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Authors: Connie Mason

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Wind Rider

BOOK: Wind Rider
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Fallen Angel
 

“Please! Don’t do that,” Hannah said.

“What would you prefer I do? Do white men arouse their women differently? Or do you wish me to pay in white man’s coin to lie with you?”

Hannah shoved at this chest, trying to push him away. It was too dark to see his expresioin but the warmth of his silver eyes and the heat of his body scorched her flesh. “I’m not what you think. I’ve never lain with a man.”

Wind Rider laughed harshly. “Perhaps you’ve never lain with an Indian but I know that you’ve lain with white men. Do no lie, Hannah McLin, for I know what it means when a woman is called whore. Do not fear, Little Sparrow, I am capable of giving you pleasure if I so desire. Did you receive Pleasure from the others or was their coin more important to you than their manhood?”

 

Wind Rider
 

 

 

Connie Mason
 
 
 
Copyright @ 1994, 2011
 
by Connie Mason
 

 

 

To Jerry, you’ve been my hero for 44 years. And to our children, Jeri, Michelle, and Mark. I love you all.

 

Chapter One
 
December 1864
 

Hannah’s eyes clung with desperate appeal to those of the tall, silver-eyed man before he
turned and strode away. He paused to glance at her over his broad shoulder, and in those
brief moments of visual contact she was moved
by a profound sense of loss. Then Mr. Harley shoved her inside the inn and the stranger was lost from sight.

“Get upstairs, girl,” Burton Harley growled
as he pushed Hannah through the door into
the common room of the inn.

“Hey, Harley,” one of the patrons shouted as
he nudged Hannah toward the stairs, “you’re
gonna have to clean her up some if you expect
me and the boys to pay good coin to bed her.”

Hannah pushed the matted mass of her dishwater-hued hair from her eyes as she
resisted the hard pull of Harley’s hands. Her
dirty brown dress hung like a gunnysack from
her bony shoulders, and she wondered how any
one could look at her with desire. The filth that
covered her body and clung to her oversized,
ragged clothing created a stench she could bare
ly tolerate herself. Yet she welcomed her pitiful
state, for it had protected her from unwanted
attention until now. Despite her best efforts to
appear un-attractive, Mr. Harley had begun
eyeing her in a speculative manner. And just today he had suggested that she earn her keep
in a way that had shocked and disgusted her.

“I’ll see that Hannah smells right pretty for
you, Billy,” Harley snickered. “It’s gonna cost
you, though. I wouldn’t be surprised if the little
Irish slut is a virgin.”

Raucous laughter and lewd remarks followed
Harley’s words, and Hannah turned crimson to
the roots of her grimy hair. When she’d inden
tured herself and sailed to America to become a servant, never in her wildest dreams had she
envisioned a master like Burton Harley. She
had left Ireland hoping to ease the burden upon
her impoverished father, who had seven young
er children at home to support. It had seemed a
good idea until Harley had bought her articles
of indenture and brought her to Denver to work
in the inn he had recently purchased.

It wasn’t that Hannah minded hard work; far from it. She had worked very hard at home. But
when Harley slyly suggested she entertain men
in the tiny upstairs room she occupied she had
balked.

She had reacted by attempting to run away.
Mr. Harley had caught her in front of the inn
and severely chastised her before a crowd of
curious onlookers, none of whom had come to her defense. Not even the tall, dark man
with compelling silver eyes. And now Harley
expected her to whore for him.

Praying to the God she thought had aban
doned her, Hannah resisted wildly as Harley
shoved and pushed her up the stairs. Using her
body in such a manner was reprehensible to
her. When she had left home she was prepared
to devote the next seven years to honest, hard work, but not this, never this. Still a virgin at
eighteen, she wasn’t prepared to lose her inno
cence to one of the vile men who quaffed ale in the common room of Harley’s inn.

Harley had managed to manhandle Hannah
to the top of the stairs now, and she was growing
desperate. Just as they reached the landing she
turned abruptly, poking him hard in the ribs
with a bony elbow. Teetering on the landing, Harley made a desperate grab for the railing, lost his balance, and tumbled backwards down the entire length of the staircase, bouncing to
the bottom with a thud.

“Damn bitch!” Harley spat, groaning in pain.
His face was white as the sheets Hannah
bleached each wash day, and his right leg was bent at an odd angle. “Don’t just stand
there gawking; send for the doctor!”

Harley’s timid wife came running into the common room, saw her husband lying on the
floor, and ran upstairs to hide in her room
until help came. The poor abused woman was
so cowed by her bully of a husband that she was frightened of her own shadow.

When the doctor finally arrived he found that
Harley had not only broken a leg but fractured
an arm as well, which in all likelihood would immobilize him for the rest of the winter.
Hannah’s prayers had been answered; not in
the way she had expected, but she had certainly
gotten a reprieve. With Harley flat on his back
for weeks to come, he no longer had the power
to force her into prostitution. She had plenty of time now to plan her escape. By the time
Mr. Harley was back on his feet the weather
would be warm and she could make her way to
Cheyenne, where her cousin, Seamus McLin,
lived. Once she reached Seamus, she knew
he would help her. Absolutely nothing would
make her remain in Denver and sell her body
to Harley’s customers.

