From His Prairie Sweetheart (Prairie Brides, Book Five)
“You’re about a hundred miles east of Oregon City, ma’am.”
“Yes, ma’am. You’re in Oregon Territory.”
“I’m out west?” she squeaked.
His face took on a look of alarm. “Well, yes. As opposed to being out east I guess.”
“I don’t know how I got here! I don’t know what I’m doing!”
“Hush now,” he said as he took her by the shoulders and looked her in the eye. “To be honest I don’t know what you’re doing out here or how long you were with those Indians. But I’m not going to leave you, you hear me?”
She could only stare at him. The thought of being left alone out in this wilderness frightened her something awful. She shook her head slightly, but the movement made her dizzy.
He began to glance around, then turned his attention back to her. “See that stand of pine over there?”
She followed his gaze to look at a cluster of pine trees a few hundred yards away. She slowly nodded.
“We’ll camp there for the night. It’ll be safer than being out here in the open. But you’re going to have to either try and walk or ride Victor.”
She leaned against him. “You named your horse, Victor?” Now why would she ask such a thing? What did it matter?
He smiled. “Yes, ma’am. Victor over there is one faithful animal. Watch this.”
The man gave a low whistle. Victor who’d been happily munching on a small patch of dried grass popped his head up, pricked his ears forward, and then walked right to them. The horse bent its head to the man and softly nickered.
She couldn’t help but smile.
“Now I think I’ll pick you up and see if I can’t get you up in that saddle. It’ll be a lot easier for Victor to carry you over to those trees than if I had to do it.”
She slowly nodded in understanding.
He pulled her against him. “Put your arms around my neck sweetheart and hang on.”
She shuddered. He’d spoken the words in her ear as he put one arm behind her back, the other under her legs. She did as he ordered.
He pulled her against him and stood as if she weighed nothing! She could feel the muscles in his arms bunch up and the solidness of his chest as he took a step or two toward the horse. “How you doin? You still with me?”
She nodded as she closed her eyes against the slight bout of dizziness that suddenly hit.
“If I help you do you think you can manage to climb up on ol Victor there?”
“I can try.”
“Good. I want you to get your left foot in that stirrup and take a hold of the saddle horn. I’ll see to it you get up there. Ready?”
She swallowed. Did she even know how to ride? She couldn’t remember! Oh dear God, she couldn’t remember anything!
“Don’t go fainting on me, ma’am. Now put your foot in the stirrup.”
He stood next to the beautiful bay horse. A horse that was a lot bigger now that she was this close to it. He positioned them so she could easily get her foot in the stirrup. She unwrapped one arm from around him and reached for the saddle horn. The man helped by part lifting, part pushing her upward.
“You’re gonna have to lift those skirts of yours to sit Victor. Do it now.”
She grabbed at the skirt of her dress and lifted it enough to get her leg over the saddle as he began to push her up the rest of the way. The leather felt hot against what parts of her legs weren’t covered by petticoats or stockings. Another bout of dizziness followed and she gripped the saddle horn to stay put. She closed her eyes against the spinning sensation threatening to make her plummet to the ground when the man removed her foot from the stirrup, grasped the front and back of the saddle and pulled himself up behind her.
A strong arm wrapped itself tightly around her waist and pulled her against a hard chest. “There now, that wasn’t so bad. Now all we have to worry about is getting you back down again but that’ll be a lot easier than getting up!” He made a little “clucking” sound and Victor started walking.
“Seems like we haven’t been properly introduced. My name’s Logan Kincaid,” he said as they rode toward their destination.
He was quiet for a moment when she didn’t answer. After all, how could she?
“This is the part where you tell me your name …” he said in a teasing tone.
“I … I don’t know …” Tears filled her eyes. Oh what could have happened to her? Her body shuddered. Her head felt like someone drove a spike through it. She closed her eyes again as the tears escaped. “I’m sorry, but I don’t know who I am!”
“There now,” he began as he pulled her more firmly against him. “You just relax. I’ve heard of this sort of thing happening. I worked with a fella who’s pappy lost his memory. Said he didn’t know who any of his own kinfolk were for weeks and weeks. Got clunked on the head fixing something out in the barn. Drove his poor mama plumb crazy with worry until his pappy finally got his memory back.”
“How did he get it back?” she asked, intrigued with the story despite the pain in her head.
“Well, the man I worked with? He told me it took something really familiar to trigger the memories and … ah … let’s just say it was … something as familiar as it could get.”
She shifted as she realized how indecent and improper it was to be riding like this with a perfect stranger. But honestly, she was injured and in pain, why on earth would she be concerned with propriety now? “What happened?” she asked to still her mind.
“Ahhh, well you see ma’am, the man I worked with, he came from a very large family. Had at least nine brothers and sisters. The way he tells it, his mama and pappy went to work on another one and that’s what triggered it.”
Her mouth dropped open in shock, but the distraction was welcome. Anything to get her mind off the pain in her head. “Lord have mercy!”
“Yeah, that’s what his mama said too. She didn’t want any more youngins!”
Tears filled her eyes as she smiled. She didn’t know if she was about to laugh or cry. The story was indeed amusing but her predicament wasn’t. “Where… are you heading?”
“Besides those trees over there? Ol Victor and I are heading home to Clear Creek and the Triple C ranch. I reckon I’d better take you along with me so Doc can see to you. I’d take you to Oregon City but I have to be getting back. Folks there are waiting on me.”
“Clear Creek? But how far away is it?”
“About ten days ride I’d say, give or take. Depends on you.”
“Yes, ma’am. On account you’re obviously not yourself and you being shot and all.”
She slumped against him.
Ten days out in this wilderness with a strange man. It was bad enough she didn’t know who she was or where she was from but now this?
But better to be traveling through the wilderness with Logan Kincaid than to be by herself alone and unprotected.
“So be it, Mr. Kincaid.”
Be looking for His Prairie Sweetheart coming later this month!