A headstrong white girl and a proud Oglala warrior fight for their love and the wild country of their birth.
Born and raised in Sioux country, Katie McCabe, daughter of an Indian trader, finds herself alone and adrift after her family is caught in a battle between the Indians and the soldiers. Black Moon, the fierce Oglala warrior who has vowed to fight to keep the white people from taking his land, rescues Katie and brings her to live in his village. As Black Moon tries to reconcile his hatred of the whites with his desire for the trader’s daughter, Katie struggles with an obligation to marry a man she does not love while yearning for the fierce-hearted Black Moon. The love that ignites between these two wild hearts is tested by Katie’s promise to a dying woman, the treachery of a jealous adversary, Katie’s abduction by the Crows, the cavalry lieutenant who falls in love with her, and the tensions that erupt between the Sioux and the U.S. Army. From the desolation of the Great Plains to the opulence of St. Louis, a headstrong white girl and a proud Oglala warrior fight for their love and for the wild country of their birth.
There was nothing friendly about him. He sat without moving, deceptively relaxed in a cross-legged position, puffing silently on a long-stemmed pipe. The fire sent shadows flickering across his face and bare chest and cast him in an ominous light. There was a menace about him, an undisguised hostility, and a proud arrogance. The colors and design of the beaded bag that hung from his rawhide belt confirmed that he was Lakota.
Her voice sounded small and childlike when it slipped into the space between them. “How long was I sleeping?”
If he was surprised that she spoke his language, he gave no indication of it. Tossing a stick onto the fire, he said stoically, “The sun has risen and fallen once.”
A day. She had slept an entire day. It seemed incredible until she recalled just how much there was to forget. She began to tremble, and into the darkness she raged at the utter senselessness of it all. “Why did they have to die like that?”
A muscle twitched in his high-boned cheek. His voice came low and reeking of bitterness from across the flames. “Word of this killing will spread like wildfire and many others will be asking that question.”
Remembering what her father always told her about the Indian way, Katie swallowed down the lump in her throat and said in a voice that quavered, “My father will have many fine gifts for you for helping me to escape.”
“Your father is dead.”
She did not hear him. “He will be very grateful to you.”
He repeated, “Your father is dead.”
This time she could not block it out. His cold, flat words were the awful confirmation of what she had already sensed in the depths of her being. They had a final, absolute ring to them. “Richard.” She uttered the name as part statement, part question, aimed at no one in particular.
He tapped the spent ashes out of the pipe bowl, saying as he did, “The one with hair the color of the red dog is dead.”
It wasn’t that he referred to Richard as a fox that caused her to flinch, but the casual way in which he said it. Tears began to form, hot, stinging tears of disbelief and outrage and sorrow. Her shoulders started to shake as great sobs seized her. Like water from a broken beaver dam the tears rushed from her eyes and she wept into her hands. First, her mother had been taken from her, leaving a void that would never be filled. Now, her father and brother, and with them, dreams of Ireland and a life that was never to be fulfilled. The world was suddenly a dark and lonely place, with death and destruction as the only rewards for living.
Black Moon watched her from across the embers. “Death is part of the circle of life,” he said. “Man moves in a sun-wise direction. He comes from the south, the source of all life, and moves toward the west, the setting sun of his life. As he grows older, he approaches the cold north where the white hairs wait. If he lives long enough, he comes to the source of light and understanding that is the east. From there he returns to the place where his life began, to his mother, the Earth. We all return to the place of our beginning. Only the weak ones cry.” There was no pity in his voice, no compassion, only a hint of mocking.
Katie lifted her chin and glared back at him. With tear-stained cheeks and eyes wild and bright, she declared with a sudden burst of pride, “I am not weak. I am strong.”
His face remained implacable. He gave an indolent shrug, and said, “Is that why you shake like a frightened long-ears? Tell me, little red-haired long-ears just how strong you are.”
“I am no rabbit,” she said. “Do not call me that.”
His jaw tightened at her insolence. “I will call you whatever I please.”
“I have a name. It is Katie.”
“Names can be changed. A boy is known by his cradle name until he earns a new one.”
“But I am a woman, and even among the Lakota a woman does not change the name she receives at birth. My name is Katie and I will answer to no other.”
From the storm clouds she saw gathering in his smoky eyes she expected him to draw his knife from its hide sheath and silence her with it for speaking so boldly. But he made no move toward his weapon.
They lapsed into silence. Katie had no idea how long she sat there with her knees pulled up to her chest, her arms hugging them tight. During the indeterminate hours that passed in which neither of them spoke, she scrutinized him from across the flickering flames.
His hair, unbound and hanging long and straight over his shoulders, was blacker than the recesses of the cave where no light shone. The fire illuminated a face that bore the stamp of power and sheer force of will. With its high cheekbones, straight nose and well defined mouth, its handsomeness was compelling. It drew her toward it, much like the glazed windows of her father’s cabin on the Laramie had often drawn magpies that flew against them with a thud and an explosion of feathers.
She could not help but notice that his legs were slim and hard, made for wrapping around a horse’s bare back. A lean, tough belly showed not a hint of extra flesh. His bare narrow shoulders seemed perfectly made for slipping easily through thick groves and brush. His arms were well-muscled from a lifetime of drawing taut bowstrings. A band of red-dyed porcupine quills spanned one forearm. The hands that held the pipe, with their long, tapered fingers, were almost too beautiful to belong to a man.
Yet despite the physical appeal of him that she found so compelling, there was a hardness about him, of angular features and taut muscles and the suggestion of an inflexible spirit. But it was his eyes, in which the flames of the fire shone so brightly, that burned with such undisguised hatred it sent chills through her and forced her to turn her face away.
The silence stretched on and on.