With THE SPIRIT OF THE WOLF being recently released, I thought it would be a good time to offer another free ebook — as well as to post another excerpt from the book. Don’t fret if you don’t yet own an e-reader. We can also do a print book as long as you live in the United States. To enter all you need to do is to enter a comment — you’re then automatically entered into the drawing. (Note: you must be 18 years of age or older to participate.)
Here it is: THE SPIRIT OF THE WOLF by Karen Kay
Gradually, a cool, thunder-free summer night descended
upon them, its balmy breeze carrying with it the fragrance of
wildflowers, dry grass and the fresh scent that always
accompanies a babbling brook. The constant chirping of the
crickets and locusts was broken here and there by the ceaseless
wafting of the wind, as well as the shrill call of a nighthawk. In
the distance, a wolf howled while a coyote yelped.
Ever alert for danger, Grey Coyote sat across from the white
woman, the small fire they had built blazing between them. As
its smoky aroma enveloped his senses, Grey Coyote listened to
the sounds of the night, attentive to any clamor or movement
that was not a part of nature. Despite this, he was terribly
conscious of every gesture the woman made, every nuance of
He should speak to her. He knew he should. But though he
searched his mind for a topic of conversation, he could think of
nothing to say.
Grey Coyote wished he were more skilled in carrying on a
discussion, yet as he sat with Little Sunset, it was as though an
old crow had stolen away his tongue.
What was wrong with him? There were many things he
could say and probably should say. Truly, the very least he
could do was converse with the woman.
Yet he did not.
Was it because of her beauty? Was it this that made him
“Other men will want a pretty wife for their own,” came
Grandfather White Elk’s voice from out of the past. “Always
some man will covet her. There may be fights, jealousy, you
may wonder if she is true to you. Peace will become a stranger
in your home. Choose wisely when the time comes for you to
marry, grandson, and know that ofttimes it is best to take a
plain-looking woman as your bride.”
Yet, that advice, though good, was of no use to Grey
Coyote. What was done was done, and since he could not undo
it, and since he and the woman were to be together for several
weeks, it would behoove them both to come to some sort of
He opened his mouth. Realizing he had no idea how to
start, he closed it. Once more he tried. Again, he shut his
mouth and remained silent.
At last, he plunged in and asked, “What awaits you in the
village of St. Louis?”
“What?” Her golden eyes stared up at him as though he
had startled her.
He repeated, “Is there someone who awaits you in the
village of St. Louis?”
“Someone, who… Oh, no, no one waits for me. It is only
that I will be able to engage a boat there, which will bear me
“Hau, hau.” He bobbed his head in understanding. “Where
is your home?”
“England,” she said, as if it were a holy place. “But England
is far from here. However, though it is distant, it is the place
where my heart belongs.”
“England,” he repeated. “I have never heard of this village.”
“Oh, it is not a village. Not as you think of villages. It is a
“Hau, hau. I understand that word, country. Tell me, is
your country as beautiful as mine?”
“Oh, yes. But it is very different than yours. Here, there is a
rugged beauty; here, there is sun and wind and heat, and open
spaces. England is more a land of rolling green hills filled with
wildflowers and forests. The sky is blue, the clouds are white
and dainty. The moors are quiet, the villages quaint, and there
are lazy afternoons that beg one to do no more than lounge.”
He nodded. “You must love this place. I can hear the
admiration of it in your voice. It will be good when you return to
“Yes. Yes, it has been many years since I last saw her
shores, fourteen to be exact.”
“Ahhhh,” he said, drawing out the word. “And that is why
you are content to hurry across my country without pausing to
get to know her? So that you might see your home again soon?”
“Yes,” she agreed, although at the same time a frown
marred her brow. “However, there is another, more vital reason
why I am most anxious to return. You see, I…” She paused
midsentence, sending him a surreptitious glance. Then,
straightening, she continued, “But enough about me. What of
you? Why are you here, traveling alone in a country that is
hostile to you?”
Although more than aware that she had censored her
thoughts, he chose to let the incident pass without comment. “I
am on an errand for my people.”
