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Bittner, Rosanne

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Texas
Embrace by Rosanne Bittner

 

With
her father murdered by renegade Apaches, Tessa Reeves feared she'd be their
captive forever—that no one would ever find her. And even if she were found,
she'd be scorned by those who called Indians savages... and their woman
prisoners forever unclean.

John
Hawkins knew how it felt to be an outcast. Born to a woman who'd suffered a
brutal attack, the rugged lawman had had to develop a will of steel to survive
in a harsh world. If anyone could save Tessa, it was he.

They
were a man and a woman who had known violence and tragedies. Yet even with
desperados and hostile Indians all around them, John and Tessa discovered they
wanted something more—a chance at happiness, a future worth fighting for, and a
love as wild and free as the land they called home.

 

 

She
watched him ride in, and immediately she lost all hope of his being someone who
had come to help her.

He
looked as Indian as any of them, wore only denim pants, no shirt. He was dark,
big, as mean looking as the others. His black hair hung nearly to his waist and
was worn loose, and he was well armed. The others gathered around him, holding
guns on him.

"You
will go no farther,
señor,
" Juan told him. "Speak your
name."

"I
am called Hawk," John Hawkins answered, deciding to use Ken's nickname for
him. It sounded like something an Indian would call himself, and he sure was
not about to tell them his real name.

He
was hoping he'd guessed right—that none of these men knew him by sight. If he
was going to get the better of this bunch, why not ride right into their nest
and take them from the inside?

He
glanced at the woman tied to a wagon wheel. There she was, red hair and all,
Tess Carey. God only knew what she'd been through. Now all he had to do was
figure out how in hell to get her out of here.

 

 

ZEBRA
BOOKS are published by

Kensington
Publishing Corp. 850 Third Avenue New York, NY 10022

Copyright
© 1997 by Rosanne Bittner

All
rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any
means without the prior written consent of the Publisher, excepting brief
quotes used in reviews.

If
you purchased this book without a cover you should be aware that this book is
stolen property. It was reported as "unsold and destroyed" to the
Publisher and neither the Author nor the Publisher has received any payment for
this "stripped book."

Zebra
and the Z logo Reg. U.S. Pat. & TM Off.

First
Printing: April, 1997

Printed
in the United States of America

Chapter One

"Hand
me that dynamite!"

"What?"

"You
heard me! I'll
blow
them out of there."

"Hawk,
there's six men in there. You don't know—"

"I
know all I need to know." The words were spoken with obvious hatred.
"They raped a twelve-year-old girl."

"She
was
Indian!"

The
air hung silent for a moment, and Ken Randall regretted the statement as soon
as he made it. John Hawkins was not just a fellow Texas Ranger. He was his
friend, and Ken knew how the man felt about both Indians and rape. In spite of
their friendship, the look in Hawk's dark eyes gave Ken the shivers and reminded
him of why he was glad he was Hawk's friend and not his enemy. He closed his
eyes and sighed, disgusted with his remark. "Damn it, Hawk, you know what
I mean. It's not the way
I
think but you know how most men in these
parts think about Indian women."

"She
wasn't any woman. She was a
kid!"
John
growled. "All
right. All right. But you can't tell Captain Booth you blew them up on account
of them rapin' an Indian girl. It's got to be for a better reason—like them
stealin' horses and cattle."

John
grimaced at the statement, reloading his six-shooter. How sad but true that
folks would hang a man for stealing a horse but let him go free if all he did
was rape a little Indian girl. "Fine," he answered sarcastically,
angrily snapping the loaded cartridge back into the revolver. "After all,
we did start tracking them for stealing cattle."

Both
men kept their heads lowered behind the boulder that sheltered them. Another
bullet pinged against the top of the boulder, sending a spray of rock chips
down on their wide-brimmed hats.

"We
ain't supposed to be goin' after men for killin' or rapin' Indians," Ken
reminded John. "The Apache and Comanche are the enemy, remember?"

"I've
had my share of run-ins with both. You know that. I've tracked them and I've
killed them, when
they
were in the wrong! This is different."

"Not
in the eyes of most Texans. Now let's get this over with. You have to at least
try to convince them men in there to give themselves up first."

"I'd
get more satisfaction out of blowing them up."

Ken
removed his hat and banged it against his knee to knock off dust and rock
chips. "Damit, Hawk, will you listen to me? This is 1882. Texas is gettin'
more civilized, and some folks think the Rangers is nothin' more than
vigilantes. Some call us outlaws goin' after outlaws, especially the ones like
you."

John
removed his own hat and slowly raised his head to check out the cabin. He could
hear voices. The men inside were arguing. They damn well knew that one of the
Rangers out there was John Hawkins, and John Hawkins was a man of little
patience and no mercy. "All we're doing is giving the people what they
want—law and order. They want cattle rustlers and horse thieves caught and
hanged. I prefer saving the state the cost of the hanging. Now go get the damn
dynamite, Private Randall!"

Ken
knew the meaning of Private Randall. John never called him that unless his
patience was used up. "Yes, sir,
Sergeant
Hawkins."

John
paid him no heed. He supposed he did have to give the men inside fair warning.
After all, he'd been ordered by Captain Booth to tone down his ruthlessness. It
would be easier if he didn't have all this hatred and frustration inside over
his own sorry life, the confusion over whether his loyalty should lie with
Indian or white, his feelings of worthlessness that left a constant seething
anger in his soul. Besides, people never used to question how the Texas Rangers
took care of their business. Now there was all this new talk about justice and
law and being more humane and civilized. Bullshit! When men committed
un
civilized,
in
humane acts of crime and violence, who the hell cared how they were
treated?

