It is 1755, and the French, accompanied by their fierce Huron comrades, are wreaking havoc along the shores of the Ohio River Valley, torching and destroying everyone and everything along their murderous path. As Colton Gray, a major in the Virginia Militia and personal scout to Colonel George Washington bravely battles the French and their Indian allies, his new wife, Sashsa, pines for the man of her dreams.
Sashsa, a former debutante in Montreal who was forced to run away from all she loved to avoid an arranged marriage, never expected to fall in love with a strong-willed soldier—let alone marry him. Haunted nightly by passionate dreams of his soul mate, Colton attempts to concentrate on the battles ahead without any idea that Sashsa has a plan of her own. Driven by her intuition that Colton is in trouble, Sashsa risks everything and heads into the battlefield with their young son to find him. When they are finally reunited, neither is prepared for the danger they will face or the choices they must make in order to protect their happiness—and their hearts.
In this continuing romantic saga, a tenacious temptress and the man who loves her must stay the course in the midst of a brutal war and sacrifice everything to build a dynasty that will survive the ages of history.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.61(d)|
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Stay The Course
By Joyce Case
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Joyce Case
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Escape
Colton, I am coming. Something is dreadfully wrong. I feel your need for me.
Sashsa was doing the only thing she could do under the circumstances. Tears suddenly burned in her eyes. What if something happened to her? Nonsense. I will be perfectly fine. Will Levi T. grow to be a man without my gentle touch?
* * *
Tocala had Bay Boy ready as Sashsa hugged Levi T. to her breasts. Kele stood next to them with a look of support. Pahana had his arm around Sashsa in a sign of endearment. She could feel his concern and dissatisfaction with her decision to leave. She felt like a little girl disobeying her father.
Wakiea rode ahead to scout out their way. The moon was giving off a silvery glow to help guide them along the rough trail. Dressed in her deerskin breeches, soft moccasin boots, stitched, short-cropped coat, and famous wide-brim hat, she mounted Bay Boy and left waving. She was choking back tears so Tocala would not think she was weak.
Riding with a renewed confidence alongside Tocala, she pushed Bay Boy at a faster gait. Tocalalooked at her with a strange look but stayed the course.
Wolf and bird calls filled the night as Sashsa and Tocala joined Wakiea just before daylight. They decided to camp for the day in a small cave. The walls were wet with small pools of water on the dirt floor. The horses fit nicely in the back section. Sashsa and her companions found it most accommodating with no access for surprise attacks. The entrance was small and concealed on the side of a cliff, and Tocala sealed it with a small tree.
Their jerky was tough but filling. Kele had packed some strawberries and cold hominy, which added variety. Sashsa volunteered to take the first watch, as they needed to sleep so they could start out again at nightfall. She sat Indian style with her Charleville musket cocked and resting on her legs. Her back was positioned against the damp wall and she focused on her mission.
She found her eyes were growing heavy. She needed to get up and move around. Her head was full of Colton and how he would react to her joining him. She would just deal with that when she had to and not worry about it now.
Nightfall came quickly, and they were on the trail again. This time Tocala went out to scout their way. Sashsa got to have at least some conversation with Wakiea, but not much. Oh, how she longed for Colton. His company was never boring, and he made her laugh. She could feel his muscular arms around her, his lips searching for hers. Shivers of anticipation consumed her body and thoughts.
Reality was forced on her before she wanted when a scream bounced off the high rocks and dense forest. Instinctively, she cocked her musket and made sure her knife and tomahawk were tucked in her belt. Wakiea kicked his mount and Sashsa followed at breakneck speed. She did not know how many braves were following, but she knew they would kill her if she did not out run them. With that thought, she urged Bay Boy to more speed.
She took over the lead and reined her trusty mount to a clearing just ahead. Wakiea was finding it difficult to keep up with her, so he waved her on.
She did not dare look back but only forward. Her years of riding as a child and her daredevil leaping stunts proved to be valuable to her at this moment. Bay Boy never hesitated when flying over fallen trees.
Echoes of screams told Sashsa they had caught Wakiea, but she knew from experience they would not stop pursuing her. If she stopped, they most certainly would overpower her before she got off a shot.
