Good Morning (or afternoon or evening) and welcome to another terrific Tuesday. Well, I have some good news. I hope you’ll find it good news. My very first book ever, LAKOTA SURRENDER, which has been out of print for 26 years, is now going back into print. At present it’s only in e-book format, but soon (very soon, I hope), it will be released once again in paperback for the first time in 26 years. It’s a big deal for me. Lots of editing (once again) to hopefully make it a tighter book. The story line hasn’t changed at all, it’s only that it’s a bit of a tighter book, I think. Here’s the cover.
I love this cover. As I was doing the final look through on the edits, I had at the same time just received the cover for the first time. It blew me away. What do you think?
So I’ll be giving this e-book as a gift to one of you bloggers today who leave a message, so do leave a message, if you please. So, with this book newly out in print (hopefully soon), I thought I’d post the blurb and an excerpt. Hope you enjoy.
25th Anniversary Edition, publishing November 1, 2019
Lakota, Book 1
As she travels west to join her cavalry officer father at his Kansas outpost, Kristina Bogard eagerly anticipates new adventures—and her first glimpse of wild Indians. She has long dreamed of flashing black eyes, skin-covered lodges and buckskin and leather.
What she finds in Fort Leavenworth, though, is a far cry from her Indian nanny’s thrilling stories. What few natives she’s encountered have been broken shadows of their proud past. All except one. A handsome warrior who stands tall and proud. A warrior who stirs up an entirely new set of dreams and emotions for Kristina.
Tahiska can’t take his eyes off the green-eyed beauty whose graceful hands are fluent in his native sign language. But he can’t afford to let anything distract him from avenging his father, who was murdered by two white soldiers.
Though anger fills his mind, Kristina steals into his heart, igniting a wildfire passion that must remain their desperate secret. For soon comes the day of reckoning, when justice will be served…or a travesty will shatter their love.
This is the 25th Year Anniversary Edition of this book
Warning: Sensuous romance for the romantic at heart
July 4, 1833
The sun had scarcely been up an hour. The grass was still glistening with dew. The scents of early morning and of breakfast permeated the air.
Kristina brushed her forearm over her brow, her hand gripping the musical tuning fork. She was glad she had already consumed her morning meal. This tuning of the piano was requiring more time then she had anticipated. Soon the fort would come alive with soldiers and traders. She would like to have the piano tuned before it became too crowded.
She was seated at the instrument in the open air, on an erected, foot-high platform. As with most young women her age, Kristina had been taught music at a young age. But, while others played only at small, quiet gatherings, Kristina openly defied convention and played with the cavalry band.
The piano had been moved out of the church last night and set here at the head of the main courtyard, but she’d had little opportunity to tune it last evening. Besides, she had justified to herself, it was better to let the piano sit overnight. The adjusting might hold better.
She worked as quickly as she could. Because it was the Fourth of July, there would be a grand celebration today and the piano was needed to fill in with the band, not only for the raising of the flag, but also for the party afterwards.
She glanced toward the sun in irritation. Already she was warm and the day had just barely started.
She leaned over the instrument, played a middle C, then a C one octave higher, turning the wooden peg until she was pleased with the sound. She hit the tuning fork once again and struck the two notes. Satisfied, she advanced to C sharp.
The sound echoed through the fort, creating a hollow twang whose eerie song had never before been heard by the three pairs of Indian ears.
Tahiska and his two companions were awake and alert long before the sun became a red orb in the eastern sky. The journey to the soldier fort took usually a full moon, but the three young warriors, anxious for revenge, had traversed the distance in three weeks, changing mounts often, traveling into the night and sleeping little.
Tahiska’s heart was saddened still, and, though anger coursed through his veins, he couldn’t deny that there was an excitement about this day that eluded him. Perhaps he would meet his own death today. Perhaps. But he did not think so. A premonition stirred his soul; a feeling that an undertaking of importance was to happen today. He knew it. He could feel it. He had sensed it even as he had hunted and eaten a breakfast of berries and fresh meat. Yes, today was a good day.
The three young warriors had prepared themselves earlier in the morning and had washed in a creek close by, praying to Wakan Tanka, the God of all, for courage and bravery in the face of an enemy they had yet to meet.
Tahiska had formulated his plans well. He did not intend to wage his war against the entire fort. Though his emotions urged him to kill any white person available for atonement, his personal ethic would not allow him to commit such an immoral act. And, he schooled himself to think clearly. He would kill the two who had committed the crime and none else. Such was the courtesy he would show the white man. So it was for this reason that he and his friends would not wear the customary war paint into the fort. Only after he had singled out the two murderers would he prepare for battle.
No, first he would meet with their chief and ask for the murderers to be turned over to his own party. If this failed, and he had no way of anticipating the actions of the white people, he had other plans.
They dressed this day for council, not for war, and, leaving their horses hobbled in their camp, they made their way to the fort on foot. They stood outside the gates, awaiting entry.
They were, each one, dressed richly in elk and deerskins. Their shirts were made of delicate, soft leather, each one fringed and decorated with ornamental porcupine quills. Their leggings were fringed and fell to their moccasins, which in their own turn were adorned with beads and colorful quills. Slung horizontally across their backs were their bows, quivers, and shields. Their lances they held in their hands. While his two friends were dressed in tan, Tahiska was wearing white, and, when the white man acknowledged their presence, it was Tahiska to whom the soldiers addressed their inquiries.
But the white man’s tongue was strange, and only through a long dissertation of repeated signs was Tahiska able to tell the white soldiers that he and his party had come to speak with the fort’s chief. While Tahiska was stunned to learn that the soldiers were in ignorance of the language of hand signs, which was so common and well known on the plains, good manners kept his scorn carefully hidden.
They waited for permission to enter the fort. To an outsider their expressions would seem dour, but courtesy forbid them to show any emotion; their anger, even their contempt at being kept waiting in the ever-increasing heat of the day, was shrouded behind their eyes. They stood patiently, not making a move at all.
It was more than an hour later that the strange notes carried over the garrison walls. The sound was eerie, mysterious, and the Indians began to wonder if Wakan Tanka had heard their prayers this day.
As was the custom at the fur company, so too, at the fort, the Indians’ weapons were placed in an arsenal. Tahiska demanded, and was allowed, possession of his bow. Tahiska sought out the soldiers in the white man’s building and was at last able, through painfully crude sign language, to convey to the soldiers that he desired a council with the white man’s chief. Just as crudely and with great deliberation, the white soldiers told the Indians to return when the sun was at its zenith. Today was the Fourth of July, a holiday. The white chief could see them no sooner. The Indians nodded understanding and turned to leave.
As they strode back into the sun, Tahiska quickly scanned the fort. It took only a second, but his practiced gaze missed nothing—the two women to his right, one hundred yards away; the three soldiers, each carrying one firestick and a long knife; the two guards parading the planks of the garrison walls, each armed with one firestick and another long knife. He sized up the men as opponents, observed that there was no other exit but the gate they had just entered through, and wondered at the buildings along the road. The area around him was practically deserted, though there were sounds of movement elsewhere within the fort.
Tahiska was astounded at the late hour in which the fort commenced to do business. Had he been at home, he could already have hunted for himself and another family. But his thoughts were not revealed on his face, his expression guardedly blank.
There it was again. That sound. The eerie song they had heard over the fort’s walls that morning. It shrieked through the morning air, its sound more disturbing than the cry of a raven. Tahiska’s gaze searched the sky for the cause, but he could see nothing. He had no indication his medicine was bad this day, yet this melody made him uneasy.
“Spread out, investigate each tepee, each home,” Tahiska commanded, “Wahtapah, you on this side and you, Neeheeowee, on the other. I will see what sort of bird sings this song. I will see if it is good medicine or bad. When the sun is high, we meet here. Now go.”
Kristina sat at the piano bench, hunched over the instrument. She had one leg beneath her, one leg on the floor, and her skirts settled around her. The job of tuning the piano was almost done and she was feeling quite pleased with herself. Just two more octave notes and she was finished. She played one, then the other, turning the peg until she was satisfied. This done she moved farther down the piano and began to play a song.
An odd sensation swept over her skin, leaving goose bumps along her arms and a prickly feeling at the back of her neck. She played a few more notes, then cocked her head to the side, her peripheral vision catching a glimpse of a white-clad figure. Thinking her senses were playing tricks on her again, Kristina started to turn away when the clean scent of prairie grass caught at her breath. She stopped, her fingers in midair, as the earth beneath her seemed to reel. To counter the sensation she set both feet on the ground and spun around.
She had to look a long way up to meet the black eyes that were watching her intently. Her breath caught in her throat, and Kristina had to force herself to exhale. Perhaps, she decided, it would be best to stand.
Clutching the piano with her hands behind her, she stood, noting with a mixture of dread, plus an odd sort of excitement, that this Indian stranger stood a good head taller than she.
She stared into his face. He looked foreign, wild, and yet oddly familiar.
She tried to smile, but it was shaky. “Hello,” she tried.
He said nothing, his expression registering nothing, as well, and he looked her directly in the eye.
Kristina, unused to such open scrutiny, blushed, not understanding that he gazed at her so openly because he was uncertain if she were friend or foe. Where have I seen him before? Nervously, she wrung her hands, then gestured toward the piano. “I…I was just tuning it for the…ce…celebration today.”
His glance had left her eyes, was now roaming slowly, meticulously over the golden tan of her hair, the soft oval of her face, her nose, her lips, then downward toward her neck, stopping at the material of her gown as it clung to her shoulders.
His gaze jerked back to hers. Quickly he signed a greeting and Kristina visibly relaxed, for she knew this language well.
She moved her hands, motioning a response, but also asking, “Where are you from—what tribe?”
He didn’t answer, but instead trod to her side, next to the piano.
Kristina noted several things about him all at once: the fluid way he moved, as though it took no effort; the lone tooth dangling from a leather cord around his neck; the beaded earrings hanging from both earlobes, giving him not an air of effeminacy as one would have expected, but a sense of potent strength. His hair was quite long, reaching way past his shoulders, and Kristina was startled to note that it did not detract from his allure. He was probably the most handsome man she’d ever seen.
“What is this?” he signed, indicating the piano. He hadn’t looked at her, but when he turned back to her, catching her scrutiny of him, Kristina felt so embarrassed she couldn’t control the flush that warmed her face. Realizing her cheeks were awash with color, she averted her gaze.
“It’s a piano,” she stated, stumbling over what to sign in reply, finally settling for “song-maker.” “Pi-a-no,” she repeated, pointing to it.
She pressed down on a key; then another and another.
“See, when you finger it, it sings.” She attempted another uncertain smile. “Here, I’ll show you.”
She invited him with gestures to tap a key, but he was not cooperative, and his face revealed no expression whatsoever.
“Here.” She touched his hand. At the contact a sudden tremor shot up her arm, causing her to gasp.
She pulled back, her eyes darting up to his, but she couldn’t easily read his thoughts. His stare was unwavering, and she wondered if she were the only one who had felt it—the shock.
He silenced her with a sign.
Neither one spoke. Neither one moved. And, for a moment, a short space of time, she felt her world stop.
The sun beat down its warmth upon them, and its tawny rays caught a fiery red highlight in his hair, reminding her of fire and passion. All at once, Kristina thought she might burst.
She turned away, but this time, he reached out toward her. It was a light graze, lasting only a moment, its intent clearly to keep her from leaving. A simple gesture. That’s all it was. Yet Kristina felt a jolt all through her body.
He motioned her to sit.
She complied, almost without thinking.
“Sing,” he motioned.
“Sing?” she asked aloud.
He gestured towards the keys, signing again, “Sing.”
“Oh, I see. You want me to play.” She fingered the keys lightly, not pressing down on them. “Like this?”
With one hand, he motioned, ”Yes.”
