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Her Inheritance Forever (Texas: Star of Destiny, Book 2)
In the dim light, Scully let Quinn and Ash, crouching, move ahead. Not even he could hear Ash and Quinn creeping over the coarse grass, rocks, and sand. Scully made sure of each of his own footfalls.
Ahead, he saw one small fire. It must have been of dried mesquite since it barely revealed any smoke against the nearly dark sky. The three of them eased around in the shadows. Every sound from the camping Indians and their horses made his nerves tighten more and sharpened his listening. Then he heard it—rocks sliding down the hill.
And worse, the Comanches heard it too. Suddenly they were scattering away from the fire, grabbing rifles. How many?
Scully glimpsed Quinn lift his gun. A half-naked Comanche moved into the firelight. He held the señorita clamped against his side. With his other hand, he held a knife to the señorita's hairline, about to scalp her.
No. Scully aimed and fired. His bullet smacked, plowing deep into the Indian's forehead. The man was lifted off his feet. The force carried the señorita with him into the shadows beyond the fire.
Scully burst into the camp then, his tomahawk held high. The Mexicans came charging into camp too. Yelling. Gunshots. An arrow whizzed past Scully's head. A few sharp shrieks. The sound of horse hooves. And then all was silent.
Scully halted at the campfire and looked around. The other Indians and their horses had melted away into the sudden nightfall. He scanned the gloomy darkness for the señorita's paler skin and found her. Hehurried to her side. Kneeling, he lifted her from the ground. Her slender body was limp on his arms; her hair tumbled loose. "Are you all right?"
She stared up at him, her eyes wide with shock. A thin line of blood showed where the knife had etched her flesh. "Why did you shoot?" she demanded, suddenly coming alive. "You could have gotten me scalped."
He ignored her obvious hysteria and drew her closer to the fire to see if she'd been harmed. Touching her was strange but necessary. Added to the thin red line, her cheek was bruised and her face was smudged with dirt. Tears formed furrows on her cheeks. But her clothing hadn't been torn. Quinn came to them. "The rest have scattered. How is she?"
"Tío Quinn," the girl moaned, reaching for him.
Quinn knelt beside her. "You're alive. You're fine. We'll take you home now."
She pulled away from Scully, and Quinn hugged her.
Scully drew back. That was proper. Quinn and his wife had raised the girl from when her brother died. Ash had explained that tío was Spanish for uncle, and Mrs. Quinn was Tía Dorritt. Years before, Scully had hired on when Quinn was in Louisiana at the end of a cattle drive. The first time he'd seen this señorita, she'd been just a young girl.
Scully listened to their muted exchange as she told Quinn, no, she hadn't been compromised. Relief like silent thunder rolled through him. Trying to forget the unaccustomed feel of her, soft and light in his arms, he returned his hatchet to his belt and reloaded his rifle.
Then he lifted his canteen to drink and stopped. "Here give her some water." He wiped the mouth of the canteen with his buckskin sleeve and handed it to Quinn. She took the canteen but gave Scully a fierce look. "You could have gotten me killed, shooting like that. What if you'd missed? He might have scalped me." Then she drank long from the canteen.
"I don't miss." Scully stood up and turned his back to her. He knew she was not using her normal sense. Still, the señorita's thankless attitude pierced and pricked him as if he'd swallowed a cactus. Ladies like her, frail and fine, didn't belong on the frontier. Quinn could have run both ranches, his own and hers. She'd inherited Rancho Sandoval when her brother died. The señorita could be—should be—in Mexico City, where living was easier.
Quinn stood up and handed the canteen back to him. "That was a good shot, Scully. You did right. He was going to scalp her. He thought he could do it and still escape. He was showing off."
Scully shrugged in response. Now that they'd found the señorita unmolested, a new question occurred to him. "What I want to know," he said, turning around to face Quinn, "is why this bunch kidnapped the señorita."
Quinn gazed at him in the faint light. "I want to know the same thing." He raised his voice. "Did anyone capture any of these renegades?"
Ash came into the faint firelight, his dark skin making him almost invisible except for his glistening eyes and the silver in his hair. "Thought you might want one able to talk." Ash held up a limp, unconscious Comanche by the shoulder.
"Good." Quinn helped the señorita to her feet. "Ash, tie up the renegade and gag him. When he comes to, we'll persuade him to tell us why this happened. Was anyone injured? Did we kill any more of them?"
While the other vaqueros searched, Scully dragged the body of the dead Comanche away from the fire and began covering it with rocks. But in case any other young brave wanted to show off, Scully still watched the shadows of night around the señorita.
A quick survey of the area revealed no others. Quinn whistled to his mount. "If I thought our horses could make it, we'd head back now. But they need rest. Ash, Scully, and I will take the first watch, the rest of you bed down for a few hours." He repeated this in Spanish.
Quinn settled the señorita wrapped in a blanket near the warmth of the fire but beyond its light. He gave her more water, some pemmican, and the Mexican flatbread. Finishing his task, Scully found he couldn't look away. He watched her, the girl they'd spent hours searching for. She leaned her head in one hand as she ate. She lifted his canteen to her mouth again, and he watched her swallow. Then as she looked over Quinn's shoulder at Scully, her expression soured.
Irritated, he drifted away, farther from them, listening and watching. He found a concealed spot and settled back on his heels. He blinked his dry eyes. It was going to be another long night. The Comanche renegades wouldn't have taken her if they'd meant her no harm. But why had they taken her in the first place? Who would want harm to come to the señorita?Her Inheritance Forever (Texas: Star of Destiny, Book 2). Copyright (c) by Lyn Cote . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.