The Bearwalker's Daughter

BOOK: The Bearwalker's Daughter
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The Bearwalker's Daughter
Beth Trissel
Beth Trissel (2012)
Timid by nature—or so she thinks—Karin
McNeal hasn’t grasped who she really is or her fierce birthright. A tragic
secret from the past haunts the young Scots-Irish woman longing to learn more of
her mother's death and the mysterious father no one will name. The elusive
voices she hears in the wind hint at the dramatic changes soon to unfold in the
mist-shrouded Alleghenies in Autumn, 1784.
Jack McCray, the wounded
stranger who staggers through the door on the eve of her twentieth birthday and
anniversary of her mother's death, holds the key to unlock the past. Will Karin
let this handsome frontiersman lead her to the truth and into his arms, or seek
the shelter of her fiercely possessive kinsmen? Is it only her imagination or
does someone, or something, wait beyond the brooding ridges—for her?
(A
revised version of romance novel Daughter of the Wind)

 

 

 

The Bearwalker’s Daughter

Historical/Paranormal Romance Novel

By Beth Trissel

 

 

Cover Art by
Elise Trissel

 

COPYRIGHT April ©2012 by Beth Trissel

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.

 

“Ms. Trissel’s alluring style of writing invites the reader into a world of fantasy and makes it so believable it is spellbinding.”- Long and Short Reviews

 

“I loved the plot of this story, oh, and the setting was wonderful.”

-Mistress Bella Reviews

 

"I found this book fascinating.” -Bitten By Books

 

Author Awards
:

2008 Golden Heart® Finalist
2008 Winner Preditor's & Editor's Readers Poll
Publisher’s Weekly BHB Reader’s Choice Best Books of 2009
2010 Best Romance Novel List at Buzzle
Five Time Book of the Week Winner at LASR
2012 Double Epic eBook Award Final

 

Other Books by Author
:

Red Bird’s Song
Through the Fire
Enemy of the King
Into the Lion’s Heart
Somewhere My love
Somewhere My Lass
Somewhere the Bells Ring
(Short) The Lady and the Warrior
Nonfiction: Shenandoah Watercolors

Upcoming 2012 Releases
:

Kira, Daughter of the Moon

A Warrior for Christmas

 

 

Dedication: To my beloved grandmothers, gone before me but never forgotten.

 

 

Chapter One

Autumn,
1784,
the
Allegheny
Mountains
of
Western
Virginia, the
Scots-Irish
Gathering

 

A change was coming as surely as the shifting seasons. Karin McNeal heard the urgent whispers in the wind. She stood on the porch oblivious of the vibrant music pouring from the room behind her and the rain-spattered bluster whipping her long skirts.

Lengths of her black hair tore free from the tresses piled on her head and danced in gusts that sounded like voices, men’s voices, the first angry, growling, the second almost succulent to her ear. His low timbre beckoned to her like ripe berries in summer. A woman’s soft lament seemed to carry through the gusts too, a plaintive entreaty calling to Karin from the distant past. Something unfathomable...lost, lonely, and longing deep within Karin cried out in return. She strained to discern the elusive secrets hidden there for her—

“Shut the door, lass!” her grandfather boomed from within the McNeal homestead. “Join in the cheer. ’Tis your night.”

Was it, considering the true significance of this eve?

 

****

Music
? Jack McCray wondered if he was so bone-tired he’d fallen asleep in the saddle. The last time a fiddler had regaled him was back during the war when that drunken musician cheered their weary camp in return for draughts of rum.

Shaking his head to be sure he was awake, he listened intently. The spritely strains enlivened the gloom in the murky woods and lifted his spirits. He patted the slick neck of his long-suffering mount. “Almost there, Peki.”

Neither he nor his horse had eaten for hours, but he hoped their sorry state was about to improve. The perceptive animal seemed to sense his lightened mood and hastened its pace between glistening trunks silvered in the full moon rising above the mostly bare trees.

There!
Up ahead, light shone from a dwelling like a beacon. A little closer and Jack glimpsed the stone-flanked cabin, more of a house given its size, standing in the clearing. The dark shape of fenced in fields and outbuildings surrounded the prosperous homestead. This must be the place; it met the description given him and was in approximately the right location. After his seemingly endless trek through these harsh ridges, he’d finally reached his destination. And the home resounded with gaiety. Seems he’d come in time for a celebration.

Hers
, he wondered, with no idea what
she’d
be like. Forbidding, if she took after her black-hearted father.

But what good fortune to arrive now. Festivity meant abundant food, drink flowing like water, and perhaps being reunited with his family. A mix of anticipation and uneasiness fluttered in Jack’s chest at the thought of meeting kinfolk he hadn’t seen since boyhood. And the quest that brought him here. How in God’s name was he to snatch—

Pain seared his shoulder as a blast erupted in the night. What the devil? Clutching his upper arm, he scanned woods faintly illuminated in the ghostly light. An inky figure darted away. By God, if he could get in a shot!

 

****

 

Shaking off her odd mood, Karin returned her attention to the robust celebration. Music soared with the exuberance of a bird in flight and chased away thoughts of wind voices. Smiles wreathed the faces of neighbors gathered within. Merriment reigned tonight and she did her part. Summoning a smile to her lips, her blue petticoats swirling, she stepped to the English country dance while two fiddlers sawed at the strings.

