LONE ARROW’S PRIDE was just uploaded to Amazon Kindle and Amazon KindleUnlimited. Always I remember this book because on one of my visits to the Crow Reservation (in Montana), a friend of mine, Jeff Rides-the-bear asked me why I didn’t do any stories about the Crow. My answer was that because the Crow language is the first language (before English) for the Crow people, it scared me a little because my efforts might not be exactly right. Hearing this, Jeff volunteered to help me with the language and he and another fellow on the reservation looked over all of the Crow words used in the story to make sure they were correct. And so was born the book, LONE ARROW’S PRIDE — which is a light-hearted romance. In writing this book, I took some actual legends from the Superstitious Mountains and brought some of that legend to the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming.
I will be offering a free e-book to one of the bloggers today, so do leave a comment.
Buried treasure shines brightest in the dark…
The Legendary Warriors, Book 2
Ten years after she survived a cholera epidemic that wiped out her entire wagon train, Carolyn White is on a quest to shake off the bad luck that follows her everywhere and which now threatens her adopted family. The unending string of mishaps can have only one source: the gold piece that she, in childish innocence and wonder, once took from a stolen cache.
She tells herself her journey to Crow Country is merely to put the piece back in the cave where she found it. Yet in her heart, she knows it’s the memory of Lone Arrow, the boy who sheltered her there. The boy whose face, now that of a man’s, inhabits her dreams.
Lone Arrow’s anger knows no bounds. Anger with the white woman he suspects isn’t being truthful to him. Anger with himself that he cannot ignore the beauty who captured his heart even as a boy. Though trust is in short supply, he can’t deny his burning need for her. Whatever else she may be, she is his destiny.
LONE ARROW’S PRIDE
It started harmlessly enough. A bee buzzed around Carolyn’s face and fingers, most likely because honey still clung to her in those places.
Darn. She hated these little bees. She swished at the insect, but the little bugger wouldn’t leave her alone. She could stick a few of her fingers in her mouth to wash off the honey, she supposed, but she hated to do that. What with petting the horse, keeping hold of the reins and pushing aside bushes in their way, Carolyn’s fingers were filthy, covered with bits of dirt and dust…and they were sticky.
Wait, she had put her handkerchief into her bag only a few moments ago, and it was within her reach. It would take her only a second to get it.
Hating to bother Pretty Moon, Carolyn leaned down to open her bag. Unfortunately, she brought up her leg slightly as she turned, not realizing until too late that the movement hit the bee, which had already landed on the horse.
The bee stung the horse, who then reared, and Carolyn, already twisted in her seat, could not hold on. She flew off the horse’s back, sailed through the air and came down with a plop, landing in a boggy mire of dirty water.
“Ouch!” Lifting a mud-soaked hand out in front of her face, she wiggled her fingers and toes; at least everything still seemed to work.
And perhaps the entire incident would not have been so bad if it hadn’t been for Pretty Moon. The other woman stood beside her, laughing.
Carolyn smoothed a lock of hair from her face and grimaced as she watched a rivulet of muddy water slide down its length.
“Go ahead and laugh,” Carolyn called to her. “I know I would, too, if someone looked as silly as I must. Although, don’t you think that one of us should go after the horse? He’s carrying all our supplies, and the mule’s following him.”
Pretty Moon nodded, although she made no move to go after the animal.
Carolyn came slowly to her feet, her bonnet flopping down over her forehead. She tried to push it back from her face, but it kept collapsing forward, splattering even more mud and gunk on her.
Her antics caused Pretty Moon to giggle even more furiously than before, one hand thrown up over her mouth.
Drat, Carolyn thought, she was wet from her neck clear down to the tips of her toes; her skirt and petticoats, now muddy and slimy, clung to her legs like oily rags, and her boots gushed murky water with each step she took. Even her bodice was drooping.
“Oh, no,” she said. “Look at me. I’m going to have to change into another skirt.”
Pretty Moon nodded, trying her best to keep from smiling. “Pretty Moon,” she pointed to herself, “will take mule…and catch…horse. Does…white friend have…other dress?”
“One,” Carolyn said. “I didn’t bring many of them, since I figured we’d do some laundry along the way.” But she hadn’t thought she’d need to do it so soon. “If you’ll go and fetch the pony,” continued Carolyn, “I’ll slip out of these clothes. Maybe there is some clear water here where I can wash the skirt.”
