Noah removed his Stetson and ran his fingers over his short black hair before replacing the hat. He looked up again knowing he had put this off for far too long and his mama would scalp him if he didn’t follow through.
He shook himself knowing that he was letting his PTSD control his thoughts. He wasn’t a fan of meeting new people anymore. Never really had been if he was honest. The sixth sense that had gotten him his nickname “six” with his delta force team had complicated things.
It was hard to want to meet new people when you had grown up knowing that most of them have ulterior motives. Noah had the unique ability to know what those motives were since he was a child. From people using him to get closer to his siblings, or spies lying to gain information for the enemy.
It was both a gift and a curse. While it had helped tremendously in the military, as well as keeping him out of trouble before that, it had also made it hard to make friends. He had only found a handful of people in his life that he could trust completely, besides his family.
Ghost was top of the chain. Noah was glad his teammate had joined him in Silver Creek. They hoped to start a search and rescue group and had a meeting with the mayor next week. Being surrounded by forest and mountains meant that hikers and campers getting lost was far from uncommon.
As Noah drew closer to the ram shackled old house he heard a horse nickering frantically around back near where the barn was. He knew that sound by heart, since he spent years helping his father retrain terrified horses. It was a frantic desperate plea to escape.
“Easy baby.” A female voice responded, sounding slightly choked as if she might be crying. “You gotta let me have a look, girl.”
As he rounded the corner he took in the thin woman of average height standing in the round pen with a large sorrel mare. The mare was clearly a quarter horse and a beauty. His eyes traced over her body and blood boiled in his veins as he saw the blood and lashes on her haunches. The cuts looked about a day old and the blood had dried matting the chestnut hair, but the wound hadn’t healed enough to be older.
Propping one foot on the wooden railing on the fence, Noah’s voice came out harsher than he intended. “Who did that?”
The woman jumped, emitting a high pitched shriek and whirling around. The sound cut off as she bit down hard on her bottom lip. Instantly her expression hardened to steel.
The mare stomped, growing even more frantic in response to the girls suppressed fear. For a second Noah was afraid the horse might hurt her but instead the animal seemed to see him as the threat and spun towards him, ears pinned before charging the fence.
In an instant Noah sensed that the animal was more afraid than aggressive. He called the frightened creatures bluff, vaulting over the fence and holding up both hands. Palms facing forward the horse stopped in its tracks stamping a foot and tossing her head, eyes blazing.
“Easy girl.” He walked slowly forward until he felt the mare tense.
“Who the hell are you?” The woman’s icy voice broke the calm and the horse turned darting back to pace the fence at a canter.
He bit back a retort looking her over. She was older than he had thought. Only a little younger than himself if he guessed right. Still he doubted she could be the cause of the mare’s wounds.
“I’m Noah Davis. I just moved in next door. Who are you?” He questioned, eying the mare again.
The horse had stopped running and now leaned against the fence in a corner with her head drooped. The anxiety had drained all of her energy. He knew the feeling.
“I didn’t know anyone had bought that old place.” She shifted uneasily.
Noah met her eyes and was surprised by the sincerity he felt from her. He had thought his neighbors had been avoiding him. He nodded mutely and she frowned, leading the way out of the round pen.
He felt as much as he saw, her stiff fearful movements. He opened the gate motioning for her to walk through first. She hesitated as the fear vanished from her gaze in a flash. She looked ferocious and dangerous again. She held out a hand preventing the gate from swinging to hit her as she exited, never letting her gaze move from him.
Noah had perfected his ability to tell whether a person, or animal, was truly dangerous or just defensive. Even with his ability the emotions sometimes appear similar. Occasionally, he could catch a glimpse into the past that caused whatever emotion the person was feeling in the moment. That had only ever happened with people though, not animals.
Despite his unwillingness to trust, something about this girl drew him in. She was real in every emotion; like an open book. She hadn’t lied to him yet, and he wondered how long that would last.
He knew her ice and steel guard was just that. Protection. He had experienced this with several people in the military, but this was somehow different. So how did this girl draw him in so completely?
“Rena Childers. My grandma left me this land and you are trespassing.” She crossed her arms tightly over her chest and glared at him. “I appreciate you introducing yourself, but I’m not one for socializing, so you can kindly leave now.”
Suddenly a low growl sounded from behind her. Noah looked past her to see a large jet black german shepherd. He felt the protective aggravation radiating off the canine and immediately knew he was the threat.
Noah lowered his head stepping back in submission, and the dog stopped slightly in front of the woman. She smiled down seemingly pleased, and to Noah’s surprise, relieved.
“Diablo, quiet.” The woman said and the dog silenced.
She looked back towards me and mused, “You aren’t running.”
“My brother has a wolf. Diablo’s not the scariest dog I’ve met.” Noah shrugged, smirking down at her.
He decided to leave out the part about his sensing abilities, unless he became a threat, the dog was content to watch. The dog had a gentle and kind soul, though not trusting and remarkably protective. It was clear that he was used to defending his master.
Strangely Noah felt relief knowing Rena had some protection. He knew how helpful a large dog could be in a tough situation. His brother’s hybrid had saved Noah’s nieces from their psychotic biological father just over a year ago.
She nodded and set one hand on Diablo’s shoulder as if drawing comfort from the dog. “What are you doing here?”
“Just came to introduce myself to a new neighbor.” Noah chuckled dryly. “If you need help with anything let me know. That house is pretty old.”
“Thanks, but I don’t need your help.” She snapped.
“Who beat that horse? Is she yours?” Noah couldn’t help but ask.
“Yes she is mine, and no offense but that’s none of your business. Now I ask again. Please get off my property.” Her voice was cold and she shifted, stepping farther away from him.
As Noah turned to leave, her shaky voice stopped him short. “She wouldn’t hurt you. You can’t call animal services or anything.”
He stopped and looked over his shoulder at the beautiful woman. “I wouldn’t dream of it. She was just protecting you, they both were.”
Noah tipped his hat with a quick shrug then began walking again. “It’s been a pleasure meeting you, neighbor.” And oddly enough it wasn’t a lie.