Apache Summer by Heather Graham released on Dec 25, 2002 is available now for purchase.
About the Author
Heather Graham (b. 1953) is a bestselling American author who writes primarily romance novels but also in genres ranging from historical fiction to time travel and vampire stories. She has published more than 150 novels and novellas and has tens of millions of books in print. She also writes under her married name, Heather Graham Pozzessere, and the pen name Shannon Drake. Some of her best-known series include her Civil War novels and the Krewe of Hunters series.
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By Heather Graham
Harlequin Enterprises LimitedCopyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWestern Texas, 1870
"Look, Lieutenant! Fire, rising high to our left!"
Jamie Slater reined in his roan stallion. With penetrating silver-gray eyes he stared east, where Sergeant Monahan was pointing. Across the sand and the sagebrush and the dry dunes, smoke could indeed be seen, billowing up in black and gray bursts. Tendrils of flame, like undulating red ribbons, waved through the growing wall of smoke.
"Injuns!" Monahan breathed.
To Jamie's right, Jon Red Feather stiffened. Jamie turned toward him. The half-breed Blackfoot was a long way from home, but he was still one of the best Indian scouts around. He was a tall, striking man with green-gold eyes and strong, arresting features. Thanks to a wealthy white grandfather, Jon Red Feather had received a remarkable education, going as far as Oxford in England.
Jamie knew that Jon resented the ready assumption that trouble meant Indians, even though he admitted readily to Jamie that trouble was coming, big trouble. The Apache hated the white man, the Comanche despised him, and Jamie was convinced that the great Sioux Nation was destined to fight in a big way for all the land that had been grabbed by the hungry settlers.
Through Jon, Jamie had come to know the Comanche well. Hedidn't make the mistake of considering the Comanche to be docile, but, on the other hand, he'd never known a Comanche to lie or to give him any double-talk.
"Let's see what's going on," Jamie said quietly. He rose high in his saddle and looked over the line of forty-two men presently under his command. "Forward, Sergeant. We ride east. And by the look of things, we'd best hurry."
Sergeant Monahan repeated his order, calling out harshly and demanding haste. Jamie flicked his reins against the roan's shoulders, and the animal took flight with grace and ease. His name was Lucifer, and it fitted the animal well. He was wild - and remarkable.
That was one thing about the U.S. Cavalry, Jamie reckoned as they raced toward the slope of the dune that led to the rise of smoke. They offered a man good horses.
He hadn't had that pleasure in the Confederate cavalry. When the Confederacy had been slowly beaten into her grave, there hadn't been many mounts left. But the war had been over for almost five years now. Jamie was wearing a blue uniform, the same type he'd spent years of his life shooting at. No one, least of all his brothers, had believed he would last a day in the U.S. Cavalry, not after the war. But they had been wrong. Many of the men he was serving with hadn't even been in the war, and frankly, he understood soldiers a whole lot better than he did politicians and carpetbaggers.
And he had liked the life in the saddle on the plains, dealing with the Indians, far better than he had liked to see what had become of the South. This was western Texas, and the reprisals from the war weren't what they were in the eastern Deep South. Everywhere in the cities and towns were the men in tattered gray, many missing limbs, hobbling along on crutches. Homeless and beaten, they had been forced to surrender on the fields, then they had been forced to surrender to things that they hadn't even understood. Taxes forced upon them. Yankee puppets in place where local sheriffs had ruled. The war was horrible - even after it was over.
There were good Yanks, and Jamie had always known it. He didn't blame good men for the things that were happening in the South - he blamed the riffraff, the carpetbaggers. He liked his job because he honestly liked a number of the Comanche and the other Indians he dealt with - they still behaved with some sense of honor. He couldn't say that for the carpetbaggers.
Still, he never deceived himself. The Indians were savage fighters; in their attacks, they were often merciless.
But as Jamie felt the power of the handsome roan surge beneath him as he raced the animal toward the rise of fire and smoke, he knew that his days with the cavalry were nearing an end. For a while, he had needed the time to get over the war. Maybe he'd needed to keep fighting for a while just to learn how not to fight. But he'd been a rancher before the war had begun. And he was beginning to feel the need for land again. Good land, rich land. A place where a man could raise cattle in wide open spaces, where he could ride his own property for acres and acres and not see any fences. He imagined a house, a two-story house, with a great big parlor and a good-sized kitchen with huge fireplaces in each to warm away the winter's chill. Maybe it was just time for his wandering days to be over.
"Sweet Jesus!" Sergeant Monahan gasped, reining in beside Jamie as they came to the top of the rise of land.
Jamie silently echoed the thought as he looked down upon the carnage.
The remnants of a wagon train remained below them. Men had attempted to pull the wagons into a defensive circle, but apparently the attack had come too swiftly.
Bodies lay strewn around on the ground. The canvas and wood of the wagons still smoldered and smoked, and where the canvas covers had not burned, several feathered arrows still remained.
Comanche, Jamie thought. He'd heard that things were heating up. Seemed like little disputes would eventually cause a whole-scale war. Monahan had told him he'd heard a rumor about some whites tearing up a small Indian village. Maybe this was done in revenge.
"Damnation!" Sergeant Monahan breathed.
"Let's go," Jamie said.
He started down the cliff and rocks toward the plain on which the wagon train had been attacked. It was dry as tinder, sagebrush blowing around, an occasional cactus protruding from the dirt. He hoped there was no powder or ammunition in the wagons to explode, then he wondered what it would matter once he and his men looked for survivors. The Indians had struck sure and fast, then disappeared somewhere into the plain, up the cliffs and rock. Like the fog wisping away, they had disappeared, and they had left the death and bloodshed behind them.
"Circle carefully!" he advised his men. "A half-dead Comanche is a mean one, remember!"
Riding behind him, Jon Red Feather was silent. Their horses snorted and heaved as they slowly came down the last of the slope, trying to dig in for solid footing. Then they hit the plain, and Jamie spurred his horse to race around and encircle the wagons. There were only five of them.
Poor bastards never had a chance, he thought. He reckoned that someone had been bringing some cattle north, since there was at least a score of dead calves lying glass-eyed and bloody along with the human corpses.
There was definitely no one around. And there was not a single Indian left behind, not a dead one, or a half-dead one, or any other kind of a one.
Excerpted from Apache Summer by Heather Graham Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
this was the best book ever. i read it in 5 hours. it was the third book in the slater brothers trilogy the first 2 were great. the first one is DARK STRANGER and the 2nd book is RIDES A HERO and then the best for last APACHE SUMMER. these were the best books ever. I love heather graham and she never lets you down.... you have to read this three books you wont be dissopponted...