Book 2, The Clan of the Wolf Series
He saved her life, then stole her heart….
To escape an arranged marriage, Mia Carlson, daughter of a U.S. senator,
instead elopes with the man she loves. As they are escaping from her Virginia
home, heading west, their wagon train is brutally attacked, leaving Mia alone and
in grave danger. Rescue comes from a most unlikely source, a passing Lakota
scouting party, led by the darkly handsome Indian, Brave Wolf.
Although Brave Wolf has consented to guide Mia to the nearest trading post,
he holds himself apart from her, for his commitments lie elsewhere. But long days
on the trail lead to a deep connection with the red-haired beauty. Yet, he can’t stop
wondering why death and danger stalk this beautiful woman, forcing him to rescue
her time and again. Who is doing this, and why?
One thing is clear, however: Amid the flurry of dodging assassin bullets,
Brave Wolf and Mia come into possession of a powerful love. But is it all for
naught? Will Brave Wolf’s obligations and Mia’s secret enemy from the past
finally succeed in the sinister plot to destroy their love forever?
Warning: Sensuous romance and cameo appearances of Tahiska and Kristina from
the book, Lakota Surrender, might cause a happily-ever-after to warm your heart.
The deeply colored green grass waved above them in the prairie’s ever-constant breeze, while a hawk circled above them, as if curious about the goings on below. Crows flew here and there, their caw-cawing echoing loudly in the warm breath of the wind. Everywhere about them was the scent of mixed grasses, mud and sweet earth. The sun felt hot, since it was now in its zenith, but the surrounding shrubs and grass provided some shelter from its direct heat. Only moments ago, they had stopped on a piece of ground where a few large rocks littered the terrain. He sat on one of those slabs now; she resided on another, facing him. He held her boot in one hand and the sole of that shoe in another, and he examined the footwear and its missing bottom from every possible angle.
As she watched, she basked in the relief of simply sitting. Sadly she’d left her bonnet behind in her wagon, and in consequence the sun glared down on her bare head, while the wind whisked locks of her hair into her eyes. With an impatient hand, she pushed those strands behind her ears.
She gazed away from him, not focusing on anything in particular. Simply, it seemed a better option than looking at him. Something about his hands, something about the delicate way he handled her shoes was… She sighed.
Frankly, she was fascinated by him. Too fascinated.
She rocked back, and let her aching calf muscles relax as a feeling of peace settled over her. It was the first time since Jeffrey’s demise that she wasn’t constantly reminded of that loss, and for a moment, if a moment only, the hurt subsided, but only a little.
It had been earlier in the day when she’d lost the sole of her shoe. At first she had said nothing about it to Mr. Lakota. But, after discovering that blood had covered her hosiery and the sole of her foot, she’d at last confessed her problem to him.
She’d expected his anger, for it meant that something would have to be done about it, which would only serve to slow down their progress. But he’d shown none of that. Instead, he’d calmly asked her to go and retrieve it. It had seemed a simple request, for she was accustomed to backtracking to retrieve bits of her dress after the material had caught and torn on a branch or vine. But this was different; she had delayed telling him about it, and the underside of her shoe might be as far back as a mile.
He might not know it, but she would never go so far away from him. Not even during the day. It frightened her to be alone in this vast expanse of prairie.
Her thoughts caused her to stir uneasily, and she brought her gaze back onto him. At last, he looked up at her and muttered, “Cannot fix.”
Her heart sank. What did that mean? That she was doomed to walk over this muddy, sticky and stone littered ground in her blood-soaked, stocking feet?
All she said to him, however, was, “Oh.”
“Better I make…moccasins…for…you…walk in.”
“Moccasins? You could make them? Here? That would be superb, indeed, if you could. But how is that possible?”
“Cannot fix…this. So…put together moccasins…for you.”
“But to make them?”
“Hau, hau. You…cannot walk…prairie without something…protect feet.”
“That’s true. But I suppose what I don’t understand is how is it possible that here on the prairie you could assemble moccasins? Do you have the proper materials?”
“Hau. Hold out foot.”
When she didn’t comply at once, he stated again, a little more softly, “Hold out foot.”
Still she hesitated. Was it unseemly to raise her skirt so that she could extend her foot toward him? Perhaps it was, but the rights and wrongs of such behavior seemed the lesser of two evils. With a shrug, as if she were releasing a weight from her bosom, she did as he asked. At once, she realized her mistake, for as he took hold of her by her ankle, placing it on his lap, her heart skipped a beat.
What was this sensation of delight? This craving for more of his touch? No, oh, no. This mustn’t be happening to her. Yet, if she were to be honest with herself, she would have to confess to a frenzy of excitement that was even now cascading over her nerve endings.
