I know we’ve mentioned Dorothy M. Johnson before, the iconic western short story writer who penned such classics as The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The Hanging Tree, and A Man Called Horse; but today, I wanted to tell you about another short story of hers that I read and absolutely loved. It’s quite possibly the best short story–in any genre—that I’ve ever read.
You may never have heard of it. It wasn’t made into a movie, because it too closely mirrored the true life of a real person, Cynthia Ann Parker, mother of Quanah Parker. The story is called Lost Sister.
I’d heard this story mentioned before by a couple of friends, and thought, “I need to read that—I’ve never read much of Mrs. Johnson’s work but the movies have all been good.” I know. I hate it when people say that, too. Anyhow, I bought a collection from Amazon that contained the three stories I mentioned in the first paragraph and Lost Sister as the fourth. Of course, I had to read The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, since that’s tied for my all-time favorite western movie, along with Shane. I was so disappointed. The characters in the short story were not the same as my beloved Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne! Hmmm. Well, even though I was disappointed, I decided to give Lost Sister a shot.
It more than made up for my lukewarm feelings for The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.
Lost Sister is the story of a woman who has been kidnapped as a young child by “the hostiles”. She has an older sister, who remembers her well from childhood, and loves her with the devotion that most older sisters have for a younger sister. Through the forty years she has been gone, the oldest sister, Mary, has cherished memories of her younger sibling.
There are three younger sisters, as well, who have no recollection of the Lost Sister, Bessie. The older sister doesn’t live with them, but in a different town thousand miles away. The three sisters are notified that their sister, Bessie, has been “rescued” and is being brought back to them. The story is told from the eyes of a nine-year-old boy, whose mother lives with the sisters. She is the widow of their brother, who was killed by the Indians. The boy has dreams of growing up and avenging his father’s death, but something changes once his Aunt Bessie comes back to live with them.
Up until Bessie is returned to them, they have gotten much attention from the neighbors, and have been pitied as being the family who had a sister stolen by the savages so many years ago. Once Bessie is returned, their standing in the community takes a subtle twist. The other sisters don’t know how to handle Bessie’s homecoming. They make plans to go into her room and “visit” with her every day. One of them decides to read to Bessie from the Bible for thirty minutes each day. The others come up with similar plans, none of which include trying to understand Bessie’s feelings at being ripped away from her Indian family.
The oldest sister, Mary, comes to visit. What’s different? Mary loves Bessie, and accepts her; and Bessie loves her—they both remember their childhood time together. The language of love overcomes the barriers of the spoken language that neither of them can understand, for Bessie has forgotten English, and Mary doesn’t know Bessie’s Indian dialect. But Bessie has a picture of her son, and Mary admires it, and by the time Mary is to go home, she has made arrangements for Bessie to come live with her—a huge relief to the other pious sisters who had made such sympathetic noises about her being reunited with them in the beginning.
In a fateful twist, Bessie makes her own decision about what she will do, taking her own life back, and helping her son avoid capture. This is one story you will not forget. Once you read it, it will stay with you and you’ll find yourself thinking about it again and again. It doesn’t fit the mold of a romance story, except for the fact that I think of Bessie being in love with her husband, having children with him, and then being “rescued” and forced to live in a society she had no ties with any longer…except one—the love and understanding of her older sister, Mary.
No specific Indian tribe is mentioned in the story, probably for a purpose. I think, one of the main reasons is to show us the cultural differences and how, in this case, the “civilized” world that Bessie had come from and been returned to was not as civilized as the “savages” who had kidnapped her.
Cynthia Ann Parker, Quanah Parker’s mother
Also, as I say, Cynthia Ann Parker’s story, at the time this story was published, was not that old. There were still raw feelings and rough relations between whites and Indians. But by leaving the particular tribe out of the story, it provides a broader base for humanity to examine the motives for “rescue” and the outcome for all concerned, of a situation such as this in which it would have been better to have let Bessie (Cynthia Ann) remain “lost.”
