Sharra crouched, peering out from beneath the underbrush, her breath coming in uneven gasps. She moved her slender fingers, rhythmically, through the dirt at her feet. If she were found, her life would be worth naught. How would she ever explain her actions, especially to her father?
Time passed, slowly, to the steady pounding of her heart, a dense fog blanketing the forest. Her body protested the hours of forced inactivity as she worked her way out of the thicket and into the clearing, joints popping much too loudly for caution. A sardonic laugh sounded from behind her as she felt the rear of her trousers rip on an unyielding branch. Sharra spun on her heel, pistol drawn, to confront her adversary. They had found her. Heart beating wildly, her mind raced through the possibilities. There would be no saving herself now. There was no hope.
Chandler Ashton sat on the embankment behind her recent hiding place, coolly regarding her as she swung around, frantically brandishing her weapon. He glared down at her, his mouth twitching with wry amusement. “Someone really ought to teach you how to use that thing,” he said. “It would be a shame if you shot yourself or, for that matter, if you shot me. I really hate being shot.”
Sharra straightened her shoulders, defiantly locking her eyes to his. “For your information, Sir, I do know how to use this thing, as you call it. I would be more than happy to demonstrate my aptitude if you would be so kind as to stand in the place of a target, since I don’t seem to have another one available.”
“You could have fooled me. You rip your trousers, and then go totally wild on the poor fool who found it amusing enough to laugh at you. That’s hardly charitable, now is it? You wouldn’t be afraid that I had caught you at something would you, Sharra?”
“I do apologize, Sir, but I have no idea what you are referring to. Would you care to enlighten me or would that be too taxing for a gentleman of your stature?”
“No, no, of course not, my dear, but I would be happy to explain,” he responded. “Your defensive manner would be a good place to start, wouldn’t it? It doesn’t seem normal for you to be so jumpy. Do you always point weapons at unsuspecting strangers or do you reserve that privilege for your father’s friends and enemies?”
“Truly, I am sorry for that,” she said. “I was run off the road by some of the local slavers. They might have been bounty hunters. I really don’t know for sure, but I knew they were trouble. I thought you were one of them. Generally, I wouldn’t draw on you. At least, not unless you deserved it.”
“Running from slavers and bounty hunters, eh? What an event filled life you live, Miss Montgomery. Tell me, though, if you can, just what were you doing out here in the first place?” he asked as he slid down from his perch.
“I was simply out for an evening ride when those brigands ran me off the road. They must have mistaken me for someone else. Probably, someone like you.” She smiled winningly and batted her eyelashes. “Would you not say so, Sir?”