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Authors: Elizabeth Lane

Shawnee Bride

BOOK: Shawnee Bride
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She was free

But she could not thank him. She could not even say goodbye.

“Clarissa.”

At the sound of her name, she spun back toward him. Her heart leapt, then dropped like a stone as she saw that he was holding the parfleche, extending it toward her with both hands.

Fighting tears of anguish, she walked slowly back toward him. His face was in full sunlight now, the jaw set, the blue eyes narrowed against the glare. What colossal, stubborn pride he had! If only he would speak, or even look at her…

As she reached out to take the rawhide case, their fingers brushed. The light contact of skin to skin blazed like a flash of gunpowder through her body. Struck by the sudden, searing heat in his eyes, Clarissa let the case fall.

In the next instant he had caught her in his arms…

Dear Reader,

What a perfect time to celebrate history-the eve of a new century. This month we’re featuring four terrific romances with awe-inspiring heroes and heroines from days gone by that you’ll want to take with you into the
next
century! Wolf Heart is the fascinating, timeless hero from
Shawnee Bride
by Elizabeth Lane. Fans of Native American stories will absolutely love this authentic, emotion-filled love story about a boy who was orphaned at eleven and adopted by the Shawnee Now a fierce Shawnee warrior, both in his heart and mind, Wolf Heart falls in love with a beautiful white woman whom he rescues from river pirates. Will their love transcend the cultural barriers? Will she live as his Shawnee bride, or will she return to the white man’s world? Don’t miss this wonderful story!

In
By Queen’s Grace
by Shari Anton, Saxon knight Corwin of Lenvil heroically wins the hand-and heart-of his longtime secret love, a royal maiden. Antoinette Huntington is the unforgettable heroine in
The Lady and the Outlaw
by DeLoras Scott. Here, the English Antoinette has a romantic run-in with an outlaw on a train headed for the Arizona Territory.

Simon of Blackstone will steal your heart in
The Champion
by Suzanne Barclay, the launch book in the KNIGHTS OF THE BLACK ROSE miniseries. Simon returns from war to confront the father he never knew…and finds himself and his lady love the prume suspects in his father’s murder.

Enjoy! And come back again next month for four more choices of the best in historical romance.

Happy holidays,

Tracy Farrell

Senior Editor

Shawnee Bride
Elizaveth Lane

Available from Harlequin Historicals and ELIZABETH LANE

Wind River
#28
Birds of Passage
#92
Moonfire
#150
MacKenna’s Promise
#216
Lydia
#302
Apache Fire
#436
Shawnee Bride
#492

Other works include:

Silhouette Romance
Hometown Wedding
#1194
The Tycoon and the Townie
#1250

Silhouette Special Edition
Wild Wings, Wild Heart
#936

Please address questions and book requests to:

Harlequin Reader Service

U S.: 3010 Walden Ave., P.O. Box 1325, Buffalo, NY 14269

Canadian: P.O. Box 609, Fort Erie, Ont. L2A 5X3

Author Note by Elizabeth Lane

Before writing
Shawnee Bride,
I did extensive research on Shawnee history and customs. Even with the best of intentions, however, it is difficult to know everything about a culture that is not one’s own. If anything I have written here is found to be erroneous or offensive, I offer my apologies to the reader and to a people for whom I have nothing but the deepest respect.

I owe a special debt of gratitude to James Alexander Thom, whose fine biographical novel
Panther in the Sky
inspired the setting and background for Clarissa and Wolf Heart’s story.

Elizabeth Lane

Prologue

The Valley of the Ohio, 1747

S
eth Johnson bolted through the underbrush, terror fueling the strength of his eleven-year-old legs. Brambles clawed at his threadbare clothes. Roots and vines clutched at his ankles. His heart hammered in anguished fire bursts as he ran.

Behind him, the silence of the forest was even more terrible than his father’s screams had been. Pa would be dead by now, God willing, and even if he wasn’t, there was nothing that could be done for him.

The marauding black bear had come out of nowhere, jumping Benjamin Johnson as he crouched to reset one of his beaver traps. Seth had flung sticks and rocks and screamed himself hoarse in a frantic effort to distract the monster, but none of his boyish racket had been of any use. In the end, he had been left with no choice except to run for his life.

Was the bear coming after him now? If he paused to listen, would he hear it crashing through the undergrowth as its great black nose smelled out his trail? Seth could
not risk stopping to find out A charging bear, bent on killing, could run down the fastest man alive.

His bare feet, already large and rawhide tough, splashed into a shallow creek. He plunged upstream, praying the water would carry away his scent. His lungs burned. His breath burst out in labored gasps as he toiled uphill against the icy current.

