It’s Christmas Time! It’s a season for giving. And today I will be giving away not only a free e-book of my latest release, BRAVE WOLF AND THE LADY, but I’ll also be giving away another free e-book of the first in this series, THE PRINCESS AND THE WOLF. So come on in, leave a comment, and also please sure to check back here for the winners on either Wednesday or Thursday evening.
One of my most favorite Christmas memories is being told a story the night before Christmas in an attempt to get me to go to sleep. It didn’t work very well (getting me to go to sleep). But it is a wonderful memory.
And so I thought I’d regale you with this beautiful story, an ancient, timeless, American Indian Legend. I was late today making the post, and so I’ve posted the legend that I told you last year, but this year, because I’m late, I’m first going to tell you a beautiful story of The Gift of the Creator. This story is taken from the book, LEGENDS OF THE IROQUIOS, by Tehanetorens. Enjoy!
Long, long ago, an old, old man came into an Iroquois Village. He was tired and hungry, and his clothing was tattered and torn. As he walked through the village, he came first to a longhouse of the Turtle Clan. Pulling on the entryway, he asked for food and lodging for the night. But he was turned away because he looked to be an old beggar, and he was instructed to go away.
Next the old man came to the longhouse that had the symbol of a snipe on the house — a snipe is a kind of wading bird. Again, he pulled back on the entryway and he asked for food. But like before, he was scolded and turned away. He moved on.
He walked on to the longhouses of many of the other clans, including the Wolf, the Eagle, Beaver and more. Each time he asked for food and lodging, but each time he was turned away.
Exhausted now, the old man came at last to the very last longhouse in the Iroquois Village. Pulling back on the cover across the entrance, he was met by an old woman. Again, he asked for food and lodging for the night.
However, this time the old woman took pity on him, and asked him to come inside, where she treated him to a hearty meal, and invited him to stay for the night. She made him welcome, giving him warm clothing and warm bedding.
However, the next day, the man was very ill, and he asked the woman to please help him by going into the forest and gathering the roots of a plant.
This she did for him. When she returned, he guided her on how to make a soup and a tea from the plant, which he then consumed. Soon he was well. But it wasn’t long before he became ill once more, and again, he instructed the woman to go out into the forest and to gather the stalk of yet another plant. This she did. Again, he instructed her how to make a tea of it, which, when he drank the tea, he became well.
Over and over again, the man became sick, and sent the woman into the forest to pick different herbs and plants, and each time, when he drank the tea, he became well. One day, the woman came home to the longhouse and found that the old man had become a handsome, young man.
The old woman became frightened, but the young man told her to be calm. He told her that he was the Creator, and that because of her kindness to him, he was going to bestow upon her, and the Bear Clan, a wonderful gift: the gift of healing. And so it came to be. The old woman became the most respected member of that tribe, and from that day forward, the Bear Clan, and all within it became the Keepers of the Medicine. The lesson learned is that kindness, empathy, and good-will are always rewarded. We may not always see it, as did the old woman in this story, and yet, we will, in our own way, be rewarded.
And now comes the story that is so beautiful to read about at this time of year.
This is the tale of a girl who married her one, true, love, a man who was a star. It’s origin is Sioux — I don’t know if that’s Lakota or Dakota or Nakota. All three are Sioux, just different dialects. By the way this story comes to us from the book, Favorite North American Indian Legends, printed by Dover. Before I start, I wanted to say that this story reminds me of a legend from one of my books, Soaring Eagle’s Embrace, which is now in e-books. Although the story of Soaring Eagle’s Embrace is based on a similar legend as the one I’m telling you today, it is a little different. Mainly in Soaring Eagle’s Embrace, it was the young man who fell in love with a star. Okay, that said, let’s pretend we are sitting around a fire in a warm, warm teepee. The scent of smoke is strong in the air, and loved ones surround us as we wrap ourselves in warm blankets. And so the storyteller begins:
Long ago, there were two sisters, one whose name was Earth and the other’s name was Water. This was at a time when all people and animals were in close communication with each other and so the animals supplied the sisters with all their needs.
One night the sky was clear and beautiful and both sisters looked up to the sky through their wigwam — comment, now we know that this was most likely the Dakota since they were living in Wigwams — anyway, they looked up through the hole in their wigwam and admired the beautiful stars.
Earth said to her sister that she’d had a dream about a handsome young man and that she thought he might be a star. Water responded saying that she, too, had seen a man in her dreams who was a brave man.
The sisters chose stars that they thought might be these men that they had dreamed of. Water chose the brightest star for her husband. Earth chose a little star that twinkled.
Then they slept. When they awoke, they were in the land of the Sky. The stars were, indeed, people. Now it happened that the man that water chose was an older warrior and that the man that Earth chose was a young, handsome man. Both sisters married these men and they were very happy.
One day the sisters went out onto the plains to dig turnips (a much favored food at this time in history). Both of their husbands warned them not to strike the ground too hard. But Earth, in her haste to dig the turnips, struck the ground so hard that she fell through the sky to the ground.
Earth was found and cared for by two older people who tried to help her. But she was so upset about losing her husband that all she did is cry. She could not even see her husband in the sky because he had blackened his face because he was now a widower. Earth waited and waited for him to come to her, but he could not. However, he did give her a most precious gift.
That night when she went to sleep, she dreamed of a beautiful red star. It had never been in the sky before. She knew at once that it was her son.
When she awoke, she found a handsome boy by her side — her son. Although Earth’s husband could not come to rescue her, and though he loved his son deeply, he gave to his wife the only gift that he could — their son, Star Boy. It was a gift from his heart..
‘Tis the season of giving. I hope you have enjoyed this story, short and simple though it is. I thought it was quite beautiful.
I’ll be giving away a free e-book of BRAVE WOLF AND THE LADY to some lucky blogger. I’ll also be giving away a free e-book of THE PRINCESS AND THE WOLF to some lucky blogger. Please do read the Giveaway Guidelines that govern our give-aways — off to the right side of the page.
BRAVE WOLF AND THE LADY is my most recent book. By the way, the paperback is reduced in price from $14.99 to $11.99 for the Holiday season.
THE PRINCESS AND THE WOLF is on sale for the Holiday season for $.99, and the paperback is on sale for $11.99, as well.
The picture below and to the right is of myself and my husband with Chief Mountain in the background, the setting in the book, SOARING EAGLE’S EMBRACE — on the Blackfeet reservation.
And so from my heart to yours, I wish you a very Merry Christmas! And, or, Happy Holidays!
In keeping with the spirit of Thanksgiving and the start of the Holiday Season, it seems to me it would be a good idea to give away a free e-book of my most recent release, Brave Wolf and the Lady to some lucky blogger. All that needs to be done to enter into the drawing is to leave a comment here. By the way, please refer to the Giveaway Guidelines that govern all our giveaways. It’s off to the right here.
Well, today I thought we might talk about love, seeing as how this is the season of love — what’s it all about? At this time of year, with the holidays and all the out-of-mind busy-ness that we seem to get in to — I thought it might be good to take time out and have a look at a subject that we all…well, that we all love. Love.
It seems to me that there’s all sorts of different kinds of love. There’s the obvious kind — the kind that we all write about, the absolute beauty of love and romance and the coming together of two souls to create new life. I’m speaking of course about the love of a man and a woman, the love of family, the love of children. May this love always flourish and prosper in our society — I only say that because, it’s become my opinion that the family is really under attack. But I digress. Oh, by the way the picture to the left is of myself and my husband and the background is the Grand Canyon.
Okay, so are there other kinds of love? I think so.
There’s of course the love between friends? That’s love, too, isn’t it? I know you’ll all agree that we would, indeed, be strange beings if we didn’t have a close circle of friends that we love with all our hearts. But it’s different kind of love, isn’t it? However, just because it’s the love between friends doesn’t make it any less a deep and abiding love.
There’s also the love for mankind in general — the love of those in other parts of the world that might be having a difficult time. For instance, many of our American Indian people on the reservations.
And how about the love we have for other life forms? Our pets, for instance. That’s most definitely love, too.
Love. If I were to define love, I’d take a page from friend and author, L. Ron Hubbard, and say that it seems to me that it is an intense feeling of admiration directed toward someone or something. It doesn’t ask for anything, it is either freely given or it’s not really love. It’s not a dominating or controlling force. Not love. Not by definition.
It’s more about giving than receiving, sharing instead of using another.
But so far I’m leaving out one of the greatest love stories of all time. Can you guess what story that is?
Our joy at this time of year is because of this love story. Even our calendars are a celebration of this love story and of this one man’s life. It has been said and shown through historical writings that because of this man and because of his teachings of love, that he freed a whole people from bondage, a people who had been utterly enslaved. It’s said and it’s written that he brought a true civilizing force to the world, and that this force was to love and to treat ones fellow man, even ones own enemies, as one might like to be treated oneself. It’s said also that he saved mankind itself from doom because of this love story. One of my prayers at this time of year will be that the world at large learn again this lesson, a lesson given so freely so long ago …
Love… I’d really like to hear your own love stories and your thoughts in general about love, so please do leave a message. By the way, the picture below is of myself and the one man in my life whom I love with all my heart. May you all have a very, happy Thanksgiving and a very Merry Christmas!
Yummmmm… Autumn — crisp air, scented delicately with falling leaves and the smoke from wood stoves; Cinnamon and fresh apple cider, pumpkin pie, turkey and cranberry sauce, apple pie, the last of the corn on the cob…
And what about the “feels” of autumn? Traipsing through leaves, racking them up and jumping in them; picking up a leaf and tracing its pattern; warm days, cool nights, the pleasure of feeling Mother Earth prepare for a few months’ sleep.
And how about the sounds of autumn? Cold nights and warm blankets, football games announcing the players; the sounds of cheerleaders and marching bands; long practices — even the quiet sound of leaves falling to the ground. How I love it.
Of course, to the people who lived close to the earth in our not-so-distant past, these senses that declared this time of year were all very beloved, much as they are loved today. So much was this the case that the Iroquois devoted an entire festival of fun and merriment to autumn — and that festival was called the Harvest Festival.
Naturally, we are all pretty much aware that our Thanksgiving comes from the Eastern Indians, and in particular Squanto — and if you didn’t know about Squanto, I would highly recommend the movie, Squanto, starring a young and dreamy Adam Beach. Sigh…
Autumn was very much loved by Native Americans. In fact, it was one of many, many ceremonies honoring the seasons of the earth, and Thanksgiving (still a few month’s away) was part of an ancient celebration of the American Indians to give Thanks to He who is known as the Creator.
Now this autumn ceremony was common to all Eastern tribes. And as I’ve already mentioned, these ceremonies tended to follow the different seasons.
The Iroquois celebrated six festivals, wherein they gave thanks to the Creator for all they had. These festivals would open usually with speeches by leaders, teachers, and elders. And of course there was much dancing, which was done not only for the fun of simply dancing, but it was also a sense of worship. It was thought that because the Creator needed some sort of amusement, He gave the people dancing. Let me tell you a little about some of these celebrations.
In spring — early March — it was time to collect together tree bark and sap – this was needed to repair houses and other things, such as canoes, bowls, etc. Spring was also the time for planting. This was the maple festival. Next was the Planting festival. Here prayers were sent to the Creator to bless their seed.
The Iroquois’ main food source was corn, beans and squash (the three sisters), and of course deer meat or other meat when available. Family gardens were separated by borders that were broad and grassy — they would even camp on these borders and sometimes they were raise watch towers.
The next festival of the Iroquois was the Strawberry Festival. This is where the people gave thanks to the Creator for their many fruits (like strawberries). It was summertime. The women gathered wild nuts and other foods, while the men hunted, fished and provided various meats for cooking. Again, each festival was greeted with much dancing and merriment. Did you know that the some Iroquois believed the way to the Creator was paved with strawberries?
The festival after that was the Green Corn Festival. Again, the people thanked the Creator for the bounty of food that had been raised all through the summer. Dancers danced to please the Creator and musicians sang and beat the drum. Again there were many speeches to honor the people and the Creator. There were team sports. Lacrosse was the game that was most admired and it was played with great abandon by the men. Women played games, too, and often their games were as competitive as the men’s.
The festival following that was…are you ready? You’re right — The Harvest Festival. By this time the women had harvested the corn, beans and squash. Much of it would be dried. Much went to feed families. Husks were made into many different items. Dolls, rugs, mats. Did you know that the dolls didn’t have faces? Now was the time to gather more nuts and berries. Men were busy, too, hunting far away. Bear, moose, beaver were all sought after and hunted. Again, there was much celebration. Dancing, speeches, prayer. And of course — food. It was this particular festival that was shared with the newcomers to this continent.
