Read an Excerpt
By Madeline Baker
Copyright © 2002
All right reserved.
I sat in the shade of the front porch watching my seven
year-old son, Daniel Blue Hawk, put a pretty little black and
white Appaloosa filly through its paces while my husband
looked on. He was a handsome boy, my Daniel, with his father's
thick black hair and my gray eyes. He had inherited the same
natural affinity for horses that was so strong in his father
and older brothers, and seemed to be inherent in all Cheyenne
males. Like his two older brothers, Blue Hawk had a strong
sense of pride in his Indian heritage and because of that, he
preferred we call him by his Indian name.
Shadow had promised the filly to Blue Hawk, and my son spent
most of his waking hours working with the little mare. He had
named her Patches, and she followed him around like a puppy.
Blue Hawk could hardly wait for the day when the filly would
be old enough for him to ride for more than a few minutes at a
time. Surprisingly, Blue Hawk liked writing almost as much as
riding, and when he wasn't outside with the filly, he was
usually in his room making up stories about brave knights and
As much as I enjoyed watching my son, my gaze kept straying
toward his father. Two Hawks Flying, known as Shadow to his
loved ones, was easily the mosthandsome man I had ever known.
Though Shadow was no longer a young warrior, he was still tall
and straight, and strong enough to out-wrestle our two grown
sons. Though he had long ago traded his breechclout and
feathers for Levi's and a Stetson, he steadfastly refused to
wear shoes or boots. His feet were encased in a pair of
moccasins I had recently made for him.
Shadow. My whole life was filled with memories of Shadow. I
remembered the first time I had seen him. I had been nine
years old; he had been twelve, handsome and arrogant even
then. In time, we had become friends. He taught me how to hunt
and fish and how to skin a deer. They were not pursuits I had
cared for, but Shadow thought that girl things were foolish
and a waste of time, and he refused to do anything he
considered silly or undignified, which was just about
everything I wanted to do.
I recalled the day of my sixteenth birthday. It was a turning
point in our lives and our relationship. I had not seen Shadow
for three years or so, not since he had gone away to
concentrate on becoming a warrior, which was the goal of all
Cheyenne males. We met by the river that day and Shadow was
been even more handsome than I recalled. He wore only
moccasins and the briefest of deerskin clouts, and I had not
been able to take my eyes off him. His legs were long and well
muscled from years of riding bareback; his belly was as hard
and flat as it was today, ridged with muscle. Two livid scars
marred his chest, proof that he had participated in the sacred
Medicine Lodge ceremony of his people. A third scar zigzagged
down his right shoulder. Like a bird hypnotized by a snake, I
was unable to tear my gaze away. I could only stare at him,
awed by his proud carriage, completely mesmerized by his
appearance. He had truly become a warrior. There was no doubt
We had not said much that day, nor had we spent a great deal
of time together, yet I had known that our lives would be
intertwined from that day forward. And I had never regretted a
day of it. In spite of all the hardship and turmoil we had
faced during the early part of our lives together, I would
have done it all again. I had a wonderful husband and four
children who loved me, and I counted myself a lucky woman.
From time to time I glanced down the road leading up to the
house. Our second son, Samuel Black Owl, was due home from the
East any day now. We had only seen Blackie once since he'd
gone away to college to study veterinary medicine just over
three years ago. It had been many years since I had been to
the East. It was a place that held few happy memories for me.
But we had enjoyed our stay with Blackie, though it had been
shorter than I would have liked.
I had been counting the days ever since then until Blackie
would be home once more. I was glad that the rest of my family
lived nearby. Our oldest son, True Hawk, and his wife,
Victoria, had four sons and two daughters. Hawk had been
elected sheriff two years ago when Bill Lancaster retired.
Considering that there was still a lot of prejudice in the
area against Indians, I considered Hawk's election, if you'll
excuse the expression, quite a coup. He had hired Joe Finch as
Mary was our second child and our only daughter. She lived
with her husband, Cloud Walker, on a horse ranch with their
six sons. Mary and Victoria were both pregnant again. After
six sons, Mary was hoping for a daughter. Blue Hawk was our
youngest, and spoiled by one and all.
I smiled, thinking of my children and grandchildren. They were
all healthy, all beautiful, and all bore the unmistakable
stamp of Shadow's Cheyenne blood.
Blue Hawk rode the mare around the corral one last time, then
dismounted. He spoke to his father, nodded solemnly as he
listened to his father's reply, and then led the filly out of
the corral toward the barn.
Shadow stared after Blue Hawk for a few moments, then turned
and walked toward me. Once again, every other thought fled my
mind as I watched him. He moved effortlessly, like a cougar
stalking its prey, the habits of a lifetime ingrained too
deeply to change now.
The sunlight moved over him like a lover's caress, casting
blue highlights in his waist-length hair, which was still
thick, and as black as a raven's wing. On this day, he was
shirtless. His skin was the color of warm copper. The scars on
his chest and shoulder had faded to faint silvery lines that
were barely visible now.
