Welcome to another terrific Tuesday. Did I mention that the new book — Brave Wolf and the Lady — is also available in paperback? The cover is so gorgeous, that it’s thrilling to see it in a book that reminds me of the olden days when one held the book in your hand.
Thought I’d post another excerpt from the book today. This excerpt happens early in the story and is the first time the hero and heroine interact. The hero has in fact saved the heroine from a fate that would have taken her life, but they don’t really interact then, and she’s not even sure that he’s the one who saved her from a gang of nasty murderers.
The pictures below are from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and were pictures taken about 10 years apart from this story. Thought you might like to see them.
BRAVE WOLF AND THE LADY, an excerpt
Hunger caused Mia to return to the world of the living. She breathed in deeply, if only to ensure she was still alive. As the sweet taste of oxygen filled her lungs, she realized that it was not in her destiny to die here today. Was she happy with that fact?
She wasn’t certain. Perhaps there was merit in dying alongside her husband, yet the welcome scent of oxygen taken into her body made her glad for a reason she could not quite define.
Was that wrong? Truth was, had death come to her this day, she knew she would have welcomed it. And yet…
She sat up as her stomach growled. Being alive meant she would require food to eat, and there should be provision enough in her wagon. But on the tail end of this thought came another: such nourishment would require a fire, and the good Lord help her, she didn’t have the energy or the will to start one right now.
But there would be water in the wagon. That would have to be enough, she decided, at least for the time being.
Apparently she was alone, for there was little more than the stirring of the wind in the trees to hear. Rising up, she glanced down at her dress. The fact that the material was blood-soaked didn’t bother her. It was Jeffrey’s blood, and therefore, sacred to her. Indeed, she might never wash this dress. But she would change out of it. It smelled bad.
As she quickly surveyed the valley around her, the gradual stench of the dead was starting to permeate the air. She put her hands over her nose, as if the action might make the smell go away. But it didn’t work.
Perhaps she possessed a scarf that she might tie around her face. It was either that or suffer it, since her only option was to stay here and await the other wagon train, which, if she remembered correctly, would be coming here soon.
She stepped toward her wagon.
Mia stopped deadly still. Someone had spoken. She wasn’t imagining it. She knew she wasn’t. Was it Jeffrey? Was he alive after all?
Slowly, she turned around. It was dusk, which made it difficult to see clearly.
“Hau. Yahíacipe manke.” A man rose up from his position atop a rock.
“Wan ka wan! Yahíacipe manke.” The man stepped toward her, his hands outstretched as if he were speaking with his hands alone. In broken English, he said, “I…no harm…mean you.”
It was that Indian! The young one with white and black paint over his eyes and a red band tied around his head! She screamed again, and, spinning around, fled to her wagon.
She clambered into the back of it, toward the spot where she and Jeffrey had kept their weapons. There it was. A rifle. Was it loaded? Quickly she checked it.
It wasn’t. With trembling fingers, she put a cartridge into it, and, clicking it closed, she pushed its muzzle through a bullet crack in the white canvas tarp. She breathed in deeply.
No! This wasn’t right. The Indian might come through the back, or even use the front of the wagon to get at her. Worse, he was probably a better shot than she was.
Not knowing what to do, she sat back on her heels and cried. Had she lived through the worst of the day only to have to endure more? Was her future to be torture at the hands of Indians? Rape?
At last, not knowing what else to do, she called out, “I have a gun and I know how to use it. Don’t come any closer.”
“Don’t come any closer to me.”
“You stay there. I’ll stay here.”
“Hau, hau. Yes.”
His voice sounded as if it came from a distance farther away. Had she frightened him?
Not likely. Well, she thought, there was nothing else for it. She would have to stay here on guard the night through. Drat! The water was in a keg outside the wagon.
Biting down hard on her lip, she sat back against her legs, shifting her body into a position that she might be able to defend, regardless of what direction he might choose to stage his attack. And an attack was brewing. She was certain of it.
But she would catch him before he could harm her. This she promised herself.
The smell of food awakened her. Mia jerked herself into alertness. Oh, dear Lord, she had slept! How could she? And why was she still alive?