Can you guess what the next festival was? Although this is a Christmas tree, it was not a celebration of Christmas — but if you guessed this, you were very close. The next and last festival of the year was New Year’s. At this time, a white dog was sacrificed as a gift to the Creator. This was also a time for renewing the mind and body. (Does that not remind you of our New Year’s resolutions?) At this time, the False Face Society members would wear masks to help others to cleanse themselves of their bad minds and restore only their good minds. There was again much celebration, much dancing, much merriment and enjoyment as each person would settle in for the long winter ahead of them.
The First Americans indeed did give this country very much, not only its festivals which we still remember to this day, but also it gave to this nation a fighting spirit for freedom. In these times when there seems to be a forgetfulness about our American roots, it is wonderful to remember that the American Indian and the Love of Freedom went hand-in-hand. What seems interesting to me is that our Thanksgiving festival still honors the custom of giving thanks for those gifts that He, The Creator, has given us. To the American Indian all of these festivals contained this special element — that of giving Thanks to our Maker.
Perhaps it’s only because this one festival — Thanksgiving — was shared by American Indian and Colonist alike that set the tone of Thanksgiving for future generations. And I do believe that the love of autumn and giving thanks for that which belongs to us has its roots in The Harvest Festival, so beloved to the Eastern Indian Tribes.
I love Autumn. Love the scents, the colors, the fall into slumber for trees, the shrubs, the grass, the ever-flowering plants (and the bears). : ) It’s such a beautiful time of year, that it’s hard to stay inside, isn’t it? Doesn’t it make you want to get out there and rake leaves and then, of course, jump into that pile?
I grew up in the Mid-West, where autumn was long and gorgeous with golden, yellow, orange and brown leaves and fresh scents. But…I didn’t know/hadn’t experienced the absolute beauty of the East in the Fall of the year. My goodness! Orange, sugar maples, deep red-leaf maple trees, Japanese maples, ash, oak and golden birch trees, just to name a few. Takes one’s breath away.
But that’s only using one of our senses to describe this time of year. How about the scents of falling leaves, the smell of smoke and wood-burning stoves, the cinnamon-ie smells of baked goods, apple cider, the knowledge that Halloween and dress-up is around the corner? The feel of the earth beneath your feet as it, too, gears up for the winter ahead? The cool fragrance? The touch of tree bark and leaves, the sound of leaves falling? What beauty.
One of my series’ — the Iroquois series — is set in the fall of the year. When writing that series, I deliberately placed the story in the autumn because in my consideration there is no where in the world like autumn in New England, and the Iroquois Confederation was, of course in New York, deep in the area of the Adirondack Mountains. A couple of those covers show off the beauty of New England.
Those books are Black Eagle and Seneca Surrender. And to the left here are those beautiful covers — one cover from Berkley/Penguin/Putnam and the other from Prairie Rose Publications.
Yes, there will be a give-away today and in celebration of this event, I’ll be giving away three different e-books (please refer to our Giveaway Guidelines). One of those books will be BLACK EAGLE, since it is set in the Fall. I’ll also be giving away the e-book, The Princess and the Wolf and the e-book, Brave Wolf and the Lady. Those covers are off to the right here:
Now because there is a scene in both BLACK EAGLE and SENECA SURRENDER that describes the fall of that year, I thought I would leave you with an excerpt of that scene.
From the book, BLACK EAGLE and SENECA SURRENDER
By Karen Kay, writing as Gen Bailey
White Thunder rested his weight upon his flintlock, looking west, toward the sky, where the sun was a low, half pinkish-orange orb on the horizon, announcing its departure from the day in glorious streaks of sunlight. Shafts of light, streaming from the clouds, beamed down to the earth, looking as though heaven itself smiled kindly upon the land. And what a magnificent land it was. The birch trees were yellow, the maples red, and the oaks announced their descent into a long winter’s sleep with browns, oranges and golds. The hills were alive with autumn hues, while the air was filled with the rich, musky scent of falling leaves.
It was a beautiful time of year, when the days were still warm, but the nights were cool. But it wasn’t the beauty that was set off before him that had drawn him toward the lake this day. He’d been hunting, when something had called to him upon the breeze. Perhaps it was the rustle of the water that had announced that there was a subtle difference between the lake environment of yesterday and how it was today. But what?
Stepping quietly toward the lake, he squatted and set his musket onto his lap as he bent over to partake of a drink from the water’s cool depths.
Instantly he sat up, alert. From out the corner of his eye he caught the movement of something, and, glancing toward it, he recognized a piece of clothing. A woman’s skirt? Rising, he stepped toward it to get a better look at the thing, if only to satisfy his curiosity.
That’s when he saw her. She was a white woman, blonde-haired and slim.
Was she alive?
After hauling himself onto the rock where she lay, he stepped toward her and bent to look at her. He placed his fingers against her neck, feeling for a pulse. Her body was so very cold, and he was more than a little surprised when he felt the sure sign of life within her. The pulse was weak, but it was still there.
Turning her slightly, he was intrigued by her pale beauty. Of course, being Seneca and from the Ohio Valley, he’d had opportunity to witness the unusual skin color of the white people. But it wasn’t as familiar a sight to him as one might reckon.
Who was she? How had she gotten here? And what had happened to her?
Glancing in all directions, he took in the spectacular sights of the forest. Where did she belong? Who did she belong to?
There was nothing here to answer him, nothing to be seen, no other human presence to be felt. Nothing but the ever expansive rhythm of nature.
Using his right hand to brush her hair back from her face, he noted again how cold she was. However, he couldn’t help but be aware of how soft her skin was, as well. Putting his fingers against her nostrils, he felt the weak intake and outflow of breath. She was alive, barely.
Did he dare take her away from here? A white woman?
He hesitated and waited. He watched. Nyoh, he was the only one here, the only one to settle her fate.
That decided him. If she were to live through the night, he had best take care of her. She needed warmth, nourishment and a chance to heal.
Bending at the waist, he laid his hands over her torso. Depending on the type of injury he might discover, he would either nurse her here or take her to a more protected spot. He ran his fingers gently over each of her arms, including her hands and fingers. He felt for anything broken.
He could detect nothing. Widening his range, he sent his graze over the sides of her ribs, ignoring her ample breasts. Though his scrutiny was fast, it was thorough. Were there any bruises? Was anything broken? Amazingly, he found nothing.
He continued his search down each of her legs. Surely, there must be some clue that would tell of her recent history. Perhaps she had broken her neck, or back? With an easy touch, he tested the theory, sending his fingertips down over the muscles and bone structure of her neck. Nothing. Nothing substantial to indicate a problem that would claim her life. Turning her lightly onto her side, he felt along her spinal column. Several bones were out of place, but nothing was broken. Her body seemed intact.
He frowned. Again, he wondered what had happened to her.
Was it the spirits of the water? The falls? This was a dangerous area. Had the force of the rapids claimed another victim?
But why would she have been near the falls? A white woman in the woods alone? His jaw clenched. There had to be someone close by. Glancing up and looking around again, he realized that the puzzle of her appearance would not be solved here. His examination of her had at least established one fact. She was fit to travel.
Taking her into his arms, he was more than aware that she felt light in his grasp. He stepped down off the rock. Not knowing exactly how she had come to be here, he kept his attention attuned to the environment, listening for a sign of other life, anything to indicate the presence of another in the surroundings. She was a beautiful woman. Whomever she belonged to would miss her.
Again, he could sense nothing unusual in the environment around him—not anything that would give him any idea as to what had happened.
Enough. She required care.
Gathering her in his arms, he rushed toward the security of the woods. If someone were here watching, the trees and bushes offered sanctuary. At least there he could hide himself and her, as they fled deeper into the woods. But where would he take her? He hadn’t yet constructed his own shelter for the night, and it was already late in the day.
If his memory served him correctly, there was a cave nearby that might lend itself well for their purposes, provided that a bear or other animal hadn’t laid claim to it. It was a quiet place, if he remembered rightly, away from the all-seeing eyes of the forest. Plus, it was little known by his own and other tribes. Long ago, his grandfather had shown it to him, indicating it might serve well if ever he were in trouble.
As White Thunder hurried toward that spot, he gazed down into the pleasing features of the woman, realizing that his curiosity about her hadn’t abated. However, there would be time enough to discover who she was once they were safely sheltered. For now, he had best make haste to see if the cave were occupied or vacant.
Balancing her weight and his musket into more secure positions, he darted through the forest, disappearing into it.
Below is the cover of SENECA SURRENDER by Samhain Publishing, as it was going to be published before Samhain closed its doors. It’s a beauty and I thought I’d share it with you. Please leave a comment and let me know your memories of this time of year. I’d love to talk to you.
Although the title doesn’t say it, I will be giving away a free e-book of BRAVE WOLF AND THE LADY, so read our guidelines for giveaways — off to the right here — and leave a comment.
So…steamboats — for all practical purposes, they opened up the West. Starting with the first Steamboat, The Yellow Stone, they traveled up and down the Missouri and the Mississippi Rivers, bringing people back and forth, and carrying on a business in terms of trade and furs and many, many other items. George Catlin traveled on the first steamboat, The Yellow Stone, in 1834. In his book, Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and conditions of NORTH AMERICAN INDIANS, Catlin word paints the time and place, as well as the details of travel upon the Steamboat at that time. He makes it come alive.
In my newest book, BRAVE WOLF AND THE LADY, as well as the book, THE PRINCESS AND THE WOLF, there are scenes aboard a steamboat at that particular time and place. Both scenes go into some detail on the very real danger of travel aboard these boats. Another of my books that involves a steamboat is WHITE EAGLE’S TOUCH. The Commerce of a growing Nation flowed over these rivers during this time period, and these boats provide a rich look at a by-gone river culture.
So I thought I’d post an excerpt that takes place aboard the steamboat, Effie Deans. Enjoy!
BRAVE WOLF AND THE LADY
The scent of fishy, muddy water overwhelmed all other odors in this place, Mia thought as she climbed the necessary stairway that allowed her to gain access to the highest point on the steamship. Every day, as had become her routine with Brave Wolf, she arose early so that she might welcome in the new day with prayer. Ascending to the upper deck of the boat, she took up a position that looked eastward, toward the light, silver sky. Briefly, she said her prayer, then shifted her position, strolling toward the starboard side of the boat, gazing out westward. It was here on most every day that she hoped to see Brave Wolf, always wondering if he might still be out there, following the boat. Today was no different.
The day was only beginning, yet already the warmth of the early morning sun beat down upon the top of her bare head, for she wore no hat. However, its heat did not bother her; the gentle wind that was created by the forward motion of the boat blew into her face, causing the loose tendrils of her hair to fall back behind her ears. It was a cooling breeze and it seemed kindly, animated, as if it endeavored to cleanse her spirit.
But such friendliness was wasted on her. Her life had forever changed. Too much had happened in this last month to allow the naivety of her former life to regain a foothold over her again.
Was such a shift of personality for the good, or was it bad? She couldn’t be certain.
Where was Brave Wolf, she wondered. Then she answered her own question. He would be setting a trail for his home; he would be hastening back to the arms of another woman….
Would Walks-in-sunshine welcome him home with love in her heart? She would do so if she were wise. Trustworthy, honorable men like Brave Wolf didn’t happen along every day.
“Ma’am,” hailed the captain, a Mr. Wentworth. He raised his hat to her as he stepped by her.
Jerked back to the present moment, Mia smiled, hoping that the gesture covered her surprise. She had been so lost in her own thoughts, she hadn’t noticed the captain’s approach.
“Ye look so sad, ma’am. But don’t ye fret. We’re only a couple of weeks out from Leavenworth. We’ll make it thar all safe and sound, don’t ye worry.”
“Yes,” she replied, as she forced herself to look happy. “I believe that we shall.”
“How did ye get yerself all stranded in this part of the country, ma’am, if’n ye don’t mind me askin’?”
“I…my husband and I were part of a wagon train heading for the Oregon Territory when our party was attacked by—”
“No, sir, although I did think so at first. But the butchers turned out to be men dressed up as Indians. They killed my husband. Indeed, I fear that they murdered all the people on that train except me. I don’t believe that they saw me at first.”
“But they did discover yerself?”
“Undoubtedly, they did.”
“Pardon, ma’am, but then how did ye escape? Did ye play dead until they left?”
“No, sir. Real Indians came to my rescue.”
“Real Injuns? Ma’am?” He grabbed his hat from his head and whacked it against his knee. “We’s at war with them Injuns in these here parts. Cain’t imagine one of ’em rescuing ye.”
“I know. Yet, what I tell you is true. The man who bought that ticket from you is the same one who not only rescued me, but who brought me here so that I might return home.” She paused for a moment, then added, “I think, sir, that you might have cheated him regarding the cost of that ticket.”
