Can Native American hero Lelaheo and African-American heroine Kindred declare their love before an English miss and the American Revolution derail it?
New Concepts Publishing
Kindred by PJ Dean
An herbalist and free woman of color, Kindred Twain and Lelaheo/Cassian Harkness, an Oneida Indian, had been inseparable since childhood, so it was no surprise to anyone when their childhood bond blossomed into love as they grew into adulthood. Neither suspected when they agreed to wait to wed until Lelaheo had completed his medical studies in Europe that they were poised on the eve of war, however, or that the Revolutionary War-or the young British miss named Adeline-would threaten to tear them apart forever.
"When did you intend to tell me that you got accepted to medical school?" She stood, hands on hips, occasionally pointing at him accusingly. "Abroad no less. And especially since we drilled together to get your Latin and German perfect for the examinations. I am a part of this as much as you."
He winced at her words. "Kindred, I am so sorry---"
"Yes. Both literally and figuratively. And when, do tell, are you departing? By any chance are your trunks packed already?" She let out a humorless chuckle and began to pace the room.
"I go down river in three days. Yes, they are packed. It is a long journey, Kindred.
It will take weeks to get to Europe."
"Three days! You leave in three days?"
Lelaheo began ticking off his list on his fingers. "I have to abide an ocean voyage and familiarize myself with Köln. I must spend time with Herr Doktor ben Lazer and adjust to life in a strange place. And before all that, I must navigate getting out of these woods. Kindred, stop pacing!" He caught her by the apron. She yanked away.
Exasperated, Lelaheo threw up his hands. "Why can you not be happy for me?"
Kindred sought refuge on the mahogany settle in front of the now dead fireplace as she interrogated him.
"Your people in Kanowalohale. Do they know?"
"Yes. They arrive tomorrow. As many of my family as possible will come. Some will take me down river to Albany."
She shifted in the seat, wagging her head. "Lelaheo, Lelaheo."
"I thought they should come for a short stay and then I would leave for Europe." A shame-faced grin flashed, brilliant against his cinnamon skin as he folded his arms across his chest.
"Oh. The kill-two-birds-with-one-stone theory?" Kindred tried to remain composed, but the more he revealed, the more infuriated she became. But Lord, his smile was ingratiating, she thought. "Seems to me, if I had not stumbled upon this, I would have found out while standing at the water's edge as you climbed into a canoe."
Lelaheo hurried over to rest at her feet.
"Why is this upsetting you so?" His eyebrows pulled downward in a frown. "I will get to see all those things we have only read about. It is different there. I shall just be another student. For once, I shall be accepted on my merit."
"You are so naďve." She reached a hand down to smooth his silky hair, then snatched it back quickly. "You will be traveling to the continent which is the architect of so much misery here. You will not be viewed any differently there than you are here.
Their station in life dictates they be more discreet in their bias. I do not want to see you hurt. Do not confuse curiosity with caring."
"How can you say that? It is a world of scholars and learned men."
"And of possible pain. Living here at Twainhaven has been both a joy and a curse. Has Father equipped us with what we need to face life outside the hall?"
"Kindred, you, me and Joshua, can overcome anything. We have. We do everyday. Because of Douglas. So please. Find joy in the fact I will be doing what I love. Exploring. Experiencing new things. Besides, you knew I'd be going away."
"But not abroad! Do you not understand?" She balled her hand into a fist and pummeled her thigh. "You'll be an ocean away. If you'd stayed here at least you could visit us. But now being so far away … " She drifted off refusing to look at him.
Lelaheo scooted closer and captured both of her hands.
"Do not. Please do not." She strained to pull away, but he gripped her hands firmly.
"Why not, Kinny?" He watched her turn a deaf ear to his plea. "Ever since we were children I have admired your honesty, your courage. Do not disappoint me now. Why are you so bothered? Why this display?" He shifted to his knees and seized both of her hands in one of his. With his free hand, he grasped her chin and gently pivoted her face to meet his. Her eyes were downcast. "Kinny, talk to me."
She slowly raised her eyes to his face. That face. With its high cheekbones; strong nose; beautiful, almost feminine mouth; and those inquisitorial, obsidian eyes which were at this moment waiting for an answer. With a taut jerk of her head, she disengaged from his grasp. She raised her chin and stared at him coolly. "Lelaheo, you should know why. I never fancied you the type who would need their pride stroked. You should know."
"What should I know, Kinny?" He reached up with his free hand, untied her head wrap and tossed it aside. Her two heavy braids tumbled to just below her shoulders. With a tapered index finger, he traced the curve of her cheekbone and applied light pressure as the same tip traveled lower to outline her mouth. He leaned in, his lips grazing her ear and he let out a long breath. "That you love me? Or more importantly, that I love you?" He felt her tremble at his words. He heard her breath catch and a little gasp escape. Pulling back, a dropped-jaw visage greeted him. "Well?"
Kindred wretched her hands from his possession and hurled her arms around his neck.
"Yes, I love you. Lelaheo. Kunoluhkwa."
He stood up, hauling her from the settle roughly. He snaked one arm around her waist, while the other supported her back, bringing her snugly against his hard body. Looking down, he beheld her glowing features and sighed."Kunoluhkwa, Kinny. I have loved you since you stood up for me in the Reverend Harkness' school room that day. I have loved you since you helped heal my wounds from that beating we endured. I have loved you all these years. You know me better than I know myself. So, good Lord, how will I ever live these next months without seeing your face everyday?"
His mouth came down and, gently, but insistently, covered hers. Warm and persuasive, his lips smothered any protest Kindred may have even thought about voicing. His kiss was an opiate, drugging her. As his assault on her mouth intensified, she opened her eyes a little and suspired against his. Feeling her relax, he opened his eyes and slowly darted his tongue in and out of the breached recesses of her mouth. Lelaheo let slip, lower, the arm he used to support her back. He ran his palm over her curvy bottom, pressing her closer, keeping her body tight against his. As the kiss deepened, they both groaned and rubbed against each other. Lelaheo felt himself harden.
All of a sudden the doorknob rattled. The two jumped apart, breathless and moist lipped. Kindred reclaimed her place in the chair. Flushed, she patted her face, retrieved her head wrap from the floor and fanned with it. Lelaheo stood anchored to the spot, respiring deeply.