I’ve posted the link below for the story as it was printed in Collier’s Weekly on March 30, 1956. It’s also available on Amazon in several collections.
My mother was the oldest of eleven children. In her younger days when I was growing up, and on into my early adulthood, she reminded me of Aunt Pittypat in Gone With the Wind—not in looks or mannerisms, but in the way that she knew the relationships between people–and not just in our family! Growing up in a small Oklahoma town, Mom knew the ins and outs of most every other family in that small community—but so did everyone else. That old saying about everyone knowing your business in a small town was so true…but what a legacy of stories she provided me with to write about!
A relative who hung his pocket watch up on the wall to “give it a rest” overnight. Another relative who, shunned by his prominent businessman father, (we don’t know why) rode a bicycle all over town selling condoms. What better way to embarrass him?
Then there were the sadder tales…the little boy who crawled under the porch and drank tree poison and died. All those many years later, my mother would get teary remembering how she and her 12-year-old best friend, Mary, attended the funeral.
The family who lost five of their six children—they’d gone out to pick berries and taken shelter under a big tree when a storm hit. Lightning struck the tree and killed many of them, but the oldest brother crawled to a farmhouse for help. In the end, he was the only survivor.
MY MOM, EL WANDA STALLINGS MOSS, AND MY DAD, FREDERIC MOSS (NEWLYWEDS–1944)
Another story that, in this time would be almost unbelievable is that of a little girl, six years old, who had appendicitis. The doctor would not operate unless the money was paid before the surgery. The girl’s father stood on the corner and begged for money – this would have been in the mid -1930’s, in Dustbowl Oklahoma…during the Depression. No one had any money to spare. I have a picture of that little girl with my aunt who was the same age—they were second cousins. It was the last picture made of her before she died.
So many stories my mom told about—with such description of the people, the places, the events…maybe that’s why I’m a writer now. But I know the happenings she told me about were a true-life depiction of actual events, and she had a great memory for detail most of her life.
Being the eldest of eleven siblings, she was all ears when the adults talked, of course. And she was old enough to remember many of the happenings herself. She told of watching them rush her grandfather into the house and put him on the kitchen table when he collapsed in the field—she and Mary were watching through a nearby window—they saw it all.
Going to Blue River was sometimes a Sunday social event in the summers—the men cooled off in the water while the women set out the food for a picnic. The children—none of whom could swim—were the older kids’ charges. Mom told of a time when one of her young cousins, Warren, went missing as they were all playing in the shallow water of a nearby clear creek running into the river. She felt something brush her leg and looked down—it was Warren, drifting by, his eyes open sightlessly as he stared up. She automatically reached down and grabbed him up out of the swift-moving current and yelled for help—and remembered nothing else about the rest of that day. Yes, he lived. But…why would so many parents think it was okay for their kids to play in water when none of them could swim?
It hit me after listening to her talk about her life and growing up in that small town that the older siblings seemed to have had no childhood of their own. Her earliest memory was of standing on a stool, washing dishes in a pan of water. She said she was about 3 or 4. By then, there were two younger sisters and another on the way.
SOME DRAWINGS MY MOTHER DID WHEN SHE WAS 17 (1939)–SELF TAUGHT
I wasn’t old enough to appreciate it at the time, but Mom and Dad, having grown up together, knew all of the same people. They’d talk about who was related to whom, and who this one or that one had married, and what had become of them. I remember once in a great while, my dad would sit back and look at her with an odd look of appreciation on his face and a little half-smile and say, “Doris Lynn had an illegitimate baby? I never knew that!” Or some other “morsel” he’d somehow never heard.
Mom knew all the stories of the past, too. The tales of the relatives who had gone before and what they’d done—her great grandfather who had been “stolen” from his Indian village and given to a white Presbyterian minister to raise as part of the “assimilation efforts”…and how that had forever affected our family.
