Thursday, July 23, 2015

Chapter 286: Beaten

Fiona fought, screaming, as Hezekiah Stone’s fingers twisted in her hair, dragging her forward. He cuffed her, and suns exploded behind her eyes as she stumbled to her knees. He let go of her hair and balled his fist into the back of her coat at the collar. She clawed at him, hot tears burning her face. Mr. Devereaux...oh, God. The thought of  Mr. Devereaux collapsing beside her in a spray of blood sent another spasm of blind rage and panic through her, and she screamed again, twisting and biting at her captor’s wrist. 

He delivered another hard blow, and this time she fell, sprawled in the grass at his feet, blackness threatening to close over her vision. “Get up, girl,” he growled. “You can walk or you can be dragged.” He reached down and grabbed the front of her borrowed blue Army coat, hauling her to her feet. Her knees threatened to buckle, and she grabbed his arm for support. “The army will buy you back pretty or beat to hell, they don’t care. Either way, they get to be heroes saving you from the injuns..” He shook her like a dog shaking a rabbit, and her teeth snapped together. “How beat up you get depends on you.”

She was breathing hard, her ears ringing and her vision wavering. She gritted her teeth, tasting blood.. I’ll not give this animal the satisfaction of seeing me fall again...

He nodded. “Good. See?” He jerked her forward. “You come along quiet, you get to stay pretty. Don’t give me a reason to put you on a leash.”

She let him drag her forward, her shaking legs barely holding her upright. The coat was digging into her armpits as she stumbled, jerked upwards as Stone held it wadded in his fist.

“Where...” she gasped, her voice shaking,. “where are we going?”

“Shut up,” he muttered. “You’re getting better than you deserve. Although that may change when Collins finds out you came out here warned the Sioux he was on his way.”

“Captain Scarcliff won’t...”

“My money’s on Scarcliff ending up dead, if he isn’t already. Collins means to give himself a promotion. So if I were you, I’d maybe re-figure who you need to be whoring up to.”

“What about you?” she spat. “You’re going to be in more trouble than I am, aren’t you? You know good and bloody well what’s really going on.”

“We all know good and well what’s going on, Red. And the safe bet is that you and your chattering mouth are  probably going to disappear.” He gave her another violent shake, nearly dragging her off her feet. “But not before I get paid for you. I’m getting something out of this, at least.”

New panic clawed at her insides and she closed her eyes, concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other. She was sweating inside the wool coat, her face dripping with tears and exertion. Mr. Devereaux’s shooting doggedly replayed in her mind like a recurring nightmare. And what’s become of Jesse? Was he killed as well? She swiped the prickly sleeve of the coat across her face. And Storm...what’s become of you, beloved? If Stone isn’t bluffing...if there’s a coup in progress...there’s no telling what’s happening with Scarcliff’s detachment. Both of Collins’ scouts are dead. Did he have them killed? What did they know?

Her control was slipping away as fear wrapped more tendrils around her and started squeezing. She forced her mind away from it, fighting to keep her terror at bay. Storm...I have to get back to you. I have to. Summoning all her will, she focused her mind on his beautiful face, on the infinite depth of his eyes. The world didn’t exist outside his embrace; she wasn’t alive unless his heart was beating against hers. I have to keep going...keep breathing. Get back to him. Nothing else matters.

She clenched her jaw, groaning with defiant effort. He’ll let his guard down at some point. Stop fighting and pay attention. Be ready to bolt at any time.

What if I never see him again? The thought was incessant, loud, shouting over her efforts to stifle it. What if I die without holding him one last time? What if I do make it back and he’s dead? She hung in Stone’s grasp like a rag doll, suddenly too empty to weep.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Chapter 285: Ill Wind

Storm knew something was wrong the instant the gates were hauled open and he rode into Bridger with Scarcliff’s company. The air was charged, crackling with fear and unrest. The grounds were quiet the way the surface of a hot pan was quiet just before the grease inside combusted. He glanced warily at Many Stars.


The old man’s face was the color of ash as he turned fixed his gaze on Storm's, a horrified knowing in his eyes.  Storm’s heart started to pound. He glanced around, trying to will the direct cause of his overwhelming sense of foreboding to materialize in front of him.

“What happened here?” he whispered. “I...I need to know where Fiona is.” He swung himself out of the saddle, taking Yellow Sky by the reins.

