A warrior who values duty above all else, Talako is honor bound to recapture a runaway brave sentenced to hang for his crimes. But then he confronts the fury and determination of ebony-haired Lusa, his quarry's sister. Forced to make Lusa his captive on a perilous trek through the wilderness, he cannot deny the desire to forget his quest and lose himself in the pleasures of her lush beauty.
TRAPPED BY PASSION AND DESIRE
Convinced Talako is hunting an innocent man, for Lusa all that matters is saving her brother, and she'll do it any way she can. Boldly, she dares to seduce her enemy with all the passionate fire raging through her blood. The last thing she expects is her own impossible need to surrender to the exquisite torment he ignites. . . and to a love that could bind her heart to his forever.
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High noon, early spring
Would his brother show up for his own execution? Talako glanced at the sun, shielding his dark eyes from the light, knowing it was time. In his heart, he half hoped his identical twin, Nightwalker, would not appear, even though his sense of family and tribal honor demanded his brother come to the square where everyone waited.
Talako glanced over at his old father. Nashoba, the Wolf, stood proud and tall; only the nerves in the old Choctaw's dark face quivered a little, betraying the emotions that raged within. Talako knew Nightwalker, Ninak Tasembo, had always been his father's favorite of the two boys, lovable and irresponsible though he was. Nightwalker was more like a much younger brother than a twin.
The rifle felt heavy in his hands. Talako glanced around the silent square at the dozens of tribal members who awaited the outcome. Somewhere a bird sang, and a slight breeze ruffled through trees already turning green with the hint of spring. How dare birds sing when I am weeping inside?
He must not show any emotion, he reminded himself. His name meant Gray Eagle, and, like that majestic hunter, Talako was dignified and proud. No, he must not let a single tear betray his thoughts. For a member of the elite Choctaw Lighthorsemen tribal law enforcers to cry would be unthinkable, a badge of dishonor for himself, his family, and his tribe. Honor meant more than anything in the world to Talako. Hadn't he proved that less than six months ago?
One minute passed, then another. Each breath Talako drew seemed to cover an eternity. Around him, people shifted their feet, and a slight murmurran through the crowd. As if he had read the crowd's thoughts, frail old Nashoba squared his shoulders and raised his voice. "My son, Nightwalker, will come. He has given his word. Like any Choctaw warrior, he values his honor."
Talako wished he had his father's confidence, but he knew something the old man did not: what had happened the last time Nightwalker was in trouble. Talako could almost feel again the pain of his scars. This time, the crime was more serious, and Talako could not save his errant twin.
Another minute passed. Perhaps Nightwalker was not going to show up. Who could blame him if, having been freed on his word of honor to take care of business and say his final good-byes, his brother had decided to flee and escape his scheduled execution?
Talako looked toward his father again, knowing the frail proud warrior must be warring within himself, half relieved his favorite might yet escape public death, yet humiliated by the shame such cowardice would bring on his family.
Talako shifted his feet, feeling sweat running down his back under his buckskin shirt. His mouth tasted dry and bitter as gunpowder. He looked toward the captain of the lighthorsemen. "My brother will come," Talako promised.
His father broke in. "Of course Nightwalker will come, as he came for his punishment that other time."
A murmur of agreement ran through the crowd and heads nodded. "Yes, that is right. Ninak Tasembo came boldly and took his sentence without flinching."
That wasn't true, of course, but no one knew that except Talako and Nightwalker, certainly not their ailing, half-blind father. If only Talako had been able to change his brother's wild, reckless ways. But Nightwalker had never been the same since the tragedy involving his wife.
A murmur swept across the tribal grounds, and then the crowd began to part, making way for Nightwalker as he strode boldly into the square. His chin was up and his handsome face arrogant, and perhaps only the brother who knew him so well saw how deathly pale he was.
Talako's heart both leaped--his brother's honor was spared--and sank. In a few minutes, Nightwalker would be dead. It was the tribe's sentence for murder.
His twin paused before their father and gently put a hand on the Wolf's frail, bent shoulder. "My father, I have returned to take my punishment, as I gave my word I would."
Nashoba's hand shook as he reached out and touched his favorite in a blessing. "I knew you would come, my son. I never doubted how much you valued our family honor and your own."
Now Nightwalker took a deep breath, strode over to Talako, and clasped his hand tightly. Nightwalker's hand was wet with cold sweat and it trembled, but only Talako knew that. The crowd watched silently. "I should have listened to you, Talako. Then maybe I, too, would be an honored lighthorseman."