No! Please no, she cried to herself. This was all wrong.
What was the matter with her? She should feel embarrassed because he was touching her, not…elated. She gathered her skirt around her legs in an effort to minimize the exposure of the rest of her from his view. But it was a wasted effort; he showed no interest in looking at her there.
Taking one of the bags from around his shoulder, he brought out a moccasin and placed it up against the bottom of her foot. She gasped a little, for as soon as he touched her toes, tiny sparks of fire shot over her, from the tip of that foot to the top of her head.
Luckily it appeared that he didn’t notice her strange behavior, and he explained, “These moccasins…made for me…by Walks-in-sunshine. On journey…like this, need… many moccasins. I…cut this…for you.”
Mia, who was more than a little upset with the waywardness of her conduct, glanced away from him, speculating as best she could on what could possibly be the cause of her body’s rapture. Truth was, she’d barely registered what he’d said.
Instead her attention centered inward as she admonished herself. Perhaps, she thought, Mr. Lakota reminded her of Jeffrey. Could this be the reason for her misguided reaction to him?
Yes, yes. That was it; it had to be, for she was in love with Jeffrey, would always be in love with Jeffrey.
Still, cautioned an inner voice, this man didn’t look at all like her deceased husband; he acted nothing like him, and she wasn’t at all confused about who was who.
Or was she?
Wasn’t it possible that some deep and uninspected part of her was a little muddled? After all, Mr. Lakota was a young man, and she had been a newly married woman…and Mr. Lakota had rescued her from what would have been a gruesome death. It was only natural, wasn’t it, that she might place her emotions for Jeffrey onto this other man?
Yes. It had to be.
Yet, she countered her own thoughts, she was more than aware that her reaction to Mr. Lakota was not simply emotional. It was sensuous, perhaps a little wanton in nature. Was it possible that her body, having been treated to the delights shared by a married couple, was flustered by the presence of this man? And that it was her body’s reaction to him, not her own?
Ah, she sighed deeply. This was more than likely the truth, she reasoned. What she was experiencing was little more than a physical reaction.
Yet, again that inner voice cautioned, if it were no more than physical, if it were purely platonic, why was it that she was experiencing the joy of his touch?
Enough! Her thoughts on the matter were more troubling than the action of his touch.
Still, she wondered, what should she do? Should she withdraw into herself? Mentally lock herself away from this man’s influence?
Nice thought, she concluded, but hardly practical. Given their situation, and seeing that her life depended on this man’s ability to get the two of them safely across the prairie, such introversion would hardly be possible.
All at once he placed her foot back on the ground, ending their physical contact. Relieved, she breathed out slowly, expecting that the lack of his touch would improve her problem.
But it hardly mattered. Her body still tingled from the contact. Modestly, she shook her skirt free to place it over her ankles, hoping against hope that the action would settle her.
But it didn’t.
Only the quickness of a moment passed, however, before he reached out toward her again, and said, “Need…other foot.”
“Oh,” she articulated. “Of course.” She gulped.
She lifted her skirt up again, and guardedly placed her other foot in his hand. Abruptly, a similar thrill of excitement raced over her nerve endings.
She swallowed. Hard.
She needed a distraction, she decided. Perhaps conversation might prove to divert her attention. It was worth an attempt, she reasoned, and so she asked, “Did you say that someone called Walks-in-sunshine made these moccasins for you?”
“Oh. Is she somebody special to you?”
Mia’s stomach dropped, and she felt as if those words had delivered her a blow. So, she thought…this man was spoken for. Of course he would be, she reckoned as her thoughts raced ahead. He was young, he was kind and he was also handsome. What female worth her weight wouldn’t do all she could to make this man hers?
She leaned back in her seating as she asked, “Could you tell me about…what was her name? Walks-in-sunshine?”
He paused, and as he glanced up to survey her, she thought his look might be wary. Nevertheless, after his initial hesitation, such watchfulness seemed to disappear from his countenance, and he said, “She…beautiful. Wait for me. We …promise to…marry.”
“To marry?” Mia almost choked on the words. She glanced away from him. She felt…jealous…
Was he aware of her reaction to this news? How embarrassing it would be if he were.
But he was continuing to speak, and he said, “She…I…love since we…children.”
“I see,” Mia responded. “Then what will she think if you cut up these moccasins for me? They are so beautifully made, and were especially sewn for you. Might that not upset her?”
Would she? Mia couldn’t help but speculate that Mr. Lakota might be wrong about that. If this man were her own, she would care.
