Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Wedding Shop by Rachel Dove



A close up of a sign

Description generated with very high confidence
Series: Westfield village series #3
Genre: romantic fiction
Release Date: 10th August 2018
Publisher: HQ Digital


Maria is ready to say 'yes' to the dress!


As owner of Happy Ever After, Maria Mallory is Westfield's resident wedding planner, spending her days making dreams come true for future brides.


Maria even has her own perfect day planned out too, she just needs to find the right man. So when she falls in love with local celeb Darcy Burgess she can't believe her luck – it was finally her turn for her Happy Ever After. Or so she thought.


Jilted at the altar, Maria can't believe that her fairytale ending hasn't come true. She's ready to give up on love once and for all. But little does she know that once you stop looking for it, love has a way of surprising you…


A laugh-out-loud romance, perfect for fans of Holly Martin and Tilly Tennant.


EXTRACT
Two hours later, Maria found herself in Harrogate, squeezed into the red dress, heels pinching her feet, wondering why the hell she wasn't sat on Cass's couch eating ice cream and crying. She said the same to Cass as they walked on tottering heels to the nearest trendy bar, Ice, in the wine bar and posh eatery part of Harrogate's city centre, which, coincidentally, butted up against the legal quarter of Harrogate, and no doubt the two sides kept each other in business quite well too. Walking into Ice with Cassie, it was hard to ignore the stares that her friend attracted. Cassie Welburn was, let's face it, sex on a twenty nine year old stick. She was always tanned thanks to her meticulous salon treatments, plucked and shaped to perfection, and tonight, as usual, was dressed to kill. Even Maria's daring red dress looked tame in light of Cassie's black and silver dress, slashed to the thigh, combined with sparkly silver heels that make Cassie even taller than her just under six foot frame. Maria blushed and nudged Cass's elbow with her own.


"People are staring Cass." Cassie shrugged.


"Let them stare, girl. Don't worry, I've got your back." Maria belatedly realised that tonight, thanks to that ridiculous article, the stares may indeed be for her and not her glamorous friend. She cringed inwardly, and planted a smile on her face. She took her friend by the arm, and pushing her boobs out and her chin up, she headed to the bar. "Let's get smashed," she declared.


BUY LINK



A WORD FROM THE AUTHOR
A close up of a person

Description generated with very high confidence
I am a writer and teacher, living in West Yorkshire with my husband, our two sons, and our furry pets.

In July 2015, I won the Prima magazine and Mills & Boon Flirty Fiction Competition, with my entry, The Chic Boutique on Baker Street, out now in ebook and paperback. The Flower Shop on Foxley Street followed this in 2017 and both books hit the Amazon top 200. Chic Boutique got to #2 in the rural life humour chart and is regularly in the top 100 of that chart.

I am the winner of the Writers Bureau Writer of the Year Award in 2016 and I have had work published in the UK and overseas in various magazines.

My next book, The Long Walk Back, is out in January 2018 and I am currently writing the last book in the Westfield series. My first book with Manatee Books, Nice Guys Finish Lonely, is out in April 2018 in ebook and paperback. I love to write romantic fiction, both rom-com and harder hitting women's fiction.

I am also a post 16 teacher and am undertaking an MA in Creative Writing at Teesside University.

I love to chat on twitter so come say hi! @writerdove

I also run a blog (very occasionally these days): racheldoveauthor@wordpress.com

Goodreads Author Page:
GIVEAWAY
A signed spiral bound paperback of the book plus bookmarks
(open Internationally)








A Girl and Her Elephant The Animal Companions Series #1 by Zoey Gong


A
Girl and Her Elephant
The
Animal Companions Series #1
by
Zoey Gong
Genre:
YA Adventure 

All
of the elephants wept as one of their own lay dying in childbirth.
But Kanita, the daughter of the royal elephant trainer, refused to
give up. With her own hands, she helped bring the baby elephant,
Safi, into the world, beginning a lifelong friendship between a girl
and her elephant. 





But
many of the villagers worried about the curse of the white elephant
with the red birthmark across her face. 



Raised
in the mountains of northern Siam, Kanita’s idyllic life is
shattered when she is ordered to marry a much older man and leave her
beloved yet cursed elephant behind. But Kanita’s stubborn nature
refuses to bow to her parents’ wishes. 

Kanita
and Safi flee their village with the goal of redeeming Safi from her
cursed reputation and cementing their bond, vowing to never be
separated. 

But
the jungle is more dangerous than Kanita or Safi could have
imagined. 

From
new author Zoey Gong, follow Kanita and Safi through the jungles of
ancient Siam in a story of friendship, hope, and redemption. 

A
Girl and her Elephant is the first book in the Animal Companion
series, but each book is a stand-alone novel with new characters and
adventures. 



**Only
.99 cents!**


ZOEY
GONG was born and raised in rural Hunan Province, China. She has been
studying English and working as a translator since she was sixteen
years old. Now in her early twenties, Zoey loves traveling and eating
noodles for every meal. She lives in Shenzhen with her cat, Jello,
and dreams of one day disappointing her parents by being a Leftover
Woman (
剩女).



Follow
the tour HERE
for exclusive excerpts and a giveaway!







Clan of the Wolf Series by Karen Kay


The
Princess and the Wolf
The
Clan of the Wolf Book 1
by
Karen Kay


Genre:
Historical Romance

TWO
HEARTS BETRAYED



Refusing
to believe the rumors that the European prince she was forced to
marry had died in a far-off land, the princess, Sierra, sets sail to
America, bent on revenge and determined to learn the truth. Because
she will require a scout to guide her through the wilderness, she
calls in a favor from the man who had betrayed her long ago, the man
she had once loved deeply and had hoped to wed, the noble Cheyenne
scout, High Wolf.

Many
years before, a European prince had invited High Wolf to travel an
ocean and as a brother, to live as a member of the royal family.
There High Wolf had fallen in love with the princess, Sierra. But
instead of an engagement and the planned wedding, the princess had
treacherously married his friend, the prince. Betrayed and
broken-hearted, High Wolf sailed back to America, determined to
forget the princess. But a promise given to her years earlier brings
her back into his life, igniting a desire he must resist, for to
surrender to her again is unthinkable.

Forced
into one another’s company, with the threat of life or death around
every corner, overcoming their prejudice might be their only means of
survival. But can either of them trust in a love, once betrayed? Or
will their past force them apart again, this time forever?...

This
book has been previously published.

Warning:
A sensuous romance that might fan the flames of desire. Be warned.
You might fall in love all over again.





Enjoy this excerpt from The Princess and the Wolf
“The housekeeper tells that tis well known the prince would divorce her, were he here,” said the kitchen maid.
“Aye, that he would,” replied the housemaid. “And good riddance, says I. It was she that drove him away. That she did.”

