Yellowstone Redemption(10)By: Peggy L Henderson
“White trappers call them Crows,” she stated as if he was the idiot who didn’t know anything. He raised his eyebrows.
“Okay.” He inhaled deeply, and rubbed at the back of his neck. “Could you cut the Indian maiden act? I don’t know if you’re part of some tourist attraction or what, but I need to get back to the barracks. Hell, I’m probably already in some serious shit.” As an afterthought, he added, “Mind if I sit down?” he pointed to one of the chairs at the table. “I’m still not feeling a hundred percent.” She nodded slowly, and moved to the opposite side of the table.
He pulled out a chair and eased himself into it. His head spun like a top on a slick surface. His stomach rumbled noisily. The smell of soup lingered in the room.
“You can put that little butter knife away. I told you I made the wrong assumption.” And the wrong impression. He watched her as she tried to come to a decision. Finally, she did lower the knife and stick it back in the sheath at her hip. God, she was cute.
“Grizzly won’t hesitate to attack if I tell him to,” she said, her voice full of warning.
Grizzly? Oh, she must mean the mutt.
“I’ll keep it in mind.” He flashed her a smile, and for a second her eyes widened again. Yeah, he knew he had that effect on chicks. This one wasn’t any different.
“So, can I use your phone?” he asked again. The silence was unnerving.
Her forehead crinkled, and she shook her head.
“Come on, you’ve got to have a telephone around here? How about a payphone? Madison has a campground. Are we anywhere near that?”
“The Tukudeka are camped a half day’s ride from here.”
“The what?” Okay, this was getting a bit ridiculous. He didn’t mind a little game, but she was carrying her act a bit too far. “Look, Angel, my head is pounding, I haven’t eaten in two or more days, apparently I almost froze to death, and, as you can see,” he gestured at his nude torso, “I barely have any clothes on. Can we just skip the act? How much is Todd paying you for this? I’ll double it.”
She shot him a defiant look, her chin raised. Finally, maybe they were getting somewhere. “I know nothing of what you’re asking me. Three warriors brought you here this morning. They could have left you for dead. I’m sure they will be back to extract payment for their kindness.”
Chase pinched the top of his nose and squeezed his eyes shut. He wished for daylight so he could walk out of here. In the dark, he’d only get lost again before he reached the highway. He definitely didn’t want a repeat of the day before.
“Okay, fine.” He inhaled deeply. “Can I at least use the bathroom and clean up?”
The look on her face made him groan. “Let me guess. There’s no bathroom.”
“We usually bathe in the river,” she answered. “There is no special room for that.” The honest, down to earth way she spoke to him couldn’t be acted, could it? They stared at each other from across the table, and Chase felt his insides tighten. He was lost in her blue eyes. There was nothing pretentious about this girl. Her simple outfit, her braided hair, her radiant face devoid of any make-up – all of it added to her beauty. She was natural and wholesome, unlike any girl he’d ever met before. Something about her stirred a deep longing within him, something he couldn’t quite define.
“You have never been in these mountains before, have you?” She was perceptive, too.
Chase shook his head. “I’m from L.A. I had no idea people still live like this, even in Montana.” That still didn’t explain her reference to warriors. Was she talking about actual Indians? Or some sort of road warriors, like a motorcycle gang.
“L . . . A?”
A wide smile spread across his face. Boy, was she backwoods.
“Yeah. Los Angeles. Big city. No mountains and rivers. I’m definitely out of my element here.”
“How did you get lost along the E-chee-dick-karsh-ah-shay?”
“The Roche Jaune . . .Yellow Rock River.”
Comprehension dawned. “You mean the Yellowstone River? Some buddies and I were camping in the canyon. The next morning, they were gone. I climbed out and apparently got lost looking for the road back to Canyon.” No need to go into detail with her that he was drunk out of his mind the night before, or that his buddies had deliberately pulled a vanishing act on him.
“You climbed out from the canyon? How did you get down there?” Her eyes grew round in disbelief.
“Same way I came up, Angel. I know that wasn’t the smartest thing to do. I’ll probably get in a heap of trouble for it.”
Chase’s stomach growled loudly. The little angel must have heard it. She made a wide arc around him to the workbench along the wall, and reached for a bowl on a wooden shelf above her head, giving him an enticing view of her backside. Knock it off, Russell. Get your mind out of the gutter.
She ladled soup into the bowl from the kettle in the fireplace, and set it in front of him along with a spoon. He looked up and met her eyes.