There was no mistaking the pounding of hooves sounding in her ears and the steamy vapors of snorting horses filling the air. The continuous screams and shouts were everywhere as blurs of dark-green underbrush and thick green trees filled her vision. She was an expert rider, but one slip and her body would be trampled underfoot. If that did not kill her, the Indians would.
A shot rang out and then another and another. Were they firing at her? Her fingers were numb from hanging on to her reins so tightly, but she dared not stop.
Voices and not screams were intruding her ears. She could see to her right several riders coming up beside her. At that precise moment, Sashsa stopped suddenly, whirled Bay Boy around, and sped off in the other direction—a maneuver she learned from her Uncle Dominique.
With the wind in her face, she passed rider after rider as she continued her quest for freedom. A thick forest took over her vision as she let Bay Boy dictate their fate.
Two more shots rang out as two men blocked her passage. She pulled back hard on the reins and looked straight in the dark brown eyes of Colton. Immediately she let her guard down and reined in beside him.
Her appearance was so stirring it momentarily numbed the wits out of him. Catching her wrist, he pulled her down and continued pulling her until they were entwined in a ferocious display of emotions. He kissed her cheek and lips and moved on to her neck. She completely surrendered to his advances, wiggling closer to him.
"You would think you missed her or something."
That recognizable voice brought them back to reality. Their heads popped up together with identical smiles; their eyes showed the joy of uniting to all the men enjoying their reunion.
Washington sat tall in his saddle with a mischievous look on his face. He too enjoyed these two lovers locked in their fiery embrace. He gave a nod of his head as he dismounted to approach them.
"You always know when I need help. I can count on you to show up to save me, George." Sashsa spoke through her tears as she rushed to encompass his body towering over her.
"You know, this time could have been your last time, Sashsa. You came this close to dying at the hands of those savages, and I can tell you they like to kill women slowly. We were not expecting you or we would have sent out a guard."
"Sashsa, I am thrilled beyond words that you are here in my arms and your hair not hanging on a pole in some buck's lodge, but why did you come? Is there something wrong at the plantation? Is Levi T. all right?" Colton rapidly fired questions at her, showing his temper with each question.
Her head dropped and she peeked up into his face. His hands grabbed her shoulders roughly and forced her to look him in the eyes. Tears were forming at the corners as his face twisted in agony.
"It is Levi T., isn't it? What happened to him? Is he dead?"
"No, No, No. Nothing is wrong, and Levi T. is not dead." Her voice shook with each word. She stood firm and did not back away as his hands released her.
"I received your letter and knew in my heart you needed me. I could feel the danger you were experiencing within my soul. I just did not think; I reacted, as usual."
"Enough of this. We need to assemble the men and get back to our mission. Major Gray, take care of your wife." Washington kicked the flanks of Nelson as he spoke.
Sashsa could feel and see Colton's anger escalating, but his responsibility to duty took charge and he ordered her to mount.
"Do not leave my side."
Chapter TwoThe Homecoming
At the outskirts of the plantation, Colton slowed his horse. Sashsa, who had been following him at a distance, brought Bay Boy up beside him. She threw back her reins and sat sidesaddle on her mount, looking at him with a radiant smile.
They both filled their eyes with the sight of fields of corn growing, tassels swaying in the wind. Smoke was rolling out of the chimney, skipping across the orange-cobbled roof. A mixture of fragrant smells swirled around them from the picturesque flower gardens lining the lane to the main house.
Colton was still simmering over her conduct but found his defenses rapidly surrendering to her beauty. He contemplated grabbing her and kissing her long and hard. But before he could act on his impulse, she launched herself onto the back of his steed and wrapped her arms around his waist. Her fingers roamed up his chest in a slow, rhythmic motion. Her hot lips pressed against his neck and then his ear.
She whispered, "Are you lusting again, love?"
He shivered and surrendered to her touch. "What do you think? It has been so long, Sashsa. I dreamed of you every night. You torment me more than you will ever know."
"Good. I love to hear you did not forget me. Now let's go home. I want to torment you some more."
"What did you do with our son while all this was going on?"
"Don't worry, love; he is being spoiled by Kele and Kanti. Just wait until you see him. He has a full mouth of teeth and looks just as handsome as you."