Talako tried to speak, but choked up. Instead, the two brothers embraced for a long moment. All their lives they had been together, raised alone by an honored old warrior after the death of their unfaithful mother. Now they would be separated forever. Here and there in the crowd, a woman wiped a tear from her eye.
Nightwalker took a deep breath, squared his shoulders, and stepped away. "I am ready to accept my sentence," he said loudly to the assembled crowd.
Captain Raven of the lighthorsemen took his arm and led him to the post in the middle of the square. "Would you like a blindfold?" he asked.
Nightwalker shook his head. "I would see the sun as I go up to meet the Great Spirit in the sky."
The Choctaw captain sighed, took a small square of white cloth from his pocket, pinned it on the front of Nightwalker's faded homespun shirt, over his heart, and turned back to shout at Talako, "Under the circumstances, no one would fault you if you are not part of this."
Talako wavered. More than anything in the world, he wanted to be a million miles away from here--anywhere, as long as he was not about to take part in this execution. But then he looked into Nightwalker's eyes, saw the plea there, and knew he could not walk away. "My brother has requested I be here, so here I stay."
Everyone nodded, and the murmur went through the crowd again. Everyone knew why Nightwalker had requested that Talako be part of the rifle team. Talako was a legendary shot. With him, there would be no miss, no lingering agony because a bullet had gone awry. Nightwalker would die instantly.
Captain Raven sighed and turned again to the condemned man. "Do you have any last words?"
Nightwalker shook his head. "Not many. I regret the dishonor I have brought to my family with my crimes, but I have killed the woman I loved and life without her is not worth living. My only regret is that I did not find and kill all the guilty men. Perhaps my brother will track the last one down."
Talako gave his brother a look of compassion and encouragement, yet he had no idea of the identity of the guilty man.
Nightwalker squared his shoulders. "However, I want to say a word about my punishment almost six months ago."
Alarmed, Talako caught his brother's eye and shook his head ever so slightly. It would do no good now to tell that; it would only humiliate their frail father. The Wolf was the proudest of all the elderly tribesmen.
Nightwalker hesitated, as if loath to avoid telling what he knew. Then he, too, glanced toward their father and back to Talako, nodding to show he understood. Instead, his dark eyes passed a message to his brother. Thank you for the sacrifice you made. I am sorry I have caused so much trouble and pain.
The Choctaw captain signaled the execution squad to step into place. Talako knew his feet moved, but his body was numb to feeling anything. For a long moment, there was no sound. Even the bird had stopped singing.
No, the silence had a sound, Talako thought as he gritted his teeth and steeled himself. It was the sound of his own heart breaking for the brother he had not been able to change and now could not save.
Nightwalker cleared his throat. "I die now with a warrior's honor!" he shouted. "My regrets to my father for what I have done to our family name." His handsome dark face turned toward Talako and passed him a silent message. Aim true, my brother. Send me to my rest with no pain.
Talako was not sure he could do this thing. He wanted to throw down his rifle and run away, yet Nightwalker was counting on him.
"Ready!" shouted the captain.
Talako and the others brought their rifles to their shoulders. His eyes were blurring with tears and he blinked rapidly. He must not miss and cause his brother agony.
Talako tried not to look upon Nightwalker's handsome face, calm now as he gazed not toward the firing squad, but upward toward the sun. There was peace on his brother's countenance, as if he were prepared to meet that Great Mystery each man must face alone.
Talako concentrated on the white square pinned over Nightwalker's heart. He was an expert shot. He would not miss. Time seemed to stand still, and yet it was only a heartbeat, the difference between a man's life and death, before the captain shouted "Fire!"
The other rifles roared like thunder in Talako's ears as he pulled the trigger and hit the white target squarely, turning it suddenly crimson. The condemned had felt no pain; Talako had seen to that. Almost in a dream, he watched the familiar form crumpling toward the ground before his tears blurred out the sight. He had fulfilled his obligations, as he had promised.
Now he wanted to scream and grieve and throw himself across the bloody body lying in the noontime dust, but that would shame the proud old Wolf. Honor. Nothing else mattered to this family. Talako squared his wide shoulders and strode over to aid his shaking father.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book is the third book I've read that is of romance. And so far it is one of the best i have ever read! I congrantulate Georgina Gentry for this book it was a great book!!!!!
This was georgina gentry's first book that i ever read. it was so great that i started a collection, I really fell in love with talako and lucsha. He was a man of honor,she was a women of loyalty to her family, you would have never known what was going to happen. with all the obstical in there way they come together with so much love, so much passion it almost feels as if your there in the story, to the author, you grabbed my attention! I hope you keep on writing so i can keep on in my fantasies!!!!