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In a lawless west Texas border town, a woman has two choices: death or dishonor. Doctor's apprentice and former Comanche slave, KC O'Connor finds a third--she buries her femininity and longing for love beneath a boyish disguise. But the arrival of an injured greenhorn shatters the shell around her hidden heart.
Near a small creek, Red Buffalo stopped his horse. Four days and nights of hard riding brought his raiding party hundreds of miles from the site of their successful raid. Any who sought to pursue them had been left behind long ago. Swinging his leg over his horse's back he slid to the ground and led his sweat lathered animal to the water. They would make camp and rest here for a while.
Half-a-dozen warriors joined him at the creek. They drank in silence. Quiet, determined and intense, during the hard ride, they now looked to him, their leader. At his almost imperceptible nod, the air erupted with bloodcurdling howls and shrieks of delight. Red Buffalo grinned in satisfaction. They deserved to celebrate. They had done well.
The raid on the hated Tejanos had been almost too easy. He and his warriors swept through the unsuspecting Texan settlement like a sharp knife through flesh. In minutes, it ended. Tejano men lay dead and dying, their bodies broken and bloodied, arrows and lances piercing their hated, pale skin. Fire purged the land of their obscene dwellings. Acrid smoke filled the air, which echoed with the screams of women and children's cries of terror. Not one of his warriors bore even a scratch.
Red Buffalo allowed himself a small smile as he relished the memory of the Texans shrieking in pain and pleading for mercy. He hated the Texans. Someday he would drive them from Comanche land forever. He chose to ignore the fact his own mother came from that hated breed. Only his greenish-gray eyes and the striking red highlights in his shoulder length hair gave evidence of the white blood flowing through his veins. In all else, he was Eka kura, Red Buffalo, Comanche, son of, Tomooru Tosa nakaai, Winter Hawk.
Not joining in his men's celebration, Red Buffalo surveyed the spoils of their raid. Twenty, fine ponies crowded the banks of the creek, herded by the youth brought on the raid for just that purpose. Goods of all kinds lay across the backs of his warrior's ponies, bolts of colored cloth, pots, rifles and jugs of firewater.
He frowned. Red Buffalo did not like the white man's poison; it made strong men weak and weak men foolish. But he knew, now that they were safe from pursuit, he could do little to prevent the warriors from drinking it.
Their captives crouched on the ground, where the warriors had dropped them. One man, two women and three children. Red Buffalo had limited the number his warriors took. With only himself, a boy and six warriors, more captives would have slowed them down too greatly. By keeping their number small, Red Buffalo led his warriors deep into country the Tejanos thought safe from Comanche attack. The illusion of safety made the Texans lax. They paid for their carelessness with their lives.
Even his father could not object to this small number of captives. Of late, Winter Hawk spoke openly of his desire for peace with the whites. In order to keep the soldiers from their camps, he said, they must not take captives. But like all warriors of the Comanche Red Buffalo was free to make his own decisions. While Winter Hawk might promise the white emissaries he would not raid their settlements or steal their women and children, Red Buffalo was not bound by his father's word.
The male captive looked half-dead. A broken arrow shaft protruded from his left thigh and blood matted his graying hair. His eyes stared vacantly upward. Red Buffalo nudged the man. No flicker of awareness crossed his face. His death would provide little amusement, his mind already gone from his body. One of the women knelt next to him, crooning softly. Plump and gray, well past her prime, she held little interest for Red Buffalo. If she caused no trouble and survived his men's attention, the women of the tribe would decide her fate.
Red Buffalo looked briefly at the children, two boys and a girl child of less than two summers. A boy, about ten, glared defiantly at Red Buffalo. The younger one, about six, clung to the older boy's leg. As Red Buffalo drew closer, the older boy stood up and pushed the smaller boy behind him.
Good, the boy had courage. Now, if he had sense he might someday be a Comanche. Children were always welcome among the Comanche.