They took the lane slowly, feasting on the splendor of the French architecture of the main house, augmented by the small, outlying pavilions. The designs of the buildings were unique. Each building was fortified with heavy shutters, small, square gun slots, and fresh hides covering the roofs to keep them safe from flaming arrows.
Their short ride to the plantation proved to be just what they needed to ignite their passion, but they both knew there would be plenty of interruptions before they could finally be alone.
"Where are the sentries, Colton? I do not see them."
"They knew we were coming five miles back, love. My brother is always on guard. Do not worry; I am sure they will be out to greet us soon." As the words left his mouth, jubilation sounded all along the lane. Sashsa and Colton took the lead. Hats were flying through the air with loud shouts of greeting all around them while family and friends revealed themselves from their clever hiding places. Sashsa and Colton held their heads high feeling like royalty entering their castle.
Moki fought his way through the crowd to hang on Sashsa's leg. She motioned for him to mount Bay Boy and join the parade. He flashed his white smile and shimmied up into the saddle. Colton looked back and gave him a long wink.
Pahana with Kitchi sitting on his shoulders stood tall, waiting for Colton to dismount. Kele was not too far from his side with little Levi T. in her arms. He really would have preferred to get down, but Kele knew that once on the ground, he would be gone.
When Sashsa saw Levi she released Colton's waist and slipped off the back of his horse. She started running before her feet hit the ground. Levi T. held his arms out as she scooped him up. Their reunion was touching. He nestled his head into her neck and wrapped his little arms around her tightly. His gaze quickly left her when Colton approached with several swift steps. Colton picked him up with his chunky legs kicking outward. He lifted Levi T. high in the air and held him there, spinning him around, laughing out loud with his mouth open and his arms reaching for the sky. Colton then put him on his shoulders and seized Sashsa's hand. They strolled hand in hand over to the militia arriving with Washington in the lead.
Washington halted his troops close by and ordered Major Bateson to assemble the men at once.
"Colonel, the barn will be just the place for the wounded. Wakiea will be in charge of the arrangements; Major Bateson can work with him to make our wounded comfortable," shouted out Colton.
Washington signaled his agreement and directed orders to Pierre and Frenchie to make their campsite adjacent to the barn. Kele, glancing up, made a face to Pahana, indicating she wanted to talk to him. As he moved closer, she whispered something in his ear. He left to find Colton.
Frenchie was flinging his hands in the air in conversation with Sashsa when Major Bateson marched up.
"Is there a problem, Sashsa? Can I help?"
"Frenchie has a splendid idea, Case. He wants me to approach George about preparing a rendezvous. What do you think? Will he be receptive to it?"
Case put his hand to his chin and rubbed it back and forth, revealing his humorous side before he replied, "I do not know what he will say, but I think that is the best idea I have heard. After what the men have been through the last several days, a rendezvous would be the best medicine for what ails them."
They were chuckling together and suggesting ideas when Washington came up quietly behind them. His face showed no emotion, but held stern.
Frenchie gave a muffled cough, using his hand to cover his mouth, and with a stiff back started for the campfire. Case remained by Sashsa's side with a look of amusement on his face.
Sashsa approached the colonel boldly. "George, may I get you something to drink, or perhaps something to eat?" She wore her sweetest expression when asking. Caution: this is not the right time, by the look on his face. He is all duty and not party. Ask another time.
"I should eat with my men, Sashsa, but you are most kind to think of me. I am sure Frenchie will have food ready later. I was looking for Colton. We need to discuss our future strategies."
"Levi T. and Colton are bonding somewhere. I will find Colton for you. I am sure Levi T. is ready for his nap. How are you feeling? You look tired. Come sit with me on the porch." She looped her arm through his and ushered him toward the porch with a leisurely stroll.
"You need to take better care of yourself. I think I will spoil you while you are here. Would you like that?"
"I am fine, my dear, but I do thank you for your concern. Maybe you can spoil me when my men are not looking." He had a sheepish grin that covered his face. "Now run along and find Colton for me. I will rest better if we have a clear direction in which to proceed."
"Of course, I understand. We have a spare room for you; a real bed and all the comforts of your home back in Virginia. I will show you to your quarters later."
She could see he was fighting fatigue with each word and his impatience was showing.