 

 

Chapter Two
 
May 1865
 

 

Wind Rider loped through the tall prairie grass in long, easy strides, his sturdy brown legs bulging with muscles long accustomed to being pushed beyond the endurance required by most men. His brown shoulders, slick with
sweat, gleamed like polished gold beneath the
brutal sun on this extremely hot spring day.
With only a brief breechclout covering his
loins, his strong body was poetry in motion, magnificent in its savage splendor. His feet,
clad in moccasins, literally flew over the rough
ground. His long dark hair was crowned with
an eagle feather and his face and tautly muscled
body sported garish black-and-yellow stripes.
Sounds of pursuit added wings to his feet as
he sprinted toward the wooded hills a short distance away.

While raiding with a war party of South
ern Cheyenne and Oglala Sioux, Wind Rider’s
horse had been shot out from beneath him
as he and his companions attacked a stage
coach. They hadn’t known the coach would be escorted by troops attached to Fort Lyon and
literally had ridden into a trap. After a few
wild shots the war party, badly outnumbered,
had given up and ridden away. No one had
seen Wind Rider’s horse fall. Hidden by the
tall prairie grass, Wind Rider had scanned the horizon, realizing that his survival depended
upon reaching the wooded hills rising majesti
cally above the plains two miles to the north.

With the soldiers hard on his trail, Wind Rid
er ran like the wind, glancing neither to the
right nor the left, placing his life in the hands of the Great Spirit. He thought of his sister, Tears Like Rain, who had taken a white hus
band and made a life for herself among the
white eyes. He had seen her recently in Den
ver and learned she was to have Zach Mer
cer’s child. He was grateful that she was safe
from all the troubles and bloodshed that had erupted on the prairie since the Sand Creek massacre.

Wind Rider had been shocked to learn that
Tears Like Rain and Zach had been at Sand
Creek during the massacre and had warned
their foster father, White Feather, who had
escaped safely. Distrustful of white men’s false
promises, Wind Rider had refused to settle
at Sand Creek with his tribe; he rode north, instead, to join the Sioux. Several weeks later, after he had learned about Sand Creek, he
had joined thousands of other Indians camped
outside Denver to discuss retaliation against the
whites who had attacked innocent women and
children at Sand Creek.

Many chiefs had smoked the war pipe and
now they began a campaign of battle that
blazed a bloody path across the prairie. Wind
Rider and his friends had been on their way to
Powder River country when they spotted the
stagecoach, unaware that a column of soldiers
followed a short distance behind it. They had
been badly outnumbered from the start but had
made the most of the raid, striking hard, then running. One of the last to leave the scene of attack, Wind Rider had run out of luck when his valiant pony was shot from beneath him. Now he was fleeing for his life.

The woods loomed before him and Wind Rider pushed himself beyond the stretch of
human endurance. His heart pounded furi
ously within his sun-bronzed breast and the breath exploded from his chest in harsh, pant
ing bursts as he demanded more from him
self than he ever had before. Like any good
Cheyenne warrior, he was fully prepared to die for his beliefs, but he was not yet ready to meet
Heammawihio.

One of the soldiers spotted him. “There he
is! Shoot the murdering redskin.”

The stark planes of his face displayed little
emotion as Wind Rider raced toward the woods
and the hills beyond. The hot breath of the soldiers’ horses seared his neck as they ran him
down like a wild animal. With a speed born of
desperation he avoided their bullets, shifting
and dodging with a cunning only an Indian,
or one raised as an Indian, could possess.

Unfortunately, luck deserted him just as he
plunged into the cool darkness of the forest. A bullet from a trooper’s gun tore into his thigh
and he cried out in pain. But it neither slowed
nor stopped him. He gritted his teeth against the searing pain and maintained his grueling
pace.

Demanding more of himself than was humanly possible, Wind Rider burst through the woods
and sprinted up the hill, losing the soldiers easily among the tall pines, stately willows,
and cottonwood trees. High up on a hillside
he ducked into a cave to wait out the soldiers’
passage. He knew the bluecoats wouldn’t search
forever for a lone Indian, and once they gave up
the search he’d make his way to the camp, where
he hoped his companions awaited him. His leg
needed tending, but necessity demanded that he wait until the danger was past.

 

Night covered the plains like a blanket, blot
ting out the sun and awakening the moon. Wind
Rider could feel the fever rising in his body
and forcibly shook off the lethargy making
him groggy and inattentive. He had abandoned
the cave shortly after dark, stopping briefly to cleanse his wound in a sluggish brook and to
pack it with wet leaves to stem the flow of blood.
To keep from dwelling on the pain, he turned
his thoughts to his sister, recalling how well and
happy she had appeared when he had seen her in Denver. Wind Rider seriously doubted he’d
ever find that kind of happiness himself.

BOOK: Wind Rider
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