"Derrek
Briggs!" he shouted. "You've got one last chance to give yourselves
up, Briggs! I know you're one of them in there! That's your roan mare tied
outside. Give it up, Briggs! The judge gave you a break last time you were
arrested. Didn't four years in prison teach you anything?"

There
was a moment of silence when the men inside stopped arguing.

"That
you, Hawkins?"

John
kept his head lowered. "You know damn well who it is!"

Another
moment of silence.

"Then
you come and get me, you half-breed bastard! I know what you do to your
prisoners, and you ain't takin' me in again! I'll blow your guts out first and
feed you to the buzzards!"

John
moved to the other side of the boulder, studying the terrain, figuring how he
could get closer to the cabin. "I might have given up the chase, Briggs,
if you wouldn't have raped that little girl," he shouted back. "You
put the noose around your neck with that one!"

"Like
hell! No Texan hangs a man for rapin' an Indian, woman or child."

John
closed his eyes, memories of his precious mother and her sad life only building
up his hatred for men like Briggs. "Maybe not, but your problem is, it's
not those people who are after you. It's
me
—John Hawkins! And I
would
hang a man for raping an Indian! The best part is, your corral over there
is full of stolen cattle, and farther off you're grazing stolen horses. That's
all the excuse I need to bring you in. You can make it easy or hard on yourself."

"Oh,
yeah? Just how do you think you and whoever is with you are gonna' get six men
out of this cabin without gettin' yourselves killed, breed? You want us? You
come and get us!"

John
grinned. "It'll be my pleasure!"

Ken
returned, bending low as he made his way through the underbrush from where they
had left their horses hidden. He handed John four sticks of dynamite.
"That's all I've got," he said in a low voice. "I don't like
carryin' the stuff. You know all kinds of things can happen to make this stuff
blow up. Next time you carry the dynamite in your
own
saddlebags! Better
yet, don't ever carry it again when I'm with you."

John
shoved his six-gun into its holster. "You worry too much, you know
that?"

Ken
grabbed his arm. "Yeah? Well, mostly it's
you
I worry about. Seems
to me you enjoy tryin' to get yourself killed."

John
carefully laid the dynamite nearby and pulled a thin cigar from a pocket inside
his leather vest. He could never admit openly how much he appreciated Ken
Randall's sincere friendship. Sentiment was not a feeling to which he was
accustomed, except when it came to his poor, dead mother. He almost wished Ken
wouldn't make remarks like the one he'd just made. He lit the cigar and gave it
a couple of long draws. "Well, now, Ken, just think about it. Where would
be the loss if I got myself killed?"

Ken
began reloading his own six-gun. "It would be a loss to the Rangers, and a
personal loss for me. There ain't nobody else I'd want to serve with, and you
know it."

John
put on an air of being unimpressed. He laughed lightly, shaking his head.
"You save a man's life once, and he thinks he owes you forever. You're too
damn sentimental for this work, Ken." He stuck the cigar between his lips
and picked up the dynamite.

Maybe
so, Ken thought. John Hawkins could be such a bastard sometimes. The fact
remained the man
had
saved his life, not just once, but twice. And he
was pretty damn sure that under all that crust and pretended unconcern, John
Hawkins had a heart. Why else would he care that a little Indian girl had been
raped? And sometimes the man would make a remark or two about his mother, what
a hard life she'd had being part Indian. The man had opened up just once about
her, telling Ken the sad details, but it was obvious John and his mother had
been close. Still, it was hard to imagine John Hawkins being close to anyone,
even his own mother. "Why don't we just starve them out?"

"Hell,
that could take two weeks or more if they've got food and water in there. I'm
for getting this over with and getting back to El Paso for a drink and a bed
with a woman in it." John kept the cigar in his mouth as he spoke. He held
up the dynamite. "This will do the job a lot quicker."

"Well,
how in hell do you figure to get close enough to throw them sticks where
they'll do the most damage?"

"You
just draw their fire for me." John darted away, managing to get himself
behind another boulder.

The
men inside began firing at them again, and Ken winced, bobbing up just long
enough to get off a couple of shots, ducking back down again as several bullets
chipped away more rock. When he looked over to where John had gone, his partner
was no longer there. "You crazy son-of-a-bitch," he muttered.
"You'll be lucky you don't blow
yourself
up!"

He
began shooting at the cabin again. John had said to draw their fire, and that
was what he would do. Suddenly the men inside the cabin stopped shooting.

"Where'd
he go?"

"Hell,
I don't know!"

Ken
smiled. They were arguing—and scared, damn scared. One of them must have
noticed John dart from behind the boulder. Now they were worried, rightly so.

"Watch
for him! Everybody take a window!" someone ordered. It was Derrek Briggs.
Ken knew the man's harsh, gritty voice. Briggs just couldn't seem to stay away
from cattle rustling. It had already got him prison once. Now he'd for sure
hang... or get himself blown up. Ken wondered what had possessed the fool to
come back into territory he damn well knew John Hawkins patrolled. From El Paso
east to Pecos, south to the Davis Mountains and on across the Rio Grande into
Mexico, few outlaws were safe from John Hawkins. He had the tracking instincts
of an animal, which most folks said was from his Indian blood. He was a big
man, damn strong and tough to put down. And he had a hatred inside that fired
him up and made him go up against some pretty dangerous odds sometimes, just to
get his man. No one really knew the details of what drove John Hawkins, and no
one asked. John was the type of man who would tell you something if he wanted,
but he never answered direct questions.

BOOK: Bittner, Rosanne
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