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Authors: S K McClafferty

Lord of the Wolves

BOOK: Lord of the Wolves
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Lord of the Wolves
S K McClafferty
(2012)

The American Wilderness. . . a place where even the most violent of men can find peace. . . .

Young Moravian widow, Sarah Marsters, recently arrived from England, has accepted an offer of marriage to Brother John Liebermann, one of the United Brethren dwelling at the Shining City, the Moravian Utopia on the Muskingum River. But barely a day’s travel from Bethlehem, Sarah’s party falls victim to a deadly attack led by the French renegade “La Bruin” and his French-allied Indians, and suddenly, Sarah is lost in the American wilderness with Kathryn Seaton her wounded companion. They come upon shelter—a hunter’s camp—a rickety structure barely held together. As Kathryn falls into unconsciousness, wolves surround the camp, lured by the scent of blood on the night breeze. But when all seems lost, a man appears in the dooryard—a man who talks to wolves. . . and the wolves listen.

Kingston Sauvage is unlike anyone Sarah has ever encountered. A mysterious man with uncanny abilities, a man on a collision course with fate. And while he tutors her in survival skills, he introduces her to a searing passion. Sauvage is the talk of the settlements, and he has taken many enemy scalps. But he is not immune to Sarah’s gentle nature, and he soon discovers that she is the one woman who can heal his wounded heart.

Set against a starkly beautiful wilderness caught in the throes of the French and Indian War, Lord of the Wolves is a sweet and beguiling tale of the healing powers of love.

Warning: contains sexual content

LORD OF THE WOLVES

S.
K. McClafferty

 

Lord Of The Wolves

Susan Kay McClafferty

Copyright
2000 by Susan
Kay McClafferty

Digital edition 2012

Other Books By S. K. McClafferty

 

 

Historical Romance

 

ROUGH AND TENDER

FORBIDDEN FLAME

EMBRACE THE WILD DAWN

ONLY IN DARKNESS (Avon Books Paperback: CONQUER THE
NIGHT)

BRIDE OF THE SHINING MOUNTAINS (Zebra paperback A
SCANDALOUS BRIDE)

THE FORTUNE HUNTER (Precious Gems LOVE, JAMES)

LORD OF THE WOLVES

 

Romantic Suspense

 

AS NIGHT FALLS

DON’T TELL A SOUL  (January 2013)

IN AT THE KILL

BE VERY AFRAID

NOTHING TO LOSE

SHAKEN AND STIRRED as Sue McKay

 

 

The Jenna’s Cove Romance Series

 

 

THE GHOST AND DEVLIN MUIR

LOVE-MATCH.COM  July 2013

 

 
For Sarah Katherine Waldenville,

My
favorite Sarah.

Chapter 1

 

 

Pennsylvania
Colony

August
21, 1757

 

The
cry came from a distance, plaintive and haunting, almost human in its utter
loneliness, or so it seemed to Sarah Marsters, who crouched within the walls of
a rickety hunter’s cabin deep in a darkened wood, trying unsuccessfully to keep
her fears at bay.

Sarah
was new to the American wilderness, but it did not take a seasoned frontiersman
to recognize the sound for what it was.
Wolves. They’d caught the scent of
the blood on the night wind.

Sarah’s
gaze drifted to the still form of her traveling companion, Kathryn Seaton. She
lay on a pallet of leaves and moldering straw at the rear of the
structure—their refuge.

That’s
what Sarah had called it when the two of them had come upon it earlier that
same evening. They had walked several miles since the attack on their party
that afternoon; sheer determination had kept the wounded Kathryn on her feet,
and they’d veered like a pair of drunken wraiths when they’d caught sight of
the structure.

Glimpsed
first by the flattering light of a full moon, it had seemed a gift from
Providence, and even when Sarah saw that the waddle and daub had fallen from
the cracks, the door hung askew on its leathern hinges, and there was little to
speak of left of the roof, she’d sent up a prayer of thanks.

The
bullet wound in Kathryn’s side was bleeding profusely, and she leaned heavily
on Sarah for support. Sarah knew her friend’s strength was ebbing. She needed
rest and quiet. Sarah needed the security that had been cruelly torn away
earlier in the day by the resounding crack of musket fire, the war cries of the
savages, and the agonized screams of the dying.

Sitting
on the dirt floor of the cabin, her arms locked around her upraised knees, she
heard the ghostly echoes in her mind.

It
had all happened so suddenly. One moment, she was lagging behind the others
because of a stone in her shoe, and the next she was standing on a wooded knoll
beside Kathryn, watching with growing horror the bloody tableau being played
out below. In a small clearing a dozen yards to the west, the four men of their
party were besieged by a band of savages and their leader.