Gossip between servants at
Prince Alathom’s  Castle

 
“Do you wish anything else before we go ashore?”
“No, Maria,” answered Princess Sierra, watching from her perch high above the dock, as Governor Clark stepped from the carriage, accompanied by an Indian maiden. “I do not require anything else at the moment. You’ve done quite well, my friend, despite the demanding conditions of this vessel.” She gave Maria a brief smile. “Would you please find Mr. Dominic and inform him that I am ready to leave this ship?”
“Yes, Your Highness. At once. Do we go to greet Governor Clark, then?”
“I believe so,” said the princess. “And for this task, I will have need of you both to accompany me.”
“Yes, Your Highness,” Maria said, curtsying before she turned to do as bid.
Sierra smoothed a white-gloved hand over the blue and white muslin of her very full skirt, pulling the lace that bordered her walking dress into place. Straightening her shoulders, she settled her blue and white-lace mantle over the double bouffant of her sleeves, buttoning the mantle’s closure at the neck. Briefly, she touched her wide belt, which was made of the same light blue color as her dress, pulling it a little more tightly around her waist so as to accentuate its most tiny aspect. A white straw bonnet, adorned with ribbons of blue and tied at the neck, completed the image of the fashionable royal that she was.
Opening her blue and white parasol, Sierra narrowed her eyes, placing a hand gently over her forehead as though it were an extra shield from the sun. She frowned.
From her view of it, there seemed to be no sign of the man she had instructed Governor Clark to hire. Had she needlessly tortured herself over this first meeting with High Wolf?
Perhaps he hadn’t yet arrived.
Or maybe, she thought on a grimmer note, he wasn’t coming. Had he mayhap learned that it was she behind the request?
For a moment, she worried over the possibility. As absurd as it might appear, such a thing was possible: He might know of her coming. He’d always seemed to have ways of gleaning information about things—ways that she had never understood. Perhaps he had discovered her scheme well ahead of the fact.
At that thought, Sierra tried to swallow her disappointment.
It wasn’t that she was looking forward to seeing him again. No. It was only that he, and he alone, could lead her to Prince Alathom, and it was Prince Alathom she needed to find and challenge, Prince Alathom whom she would repay in kind...if need be...
Squaring her shoulders and setting her features into as delightful a smile as she could, Princess Sierra pulled unconsciously at her mantle, noticing as she did so that her fingers shook with the effort.
It was then that she caught sight of something in her peripheral vision...something familiar. She turned her head carefully to the left, her eyes colliding with and staring hard at a pair of dark eyes looking directly back at her.
Her stomach flipped over twice before it at last performed a dive toward her toes. She inhaled swiftly to try to quell the reaction.
It was he, High Wolf. He had come, after all.
As impossible as it might seem, she stared back at a face that she had once thought never to see again. Yet, there he was; there, across a very short distance.
And unable to curtail it, she was suddenly awash in nearly palpable relief.
Relief? Nonsense. It was probably more to the point to say that she was glad that her scheme now contained the element of possibility, the possibility of success.
But if he were to be caught looking up at her, she would be staring back down at him as well, almost as though she were hungry for the sight of him…although she corrected herself, this last thought was ridiculous.
Again, she reminded herself that he, as well as the prince, had betrayed her. In different ways, perhaps. But betrayal was certain treachery after all, regardless of the circumstances. And faith, once lost, could never be restored.
Still, despite the intervening years, an all too familiar pain shot through her, and without her conscious will, she found herself scrutinizing the man she had once thought herself to be in love with...a man who had left her for no more than three hundred gold dukaten.
He looked much the same as he had ten years ago, yet different. Whereas High Wolf had been little more than a boy then, he was now very much a man, and he looked bigger somehow, though he was still extraordinarily slim. Perhaps it was because his chest was wider, larger...or perhaps he was more muscular.
He looked...better, more handsome, more virile.
Sierra grimaced at her thoughts and decided to scrutinize something else less potent...his manner of dress, for instance...
Gone were the fashionable trousers and high leather boots that she remembered him wearing in the past; in their place were buckskin leggings, breechcloth and moccasins. Gone also were the carefully stitched linen shirt and cravat so precisely tied, supplanted now with a long buckskin shirt, fringed, with the bottom of it hanging down almost past his breechcloth. An ornament of what looked to be a concatenation of beads and bone, in the shape of a breastplate, hung down over his chest. It was a sight she had never beheld until this moment.
Instead of a hat, however, he now wore feathers on his head—or at least there was one feather sticking straight up behind him. And his hair...
Relegated to the past was the fashionable haircut she recalled so well, displaced now by long, black hair that hung well past his shoulders.
He looked...Indian, alien from all she had ever known and loved. Yet his countenance was, contrarily, as familiar to her as a well-rehearsed play.
And she wondered: Despite their past, would he help her?
Not if he knew her purpose.
Only too well, she recalled that High Wolf considered the prince to be more than a friend. To him, and perhaps rightly so, Prince Alathom was a brother, a brother in fact as well as in deed. Besides, High Wolf would hardly condone her murderous plan...a scheme she fully intended to execute if the prince refused to return to the Continent, whereupon he would take up his responsibilities.
Indeed, she would be satisfied.
Those at home thought she knew nothing of their wagging tongues; they believed their whispered insults were discreet. But Sierra did know. She did care. And he would pay.
Oh, yes, he would pay.
Which meant, she realized, that the real reason for her journey must remain a well-guarded secret; from Governor Clark, from her guides and especially from High Wolf.
She only wondered if she could successfully hide her motives from High Wolf. After all, as she had already surmised, High Wolf was an extremely perceptive man. Might he guess?
Well, it was up to her to keep her secret well hidden. She only hoped she was up to the task.
***
He stared at her as though he had come face-to-face with his worst nightmare—or maybe his best fantasy. Princess Sierra? Here? Now?
His heart skipped a beat, then picked up its pace, pounding onward in triple speed. High Wolf caught his breath before forcing himself to breathe in and out. In a daze, he stared up at her, feeling as though he were caught in an illusion.
Had she come for him? Had she traveled all this distance to reach out to him, realizing after all this time that she could not live without him, as she had once proclaimed?
Or was she a mere mirage, the same sort of image that haunted his dreams?
Without warning, the desire to run to her, to take her in his arms and embrace her, was almost more real than the solidness of the ground beneath him. Of its own will, the memory of the taste of her, the scent of her, the sweetness of her embrace, overwhelmed him.
And he knew he needed, he wanted to kiss her. Now. In truth, so strong was the desire, he had taken a few steps toward her before he became once more fully aware of himself, and stopped.
The prince. How could he have forgotten the prince—as well as her duplicity—so easily? Where was the prince?
Odd, he thought, how the mind could forget the pain, the anguish, the loss. For a moment, all had been gone, replaced by the simple joy of seeing her again. Odd, too, how his body was even now reacting, that most manly part of him pulsing with every pounding of his heart, remembering, anticipating...what could never be.
He groaned. He had to bring himself, his thoughts, his body under control, quickly.
Concentrate on her faithlessness, he cautioned himself. Hers and Prince Alathom’s.
He glanced to the side of her and all around her. Where was the prince?
And then, as though it came through the fog cluttering his mind, a thought came to him. Governor Clark had hired him, had told High Wolf that he was to escort and protect a royal party, one that was coming to the Americas for a wild-game hunt.
It was the prince and princess . It had to be.
Had the two of them asked for him, personally? For old time’s sake? Was that why Clark had sent for him?
Or was this mere coincidence?
Coincidence? He sneered. High Wolf knew there was no such thing.
Had the two of them no compassion? No pity?
Surely they were aware of what the mere act of seeing them again—together—would do to him.
Or did they think that they could renew friendship? That he would have forgotten?
Well, he had not forgotten; he could not.
Breathing in deeply, High Wolf calmed himself. He was letting his emotions take control of his mind, even of his body. It was possible, he conceded, that he was not thinking clearly, putting elements together that did not necessarily go together.
Besides, he didn’t have to take the job at hand. He had not pledged his word.
And it wouldn’t be as if he were deserting the prince and princess, either. After all, there were these two disreputable trappers that Clark had hired as well.
Wearily, High Wolf glanced at the two shabbily dressed men. Yes, let them have the assignment...while he, High Wolf, quietly disappeared...
Surely, that would be best. For indeed, if this were his initial reaction to the princess—and at this great a distance from her—what would be his fate if he were to witness her beauty closer to hand?
At that thought, a rush of desire swept through him that was as uncontrollable as it was unwelcome. In truth, so swift was his reaction, he rocked back on his feet.
The response shocked him as much as it excited him. And High Wolf knew he had best renew his intention to leave—quickly...
Yet he didn’t budge so much as an inch. In faith, he could not have turned away from her now had he been a saint. Not yet.
Contrarily, another part of him reasoned that little harm could come from feasting his sights upon her for a while longer. Perhaps the image gained could serve to fuel the fiber of his imagination in the lonely nights ahead of him.
Make no mistake, Princess Sierra had always been the most beautiful creature he had ever seen, and it appeared she had changed little, except to have blossomed. More curves, more womanly features.
As he stared, his heart warmed to his subject. Dark curls bounced around her face while her bonnet hid the rest of her coiffure. Oval face, high cheekbones, eyes that he knew were as green as a prairie in spring. Even from this distance, he could attest that her skin still glowed with health and vitality. It was one of the features he remembered most about her. Her skin had been luminous, clear; had shone with a radiance even under cover of darkness, as though she might be lit by a fire within.
How he had loved to run his hands over her face, her neck, those curves...
Cease this, he cautioned himself, letting out his breath.
Yet the mind was often a mysterious thing, and despite himself, his thoughts rambled on. At five foot four, she had always been a slender little thing. He recalled that he had once spanned her waist within the outstretched grip of both his hands. They had laughed about it.  All three of them. Himself, Prince Alathom and the princess.
Odd, how close the three of them had once been, so close they had shared most everything.
High Wolf sighed.
Perhaps it was the way of the world that some things—even good things—were destined to end. Maybe that was why one should reach out for all the happiness he could have, while it still lay within his grasp.
Taking a few steps away, High Wolf at last turned his back on the sight of her. Best to disappear now, as quickly as possible. For of one matter he was entirely certain: He would not escort the princess and the prince. Not now. Not ever.
He took a few steps away.
“High Wolf!”
His insides plummeted at the sound of her voice. Yet he remained steadfast in his decision and kept walking, ignoring the call.
“High Wolf, don’t go!”
Don’t listen to her, he counseled himself. Go now, before she has a chance to weave her spell around you. Go at once .
But even as he thought it, an odd music, a rhythm perchance, began to pound through his mind, reminding him of other places, other times...

