New York Times bestselling author Joan Johnston, who "writes brisk romance chock-full of compelling conflicts and strong local color" (Publishers Weekly), evokes the grandeur, excitement, and danger of the American frontier in this sweeping historical novel.
When Kinyan Holloway's husband is killed in a range accident, she has no idea how she and her children will manage. Torn between the Sioux world in which she was raised and maintaining her husband's ranch - the largest in the Wyoming Territory - she knows only that somehow she will not just survive but preserve her children's heritage for them.
Into her life rides Benjamin Colter, a scarred stranger who's fast with his gun. Colter has tried to put vengeance behind him, but the past seems destined to catch up with him. What he wants now is Kinyan Holloway - and her ranch - but he can get them only if he defeats a deadly rival and agrees to become a father to three children who awnt more from him than he's able to give.
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December 31, 1985
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Excerpt from Colter's Wife by Joan Johnston
Kinyan Holloway had to make a choice in the next few moments that could change the rest of her life. Her mind raced, remembering the past, imagining the future. Time was running out. Rides-the-Wind had demanded her decision.
The Oglala Sioux warrior and the white woman who stood facing him, her waist-length hair whorled in eddies about her by the gentle morning breeze, etched a stark silhouette on the golden predawn horizon. A dog barked and was promptly shushed by an abrupt guttural command from inside one of the many tepees that surrounded them. The four horses tethered nearby stomped and snorted and swished their tails. An older Sioux, wearing only a breechclout as a concession to the already miserable August heat, supervised two impatient youths as they checked the packs on the four mounts in preparation for the coming journey.
The old man's voice, hoarse with age, interrupted the soft murmuring of the couple as they said their farewells. The choice had been made.
"Rides-the-Wind, the day comes."
The warrior clutched the woman to him one last time, then let her go. He took two steps away, then pivoted, speaking to her in a low, urgent voice.
"Do not leave me."
Never had Kinyan thought to hear a Sioux as proud as Rides-the-Wind make such a plea. She clenched her teeth to stop the quivering of her chin. When she thought she'd regained control, she opened her mouth to speak, but no sound came out. She swallowed hard, but the lump in her throat didn't get any smaller. It hurt.
Suddenly, Kinyan hurled herself into the arms of the Sioux brave. Her nose and chin dipped into his smooth black hair as she let tears of sorrow fall upon his broad shoulder. She inhaled the man-scent of him, so different from John's. His arms held her tight. Her soft calico dress provided little more barrier between their flesh than his simple buckskin breechclout.
"I'll miss you!" she cried.
Rides-the-Wind grabbed a handful of Kinyan's silky black hair and pulled her head back, baring her anguish to his piercing gaze. Sharp onyx eyes stared down at her. His arrow-straight nose flared with desire, and his thin, tightly pressed lips showed the effort exerted to check that desire.
"You can choose to stay, Kinyan. Your white husband is dead now. You would have been my wife eleven winters ago if Soaring Eagle had not given you as wife to the rancher John Holloway. Only you can quench the fire that burns within me. I have waited for you, I have not taken a wife...." Rides-the-Wind paused when Kinyan shuddered in his arms.
No warrior should be without a wife to care for him, Kinyan thought, and it was her fault that Rides-the-Wind was alone after all these years. Why hadn't she told him long ago she no longer felt the same love for him that they'd shared when they were fourteen and fifteen-year old youths?