He was continuing to speak, however, and he uttered, “She…not understand…if leave…someone…hurt when could…fix. Give…me other…boot.”
“We…cache…these.” He held up her boots.
“Bury them. Leave no…trace of…us here.”
He had set himself to work over the leather, and she felt odd as she sat before him, watching him cut the moccasins down with a knife and a sure hand. His fingers were strong, long and handsome, and she wondered how they might feel upon…
Abruptly, she pulled up her thoughts, and she asked, “Might I help?”
“Know…how…use sinew and…bone?”
“Sinew? Bone? Have you no thread and needle?”
“One not…find needle…thread…in nature.”
“Oh,” was all she said. Then, “You have none of the finer things in your tribe? Since your mother is white, I had thought perhaps she might keep something of the European culture around her.”
“Mother…white, but…Indian through. What mean…finer things?”
“They are items made by the white-man’s hand — like needle and thread – stuff…things that make life a little easier. I see you punching holes there in the moccasin and then threading the hole with the sinew. It looks to me to be slow and painstaking work. A sharp needle with thread would make your work easier and less time consuming.”
“No…need for…finer things, when have nature all around.”
“Yes, I suppose I can understand that viewpoint. But think for a moment of a woman’s joy over acquiring a new gown in a silken fabric that shimmers with each step she takes –- gowns are clothing, by the way.”
“What need of…gowns…when have soft animal…skins?”
“Perhaps this is only a feminine reaction…a pleasure that only a woman would understand: To wear something that she knows makes her look pretty.”
“I’m certain she is. And it is kind of you to say so. But there are other goods that might be considered ‘finer things’. For instance, a sewing machine could make this work fly by.”
Without raising his eyes to hers, Mr. Lakota jerked his chin to the left, and said, “This…slow…because I…little time…spent doing it. Walks-in-sunshine…quick.”
“Yes,” agreed Mia. “I’m sure that she is.”
“Give me foot…again.”
She hesitated, yet she did as he requested. However, instead of gazing at him directly, she looked up above his head. The tall grasses bent and waved in the warm, summer breeze, as though all of nature were performing a dance. She tried to concentrate on that.
Yet, as he touched her foot, the warmth of his fingers produced again that recognition of a passion she wished she didn’t feel. As the bodily excitement swept over her nerve-endings, she became aware of a stirring of sensation within her.
Surprise shot through her. And so upset was she, even though her body’s reaction was involuntary, she could barely speak. Gulping hard, she knew she had to speak up, if only to try to dispel the guilt she felt. Changing the subject, she asked, “Why is the wind so constant here?”
“No…thing to…stop it.”
“But no trees. No…hills…mountains. Nothing to…block it.”
“At home we of course experience the wind. But never so on-going as what the prairie offers. Here, it is always blowing.”
She noticed that he had come down on his knees before her, as he fit a moccasin to first one foot and then to the other. It reminded her that Jeffrey had proposed to her from a similar position. But before she could explore that thought, he gazed up at her, and with one eyebrow cocked, he asked, “Have trees?”
“Have hills or…mountains?”
“That…why. Stand now.”
She was only too happy to do as he asked, and she rose up to her feet. As she did so, he pressed a finger over where her big toe hit the moccasin, then, as though he found fault with the shoe, he adjusted the back of it, his fingers tickling her there, creating havoc within her.
She swallowed grimly, for she almost answered him with the honesty of her wayward emotions. “They are perfect,” she replied in a voice barely over a whisper.
“Waste, good,” he acknowledged, echoing the word with a motion of his hand out and away from his chest.
“Does that gesture that you make mean something?” she asked.
“Mean good. It good.” He rose up to his feet, and came to tower over her. He said, “Take few…steps.”
He had positioned himself dangerously close to her, and she could barely control the impulse to throw herself against him. She took a few steps away from him instead.
“Why?” she queried, although she did as he requested, and spun around in a circle.
“Moccasins must be…comfortable,” he explained. “Still feel good?”
He nodded. “Then we…continue. Must find…shelter for…night. Ho’piye unya’npi kta!”
“What did you just say?” she asked as she glanced up at him.
“Said… ’all right, let’s go’.”
“Yes. Yes, that would be good. We should keep moving along.”
He smiled at her then, and seeing it, as well as his so obvious approval of her, she almost swooned. But she didn’t. Instead, her thoughts turned inward once more, and she admonished herself. Briefly she wondered why her sense of moral right and wrong was not standing her in good stead against this man.
At least, she thought, he seemed oblivious to her stirrings. She bit her lip, wishing that she were blind to it, as well. Unhappily, it simply was not to be..