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Authors: Janelle Taylor

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BOOK: Bittersweet Ecstasy
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Sun Cloud’s left hand slipped upward into her hair and admired its silky texture. He looked at the strands resting over his fingers and noticed how they shone like dark blue night beneath a rising moon. With ensnaring leisure and the determination of a conqueror, his right hand moved up her arm. Along its journey, his strong and gentle fingers stroked her
supple surface, then drifted over her face as they mapped each feature. Very slowly and sensuously his fingers moved back and forth over her lips as if they were extracting some magical potion from them. Finally they wandered round and round her dainty chin which no longer jutted out with defiance. Her eyes were entrancing him as they visually explored his face and torso. He could feel the heat between their bodies, and their mutual quiverings. He wanted her here and now.

Singing Wind’s senses were reeling from mounting desire and his tantalizing touch. His manly scent wafted into her nose and enflamed her blood. His body was smooth and hard and enticing. She could not resist tracing her fingers over his arms, shoulders, and chest, or lightly fingering the tiny battle scars on them which did not mar his appeal. As she marveled at the evidence of his courage and stamina at such a young age, his dark gaze ignited her passion like black coals in a fire. She hungered to taste those full lips, a craving which increased when he seductively moistened them.

Sun Cloud bent forward and did as he had dreamed many times; his lips and tongue teased at the flat mole which rested over the throbbing pulse of her throat. He heard her inhale sharply and stiffen briefly at that stimulating contact. Then his lips roamed to her left ear and he nibbled at its lobe, causing both of them to shudder with rising needs. Finally his lips tentatively sought hers, touching, nipping, brushing, probing, but without fully kissing her. When he leaned backward to see how she was looking and responding, her hands gently seized the hair on either side of his face and pulled his mouth to hers.

Their lips meshed fiercely and urgently, and they hugged tightly. Pent-up emotions burst free and raced rampantly. He captured her face between his hands
and his tongue greedily invaded her mouth. She responded in like force and yearning, her hands wandering up and down his back and adoring the movements of his muscles as he embraced or caressed her. They were lost in a beautiful dream world until…

“Do you not see and feel it is better for you to behave like a woman instead of a man? Come, my pretty wildcat, and let Sun Cloud remove your claws and tame you. Halt your defiance and forget your rash dreams. Let Sun Cloud give you great pleasure.”

Fury surged through Singing Wind’s mind and cooled her passion. She roughly shoved the enticing warrior away. She mistakenly assumed he was only having fun with her, or trying to use her to sate his loins’ hunger. She was embarrassed and wounded, and she struck out in her pain. She laughed and taunted, “It will take more than an eagle’s fledgling to tame Singing Wind or to give her such sweet pleasures. I only wished to show thanks for what you believed was my rescue. Become a full man, then return to see if you can enflame me.”

“The only thing which flames within you is temper and rebellion. It is you who needs training, Singing Wind, for you know not of the danger of teasing a man when his body burns with the mating fever. There was no need to thank me falsely; I would save any woman or helpless creature in danger. Come, we must go before our words become harsher and we behave as spiteful children.”

Sun Cloud guided the silent girl to where he had left his horse. He mounted and pulled her up behind him, then rode swiftly for the edge of her camp, and left her there, without speaking or looking at her. If he rode swiftly, he could reach his own camp before the moon was sitting overhead. Perhaps the night air would cool his head and loins, and a rapid pace would lessen
his tension.

Singing Wind watched Sun Cloud’s retreat until shadows surrounded him. She lowered her head in shame and remorse, knowing she had overreacted and been hateful. Perhaps his words had only been impassioned endearments, not jokes or insults; she had been frightened by the powerful emotions they had unleashed and panicked by her weakness for him. Doubtless he would never come near her again, and she could not blame him. Unless she proved to him that he was mistaken about her and her feelings…

In the Oglala camp of Gray Eagle, Sun Cloud’s mother was resting near the edge of camp following a lengthy walk to release her own edginess which had been inspired by an overwhelming sense of foreboding. Shalee slid off the rock upon which she had been sitting for a short time while reminiscing. She straightened her buckskin dress as she admired its artistic beadwork which had been done for her by Tashina. She was glad she had such a loving and giving granddaughter, a child who helped her on those days when her hands and bones troubled her with their advancing age. Trailing her fingers over the lines on her face, she wondered if they distracted from her looks. She captured one of her braids and held it before her eyes, femininely delighted to find only a few gray hairs were mixed with the auburn ones. She was no longer young and vital, but time had been good to her.