Seth stifled a cry as his left foot slipped on a mossy stone, wrenching the ankle. Pain lanced his leg-a sharper pain, even, than the hot, flat sting Pa’s belt had caused last night when Seth had dropped a jug of whiskey into the river. For what it was worth, at least Pa would never beat him again.

Grimacing, Seth stumbled out of the water, crumpled against the overhung bank and curled there like a clenched fist. He could not see or hear the bear. All the same, he felt the hair prickle on the back of his neck, a sure sign that danger was close by, and he knew there was nothing he could do.

Helpless, he shrank deeper into the shadow of the high bank. “Pa!” he wanted to shout. “I’m here, Pa! Come and help me!” But he knew it would be no use.

He was alone in a thousand square miles of wilderness. Worse than alone. This was Shawnee territory, his father had told him. The Shawnee were savages who would just as soon cut out a white man’s innards and roast him alive as look at him. Better the bear than the Shawnee. At least a bear would kill him swiftly.

The way it had killed Pa.

The silence around him had taken on a dark weight of its own. The birds were quiet. Even the insects had stopped buzzing. A drop of sweat trickled along Seth’s collarbone, cool against his hot flesh, as he waited.

He heard a sudden dry rustling sound. Then something
leaped off the bank, landing almost on top of him. Seth glimpsed a flash of bare brown legs and beaded moccasins. Then a rough, smelly blanket enfolded him, cutting off breath and sight. Powerful arms lifted him high. Wild with fear, he kicked, squirmed and punched the stifling darkness, mouthing every curse he had ever heard Pa utter. “Turn me loose, you filthy savage!” he screamed. “Let me go, or, so help me, I’ll have your hide!”

It was then that Seth heard, through the blanket, a sound that sent a shiver all the way to the marrow of his bones.

The sound was laughter.

Demo version limitation

Chapter Two

W
olf Heart watched from a stand of birch as the slender white girl scrambled to her feet. The panic in her wide green eyes could only mean one thing-she had discovered his tracks and sensed he was nearby.

His throat tightened as she hesitated, wheeling one way, then another. Her hair was a tangled cloud of flame in the morning sunlight. Her gown-the fabric too light and fine to be homespun-clung to her willowy woman’s body in mud-stained tatters. She looked as fragile as the wing of a butterfly.

Wolf Heart had seen her clinging to the log as it washed ashore. He had melted into the trees as she crawled onto the sandbar, keeping out of sight as she collapsed, trembling and exhausted, onto the bank. A whirlwind of emotions had torn at him. This ethereal young stranger was part of a world he had long since buried, a world he had grown to despise. She and her kind did not belong here.

The girl spun away and broke into a limping run, headed toward the riverbank. Wolf Heart’s blue eyes narrowed for an instant. As she vanished behind a clump of
red willows, he stepped out of his hiding place and glided noiselessly after her.

Shadows flickered over his rangy hard-muscled body as he moved through the undergrowth. In this, the moon of mouse-eared leaves, the willows and birches trailed long catkins in the light morning wind, but the foliage was thin. The girl’s hair blazed like a signal fire through the trees, making it easy to trail her even at a distance. Wolf Heart eased his powerful stride, giving her plenty of room. He had no wish to confront her face-to-face. Not, at least, until he had made up his mind what to do with her.

As he paused for thought, his fingers brushed the small deerskin medicine pouch he wore on a thong around his neck. It contained objects of his own choosing, small tokens of memory, family and courage. Wolf Heart’s medicine pouch had been fashioned by his Shawnee mother, Black Wings. She had cut and stitched the leather, adding bands of fringe and fine quillwork to make it a thing of beauty. Inside it, Wolf Heart had reverently placed a tooth from the first bear he had taken, along with the bright indigo feather of a bluebird and, most important of all, his personal
pa-waw-ka,
a translucent shell he had seized from the bed of the ice-bound river during the ordeal that had marked his passage into manhood.

The medicine pouch was his badge of belonging, his proof to himself and others that he had abandoned all memory of Seth Johnson and become, in his deepest being, a true Shawnee. He had undergone the test and rituals. He had hunted bear, elk and puma, fought bravely against the marauding Iroquois and earned a place of honor among his brothers of the
kispoko
warrior sept. He had danced around the war pole. He had sung the death
chant over Black Wings when she died of the coughing sickness. All this time, he had never questioned who or what he was-until now.

The coppery flash of her hair told him the girl was still running, darting in ragged bursts of speed along the bank of the Ohio-se-pe. She was headed upstream, toward the fort, most likely, or one of the grubby little settlements that pushed the white man’s boundaries ever closer to the world of the Shawnee.

Wolf Heart had met a fair number of white men since the death of his father. There were the French who traded their guns and blankets for furs. There were the English redcoats who were becoming more and more common now that the British had seized the fort at the joining of the rivers. White men, yes. But any images of white women-including his own birth mother, who had died when he was six-existed only in the dimmest recesses of Wolf Heart’s memory. He had never imagined, let alone seen, a fox-haired wisp of a girl like this one.