MY GREAT GRANDMOTHER, JOSIE WALLS MCLAIN MARTIN. SHE IS THE DAUGHTER OF MY GREAT GREAT GRANDFATHER WHO WAS STOLEN FROM HIS HOME. SHE MARRIED AT 13. THIS PICTURE WAS MADE WHEN SHE WAS ABOUT 25–SHE ALREADY WAS GETTING GRAY HAIR.
Even the stories of my dad’s family—of his grandmother and grandfather coming “up from Texas” and stopping under the shade of a tree by a creek in Indian Territory long enough for her to give birth, then moving on after one day’s time. MY DAD’S MOTHER, MARY, ON THE LEFT, WITH OLDER SISTERS MAUDE, GRACE AND BYRD THIS WAS PROBABLY TAKEN AROUND 1905 OR SO.
Mom knew so much—untimely deaths of family members, “early” births, family dreams and goals that came to fruition, changed, or never happened at all. Games played, meals cooked, weddings held…so much that I would have given anything to have written down—but was too young to realize how much it meant, at the time.
But to whom? Those things are important to the families and friends of the principal players, but now…there are few left who would remember or care. The small-town cemetery is filled with those who lived together, worshipped together and worked together. Friends and family who lived, laughed, loved, and made their way through life—leaning on one another in a way that is rare in today’s world.
So…I use those memories in the best way I can. In my writing. There is a piece of my mom’s remembrances in my own stories—probably every single one of them, in some way or another.
Authors, do you use long-ago memories from relatives in your tales? Readers, do these books and short stories we weave jog your own memories of things you’ve heard in the past from older relatives? What are some of the stories you recall?
Here’s an excerpt from an “oldie but goodie”, ONE MAGIC NIGHT. After learning the story of my gr gr grandfather and how he was kidnapped, I just had to give him a happy ending. In real life, his adoptive parents changed his name to David Walls. They sent him to medical school in Missouri–I don’t know if he ever finished or not, but he came back to Indian Territory to practice medicine. Of course, he never fit in, either in the white world or the Indian. But in my make believe world, he did find happiness…
EXCERPT: FROM ONE MAGIC NIGHT:
As Whitworth’s hand started its descent, Katrina turned away. But Shay’s arm shot out, grasping Whitworth’s hand and holding it immobile.
“You will not.”
Three words, quietly spoken, but with a heat that could have melted iron, a force that could have toppled mountains.
Katrina’s father’s face contorted, his teeth bared, finally, as he tried to jerk away. He didn’t utter a word. He stared up into Shay Logan’s eyes that promised retribution, as the seconds ticked by. Finally, he lunged once more, trying to pull free, but Shay still held him locked in a grip of steel. Only when he released that grip was Whitworth freed.
“You presume too much, Doctor Logan, unless you are assuming the care and responsibility of my daughter.”
“Papa! Oh, please!” Katrina felt herself dissolving into a puddle of less than nothing beneath stares of the townspeople of Talihina. What had started as an exciting, beautiful evening had become an embarrassing nightmare. It was torture to think that she was the cause of it all. How she wished she had stayed home with Jeremy as she’d first planned, before Mrs. Howard had volunteered to keep him company.
Now, Papa was saying these things that she knew he would regret later. It was always this way when he drank too much. These accusations had gone beyond the pale of anything he’d ever said before. But Shay Logan wouldn’t realize that. He wouldn’t know that Papa would be sorry tomorrow.
Evidently, there was one thing Shay did recognize, though. She saw the very slight flare of his nostrils as he drew in the scent of alcohol on her father’s breath, and in that instant, there was a flash of understanding in his eyes.
“You’ve had too much to drink, Mr. Whitworth,” he said in an even tone. “I will overlook your behavior toward me because of that, but not toward your daughter. She has done nothing, yet you would strike her, and cause her shame.”
“She’s my daughter,” Whitworth replied sullenly.
“But not your property, Whitworth. Never that. You owe her an apology.”