 
Chapter 5

Step, sweep, sweep; up, up, back. Hands locked together, step apart, meet. Smile at her, she at him; step, sweep, sweep. Hands held, turn; up to the toes; down again. Shoulder to shoulder, change position. Step, sweep, sweep. Hands touching; smile...

High Wolf could practically hear the strains of the violins and cello in three-quarter beat. It had been a different time and place; a different environment. In truth, it had been like a different life.
A hand clapped him on the shoulder. “High Wolf?” It was a male voice.
Sighing deeply, High Wolf put the memory from him, while at the same time he glanced around behind him, casting a look over his shoulder, espying the well-dressed, yet massive gentleman who stood behind him. Pivoting slowly, he came to stare at the man, who was, perhaps, the tallest human being High Wolf had ever seen.
Silence reigned until at last the other man said, “Princess Sierra Morena requests that you await an audience with her.”
High Wolf squinted at this giant, rendering him with as condescending a look as he could muster, though inwardly an ugly emotion ripped at his innards. Aloud he asked, “Does she?”
“Yes, sir. If you will wait a moment.”
High Wolf turned aside. “But I won’t wait,” he said, feigning a foreign accent that was all too natural, at least for his own peace of mind. “Please give my regards to the princess.” He bowed slightly, more out of a long-ago habit than in deference, a habit, he realized, he hadn’t used in ten long years.
A hand came up to clasp his shoulder. “The princess wishes to speak to you now.”
High Wolf paused as he considered his options. He could leave. It was probably what he should do. After all, there was no man alive who could keep him here; not if High Wolf desired to walk away.
He cast another glance at his opponent. No, not even this big, brawny man could keep him if he truly wished to flee.
But did he?
Would she look different up close; would she be different? Would her marriage to the prince have matured her? Or would she still be the sweet, young girl he had once loved so very, very well?
High Wolf rocked back on his feet. He was caught. Truly caught. Not by his own honor, but by his curiosity.
Later, he would take his leave of this party, and in particular, of the princess. But not now.
No, for now he would wait. He would observe. And then he would go, quickly, and as silently as he had done ten years ago.
Inured to his fate, he gazed upward, watching the princess depart the steamship, scrutinizing her progress down the ramp as closely as if he were reading a track marked upon the earth. He caught her smile as she grinned at Governor Clark, saw her speak a few words to that gentleman, scolded himself for wishing he might be the man on the receiving end of her smile.
And then gradually, so very, very slowly, she turned toward him, raising her sights to meet his.
And High Wolf stared back, his gaze, for all that he was aware of her faults, still hungry for the sight of her. And for a moment, time distorted. There was no past, no present, no future. There was only she... and he, the rest of the world diminished, as though it were no more than their own personal backdrop.
He sighed, recalling too well his loss. And the magic of the moment faded.
In vain he awaited the shy downturn of her eyelashes as she stared at him, the flirtatious one he remembered so very well.
It never came.
No, the princess gazed back at him boldly, brazenly, and try as he might to find it, there was nothing coquettish about the look she gave him. In faith, if he were to examine her appearance at this moment, he would have to conclude that she was beautiful. Yes. Beautiful, but hard—as though time had extracted all the softness from her.
So, he thought, the princess, too, had changed in many more ways than those of a physical nature.
As he took note of her approach, time passed quickly, and yet in a way it seemed to drag.  Leisurely, he watched her, knowing that hidden deep within him, there was an impossible hope that perhaps this was all a mistake, a horrible ten-year-old mistake.
It was remarkable, he thought as his gaze drank in her beauty, how the princess could appear so severe, yet still innocent in countenance. As though she bore no shame, no regret; as though she had never been the cause of an injustice.
Saaaa. He used the Cheyenne expression which stood for many things, including astonishment. It was as though she might be the wounded party from all those years ago...not he.
High Wolf nodded a silent acknowledgment, even if the movement of his head was a slight one. Then, leaning his weight upon his rifle, he awaited the “angel in blue” as she approached.
***
“Ho’neoxhaa’eho’ese,” she pronounced his name in Cheyenne as soon as she stepped within a few feet of him. “It has been a long time.”
She did not offer her hand, and her words, softly spoken, cut through him, as though the sound of her voice were blazed in steel. Yet High Wolf simply nodded, trying to shake off the feeling of being ill-at-ease.
In contrast, she seemed all poise and assurance; she even smiled. However, he took careful note, no happiness reached those green eyes before she asked, “How have you been?”
“I am well,” he replied, his voice, usually full-bodied, no more than a dull monotone.
She seemed unaware of any problem with him, however, and replied, “That is good. That is good, indeed.”
“And you?” he inquired politely.
Again, she grinned up at him, before saying, “I am well, as you can see.”
High Wolf inclined his head toward her, catching her eye before he said, “And your husband?”
She flinched as though he might have dealt her a blow, and oddly, her face drained of color, her eyes becoming suddenly dull. Hurriedly, she glanced away.
Strange.
Frowning, High Wolf ventured further, “Is he in company with you?”
However, the princess did not deign to answer; her gaze looked instead out upon the dock as though it were of great interest—a dock that was streaming with people. “Mr. High Wolf,” she said at last, “over there, due west of us”—she nodded toward the spot—“there is a patch of level ground that looks fairly well deserted of people. I would very much like to take a turn in it, if you would be so kind as to accompany me.”
Take a turn. He hadn’t heard that phrase, hadn’t spoken that phrase in well over ten years. Hearing it again, unfortunately for him, had the effect of turning back time.
Politely, out of a habit from long ago, he bowed at the waist. “I would be happy to join you, Your Highness,” he said, “at some other time. But I am afraid that I have...other business that calls my attention at the moment.”
She acknowledged him with a delicate dip of her head. “I understand,” she said. “I am assuming this business relates to Governor Clark and his hiring you as a guide?”
High Wolf said nothing in reply.
“And I am sure you have already surmised that I am to be the party you are to accompany into the interior.”
He blinked at her, his only acknowledgement.
“And you are considering declining, now that you know more of the facts?” She might have asked it as such, but he knew her words were no question.
He shrugged, saying, “As you say.”
“Very well,” she acknowledged, “although I find it monstrous ill that you can turn so easily away from a promise.”
He raised an eyebrow.
“For you see,” she continued, “I am calling in a favor you once granted me. A favor, you had once said, that would send you to me in a moment of distress. If I remember correctly”—she gave him a sly look—“you vowed to come to my aid if I did no more than call upon you.”
He didn’t blink—not even a single eyelash—as he countered, “All such promises came to nothing, Your Highness, on the day you became Prince Alathom’s wife, by the very nature of that act.”
When she frowned, he went on to observe, “Did you not vow to forsake all others? That would include me, would it not?”
“Perhaps,” she said, then grinned up at him, while High Wolf suddenly found himself at odds, disliking her, while all the while longing to take her in his arms. Instead of doing either, however, he stepped back, away from her.
But she continued, “If I remember correctly, there were no restraints upon your favor when you made the vow, although I do admit it was a long time ago. You merely said, ‘Ask, and I will come.’” She smiled at him flirtatiously. “Perhaps your favors expire with time if not used?”
He shrugged off the insult. “It was the heartfelt promise of a boy from long ago. You have a husband now to attend to your needs.”
“But that is precisely the reason for my visit, Mr. High Wolf,” she said, her expression suddenly modest. “For you see, to all the world, I no longer have a husband.”
High Wolf went very still, his outward demeanor showing little of his agitation. Instead he watched her watching him; saw her scrutinize him, her glance perhaps hoping to find some weakness in him. But High Wolf was too well versed in the ways of a scout, and much too observant to be affected by such an overt contemplation, and with ease, he carefully hid the sudden quickening of his heart.
But she was continuing to speak, and said, “Now, please, Mr. High Wolf, let us take that turn.” And sweeping her skirts with a grand gesture, she stepped toward the place she had earlier indicated, though shortly she turned back. “Mr. Dominic,” she called over her shoulder, “please inform Governor Clark that I will join him soon. I shall be only a moment.”
“Yes, Your Highness,” said Mr. Dominic, and bowing, turned away.
Slowly, Princess Sierra pivoted around, her gaze capturing his . “Now, Mr. High Wolf,” she said, “shall we?”
And High Wolf, bound by an imprudent oath from his past, had no other option—at least none at the moment—but to hear her out. And though he wished himself somewhere else—anywhere else—he followed her lead.

