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Beautiful Feather

Cover for the book Spiritís
Song

Page Last Updated 9/21/98

The above pic is the proposed cover for my upcoming book, SPIRIT'S SONG, due in bookstores March 1999. Pino is the artist, and still the best on the face of the planet! My editor loved the book. She said it was SPECTACULAR, ONE OF MY BEST YET.

The cover copy reads:

She was a runaway wife, with a hefty reward posted for her return. And he was the best damn tracker in the territory.

For the half-breed bounty hunter, it was an easy choice. His had been a hard life, with little to show for it except his horse, his Colt, and his scars. The pampered, brown-eyed beauty would go back to her rich husband in San Francisco, and he would be $10,000 richer.

But somewhere along the trail out of the Black Hills, sometime during the long star-studded prairie nights, everything changed. Now, he would give his life to protect her, to hold her forever in his arms. Now the moonlight poetry of their loving reflected the fiery vision of the Sun Dance. She must be his....SPIRIT'S SONG.

A sneak peak follows...

SPIRIT'S SONG

The Spirit's Song was lost in me,
my heart was sinking low,
I drifted on the winds of change,
I had nowhere to go.
But, then you came and with your voice,
you spoke in tones so soft,
That in my heart, I found my choice,
you set this bird aloft.

The eagle soared above my head,
my spirit guide was free,
I felt the pull but could not reach,
he was too high for me.
But, then you came, and lifted me,
with love as pure as light,
My feet left ground, you gifted me,
again you gave me flight.

I could not say I'd ever reach
the goals I once had held,
I knew for me there was no use,
my spirit was impaled.
But, then you came, and freed my soul,
you righted what was wrong,
You are my dream, you made me whole,
you are the Spirit's Song.

---SpiritWalker---

SPIRIT'S SONG

Chapter 5

Kaylynn ran as though pursued by a thousand devils. She had lived with the Indians for nearly eight months. In the beginning, she had been afraid of them. In the east, there had been talk about the Indian problem, about how savage they were. Godless, inhuman creatures, people said, who wore animal skins and feathers and ate raw meat. Indian men were said to lust after white women, and she had lived in constant fear that she would be raped by every man in the village. And surprised when it hadn't happened.

Apparently the stories about Indian men lusting after every white women they saw had been false. Either that, or she just didnít appeal to Cheyenne men. None of the warriors had ever approached her, not even the warrior who had captured her. He had brought her home to be a slave in his lodge, and that was all.

She ran blindly on, heedless of the coming night, of the branches that scratched her skin and legs. Propelled by a nameless fear, she ran deeper into the woods, certain she would rather face whatever wild beasts lurked there than the man she had left behind. It seemed she had been running for hours. Her sides hurt, her lungs hurt, she was seeing spots before her eyes. She would have to stop soon, find a place to rest, to hide.

And then, through the fog of fear, she heard the sound of hoofbeats coming up fast behind her. She risked a quick glance over her shoulder, felt a new surge of terror rise up within her when she saw the stranger riding toward her. He was leaning over his horse's neck, his long black hair streaming behind him. Fear lent wings to her feet, but she couldn't outrun the big blue mare. She screamed as the horse brushed her shoulder, knocking her to the ground. She rolled over twice, the breath knocked from her body.

Quick as a cat, he was beside her, jerking her to her feet, his hands imprisoning her arms.

"Where do you think you're going?" His voice was silky soft, low and dangerous.

Kaylynn stared into his cool gray eyes, unable to think, unable to speak. She couldn't draw her gaze from the scar on his face, could hardly draw a breath for the fear congealed in her throat. A shiver slid down her spine.

A muscle throbbed in Jesse's cheek as he endured her scrutiny. Most of the women he met were repulsed by his appearance; whores always charged him extra. He had thought himself used to it by now.

He leaned toward her, until their faces were only a breath apart. "Go ahead." he said gruffly. "Take a good look."

She blinked at him, a slow blush rising in her cheeks. "I'm sorry." She spoke automatically, years of schooling in etiquette and manners coming to the fore. "It was rude of me to stare."

Rude? He almost laughed out loud. No one had ever apologized for staring at him before. But he wasn't interested in her good manners now; didn't care if she was sincere. He was only aware of the soft feminine curves brushing against his chest, of the nearness of her lips.

Muttering an oath, he pulled her body up against his and kissed her. There was nothing of softness in his kiss, no gentleness, no tenderness. He cupped her head with one hand and ground his lips against hers, his tongue plunging into her mouth.

Kaylynn struggled against him, beating at his face with her fists, scratching his cheek, his neck. And when that didn't stop him, she bit down on his tongue, recoiling when she tasted his blood in her mouth.

With a vile oath, he jerked away, his gray eyes filled with rage. "Damn you! Don't ever do that again." His hands closed over her shoulders and he shook her. "Do you understand me? You belong to me now, and that means you'll make yourself available to me whenever and however I want you."

She stared at him, her eyes wide, her face pale. For a moment, it was Alan staring down at her, Alan's voice ringing in her ears, his hands like claws where they gripped her shoulders. You're mine, do you understand? Mine...

"No." She formed the words, but no sound issued from her lips. "No."

"Yes," he said, his expression as implacable as his tone. "I don't want to have to beat you, but I will."