“No, Shay, really—” Katrina began, then as her father whirled to look at her, she broke off, realizing her mistake. ‘Shay,’ she had called him. As if she had known him forever. As if she was entitled to use his given name freely. As if she were his betrothed.
“‘Shay’ is it, daughter? Not, ‘Dr. Logan’? Shay.” He spat the words out bitterly. He drew himself up, looking Shay in the face. “I’ll not be apologizing to her—or to you. And I’ll expect nothing less than a wedding before this week’s end. Do you understand me, Doctor?”
Shay had lost any patience he might have harbored. “You understand me, Whitworth. You will not dictate to me, or to your daughter on such matters of the heart. As I say, the alcohol has got you saying things you’re going to regret, and—”
“Threatening me, are you? Threatening me?”
“Truman.” Jack Thompson stepped out of the crowd and smoothly came to stand beside Katrina. “Let’s put this…unfortunate incident…behind us, shall we?” He confidently tucked Katrina’s hand around his arm. “I can see that the church auxiliary ladies have almost got everything set up for this wonderful Independence Day meal—” he frowned at Mrs. Beal, nodding at the picnic tables behind her. She jumped, motioning the other ladies to resume the preparation.
He gave a sweeping glance around the group of onlookers. “I, for one, am ready to eat! How about you all?”
Katrina was swept along at his side as he walked toward the tables, speaking to acquaintances and friends, laughing and…and seething with tense anger the entire time. She could feel it in his body, with every step he took and the tightness of his grip as he covered her hand with his. Katrina glanced back over her shoulder, hoping to catch a glimpse of Shay, but the crowd blocked her view.
“Smile, my dear,” Jack gritted into her ear. “I’m hoping we can still salvage your virtue, no matter what happened, really, between you and the good doctor. If I see him near you again, I’ll kill him.”
Growing up here in Oklahoma, every spring was the same story—tornado season. My dad would carry me out on the front porch with him to watch the clouds. He’d talk about them, and command the thunder to roar! The lightning to flash! Looking back on it now, I understand that he was trying to teach me not to be afraid of the weather, and it worked. And maybe he was trying not to be afraid, too.
In those days, there was little to no warning before the storm hit. In today’s world, so many improvements and inventions have come along that our weathermen can pinpoint the minute the storm will hit a certain area. There is round the clock coverage on the three major stations when we are in a severe weather watch. They also broadcast from sister-station radio channels, in case you’re not near a television or are in a storm shelter. Doppler radar is one of the greatest life-saving inventions that ever happened, in my opinion.
Every elementary school child here is trained in our “tornado drills” just as they are trained in fire drills. How well I remember the hardships of trying to crouch on our knees, bowed over next to the walls in the hallway! At that time, most little girls wore dresses. Our biggest worry was trying to hold our dress down so no one could see our underwear.
Most families here don’t have storm shelters or cellars. Most houses don’t have basements. Our home was no exception—no basement and no cellar. Our water table is so high here that it’s hard to keep the dampness and/or flooding out. Even the pre-fab shelters are sometimes prone to leaking water. I’m proud to say that last spring we figured out a way to add a storm shelter (above ground) to our garage and STILL get both cars in–it’s a tight fit to get everything in the garage and everyone in the shelter, but I sure sleep better at night knowing it’s there.
One of my enduring memories was of the time when I was about five years old and we were caught at my grandparents’ just before the storm hit. They had an old root cellar—dug out of the red Oklahoma dirt, with an old tin door that my grandfather had made, and some cinder block steps that led down into the darkness. I remember my mother not wanting to go down into the cellar for some reason. (She probably knew what lurked down there!) And when I got down there, I understood. My grandfather lit a kerosene lamp and we could see spiders…There was an old cot against the wall, and Mom and I sat down on it. Across the cellar, no more than 5 feet away, there were rough shelves that my grandmother’s jars of canned goods lined. And in the space between two jars…two eyes looked out at me.