***
Oh, how she wished the past were different. Oh, how she longed to turn back time. But events were as they were, and not even God in His heaven could change the history of what had come to be.
Princess Sierra sighed and, as she stepped lightly toward the spot she had earlier indicated, she wondered what she could say to this man that would sway him to her cause, trying to recall her well-rehearsed speech.
It was one thing to determine and practice such words of favor in the privacy of one’s quarters, quite another to confront the actual man. Plus she hadn’t counted on the increased rate of her heartbeat, or on the weakness which came over her limbs. And despite herself, Princess Sierra was experiencing a desire to throw herself into High Wolf’s arms and beg for his mercy.
She snorted instead. She? Beg this man?
Never.
Still, she must do something to solicit his help, and all without allowing him to perceive her real purpose. Could she do it? Could she fool this very insightful man?
Oh, if only life could be different. For within her, and increasing with every minute, was a sensation of old, a desire to purge herself of her troubles—as she had often done with this man in their not-too-distant past.
But she could hardly afford such a luxury and remain true to herself. Indeed, not only must she continue to be steadfast, she daren’t forget that this was the same man whose treachery had broken her heart...
Sierra inhaled deeply once again. There were some actions, that once were done, could never be taken back. And make no mistake, this man’s offense had been such a one.
Well, so be it. Squaring her shoulders, the princess turned to face him and said, “The prince is dead.”
High Wolf frowned. “Dead?”
“Yes, apparently so.”
“Apparently?” As High Wolf’s frown deepened, his stare became piercing.
Ignoring the look, she continued, “Prince Alathom was not home when the event which took his life happened, as you might already know.”
High Wolf raised one single eyebrow. He repeated, “Already know?”
“Yes,” she stated it as though it were a certainty. “It was a hunting accident—here in the Americas. We received word of the incident only a few months ago.”
“We?”
“Our families.” Sierra swallowed, and inhaling a deep breath, took a plunge, when perhaps it might have been more prudent to tread water. However, she continued, “Come now, High Wolf, I’m certain that I’m not telling you anything of which you are not already aware.”
If he detected the note of censure in her voice, he overlooked it, for all he said was, “Why would you think that?”
How dare he pretend to be innocent? Did he mean to insult her intelligence? Did he honestly think she would not be able to piece together the facts?
Well, perhaps it was time to show him that she could play any game that he chose to play. And, determined to put him in his place, she began, “I would think that, because the accident that took his life happened here...in the West, you would be well versed in it.”
High Wolf narrowed a glance at her. “Meaning that you think he and I were together when it happened?”
“If the shoe fits... ”
“And you think I was responsible for his death? Is this what you’re insinuating?”
“No,” she denied, momentarily thrown off guard by his question. In vain, she tried to ignore the confusion his question brought her, for despite her anger at him, she never would have thought this man responsible for the prince’s accident. He and Alathom were simply too close.
No, the truth was that she simply did not believe such an accident had taken place.  If she were correct—and there was no reason to assume she was not—the prince and High Wolf had conceived the deceit together, had planned it as deceptively as they had once planned another escape.
But she could not very well tell him that.
However, he was frowning at her, staring at her in a way that brought her to understand that he was reading every nuance of her reaction...something he was quite adept at, and a little too breathlessly, she continued, “I... I would not accuse you of having caused his death. I know you would never do anything to intentionally harm the prince. It’s only that...”
“You think I should have died in his place?”
“No.”
“Then what?”
Then why, when you had a reason to do so , didn’t you come back to me?
No, that wasn’t right. She couldn’t have actually thought that—not about this man.
High Wolf, however, as though ill-at-ease, crossed his arms over his chest before repeating, “Then what? What are you accusing me of?”
“I’m not accusing you of anything except perhaps being more friendly toward the prince than you have been to me.”
This last appeared to baffle High Wolf, and even he could not subdue the look of bewilderment that settled across his features. In truth, so honest was his perplexity, had she not known better, she would almost have believed in his innocence—almost...
And she said, “Come now, High Wolf, we were always friends, weren’t we? You, the prince and myself?”
High Wolf visibly stiffened, though all he said was, “We were—once.”
“And so all I am asking of you is that you give me as much deference as you would, or more correctly, as you have, the prince. I would like to go into the interior for a hunt, perhaps to ease my mind from my ‘loss.’” She emphasized the word. “I would request that you guide me there.”
Sierra glanced up to see, not the countenance of a man who had been caught out in a lie and was quietly ready to admit it, but rather she was met with indisputable contempt.
Oddly, it was this look that gave her courage. For it was she, not he, who had a right to indignation.
He stirred, moving away from her, and said, “I will not lead you into the interior of this country.”
Instantly, a feeling of disdain swept over her, returning to her a presence of mind. And she said, “Stay where you are. I have not yet given you permission to leave.”
He stilled. “No, you haven’t, Your Highness,” he said, pivoting around and coming face-to-face with her once more. However, with a leer on his countenance, he added, “But perhaps you should look around you.”
In defiance, she kept her glance glued to him.
“And maybe, if you did so, you might examine your environment even more carefully.”
Sierra stared straight ahead, still training her gaze on him and him alone.
He continued, “For, Your Highness, if you were to do this simple act, you might discover that you are no longer in Europe. Now look at me closely.”
“I already am.”
“More closely than even this.”
She blew out her breath, refusing to do as he bid, and glanced away from him instead.
But if her reaction bothered him, he seemed not to show it. Indeed, he said, “Do you see that I am not one of your subjects?”
Even as he uttered the words, the sneer in his tone, the curtness of his very manner, could not have been mistaken for anything other than what it was: disrespect. In response, her chin lifted high into the air, and she declared, “One does not need to be a subject of a particular country in order to exhibit proper manners,” she scolded. “And there is nothing that I have said that gives you leave to mock me. Indeed, I ask a simple thing.”
If she had hoped to make him more propitious, she had certainly failed, for within his glance was pure defiance, and he said, “True, the request is simple, but I suspect that the entreaty which is so sweetly given is yet filled with venom.”
She sucked in her breath.
He continued, “I am not for hire by you.” He spun about, ready to leave.
Goodness! The man hated her.
For an instant, the realization caused her to sway from where she stood. And for another heartfelt moment, she felt as though every single drop of blood in her body had become frozen.
She had certainly not anticipated this man’s hatred. After all, by what right did he dare show her ridicule? She, and she alone , possessed leave to seek revenge.
Yet he was retreating from her, without her leave, without her approval and with as much ill-will as she had ever witnessed. Worse, his departure was not something she would or could permit.
Reaching forward, she grabbed hold of his sleeve, the rough leather of his shirt feeling oddly soft against her fingers, a softness, she noted, that was not reflected in his countenance, or in any other part of him. She said, “What did I ever do to you that you feel compelled to treat me like this?”
He stopped, he stiffened, he inhaled slowly before he at last rocked back on his feet. Then swallowing hard, as though he were not as confident as he might like her to believe, he shut his eyes, letting go of his breath.
It was a show of minor weakness, but it was also the advantage she wanted, and she said, “You, sir, deserted me. It was not the other way around.”
“Was it not?”
“What do you mean?”
He let out his breath. “Try to understand, Your Highness, I am a different man now than I was when you once knew me. Ten years can bring about a great deal of change in a person.”
“I see,” she said dumbly, as yet another thought struck her. Aloud, she asked, “Are you married?”
She held her breath. It was a reasonable question, given their situation. It was also one she should have asked herself before now, if only to soften any surprise. After all, High Wolf was nothing if not a handsome and virile man. And being such, he was probably much sought after as a husband.
Her stomach dropped, and unreasonably, she felt defeated.
He questioned, “Does it matter if I am?”
“Of course not. Not to me.”
“Then why would you ask, I wonder?”
She shrugged. “Curiosity. Is this, then—your marriage—the reason why you will not guide me?”
“Could be.”
“I see.” She gulped in air. “You could bring her with you. I would not mind.”
 It was a lie; even as she spoke the words, Sierra knew she would rather die than meet this man’s wife. It was an odd thought to become aware of, and she trembled with realization: Did she still care about this man? Impossible. It simply could not be.
She glanced up to catch him grinning at her. But his good humor was far from a pretty sight. In truth, his grin was simply a movement of his lips, with no inclination to mirth whatsoever, a mere shadow of what she remembered.
However, he was speaking, and he said, “Well, I, for one, if I did have a wife, would mind bringing her along, although I realize you might not share my scruples on that.”
If he had a wife...?
“No, Princess,” he continued, “you are wasting your precious time on me. Go home. Leave me to my own thoughts, and let me grieve for my friend in private, for I meant what I said. I will not lead you anywhere in this country.”
The words had no more left his mouth than he had spun about and was doing exactly as he had threatened: He left, without so much as a by-your-leave, and with no deference to her whatsoever.
But this time Princess Sierra barely noticed. In truth, she was frowning, thinking...
Had High Wolf always harbored such antagonism? And if he had, how had she missed seeing it until now?
Sierra closed her eyes, inhaling and exhaling slowly. Well, this was a fine mess. Should she have confided her own doubts about the prince? That he might still be alive? And if he were, that she wanted nothing more than to have a council with him? Would that have persuaded High Wolf to her cause?
No, she had already made up her mind on this account, and she was certain: High Wolf and the prince were in one another’s confidence, as they had always been. And little good would come from her pleading. But, dear Lord, what was she to do now?
POST #4:
A shadow crept over the water, moving steadily forward. It was looking for something, or someone. But what? Or rather, who?

