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July, 1997 Dubois, Wyoming
Katelyn Bradach shaded her eyes and glanced around in awe at the western town, just one more of several she hoped to tour. Managing the historical museum, especially the Native American section, back in Pennsylvania had stressed her this year and this laidback town would help her relax.
Perhaps her haunting nightmares would subside too, hoping they were just a carryover from her job. Too often she'd dreamed of a warrior who sat atop a sleek black horse as thick mist from the lake swirled around him. The surrounding valley lay nestled before two snow-capped mountains. She could never clearly see his features, but his dark hair touched the middle of his naked chest and two eagle feathers hung from his headband. He always appeared to stare at her, but never once did he nudge his horse to move closer, yet one hand reached out to her.
Though she couldn't make out the color of his eyes, his gaze sent her heart racing, made her breath catch in her throat. The dream always left her with sensual tingles along her moist skin each time she woke up. The passion created by the dream disturbed her, since nothing ever happened except when their gazes met. Then it was as though she could read his thoughts of how much he needed her, wanted her for his own. She would always wake up trembling and out of breath but the dream never changed nor finished.
Would she find her warrior out here? Something had drawn her west, yet she couldn't put her finger on it but the pull was extraordinary.
Strolling along the wooden walkways, the heels of her dark snakeskin boots echoed. The design of the mid-1800s town looked like a movie set from an oldwestern and it suited Kate. She smiled as she looked around at the peaceful town. The warm morning air smelled of fresh rain and held a hint of sagebrush. An old stagecoach rumbled by, rocking on the huge iron wheels, and three youngsters sat on top joyously waving to their parents who waited at the ticket area.
The large window of the local Mercantile General Store displayed Native American-made moccasins, colorful dream catchers and jewelry, cowboy hats and boots. Kate stepped in and joined the few customers who milled about the wooden-floored store. The smell of leather came from the boots and saddlebags in the tack area on her left. After browsing over linens, knickknacks, and souvenirs, she headed toward a rack of sweatshirts near the checkout.
A deep velvety voice froze Kate and she rested her hand atop a sweatshirt. Familiarity astounded her as she listened. Her heart raced as though she'd just awakened from the dream and those images of the warrior atop his horse flooded her mind's eye. Was it possible for souls to travel through time and reunite more than one hundred years later? She supposed anything was possible when one believed in soul reincarnation.
"Thank you," the man said in an unhurried manner. "I've been waiting a long time for these."
A sack crinkled. He must have picked it up, she thought.
"Any time, Brandon, you know I'm more than happy to do what I can for you," the sales girl said.
At the sound of his retreating boot steps, still breathless, Kate glanced over her shoulder in the man's direction. The sales girl didn't bother to hide her dreamy stare as she watched the man saunter toward the door. A dark brown duster draped his tall frame, a matching Stetson upon his head. Straight, black hair hung past his shoulders. Something about the stranger made her body tingle the same way her dream affected her. Realization hit. Could there be some connection?
Kate's heart pounded, and she could barely breathe. She took a few moments to compose herself, then glanced back at the sales girl and waited for her attention. "Who is he?"
"Brandon Wakiza. His Shoshone heritage gives him those handsome dark features and every unmarried woman in Dubois is vying for his attention, but he mostly keeps to himself on his ranch. He usually only comes into town once a week." The girl placed Brandon Wakiza's money in the register.
Kate thanked her and stepped out onto the wooden walkway as she mulled over her reaction to a total stranger. That he should cause her heart go out of control and make her unable to breathe was ridiculous. Those reactions only happened in her dream. She glanced up and down the street. The man was nowhere to be found. Both relief and disappointment shifted through her. She took a deep breath and decided not to dwell on the stranger. She was here to relax and get away from her life for a while. A gift shop of Indian articles caught her eye. Putting thoughts of the stranger behind her, Kate opened the door.
Brandon Wakiza stood not three feet away.
Again, Kate couldn't breathe. Who was he and why did his presence have such an effect on her? She watched him as a sense of familiarity shrouded her. He looked so much like the sensual warrior in her dream who watched her from afar though she'd never seen his eyes in her dream. Her pulse raced as pieces of her dream floated through her mind like a haunting mist.
Brandon Wakiza counted money, his long, work-roughened fingers stretched out. Nodding at something the clerk said, a smile firmed the muscles of his chiseled jaw; the brim of his hat blocked his eyes from her view. He placed the rest of his change into his snug pants pocket, drawing Kate's glance down to the sinewy thighs beneath the close-fitting jeans. She'd hate to be caught staring but he was gorgeous.
When she looked up from his sinewy thighs, she was unprepared for the shock of meeting his gaze full-force. Kate grabbed the counter for support. The blue of his eyes penetrated clear to her soul, calling to her. Tiny hairs stood up on the back of her neck. It was as though the two of them communicated without words, almost being pulled toward one another. Was he the man from her dream? He looked back at her for a long, intense moment, and then he smiled. For that moment, she felt he knew her deepest thoughts and her cheeks heated.
To her surprise, he spoke to her. "Do I know you? You look so familiar, like we've met before. Perhaps the spirits have guided you to me."
"No, I'm just here on vacation." She smiled, but wished with all her heart she'd met him before. Then again, maybe the spirits did guide her here. Crossing behind him to the back of the store, she continued shopping but she'd never forget his blue eyes. The spicy scent of his cologne surrounded her. A scent she would forever link to this unknown stranger. Her spine still tingled as she thought of her warrior and the way he made her skin damp each time she'd woken up, wanting more of him, needing him to touch her, but the dream never went that far. She longed for those touches, and then fantasized about the stranger touching her, his fingers tingling along her skin, and her nipples tightened. Taking a deep breath, Kate tried to ignore those around her.
After Brandon moved toward the door, Kate stepped forward to look at something on the counter. The Native American clerk watched her though he kept busy.
Kate laid a beaded necklace on the counter and fumbled in her purse for money. "I'm traveling through on vacation. Is there an area around here with a lake near two mountains?" She prayed he would give her at least some information about the location she sought and not send her to another town. If she found the lake with the two mountains then she'd know she was closer to finding the meaning of her dream. The connection she felt toward Brandon easily compared to what she felt for her warrior. Hoping she was correct, Kate anxiously waited for the clerk's directions.
His eyes lit up like lanterns within his weathered face as he rung up her sale. "That would be Brook's Lake, north of town beyond Union Pass."
Excited, Kate pressed further. "Can you tell me anything about the petroglyphs on a boulder in the hills south of town? I saw them as I drove around earlier." From her work at the museum, petroglyphs were a big part of the Indian culture centuries ago.
"You speak of Whiskey Basin. The markings have been there for centuries. There are more paintings up in that area. Be careful wandering around those parts, though. The rocks can be dangerous for someone climbing alone."
"Thank you, I'll be careful. I'm anxious to see them up close." Kate quickly placed her change back into her purse as she headed toward the door. An uncanny sense of being watched made her glance up in time to stop herself from crashing into Brandon where he leaned against the door frame.
She stared into his blue eyes in silence for nearly a full minute, still feeling the electrical charge between them. She wanted to speak but couldn't.
He smiled and spoke first. "I'm Brandon Wakiza. I couldn't help but hear you ask about Brook's Lake and the petroglyphs at Whiskey Basin. I know this area like the back of my hand and I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have about the petroglyphs."