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By Constance O'Banyon
Dorchester PublishingCopyright © 1986 Constance O'Banyon
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMay, 1865
The old trapper, Farley, saw several Indian tipis in the distance. He urged his tired horse forward, glad that he'd found Windhawk's camp at last. When he entered the camp, Farley was greeted by several Blackfoot braves who seemed genuinely glad to see him. Throwing his leg over his horse, he jumped to the ground.
Farley was an imposing figure with his long flowing white hair and his equally white beard. Dressed in buckskins, he moved with the agility of a young buck. No one knew his age for sure, but the one thing they did know-wherever Joanna was, the old trapper wouldn't be far behind.
He ambled past several of the tipis until he came to a big white one with a huge black hawk painted on the front. This was Windhawk's lodge and the old man knew he'd find Joanna inside.
"Joanna, you here," he called out.
The flap was thrown aside and a beautiful woman with flaming red hair smiled at him. She was dressed in soft buckskins, a beaded headband circled her head.
"Farley, I am glad to see you, my friend. When did you get here?" She spoke in the Blackfoot tongue, and he answered her in kind.
"As you know I have been trapping in the Canadas. When I got back to the village, I was told that you and Windhawk had left for St. Louis. I came to find you."
"Is anything wrong?" she asked, with a worried frown on her face.
He grinned widely, lapsing into English. "Nope, I just wanted to be here when you traded Sky Dancer for Danielle. I musta misfigured, 'cause I didn't realize this was the year the girls was to be swapped."
"Sky Dancer isn't too happy about this exchange in the least. I came very close to backing out." Joanna also lapsed into English.
"Did I tell you 'bout the last time I was in Philadelphia, Joanna?"
Farley made a trip to Philadelphia every summer where he would spend several weeks with Joanna's brother Tag. The old man was very dear to Joanna and Tag, and both of them always made him feel welcome. However, he preferred to spend most of his time in the Blackfoot village so he could be near Joanna. Everyone knew he adored her.
She suppressed a smile. "At least a dozen times, Farley."
"Well, you will recall I told you that Danielle was the spitting image of Sky Dancer?"
"Yes, I remember you saying this to me. Tag has said much the same thing."
"Now you are gonna see that I wasn't stretching the truth one bit."
Her laughter bubbled out, and she placed a kiss on his rough cheek. "You never stretch the truth, Farley; you only bend it a bit."
"How'd you ever get Windhawk to come clear to St. Louis?" Farley wanted to know.
"It's very simple. He wouldn't allow me to come without him."
Farley nodded, knowing how possessive and protective Windhawk was of his wife Joanna. "Where is Windhawk?"
"He has gone hunting. I expect him back any time now."
"Will he be going into St. Louis with you?"
"No, he will stay here and wait my return." She quickly changed the subject. "You've had a long journey. Are you hungry, my friend?"
He grinned widely and the creases in his face formed several deep laugh lines. "Thought you'd never ask. I'm very near starved. You got any of that stew I like?"
"Yes, I do-come in and I'll feed you," she said, disappearing inside the tipi.
As Farley sat shoveling the warm stew into his mouth, his eyes followed Joanna around the tipi. He read the pain of uncertainty in her eyes. As always, he knew her so well, he could guess what was troubling her.
"Don't fret none, Joanna. The summer will pass soon enough. Afore you know it, Sky Dancer will be back home."
She smiled at the old man. "I know ... but ... Yes, you are right, Farley."
The lazy years of happiness and growing up had flown by for Sky Dancer. Now the time had come when she would meet her cousin Danielle again. The two girls hadn't seen each other since they were five summers old. They were both in their nineteenth year, and it was said they looked very much alike. The plans that had been made by their parents, long ago, were about to come to pass.
Sky Dancer had ridden with her father, mother, and a group of Blackfoot warriors to St. Louis, where she would be exchanged for her cousin, Danielle. There was no happiness in her heart at leaving all that was dear to her. She didn't want to spend the summer with her uncle and an aunt she hardly knew.
Sky Dancer thought of her older brother, Little Hawk, who had gone with his cousin and their grandfather James for a tour of Europe. She thought what a strange year this was-Little Hawk had gone away, and she was to be handed over to her Uncle Tag and Aunt Alexandria.
Looking down at her soft buckskins, she knew that tomorrow she would have to change them for the clothes of a white woman. Blinking her eyes, she held back the tears that threatened to fall. A Blackfoot princess was not supposed to cry, she reminded herself.
Why was she being forced to go to a place that she didn't want to see? She knew her mother and uncle had long ago made the plans for tomorrow. Sky Dancer had heard about her cousin Danielle all her life, but she didn't remember her at all. Uncle Tag, she knew very well since he had often visited the Blackfoot village. What about her Aunt Alexandria? She would be a stranger.
