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Authors: Janelle Taylor

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BOOK: Bittersweet Ecstasy
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Several times his near-black eyes walked over her body from shiny midnight mane to leather-clad feet. Surely by now he had memorized every visible inch of her face and body, for he had done such a study many times before. Her hair fell in silky strands to her waist and was usually tucked behind her ears, making her appear younger and displaying her face more fully. Her dark brown eyes always sparkled with some powerful
emotion, as she seemed incapable of feeling anything halfway. Her skin was as smooth as the surface of a tranquil pond and was colored like the underbelly of an otter. If there was a mark or flaw upon her body, it did not show, for no one could consider the tiny dark circle upon her throat as anything but eye catching. Each time he noticed it, he wanted to touch it with his lips, then let his tongue play over it before deciding whether to move up or down her body…

Sun Cloud recalled past days when they had tangled with mischievous words, for he had known her since childhood. She had always been bold of speech and manner, and as a boy in warrior training, it had often angered or challenged him to have a girl question or trail him and try to join in on such events. From what he could tell, Singing Wind had never wished she were a man, but she wanted to be able to do whatever pleased her or whatever needed to be done, even if only men did such things. It had angered her to be told she could not join their games and practices because she was “only a girl.” She had never seemed to accept her place as a female, to the irritation of many and to the disappointment of others. To Singing Wind, anyone with the right skills should be allowed to help or to protect her people. To be fair, perhaps he should not blame her for her untamed character and masculine behavior, for her parents had left her, a baby, in the care of others when they had walked the ghost trail.

Sun Cloud wished her father, Chief Brave Bear, and mother, Chela, had lived long enough for him to know them, for they had played such vital roles in his parents’ pasts. Singing Wind was twenty-three, a few months older than he was, but she had not known her parents either. Chela had died giving birth to her, and he wondered if that troubled the audacious girl or if that was the reason why she wanted to capture and savor
excitement before she risked her own life having children. It had to be frightening and tormenting to know your mother had died giving you life, and that you could die bearing a child. Perhaps this explained why she had rejected all men who had pursued her and did all she could to repel new chases. Her father, Brave Bear, had been slain in battle. Perhaps, no surely, she would be different if she had been raised by her parents instead of Chief Medicine Bear and his sons. Still, one day she had to destroy her wildness and conquer her fears.

Sun Cloud watched as her hand eased down her leg to brush away an insect, and he wished he could do that simple task for her. The way she was sitting behind the clump of bushes, her buckskin dress was hiked far above her knees, displaying an ample view of lovely thighs. He admired their sleekness and tone. Surely not an ounce of fat lived on that enticing figure, and he grinned and wet his lips.

As his responsive maleness alerted him to his carnal line of thought, he frowned in vexation. He should not allow his attention to stray when he was so close to an enemy’s camp. Sun Cloud asked himself if he could excuse or deny what others considered flaws in her character, or if it even mattered what other people thought about the girl who caused uncommon stirrings within him. He wondered if she was as spoiled and willful as many alleged, for that was not how he viewed her love of life and adventure or her spirited nature. Many claimed she would never be satisfied to be a mate and mother, that she would distract and harass the strongest of men with her unwomanly antics. A chief, for he would become chief one day, must marry a woman he could be proud to call his own, a woman who would not embarrass him before others, a woman whose purpose in life was to make him happy and to
care for their home and family. Many accused Singing Wind of wanting more than her rightful share from life and vowed that she would make herself and her mate miserable! Sun Cloud did not want to believe such words, for he could not deny she was the most desirable creature he had seen and she caused him to think of more than taking her swiftly and casually to ease his manly needs. Surely such a strong woman would make a good wife for a chief, if she could prove the tales about her were untrue or exaggerated. As children of chiefs and members of allied tribes, if she would…

Sun Cloud stiffened as he watched her pull the knife from its sheath at her slim waist. Her body was on full alert. He thought she was planning to attack the man who had been left to guard the camp while the other two went to check their traps before nightfall, just as he felt they were not far away and their absence would be short. He mused, If she was so clever and skilled, why did she not realize the rashness of such an attack? If she tasted defeat, she could get them both killed, as he could not remain where he was and do nothing.