The aroma from outside the wagon smelled wonderful, though. She recognized the scents of bacon and eggs and her stomach growled. Did Indians eat bacon and eggs? She had heard that they subsisted on nothing but buffalo.
Her stomach spoke to her again, this time with hunger pangs. Guardedly, she sat forward so that she could look out through the crack in the wagon’s canvas. There he was! That Indian. His countenance around his eyes was still painted in a mask-like design, as though he were adorning himself for war, but at least he had laid his weapons far away from him. They weren’t even within easy reach for him. Had he done this in order to tell her without words that it was safe for her to come out?
No, she couldn’t go out there. He might kill her.
Ah, but the scent of those bacon and eggs… Her mouth watered.
The Indian suddenly glanced up toward the wagon, as though he could see her through the crack. Could he?
He didn’t say a word, however. Instead, he smiled and gestured toward her where she kept watch in the wagon. Then using his hands, he indicated a spot next to him. He held out a cup of water toward her.
His actions spoke for themselves, and Mia gulped. Could she trust him?
However, she reasoned, he hadn’t attacked her last night, when she had been at her most vulnerable. Slowly, with rifle clutched firmly in front of her, she stood to her feet and stepped out from under the canvas covering.
As she glanced toward him, the wind wafted toward her, bringing with it that fragrance of the bacon. Perhaps it was this which was her undoing, and she found herself speaking up, saying to him, “Do you have any extra food?”
Again, he smiled at her. “Hau. U wo.” Then in English. “Come…sit…eat. I have…plenty.”
Mia swallowed hard. She glanced toward his weapons that still remained far away from him, then at the fire and the food cooking. Her stomach rumbled.
That decided it.
Slowly, with the rifle held in a ready position, she climbed down from the wagon, keeping the Indian always within her view. Looking downward, she grimaced at the bloodstains on her dress, for she had been unable to change out of it.
But he did nothing more than grin at her, and, despite her misgivings, she noted that he was handsome in a savage sort of way—at least she thought he might be beneath all that white and black paint, as well as that red headband he wore. And he was young, perhaps only a little older than she was.
The observation gave her a sense of ease…at least a little. She said, “I would like a bit of that, if you have some to spare.”
He nodded, and again motioned toward her, picking up the cup of water and holding it out to her. One slow step followed upon another until she stood within a few feet of him. With her right hand, she held the rifle, not pointed at him, but in an ever-ready position. With her left, she reached toward the water.
She didn’t wish to appear greedy, but as soon as the liquid came close to her lips, instinct took over, and she gulped down every last drop of it. Glancing up, she returned the cup to him, then wiped her mouth. Glancing up, she saw that he was studying her.
Once more he nodded, and he looked amusedly at her.
“It’s good,” she said, and not knowing what else to do, she returned his smile. There was a plate filled with bacon and eggs, and he gestured toward her, obviously asking her to sit. She wouldn’t. She didn’t dare.
But when he held the plate out to her, she found her hand stretching forward toward it. However, she couldn’t hold the plate, eat and keep her weapon in a position where she could use it, if that were to become necessary.
He solved the problem by holding the plate for her. Tentatively at first, she reached for a piece of bacon. It took no more than bringing it close to her face for her to practically stuff the food in her mouth.
She didn’t stop at one piece. She ate everything on the plate, including the eggs. Her body thanked her for her wisdom in not refusing the food. And, prayer-like, Mia silently thanked this young man.
Only when she had appeased her appetite did she see that he withdrew the plate. Then he offered her the water again.
Gladly, she accepted. “Thank you.”
He started to rise. Alarmed, she stepped back and held up the rifle.
Holding up his hands, he brought himself into a position on his knees before he stood to his feet. He was a tall man, she noted once again, tall and slim with the firm muscles of an athlete. He wore no shirt this morning, she observed reluctantly, and her gaze lingered on the beaded necklace that hung down over his chest. A large claw hung there, and she could only surmise that it might be the claw from some huge beast. A bear?
She had once seen a bear at her home back in Virginia. The incident had so frightened her that she had never again ventured into the heavy woods that surrounded her home. Had this boy/man killed a bear?