Feeling a dull ache deep inside, she turned her head, looking toward the dense woods where her father had set up camp. Sky Dancer was soon to enter a world she knew very little about. That frightened her beyond belief.
Pushing a wisp of ebony hair out of her face, Sky Dancer raised her face to the sun. She prayed Napi, the great one, would make time pass quickly so she could return to her home.
Danielle glanced at the dusty streets of St. Louis with a look of horror on her face. There were hordes of humanity pressed together from all walks of life. Many wore filthy buckskins, while others were dressed in an out-dated fashion. The streets were noisy and the stench was almost more than she could bear. To her St. Louis seemed like the very foundation of hell. Being a frontier town, it in no way resembled Philadelphia, with its gentle life-style.
Danielle's eyes were red from crying. She had grown weary of begging her father to take her back home. She tried to convince him that she didn't want to spend the summer with a bunch of filthy Indians. In truth she was frightened at the grim prospect. Her blue eyes sparkled with anger, knowing that she would make everyone suffer for forcing her to do something that was repugnant to her. She thought about her cousin, Sky Dancer, and wondered if she had similar thoughts about this exchange.
Joanna stood on the hill, looking down on the Missouri River, knowing that St. Louis was around the bend just out of sight. It was twilight, and the mud-colored river reflected an eerie yellow glow. How strange it felt to be in the white world again. Her violet-blue eyes watched the water churn and break against the shore. Her thoughts were troubled-she had no desire to return to "civilization." In fact, she no longer thought of herself as being white.
Joanna was married to Windhawk, chief of the Blood Blackfoot. He had long ago won her heart and given her happiness beyond her wildest dream. She had borne him a son and a daughter. That alone should give her the right to feel she was as much a Blackfoot as one who had been born into the tribe.
She didn't hear the soft footsteps that came up behind her. When a hand went about her waist, she leaned back against a hard muscled body. Looking up into the face she loved so well she was struck by his handsomeness. His long ebony hair hung loosely about his shoulders, encircled with a plain leather headband. He was tall with broad shoulders and narrow hips. A man born to command others.
Joanna laid her head against Windhawk's shoulder. They were both silent for a long time. A wisp of red-gold hair blew across Windhawk's face and he glanced down at the woman in his arms. How Napi had smiled on him by giving this woman into his keeping. She had been his wife for many summers, but still he never grew tired of looking upon her lovely face. She had brought about a change in the chief. He no longer walked in the ways of war-she had gentled him, if not changed him completely.
"What were you thinking, my husband?" Joanna asked, turning around and putting her arms about his neck.
He smiled slightly. "I was thinking that with you I have found peace and contentment. You keep my lodge, tend my children ... you fill my heart. What man could ask for more."
She placed a kiss on his bronzed cheek. Looking up into his dark eyes, she saw a softness that she knew he reserved for her alone. "We do have a good life together, my husband. My one and only regret is that I have been unable to give you more children."
His hand tightened about her waist and he looked into her deep blue eyes-eyes that he had often seen flash with fire, or soften with desire. "We do not need other children, Joanna. With you beside me, I fall asleep each night with joy in my heart. I cannot wait for each new day to come, knowing you will walk beside me."
"You have made me very happy, my husband. If the whole world had what we share, there would be no more war. I feel blessed among all women that I was chosen as the wife of the mighty Windhawk."
He watched her eyes cloud over with sadness. He knew she was worried about their daughter, and he wanted to comfort her. Cupping her face in his hands, he gave her a look that melted her heart. "You are still worried about sending Sky Dancer to Philadelphia?"
"Yes. I know it has been planned for years that we would take Tag's daughter, Danielle, and my brother would take Sky Dancer for a summer. With our son in Europe with my father and Sky Dancer going away, it will seem very strange. I wish there weren't this Civil War going on."
"I have heard that the war may be over. It will be good for our daughter to see the world her mother comes from. You must know your brother will take care of Sky Dancer. As for Little Hawk, we both agreed this journey over the big water will be good for him."
"I know. I am just being selfish, I suppose."
"Not you, my wife. Your heart is filled with love for the whole world. It is only right that a mother would want to keep her young near her."
Joanna knew Windhawk was every bit as troubled as she was about sending their daughter so far away, yet he was trying to comfort her. "Was it a mistake, this bargain we made with Tag when the girls were but babies, Windhawk?"
"This I cannot tell you, Joanna. My heart is also heavy that our daughter must travel so far away from home, but I am also gladdened that we can come to know my dead sister's child."
Joanna shook her head, causing her red-gold hair to swirl away from her face. "You can hardly call them children, my husband. Both Sky Dancer and Danielle are in their nineteenth summer."