She played then, her attention not on the notes, but rather on the man who stood at her side. Without thought, her hands moved over the cool, ivory keys in the haunting melody of Pachelbel’s “Canon”; Kristina closed her eyes, trying to concentrate on what she was doing, not on the virile Indian watching her intently. It made no difference. Every other sense she had was alerted to him, from the clean scent of him to the muffled sound of his soft, white-bleached clothing as he moved.
Moved? Kristina played the last note and opened her eyes to find the Indian not at her side as she had thought, but in front of her, the height of the piano between them. She gazed up at him, over the piano, catching a look in his eye that might have been—admiration? She couldn’t be sure because it was so quickly gone that she wondered if she had only imagined it.
“Kristina,” Julia exclaimed, bursting onto the scene. “Come quickly. There’s news that…there’s…” Julia’s words gradually slowed. “That…there…are wild Indians… Kristina, I think you’ve discovered this for yourself.”
“Yes,” Kristina said. She glanced down as she rose from the piano. She had to get away. She wasn’t sure what had happened to her just now and she needed time alone to consider it. Without stopping to think, she quickly signed a good morning to the Indian, smiled unsteadily in his direction, and dashed toward Julia. The tingling sensation at the back of her neck told her the Indian’s gaze had never left her.
What had happened? Why did he look so familiar?
Well, that’s it for now. Please do leave a message and let me know what you think about the cover and also about the excerpt. But most of all, have a beautiful day.
Welcome to another terrific Tuesday. The prairie. When we drive through the prairie in our modern day times, we see lots of farming, and, of course, very flat land.
The prairie is so much a part of the West, it’s hard to think of the Western without the prairie. In Kansas and Missouri, the prairie had grasses sometimes so tall that a man on a horse would disappear into the grass. Did you know that? I think it was when I was first researching the West and the Prairie that I came across that info.
BRAVE WOLF AND THE LADY was a 2018 release. One of the reviewers of that book made a comment that the book was really about the Prairie and the feeling of being there on the prairie at that time when the story takes place.
Very intentionally I wrote about my fascination about the prairie, and it was wonderful to see that someone else appreciated it, too.
One of the sources of research that I like most is George Catlin, who in 1835, sailed up the Missouri on a steamboat in order to paint the Indians. Here’s a quote from Catlin from around 1835 concerning the prairie seen on the Missouri,the Platte and the Arkansas Rivers. He’s talking about a Prairie Fire here.
“But the burning plain has another aspect when the grass is seven or eight feet high and the flames are driven by the hurricanes that often sweep over the meadows of the Missouri, the Platte, and the Arkansas. This grass is so high that we were obliged to stand in our stirrups to look over its waving tops.”
Catlin, George. My Life Among the Indians (1909) (p. 199). Unknown. Kindle Edition.
In doing some research for the book, THE ANGEL AND THE WARRIOR, I traveled over the Prairie of Kansas and along the Arkansas River, where my story was to take place. Sometimes, one can visit some of the off-the-beaten-track places, where they have preserved the prairie as it once was. Many travelers at that time called it the sea of green — constant and flowing and seemingly never ending.
I soaked up the feeling of the prairie, trying to imagine what it would have been like at that time for the hero and heroine. Loved reading about the Santa Fe Trail and all the adventures that the pioneers had along the way.
This book, THE ANGEL AND THE WARRIOR, is about that prairie, as well, and about those that traveled on The Santa Fe Trail.
Here’s another quote from Catlin’s book:
“The high grass, being filled with wild-pea vines and other impediments, render it necessary to take the zigzag trails of the deer and buffalo.”
Catlin, George. My Life Among the Indians (1909) (pp. 199-200). Unknown. Kindle Edition.
In another book, my very first book, LAKOTA SURRENDER, I make mention of and have an entire scene wrapped around a prairie wild fire. Again, the idea was sparked by a prairie wild fire that Catlin was in, and almost didn’t escape.
Here’s what he says:
“White man,” said he, “see that small cloud rising from the prairie. He rises. The hoofs of horses have waked him. The Fire Spirit is awake; this wind is from his nostrils, and his face is this way.” He said no more, but his swift horse darted under him, and he slid over the waving grass as it was bent before the wind. We were quickly on his trail. The extraordinary leaps of his wild horse occasionally raised his shoulders to view, then he sank again in the waving billows of grass. On the wind above our heads was an eagle. His neck was stretched for the towering bluff, and his thrilling screams told of the secret that was behind him. Our horses were swift and we struggled hard, but our hope was feeble, for the bluff was yet blue and nature nearly exhausted. The cool shadow advancing over the plain told that the sun was setting. Not daring to look back we strained every nerve. The roar of a distant cataract seemed gradually overtaking us. The wind increased, and the swift winged beetle and the heath hens drew their straight lines over our heads. The fleet bounding antelope passed us, and the still swifter, long legged hare, who leaves but a shadow as he flies. Here was no time for thought, but I recollect that the heavens were overcast, the distant thunder was heard, and the lightning reddening the scene, and the smell that came on the wind struck terror to my soul. The piercing yell of my savage guide at this moment came back on the wind, his robe was seen waving in the air, as his foaming horse leaped up the bluff.
Our breath and our sinews were just enough, in this last struggle for life, to carry us to the summit. We had risen from a sea of fire. Now looking back, still trembling from our peril, I saw beneath me a cloud of black smoke which extended from one extremity of this vast plain to the other, and seemed to roll over the surface of a bed of liquid fire. Above this mighty desolation the white smoke rose like magnificent cliffs to the skies. Then behind all this we saw the black and smoking desolation left by this storm of fire.”
Catlin, George. My Life Among the Indians (1909) (p. 202). Unknown. Kindle Edition.
What an amazing accounting. Sometimes, I think when we pass through this country, it’s wonderful to remember how it once was. And so, the tall grass prairie is something that I think is thrilling to add to a story.
What do you think?
I’ll be giving away one of these e-books to one of the bloggers here today. She can have her pick as to which one. Thanks so much for coming here today, and thanks for participating. Be sure to leave a comment
Above here, are me and my brother-in-law in a short grass prairie in Montana. And below here is my darling husband, also in a short grass prairie in Montana.
And Good Morning! How are you doing today? Well, I hope.
WOLF SHADOW’S PROMISE, believe it or not, is a story inspired by a legend similar to Zorro (it wasn’t Zorro, but the real legend escapes me at the moment). I must admit that such true legends are fascinating to me. This is book #4 in The Legendary Warrior series (all four books are based on different Native American/Western legends). This book is part of KindleUnlimited at Amazon, and so if you subscribe to KindleUnlimited, you can read it for free. But I’ll also be sending a copy of this e-book to some lucky blogger today, so please, don’t be shy. Come on in and leave a comment. Also, do read the Giveaway Guidelines off to the right here — these govern our give-aways. And please do come back either tomorrow evening or Thursday evening to see if you are one of winners. I rely on your doing so.
I must admit to really loving this particular cover. What do you think?
So, without further wait, I’m going to leave you with a blurb and an excerpt from the very beginning of the book. Hope you enjoy!
Wolf Shadow’s Promise
by Karen Kay
Legendary Warriors, Book 4
She saved his life. The only way he can save hers is to deny their forbidden passion…
When eight-year-old Alys Clayton saved the life of a young Blackfeet Indian, she had no idea her own life would be forever changed. To honor her bravery, Moon Wolf pledged his heart to her, vowing to marry her. But they were both too young…then.
Returning to Fort Benton in the Northwest Territory fifteen years later, Alys again encounters the deeply handsome hero who had once set her heart afire. But Moon Wolf has changed. He has become the legendary Wolf Shadow, a warrior intent on helping his people’s struggle against those who would destroy them.
Because a precious jewel like Alys warrants more from a man than risking death at every turn, Moon Wolf battles his desire for her, denying her what she needs most. But Alys has other ideas. She is determined he will not walk his chosen path alone.
Yet, how can their love survive when they are surrounded by enemies determined to destroy them, in a world where their love is forbidden?
This book has been previously published.
Warning: Sensuous romance that might renew a love that was written in the stars. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
WOLF SHADOW’S PROMISE, an excerpt
by Karen Kay
Fort Benton on the Missouri River
1857, Northwest Territory
“Two and two equals…?” The teacher slapped the ruler against the blackboard, the wap of the wooden stick an unspoken threat. The teacher—who, by invitation, had only recently arrived here—stood frowning, arms crossed at her waist. “Young lady,” the teacher threatened as she took a menacing step forward and unfolded her arms, “answer me.”
Still the young Indian girl, standing at the head of the class, didn’t make a sound. Head down, she stared fixedly at her feet.
Looking at the child, who was no older than herself, Alys Clayton felt as if her heart might break. Personally, she had never understood why the wild Indians had been brought to this school. Her mother said the whole matter was an experiment by their Indian agent, Alfred J. Vaughan, to see if the Indians could be civilized, whatever that meant.
But the project was doomed to failure because Indians didn’t learn from this kind of teaching.
At least that’s what her mother had told her: that the Indians of the plains had not been brought up with the same books and stories as the white man; that the Indians had their own legends and tales, their own way of teaching, of doing things. Indians were close to the land, were free, or at least they were supposed to be. Alys’s mother had also said, and Alys agreed, that the Indians would be better off if left independent which, Alys decided, must mean “left alone.”
So, if all these observations were true, why was their teacher making an example of this poor child? What did it matter if the girl could or could not add the two plus two on the chalkboard? Alys knew that if she were to approach the girl and promise her four beads while giving her only three, the young girl would know the difference.
Tears streamed down the youngster’s face as she endured not only the silent threat of the teacher but the sneers and scoffing of her “fellow classmates” too.
Something should be done. Such dealings were not right. Yet Alys felt helpless. She was only eight years old, a child herself. What good was she against a teacher—against the taunts of the others?
Oh, no. Alys caught her breath.
The teacher—an overly skinny, sickly-looking woman, had raised the ruler as though she might hit the girl, causing the youngster to put a hand over her eyes as though to shield them.
Then the worst happened. Down came the ruler, down across the Indian girl’s arm.
The child didn’t cry out, didn’t even flinch, although she whimpered slightly as tears streamed down her face.
The teacher shouted out a few more unmentionable words. Still the young girl remained silent.
“I’ll teach you to sass me, you heathen,” the teacher hissed, while Alys tried to make sense of what the teacher had said. The young girl hadn’t uttered a word.
Wap! Another slap across the girl’s arms. The teacher raised her arm for another blow.
It never came.
In a blur of buckskin and feathers, a young Indian boy, the same one who had been at their school for about a week, burst into the classroom, putting himself between the youngster and the teacher. In his hand, he wielded a knife.
The class went from a mass of jeers and prankish catcalls to abrupt silence.
Where had the boy come from so suddenly? And the knife? Where had he obtained that? It was well known that the wild Indians, even the children, were relieved of their weapons upon entering the fort.
Yet there was no mistaking that knife or the boy’s intent.
Good, thought Alys.
Immediately, the teacher backed up, but in doing so, she tripped over a wastebasket, losing her balance and falling into the trash can, bottom first.
Alys couldn’t help herself. She laughed.
It was the only sound in an otherwise silent classroom. No one looked at her, however. Everyone appeared…stunned.
The teacher’s face filled with color, her hands clenched over the top of the basket. “You…you savage. You pushed me—”
“This one,” the Indian responded, pointing to himself, “has not touched you. But give me good reason to”—he waved his knife in front of her—“and I will.”
The teacher spat ugly words deep in her throat, before she uttered loudly, “I’ll have your skin for this, young man.”
“Humph.” The boy approached the teacher, then said, “And I will have your hair.”
It took a moment for his meaning to register, but as the boy swung out his knife, taking hold of the teacher’s tight bun, she screamed. Whack! Off came the bun, harmlessly falling into the youngster’s hand.
