Read The Peacemaker Online

Authors: Chelley Kitzmiller

Tags: #romance, #historical, #paranormal, #Western, #the, #fiction, #Grant, #West, #Tuscon, #Indian, #Southwest, #Arizona, #Massacre, #Cochise, #supernatural, #Warriors, #Apache, #territory, #Camp, #American, #Wild, #Wind, #Old, #of, #Native

The Peacemaker (3 page)

BOOK: The Peacemaker
2.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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"Captain—the driver!"

Nolan twisted around. "Marcus!" He scrambled across the wagon bed on hands and knees toward the driver's seat. The wagon hit a deep rut a second before he reached him. The driver flew forward over the dashboard, down in between the rear mules and then beneath the wagon. "Marcus!" Nolan gained the driver's seat and leaned over, looking down. "Christ, Marcus!"

"Oh, God," Indy breathed, seeing the driver fall. She swung her head to the left and through the cloud of dust she saw the driver lying face up, spread-eagled on the ground behind the ambulance.

"Keep me covered, I've got to get the lines or the team will bolt." Nolan climbed over the seat and leaned down for the lines that had caught on the corner of the dashboard.

Indy refused to panic. She accepted her task without question and raised her revolver. Squinting down the barrel, she rotated the sight until she found a suitable target, one close enough that she couldn't miss. Her thumb eased back the hammer. 

Something hit her shoulder, making her lose her concentration. Turning sideways, she saw it was the captain's hat. "Captain?" When he didn't answer, she swiveled around. "Captain Nolan!"

He was holding on to the driver's seat, his face a frozen tableau of shock. An arrow had entered his right shoulder from his back and come all the way through to the front. "Get down," he ordered in a strangled voice when he saw her starting toward him.

Indy paid him no attention. He needed help, and though she had no idea what she could do, she was the only one available. On hands and knees, as she had seen him do, she crawled up the center of the wagon. By the time she reached him he was beginning to fade.

"Captain!" She leaned over the driver's seat and grabbed his left arm and pulled him toward her. "Climb over the seat," she demanded firmly, brooking no resistance. If he fell into unconsciousness before she got him over the seat, she wouldn't be able to get him back into the wagon bed. She didn't have the muscle. The effort was almost his undoing, but he did it, evidently as determined not to be weak as Indy was determined to be strong. "All right, now, let's set you down." She was breathing hard; all one hundred ten pounds of her had gone into getting him into the wagon bed. The wagon pitched sideways, jerking him from her grasp. He fell against her, knocking the wind out of her. Momentarily, she caught her breath and tugged and pulled until she had him sitting down and propped against her carpetbag.

He was as breathless as she, and obviously in a great deal of pain. "Re-remember wh-what I said." He clutched her hand and squeezed so hard she winced. "Save the last shot for yourself. Do you hear me? You can't let them take you!"

His eyelids started to close. Indy called his name and brought him back. "Please, Captain. I don't know what to do. I need you— Please!"

"Can't h-help— Wanted to bring more men, but the colonel, he wouldn't—"

He slipped into unconsciousness.

Feeling helpless and alone, Indy worried her bottom lip and stared down at the mail pouch. What was she to do? The troopers had all they could do fighting off the Apaches. They probably hadn't even noticed the loss of the driver or that Captain Nolan had been wounded. She had only herself to rely on.

"The reins! I have to get those reins!" She made a dash for the front of the wagon and peered cautiously over the seat. The reins were nowhere to be found. Puzzled, she looked for where they came off the team's rigging and sighed when she saw them hanging down behind the mules' rumps, slapping the ground. Even if she climbed over the seat and laid down across the dashboard, she wouldn't be able to reach them.

Tears seemed to fall of their own accord and she didn't attempt to brush them away.

Another bone-jarring jolt sent the driverless team oft the road. Now, it was only a matter of seconds before they would bolt.

The fusillade of rifle fire behind her sent her scurrying back into position against the drop gate. The Apaches seemed to be everywhere, on the right, the left, behind the ambulance. She picked up the captain's carbine and braced herself for the recoil, then squeezed off the last three shots.

Another volley of fire came from somewhere in front of the ambulance. Indy whirled in that direction and saw a second band of warriors approaching from the west. Their war whoops resembled a thousand coyotes yipping and howling at the moon.

