“Why are you out here at this ungodly hour?” he asked.
“I could ask you the same thing,” she replied. “As well as why you are trespassing on private property.”
Archer smiled at her tone and leaned against a nearby tree, easing the weight of his injured ankle for the moment. There it was—the brief glimpse of the woman he’d met in Dinsmore’s carriage, not the quiet mouse he’d waltzed with. “Ah, but I believe this tree, right here,”—he slapped the trunk with a rakish grin—“marks the dividing line between my estate and yours. So technically, I’m on my property and you are on yours.”
Her eyes narrowed at his teasing before plucking up the tweed cap from where it lay on the ground and tugging it back into place upon her head. She then picked up the spent pistol and tucked it into the narrow, single holster gun belt looped around her waist. “No matter. It’s hardly any of your concern why I am out on my own land. Go on your way, and I’ll be on mine.”
His jaw dropped as she wound her fist into the horse’s bridle, loosely slung around its neck, and pulled herself deftly up onto the horse’s back. She sat astride in a way that made his pulse shorten. “Where is your saddle?” he managed.
She eyed him imperiously. “I don’t like them, not that it’s any of your business.”
“It isn’t safe,” he ground out, surprised by his sudden irritation.
“I’ve been riding without a saddle since I was a child,” she shot back. “I’m safer without one than I am with one.”
“As you were before you got thrown into the river?” Archer couldn’t resist taunting.
Her jaw jutted forward, a mutinous look in her eyes. She pressed her lips together, likely to stop herself from uttering something completely inappropriate. Perhaps one of the colorful words she’d been using while attempting to climb out of the gulch.
“And what if you were attacked by the masked bandit—again?” he continued. “Or haven’t you had enough danger for the time being?”
“I can protect myself,” she said.
“What with?” he asked before he thought of the clean hole in the boar’s forehead.
Briannon sighed dramatically. “Why, with my knitting needles, of course.”
Struck again by her lightning-quick wit, the short bark of laughter left his lips before he could contain it. “Pray, where was your pistol the other night when you were robbed?”
“In my knitting reticule, of course, where all ladies’ pistols are kept,” came her tart response. “I assure you, if I had my pistol, the outcome of that robbery would have been quite different.”