Shiloh Ray never thought her life would end up with her being a part-owner of a saloon with her brothers in the Oklahoma Territory, but that was just what had happened six years after she and her brothers escaped a Confederate camp during the Civil War. She hadn't seen the soldier who'd helped them escape in all of that time, but he was never far from her thoughts. Yet he reenters her life at the same time the new doctor in town sets his sights on her, and she must decide whether to revisit her past or prepare herself for a new future.
The release is part of Beautiful Trouble Publishing's "Cowgirl Series".
Shiloh turned to douse the rest of the lights, so many questions whirring through her mind. It had been four years since she'd seen him, since he'd guided her and her brothers to a Union camp under moonlight. She hadn't wanted to leave him in the midst of war, with the deafening reports of guns and the smell of smoke and burning flesh, and had tried in vain to convince him to stay with them. But he'd smiled, kissed her forehead, and promised he'd always be with her. Shiloh didn't know how that would've been possible when she nor her brothers had no idea where they were going after their escape; but they'd ended up West, and West was a lot of territory. Still, that hadn't stopped her heart from beating extra fast whenever she'd caught a glimpse of someone who could've been familiar. Funny how it remained steady when she finally did reunite with the man who'd changed her life so much.
Shiloh heard him stand and she glanced his way as she moved from behind the counter to the door. He approached but maintained space between them. She'd forgotten how tall he actually was, having to tilt her head back to look into his eyes. Then again, her brothers weren't tiny, either, but it was merely a tilt of the head to look at either of them. The lamps from the street provided a little light in the otherwise darkened saloon, but she wouldn't have needed that to know he was staring at her. The power of his eyes couldn't be ignored.
"I will walk you home," he said softly.
She shook her head and left the saloon, his footfalls thumping behind her on the plank steps. "That's unnecessary. It's just down the way. Within shoutin' distance."
"Your brother thought it fit to walk you there before he left."
"I'm a single woman and he thinks I can't take care of myself," Shiloh said, walking on to the boarding house. Nashoba's laugh seemed to curl into her ears, making her smile.
"You know that's not true. He just wants to make sure you don't have to, chilita. That is what one does for someone he holds dear."
Shiloh looked away from him to hide a blush he wouldn't be able to see even if it were high noon. Very rarely did someone speak to her with unadorned tenderness. Nashoba had called her brave and was still able to acknowledge the fact she was a woman. Even her brothers could be borderline crude with her, but that was their way. She didn't put up with foolishness or posturing, but that didn't mean a small, feminine part of her didn't want or appreciate soft words and gentle phrases. Granted, she preferred britches to the long skirts most women wore. She enjoyed the freedom and the ease with which she could move. She also thought that much fabric was a bit wasteful, and she didn't abide by unnecessary excess.
"It is the same reason why I am walking you back, Shiloh. That and because…"
He didn't respond, as if letting the memories of what happened between them all those years ago swirl between them. It had been intense, bringing about irrevocable changes for her, she knew; but she sensed for him as well. Definitely for his people. She couldn't help but hear of the battles going on throughout the territories between the Indians and the Army. But he was here, and at least the shell of him was whole.
"I've missed you too," she whispered, stealing a peek at him.
"Hmm," he intoned, stroking his chin. "Miha moma…"
Shiloh burst out laughing and shoved him lightly. "I will not say that again! You lucky you got that much out of me."
"I've gotten more than that in the past…"
She abruptly stopped walking, glad she had that excuse for she was at the boarding house. He turned to her, his lips tilted in a half grin. Shiloh looked down at her feet to hide her responding grin, the boots she wore dusty from the road and scuffed from age. A larger pair of boots, much newer and nicer, came into view, the tips of those touching the tips of hers.
"I will see you again," Nashoba said.
"In another four years?"
"Not quite that long," the deep voice replied. "Sleep well, chunkash champuli."
Sweetheart. Grinning wider, Shiloh kept her head bowed and didn't raise it again until she was sure Nashoba was out of sight.
(c) 2010 by Savannah J. Frierson