Immortal Redeemers, Book 1
by J. Hali Steele
eBook ISBN: 06737-02168
Nola Lester finally had enough of life in the city’s fast lane. She needed to get away, get back to her roots, but tending a wounded hunter whose controlling and charismatic personality triggered strange desires threatened Nola’s plans. Perhaps changing her agenda may not be such a bad idea.
“Turn it loose.” Nola Lester couldn’t take it anymore. She had been snatched from sleep and out of bed by the bleats and cries of deer one time too many, and just last week she’d saved a coyote. An insane rescue, but leaving the injured animal to gnaw its leg off in the snare trap was unthinkable. The drive almost thirty miles into the nearest small town was excruciating, and clunking the doddering old vet on his bald head crossed her mind when he asked what she wanted him to do. Her reminder to him he took an oath to help all creatures spurred him into action. She released the poor dog back into the wild yesterday.
Here she stood, in the dead of night — doing it again.
Blinded by headlights, she could only make out a dark outline of the bastard who knelt above the braying deer and murmured gibberish. What the hell? Nola breathed heavy from running damn near a half mile and couldn’t make out what he said. Didn’t really care. She only knew his damn traps and snares snagged and maimed animals, and that was unfair. Did he plan on butchering it right there? After moving back to where she’d spent a good bit of her childhood, she determined in her tiny neck of the woods, it would end. Nola had not counted on men with a penchant for killing all God’s four-legged creatures surrounding her.
Not tonight, not on her watch. “Turn it loose now!”
The decision to renovate and spend time north of Shenandoah in the cabin left by her grandmother came after selling her gift and greeting card company to a large corporation two months ago, a deal leaving Nola more than well off. In fact, she could afford to live anywhere, do things she’d only dreamed about. Escaping Philadelphia, with its constantly blaring sirens and the goddamn random shots ringing out, had been a blessing. The city was no place for anyone seeking peace and quiet or security. Her mind teemed with these issues when she realized the man spoke.
“Easy, lady. This isn’t what you think.” The jerk wanted to explain. “Why don’t you put the gun down?”
Chilled to the bone, she shivered from head to toe. How stupid? Damn near naked and alone in the woods with a man she didn’t know from squat with a freaking little twenty-two in her hand. Her girlfriends called it her pop gun, said it wouldn’t faze anything other than a small rat.
Maybe she should pay more attention to the guy in front of her.
* * *
Rand Mitchell remained on his knees soothing the animal as he worked to release the trap. Damn, she wore a pair of pink bunny slippers. If he laughed at the sight she presented, the woman would probably shoot him for sure. He bit hard on his tongue as he looked up at the crazy lady standing a short distance away. She had evidently climbed straight out of bed and headed here without a thought to the fact her thin nightgown was see-through. It danced in the breeze around a voluptuous body outlined by the high beams of his truck. His dick came to attention and brought to mind how long it had been since he’d sought comfort from a female.
“If you put down the gun, I can explain. I heard the cries myself and came to check it out.”
“You cretins don’t give the animal a chance. You trap the poor thing and then what? I’m sick and tired of this. I came here for peace and quiet and I’m surrounded by more death than I was in the city.” The whole time she babbled her arms flailed and the gun waved all over the place. “I understand hunters, but this? What you do is senseless and cruel. You bastards are all alike.”
Son-of-a-bitch. The woman began to get under his skin. Had she been a man, her ass would be on the ground.
In a quiet voice, Rand said, “Lady, you don’t know me, so don’t lump me in with a bunch of mean, sadistic killers. I don’t like it.” In control of the situation, at least with the animal, Rand continued. “Where the hell did you come from anyway?” The teeth of the trap had missed damaging the small deer’s leg seriously, and once loose it sprang free and disappeared into the trees. Had it not been for the animal’s bleats and concentrating on removing the loathsome contraption, the woman holding the gun wouldn’t have taken him by surprise. Getting to his feet, he focused on her. “You’ll get yourself killed or raped running around out here in the dark waving around a peashooter.” The tiny weapon concerned him a little. “Put the gun down and we can talk.”
“You’re on my property,” she blurted out. “Where’d you come from?”
