Read an Excerpt
By Susan Edwards
Copyright © 2003
All right reserved.
The magical breath of spring touched the expansive prairie; a
siren floating over her lover, she caressed fragile green
blades emerging through soil moist from recent rainfall.
Rippling eagerly in response, miles of immature grass
celebrated the birth and renewal of their world. At the
approach of two young women, one songbird flew upward in a
startling flash of yellow and black.
Drops of dew scattered like tiny iridescent jewels when one
woman jumped in front of the other then twirled in a circle.
Excitement hummed through Winona. "I am so happy. She clasped
her hands over her heart. "Tonight, I become wife to Hoka
Luta." And wife to an important medicine man, she added
Walking at her side, Spotted Deer yanked hard on Winona's arm
to prevent her friend from stepping barefoot on a sharp rock
jutting just below the tips of the grass. "Pay attention where
you walk or put your moccasins back on."
Winona bit back a smile. Spotted Deer did not share her
enthusiasm for early mornings. But she stopped and put her
plain, smoked-hide shoes back on. It wouldn't do to cut her
foot and not be able to dance and celebrate after her wedding.
Making their way downhill to the stream Winona saw several
women belonging to her Hunkpapa tribe strolling down river.
Scatteredacross the prairie, several other Sioux tribes were
camped. Many had come to witness and celebrate the marriage of
the daughter of a respected Sioux chief, to a powerful Sioux
It was early yet many were already up, eager, like her to
start the day. Deep laughter from the left drew her attention.
Three men were returning from their baths.
Her gaze sharpened. Behind them she glimpsed Hoka Luta, her
soon-to-be mate emerging from the gray shadows lining the
brush-lined stream. Winona veered slightly to the left. In the
early dawn, Hoka Luta's bare torso gleamed wetly. It pleased
her that he favored early risings, for she too rose before the
sun most days.
Like the badger, Hoka Luta was tenacious, bold and ferocious.
His sheer size and bulk made him a force to be reckoned with.
Stories of his courage and power had circulated camp to camp
at last years Sun Dance. Like a badger, Hoka Luta did not back
down from a fight. And with a father who'd once been a
powerful medicine man his enemies feared his strength and
He was a good leader; like her father he commanded respect.
He'd make her a good husband. Winona caught her lower lip to
keep from grinning like a besotted bride-to-be-though that was
exactly what she was. "I cannot believe he chose me," she
whispered to herself.
As they drew closer, Hoka Luta veered slightly away. Still,
they were close enough for Winona to eye the famed warrior.
One could not call Hoka Luta handsome. His forehead was too
broad and it slanted back away from his face. His square jaw
jutted forward and his long hawkish nose hooked slightly to
the left as if it had been broken-many times.
"You are fortunate," Spotted Deer said. "He is Tanwaste."
"Very handsome," Winona agreed. She slid a sly look at Spotted
Deer and lowered her voice. "And um, big." She nudged her
friend in the ribs, making it clear she wasn't commenting on
his sheer bulk.
Spotted Deer started coughing uncontrollably. Halting, she
wheezed out, "What do you know of such things!" Twin splotches
of pink colored each cheek.
Now waves of heat burned Winona's throat and face. She lowered
her voice. "He was bold last night. He wants me. I felt ...
Hoka Luta, in his supervised walk with her last night had made
no secret that he desired to mate with her. After presenting
her with a black mare, he'd used his blanket to shield the two
of them from watching eyes so they could talk privately. The
blanket covering their heads and upper bodies combined with
the large bulk of the horse against her back had formed a
shield for his roaming hands and the stolen kiss they'd
Surprised and shocked at his boldness, Winona hadn't
protested, not even when he'd caressed one of her breasts. But
when the horse shifted slightly, throwing her against hard
against her future husband, she'd been left in doubt that Hoka
Luta truly wanted her as a man wants a woman.
Winona's heart raced. But whether it was from excitement or
fear, she wasn't sure. She knew how men and women mated. Aside
from her mother's frank discussion with her, a girl didn't
remain ignorant after seventeen years of sharing a tipi with
parents who still enjoyed mating.
"There is much to do before the ceremony. We should return.
Your mother will be expecting us."