“There…” Pretty Moon pointed in the direction of a small stream. “Pretty Moon…go…get horse.”
“Yes,” Carolyn agreed. “Please.”
In answer, Pretty Moon turned around and took off, chasing after their single mode of transportation.
Carolyn took a step forward, only to trip over her own skirt.
Goodness, it was one thing after another. Maybe she should step out of the skirt so she didn’t keep tangling herself up in it.
Reaching down, she began to undo each of the buttons which held the skirt in place. So intent was she upon her task that she was unaware for the moment of the things going on around her. Perhaps that was why she didn’t see it.
Something poked her in the backside.
Turning around, she saw the reason at once. A buffalo calf had come up behind her. Curious, she reached out a hand toward it.
“You’re a cute little fellow,” she said with a smile. “Where’s your mother?”
As if in answer, the little guy switched its tail.
“Well,” she said, pulling the skirt down around her feet. “It’s been nice talking to you, and you’re a sweet little thing, but I really have to be going. I’d like this skirt to be washed before Pretty Moon comes back.”
Carolyn took a step. With one foot precariously raised, she lost her balance and fell backward…right into the calf.
It cried, and as Carolyn pitched to the ground, the calf collapsed over her.
Goodness, but the little guy was acting like a baby. It whined and cried as though she had done it bodily harm.
Carolyn tried to extricate herself from underneath the calf. Praise be, but it sure did weigh a great deal. She shoved against him, but she could not budge him.
“Would you move off me?” Exasperated, the question came out as more complaint than question.
The calf merely let out another moan. Goodness gracious!
Unfortunately, another buffalo, perhaps the calf’s mother, was making its way toward them, a little too quickly.
But Carolyn barely noticed. She had her own problems. The calf could not get up, and she could not move it, either. Its feet had become entangled, and the more it struggled, the more ensnared it became.
Carolyn sent a helpless glance up toward the heavens. What was she to do? As she tried once more to move and could not, she realized that she was going to have to help the little buffalo get to its feet. Leaning over, she touched its hairy legs and began to set its feet out, one over another.
There, now. She almost had it. In another moment, she would have the calf back on its feet, and gain her own legs out from underneath it.
Miserably, she noted as she glanced around her, she had drawn a crowd. Four buffalo had come to stand over her, looking down at her as though she were the latest in Wild West entertainment.
In little time, however, the calf was back on its own legs, and Carolyn was able to struggle to her feet. Taking a deep breath and stepping completely out of her skirt and petticoats, she paced around the other buffalo that had come to watch her.
They reminded her of cows somehow. Big, dangerous, wild cows, yes, but cows nevertheless.
The stream that Pretty Moon had pointed out was only a short distance away, and Carolyn paced quickly toward it, unaware that the calf followed her. And so it was that Carolyn had little knowledge that the calf’s mother followed it, and that the other buffalo began to follow the mother, keeping to its quickened pace.
Soon a few buffalo tramped by her. Then several more.
Carolyn did notice that the animals appeared to be moving a little too fast. But she didn’t think much about it; certainly it was no reason to glance behind her.
Unaware of what was beginning to take place, Carolyn picked up her pace. In truth, she began to run toward the stream. She had almost made it, too, when it happened.
The buffalo, which had begun to surround her, were beginning to pass by quickly, their speed perhaps matching her own. And at last, Carolyn thought to glance over her shoulder.
Dear Lord, she thought as she took it all in. How had this happened? The entire herd was beginning to follow her and the calf. Worse, unless she did something soon, she might likely be trampled to death.
But if they were following her, would they also stop if she did?
The little guy behind her let out another whimper as the bigger animals pushed past them. Carolyn turned around, her gaze falling onto the baby. At least he wasn’t running away from her. Carolyn fell to her knees before him, throwing her arms around the animal. Could he possibly be her lifeline?
Would the other buffalo be aware of them, perhaps even watch out for him, making a path around him?
As the thunder of pounding hoofs began to drown out even this disturbing thought, Carolyn could only pray that it would be so.
Lone Arrow was not happy. It was an understatement.
How could the white woman have left the fort as she had? After he had forbidden it?