Young
Henry Windham had already fallen, a bullet in his brainpan. His father, Mr. Burl
Windham, a portly merchant from Philadelphia, crouched beside his son, begging
Benjamin Bones to help him. Bones, the hired guide who had led the party west
from the Moravian settlement of Bethlehem, had taken shelter behind a huge pin
oak along with Joshua Stanhope, Kathryn’s younger brother. Both were returning
the enemy’s musket fire.

Mr.
Windham’s cries were piteous. Sarah’s heart went out to him. Seemingly, they
moved Joshua Stanhope, too, because as she watched, he burst from cover,
heading for the center of the clearing where the merchant and his son were
trapped. There was a crack of musket fire, and Joshua fell.

Her
brother’s death sent Kathryn into action. She clawed at Sarah’s arm, dragging
her back into the trees. They stumbled blindly back down the hill, crashing
through the leaves and creating enough din to wake the dead. Then, she was
knocked to her knees and shoved headfirst into the dank and smelly darkness of
a hollow log where they burrowed like two raccoons in a den tree while one of
the Indians searched all around them.

Later,
after the moon had risen and the terrible sounds from the clearing had stopped,
they wriggled from hiding and began the long trek eastward. That had been hours
ago.

Sarah
shook her head to clear it, pushing the unsettling images away. She could not
dwell on the attack, not when a new threat was lurking. Yet, strength had
always come hard to Sarah. Cowardice was much more her way.

From
outside the cabin walls came a rustling movement. A padding of paws on the
forest loam. Sarah’s heart stilled. She’d never been so frightened, so
incapable of decisive thought or the smallest movement.

A
low growl issued from the rear of the cabin, not far from where Kathryn lay
sleeping. At the same time, something bumped against the door, and the panel
thumped on its frame.

The
wolves had closed in while she sat lost in thought.

We
are surrounded.

Sarah
shrank back as her cowardice rose up to claim her. Oh, how she regretted
leaving England! If only she had not dreaded the thought of spending another
winter alone, she would be safe in her late husband Timothy’s family residence
in London... if she hadn’t feared the encroaching years, and the thought of
growing old alone. Then, just as her fears sunk invisible fangs deep, the
letter from Timothy’s brother, Gil, arrived, asking her to come to America.

In
the long missive, Gil, a respected member of the United Brethren, spoke of a
colleague, one Brother John Liebermann, who had gained permission by way of the
lot to take a worthy woman to wife. Gil spoke of the good works being done in
the American colonies, of the richness and beauty of the land and its native
peoples, then slyly suggested that Sarah give serious consideration to the
thought of remarriage, and said that if she were willing, arrangements could be
made.

Almost
before she knew what was happening, Sarah was undertaking the voyage to
America.

And
to think that for a time she had considered herself to be bravely embarking on
a daring new adventure, boldly charting her own destiny.

As
she berated herself for her foolishness, the wolves grew bolder, circling the
structure, snuffling loudly at the cracks. Had she suspected that her destiny
was to be devoured by ravenous fur-covered creatures, she would have gladly
grown old and decrepit by the safety of her own hearthside.

She
heartily wished herself there right now and Kathryn with her. In England, her
friend would be made comfortable in a soft feather bed while the maid ran for
the physician. There would have been powders and poultices, and herbal
concoctions to help her recover, instead of a hard earthen floor and a fearful
companion for her only solace.

But
this wasn’t England.

And
all they had was each other. Sarah suddenly felt very sad for Kathryn. If not
for Kathryn’s bravery that afternoon, she would have suffered a terrible fate
at the hands of the savages. Now, it was her turn to help her friend, and she
could do nothing but sit, cowering like a great frightened lump, ready to
surrender to death before it came to claim her.

How
shameful.

How
typical.

How
could she simply give up?

The
door bumped against its frame a second time. Sarah gathered her small store of
courage. She’d never been brave, and could not be now, but the wolves did not
know that. Perhaps just this once, she could go through the motions—pretend.

Think!
Oh, think what to do!

A
weapon! A brave woman would seek out a weapon!

Sarah
glanced around the interior of the structure. The shadows were deep, and she
could not see clearly, but she could not let that stop her. By sheer dint of
will, she unlocked her arms from around her legs and crawled around the
perimeter of the structure, scouring every inch of the litter-strewn floor for
a rock, a staff, anything she might employ in their defense.

In
the farthest corner, she uncovered the skeletal remains of a mouse and a few
acorns buried beneath the leaves, but nothing that would help alleviate their
predicament. Thinking with longing of the ancient crossbow at the London house
that hung suspended about the fireplace mantel, Sarah doggedly continued to
search, but her heart sank a little more with each passing second. Just when
she was about to succumb to her despair, her fingers brushed something rough
lying among the leaves.

Praise
God, a stick! A solid, wonderful stick, lying quite near the door!