Birdsong filled the silence. How Winona wished the peace and
quiet of the morning could last forever. While she was
thrilled that this was her wedding day, she didn't look
forward to the noise and bustle. For days the camp had been in
an uproar as women and men prepared for the feast to be held
She sniffed the air. The aroma of cook fires mingled with the
acrid scent of roasting coffee beans that Golden Eagle, her
older brother's white wife had introduced them too. A wave of
sadness washed over her.
Tomorrow, everything dear to her would be left behind. Though
her days would still be filled with birdsong, the air still
crisp, and the scent of cooking the same in her new home, she
knew it wouldn't be the same.
A shadow passed over her heart, dampening some of her inner
joy. Marriage to Hoka Luta meant she'd have to leave her
family, and Spotted Deer behind. "I will miss you," she
whispered to Spotted Deer. Stopping, she hugged herself. "How
can I leave my family and friends behind? How can I leave you,
my best friend, my sister-behind?"
The realization that the two of them only had this last day
together dimmed the excitement in their eyes and lent a
sadness to what should be the happiest day of Winona's young
Normally, the man left his tribe to join the woman's tribe,
allowing female relatives to remain together, work together,
and raise their families together. But Hoka Luta was a
medicine man for his tribe so Winona had agreed to live with
Spotted Deer's eyes misted over. "Promise you will visit
"I promise. And you will come visit me." Winona tried to force
a lightness to her voice that she didn't feel. For a long
moment the two friends stared at each other.
Blinking back tears, Winona turned her head to stare out at
the large herd of horses grazing down the hill. Since Hoka
Luta's arrival, the herd had grown even larger, for her
soon-to-be husband had brought with him more than twenty
horses which he'd presented to her brother, Golden Eagle. As
her Hakatakus, her male relative responsible for negotiating
their marriage, Golden Eagle was entitled to her bride price.
The two women continued walking downhill toward the
fast-flowing stream. "I wish you could travel with me to my
new home, Winona said wistfully." She stopped suddenly, her
eyes growing wide as her grin.
She tipped her head to one side and said slyly, "Hoka Luta has
many handsome warriors in his tribe. Do you not agree?"
Spotted Deer glanced over her shoulder toward the visiting
warriors. "Yes. So?"
Striving to keep her voice neutral, Winona hid her smile.
"Which warrior has caught your eye?" She flipped around and
walked backward so she could observe her friend's expression.
Spotted Deer relaxed as though reassured that Winona harbored
no harebrained schemes in her mind. She shrugged. "There are
two but it matters not. They will leave with you and Hoka Luta
A slow, satisfied smile curved Winona's lips. "You could come
Stopping abruptly, Spotted Deer shook her head. "No, you are
Her eyes were wide with shock and horror. "You will be newly
married. I would only be in the way. Besides, that would not
Newly married! Winona sighed. She was already so happy, but if
Spotted Deer made the move with her she'd be truly happy. The
more Winona thought about it, the more determined she became
and when she made up her mind, none could sway her.
"I will speak to Hoka Luta. Surely there is someone you could
stay with-a family in need of a daughter."
Hope lightened Spotted Deer's eyes to a golden brown. "Do you
think he will agree?" She held her breath, her expression one
of pleading and need.
Confident and pleased with her simple solution, Winona nodded.
"He will agree." In her mind, the decision had been made. Hoka
Luta loved her. He'd put her happiness first.
Pulling Spotted Deer by the arm, Winona changed directions,
heading toward the herd of horses. "Just in case, we will ask
the spirits for their help."
Spotted Deer pulled back. "Oh no. We cannot leave camp
Impatient Winona jerked harder. "We will not be gone long. Now
come on. Do you want to come with me when I leave tomorrow or
Groaning, Spotted Deer followed. "You know I do. It is just-"
"It is decided. We will make the Spirits an offering of sweet
grass and sage. They will be pleased, and will grant us our
wish." She let go of her friend's arm and took off at a run.
With a long-suffering groan, Spotted Deer ran after Winona and
caught up with her. "Do not expect me to climb all the way up
there with you! Being that high makes me sick."
Feeling incredibly happy and fortunate, Winona slowed, dropped
down low and circled the herd of horses. A quick glance showed
that the braves guarding the herd were chatting down by the
stream. With a soft whistle, she called her mare.