And Pretty Moon; what did she have to do with the white woman’s escape? Did the two of them think it a mere game to defy their men?
Raising up from the ground where he had been squatting over the women’s trail, Lone Arrow snorted at the thought. He was not her man; she was not his woman.
Staring off in the direction the women had taken, he tried to speculate on what was in the white woman’s mind. From her tracks, here in the sand, he could tell that she was agitated. What he did not understand was why the women were not bothering to cover their trail, nor the direction of their path.
Did they think no one would come after them?
Perhaps the white men at the fort might be content to let them go. But he…
That was another thing. How had Carolyn convinced the soldiers not to follow them? She must have done something, for the bluecoats were making no moves to send out a rescue party.
Lone Arrow looked off into the distance, and he figured that from the freshness of the tracks, he and his friend were only a half day behind them. In the meantime, his pony snorted and shoved her nose under Lone Arrow’s hand.
“Easy, girl,” he said, whereupon, without thinking, he began to pat the animal.
Why weren’t the women traveling more quickly?
Obviously they wanted to be found. Why?
Lone Arrow scowled. Who knew the workings of a woman’s mind. As the old ones had often said, “Do not try to understand them. Simply love and protect them.”
Shrugging, he signaled to his friend, telling him to move on ahead. And Lone Arrow, jumping up to regain his seat atop his pony, refused to try to make sense of these clues he found.
At least the women were not far ahead of them. If he and his friend rode hard, they should catch up to the women by the time the sun was highest in the sky.
Hopefully, The-girl-who-runs-with-bears and Pretty Moon had met with no trouble, although that seemed unlikely. This was, after all, The-girl-who-runs-with-bears. She seemed to be involved in more accidents than any single person he had ever known.
He could only hope that Pretty Moon would be alert enough to rescue her, since Lone Arrow was certain that his white woman would need it.
His white woman?
Lone Arrow pulled his brows together, frowning, as an abrupt realization came over him. He was worried about her…really worried about her…
Lone Arrow heard the thunder of buffalo hooves in the distance. It meant that the herd was in the throes of a running stampede.
His stomach turned over at the sound. Why? There was nothing to fear there; nothing unusual.
Or was there?
He stared down at the imprints in the ground, which told him a story. He did not like this. He did not understand it, either. Why would the women’s path lead them in the direction of a stampeding herd? Pretty Moon would have avoided contact with the buffalo, if at all possible.
It had to be the inexperience of The-girl-who-runs-with-bears. She did not know the ways of the plains well enough to discern danger. He had observed this in her too many times in the past not to be aware of it now.
Pulling back on his buckskin reins, Lone Arrow stared straight ahead of him. What was wrong? Why did he feel as though he were on the verge of toppling over the precipice of some high cliff.
Glancing over his shoulder at his friend Big Elk, Lone Arrow gave him to understand that they needed to hurry.
Why this was so, he did not know. It was only that he had a bad feeling about this.
He saw her at once, heard her scream, even over the beating of buffalo hooves.
How she had managed to situate herself in the midst of a stampeding buffalo herd, he might never know. But it was of little value to ponder it.
This time, he thought, The-girl-who-runs-with-bears had gone too far. This time her antics had gotten her into more than a simple stumble over herself.
This was serious. She could be killed.
The sudden realization brought on a sense of panic within him, and alarm swept through him like a tide of black fear.
He had to do something.
For she must live. For herself; for him.
Ho! There it was. In this moment of stark unreality, one thing stood out clearly. He had feelings for this woman; raw, carnal yearnings.
And so it was with no sense of surprise that, perhaps for the first time, Lone Arrow admitted the truth. His own happiness, his own future, was irrefutably wound up with that of The-girl-who-runs-with-bears.
Turning toward Big Elk, who was watching him, Lone Arrow signed that the rescue of the white woman was to be his concern alone. Big Elk should go and find his own wife.
And while Big Elk spun about, Lone Arrow pressed his war pony forward, into the herd of buffalo.
“A-la-pee,” he called the Appaloosa by her name, which meant in the Crow language “Grass Fire.” “We will have to rescue her, do you understand?” The pony whinnied and shook her head, and Lone Arrow continued, saying, “Step sure of foot, my friend.”
