Read an Exerpt of Running Against the Wind

Inside one of the wagons Chris lay unmoving, head still woolly from prolonged sleep and a bitter taste in his mouth, which lead him to believe that the sleep had not been entirely natural. He had quickly discovered that several parts of him were either stiff, sore or both; his left shoulder and his lower back aching from, he guessed, a fall from his horse. Any movement at all rewarded him with a gut-wrenching spear of agony that tore through his right side but gritting his teeth, he cautiously raised himself on his elbows and rested for a moment, taking in the unfamiliar surroundings. Where the hell was he? Finally, ignoring the warning of his injured side, he summoned enough strength to sit up, immediately regretting the rashness of his action as his vision greyed and a wave of dizziness made him want to throw up. His hand flew to his side, pressing against the wadded dressing that covered the wound. Christ, that hurt! To make his situation even more uncomfortable his bladder was achingly full and demanding his immediate attention. Carefully, he started to rise, clutching the blanket to him as the realisiation struck him that, apart from the bandage around his waist, he was completely naked. Slowly, and with no small difficulty, he managed to stay upright and climb down from the wagon where, squinting against the bright daylight, he paused to gaze slackjawed at the camp spread out before him.

The boisterous activity going on around the clearing made his head spin and his tired senses were assaulted by the noise and colour, not he least of which were the garishly decorated wagons surrounding him. Someone played a lively fiddle and he could hear someone singing while several young children darted between the wagons intent on some game for which there seemed to be no purpose.

“You should not be out here.”

He turned quickly, swaying slightly as his body and brain adjusted to the rapid movement, to discover the voice emanated from the most exotically arresting woman he had ever seen, standing solicitously by his elbow. Momentarily speechless, his senses overloaded, he could only stare. The woman lowered her eyes and rested a coy hand upon his arm.

“Please. Let me help.”

Chris self-consciously gathered the blanket close about his waist, wondering exactly what had happened to his clothes and when he could possibly hope to see them returned.

“Thank you,…I don’t think you can help me, ma’am. Some things a man just gotta do on his own -- and answering the call of nature is one of ‘em.”

He left her staring after him, a slight frown of puzzlement on her face. The short walk to the relative privacy of the trees quickly drained him of his last ounce of energy, each step torture for his wounded side, and it was with some difficulty that he made the return trip once the purpose of the exercise had been fulfilled. Forced to accept his limitations, he made no objection when the woman met him half way back to the wagon and offered her support. In truth, had he not felt quite so wretched he would have appreciated the slim, sun-tanned arm around his back but instead he was conscious more of the rank state of his body and the effort it was taking for him to merely put one foot in front of the other. A second, older, woman hurried to join them fussing around him like a mother hen.

“What are you thinking of, Mimi, letting the gadje walk around like this?” she scolded, before transferring her attention to Chris himself. “You, “ she almost accused, her accent thick, “should not be up!”

Chris was inclined to agree but had no intention of either being brow beaten or explaining that he had urgently needed to piss and that he really preferred to do that without an audience.

“Ma’am, if you don’t mind,” he responded wearily, “I just need a place to sit down.” It was a lie. What he needed was to find out just where he was and who these people were, and then he needed to find his clothes and get the hell out of there and back to town as fast as he could. Instead he found that he could walk no further than the wagon, obliged to sink weakly onto the wooden steps leading into the caravan as his stamina failed him. Not a lie after all, he really did need a place to sit down. Leaning on his elbow and squeezing his eyes shut against the vicious stabbing in his right side, he was forced to admit defeat. Hell, Larabee. You ain’t going anywhere.