Highland Shifter
Page 5

 Catherine Bybee

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There, standing in the middle of the forest and draped in only a kilt, stood the man from the book. Only this man was massive, huge in a way a picture could never describe. Thick arms and a bare chest so ripped with muscles, Helen couldn’t help thinking he could do some serious damage to anyone if he had a mind to.
And she was alone with him.
Her head reeled.
It was too much. Everything had happened so quickly. She started to back away from the stranger, her foot caught on her pack, and down she went.
Fine with her. Maybe she’d hit her head and wake up in her bed and all of this was nothing but a dream.
Chapter Three
Simon lunged to catch this stunning traveler before she hit the ground, but he couldn’t move fast enough. Kneeling beside her, he carefully pushed a lock of her hair from her forehead. Her eyes were shut, her breathing slow and steady. “Come now, lass. Wake for me.”
She didn’t. With gentle fingers, he brushed through her hair and felt for any lumps or tender patches. Finding none, he lifted her head, rested it on his knee, and waited for her to wake.
“When?” From when did she travel, and why? She wore a cotton shirt with perfect stitching. His eye traveled to her thigh and stuck there. Shorts were from a time in which he’d once lived. Memories of days running in the park, or on the playground with others in similar clothing, were etched so deeply in his past he had to close his eyes to reach it.
Forever ago.
It seemed it had been a lifetime since he saw this woman’s garb worn by anyone. Even his own mother and aunt didn’t bother any longer. Lizzy, his mother, rebelled against the clothing of this century for nearly five years before giving up the fight. His Aunt Tara gave up shortly after Simon and his mother arrived. Either way, Simon wasn’t used to seeing women with their legs bare for anyone to gaze upon.
He liked it.
In a strange way, he missed it. Her sun kissed skin was free of any hair. Smooth. His hand itched to feel the silky surface. But before his fingers made contact, the woman winced and shuddered as she came awake, jarring him from his thoughts. If she’d been any other girl, he’d worry about the impropriety of her head being in his lap. This girl was from a different time, and he doubted she’d be shocked at his closeness. Well, at least not as much as a common lass from this time.
“There you are,” Simon whispered.
Her jaw tightened, and her body went rigid.
“You’re still here.”
It wasn’t a question. It was a statement that brought a smile to Simon’s lips. “Aye.”
“Where am I?”
Anyone else, he would have scoffed at the question. “Scotland.”
She nodded, eyes still closed.
“That’s good.”
“You are not from Scotland.” Easily deduced from her lack of accent.
“America then?” It was a trick question since America was little more than an unexplored land full of Indians at this date in time.
The girl nodded, smiled. “Yeah, California.” Her eyes were still closed.
“Who’s the leader…? I mean president?”
Her brow pitched together before her eyes sprung open. “Obama. Geez, I didn’t hit my head that hard.”
Bright blue eyes met his.
Obama. Not a name he recognized. This woman must be from a future he hadn’t experienced. The confusion marring the expression on her face as it searched his made him wonder if she knew what she’d done.
She gazed at him for several seconds with a multitude of emotions filling her eyes. “You’re him,” she finally said.
Simon held his tongue. If there was one thing he’d learned in this time, it was to let others speak their piece before he offered his own. Patience was something he’d learned through the years. Not something practiced in this woman’s America.
She knew him, but Simon knew nothing of her. Maybe she was sent from the future with a message. A warning. Lord knew he’d had plenty of them.
“What’s your name, lass?”
When she didn’t offer more, he asked. “You were looking for me?”
Helen shook her head.
It was his turn to look confused.
“You’re not looking for me?”
“I’m looking for a child. Y-you look like someone I’ve seen before.”
Her gaze moved to his plaid, her cheek was firm against his thigh. Helen scrambled to remove herself from his lap, but her eyes never left his. “Who are you?”
“’Tis you who showed up from nowhere, and you who needs to answer my questions. Where did you come from?”
She took in the woods around her, her eyes pitching together again. “I was walking in a…. I don’t know, meadow, I guess. I dropped something.” Helen glanced down at her hand. In it was a paper crushed within her palm. She uncoiled her fingers and flattened the paper to her other hand. “Then everything went crazy.”
“A meadow?” Simon glanced at the trees above their heads.
“Maybe I did hit my head.”
Simon didn’t think the confusion on her face was false, but he didn’t dare say anything that would damn him or his family. Better to keep quiet and learn.
Kong, he called his horse in his head.
The massive animal started toward them. Helen’s focus changed from the woods to the animal.
“Where did he come from? Where did you come from?” Helen backed up a few steps.
Simon took a step toward her, and she scrambled out of his reach. Stopping, he placed a hand in the air.
“I’ll not hurt you, lass.”
“You weren’t here. None of this was here.”
“Right. You were in a meadow, chasing that paper, then noise erupted, and darkness fell.”
She was nodding now, eyes full of hope. “Right.”
“Then everything stopped, and you were standing here.”
Helen’s head bobbed on her neck. “Exactly.”
“Only you don’t know where here is, do you?”
“Scotland. You said Scotland.”
Where wasn’t the right question, but Simon wasn’t about to ask her the harder one.
“Helen?” He approached her slowly, as he would a child. His hand lifted to hers.
“What the hell is going on?”
Spunk, he loved a woman with passion. “I have answers, but I think you’d feel better in the presence of other women.”
Even from her time, a woman alone in the woods with a man would be frightening. Unless the woman was a fighter, or police officer. This one looked soft and vulnerable. It was a very good thing he’d come upon her instead of any other medieval man.