“You heathen, why, I’ll…” In an almost superhuman effort, the teacher jumped up, out of the basket. The boy quickly grabbed hold of the Indian girl, and pulling her after him, fled toward the classroom’s only window.
That was all it took for the other youngsters in the room to come alive. Insults and threats reverberated through the early morning air, while the two fugitives made the best escape they could. Boys, almost all of them of mixed heritage themselves, suddenly sprang up from their chairs, leaping after the two runaways, who had by this time cleared the window.
The entire school became a mass exodus as student after student bolted out the door, out the window, chasing after the pair.
Alys, however, arose from her seat at a more leisurely pace, strolling slowly and thoughtfully toward the doorway of the tiny cabin which served as the schoolhouse. Fingering her soft auburn curls as she moved, she trudged home, concluding that school had been let out for the day.
Poor Indian kids, she mused. Wasn’t it enough that the children had been taken away from their family to be “educated”? According to her mother, the townspeople weren’t making it easy on these wild ones either, scolding them and making fun of them. Who would want to stay amidst such hatred? Alys asked herself.
Her thoughts troubled, Alys left the schoolhouse and slowly trudged toward her home.
Her house, a wooden structure and one of the nicer homes in the fort, lay situated toward the rear of the town, away from the river and isolated from most of the fort’s more rambunctious activities. It was a relatively quiet spot, a location her father had personally selected before he had passed away almost four years ago.
That Alys’s mother had refused to return east after her husband’s passing had been the fort’s greatest gossip during the first few years after his death, at least for the few white women who had come west with their husbands.
There were only two types of unmarried women on the frontier, or so it was said: Indians and the hurdy-gurdy girls. Her mother had been asked which one she was.
And it hadn’t mattered that her mother had helped found this town, right alongside her father. Nor had the richness of her purse given her immunity. As it was in many small towns, there wasn’t much to provide gossip, leaving Alys’s mother to supply fodder for the wagging tongues, a circumstance that had effectively isolated her, and her youngster, from the community.
As Alys made her way through the fort, she wondered what her mother would say about the events of this day, knowing that it was her nature to blame the townspeople, not the Indians. Hadn’t her mother often commented on the unchristian-like behavior of the few white women in this town? Hadn’t she herself observed that those here, more oft times than not, made up the grievances they complained about?
Why? Alys Clayton could little understand it.
She only wished there were something she could do, some way to help. If only she knew where the two Indians were right now, she would offer them kindness and hope. Yes, she decided, with all the naïveté of a young girl her age. She would be kind to them, make friends with them, show them that they could trust her.
Why, she would…
What was that? There is was again, a glimpse of something out of the corner of her eye. Buckskin, feathers—two small arms and legs? There in the bushes? She turned to look.
A knife suddenly appeared out of nowhere, pressing close into her throat, and a hand covered her mouth as arms slipped about her waist, dragging her backward, toward that bush.
“You cry out…I kill you,” threatened a young male voice.
Alys looked up into a set of the deepest, blackest eyes she had ever seen. She nodded.
The dusty scent of the boy’s skin, the dirt on his hands assailed Alys until she thought she might gag. It wasn’t that the smell was unpleasant, it was more that he held her mouth too tightly. She squirmed.
Two young boys flew past them, more footsteps followed, more shuffling, the pounding of boots, of adult feet striking the ground, rushing by.
Alys struggled in the boy’s arms. She wanted to let him know that she was a friend, that she would help him. It was useless, however. The boy held his hand too securely over her lips.
Gunshots in the distance caught Alys’s attention, and then came more shouts and hurrying footsteps. Gunshots? Surely no one intended physical harm to these two, did they?
She had to do something. Quickly, Alys took stock of where she was. Over to her right was her home—within running distance—and beside her house was the secret place, that place known only to Alys and her mother…
It was a special locale, a part of Alys’s heritage that might prove to be the salvation of these two outcasts, if she could make them understand. Could she?
She had to try. Motioning toward the house, Alys pointed at the two Indians, then flapped her hands like wings, trying to show an image of birds, flying away free. Would he understand?
The young boy followed her hand motions for a moment, then tugged at her to remain still. He looked away.
Alys tried again. Point to the house, to the Indians, a bird flying away free. Once more, over and over. It took a few more gestures before the boy frowned, looking down at Alys, at her hands, at the house.
More voices, more footsteps coming toward them.
Alys gestured again.
With a stern frown at her, the boy loosened his grip, allowing Alys to whisper, “I know a secret way out of the fort.”
Would he believe her? Did he understand she meant to help him?
Dark eyes glared into her own.
“It’s at the side of my home.” She motioned toward the house.
“There is nothing there, white girl; a house, a wall, no more. Do you try to trap us?”
Alys didn’t say a word. And perhaps it was her silence that accounted for her redemption.
He asked, “How we escape there?”
“In our root cellar,” Alys was quick to answer, “my mother’s and mine. There is a hidden tunnel.”
“What is this…root cellar?”
Alys pointed to a set of bushes that almost, but not quite, hid the wooden doors of the cellar. “There,” she said. “See it? It goes down to a passage underground. It’s like a cave. It leads to the hills.”
She could see him hesitate, watched as indecision played across his features. At last, though, he volunteered, “You show us.”
They waited until the approaching footsteps faded away. Then he prodded her forward, and she fled as fast as her small legs would carry her, on and on toward the side of her yard, with the two Indians following close on her heels.
“Here.” She pushed her way into the bushes and pulled at the doors of the cellar. They wouldn’t give. She almost cried.
The Indian boy came to her rescue, tugging on the doors and hauling them up.
“Hurry.” She motioned to the two of them to enter. Quickly, they did as she bid, fleeing down into the cellar, Alys coming in after them and dragging the doors shut behind her. Instantly, all was darkness inside, but it didn’t bother Alys. She merely sighed in relief.
“This is trap,” the boy said, his knife coming once more to Alys’s neck. Maybe he didn’t like the darkness, Alys considered.
“No,” she insisted, unafraid. “I’ll show you.”
Lifting a rug on the floor, Alys uncovered a small earthen mound. Brushing the dirt away, Alys pointed to a meager trapdoor.
Pulling on the door, she glanced up toward the boy, barely able to make out his features in the darkness.
“Come,” she said and dropped down to the ladder. Down and down she climbed, her two charges following.
Plunging to the stone floor of the cavern below, Alys fumbled in the dark until she found the lantern her mother always kept there. Checking first to make sure it was working properly, she lit the wick, instantly throwing a shadow of light throughout the cave. Instinctively, she took the hand of the Indian boy.
“Hold hands,” she instructed and began to lead the two of them through the tunnels. The darkness of the caves, their earthy smells and coolness had never bothered Alys. They were a part of her family, a part of her.
She and her mother came here often, hunting a treasure that had been lost here long ago. Although if Alys were honest, she would admit that sometimes she sought out the comfort of the caves for pleasure alone, these caverns being a legacy to her from her father.
“If you lead us back to…that village, white girl, I will kill you.”
“I know.” Alys hesitated. “But I won’t. I promise you.”
He let out a snort. “The vow of a white girl.”
“The word of Alys Clayton.” She might not be aware of it, but Alys lifted her chin. “Not all white people are bad.”
He didn’t say a word, though another menacing growl escaped his throat.
Well, what did it matter anyway? She would show him. Wasn’t it what her mother had always told her, that actions, not words, were important? It took an hour or so of careful travel, but she didn’t falter in her step. She knew the way.
The tunnel climbed slowly, gradually, until at last, up ahead, she could see light, hear the rush of a waterfall.
Ah, the great falls, behind which lay the tunnel’s entrance. This was her most favorite spot in the world, isolated, untouched and unspoiled. No one else knew of the caverns or the beauty of these cliffs either, as far as she knew, since they were hidden on all sides by the height of the hills. At least, Alys silently corrected herself, no other white man knew of them.
Alys led their party underneath the falls, out onto the rocks and into the bright sunshine, allowing the two young people to adjust their eyesight to the light before she stated, “I don’t know where your people are, but I reckon you’ll be able to find them from here.”
The boy looked around him and inhaled a deep breath before glancing back at Alys and staring intently at her.
Then, without any expression on his face whatsoever, he murmured, “What strange manner is this? A white girl who keeps her word?”
Alys stiffened her spine before she responded, “I told you I would.”
He nodded. “So you did, white girl, so you did.”
The young Indian miss at his side didn’t seem as devoid of human emotion as her male counterpart, however, and she came up to Alys, hugging her profusely and saying something in a very strange tongue.
The lad translated, “She says something good will come to you.”
Alys nodded, smiling. Then it occurred to her. “She doesn’t speak English?”
“So she could not even understand the teacher?”
The boy remained silent, though when he gazed down at Alys, he suddenly smiled, the first cheerful emotion Alys had seen on his face. The action made him look younger still, innocent, and oh, so very handsome. Alys gaped at him, admiring his long dark hair that fell back from his face. The cooling breeze from the falls brought tiny droplets to his tanned skin; his dark eyes, surprisingly full of approval for her, watched her closely. Alys couldn’t help herself. Gazing back, she fell instantly under his spell.
Slowly, the boy took a piece of jewelry from around his neck. A round, single white shell dangled from a chain of bleached buckskin. He drew it over Alys’s head and settled it around her neck.
“Soka’pii, good.” His right hand signed the meaning of the word in a single gesture. “Looks good on you.”
With the tip of his finger, he tilted her face up toward his. “I will remember you always, young white girl, and what you have done for me and my sister.”
So, thought Alys, thè Indian girl was his sister. Pleased by the realization, she said, pointing to herself, “Alys.”
“Aa-lees,” the young lad rolled her name smoothly over on his tongue.
She pointed to him. “And your name is?”
He shook his head. “A warrior does not repeat his own name. To do so would be dishonorable.”
“But I would like to know…”
She was interrupted by the boy saying something to his sister, again in that strange tongue.
With a quick glance up at Alys, the Indian girl spoke, and, pointing to her brother, said, “Ki’somm-makoyi.”
“Ki’somm-makoyi,” Alys whispered. “That is your name?”
“What does it mean?”
“I cannot say.”
He took a deep breath, grinned at her slightly, then said, pointing to himself, “This one is called Moon Wolf.”
She smiled up at him. “Moon Wolf, I will never forget you.”
He stared into her eyes, his look serious, before he volunteered, “Come with us, young Aa-lees. Come with us and I promise that when we grow older, I will take you for wife and show you great honor for what you have done for us this day.”
Under any other circumstance, Alys might have chuckled, the thought absurd for one so young. Yet there was a somberness to his words that she couldn’t discount. “I cannot,” she replied, her voice sounding strangely adult. “I would bring you more trouble if I went with you. No one in the fort would rest until I was found.”
He inclined his head. “That is true. For a small girl, you speak with wise tongue. But still,” his chin shot up in the air, “no matter what others would do, I would honor you in this way.”
His words, or perhaps it was the pride in his manner, reached out to her, its effect on her profound, and she felt herself responding to the boy, tears of appreciation, maybe even joy, coming to her eyes. She said, “I cannot. My mother would miss me too much.”
He remained silent for many moments before he nodded at last. “So it will be,” he uttered, “but know that though you choose to stay behind, I will carry your image with me, here,” he held his hand to his heart, “for so long as this one should live.”
Alys stared. These were strong words, a powerful declaration, for a boy not much older than she, and Alys contemplated him in silence for several seconds, afraid to move lest she spoil the moment. Slowly, he brought his hand up to run his fingers over her cheek, his touch gentle; he reached up with one of his fingers to trace the path of her tears, before bringing that same finger to his own cheek. “And now,” he whispered, touching his face with her own tears, “a part of you is a part of me.”
He didn’t wait for her to respond. All at once, he turned and fled, disappearing with his sister down the rocks and into the countryside as though they belonged to it.