* * *
Swaying heavily on slender pine branches, ravens cried loudly
from their high tree-top perches. Below, hanging upside down
on a trunk split by lightening, a squirrel chattered, not in
protest of the raucous noise of the birds, but at a more
silent and deadly enemy crouched behind a thick wall of pines
Night Shadow ignored the warning chatter and cries. He held
himself perfectly still. From his vantage point he had miles
of unobstructed view. Around him, the trees were so tall and
thick, there was little light. But just a short distance in
front of them the trees thinned as though someone had drawn a
line separating forest from prairie.
A few trees dotted the downward slope then there was nothing
but a blur of green. The land rolled gently; a green carpet
that looked as if someone had swept mounds of dirt beneath it.
Shifting his gaze without moving his head, he picked out a
dark shadow far away. Buffalo, he thought. Grayish movement
drew his attention to the left. A hare sat tall on its
powerful hind legs. In the blink of an eye it was gone; a blur
of gray among green.
Night Shadow returned his attention to the Sioux camped a
short distance from the pine-covered hill where he hid. Like
the Cheyenne, the Sioux also preferred to make their camp out
in the open prairie where the danger of surprise attack was
He narrowed his eyes as he studied the Sioux camp. The number
of tepees remained the same yet he sensed a change. He studied
the herd of horses then smiled grimly. The groom had arrived.
Fingering a long scar running down the side of his face, he
smiled grimly. At last. After years of waiting, months of
careful planning, and weeks spent watching the Sioux, revenge
would soon be his.
A low rustle in the bushes warned he was no longer alone. "We
take her tonight," he said to Dream Walker, Crazy Fox and
Crazy Fox hunkered down on his left. "We are four against so
Night Shadow's gaze followed a group of warriors riding out
into the prairie. "The Sioux prepare to celebrate. The wedding
will take place today." He narrowed his eyes. "I have waited
long for this day."
His plan was a good one: wait until after the marriage
ceremony, then after the newly joined couple was left alone
for their first night together, they sneak in and kidnap the
woman. A woman for a woman. When he got Jenny back, they'd get
Night Shadow flared his nostrils. Anticipation flowed through
him like water rushing over the edge of a waterfall. For
fourteen years he'd suffered. He'd hated and he'd despaired
and he'd survived-just for this day. The cascading fall inside
him hit the pool of his stomach with a violent splash.
He flexed his fingers over the hilt of his knife. So close,
yet he dare not kill the bastard. Not until he had Jenny back.
Then the bastard who'd taken her would die-a slow, torturous
Without taking his eyes off the Sioux camp, he stood. "Come.
We have much to do before the sun lowers." He took one last
look at the Sioux camp then froze when he spotted a lone rider
heading toward him.
Motioning the others down, he watched the rider draw near.
Long, shiny black hair flew behind her as she entered the
sparsely wooded hillside just below his place of hiding. She
said something then laughed. The young woman sitting behind
her didn't look so happy.
Night Shadow studied the Sioux women. A ray of sunshine
pierced the thick canopy of pine leaves, falling on the
upturned face of the woman controlling the gleaming mare.
"The Spirits smile down upon us," he breathed. He recognized
the young, carefree features of the Sioux chieftain's eldest
daughter. As soon as he'd learned of the upcoming marriage
between her and Hoka Luta he'd made it a point to learn
everything he could about the woman.
Weeks ago he'd shown up at the Sioux camp with his loyal
warriors to trade. They'd spent three days with the Sioux and
during that time he'd watched and studied the one called
He grinned. The Sioux chief was foolish to allow his daughters
to ride without escort. Incredulous at this turn of events,
his gaze followed the women and horse as they rode past. As
soon as they were out of sight he stood, his heart thudding
with anticipation. What a stroke of luck this was. While he'd
only been interested in taking the one, he couldn't pass up
the opportunity to take them both.
The Spirits watch over you.
He grimaced at the words his mother had often said to him.
Once he'd believed in unseen forces but no more; not in the
white man's God his father spoke of or in the many spirits of
his mother's people.
Life was nothing more than a long string of events. Some good,
some bad. A man had to take control of his own destiny. And
right now, he planned to take advantage of this turn of
events. The horrific events of the past would soon be avenged.
Motioning to the others, the four warriors separated, each
merging with the shadows.
Excerpted from White Shadows
by Susan Edwards
Copyright © 2003 by Susan Edwards.
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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