Shalee closed her eyes and inhaled the mingled smells of nature’s awakening. It was nearing time to prepare the evening meal, but her husband and sons had not returned to camp from their afternoon hunt. Keeping her eyes shut, she lifted her face to the lowering sun and absorbed its tension-relieving
warmth. When Gray Eagle…

“You’re as beautiful as ever, Alisha,” a masculine voice murmured softly and affectionately to her right.

Despite the radiant sun’s glow, Shalee trembled and paled as she slowly turned, recognizing that voice from the distant past. Her wide gaze perused the man standing before her, smiling, and looking more like her husband than he had years ago. His thick hair was more gray than black and it loosely fell just below his broad shoulders. His Indian heritage was abundantly visible in his coloring, bone structure, and features. His dark brown gaze seemed to entreat,
please, tell me it was not a mistake to come here.

Shalee opened her mouth to speak, but no words came forth. Her heart began to thud forcefully and rapidly. It was impossible; he was dead… “Powchutu?” she whispered, then swooned as he nodded.

Chapter Two

Powchutu bounded forward and caught Shalee before she collapsed to the ground. He carried her to the shade of a tree and gently placed her on the grass. Comprehending her reaction to his abrupt return from the grave, he gazed into her ashen face and prayed his decision had been a wise one. Perhaps his return was dangerous and selfish, but he was seventy-one and had to see her one last time; he had to beg her forgiveness for his harmful intrusion on her life.
Great Spirit, help me make amends, for I almost destroyed her, and damned myself. Open her heart and mind to me. Do not allow others to interrupt us before I have told her all things.

Shalee stirred as Powchutu tenderly stroked her cheek. Her green eyes fluttered, then opened to stare disbelievingly at him. He smiled and coaxed, “Don’t be afraid, Alisha. I’m very much alive. I’m getting old and I had to see you before the Great Spirit calls my name. I have a lot to say if there’s any hope of earning your forgiveness.”

Shalee pushed herself to a sitting position and continued to gape at the man on his knees before her. As with the first time they had met, she stared at him as
if she were seeing a mild reflection of her husband Gray Eagle. Except for his grayer hair and white man’s clothes, today he favored his half brother more than he had over forty years ago. “Mary told me Jeffery murdered you and Celeste, and made your deaths appear an accident. I saw you buried in St. Louis, and I grieved over your loss as if you had truly been my brother. You never sent word or visited me all these years. I do not understand.”

Powchutu was also recalling their first meeting at Fort Pierre. He had believed she had been sent to him to fill the loneliness and hunger in his heart; he had believed with all his being that she had been meant to be a part of his Life-circle and without her his existence would not be complete. A fierce and greedy flame of love and desire had ignited in his heart, mind, and body that day when he had first looked upon her, scarred and terrified of the man who was now her husband. He had seen her and accepted her as
the
girl to fulfill his dreams, a girl worth fighting the entire world to possess. He had challenged everyone and everything to win her, and he had lost. In trying to make his dream come true, he had blinded himself to all else, even to her sufferings and especially to her love for another man. She had given him so much of herself, but he had demanded her soul. He asked himself if she could ever forgive all the wrongs he had done her.

He wondered how Mary O’Hara, a mute girl, had uncovered the truth of his “murder” and “told” Alisha of it. All these years he had thought she had accepted the news that he had died accidentally. She must have suffered greatly from undeserved remorse. “Where do I begin, Alisha? I brought nothing but anguish and peril into your life. I am not worthy to stand in your shadow or to hear your voice, but I could not die with such black stains upon my soul.”

“Begin with how you survived and why you kept it a secret,” she commanded softly, her gaze unable to leave his. “All these years I suffered, believing I was responsible for your death. Why did you do this to me?”

