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.
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.
High Wolf stared back, his gaze, for all that he was aware of her faults, still hungry for the sight of her. 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.