Title: Determined Hearts
Author: Diana Stout
He's a half-Shoshone Indian and former romance cover model who left New York at the height of his career to restore eagles into his ancestral homeland, wanting no publicity. She’s a wildlife photojournalist determined to get his elusive story. Her future career hinges on her success. Neither is willing to compromise and poachers threaten to destroy everything—including their new-found feelings of the heart.
Determined to regain control of his thoughts, he headed for his sweat lodge. Earlier, he'd started the fire necessary for his ritual; by now, only the needed coals would remain. Even though Jennifer had been out here, back of the cabin on several occasions, she had yet to spot the lodge. He doubted she ever would.
The slight mound of earth—no more than chest high—appeared to be a natural incline, blending well into the background. Unless you were practically on top of the lodge, it was hard to see the lines of it from a distance. There was no reason for Jennifer to be in this part of the yard, which is why he never told her about it.
He couldn't stop her from remaining on the mountain for two weeks, but he could keep her out of his lodge. It was his last bastion of privacy, and he needed it right now.
Bent over, he slid through the small slot like opening, covering it back up behind him. The door was nothing more than twigs and branches interwoven with grass and leaves. In place, it looked like the surrounding land. Only a small hole in the roof allowed the heat to escape. Earlier when the fire was at its fullest, a thin line of smoke escaped, now only the sharpest eye would detect the heat.
Already, he could feel the intense heat, and it warmed his skin. Able to stand to his full height in the lodge as the floor was several feet beneath the surface of the ground, he quickly peeled off his clothes, discarding them in a heap, then put on his loincloth. Instantly, he felt the magic of the steam, the earthy smell of the dirt lodge, the slight touch of leather around his waist and loins became one with him, until finally all time and space quietly transcended.
With his eyes closed, he eased down into a cross-legged position, his palms lightly touching his bent knees, his body facing the hot coals. He forced his mind to empty of all thoughts. For just a moment or two, he was successful, then Jennifer's image walked toward him.
She was wearing a white deerskin dress, beads as blue as her eyes, decorated in such a way it emphasized her trim waist, full breasts, and rounded hips. Fringe hung mid-calf and danced around her legs as she walked barefoot toward him. Her head slightly lowered, her eyes gazed sleepily at him, daring him to reject her.
His eyes popped open. Even here, the woman intruded! How could he get control of his body, if he couldn't control his mind!
Taking a deep breath, Hawk tried once again to regain the mindless thought that would allow his heartbeat to slow, his muscles to relax, to become one with nature again.
But, once again, thoughts of Jennifer filled his mind. His hands literally ached to cup her breasts, and he found himself clutching his knees.
Damn the woman! He refused to allow her to intrude in his ancestral sanctuary. He'd leave before he allowed her entrance here, even if her presence was only mental.
Disgusted with himself for being so weak of mind, he got up to leave.
Inside the cabin, Jennifer grabbed the poker, and stirred the coals, throwing a few pieces of kindling on them. In moments, she had a small fire going.
Glancing at the wood box, she saw that it was nearly empty. Since their return, Hawk had spent his time out back chopping wood. By this time, however, he should have finished and have brought some wood in. Listening for the sound of his ax, Jennifer frowned. Now that she thought about it, she hadn't heard anything resembling wood being chopped for some time.
She left the cabin and went around back. A few pieces of wood were stacked near the stump, but the majority of it lay strewn around the stump. And, there was no Hawk.
It wasn't like him to leave and not tell her. Bewildered, she glanced around. Not seeing any movement, panic seized her. Could the poachers have taken him?
No, that didn't make any sense. First of all, she didn't know they were poachers. She was letting Hawk's accusations get to her. Second, there weren't any signs of a struggle. Third, if someone or something had come for Hawk, wouldn't they have come to the cabin too?
Just then, she noticed the thinnest line of wavering heat floating toward the sky, just inside the tree line. What in the world? And then, just as she took a step, Hawk appeared, as if he had come out of thin air.
She blinked hard, then looked again.
Her mouth dropped open and instantly went dry. She thought she saw lightning behind Hawk, but she couldn't tell if it was real or imagined. He wore nothing but a breechcloth. Her imagination earlier of picturing him in such a garment was child's play to the real McCoy. He was beautiful. Magnificent. There was no other word that described him.
She tried to move, but found she was frozen in place. He'd seen her. She wanted to bolt, but her knees locked. The intensity of his gaze frightened her. He pressed on, looming larger and larger, each step silent, but determined.
She gulped. More lightning crackled the air. Thunder followed, quickly. She was mesmerized by the Indian who stalked her. It was as if the earth was in sync with his primal energy, the storm a perfect background to the intensity of desire shown on his face. She was powerless to do anything but admire the hard muscles of his thighs that flexed with each step.
What’s the first binge-worthy book you read and why was it a must-read?
That was so long ago, I'm not sure I'd be remembering the first binge-worthy book I've read, but I certainly remember the last one—a romance. Patricia Kiyono's book, The Samurai's Garden, was one of the best romances I've read in a long time. Why? Because the book provided an insight into the ancient culture in Japan of the samurai warrior as the hero and where that feudal system has collapsed and a peasant widow who is being threatened by other warriors turned bandits.
What makes your featured book a binge-worthy read?
My readers say it best about Determined Hearts:
"An adventure-romance that I really enjoyed."
"The majesty of the Idaho mountain and the animals inhabiting it was described in detail, making it seem as if I were there. A very satisfying love story."
"There is danger, drama, and sizzling romance in this book, and it kept me turning pages until the end."
"This story held my interest and I wanted to keep reading. I really enjoyed the banter between the hero and heroine."
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An award-winning writer in multiple genres, Diana Stout, MFA, PhD is a screenwriter, author, blogger, and former English professor. She has published magazine articles, short stories, poetry, served both as a newspaper and magazine columnist, had two short plays produced in New York, and optioned a screenplay. She has served as a reviewer for academic journals, textbook publishers, and as a contest judge for multiple writing organizations: both children and adult, in fiction and nonfiction, and Hollywood screenwriting organizations. She has published books both traditionally and as an indie publisher. Today, she writes full-time through her production company, Sharpened Pencils Productions, LLC. When not writing, she enjoys books, movies, lunching with friends and family, and jigsaw puzzles.
Social Media Links:
Website - Sharpened Pencils Productions: http://sharpenedpencilsproductions.com/
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Diana-Stout/e/B01DAWQP7Q
Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/writerDianaStout