"Hannah." He lifted one brow, a half smile playing over his
lips as he climbed the stairs, his movements slow and sensual.
I stood and moved into his embrace, my fingertips moving over
the powerful muscles in his arms, sliding up to measure the
width of his shoulders.
"Do you like what you see, woman?" he asked, a faint note of
supremely male arrogance evident in his voice.
"I always have," I replied tartly. And he knew it.
Going up on my tiptoes, I kissed him, then rested my head on
his shoulder, happy to spend a few quiet moments in his arms.
And that was how Blackie found us when he rode up a few
"I guess some things never change," he drawled.
Startled, I looked up at the sound of the familiar deep male
"Blackie!" I exclaimed, and fairly flew down the steps.
"You're early. We were supposed to meet you tomorrow morning."
"I know. I got lucky and caught an earlier train."
Dismounting, he wrapped his arms around me. For a moment, I
stood there, blinking back my tears, marveling at how much he
had filled out since I'd seen him last. Giving him a squeeze,
I backed up a little so I could get a good look at him.
He was tall, Blackie was, taller, even, than his father. And
just as handsome. His hair, still worn long, was tied back at
the nape of his neck. His skin was a shade lighter than
Shadow's, his eyes were a brown so dark as to be almost black.
He had broad shoulders, a trim waist, and long, long legs.
I felt the tears trickle down my cheeks as my son turned to
embrace his father. They were so alike, it was hard to believe
I had once agonized over whether or not Shadow was Blackie's
father. I recalled the day Blackie was born.
I had been alone in the house when my labor began. After
several hours had passed, I knew something was wrong. No
matter how hard I pushed, I could not expel him from my womb.
Lying there, I imagined Death all around me. I saw Him
watching me through the window, lurking in the corners,
waiting, and I was certain I was going to die.
And then Shadow came home. Shadow, the other half of my heart,
the other half of my soul. His voice stilled my fears and he
delivered our son as competently as any doctor could have
done. Our eyes met as Shadow held our son in his arms.
Unspoken between us hung the question of who was the father,
Shadow, or Joshua Berdeen. At the time, there had been no way
to be certain. But seeing Blackie and Shadow together now,
there could be no doubt that Shadow was indeed Blackie's
father. Joshua Berdeen could never have sired this son of
I met Shadow's gaze. Was he was also remembering the day
Blackie had been born? Did he also remember the words he had
spoken? I heard them now as clearly as I had heard them that
day twenty-three years ago. It does not matter who fathered
the child, Shadow had said as he placed the infant in my arms.
From this day forward, he will be my son, and I will be his
Other images flashed through my mind: Blackie learning how to
ride a horse, his little legs clinging to the sides of one of
our old mares, his chubby little hands grasping the reins as
Shadow led the mare around the corral; Shadow teaching our son
to hunt, to fish, to read the signs of the seasons, to speak
Cheyenne. Blackie had been two years old the day he brought
home the first in a long line of injured birds and animals. He
had brought a sparrow home that day. Together, we had splinted
its broken wing. Blackie had fed it and cared for it and been
overjoyed when the bird was able to fly away.
I remembered when Blackie had had diphtheria and how close we
had come to losing him. I had prayed as never before, begging
the Lord to spare my child. Shadow had added his prayers to
mine. Even now, I could see him clearly in my mind's eye,
standing outside our house, naked save for a loincloth and
moccasins. A single white eagle feather had been tied in his
hair. There had been streaks of black paint on his face and
chest. His arms, bronze and thick with muscle, had been lifted
toward the sky in supplication. A small fire had burned at his
feet and as I watched, he had sprinkled a handful of sacred
yellow pollen into the flames, and then raised his arms over
his head once again. I knew he was praying to Man Above in the
old and ancient way, and I had felt a shiver run down my spine
as he called upon the gods of the Cheyenne. His voice, deep
and filled with pleading, had drifted through the half-open
Hear me, Man Above, accept my offering and heal my son. He had
sprinkled another handful of pollen into the fire and this
time the flames exploded upward like many colored tongues
licking at the sky. And then with great deliberation, Shadow
had taken a knife and raked the blade across his chest. A thin
ribbon of red had oozed from the shallow gash in his flesh.
Hear me, Man Above, he had cried again. Accept my pain and
heal my son.
A wordless cry had erupted from Shadow's lips as he again
raised his arms toward heaven, and at that moment, the sun had
climbed over the distant mountains, splashing the clear skies
with all the colors of the rainbow.
Blackie's fever began to drop that very day and by the
following afternoon, it was almost normal.
And now our son was home again, a man grown.
Blue Hawk came running out of the barn, yelling his brother's
name at the top of his lungs. "Blackie! Blackie!"
"There you are, little brother," Blackie said, and lifting
Blue Hawk off his feet, he swung him around in a circle.
Blue Hawk's laughter mingled with Blackie's, bringing joy to
Closing my eyes, I offered a quick prayer of thanks to all the
gods, both red and white, for bringing my son safely home.
Excerpted from Reckless Embrace
by Madeline Baker
Copyright © 2002 by Madeline Baker .
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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