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Authors: Peggy L. Henderson

Teton Splendor

BOOK: Teton Splendor
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Teton Splendor

 

Book 2

 

Teton Romance Trilogy

 

 

 

By Peggy L Henderson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination, or used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the author.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2013 by Peggy Henderson

 

All rights reserved

 

Please join my New Releases mailing list:

 

http://eepurl.com/vYhPf

 

All of my books are available here:

 

http://www.amazon.com/Peggy-Henderson/e/B006T2R5UG

 

 

Other Available Titles

 

 

Teton Romance Trilogy:

 

Teton Sunrise

Teton Splendor

Teton Sunset (Fall/Winter 2013)

 

 

Yellowstone Romance Series
:

 

Yellowstone Heart Song

Yellowstone Redemption

Yellowstone Awakening

Yellowstone Dawn

Yellowstone Deception

A Yellowstone Christmas (novella)

 

 

Second Chances Time Travel Romance Series

 

Come Home to Me

Ain’t No Angel (Fall 2013)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acknowledgment

 

 

Carol Spradling, my critique partner. Has it really been two years already since we started critiquing for each other? Here’s to many more books together.

Barbara Ouradnik, my editor, friend, and shoulder to cry on. I can’t wait to meet you this summer. What fun we will have as we explore the Tetons and Yellowstone. Let the adventure begin!

My great team of beta readers: Lisa Bynum, Shirl Deems, Becky Fetzer, Hazel Lewis, and Hilarie Smith. Your opinions and comments make all the difference as you read through the manuscript.

Ramona Lockwood, my cover designer, for the beautiful covers you create for my books. (http://coversbyramona.blogspot.com)

 

 

Prologue

 

 

Jackson Hole, Oregon Territory Early Spring,1853

 

 

 

Joseph Walker pulled his horse to a stop just outside the large conical lodge near the center of the Indian village. Men and women stopped what they were doing to watch him, some holding their hands up in a gesture of greeting. Children ran anxiously beside his horse, waving and shouting, dogs barking at their heels. Smiling at his exuberant welcoming committee, he swung his leg over the back of the saddle and dismounted. Handing the reins to one of the older boys, he untied a large leather pouch from his saddle.

“What did you bring us,
Nu umi Kin numpu
?” several of the children called.

Joseph faced the children. Grinning broadly, he reached into the sack and produced ribbons of various colors, beads, and strips of cloth that he handed to the bright-eyed girls. For the eager boys, he pulled out flint and elk antlers, a few eagle feathers and claws, and mountain lion teeth.

“It is good to see you,
toko
,” a raspy voice spoke above the exited chatter of the children. They grew silent and dispersed, and Joseph’s eyes fell on the old man who had emerged from the tipi.

“It is good you have returned to the valley for the summer,
kunu
.” Joseph clasped the old man’s hands. The chief’s grip wasn’t as strong as he remembered from last summer, and his smile faded.

“You are well?” he asked tentatively, and searched the old man’s wrinkled face. Two Bears, chief of this small band of Bannock Indians, offered a slow smile, and returned his stare through watery eyes.

“I am not as young as I used to be,” the chief answered. “Come walk with me,
toko.
I hoped you would visit soon. There is something I wish to discuss with you.”

Joseph’s brows drew together in a worried frown, and he fell into step beside the old man. Rather than the usual drawn-out greeting, Two Bears seemed to be anxious to tell him what was on his mind. The chief walked bent forward with a hunched back, and shuffled away from his lodge toward the meandering stream flowing along the edge of the village. Joseph glanced sideways down at the frail-looking man. There had been a time when he had to look up at the once proud chief. Now it was Two Bears who had to raise his head to look him in the eye.

“What is on your mind, Grandfather?” Joseph finally asked when they reached the banks of the stream. The chief stopped and faced him.

“I have had visions in my sleep. Visions of my death,” Two Bears said. Joseph gripped his arm and chuckled uneasily.

“You will live for many more seasons,” he said with exaggerated confidence.

Two Bears smiled sadly. “I am not ready to die.” He searched Joseph’s face. “There is something that has been troubling me, and I must ask a favor of you.”

“Anything,” Joseph said quickly. Aside from his father, there wasn’t a man he respected more than the old chief, and nothing he asked could be too much.

