Esther May had dallied too long at the secluded tent. She waited for Lieutenant Charles Bodkin, who said he wanted to be back for supper.
But he hadn’t returned.
Now, only an afterglow of the setting sun remained, and shadows crept around in the dusk.
Esther May pressed her lips together and clenched her fists. She knew better than to let herself get in this position.
She’d been warned.
Men Would Come
Abuela and another woman, Tesahay, said that men wanted to kidnap the notorious Riding Woman.
She should have been alert, but Esther May yielded to security, comfort, and masculine affection. Long weeks on the trail across mountains and desert created a yearning in her. She hadn’t felt this level of intimacy even with C.J., and she wanted more.
She wanted it so much that she’d cleaned up as if she were to go strolling with a beau. And like a proper lady, she’d left her gun behind.
Esther May spun to return to the garrison and was wrapped in two strong arms. Pressed against a bare chest, she smelled sweat and wood smoke.
“I knew that fool Chews Loud would turn you this way,” Snake Bite said. “He couldn’t sneak up on a dead goat.”
The Apache chuckled at his joke. “He’s still creeping through the trees. He must think you’re in the tent.”
Esther May struggled as hard as she could, but her arms were pinned, and she was held too close to use her knees or feet.
She opened her mouth to scream.
With one hand, Snake Bite grabbed her hair and jerked her backward to the ground. The other held a sharp knife across her nose.
“One sound, Riding Woman, and you will have the mark.”
Esther May had seen Apache women with their noses cut off. A disfigurement for all time to mark a cheating woman. She couldn’t nod with the blade against her, and before she said anything, Snake Bite groaned, fell on her in spasms.
A Second Arrival
Chews Loud straddled the pair on the ground and stabbed his tribesman again—twice more.
Esther May felt Snake Bite’s warm blood wash over her chest, arms, and neck. She pushed his limp body off, rolled over, and vomited.
On her hands and knees, Esther May continued losing her stomach.
A Little Boasting
Chews Loud was breathing hard. “The People will see now,” he said. “They’ll know that I am better than anyone in the tribe. I am the one that beat Snake Bite and stole Riding Woman.”
Esther May turned her head to see the victorious Apache’s dusky image raise his arms in a victory stance. His right hand held the murder weapon; his left hand made a fist.
Esther May dragged her fingertips across the ground, feeling for a rock. She needed a weapon—and time. It was risky, but she could play against his pride.
Afraid But Resisting
“You haven’t stolen Riding Woman yet, Brags A Lot.”
“No,” he said. “I may have Puking Woman.” He grabbed her by the hair as had Snake Bite and jerked her upright. “You will clean up before I take you to the village where all will see that Riding Woman is my second wife. My first wife will train you, and I will have your power.”
Chews Loud pulled her hair so hard, Esther May thought he might pull out a handful. He half dragged, half shoved her toward the creek.
Odors And Insults
“You will not go to my wickiup smelling like you ate with the buzzards,” Chews Loud said. “I will hold your head underwater, maybe put your face in the mud until the bad smell is gone, or you die.”
Esther May suppressed a groan as he twisted his grip in her hair. “And you,” she said, “will smell better after you lay three days dead in the sun. You couldn’t stink more than you do now.”
Chews Loud hissed and shook Esther May’s head like a gourd rattle. She wasn’t sure if her vision of the tree trunks blurred or if something moved behind them.
How will Esther May defend herself? Don’t forget to leave your comment.
It’s no wonder Esther May threw up. Turns out, humans are repulsed by the scent of blood. Here’s an article why.
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