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Authors: Janelle Taylor

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BOOK: Bittersweet Ecstasy
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Rebecca’s problems had not ended with the Oglalas’ acceptance of her. As when Chela had tried to slay Shalee for taking Gray Eagle from her, Windrider’s first wife Kajihah had been slain while trying to kill
Rebecca for bringing Bonnie Thorne into Windrider’s life, a white girl whom the Cheyenne warrior loved and took as his third wife. After that bitter incident, love and happiness had ruled the lives of Rebecca Kenny and Bright Arrow.

Over the years, Windrider and Bonnie “Sky Eyes” Thorne had found great happiness and had given birth to four children. Windrider remained Bright Arrow’s close friend, and they often hunted or raided together. His son by Kajihah, Soul-of-Thunder, had become a great warrior, a close friend of Sun Cloud, and the secret desire of Tashina’s heart. Windrider had become the Cheyenne war chief and he led his warriors valiantly.

So much had happened in the span of forty-four years, since the arrival of Alisha Williams in the Eagle’s domain. After the return of Bright Arrow from his exile, Shalee had revealed the truth about Powchutu to Gray Eagle. The half brothers had been similar in looks and in character, but had led such different lives, different because of their father’s tragic secret and misguided pride. Gray Eagle had comprehended the truth and accepted it, delighting and touching his wife with his forgiving heart and generosity. At last, he had understood why Powchutu’s path had continually crossed with theirs and why Powchutu’s restless spirit had been drawn time and time again toward his Indian blood and heritage. Gray Eagle had confessed to wishing Powchutu were still alive so he could make peace with him…

During the past forty-two years, Bright Arrow had gone through many changes in his life and in his appearance. Up until the age of twenty, he had looked Indian like his father, after which his looks began to reveal his mixed blood by favoring his white mother more and more. His once-ebony hair now captured a
slight fiery underglow beneath the sun or near blazing firelight, his brown eyes exposed a detectable hazel tinge, and his skin was not as dark as an Indian’s. The whites often mistook him for a man of Spanish heritage, allowed him to play “Clay Rivera” when necessary.

In the last twenty-three years, Shalee had watched her second son grow to manhood, following closely in his father’s legendary footsteps and becoming a noted warrior in his own right. Sun Cloud was his father’s image: hair like midnight, eyes like polished jet, and skin of bronze. Although desired and pursued by many females, he was not ready or willing to settle down yet. He was fearless, clever, energetic, and strong; he considered himself the protector and provider for his aging parents. He had given his parents joy, pride, and peace. He had been trained to take his father’s place, and he looked forward to that moment with a mixture of excitement and sadness, as a son usually took over at his father’s death.

Both sons had kept the names which had been selected for them by the Great Spirit before their births, for a male’s name usually changed during his visionquest. Both sons rode at their father’s side or at each other’s side during hunts and during raids, as another vision of Gray Eagle’s had revealed long ago: “Long before we join the Great Spirit, our sons will ride against the white man together. Both will be great leaders.” Gray Eagle’s sons had been guided and instructed by White Arrow, best friend and lifelong companion to Gray Eagle, and second father to the boys, as was the Indian custom.

Shalee had met White Arrow, when she had been captured by Gray Eagle, and they had become fast friends. In 1782, with Shalee’s assistance, White Arrow had married Wandering Doe, a lovely and gentle
female who had died in the previous year, 1819. Wandering Doe had left three children to carry on her bloodline and love. One son, Flaming Star, was a close friend to Bright Arrow; while another, Thunder Spirit, was the best friend of Sun Cloud. When Wandering Doe’s strength and health failed in 1805, White Arrow had taken a second wife, Pretty Woman, who had given him two more children. Shalee was glad White Arrow had someone special to help him survive Wandering Doe’s loss.