Such a romantic opinion of the land was short-lived, to be sure; a mere illusion. By evening, Princess Sierra was once again to be found on deck, leaning against the railing, gazing down into the depths of the muddy and frightening waters of the Missouri River.
The boat was in readiness to move into position for its nightly mooring, and every voyageur was involved in the process of maneuvering the Diana through the heavy currents of the river. Perhaps that was why the air was heavy with smoke, much more so than usual. Or maybe it had something to do with the wind, which had shifted from the west to the north.
Dusk had yet to fade into darkness. Indeed, it was still quite light out, despite the fact that the sun was ever so gradually setting. Odd how the land picked up the pink and golden hues of the sky at sunset, the land magnifying the sunset’s intensity by creating the illusion that sky and land were one and the same. It gave a body the feeling of space, as though a person’s troubles gained room, moving away and dissipating.
But Sierra’s problems were far too large for the simple act of gaining space to solve them. The rift between herself and the prince, between herself and High Wolf, was too immense to make the grievance so easily resolved.
Still, glancing away from the sunset, she brought her sights back to the water, noticing how even the river mirrored the sky; the pinks, the blues, the golden hues. For a moment, if a moment only, these sights gave her peace.
Leisurely, she glanced toward a large stick, which had become caught up in the current, the force of the river itself spinning it, making the stick look as though it were dancing...as though it might be a dancer.
It reminded her of another place, another time...a happier time. And without consciously wishing it, she remembered...