The accusation, though softly spoken, was met with silence, and she let the complaint stand without further explanation. Captain Wentworth seemed honestly surprised; however, at last he uttered, “I’m right sorry about that, ma’am. But I’m under orders t’ charge high enough fees so that them Injuns don’t beg an easy ride. I’ll return the full two hundred dollars to ye, ma’am.”
“That would be most appreciated,” replied Mia, “for I lost all of my possessions at the wagon train fight. But, although I appreciate your kindness, please ease your mind. It is unnecessary. I have enough food to sustain me until we reach Fort Leavenworth, and my clothing washes well. Besides, once we arrive at Fort Leavenworth, I can send word to my father, who will ensure that I am taken care of and escorted home safely. Keep your money.”
“No, ma’am. Couldna live with myself if’n I was to do that,” he said. “Wait here, ma’am, while I get yer two hundred dollars.”
Mia nodded and watched Captain Wentworth’s departing figure as he disappeared down the stairs, taking two of them at a time. She breathed in deeply, and was about to lean out over the railing, when two incidents happened at once.
A wet, nearly nude, but achingly familiar body knocked her to the deck at the same time a bullet whizzed by her. The whir of that discharge, and its ugly blast splintered the wood at the exact place where she’d been standing, its impact showering her and her rescuer with the sharp fragments.
“Stay down!” ordered Brave Wolf. She could do little more than that, for he lay over her, using his body to protect her. Only a single instant passed before another deadly shot shrieked past them, this one aimed lower than the first.
Then came another round of gunfire, followed by a slight pause, then more of the same. On and on it roared, the howl of the noise and the racket going on for so many minutes that Mia felt as though the entire world were engulfed by the barrage. Suddenly, as quickly as it had started, it stopped. No shots. No backfire. Nothing.
“He…reloading. Quick, follow me!”
Brave Wolf plopped off of her, scooting onto the deck. Lying flat on his stomach, he used elbows and hips to inch forward; Mia followed, using the same manner of crawling, and could see an open cabin door ahead of them. This must have been his destination. But what followed next precluded all attempts to attain safety.
A huge man, who might have been twice the size of Brave Wolf, fell upon her. She screamed, then again, and she kept on shrieking as he raised a knife. Even while she yelled out, “No,” she felt certain that this moment spelled the end of her life. It might have been true, too, but for an arm that came up to block that blow.
“Go! Move! Run to cabin!” shouted Brave Wolf.
But she couldn’t get away from the monster, for he held her down; he was probably three times her weight. She squirmed, she tried to get away, but she couldn’t shake him off her.
What followed could only be an act of God, for it was humanly impossible. Yet, as she watched the events unfold, she saw Brave Wolf rise up as though with super-human strength; he picked up the man as though this two-hundred-and-fifty-pound bully weighed little more than a feather. Instantly, she was free, but it wasn’t over. Brave Wolf hurled the monster across the deck. The fiend’s weapon, his knife, fell to the deck, but not so the beast’s gun.
As quick as an instant, the would-be assassin slid his pistol from his holster. He pointed it straight at her head, for she had not run away.
In a fraction of a second, Brave Wolf executed a quick, high leap, landing on the assassin and pushing him down, forcing him into a sitting position. Taking hold of the man’s pistol-carrying arm, and forcing it high into the air, Brave Wolf ensured the bullet shot harmlessly into the sky. The two men wrestled with that gun, their muscles straining under the assault, and the struggle that waged between the two of them outlined every muscle in Brave Wolf’s body.
Boom! Crash! Blast!
What was that? It sounded as if it were an explosion on the below decks of the boat? Was it? Was the boat, itself, under attack?
What could she do? How could she help? She couldn’t leave Brave Wolf to fight this monstrosity all on his own. Or should she?
Was she in the way? Should she leave here as quickly as possible?
But no. She couldn’t leave him, even though he had told her to. As she had often said to herself: whatever Brave Wolf’s fate might be, so too would be her own.
This decided, she darted into action, and, sprinting toward the wrestling figures, she jumped up into a flying leap, and added her weight against the bully’s arm. The momentum of her fall caused the beastie’s grip to come apart and loosen. The pistol flew out of his grasp, but the firearm was cocked, and it fired as it hit the deck…
…Away from them.
In a show of power and brute force, the monster flung Brave Wolf off, and Brave Wolf rolled as he landed, coming up onto his feet, unsheathing his only weapon, his knife. Then, without even a fraction of a second passing, Brave Wolf hurled himself forward, attaching himself to the fiend’s backside, his knife at the bully’s throat. But the monster threw off Brave Wolf’s grip, and the knife fell harmlessly to the deck.
It wasn’t finished, and what followed, Mia could hardly believe. Weaponless, Brave Wolf used feet, hands, fingers, teeth and his jaw as weapons. He spit, clawed, bit, scratched and threw his arms around the assassin’s neck while his nails bit into the brute’s face. Though the beast tried to shake him off, he couldn’t budge Brave Wolf.
Mia watched, shocked, as Brave Wolf bested the man who was as big as a bear. Like a weasel, he scratched the swine, bit him, choked him and kicked him as he wrestled him to the ground. The bully couldn’t throw a punch; in fact, it looked as though he could hardly breathe. Already, his face was turning bright red, then it was blue.
All at once, it was over. The monster drew his last breath. He flopped to the deck and lay there unmoving. Brave Wolf, however, didn’t wait to examine the result of this struggle for life or death. He grabbed up both his own, and the bully’s knife, seized her by the hand and sprinted toward the ship’s railing, dragging her with him as he fled port-side.
Mia ran as fast as she could, though she was stunned, having never witnessed such a bare-handed, tooth-and-claw fight against such uneven odds. Brave Wolf was easily the smaller of the two men by a hundred or so pounds, yet he had won and…what was probably most astounding, she was still alive.
Boom! Crash! Blast! Crack!
Another explosion from the below decks shook the boat, and she realized the craft was blowing out from within. Huge bits of wood flew everywhere, the shower of deadly and heavy splintered logs a real threat. Worse, a massive fire licked to life only a few feet away from them; it was swiftly consuming the deck on which they stood. The floor was going to give.
“Oh!” Mia gasped. Had Brave Wolf won the struggle, only to lose the war? If the floor beneath them gave, they would be swept below as it crumbled; they’d be impaled and crushed beneath fallen rubble and knife-like timber.
Frightened into immobility, Mia could only stare. But not so Brave Wolf. He swept her up into his arms and sprinted around a corner, ignoring the deck crashing about them. He endured the burning heat, and somehow he kept ahead of the ever-rushing fire, veering toward the port side of the boat, the side away from the paddle wheel. Still holding her in his arms, he scrambled up onto the railing, and without hesitation, he knifed feet first into the river, taking her with him.
Down, down they shot into the mildly cool and welcoming, but muddy water. Brave Wolf didn’t wait to touch bottom. Kicking out, he swam down deep underwater, heading north, away from the boat. A deadly tow pulled at him, yet he evaded it, and dove down deeper only to have a whirlpool tug at them, threatening to drown them. Yet it didn’t happen. Brave Wolf forded the underwater death trap with what appeared to be so much ease that one might have thought he were part merman. He held her by the waist now and pulled her along with him. Once he surfaced for air and she gasped in the needed oxygen; a bombardment of bullets met them from the shoreline, and he dove down, down deep, deeper, kicking out in a stroke that propelled them to the bottom of the river, swimming as fast as the water would allow him. She felt the path of a bullet as it nicked him, for it was to that arm where he held her. Although the shot didn’t draw blood, it must have stung him. But if it did, he showed no signs of feeling it.
Faster they swam, she kicking out now to help him. North and east they fled, away from the deadly assassin bullets. But how long could she hold her breath? She felt as though she were turning blue, and she tapped Brave Wolf on the shoulder to indicate that she needed air. Once again, although this time more cautiously, he came up for breath, but he allowed her only a second to suck in that air before he dove back under the surface, knifing toward the very bottom of the river once again.
Surprisingly no one appeared to be following them beneath the waves, and she was reminded of the danger of the deadly whirlpools, currents and underwater tows beneath the surface of the Big Muddy River. It had claimed many a man’s life. It had tried to take theirs. Was this why no one was giving chase?
Those deadly traps confronted Brave Wolf over and over. She felt their pull, was certain she and Brave Wolf would never survive this. Yet, they did. How he managed to use these dangers to his advantage, she might never know, for he swam through the tows as though he danced a jig with them. They pushed onward, Mia having to remind Brave Wolf on more than one occasion that she needed to breathe air, not water.
It felt as though hours had passed as they shot through these muddy depths, although it was probably not longer than minutes. Always it seemed to her that they headed north and, she hoped, out of range of those assassin’s bullets. She was aware that Brave Wolf could hold his breath longer than she could, and he seemed to forget that she was not part fish; many more times than she could count, she had to tap him on the shoulder as a reminder. At last, when they surfaced for air, it appeared that they had put enough distance between themselves, the shoreline and the steamship, for nothing met them but the smoke of a boat that would never sail the Missouri waters again.
They both looked on at the wreckage, which was even now still afire.
“Why did the boat explode?” she asked softly, more to herself than to Brave Wolf.
But he answered her quickly, saying, “Man who try kill you use fire to blow up boat.”
Shock caused Mia to remain silent, and, when she didn’t answer at once, Brave Wolf calmly dove again beneath the waves.
I just returned from my first trip to the West in four years – two weeks of mountains, lakes, seeing friends and family, and experiencing a bit of local history. Today I’d like to share with you a bit of that history.
On one of the days of my trip, my nieces and I visited the oldest building in Idaho, the Mission of the Sacred Heart, also known as the Cataldo Mission, located in Old Mission State Park located 28 miles east of the city of Couer d’Alene. The mission, located on a picturesque hill overlooking the Couer d’Alene River, was built between 1850 and 1853 by Catholic missionaries and members of the Couer d’Alene tribe. Next door to the mission is the restored parish house where the Jesuit missionaries lived. Also located on the park property are a cemetery and a visitor center where you can visit an exhibit titled Sacred Encounters: Father De Smet and the Indians of the Rocky Mountain West. The exhibit details the history of the Jesuits’ interactions with the Couer d’Alene and Salish tribes of the area. The site’s historical significance led to it being designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1961.
The establishment of the mission came about in a different way than many such structures. It was actually the Nez Perce and Flathead people, who had heard about the white man’s “Book of Heaven,” who sent representatives to St. Louis to find out more. Eleven years later, Father Pierre Jean De Smet responded by traveling to the area. Other brothers and friars picked an original location for the mission, but it was later moved due to the first’s tendency to flood. In 1850, the mission was taken over by Italian Jesuit missionary Antonio Ravalli, who oversaw the building of the current building. He had the local tribes build the structure so they would feel a part of the church. Not a single nail was used in the construction. Visitors today can see some of the exposed wattle and daub that was used instead.
Because of the mission’s remote location, decoration of the structure required some creativity. Newspapers were painted and put on the walls. Tin cans were fashioned into chandeliers. And local huckleberries were used to create the blue used to stain the interior wood.
It’s a lovely, peaceful place to just sit and admire the surrounding landscape as well. If you’re ever in Northern Idaho, it’s well worth a visit.
How exciting! A new book out and just put up in paperback on Amazon. Will be giving away a free copy of the e-book to one of you bloggers, so do come on in and leave a comment. We’ll start with the blurb so that you know the general story line of the book, and then the blurb.
Hope you enjoy!
BRAVE WOLF AND THE LADY
Book 2, The Clan of the Wolf Series
He saved her life, then stole her heart….
To escape an arranged marriage, Mia Carlson, daughter of a U.S. senator, instead elopes with the man she loves. As they are escaping from her Virginia home, heading west, their wagon train is brutally attacked, leaving Mia alone and in grave danger. Rescue comes from a most unlikely source, a passing Lakota scouting party, led by the darkly handsome Indian, Brave Wolf.
Although Brave Wolf has consented to guide Mia to the nearest trading post, he holds himself apart from her, for his commitments lie elsewhere. But long days on the trail lead to a deep connection with the red-haired beauty. Yet, he can’t stop wondering why death and danger stalk this beautiful woman, forcing him to rescue her time and again. Who is doing this, and why?
One thing is clear, however: Amid the flurry of dodging assassin bullets, Brave Wolf and Mia come into possession of a powerful love. But is it all for naught? Will Brave Wolf’s obligations and Mia’s secret enemy from the past finally succeed in the sinister plot to destroy their love forever?
Warning: Sensuous romance and cameo appearances of Tahiska and Kristina from the book, Lakota Surrender, might cause a happily-ever-after to warm your heart.
Brave Wolf and the Lady
She hobbled a little to try to catch up with him. He turned back toward her, squinting at her.
“You…find…leather of shoe?”