“Hau, hau.” He nodded. “I am charged with a duty, and I
seek a white man—one who looks much like the scout,
LaCroix—for this man holds something that is important to my
“Really?” she asked, as though in speculation. “Is that why
you let Mr. LaCroix gamble away everything he owned?” Her
voice carried a note of disapproval.
Grey Coyote sent her a frown. “The scout LaCroix knew
what the wager held; he understood what he had to lose.
Besides, he remained in custody of a few of his things even in
“Oh?” Even that softly spoken word conveyed reproach.
Grey Coyote chose not to react to her. Instead, he poked at
the fire. A log fell, sparks shooting up from it.
After a time, she said, “So you are charged with a duty?”
“And it weighs on you?”
Again he met her question with silence. In essence, there
were some things a man did not discuss.
“You needn’t answer,” she said. “I can tell it sits heavily on
you. May I ask what this duty is you must perform?”
Over the light from the crackling flames, his eyes met the
burnished embers of hers. For a moment, he did little but
behold the loveliness that was hers alone. And then, knowing
what he must say, he uttered simply, “I cannot speak of it.”
She held his gaze, saying nothing for so long the quiet
noise of the evening began to intrude on them. “It appears,” she
said after several instances, “as though neither one of us is as
yet able to trust the other with our deepest, most heartfelt
He inclined his head slightly. “It may be so. However,
perhaps our distrust is natural. We have but met.”
She placed her head to the side, as if by that angle she
could better study him. “I would say yes and no to that,” she
uttered softly, and then, having delivered this peculiar
assertion, she turned her attention elsewhere.
He frowned. “I do not understand.”
“No, I don’t expect that you do.” She sighed. “I barely grasp
Grey Coyote chose to say nothing, though he watched her
In due time, she said, “It is odd. Yesterday I found myself in
the charge of a stranger, going Lord only knows where, possibly
even captured by him, with only his word to tell me what had
happened. And here I am. Though I am not headed in the
direction that I must, I yet find that I…”
He remained silent. Intent, but silent.
She cleared her throat. “By rights, I should assume that
this man is my enemy.”
He bent his head in agreement.
“But the problem is I don’t think this way at all.” As she
lifted her gaze to his, her eyes were big, round. “And that’s what
is so strange. Although I hardly know you, Mr. Coyote, and
although I should fight you and fend you away—perhaps even
order you to take me where I please—I…I trust you. Do you
know why this is?”
“Maybe.” His voice caught. Annoyed at this obvious show of
weakness, he cleared his throat. “It might be that, despite our
differences, our hearts speak to one another in the same
language. It is possible.”
“That is within the realm of possibility.” She said the words
softly. “Mr. Coyote, what do you mean by ‘our hearts’?”
“Kindness, maybe,” he explained diligently, “or perchance a
sort of sympathy, something that beckons us. To be guided by
one’s heart is different than to be led, and perforce fooled, by
one’s head. It is an instinct, a sense. And it is never felt for
oneself, alone. One is tended in a direction toward another
because one feels…something.”
“Well said. Then when you say ‘heart’, you were not
referring to…” She stopped speaking and looked away from him.
But he was curious, and he said, “Referring to…?”
Her face became a dark shade of crimson, which caused
his study of her to deepen, and he repeated, “Referring to…”
“Nothing. It is not important.” She sighed, but still she
didn’t look at him.
He drew his brows together. Was she also having difficulty
because of who he was? Was it possible they were both
experiencing a similar rush of feeling?
He swallowed, then remarked, “Of course, you are probably
aware that I am attracted to you. It is conceivable that this
concerns you, and if it does, be assured I mean you no
Her eyes went wide. “Oh, no, no, I know that…” Her voice
“I have given you my word that you are safe with me. After
all, I intend to leave you at the trading post as soon as—”
“Unless I can convince you to take me to St. Louis.” She
flashed him a grin.
He raised an eyebrow. “Do you think your suggestion is a
wise idea? My taking you to St. Louis?”
