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Authors: Georgina Gentry - Iron Knife's Family 01 - Cheyenne Captive

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BOOK: Cheyenne Captive
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“Don’t be so terrified,” he assured her. “I didn’t take you.”

“How do I know that?” she sobbed, struggling with the dress.

“Do you think I could, and your body not know?”

He stood up slowly, and she blushed at the sight of his magnificent maleness. She paused, thinking. Of course he hadn’t touched her. Even in her delirium, she knew she would have remembered being invaded by such a stallion.

He dressed silently and then turned to help her pull her dress down over her head and reexamined her arm. She looked with him, and realized that the swelling had gone. The arm was healing. Trying to stand up, she staggered. She would have fallen had he not caught her in his arms.

“I—I must have been ill a long time,” she whispered.

“You were.” He looked down at her, and she saw the weariness in his face, realized he had probably slept very little.

“Well, I’m very grateful to you,” Summer said primly, trying not to recall the images of his naked body, the warmth of him against her. “When I get back to Fort Smith, my father will reward you.”

He swore an oath and jerked away from her abruptly. “Do you think I did all that for money? I did it for you, Summer Sky, because you are my woman!”

“I am not your woman!” she snapped, stiffening. “You can’t own me like you would a rifle or a horse. Anyway,” she shrugged, “the whole idea is ridiculous! After all, I’m a Van Schuyler, and you’re—”

“Just a dirty, worthless Indian,” he raged, “not fit to touch a white woman! Even a white whore once rejected me this way, luring me into her bed, and then yelling
rape,’ because she was ashamed she had let a dirty half-breed touch her!”

Summer cowered before his rage. “I didn’t mean—”

“I know what you meant!” He towered over her. “Twice now, I have saved your life, and yet you spurn me while calling the name of ‘Austin’ in your sickness. Is ‘Austin’ a rich white man, and does he kiss you without your protest as I have longed to?”

Before she could answer, he jerked her roughly into his arms, forcing her lips apart, kissing her deeply and thoroughly in a way she had never been kissed before. For a split second, she swayed in his embrace, shaken at her own primitive response. Then she pulled away, bringing her hand up to strike him.

He caught her hand in a steel grip and glared back at her. She shivered as she realized what savage, brute strength was being held back by his sheer will. Abruptly, he freed her hand and turned away, leaning against a lodge pole by the fire pit.

Why, he’s trembling!
she thought, wondering.

“I didn’t mean what you think,” she said gently. “It isn’t that you’re Indian, but, you see, this is an impossible situation.”

She went over and touched his arm. He brushed her away. “I meant I won’t forget your kindness when I return to my own people.”

He turned and looked at her, his face inscrutable. “Enough of this talk of leaving,” he said brusquely. “You are too ill and weak to travel now.”

“That’s not true!” she protested, even though she had to sit down on the buffalo robe to keep her head from spinning. “I can ride just fine, and I’ll be all right if I can just get back to the fort.”

“Is the man ‘Austin’ waiting for you there? Are you Austin’s woman?”

“What an impudent question.” She tossed her head haughtily. “It’s none of your business, but I was being sent to my uncle’s family. He’s the Reverend Harlow, a circuit rider outside Fort Smith. I had displeased my father, and he was angry with me.”

Iron Knife nodded. “You are at the age when you should have a man. I would know how to deal with such an unbroken filly!”

“I do not intend to let you deal with me at all.” Her blue eyes flashed fire. ”And I am certainly not used to strangers being so nosy about my personal life!”

He smiled slowly at her. “After the last several days, I think we are hardly strangers.”

She felt the blood rush to her face at the memories, and she looked away. It occurred to Summer that it was foolish to make an enemy of the big savage. He was the only one in the encampment who might help her escape. She would do well to make a friend of him. With that thought, she moved closer to him, taking his big hand in her two small ones.

“I have treated you badly after you have done so much for me. But I will see you are rewarded when I go back.”