The animal snorted, as though it understood every word he had said, and Lone Arrow thanked his medicine, as well as his spirit protector, that he’d had the foresight at the start of this journey to ride out on his best mount.
At least, thought Lone Arrow, the herd was not in a full run…yet. But if the animals caught the human scent or had the least inducement, they might stampede…and then there would be no hope…for her…for him.
He had to get to her quickly.
“Délaah! Go!” Lone Arrow shouted to his pony over the noise of the herd. But the encouragement was hardly needed. A-la-pee sensed the excitement and began to squeeze her way into the herd, avoiding oncoming buffalo, and heading toward the girl.
Had The-girl-who-runs-with-bears seen them? Did she know that help was on the way? No, she could not, he answered his own question. Her head was down.
And what was that she was holding? A calf?
Lone Arrow silently congratulated her on her wisdom. Even the mean-tempered, old bulls would skirt around the calf, protecting it.
“Carolyn!” he shouted over the noise of striking hooves.
He had been right. She had not noticed him, for she stared up at him quickly, sending him a startled glance, and as she did so, he added, “Take my hand.”
Her eyes looked big and white in her face as she swung around to glance up at him, and he heard her mutter, “Lone Arrow” as though she did not believe she was seeing correctly. “You’ve come after me.”
He nodded. “I come. Now, give me your hand.”
She did so at once, and he pulled her up behind him.
“Hold on to me,” he instructed, although he might not have bothered. She grabbed hold of him instinctively. “Do not let go of me no matter what happens. Do you understand?”
She nodded. And he began to ease A-la-pee out of the herd.
Trained to respond to knee pressure alone, and sensing her master’s intention, the Appaloosa needed little direction. She sidestepped her way out of the buffalo herd, pressing toward the edge of it, dodging one buffalo after another, avoiding the horns of an ill-tempered bull, moving ever closer to safety.
In truth, she had almost cleared the herd completely when a particular buffalo bull spun about toward them.
Lone Arrow saw the animal at once, witnessed its turn and, at the sight, felt his heart jump up into his throat. Recognition of the animal made his spirits sink. This was not good; not at all.
This was not the sort of bull who bluffed a charge at the enemy, attempting only to make his foe go away. This buffalo was a special type of animal. Lean and skinny, its mangy mane hung down over its eyes bluntly, as though its coarse hair had been cut that way. This alone made the animal easy to identify.
This was the type of buffalo that never charged unless it meant to kill you; it never gave up. And it had put its sights on them.
A-la-pee must have seen the animal at the same time as Lone Arrow, for she had made a series of moves, away from its charge. Lone Arrow could feel her desire to run, and he struggled to hold her back.
Lone Arrow’s muscles bulged under his exertion, and it was with little more than personal willpower that he forced A-la-pee to retreat, while ever so gradually winding her way to the side of the herd.
Still, the buffalo charged.
Another turn by his mount kept them out of the bull’s reach. Unfortunately, the pony and riders faced the oncoming charge of the rest of the herd as well. There was a moment of confusion, as the entire world seemed to be coming down around them, and Lone Arrow could feel A-la-pee’s panic.
Had he saved The-girl-who-runs-with-bears only to be killed together?
“Ap-xi-sshe.” He used an endearment to calm the animal. “We will survive this. You are the best war pony a man ever had.”
A-la-pee raised her head as the buffalo made yet another rush at them.
The Appaloosa dodged at the perfect moment, swinging around to confront the bull. Another step, another pace or two, another dodge from the oncoming bull, and they were free at last.
But the buffalo followed them, making another charge. It was at this moment that Lone Arrow let A-la-pee have her rein, and so quickly did she spin away from the herd, to run across the prairie, that one might have thought a demon were after her.
And perhaps it was true.
Lone Arrow glanced over his shoulder, noting that the buffalo was giving them chase. And though Lone Arrow knew the huge animal’s speed was no match for his pony, he still experienced a moment of concern.
Soon, however, A-la-pee put more distance between them and danger, and Lone Arrow watched—again over his shoulder—as the bull stopped, the huge beast pawing the ground in frustration. And then, as though realizing it had done all it could do, it turned tail and headed back toward the herd.
Seeing this, Lone Arrow drew a deep breath. It was only then that he allowed himself a moment of relief.