“As you know, I had a daughter once.” The chief paused and glanced expectantly at Joseph. When he nodded, Two Bears continued. “She was my only child. She was taken from me much too soon. She and her husband were killed by an evil white man.”

Vague memories of his father’s friend, a French trapper named Laurent Berard, entered Joseph’s mind. He and his father had trapped the surrounding mountains when the fur trade was big business in the east and overseas. Since the decline of beaver pelts a decade ago, his father and mother had taken to raising cattle and horses in the vast valley at the base of the great Teton mountains. Joseph was no more than five years old when a ruthless man, bent on revenge, murdered Laurent  and his Bannock wife, Whispering Waters.

“My daughter bore a girl child. I know that my granddaughter is still alive,” Two Bears continued, his voice faltering slightly. “A white man took her away so she would not meet the same fate as her parents. That is what your father has told me.”

Joseph nodded. According to his father, Laurent had given his daughter into the care of an easterner before he died, to protect her from getting killed. Byron Yancey had come to the mountains to learn about the fur trade first hand, and his family was one of the largest exporters of beaver pelts to Europe.

“I cannot die until I see my granddaughter. She was two summers old when she was taken to the big white man’s city in the east.” Two Bears inhaled a raspy breath and coughed. “It is my wish that you bring her to me so I may see that she has been raised well. Only then will I be able to walk peacefully in the spirit world.”

Joseph stared at the old man. This was the last thing he had expected. Although his father had told him that Yancey fled back east with the little girl, no one knew whether they had survived. Joseph had no idea where to even begin a search for her.

“It is a long journey,
kunu
. It will take many months to even reach the cities in the east.”

“I will wait for your return,” Two Bears said confidently. “I know you will not fail me.”

Joseph nodded slowly. He was willing to do anything for the old chief, but this seemed like a futile, if not impossible undertaking. Staring into the hopeful old eyes of the Indian, he knew he couldn’t refuse the chief’s request.

Sucking in a deep breath, he smiled, and said confidently, “I will find her and bring her to you.”

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

Boston, Massachusetts, Summer 1853

 

 

“Do you have an invitation, sir?”

“Invitation for what?” Joseph Walker’s eyes narrowed and he leaned toward the man in front of him who had opened the heavy oak door. Dressed in a black suit complete with white gloves that showed not even the slightest hint of dirt, the balding man assessed him with a critical eye. Disdain and surprise was evident on his face. His nostrils flared as if he smelled something unpleasant.

Joseph shifted his weight from one foot to the other. He probably didn’t smell all that pleasant. Come to think of it, he probably should have dunked his head in the horse trough and scrubbed his face with some of the lye soap he carried in his saddlebag before coming to this fancy house. The livery owner where he dropped off his horse had given him directions to Byron Yancey’s place, and after three months on the trail, Joseph was eager to finally get this first meeting over with. It was well into the evening, and lights lining the cobblestone streets of this affluent Boston neighborhood had already been lit.

“This party is by invitation only, I’m afraid.” The older man raised his chin and sniffled. He moved to close the door. Taking a hasty step forward, Joseph pushed against the heavy wood. He was not about to have it slammed in his face.

“I’ve come a long way, mister. I’m tired and I really need to speak to Byron Yancey. I was told this is where he lives.”

The man in his fancy suit stumbled back, his eyes wide. “This is the Yancey residence,” he stammered. “But Mr. Yancey is entertaining guests this evening. Perhaps I can get you an appointment with him in the morning.”

Joseph frowned and clenched his jaw. He inhaled a deep breath, and played the only card he had. “Tell him Alex Walker’s son is here. I have to see him tonight.” How easy it would be to simply push the slight man out of the way, but he didn’t come here to cause trouble. The faint sound of violin music reached his ear, and laughter drifted from inside the enormous home.

The man puckered his lips and sighed dramatically. He stood and appraised Joseph with disdain one more time. “Very well,” he finally said. He slowly pulled the door back and moved to the side. “Follow me, sir.”

