Excerpt from Wild Destiny

     Belle Barclay replaced the worn volume of Thomas Gray's poetry in the bookcase. Then, seeking something more to soothe the restlessness that had kept her awake well past midnight, she ran her fingertips along the spines of the two dozen other books on the same shelf. The house was silent, and her nightgown’s ruffled hem brushed across the pine floor with a soft whisper. She had lit only the lamp on her father's desk; surrounded by deep shadows, she moved with a languid ease that belied her inner turmoil.
     She swept her blond curls aside with a graceful flip of her hand before bending down to peruse the next shelf. A book bound in red leather caught her eye, but she recalled the tale in such vivid detail she had no desire to read it a second time. Disappointed, she had just returned the book to its place when she heard the back door open and close.
     Panic surged down her spine, but she forced herself to think despite the fierce pounding of her heart. There were no Revolutionary War battles being fought nearby, but there were enough local Loyalists who wished the Barclays harm to justify her fright. Determined to defend her sleeping family, she fought to remain calm. Her step was silent as she padded around the desk on bare feet, but her hands were shaking badly as she removed the pistol from the top drawer, and she bumped it loudly against the highly polished mahogany. The noise echoed in her ears with an alarming wail until she realized it could not possibly have carried past the partially open door.
     Whoever had entered the house would have seen the light in the study, so she didn't bother to douse it before stepping into the shadows beside the door. From this vantage point, she had a clear view of the hall, enabling her to see the intruder easily a second or two before he caught sight of her. Her mouth had gone dry. A cough hovered at the back of her throat, and she swallowed hard to dispel it.
     Her elder brother, Beau, was a privateer away at sea, but he wore boots and moved with a confident stride she would have recognized instantly. Unlike a man returning home to a warm welcome, this fellow was creeping down the hall with a step so light the only sound was an occasional creak of the floorboards. The Barclays had far too many beloved relatives, dear friends, and good men working for them for Belle to risk firing at a shadow, but should she recognize danger rather than a familiar face, she was ready to do what she must. She cocked the heavy pistol and raised it with both hands, then drew in a deep breath and held it; her lungs had nearly burst before a man stepped into the ray of light thrown past the open door.
     He was an Indian brave, and an exceedingly handsome one. His long ebony hair fell over his shoulders in careless disarray, and his worn buckskins were edged with tattered fringe. He was tall, with a lean, muscular build his soft deerskin clothing revealed in sensuous detail. As their eyes met, his dark glance lit with recognition, and the slow smile spreading over his well-shaped lips slurred into a rakish grin.
     He reached out to brush Belle's pistol aside. "If you're standing guard, I like your uniform."
     "Damn you, Falcon, you gave me an awful fright." After dropping the pistol to her side, Belle brushed her cousin's cheek with a light kiss. Then, embarrassed that she had revealed just how dearly she loved him, she turned away.
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