-baked bread.
C.J. grinned and flexed. Perhaps Imala would like to camp here for a few days. He’d be willing to jump in the cold pond anytime if her response would follow last night’s result.
“Ow! What’d you do that for?” C.J. rubbed his head where the bullet-sized rock hit.
“Get up.” Imala pulled a lump of pemmican from a deerskin pouch, broke it, and put half back in the bag. She divided the remaining food by crumbling it into two gourds and adding water.
She handed C.J. one of the vessels and finished the contents of the other in a couple of swallows.
C.J. swirled the mixture and grinned. “Don’t you want to stay here for a while? You know, just—kinda stay?”
“Well, what’s the rush?”
“You’re taking me to Cibecue. You promised my grandmother.”
Tell Me Why
C.J.’s stomach lurched at a thought. “You ain’t going down there to get married, are you?”
Imala scowled at him. “You’re the same as the men of the people. You think women are made for you.” She threw her gourd. It glanced off his cheekbone.
“Dang it, Imala!” C.J. jumped to his feet. “After last night, of course, I’ve got feelings for you. I thought me and you—you know. After what you did for me.”
Imala’s brows lifted, and she smiled. “For you? What I do, I do for me.” She waved the conversation away with a flick of her wrist. “Except at Cibecue. I go there for the people.”
C.J.’s head buzzed. Imala didn’t want him the way he wanted her. Why had he thought otherwise?
He swallowed his breakfast and picked up her gourd, taking the time to regain a touch of dignity. “Okay, then. What do you need to do for the people, and why do I have to take you?”
“I am Imala. I go to help Taklishim, the Gray One, keep the people from losing their way.”
“I don’t understand, Imala. How’re you going to do that?”
“Imala is a name and also means strict teacher or one who makes others behave.”
“Like a school ma’rm?”
“More powerful. An enforcer. My grandmother is Imala. She gave me the ceremony when I was a young girl and taught me many things. Taklishim is the medicine man, and he asked for me. The people wander in the white world. They drink whiskey and grow lazy. Taklishim and I will make them strong again.”
C.J. felt an ache of loss. He was nothing, not even a real cowboy, and Imala stood straight and confident in a mission to guide people. How would he ever be worthy of her?
But Is There Hope?
“Why me, Imala? Why did your grandmother want me?”
Imala’s eyes were neither cold nor caring, only matter-of-fact. “She wanted your horse. Only a spirit animal has that color, and for some reason, the horse likes you. Imala should ride into Cibecue on a spirit.”
Will C.J. lose Imala at Cibecue? Leave your comments now.
Yes, Indians of the southwest ate pemmican. Check out this short article.
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