And there he stood, looking straight at her. He was dressed in boots and camouflage and carried a pack larger than hers. His rifle was no joke - a thirty-thirty, it looked like. Surprise must have stormed all over her face before she thought to arrange it for human inspection. It happened, that she ran into hunters up here. But she always saw them first. This one had stolen her advantage - he'd seen inside her.
"Eddie Bondo," is what he'd said, touching his hat brim, though it took her a moment to work this out.
"That's my name."
"Good Lord," she said, able to breathe out finally. "I didn't ask your name."
"You needed to know it, though."
Cocky, she thought. Or cocked, rather. Like a rifle, ready to go off. "What would I need your name for? You fixing to give me a story I'll want to tell later?" she asked quietly. It was a tactic learned from her father, and the way of mountain people in general - to be quiet when most agitated.
"That I can't say. But I won't bite." He grinned apologetically, it seemed. He was very much younger than she. His left hand reached up to his shoulder, fingertips just brushing the barrel of the rifle strapped to his shoulder. "And I don't shoot girls."
"Well. Wonderful news."
Bite, he'd said, with the northerner's clipped i. An outsider, intruding on this place like kudzu vines. He was not very tall but deeply muscular in the way that shows up through a man's clothing, in his wrists and neck and posture: a build so accustomed to work that it seems tensed even when at ease. He said, "You sniff stumps, I see."
"You got a good reason for that?"
"You going to tell me what it is?"
Another pause. She watched his hands, but what pulled on her was the dark green glint of his eyes. He observed her acutely, seeming to evaluate her hill-inflected vowels for the secrets behind her "yep" and "nope." His grin turned down on the corners instead of up, asking a curved parenthetical question above his right-angled chin. She could not remember a more compelling combination of features on any man she'd ever seen.
"You're not much of a talker," he said. "Most girls I know, they'll yap half the day about something they haven't done yet and might not get around to."
"Well, then. I'm not most girls you know..."
Prodigal Summer. Copyright (c) 2000 Barbara Kingsolver. Reprinted with permission from HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.
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