Lake of Fire

Lake of Fire by Linda Jacobs Read Free Book Online

Book: Lake of Fire by Linda Jacobs Read Free Book Online
Authors: Linda Jacobs
chance if a bear happened along. Plucking his bridle from a nearby aspen limb, he slipped the bit deftly between the horse’s lips and adjusted the straps.
    The simple labor pleased him. No matter how much time he spent in cities, his heart would always be in these mountains.
    Catching a whiff of coffee on the pungent, pinescented air, he was tempted to break out his rod and catch some breakfast trout. Grilled over hot coalsuntil the skin crisped, the fish would make a succulent meal.
    Unfortunately, the rising light reminded him daylight was wasting. He walked back to the patch of soft sand and the bedroll where the woman … Laura … still slept. The curve of her lashes shadowed her cheek.
    How much easier it would be if he still believed she was a boy.

    “Time to get up!”
    Laura gasped at the deep voice and at the needles and lances of pain that struck her body from riding all day yesterday. Another not-too-gentle prod in the side, and she realized Cord stood over her, his long legs spread.
    “What’s the rush?” she snarled. “It’s not even sunrise.”
    “I don’t know about you, but I need to be on the road.” Though his tone was curt, a little curl of his hair stood up from sleeping on it; the errant strand made him look vulnerable.
    “All right, all right.” She’d slept in her clothes, so she was decent enough to push back the blankets and stagger to her feet. The insides of her thighs and her buttocks felt as if she had been flayed from hours riding bareback on Dante’s rump.
    Cord knelt and rolled the sheepskin bedding withswift efficient movements. Scooping up the blankets, he headed toward his horse.
    Stiffly, Laura moved to open the pack he’d taken food from yesterday, finding jerky and dried fruit, as well as a cloth sack of cornmeal. Digging deeper, she came up with a comb made of bone. With haste, while Cord was loading Dante, she untangled the knots in her hair and smoothed it over her shoulders.
    She walked down to the shore, cupped shockingly cold water, and washed her face. The clear lake lapped gently at her boots. Atop a nearby boulder, a striped chipmunk chattered.
    This time yesterday, she’d been sleeping in peace while Angus bedded down on the high driver’s seat. Today, she appreciated how easily she could have died, at the coach or in the numbing rush of the Snake. This land was truly as violent as the man who’d dispatched the gut-shot outlaw.
    If she had her journal, she would capture every detail.
    Her ablutions complete, Laura followed the aroma of coffee to the fire. Cord still occupied himself with the saddlebags, while she put the comb away in his pack. When she reached deep to replace it where she’d found it, her hand brushed something sharp.
    Carefully, her fingers traced the contours of the object. Not a knife; it was cold and smooth, almost slick to the touch. The ragged edge opened out into a thicker girth with almost-squared ends. It felt like an irregular piece of broken glass, but it was too weightyto be a chunk of even the finest crystal.
    Laura drew it out and recognized the material as obsidian. A professor friend of her father had a drawer of the black volcanic glass, each piece in a tray labeled with the locality and date he had collected it. She raised the stone and rubbed the smooth side against her cheek where it warmed perceptibly.
    “May I?”
    Laura jumped. She looked up, but Cord’s eyes were as opaque as the black glass he gestured her to hand to him.
    She placed it on his palm.

    Cord looked down at the obsidian and heard the ring of Bitter Waters’s voice. “Your spirit is weak. You were raised far from the People.”
    His uncle’s wife, Kamiah, burst out talking from where she prepared dinner on the other side of the rough canvas shelter in Yellowstone … the place they had ridden to after his family and home had been destroyed. Although Sarah had taught Cord the Lord’s Prayer and some other words in Nez Perce, most of what

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