Alys fingered her cheek for what seemed an eternity, letting the warmth of the sunshine wash over her and dry her face. In the distance she could hear the birds sing, while closer at hand, she could smell the perfumed scent of the grasses and wildflowers. Lightly, the wind ruffled her hair, lifting her spirit gently upward until she felt herself becoming a part of all this, a part of the natural course of things.
She would never forget this, never forget him. She couldn’t.
Alys had become, in the space of a moment, infatuated: She had fallen in love. A love that would last her a lifetime, she thought, no matter the state of her youth. And in that instant, she knew she would never be the same.
So, did you put it together yet? Okay, shall we compare times? Now, before I tell you how long it took me to put the puzzle together, be aware that I am not puzzle-oriented. Okay? It took me 11 minutes and 54 seconds — and that was after I called my husband, Paul (who loves puzzles) to come and help me. I seem, also, to be alone in my lack of tolerance and working over puzzles. Both my daughters, my grandchildren, my husband, his mother, his sister, etc. etc. — all love puzzles and put them together (really hard ones) in no time at all.
Would love to hear your time.
So here’s the multiple choice question: Is the cover?
** RED HAWK’S WOMAN
** THE LAST WARRIOR
** THE SPIRIT OF THE WOLF
Thanks so much for coming here today and for playing the game with me. Know that if you leave a comment, you are automatically entered into the drawing that will take place at the end of the week. (All Petticoats and Pistols rules for Giveaways apply.)
Thanks for playing and have a super rest of the week…lots of fun!
Did you know that I have often referred to the book, SOARING EAGLE’S EMBRACE, as my “musical?” No, not like a musical you might see on television or the movies — if you open up the book, it doesn’t play a song, and yet, in many ways, I’ve often thought of it as my musical. Interestingly, it is also based on a myth.
SOARING EAGLE’S EMBRACE, from the Legendary Warriors Series, is inspired by a myth of a hunter and a daughter of the Star People. The book, SOARING EAGLE’S EMBRACE actually starts with the hero and heroine and the legend as it is told in Native American lore. Interestingly, I found this myth not in just one tribe — but several — and the thing is, it was told almost (but not quite) identically, tribe to tribe. The legend I’m about to tell you is from the Shawnee.
I believe that the name of the hero (it’s from a children’s book that I’m quoting) is Red Hawk, and the name of the book is RED HAWK AND THE SKY SISTERS by Gloria Dominic and Charles Reasoner. Again, this legend is repeated in several different tribes — although the hero’s name is often different.
Red Hawk is a great hunter. But he is puzzled because he sees the same print of a circle in the grasses of the prairie each time he goes to hunt. It is a perfect circle, but there are no paths leading up to it — or going away from it. There is evidence that something was there and made the circle — but how? Red Hawk decides to spend the night, hiding himself from view.
And so he does. He discovers by hiding himself, that a basket gently falls to the earth and that there is singing from feminine voices. As the basket comes to land softly on the earth, three sisters alight from the basket and dance around it in a circle. Red Hawk watches this for many nights until one night he realizes that he has fallen in love with one of the sisters — the youngest I believe. And so, once again hiding himself, he waits until the sisters are about to get into the basket and go back into the sky — but suddenly he jumps out from his hiding place and captures the woman of his heart.
They marry and are happy, but she misses her home in the sky (she is a star). They have a child and she wishes to take the child and return to visit her home in the sky. Our hero lets her go, but keeps the child with him, hoping that the child will be enough to cause her to return. When she doesn’t return, our hero again captures her, and she falls in love with him all over again and they live happily ever after.
I did find that the ending varies a bit from tribe to tribe, and I’m uncertain of how this book ends the story — I have this book, but of course, needing to find it for this post, the book eludes me.
Now, what does this have to do with music and with a song? Well, maybe a lot. This book, SOARING EAGLE’S EMBRACE, starts out with a song and the legend, and it ends with a song, incorporating, also, the legend.
In my youth, I used to watch Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald movies on television. I was enchanted with them, and with their music, which is operetta. Not full opera, but a light taste of it. My characters, I must admit, are drawn from both Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy’s personalities. Sometime in the future I might do a blog on these two people. They were in love, but never married, and it appears as if they were prevented from marrying. Perhaps that’s only a theory, but there appears to be some truth to it.
But that aside, I thought I’d leave you all a link to some great Native American music. The group is Brule’. This is a band of the Sioux tribe. It is extremely inspiring music, and so I’d leave you this for today. Please enjoy.
I’ll be giving away an e-book copy of SOARING EAGLE’S EMBRACE today to some lucky blogger, so I would encourage you to leave a comment — please see the Giveaway Guidelines over to the right here for our rules that govern giveaways, and be sure to come back in a few days to see if you are a winner.
What do you think? Is it possible to create a musical with text?
Beth Garrison is the top hostage negotiator in Rocky Ridge, Texas. She’s called to serve on a task force to investigate a killing that is a copycat of her first bust as a rookie.
Tate McCade has a reputation for steamrolling anyone who gets in his way and he’s had a run-in with Beth and her oversized ego before. He’s got a bruise on his face to prove it.
They have to work together and sparks are flying that aren’t all about the job.
Two more to go but we take a break in releasing them now because next month I’ve got book #2 of the High Sierra Sweethearts series, The Reluctant Warrior.
The Reluctant Warrior
Union army officer Cameron Scott is used to being obeyed, but nothing about this
journey to Lake Tahoe has gone as expected. He’s come to fetch his daughter and nephew, and seek revenge on the people who killed his brother. Instead he finds himself trapped by a blizzard with two children who are terrified of him and stubborn but beautiful Gwen Harkness, who he worries may be trying to keep the children.
When danger descends on the cabin where they’re huddled, Cam is hurt trying to
protect everyone and now finds Gwen caring for him too. He soon realizes why the kids love her so much and wonders if it might be best for him to move on without them. When she sees his broken heart, Gwen decides to help him win back their affection–and in the process he might just win her heart as well.
Connealy’s Latest Filled with a Blend of Humor, History, and Cowboys
• “Connealy crafts relatable characters who will inspire readers with their love,
loyalty, and fortitude.”—
• Bestselling author Connealy reaches her fans regularly on popular book
• In 1860s Lake Tahoe, a band of high mountain cowboys must overcome a
The fun thing about my two books is one is contemporary, one is historical. They are both, I think, romantic comedy with cowboys. Although my contemporary ‘cowboy’ is a cop. But they hero and heroine are both from Texas and they go home to the family ranch for the happily ever after.
Today, let’s talk contemporary romance vs historical romance. Why do you like one or the other. Westerns, more than most other genres, can span historical and contemporary, as many modern day western romances as historical.
Which is your favorite. No right or wrong answers, just a fun conversation. Leave a comment to get your name in a drawing for an ebook copy of Loving the Texas Negotiator.
When I first began researching details for my Baker City Brides series a few years ago, one particular historical fact I found piqued my interest.
In the 1890s, Baker City, Oregon, was home to a meteorological station.
For my soon-to-be released fifth installment in the sweet historical romance series, I decided to make the heroine’s father the newly-stationed meteorologist.
Which meant I had to dig up more detail about the station and why it was in Baker City of all places.
Weather, it seems, has always been important to the citizenry of the United States. As far back as the arrival of the first colonists, records of the weather were kept, noting the harshness of the New World.
Many of the Founding Fathers observed the weather with avid interest including Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. During the early and mid 1800s, weather observation networks began to grow and expand across the United States.
Then the telegraph became operational in 1845 and visionaries saw the possibility of forecasting storms simply by telegraphing ahead what was coming.
A man named Joseph Henry (sometimes referred to as the Father of Weather), Secretary of the new Smithsonian Institution, envisioned communication system opportunities that could extend across the North American continent. A plan was approved in 1848 for volunteer observers who could report the weather via telegraph and by the end of 1849, 150 volunteers were reporting weather observations to the Smithsonian regularly. By 1860, five hundred stations were daily furnishing weather reports.
President Ulysses S. Grant signed into law a resolution in February 1870 that established an agency for reporting the weather. Although the brief resolution was given little press at the time, the agency it created would affect the daily lives of most citizens through its forecast and warnings.
Through the resolution, weather stations would operate under the War Department’s Signal Service Corps. This organization, The Division of Telegrams and Reports for the Benefit of Commerce, laid the ground work for the National Weather Service we know today.
On November 1, 1870, the first synchronous meteorological reports were taken by observer/sergeants at twenty-four stations in the new agency and transmitted by telegraph to the central office in Washington, D.C.
The work of the new organization demanded men familiar with observations, theoretic, and practical meteorology. Commissioned officers detailed to Signal Service work were required to acquire meteorological knowledge by studying, consulting and learning from leading meteorologists of the time. For the education of the weather observers (enlisted men), a school of meteorology was added to the existing school of instruction in telegraphy and military signaling located at Fort Whipple (Fort Myer), Virginia.
The Signal Service’s field stations grew from twenty four to almost three hundred in 1878. Three times a day, each station telegraphed an observation to the home office including observations about the barometric pressure, temperature, humidity, wind velocity, pressure of wind, clouds, and general state of the weather.
One such station existed in Boise, Idaho, but it closed just two days before Idaho became a state in July 1890 and moved to Baker City. The reasoning was that the area in Baker City was better for gathering weather information.
Then, in July 1891, the weather stations, telegraph lines, apparatus, and all the office equipment right down to every accounted-for pencil were transferred from the Signal to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s newly formed civilian Weather Bureau. The bureau created the basis of the weather service we know today.
Lightning and Lawmen (Baker City Brides Book 5) will release June 28.
Here’s a little excerpt:
At least the pleasant weather was one thing working in Baker City’s favor. In spite of the house’s disorderly status, she would greatly enjoy spring days in the area if today was any indication of what the future held. She pushed the cape from her shoulders, closed her eyes, and relaxed against the chair, enjoying the peaceful moments before her father returned.
“Maybe this place won’t be all bad,” she whispered, allowing her grip on her father’s bag to loosen.
“Baker City tends to grow on most folks, if you give it a chance,” a deep voice said, startling her from her musings.
Her eyes snapped open in surprise. Pride straightened her spine as her glance settled on a man standing a few yards away on the winter-browned grass on the other side of the porch railing.
Sunlight glinted off a shiny silver badge pinned to the front of a long duster. She studied the black western-style hat on his head, similar to those she’d seen cowboys sporting on the train. The lawman wore a tan flannel shirt topped with a dark vest and a neckerchief the color of crocuses. Dark blue denims encased muscled legs while dust covered the toes of his worn boots.
Slowly, her gaze glided from his boots back up to his face. A square jaw covered in a rakish growth of stubble, firm lips, and a straight nose proved to be a handsome combination. But it was the man’s eyes that captured her attention.
For a chance to win a $5 Amazon Gift Card, answer this question:
Yes, indeed, The Princess and the Wolf has just been released in e-book format. Plus, it’s undergone a terrific job in the editing department. But before I get into the excerpt for the new book, I wanted to send out a call to all of my former Warriorettes. My newest book, Brave Wolf and the Lady, will be coming out within a few months. Currently it is undergoing editing. It’s exciting for me, because Brave Wolf and the Lady is not only a brand new book, it has a cameo appearance of two very dear characters from my first book, Lakota Surrender. The hero of the new book is the son of those two main characters. So if you were ever one of my Warriorettes, please do contact me at karenkay(dot)author(at)earthlink(dot)net.
Isn’t this an absolutely beautiful cover? I love the pose. I love the clothing. I love the background. It is my pleasure to show you this very newest cover — excerpt to follow.
I will be giving away a free copy of the book today, so please please sure to leave a comment — all you need to do to enter into the drawing. All of our guidelines for give-aways apply — something I must say.
So here we go: I’ll post the blurb, a few reviews, and then the excerpt. Hope you will enjoy.
