Authors: Wild Sweet Wilderness
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WILD SWEET WILDERNESS
. Copyright © 1985 by Dorothy Garlock. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.
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First eBook Edition: June 2001
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“I want . . . to . . .
love my husband.”
Berry spaced the words to give them emphasis, to be sure he understood.
“Then love him.” Simon’s voice was light as if he was laughing inside. “There’s no law that says you can’t.”
“I want to be sure that he loves me,” she said stubbornly.
He laughed so uninhibitedly that she drew back.
“The first thing you’ve got to learn about men in this country is that they can woo a woman with soft words if that’s what she wants to hear. Never believe soft words, Berry. Pay a mind to what a man does.”
“I like soft words,” she said angrily.
He laughed and she wanted to hit him. She balled her fist and prepared to swing. Before she could move he was kissing her again with a violence that stunned her. She couldn’t tell if he was kissing her or trying to hurt her. After an instant his lips softened and her resistance vanished.
They drew apart slowly. “You may like soft words but you like hard kisses better,” he said with a deep chuckle . . .
Later Berry’s mind was boiling with emotions. One thought stood out above all the others.
She would make him love her and she would make him say it!
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he trail had been long, endlessly winding through a tunnel of leafy trees that reached enormous heights. The train of wagons, carts, and men on horseback, with women and children trudging beside the wagons, came out of the forest and stopped on the ridge overlooking the river. Eyes fastened with fascination on the gap in the forest beyond the wide Mississippi, through which flowed the muddy Missouri River. Every man, woman, and child on the wagon train had heard about the expedition led by Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, which had set out in the spring of 1804, just a year ago, to explore the vast continent west of the Mississippi. The company of thirty-two men had descended the Missouri in a flotilla and nothing had been heard from them yet.
Berry Rose Warfield leaned on the back of the weary oxen that pulled the light wagon and glanced over her shoulder to see if Rachel was awake. Her eyes softened tenderly as they rested for a moment on the sleeping face, before she turned to rap the ox smartly on the rump with a stick and put the beast into motion to follow the wagon driven by the Negro man her father had purchased before leaving home.
Somewhere beyond the frontier settlement of Saint Louis, through thick forest stretching dark and silent, would be her future home. She and Rachel had been reluctant to leave the snug cabin in Ohio. They had argued and pleaded with Berry’s father and cajoled to no avail. Asa Warfield had been determined to join the caravan of families going west to the country beyond the great river. He had been fired up by the promise of five hundred acres of good forest land that abounded in game and was rich enough to grow a tobacco crop. It was time for Asa to move on because his whoring and drinking had earned him the contempt of all his neighbors. He had unleashed his explosive temper once too often and was no longer welcome to spend his evenings in the local tavern.
Berry slowed her steps and let the wagon catch up with her so she could look once again at the pale face of the light-haired woman lying on the feather bed. Rachel was flushed with heat and her hands cradled her large, protruding stomach. This was her third pregnancy since Asa had brought her home to the Ohio cabin after buying her bond from the tavern owner. He had told his eight-year-old daughter, Berry, that he had married the girl and insisted that she call her “Ma” although there was less than eight years’ difference in their ages. Love had grown between the two, and now, ten years later, they were as close as sisters.
“How do you feel?”
Pale and pretty, with light blond hair that framed a face dominated by haunted blue eyes, Rachel lay unmoving. She had been ill throughout most of the journey. “Better.” She smiled at Berry with affection.
“Mr. Benson wants to push on until we get to the place where we’ll be ferried across the river before we stop for the night. He thinks we can get there before dark.” Berry spoke quietly, but the sparkle of excitement shone in her gray-green eyes.
“Glory! Won’t it be grand to be put once again?”
Berry wiped the sweat from her face with the end of her apron and laughed with delight. “When we’re put, we’ll have to live in the wagons until we get a cabin built.”
“At least we won’t be moving,” Rachel said with a grimace.
Berry’s eyes searched Rachel’s face anxiously for signs of pain. “We’ll make camp soon and you can get out and walk a spell. That ought to make your back feel better. You’re not going to lose this little ’un like you did the other two,” she said with determination.
Rachel watched the slim girl move up to the ox and give the beast a friendly pat on the back. Berry grows more beautiful every day, she thought. I couldn’t love her more if she was my own. How long will it be before Asa works out a scheme to sell her to the highest bidder? He’ll separate us if he can. I know he will! I’ll kill him first! Her heart beat wildly at the thought of Berry’s being subjected to the brutality Rachel had suffered at Asa’s hands.
Since Berry had grown to womanhood their roles had changed. She now protected Rachel. Asa no longer dared to cuff her or throw her down behind the curtain and satisfy himself on her body as he once had done. Long ago she had moved into the loft to sleep beside Berry, and Asa spent more and more of his time at the tavern. Rachel was pregnant now because he had caught her in the cabin alone and forced her to submit to him. She had been sick at heart when she discovered she was going to have his child. Now she was resigned to it. Within her was a little life. If it lived, she would love it.