Many Stars dismounted beside him, still looking around. “Something bad,” he muttered, making his way over to where Scarcliff was sliding off his horse. “Captain,” he said under his breath. “Be wary. Something’s happening.”

A warm wind gusted across the parade ground, sending a haze of red dust into the air and turning the late afternoon sky into a faded, yellowed canvas. Soldiers stopped what they were doing at Scarcliff’s approach, snapping to attention. Palpable tension hung over the entire fort.

Pulling Yellow Sky along behind him, he broke into a jog. Fiona, please be in the cabin. Please...be in the cabin. Panic was clawing at his insides, sending strangling roots around his spine.

Up ahead, Lynch was coming out of the guest quarters. “Peltier! Thank God!”

“Mister Lynch!” Storm tossed Yellow Sky’s reins impatiently over the hitching post and bounded onto the rough stone floor of the porch. “What’s happened? Where’s Fiona?”

Lynch’s face was pinched, drained of color. “I don’t know,” he said, his voice flat and thick. He absently dropped a hand onto Storm’s shoulder and squeezed it, as if to assure himself his scout was really there. “She and Devereaux somehow left the fort.”

The air left Storm’s lungs in a gasping rush. “What? he managed to choke out. He shook his head, trying to make sense of what he’d just heard. “That’s...not possible. What? Are you saying she’s not...”

The look of near-panic on Lynch’s face was almost enough to cause Storm’s nerve to completely break. He’d never seen Lynch in this sort of state. The Old Man stood still, his steely eyes sweeping over the yard. “I had wondered if maybe she was with you,” he muttered, his mind clearly somewhere else. “Here.” Still anxiously watching the yard as if he thought his niece might appear at any moment, he shoved a folded sheet of paper into Storm’s hand.

I cannot explain at the moment. Something has come up that cannot wait. I am with Mister Devereaux, so do not worry about my safety. If I am unable to return to you there, I expect I shall see you back at the station.

-Fiona

He was having a hard time getting his brain to work. “She...how did they...?”

Lynch looked at him hard, his pale eyes boring into him with that terrifying stare of his. “Collins attacked the Lakota village. The two scouts that went with him are dead.”

Storm clapped his hand over his face, rubbing his brow with the heel of his hand. He sat down heavily on the porch rail. “Tabarnak,” he breathed. Bile clawed it’s way up his throat, leaving a burning trail in its wake. “No.” He reeled, the loss a physical ache. He felt as if he’d been punched hard in the gut.

“The young one died out in the field. The other one ended up dead in the brig sometime in the night.”

Storm closed his eyes, feeling them burn. Bad Medicine...he was a kid. He was... He felt hot wetness rolling down his cheek and he slapped it away. He was what miracles look like. And Wounded. Steady, reliable Wounded... He groaned, fighting to stifle his emotions and wiping his eyes on his sleeve. “We gotta get out of here,” he managed.

“Yeah. We do.”

“I’m gonna go talk to Scarcliff.” Storm drew in a deep, shaking breath and let it out slowly. He stood up and started off the porch.

One of Lynch’s wooly, steel-colored eyebrows shot upwards, threatening to crawl under the brim of his hat. “That’s the sumbitch that’s keeping us here.”

Storm turned, walking backwards. “He wants Fiona so bad he’s half crazy with it.” He turned back around and kept walking. “You think he’s gonna sit his ass in here while she’s out there in the middle of a war?”


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Chapter 284: By the Book

Rosie tiptoed across the worn wooden floor of the house, navigating the almost complete darkness and  trying hard not to wake anyone. Now that Miss Lily, Mr. Saint, and Mr. Bender had come home, and the station hadn’t been attacked, everyone was beginning to relax a bit. Most of the men had started sleeping in the bunkhouse again, although someone was usually on the sofa through the night, just in case. She had no idea who she heard breathing through the darkened parlor door as she passed, but she thought it sounded a lot like Wash’s soft, comforting snuffle. Her heart swelled with fond gratitude at the sound. He’s so kind to me. They all are. What would my life had been like without them? She stepped gently, settling her bare feet carefully so as to make no sound, knowing if she did, he’d be up and instantly alert.
Slipping out of the side door into the garden, she relaxed and exhaled, listening to the sounds of the crickets. Somewhere near the river, a screech owl trilled, its voice strange and eerie.