“Well, naturally. Why not?”
“Because when two people are alone, male and female,
there can build between them an affinity which is hard to
break.” Across the smoldering remains of the fire, he
scrutinized her features, finding them…pleasing. “What you ask
of me could be…difficult for me.”
She was silent. With her attention still focused elsewhere,
she asked, “Difficult because of the attraction?”
“Then you have decided not to take me to St. Louis?”
“Hiya, I have not yet made that decision. I am only telling
you the factors I must take into consideration.”
“I see,” she said, then dropped off into silence. The fire
crackled merrily, as though unaware of any tension between
In due time, he continued to speak. “Perhaps now that we
may talk openly to one another, you might be of assistance to
me with this problem. It is good that we may speak of it. Hear
me on this. For though you are by rights my wife, and I your
husband, until I complete the task set before me, I am not a
free man. And perhaps I never will be a free man. Know,
therefore, that a true marriage to me…is impossible.”
She remained mute.
“Thus, so that we both continue to be honorable to each
other, let us make a pact between us and pledge to each other
from this day forward, no matter how our hearts might tend us,
we agree we will not be swayed. To do so could distract me from
what I must do. It might do so to you, also.”
Her glance was focused on the ground. “You speak as if we
were of long acquaintance and in danger of losing our hearts to
one another, Mr. Coyote. And yet we have barely known one
another a day.”
“Hau, that is true. I understand why you say this, and it is
possible you do not share the same problem that befalls me.
But when I held your hand this day…”
He stopped. Though he
realized they needed to speak about and around this subject,
this particular line of thought was not one he wished to pursue.
Yet she coaxed, “Yes?”
He swallowed hard. “I cannot state more.”
He shrugged, jerking his chin to the left. “My wife, you are
the first white woman I have ever seen, that I have ever known.
By the very laws of nature, I should treat you with respect
because you are so different from me. I should admire you,
should even withhold the things my tongue speaks now, for I
fear if we are not careful, you could divert me from the mission
that rules my life. Possibly this is true for you too. And yet, even
knowing this, here I am, telling you that I find you…beautiful.”
She caught her lip between delicate white teeth, and he
stared intently at those lips until he realized what he was doing.
Quickly, he looked away.
“Thank you,” she said. “That was kind of you to say.”
“Perhaps. But I did not mean it to be kind. I spoke of this
because I believe it is true, and because I wish you to be aware
of it. Together, if we agree, we can ensure we will keep each
He brought his gaze back to hers, watching her as she
sucked in a quivering breath, as though her emotions were
involved. At the thought, his stomach twisted.
All at once she said, “If that be the case, maybe it would be
best if you simply took me straight to the village of St. Louis,
rather than risk spending more time with me by going on to the
trading post, and then traveling farther to St. Louis.”
“Perhaps. But know that there is another reason why I am
choosing the path to the white man’s trading post.”
“And that is?”
“The man I seek might be there. And if he is, I must find
“Oh, I hadn’t thought of that.”
With the firelight throwing her features into shadow and
light, he truly thought she was the most exquisite creature of
“We have had a good talk, and since we are
husband and wife, we are allowed this. But I think the time has
come for sleep. You should go to sleep now. I have set a buffalo
robe toward the back of our lodge for that purpose. I will stay
here at the front of our abode and keep watch.”
“Yes, yes, of course, you are right. I should sleep. It is late,
She came up onto her knees. But before she crawled
to the back of their tiny hideaway, before she wrapped herself
up in the warmth of the buffalo robe, she leaned over and said,
“Thank you. I appreciate your consideration,” and placed a
delicate kiss on his cheek.
All his blood seemed to dive and pool below his navel, so
great was his reaction to her.
Don’t do it, he told himself. Don’t indulge. She does not
understand what she does, perhaps not even its effect on a man.
But her lips were so close, her scent so intriguing, and he
had only to reach out a little, turn his head just so.
No, he mustn’t do it. He mustn’t.
Yet, he wondered if he would be quite male if he did not.