Seventeen year old Aleksandra Lekarski, alone and running to prevent her pa's killer from obtaining a secret which could allow world domination by the Czar, conceals herself as a boy Pony Express rider in 1860's Utah Territory. Her "Californio" boss Xavier Arguello has a spirit to match her own—along with a mutually undeniable attraction—and together they overcome the evil that threatens them.
Lookout Pass, she reminded herself as she passed the summit. Looking north to see the distant white tops of the Onaqui Mountains, she thought again of her papa and the fossil he'd fossicked for her from its rocky ledges. Beginning her mile-long descent at a trot on the handy little horse, she was absentmindedly fingering the fossil inside the medicine bag hung about her neck when she felt the first arrow whizz past her head.
Aleksandra's heart stopped as she flung herself to the left side of the Palouse's neck into a Cossack hang, lying flat against his side.
'Yah! Yah! Let's go, Scout!' she shouted, throwing the reins at him.
He needed little urging to run full tilt down the steep and treacherously rocky trail as the yells of Indian warriors filled the narrow valley. The arrows came hard and fast from the southwest, like a mad bunch of hornets.
Smart, she thought, with a hint of a wry grin. The Indians had placed themselves between the trail and the setting sun, so Aleksandra couldn't see her attackers in the glimpses she stole, from beneath Scout's neck, of the world whizzing past. With the ground only three feet from her head, the scent of sage filled her nostrils when Scout crashed through a clump of brush. Briefly considering what she knew was akin to suicide, climbing back into the saddle to pull a gun from her saddlebag, she tightened her lip in a grimace and stayed put, trusting far more in the pony's speed and handiness to save them. Knowing her full weight hanging off to one side had to put the stallion off his best, she tried to stay out of his way, keeping as still as possible, tucked down on the side of the skidding and leaping beast. Praying the cinch would hold, she sent fervent thanks to the pony selectors for their choice of horses. How I would love to have my bow and arrows, she thought, but I only need to get us through to Doc Faust at Rush--
The Palouse interrupted her musings as he threw up his head and reared, angrily trumpeting and shaking his head for a moment, nearly dropping Aleksandra, then resumed his headlong rush down the hill. When he carried on, she heard whistling sounds with every breath and turned her head forward to see where the noise was coming from.
Then she saw the arrow.
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