“Look, Mama…there are eyes looking at us,” I said. In the next few seconds, I found out something about my granddad I would never have suspected. He could move like the lightning above us outside! He had everyone stand to one side, and he took up a hoe and an axe from the corner (hmmm….this must have happened before down there!) and quick as anything, he had that snake out of the shelf and on the floor with its head chopped off. I learned later it was a copperhead.
Public shelters? Few and far between. Liability is a huge responsibility that no one wants to assume. And in these sue-happy days, it’s a very real possibility that organizations who are just trying to be good neighbors and offer safety could lose everything to one lawsuit. This is true of governmental and private organizations alike. Another fear, quite justified, is the fact that many people trying to get to a shelter create a traffic jam and are sitting ducks.
In light of all the tragedy that has happened in past years here in our great state, I’m relieved to learn that FINALLY there is some positive action being made toward outfitting our schools with a safe place for the kids and teachers to be. That should have been done long, long ago. Of course, it’s all a matter of money. It’s expensive to do. But what price can we put on a child’s life?
I guess we can say that is the “silver lining” to all this. Thanks to all of you who have kept us in your thoughts and prayers, each and every time this happens. What a country we live in! I’m so proud to be an American. We have our differences, but when tragedy strikes, no one stands together like we do. I’m so thankful for that.
This is one of the most touching pictures I’ve seen. It reminds me of how, someway, there’s always someone who manages to fly Old Glory in the direst of circumstances and remind us that we are all just human beings, trying to make it in this world, helping one another when our world is literally ripped away from us. There is such an outpouring of love and help from all over not only our own nation, but other countries as well when this happens, and yet–for whatever reason, we are always surprised and humbled that others care so much.
Last but not least, I leave you with a picture of one of my favorite Oklahomans, Miranda Lambert, who was, at this point in time, married to another favorite Oklahoman, Blake Shelton. Blake organized a benefit concert and got tons of performers, not just fellow Okies in the business–to come out and give their all for our ravaged state 4 years ago when we were last hit so hard. God bless them all!
I’ve never written a full-blown tornado into any of my stories, but I’m thinking that might be something I would like to try. Do you remember ever being in a tornado, or seeing one? What was it like?
Last year, I started to write a short story for a western anthology that I wanted to submit to. I had an idea that wouldn’t let me go, no matter how hard I tried to shake it off. I normally write romance.
But this story was to be a western, with no romance involved. My “what if” concerned the long reaching effects of an Indian massacre and kidnapping on a young white boy, Will Green.
To tell a story like that, I was going to have to be inside the boy’s head. So the story would have to be told from the first person POV—something I just never do. It’s always been a temptation of mine to write something in first person. But could I pull it off? First person, a boy, a child. I had to try, because there was just no other way to do it.
Once I began to write KANE’S REDEMPTION, I could see that the “short story” was not going to remain “short.” The word count limit for stories for the anthology was 5,000 per story. When I stopped to count, I was already at double that amount. I laid the story aside and started another shorter story in order to finish it in time to submit. But when I came back to KANE’S REDEMPTION, I was free to make it as long as it needed to be.
By the time the story ended at around 25,000 words, I knew that it truly wasn’t finished, even then. So much had happened to young Will and Jacobi Kane, the man who rescued him from the Apache, that I knew this was going to be a series of novellas. In the first book, Will and Jacobi forged quite a relationship, first of necessity and then of a father/son bond. But that relationship was only just beginning.
I wrote KANE’S PROMISE, book 2 in the series, that carries them on into the next year of Will’s life. When a posse comes calling to ask Jacobi Kane to help them track the Apache, will he go? He’s made a promise to his first wife to avenge her, as she lay dying in his arms, but now he has other responsibilities.
Ten-year-old Will is torn between staying with his pregnant stepmother and following Jacobi. He must make a gut-wrenching decision. But they are a family now, and family helps one another, no matter
Kane’s Promise, the second in a series of three, is the continuation of Kane’s Redemption, the story of Will Green, a young boy whose family was murdered by the Apache, and Jacobi Kane, the man who rescued Will from the Indians.