Wide-eyed, Sierra Morena Colheart watched the toy ballet dancer spin in time to the tinkling strain of the music box. She stared at the miniature dancer, fascinated, until the music at last slowed and the dancer stopped. Glancing up at herself in the mirror, the sixteen-year-old princess smiled at her own image; her grin, young and fresh, was full of vigor. Indeed, it was the giddy gesture of a young woman in love.
Ah, she thought. Tonight was the night. Tonight it would happen. Dreamy-eyed, she stared out her window, only to witness the reddish rays of the setting sun.
Goodness, how long had she sat here, lost in thought? What was the time? Was it already half past six, the scheduled time she was to meet High Wolf? Was he even now awaiting her in their own secret place?
Glancing at the grand, old clock in the corner of her room, she realized she was “going before herself again,” as High Wolf had often said of her, which meant, she supposed, that she was living in the future instead of the present. The clock read only a quarter to five.
Still, she had much to do to prepare for the evening. Where was her maid?
Arising from her seat at the vanity, Sierra felt the urge to run to the rope that would summon Maria. But instead, she cautioned herself into taking steps that were as precise and dignified as her anxious heart would allow. But even then, a silent voice reprimanded:
“A monarch never hurries. Others will wait. You must learn, Princess Sierra, purred Father Junipero, “to sweep into a room as though you own it, and everyone in it.”
But sometimes, thought Sierra, she wished to simply let go of convention and formality. Wasn’t that what High Wolf often did? And if there were one wish Princess Sierra desired more than anything, it was to do everything that High Wolf found exciting.
Still, the habits of the last sixteen years could hardly be ignored, and she walked as calmly as she could to her door, where she rang for her maid.
Almost at once, Maria knocked gently at the door.
“Yes, Maria, do come in.”
Maria did as bid, bowing as she came farther into the room. “May I be of service, Your Highness?” she asked.
Sierra grinned. “Yes, you may, Maria. I need to dress for this evening, for it is to be a very special evening.”
Maria nodded. “Yes, Your Highness. That it is,” she said. “Have you thought of what you might wear? The yellow gown always looks well on you, as does the blue. Although since this is to be a special night, you might think of wearing the new gros de Naples gown. What do you think?”
“Hmmm. The gros de Naples, I think, but not the brown one. The pink one with the satin flowers and pearls. And of course I’ll need my long gloves, the pink pair.”
“Yes, Your Highness. The pink pair.”
“Oh, Maria, think of it,” urged the princess, holding up a pelisse robe to her bosom while she spun about in place. “This is the night my engagement is to be announced. It is to be the best night of my life. I just know it. I can feel it.”
Maria grinned back happily. “Yes, Your Highness,” she said matter-of-factly, and stepped to the closet, where she extracted a pair of white slippers.
“The pink ones, please, Maria.”
“Yes, of course,” agreed Maria, replacing the white pair. “And your hair? Would you prefer ringlets at the side of your face, as you usually wear, or curls?”
“Ringlets, I believe, as well as...”
“Pearls?”
“Ah, yes, pearls. Pearls to ornament my hair tonight instead of a coronet or tiara.”
“Yes, Your Highness. It will be beautiful. You will be beautiful.”
“Do you really think so?”
“I do.”
“But we must hurry, I think. I’m to meet with High Wolf and the prince before the ball, and I don’t wish to be late.”
“Heaven forbid, Your Highness.”
For a moment, Sierra stopped, glancing askance at her maid. And then, without a word being spoken between the two of them, both females broke out in laughter.
Maria said, “I think the gentlemen will wait, do you not think so, also?”
“I believe you are right,” said Sierra. “The gentlemen will wait. But still, I would not cheat myself of a single moment that I might spend with High Wolf.”
Maria smiled. “Ah, to be so much in love. I wish it were I.”
“Someday it will be, Maria. But for now we must hurry.”
“Yes, Your Highness. We must. Now, if you would be so kind as to be seated, I will begin work on your hair.”
“Yes, Maria,” said the princess, dutifully taking her place at the vanity. “Anything you say, Maria,” she said, grinning widely and catching her maid’s gaze before both young women succumbed once again to a fit of giggles..
.
“Princess Sierra? Your Highness, shall I turn down your bed?”
Sierra jumped, startled. Maria’s voice, so close at hand, awakened her from out of the past, but none too gently. She took a moment to compose herself before saying, “Ah, no, not yet, Maria. I think I may watch the sunset for a while tonight. For in truth, you caught me deep in thought.”
“Did I?” asked Maria. “I am so sorry. And yet, it is a beautiful sunset. I can easily see how one could get lost in it.”
“Indeed.”
Maria hesitated, as though waiting for her mistress to say more, but when Sierra remained silent, Maria spoke up, saying, “If you don’t mind, I believe I will go on below and prepare your bed anyway. Perhaps an early bedtime for me, also, will refresh me.”
“That would be most advantageous,” said Sierra. “In the meanwhile, I think I’ll go topside and have a talk with our captain about this journey and when we might at last arrive at our destination.”
“Ah,” said Maria, “that would be most opportune.”
“Thank you, Maria.”
“Yes, Your Highness,” said Maria, and curtsying, she retreated.
But Sierra never did seek out the captain, nor did she change her position from against the rail. Too many thoughts had been brought back to mind; too many recollections were close to hand. And without consciously willing it, her mind replayed that most memorable night...
***
“My father said he would be announcing your engagement tonight,” said Prince Alathom.
Both Sierra and High Wolf grinned at each other, while High Wolf took her gloved hand in his, bringing it to his lips, where he pressed a kiss upon it. He said, “You are the most stunning creature in all the world .”
Sierra blushed, then grinned and looked shyly away. “There are many more young women who are prettier still than I. Many.”
“Where?” asked High Wolf. “Show them to me, for I do not think they exist.”