"Oh, God!" Frantically she searched the wagon for the captain's revolver, looking beneath her skirt, then moving the carpetbags. Finally, she slid her hands beneath Captain Nolan's legs and gave a cry of relief when her fingers closed around the wooden grip. There were four shots left. Only four. Three to use and one to . . . .

She refused to think about that last shot.

The team turned sharply, throwing the ambulance up onto its right wheels. Tossed to the side, Indy struck her right temple against the long wooden seat. Blinding pain exploded inside her head and everything went blurry. Groaning, she lifted her hand and touched the side of her head. Warm blood trickled down the side of her face.

"Please, God. Don't forsake me now. I need you!"

Blinking and squinting, she located the new band of attackers and raised the revolver. If she hit anything it would be a miracle, but she had to try. Her first shot went high. Lowering the sight and willing her eyes to focus, she squeezed off another, then a third, but had no idea if any of them found their mark.

They galloped toward the ambulance—a boiling mass of horses and hostile Apaches. In a blur of motion they rode on past. More than a little confused, Indy stared at the cloud of dust they left behind and thanked God that for whatever reason they hadn't attacked.

The troopers, she thought, a second later. That's where they were headed. They would help their friends kill off the remaining troopers, then they would come after her and Captain Nolan.

A screeching noise came from out of nowhere. "Hai-eee! Hai-eee!"

Indy swung around. She was wrong. Not all the Indians had ridden past her after the troopers.
One
had stayed behind, watching from a rise the ambulance had yet to reach.

Perched like a big golden hawk upon his pinto war pony, the Apache was tall, lean and proud—an invincible force of one. A sudden wind whipped his black hair and his horse’s mane. His piercing gaze touched upon her for a scant second, but it was long enough to let her know he had seen her. Again, came that dreadful sound, "Hai-eee. Hai-eee." He kicked the pinto into a gallop and raced down the hillside after the wagon, seemingly intent upon catching the runaway team.

He was naked but for a tan breechclout and knee-high buckskin moccasins; his body was a sweat-glistened golden brown. The sun glinted off the brass cartridges in his belt, sending flashes of white light radiating from him in all directions.

His horsemanship would have won him top honors at West Point, she thought absently. Inch by inch the pinto swallowed up the ground, gaining on the lead mule, and a moment later they were running side by side. Switching the reins to his right hand, the Apache leaned to the left and caught hold of the mule's collar.

Indy's eyes widened in disbelief when, incredibly, he hurtled himself over onto the mule's back. And almost immediately the team began to slow. Now, it would be only moments before the Apache brought the team to a stop, and then . . . .

It was as difficult to focus her eyes as it was her thoughts. Then she remembered that as long as she had the revolver she had freedom of choice and the power to decide her own fate. She tucked the six-shooter into her right skirt pocket. There wasn't going to be any
and then
, not if she could help it!

Captain Nolan groaned and Indy moved to help him as he struggled to sit up. "Come on, Captain, lift up a little and lean against me," she whispered. Using his left arm, he raised himself up and moved back. Careful of the protruding arrow, Indy assisted as best she could. She was beginning to feel a little dizzy and disoriented herself, and realized she probably had a concussion. Once the captain settled against her, he sagged, his strength having given out.

"Ma'am?"

"I'm here, Captain." Wrapping her left arm around him, she held and comforted him. Blood oozed from his back and penetrated the layers of her clothing.

The team had been brought to a stop. Indy listened carefully for sounds that would tell her the Apache was on his way to claim his prize. Aside from the jingle of harness, the mules' winded blowing and stamping feet, there was only the echo of distant rifle fire. The Apache made no sound at all and without moving the captain, she was limited in what she could see. But there was no help for it, so she watched . . . and she waited.

A flash of red caught her eye. She moved her hand slowly to her pocket.

The Apache stood at the back of the ambulance, taller than most men and straight as a pine. His shoulders were wide, his arms bulging with muscle even now, when he wasn't straining. His skin was tight against the broad expanse of his chest and stomach, not an ounce of spare flesh anywhere. Around his forehead a faded red headband kept the mane of long, dark hair back from his face—a face that intrigued even as it frightened. Hadn't one of the Army reports described the Apache people as being flat-featured, with small, compact bodies?