Any other Shawnee would have taken her prisoner by now, he reminded himself darkly. The tribe had sided with the French in this mad war against the English, making any English prisoner a trophy of war. So why then, when it would be so easy, had he not simply captured her? Was it her startling beauty that held him at bay? Was it the certainty that this girl would never survive captivity? Or was it something more subtle and disturbing-some long-buried tie of blood that even he could not deny? Whatever the reason, it troubled Wolf Heart deeply.

Far ahead now, he saw her stumble and go down in a patch of bog. His breath caught as she clawed her way upright then paused to glance back in his direction, her hair whipping the pale oval of her face. Her head went
up sharply, and for an instant Wolf Heart thought she might have seen him. But then, just as abruptly, she wheeled and floundered on as before, dripping mud as she fought her way through the briars and willows that rimmed the flooded river.

The girl had spirit, he conceded. She was chilled, sore, exhausted and probably half-starved, as well, but she had shown no sign of flagging. Spunk and grit, combined with a healthy dose of fear, were driving her on, step by struggling step.

But for all her courage, Wolf Heart knew she could never make it back to her world alive. The journey was too long and too dangerous.

On impulse, he paused to examine her tracks in the mud. Crouching low, he traced the shape of one narrow imprint with his fingertip.

Where her foot had pressed, the damp brown earth was stained with blood.

Clarissa plunged along the bank of the river. Her ribs heaved painfully beneath the constricting stays of her corset. Her heart exploded with every beat, hammering the walls of her chest as she ran.

She had seen one fresh track. How many others had there been? How many pairs of savage eyes were watching her, even now, as she fled like a hunted animal.

A gust of wind whipped her long hair into her eyes, half-blinding her. She swept it back, only to feel the tangled ends catch on a low-hanging tree branch. A vision of the biblical Absalom, hanging lifeless by his hair, flashed through her mind as she jerked to free it. Any second now, she would feel the fatal thrust of an arrow in her back or, worse, the roughness of brown hands seizing
her waist, dragging her off to an end so horrible she could not even imagine it.

She would die fighting, Clarissa vowed as she splashed through a patch of flooded willows. Whatever happened, she would not allow herself to be taken alive.

As she mounted the bank once more, pain shot through the ball of her left foot. She remembered, however dimly, stepping on something sharp earlier, but she had not dared to pause and investigate. Now the injury was getting worse. Her right sole, as well, had grown so tender that every step was agony. Sometime soon she would have to stop and wrap her feet, perhaps with strips of her petticoat. If only she knew where—

Clarissa’s thoughts ended in a gasp as her toe stubbed against something soft. That same gasp exploded in a stifled scream as she looked down and saw the body of a man, clad in waterlogged buckskins, lying facedown in the long grass.

Her stomach convulsed as she recognized Maynard.

Her first impulse was to run, but when he did not move she swallowed her fear and stood staring down at him
He’s dead,
she thought.
He can’t hurt anyone now.

Flies swarmed around a blood-encrusted gash on the man’s temple, but there were no other marks of injury on him. Most likely he had struck his head when the flatboat capsized, drowned while unconscious, and finally washed up here on the bank.

Clarissa battled waves of nausea as she crouched over the inert form, steeling herself to touch him. Maynard had been armed with a hunting knife. If that knife was still on him, and if she could get it, she would no longer be helpless prey. She would have a weapon to defend herself.

Maynard’s dirty, wet buckskins reeked in the morning
sun. The stench swam in Clarissa’s nostrils as she bent close, seized his arm and dragged him over onto his back. Yes, the knife was still there, large and evil looking, laced into the scabbard that hung from his belt. All she had to do was reach out and—

She froze as Maynard rolled his head to one side and groaned.

Panic seized her, and for an instant all she could think of was running away. But she needed the knife. She would have to get it now, before Maynard came fully awake.

She made a desperate lunge for the weapon, her fingers clutching at the leather-wrapped grip. For the space of a heartbeat, she had it. Then his sinewy hand closed around her wrist, twisting so hard that she cried out and dropped the knife.

“Well, hang me for a horse thief!” He grinned up at her, his small eyes glittering. “Heaven don’t get no better than this!” He rolled to a sitting position, his free hand darting out to grab the knife from where it had fallen. A single joint-wrenching move spun her against him with the blade at her throat.

“You and me got some unfinished business, girl,” he rasped against her ear. “And we’re gonna finish it here and now!” His hand released her wrist and slid upward to fondle her breast. “Treat me nice, and you won’t get hurt Hell, you might even get to like it.”