Feet stomped on every side of her and jigs struck up. Each dancer seemed determined to outdo the other hooting revelers. Karin’s low-heeled shoes flew, her brass buckles flashing in the light from the hearth and many candles. Her stepbrother, Joseph—at least, that’s the kinship she felt for the tall young man partnering her—spun her with gusto.

She reeled, giggling, to the side of the raucous swell. Pausing to catch her breath, she brushed back her loose spill of hair, more down than up now. “Enough—”

Joseph ran laughing to her and engulfed her hands in his grasp. “Not by half. Come back, Karin.”

“You’re tireless,” she protested between pants. His Scot’s good looks weren’t flushed as her face must be. Auburn hair rode unruffled in a queue at the back of his neck and his chest didn’t rise and fall beneath his white shirt as hers did beneath the gold striped jacket laced over her heated bodice. “Give me a bit. ’Tisn’t ladylike to be in such lather.”

He arched one roan brow. “Who told you that?”

Her uncle, Thomas McNeal, stopped beside them with a brimming mug in each hand. “I might have said something of the sort. Besides, she’s a frail lass. Not up to all this revelry, mind.” He grinned, offering Karin one of the stoneware cups.

Joseph crinkled hazel eyes in a wry smile. “She outrode me only yesterday, as you no doubt heard.”
Uncle Thomas chuckled. “Word gets about.”
“I reckon all the folks know I was beaten by a girl.”
Karin gulped mouthfuls of sweet cider. “Winning that race was easy. The mare did most of the work.”
Uncle Thomas slapped Joseph on the back. “Then maybe you should dance with the mare, or partner some other young lady.”
“Yes,” she urged. “Do ask another.”

The stubborn streak she knew well tightened the cleft in Joseph’s jaw. “None here I fancy. Drink your cider, dear heart. I’ll go get a real drink.”

The moody young man made his way through the crowd to the trestle tables pushed together at one side of the large room. Smoked hams, chicken potpie, baked apples, pumpkin pies, cornbread, slow-cooked beans with molasses, more tempting fare than she could possibly sample, heaped the platters, bowls, and wooden vessels spread over the groaning tables. Pitchers of cider, kegs of apple brandy, and brown whiskey bottles rose alongside the banquet. Savory scents mingled with wood smoke and the musk of crowded bodies.

Tucking a stray tendril behind her ear, she asked, “Is Joseph vexed, Uncle Thomas?”

“Frustrated. It’s you he fancies, gal.”

She tilted her head at her handsome relation, the youngest of the three uncles and her favorite. The same strength that emanated from her grandfather imbued the lines of his face. His blue eyes could be every bit as tender as Grandpa’s and equally as biting.

“Joseph’s dear to me, but he feels more like my brother than my beau, if that’s what you mean.”
“Your grandpa wedding his mama doesn’t make him so.”
“Still, it doesn’t seem right whatever passes between a husband and wife passing between us.”
Uncle Thomas eyed her in fond bemusement. “You’re innocent as a babe.”
Her cheeks warmed beyond the heat in the crowded room. “Grandma Sarah says I know all I need for an unwed lass.”
“What of old Neeley?” he asked.
Karin glanced at the swaddled figure, stiff with rheumatism, seated by the hearth. “Neeley speaks mostly of herbs and doctoring.”

“Far be it from me to instruct you in such delicate matters, but don’t put too much weight on romantic notions, as I once did,” he added, with an edge to his voice. “Joseph’s a good man. Think on him.”

No need to think, really. Karin had a deep fondness for Joseph, though not the riotous passion she sometimes dreamed of and knew next to nothing about. But she admired her uncle, a hero from the recent war. Returning her gaze to his regard, she said, “I will.”

“Not that there’s any hurry in choosing a husband, and believe me, you can have your pick.” He nodded at Kyle Brewster standing near the hearth. The curly haired young man slanted soulful eyes at Karin and she glanced away.

Uncle Thomas chuckled. “No hurry at all. Your grandpa’s content to keep you under his roof and dote on you.”

“Like giving me this party.” Karin shifted her attention to the animated assembly weaving in and out to the steps of the next dance. “We haven’t known such merriment in years.”

“Couldn’t with the war. Thank God that bloody revolution is behind us. We’ve much to rejoice. Happy birthday, Karin.”
She smiled past the ache inside her. “Oh, it is.”
“With your menfolk guarding you like a she-bear? Woe unto the suitor who pays you more than nodding attention.”
“I’m not minding. Really.”

He weighed her with a long look. “Yours is such a forbearing nature for one so adored. I feared you’d be spoiled beyond endurance, but you’re not, are you?”

“Should I be?”

“Utterly. No matter. I only wish your mama could see you now. Mary would be so proud.” A husky note crept into his voice. “She was just your age when—sorry. I shouldn’t bring that up today of all days.”

“Yet ’twas on this very eve she died.”
Regret etched every nuance of his face. “I suppose Neeley told you?”
“Yesterday. She said Mama died birthing me.”

“Neeley’s been broodier lately and more preoccupied with the past. You mustn’t blame yourself for Mary’s death. She was so weak by then and fever settled in.”

BOOK: The Bearwalker's Daughter
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