Navajo Dawn excerpt continued . . .
Navajo Night excerpt continued . . .
The holy people had truly blessed him. It humbled him to think he’d been allowed to know the love of two such women. He would not take lightly their beautiful gift.
Taking another swallow of the water JoAnna had left him, he decided not to put the shirt back on his torn-up back from the whipping. He sat down as he had been sitting-knees drawn up, arms crossed over the top of his legs, head bent down on his arms, pulling the shirt over the top of his head.
He was in harmony with all things again. Surprisingly, he found his back wasn’t hurting like it had been earlier. He was sure it was a combination of the tannic acid in the tea, the salve, and JoAnna’s touch on his scarred back that had worked their magic. He fell into a peaceful slumber with a smile in his heart for a feisty, little bilagaana woman.
Scared, but determined to face whatever was out there, she rummaged in her portmanteau for the six-shooter her father had sent to her by way of the captain leading the wagon.
The battle outside the wagon was not going well. The soldiers had truly been taken by surprise and were losing more men than the Indians. Captain Hallett and the sergeant were holed up underneath Julietta’s wagon. The captain knew he had to try to get Miss Stanton out of harms way, if at all possible. When the soldier driving her wagon was shot and tumbled off the front, Hallet made a split-second decision. Crawling out from beneath the wagon, he pulled himself up on the back.
Julietta had been ready to scream when the soldier fell, however thought it better not to. She’d been facing forward when she felt the wagon rock and immediately turned, her pistol aimed and ready to fire.
“Whoa, Miss Stanton,” cautioned the captain, with his hands up. “It’s me. I’m going to get you out of here.”
So saying, he crawled past her and reached through the opening for the reins of the mules. Fortunately, they had not fallen forward but were caught on the brake handle.
“I’m going to try to drive from in here, so get down and stay down. We’re going to make a run for it and pray the Indians don’t follow. My men are putting up a pretty good fire so we’ll chance them covering us as we run.”
Julietta obey and got down on the floor and started praying. She didn’t want to die, not after enduring all kinds of hardships to get out here to be with her father. It couldn’t end this way.
“Please God, help us,” she prayed silently.
The captain knelt down and kept yelling and slapping the mules as they hurtled toward the opening of the pass. Julietta clung to her gun and the bottom of the cot to keep from being slung around.
Just as the captain saw that they might make it, he felt a sudden jolt of the wagon and a hideously striped face appeared on the wagon seat. He drew his Cold 45 and took aim.
Bacca Begay had seen the wagon trying to get away and climbed down to a rocky ledge that was just about even with the height of the wagon seat. He had jumped from the ledge onto the moving wagon and grabbed the canvas to swing through the opening. As his body swung into the compartment, he knocked the captain out of the way.
Two guns went off simultaneously spitting fire and fumes. When the smoke cleared, neither one had found their mark.
Bacca kicked the captain’s gun out of his hand. He was surprised to find the bilagaana woman in the wagon and wondered what she was doing here. Why were they guarding her so well? He had thought the wagon held guns and ammunition, not a female. That was why they had wanted to capture the wagon.
Not having time to dwell on it as the captain was trying to get up and draw his sword, Bacca quickly tripped him ad knocked him unconscious. He could have shot him dead, but for some reason, the fear in the woman’s big purple-blue eyes stopped him.
Meanwhile, the mules were running away in panic and the wagon was tipping dangerously on the uneven ground. Any moment it was bound to tip over and kill all three of them.
Bacca jumped to the front of the wagon and crawled back out onto the seat. Jumping down on the mule’s backs, he brought the wagon to a stoop. Then, he pulled himself back up on the seat only to face the barrel of Julietta’s gun pointed directly at him.
Surprise, disbelief, and annoyance crossed his usually stoic features.
Silly female! Did she think he was afraid of her or that he could not overpower her?
But, apparently, he had misjudged her for she fired point-blank at his chest. However, at that moment the panicked mules began to move again and the wagon lurched, spoiling her aim at his heart. And, although she hit Bacca in the upper part of his shoulder causing him to fall backwards off the wagon, she did not kill him.
Stunned as he was, he knew he had to roll away from the wheels before they ran over him. He could not believe it. That little bit of a thing, with hair the color of sunset and big round amethyst eyes, had really shot him.
Julietta’s heart had been pounding since the first shot and had now slowed down yet. Adrenalin was still pumping through her veins.
Dear Lord, I’ve shot a man! What will father say? That it was her life or his? But dear God, how could she live with the knowledge that she had taken a person’s life, Indian or not.
The surprised look on his face would stay in her memory forever. She had not seen any Navajos up close, or any Indians for that matter, and his painted cheekbones had nearly frightened her to death. She’d had only the barest second to take in his features. Silly as it was, she had to admit they weren’t as ugly as she had imagined they would be.
Recalling the moment right before she shot him, he had looked her up and down with a look in his slanted eyes that started a warmth to spread through her whole being. That’s when the bemused, half-smile had appeared on his face. Right before she shot him.