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Nebraska Territory, 1856
After waiting years for her estranged father to come home, Emma O'Brien decides to brave the wilderness to fetch him herself. But the journey takes a detour when her party is attacked by Arikara warriors, and Emma is taken captive. Rescue comes in the form of Sioux chief Striking Thunder—but to Emma's shock, instead of releasing her, he claims her as his slave. Emma is not sure what is more infuriating: the arrogant ...
Nebraska Territory, 1856
After waiting years for her estranged father to come home, Emma O'Brien decides to brave the wilderness to fetch him herself. But the journey takes a detour when her party is attacked by Arikara warriors, and Emma is taken captive. Rescue comes in the form of Sioux chief Striking Thunder—but to Emma's shock, instead of releasing her, he claims her as his slave. Emma is not sure what is more infuriating: the arrogant brave, or the way he awakens her passions...
Striking Thunder seeks revenge on the men he holds responsible for his wife's death, and the feisty redhead is the perfect bait. He cannot believe the spirits have destined her to be his bride—but nor can he deny she stirs something within him that no other woman ever has. Though his duty to his people is clear, it is not long before Striking Thunder's heart is enslaved by his own captive...
Book 7 of 12.
St. Louis, 1847
U.S. Major Grady O'Brien stared at a portrait of a young woman with misty-green eyes. His fingers gripped the edge of the mantel, his knuckles white as the cool marble. Grief swept through him. "Margaret Mary, don't hate me for what I must do." Pain laced his whispered words.
Footsteps vibrated across the wooden parlor floor, intruding on his private moment of pain. "You're a fool, Grady."
Grady glanced over his shoulder at his sister. "Ida, please. We've been through this." His eyes burned with remorse.
"Then listen to me. Forget this foolish notion. The army doesn't need you as much as your children do." She moved into the room and stood beside him.
Grady's gaze strayed back to the portrait of his deceased wife. His vision blurred at the thought of never hearing her sweet laughter or being able to gaze into eyes alight with her love. Somewhere overhead, the wooden floorboards creaked. The sound echoed the breaking of his heart. How could he go on without her? A hand touched his shoulder.
"Please, Grady. Give yourself more time. It's only been two weeks since Margaret Mary, bless her sweet soul, passed on. The pain will ease. Don't leave. Your children need you."
Grady leaned his head against the back of his hands for a moment, then straightened. "No," he whispered, "they don't need me. They have you."
Ida arched her narrow brows. "Emma barely understands her mother is gone. Do you honestly expect her to understand your disappearance as well?" Folding her arms across her ample bosom, she waited.
Frustrated, wanting only to be left alone, Grady rammed his fingers through thick waves of bright, golden-red hair that fell in waves to his shoulders. "Dammit, I'm not deserting her. I'll be back." He turned his back on Ida. Shame ran through him. She was right. He was abandoning his children. But not forever, he promised himself—just until the pain of his loss dulled.
Ida didn't understand, but how could she? Nearly ten years his senior, she'd never married, didn't know the pain of having her heart ripped out from inside of her or the bleak despair of losing part of her very soul.
"When?" The woman's voice was quiet.
He glanced at her over his shoulder. She waited, back straight, hands loosely clasped in front of her and lips pressed into a tight disapproving line, reminding him of an old spinster schoolmarm. Though he knew she loved him in her own way, had been more mother than sister to him, he couldn't stay, not even for her. He answered honestly. "I don't know."
Ida turned away. Silence filled the room. Finally, she shook her head. "You're running again, Grady, using the army as an excuse not to stay and face your grief." She whirled around. "Just as you did when Father and Mother died. You ran then, joined the army the day after the funeral. Mark my words, if you return to duty, you'll never come back. You'll never stop running."
Grady wandered to the window and stared out, not seeing the carriages and citizens bustling about their business. "Maybe it's better this way," he whispered, his voice low, barely audible.
"Better for whom? Emma will be devastated."
He closed his eyes, his throat burning at the very thought of leaving his little princess, the ray of sunshine in his life, but he couldn't bear to look into eyes so like her mother's. "I'll hurt her far worse if I stay." He straightened when he heard a carriage stop out front.
He swiveled around, once more the stern major his men knew so well. "No more. It's time."
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