Edie was treading in dangerous waters. If she let herself become lost in Thunder Bear’s potent gaze, there’d be no returning to where she truly belonged—in the present day of the twenty-first century. She’d never see her parents, brothers, or sister again. Her friends. The university. But her gut kept telling her she belonged here.
The way Thunder Bear studied her face told her he ached to take her in his arms and kiss her. To allow him to claim her lips was a definite no. One kiss would lead to the unthinkable, and she wasn’t ready to decide if she should stay or leave. So far, she wasn’t missing the comforts of home. Soon, she would. Once summer left and fall blanketed the land, she’d have to endure pure harshness, maybe even starvation.
She shuddered. The professor at the university and her great-grandfather had proclaimed that during the lean winter months, if the animals hid, the People had boiled their moccasins and scraped and ate bark to stave off starvation, for an empty belly turned people into wiindigoog. Although she didn’t believe in the wiindigo, there had to be a reason the cannibalistic monster belonged to Ojibway folklore. Or maybe folklore didn’t exist? Maybe the old stories were true?
“Your thoughts race,” Thunder Bear murmured. He kept stroking her bare arm. “Put them to rest. We live in the day, not the tomorrow.”
He was right. If Edie was going to make this the most amazing experience she’d dreamed about, she must remain focused.
“Do not let fear guide you. Fear is your enemy. Here, you will learn to put your fear at rest.” He spoke in a reassuring tone. The velvet of his voice was his graceful yet strong hands rubbing her shoulders in reassurance.
Although she shouldn’t, Edie inched toward him, closing the slight gap between them. She wrapped his lean waist and laid her head on his strong chest. His palm rested on the back of her head. He stroked ever so slightly. His free arm wrapped her waist.
“Fire Woman,” he whispered. His words steamed the top of her head. “Do not be fearful. I will take good care of you. This I vow.”
“I know you will.” When she spoke, her lips brushed his nipple accidentally, a hard piece of flesh alive, as if waiting to be gently pecked or suckled.
“Come, there is still much to see.” His fingers grazed her back with reassuring strokes. “We will walk.”
“I’d like that.” Yet being enclosed in his embrace was the sanctuary she’d sought from childhood. As much as she loved her parents and grandparents, this was the first time she’d experienced such protection, as if he’d give up his own life for a stranger who he’d only met hours ago.