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Dance In My Heart

Chapter Two

The even rhythm of the drums reverberated in Candice’s blood, keeping time with her pulse as she watched the talented musicians play. Several men, both young and old, formed a circle in a grassy clearing, surrounded by a myriad of onlookers.

When she’d arrived at the Pow Wow, held out of doors in a large state park with a huge lake shimmering in the Saturday afternoon sun, she had been concerned about what to expect. She had no idea an event like this would bring so many segments of the population. Families out for an afternoon of fun and sun, people obviously on dates, and of course, Indians as far as she could see. She’d snapped several great photos already, but made her way now to the drummers to await the arrival of the hoop dancers.

She’d missed Friday’s performance because her rental car hadn’t been ready in time, but she still had ample opportunity to photograph today’s show. She positioned herself near the circle and checked her film supply.

Several young girls, all of them Indian, pushed their way in front of her.

The tallest one, maybe thirteen years old, clapped her hands anxiously. “I hope he’s here. Omigod, did you see him yesterday?”

“Eya’,” squealed her companions.

“And the way he moves,” one girl continued, “should be against the law. You should have seen him.”

“Eya’. Bishigwaadizi,” the third girl added in her native language.

Candice smiled. She had no idea what the girl had said, but she received a round of blushing giggles for the comment. Apparently teenage girls were teenage girls, no matter where they lived.

The beat of the drums changed, drawing her attention to the ringed stage. Four men, dressed in native attire, including leather moccasins and what could only be eagle feathers in their long black hair danced into the circle.

Their magnificent costumes consisted of loose fitting tunics over pants in bright yellow, vibrant purple, blue and green. Intricate beadwork designs graced nearly every surface and feathers from a bird she couldn’t name added a mystical softness to the image, without detracting in the least from the maleness of the scene.

One at a time, they performed fluid, apparently spontaneous movements, using multiple hoops to create patterns and shapes. Snapping photographs wildly, Candice found she really enjoyed the solemnity of the dance.

“He’s not there,” pouted the tall girl again. “Man, you guys said he danced in this group.”

“He does, he does. He comes out later, because he’s the best of them all.”

As if prophesized by the girls words, he appeared. Long black hair, dressed with leather strips wrapped tightly around several strands by his temples and rich brown feathers, cascaded down his bare back. When he spun in a tight circle, the panels over his buckskin breeches flew outward, revealing his thickly muscled legs encased in the tight leather. Shirtless, he wore some kind of breastplate over his chest, but it did nothing to obscure the heavily defined muscles. His arms bulged with power as he held the hoops in strong hands, forming intricate patterns. Candice’s cheeks heated as she wondered what else he could do with the trained dexterity of those fingers.

The graceful sensuality of his presence commanded wanton attention. He moved as if he were part of the hoops, his feet flying expertly in time to the powerful drum beats.

Graceful.

Fluid.

“Omigod, he is so gorgeous,” squealed the girls.

Suddenly remembering where she was and why she was there, Candice started taking photos like crazy. His face loved the camera. A strong jaw line beneath full lips and a straight nose boasted power and maleness. She pointed the camera and zoomed in on his narrowed brow as he danced. The look of concentration spoke of dedication and a love of his craft. But nothing could have prepared her for the shock of heat she experienced when he turned his nearly black eyes directly on her.

“Omigod, he’s looking at us!” The girls in front of her swooned.

No. He looked directly into the lens of Candice’s camera. She swallowed past the lump forming in her throat as she refocused the camera and snapped even more photos.

“Damn,” she whispered as the film ran out. She lowered the camera as it automatically rewound the roll of film. She dug into her satchel for a new roll. Her fingers felt like gel as she searched blindly, unwilling to remove her eyes from him long enough to search her bag.

Was that a grin creasing his full mouth? She thought she’d seem him smile at her, and whether he did or not, she smiled in return.

The drum beats came to a sudden stop and the audience erupted into a mass of applause. The moment the dancers exited through a gate on the eastern edge of the circle, the girls in front of her rushed around the ring and accosted the poor man, as did spectators from every part of the circle. Within minutes of the last drum beat, he disappeared into a mass of fans.

She backed away and changed the film in her camera. Disappointed she hadn’t snapped more pictures of him, she decided to track him down. She shook her head and laughed. After his mob had dispersed.

~* * *~

Hawk watched the blond woman back away from the crowd. Her fingers trembled as she removed one roll of film from her expensive-looking camera and replaced it with a new one. Her body swayed slightly in the afternoon breeze and she reminded him suddenly of a reed twisting in the wind.

Long blond hair framed a delicate face and eyes the clearest shade of blue he’d ever seen rested in an inquisitive expression. Her skin glowed white, but not just like a white person. Like cream.

As if the sun refused to kiss her.

Dressed like a city-dweller would dress if they lived in the country, she definitely appeared out of her element. Skin tight Wranglers accentuated her full hips. Hips made for a man’s hands. A sleeveless Wrangler shirt, pink with a yellow collar, stretched tightly across rounded breasts. Breasts made for a man’s lips. He kept his eyes trained on her until the crowd of well wishers and boy-crazy girls demanded his full attention. He’d find her later.