The Princess and the Wolf
TWO HEARTS BETRAYED
Refusing to believe the rumors that the European prince she was forced to marry had died in a far-off land, the princess, Sierra, sets sail to America, bent on revenge and determined to learn the truth. Because she will require a scout to guide her through the wilderness, she calls in a favor from the man who had betrayed her long ago, the man she had once loved deeply and had hoped to wed, the noble Cheyenne scout, High Wolf.
Many years before, a European prince had invited High Wolf to travel an ocean and as a brother, to live as a member of the royal family. There High Wolf had fallen in love with the princess, Sierra. But instead of an engagement and the planned wedding, the princess had treacherously married his friend, the prince. Betrayed and broken-hearted, High Wolf sailed back to America, determined to forget the princess. But a promise given to her years earlier brings her back into his life, igniting a desire he must resist, for to surrender to her again is unthinkable.
Forced into one another’s company, with the threat of life or death around every corner, overcoming their prejudice might be their only means of survival. But can either of them trust in a love, once betrayed? Or will their past force them apart again, this time forever?…
This book has been previously published.
Warning: A sensuous romance that might fan the flames of desire. Be warned. You might fall in love all over again.
An adventure of the heart, this story will carry you to the heights of excitement as two old friends meet and the depths of despair when they acknowledge what they’ve lost. Set in the days when the Missouri River was largely an unknown, untamed territory, the reader will thrill to the danger and joys the two share as they travel toward Fort Clark on their mission to learn the truth of Prince Alathom’s disappearance.
Highly recommended as a rewarding way to spend pleasant hours. A trip back in time with descriptions so clear, you will feel as though you’ve been inside the homes and forts of the day; A tale written by an author who knows her subject and writes from the heart. Enjoy.
Anne K. Edwards
Karen Kay does a masterful job of weaving the past and the present together so that the two stories seem destined to connect. The fierce passion and sensuality makes the story sparkle. The characters dance off the page and come to life, remaining long after the end of the story.
Lori Soard, Reviewer
Karen Kay captures the hearts of her readers. With beauty and elegance we become one with the Indian scout, with nature, with our senses. We walk in their shoes, smell the damp leaves on the forest floor and visualize all the colors in a sunrise. TheBestReviews.com
Karen Kay has a talent to pull you into the story and not let you go until it’s finished. Even then, the story stays with you long after the last page. High Wolf not only takes Princess Sierra on a journey, he takes the reader on one as well. RomanceJunkies.com
The Princess and the Wolf gives readers a new thrill, taking one Princess and a Cheyenne brave, and turning what is forbidden into a fiery passion that was meant to be. Writers and Readers Network.
Enjoy this excerpt from The Princess and the Wolf
“The housekeeper tells that’tis well known the prince would divorce her, were he here,” said the kitchen maid.
“Aye, that he would,” replied the housemaid. “And good riddance, says I. It was she that drove him away. That she did.”
Gossip between servants at
Prince Alathom’s Castle
“Do you wish anything else before we go ashore?”
“No, Maria,” answered Princess Sierra, watching from her perch high above the dock, as Governor Clark stepped from the carriage, accompanied by an Indian maiden. “I do not require anything else at the moment. You’ve done quite well, my friend, despite the demanding conditions of this vessel.” She gave Maria a brief smile. “Would you please find Mr. Dominic and inform him that I am ready to leave this ship?”
“Yes, Your Highness. At once. Do we go to greet Governor Clark, then?”
“I believe so,” said the princess. “And for this task, I will have need of you both to accompany me.”
“Yes, Your Highness,” Maria said, curtsying before she turned to do as bid.
Sierra smoothed a white-gloved hand over the blue and white muslin of her very full skirt, pulling the lace that bordered her walking dress into place. Straightening her shoulders, she settled her blue and white-lace mantle over the double bouffant of her sleeves, buttoning the mantle’s closure at the neck. Briefly, she touched her wide belt, which was made of the same light blue color as her dress, pulling it a little more tightly around her waist so as to accentuate its most tiny aspect. A white straw bonnet, adorned with ribbons of blue and tied at the neck, completed the image of the fashionable royal that she was.
Opening her blue and white parasol, Sierra narrowed her eyes, placing a hand gently over her forehead as though it were an extra shield from the sun. She frowned.
From her view of it, there seemed to be no sign of the man she had instructed Governor Clark to hire. Had she needlessly tortured herself over this first meeting with High Wolf?
Perhaps he hadn’t yet arrived.
Or maybe, she thought on a grimmer note, he wasn’t coming. Had he mayhap learned that it was she behind the request?
For a moment, she worried over the possibility. As absurd as it might appear, such a thing was possible: He might know of her coming. He’d always seemed to have ways of gleaning information about things—ways that she had never understood. Perhaps he had discovered her scheme well ahead of the fact.
At that thought, Sierra tried to swallow her disappointment.
It wasn’t that she was looking forward to seeing him again. No. It was only that he, and he alone, could lead her to Prince Alathom, and it was Prince Alathom she needed to find and challenge, Prince Alathom whom she would repay in kind…if need be…
Squaring her shoulders and setting her features into as delightful a smile as she could, Princess Sierra pulled unconsciously at her mantle, noticing as she did so that her fingers shook with the effort.
It was then that she caught sight of something in her peripheral vision…something familiar. She turned her head carefully to the left, her eyes colliding with and staring hard at a pair of dark eyes looking directly back at her.
Her stomach flipped over twice before it at last performed a dive toward her toes. She inhaled swiftly to try to quell the reaction.
It was he, High Wolf. He had come, after all.
As impossible as it might seem, she stared back at a face that she had once thought never to see again. Yet, there he was; there, across a very short distance.
And unable to curtail it, she was suddenly awash in nearly palpable relief.
Relief? Nonsense. It was probably more to the point to say that she was glad that her scheme now contained the element of possibility, the possibility of success.
But if he were to be caught looking up at her, she would be staring back down at him as well, almost as though she were hungry for the sight of him…although she corrected herself, this last thought was ridiculous.
Again, she reminded herself that he, as well as the prince, had betrayed her. In different ways, perhaps. But betrayal was certain treachery after all, regardless of the circumstances. And faith, once lost, could never be restored.
Still, despite the intervening years, an all too familiar pain shot through her, and without her conscious will, she found herself scrutinizing the man she had once thought herself to be in love with…a man who had left her for no more than three hundred gold dukaten.
He looked much the same as he had ten years ago, yet different. Whereas High Wolf had been little more than a boy then, he was now very much a man, and he looked bigger somehow, though he was still extraordinarily slim. Perhaps it was because his chest was wider, larger…or perhaps he was more muscular.
He looked…better, more handsome, more virile.
Sierra grimaced at her thoughts and decided to scrutinize something else less potent…his manner of dress, for instance…
Gone were the fashionable trousers and high leather boots that she remembered him wearing in the past; in their place were buckskin leggings, breechcloth and moccasins. Gone also were the carefully stitched linen shirt and cravat so precisely tied, supplanted now with a long buckskin shirt, fringed, with the bottom of it hanging down almost past his breechcloth. An ornament of what looked to be a concatenation of beads and bone, in the shape of a breastplate, hung down over his chest. It was a sight she had never beheld until this moment.
Instead of a hat, however, he now wore feathers on his head—or at least there was one feather sticking straight up behind him. And his hair…
Relegated to the past was the fashionable haircut she recalled so well, displaced now by long, black hair that hung well past his shoulders.
He looked…Indian, alien from all she had ever known and loved. Yet his countenance was, contrarily, as familiar to her as a well-rehearsed play.
And she wondered: Despite their past, would he help her?
Not if he knew her purpose.
Only too well, she recalled that High Wolf considered the prince to be more than a friend. To him, and perhaps rightly so, Prince Alathom was a brother, a brother in fact as well as in deed. Besides, High Wolf would hardly condone her murderous plan…a scheme she fully intended to execute if the prince refused to return to the Continent, whereupon he would take up his responsibilities.
Indeed, she would be satisfied.
Those at home thought she knew nothing of their wagging tongues; they believed their whispered insults were discreet. But Sierra did know. She did care. And he would pay.
Oh, yes, he would pay.
Which meant, she realized, that the real reason for her journey must remain a well-guarded secret; from Governor Clark, from her guides and especially from High Wolf.
She only wondered if she could successfully hide her motives from High Wolf. After all, as she had already surmised, High Wolf was an extremely perceptive man. Might he guess?
Well, it was up to her to keep her secret well hidden. She only hoped she was up to the task.
He stared at her as though he had come face-to-face with his worst nightmare—or maybe his best fantasy. Princess Sierra? Here? Now?
His heart skipped a beat, then picked up its pace, pounding onward in triple speed. High Wolf caught his breath before forcing himself to breathe in and out. In a daze, he stared up at her, feeling as though he were caught in an illusion.
Had she come for him? Had she traveled all this distance to reach out to him, realizing after all this time that she could not live without him, as she had once proclaimed?
Or was she a mere mirage, the same sort of image that haunted his dreams?
Without warning, the desire to run to her, to take her in his arms and embrace her, was almost more real than the solidness of the ground beneath him. Of its own will, the memory of the taste of her, the scent of her, the sweetness of her embrace, overwhelmed him.
And he knew he needed, he wanted to kiss her. Now. In truth, so strong was the desire, he had taken a few steps toward her before he became once more fully aware of himself, and stopped.
The prince. How could he have forgotten the prince—as well as her duplicity—so easily? Where was the prince?
Odd, he thought, how the mind could forget the pain, the anguish, the loss. For a moment, all had been gone, replaced by the simple joy of seeing her again. Odd, too, how his body was even now reacting, that most manly part of him pulsing with every pounding of his heart, remembering, anticipating…what could never be.
He groaned. He had to bring himself, his thoughts, his body under control, quickly.
Concentrate on her faithlessness, he cautioned himself. Hers and Prince Alathom’s.
He glanced to the side of her and all around her. Where was the prince?
And then, as though it came through the fog cluttering his mind, a thought came to him. Governor Clark had hired him, had told High Wolf that he was to escort and protect a royal party, one that was coming to the Americas for a wild-game hunt.
It was the prince and princess . It had to be.
Had the two of them asked for him, personally? For old time’s sake? Was that why Clark had sent for him?
Or was this mere coincidence?
Coincidence? He sneered. High Wolf knew there was no such thing.
Had the two of them no compassion? No pity?
Surely they were aware of what the mere act of seeing them again—together—would do to him.
Or did they think that they could renew friendship? That he would have forgotten?
Well, he had not forgotten; he could not.
Breathing in deeply, High Wolf calmed himself. He was letting his emotions take control of his mind, even of his body. It was possible, he conceded, that he was not thinking clearly, putting elements together that did not necessarily go together.
Besides, he didn’t have to take the job at hand. He had not pledged his word.
And it wouldn’t be as if he were deserting the prince and princess, either. After all, there were these two disreputable trappers that Clark had hired as well.
Wearily, High Wolf glanced at the two shabbily dressed men. Yes, let them have the assignment…while he, High Wolf, quietly disappeared…
Surely, that would be best. For indeed, if this were his initial reaction to the princess—and at this great a distance from her—what would be his fate if he were to witness her beauty closer to hand?
At that thought, a rush of desire swept through him that was as uncontrollable as it was unwelcome. In truth, so swift was his reaction, he rocked back on his feet.
The response shocked him as much as it excited him. And High Wolf knew he had best renew his intention to leave—quickly…
Yet he didn’t budge so much as an inch. In faith, he could not have turned away from her now had he been a saint. Not yet.
Contrarily, another part of him reasoned that little harm could come from feasting his sights upon her for a while longer. Perhaps the image gained could serve to fuel the fiber of his imagination in the lonely nights ahead of him.
Make no mistake, Princess Sierra had always been the most beautiful creature he had ever seen, and it appeared she had changed little, except to have blossomed. More curves, more womanly features.
