I was working on a story in a different sub-genre when I saw the call for submissions with a cowboy theme. As hard as I tried to stay focused, I just had to switch gears (and centuries) to start plotting a story about a situation that many of us can relate to: being on the outside of a coveted group. To my way of thinking, this theme is a universal one that many readers to relate to. Then I took the theme a bit darker to fit the rougher conditions of living on the American frontier in the 1800s. Meghan has been shunned by the people of Ouray, Colorado Territory because she was held captive for several years by a Cheyenne tribe. Cowboy Bo Hadrian is out hunting strays and comes upon her in a pond and thinks he’s coming to her rescue but she has a different, and sexier, take on the situation.
Her Captured Cowboy
Sweat trickled along his temples and he lifted his hat, scrubbing his forearm over his damp forehead. The sound of splashing reached his ears, and he craned his neck. Through the green foliage, he spotted movement near the waterfall—long slender limbs and creamy white skin. An immediate jolt of lust tightened his groin. “Hey, lady in the falls.”
A flash of wavy red hair and rounded ass disappeared beneath the water. She surfaced near a rock and grabbed a long hunting knife, breathing hard. “Who’s there?”
Her voice was raspy and low, deepening his attraction. “Your audience is gone.”
“My audience? I don’t know your voice, stranger. Show yourself.”
Bo urged Midnight closer to the water’s edge and tipped a forefinger to the edge of his hat. “Bo Hadrian, ma’am.”
Her body bobbed an inch lower in the water, her gaze shifting to the surrounding bushes. While she studied him, she kept an arm moving to disrupt the pool’s water.
With determination, he forced his gaze above the water’s depth, even though every male cell in his body screamed for another look at her creamy skin. “I’m alone, ma’am.”
“Don’t move closer. And don’t even think about stealing my clothes.” The woman shifted a couple of feet to the right. As she jerked her head around to scan the perimeter of the pool, she lifted the knife and jabbed the wide blade in his direction.
Tightening his knees, he urged the horse forward, all the while holding up his hands, palms out. “Like I said, I’m alone, ma’am.”
Midnight bent his head and slurped at the water.
“Don’t call me that.” Her chin jerked upward, and she flipped wet strands of hair over a rounded shoulder. “I stopped being a lady the summer I was twelve.”
The hollow tone of her voice stabbed him in the chest. What could have happened to cause that? “Those scalawags won’t be back.”
“I can take care of myself.” Her light blue eyes narrowed, and she jutted out her chin.
“I see that.” Her vigilance showed him she’d been alone for a while. Feistiness in a woman was sexy as hell. He couldn’t stop his lips from spreading into a smile. “Just ridding the area of vermin before I take a swim.”
“Don’t much matter. Giving those fools a peek now and then is the price I pay to live near town.” She rested the knife on the top of a boulder, sunlight glinting along its honed blade.
What the hell kind of arrangement was that? The need to defend overtook him, and he swung from the saddle, tossing the reins onto a nearby bush. “That water sure looks good. You about finished here?” With quick jerks, he loosened the knot in the kerchief from around his neck and swabbed it across his throat.
“Sure, why not?” The woman spun and stroked across the pool.
Thick welts crisscrossed her back, and Bo winced at the sight of her severe punishment, his gut shriveling into a knot. He’d seen marks like that before on captives of Indian tribes.
“I’m getting my clothes. Turn around.”
Grinning, Bo pulled out the tails of his shirt and turned his back to the pool. That swim was gonna feel real good. Washing off the trail dust was just what he needed.
A rock bounced into the water with a plop. “The pool is yours.”
“Thank you, ma’am.” Hands on his belt buckle, he pivoted on his boot heel and spotted her at the head of the trail, clad in a fringed buckskin Indian dress, her feet encased in moccasins. Her pale skin and wavy red hair contrasted with the clothing, but the brandished knife looked like it fit. “Might I know your name?”
“Meghan Hegarty.” A shoulder lifted in a shrug. “I’m the local healer.” With a smooth move, she sheathed the knife into the scabbard hanging at her waist and walked out of sight.
For several seconds, he stood in place, his thoughts on the puzzle the strange woman presented. Then he shucked his clothes, piled them on his saddle, and waded into the pool until he could duck beneath the surface, letting the cool water sluice the grit from his body. Ah, so refreshing. Five strokes took him across the pool, and he tucked to turn in the opposite direction and surfaced, blinking water away from his eyes.
A double-action metallic ratchet filled the air.
Bo jerked his head to the edge of the pool where Midnight waited. Aw, hell. His chest pinched.
Beside the horse stood Meghan, his rifle leveled at her hip. “That’s right, swim over here.”
Layla Chase is the CAPA award-winning author of 18 short stories and novellas and is both indie-pubbed and published by Amber Quill, Decadent Publishing, Ellora’s Cave, Kensington Aphrodisia, Ravenous Publishing, and The Wilder Rose Press.