Joseph stepped over the threshold and onto a polished white stone floor that looked like ice on a frozen winter lake. His eyes widened, and he whistled softly. He’d seen the outsides of some fancy houses in the bigger cities he passed through in his travels to get to Boston, but he’d never imagined what they looked like inside. He lifted his head and gazed at the high cathedral ceiling. A chandelier that sparkled like icicles on a sunny winter’s day hung above him. Candles flickered, illuminating the great entry. A wide staircase with ornately carved wooden handrails and plush green carpeting led to a second floor. The man in the fancy black suit beckoned him to follow.

“You may wait in Mr. Yancey’s study,” he said, leading Joseph down a wide hallway. He opened a set of heavy-looking dark wooden double doors, and moved to the side. The man waited for him to step into the room, then closed the doors behind him. 

Joseph walked further into the room. His moccasins sank into the thick green carpet as if he were walking through a spring meadow back home. Instead of the sweet fragrance of grass, the smell of leather from a large mahogany colored couch drifted to his nose. An enormous cherry wood desk stood in one corner, and one wall of the room was a floor-to-ceiling bookcase. Joseph had never seen so many books in one place except in a library while visiting St. Louis once.

The opposite wall of the study held a large stone fireplace and hearth. Over the mantle hung a rusty beaver trap and a beaver pelt stretched in a wooden hoop. An old flintlock rifle was mounted in the center of the wall above the mantle, along with several leather pouches and a powder horn. These dirty old items all seemed very much out of place among the expensive modern furniture in this room.

Joseph’s mouth watered when his nose caught the faint odor of food, although he couldn’t begin to guess what kind it was. His stomach growled loudly. There was some dried venison in his saddlebags, and chunks of bread he’d purchased a few days back in one of the outlying communities before he reached Boston. In his eagerness to see Byron Yancey, he’d forgotten to eat before leaving the livery.

Just like you forgot to clean yourself up a bit.

Joseph ran a hand through his thick brown hair. His mother would have his hide if she saw how long he’d let it grow. It fell past his shoulders at this point. There was no reason to cut it during his three months on the trail to reach his destination. Standing in this fancy house, he now regretted his lack of foresight.

His father had told him about Byron Yancey, and that the man was very wealthy. Shadowy memories of him drifted in and out of Joseph’s mind. He’d been about five years old when Yancey disappeared with Raven. He doubted he would recognize the man now if he met him on the street.

After Two Bears’ request that he find his long-lost granddaughter, Joseph had gone to his father in hopes of finding a starting point in his search.

“Byron Yancey?” Alex Walker’s eyebrows had raised, and he’d sought the eyes of Joseph’s mother, who stood at the hearth when Joseph made his initial inquiry.

“Yeah. What do you know about him? And the little girl, Raven?”

His father had stared at him for a moment, then sat at the kitchen table, with a faraway look on his face. Joseph’s mother had come up behind him and placed a hand on her husband’s shoulder. Both his parents looked somber. Mentioning Yancey and Raven most likely brought back painful memories of their friends, Laurent Berard and Whispering Waters.

“Why do you want to know about Raven?” his father asked, finally looking at him.

“Her grandfather wants to meet her.”

“We’re not even sure she’s alive anymore,” his father said. “Or Yancey. After Raven’s parents were shot, he showed up at our cabin, frantic. He could barely tell us what had happened.” Alex glanced up at his wife, and she smiled sadly at him, squeezing his shoulder.

“We offered to take the little girl, and either raise her along with you and your brother, or take her to her mother’s people. Yancey refused. He was adamant that Laurent had told him to protect her and keep her safe from Oliver Sabin. He was convinced that if he stayed in the mountains with her, Sabin would find her. So he decided to take her back east where he came from.” He cleared his throat, the painful memories evident in his eyes.

“We haven’t heard from him since. That was nearly twenty years ago,” Joseph’s mother said. “He may have died. He wasn’t the most competent man in the mountains.”

“And we haven’t seen or heard anything about Oliver Sabin, either,” Alex added. “We highly suspected that he found Yancey, and killed him and the little girl.”

“Where was he from? I at least have to try and find him,” Joseph said, pacing in front of the hearth.

“Boston, I believe,” his mother answered. “His father owned a textile business, and exported beaver pelts to Europe. I don’t know what became of the business after the beaver trade died out.” She moved around the table to stand before him. She had to tilt her head back to look up at him. The light from the fireplace reflected in her auburn hair, making it shimmer like copper.