Who was I before this? Do I miss that girl? Do I even remember her?

There was a lamp burning in the kitchen. She could see the yellow light behind the curtains in the windows and shafting through the propped-open door and onto the porch. Who is up at this hour?

A voice, faint and half whispered, was murmuring softly. She stepped up onto the porch, her ears pricking to make it out.  Is that...?

“Luis?”

His head jerked up in surprise, dark curls tousled and uncombed. Dark circles lurked under his eyes. Her reading book lay open on the table before him. “Miz Rosie?”

“My goodness, Luis, you’re still up at this hour?” she said, incredulously. “Have you been to sleep at all?”

“No, senorita,” he said. “Not yet.” As exhausted as he looked, his eyes were incandescent. He shook his head, a breathless smile on his lips.

Rosie frowned, her surprise quickly turning to concern. He seemed delirious. “Luis, are you alright?”

“I can do this,” he breathed. He clamped his hand over his mouth. Rosie could see his fingers shaking.

“Luis,” Rosie pulled her dressing gown around herself tighter and sat down beside him. “You’re scaring me.”

He gripped the cover of the book before him with both hands. “Rosie, I can do this.”

“What are you saying?” Whatever Luis was in the throes of, it seemed to be catching. Rosie’s heart had started to pound.

“I...” Suddenly, Luis’ eyes were brighter, wetness sparkling on his black eyelashes. “Rosie, I think I can do this. I can...” He reached over and took her hand, squeezing it. “Read.” His breath caught in his throat and and his mouth hitched into an incredulous smile.

Rosie’s heart was pounding in her ears. “You’ve been sitting in here all night working on this?”

“Si.” he nodded. “I have. What you showed me. It’s easier when we write it on the ground, but...” He unwrapped his shaking fingers from hers and fumbled with the papers lying on the table. He’d written some simple words in huge letters, the lines shaky and unsure, and a few of the letters backwards. He traced the shapes with his ink-smudged fingers, rattling off the names of the letters and then saying the words.

“Oh!” Rosie’s dropped open. She wanted to dance. She wanted to shout. She wanted to wake up everyone on the property. “Oh, Luis!”
“I’m doin’ it, si?” His brown eyes were huge, imploring her.

“Si! Yes! Ha!”

A mixture of emotions twisted his face, tears spilling over his lashes. He grinned, his brows furrowing over her eyes as he shook his head. “Ah, senorita...” he whispered, his voice tight. “Gracias...I can’t ever...”

His gaze fell on hers and Rosie felt the room spin and fall away, the way it always did when he spoke Spanish to her in his incredible accent and called her “senorita’. He leaned towards her, their noses colliding awkwardly, and he turned his head, softly pressing his lips to hers.

Lightning cracked through every bit of her body, sizzling through her veins, exploding in her chest. Nothing existed but the sweet warmth of his lips, the tickle of his curls against her face, the incredible, stupefying nearness of him. The room, what was left of it, wheeled and crashed and dissolved.

She opened her eyes in time to see the thick curl of his lashes flutter open as he pulled away, color flooding his cheeks. Her own face was on fire, and she drew in a giddy breath, thankful she was sitting down. Did that just happen? Did Luis Santana just kiss me? On the lips?

He looked sheepish, breathless, watching her to see if he should apologize or not. He was grinning in spite of the embarrassed color flooding his face.

How can he not hear my heart? How is it not waking Wash up all the way in the house? She felt breathless and weak. The intensity of his beautiful eyes was too much. Looking down at the table, she wondered why it was suddenly hot in the room, why the collar of her dressing gown was suddenly gluing itself to the back of her neck. Her lips tingled with the memory of him.

Luis cleared his throat awkwardly. “I’m sorry, Miz Rosie...maybe I shouldn’t have...”

“I wouldn’t mind...” Rosie said shyly, fresh heat flashing across her face. “If you want to do it again.”

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Working Hard on Riders and Kickers This Week

Bender

Hi, all. I threw all my energy into typesetting the late but upcoming Riders & Kickers this week, and didn't want to stop. I had quite a bit to do on it, including a panicked call to my editor yesterday, but I'm back on track now and finally have the main manuscript ready to go and the pictures lined up and prepped.

I'm so bleary-eyed I can hardly see.

