Read an Excerpt
By Jenna Kernan
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
Copyright © 2003
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Rocky Mountains, April 1835
The instant he saw movement, Thomas Nash reached for his Hawkins rifle. He stood knee-deep in the stream with the rifle
sighted on the center of the Indian's chest.
The man raised his open hand in greeting. Flat-head, Nash thought and lowered his gun. He raised his hand as
well. Damn, I hope they didn't rob my traps.
"Howdy," he said, and then he repeated his welcome in the man's dialect.
The man spoke in Flathead. "You are Nash?"
"We have been looking for you."
Nash glanced around but saw no other Indians. His attention focused on the man before him. "Why?"
"We have something that belongs with you. Come."
Nash's mind briefly flicked back to the six traps he'd dropped into the river when the Blackfoot Indians attacked him
two weeks ago.
He sloshed out of the stream and headed back up the hill. Most Indians he knew traded with or stole from trappers. He
never knew one to give anything away.
Nash led the way to camp.
On the log beside his wigwam sat a woman wrapped in a dirty quilt.
"What the hell?"
At his appearance she stood. He stared at the baggy brown dress, which appeared to belong to someone larger. Her skin
was sallow and she was as skinny as a wolf in February. He'd seen stray cats with more meat on them. Lordy, it hurt
just to look at her.
"We found this white woman. You are the only white man here. We brought her to you."
Nash shot a glance at the man, then pinned his gaze on the waif before him. "To me! I don't want her."
"Do all white women have this yellow hair?"
He glanced at her pale blond locks. "Damn few - rare as ermine pelts."
"This woman has no man. She has no horse. Yet she survived the winter, alone."
"Yes. Still this one survived. We do not know how. She has great powers, so she will bring you luck."
"Women don't bring luck. I can't take her."
"Hunts Buffalo and I think she belongs with her people. Such a special woman deserves to go home. We would take her,
only we are going to war with the Blackfoot now. Perhaps later."
Nash flapped an arm in frustration. "Well, what am I supposed to do with her?"
"Feed her. She is very hungry."
The trapper turned his hard gaze upon her. "Where's your people?"
Cordelia Channing's jaw dropped open. English. How long had it been since she'd heard English? John's voice rose in her
mind. Don't fret Cordelia. I'll bag an elk and be back by nightfall. I just don't fancy going up the pass without a
full larder. Snows come early in the mountains. And oh, how they had come. The whole world had turned gray and
she'd been buried alive in a cold white blanket.
"What's wrong? You addled?" His voice snapped her back to attention. "What're you doing up here alone?" He scowled,
looking strong as a buffalo and just as dangerous.
"Our wagon train was headed west. My husband meant to minister to the savages."
"Where's he at?"
A vivid image of the last time she'd seen John flashed in her mind. Would the memory never leave her? Tears burned the
back of her throat and brimmed in her eyes. Her lip trembled as she kept the cries buried deep in her throat. She shook
"Gone left or gone dead?"
She stared at his scowling face a moment in shock. "I found his remains last October."
Nash leaned forward. "Not Indians, or they'd have you, too." He scratched his chin and regarded her. "Grizzly?"
Fifteen days after his disappearance she'd found John's body. Scavengers had eaten at his corpse. She shuddered. "I
"I'm real sorry for your loss," said the trapper, his frown unwavering.
Her voice sounded brittle as autumn leaves blown across bedrock. "What will happen to me now?"
"You'll stay with me."
"Will you take me East?"
He shook his head. "Not until fall."
Her eyes flew to her rescuers. "Will they?"
"They're going to war with the Blackfoot. You can't go."
The Indian she knew as Hawk Feathers squatted before her and patted her cheek. His sad eyes spoke to her. She smiled.
"Thank you," she said.
"Gordeela," he said, and lifted a hand in farewell. The other man nodded his goodbye. She watched them grip the horses'
manes and leap astride. In a moment they were gone, melted into the evergreens. How differently she felt seeing them
go. Five days earlier, when they'd appeared in her meadow, hope and horror mingled. They were the first human beings
she'd seen in seven months. Her food was nearly gone. Yet, she feared capture. In the end she recognized them as
her last chance. Without immediate help, she'd die beside her roofless hut and mired wagon, so she'd crossed the meadow
to meet her fate. And they'd rescued her.
The trapper pushed his wide-brimmed leather hat back on his head. She studied his eyes. They were clear blue, like a
glass medicine bottle. The small lines near the corners were the only part of his face not tanned. A close-trimmed
beard covered his square jaw. She guessed he was not yet thirty. His muscular body was clad entirely in soft brown
buckskin. Both shirt and britches were trimmed in a long fringe. About his shoulders a powder horn and shoulder bag
crisscrossed. A leather belt cinched his narrow waist and held a variety of objects including a long knife and smaller
pouches. My word, he is the tallest man I've ever seen.
Excerpted from Winter Woman
by Jenna Kernan
Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd..
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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