“I…I did not. I searched for it everywhere. But…”
He stepped back toward her, retracing his path. As he came up level with her, he commanded, “You…stay…”
“I am no dog, sir, to be told to sit, stay or roll over.”
He grinned at her. “I not…confused about that.”
She crossed her arms over her chest. “I looked and looked for the sole of my shoe, but I couldn’t find it.”
“I will…find it. You…here…stay.”
“No. I’m afraid to be left alone.”
His fleeting look at her was enough to cause Mia to realize that her defiance frustrated him. After four days of travel with this man, she had become used to witnessing the tiny nuances that told of this young man’s emotional moods. Years from now, she reasoned, he would most likely master those miniscule flickers of concern.
For now, she was glad to have acquired some means to recognize his frame of mind. She said, “Please don’t be upset with me. The pea vines and other prickly bushes are constantly stinging me and tearing at my dress. It’s so much easier to find a piece of my clothing hanging from a bush, than it is to find the bottom of my shoe stuck in the mud somewhere. The tall grass alone makes it hard to find, for when I bend to look to try to find it, I get pricked.”
He nodded. “You speak…true. This…why I go…find it. Easier for me. You…stay…here.”
“I can’t. I can’t be without you.”
For a moment, she caught a surprised light in his eye as he regarded her.
“Don’t you see?” she went on to explain. “What if something happened to you? What if you didn’t return? I would rather be with you and face what you face, even if that be death, than to stay here on my own, unknowing. Without you, I would die here in this world of grass and vines.”
The curious look was gone, and in its place was a glimpse of what? Was that admiration?
He said, “Understood. Will try to…teach you way…of prairie. Then not be…afraid.”
“Good,” she acknowledged. “I would appreciate that, but that’s in the future. For now, I must go with you.”
He drew his brows together in a frown as he stepped toward her. Nevertheless, he uttered, “Then walk…low to ground. Like this…” He bent over double.
“All right, I will. But why must we spend so much time trying to find this? What difference does the bottom of a shoe make? Truly, who’s to see it in this environment of dirt and grass?”
“Land full…” he waved his hands out and away from him, “…of Indian to?wéya, scouts. If find shoe…they follow…our…trail. Us they kill…maybe.”
“Oh,” she frowned. “I see. Is that why you’ve had me go back over the trail so many times to find the pieces of my dress when I’ve torn it on the bushes?”
“It is so.”
She sighed. “Then I had better help you, I suppose, and be more careful where I step, for it was in a muddy patch of ground where I lost my shoe’s sole.”
“Wašté, good. Itó, come.”
Mimicking him, she grappled with the rifle to find a comfortable position, then she bent over at the waist, following him as they made a slow progress back over their tracks. Amazingly, she had no doubt that he would find that stray piece of leather, and he did not disappoint. Within a relatively short time, he held the wayward sole of her boot in his hand.
She limped toward him, and reached out for it, but he did not immediately give it to her. Instead, he made a sign to her, and, turning away, he indicated that she should follow him again, traveling once more in that bent-over position.
Shutting her eyes on deep sigh, she realized she had little choice but to do as he asked.
The deeply colored green grass waved above them in the prairie’s ever-constant breeze, while a hawk circled above them, as if curious about the goings-on below. Crows flew here and there, their caw-cawing echoing loudly in the warm breath of the wind. Everywhere about them was the scent of mixed grasses, mud and sweet earth. The sun felt hot, since it was now in its zenith, but the surrounding shrubs and grass provided some shelter from its direct heat. Only moments ago, they had stopped on a piece of ground where a few large rocks littered the terrain. He sat on one of those slabs now; she resided on another, facing him. He held her boot in one hand and the sole of that shoe in another, and he examined the footwear and its missing bottom from every possible angle.
As she watched, she basked in the relief of simply sitting. Sadly, she’d left her bonnet behind in her wagon, and, in consequence, the sun glared down on her bare head, while the wind whisked locks of her hair into her eyes. With an impatient hand, she pushed those strands behind her ears.
She gazed away from him, not focusing on anything in particular. Simply, it seemed a better option than looking at him. Something about his hands, something about the delicate way he handled her shoes was devastating to her peace of mind. She sighed.
Frankly, she was fascinated by him. Too fascinated.
She rocked back, and let her aching calf muscles relax as a feeling of tranquility settled over her. It was the first time since Jeffrey’s demise that she wasn’t constantly reminded of that loss, and for a moment, if a moment only, the hurt subsided, but only a little.
It had been earlier in the day when she’d lost the sole of her shoe. At first, she had said nothing about it to Mr. Lakota. But, after discovering that blood had covered her hosiery and the sole of her foot, she’d at last confessed her problem to him.
She’d expected his anger, for it meant that the object would have to be found, which would only serve to slow down their progress. But he’d shown none of that. Instead, he’d calmly asked her to go and retrieve it. It had seemed a simple request, for she was accustomed to backtracking to retrieve bits of her dress after the material had caught and torn on a branch or vine. But this was different; she had delayed telling him about it, and the underside of her shoe might be as far back as a mile.
He might not fully realize it, but she would never go so far away from him. Not even during the day. It frightened her to be alone in this vast expanse of prairie.
Her thoughts caused her to stir uneasily, and she brought her gaze back onto him. At last, he looked up at her and muttered, “Cannot fix.”
Her heart sank. What did that mean? That she was doomed to walk over this muddy, sticky and stone-littered ground in her blood-soaked, stocking feet?
All she said to him, however, was, “Oh.”
“Better I make…moccasins…for you…walk in.”
“Moccasins? You could make them? Here? That would be superb, indeed, if you could. But how is that possible?”
“Cannot fix…this. So…put together moccasins…for you.”
“But to make them?”
“Hau, hau. You…cannot walk…prairie without moccasins to…protect feet.”
“That’s true. But I suppose what I don’t understand is how is it possible that here on the prairie you could assemble moccasins? Do you have the proper materials?”
“Hau. Hold out foot.”
When she didn’t comply at once, he stated again, a little more softly, “Hold out foot.”
Still, she hesitated. Was it unseemly to raise her skirt so that she could extend her foot toward him? Perhaps it was, but the rights and wrongs of such behavior seemed the lesser of two evils. With a shrug, as if she were releasing a weight from her bosom, she did as he asked. At once, she realized her mistake, for as he took hold of her by her ankle, placing it on his lap, her heart skipped a beat.
What was this sensation of delight? This craving for more of his touch? No, oh, no. This mustn’t be happening to her. Yet, if she were to be honest with herself, she would have to confess to a frenzy of excitement that was even now cascading over her nerve endings.
No! Please no, she cried to herself. This was all wrong.
What was the matter with her? She should feel embarrassed because he was touching her, not elated. She gathered her skirt around her legs in an effort to minimize the exposure of the rest of her calf muscle from his view. But it was a wasted effort; he showed no interest in looking at her there.
Taking one of the bags from around his shoulder, he brought out a moccasin and placed it up against the bottom of her foot. She gasped a little, for as soon as he touched her toes, tiny sparks of fire shot over her, from the tip of that foot to the top of her head.
Luckily, it appeared that he didn’t notice her strange behavior, and he explained, “These moccasins…made for me…by Walks-in-sunshine. On journey…like this, need…many moccasins. I…cut this for you.”
Mia, who was more than a little upset with the waywardness of her conduct, glanced away from him, speculating as best she could on what could possibly be the cause of her body’s rapture. Truth was, she’d barely registered what he’d said.
Instead, her attention centered inward as she admonished herself. Perhaps Mr. Lakota reminded her of Jeffrey. Could this be the reason for her misguided reaction to him?
Yes, yes. That was it; it had to be, for she was in love with Jeffrey, would always be in love with Jeffrey.
Still, cautioned an inner voice, this man didn’t look at all like her deceased husband; he acted nothing like him, and she wasn’t at all confused about who was who.
Or was she?
Wasn’t it possible that some deep and uninspected part of her was a little muddled? After all, Mr. Lakota was a young man, and she had been a newly married woman. Plus, Mr. Lakota had rescued her from what would have been a gruesome death. It was only natural, wasn’t it, that she might place her emotions for Jeffrey onto this other man?
Yes. It had to be.
Yet, she countered her own thoughts; she was more than aware that her reaction to Mr. Lakota was not simply emotional. It was sensuous, perhaps a little wanton in nature. Was it possible that her body was simply flustered by the presence of this man? And that it was her body’s reaction to him, not her own?
She sighed deeply. This was more than likely the truth. What she was experiencing was little more than a physical reaction.
Yet, again that inner voice cautioned, if it were no more than physical, if it were purely platonic, why was it that she was experiencing the joy of his touch?
Enough! Her thoughts on the matter were more troubling than the action of his touch.
Still, she wondered, what should she do? Should she withdraw into herself? Mentally lock herself away from this man’s influence?
Nice thought, but hardly practical. Given their situation, and seeing that her life depended on this man’s ability to get the two of them safely across the prairie, such introversion would hardly be possible.
All at once, he placed her foot back on the ground, ending their physical contact. Relieved, she breathed out slowly, expecting that the lack of his touch would improve her problem.
But it hardly mattered. Her body still tingled from the contact. Modestly, she shook her skirt free to place it over her ankles, hoping against hope that the action would settle her.
But it didn’t.
Only the quickness of a moment passed, however, before he reached out toward her again, and said, “Need…other foot.”
“Oh,” she articulated. “Of course.” She gulped.
She lifted her skirt up again, and guardedly placed her other foot in his hand. Abruptly, a similar thrill of excitement raced over her nerve endings.
She swallowed. Hard.
She needed a distraction, she decided. Perhaps conversation might prove to divert her attention. It was worth an attempt, she reasoned, and so she asked, “Did you say that someone called Walks-in-sunshine made these moccasins for you?”
“Oh. Is she somebody special to you?”
Mia’s stomach dropped, and she felt as if those words had delivered her a blow. So, this man was spoken for. Of course he would be, she reckoned as her thoughts raced ahead. He was young, he was kind and he was also handsome. What female worth her weight wouldn’t do all she could to make this man hers?
She sat back as she asked, “Could you tell me about—what was her name? Walks-in-sunshine?”
He paused, and, as he glanced up to survey her, she thought his look might be wary. Nevertheless, after his initial hesitation, such watchfulness seemed to disappear from his countenance, and he said, “She…beautiful. Wait for me. We.promise to…marry.”
“To marry?” Mia almost choked on the words. She glanced away from him. She felt…jealous.
Was he aware of her reaction to this news? How embarrassing it would be if he were.
But he was continuing to speak, and he said, “She…I…love since we…children.”
“I see,” Mia responded. “Then what will she think if you cut up these moccasins for me? They are so beautifully made, and were especially sewn for you. Might that not upset her?”
Would she? Mia couldn’t help but speculate that Mr. Lakota might be wrong about that. If this man were her own, she would care.
He was continuing to speak, however, and he uttered, “She…not understand…if leave…someone…hurt when could…fix. Give me other…boot.”
“We…cache these.” He held up her boots.
“Bury them. Leave no…trace of us here.”
He had set himself to work over the leather, and she felt odd as she sat before him, watching him cut the moccasins down with a knife and a sure hand. His fingers were strong, long and handsome, and she wondered how they might feel upon–
Abruptly, she pulled up her thoughts, and she asked, “Might I help?”
“Know how use…taka?, sinew and…bone?”
“Sinew? Bone? Have you no thread and needle?”
“One not…find needle…thread in nature.”
“Oh,” was all she said. Then, “You have none of the finer things in your tribe? Since your mother is white, I had thought perhaps she might keep something of the European culture around her.”
“Mother…white, but…Indian through marriage. What mean…finer things?”
“They are items made by the white man’s hand—like needle and thread—things that make life a little easier. I see you punching holes there in the moccasin and then threading the hole with the sinew. It looks to me to be slow and painstaking work. A sharp needle with thread would make your work easier and less time consuming.”
“No…need for…finer things, when have…nature all around.”
“Yes, I suppose I can understand that viewpoint. But think for a moment of a woman’s joy over acquiring a new gown in a silken fabric that shimmers with each step she takes—gowns are clothing, by the way.”
“What need of…gowns…when have soft animal skins?”
“Perhaps this is only a feminine reaction; a pleasure that only a woman would understand: To wear something that she knows makes her look pretty.”
“Walks-in-sunshine already pretty.”
“I’m certain she is. And it is kind of you to say so. But there are other goods that might be considered ‘finer things’. For instance, a sewing machine could make this work fly by.”
Without raising his eyes to hers, Mr. Lakota jerked his chin to the left, and said, “This slow…because I…little time…spent doing it. Walks-in-sunshine…quick.”
“Yes,” agreed Mia. “I’m sure that she is.”
“Give me foot…again.”
She hesitated, yet she did as he requested. However, instead of gazing at him directly, she looked up above his head. The tall grasses bent and waved in the warm, summer breeze, as though all of nature were performing a dance. She tried to concentrate on that.
