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Authors: Susan Edwards

White Shadows

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White Shadows

By Susan Edwards

Missouri Territory, 1838

Night Shadow is driven by the need for vengeance, to find and punish the man who murdered his family and kidnapped his sister. And what better way to exact that revenge than by stealing his enemy’s intended bride on their wedding day: a woman for a woman. He will release his captive if and when his sister is returned to him.

The daughter of a great chief and no meek maiden, Winona fights her captor every step of the way. But she cannot deny that the warrior’s touch arouses something in her that her betrothed never has. She sees through the anger in Night Shadow’s eyes to the despair within, and knows in her heart it is her destiny to help him learn to live again.

Night Shadow is mesmerized by Winona’s beauty and spirit, and soon realizes he must face his past and end the hatred in order to offer her a future.

Book 3 of 12.

Previously published.

67,000 words

 

Dear Readers,

I am so excited to see my White Series available in digital format and once again available to you, my readers. This series is so close to my heart—each character became my brother, sister, best friend, etc., and to see them republished makes it seem like a long-awaited family reunion. I can’t wait to become reacquainted with each character! Even the villains, for there is nothing like seeing justice served.

I started the first book,
White Wind,
way back in the ’80s. These two characters just popped into my head one day. I met them at a stream in the wilderness where my honorable (and very virile) hero, Golden Eagle, was determined to rescue a very stubborn heroine named Sarah. It just seemed as though the action stopped as they turned to me and said, “Well? What now?”

Huh? Did they think I was a writer? Not me. Never did any writing at all and had never had any desire to do so. Well, Sarah and Golden Eagle just shook their heads and let me know that despite never having written before, it didn’t matter because I was a storyteller! A vivid imagination, a love of romance and the Native American historical genre were all that were required. Okay, not quite but I got the message.

So I thought, why not? I could write a nice scene or two. Or three. Hey, how about even just a love scene in this wonderful setting that I could see so clearly in my mind? But then I ran into the first problem. What had brought my two willful characters to this stream at the same time? What connected them? Why would this mighty warrior want to claim this white girl? What made him fall in love with her and risk everything for her?

I found that I couldn’t go on until I had answers and that meant, yep, I had to start at the beginning. I learned who they were, what their problems were, and when we once again met at that stream in the wilderness, I just sat back and gave directions, and this time, my characters knew their lines and away we went!

And that, dear readers, was how my writing career began. Once I started, I could not stop. I loved writing about this family. Sarah and Golden Eagle had four children and it just seemed natural to continue the series. I had so many letters begging and, yes, even demanding Jeremy and White Dove’s story in
White Dove.
And honestly, I was right there with each and every reader, for that was one story that just called to me. So from two people, who met by chance, eleven books were born.

Over the years, I valued each and every reader comment: from the mother who read the books to her dying daughter, to the lonely women who found companionship, and to women who appreciated the bravery and willingness of the heroines and heroes to do whatever it took to overcome adversity.

Each of the White books has a story that means something to me. Jessie in
White Wolf
is a lot like I was in my youth. I couldn’t accept “no” back then without a good reason, always looking for a chance to rebel
. I could go on and on but then I’d be writing a book instead of a letter!

Just writing this letter makes me all teary and homesick, but just as these books will be available once more to my readers, I will become reacquainted with each book and each character. Thinking of reunions, I might just have to plan a White reunion! But for now, I am just so grateful to Carina Press and my editor, Angela James, for once again making this series available.

Sincerely yours,

Susan Edwards

Family, oftentimes an overlooked treasure in our lives.

White Shadows
is a story about family so it seems only fitting to dedicate it to family.

To my brothers, Dennis and Karl. We were a rowdy bunch known as the “Swenson” brats.

And to my Aunt Nicki, and her daughter, Deb. Your story of finding each other still touches me deeply.

Chapter One

Spring came gently to the expansive prairie. A siren floating over her lover, she caressed fragile green blades emerging through soil moist from recent rainfall. Rippling eagerly in response, miles of immature grass celebrated the birth and renewal of the world.

Fluttering among the tender shoots, meadowlarks greeted the new day with joyful song. At the approach of two young women, one songbird flew upward in a startling flash of yellow and black.

