Half-breed Gabe Beaumont had had to choose between the Sioux tribe of his mother and the white family of his father, and his choice had cost him everything. Settlers had murdered his Indian wife and child, and now revenge was all he lived for.
Riding westward with a renegade Sioux band, he became Tall Bear, a warrior with a wounded soul, a man with an anger and grief that tore away his gentleness and dreamsuntil a raid on a Wyoming stagecoach station brought him face-to-face with a feisty, red-haired beauty who would change his life...
Faith Kelley had run from her strict, pious upbringing toward the freedom of the frontier and a reckless husband. All too quickly, tragedy left her alone with an infant son and shattered plans. But Faith had drawn strength from the soaring hills, and her tough-minded courage flared when Indians attacked the stage stop that had become her home. She never guessed that Gabe Beaumont, the handsome, dark-haired cowboy who later rode into the station, was the Sioux warrior who had led that raid. He had changed worlds to claim the woman who was his destinyand to fight for her love against the shadows and the danger that lurked in his wild heart.
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||4.23(w) x 6.89(h) x 0.97(d)|
About the Author
Award-winning novelist Rosanne Bittner is known for the thrilling romance and historical authenticity in her books. Her stories are set in the American West of the 1800’s, spanning from Missouri to California, and from Canada to Mexico. Rosanne travels to each location for extensive research, always using real locations and events in her novels. She lives in Michigan.
Read an Excerpt
"Tall Bear," she whispered. He had come back! She moved to the door. "Tall Bear, is that you out there?"
"It is," came the reply.
She lifted away the bar across the door and stepped back. "Come in," she called to him.
The door opened, and Tall Bear walked inside to see Faith holding a rifle on him. He closed the door, standing there quietly, not surprised she still didn't trust him.
Faith stared at him in surprise. He'd been gone over three weeks. Now he stood before her washed and shaved, and he had cut his hair to shoulder length. He was wearing dark cotton pants, leather boots, a white man's yellow slicker, and a leather hat. Through the open front of the slicker she could see he wore a six-gun belted to his hip, and she saw a dark shirt and a short wool jacket. He was dressed as a white man.
"Tall Bear, where have you been? Why are you--"
"I have decided I will stay and work for you," he interrupted. How could he tell her the truth--that she had haunted his dreams? How could he tell her the reason he left the first time was because he was afraid of his own feelings for this feisty, independent woman--a woman who would never be interested in a half-breed who had raided and killed not only with the Sioux, but with white outlaws. Still, he had not been able to stay away, and the fact remained that he needed honest work.
Faith stepped back, lowering her rifle.
"I thought you would still want me here to help. If you want me to go, I will go."
Faith shook her head. "It isn't that. I--" She glanced over at Johnny. "It's just that I can't talk about this right now. I can't make any decisions." She moved her gaze back to Tall Bear. "Actually, you couldn't have come at a better time. I'm scared, Tall Bear. My son is very sick. I'm afraid--" The words caught in her throat, and she felt so helpless. "I'm afraid he's dying." She choked in a sudden sob and covered her mouth, letting the tears flow. In the next moment she felt a hand on her shoulder, and she was resting her head against his chest and crying. Never had she been so aware that she needed to be held, needed someone else's strength. In Tall Bear's arms she felt the first real comfort she had known other than when her own mother had embraced her.
"I don't know what to do, Tall Bear. He has a terrible fever and cough, and he's so listless. He looks at me as though he doesn't even know me."
She felt him removing the rifle from her hand, and she did not object. "Come," he told her. "We will see what we can do for him."
He led her over to the cot and leaned over Johnny, removing the blanket from around him and feeling his hot skin. "You are right," he told her. "This is bad. You must cool him down right away or he will die."
Faith wiped at tears. "I--I thought I should keep him wrapped tight, make him sweat it out."
He shook his head. "No. You must remove his clothing and immerse him in cool water. You must bring the fever down, or it will affect his brain. While you do that, I must leave. I will bring something back with me that will help. While I am gone, put a pan of water on the cookstove and heat it."
"No, don't leave me here alone! You won't come back."
"I promise that I will. I already came back once, didn't I?" He grasped her arms, forcing her to meet his gaze.
Faith saw truth there in his exotic green eyes.
"It is an old Indian remedy. You must trust me. I have caused you enough hurt. I would not lie to you about this. Get your son into cool water right away, then wrap him again as soon as he is out so that he does not shiver with chill. Heat the pan of water. I will be back soon." He grabbed his hat and slicker again, leaving the jacket behind as he left without further explanation. Faith ran to the window and opened the shutters to watch him riding away. He had left behind his packhorse, which seemed to guarantee his return. She felt sorry for him, riding off into the cold rain, but if it was for something that would help Johnny, then so be it.
She quickly set a wash pan on the stove, then poured already-heated water from the kettle into the pan, building up the fire under the burner to keep the water in both vessels hot. Next she took down a washtub that hung on a wall and set it beside Johnny's cot. She poured two buckets of water into it, praying that Tall Bear was right about how to bring down the fever. It just didn't seem safe to put Johnny's little fevered body into cool water. She would never have thought to do such a thing, afraid it would kill him, but if this was something the Sioux had always done, perhaps there was some use to it. After all, they were a people who had to survive out here with no white man's help, no doctors, no fancy potions and creams. She remembered Buck saying once that the Indians had their own kind of medicine and seemed to do "right good" at treating their own sicknesses.