In Kane’s Promise, Jacobi Kane must lead a band of lawmen in their mission to
find and annihilate the remnants of the Apache renegades who were responsible
for killing Will’s parents and Kane’s wife and children.
But Will knows he belongs at Jacobi Kane’s side—not left behind in the safety
of the cabin. Once they find the Apaches, all hell breaks loose.
Can Kane protect Will and see this battle to a final end?
EXCERPT: Will and Jacobi are getting ready to leave Colbert’s Ferry Station when Marshal Eddington, one of Jacobi’s old nemeses, decides to cause trouble. He has just insulted Jacobi in front of everyone, and Will, unable to stand Jacobi’s silence, jumps down from his horse and attacks the unsuspecting marshal. Jacobi pulls Will off, but Eddington draws Jacobi into the fight. Here’s what happens:
“I ought to kill you!” Eddington’s eyes were murderous, and now that I had regained my senses, it dawned on me I had made us an enemy for life by making him look foolish in front of the other men. He looked back and forth at me and Jacobi, so I wasn’t certain who he meant to kill, but I was pretty sure he meant me.
Jacobi turned to look at Eddington, rising swiftly to close the few steps between him and the marshal. “If you ever lay a hand on him, Oscar, you’ll answer to me.”
Eddington was busy wiping the blood off his face but he looked up at Jacobi, his thick lips twisting in a sneer. “Go on. Tell me you know a hundred ways to kill me, and all of ’em would make me wish I’d never come into the world at all!”
“You said it, Eddington. Not me.”
Eddington took a final disgusted swipe with his dirty bandana at the trail of blood that kept trickling from his nose.
“I believe ’em, Kane,” he spat. “All those rumors about you bein’ part Injun your own self. You’re no better’n Laughing Wind hisself. A murderin’—”
Jacobi jumped for Eddington, who had quickly gone for his knife. Jacobi landed squarely atop the marshal’s belly and delivered a hammering blow to his jaw at the same time. He easily knocked the marshal’s blade out of his hand as if it were child’s play. Eddington let out a loud “oomph” when Jacobi’s fist connected with his belly.
But Eddington had learned a few tricks of his own, and he was surprisingly quick to be as fat as he was. I’d always felt sorry for his horse, having to tote him all over creation, as heavy as he had to be.
Jacobi knew what Eddington’s next move would be before he made it, it seemed like. I’d only seen Jacobi fight twice before. The first time was when Red Eagle found us and tried to jump us. I could tell both Jacobi and Red Eagle knew they were fighting for their lives, but I couldn’t see much, bein’ as how it was in the middle of the night. The fight Jacobi and Laughing Wind had had was just as serious—a fight to the death, for Laughing Wind. But, in the heat of the battle that had been going on around me, I hadn’t absorbed the skill Jacobi had. The way he rolled and punched and parried Eddington’s blows was like some kind of a dance.
After a few seconds, it was all over. I knew it wouldn’t take Jacobi long to end what he’d started.
Eddington had stopped trying to fight and was covering his head, instead. He was making the little girl noises again. Jacobi had sure beat the hell out of him, and it made my heart glad. I reckoned Jacobi understood just how I’d felt only a few minutes ago. I knew there wouldn’t be one word of lecture from him about me tearing in to Marshal Eddington, when he’d gone and done the same thing his own self. He rolled away from Eddington and came to his feet, breathing hard and just looking at the marshal for a few seconds. Then, he reached down and picked up his hat, dusting it off.
The other men had all gathered around, and even Mrs. Colbert and her daughters had come outside and stood watching. Marshal Eddington began to holler like a wild man when he saw everyone watching him.