Indian and white foes recognized the prowess and power of Gray Eagle and his Oglalas, whom the whites called Sioux. At sixty-nine, Gray Eagle remained a leader to be feared, respected, and obeyed. There had been a time when no warrior was stronger, faster, braver, or craftier; but his foes were increasing in numbers and powers, and age and responsbilities were taking their toll on the chief. Many realized it would soon be time for Gray Eagle to yield his rank to his son. That realization and action would be difficult for everyone, as Gray Eagle epitomized the spirit and heart of the Oglalas, of the Lakotas, of all Indian tribes in the Dakota Nation; he was their mouth, their courage, their bond; he was the scourge of the soldiers, and the reason why his people had not been vanquished. Friend and foe knew what the loss of Gray Eagle would mean to the “Sioux” and to the Indian/white conflict…

Times had changed; people had changed. Shalee had come to realize her husband was not invincible, not immortal, as many had believed or feared. Yet, he could still warm her heart and body with his smiles and nearness. He had never ceased to be a passionate lover, and she thrived in his strong arms and exciting Lifecircle. Even with its hardships, life had been good and happy for them. Shalee knew time and health were
slipping away from them, but she was not filled with resentment or dread. When their time came to walk with the Great Spirit, she could die peacefully, knowing she had shared a full and happy life with those she loved, knowing that their way of life and peace were vanishing forever. She knew the white man’s evil and greed were mounting again, and she knew there would be no end to this madness and bloodshed, no answers which could bring lasting peace, not until the Indians surrendered all they had and were, and they could not and would not…

Times and peoples had changed in the nearby Blackfeet camp, too. Long ago, Brave Bear had been slain in valiant battle and Chela had died in childbirth with Singing Wind, leaving their four children in the care of others: Redbird and Deer Eyes, the oldest girls, had been raised by the shaman; Silver Hawk had been rasied by the war chief; and Singing Wind, their youngest, had been reared by the tribe’s head chief, Medicine Bear.

Gossip said that Redbird had lived with the medicine man, as his mistress the whites would say, until he was shamed into asking her to become his third wife, but she astonishingly had refused. Deer Eyes, a girl loved by all who met her, had chosen to remain as the shaman’s helper, not wanting anyone’s pity for her physical disabilities. Silver Hawk, who at twenty-seven found himself joined to the barren Cheyenne maiden Shining Feather, was rumored to be seeking a second wife, and further rumors whispered that Tashina had captured his eye. Shalee hoped that gossip was not true, for Silver Hawk was nothing like his father Brave Bear; but then, she admitted to herself, the boy had been only five when his father was slain and he had been denied Brave Bear’s influence and guidance. Shalee supposed it was natural for a man to be bitter
over the loss of his heritage and rank, as Silver Hawk was, even though he concealed his feelings.

Shalee hoped that Chela’s blood did not run too swiftly and turbulently in Singing Wind, who as a child of nine had tended Rebecca’s needs after her miscarriage in the Blackfeet camp. Singing Wind was beautiful and tempting, full of life and energy. She could turn most men’s heads, and many warriors were pursuing her. But Singing Wind did not appear ready or willing to settle down yet. Clearly she loved her freedom and wanted to be a female warrior. Raised in a tepee of males, she had learned to ride, shoot, fight, and hunt. She was like a wild creature, one who was sensual and earthy. Shalee had realized that Sun Cloud could not keep his eyes and thoughts off that particular vixen. Often, Shalee had wondered if she should encourage that match and union, or if she should wait until those two settled down a little more. There was no doubt in Shalee’s mind that they were well suited for each other, just as there was no doubt that both were resisting their attraction.

Since Shalee’s—Alisha Williams had lived as Shalee for over forty years and would die as Shalee—arrival in this forbidden land, many friends and family members had been slain and many villages had been destroyed. The threat of the whites was growing rapidly like a fatal disease that seemed determined to consume all Indians in its path. For the whites to obtain a quick or final victory, they had to defeat the “Sioux”; and to defeat the “Sioux,” they had to defeat Gray Eagle and the Oglalas. Only one white leader had obtained a real treaty with the Indians, and many now prayed for the return and help of Derek Sturgis.