Rand inched forward as he spoke and hoped the movement went unnoticed. “I’m camped over by the lake.” He tilted his head to the right in an attempt to draw attention in that direction. She looked like a deer caught in headlights with eyes stretched so wide he could see the whites gleaming in the light from his truck, and her body trembled either from her angry tirade or the cool breeze whipping through the trees. “Like I said before, I heard the animal, came to see if I could help.” Close enough to reach out and disarm her, he made his move.
But Rand’s life had never been that easy.
The blast in the quiet night shocked him and he jumped back. Pain sliced through his left side. He touched the spot and looked at his hand. Blood.
“You fucking shot me.”
* * *
The sound ricocheted through the trees. Nola’s stomach churned as he raised a bloody hand. “You… you…” He slumped to his knees before twisting and landing on his back. “Damn.”
“Oh shit, I didn’t mean to.” Nola dropped the revolver and swiveled her head in every direction as though she expected someone else to jump out of the dark. Jesus, she’d shot a man. Her intent was to scare him off, get him away from the animal so she could set it free, but he’d startled Nola by lunging toward her. Falling to her knees, she bent over and placed two fingers on the side of his neck where she felt a strong pulse and could see his chest rise and fall as he breathed. “Thank God.”
Leaning closer, she inhaled and closed her eyes, allowing a familiar woodsy scent to encompass her. A twig snapped in the silence, jarring her back to reality. Not a good time to analyze the intruder’s cologne. She had just shot the culprit. He was an awful, rotten person who maimed animals. Still, Nola had to get him to a doctor, and fast. The nearest was the vet she took the coyote to last week. “Too far.” The truck provided enough light to survey the man’s belly. Nola happily noticed when she lifted his shirt there wasn’t much blood seeping from the tiny wound made by the twenty-two. It was on his left side and she sent silent prayers of gratitude knowing the bullet missed vital organs.
“Lady…” Surprised, Nola scurried backward, landing smack on her ass. “Help me to my truck.”
“Truck?” The situation combined with the stranger’s cologne caused mass confusion in her brain.
“Yes.” He staggered forward. “Truck, buggy, whatever you call it here in the backwoods. I need to get somewhere and stop the bleeding.”
“Uhhh…” She jumped up and moved to help him. “I’m sorry, I…” Words trailed off. Nothing she said would make this better. Hell, he could have her arrested, although he was on her property illegally trapping deer. She got him seated in the passenger side, then ran around and climbed behind the wheel. “I really didn’t mean…” After turning the ignition on, she quickly circled the clearing and headed to her cabin. “The deer, do you think…” Nola snapped her mouth shut. Probably not a good time to appear more concerned about an animal than the man seated beside her. Jesus, I shot him!
“Do you ever finish a sentence?”
* * *
Rand woke to the aroma of bacon frying, and the rumble in his stomach rivaled the sound of clanging pots and pans, noise that would probably go unnoticed by most but his hearing was sharper than normal, a phenomenon Rand had become accustomed to over the years.
He thought back to the events of last night.
Where he stayed was farther away, and when the woman headed in the opposite direction, Rand assumed they were going to the small cabin he’d only recently spotted when he traversed the woods in this area. Funny, there was no memory of it from other times vacationing here.
Upon entering the cabin, the woman appeared so distraught he saw no harm in letting her bandage the wound and put him in bed. Rand felt somewhat responsible since he leaped at her when he should have continued to talk. A mistake that had landed him in her bed, biting his tongue, imagining all sorts of foul, evil deeds to keep his dick flaccid while she undressed him.
Voluptuous and sexy in a wild way, the spitfire turned him on. A smile curled his lips at the memory of her sharp intake of breath as she removed his pants. Her generous curves were enticing and Rand reflected on how good it felt when his hand brushed her full breast through the thin material of her gown. As she walked out, he glimpsed a sweet, round ass before she flipped the light switch.
The lady certainly seemed fearless, and Rand found her appealing. It occurred to him she wasn’t very smart running around the forest in the middle of the night with a tiny pistol to ward off any asshole who might venture this far out. Before falling asleep, he made a mental note to tell her she needed a bigger gun.
* * *
Breakfast’s delicious smell pulled Rand back to the present.