The thought had her setting her rifle in a ready position, but he simply reached out away from her, to grab hold of another slab of bacon, whereupon he placed it on the skillet that sat atop a smoke-less fire. As soon as he had accomplished the task, he sat down again and looked up at her.
Pointing at himself, he said, “Lak??”. Then he motioned toward her.
“That is your name? Lakota?”
“Hiyá, no. Lak??…my…” He frowned and muttered, “Oyáte…tribe.”
“Oh. Then what is your name?”
“I…,” he pointed to himself, “speak it…cannot. Manners…bad.”
“I see. Well then, since I don’t wish to cause you bad manners, I suppose I’ll have to address you as Mr. Lakota.”
When he didn’t speak or protest in any other way, she bowed her head slightly in acknowledgement, and said, “But I should tell you my name so you’ll know what to call me. Mia. My name is Mia.”
He nodded. “Hau, Mi-a.”
“Hau? Does that mean hello.”
“Hau, hello. Also means…yes,” he affirmed, then he gestured around their camp. “Your…husband…die?”
“Yes,” she nodded. “Yes. He died.” She swallowed back the gulp in her voice.
“Why? Why would you help me?”
“Woman…” he gestured toward her, “…die…” He frowned as he obviously searched his memory for the right word. “…Die,” he continued, “…if…if no help.”
She came down onto her haunches and sat, her calves pulled into a position under her. She laid the rifle on her lap. “I think I understand what you’re trying to say. That I might die if you don’t help me.”
“It is kind of you to be concerned about me,” she said, “but there is another wagon train coming this way—it is behind us. I can wait here for them.”
He frowned. Then training his gaze on her, he replied, “No…sea…of…white…” He shook his head. “None. Wagons…no.”
“Perhaps you didn’t see it. The guide said it was a few days behind us.”
Again, the young man shook his head. “Wagon…train…none. Not…behind. Not…in front.”
Mia furrowed her brow. Surely this wasn’t right. Hadn’t that trail guide told them that there was a wagon at their rear? It was the only reason they’d stopped here.
Then another thought crossed her mind. Had the man been lying? She blinked a few times. Then she looked up at Mr. Lakota. She asked, “Are you telling me the truth? That there is no wagon train near here? None at all?”
“Hau. Train…none.” He nodded.
“I can’t believe that. Why…” It came to her then. The scout—the man they had all trusted—might have been one of the murderers. He had left their small party to return to his own wagon train. But if there were no train, if he had done this only to—
She caught her breath. If he had been one of their attackers, then he would be here amongst the dead, dressed in Indian garb like the rest of his fellows. She hated to do it, to search over the dead, but she would have to do it. If that man were here, it meant that she and this small wagon train had been utterly betrayed.
She didn’t say a word. Instead, she rose up to her feet, and turning her back on the Indian, she stepped out amongst the dead. She found the man after some little search. He was, indeed, dressed as an Indian, but he was also easily recognized.
She swayed. The truth was a hard matter to come face-to-face with.
That man had utterly deceived them. But why? Had someone in their midst cheated one of these murderers? Cheated all of them? Try as she might, Mia could think of no reasonable explanation for the slaughter, outside of— What was that they’d said about a woman with red hair? She couldn’t quite recall what had been said now, but it seemed to her that it might have something to do with her.
Perhaps it was her lack of understanding of the motives involved in this slaughter, or maybe it was fear or anger that caused her to teeter on her feet. She felt oddly weak. She ran a hand over her eyes, realizing she was going to be sick to her stomach. Her knees buckled under her, and despite her best efforts, she fell to the ground at the same time that the contents of her stomach spilled up. But she didn’t reach the ground.
Sturdy arms came around her to catch hold of her, and she was brought up firmly against the chest of her rescuer. Oddly, before she lost consciousness altogether, she was aware that his arms felt good around her.
What an unusual thought, she decided before the all-consuming blackness of unconsciousness engulfed her once again.
Well that’s all for now. Did I mention that I’ll be giving away a free e-book of this story. So do come on in and leave a comment.