Many also prayed for the return of Rebecca Kenny, who had disappeared without a trace last spring. Bright Arrow and his friends had searched for his wife until no
hope remained for her rescue and return, yet Bright Arrow and Shalee had been unable to accept Rebecca as dead. Somehow, both felt that the Great Spirit would return Rebecca, who had been given the Indian name Wahea, which meant Red Flower, because of her fiery curls. In the lonely tepee of Bright Arrow, his seventeen-year-old daughter Tashina looked after his chores and cared for him, but Tashina was beautiful and many suitors hungered for her, unaware her heart was lost to a Cheyenne warrior, the son of her father’s best friend. Bright Arrow’s twenty-two-year-old daughter, Little Feet, had married a Sisseton chief years ago; she lived in another village with her husband and two sons, but a warrior in the Oglala camp still remembered, loved, and desired her…

In the Dakota Territory, it was April of 1820. Fortyfour years had passed since the lives and hearts of Alisha Williams and Gray Eagle had become entwined. Many new perils and adventures awaited the aging lovers and their two sons…

Chapter One

Miles from the Oglala camp, the youngest son of Gray Eagle and Shalee eyed tracks which brought a mischievous grin to his handsome face. The warrior’s midnight eyes sparkled with anticipation as he stealthily followed the unconcealed trail which snaked through the forest along the riverbank. Sun Cloud had been told only to discover where the white trappers had made camp to steal the Great Spirit’s creatures from their lands, then return to camp to report their location without endangering his life by attacking them alone. He had obeyed his father’s orders, as he had promised when they had come upon the fresh tracks during their hunting trip, until a new set of prints had urged him to close the distance between him and his foes. A keen hunter, he could read the signs which had been made by someone light of body and wearing Blackfeet moccasins, for each tribe’s leather shoes made a different design upon the face of Mother Earth. At last, he had sighted the person who also had found the white men’s tracks and was furtively following them: Singing Wind, adopted daughter of the Blackfeet chief!

Sun Cloud’s dark eyes narrowed in annoyance and apprehension as he watched the Indian girl slip from
tree to bush to tree as she daringly moved closer to the two trappers. Having observed and heard of her skills, he knew she could hunt, shoot, fight, and ride as well as most braves, but her actions on this day were foolish and perilous. He wondered what she was doing this deep in the forest alone and what had possessed her to behave so impetuously. She might not only endanger her own life, but his as well. If he was forced to protect her, he would be compelled to challenge death to save her.

His vexation and begrudging respect increased as he secretly watched her cunning and daring. He kept mentally commanding her to give up her reckless pursuit, but she did not. When the trappers reached their camp and joined a third white man, she concealed herself nearby and seemed to be listening to their words; for, like himself and his family, she too knew the white man’s tongue.

Sun Cloud thought of signaling her with a special bird call, but decided that one of the trappers might recognize it, for many had been taught by traitorous white-loving Indians how to detect a foe’s nearness and plans. He dared not toss a rock or pine cone her way, for she could jump or squeal and alert the men to her presence, and he could imagine what those rough males would do to a beautiful and helpless Indian maiden. The same was true if he sneaked up on her and startled her. For now, it was unwise for him to move any closer or to take any action, so all he could do was watch and wait, and mutely scold Singing Wind for placing them in this predicament.

As he sat there hidden from his self-proclaimed foes, he knew he could not attack, even if he was one of the chosen bow carriers for his Sacred Bow Cult. The bow carriers were selected and rewarded for being the four highest-ranking warriors of their tribe, along with four
staff carriers and two club bearers. The sacred bows were revered by all Dakota tribes, collectively called Sioux by the whites, and were kept in the ceremonial lodge when not in use. All the Dakota believed the bow ceremony was powerful medicine for war and peace, and the choosing and presenting of a sacred bow was done carefully under strict rules. The ten men who were selected for these honors held their ranks until death or relinquishment, for death usually came quickly for them because of their duties. Each of the ten were required to be leaders in battle, to display enormous courage, and to slay at least one enemy during every battle. After a member had acquired numerous
coups,
he could return his bow, staff, or club with honor. The Sacred Bow Ceremony was nearly as difficult and revered as the Sun Dance, and was done frequently for the same reason: to show loyalty, to fulfill a vow, to seek protection and guidance, and to honor the Great Spirit.

Time passed, and his patience was tested sorely. He failed to realize it was the fetching view of the Indian beauty, not their precarious positions, which teased at his susceptible flesh and mind, and caused him to grow tense and clammy. She was slim and shapely, a female who tempted a man to seize her and to toss her to his mats, to seduce her with gentleness, leisure, and skill after he had taken her with consuming passion and swiftness to cool the fire in his blood.

BOOK: Bittersweet Ecstasy
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