Kaylynn felt the blood drain from her face as she remembered the sound of Alan's fist repeatedly striking her flesh, accusing her of being frigid, barren, the pain that had engulfed her before she fainted, the ugly bruises his fists left behind. She clenched her hands. She wouldn't cry, not in front of this stranger, wouldn't let him see how frightened she was. And she was frightened. More frightened than she had ever been in her life. Because she had no doubt at all that, like Alan, this man meant every word. And she knew the pain of a man's hand all too well.

"Do we understand each other?" he asked.

She nodded, once, curtly. She understood. Understood that she was going to run away first chance she got. She would rather take her chances out on the prairie with the wolves and the snakes than stay here, at the mercy of this savage. It had taken her years to find the courage to run away from Alan, but on that day, her mouth bleeding and her eye blackened from his fist, she had vowed that no man would ever lay a hand on her in anger again.

"Go back to camp and wait for me," he said, his voice gruff. She didn't have to be told twice. Eager to be away from him, she turned and ran back to the village.

There was a tipi waiting for Jesse when he returned to the village, compliments of Bear Robe's wives.

He found the white woman sitting in the shade, her knees drawn up to her chest. Dismounting, he beckoned her with a look, then thrust a rabbit and two quail into her hands.

"I'm hungry," he said. "Cook the rabbit tonight. We'll have the quail tomorrow."

Kaylynn felt a rush of resentment as she entered the lodge. She belonged to this man now. She would be spending the night in this lodge, alone, with the stranger.

She glanced around. There was wood laid in a fire pit near the center of the floor, two willow backrests, a few cook pots and utensils, several baskets of raw vegetables.

Refusing to think of what might happen later that night, she knelt beside the fire. Pulling a flint from her sash, she lit the fire. She found a knife in the cooking utensils. Testing the edge against her thumb, she doubted if it would cut through butter, much less the carcass of a rabbit.

She was looking for another knife when she sensed she was no longer alone. Awareness slid down her spine, a soft tingling sensation that was oddly pleasurable.

"Here." Jesse knelt beside her, withdrew his knife from his sheath, and offered it to her. He watched her turn it over in her hand, knew she was trying to find the courage to plunge the blade into his heart. "Careful with that. It's sharp."

Jesse stared at her a moment, then rose to his feet and left the lodge.

Outside, he stood with his hands clenched, unable to believe he had threatened to beat her. He had never hit a woman in his life, but something in her eyes, the fear, perhaps, or the repugnance, had triggered his rage, making him want to lash out. He had thought himself used to it by now, he mused bleakly, used to the looks, the shudders, the pity. Used to taking what he wanted whenever he wanted. So why did this woman's reaction disturb him so badly?

He swore, using every foul word he had ever heard, but it didn't help. He'd been a fool to gamble for the woman, but there was something about her that called to him. He had known he would win the race, had known that she would he his. Waiting for the race to start, he'd had a fleeting foolish thought that destiny had brought him here, not for Ravenhawk, but for the woman.

With a rueful shake of his head, he thrust such nonsense aside. Tomorrow morning, he would give the woman back to Bear Robe and then he'd go check out the Lakota encampment and see if he could find Ravenhawk. He hadn't had a woman in almost a year; he could wait another few weeks. He would haul Ravenhawk into Red Creek and turn him over to the sheriff there, and then he'd go hole up at the saloon with his favorite whore and get good and drunk.

The smell of roast rabbit reached his nostrils. He thought about going to eat with his cousin, then discarded the idea. He had killed that rabbit and by damn, he was going to eat it.

The woman jumped to her feet when he stepped into the lodge. The wariness in her eyes pricked his conscience, what little he had left.

"Smells good," he said gruffly. "Is it ready?"

She nodded.

Jesse sat down, watching her while she removed the rabbit from the spit and split it in half. She placed the meat in a bowl, along with some cooked vegetables, and offered it to him.

He nodded his thanks as he took the bowl from her hand. She stood beside the fire, watching him.

"Aren't you eating?" he asked.

Kaylynn shook her head. "I'm not hungry." It was a lie, but she knew she wouldn't be able to swallow a thing with him watching her every move.

He looked up at her, one brow arched, as her stomach growled loudly.

Kaylynn stared back at him, her cheeks burning, acutely aware of his presence, his nearness. Like it or not, she belonged to him now.

With a shrug, he turned back to his dinner. He ate quickly, then stood up. "Where's my knife?"

"Here." She picked it up and offered it to him.

He wiped the blade off on the side of his trousers then left the lodge.

Kaylynn breathed a sigh of relief when he went outside. Tonight, she thought, nibbling on a piece of meat. She was leaving tonight.

Beautiful Feather

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NATIVE AMERICAN WORDS

UNDER A PRAIRIE MOON is in stores now. I was thrilled when it made the USA TODAYBestseller list. Itís the first time one of my books has done so!

The back cover copy reads:

"HE IS THE MOST FRIGHTENING, HANDSOME MAN I HAVE EVER SEEN"

Although these words had been written in another time, in another woman's diary, Kathy Conley thought they described Dalton Crowkiller perfectly. He was the kind of man a woman would sin for, die for, if she could only keep him in her arms.

But the dangerous half-breed belonged to the untamed West, and he'd been claimed by another woman long ago. Time itself would keep him and Kathy apart...until he was given one last chance to change the course of his life. Together, they found there was no past, no future only the wonder of the present, the raw aching desire between them, and a fierce love that could be satisifed but never quenched.

Beautiful Feather

My first Topaz book, HAWK'S WOMAN, is also in stores now. You can see the cover on my Topaz page.

Book Cover - Under the
Prairie Moon - front cover

Book Cover - Under the Prairie
Moon - back cover