Kay, Karen: Spirit of the Wolf, The Lost Clan #2
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The end of a curse hides behind a riddle—and the final clue in the heart of a woman.
The Lost Clan, Book 2
Grey Coyote stands on the knife edge of desperation. An ancient curse dooms his people to a half-life in the mists, neither living nor dead—unless he can solve a deceptively simple riddle. As time runs short, he’s sure the answer lies in beating a white trapper in a game of chance.
Among the trapper’s possessions, though, is a prize he never expected. A golden-haired woman as beautiful, delicate and stubborn as a prairie rose.
One moment Marietta Welsford is wondering how long it will take her hired guide to finish his game so she can hurry home to Rosemead, the English estate to which she hopes to lay claim. The next, she is abandoned with a man whose magnetism tugs at her body and soul, and makes her heart out-thunder the storm.
With so little time to lift the enchantment, Grey Coyote at first views Marietta as a trickster-sent distraction. But as sure as the star that guides him, it soon becomes clear she is the clue that could ultimately free his people…and capture his heart.
It was with a shock she realized she had no recollection of what had happened or where she was. How had she come to be leaning against another human being? Slowly, she drew in her breath, and without daring to move her head—which had fallen back on a muscular shoulder—she opened her eyes and peeked downward.
Sure enough, she was sitting astride a horse, and there was an arm around her middle…a buckskin-clad arm. Curiously, she studied the brown-tanned hand of her captor, noting the long fingers…fingers that held her tightly within their grasp.
This was not the hand of Jacques LaCroix.
Where was she?
Gradually, gently, so as not to alert the one who held her, she turned her head to the side, glancing upward at her captor’s face.
She gasped aloud.
“Careful,” said a male voice in English, his words colored with an unusual accent. He gazed down at her. “You might frighten the horses.”
Again, she chanced a glance upward. This time she sat upright and screamed.
It was an Indian holding her, one who was painted for war, or at least he might have been once upon a time. The paint was almost gone now, rivulets of it running down his face.
The man sighed before he said, on a note that held little patience, “If you must wail like a child now that you are awake, I will have to place a cloth around your mouth. I fear that if you scream again, you will scare the horses.”
Scare the horses? What about her?
Where was she? Who was this man? Where was LaCroix? Yellow Swan? What had happened?
She couldn’t remember anything, except an early morning, Jacques LaCroix offering her coffee, and…
“He…he…” As the previous events fell quickly into place, she stumbled on her words, fearing to speak. After a moment, she could no longer hold her tongue. “You…you drugged me.”
“I have done no such thing,” said the man, whose arm still remained around her, as though to steady her.
“No, but you managed to bribe my guide to do it for you, didn’t you?”
“Hiya. You are upset. That is to be expected, but do not accuse me of things that I have not done.”
It was odd. The man’s voice, sounding quietly bored, seemed to reach out to her. And although it calmed her, Marietta was beyond such tactics. “If not that, then why am I here?” She scooted forward as well as she could, trying to put distance between her hips and this man’s. But the pony was small.
“Before he put you to sleep, did your husband not tell you all that was to happen?”
Marietta shook her head, hoping to clear her thoughts. Had she gone to sleep only to awaken in a different time and place?
When she shot another glance behind her to better see her enemy, her eyes met those the exact color of the blackest night. Her stomach dropped.
This was not simply an Indian. This was the man from the Minnetaree village, the same one who had been gambling with Jacques LaCroix, the man she had dared to think might be handsome.
And he had stolen her.
Glaring at him, she murmured, “I remember you.”
She witnessed his brief nod before he gave her a considering glance. “I am surprised.”
“Surprised?” She waited in vain for an explanation.
After several moments he said, “Perhaps your husband did not make his meaning understood.”
Marietta opened her mouth to refute that word, husband, but the Indian was continuing. “I won the game of Cos-soo. You were part of the winnings, and—”
“I was what?”
The man behind her drew in yet another long breath, as though he were weary of the whole affair. In a voice he might have used to address a five-year-old, he said slowly, “Your husband told me that he…informed you of this before he gave you too much corn liquor.”
“Before he…?” She gulped. “Pardon me, Mister… Ah, I don’t know your name.”
The Indian didn’t answer the indirect question.
Marietta tried once more. “Mister…? You do have a name, don’t you?”
The man still didn’t reply, and Marietta attempted again to scoot forward.
At length, the man sat up, appearing like he were about to say something of importance, but he hesitated, while Marietta held her breath. “A warrior does not speak his own name.”
“Oh.” Marietta shot a glance over her shoulder. “Then what am I to call you?”
He shrugged but didn’t enlighten her.
Marietta closed her eyes and shook her very wet head. “Oh, this is perfect. Well, Mr…” she hesitated, “…Rainmaker-who-steals-women…”
She thought she saw him smile, but the gesture was so swiftly gone, she was not certain of it.
Another silence ensued. However, after a moment or two, she squared back her shoulders and began, “Well, Mr. Rainmaker, as I was saying, this may come as a shock to you, but I am not married. I have no husband.”
Again, she chanced a quick glance behind her, but perhaps her look was too swift. She could discern no reaction from the man at all. When he spoke, all he said was, “I am talking about the man who brought you to the Minnetaree village, the scout, LaCroix.”
“Scout LaCroix? Oh, you must mean Jacques LaCroix, of course. He is not my husband.”
“Yet you travel with him.”
“Yes.” Her ire rose. “Good Lord, is it a crime for a woman to travel with a man in this country? I did hire a maid to accompany me. I employed Jacques LaCroix to take me to a particular village. He is not my husband.”
“But he is.”
“No, he is not.”
The man paused. “You do not understand. In this country, when a woman travels, she goes alone, with her husband, or with other women. To be with a man who is not her husband…alone… Her reputation will be marred.”
“Yes, well, perhaps it is a good thing then that my birth does not originate from this country, and that I don’t care about my reputation.”
The man didn’t utter a word, but by his silence, Marietta felt that he must certainly disapprove. It compelled her to say, “Mr. Rainmaker…”
“Grey Coyote,” he finally supplied. “My name is Grey Coyote.”
“Very good. Thank you.” She nodded, her demeanor sweet and one that might have spoken well for her had they been discussing a harmless subject over a cup of tea and a tray of biscuits. “Now, Mr. Coyote, understand, I was not alone. Yellow Swan, my maid, accompanied me. Also, where I come from, a woman may travel anywhere she pleases, and she may even hire a guide to take her to places, particularly if she does not know the lay of the land. And this is what I did. I engaged Jacques LaCroix, paid him money—gold—to bring me to St. Louis…a town farther south of here. That is all there is to it. Jacques LaCroix is no more my husband than you are.” She paused for emphasis. “And yet I am traveling with you.”
The rain began to fall a little harder, drowning out whatever the man might say. Despite this, she thought she heard Grey Coyote state, “I am your husband.”
“What was that?” she said, addressing the man behind her.
Patiently, as though women were a breed apart from men, Grey Coyote repeated slowly, “I am your husband.”
About the Author:
Author of seventeen American Indian Historical Romances, Karen Kay aka Gen Bailey, has been praised by reviewers and fans alike for bringing the Wild West alive for her readers.
Karen Kay, whose great grandmother was a Choctaw Indian, is honored to be able to write about something so dear to her heart, the American Indian culture.
“With the power of romance, I hope to bring about an awareness of the American Indian’s concept of honor, and what it meant to live as free men and free women. There are some things that should never be forgotten.”