The Indian brushed her hands away, and avoided her eyes. “We will discuss going back when you are stronger,” he said.

Abruptly, there were sounds outside of a horse reining up, and a male voice called out in Indian. Iron Knife answered and one of his silent sentinels from the stage poked his head through the tepee opening. He eyed Summer curiously, then ignored her as he spoke with Iron Knife in Cheyenne. They talked a few moments and the other nodded and went outside.

“There is a hunt,” Iron Knife announced to her. “Deer have been seen south of the camp and we are short on meat. Most of the men will be going.” He gathered up his bow and lance.

“Are you leaving me here alone?” The thought frightened her. She didn’t realize how much she had come to depend on him.

“Poor little white girl,” he smiled sarcastically, “doesn’t know whether to be more afraid of the big, dirty savage inside or the ones outside the tepee!”

Summer felt the color rush to her face. She didn’t know the answer to that puzzle herself. Her feelings toward Iron Knife were becoming more and more confused all the time....

“Will you be gone long?” she asked. Somehow, she didn’t want him to leave. Even though she was a little afraid of him, she trusted him more than the others, and felt secure when he was nearby. The inside of this tepee had begun to feel like home to her, and she had no idea what dangers awaited her outside.

He finished gathering up his things before he answered. “I don’t think we will be gone more than a few hours. You will be safe enough. The women won’t bother you, and all the men except the very old and the very young are going on the hunt. Everyone knows you are my woman, and would not dare harm you.”

She started to argue that point again, and decided against it. “But what shall I do while you are gone?”

He shrugged. “You had better rest, for you are still very weak, but you can go outside if you feel well enough. A few of the women speak a little English. My uncle’s wife, Pony Woman, is at the big lodge with the white buffalo painted on it.” He gestured. “She will have food for you when you are hungry.”

He paused in the doorway. “I will return with much meat, and there will be dancing and games. You will see that my people are not so bad to live with.”

“But what of Fort Smith—?”

He hesitated. “We will discuss that later.” Then he was gone, leaving her staring into the fire.

She realized suddenly just how weak she was and lay down and slept. It must have been several hours before she awakened and decided to venture outside. The weather was balmy for early autumn, but the sky was still cloudy from past rains.

Most of the Indian women smiled shyly at her, but shook their heads when she tried to speak English to them. She remembered what Iron Knife had said about the white buffalo tepee and found it, only a few yards away. A squat, plump squaw had a big buffalo skin pegged to the ground and was scraping it as Summer appeared. She smiled at Summer, and Summer remembered her from her illness.

“Ah, my nephew’s woman!” She grinned at Summer. “Come! Sit! Eat!”

Summer smiled back at her warmth, thinking how much the plump little woman reminded her of Mrs. O’Malley, her personal maid; never mind the dark skin.

She sat down obediently, and watched the big hunk of meat slowly roasting over the open fire. The smell of it enforced her hunger.

Pony Woman cut off a big piece of the crisp meat, and handed it to her. It was delicious! Summer ate every bite, and licked her fingers. She smiled at the image of her mother’s snooty music society and what they would say if they could see Summer eating like a savage with her bare hands, licking her fingers.

“Good.” She motioned to Pony Woman, “Very good. Thank you.” She shook her head when offered more, and tried to carry on a conversation with the woman, only to realize how little English Pony Woman spoke. When she got back to civilization, she would send some fine cloth and other things to Iron Knife’s aunt for all her kindness.

Finally she gestured that she was going to leave and walk about the camp. Pony Woman nodded good-naturedly, and went back to scraping on the pegged-down buffalo hide.

A half dozen children and two straggly dogs trailed after her curiously as she toured the camp. Impulsively, she held out her arms to one fat, naked toddler and he ran to her, chattering happily. The others, now bold, moved closer to her like shy, silent deer. She smiled at them and tried to start a conversation, but none seemed to speak English. They simply stared at her. Summer liked children, and it occurred to her that these had probably never seen any candy. She decided she would purchase a whole barrel of pepermint sticks, and have them sent to the children if they had candy at Fort Smith.