Yet, as he touched her foot, the warmth of his fingers produced again that recognition of a thrill she wished she didn’t feel. Suddenly, he produced a piece of buckskin from one of his bags, and, wetting it, he proceeded to wash the bloody bottoms of her feet.
Oh, my. The sensation produced by this act of kindness was exquisite, and as excitement swept over her nerve-endings, she became aware of a stirring of awareness within her.
Surprise shot through her. And so upset was she over her reaction to him, she could barely speak. Gulping hard, she knew she had to talk again, if only to try to dispel the guilt she felt. Changing the subject, she asked, “Why is the wind so constant here?”
“No thing to…stop it.”
“But no trees. No…hills…mountains. Nothing to…block it.”
“At home, we of course experience the wind. But never so on-going as what the prairie offers. Here, it is always blowing.”
She noticed that he had come down on his knees before her, as he fit a moccasin to first one foot and then to the other. It reminded her that Jeffrey had proposed to her from a similar position. But before she could explore that thought, he gazed up at her, and with one eyebrow cocked, he asked, “Have trees?”
“Have hills or…mountains?”
“That why. Stand now.”
She was only too happy to do as he asked, and she rose up to her feet. As she did so, he pressed a finger over where her big toe hit the moccasin, then, as though he found fault with the shoe, he adjusted the back of it, his fingers tickling her there, creating havoc within her.
She swallowed grimly, for she almost answered him with the honesty of her wayward emotions. “They are perfect,” she replied in a voice barely over a whisper.
“Wašté, good,” he acknowledged, echoing the word with a motion of his hand out and away from his chest.
“Does that gesture of your hand mean something?” she asked.
“Mean good. It good.” He rose up to his feet, and came to tower over her. He said, “Take few…steps.”
He had positioned himself dangerously close to her, and she could barely control the impulse to throw herself against him. She took a few steps away from him instead.
“Why?” she queried, although she did as he requested, and spun around in a circle.
“Moccasins must be…comfortable,” he explained. “Still feel good?”
He nodded. “Then we…continue. Must find…shelter for night. Hópiye unyánpi kta!”
“What did you just say?” she asked as she glanced up at him.
“Said… ‘all right, let’s go’.”
“Yes. Yes, that would be good. We should keep moving along.”
He smiled at her then, and seeing it, as well as his so-obvious approval of her, she almost swooned. But she didn’t. Instead, her thoughts turned inward once more, and she admonished herself. Briefly, she wondered why her sense of moral right and wrong was not standing her in good stead against this man.
At least he seemed oblivious to what was happening to her. She bit her lip, wishing that she were blind to it, as well. Unhappily, it simply was not to be.
BRAVE WOLF AND THE LADY
Well, that’s all for today. Come on in, leave a message and I’ll leave a link to the book here.
Good luck to you all in the drawing. Remember to check back by Wednesday eve to see if you are the winner. Also, please be aware that the drawing is for US residents only and that you must be 18 or older.
Wild west. What kind of image do those two words bring to mind? Gunslingers, cactuses, and tumbleweeds? If so, you’re in the majority. But that holds true for the nineteenth century. Let’s rewind time and travel back to the 1700’s, when the wild west was no farther than upstate New York.
During the mid-eighteenth century, a war was raging in the far west of what was then Colonial America. The French and Indian War is often glossed over in a U.S. History class. It wasn’t just between French fur traders and Indians. The truth is Native Americans fought on both sides of the skirmish, for the British and the French—which is who the war was really between.
But don’t panic…no stale history lesson here. I’ve got a tale to share from this period that inspired me to write The Captured Bride.
A legend sprang up during the years of the French and Indian War, first spread by word of mouth then finally being put to print in an 1875 Ohio newspaper. Apparently there was a shipment of French gold being moved from Fort Duquesne to Fort Detroit. Both were French forts, so it doesn’t sound like a big deal, right? Wrong. Danger lurked in those wilds, and for the French, that danger was British red coats.
Naturally, the French contingent was on high alert during their trek, scouting ahead and behind, making sure no one took them by surprise. One scout brought back word of a possible attack, either by British sympathizing natives or the British themselves is unclear. Either way, it spooked the soldiers, so they knew they had to do something drastic to survive.
Turning back wasn’t an option. Neither was forging ahead, hoping to outrun whatever trouble might be upon them. Lugging a shipment of gold around makes for very slow going. But what to do?
They decided to bury the gold then hide until the threat passed. The men took great care to painstakingly mark exactly where they buried the treasure. Relieved of the extra weight, they took off—putting space between them and the gold—and hid until the danger passed.
When they went back to retrieve their cargo, they followed their directions with utmost care. But when they got to the spot where the gold was buried, it was gone. But where did it go?
To this day, no one knows.
Many have looked, going so far as to dig up farmers’ fields and surrounding lands. But no luck. And the search continues. Recently there was a news story about another search about to take place.
I can’t tell you where the gold is, but if this legend piques your interest, I can recommend my latest release, an adventure in the wilds of upstate New York.
A war-torn countryside is no place for a lady—but Mercy Lytton is a lady like none other. Raised amongst the Mohawks, she straddles two cultures, yet each are united in one cause…to defeat the French. Born with a rare gift of unusually keen eyesight, she is chosen as a scout to accompany a team of men on a dangerous mission. Yet it is not her life that is threatened. It is her heart.
Condemned as a traitor, Elias Dubois faces the gallows. At the last minute, he’s offered his freedom if he consents to accompany a stolen shipment of French gold to a nearby fort—but he’s the one they stole it from in the first place. It turns out that the real thief is the beguiling woman, Mercy Lytton, for she steals his every waking thought.
Can love survive divided loyalties in a backcountry wilderness?
We’d love to find out! Michelle has graciously offered a copy of The Captured Bride, ebook or paperback, winner’s choice. To enter, leave a comment below.
Hope you will forgive me for running an older post today. But I am giving away a free copy of the e-book WHITE EAGLE’S TOUCH to try to make up for the repeat an older post.
The reason for a repost is that we were hit with a tornado last week in the area where I live, and we don’t have internet restored. Every day the company keeps saying it will be today — but we still don’t have internet. So I’m here in the library posting this for you right now. : ) Goodness! I might not be able to respond to every post tomorrow — depending again on whether or not we have internet, but I will check back, so do come on in and leave a message. So below is the post and excerpt.
WHITE EAGLE’S TOUCH — one of my best selling books — is going to be — sometime this week — released by Amazon in e-book format. And although we authors might never admit to having a favorite book, well…gotta say that this book is one of my favorites. So, I thought I’d tell you a little of the background that went in to the making of that book.
I love this cover by the way.
WHITE EAGLE’S TOUCH starts with my love of a rather spoiled, head-strong heroine — one who is really quite soft-hearted, but for reasons explained in the book, she harbors opinions that are far from flattering. In the story, the heroine, Katrina, is blond-haired, stubborn, almost out of funds and is demanding her inheritance in order that she might marry into royalty. She has also grown up without ever knowing her parents — who perished out West — or her uncle, who holds the purse-strings to her inheritance.
In other words, she has some reason to be spoiled, because she’s grown up without love — with a succession of nannies.
There are problems — mainly that her uncle will not release her funds until she comes West and parades her fiance in front of him for his approval. I must admit that it really is a lot to ask of a young woman who has known only the comforts of New York City — still it was rather fun to play around with her outrage.
Of course her uncle doesn’t show up at the scheduled rendezvous — he sends his friend — who is almost like a son to him — White Eagle — to bring her to him.
Of course the story goes on from there — spoiled, rich-girl meets handsome, yet determined young Indian warrior.
Now, the truth of the matter is that the character of Katrina was patterned after my daughter, Trina, who is definitely not blond. Not that Trina is spoiled, but at the writing of this story, Trina was a teenager — about nineteen, I believe — and she definitely had her likes and dislikes. Off to the side here is a picture of Trina with her daughter and my granddaughter, Lila. But patterning the heroine after my daughter really gave me a deeper understanding of my character, Katrina’s, personality — it also helped me to love this character, even when she is at her wit’s end.
In writing this book, I often had pictures of clothing and what the heroine might have looked like at that time. Off to the left here is a picture of that period’s clothing. I love this clothing, I must admit and sometimes wish we could go back to an age where women looked so very feminine. Now this picture to the left really — in my mind — has the look of my heroine at this time. A little bored, a little spoiled, always well dressed and trying to do the right thing — although in the West, my heroine’s efforts are sometimes clumsy and humorous — as she tries to “fit in.”
As for the hero, another one of my loves — I’ve always held a passion for a hero who brooks no argument, yet who is kind and generous — and who is waiting patiently for the heroine to come to her senses.
There is one scene in this book that I particularly like. It was a scene where the hero, along with his friend, concoct a scheme to send Katrina’s fiance packing. At the writing of this book, I had just the previous year, married my husband, Paul. When I married Paul, however, I also discovered that he was extremely close to his brother, Bob — this picture to the right is of Bob and Paul — Paul is the one sitting down. But this particular scene was about these two fellows and what they would do if they were there to rid themselves of this very unwanted person, and send him packing for home.
Interestingly, that “friend” of White Eagle is Night Thunder who has a book of his own — next in this series.
To end I thought I’d show you a picture of the original cover for WHITE EAGLE’S TOUCH. The reason I have to show you is that this cover is also one of my most favorite covers.
WHITE EAGLE’S TOUCH
By Karen Kay
It took the Indians less than an hour to fabricate the boat, it being scantily constructed of several buffalo hides stretched over a crude framework of willow branches, the willow being the closest wood to hand. A paddle had been made from a few tree limbs, too, and within little time, Katrina observed many of their party’s supplies neatly stowed within the bull boat, although Katrina took note that it was only the marquess’s things.
White Eagle motioned the marquess forward just as Katrina began to set foot into the boat. But White Eagle motioned her away, despite her protest, making signals to his friends to bring forward the marquess…and his dogs. White Eagle turned to Katrina. “You will ride in the wagon across the river.”
“But I don’t wish to wet my dress, and I might if I don’t…”
White Eagle looked sternly at her, and she fell silent, as he clearly had meant her to. She watched as the marquess sauntered toward them.
“Ah, finally,” the marquess said to White Eagle as he stepped into the boat, “you savages are recognizing your betters. It is about time.”
“Humph!” was the guttural response from White Eagle as he motioned to his friends, and, at a signal, the marquess’s hounds joined him in the crude structure.
White Eagle beckoned to Good Dancer to come forward, and after some counseling, Good Dancer strode toward the water, taking the rope of the boat in his hand and leading the craft into the water.
He began to swim ahead of the boat, tugging the craft out into the swirling currents.
No sooner had the marquess set out in the boat, when White Eagle directed both Katrina and Rebecca into the wagon.
The women seated themselves and immediately, upon doing so, the marquess’s two men—who had been driving the wagon—started the horses forward, into the swift-rushing currents. This being done, White Eagle and Night Thunder took hold of the rest of the horses and began guiding those animals, too, across the water.
No one appeared to notice the bull boat being led farther and farther downstream, away from the main party; not even the marquess, who, it would seem, was busily engaged in gazing at the sky and sipping the wine he had managed to bring with him.
Trouble hit without warning. One of the ponies pulling the wagon stepped into a pool of quicksand and jerked on his bridle, unseating the drivers and shooting them forward. The horse next to it reared, becoming entrenched, itself, in the mire and only the fast action of the two drivers saved the wagon from the same fate. The men righted themselves and whipped at the ponies, cursing them in a more colorful language than Katrina would have liked to hear, but the driver’s efforts were to no avail; the poor ponies could not extricate themselves, not with their burdens of bridle and harness.
One of the horses tried to rear again, its action tilting the wagon off kilter. Off slid the marquess’s baggage and particulars as well as her Saratoga, all tossed into the sandy murk of the quicksand and, had the two women not been holding on to their seats, they would have been flung overboard, too.
Katrina screamed; Rebecca, also.
The two women held onto one another as readily as they did to the wagon, and Katrina, as the wagon sank deeper and deeper, decided it would be better to jump for freedom, rather than sink into the muck of the sand.
“We’re going to jump off this wagon,” she yelled above the noise of the ponies and drivers’ cursing.
“I can’t,” came Rebecca’s reply. “I’m afraid.”
Katrina took her maid’s hand. “We’ll do it together, all right? It’s better than staying here. Now, ready, one, two, three.”
The two of them jumped, landing in the sandy marsh instead of sanctuary, their feet sinking quickly into the wash.
Both women shrieked.
Suddenly it was over. Strong hands caught hold of Katrina and pulled her out, bringing her up and onto a horse.
Barely able to hold on to the pony, she looked up into White Eagle’s face. She didn’t say a word, nor did he, as he nestled her against him.
