More Than Meets the Eye(12)

By: Karen Witemeyer


Evangeline, on the other hand, treasured her fully functioning cerebellum and planned to use it. She’d scout from a distance. Stay hidden in the trees. Collect clues, yet not directly engage anyone she might find.

Whoever this interloper was, he wouldn’t know the terrain like she did. That gave her an edge. One she intended to use to full advantage.





3


Seven years might have passed, but Logan remembered every detail of this terrain. His youthful explorations had left indelible marks in his mind, as if printed there by a mapmaker. Rather handy when one wanted to get around unseen.

He wound down a sloping creek bed, using an elm tree to steady his descent. Low ground made the best cover due to the dense vegetation of the area, and since the prickle that had been shivering against his nape for the last ten minutes warned he wasn’t alone out here, cover seemed a wise idea.

At the base of the hill, a set of tracks caught Logan’s eye. He squatted near a bramble that had grown up in the dry creek bed. The dual ovals imprinted in the damp soil indicated a four-legged critter instead of a two-legged one. Could be a deer, but the more likely culprit was a pig.

Feral hogs. He shivered. Nasty creatures. Logan had gotten between a sow and her piglets once. He still bore a scar on his right calf where the enraged female had slashed him open with her tusks. There only seemed to be one set of tracks here, though, so he probably wasn’t about to stumble upon a sounder again. Thank the Lord for small favors.

Logan brushed his hand against his thigh to wipe away the dirt as he stood. A single boar posed no problem. Loners were more apt to run away from people than attack.

As he followed the creek bed east, a noise caught his ear. A horse whinny. Logan dropped into a crouch. Shamgar. He’d left his mount secured inside a corral fashioned by tying rope around a set of trees on the outskirts of his camp. An ex-cavalry horse, Shamgar had been trained for silence. He only whinnied when someone approached with a treat. Apples and carrots in particular. But who would be out in the wild armed with a treat for his horse?

Reaching across his body, he eased his revolver from its holster and crept toward his campsite. It couldn’t be Zacharias. Logan had left his nemesis slaving away in a sorghum field less than an hour ago. And from what he’d observed this past week, the other Hamilton male didn’t venture far from the house. Some kind of namby-pamby who preferred woman’s work to a man’s labor. That left the female. She was harder to monitor. Always flitting about. Inside. Outside. He only seemed to find her when she started singing.

Arabelle at the Lucky Lady had nothing on the Hamilton gal. The saloon singer’s husky tones were probably supposed to pass for sultry, though the little Logan had overheard brought a mournful hound dog to mind more than an enticing siren. Zacharias’s sister, on the other hand, spewed tunes like a geyser, full tilt, with no care as to who might be listening. Even a trespassing scoundrel determined to rain justice down on her family.

Logan rolled his shoulders against the tightening in his neck as he climbed the slope leading to his camp. What happened to the girl as a result of the coming confrontation was not his concern. Hamilton hadn’t cared about repercussions to his opponent’s wife and son when he’d lured Logan’s father into deep play, then cheated him out of his home. Logan could be equally callous. He had to be. It was the only way to set things right.

His head inched above the embankment near his camp, and his gaze immediately sought out Shamgar.

Logan blinked. Twice. What in the world?

His highly trained cavalry mount was prancing around like a colt. Tossing his head and showing off like an adolescent youth trying to impress a pretty girl. And the girl was pretty. At least from what Logan could see from this distance. Rich, auburn hair glinting red in the sunlight. Slim figure. And a smile that punched him in the gut even from here. She laughed at Shamgar’s antics, then held her hand out to the horse. An empty hand.

Logan frowned at the old boy’s susceptibility to the female’s wiles. Apparently no treat had been needed. Fool critter. Did he remember none of his cavalry training?

Shamgar raced to the girl’s side, nuzzled her hand, then preened as she cupped his cheeks and pressed her forehead to his face. She had him completely enthralled.

Snap!

Logan jerked, then dropped his chin to spy the dry twig beneath his boot. Of all the careless, idiotic—

A whistle pierced the air, bringing his head back up. His self-castigation would have to wait. The little filly was on the move.

Logan scrambled the rest of the way out of the creek bed and positioned himself behind a pair of oaks as he debated whether or not to go after her. She’d found his camp and would no doubt tell her brothers. Was it worth the risk of exposing himself to try to convince her to keep quiet?