The Mavericks

The Mavericks by Leigh Greenwood

Book: The Mavericks by Leigh Greenwood Read Free Book Online
Authors: Leigh Greenwood
departure.
    â€œThey’ll be too glad we found the mules to be angry with us,” Hawk said.
    Zeke kicked more sand on the campfire to make sure it was out. “That may be true of Suzette,” he said, “but Josie won’t be happy to see my face.”
    â€œThen I’ll take the mules myself.”
    â€œThat’s because you want to see Suzette.”
    â€œSo what if I do?”
    A small vessel in Hawk’s temple began to throb, an infallible sign he was getting angry. Zeke directed his gaze to the job of rolling up his bedroll. “You can’t go getting interested in a female now. Think about the ranch.”
    Hawk snatched up his saddlebags and tied them to his saddle. “And I suppose you’re not
interested
in Josie.”
    Zeke tied his bedroll with two strips of rawhide. “It wouldn’t matter if I were.”
    Zeke didn’t want to go within a hundred yards of Josie, yet neither would he let Hawk take the mules to the women by himself. He
hated
it when part of him wanted to do one thing and the rest of him wanted to do just the opposite. And all because of a woman who couldn’t stand him. What was wrong with him? He’d never done anything like this before. He might have liked a woman who didn’t return his interest, but he’d always been able to shrug his infatuation off and turn his attention elsewhere. Why couldn’t he do that with Josie? Hell, he’d only been around her three days. How could a woman get her hooks in a man that quickly? He packed the rest of the supplies in his saddlebags and stood. “Let’s finish packing up, and we’ll both take the mules over.”
    They didn’t speak, but their abrupt motions spoke eloquently of the tension between them. Five minutes later they were headed to where the women had camped, each leading a mule. Angry at the whole situation, Zeke charged into the lead. He dodged a cholla cactus only to nearly fall into a prickly pear.
    â€œWatch where you’re going,” Hawk said. “We can’t afford to have you laid up with a dozen poison thorns in your hide.”
    The mule Zeke was leading looked nearly as disgusted as Hawk sounded. “I was thinking,” he said.
    â€œI could tell. You’ve got that
Josie
look about you.”
    Zeke ground a small barrel cactus beneath his boot, then spun around to face Hawk. “What the hell is a
Josie
look?” He was tempted to knock the smile off Hawk’s face.
    â€œIt’s this vacant look,” Hawk said, “like you aren’t aware of anything around you.”
    Zeke turned and plunged ahead. “I was aware of you the whole time. It’s hard not to be when you insist upon wearing that damned feather.”
    Zeke had done his best to convince Hawk that wearing rawhide leggings was okay as long as he wore a normal shirt. He could even wear moccasins if he wanted. But a single feather, even one discreetly hanging down from the back of his headband, would bring out the worst in people who feared or hated Indians. Zeke wasn’t sure Hawk actually
wanted
to wear the feather. He thought it was Hawk’s way of forcing people to recognize he was different and accept him anyway.
    â€œYou weren’t aware of that cactus,” Hawk said.
    Zeke swung his arm in an arc that encompassed half the Arizona Territory. “There are cactus all around us. It’s impossible to be aware of all of them.” A hundred yards from the river, the landscape was virtually bare of anything except cactus until they encountered the beginning of the junipers and pinyon pine on the lower flanks of the Santa Catalina Mountains to the west and the Galiuro Mountains to the east.
    â€œHow many times have you walked into a cholla?”
    â€œNever. The damned things are poisonous.”
    â€œExactly.”
    Zeke made a point to give the next cholla a wide berth, but that just made Hawk chuckle. Zeke’s fist

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