As he stared, his heart warmed to his subject. Dark curls bounced around her face while her bonnet hid the rest of her coiffure. Oval face, high cheekbones, eyes that he knew were as green as a prairie in spring. Even from this distance, he could attest that her skin still glowed with health and vitality. It was one of the features he remembered most about her. Her skin had been luminous, clear; had shone with a radiance even under cover of darkness, as though she might be lit by a fire within.
How he had loved to run his hands over her face, her neck, those curves…
Cease this, he cautioned himself, letting out his breath.
Yet the mind was often a mysterious thing, and despite himself, his thoughts rambled on. At five foot four, she had always been a slender little thing. He recalled that he had once spanned her waist within the outstretched grip of both his hands. They had laughed about it. All three of them. Himself, Prince Alathom and the princess.
Odd, how close the three of them had once been, so close they had shared most everything.
High Wolf sighed.
Perhaps it was the way of the world that some things—even good things—were destined to end. Maybe that was why one should reach out for all the happiness he could have, while it still lay within his grasp.
Taking a few steps away, High Wolf at last turned his back on the sight of her. Best to disappear now, as quickly as possible. For of one matter he was entirely certain: He would not escort the princess and the prince. Not now. Not ever.
He took a few steps away.
His insides plummeted at the sound of her voice. Yet he remained steadfast in his decision and kept walking, ignoring the call.
“High Wolf, don’t go!”
Don’t listen to her, he counseled himself. Go now, before she has a chance to weave her spell around you. Go at once .
But even as he thought it, an odd music, a rhythm perchance, began to pound through his mind, reminding him of other places, other times…
Step, sweep, sweep; up, up, back. Hands locked together, step apart, meet. Smile at her, she at him; step, sweep, sweep. Hands held, turn; up to the toes; down again. Shoulder to shoulder, change position. Step, sweep, sweep. Hands touching; smile…
High Wolf could practically hear the strains of the violins and cello in three-quarter beat. It had been a different time and place; a different environment. In truth, it had been like a different life.
A hand clapped him on the shoulder. “High Wolf?” It was a male voice.
Sighing deeply, High Wolf put the memory from him, while at the same time he glanced around behind him, casting a look over his shoulder, espying the well-dressed, yet massive gentleman who stood behind him. Pivoting slowly, he came to stare at the man, who was, perhaps, the tallest human being High Wolf had ever seen.
Silence reigned until at last the other man said, “Princess Sierra Morena requests that you await an audience with her.”
High Wolf squinted at this giant, rendering him with as condescending a look as he could muster, though inwardly an ugly emotion ripped at his innards. Aloud he asked, “Does she?”
“Yes, sir. If you will wait a moment.”
High Wolf turned aside. “But I won’t wait,” he said, feigning a foreign accent that was all too natural, at least for his own peace of mind. “Please give my regards to the princess.” He bowed slightly, more out of a long-ago habit than in deference, a habit, he realized, he hadn’t used in ten long years.
A hand came up to clasp his shoulder. “The princess wishes to speak to you now.”
High Wolf paused as he considered his options. He could leave. It was probably what he should do. After all, there was no man alive who could keep him here; not if High Wolf desired to walk away.
He cast another glance at his opponent. No, not even this big, brawny man could keep him if he truly wished to flee.
But did he?
Would she look different up close; would she be different? Would her marriage to the prince have matured her? Or would she still be the sweet, young girl he had once loved so very, very well?
High Wolf rocked back on his feet. He was caught. Truly caught. Not by his own honor, but by his curiosity.
Later, he would take his leave of this party, and in particular, of the princess. But not now.
No, for now he would wait. He would observe. And then he would go, quickly, and as silently as he had done ten years ago.
Inured to his fate, he gazed upward, watching the princess depart the steamship, scrutinizing her progress down the ramp as closely as if he were reading a track marked upon the earth. He caught her smile as she grinned at Governor Clark, saw her speak a few words to that gentleman, scolded himself for wishing he might be the man on the receiving end of her smile.
And then gradually, so very, very slowly, she turned toward him, raising her sights to meet his.
And High Wolf stared back, his gaze, for all that he was aware of her faults, still hungry for the sight of her. And for a moment, time distorted. There was no past, no present, no future. There was only she… and he, the rest of the world diminished, as though it were no more than their own personal backdrop.
He sighed, recalling too well his loss. And the magic of the moment faded.
In vain he awaited the shy downturn of her eyelashes as she stared at him, the flirtatious one he remembered so very well.
It never came.
No, the princess gazed back at him boldly, brazenly, and try as he might to find it, there was nothing coquettish about the look she gave him. In faith, if he were to examine her appearance at this moment, he would have to conclude that she was beautiful. Yes. Beautiful, but hard—as though time had extracted all the softness from her.
So, he thought, the princess, too, had changed in many more ways than those of a physical nature.
As he took note of her approach, time passed quickly, and yet in a way it seemed to drag. Leisurely, he watched her, knowing that hidden deep within him, there was an impossible hope that perhaps this was all a mistake, a horrible ten-year-old mistake.
It was remarkable, he thought as his gaze drank in her beauty, how the princess could appear so severe, yet still innocent in countenance. As though she bore no shame, no regret; as though she had never been the cause of an injustice.
Saaaa. He used the Cheyenne expression which stood for many things, including astonishment. It was as though she might be the wounded party from all those years ago…not he.
High Wolf nodded a silent acknowledgment, even if the movement of his head was a slight one. Then, leaning his weight upon his rifle, he awaited the “angel in blue” as she approached.
“Ho’neoxhaa’eho’ese,” she pronounced his name in Cheyenne as soon as she stepped within a few feet of him. “It has been a long time.”
She did not offer her hand, and her words, softly spoken, cut through him, as though the sound of her voice were blazed in steel. Yet High Wolf simply nodded, trying to shake off the feeling of being ill-at-ease.
In contrast, she seemed all poise and assurance; she even smiled. However, he took careful note, no happiness reached those green eyes before she asked, “How have you been?”
“I am well,” he replied, his voice, usually full-bodied, no more than a dull monotone.
She seemed unaware of any problem with him, however, and replied, “That is good. That is good, indeed.”
“And you?” he inquired politely.
Again, she grinned up at him, before saying, “I am well, as you can see.”
High Wolf inclined his head toward her, catching her eye before he said, “And your husband?”
She flinched as though he might have dealt her a blow, and oddly, her face drained of color, her eyes becoming suddenly dull. Hurriedly, she glanced away.
Frowning, High Wolf ventured further, “Is he in company with you?”
However, the princess did not deign to answer; her gaze looked instead out upon the dock as though it were of great interest—a dock that was streaming with people. “Mr. High Wolf,” she said at last, “over there, due west of us”—she nodded toward the spot—“there is a patch of level ground that looks fairly well deserted of people. I would very much like to take a turn in it, if you would be so kind as to accompany me.”
Take a turn. He hadn’t heard that phrase, hadn’t spoken that phrase in well over ten years. Hearing it again, unfortunately for him, had the effect of turning back time.
Politely, out of a habit from long ago, he bowed at the waist. “I would be happy to join you, Your Highness,” he said, “at some other time. But I am afraid that I have…other business that calls my attention at the moment.”
She acknowledged him with a delicate dip of her head. “I understand,” she said. “I am assuming this business relates to Governor Clark and his hiring you as a guide?”
High Wolf said nothing in reply.
“And I am sure you have already surmised that I am to be the party you are to accompany into the interior.”
He blinked at her, his only acknowledgement.
“And you are considering declining, now that you know more of the facts?” She might have asked it as such, but he knew her words were no question.
He shrugged, saying, “As you say.”
“Very well,” she acknowledged, “although I find it monstrous ill that you can turn so easily away from a promise.”
He raised an eyebrow.
“For you see,” she continued, “I am calling in a favor you once granted me. A favor, you had once said, that would send you to me in a moment of distress. If I remember correctly”—she gave him a sly look—“you vowed to come to my aid if I did no more than call upon you.”
He didn’t blink—not even a single eyelash—as he countered, “All such promises came to nothing, Your Highness, on the day you became Prince Alathom’s wife, by the very nature of that act.”
When she frowned, he went on to observe, “Did you not vow to forsake all others? That would include me, would it not?”
“Perhaps,” she said, then grinned up at him, while High Wolf suddenly found himself at odds, disliking her, while all the while longing to take her in his arms. Instead of doing either, however, he stepped back, away from her.
But she continued, “If I remember correctly, there were no restraints upon your favor when you made the vow, although I do admit it was a long time ago. You merely said, ‘Ask, and I will come.’” She smiled at him flirtatiously. “Perhaps your favors expire with time if not used?”
He shrugged off the insult. “It was the heartfelt promise of a boy from long ago. You have a husband now to attend to your needs.”
“But that is precisely the reason for my visit, Mr. High Wolf,” she said, her expression suddenly modest. “For you see, to all the world, I no longer have a husband.”
High Wolf went very still, his outward demeanor showing little of his agitation. Instead he watched her watching him; saw her scrutinize him, her glance perhaps hoping to find some weakness in him. But High Wolf was too well versed in the ways of a scout, and much too observant to be affected by such an overt contemplation, and with ease, he carefully hid the sudden quickening of his heart.
But she was continuing to speak, and said, “Now, please, Mr. High Wolf, let us take that turn.” And sweeping her skirts with a grand gesture, she stepped toward the place she had earlier indicated, though shortly she turned back. “Mr. Dominic,” she called over her shoulder, “please inform Governor Clark that I will join him soon. I shall be only a moment.”
“Yes, Your Highness,” said Mr. Dominic, and bowing, turned away.
Slowly, Princess Sierra pivoted around, her gaze capturing his . “Now, Mr. High Wolf,” she said, “shall we?”
And High Wolf, bound by an imprudent oath from his past, had no other option—at least none at the moment—but to hear her out. And though he wished himself somewhere else—anywhere else—he followed her lead.
Oh, how she wished the past were different. Oh, how she longed to turn back time. But events were as they were, and not even God in His heaven could change the history of what had come to be.
Princess Sierra sighed and, as she stepped lightly toward the spot she had earlier indicated, she wondered what she could say to this man that would sway him to her cause, trying to recall her well-rehearsed speech.
It was one thing to determine and practice such words of favor in the privacy of one’s quarters, quite another to confront the actual man. Plus she hadn’t counted on the increased rate of her heartbeat, or on the weakness which came over her limbs. And despite herself, Princess Sierra was experiencing a desire to throw herself into High Wolf’s arms and beg for his mercy.
She snorted instead. She? Beg this man?
Still, she must do something to solicit his help, and all without allowing him to perceive her real purpose. Could she do it? Could she fool this very insightful man?
Oh, if only life could be different. For within her, and increasing with every minute, was a sensation of old, a desire to purge herself of her troubles—as she had often done with this man in their not-too-distant past.
But she could hardly afford such a luxury and remain true to herself. Indeed, not only must she continue to be steadfast, she daren’t forget that this was the same man whose treachery had broken her heart…
Sierra inhaled deeply once again. There were some actions, that once were done, could never be taken back. And make no mistake, this man’s offense had been such a one.
Well, so be it. Squaring her shoulders, the princess turned to face him and said, “The prince is dead.”
High Wolf frowned. “Dead?”
“Yes, apparently so.”
“Apparently?” As High Wolf’s frown deepened, his stare became piercing.
Ignoring the look, she continued, “Prince Alathom was not home when the event which took his life happened, as you might already know.”
High Wolf raised one single eyebrow. He repeated, “Already know?”
“Yes,” she stated it as though it were a certainty. “It was a hunting accident—here in the Americas. We received word of the incident only a few months ago.”
“Our families.” Sierra swallowed, and inhaling a deep breath, took a plunge, when perhaps it might have been more prudent to tread water. However, she continued, “Come now, High Wolf, I’m certain that I’m not telling you anything of which you are not already aware.”