Sun Cloud drew his knife and grasped it securely between his teeth. He flattened himself against the ground to crawl to her side, to stop her attack or to defend her, whichever became necessary within the next few minutes. Suddenly he was halted when one of the men returned to camp. He strained to hear the man’s words.

“We need help, Big Jim. Those traps are full and we have to empty them afore dark. Our camp ain’t in no danger. We didn’t see any Indians or signs of them all day.”

Sun Cloud was relieved when both men gathered a few items and disappeared into the trees. He was glad Singing Wind was smart enough to know she could not attack two men whose combined sizes would make
nearly four of hers. Surely, he reasoned, she would not hang around until they went to sleep to make another attempt to… To what? he asked himself. Did she only want to steal some possession for
coup?
Get a
coup
scalp? Prove something to herself or others? No, Singing Wind could not be that foolish.

The Indian girl looked his way as he inched toward her, making enough noise for her ears alone. Surprise and pleasure crossed her lovely features first, then she quickly concealed her curious reaction. After replacing his knife, he carelessly frowned at her, bringing a look of annoyance to her face. “Why do you trail three large enemies alone in the forest when night is upon you? Go quickly while it is safe,” he whispered between clenched teeth to reveal his displeasure. He hoped she did not read the anxiety in his eyes or hear it in his voice, for a warrior should never expose such weaknesses. Before making his feelings towards her known, he had to make certain she was a unique woman.

Singing Wind eyed the handsome male, and misread his behavior. Sun Cloud could always get beneath her flesh and her control with a look or a word; that admission worried her, for it was unwise to chase a man who appeared to have little or no interest in her as a woman. For years he had caused a strange warmth and tingle in her with his presence. They were no longer children, but she did not know how to be a woman around him. She had done so many foolish and rash things while finding herself, or by trying to be all she could be. She feared that he believed all those silly tales about her being defiant. Unlike his brother, he was tall and lean, his body appearing all muscle and strength. He had the darkest and most expressive eyes she had ever seen. He always wore his long ebony hair loose, and usually wore only one eagle feather dangling from the back of his head, even though he had earned
countless
coup
feathers. His features were sized and arranged in such a manner as to forcefully and appreciatively draw a woman’s eyes to them. Yes, Sun Cloud set her skin tingling and heart racing, and countless females desired and chased him. Yet he had pursued no female, and certainly not her! Over the years, he spent too much time scolding and shaming and making fun of her to notice she had become a woman! How she wished that he would forget her rebellious years and take a new look at her. How she wished he could understand her. Catching her loss of attention and poise at his close proximity, she defensively sought to dispel his powerful pull. Noticing his seeming displeasure with her, she unwittingly accused, “Why do you trail Singing Wind and seek to prevent a victory over these foes? We cannot sneak away as cowards. You are a Sacred Bow carrier; together, we could defeat them.”

Sun Cloud’s eyes narrowed in warning at her unintentional affront, which made it appear as if she was always picking and poking at him, as if they were still children. He concluded that this little wildcat could have anything and anyone she wanted, including him, if she would sheathe her claws and open her eyes. He unwisely reproached her, “Singing Wind is a fool if she believes she can defeat three men who are as grizzlies to a tiny fawn. Sacred Bow carriers know when to attack and when to wisely retreat. Return home and forget the impossible.”

“I will return home when I have taken their scalplocks, weapons, and horses,” she rashly informed him, knowing she had been doing nothing more than spying on them to report their actions and location to her people. She had drawn her knife to be prepared to battle any peril which threatened her retreat. She was angered by this particular warrior’s low opinion of her
intelligence. What did it matter who discovered and observed their mutual foes? she scoffed mentally. She felt as if he had cornered her and insulted her; now, she must prove her mettle and skills, or slip away as a coward.