Sierra merely smiled rapturously up at him while Prince Alathom groaned aloud, saying, “I’m going to have to teach you some new forms of flattery, my fine friend, for I tire of hearing the same words said over and over.”
“Tire all you like,” High Wolf objected. “You may go elsewhere if you don’t like it, for I speak only the truth as I see it.”
Despite all her upbringing to the contrary, Princess Sierra giggled. Just then, as though in accompaniment to the merry sound of the three friends’ laughter, the strains of violins and cellos reached out to them.
“Oh, High Wolf, Alathom, the dance begins,” Sierra observed. “And I am so very anxious to dance. Shall we go?”
“We shall,” agreed High Wolf as he linked her arm with his, leaving Prince Alathom to follow along behind them, a circumstance to which the prince had never given objection.
“Alathom?” the princess called out over her shoulder.
“Yes?”
“Please, come up on the other side of me, that the three of us may enter into the room together and be announced at the same time.”
And without another word, Prince Alathom did exactly as asked...
***
Loud bells rang out unpleasantly, interrupting her reminiscence.
“Fire!”
What was that? Fire? Here? Now? Was that why there had been a smoke-heavy odor in the air?
“All hands on deck,” rang out the call. “All hands on deck. Fire!”
Without further pause, what had once been a calm evening turned riotous. Men rushed by her, below her, above her. Horses whinnied in the haul, while the hogs shrieked.
Sierra stood still, frozen, watching, barely able to comprehend the danger as being real. It had seemed so quiet only a few moments previous. Where was Mr. Dominic? Where was Maria?
She needed to find them...now. Turning, she backed up from the railing, intent on running away. However, she did no more than set herself into the path of a voyageur, who had suddenly come upon her. Inadvertently, she knocked him to the deck.
“I’m so sorry,” she apologized as she threw herself forward and out of the way. Quickly, she clung to the rail as the man jumped to his feet and sped away, all without uttering a word.
“Your Highness.”
It was Mr. Dominic. Somehow he had found her.
“Your Highness, you must come this way.” Taking hold of her elbow, he gestured toward his left. “I will see you safely into the lifeboat.”
“A lifeboat?” Abruptly, the panic of those around her took substance, became more of a reality. Still, “Surely that’s not necessary, is it? These men are undoubtedly able to put out a fire.”
“That they probably are, Your Highness, but there is still danger in staying here. If the voyageurs do manage to put out the fire, you can always reboard. But first you must be safe.”
“Do you know what has caused this?”
“Yes, Your Highness. The cotton being carried upriver caught fire, and has nearly consumed the lower level. It has been discovered too late, I fear. Now, come. There is no time to lose.”
Taking her arm, he propelled her along with him as he fought his way toward the lifeboat, shoving through the hurrying crowd of voyageurs. Confusion reigned supreme, and men rushed by them with little regard to what they did, more times than not pushing Mr. Dominic and Sierra out of the way.
Within moments, although it seemed to Sierra to take a lifetime, the two caught a glimpse of the lifeboat. Through the haze of smoke, they could see that several other passengers were scrambling toward it.
Sierra stared around her, coughing as she inhaled soot and smoke. “Where is Maria?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” answered Mr. Dominic, “but I am certain she will find her way here on her own.”
“Find her own way?... Mr. Dominic, do not lie to me. If she could easily come here, she would be here. Why is she not?”
Mr. Dominic didn’t answer.
“There must be trouble, I fear. Please, go and see to her.”
“I cannot, Your Highness. My first duty is to you, and we must get you quickly aboard this lifeboat, while there is still room aboard her.”
“Yes, you are right, I must, but you will not stay with me a moment longer. You are to go and find Maria.”
“Your Highness,” pleaded Mr. Dominic, “you cannot not ask me to desert you. It would cause me great alarm, for not only are you my first concern, I am duty-bound to your father, having promised him that I would not leave your side.”
“Mr. Dominic, how could you make a promise like that to my father?”
“It seemed little enough to ask.”
“Yes, well, you can ease your mind, Mr. Dominic. You have done your duty. My father could not have foreseen all situations that would arise on this trip.”
Mr. Dominic didn’t answer.
“Do you not see? I cannot leave this vessel until I can determine what has happened to Maria. What if she has fallen somewhere? My mind would never rest easy if I saved myself and deserted her.”
“But Your Highness—”
“It is either you go to see about her, or I will do it, myself.”
Mr. Dominic looked uncertain.
“Man the lifeboat!”
Eyes wide, Sierra grabbed hold of Mr. Dominic’s sleeve. She pleaded, “Tell me, is there another lifeboat aboard this vessel?”
“No, there is not, Your Highness.”
“Then you must leave this instant. You must find Maria, stay with her and keep her safe. Do you hear me? I will gladly step into this lifeboat, but not until you—”
Suddenly, Mr. Dominic bent over and picked her up, setting her into the boat. Then, straddling one leg over the side of the boat, he began to climb into it.
But Sierra would have none of that. She jumped up from her seat, straddling the boat herself, her pose an obvious dare. “Please.  I command you to find Maria this very instant. I would be of little help to her, as I cannot swim, but if you do not go, I will.”
“Your Highness, I beg you. I...” Mr. Dominic trailed off his objection, looking, for all that he was big and muscular, as though he might wail. But at last he appeared to capitulate, releasing his straddle from the lifeboat.
“Now go!” It was Sierra commanding again. “Before more time is wasted, go! I promise that I will ride this lifeboat to shore. Do not worry about me. I will await you both from the safety of the shoreline. Go quickly!”
Mr. Dominic looked as though he would raise yet another objection, but, as the flames climbed higher into the smoke-laden sky, and with little choice other than to obey his monarch, Mr. Dominic turned and fled in the direction of the maid’s cabin.