A girl no older than Summer came out of a tepee, and smiling shyly at her, said something in Cheyenne to the baby in Summer’s arms. It struggled to get down and ran on unsteady legs to its mother. Reluctantly, Summer watched it disappear inside and walked on. The other children trailed after her. She stopped and let the curious and more bold touch her white skin and knelt so a little girl could stroke her blond hair. Summer moved on and the children, tiring of her, finally ran off to play. She could hear them running and laughing around the camp.

As she passed one tepee, a girl looked out at her—the same pretty girl who had given her such a hateful look the night of the Council meeting.

“You are Iron Knife’s woman.” The girl glared coldly at her. “I, Gray Dove, wish to speak with you,” she said in English, indicating the inside of her lodge with a nod of her head.

Summer sat down on a buffalo robe and studied the girl, seeing hostility and raw hate in the other’s eyes.

“You speak good. English,” Summer ventured, wondering what the girl wanted of her.

“I learn much from the white men at the trading posts, and the bluecoats I have met.” She smiled archly. “White men have taught me many things.”

Summer said nothing. Her eyes caught the other’s bold ones and held.

The Indian girl looked away first. “You are wanting to go back to Fort Smith?” she asked.

“Of course I intend to go back.” Summer nodded. “Iron Knife will take me when he returns from hunting.”

“Did he say that?” Gray Dove sneered.

“Well, yes,” she began uncertainly. Had he promised to take her back to the fort? She thought he had. “Of course, he’s taking me back,” she retorted firmly.

“I wouldn’t be too sure of that!” The Indian girl grinned wickedly. “But I might help you get back to your people.”

“Why would you want to do that?” Summer queried, “I can tell you don’t like me. Why would you want to help me?”

Gray Dove seemed to tremble with suppressed rage. “I’m not doing it for you, I’m doing it for myself. At night, you are sleeping in the arms of the man I love! He sees nothing but you, speaks of nothing but you! You are like the black widow spider, devouring his very being! No wonder the Cheyenne word for ‘spider’ and ‘white’ is the same word,
veho
. The whole camp gossips that Iron Knife is devoured and bewitched by the
veho
squaw! They all laugh at me because I want so much to be his woman, and he takes you instead!”

Summer felt her face burn. “I am not his woman,” she stammered. “Nothing has happened between us.”

“You lie!” The other seethed, moving to glare into Summer’s eyes. “He has hardly left your side for three days! Do you deny that you have been sleeping naked in his arms?”

“I deny nothing.” Summer tossed her head in patrician anger. “But you have no need to be jealous of me. I have no interest in Iron Knife.”

“Then you are a bigger fool than I thought. He is a Dog Soldier, the bravest of the brave! He is one of the select four who carries the
hotamtsit
, the honored dog rope. Did you not see it hanging in his tepee?”

Summer frowned, remembering. There was some sort of long, decorated cord hanging in the lodge. It had not occurred to her that it held significance. . . .

She shrugged. “I do not want him.”

“Well, I do! I have always wanted him, and I thought he might be softening his heart toward me until you came along!” She made a threatening gesture. “I have waited a long time to lie in his arms, and I will not lose him to a soft,
veho
squaw!”

Summer felt her own eyes flash. Spirit and fire lay near the surface of her own serene, civilized exterior.

“Do not threaten me for nothing,” she said firmly. “I do not want to be Iron Knife’s woman. I only want to return to my own people. If you would help me, it would clear the way for you with him and I would see that you get a nice reward.”

The other’s eyes glistened with greed. “Reward? You mean, money? White man’s money for ribbons and jewelry?”

“White man’s money for ribbons and jewelry,” Summer repeated.

BOOK: Cheyenne Captive
5.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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