“I’ve got witnesses! Kane, you’re going to pay, one way or another! You and that whelp of yours—”
Jacobi took a step forward, planting his foot squarely on Eddington’s wounded thigh, directly over the bullet hole.
“Son of a bitch!” Eddington screamed. He tried to roll, but Jacobi dropped to his knees, grabbing Eddington’s arm and twisting as he kept his weight on the wound.
“Don’t threaten me, Eddington. Never, ever threaten my family, or me.” He leaned close and spoke so softly no one else but me and Marshal Eddington could hear. “Don’t force me to pick one of those ‘hundred ways’, Marshal. I promise you, I will do it.”
Today I’m giving away a copy of KANE’S PROMISE to one lucky commenter. Please leave a comment along with your contact info to be entered—easy, huh?
You can find KANE’S PROMISE as well as KANE’S REDEMPTION here at my Amazon site:
Today, I’m blogging about my two most recent releases, JASON’S ANGEL and EVERY GIRL’S DREAM. In case these titles sound familiar to you, they are historical short stories that were both previously released in anthologies with Victory Tales Press. JASON’S ANGEL appeared last year in A HISTORICAL COLLECTION, and EVERY GIRL’S DREAM appeared in A WESTERN SAGA.
I’m excited about both of these being released as “stand alone” stories, selling at only .99 each! And since this is “read an e-book” week…I’m giving away two copies of JASON’S ANGEL today! Please leave a comment along with your contact info and you will be entered—it’s that simple.
Jason’s Angel takes on several issues with the society of that time. The story takes place just as the War Between the States is winding down. Jason McCain wears Union blue, but speaks with a Georgia accent. To make things even more difficult, he’s half Cherokee, half Scottish! When he’s wounded and winds up at a Confederate hospital, there’s only one thing kind-hearted Sabrina Patrick can do…
Jason ‘s Angel by Cheryl Pierson
Two wounded Union soldiers will die without proper treatment. Sabrina Patrick realizes they won’t get it at the Confederate army hospital where she helps nurse wounded men. She does the unthinkable and takes them to her home.
Jason McCain’s pain is eased by the feel of clean sheets, a soft bed, and a touch that surely must belong to an angel. But what reason could an angel have for bringing him and his brother here?
EXCERPT FROM JASON’S ANGEL:
It was only a brief touch of their lips, Sabrina told herself, and should not have caused the waves of trembling heat to rush over her. His lips were firm and strong. And she kissed him back.
He’d reached up and gently pulled her to him. As if he’d sensed her concern over Desi being in the room, he’d glanced to where she sat talking to Eli, once more engrossed in conversation, and when Sabrina had started to protest, he’d squeezed her shoulder in silent reassurance. And she had kissed him back.
He’d been so gentle and—oh Lord, had Eli seen that kiss? She had responded heartily to his brother. She had not pushed Jason away or protested in the least. She had welcomed it. There was no doubt for either of them. She had definitely kissed him back.
As she pulled away, she opened her lids to find him watching her. His dark eyes smoldered with desire. But it didn’t scare her. It excited her.
Good Lord. She stood quickly, her head spinning so that she almost missed her first step toward the door. When had she last eaten? That had to be the cause of her unsteadiness. But why was her heart pounding so frantically? It was only a kiss. One kiss.
But she had kissed him back.
EVERY GIRL’S DREAM
Do you believe in love at first sight? Can it happen? More importantly, can it last over the long haul of the ups and downs of a relationship?
Throw in a few obstacles from the very first meeting of the hero/heroine, and the relationship becomes even more intriguing.
In my novella, EVERY GIRL’S DREAM, that’s just what happens.
Sheena McTavish, a young Irish girl, has been raped by the son of her father’s employer. Now, with a baby on the way, Sheena is given an unthinkable choice: give her baby to the father’s wealthy family to raise, or travel to New Mexico Territory by stagecoach to live with her aunt and uncle until her child is born. At that point, she will have to place it in a nearby orphanage.