If he detected the note of censure in her voice, he overlooked it, for all he said was, “Why would you think that?”
How dare he pretend to be innocent? Did he mean to insult her intelligence? Did he honestly think she would not be able to piece together the facts?
Well, perhaps it was time to show him that she could play any game that he chose to play. And, determined to put him in his place, she began, “I would think that, because the accident that took his life happened here…in the West, you would be well versed in it.”
High Wolf narrowed a glance at her. “Meaning that you think he and I were together when it happened?”
“If the shoe fits… ”
“And you think I was responsible for his death? Is this what you’re insinuating?”
“No,” she denied, momentarily thrown off guard by his question. In vain, she tried to ignore the confusion his question brought her, for despite her anger at him, she never would have thought this man responsible for the prince’s accident. He and Alathom were simply too close.
No, the truth was that she simply did not believe such an accident had taken place. If she were correct—and there was no reason to assume she was not—the prince and High Wolf had conceived the deceit together, had planned it as deceptively as they had once planned another escape.
But she could not very well tell him that.
However, he was frowning at her, staring at her in a way that brought her to understand that he was reading every nuance of her reaction…something he was quite adept at, and a little too breathlessly, she continued, “I… I would not accuse you of having caused his death. I know you would never do anything to intentionally harm the prince. It’s only that…”
“You think I should have died in his place?”
Then why, when you had a reason to do so , didn’t you come back to me?
No, that wasn’t right. She couldn’t have actually thought that—not about this man.
High Wolf, however, as though ill-at-ease, crossed his arms over his chest before repeating, “Then what? What are you accusing me of?”
“I’m not accusing you of anything except perhaps being more friendly toward the prince than you have been to me.”
This last appeared to baffle High Wolf, and even he could not subdue the look of bewilderment that settled across his features. In truth, so honest was his perplexity, had she not known better, she would almost have believed in his innocence—almost…
And she said, “Come now, High Wolf, we were always friends, weren’t we? You, the prince and myself?”
High Wolf visibly stiffened, though all he said was, “We were—once.”
“And so all I am asking of you is that you give me as much deference as you would, or more correctly, as you have, the prince. I would like to go into the interior for a hunt, perhaps to ease my mind from my ‘loss.’” She emphasized the word. “I would request that you guide me there.”
Sierra glanced up to see, not the countenance of a man who had been caught out in a lie and was quietly ready to admit it, but rather she was met with indisputable contempt.
Oddly, it was this look that gave her courage. For it was she, not he, who had a right to indignation.
He stirred, moving away from her, and said, “I will not lead you into the interior of this country.”
Instantly, a feeling of disdain swept over her, returning to her a presence of mind. And she said, “Stay where you are. I have not yet given you permission to leave.”
He stilled. “No, you haven’t, Your Highness,” he said, pivoting around and coming face-to-face with her once more. However, with a leer on his countenance, he added, “But perhaps you should look around you.”
In defiance, she kept her glance glued to him.
“And maybe, if you did so, you might examine your environment even more carefully.”
Sierra stared straight ahead, still training her gaze on him and him alone.
He continued, “For, Your Highness, if you were to do this simple act, you might discover that you are no longer in Europe. Now look at me closely.”
“I already am.”
“More closely than even this.”
She blew out her breath, refusing to do as he bid, and glanced away from him instead.
But if her reaction bothered him, he seemed not to show it. Indeed, he said, “Do you see that I am not one of your subjects?”
Even as he uttered the words, the sneer in his tone, the curtness of his very manner, could not have been mistaken for anything other than what it was: disrespect. In response, her chin lifted high into the air, and she declared, “One does not need to be a subject of a particular country in order to exhibit proper manners,” she scolded. “And there is nothing that I have said that gives you leave to mock me. Indeed, I ask a simple thing.”
If she had hoped to make him more propitious, she had certainly failed, for within his glance was pure defiance, and he said, “True, the request is simple, but I suspect that the entreaty which is so sweetly given is yet filled with venom.”
She sucked in her breath.
He continued, “I am not for hire by you.” He spun about, ready to leave.
Goodness! The man hated her.
For an instant, the realization caused her to sway from where she stood. And for another heartfelt moment, she felt as though every single drop of blood in her body had become frozen.
She had certainly not anticipated this man’s hatred. After all, by what right did he dare show her ridicule? She, and she alone , possessed leave to seek revenge.
Yet he was retreating from her, without her leave, without her approval and with as much ill-will as she had ever witnessed. Worse, his departure was not something she would or could permit.
Reaching forward, she grabbed hold of his sleeve, the rough leather of his shirt feeling oddly soft against her fingers, a softness, she noted, that was not reflected in his countenance, or in any other part of him. She said, “What did I ever do to you that you feel compelled to treat me like this?”
He stopped, he stiffened, he inhaled slowly before he at last rocked back on his feet. Then swallowing hard, as though he were not as confident as he might like her to believe, he shut his eyes, letting go of his breath.
It was a show of minor weakness, but it was also the advantage she wanted, and she said, “You, sir, deserted me. It was not the other way around.”
“Was it not?”
“What do you mean?”
He let out his breath. “Try to understand, Your Highness, I am a different man now than I was when you once knew me. Ten years can bring about a great deal of change in a person.”
“I see,” she said dumbly, as yet another thought struck her. Aloud, she asked, “Are you married?”
She held her breath. It was a reasonable question, given their situation. It was also one she should have asked herself before now, if only to soften any surprise. After all, High Wolf was nothing if not a handsome and virile man. And being such, he was probably much sought after as a husband.
Her stomach dropped, and unreasonably, she felt defeated.
He questioned, “Does it matter if I am?”
“Of course not. Not to me.”
“Then why would you ask, I wonder?”
She shrugged. “Curiosity. Is this, then—your marriage—the reason why you will not guide me?”
“I see.” She gulped in air. “You could bring her with you. I would not mind.”
It was a lie; even as she spoke the words, Sierra knew she would rather die than meet this man’s wife. It was an odd thought to become aware of, and she trembled with realization: Did she still care about this man? Impossible. It simply could not be.
She glanced up to catch him grinning at her. But his good humor was far from a pretty sight. In truth, his grin was simply a movement of his lips, with no inclination to mirth whatsoever, a mere shadow of what she remembered.
However, he was speaking, and he said, “Well, I, for one, if I did have a wife, would mind bringing her along, although I realize you might not share my scruples on that.”
If he had a wife…?
“No, Princess,” he continued, “you are wasting your precious time on me. Go home. Leave me to my own thoughts, and let me grieve for my friend in private, for I meant what I said. I will not lead you anywhere in this country.”
The words had no more left his mouth than he had spun about and was doing exactly as he had threatened: He left, without so much as a by-your-leave, and with no deference to her whatsoever.
But this time Princess Sierra barely noticed. In truth, she was frowning, thinking…
Had High Wolf always harbored such antagonism? And if he had, how had she missed seeing it until now?
Sierra closed her eyes, inhaling and exhaling slowly. Well, this was a fine mess. Should she have confided her own doubts about the prince? That he might still be alive? And if he were, that she wanted nothing more than to have a council with him? Would that have persuaded High Wolf to her cause?
No, she had already made up her mind on this account, and she was certain: High Wolf and the prince were in one another’s confidence, as they had always been. And little good would come from her pleading. But, dear Lord, what was she to do now?
Hi all, Winnie Griggs here. In December, my book Once Upon A Texas Christmas will release. The story features a hero and heroine who have been asked to team up (much to the hero’s chagrin) to renovate an old hotel building. One of the things I wanted them to include as part of the renovation was an elevator. And this, of course, led me down a rabbit hole of research into what elevators were like during this period of time. So today I thought I’d share a little bit of what I learned.
First some history:
While the concept of lifting heavy objects is older than the pyramids themselves, it was in 236 BC that Archimedes, a Greek mathematician, invented the first elevator that was based on ropes, wrenches and weights. His concepts became the foundation for all elevators going forward.
One of my favorite and unexpected bits of elevator trivia – In 1203 the Abby of Mont St Michel installed a treadmill powered hoisting elevator. Most sources say prisoners were employed to man the treadmill. But at least one source noted that monkeys were employed as well. Whether true or not, isn’t it fun to imagine what that would have looked like?
It was in 1743 that one of the first elevators designed specifically for human passengers, a counterweight lift, was installed in King Louis XV’s villa at Versailles, France.
In 1852, while working in a New York bedstead factory, Elisha Otis saw a problem he needed to fix. Workers there were reluctant to use the hoists that were required to lift the heavy equipment to the upper floors. They were afraid the cable would break and crash to the ground causing serious injury or worse. Elisha rose to the challenge and he designed and created the first elevator safety braking device. It was this invention that revolutionized elevator design and paved the way for commercial passenger elevators.
In 1854 Elisha Otis introduced another safety device, an elevator cabin that featured a self-locking door gear, designed to protect occupants from falling out of the elevator. 32 years later inventor Alexander Miles patented an automatic door system for the elevator.
Elisha Otis died from diphtheria in 1861, he was only 49. But his two sons took over the company, turning it into an international giant. Over the next several years they installed elevators in such prestigious buildings as the Eiffel Tower, the Washington Monument and the 60 story Woolworth Building which was the world’s tallest building at the time. The Otis Elevator Company is still the world’s largest vertical transportation manufacturer today (it includes escalators as well as elevators).
Trivia and fun facts:
There are currently over 700,000 elevators in the US. But as of 2008, Italy holds the record for the country with the most elevators installed – approximately 850,000.
Statistically, elevators are the safest way to travel. And they are 20 times safer than escalators.
The reason most elevators have mirrors is to make them seem larger in order to help people who suffer from claustrophobia.
Music was first introduced in elevators in the 1920s. It was hoped that this would calm folks who might be anxious about riding in elevators for the first time.
Betty Oliver was an elevator operator in the Empire State Building who was on duty on July 28, 1945 when a plane crashed into the building. She was injured and when rescuers subsequently tried to lower her the elevator cable broke, plummeting her 75 stories down. Miraculously she survived the fall. She still holds the record for being the longest elevator fall survivor.
Over the course of three days, elevators carry the equivalent of the world’s total population.
So there’s a quick overview of some of the info I gathered in my research. What do you think? Did any of the info surprise you? Do you have any fun stories of your own to share related to elevators?
Leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for an advanced copy of my December release, Once Upon A Texas Christmas.
ONCE UPON A TEXAS CHRISTMAS
Partners for the Holidays
Abigail Fulton is determined to find independence in Turnabout, Texas—and becoming manager of the local hotel could be the solution. But first, she must work with Seth Reynolds to renovate the property by Christmas—and convince him she’s perfect for the job. If only he hadn’t already promised the position to someone else…
Ever since his troubled childhood, Seth yearns to prove himself. And this hotel is his best chance. But what does someone like Abigail know about decor and furnishings? Yet the closer the holiday deadline gets, the more he appreciates her abilities and her kindness. His business ambitions require denying Abigail’s dearest wish, but can they put old dreams aside for a greater gift—love and family?
WHITE EAGLE’S TOUCH — one of my best selling books — is going to be — sometime this week — released by Amazon in e-book format. And although we authors might never admit to having a favorite book, well…gotta say that this book is one of my favorites. So, I thought I’d tell you a little of the background that went in to the making of that book.
I love this cover by the way.
WHITE EAGLE’S TOUCH starts with my love of a rather spoiled, head-strong heroine — one who is really quite soft-hearted, but for reasons explained in the book, she harbors opinions that are far from flattering. In the story, the heroine, Katrina, is blond-haired, stubborn, almost out of funds and is demanding her inheritance in order that she might marry into royalty. She has also grown up without ever knowing her parents — who perished out West — or her uncle, who holds the purse-strings to her inheritance.