Lily
Now, I just have to tweak the typesetting and finish up the cover, and hopefully I'll have a proof in my hands by late next week. Keep your fingers crossed and think good thoughts.

I hate missing a chapter at this point, but honestly, I can't write right now. I get too wound up and hyper-focused with this stuff.

I did make some of my faux ambrotypes some time back for Wattpad, and realized that I don't think I have shown them to you. So here they are if you have not seen them.

Storm
Anyways, I am planning on posting a chapter next week, so here's hoping to get this over with quickly so I can get back on schedule.

Have a great holiday weekend and stay safe!

-gina

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Chapter 283: Where Angels Fear

“Dev! Dev! Oh shitfire, Dev...” Jesse was scrambling through the aftermath of the battle, barely aware that the attacking soldiers were now hastily retreating. Still Water Woman and Runs Laughing, holding his hands as he ran, struggled to keep up with his long legs. The smell of black powder was sharp in the air, hazy blue smoke hanging over the village like a pall. He could hear shouts and curses, punctuated by the hissing slice of arrows finding their marks.

Two Elk was ahead of him, his lanky figure shuffling quickly to where Devereaux lay sprawled on the ground near Still Water Woman’s lodge. He stooped down, his hands quick and deft.

“Dev,” The word broke in Jesse’s throat as he said it, and he fell to his knees beside the fallen stock tender. He barely felt Still Water Woman’s hand gripping his shoulder. He felt dizzy and sick, gazing in horror at the dark blood streaking his friend’s ashen face as he lay still in the trodden, red-stained grass. He clamped his eyes shut against the heat and water filling them. Oh, God...Dev’s dead...and Fiona... Jesse’s eyes flew open, and he looked around wildly. “Fiona! Where’s Fiona?”

“Let’s hope she’s hiding somewhere.” Two Elk glanced around uneasily. He wound a handful of grass around his hand, jerking it free of the earth, and held the crushed wad of it to the gushing wound in Devereaux’s head. “This man’s alive, Sweetgrass. Bullet grazed him. His skull must be as thick as the rest of him.”

The air left Jesse’s lungs in a rush of startled relief. He swayed, dropping his head into his hands and jamming his fingers through his hair. Taking a deep, shuddering breath, he composed himself, unwilling to let anyone see how lost and terrified he felt.

“Wacanga...you and Eagle Bone get him inside the lodge for me,” Two Elk said, mopping blood from Dev’s face. “Then go find the woman.”

Dev moaned, his formidable black brows furrowing into a knot. His lips moved.

“Dev,” Jesse shuffled towards him on his knees, hating the tremor in his own voice. He wanted to cry with relief. “Dev, can you talk? What happened? Where’s...”

“Little Firebrand...” Dev breathed, his eyes slitting open. “There was a man here...long, yellow hair, beard...” He licked his lips, his voice wavering with effort. “Dressed like a trapper.Surprised us. Did he take her?”

Jesse felt new fear wash over her. Stone. He rubbed his lips with the back of his hand, remembering the dead-eyed mountain man back in the lodge of His Horses. If he’s captured her...I don’t know what to do. He exchanged a glance with Two Elk, hoping vainly to see some answers in the old man’s face.

Dev winced, trying to get his brain to start working again. His chest rose and fell under his stained shirt as he gasped in pain. “We gotta go get her.”

Two Elk pressed a fresh handful of grass to Dev’s injury. “You’re not going anywhere,” he muttered. “I don’t know how you haven’t bled out.”

“I’m going, Dev,” Jesse said. “You’re not.”

“So you’re leaving me here in a Lakota camp, with a man in a dress?”

“You’re better off than I am,” Two Elk smirked. “I’m being left here with a smelly half-bear in dirty clothes. Don’t be stupid. You’ve been shot in the head What do you think you’re going to do?”

“Eagle Bone!” Jesse got to his feet and shouted at the approaching warrior. “I...uh...I need...”

Two Elk spoke quickly in Lakota, and Eagle Bone moved to grab Dev’s ankles. Jesse wrapped his arms around the man’s chest and they both somehow managed to wrestle him inside Still Water Woman’s lodge. Jesse was immensely happy that they didn’t have to haul him far.

“You shouldn’t have come, Dev,” Jesse said, breathing hard and trying to catch his breath. “You and Fiona coming here was crazy.”