This Apache certainly didn't fit that description. In fact, he didn't fit any standard description she could think of. He was arrestingly handsome with dark slashing eyebrows, a straight nose with flaring nostrils, and a jaw and chin so unyieldingly set that they could have been carved from the mountains that surrounded them.

But it was his eyes that made her die inside. Darkly cold—killing eyes that didn't even blink as they stole quickly but thoroughly over her face and body.

With the captain's right shoulder providing cover, Indy slipped her hand into her pocket and curled her fingers around the revolver's smooth wooden grip. Until now, she had thought only of sparing herself from being taken captive, not a thought of what would happen to the captain! He was already in great pain, maybe even dying. She had no idea if his wound was fatal. But if it wasn't . . . She needed only to reflect on the conversation she had overheard at San Simon to know what the captain's fate would be.

It would be immoral to leave him to die so horrible a death. Strategically positioned, the one remaining shot
could
do the job of two.

Captain Nolan stirred and opened his eyes. Indy turned her attention away from the Apache and nuzzled her lips against his forehead, trying to soothe him. "Don't worry. I'm here. I'll take care of both of us."

"Shatto." The word was garbled.

"What?"

He groaned and raised his right hand toward the arrow.

Guessing his intention to purge himself of the arrow, Indy screamed, "No! You can't do that!" She wrestled his hand, but even in his weakened state he was the stronger.

With baffling swiftness, the Apache vaulted up into the wagon bed and threw his fist into the captain's face, knocking him out.

The revolver, Indy. Now. Don't wait. Do it now!
She pressed her lips together to keep from crying out as she drew the Colt from her pocket. Before she could cock the hammer, the Apache pushed the captain aside and seized her wrist. A small scream tore from her throat. Desperate to hold on to the revolver, she clamped her other hand around the length of the barrel. "Let me go," she said between her teeth, bringing the barrel around. His savage look told her he had no intention of letting her go or letting her get off a shot. "Damn you!" She couldn't let him stop her—couldn't let him take her captive. Summoning all her strength, she twisted away from him. If she could roll over with the pistol beneath her . . .

Almost effortlessly, he flipped her back, climbed on top of her, and straddled her hips. In the midst of the fracas, Indy had managed to shove her index finger into the trigger guard, but had yet to cock the hammer.

The Apache beat her to it, then forced her finger against the trigger. The bullet shot straight up and blew a hole through the canvas top. Five more times he cocked the hammer and made her pull the trigger. The cylinder clicked hollowly at each empty chamber. After the last one, his hostile gaze met hers and she read the anger in his eyes.

"Yes." She hissed like an angry rattler. "I saved the last one for me. I'd rather be
dead
than have you or your friends touch me!" Sobs choked her and tears blinded her. She couldn't move, not even her legs, which had been bared when he'd straddled her and forced her dress up. They were beginning to go numb beneath his weight—her whole body was going numb, except for her head, which felt like it might explode.

He leaned over her, blocking out the daylight. His dark hair fell forward over wide, muscular shoulders the color of saddle leather. He was watching her like a hawk watches its prey. Would he kill her quickly, she wondered, or would he tease and torment her until she screamed for mercy?

His gaze inched downward, lingering on her heaving breasts, clearly making an appraisal of her assets, yet acknowledging nothing of his summation in his expression until his gaze moved lower.

He spoke suddenly, a guttural foreign-sounding word that she could barely make out the pronunciation, let alone understand what it meant. Then, before she could guess his next move, he tore open her jacket and pulled her blouse free from her skirt.

"No!" she cried, assuming his intent. "No, please!" Of all the things she'd imagined would happen to her, she hadn't ever considered rape. Somewhere she thought she'd read that Apaches didn't rape.

Fear and blinding pain transported Indy to another part of her mind where she no longer felt the Apache's hands intimately examining her body, where she couldn't see his measuring expression, and where there were no sounds to intrude upon her trancelike stupor.

Slowly, she became aware that there was someone hovering above her. It was Sergeant Moseley. He was kneeling beside her, his craggy features tight with worry. Indy fought to keep her eyelids from closing, but they felt heavy, as if they'd been weighted.

BOOK: The Peacemaker
2.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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