And if the sun refused to kiss her, he would happily take up the slack.

After spending a few minutes with some of the mooning girls he always dealt with when he performed, he extricated himself to search for the yellow-haired photographer. He found her a few minutes later, seemingly waiting for someone. He experienced a twinge of unexplainable jealously as he scanned the immediate area for any male who might be her escort. He didn’t see anyone, and deciding to risk it, he walked over to her.

“Anii aninishina, ozawahn weenessisee.” He liked the way her breath caught in her chest when she smiled at him.

“Hello,” she replied, more than likely not even realizing he’d said basically the same thing to her. She cleared her throat before speaking again. He made her nervous, he could tell.

“I’m Candice Lincoln, from National Pulse Magazine,” she began. “I’m doing a piece on hoop dancing. I was actually hoping to meet you. I hope you don’t mind that I took some pictures of you.”

Time to have a little fun. He schooled his features into a frown and shook his head. “I’m sorry. I came over to take your film. I’m afraid I can’t allow you to take my photograph.”

He stifled a smile as she blanched. Her eyes widened as she gasped. “Oh, I’m sorry. It’s a religious thing, isn’t it? You think your soul has been captured.”

He couldn’t do it. The look on her face stole his breath and tormenting her further would certainly damn his soul, anyway. He chuckled. “No. I’m just playing with you. Take all the photos you like. He offered his hand as he continued, “I’m called Hawk. Nice to meet you, Candice Lincoln.”

Her warm fingers slipped into his and he felt her slight tremor. “So, why were you hoping to meet me?”

“I wanted to ask you some questions, if it’s okay. I’m not real familiar with Indian culture,” she replied.

“Native American culture isn’t something you can understand in a day, Miss Lincoln. It takes dedication, and living the culture, to even begin to learn it. I’ve been studying my whole life, and I still learn things from the dadibaajimoowinini every time I speak with one.”

“Dadibaa...,” she laughed self-consciously. “I’m sorry. What does that mean?”

He liked her laugh. The sound came from inside her, with nothing even remotely like a giggle. Even with the timid lilt in her voice, he knew she possessed a confidence only few women were lucky enough to find.

“Loosely translated, it means ‘storyteller’. Every chance I get, I’ll sit down with one of the elders and learn a little more of our history.”

“I see.”

“So where do you want to start?”

“Start what?”

He laughed aloud. “Your interview?” he reminded her.

“Oh, right,” she answered, rolling her eyes. “I have no idea.”

“How about a tour of the park? If you think of any questions, just yell.”

“Sounds good to me.”

He offered his arm and she took it. Her soft touch on his forearm sent a fire to his loins he hadn’t expected. As they strolled through the crowd, he’d never been so thankful for the breech cloth portion of his regalia in his life.

“Okay, here’s a question. Those women over there,” she pointed toward three women selling hand-beaded jewelry from a card table covered in black velvet. “They are called squaws, right?”

He chuckled. “Well, the one in the middle, in the blue dress? She’s actually called Martha. And if you call her ‘squaw’ you’d better do it running, because she’ll probably kick your ass.”

“Why on earth would she do that?” she declared boldly, a smirk hidden beneath her mock outrage.

“Because the word ‘squaw’ is akin to ‘whore’. What would you do?”

Heat suffused her cheeks and she looked down briefly, before meeting his eyes again.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”

“It’s okay. Most gichi-mookomaanag have no idea,” he offered. “And before you ask, that means, white men, or Americans.”

Candice felt like a fool. She’d made more verbal blunders since she’d introduced herself to Hawk than she was comfortable with. She would have to be careful not to offend him in the future. At least she could try not to. It became increasingly difficult to concentrate as she held to the firm muscles of his arm. He escorted her though the camp, as if he were some nobleman, and she a great lady. Lynette’s words came back to haunt her.

...sex with a way buff brave...

“So what about you?” She stepped around a paper plate someone had abandoned on the ground.

He stooped and picked it up, crumbled it and tossed it in the trash receptacle a few feet away. “Two points. And the crowd goes wild.” He turned his attention back to her. “What about me?”

“Are you called a brave?” Her heart raced. She felt like she could pool into a puddle of goo if he would just say the word.

“You watch too many westerns, lady.” He tilted his head to look down at her, his impressive height making her head spin.

She sighed and offered a wan smile. “I suppose you’re right. But you have to know, I’m a city girl. Through and through. Westerns are the closest I’ve ever come to anything like this.”

“Well, then, you haven’t seen anything, yet. In answer to your question, some men are called Warriors, but they’ve earned it. By serving in the military, or though some act of courage.”

“And do you rank among them?”

A child with a handful of bright yellow helium balloons dashed across their path. Candice stumbled and would have fallen if Hawk hadn’t used his free hand on her opposite elbow to steady her. She regained her balance and stared up at him. Instead of releasing her, he slid his right hand up her left arm as he stroked her gently with the pad of his thumb.

“No. I’m just a man. Isn’t that enough?”

The insinuation in his dark eyes shook her to the soles of her borrowed boots. Enough? Hell, yes, it was enough.

~* * *~

 

©2006 Romance at Heart Magazine.

Book ©2003 by Margorie Jones.

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