A very short moment, for he would not let himself rest. He could not. Guiding his mount up onto higher ground, he wasn’t satisfied until they had put more than a few hills and gullies between themselves and that buffalo.
At last, Lone Arrow drew back on the reins, bringing A-la-pee to a halt.
Jumping down from his seat, Lone Arrow threw the buckskin reins onto the ground, expressing his foul mood. Never, not ever, could he remember being so upset with another human being. Never had a woman given him reason to lose his temper like this.
Striding back and forth in front of Carolyn, who was still atop the Appaloosa, Lone Arrow quipped, “You—you were supposed to go home! This land, my country”—he extended his arms in a circle—“is a dangerous place for people who do not know the ways of it. Do you realize what would have happened to you, soon…very soon, if I had not come for you?”
She did not answer, which only incited him further, for she looked innocent, much too innocent. And it was this, her attitude, that was more than he could stand.
Did she not understand that she had almost lost her life?
He continued, “How did you manage to get into the middle of that herd?”
He watched her gulp, as though she attempted to answer, but no words formed on her lips. Narrowing his eyes at her, he beheld her fear, watched as she seemed to choke on mere syllables, but he was not inclined to spare her the tiniest bit of sympathy. Instead, he carried on, saying, “Where is Pretty Moon?”
The white woman pointed, although again she said nothing; it was as though fear had taken hold of her voice.
But not so for Lone Arrow. “What were you thinking?” he said. “You will never find that cave and help your family if you get yourself killed. Do you not know this?”
“Then why did you leave without me?”
That question, more than anything, seemed to stir a spark of life in her, for she narrowed her eyes at him, raised a well-arched brow and spat, “Without—you?”
He crossed his arms over his chest, muttering only, “Humph! Éeh, yes. Without me.”
He jerked his head slightly to the left, while she tipped her chin defiantly toward the sky.
And then, as though she had at last found her tongue, she began, “You, Lone Arrow, made it abundantly clear that you would not take me where I need to go.” As though she gained inspiration by speaking, she jumped down from the Appaloosa, her feet hitting solid ground with a dull thud. She even took a step toward him before she continued: “Is it my fault that you chose to ignore me? Is it my fault that you are bullheaded and stubborn? Is it my fault that you can’t seem to trust me?
“No, it’s not,” she answered her own questions. “And it’s certainly not a sign of weakness on my part that I seek a way to get to the mountains without you. And don’t think you can talk me out of going there, or Pretty Moon, either, for that matter. I’m determined to get there. And she is, too…I think,” Carolyn added, although Lone Arrow had to strain to hear this last.
However, all he uttered in response to her was, “Humph!” before he said, “Where are the rest of your clothes?”
A look of shock passed over her features as she gazed down at herself. Mayhap she had forgotten that she stood before him in no more than calf-length drawers and corset.
Ignoring her red-faced countenance, he went on to say, “Pretty Moon knows not this cave that you seek or where it is.”
Carolyn appeared to recover quickly enough, and placing her hands on her hips, she said, “But I do. I’ll recognize it again when I see it.”
He squinted his eyes at her. “Will you?” he asked.
A glimmer of doubt crossed over her features, but he said nothing. At last, bringing his arms down to his sides, hands clenched in fists, he took one step toward her, saying, “You are not to defy me again, do you understand?”
She did not appear to take orders well, he observed, for she stood straighter and countered, “I will do as I please. You are not my lord and master.”
“Am I not?”
She shook her head.
“Ho,” he said, “and what happened to your marriage proposal? Have you forgotten it so soon?”
That simple statement seemed to startle her. Her glance dropped to the ground. And Lone Arrow was silently congratulating himself on his cleverness, when she said, “You have already told me what you think of me.”
Again Lone Arrow experienced a moment of anxiety, though of a different sort and, for a moment, his stomach knotted up. Had he told this woman of his concern for her? How could he, when he had only just become cognizant of it himself?
“Please,” she said, “don’t rub my nose in it. I understand perfectly that you do not wish to have anything to do with me. Do me a favor, please. Truth be known, I would consider it an act of kindness if you would simply go away and…”
Go away? Strangely enough, relief flooded his system. He had not revealed himself to her after all.
“…And leave me and Pretty Moon alone.”
Leave her alone? After that hair-raising rescue?