“She is fine. My friend has her. Hold on to me,” he said, and as soon as he ensured she had a firm grip upon him, White Eagle whipped the pony into the fury of the river, forcing the animal to swim against the current and, it would seem, against all odds.
Onward, across the river, defying the swirling water and eddies, they swam, the pony’s body, except for his head, completely submerged.
The currents unseated them, and White Eagle barely held on to the pony by its tail, though he never took one arm from around her.
Soon, the other shoreline beckoned, and, within moments, the pony leapt to its feet, White Eagle able to do the same almost as quickly.
But he didn’t waste any time. “Wait here,” was the only instruction he gave her as he spun back toward his pony, the animal heaving with exhaustion. Still, White Eagle jumped back onto his mount and guided it once more into the water, Katrina watching him cross over, to the other side.
Good Dancer and Night Thunder had already rushed to the wagon, Night Thunder having deposited Rebecca safely on solid ground much as White Eagle had done with Katrina but, rather than chance the danger of the river, Night Thunder had settled Rebecca upon the safety of the eastern shore of the river, the opposite shore from where Katrina now stood.
Katrina looked around her to see if she could find any sign of the bull boat, but there was nothing to be found; as best she could tell, the marquess had not landed upon this same shoreline.
Yet there stood Good Dancer, trying to extricate the wagon. And he had been the one leading the bull boat. Where were the Englishman and his dogs? Had they been set adrift?
Far from being alarming, the thought was…amusing.
Katrina returned her attention to the ponies and the wagon.
It took the labors of all three Indians and the marquess’s two men finally to extricate the animals from the quicksand.
But they did it at last, with the least possible damage to the wagon, the ponies or the men…although much of the marquess’s clothing sank further and further into the sandy wallow.
The Indians and the two servants sprawled for the moment upon the sandy shore…but on the opposite side of the river. And no one seemed in any hurry to see to the marquess and his concerns, wherever he was.
Almost an hour passed, an hour during which the Indians sat up and smoked, working over something, while the white men rested. Katrina had tried to communicate to them all by shouting across the distance of the river. But it was almost impossible—nothing could be heard over the noise of the river. The most she learned was that Rebecca remained unhurt.
Finally, the Indians arose; to go in search of the marquess, she supposed.
More time passed, White Eagle no longer within sight, and Katrina’s clothes had almost dried upon her by the time the Indians returned, the marquess and his dogs trailing behind them. But what had happened to the marquess? He stood drenched from head to foot, while the Indians, in contrast, remained amazingly dry.
And then she saw that White Eagle did not return with the others.
“Where is White Eagle?” Katrina yelled across the stream, but no one could hear her.
She tried again, “Has something happened to White Eagle?”
Panic rose up within her. Surely, he wasn’t hurt, was he?
Without realizing what she did, she started toward the river, more willing to face it than remain in ignorance. She had no more than stepped foot in the water when from behind her, came a voice, saying, “Stay here.”
She recognized that baritone timbre and she turned.
“White Eagle,” she breathed out in relief, “you are all right.”
He nodded. “I am here. I am unhurt.”
“And the others?”
“They are fine.”
“But what are they doing over there, on the opposite shore? And why aren’t they crossing the river?”
“They are not all coming.”
“What? Not coming?”
“The Englishman refuses to travel any further.” White Eagle smiled slightly. “He said something about the expense of his suits and his silks and not liking all this adventure. They are turning back.”
“I see. I’m not surprised.” She paused, a thought occurring to her. “Did the marquess mention how he intended to pay for his stay upon returning to Fort Union?”
White Eagle shrugged.
“And what about Rebecca? Why is she still over there? When will you and the other guides be bringing her across the river?”
White Eagle looked off in the distance, avoiding Katrina’s eyes. He said, “Your friend will be going back to the fort, too.”
“No!” Katrina responded at once. “You can’t, she can’t. She has no one to watch over her and protect her there. Either I must go with her or she must be brought to me.”
“Night Thunder has promised to keep her safe.”
“Night Thunder? But he—”
“He will guard her and see to her needs.”
“Someone must go with the Englishmen and guide them back to the fort. They are as helpless as newborn babes.”
“But what has that to do with Rebecca? She must stay with me. I would worry about her otherwise, and—”
“Have you not noticed the looks shared between my friend and yours? It is better they stay together. Do not worry. Night Thunder will be with her. This I can promise you.”
“Do you? I still don’t like this, and what do you mean by the looks shared between them? I—”
“It has been decided.”
“Well, you can un-decide it.”
White Eagle, his lips turning up into a grin, seemed to be amused by Katrina’s determination. “Do you worry about a chaperon? Is that what bothers you? Do not. Good Dancer and his wife will join us as soon as the others have started back to the fort.” White Eagle crossed his arms over his chest. “Do you think I would take you on this long trip without another female companion? And with us as yet unmarried?”
“Humph,” was all the answer she received from this man.
“Perhaps it is for the best.” Katrina looked away from White Eagle, glancing out across the river. “This trail could well prove dangerous, and I wouldn’t want Rebecca risking her life unnecessarily. So mayhap you are correct in your judgment.”
“Humph,” he uttered again, and though she was fast beginning to tire of this standard response from him, she said nothing about it, gazing instead toward Rebecca and calling out, “I will miss you.”
Katrina waved, and Rebecca returned the gesture.
“I will miss you too,” Rebecca cried back. “If I could, I would be with you.”
Katrina smiled and mouthed the words, “I know,” and, turning about, she began to follow White Eagle up the steep incline, to the bluff just above the river.
They were dodging stickers and thorny plants when she heard White Eagle say, in a rather offhand manner, “Did I mention to you that your Englishman agreed, giving me his word of honor, to end your engagement and promised not to cause you any further trouble over this?”
Katrina could barely believe that she was hearing correctly. She opened her mouth to say “No, you did not,” but nothing issued forth. And so she did the only thing afforded her in her situation.
She stared at his back as he moved ahead of her, simply stared…
WHITE EAGLE’S TOUCH
Well, that’s all for today.
Do come on in and leave a comment. That’s all you have to do to enter into the contest. And of course the Giveaway Guidelines all apply. Remember to check back tomorrow to see if you are the winner.
Okay, I admit it. I’m late getting this post up. Please forgive. Just got home late from a trip and was so exhausted, I just went to sleep, forgetting about the blog. So sorry.
Today’s blog is a rather long excerpt from The Princess and the Wolf . But before I get into the excerpt for the new book, I wanted to send out another call to all of my former Warriorettes. My newest book, Brave Wolf and the Lady, will be coming out within a few months. Currently it is undergoing editing. It’s exciting for me, because Brave Wolf and the Lady is not only a brand new book, it has a cameo appearance of two very dear characters from my first book, Lakota Surrender. The hero of the new book is the son of those two main characters. So if you were ever one of my Warriorettes, please do contact me at karenkay(dot)author(at)earthlink(dot)net.
Isn’t this an absolutely beautiful cover? I love the pose. I love the clothing. I love the background. It is my pleasure to show you this very newest cover — excerpt to follow.
I will be giving away a free copy of the book today, so please please sure to leave a comment — all you need to do to enter into the drawing. All of our guidelines for give-aways apply — something I must say.
So here we go: I’ll post the blurb, a few reviews, and then the excerpt. Hope you will enjoy.
The Princess and the Wolf
TWO HEARTS BETRAYED
Refusing to believe the rumors that the European prince she was forced to marry had died in a far-off land, the princess, Sierra, sets sail to America, bent on revenge and determined to learn the truth. Because she will require a scout to guide her through the wilderness, she calls in a favor from the man who had betrayed her long ago, the man she had once loved deeply and had hoped to wed, the noble Cheyenne scout, High Wolf.
Many years before, a European prince had invited High Wolf to travel an ocean and as a brother, to live as a member of the royal family. There High Wolf had fallen in love with the princess, Sierra. But instead of an engagement and the planned wedding, the princess had treacherously married his friend, the prince. Betrayed and broken-hearted, High Wolf sailed back to America, determined to forget the princess. But a promise given to her years earlier brings her back into his life, igniting a desire he must resist, for to surrender to her again is unthinkable.
Forced into one another’s company, with the threat of life or death around every corner, overcoming their prejudice might be their only means of survival. But can either of them trust in a love, once betrayed? Or will their past force them apart again, this time forever?…
This book has been previously published.
Warning: A sensuous romance that might fan the flames of desire. Be warned. You might fall in love all over again.
An adventure of the heart, this story will carry you to the heights of excitement as two old friends meet and the depths of despair when they acknowledge what they’ve lost. Set in the days when the Missouri River was largely an unknown, untamed territory, the reader will thrill to the danger and joys the two share as they travel toward Fort Clark on their mission to learn the truth of Prince Alathom’s disappearance.
Highly recommended as a rewarding way to spend pleasant hours. A trip back in time with descriptions so clear, you will feel as though you’ve been inside the homes and forts of the day; A tale written by an author who knows her subject and writes from the heart. Enjoy.
Anne K. Edwards
Karen Kay does a masterful job of weaving the past and the present together so that the two stories seem destined to connect. The fierce passion and sensuality makes the story sparkle. The characters dance off the page and come to life, remaining long after the end of the story.
Lori Soard, Reviewer
Karen Kay captures the hearts of her readers. With beauty and elegance we become one with the Indian scout, with nature, with our senses. We walk in their shoes, smell the damp leaves on the forest floor and visualize all the colors in a sunrise. TheBestReviews.com
Karen Kay has a talent to pull you into the story and not let you go until it’s finished. Even then, the story stays with you long after the last page. High Wolf not only takes Princess Sierra on a journey, he takes the reader on one as well. RomanceJunkies.com
The Princess and the Wolf gives readers a new thrill, taking one Princess and a Cheyenne brave, and turning what is forbidden into a fiery passion that was meant to be. Writers and Readers Network.
Enjoy this excerpt from The Princess and the Wolf
“The housekeeper tells that’tis well known the prince would divorce her, were he here,” said the kitchen maid.
“Aye, that he would,” replied the housemaid. “And good riddance, says I. It was she that drove him away. That she did.”
Gossip between servants at
Prince Alathom’s Castle
“Do you wish anything else before we go ashore?”
“No, Maria,” answered Princess Sierra, watching from her perch high above the dock, as Governor Clark stepped from the carriage, accompanied by an Indian maiden. “I do not require anything else at the moment. You’ve done quite well, my friend, despite the demanding conditions of this vessel.” She gave Maria a brief smile. “Would you please find Mr. Dominic and inform him that I am ready to leave this ship?”
“Yes, Your Highness. At once. Do we go to greet Governor Clark, then?”
“I believe so,” said the princess. “And for this task, I will have need of you both to accompany me.”
“Yes, Your Highness,” Maria said, curtsying before she turned to do as bid.
Sierra smoothed a white-gloved hand over the blue and white muslin of her very full skirt, pulling the lace that bordered her walking dress into place. Straightening her shoulders, she settled her blue and white-lace mantle over the double bouffant of her sleeves, buttoning the mantle’s closure at the neck. Briefly, she touched her wide belt, which was made of the same light blue color as her dress, pulling it a little more tightly around her waist so as to accentuate its most tiny aspect. A white straw bonnet, adorned with ribbons of blue and tied at the neck, completed the image of the fashionable royal that she was.
Opening her blue and white parasol, Sierra narrowed her eyes, placing a hand gently over her forehead as though it were an extra shield from the sun. She frowned.
From her view of it, there seemed to be no sign of the man she had instructed Governor Clark to hire. Had she needlessly tortured herself over this first meeting with High Wolf?
Perhaps he hadn’t yet arrived.
Or maybe, she thought on a grimmer note, he wasn’t coming. Had he mayhap learned that it was she behind the request?
For a moment, she worried over the possibility. As absurd as it might appear, such a thing was possible: He might know of her coming. He’d always seemed to have ways of gleaning information about things—ways that she had never understood. Perhaps he had discovered her scheme well ahead of the fact.
At that thought, Sierra tried to swallow her disappointment.
It wasn’t that she was looking forward to seeing him again. No. It was only that he, and he alone, could lead her to Prince Alathom, and it was Prince Alathom she needed to find and challenge, Prince Alathom whom she would repay in kind…if need be…
Squaring her shoulders and setting her features into as delightful a smile as she could, Princess Sierra pulled unconsciously at her mantle, noticing as she did so that her fingers shook with the effort.
It was then that she caught sight of something in her peripheral vision…something familiar. She turned her head carefully to the left, her eyes colliding with and staring hard at a pair of dark eyes looking directly back at her.
Her stomach flipped over twice before it at last performed a dive toward her toes. She inhaled swiftly to try to quell the reaction.
It was he, High Wolf. He had come, after all.