In other words, she has some reason to be spoiled, because she’s grown up without love — with a succession of nannies.
There are problems — mainly that her uncle will not release her funds until she comes West and parades her fiance in front of him for his approval. I must admit that it really is a lot to ask of a young woman who has known only the comforts of New York City — still it was rather fun to play around with her outrage.
Of course her uncle doesn’t show up at the scheduled rendezvous — he sends his friend — who is almost like a son to him — White Eagle — to bring her to him.
Of course the story goes on from there — spoiled, rich-girl meets handsome, yet determined young Indian warrior.
Now, the truth of the matter is that the character of Katrina was patterned after my daughter, Trina, who is definitely not blond. Not that Trina is spoiled, but at the writing of this story, Trina was a teenager — about nineteen, I believe — and she definitely had her likes and dislikes. Off to the side here is a picture of Trina with her daughter and my granddaughter, Lila. But patterning the heroine after my daughter really gave me a deeper understanding of my character, Katrina’s, personality — it also helped me to love this character, even when she is at her wit’s end.
In writing this book, I often had pictures of clothing and what the heroine might have looked like at that time. Off to the left here is a picture of that period’s clothing. I love this clothing, I must admit and sometimes wish we could go back to an age where women looked so very feminine. Now this picture to the left really — in my mind — has the look of my heroine at this time. A little bored, a little spoiled, always well dressed and trying to do the right thing — although in the West, my heroine’s efforts are sometimes clumsy and humorous — as she tries to “fit in.”
As for the hero, another one of my loves — I’ve always held a passion for a hero who brooks no argument, yet who is kind and generous — and who is waiting patiently for the heroine to come to her senses.
There is one scene in this book that I particularly like. It was a scene where the hero, along with his friend, concoct a scheme to send Katrina’s fiance packing. At the writing of this book, I had just the previous year, married my husband, Paul. When I married Paul, however, I also discovered that he was extremely close to his brother, Bob — this picture to the right is of Bob and Paul — Paul is the one sitting down. But this particular scene was about these two fellows and what they would do if they were there to rid themselves of this very unwanted person, and send him packing for home.
Interestingly, that “friend” of White Eagle is Night Thunder who has a book of his own — next in this series.
To end I thought I’d show you a picture of the original cover for WHITE EAGLE’S TOUCH. The reason I have to show you is that this cover is also one of my most favorite covers.
WHITE EAGLE’S TOUCH
By Karen Kay
It took the Indians less than an hour to fabricate the boat, it being scantily constructed of several buffalo hides stretched over a crude framework of willow branches, the willow being the closest wood to hand. A paddle had been made from a few tree limbs, too, and within little time, Katrina observed many of their party’s supplies neatly stowed within the bull boat, although Katrina took note that it was only the marquess’s things.
White Eagle motioned the marquess forward just as Katrina began to set foot into the boat. But White Eagle motioned her away, despite her protest, making signals to his friends to bring forward the marquess…and his dogs. White Eagle turned to Katrina. “You will ride in the wagon across the river.”
“But I don’t wish to wet my dress, and I might if I don’t…”
White Eagle looked sternly at her, and she fell silent, as he clearly had meant her to. She watched as the marquess sauntered toward them.
“Ah, finally,” the marquess said to White Eagle as he stepped into the boat, “you savages are recognizing your betters. It is about time.”
“Humph!” was the guttural response from White Eagle as he motioned to his friends, and, at a signal, the marquess’s hounds joined him in the crude structure.
White Eagle beckoned to Good Dancer to come forward, and after some counseling, Good Dancer strode toward the water, taking the rope of the boat in his hand and leading the craft into the water.
He began to swim ahead of the boat, tugging the craft out into the swirling currents.
No sooner had the marquess set out in the boat, when White Eagle directed both Katrina and Rebecca into the wagon.
The women seated themselves and immediately, upon doing so, the marquess’s two men—who had been driving the wagon—started the horses forward, into the swift-rushing currents. This being done, White Eagle and Night Thunder took hold of the rest of the horses and began guiding those animals, too, across the water.
No one appeared to notice the bull boat being led farther and farther downstream, away from the main party; not even the marquess, who, it would seem, was busily engaged in gazing at the sky and sipping the wine he had managed to bring with him.
Trouble hit without warning. One of the ponies pulling the wagon stepped into a pool of quicksand and jerked on his bridle, unseating the drivers and shooting them forward. The horse next to it reared, becoming entrenched, itself, in the mire and only the fast action of the two drivers saved the wagon from the same fate. The men righted themselves and whipped at the ponies, cursing them in a more colorful language than Katrina would have liked to hear, but the driver’s efforts were to no avail; the poor ponies could not extricate themselves, not with their burdens of bridle and harness.
One of the horses tried to rear again, its action tilting the wagon off kilter. Off slid the marquess’s baggage and particulars as well as her Saratoga, all tossed into the sandy murk of the quicksand and, had the two women not been holding on to their seats, they would have been flung overboard, too.
Katrina screamed; Rebecca, also.
The two women held onto one another as readily as they did to the wagon, and Katrina, as the wagon sank deeper and deeper, decided it would be better to jump for freedom, rather than sink into the muck of the sand.
“We’re going to jump off this wagon,” she yelled above the noise of the ponies and drivers’ cursing.
“I can’t,” came Rebecca’s reply. “I’m afraid.”
Katrina took her maid’s hand. “We’ll do it together, all right? It’s better than staying here. Now, ready, one, two, three.”
The two of them jumped, landing in the sandy marsh instead of sanctuary, their feet sinking quickly into the wash.
Both women shrieked.
Suddenly it was over. Strong hands caught hold of Katrina and pulled her out, bringing her up and onto a horse.
Barely able to hold on to the pony, she looked up into White Eagle’s face. She didn’t say a word, nor did he, as he nestled her against him.
“She is fine. My friend has her. Hold on to me,” he said, and as soon as he ensured she had a firm grip upon him, White Eagle whipped the pony into the fury of the river, forcing the animal to swim against the current and, it would seem, against all odds.
Onward, across the river, defying the swirling water and eddies, they swam, the pony’s body, except for his head, completely submerged.
The currents unseated them, and White Eagle barely held on to the pony by its tail, though he never took one arm from around her.
Soon, the other shoreline beckoned, and, within moments, the pony leapt to its feet, White Eagle able to do the same almost as quickly.
But he didn’t waste any time. “Wait here,” was the only instruction he gave her as he spun back toward his pony, the animal heaving with exhaustion. Still, White Eagle jumped back onto his mount and guided it once more into the water, Katrina watching him cross over, to the other side.
Good Dancer and Night Thunder had already rushed to the wagon, Night Thunder having deposited Rebecca safely on solid ground much as White Eagle had done with Katrina but, rather than chance the danger of the river, Night Thunder had settled Rebecca upon the safety of the eastern shore of the river, the opposite shore from where Katrina now stood.
Katrina looked around her to see if she could find any sign of the bull boat, but there was nothing to be found; as best she could tell, the marquess had not landed upon this same shoreline.
Yet there stood Good Dancer, trying to extricate the wagon. And he had been the one leading the bull boat. Where were the Englishman and his dogs? Had they been set adrift?
Far from being alarming, the thought was…amusing.
Katrina returned her attention to the ponies and the wagon.
It took the labors of all three Indians and the marquess’s two men finally to extricate the animals from the quicksand.
But they did it at last, with the least possible damage to the wagon, the ponies or the men…although much of the marquess’s clothing sank further and further into the sandy wallow.
The Indians and the two servants sprawled for the moment upon the sandy shore…but on the opposite side of the river. And no one seemed in any hurry to see to the marquess and his concerns, wherever he was.
Almost an hour passed, an hour during which the Indians sat up and smoked, working over something, while the white men rested. Katrina had tried to communicate to them all by shouting across the distance of the river. But it was almost impossible—nothing could be heard over the noise of the river. The most she learned was that Rebecca remained unhurt.
Finally, the Indians arose; to go in search of the marquess, she supposed.
More time passed, White Eagle no longer within sight, and Katrina’s clothes had almost dried upon her by the time the Indians returned, the marquess and his dogs trailing behind them. But what had happened to the marquess? He stood drenched from head to foot, while the Indians, in contrast, remained amazingly dry.
And then she saw that White Eagle did not return with the others.
“Where is White Eagle?” Katrina yelled across the stream, but no one could hear her.
She tried again, “Has something happened to White Eagle?”
Panic rose up within her. Surely, he wasn’t hurt, was he?
Without realizing what she did, she started toward the river, more willing to face it than remain in ignorance. She had no more than stepped foot in the water when from behind her, came a voice, saying, “Stay here.”
She recognized that baritone timbre and she turned.
“White Eagle,” she breathed out in relief, “you are all right.”
He nodded. “I am here. I am unhurt.”
“And the others?”
“They are fine.”
“But what are they doing over there, on the opposite shore? And why aren’t they crossing the river?”
“They are not all coming.”
“What? Not coming?”
“The Englishman refuses to travel any further.” White Eagle smiled slightly. “He said something about the expense of his suits and his silks and not liking all this adventure. They are turning back.”
“I see. I’m not surprised.” She paused, a thought occurring to her. “Did the marquess mention how he intended to pay for his stay upon returning to Fort Union?”
White Eagle shrugged.
“And what about Rebecca? Why is she still over there? When will you and the other guides be bringing her across the river?”
White Eagle looked off in the distance, avoiding Katrina’s eyes. He said, “Your friend will be going back to the fort, too.”
“No!” Katrina responded at once. “You can’t, she can’t. She has no one to watch over her and protect her there. Either I must go with her or she must be brought to me.”
“Night Thunder has promised to keep her safe.”
“Night Thunder? But he—”
“He will guard her and see to her needs.”
“Someone must go with the Englishmen and guide them back to the fort. They are as helpless as newborn babes.”
“But what has that to do with Rebecca? She must stay with me. I would worry about her otherwise, and—”
“Have you not noticed the looks shared between my friend and yours? It is better they stay together. Do not worry. Night Thunder will be with her. This I can promise you.”
“Do you? I still don’t like this, and what do you mean by the looks shared between them? I—”
“It has been decided.”
“Well, you can un-decide it.”
White Eagle, his lips turning up into a grin, seemed to be amused by Katrina’s determination. “Do you worry about a chaperon? Is that what bothers you? Do not. Good Dancer and his wife will join us as soon as the others have started back to the fort.” White Eagle crossed his arms over his chest. “Do you think I would take you on this long trip without another female companion? And with us as yet unmarried?”
“Humph,” was all the answer she received from this man.
“Perhaps it is for the best.” Katrina looked away from White Eagle, glancing out across the river. “This trail could well prove dangerous, and I wouldn’t want Rebecca risking her life unnecessarily. So mayhap you are correct in your judgment.”
“Humph,” he uttered again, and though she was fast beginning to tire of this standard response from him, she said nothing about it, gazing instead toward Rebecca and calling out, “I will miss you.”
Katrina waved, and Rebecca returned the gesture.
“I will miss you too,” Rebecca cried back. “If I could, I would be with you.”
Katrina smiled and mouthed the words, “I know,” and, turning about, she began to follow White Eagle up the steep incline, to the bluff just above the river.
They were dodging stickers and thorny plants when she heard White Eagle say, in a rather offhand manner, “Did I mention to you that your Englishman agreed, giving me his word of honor, to end your engagement and promised not to cause you any further trouble over this?”
Katrina could barely believe that she was hearing correctly. She opened her mouth to say “No, you did not,” but nothing issued forth. And so she did the only thing afforded her in her situation.
She stared at his back as he moved ahead of her, simply stared…
WHITE EAGLE’S TOUCH
Well, that’s all for today.
Do come on in and leave a comment. That’s all you have to do to enter into the contest. And of course the Giveaway Guidelines all apply. Remember to check back tomorrow to see if you are the winner.