Chapter 9

“ ’Tis said she is the cause of our own prince’s death.”
“Aye,” said the housemaid, “that she is. ’Tis rumored as well that he died rather than return here to her side.”
Gossip between servants at
Prince Alathom’s castle

At the first hint that something had gone amiss, High Wolf immersed himself in the waters of the river, and in doing so, became a part of the river, so much so that not even a swirl could be seen in the water to indicate his progress. Cautiously, he floated toward the ship, practically invisible. He didn’t swim, nor did he float, but rather he executed what could only be described as a dance with the river’s current. Never did he fight the river’s power, but rather he moved with it, letting the water propel him closer to his target.
At last he came up close to the boat, himself a calm influence in comparison to the turmoil aboard the Diana. He could feel the terror there, sense the smoke-induced delirium of the boatmates, but it was not in his mind to aid these men. No, she was the reason he was here; he would find her.
Quickly, he perused the voyageurs, as well as the passengers who were still aboard the steamboat. Some of them were already jumping from the burning remnants of the boat, an action that could bring sorrow, unless a person either knew how to swim with the river’s flow or was strong enough of body to fight it. But perhaps these men were that hardy, for these white voyageurs, who worked the boats, were sometimes admired for the physical marvels they could perform.
Alas, however, High Wolf saw nothing of her.
Making a quick circle around the boat proved to be a waste of time, for he still had not seen her. And so it was that he found himself with little choice but to board the boat. Quickly, he hoisted himself up to the main deck, coming down flat-footed and at a run, aware as he did so that the steamboat was sinking, and with the majority of the Diana’s body enveloped in flames, there was little to be done for her. As it was, her lower deck was flooded, and in places already half submerged.
Still, without losing more than an instant, he found his way around the decks, until as he rounded a corner, something large and heavy fell into the water, creating a terrific splash. But the gray mist of smoke hung heavy over his eyes, and High Wolf found he could see but little.
Swiftly, he trod closer, and looking toward the spot, High Wolf recognized the cause at once: a smaller boat; one he knew to be a lifeboat, had been thrown into the rushing current.
Suddenly, things became worse: A piece of wood from above, engulfed in flames, broke off the Diana’s main hull and fell, streaking, toward the water. And before anyone knew what it was about, the wood, now a flaming dagger, struck the lifeboat. In moments, the boat tipped off balance, catching fire.
A feminine scream split the air, its intensity piercing High Wolf like a knife. Bodies dove off the lifeboat, but not one of these people was female. Where was she?
And then, through the soot-induced haze, he saw her, still aboard the blazing lifeboat, her countenance oddly composed. For she didn’t move, not even to save herself.
What was wrong with her? Was she frozen in place?  Although it seemed impossible, he knew that shock could sometimes cause a person to freeze and become unable to save themselves.
Or was the problem caused by another circumstance or a different emotion? Was it her outrageously full dress? Was she afraid, with so much weight upon her, that she might sink, becoming entangled in its mass?
But if that were true, she was surely acting in a poor manner to solve the problem, for she did not remove any of her clothing, or take any action to save herself. Instead, amid the ballet of diving bodies, the princess slowly sank along with the boat.
Quickly, High Wolf plunged into the Missouri’s depths, then came up for breath and caught his bearings. But she was gone, swallowed up by the muddy, swirling waters of the Missouri. That’s when it occurred to him:
Could she swim?
It seemed amazing to him that he had no answer to that; he, who should know her well. Instinctively, High Wolf swam toward the place he had last seen her, and diving deeper into the water, hunted for her, but not with his eyes, for the murky waters of the Missouri did not allow sight for more than a few feet.
No, he searched for her intuitively, spiritually, and in doing so, found her within seconds. But he had no time in which to experience relief. Grabbing hold of her, he kicked out hard, bringing her up with him to the river’s surface, forcing her head above water, where he heard her gasp for breath. She struggled, and down they both went once more.
He kept hold of her with one arm, while with his other hand, he took out his knife, and then he did the unthinkable. As quickly as the water would allow him, he cut off her dress.
In response, she mustered a formidable response. Whereas before he’d seen little life in her, she now fought him with renewed strength, as though he were some sort of madman, or perhaps she, a madwoman. But High Wolf didn’t have time or even the ability under water to explain his actions, and despite her best efforts, he continued cutting away until the dress was removed and the danger had passed.
The weight of her clothing fell away. That this left her attired in little more than her calf-length drawers, hose and corset was hardly discreditable, for she was still almost fully covered.
But their commotion under water had sunk them too low, and an undertow grabbed hold of them. Quickly, he seized her around the chin, and with mighty strokes, fought his way to the surface of the water, not stopping until he heard her sputter.
At least she was still breathing.
He caught his breath, feeling somewhat safer, now that their heads were above the channel’s surface, and he called out, “Do not fight the river’s current, or me, because if you do, this draught will claim us. You must become composed.” He spoke loudly, but calmly, as though the two of them were taking a stroll instead of fighting for their lives. He continued, “You must become one with the water, for if you do, it will protect you.”
But she appeared to be beyond listening, and she fought him with revitalized vigor. Once again, he called out, “Cease your struggles, or you will force me to bind you, so that you do not drown us both.”
He realized that she was obviously unused to the water, and in the end, it required him to use brute strength against her, holding her arms and legs with one each of his own. Meanwhile, he kept afloat, lugging her with him and letting the water carry them back to shore.
After a few moments, she came suddenly alive and howled at him, “I can’t breathe.” She fought him once more. “You...you’re drowning me.”
“I am not drowning you; you are doing it to yourself. Cease your struggle and merge your body with mine. I will not let you drown.”
“And who will keep you afloat?”
“The water, of course. I have no fear of the water. Only those who fight the river’s power ever come to harm in it.”
“But—”
“Do you see that you are speaking? That you have energy enough to talk back at me?”
“I... I...”
All at once, she ceased her struggle. In truth, his words must have had effect, for she at last let her body meld with his, allowing him to repeat his earlier dance with the river’s current, shoving off here, letting the stream take him there, forging through the water as easily as if he were picking his way across lily pads.
It took little time before he managed to set them ashore, appearing, to anyone who might have been looking, that the river had lovingly placed them there. At once, High Wolf left the water, and with her tucked under his arm, he crept into the protection of the bush, where he granted her a moment to catch her breath.
But a moment was all he could afford.



Brave
Wolf and the Lady
The
Clan of the Wolf Book 2

He
saved her life, then stole her heart….


To
escape an arranged marriage, Mia Carlson, daughter of a U.S. senator,
instead elopes with the man she loves. As they are escaping from her
Virginia home, heading west, their wagon train is brutally attacked,
leaving Mia alone and in grave danger. Rescue comes from a most
unlikely source, a passing Lakota scouting party, led by the darkly
handsome Indian, Brave Wolf.
Although
Brave Wolf has consented to guide Mia to the nearest trading post, he
holds himself apart from her, for his commitments lie elsewhere. But
long days on the trail lead to a deep connection with the red-haired
beauty. Yet, he can’t stop wondering why death and danger stalk
this beautiful woman, forcing him to rescue her time and again. Who
is doing this, and why?
One
thing is clear, however: Amid the flurry of dodging assassin bullets,
Brave Wolf and Mia come into possession of a powerful love. But is it
all for naught? Will Brave Wolf’s obligations and Mia’s secret
enemy from the past finally succeed in the sinister plot to destroy
their love forever?










Writing
under the pen names of Karen Kay and Gen Bailey, Karen is a
multi-published author of Native American historical romances. She
has been praised by reviewers and fans alike for bringing the
historic American Indian culture to life, and she has been nominated
for several different awards. Karen's great-grandmother was Choctaw
Indian, and because of this, she is honored to be able to write
stories that depict the Native American point of view.



All
of her books concern the Native American culture, and says Karen,
"With the power and passion of romance, I hope to bring about an
awareness of the vital forces that helped shape the American Indian
culture. There are some things that should never be forgotten."









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