Windhawk smiled slightly and she could see the love dancing in his eyes. "The years have passed quickly, since I took you as my wife. When I look at you, I know you are even more beautiful now than you were as a young girl. How well I remember the day I first saw you. Your beauty warmed my heart and I knew you must have been meant for me. I will never forget that you gave up your world to live in mine."
She rested her cheek against his broad chest, knowing how gladly she had taken his way of life. She couldn't imagine ever loving anyone but Windhawk. "I made my choice long ago, my husband. But is it right to force Sky Dancer to leave her home and go to a world she has only read about in books?"
"We will give our daughter and Danielle a chance to know both worlds. The path they choose to walk will then be up to them."
"You are very wise, my husband. I will put my worry aside. I know that we are doing what is best for both girls." Her eyes drifted down to the river once more. "I do wish you could come to St. Louis with me, Windhawk. I don't like to leave you here."
Windhawk's eyes followed hers. He knew what she was feeling, but deep inside she knew he must wait for her to return. "You know this is the best way, Joanna. I cannot go with you to this white man's town. I will be here for you when you come back-then we will journey back to our village with Danielle."
Joanna pushed a lock of ebony hair out of his face. "Sky Dancer and I will leave for St. Louis tomorrow morning. I know Tag will want us all to get together before we go our separate ways, so I will see you in a few days." She paused and looked at him with troubled eyes. "I suppose the summer will pass soon enough."
"Yes, it will pass, Joanna."
"Did you know that Farley rode into camp today?"
Windhawk raised a dark eyebrow. "That old man would follow you wherever you went. He has been the only burden I have been forced to bear because of you."
"You like Farley and you know it."
"How can I not like someone who looks after you like a watchdog? I know you are safe when he is on guard."
"He is like part of the family."
Windhawk's mouth quirked briefly. "The hour grows late. Let us not spend our last hours together talking about Farley. I want to hold you in my arms tonight," Windhawk told her, leading her away from the river.
Joanna could feel Windhawk's unrest. She knew he was wondering if she would want to stay in the white world. Would she never be able to convince him that her life was with him? As they reached the tipi, he pulled her into his arms and buried his face in her red-gold hair.
"I will always return to you, my husband," she whispered. "As long as I live, I will never want to be anywhere that I cannot reach out and touch you."
He crushed her in his arms and breathed her name over and over. "Time is the enemy, Joanna. Let it pass quickly until you return to me."
Taggart James smiled at his wife Alexandria, who was turning down the covers of the bed. "Not exactly what you would call luxury, is it?"
She tossed her mink-colored hair and looked up at him with her unusual golden eyes. "I don't mind the discomfort of this hotel. You can hold me in your arms and I would be comfortable anywhere."
"Is Danielle sleeping?" Tag asked with a worried frown on his face.
"I think so, at least she didn't answer when I went into her room a moment ago. She isn't happy in the least, Tag. I hate to see her upset."
"She will get over it," he stated stubbornly. "This summer will be good for her. I think perhaps we have spoiled her by always allowing her to have her way. She may learn humility by being with the Blackfoot people. The Blackfoot respect a person for his worth and not for his social position."
Tag sat down in a stiff horsehair chair and pulled Alexandria into his lap. "What is the troubled frown I see on your face?" he asked.
"It's nothing," she said, turning her head away. "I was just wondering if you ever miss living with the Blackfoot. I know you grew up in the Indian village. Do you ever regret returning to Philadelphia?"
"Of course not." He forced her to look at him. "There's more on your mind than you are saying. Tell me what's really troubling you."
"I ... it's just that I was wondering if you ever think about Danielle's mother, Morning Song. We never talk about her anymore."
"You are wondering if I still love her?"
"Yes, I suppose."
Taking Alexandria's chin firmly in his hand, he forced her to meet his eyes. "The man who loved Morning Song no longer exists. When she was killed and I was driven by hatred to avenge her death, you helped me find my way. It was the boy in me that loved Morning Song-she was the love of my youth. You are the true love of my life, and the one I will grow old beside."
"But you did love her."
"Yes, but she is no more than a fleeting dream. I do regret, however, that Danielle never knew her mother."
Alexandria felt the sting of his words in the depth of her heart. She had come to think of Danielle as her own daughter, and it was hard sometimes to realize Danielle hadn't been born of her own body. She was saddened by the fact that Tag was sending her away for the summer. Danielle had never liked to hear about her mother's people; it was almost cruel to make her spend the summer with them.
"Danielle is going to be very unhappy, Tag. She's cried almost daily for weeks."
"Be that as it may, the plans are made and I will not back out now. You will like getting to know Sky Dancer. She is a lovely young girl. You will be astounded when you see how much she resembles Danielle."
Excerpted from Savage Summer by Constance O'Banyon Copyright © 1986 by Constance O'Banyon. Excerpted by permission.
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