“Thank
you, Lord,” Sarah said as her fingers curled around the weapon. At that same
instant, one of the wolves, more determined than the rest, thrust his muzzle
under the crack below the door and snorted loudly, then, catching her scent,
snapped and snarled, baring its fangs.

Sarah
screamed, dropping the stick and stumbling back, then sat on her heels, her
heart lodged in her throat, mourning the loss of her weapon. Tears of
frustration filled her eyes. Angrily, she sniffed them back. To have come so
close to victory made defeat all the more crushing.

I
am going to die. Cowards always die miserable deaths, so doubtless, I am
deserving.

Kathryn,
unfortunately, was going to die, too, and all because she had the ill luck to
fall in with a fearful companion, who sat on her heels and waited for a wolf to
burst through the door, rather than reach for a weapon that lay just out of
reach.

Fearful.
Yes, she was fearful. She could not embrace death gladly, but if indeed it was
God’s will that she must die, then she would die with that stick in her hand!

Catching
her breath to try and contain her rising panic, Sarah forced herself to edge
closer. “Pretty wolf,” she said, speaking aloud in order to boost her flagging
courage. “I have need of that stick, to even the odds between us, you see, for
I fear that God did not make us entirely equal.”

At
the sound of her voice, the animal growled again, a menacing rumble low in its
throat. Then, it withdrew and began digging furiously beneath the door.

A
frisson of fear snaked up Sarah’s spine. Still, she kept edging closer, closer
on hands and knees, her fingers mere inches from the gap between earth and door.
Her fingertips brushed the rough bark, but could not grasp it. She crawled
closer, inch by tortured inch,
closer
, until at last she closed her hand
around the jagged end of the wooden staff.

The
beast snarled and snorted, redoubling its efforts to gain entrance to the
structure, but Sarah was just as determined to hold it at bay. On quaking
limbs, she assumed what she hoped was a threatening stance between the door and
Kathryn. “I give you fair warning,” she said. “I am unarmed no longer. If you
do not leave us in peace, I shall be forced to use violence.”

How
strong her voice sounded, how forceful! Yet, the wolf paid no heed, just kept
digging, filling the air with the smell of freshly churned earth, a smell
redolent of the grave. Then, as Sarah watched, it wedged its sleek gray body
into the newly made space, trying to wriggle under the door.

A
rustle of movement sounded behind Sarah. Kathryn stirred on her pallet, moaning
softly in her sleep. Rushing forward with a cry on her lips, Sarah brought her
stick down hard across the wolf’s broad head.
Whack! Whack!

She
struck, and struck again, punishing blows that landed solidly on its head and
across its sensitive muzzle. The animal snapped and snarled, snatching at the
end of her stick. Then, with a whine, it wriggled back under the door.

As
she stood, out of breath and panting, trembling in every muscle, a new sound
emerged from the dooryard outside the cabin, a deep, resonant male voice barely
heard above the sound of something solid striking flesh and bone, and the
subsequent yelp of the wolves.

Curious,
Sarah crept to the door and stood, peering out through the largest crack. Standing
in the dooryard, not a dozen paces away, was a tall, lean figure of a man. He
had an impressive breadth of shoulder and an easy sort of arrogance, despite
the fact that several wolves still lurked dangerously near.

Sarah
held her breath, expecting that at any second, any or all of the animals would
leap upon this stranger and tear him to pieces before her very eyes. Yet, as
she watched, mesmerized, the stranger shifted the long-barreled rifle that he
carried, resting its butt upon the ground. Then, folding his hands over the
muzzle, he began speaking in a language she could not comprehend, seeming to
address the animals themselves.

His
actions were strange indeed; the wolves’ reaction to his words stranger still. The
animals dropped to their bellies and crept near, whining at the man and trying
to lick his moccasined feet like a pack of remorseful hounds. He carelessly
nudged them away with his rifle butt, and with a flourish of one hand, snapped
a command.

To
Sarah’s amazement, the wolves tucked their shaggy tails between their legs and
skulked off, melting one by one into the shadows of the midnight wood.

The
wolves had been vanquished, but the threat to their safety was far from
eliminated. Indeed, as Sarah watched, danger personified moved from the shadows
into the moonlit dooryard, where he stood surveying the hunter’s cabin.

The
glance with which he swept the structure was burning and intense, and Sarah had
the odd impression that he could see her there by the door, her eye pressed to
the crack. Instinctively, she drew back, then, admonishing herself mentally,
forced herself to look again, to study him as he studied the camp.

She
surmised that he was a young man, for his hair was black as soot. Banded by a
folded kerchief drawn across his brow, it streamed over his shoulders, rippling
to his waist in back.

BOOK: Lord of the Wolves
12.52Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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