Excerpt from The River's Daughter

   
     The look tore at Barr. He didn't want to feel for this woman! Especially not a Rogue Indian. He wanted to press his rifle against her head and pull the trigger. Or, if not that, turn his back on her and go on his way. But her mouth was open as if she couldn't draw enough air into her lungs, and the slender fingers clutching her blanket to her had turned white around the knuckles. She glared at him like an animal in a trap.
     He pointed the rifle at her chest, not to protect himself, but because he wanted to see her reaction. She didn't take her gaze off him, and yet he wasn't sure she comprehended his presence, or how close she was to death.
     Didn't she care?
     Why did it matter to him?
     A few feet from her lay a snow-coated, human-shaped mound. He needed no explanation. This squaw had come after her man and, despite the danger, was mourning him in this lonely setting. This wasn't his business. Hell, if she wanted to freeze to death in the snow, he could care less.
     "Go," he said harshly in Rogue. "Leave this place."
     If the woman was surprised by his ability to speak her language, she didn't show it. Instead she took a few steps, not away from him, but to place herself between him and the silent mound at her feet. "He's my husband." Her voice was as soft as his had been harsh. "Leave him to me."
     "Sorry. It isn't going to work that way." He pointed in the direction of the miners' encampment. "They'll find you before you can get him out of here."
     The woman didn't take her attention off him, but, inch by inch, he lost her. He could sense her self-absorption, a drawing into herself. She bent over, her arms wrapped so tightly around her middle that he could make out the distension of her belly.
     She was pregnant. And in labor. That and not a cry of grief was what he'd heard a few minutes ago. As he watched, an unwilling witness to an act as old as mankind, she repeated the bitter cry.
     "Go home," he ordered even though he knew it was too late. "Let the women of your tribe help you."
     She grunted. Sweat sheened her smooth, dark forehead and cheeks.
     Barely aware of what he was doing, Barr waited with the woman. Soon the pain would pass, and she would be able to concentrate again. The time took longer than he hoped it would and told him even more: her time was almost on her.
     Damn. Walk away. Just walk away.
     Finally, slowly, she straightened. She spread her legs slightly and faced him. The elk-skin covering had slipped off her head, revealing a waterfall of night-painted hair parted in the middle and framing high cheekbones. Even with the layers of clothing and the changes made by her pregnancy, he was aware of small, delicate bones and firm muscles honed by her life-style.
     Despite the distraction of finding a Rogue woman where there should be nothing except silence and snow, he remained alert. He had no doubt that she carried a knife. If he made the mistake of trying to touch her, he might pay with his life.
     Barr didn't want to go on looking into haunted, hurting eyes. He didn't want to feel a damn thing for her. She should have stayed in her warm house and waited for her baby to be born. Her husband's relatives, or braves intent on revenge, would have come looking for him. They'd have brought his body back to her.
     But those things hadn't happened. And the woman who was once again drawing into herself had no one. Even if he hated her and everything she represented, damn it, he couldn't leave her alone. Clayton had taught him to feel and care. And before Clayton, his parents had instilled him with the same values.
     "Your knife," he ordered once she was able to concentrate again. "Put it down."
     She stared. Defiance glistened in eyes that had learned too much about what it meant to be trapped. "Go away, pale skin."
     "Believe me, there's nothing I'd rather do." When she said nothing, he lifted his rifle, once again aiming it at her. "Drop your knife, or I'll kill you."
     "Kill me, pale skin."
     He could handle hate. He expected, even welcomed that because it mirrored what he told himself he felt for her. What he couldn't handle was believing she'd given up. Wondering if talking to the dead brave made as much sense as trying to reach her, he lowered his rifle. "Listen to me," he whispered. "Your baby is going to be born. You don't want it to die before it has a chance."
 
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