“Don’t move!” Cheyenne pointed her shotgun at the blood-smeared stranger as he stood and turned away from the prone body. Sister growled at the stench of the yellow-green goo that splattered the ground and the men. Cheyenne feared she’d come upon a murderer, but the raw agony in the living man’s eyes belied that. “What’s your name? What happened here?”
He frowned. Puzzlement clouded his gaze. She repeated her questions in every Native language she knew. Frustrated, her repertoire exhausted, she fell silent and studied him.
Clad only in moccasins and intricately tooled leather breeches that buttered his muscular thighs, he stood tall and straight before her, covered in human blood and bits of that weird sulfur-smelling goo. Long raven hair tied back with a leather thong revealed a proud, almost raptorial visage, with piercing black eyes and a strong jaw. Native cast, but with an aristocratic edge that set him apart.
Used to fit men from the braw males of her own Pack, she still couldn’t repress a feminine shiver. This was without a doubt the most ripped man she’d ever seen. She wondered if he was some kind of soldier, doubtful with that hair.
Leave it to her to find a romance-cover-model-turned-ax-murderer in the middle of nowhere.
Sister insisted the man was blameless. Involved in the tragedy, but not responsible. Even though the self-recrimination in the man’s eyes stated he thought otherwise. No Pack member had ever been murdered in cold blood. They could read a person’s intentions and steer clear. Accidents, illness and old age, yes – but never murder.
Cheyenne decided to trust her instincts. “Who are you?” When he didn’t respond, she tapped her chest. “Chey-enne.”
Comprehension lit his gaze, and he pointed to himself. “Mar-ek.” He then indicated the body of the man on the ground. “Vey-nar.” His voice choked as he pulled off the dead man’s amulet and placed it around his own neck.
“Marek.” Relieved he spoke; Cheyenne lowered her gun until the barrel pointed toward the ground. Her eyes widened; his skin reddened where the goo clung. Some kind of acid? That had to hurt, although he appeared not to notice. There was a stream where he could wash, but how to convey to someone who spoke a different language?
She held out a hand, palm up. “Come.” She pantomimed as she backed away, motioning him to follow. He nodded once. She forced herself not to react when he picked up his strange weapons and took a step toward her, cradling the lethal-looking crystal blades like an armload of firewood.
Understanding dawned in Marek’s eyes when the sound of rushing water reached their ears. He glanced at her; with a forward sweeping motion, she indicated he should go ahead of her. He waded into the icy stream and began to wash away the filth from himself and the blades.
Cheyenne flinched. Those burns looked nasty. She took off her backpack, opened it, pulled out her first-aid kit and a survival blanket. She grabbed a tube of ointment that relieved pain and prevented infection.
Marek watched her approach with wariness in his eyes. She applied some of the ointment on her fingertips and rubbed it into her inner wrist, holding it out so he could see it wasn’t harming her. Eye-level with the worst of the burns, she put more on her fingers and reached for his chest. He caught her wrist, stopping her, and frowned.
Dormant femininity uncurled. Cheyenne quivered as his long, calloused fingers caressed her skin. She hoped he wouldn’t notice. “Shh, it’s okay. Trust me, this will help.”
He didn’t release his grip, but allowed her touch. He watched her apply the medicine, and she knew the moment his pain eased by the way he jerked and then relaxed. He released her hand and let her tend to the other wounds.
His three pendants drew her gaze. They looked like huge diamonds but couldn’t be real. Sister growled.
Cheyenne didn’t recognize the symbols etched into the settings, but she steered clear of the silver metal.
That cliché was all too real for Pack.