Drops of dew scattered like tiny iridescent jewels when one woman jumped in front of the other, then twirled in a circle. Excitement hummed through Winona.

“I am so happy.” She clasped her hands over her heart. “Tonight I become wife to Hoka Luta.” And wife to an important medicine man, she added silently.

Walking at her side, Spotted Deer yanked hard on Winona’s arm to prevent her friend from stepping barefoot on a sharp rock. “Pay attention where you walk or put your moccasins back on.”

Winona bit back a smile. Spotted Deer did not share her enthusiasm for early mornings. But she stopped and put her plain, smoked-hide shoes back on. It wouldn’t do to cut her foot and not be able to dance and celebrate after her wedding.

As they made their way downhill to the stream, Winona saw several women belonging to her Hunkpapa tribe strolling by the river. Scattered across the prairie, several other Sioux tribes were camped. Many had come to witness and celebrate the marriage of the daughter of a respected Sioux chief to a powerful Sioux medicine man.

It was early, yet many were already up, eager, as was she, to start the day. Deep laughter from the left drew her attention. Three men were returning from their baths.

Her gaze sharpened. Behind them she glimpsed Hoka Luta, her soon-to-be mate, emerging from the brush-lined stream. Winona veered slightly to the left. In the early dawn Hoka Luta’s bare torso gleamed wetly. It pleased her that he, too, favored early risings.

Though Hoka Luta had arrived with a dozen warriors at his side, he walked alone. Staring at his profile like the love-struck woman she was, Winona eagerly anticipated starting each day with a solitary morning walk with her husband.

“Is he not the most handsome and bravest warrior?” Her voice softened, turning dreamy with anticipation of the life they soon would share.

Winona lowered her gaze as she and Spotted Deer drew closer, but couldn’t stop herself from peering beneath her lashes to catch glimpses of Hoka Luta’s muscular golden frame. Her heart fluttered, making her feel like a young girl who’d just discovered the mysterious wonders of the opposite sex.

A secretive smile curved her lips. Maybe she had—or would soon. For as long as she could remember she’d set her mind and heart on finding a mate who’d love her and make her soul sing.

Growing up with parents whose love seemed to grow stronger with each passing year had made Winona determined to find the same. Hoka Luta, whose name meant Red Badger, was everything she’d ever wanted in a man.

Like the badger, Hoka Luta was tenacious, bold and ferocious. His sheer size made him a force to be reckoned with. Stories of his courage and power had circulated at last year’s Sun Dance. Like a badger, Hoka Luta did not back down from a fight. And because his father had once been a powerful medicine man, his enemies feared his spiritual power too.

He was a good leader, and commanded respect much as her own father did. He’d make her a good husband. Winona caught her lower lip to keep from grinning like a besotted bride-to-be. “I cannot believe he chose me,” she whispered to herself.

As they drew closer, Hoka Luta veered slightly away. Still, Winona’s gaze lingered. One could not call Hoka Luta handsome. His forehead was perhaps too broad. His square jaw jutted forward, and his long, hawkish nose hooked slightly to the left, as if it had been broken many times.

Streaks of blood-red divided his face, two bold slashes from temple to chin. Where badgers had white stripes going from their nose to the back of their heads, Hoka Luta chose red. Even this early in the day, his wore his paint on his face, and his chest bore red-and-black markings—strange symbols, their meanings known only to him. All too quickly the warrior passed from her sight. Unable to help herself, she turned to watch him.

Spotted Deer jabbed her in the ribs. “Enough. You will have plenty of time to admire him later.”

“You are jealous,” Winona teased.

“I am tired,” Spotted Deer retorted. “Why you insist on rising so early—”

“Admit it,” Winona teased.

Spotted Deer rolled her eyes. “Only if you will be silent.” She eyed Winona, her expression changing. “You are fortunate. He is
tanwaste.

“Very handsome,” Winona agreed. She slid a look at Spotted Deer and lowered her voice. “And, um, big.” She nudged her friend in the ribs, making it clear she wasn’t commenting on his sheer bulk.