Dev opened one eye and glared at him. “Me and her coming here saved your lives.” He peered around, his gaze falling on Still Water Woman and Runs Laughing beside him. He looked them over before closing his eye again. “You’re welcome.”

He’s right. If we hadn’t had any warning at all...“I have to go after Fiona,” Jesse said. “ I don’t know how...Two Elk, tell Still Water Woman why I’m going. Tell her I’ll be back.”

Two Elk translated as he fumbled around the lodge for Still Water Woman’s healing supplies. Still Water Woman shook her head.

“No,” she said in Lakota. “I am going with.”’

Jesse took her by the shoulders.“You can’t...”

“I am not asking you, Wacanga.”

Eagle Bone gestured towards the doorway, barking something at him in Lakota.

The corners of Two Elk’s eyes crinkled. “He says to hurry up and get some weapons from the fallen enemy outside,” he said, his eyes crinkling. “He wants to leave before the trail grows cold.”



Thursday, June 18, 2015

Chapter 282: Wanted

The bell on the door to Abigail’s jingled, and Iris looked up from the math paper she was grading. She did a double take, an odd jolt of entirely unbidden excitement fluttering through her.

Mr. Monahan stood in front of the doorway, blinking and trying to adjust his sun-dazzled eyes to the shade inside the restaurant. His gaze fell on her and he nodded, purposefully covering the distance to her table with long-legged strides.

He was early, and she silently chastised herself when she realized that she was glad to see him. She didn’t want to be glad to see him.

“How’s things, Miss Sullivan?” he said, gesturing to the empty chair across from her. “Might I join you?”

She was startled at the abruptness of his approach. She was flustered, mentally unprepared to have him here. “Um...” She gestured to the empty chair. “Please.”

She’d been so engrossed in grading the stack of math papers on the table that she’d completely failed to see him ride up. Out of the window beside her table, she could see a silver company pony, its coat gleaming white in the sun, hitched outside.

He placed his hat on the windowsill and folded his big, work-worn hands on the table. The sunlight streaming through the glass illuminated him, turning his jaunty tousled curls into a swirl of copper and fire. He smiled, his lightly freckled face boyish and open. “I hope I’m not interrupting you, Miss. I know I’m early, so I am.”

“No, of course not,” Iris heard herself say. “I just wanted to get a head start on these papers...I haven’t ordered supper yet.”

“Aye, nor have I,” he said, leaning forward conspiratorially and winking. “Don’t tell Miss Lily I’m crying out for the stew here, she’ll think I’m unfaithful to her cooking, so she will.”

She didn’t want to be glad to see him, and she was angry with herself because she was anyway. Because the realization that his eyes were the exact color of distant mountains under a fiery sunset was dangerous. Unacceptable.

It was dangerous because she knew the man was lying about his past. And when someone is hiding their past, it’s because they have something to hide...and you ought to know, she chided herself, feeling a little like a hypocrite. You haven’t exactly been honest with him either...have you?

She cleared her throat and turned the paper she’d just finished to the side, forcing a smile she didn't feel. “Your secret’s safe,” she said, the irony of the statement heavy in her words.

His eyes flickered down to the papers in front of her and he reached over and took the top one. “Aye, now, this I can do,” he said in his sweet, musical brogue. “May I?” He pulled a pencil from his pocket and set to work on the sheet, quickly scanning the sheet before she could protest.

She stared, taken aback as she remembered how easily he’d figured how many pages the class had been assigned to read. Somewhere he learned arithmetic...and learned it well. She reluctantly pulled another sheet of paper from the pile, unwilling to relinquish the sight of him in the afternoon sunshine.The tiny bubbles and irregularities in the window glass softened the light as it fell across the impressive span of his shoulders, rippling and melting it. He looked like a Dutch Masters painting, all warm light and rich colors. Seeing him like this did not help things.

Why is he lying to me? What is he hiding?

She imagined him when he first arrived here, an injured stranger being hauled to the Doctor’s office by the concerned coach driver and her chest tightened. Who tried to kill him?  And why?

She dragged her gaze down to the table, so she wouldn’t have to look at how the sun gleamed in his copper hair. She could still see his hands, though, big and callused and with long, capable fingers, as they deftly went over test answers. A thought struck her, unwelcome and frightening.

He’s wanted. That man he shot at the Lynch place was not the first person he’s killed. What on earth has this man been into?