Air wafted beneath the thin sheet when he lifted it and took in a large bandage taped to his side. Good. The gash would be barely visible by now and it no longer hurt. Keeping the woman’s prying eyes away until he got out of here shouldn’t pose a problem. He fondled his growing hardness and mulled over the idea of remaining a guest. Rand had been far too long without companionship. Shit, if he wasn’t careful, the owner of the bed would walk in and find a wet spot on the sheet if he continued his train of thought. I am a cretin!
Shaking his head, hoping to clear it of carnal thoughts, he looked toward the window and remembered why he came back here — his continued search for answers to who and what he was. Fifty years and he had never come across anyone like himself.
A wonderful middle-aged couple had stumbled upon him about ten miles from the cabin where he now recuperated. No more than a year old when found, he was bare ass naked and appeared well fed. Mother swore he laughed and cooed in a hollow log she’d sat on to rest. Very wealthy, the couple quietly adopted him and gave give him their name. Rand became heir to their fortune. They had all returned to the spot at the same time every year hoping for some clue to who he really was. Since their death, Rand, drawn to the area, did the same thing.
I belong here.
Again, this woman snuck up on him. Either she was damn quiet or he was more distracted than he thought by the circumstances, which made no sense because the bullet wound was nothing in comparison to injuries Rand had sustained over the years, gruesome injuries that never left a scar. One unexplainable blemish marred his body, a black quarter-inch wide stripe from mid-shoulder blades damn near to the top of his ass. It was a part of him and his parents never made a big deal over it.
“I’m starved.” She was damn easy to look at and sexy as hell. Hazel eyes more green than brown glanced sheepishly at him from beneath long lashes. Shoulder-length hair framed naturally tan cheeks.
After settling the tray across his lap and fluffing pillows, she began to talk. “Look, about last night, I didn’t mean for that to happen. When you came at me…” She nibbled nervously on her bottom lip. “You can use my phone if you need to call anyone.” She pushed a hand through unruly brown waves. “Your wife, the police…”
Rand lifted the fork and dug into the eggs on the plate in front of him. With his mouth full there would be no expectation to talk, buying time to observe her. Full breasts peeked above the low cut vee in the white sweater hugging her body. Wide hips and a generous ass topped big thighs currently wrapped in blue denim. He liked women who dressed sensibly when the environment called for it. Here in the woods, surrounded by nature, she was picture perfect.
After polishing off the eggs, he gobbled two thick slices of bacon before he lifted the glass and took a long swallow of cold milk. Rand swiped his lips with the back of his hand and sat up higher. “Why would I call the police?”
“My name’s Rand Mitchell.”
“I’m Nola Lester. Shouldn’t you call your family?”
“No wife, no family.” He sure as hell wasn’t going to confess he was well enough to leave. Her feistiness and quick temper excited Rand. A beautiful woman living in such a remote area and able to take care of herself presented a challenge he considered. Last night, bunny slippers aside, she’d acted strong, confident. A lesser woman would have run for the hills. Not her. Still, something was off. She seemed uncomfortable, nervous. Shooting someone for the first time could do that. Somehow, without giving away too much about himself, he had to get across to Nola he really was okay.
She fidgeted with the sweater’s cuff. “I just thought… well, the gun… you…”
Another mangled sentence prompted a grin. “You know, if we’re ever going to have a conversation, you have to finish saying something.”
The fidgety hand stopped instantly. Eyes glared above cheeks that reddened. Unpainted, pouty lips vanished into a stubborn line. Rand was in for a verbal lashing and he wondered where the peashooter hid.
“Look, mister, you were on my property, and it’s not deer hunting season. If you can call what you do hunting.” She pivoted and stalked to the door on shapely legs he’d love to crawl between, spend hours touching, savoring.
His dick jerked against his thigh. Feisty as hell and Rand loved it. Whoa. His cock was busy making a tent out of the sheet beneath the tray still resting over his lap.
Wheeling around, she blasted him. “You’re not the type of man I want to have a conversation with. As soon as you’re able, get your ass out of my bed and into your buggy, or whatever you call it, and get the hell off my backwoods property.”
Crawling between those legs in the near future flew out the window.
“I’ll be damned, lady, if…” The bedroom door banged shut. “Christ, you didn’t let me finish.”
She yelled through the closed door, “Bathroom’s across the hall.”
“Good ’cause I have to piss.” Raising his voice, Rand added, “By the way, you need a bigger gun.”