Read an Excerpt
Ride the Fire
By Pamela Clare
Copyright © 2005
All right reserved.
Nicholas awoke with a jerk, caught between the nightmare and
wakefulness, his heart pounding, his body covered with sweat.
He struggled to open his eyes, found himself lying on his
stomach in someone's bed, his head on a pillow. His right leg
throbbed, burned. His head ached. His throat was parched as
sand, and a strange aftertaste lingered in his mouth.
From nearby came the swish of skirts, the sound of a log
settling in a fire, the scent of something cooking.
Where was he?
Through a fog he tried to remember. He'd been attacked. The
Frenchmen from the fort. He'd lost a lot of blood, had ridden
in search of help. The cabin. The woman.
Bethie was her name. Elspeth Stewart.
She'd helped him, cleaned his wound, cauterized it - not
Nicholas lifted his head, started to roll onto his side to
take in his surroundings, found he could not.
His wrists and ankles were bound to the bedposts.
Blood rushed to his head, a dark surge of rage, of dread.
"You're awake." Her voice came from behind him. "You must be
"You little bitch!" He pulled on the ropes, his fury and dread
rising when they held fast. "Release me! Now!"
"I-I cannae do that - no' yet. I've made broth. It will help
"Damn your broth, woman! Untie me!" He jerked on theropes
again, outraged and alarmed to find himself rendered
powerless. Sharp pain cut through his right thigh.
"Stop your strugglin'! You'll split your wound open and make
it bleed again."
Infuriated, Nicholas growled, a sound more animal than human,
even to his own ears. He jerked violently on the ropes, but it
was futile. He was still weak from blood loss, and the effort
left him breathless, made his pulse hammer in his ears.
He closed his eyes, fought to subdue the slick current of
panic that slid up from his belly, caught in his throat.
She was not Lyda. This was not the Wyandot village.
His heartbeat slowed. The panic subsided, left white-hot rage
in its wake.
"Why did you do this? I told you I meant you no harm!" He
craned his neck, saw that she stood before the fire, ladling
liquid into a tin cup, a brown knitted shawl around her
"Is that no' what the wolf always says to the lamb?" She
carried the cup to the bed, sat. "Drink. It will help to
replenish your blood. Careful. 'Tis hot."
Tantalized by the smell of the broth and suddenly aching with
thirst, Nicholas bit back the curse that sat on his tongue,
Bethie held the cup to his lips, watched as he swallowed the
broth, her heart still racing. For one terrible moment, she'd
feared the ropes would break or come loose. She'd known he
would be angry with her, but she hadn't expected him to try to
rip the bed apart.
Truth be told, she feared him despite the ropes. Although he'd
given up for the moment, she could feel the fury coiled inside
him. She could see it in the rippling tension of his body, in
his clenched fists, in the unforgiving glare in his eyes. He
made her think of a caged cougar - spitting angry and untamed.
He was not used to being bested.
The arrogant brute! Did he imagine she would grant him warm
hospitality after the way he'd treated her? It served him
right to be bound and helpless!
As if a man of his strength were ever truly helpless.
Her gaze traveled the length of him as it had done many times
while he'd slept, and she found her eyes focused of their own
will on the rounded muscles of his buttocks where the
butter-soft leather clung so tightly.
Mortified, she jerked her gaze away, felt heat rise in her
cheeks. Her stepfather had always said she was possessed of a
"More." His boorish command interrupted her thoughts. He
glowered at her through eyes of slate.
"Aye." She stood, hurried to the fireplace, ladled more broth
into the cup, uncomfortably aware that he was watching her.
"How long do you intend to keep me a prisoner?" His voice was
rough, full of repressed rage.
She walked back to the bed, sat, feigned a calm she did not
feel. "'Tis your own fault you lie bound. You cannae be
expectin' to be treated as a guest when you behaved like a
He pulled his head away, his gaze hard upon her, held up the
ropes that bound his wrists. "This isn't necessary."
"You threatened me, held your pistol to my head, forced me to
do your will and admitted to killin' two men. Do you truly
expect me to trust you?"
He frowned, his dark brows pensive. "I didn't mean to frighten
"As I recollect, you seemed quite bent on frightenin' me."
"I didn't have time for social graces. My need was dire."
"So is mine!" She stood in a surge of temper, met his gaze. "I
cannae risk you regainin' your strength and then, when you no
longer need my help, hurtin' me or my baby or takin' what is
ours and leavin' us in the cold to starve! I dinnae even know
For a moment he said nothing. "Kenleigh. Nicholas Kenleigh."
She repeated his name aloud.
"Now that we've exchanged pleasantries, Mistress Stewart, you
will release me."
"Nay, Master Kenleigh. I willna - no' just yet." She lifted
her chin. "You'll stay as you are till I'm certain you pose no
threat to me and my baby."
He gave a snort. "And how will you determine that?"
"Drink." She held the cup once more to his lips. "Perhaps I
shall have you swear an oath, a bindin' oath."
He drained the cup, looked up at her. "And if I am a murdering
liar, a man with no honor, the sort of man who would harm a
woman ripe with child, how would this oath prevent me from
doing whatever I want the moment you cut me free?"
Bethie stood, walked back to the fireplace to refill the cup
once more, the truth in his words dashing her sense of safety
to pieces. "Are you sayin' I should never set you free, Master
"No, Mistress Stewart. I'm saying that unless you plan to keep
me a prisoner forever and care for me as if I were a babe
untrained in the use of a chamber pot, sooner or later you
have no choice but to trust me."
She walked back to the bed, felt her step falter. In truth,
she hadn't thought about how or when she would release him
when she'd bound him to the bed. Nor had she considered what
keeping him bound would mean. She'd been thinking only of a
way to restrain him and deprive him of his weapons, and she
had accomplished that.
A babe untrained in the use of a chamber pot? Good heavens
She reached the bed, sat, held the cup once more to his lips.
"Very well. I shall cut you free. But you shall first swear to
me by all you hold sacred that you willna do anythin' to harm
me or my baby or to deprive us of our hearth and home."
He swallowed, licked broth from his lips. Then a queer look
came over his face. He stared at the tin cup, then gaped at
her. "You drugged me!"
How did he know? "I-I gave you medicine to ease your pain - and
make you sleep."
He laughed, a harsh sound. "You drugged me so that you could
bind me and take my weapons."
He stated it so plainly that Bethie could find no words to
soften the truth of what she'd done. She rested a hand
protectively on her belly, felt her baby shift within her.
"Y-you left me no choice."
Nicholas saw the defiant tilt of her chin, noticed the pink
that crept into her cheeks. He noticed, too, the way her hand
softly caressed the swollen curve of her abdomen as if to calm
the small life inside her.
What would he have done in her place?
He dismissed the question - and the irritating impulse to
defend his previous actions toward her. There was only one
rule in the wild - survival. He'd only done what he'd felt he
had to do to stay alive.
And so had she.
Excerpted from Ride the Fire
by Pamela Clare
Copyright © 2005 by Pamela Clare.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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