“You worked for the company in Saint Joseph, Mr. Monahan?” she said suddenly, raising her eyes to watch his reaction.

“What?” He jerked his head up, a confused look in his eyes. “Oh. Aye. Before coming here.”

She nodded, pretending to focus on her paper. He most certainly did not work anywhere near there. I knew every name on that payroll. So unless he signed on the moment I left...and the timing wouldn’t be right on that...his name wasn’t on it.

Unless...The air grew thick and stuffy in the room. Her collar started to stick to the back of her neck. Unless he knows what I've done...and that's why he's here.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Chapter 281: Snare

They knew we were coming. That’s the only way to explain this beating Collin’s men are taking.

Hezekiah crouched behind a fallen cottonwood and steadied the long barrel of his rifle against a broken branch. He squinted, making sure he had a clear shot before tightening his finger on the trigger. The recoil of the weapon jerked satisfyingly against his shoulder as the gunshot shattered the air. The Sioux brave he was aiming at fell dead in a heap, far enough away so as not to reveal his hiding place He figured the distance and the chaos would mask his location well enough.

This is some fine shit. He scowled, hauling the rifle into his lap and grabbing his powder horn. This ain’t how this was supposed to go. He re-loaded the rifle and dropped the rod into the barrel,deftly tamping the powder down. I’m gonna have to get my ass out of here if things don’t turn for us. “Damn,” he muttered, spitting into the dirt and raising the rifle again.

He dispassionately surveyed the mayhem of the village, watching Collin’s unprepared soldiers receive a very much unexpected thrashing. His eyes narrowed, focusing on the other side of the common area that ran down the middle of this part of the encampment.
The loud-mouthed squaw man he’d had words with in His Horse’s tent was on the ground in front of one of the lodges, being hauled to his feet by one of the Sioux bucks.

There’s that yellow haired son of a bitch...I wonder if he had anything to do with... He lazily swung the rifle around, his finger tightening on the trigger. Holy shit... He froze, staring. No. There’s my answer right there.

Across the clearing was a slender figure in the ill-fitting blue coat of a scout, struggling to pull a pistol from the hand of a fallen soldier. Long, flaming red curls spilled in tousled disarray from beneath the askew blue cap.

That red-haired whore from Bridger. She was spying on that conversation me and Collins had. She came out here and warned them.

More soldiers surged toward the lodge, and Hezekiah watched as the white man and the brave met them head on, dropping one of the soldiers before they even got near. A swarthy, heavily-whiskered bear of a man near them turned and threw a beefy arm around the woman, dragging her away from the fight while firing a pistol with his free hand.

Hezekiah ducked down, pulling the barrel of the rifle out of sight. That fat, hairy bastard is from the fort, too. What the hell’s going on here? He slowed his breathing, trying to remain motionless. They’re going to run right into me...

The man’s dark eyes were fierce as he held the woman protectively close to his chest, alert and attentive. Hezekiah held his breath as his fingers crept around the grip of his pistol. The redhead was breathing hard, her face pale with panic as she held onto her companion’s arm.

“Mr. Devereaux!” she rasped, on the verge of tears. “What about Jesse? What do we..”

“Shhh, Little Firebrand,” the man hushed her, his voice a growling rumble. “I want you to hide here so you don’t get shot.”

“Hide here?” She snapped out of her terror and turned to face him. “No! I can at least shoot! I’m certainly not going to sit here while...”

The man turned, jerking the woman behind him and hauling his pistol up at Hezekiah’s hiding place. Hezekiah fired, leaping from behind the deadfall and reaching for the woman as her companion toppled into the dirt in a spray of blood. She was screaming, her instantly bloodied hands frantically grabbing at the fallen man. Hezekiah grabbed a handful of her red hair and jerked her to her feet, winding her hair around his fist and hooking an arm around her waist.

“Like I said,” he grunted as he dragged her away from the bleeding man on the ground. She was howling into his ear, clawing at him and fighting him with a ferocity he didn’t expect. He yanked her back away from him and backhanded her across the face hard enough to shut her up and knock her off her feet. “I do love me a red haired whore. Good thing you came along when you did, girl. The army pays pretty well to get white captives back.” He tightened his grip in her hair, jerking her upright and forcing her to stagger along in front of him. “Bet you’re glad as hell to be rescued, eh?”