Savage Heart is the sequel to Indian Summer that several people have been anticipating for way too long. I keep telling myself I'll finish it, but I haven't yet. My friend, Gwen, has been patient with me, but she's anxious for the book to be finished so that she can read it. “I wanna know what happened to that Indian man!” Here's a taste, Gwen (and others)
Sailfish stirred up the fire and started water boiling and Meli still hadn't called him. Concerned about her, he left the fire, walking to her position. She squatted by the tree, pants at her ankles, strangely unmoving.
"Help," she said in a small, tight voice.
In front of her and slightly to her left, a snake reared its head, hissing at her. Its tail rattled, showing its displeasure.
With a swift movement, Sailfish grabbed it behind the head, breaking its neck. Dead snake dangling from his right hand, he held out the left to help her up. Embarrassed to be caught without her pants, she tried every way she could think of to stand up without him seeing her nudity.
Smirking, Sailfish kindly averted his eyes, still holding out his hand. "You should have checked the brush before squatting," he told her as he lifted her to her feet.
"Sorry. We had dogs at home. Snakes weren't often a problem, and certainly not by the latrine."
"Next time, check."
"Next time I'll know to." She smiled her thanks, blushing.
The blood tinging her cheeks made a dusky pink when it mixed with her cafe au lait complexion. It was a pretty shade, he noted in passing. Much the same, rich color as the petals of the roses outside the Governor's home.
"I have seen naked women before, little one," he remarked casually, trying to put her at ease.
"But no man has seen me naked," she countered, lifting her chin defiantly.
Smiling, Sailfish nodded acceptance of that remark.
"What are you cooking?" Meli's eyes sparkled happily at the prospect of food.
"Rattlesnake," he held up his victim. It was nearly as long as he was tall.
Shuddering, Meli squatted on the ground by the fire, warming her hands. "It is any good?"
"It is the way I fix it."
Taking it aside, he cleaned his kill with his knife. He cooked the snake over the coals, splitting equally with her. She ate hungrily, eyes glittering with appreciation. Smacking her lips, she looked around for more. Finding none, she contented herself with a blade of grass to chew on. Placing it between her teeth, she grinned at him.
"It was tasty. You're a good cook. I'm a good cook too. One day I'll fix a meal for you."
"A man on his own learns to feed himself." He shrugged as he rose to wash the dishes.
"I'll do that," she got to her feet, hardly seeming to mind the cuts and scratches.
Limping only slightly, she washed everything, drying them with tufts of grass. Presenting him the clean dishes, Meli smiled, her green eyes catching the morning light off the water.
"Thank you again. You saved my life. Twice."
"You're welcome. We need to get moving if we're to reach St. Augustine."
"St. Augustine? I've never been there, but I hear it's a wonderful place. Is it amazing?"
Meli walked backwards, facing him as he moved slowly along. Her short legs took two paces to his one. Shortening his stride, he tossed his long hair over his shoulder. Meli's eyes traveled the length and breadth of his body, taking in details from the decorative long hair, to his tattooed torso and long, moccasin covered feet.
"It is a town. Exciting if you've never seen one."
"Only a town or two in the Carolinas, but from a distance."
"You're English?" It was hard to keep the displeasure from his voice. His run ins with Englishmen of late had left a bad taste in his mouth.
Meli looked as revolted as he at the aspersion. "Mon Dieu, non! Papa was a slave from Jamaica. Mama was French and Indian. My brothers, sisters and I were all born free," she stated proudly.
Sailfish had to admit that given her lineage, claiming her freedom was very important. Having never been enslaved, he could only imagine how much more she treasured her freedom than he did. Although her father was a slave, her mother was free, making them free at birth.
"You're very fortunate. Many can't say the same."
"You're a slave yourself," she said in that oddly perceptive way she had.
"I am a free man of the River People," he countered angrily.
"Slave isn't the right word." Meli thought a moment, considering carefully. "You're trapped. Your heart is captive even if your body is free."
He glared at her, his dark eyes full of hurt and anger. Saying nothing, he lengthened his stride, pulling ahead of her so she had to trot to catch up. Gasping for breath after only a few yards, she doubled over.
"Wait. Wait!" Hands on knees, head drooping, she gasped hoarsely.
Sailfish stopped, waiting impatiently for Meli to catch her breath and join him. He slowed down again, knowing that if he pushed her, she'd never make it and they would camp another night or he'd be carrying her. Neither prospect made him very happy, nor did her penetrating manner.
They walked a long time in silence. Finally, Meli broke it by speaking as if there hadn't been an hour long gap.
"I upset you. I'm sorry."
Her fingers, strangely cool, brushed his bare arm sending a shiver up his spine. He shrugged again, unwilling to trust his voice.
"She's in town?"
Glaling over his shoulder at her, Sailfish walked on without answering. Meli stopped, hands on hips, yelling at him.
"Where I come from, when someone asks you a question, you answer them."
"Where I come from," he tossed over his shoulder. "People don't ask such rude and impertinent questions."
A stick hit him squarely in the back of the head. Turning, to meet the attack, he crouched, his hand going to his knife. Meli stood behind him, hands on her hips in the same pose. Except to throw the stick, she hadn't moved.
"My legs hurt. I need to rest."
Sailfish strode over to her, standing with his toes touching hers, leaning over menacingly. He was nearly two feet taller than she. Meli looked up at him, her glare meeting his.
"Don't ever do that again." His tone was menacing, his voice deep.
"How else do I get your attention? You ignore me when I speak!"
© 2016 Dellani Oakes