Sun Cloud felt there was no time to argue with this headstrong girl. Without warning, he skillfully delivered a noninjuring blow to her jaw which rendered her unconscious. After replacing her knife in its sheath, he scanned the area for movement from the trappers. Detecting none, he gathered Singing Wind into his arms and vanished along the riverbank. He put a lengthy distance between them before stopping to rest and to revive Singing Wind. He grinned as he dribbled cool water over her face and caused her to awaken with a start, then chuckled as she gathered her wits and glared up at him.

“How dare you attack me and treat me like a child!” She verbally assailed him as she came to a sitting position before him.

Sun Cloud decided a soft tongue and mellow mood might have more effect on her than a strong hand and scolding. “Your fiery words are untrue, Singing Wind. I saved your life. Be satisfied you live to take warning words home to your people. I could not allow you to place our lives in danger for a wild dream.”

“Singing Wind did not endanger the life of Sun Cloud,” she refuted, believing that misconception was the reason for his anger and action.

“What warrior of honor and courage would allow a woman to be captured, raped, and killed by white foes?” he reasoned, his tone calm and almost caressing. “You speak of your warrior skills, yet you prove you have few or none when you attempt such a futile deed, then risk another’s life to rescue yours.” He told her how he had trailed her and observed her, and had
reacted only when she’d appeared to be in peril.

As he warmed and enlivened her with his presence, she scoffed softly, “If your skills and instincts are as large as you think and claim, Sun Cloud, you would have seen I was not preparing to attack their camp; I was preparing myself to flee at the right moment. You think badly of me. I am no fool. To enter a battle which is lost before it begins is to beg for defeat and death. I desire and tempt neither.”

His face exposed an expression of enlightment and respect. He smiled and nodded that he stood corrected. “Knowing of Singing Wind’s rebellious and bold nature, my mistake was logical,” he teased.

“You know nothing of Singing Wind, but for mean rantings and wild charges. I behave only as others allow me to do without losing my honor. I am the daughter of a great chief, and I have duties to my people as you have to yours. If I had not followed the tracks and they had been those of scouts for a white attack, then I would be a fool and my people or yours could be dead before a new sun. I knew the danger of my tracking and I took no risks. You know this to be true.”

“Yes, your words… and actions were true and wise,” he concurred. “I feared for your life, and spoke too quickly. I am glad the daughter of Brave Bear has wisdom and courage. Come, I will take you to your camp and return home. Soon, the sun will sleep.”

Singing Wind was baffled by the warrior’s mood and behavior. She nodded and stood, then straightened her garment. She was surprised when he grasped her hand and led her away from the river. It felt good not to argue and fight, so she willingly let him take control. Perhaps, if she tried hard, she could convince him she was not the untamed creature which so many called her. Perhaps he would come to respect and to admire
her, if he realized she was not a bad person.

Suddenly he whirled and seized her and pressed her against a tree, warning with a whisper, “Be still and silent, pretty one, something moves beyond us.” Sun Cloud knew what was ahead of them, two foraging deer, but he had yielded to the temptation to feel her within his arms and to see how she could react to his touch as a man to a woman. When the full lengths of their bodies made enticing contact, he pretended to peer around the tree to study the direction in which they had been heading, causing him to press more closely and tightly against her. When she trembled slightly, he bent his head forward and murmured in her ear, “Do not be afraid, little princess, I will guard you.”

Afraid,
Singing Wind’s mind echoed; the only thing which panicked her was her possibly noticeable response to the man imprisoning her against the tree and breathing warm air into her ear each time he spoke in a voice which teased sensitively over her nerves. As she lifted her head to question their peril, he looked down at her, their actions fusing their gazes and mingling their respirations.

Their gazes roved the other’s face, an some potent force seemed to transport them to a private world where only they existed. Enrapt, all they could do was absorb the nuances of the other and submit to this irresistible attraction between them, an attraction which had been mounting within them for several years.

BOOK: Bittersweet Ecstasy
13.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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