Clarissa struggled to keep her head. “We’ve got to get out of here,” she whispered, her throat moving against the razor-sharp blade. “Indians-I saw moccasin tracks-”

“Nice try, girl.” Maynard’s arm tightened around her. “But I know this country, an’ there ain’t no Injun towns anywhere near these parts. An’ even if you did see tracks,
hell, plenty of white men wear moccasins, too. Now quit stallin’, you little bitch, and git down on your back!”

The broad steel blade caught a glimmer of sun as he jerked her around and slammed her onto the wet grass. Clarissa lay rigid and trembling, praying for an instant’s distraction when she might be able to catch him off guard. Maynard, she calculated, was capable of killing her, or carving her up so hideously that she would no doubt wish herself dead. If her timing was off, she would not get a second chance.

He was breathing hard now, muttering curses as he used his free hand to tug at the lacing of his breeches. The water had caused the leather ties to swell, and the knot was too stubborn to yield to Maynard’s one-handed fumbling. Clarissa tensed as he grew more and more impatient. At last he spat out an oath and tossed the knife, point down, into the grass.

In a flash she was after it, twisting sideways, stretching to seize the weapon where it had struck. But she was not fast enough. With blinding speed, his hand had clamped hard around her wrist.

“Stupid little bitch!” he cursed, twisting her arm so viciously that Clarissa felt her bones begin to separate, and she whimpered aloud in spite of her resolve. “So help me, I’ll fix you good!” he rasped, snatching up the knife and raising it high for a slashing blow. “I’ll show you who’s boss if it’s the last thing I-”

Maynard spoke no more. She saw him stiffen and arch as if struck hard between the shoulder blades by some invisible force. Only as he pitched forward did she glimpse the arrow point protruding through the front of his buckskin shirt, right where his heart would be.

Clarissa’s fear exploded into all-out panic as the lifeless body collapsed, still twitching on top of her. She
thrashed and kicked in a wild struggle to throw off the horror, wanting only to be free of Maynard’s smothering weight.

Seconds passed, each one a small eternity, before she realized that her ordeal of terror was only beginning.

The knife—it had been in Maynard’s hand. She had to get it before it was too late. Her fingers groped desperately along the wet ground where he would have dropped the weapon. Her heart convulsed as she felt the tip of the blade, cold and sharp against her fingertip. Gasping with effort, she stretched to reach the handle. Her fingers touched it, almost clasped it.

Then the weight of Maynard’s limp corpse was snatched off her as if it had suddenly sprouted wings.

The morning sun struck Clarissa fully in the eyes. Dazed and blinking, she lay sprawled on the ground, her muddy skirts ruched up to her thighs. She was aware that Maynard’s body had fallen to one side, but that was no longer a concern. Her full attention was riveted on the masculine figure who loomed above her, his features silhouetted by the blinding light.

Sun dazzled, her gaze dropped low, taking in long, muscular, buckskin-clad legs. Little by little, her eyes focused upward, skimming the shadowed bulge beneath his breechcloth, then darting abruptly to the feather-trimmed tomahawk that hung at his waist and the elegantly crafted bow balanced in his left hand.

Flinging herself onto her belly, she made another lunge for Maynard’s knife. This time her fingers closed around the handle. She rolled swiftly, drawing in her knees and coming up in a tight crouch, the weapon raised in defiance.

The stranger had not moved, but from her new position, Clarissa could see him more clearly. His powerful
chest and arms were bare except for the leather strap of his arrow quiver and a small decorated pouch that hung from a thong around his neck. His long wavy hair, decorated with twin eagle feathers at the scalp lock, was raven-black, tinged with an azure glow where the light fell on it. Flat silver ear studs, set into his lobes, glittered as they caught the rays of the sun. His eyes, shadowed by craggy brows, wereHer thoughts scattered like alarmed birds as he took a step toward her.

Clarissa tensed, clutching the knife. She had vowed to die fighting rather than be taken alive. Now that vow would be put to the test. “Don’t come any closer!” she hissed.

He took another cautious step, then one more. “Don’t be afraid,” he said gently. “I won’t hurt you.”

Clarissa was beyond hearing his words, let alone comprehending them. Her pulse exploded, pumping her system with the fury of a cornered animal as she sprang upward to meet this new enemy. The steel blade flashed in the sun as she struck wildly, blindly at the stranger’s chest.

She heard him grunt as the razor edge skimmed his flesh. His huge hand captured her wrist, its momentum whipping her against him, where he caught and held her fast. Clarissa had dropped the knife, but she continued to fight like a wildcat, her hands clawing his chest, her feet kicking his solidly placed legs.

A glancing blow from her raised knee caught him off guard. Still gripping her waist, he stumbled backward and stepped into the entrance of a badger hole. His fall carried them both to the ground. They rolled in the grass, legs tangling, knees jabbing as he struggled to subdue her.

BOOK: Shawnee Bride
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