Spotted Deer started coughing. “What do you know of such things!” Twin splotches of pink colored each cheek.

Now waves of heat burned Winona’s throat and face. She lowered her voice. “He was bold last night. He wants me. I felt…him.”

In his supervised walk with her last night Hoka Luta had made no secret that he desired to mate with her. After presenting her with a black mare, he’d used his blanket to shield the two of them from watching eyes so they could talk privately. The blanket covering their heads and upper bodies and the large bulk of the horse against her back had formed a shield for his roaming hands, and the stolen kiss they’d shared.

Winona’s heart raced. Whether it was from excitement or fear, she wasn’t sure. She knew how men and women mated. She recalled the time when she and Spotted Deer had come upon Lone Shield mating with a widowed woman in the woods. That embarrassing encounter had ended Spotted Deer’s wish for the warrior to court her. After seeing him in all his manly glory, she was far too mortified to face him—much to his amusement.

“Remember when we saw Lone Shield?” Winona asked slyly. She studied her friend’s flushed features and relented. “Lone Shield does wish to court you. He has spoken to my father and brother about you.”

“No more,” Spotted Deer warned.

“You are sister of my heart. You know I speak the truth. He watches you.” Winona wanted to see her friend married and happy—she wanted Spotted Deer to experience her own excitement and joy. But her friend refused to even hear what Lone Shield offered.

Spotted Deer tipped her head back. “Lone Shield does not hold my heart.”

Though Spotted Deer acted repulsed, Winona knew better. Her friend had long adored the warrior. “You are being stubborn. Just because you saw—”

Spotted Deer quickly changed the subject. “There is much to do before the ceremony. We should return. Your mother will be expecting us.”

Winona fell silent. How she wished the peace and quiet of the morning could last forever. While she was thrilled that this was her wedding day, she didn’t look forward to the noise and bustle. For days the camp had been in an uproar preparing for the feast to be held that evening.

She sniffed the air. The aroma of cookfires mingled with the acrid scent of roasting coffee beans that White Wind, her older brother’s white wife, had introduced them to. A wave of unexpected sadness washed over her.

Tomorrow she would have to say goodbye to her old life. Marriage to Hoka Luta meant she’d have to leave her family—and Spotted Deer—behind. “I will miss you,” she whispered to Spotted Deer. Stopping, she hugged herself. “How can I leave my family and friends behind? How can I leave you—my best friend, my sister—behind?”

The realization that the two of them had only this last day together dimmed their excitement, lending a sadness to what should have been the happiest day of Winona’s young life.

Normally a man left his tribe to join a woman’s tribe, allowing female relatives to remain together, work together and raise their families together. But Hoka Luta was a medicine man for his tribe, so Winona had agreed to live with his people.

Winona turned her head to the side, unable to bear the stricken panic in Spotted Deer’s face. This woman was more than her best friend. The two girls had been inseparable for as long as she could remember. When illness had claimed Spotted Deer’s parents, Winona’s parents had welcomed the girl into their home.

“I will miss you,” she whispered, nearly breathless from the sick, hollow feeling in her stomach. Only now did she realize just what she was leaving behind. Her mother and father. Golden Eagle and his wife, White Wind, and their four young children. All of a sudden, marriage didn’t seem all that appealing.

Spotted Deer’s eyes misted over. “Promise you will visit often.”

“I promise. And you will come visit me.” Winona tried to force a lightness to her voice that she didn’t feel. For a long moment the two friends stared at each other.

Blinking back tears, Winona turned her head to stare out at the large herd of horses grazing down the hill. Since Hoka Luta’s arrival, the herd had grown even larger, for her soon-to-be husband had brought with him more than twenty horses that he’d presented to her brother, Golden Eagle. As her
hakatakus,
her male relative responsible for negotiating their marriage, Golden Eagle was entitled to her bride price.

The two women continued walking downhill toward the fast-flowing stream. “I wish you could travel with me to my new home,” Winona said wistfully. She stopped suddenly, her eyes growing as wide as her grin.

“I know that look, Winona. What are you planning? Today is not a day to get us into trouble.” Spotted Deer watched her warily.