It was with some revelation that Lone Arrow realized he could no more leave this woman alone than he could stop the wind from blowing. But he had no intention of telling her that. And with good reason.
And so, he uttered, “Pretty Moon’s husband might have something to say about what she does, as well he should.”
Carolyn tilted her head, sending him a glare. “Perhaps,” she said. “But I think she is running away from him.”
Lone Arrow uttered a grunt beneath his breath, while aloud, he commented, “He is here with her now. He will take her back with him, and you will follow me.”
“I will not.”
“You have not the choice.”
“I have every choice.”
Lone Arrow set his feet together in a stance as natural to him as the act of breathing: feet not too close together or too far apart; weight on one foot while the other was thrust slightly forward. One hand at his side, the other holding his bow, which had previously been hanging from his shoulder. It was a way of holding himself, a position and a manner which said, “Do not tamper with me.” As if to complete the image, he commanded, “You and Pretty Moon are not to go anywhere alone. It is obvious that you will only get into trouble. I forbid it.”
Lone Arrow was happy with himself, though he carefully hid such satisfaction from her. And why should he not feel some elation? He had done well so far; curbing his anger toward her. He was even instilling caution within her with his well-chosen words.
Yet his self-appreciation died a quick, silent death. For when she spoke, despite the fact that she should have shown him deference, she seemed completely unaffected by him. She even went so far as to utter, “You, Lone Arrow, have no right to forbid me anything.”
Why that statement should bother him, he did not know. Yet it did all the same.
He narrowed his eyes at her but did not reply at once. And it was with some feeling of surprise that he realized he itched to shake some sense into her. But of course he would not do it. As the elders always said, only a coward or a man of little character would use physical force on a woman or on anyone who could not fight back.
Yet, for all his good intentions, Lone Arrow could not curb his tongue, not quite. And though he knew he should think the thought through, perhaps a little more thoroughly, he found himself uttering, as though in challenge, “Then I accept.”
Color slowly drained from her face, and she stared at him as though he had gone mad. She asked, “You what?”
He did not move a muscle; he merely stated again as calmly as possible, “I have decided that I will accept your proposal.”
He gritted his teeth. “I will marry you.”
He watched as her throat worked against itself, as though she did not know whether to swallow or to speak. At some length, she said, “You…you wish to…marry me?” She raised her eyes to his. “Really?”
“Then…you…have some…feelings for me?”
He did not budge. He did not even blink, and he said, “And as your husband, I will forbid you to go any further in search of this cave.”
“Oh,” she uttered. He watched as darkness fell over her features. “I see,” she continued. “Well, then I guess I will not marry you, after all, because there is nothing—not a single thing that you can do that will make me stop my search.”
He stepped forward. “I could tie you up,” he stated, though he made no move to do it. Instead, he reached out to push a lock of her hair away from her face.
She knocked his hand away. “And I will only get loose and come out here again. The only thing you would gain is time. But because I have so little of that, by doing such a thing, you could cause the ruin of my family.”
“I? I have not caused their ruin now, nor will I cause it in the future, no matter what I do. Others cannot live your life for you.”
“And yet, you rescued me today.”
He shrugged, seeing no harm in admitting the obvious.
“Yet, you would keep me from rescuing my family?”
“That is different.” He watched as the wind blew that same lock of her hair forward, and once more he reached out to tuck it behind her ear.
This time, however, she did not whack his hand away, though she did say, “How is it different? A rescue is a rescue, whether it be from bears or buffalo or a land-hungry banker. You would deny me the right to help another? The same right that you take for granted?”
He sighed. Why was it so hard to win an argument with this woman?
“Lone Arrow”—she reached up and grabbed his fingers with her own—“I once offered you the only gift I have to give to a man. Now you accept my proposal, but only in exchange for my obedience to you. Somewhere in between, there must be a compromise we could make. Marry me, but take me to the cave.”
That was all it had taken. One touch of her hand and his body came to instant alert. He supposed he could remove his fingers from her own, but the will to do so was not there within him.
He said, “That is no compromise at all, and well you know it. It would be more like my surrender. Besides, I could make you marry me.”
She shook back her hair. “I think not.”
“I can prove it to you.” He took a step forward.
She shook her head.
And that’s when it happened. He kissed her.
LONE ARROW’S PRIDE
By Karen Kay