“It takes months to get to Boston, Joseph,” she said, placing a hand on his arm. “Are you sure this is something you want to do? It might lead to a dead end.”

“I have to try, Mother. I owe Two Bears my life.”

His mother smiled in acceptance. “I’ve learned a long time ago not to argue with either one of you when you feel honor bound to do something.” She shot a glance toward her husband, who winked at her and grinned.

The heavy double doors behind him opened, snapping Joseph from his thoughts. He turned away from the big fireplace in this fancy room.  An audible gasp escaped from the man who stood under the doorframe, flanked by the man who led Joseph to this room. He turned fully toward the older gentleman, whose receding hairline was peppered with gray hair. The man walked forward, his eyes wide, staring at him appreciatively.

“Alex Walker’s son,” he said, and held out his hands, his face beaming. A long scar ran from the man’s lip up into his eye and further up his forehead to disappear under his hair. “Joseph? Or Lucas?” He turned his head to the side, appraising him appreciatively from top to bottom. There was no disdain on his face as there had been with the other man, and he beamed a genuine smile, his eyes filled with awe.

Joseph hastily wiped his palms on his shirt, and reached for the extended hand that was offered.

“Joseph Walker, sir,” he said, noting the feeble grip of the older man’s hand.

Byron Yancey pumped his arm, his smile never diminishing. There was a definite glow in the man’s eyes, and Joseph was glad that he at least seemed to receive a friendly reception from him.

Dressed in a black velvet suit, with an impeccable white shirt and waistcoat, Yancey exuded wealth. Joseph had a hard time picturing him in the wild setting of the Teton mountains, sloshing through frozen ponds and creek beds to set beaver traps. But apparently that was exactly what he had done for more than five years back in the heydays of the fur trade. The scar on his face was testament to the dangerous life of a mountain man. Yancey had gotten that scar from an encounter with a grizzly bear, and Joseph’s father had saved both his mother’s and Yancey’s life that day.

“How are your parents?” He stopped moving Joseph’s arm up and down, and released his hand. “I trust that they have been getting on well? Did they move back to St. Charles?”

“Mama sends her regards,” Joseph said. “They raise cattle and horses in the Jackson Valley now. I don’t think anyone could get her to leave the Tetons.”

“Yes, your mother, Evelyn is a strong woman. Much more suited for a life in the mountains than I ever could have been. But it was great fun while I was there. Your father taught me much, although rather reluctantly.” Yancey chuckled.

Joseph nodded. What could he say? That his parents still regarded him as a greenhorn? Yancey seemed to know his limitations. The slight man turned to the other man, who stood silently at the door. “You may leave, James.”

James shot another disapproving glance at Joseph, then stepped out of the room, closing the doors behind him.

“So, Joseph,” Yancey said, and clasped his hands together. “What brings you to Boston? I can’t imagine you came all this way just to visit me.” He beamed. He reached out and motioned to the leather couch. “Please, have a seat.”

Joseph cleared his throat. The moment of truth had arrived. He preferred to remain standing.

“As a matter of fact, I did come to see you,” he said, gauging the man’s reaction. Yancey’s eyes widened, and his forehead wrinkled. “More specifically, I came to find out about Raven.”

Yancey’s face drained of all color. He grabbed hold of the edge of the fancy desk. Joseph reached out his arm, prepared to catch the man if he should fall.

“Raven?” he muttered.

Joseph nodded. “Yes. The daughter of Laurent Berard and his Bannock wife, Whispering Waters. You took her away when they were murdered.”

Yancey moved around the wide desk, holding on to the edge with each step. He sank heavily into the leather chair on the opposite side. His thumb and forefinger pinched the bridge of his nose.

“Is she still alive?” Joseph asked, stepping up to the desk, and resting his palms on the counter. He leaned toward Yancey. His heart sank to his stomach. Had this long trip been for nothing? Had Raven died, or been murdered by Oliver Sabin?

Yancey slowly raised his head. He met Joseph’s stare. Joseph held his breath.

“My daughter is alive,” he whispered after many moments of silence. “Her name is Sophia.”

“Your daughter?” Joseph straightened to his full height. A heavy weight lifted from his shoulders that the girl was at least alive, even as his mind clung to the idea that Yancey considered her his daughter.

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