“Me? Get us into trouble? We are women. We don’t get into trouble anymore.” Winona burst out laughing at the look of sheer disbelief on Spotted Deer’s face. She clasped her hands in front of her. “Mine is a good idea.”

Spotted Deer scowled, walked around Winona and continued down to the stream. “No. Whatever it is you are planning, the answer is no.”

Now it was Winona’s turn to scowl. She caught up with Spotted Deer. “You have not listened to what I have to say.”

Lifting one brow, Spotted Deer shook her head. “Whenever you get that look on your face we get into trouble. So whatever you are thinking, or planning, the answer is no.”

Winona grinned. Spotted Deer knew her too well. She tipped her head to one side and said slyly, “Hoka Luta has many handsome warriors in his tribe. Do you not agree?”

Spotted Deer glanced over her shoulder toward the visiting warriors. “Yes. So?”

Striving to keep her voice neutral, Winona hid her smile. “Which warrior has caught your eye?” She turned and walked backward so she could observe her friend’s expression.

Spotted Deer relaxed, as though reassured that Winona harbored no harebrained schemes in her mind. She shrugged. “There are two, but it matters not. They will leave with you and Hoka Luta tomorrow.”

A slow, satisfied smile curved Winona’s lips. “You could come with us.”

Stopping abruptly, Spotted Deer shook her head. “No, you are crazy. You will be newly married. I would only be in the way. Besides, that would not be proper!”

Newly married! Winona sighed. She was already happy, but if Spotted Deer made the move with her she’d be truly thrilled. The more Winona thought about it, the more determined she became. When she made up her mind, nothing could sway her.

“I will speak to Hoka Luta. Surely there is someone you could stay with—a family in need of a daughter.”

Spotted Deer’s eyes lit up. “Do you think he will agree?”

Confident and pleased with her simple solution, Winona nodded. “He will agree.” In her mind, the decision had been made. Hoka Luta loved her. He’d put her happiness first.

Pulling Spotted Deer by the arm, Winona changed directions, heading toward the herd of horses. “Just in case, we will ask the spirits for their help.”

Spotted Deer pulled back. “Oh, no. We cannot leave camp unescorted.”

Impatient, Winona jerked harder. “We will not be gone long. Now come on. Do you want to come with me when I leave tomorrow or not?”

Groaning, Spotted Deer followed. “You know I do. It is just—”

“It is decided. We will make the spirits an offering of sweetgrass and sage. They will be pleased, and will grant us our wish.” She let go of her friend’s arm and took off at a run.

With a long-suffering groan, Spotted Deer ran after Winona and caught up with her. “Do not expect me to climb all the way to the top of the rock with you! Being that high makes me sick.”

Feeling incredibly happy and fortunate, Winona slowed, dropped down low and circled the herd of horses. A quick glance showed that the braves guarding the herd were chatting down by the stream. With a soft whistle, she called her mare.

“Let’s go.”

 

Swaying heavily on slender pine branches, ravens cried loudly from their high treetop perches. Below, standing on the limb of a tree split by lightning, a squirrel chattered at a silent enemy crouched behind a thick wall of pines and brush.

Night Shadow ignored the warning chatter and cries. He held himself perfectly still. From his vantage point he had miles of unobstructed view. Around him the trees were so tall and thick, there was little light. But just a short distance in front of them the trees thinned as though someone had drawn a line separating forest from prairie.

Shifting his gaze without moving his head, he picked out dark shadows far away. Buffalo, he thought. Sudden movement drew his attention to the left. A hare sat tall on its powerful hind legs. In the blink of an eye it was gone, a blur of gray among green. Night Shadow returned his attention to the Sioux camped a short distance away. Like the Cheyenne, the Sioux preferred to make their camp out in the open prairie, where the danger of surprise attack was minimized.

He narrowed his eyes as he studied the Sioux camp. The number of tipis remained the same, yet something had changed. He studied the herd of horses, then smiled grimly. The groom bad arrived.

Night Shadow fingered a long scar running down the side of his face. At last. After years of waiting, months of
 
careful planning, and weeks spent watching the Sioux, he would soon have his revenge.

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