Desperate to buy some time and protect her baby from its father, she chooses to travel west. Alone and afraid, she starts on the journey that will change her life forever. Before Sheena’s stage leaves, she meets handsome Army scout Callen Chandler. The attraction is there, even under difficult conditions.
As the story progresses, Sheena must learn to trust again, and Cal begins to realize he doesn’t have to live the solitary existence he’s endured up to now. Being half Comanche has left him with no place in either world—white or Indian. When Sheena comes along, everything changes…for both of them.
TO SET THE SCENE:
Cal is a half-breed U.S. Army scout, who has just rescued Sheena, the heroine, from a Kiowa attack on the stagecoach she was in. They had met briefly the morning before, and as luck would have it, Cal comes upon the stage after the Kiowas have attacked and are getting ready to ride away with Sheena. He tells them he and Sheena are married and the Kiowas reluctantly let him take Sheena, but then…
Cal felt…something. His back tingled as he waited for the stinging burn of a shale arrowhead. He risked a glance backward, and saw the Kiowa leader’s stare heavy upon him. “Sheena, hold on tight.”
“I know, sweetheart. We won’t ride hard any longer’n we have to. Lowell’s Ridge is only about four miles away.” A very long four miles.
She nodded in understanding. “I’m sorry, Callen.”
“No call for that.”
“You came for me.”
He smiled at that. There was a small amount of disbelief in her tone, overshadowed by a huge amount of wonder. Who wouldn’t come for her?
“You could be killed because of me,” she said softly, as if she had only just realized it. She laid her hand over his, and in that moment, he wondered if dying for her would be worth the twenty-seven years he’d lived so far.
His heart jumped at her touch, then steadied. But as he risked another glance back, he saw exactly what he’d feared. Two of the braves were mounting up, and they weren’t riding the opposite way. “That still might happen,” he murmured.
He leaned forward, trying to protect Sheena with his body as he slapped the reins against the horse’s side, urging him into a lope, then a full-out run.
The Kiowas were close behind them. There must have been dissension among them. The leader had seemed content to let him take Sheena and ride away. One of the others must have disagreed with that decision.
Cal reached to pull his revolver from his holster.
They were strangely quiet, he thought.
The first bullet cracked from behind them, and Cal reflexively bent lower. The bullet whined past his ear like an angry bee.
Sheena gasped. He fired off a shot and got lucky. One of the warriors screamed in agony and fell from his saddle. But the other rode low, hanging onto the side of his mount. And he kept right on coming.
The next bullet sang over Cal’s head. He concentrated on eating up the miles to Lowell’s Ridge. Riding double was slowing them down considerably. Sheena’s body was tense beneath the shelter of his own. Fragile, but strong. Delicate, but determined. His hand splayed over her stomach, holding her close, cradling her from the jarring of their wild ride.
A whoop from behind them accompanied the crack of a rifle, and this time, the Kiowa warrior’s bullet found its mark. A bolt of fire seared through Cal’s right shoulder, and for a minute, the pain was so strong he almost sawed back on the reins. But at his harsh curse, Sheena glanced up at him, her hand instantly clamping tightly over his. The reins were still wrapped in his fingers, but Sheena kept her hand on his, reminding him to let the horse have his head and continue their flight for freedom.
“Hang on, Cal!”
The pain was so breathtaking he could do nothing but nod his understanding.
“Dammit!” she cursed. That almost made him smile, but the agony in his shoulder surged up and stole his breath again as the horse’s hooves pounded the ground below.
The road was not much more than a trail, and where it narrowed, branches reached out to scrape and snarl in hair and clothing, scratching their faces as they blindly rode toward safety.
As they broke through the brambles and low limbs into the clearing on the other side of the wooded section of road, Cal glimpsed the steeple of the church, then in a moment, the rooftops of houses.
He glanced behind him to see the Kiowa had stopped. He was taking careful, deadly aim with the Winchester he held. “Christ,” Cal muttered. “Keep down, Sheena.”
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