Heart Of The Eagle. Lindsay McKenna
Without her, his entire plan would be destroyed.
Jim removed his hat as he stared across the doorway at a woman in her early sixties who was built like an overly plump pigeon. “I’m Jim Tremain, from the Department of the Interior. I have an appointment to see Dr. Dahlia Gordon at ten.”
The woman’s small mouth puckered. “You mean Dr. Kincaid?” she challenged, eyeing him.
The divorce. “Yes, I guess so.”
“Humph! Dal didn’t say she was expectin’ anyone.” Her blue eyes narrowed suspiciously. “You got some ID?”
He dug out his wallet, producing the evidence. The housekeeper appeared mollified—to a degree. She reminded Jim of a keg of dynamite ready to go off. Or perhaps a guard dog would be a more appropriate comparison, he thought, smiling to himself.
“I had my secretary call and confirm the appointment two days ago,” he said, trying to smooth her ruffled feathers. “I’m from Denver, the regional office.”
She stared up at him. “Well…I don’t know. She isn’t here right now. And if she was expectin’ someone, she wouldn’t have left.”
Patience, Jim reminded himself. He gave her a slight smile. “I saw her down in a meadow as I drove up here to the Triple K.”
“All right, come on in, Mr. Tremain.”
Jim stepped into the foyer, immediately at ease in the rambling ranch-style home. As the housekeeper escorted him from the cedar foyer, through the living room, which housed a huge stone fireplace, and then to the study, Jim collected his impressions.
“You can wait here. Dr. Kincaid ought to be comin’ back shortly.”
Jim placed his hat on the well-used leather couch, inhaling the scent of the large, brooding study, whose walls were lined with books. “Thank you.”
The housekeeper hovered at the door, her pinched features softening a bit. “Coffee?”
Jim shook his head. “No, thanks.”
“No tellin’ when she’ll get here, Mr. Tremain.”
“That’s all right, I’ll wait.”
She shrugged her shoulders. “Have it your way, Mr. Tremain. I’ll be in the kitchen if you need anything.”
His smile was genuine. “Thank you, Mrs….”
“Millie. I’m the housekeeper for the Kincaid family.”
Millie gave him one last predatory look before she left. Jim shrugged out of his sheepskin coat and draped it over the arm of the couch. He drank in the atmosphere of the quiet study, impressed with the titles of the books; most ranchers wouldn’t be interested in Tolstoy or Shakespeare. But someone was and he wondered who. Above the bookshelves were many brilliantly colored photographs of the wildlife that no doubt inhabited the forty-thousand-acre Triple K Ranch. Jim found himself applauding the hanging of photographs of the animals on the walls, rather than their stuffed heads. Yes, the Kincaids were known for their strong conservation efforts, and were longtime friends to the Department of the Interior.
He sauntered out of the study and into an adjoining alcove. More slats of sun were peeking through the overcast as Jim looked out the window at the ceaseless activity of cowboys on horseback and the brown-and-white Hereford cattle they were herding. Ten acres on the south side of the house were enclosed in paddock after paddock of milling animals. It was time for the cows to calve, and Jim spotted more than one wobbly kneed youngster sticking close to its mother.
His sharp hearing caught the opening and closing of a door. The housekeeper’s voice was barely discernible. Jim realized his hands were damp, and he laughed at himself for such an uncharacteristic show of nerves. Turning back to the window, he once again forced his concentration on the scene outside.
In the kitchen Dal shrugged out of her coat, handing it to Millie. “Who did he say he was?” she asked. Her left arm ached where Nar had gripped her. He had been upset about something; otherwise, he wouldn’t have bruised her with the powerful grip of his blue-black talons that could easily have shredded her kidskin gauntlet as well as put puncture holes through the thick sleeve of her sheepskin coat. While she absently rubbed her arm, her sapphire eyes darkened.
“Jim Tremain. From the Department of the Interior. I thought you said you wanted to rest, Dal. No more travel, no more lectures. Just to rest from that…that awful divorce,” Millie said, sputtering.
Dal touched her brow. The divorce. Six months of freedom from a daily hell. She still wasn’t herself. Inwardly, she wasn’t ready to meet anyone. Not yet. “It’s all right, Millie. You know me, no memory.”
“Humph! That’s ‘cause of that no-good ex-husband of yours. Runnin’ you into the ground like he did.”
“That’s over now, Millie,” she began tiredly, not wanting to discuss it ever again. Dal glanced down at herself; she didn’t look very presentable in her blue jeans and long-sleeved white blouse, with her hair in tangled disarray about her shoulders. Compressing her full lips, Dal touched her hair. God, Jack had beaten her down so far, she even forgot to tend to herself beyond the most necessary of tasks needed for daily survival. “Well, Mr. Tremain is going to see me the way I am,” she muttered to the housekeeper. “I don’t remember the appointment. But that’s nothing new. Where did you say he was?”
“In your brother’s study. Like some coffee and a freshly made roll?”
Dal touched her ribs. She ought to eat more, she knew. Her brother, Rafe, was on her constantly to regain the lost weight. “No, just coffee, Millie.”
“I’ll bring it in to you, lamb.”
Managing a smile of thanks, Dal headed toward the south wing of the ranch house. The cheerful crackle of a fire soothed her sudden raw-nerved feeling. How could she have forgotten an appointment? Especially when she had refused to see anyone over the past six months? Running her slender fingers through her cinnamon-colored hair, Dal stepped into the library.
Her irritation with herself was torn away as she came to a halt. A man dressed like a wrangler rather than a businessman stood with book in hand. It wasn’t his appearance as much as the aura surrounding him that caught Dal completely off guard. The cougarlike leanness to his body shouted of someone who braved the elements regularly—and won. Her eyes moved up his tightly muscled frame, taking in the faded blue jeans that emphasized his long thighs and narrow hips. Unconsciously, she licked her lower lip. The pale-blue long-sleeved shirt emphasized the powerful breadth of his chest and shoulders. Her heart began an uneven pounding as her gaze met and held his. Clear, light brown eyes flecked with gold gently held her in check. A tremor passed through Dal and suddenly she felt panicky. This man, whoever he was, was affecting her on levels she had thought were destroyed long ago.
She didn’t want to admit that she was drawn to his large, intelligent eyes, which smoldered with some unknown emotion in their honey-colored depths. Or was she attracted by the harsh, chiseled planes of his face, which made him appear hawklike? Immediately, in her chaotic thoughts, Dal thought he resembled Nar, her golden eagle: dangerous, beautiful in a breathtaking male way and excruciatingly masculine. Was it the deep tan and his softly curled black hair that made him look dangerous to her? She was perplexed. It was only April in Colorado and no one had seen enough sun to get a tan yet.
Was he Indian? No. Part, perhaps? Yes, as evidenced by the high cheekbones and the oval-shaped face, which was completed by a mildly stubborn chin. Her gaze fell to the hands that cradled the leather-bound book; long, tapered hands that were large knuckled and almost artistic looking. Hands that held the book so gently that Dal found herself wondering what it would be like to be held by him.
What an idiotic thought! She upbraided herself, giving herself a mental shake for the scattered feelings that this stranger evoked in her. With a slight, embarrassed smile, Dal said, “I’m Dr. Dal Kincaid.”