As impossible as it might seem, she stared back at a face that she had once thought never to see again. Yet, there he was; there, across a very short distance.
And unable to curtail it, she was suddenly awash in nearly palpable relief.
Relief? Nonsense. It was probably more to the point to say that she was glad that her scheme now contained the element of possibility, the possibility of success.
But if he were to be caught looking up at her, she would be staring back down at him as well, almost as though she were hungry for the sight of him…although she corrected herself, this last thought was ridiculous.
Again, she reminded herself that he, as well as the prince, had betrayed her. In different ways, perhaps. But betrayal was certain treachery after all, regardless of the circumstances. And faith, once lost, could never be restored.
Still, despite the intervening years, an all too familiar pain shot through her, and without her conscious will, she found herself scrutinizing the man she had once thought herself to be in love with…a man who had left her for no more than three hundred gold dukaten.
He looked much the same as he had ten years ago, yet different. Whereas High Wolf had been little more than a boy then, he was now very much a man, and he looked bigger somehow, though he was still extraordinarily slim. Perhaps it was because his chest was wider, larger…or perhaps he was more muscular.
He looked…better, more handsome, more virile.
Sierra grimaced at her thoughts and decided to scrutinize something else less potent…his manner of dress, for instance…
Gone were the fashionable trousers and high leather boots that she remembered him wearing in the past; in their place were buckskin leggings, breechcloth and moccasins. Gone also were the carefully stitched linen shirt and cravat so precisely tied, supplanted now with a long buckskin shirt, fringed, with the bottom of it hanging down almost past his breechcloth. An ornament of what looked to be a concatenation of beads and bone, in the shape of a breastplate, hung down over his chest. It was a sight she had never beheld until this moment.
Instead of a hat, however, he now wore feathers on his head—or at least there was one feather sticking straight up behind him. And his hair…
Relegated to the past was the fashionable haircut she recalled so well, displaced now by long, black hair that hung well past his shoulders.
He looked…Indian, alien from all she had ever known and loved. Yet his countenance was, contrarily, as familiar to her as a well-rehearsed play.
And she wondered: Despite their past, would he help her?
Not if he knew her purpose.
Only too well, she recalled that High Wolf considered the prince to be more than a friend. To him, and perhaps rightly so, Prince Alathom was a brother, a brother in fact as well as in deed. Besides, High Wolf would hardly condone her murderous plan…a scheme she fully intended to execute if the prince refused to return to the Continent, whereupon he would take up his responsibilities.
Indeed, she would be satisfied.
Those at home thought she knew nothing of their wagging tongues; they believed their whispered insults were discreet. But Sierra did know. She did care. And he would pay.
Oh, yes, he would pay.
Which meant, she realized, that the real reason for her journey must remain a well-guarded secret; from Governor Clark, from her guides and especially from High Wolf.
She only wondered if she could successfully hide her motives from High Wolf. After all, as she had already surmised, High Wolf was an extremely perceptive man. Might he guess?
Well, it was up to her to keep her secret well hidden. She only hoped she was up to the task.
He stared at her as though he had come face-to-face with his worst nightmare—or maybe his best fantasy. Princess Sierra? Here? Now?
His heart skipped a beat, then picked up its pace, pounding onward in triple speed. High Wolf caught his breath before forcing himself to breathe in and out. In a daze, he stared up at her, feeling as though he were caught in an illusion.
Had she come for him? Had she traveled all this distance to reach out to him, realizing after all this time that she could not live without him, as she had once proclaimed?
Or was she a mere mirage, the same sort of image that haunted his dreams?
Without warning, the desire to run to her, to take her in his arms and embrace her, was almost more real than the solidness of the ground beneath him. Of its own will, the memory of the taste of her, the scent of her, the sweetness of her embrace, overwhelmed him.
And he knew he needed, he wanted to kiss her. Now. In truth, so strong was the desire, he had taken a few steps toward her before he became once more fully aware of himself, and stopped.
The prince. How could he have forgotten the prince—as well as her duplicity—so easily? Where was the prince?
Odd, he thought, how the mind could forget the pain, the anguish, the loss. For a moment, all had been gone, replaced by the simple joy of seeing her again. Odd, too, how his body was even now reacting, that most manly part of him pulsing with every pounding of his heart, remembering, anticipating…what could never be.
He groaned. He had to bring himself, his thoughts, his body under control, quickly.
Concentrate on her faithlessness, he cautioned himself. Hers and Prince Alathom’s.
He glanced to the side of her and all around her. Where was the prince?
And then, as though it came through the fog cluttering his mind, a thought came to him. Governor Clark had hired him, had told High Wolf that he was to escort and protect a royal party, one that was coming to the Americas for a wild-game hunt.
It was the prince and princess . It had to be.
Had the two of them asked for him, personally? For old time’s sake? Was that why Clark had sent for him?
Or was this mere coincidence?
Coincidence? He sneered. High Wolf knew there was no such thing.
Had the two of them no compassion? No pity?
Surely they were aware of what the mere act of seeing them again—together—would do to him.
Or did they think that they could renew friendship? That he would have forgotten?
Well, he had not forgotten; he could not.
Breathing in deeply, High Wolf calmed himself. He was letting his emotions take control of his mind, even of his body. It was possible, he conceded, that he was not thinking clearly, putting elements together that did not necessarily go together.
Besides, he didn’t have to take the job at hand. He had not pledged his word.
And it wouldn’t be as if he were deserting the prince and princess, either. After all, there were these two disreputable trappers that Clark had hired as well.
Wearily, High Wolf glanced at the two shabbily dressed men. Yes, let them have the assignment…while he, High Wolf, quietly disappeared…
Surely, that would be best. For indeed, if this were his initial reaction to the princess—and at this great a distance from her—what would be his fate if he were to witness her beauty closer to hand?
At that thought, a rush of desire swept through him that was as uncontrollable as it was unwelcome. In truth, so swift was his reaction, he rocked back on his feet.
The response shocked him as much as it excited him. And High Wolf knew he had best renew his intention to leave—quickly…
Yet he didn’t budge so much as an inch. In faith, he could not have turned away from her now had he been a saint. Not yet.
Contrarily, another part of him reasoned that little harm could come from feasting his sights upon her for a while longer. Perhaps the image gained could serve to fuel the fiber of his imagination in the lonely nights ahead of him.
Make no mistake, Princess Sierra had always been the most beautiful creature he had ever seen, and it appeared she had changed little, except to have blossomed. More curves, more womanly features.
As he stared, his heart warmed to his subject. Dark curls bounced around her face while her bonnet hid the rest of her coiffure. Oval face, high cheekbones, eyes that he knew were as green as a prairie in spring. Even from this distance, he could attest that her skin still glowed with health and vitality. It was one of the features he remembered most about her. Her skin had been luminous, clear; had shone with a radiance even under cover of darkness, as though she might be lit by a fire within.
How he had loved to run his hands over her face, her neck, those curves…
Cease this, he cautioned himself, letting out his breath.
Yet the mind was often a mysterious thing, and despite himself, his thoughts rambled on. At five foot four, she had always been a slender little thing. He recalled that he had once spanned her waist within the outstretched grip of both his hands. They had laughed about it. All three of them. Himself, Prince Alathom and the princess.
Odd, how close the three of them had once been, so close they had shared most everything.
High Wolf sighed.
Perhaps it was the way of the world that some things—even good things—were destined to end. Maybe that was why one should reach out for all the happiness he could have, while it still lay within his grasp.
Taking a few steps away, High Wolf at last turned his back on the sight of her. Best to disappear now, as quickly as possible. For of one matter he was entirely certain: He would not escort the princess and the prince. Not now. Not ever.
He took a few steps away.
His insides plummeted at the sound of her voice. Yet he remained steadfast in his decision and kept walking, ignoring the call.
“High Wolf, don’t go!”
Don’t listen to her, he counseled himself. Go now, before she has a chance to weave her spell around you. Go at once .
But even as he thought it, an odd music, a rhythm perchance, began to pound through his mind, reminding him of other places, other times…
Step, sweep, sweep; up, up, back. Hands locked together, step apart, meet. Smile at her, she at him; step, sweep, sweep. Hands held, turn; up to the toes; down again. Shoulder to shoulder, change position. Step, sweep, sweep. Hands touching; smile…
High Wolf could practically hear the strains of the violins and cello in three-quarter beat. It had been a different time and place; a different environment. In truth, it had been like a different life.
A hand clapped him on the shoulder. “High Wolf?” It was a male voice.
Sighing deeply, High Wolf put the memory from him, while at the same time he glanced around behind him, casting a look over his shoulder, espying the well-dressed, yet massive gentleman who stood behind him. Pivoting slowly, he came to stare at the man, who was, perhaps, the tallest human being High Wolf had ever seen.
Silence reigned until at last the other man said, “Princess Sierra Morena requests that you await an audience with her.”
High Wolf squinted at this giant, rendering him with as condescending a look as he could muster, though inwardly an ugly emotion ripped at his innards. Aloud he asked, “Does she?”
“Yes, sir. If you will wait a moment.”
High Wolf turned aside. “But I won’t wait,” he said, feigning a foreign accent that was all too natural, at least for his own peace of mind. “Please give my regards to the princess.” He bowed slightly, more out of a long-ago habit than in deference, a habit, he realized, he hadn’t used in ten long years.
A hand came up to clasp his shoulder. “The princess wishes to speak to you now.”
High Wolf paused as he considered his options. He could leave. It was probably what he should do. After all, there was no man alive who could keep him here; not if High Wolf desired to walk away.
He cast another glance at his opponent. No, not even this big, brawny man could keep him if he truly wished to flee.
But did he?
Would she look different up close; would she be different? Would her marriage to the prince have matured her? Or would she still be the sweet, young girl he had once loved so very, very well?
High Wolf rocked back on his feet. He was caught. Truly caught. Not by his own honor, but by his curiosity.
Later, he would take his leave of this party, and in particular, of the princess. But not now.
No, for now he would wait. He would observe. And then he would go, quickly, and as silently as he had done ten years ago.
Inured to his fate, he gazed upward, watching the princess depart the steamship, scrutinizing her progress down the ramp as closely as if he were reading a track marked upon the earth. He caught her smile as she grinned at Governor Clark, saw her speak a few words to that gentleman, scolded himself for wishing he might be the man on the receiving end of her smile.
And then gradually, so very, very slowly, she turned toward him, raising her sights to meet his.
And High Wolf stared back, his gaze, for all that he was aware of her faults, still hungry for the sight of her. And for a moment, time distorted. There was no past, no present, no future. There was only she… and he, the rest of the world diminished, as though it were no more than their own personal backdrop.
He sighed, recalling too well his loss. And the magic of the moment faded.
In vain he awaited the shy downturn of her eyelashes as she stared at him, the flirtatious one he remembered so very well.
It never came.
No, the princess gazed back at him boldly, brazenly, and try as he might to find it, there was nothing coquettish about the look she gave him. In faith, if he were to examine her appearance at this moment, he would have to conclude that she was beautiful. Yes. Beautiful, but hard—as though time had extracted all the softness from her.
So, he thought, the princess, too, had changed in many more ways than those of a physical nature.
As he took note of her approach, time passed quickly, and yet in a way it seemed to drag. Leisurely, he watched her, knowing that hidden deep within him, there was an impossible hope that perhaps this was all a mistake, a horrible ten-year-old mistake.
It was remarkable, he thought as his gaze drank in her beauty, how the princess could appear so severe, yet still innocent in countenance. As though she bore no shame, no regret; as though she had never been the cause of an injustice.
Saaaa. He used the Cheyenne expression which stood for many things, including astonishment. It was as though she might be the wounded party from all those years ago…not he.
High Wolf nodded a silent acknowledgment, even if the movement of his head was a slight one. Then, leaning his weight upon his rifle, he awaited the “angel in blue” as she approached.
“Ho’neoxhaa’eho’ese,” she pronounced his name in Cheyenne as soon as she stepped within a few feet of him. “It has been a long time.”
She did not offer her hand, and her words, softly spoken, cut through him, as though the sound of her voice were blazed in steel. Yet High Wolf simply nodded, trying to shake off the feeling of being ill-at-ease.
In contrast, she seemed all poise and assurance; she even smiled. However, he took careful note, no happiness reached those green eyes before she asked, “How have you been?”
“I am well,” he replied, his voice, usually full-bodied, no more than a dull monotone.
She seemed unaware of any problem with him, however, and replied, “That is good. That is good, indeed.”
“And you?” he inquired politely.
Again, she grinned up at him, before saying, “I am well, as you can see.”
High Wolf inclined his head toward her, catching her eye before he said, “And your husband?”
She flinched as though he might have dealt her a blow, and oddly, her face drained of color, her eyes becoming suddenly dull. Hurriedly, she glanced away.