"You are most kind, dear; always thinking of my comforts. I long for my Martha and home." His gaze seemed to look right through her, hesitant on his words.
She went high on her tiptoes and gently placed a kiss on his cheek. "I know you miss Martha, but think of us as your family while you have to endure your command and this war."
He squeezed her hand and kissed the top in his graceful manner.
"Are we interrupting? My big boy needs his mother."
Colton knew he could trust Sashsa, but his jealousy was always present when anyone touched her, including Washington. A spot of crimson appeared in the center of both cheeks as Colton laid a sleeping Levi T. in her arms.
She exhibited reassurance with a sweet, lingering kiss on his brightly colored cheek.
* * *
Once everyone found their places and Major Bateson had everything under control, Washington finally made his speech to the troops.
"We are here out of the generosity of Major Gray. This is not a fort but a home, so I expect you to show respect to the people of this plantation, as well as the property and possessions belonging to this family. I expect your full cooperation when working with any and all members of this family, including their workers, Understood?"
The answers were shouted out one by one. This commander had the loyalty of his men, and it was evident by their conduct.
"Our wounded can heal here, and I have requested reinforcements, but all this will take time. I feel we have protection here, but we will have to be on guard. The French and their Huron allies are raiding all around us. Fortification is our number one priority, so Major Gray and Bateson will set up details for this preparation.
"Hunting parties will go out sparingly in large forces, which will leave us vulnerable to attack, so we will eat mainly fish from the creek. Frenchie will be setting up our menu of plenty of johnnycake and hominy.
"We are very fortune that Major Gray volunteered his plantation and we will be in his debt.
"I want my scouts out immediately so we have eyes out there. Captain Spencer, I want your regulars to set up a perimeter guard around the plantation. These savages like to attack at night, so do not let your guard down. I want our horses kept in the middle of our campsite. The French and their Indian allies like to steal, again at night. Captain Spencer, I suggest you follow Major Gray around and learn quickly the art of fighting our way. That would be hiding behind trees and shooting our enemy, not facing our enemy, making ourselves a target. In order to survive, we must all stay the course and stay together. We are only as strong as our weakest link.
"Frenchie has informed me he has some food ready, but in limited supply. You will be expected to catch your own meals starting tomorrow.
"Thank you, men, for your loyalty and devotion. I would like to meet with Major Gray, Major Bateson, Captain Spencer, and Pierre. Major Bateson, you can dismiss our men."
* * *
Sashsa put Levi T. to bed and fell on the bed with heavy eyelids. She was still in her deerskin and needing a long, hot bath, but she was too tired to get up. If only she had someone to draw the bath and put her in it, she could do the rest. Colton was still with Washington so she really did not have to move just yet. Her thoughts became heavy and confusing as she drifted off to sleep.
Soon she was floating, with strong, muscular arms carrying her. She felt safe and warm in these arms so she did not struggle to get away, as she had in the past when vindictive men tried to take advantage of her. Colton was there to help her resolve that frightful part of her life.
Excerpted from Stay The Course by Joyce Case Copyright © 2012 by Joyce Case. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsPrologue The Defeat....................xv
Chapter 1. The Escape....................1
Chapter 2. The Homecoming....................5
Chapter 3. The Traitor....................12
Chapter 4. The Secret....................23
Chapter 5. The Battle....................30
Chapter 6. The Request....................34
Chapter 7. The Trap....................38
Chapter 8. The Capture....................53
Chapter 9. The Rescue....................58
Chapter 10. The Reuniting....................62
Chapter 11. The Inventor....................66
Chapter 12. The Miracle....................73
Chapter 13. The Price....................77
Chapter 14. The Impostor....................81
Chapter 15. The Powerful....................86
Chapter 16. The Siege....................93
Chapter 17. The Cleanup....................117
Chapter 18. The Amour....................128
Chapter 19. The Grateful....................133
Chapter 20. The Vengeful....................141
Chapter 21. The Verdict....................158
Chapter 22. The Recovery....................161
Chapter 23. The Trap....................167
Chapter 24. The Decision....................174
Chapter 25. The Campaign....................190
Chapter 26. The Spy Ring....................208
Chapter 27. The Treaty....................225
Chapter 28. Another Generation....................239