What other choice did she have? To leave things as they were would surely mean Johnny's death. She unwrapped him, and he made only a little whimpering sound as she undressed him. It was as though he did not have the energy to cry. Perhaps he had a sore throat on top of the fever and congestion. Perhaps he simply could not get enough air to cry. His little head rolled back and his arms hung limp when she picked him up, but his body jerked when she set him in the cool water. He made another whimpering sound.
"I'm sorry, Johnny, but Mommy is only trying to do what's best for you." She cupped water in her hand and began pouring it over his forehead to cool his skull, face, and neck. After a few minutes he seemed to be come more alert. He kicked and splashed water, then began the awful coughing again, so fierce, she was sure he would choke to death on phlegm or die simply from the inability to draw enough air into his congested lungs. "Please hurry, Tall Bear," she prayed, still terrified for her little boy.
Finally the coughing subsided, but he seemed completely worn out just from the effort. She scooped more water over his face and head, leaned him forward, and poured some over the back of his neck and over his back. His skin finally seemed cooler, and she decided she had better take him out and wrap him before he became too chilled. She swaddled him in a blanket and carried him to the rocker to sit down and wait for Tall Bear, wondering if she was a total fool to trust him this way. She rocked Johnny, listening for the return of a horse.
After about twenty minutes she finally heard him returning. He came through the door, his big frame seeming to fill the room. He held what looked like pieces of bark in his hands, and he set them on the table, then removed his wet slicker and his hat, hanging both things on the wall. Faith noticed that without the extra coats he still seemed intimidating in size, and he still wore the six-gun.
"I have brought the bark of red cedar," he told her. "I will boil it in the water. As soon as it releases its oils, I will take Johnny over to the boiling water and put a blanket over us. You will have to watch the blanket to be sure it does not get near open flame. I need to make a kind of tent over us so that your son breathes the steam from the bark. It will help clear his lungs. My people have used this for many generations to chase away the lung sickness."
Faith clung to Johnny. "Does it always work?"
He walked over and broke the bark into little pieces, placing them into the wash pan, which was already steaming. "Most of the time."
"Most of the time?"
He poured more water from the kettle into the pan. "Nothing in this life is sure. I know only that this usually helps. The rest is in God's hands."
She thought it strange he should say that, as though he believed in her God. The room was silent for the next few minutes. Faith continued to rock Johnny, and Tall Bear poked at the bark, stirring it a little. He leaned down, sniffed it, and after several minutes told her to bring the boy to him, along with an extra blanket. Faith decided she had no choice but to trust him.
She carried the baby to Tall Bear, their gazes holding as she handed him over. "He's all I have," she reminded him.
"I know the feeling of loving a son," he answered, taking the boy into his arms, "and how it feels to lose one to death."
She saw the pain in his eyes. "I'm sorry. I'm thinking only of myself and my own son."
"That is as it should be. Put the extra blanket over my head. Once the water in the pan is boiling hard, I will take him over and sit on the cot with him. You can carry the pan and set it on the floor, and we will continue to sit over the steam, using the blanket to hold it in."
Faith tossed the blanket over their heads, and Tall Bear leaned over the pan. Faith checked all around carefully to be sure the blanket did not touch any open drafts on the front of the stove, and she made sure to keep lifting the hem so it did not rest too long on the hot wrought-iron stove. For several minutes Tall Bear held the boy over the water, and she thought how he must be getting hot and sweaty under there himself, and that his arms must be getting tired from holding Johnny, but he hardly moved. Finally Johnny began coughing again. He gagged, and she heard Tall Bear pounding on his back. He told her then to quickly bring the pan over to the cot, and he carried Johnny there, sitting down on the edge. He talked to the boy softly in the Sioux tongue, and Faith was amazed that the boy was not crying at being held by a stranger--such a big, intimidating man at that, a man he'd seen attack the station only a month ago. On top of that Tall Bear was talking to him in a strange language. Perhaps the boy was simply too dazed to understand what was happening to him.
She set the pan at the edge of the cot on the floor, thinking how good the steaming cedar smelled. Tall Bear hovered over it, he and Johnny covered with the blanket again. Johnny coughed more, but already his cough seemed even looser, so that he was able to bring up more phlegm, which she thought must be good.
"I'm sorry you have to sit under there like that," she told Tall Bear. "I can sit with him for a while if you want."
"I am fine," he told her. "I have sat in the sweat lodge many times for purification. It is much hotter than this. It is good for the lungs, and good for the soul."
Faith frowned, not sure what a sweat lodge was. It was something she would have to ask him about when this was over...if things ended happily. Nothing would matter to her if Johnny didn't make it. She would never forgive herself for staying where there was no doctor's help for her son.
Minutes seemed like hours, and finally a good hour did pass before she heard Johnny speak. "Ta Baew," he said. Her heart leaped with joy at the words.
"No," Tall Bear answered. "That is no longer my name, Johnny. I am Gabe. Can you say Gabe?"
"Gabe," the boy said after a moment.