Frowning, High Wolf ventured further, “Is he in company with you?”
However, the princess did not deign to answer; her gaze looked instead out upon the dock as though it were of great interest—a dock that was streaming with people. “Mr. High Wolf,” she said at last, “over there, due west of us”—she nodded toward the spot—“there is a patch of level ground that looks fairly well deserted of people. I would very much like to take a turn in it, if you would be so kind as to accompany me.”
Take a turn. He hadn’t heard that phrase, hadn’t spoken that phrase in well over ten years. Hearing it again, unfortunately for him, had the effect of turning back time.
Politely, out of a habit from long ago, he bowed at the waist. “I would be happy to join you, Your Highness,” he said, “at some other time. But I am afraid that I have…other business that calls my attention at the moment.”
She acknowledged him with a delicate dip of her head. “I understand,” she said. “I am assuming this business relates to Governor Clark and his hiring you as a guide?”
High Wolf said nothing in reply.
“And I am sure you have already surmised that I am to be the party you are to accompany into the interior.”
He blinked at her, his only acknowledgement.
“And you are considering declining, now that you know more of the facts?” She might have asked it as such, but he knew her words were no question.
He shrugged, saying, “As you say.”
“Very well,” she acknowledged, “although I find it monstrous ill that you can turn so easily away from a promise.”
He raised an eyebrow.
“For you see,” she continued, “I am calling in a favor you once granted me. A favor, you had once said, that would send you to me in a moment of distress. If I remember correctly”—she gave him a sly look—“you vowed to come to my aid if I did no more than call upon you.”
He didn’t blink—not even a single eyelash—as he countered, “All such promises came to nothing, Your Highness, on the day you became Prince Alathom’s wife, by the very nature of that act.”
When she frowned, he went on to observe, “Did you not vow to forsake all others? That would include me, would it not?”
“Perhaps,” she said, then grinned up at him, while High Wolf suddenly found himself at odds, disliking her, while all the while longing to take her in his arms. Instead of doing either, however, he stepped back, away from her.
But she continued, “If I remember correctly, there were no restraints upon your favor when you made the vow, although I do admit it was a long time ago. You merely said, ‘Ask, and I will come.’” She smiled at him flirtatiously. “Perhaps your favors expire with time if not used?”
He shrugged off the insult. “It was the heartfelt promise of a boy from long ago. You have a husband now to attend to your needs.”
“But that is precisely the reason for my visit, Mr. High Wolf,” she said, her expression suddenly modest. “For you see, to all the world, I no longer have a husband.”
High Wolf went very still, his outward demeanor showing little of his agitation. Instead he watched her watching him; saw her scrutinize him, her glance perhaps hoping to find some weakness in him. But High Wolf was too well versed in the ways of a scout, and much too observant to be affected by such an overt contemplation, and with ease, he carefully hid the sudden quickening of his heart.
But she was continuing to speak, and said, “Now, please, Mr. High Wolf, let us take that turn.” And sweeping her skirts with a grand gesture, she stepped toward the place she had earlier indicated, though shortly she turned back. “Mr. Dominic,” she called over her shoulder, “please inform Governor Clark that I will join him soon. I shall be only a moment.”
“Yes, Your Highness,” said Mr. Dominic, and bowing, turned away.
Slowly, Princess Sierra pivoted around, her gaze capturing his . “Now, Mr. High Wolf,” she said, “shall we?”
And High Wolf, bound by an imprudent oath from his past, had no other option—at least none at the moment—but to hear her out. And though he wished himself somewhere else—anywhere else—he followed her lead.
Oh, how she wished the past were different. Oh, how she longed to turn back time. But events were as they were, and not even God in His heaven could change the history of what had come to be.
Princess Sierra sighed and, as she stepped lightly toward the spot she had earlier indicated, she wondered what she could say to this man that would sway him to her cause, trying to recall her well-rehearsed speech.
It was one thing to determine and practice such words of favor in the privacy of one’s quarters, quite another to confront the actual man. Plus she hadn’t counted on the increased rate of her heartbeat, or on the weakness which came over her limbs. And despite herself, Princess Sierra was experiencing a desire to throw herself into High Wolf’s arms and beg for his mercy.
She snorted instead. She? Beg this man?
Still, she must do something to solicit his help, and all without allowing him to perceive her real purpose. Could she do it? Could she fool this very insightful man?
Oh, if only life could be different. For within her, and increasing with every minute, was a sensation of old, a desire to purge herself of her troubles—as she had often done with this man in their not-too-distant past.
But she could hardly afford such a luxury and remain true to herself. Indeed, not only must she continue to be steadfast, she daren’t forget that this was the same man whose treachery had broken her heart…
Sierra inhaled deeply once again. There were some actions, that once were done, could never be taken back. And make no mistake, this man’s offense had been such a one.
Well, so be it. Squaring her shoulders, the princess turned to face him and said, “The prince is dead.”
High Wolf frowned. “Dead?”
“Yes, apparently so.”
“Apparently?” As High Wolf’s frown deepened, his stare became piercing.
Ignoring the look, she continued, “Prince Alathom was not home when the event which took his life happened, as you might already know.”
High Wolf raised one single eyebrow. He repeated, “Already know?”
“Yes,” she stated it as though it were a certainty. “It was a hunting accident—here in the Americas. We received word of the incident only a few months ago.”
“Our families.” Sierra swallowed, and inhaling a deep breath, took a plunge, when perhaps it might have been more prudent to tread water. However, she continued, “Come now, High Wolf, I’m certain that I’m not telling you anything of which you are not already aware.”
If he detected the note of censure in her voice, he overlooked it, for all he said was, “Why would you think that?”
How dare he pretend to be innocent? Did he mean to insult her intelligence? Did he honestly think she would not be able to piece together the facts?
Well, perhaps it was time to show him that she could play any game that he chose to play. And, determined to put him in his place, she began, “I would think that, because the accident that took his life happened here…in the West, you would be well versed in it.”
High Wolf narrowed a glance at her. “Meaning that you think he and I were together when it happened?”
“If the shoe fits… ”
“And you think I was responsible for his death? Is this what you’re insinuating?”
“No,” she denied, momentarily thrown off guard by his question. In vain, she tried to ignore the confusion his question brought her, for despite her anger at him, she never would have thought this man responsible for the prince’s accident. He and Alathom were simply too close.
No, the truth was that she simply did not believe such an accident had taken place. If she were correct—and there was no reason to assume she was not—the prince and High Wolf had conceived the deceit together, had planned it as deceptively as they had once planned another escape.
But she could not very well tell him that.
However, he was frowning at her, staring at her in a way that brought her to understand that he was reading every nuance of her reaction…something he was quite adept at, and a little too breathlessly, she continued, “I… I would not accuse you of having caused his death. I know you would never do anything to intentionally harm the prince. It’s only that…”
“You think I should have died in his place?”
Then why, when you had a reason to do so , didn’t you come back to me?
No, that wasn’t right. She couldn’t have actually thought that—not about this man.
High Wolf, however, as though ill-at-ease, crossed his arms over his chest before repeating, “Then what? What are you accusing me of?”
“I’m not accusing you of anything except perhaps being more friendly toward the prince than you have been to me.”
This last appeared to baffle High Wolf, and even he could not subdue the look of bewilderment that settled across his features. In truth, so honest was his perplexity, had she not known better, she would almost have believed in his innocence—almost…
And she said, “Come now, High Wolf, we were always friends, weren’t we? You, the prince and myself?”
High Wolf visibly stiffened, though all he said was, “We were—once.”
“And so all I am asking of you is that you give me as much deference as you would, or more correctly, as you have, the prince. I would like to go into the interior for a hunt, perhaps to ease my mind from my ‘loss.’” She emphasized the word. “I would request that you guide me there.”
Sierra glanced up to see, not the countenance of a man who had been caught out in a lie and was quietly ready to admit it, but rather she was met with indisputable contempt.
Oddly, it was this look that gave her courage. For it was she, not he, who had a right to indignation.
He stirred, moving away from her, and said, “I will not lead you into the interior of this country.”
Instantly, a feeling of disdain swept over her, returning to her a presence of mind. And she said, “Stay where you are. I have not yet given you permission to leave.”
He stilled. “No, you haven’t, Your Highness,” he said, pivoting around and coming face-to-face with her once more. However, with a leer on his countenance, he added, “But perhaps you should look around you.”
In defiance, she kept her glance glued to him.
“And maybe, if you did so, you might examine your environment even more carefully.”
Sierra stared straight ahead, still training her gaze on him and him alone.
He continued, “For, Your Highness, if you were to do this simple act, you might discover that you are no longer in Europe. Now look at me closely.”
“I already am.”
“More closely than even this.”
She blew out her breath, refusing to do as he bid, and glanced away from him instead.
But if her reaction bothered him, he seemed not to show it. Indeed, he said, “Do you see that I am not one of your subjects?”
Even as he uttered the words, the sneer in his tone, the curtness of his very manner, could not have been mistaken for anything other than what it was: disrespect. In response, her chin lifted high into the air, and she declared, “One does not need to be a subject of a particular country in order to exhibit proper manners,” she scolded. “And there is nothing that I have said that gives you leave to mock me. Indeed, I ask a simple thing.”
If she had hoped to make him more propitious, she had certainly failed, for within his glance was pure defiance, and he said, “True, the request is simple, but I suspect that the entreaty which is so sweetly given is yet filled with venom.”
She sucked in her breath.
He continued, “I am not for hire by you.” He spun about, ready to leave.
Goodness! The man hated her.
For an instant, the realization caused her to sway from where she stood. And for another heartfelt moment, she felt as though every single drop of blood in her body had become frozen.
She had certainly not anticipated this man’s hatred. After all, by what right did he dare show her ridicule? She, and she alone , possessed leave to seek revenge.
Yet he was retreating from her, without her leave, without her approval and with as much ill-will as she had ever witnessed. Worse, his departure was not something she would or could permit.
Reaching forward, she grabbed hold of his sleeve, the rough leather of his shirt feeling oddly soft against her fingers, a softness, she noted, that was not reflected in his countenance, or in any other part of him. She said, “What did I ever do to you that you feel compelled to treat me like this?”
He stopped, he stiffened, he inhaled slowly before he at last rocked back on his feet. Then swallowing hard, as though he were not as confident as he might like her to believe, he shut his eyes, letting go of his breath.
It was a show of minor weakness, but it was also the advantage she wanted, and she said, “You, sir, deserted me. It was not the other way around.”
“Was it not?”
“What do you mean?”
He let out his breath. “Try to understand, Your Highness, I am a different man now than I was when you once knew me. Ten years can bring about a great deal of change in a person.”
“I see,” she said dumbly, as yet another thought struck her. Aloud, she asked, “Are you married?”
She held her breath. It was a reasonable question, given their situation. It was also one she should have asked herself before now, if only to soften any surprise. After all, High Wolf was nothing if not a handsome and virile man. And being such, he was probably much sought after as a husband.
Her stomach dropped, and unreasonably, she felt defeated.
He questioned, “Does it matter if I am?”
“Of course not. Not to me.”
“Then why would you ask, I wonder?”
She shrugged. “Curiosity. Is this, then—your marriage—the reason why you will not guide me?”
“I see.” She gulped in air. “You could bring her with you. I would not mind.”
It was a lie; even as she spoke the words, Sierra knew she would rather die than meet this man’s wife. It was an odd thought to become aware of, and she trembled with realization: Did she still care about this man? Impossible. It simply could not be.
She glanced up to catch him grinning at her. But his good humor was far from a pretty sight. In truth, his grin was simply a movement of his lips, with no inclination to mirth whatsoever, a mere shadow of what she remembered.
However, he was speaking, and he said, “Well, I, for one, if I did have a wife, would mind bringing her along, although I realize you might not share my scruples on that.”
If he had a wife…?
“No, Princess,” he continued, “you are wasting your precious time on me. Go home. Leave me to my own thoughts, and let me grieve for my friend in private, for I meant what I said. I will not lead you anywhere in this country.”
The words had no more left his mouth than he had spun about and was doing exactly as he had threatened: He left, without so much as a by-your-leave, and with no deference to her whatsoever.
But this time Princess Sierra barely noticed. In truth, she was frowning, thinking…
Had High Wolf always harbored such antagonism? And if he had, how had she missed seeing it until now?
Sierra closed her eyes, inhaling and exhaling slowly. Well, this was a fine mess. Should she have confided her own doubts about the prince? That he might still be alive? And if he were, that she wanted nothing more than to have a council with him? Would that have persuaded High Wolf to her cause?
No, she had already made up her mind on this account, and she was certain: High Wolf and the prince were in one another’s confidence, as they had always been. And little good would come from her pleading. But, dear Lord, what was she to do now?