Powchutu inhaled deeply and sat beside her. The journey from New Orleans had been arduous for a man of his age, a man alone. “This story is long and it takes much energy. Be patient, for I am no longer a young man.” Inherently he had slipped into the Indian speech pattern.

Shalee held silent while he gathered his thoughts and settled himself near her. She could see him, touch him, hear him, and smell him; yet, his reality and presence were hard to accept. His age and fatigue were noticeable, but he was still very appealing and robust. Had it actually been over forty years since they had last seen each other? she wondered, for it did not seem that way with him sitting here beside her and talking so calmly. How could she be angry when he was alive and had returned home?

Powchutu explained how Jeffery Gordon had tricked him into a meeting that bitter day in January of 1777, and had beaten him senseless. “I knew I was going to die that day, but I prayed to the Great Spirit to help me seek revenge, to help me find a way to protect you from Gordon. My head was in agony and I couldn’t move or speak. Evidently I didn’t appear to be breathing, because Gordon believed he had murdered me. It seemed like from far away I heard him giving his men orders on how to get rid of my body. When his men realized I was alive, they substituted the body of a trapper they had robbed and killed earlier that day. Lucky for me, that dead man had my size and coloring, and his men were greedy and dishonest. They exchanged our clothes, stuffed me in a crate to be sent
downriver, then dropped that tree on him and Gordon’s ex-whore several times. Since his face was crushed beyond recognition and he had on my clothes and belongings, everyone was fooled. The Great Spirit protected me that day.”

As Powchutu halted for a breath of air, Shalee recalled Moses’ words that awful day: “Both they heads was crushed flat!” She had never viewed the body; she had been told he was dead and had been handed his possessions, then had never seen or heard from him again. She asked, “But why did Jeffery let you live? What happened to you afterward? Why did you keep your survival a secret?”

“Gordon never knew his men betrayed him. They saw a way to make some extra money by selling me to a ship’s captain. I was shanghaied. White slavery, it’s called. They were working with a man named Frenchy behind Gordon’s back. Just about every time they robbed some man, they sneaked him downriver to be sold like a slave instead of killing him like Gordon ordered. I was hurt bad, hardly alive, so I don’t know why they even fooled with me, unless they didn’t realize how bad off I was. They took me to a doctor’s house near New Orleans to be tended until the next Spanish ship arrived. When I came to, I didn’t even recall my name until fourteen months later. You can’t imagine my shock when my past—my identitythundered back inside my head one night. I still can’t believe the awful things I did during those emptyheaded months. As soon as my memory returned, I hurried to St. Louis as fast as I could, terrified for you all the way. After I frantically tracked you back to Gray Eagle’s camp and tepee, I was forced to accept the truth about you two. You had a son and looked happy, so I didn’t intrude. I thought it was best for you, and especially for Gray Eagle, to believe I was dead, so I
returned to New Orleans to make a new life there. I never knew you had learned the truth about Gordon’s treachery. If Gordon hadn’t been dead by the time I got back, I would have cut him into a thousand pieces. I’m sorry I put you through all that anguish.” His dark eyes lowered in guilt and shame. They were moist when they lifted and locked with hers again.

His voice quavered when he continued. “By the time I recovered my memory, all of our lives were different. I realized Gray Eagle had survived my evil, had tracked us, slain Gordon, and recaptured you. I could tell things had worked out between you and Gray Eagle. You were safe and happy, and that was all I needed to know. I didn’t want to stir up the past and start new trouble with Gray Eagle by suddenly returning. I probably shouldn’t be here now, but I had to settle our past before I die. Everything I did, Alisha, I did because I loved you and because I was blinded by hatred and jealousy. At that time, I honestly believed you were in danger from Gray Eagle. I wanted to help you escape all the torment you had faced here. I didn’t want you ever to experience pain, humiliation, and fear again. I was determined to break his hold over you. I couldn’t allow Gray Eagle to use you or deceive you or harm you again. I wanted you to find happiness and freedom and honor once more, and to find them with me as my wife. I needed you and wanted you. I was wrong, Alisha. Your love was good and true; you two were meant for each other. How can you bear to look upon me?”

BOOK: Bittersweet Ecstasy
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