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From Author Winnie Griggs – LONE STAR HEIRESS
SET-UP: Ivy has been travelling through a sparsely populated backwoods with only her mule and dog for company. She’s had to pitch camp because her mule came up lame. She’s picking fruit from a tree when a strange man appears on horseback and startles her, causing her to fall and bump her head.
It was his fault she’d fallen. He hadn’t intended to startle her, but that didn’t absolve him of the fact that he had. He knew his imposing size could make strangers uncomfortable at the best of times. For a lone female who wasn’t expecting him—even one dressed as a boy—his arrival must have been a shock.
She stirred and he looked closer, only now taking in her physical appearance. Her nose and cheeks wore a liberal sprinkling of freckles, giving her a youthful look. Her still-closed eyes were partially covered by a fringe of reddish brown hair. He absently brushed the tendrils away from her face and was rewarded with a soft moan, a welcome sign that she was regaining consciousness.
“Easy,” he said, still uncertain of her condition..
Her eyes flew open at the sound of his voice, and, she regarded him with wide-eyed uncertainty. The deep clover-green of her irises startled him. They were the most amazingly intense eyes he’d ever seen.
“Are you hurt?” He kept his voice calm, trying not to further alarm her.
“I don’t…my head hurts, but I think I’m okay.”
She moved to sit up, but he placed a hand on her shoulder, gently restraining her. “Easy now. Take a minute before you move around too much.”
She gave him a peevish frown. “I need to sit up—the ground’s wet.”
That’s what she was worried about? Probably still addled from the fall. “I understand, but let’s check you out first.”
The suspicion in her expression deepened, and she attempted to put more distance between them. “I can check my own self, thank you.”
Though her words were assertive she seemed none too steady. He didn’t want to agitate her further, however, so he nodded.
“All right, but if you insist on sitting up, at least let me assist.” He placed a hand at her elbow and helped her up, keeping close watch for signs of injuries. Once he was sure she wouldn’t fall over again, he eased back on his haunches, ignoring the dampness seeping through the knees of his pants, trying to maintain a non-threatening pose.
As soon as he moved back, she pulled a knife and had it unsteadily pointed at his chest. “If you’re thinking to rob me, mister, you should know I don’t have much worth stealing, but what’s mine is mine.”
“Whoa, there.” Mitch threw his hands up, palms out, trying to assure her he wasn’t a threat. The knife, while not especially large, looked sharp enough to do some damage. And although he was quite certain he could take it from her with little effort, he didn’t want to do that unless he had to. “I just want to make certain you’re okay, nothing more.”
“What about before? Why were you sneaking up on me that way?”
“I didn’t sneak up on you. I happened on you while out riding. My apologies if you were startled.”
She blinked those amazing eyes as if trying to clear her vision, and the trembling in her hand grew more pronounced. Was it due to pain? Or weakness?
“Is this your place?” she asked. “`Cause I didn’t mean to trespass.”
Trespassing should be the least of her worries right now. He didn’t like the slur that had crept into her voice. Time to be firm, for her own good. “We can discuss all that later. Right now I need to know if you’re badly hurt.”
She still didn’t lower the knife, though the effort seemed to cost her. Her left hand moved to the back of her head. “I…my head—” She pulled her hand back and stared at it as if it belonged to someone else.
It was stained with blood.