Surrender Series, Book 2
Holding tight to the bed for support, her breath lodged deep in her lungs and she felt the blood drain from her face as her world careened precariously. She stared at the handsome half-breed who stood before her wearing an unbuttoned blue denim shirt, his muscled chest broad and chiseled. He could easily be the warrior from her dreams.
God, he was beautiful.
A new sense of foreboding surrounded her, like whenever she awoke from dreaming of the warrior back home. The familiar blue eyes that met hers immediately weakened her knees.
Long dark hair accented his bronze features…the same eyes, the same cheekbones…that jawline.
Even the same tiny scar high on his cheek like Taima's.
Kate touched her forehead and blinked, unable to believe the resemblance. The sensations from her dream enveloped her. Her heart raced; her breath still caught in her lungs. Struggling to breathe, she gripped her chest. If she didn't sit down soon, it would be too late. Kate continued to stare at the man, so much like the warrior from her dream.
Then she saw it…the emeralds sparkling back at her in the ring that hung at his throat.
Goosebumps covered her body.
“Oh my god,” she whispered, feeling her knees begin to buckle.
The man lunged forward to catch her before she hit the floor. Kate gratefully accepted his help, but when he lifted her in his arms, she tried to object.
“Please…” His arms were strong and his hand warm against her bare thigh.
Ignoring her plea, he held her tight. “You aren't in any shape to be out of bed just yet. Smoke heard you moving, so I came to check.” He looked at her and smiled. “I'm Brandon
Wakiza. Do you remember me?”
Recognition came in bits and pieces. The same man she'd seen in the Mercantile Store in Dubois. The same man who'd shown her the petroglyphs in Whiskey Basin. Mesmerized by the voice that sounded too much like Taima's, Kate placed her arm around his shoulder for support and stared at the stranger. No words came from her throat, though many questions went through her mind. She could only listen to his soothing words as he carried her to the other side of the bed where he placed her near the center.
After pulling the feather comforter over her legs, he sat on the bed, leaned over her legs, and placed a hand on the mattress.
Nearly lost in the blue of his eyes, she missed the question he had asked. “I'm sorry, what?”
His warm smile spoke of a gentle nature. “You've been here for three days. I've had a doctor look you over, but didn't know who else to call for you regarding friends or relatives.”
Tucking the comforter beneath her arms, she avoided his gaze and looked at the white shadow-stripped pattern of the comforter. “I'm out here alone on vacation from Pennsylvania. My name is Kate Bradach.”
“Do you remember going to the petroglyphs in Whiskey Basin?”
Surprised, she met his gaze. “Yes, I do, but…”
“You hit your head on a huge boulder. It must have been quite a bump to keep you out for so long.”
She touched the bump on her head, but the ring at his throat held her attention. As she stared at it, she remembered Taima's dying words to Kelee, echoing in her mind…Pass this down to your sons, and they, to their sons until Kate reclaims it.
Kate shivered and shook her head. “It just can't be…”
Brandon continued to watch her and tipped his head. “Is something wrong? What do you mean…it can't be?”
Kate could hardly get the words out, but she had to know. “Where did you get that ring?”
Brandon's long fingers touched the ring at his throat and searched her eyes for a long time. For a moment, it seemed he might recognize her, though that was impossible. They had never met before showing her the petroglyphs.
Then suddenly his eyes widened and he whispered, “It can't be.”
Kate drew her eyebrows together. “What can't be?” she asked, becoming more confused.
He looked at her hair, her face, her mouth. “This ring has been passed through my family for several generations.” Brandon paused. He narrowed his eyes, his gaze holding fast to hers.
“Why do you ask about this ring?”
A sense of loss tugged at Kate's heart. She contemplated an answer. Not wanting to sound foolish, she changed her mind and glanced out the window at the snow-peaked mountains.
“Never mind. It can't possibly be.”
Warm fingers beneath her chin slowly turned her face back to his, but she kept her lashes lowered. His touch affected her more than she wanted him to know, and if she met his gaze, he would surely see.
“Kate, look at me.”
She pulled in her lower lip. How many times had Taima said those exact words to her? Desperately missing him, a tear spilled down her cheek, like a satin caress. She reluctantly met Brandon's gaze as more tears pooled in her eyes and he became a blur.
“What can't possibly be? You must tell me,” he insisted, desperation edging his voice.
When he touched her chin, and gazed deep into her eyes, Kate could have sworn Taima sat before her. Brandon's mannerisms were too similar, and her heart ached for a future with him that could never be.
He tenderly wiped away a tear with his thumb, again, the way Taima would have, making it even harder for her to speak. The memories were too painful. She inhaled deeply, holding his gaze. “I used to have a ring exactly like that. What I'm going to say sounds ridiculous, yet I know in my heart it wasn't a dream. I gave that ring to my husband, Taima, to wear around his neck.”
Her heartbeat thudded in the silence following her admission. Kate waited, almost afraid of Brandon's pending reaction.
A muscle twitched in his jaw.