Two men claimed her. Only one could tame her reckless heart.
Joshua Berdeen was the cavalry soldier who had traveled the country in search of lovely Hannah Kinkaid. Josh offered her a life of ease in New York City and all the finer things.
Two Hawks Flying was the Cheyenne warrior who had branded her body with his searing desire. Outlawed by the civilized world, he could offer her only the burning ecstasy of his love. But she wanted no soft words of courtship when his hard lips took her to the edge of rapture...and beyond.
Publisher's Note: Originally published elsewhere in 1987.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
Ellora's Cave Publishing, Incorporated
May 09, 2012
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from Reckless Love by Madeline Baker
It was summer in the valley once more, the time of year the Indians called Many Leaves. The trees were green and full, the sky was a warm, vibrant blue, the berry bushes were thick with dark purple fruit. Animal life abounded in the wooded hills and valleys, and I smiled as I saw a deer and her twin fawns glide soundlessly through the underbrush across the deep, fast-moving river that ran through the middle of the valley. Blue jays called to one another from high in the leafy treetops, gray squirrels scampered back and forth between the pines, while beady-eyed lizards sunned themselves on the rocks scattered along the riverbank. Now and then a speckled fish jumped after a fly.
Sitting in the shade of an ancient oak, I was happily content. My three-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Mary, named for my mother, slept peacefully on the blanket next to me. My son, Heecha, now four and a half and tall for his age, was out hunting with his father. Our only neighbors and best friends, Calf Running and Flower Woman, had taken their three-year-old, Nachi, for a walk in the woods to pick blackberries.
We had lived in the valley since the winter of '78 and life had been good. The winters had been mild; we had never wanted for food or shelter. Truly, we had been blessed by Maheo, the Great Spirit of the Cheyenne, and by Usen, the god of the Apache. Almost, it was as if we were the only seven people on the face of the earth, so isolated were we from the rest of the world.
It had taken a lot of hard work to establish our residence in the valley. Shadow and Calf Running had spent many long hours hunting so that we might have enough hides to cover our lodges, make clothing, and feed our children. Once, Shadow had raided a homestead many miles to the south, stealing seed so that we might have a garden. Flower Woman and I had put in long, backbreaking hours planting and hoeing and weeding, but our efforts had been amply rewarded. Our vegetables were growing beautifully in the rich brown earth; we had corn, beans, pumpkins, squash, beets and tomatoes. The surrounding hills were thick with game, deer, turkeys, quail, rabbits, and an occasional elk. The river provided fish. Calf Running and his family would not eat the fish, however, for the Apache believed the fish was related to the snake and was therefore cursed and unfit to eat.
We had wild plums and berries, honey and sage, wild onions and squaw cabbage, as well as many other herbs and roots, some of which we used for food and seasoning and others which were used for medicinal purposes.
Sometimes, when I had a few leisure moments, as now, I missed living in a house surrounded by friends and neighbors who shared my background and heritage. I missed shopping in a store and being able to attend church on Sunday. But only sometimes. Still, there were times when I could not help wondering what was going on in the rest of the world. Who was president? What were the latest fashions like? Had the Army finally subdued all the Indians? Occasionally, when Shadow and Heecha were away and Mary was asleep, I wished for a book to read. As a young girl, I had loved nothing more than to curl up before the fire with a good book and let it carry me away to distant lands.
Nothing in my life had turned out as I had planned, I mused, smiling faintly. Once I had dreamed of marrying a rich man, of living in a big house in Bear Valley where I had grown up. I had dreamed of having lots of children, of traveling to New York where my husband would buy me dozens of dresses, all silk and satin and lace. We would dine in the finest restaurants and go to the theater and ride around in an elegant carriage drawn by a team of matched black stallions. How frivolous those dreams seemed now.
I laughed softly as I looked at the hide lodge I shared with Shadow. It was not a big house, but it was home, and surprisingly comfortable. It was waterproof and windproof. In the summer, we left the lodge flap open and raised the sides and the air moved in and out, exiting through the smoke hole, cooling the lodge and its occupants. In wintertime, with the flap closed and a fire burning, the lodge stayed cozy and warm.
Pensive now, I fingered the hem of my skirt. It had been a long time since I had worn the cumbersome attire of a white woman. Gone were the petticoats and pantalets, the shoes and long stockings of my girlhood days. Now I wore a doeskin dress and moccasins and little else. My bed was a pile of soft robes, my home a lodge of skins, my stove an open fire, my bathtub the river beyond. We were not rich in material possessions, but I was rich in Shadow's love, and that was enough for me. I did not have silks and satins and servants, but I had a wonderful husband, two happy, healthy children, and dear friends. I had never been happier in my life and my only wish was that all my tomorrows would bring the same joy as today.
Daily, I thanked God for a husband like Shadow. He was tall and strong and handsome. He was kind and tender and considerate. He was reliable and resourceful. Shadow. He had been a part of my life for almost as long as I could remember, and I smiled happily as I recalled the first time I had seen him ...
I had been a skinny child of nine at the time; Shadow had been three years older. I had met him near the river crossing close to our homestead in Bear Valley. I had been frightened of him at first, expecting him to take my scalp because he was a Cheyenne and I was a white girl. Instead, we had become friends. Back then, my parents and I had been the only white people in the valley and Shadow had been my only playmate. Of course, Shadow did not really play. He thought "girl things" were foolish and a waste of time and refused to do anything he considered silly or undignified--which was practically everything I wanted to do. So he taught me to read trail sign and how to read the moon and the stars. He taught me how to skin a deer and tan the hide, and how to speak his language. Of course, Shadow was learning, too. His English grew less stilted, and he picked up some swear words from my father, but my mother was his best teacher. She taught him to read and write and how to behave at the dinner table. When Shadow turned fourteen, his visits to our place tapered off and then ceased altogether as he devoted himself to the task of becoming a Cheyenne warrior.
By then, other white families had moved into our valley and when I was fifteen, I fancied myself in love with Joshua Berdeen, a good-looking young man who lived nearby. It was in my mind to marry Josh when I turned sixteen, only Shadow entered my life again and turned my world upside down. Knowing my parents and neighbors would not approve of my friendship with an Indian, Shadow and I met in secret and as the days passed, we fell hopelessly in love. I yearned to marry Shadow, even though I knew my parents, and especially my father, would never approve and that my friends would shun me. I begged Shadow to take me away with him, but he was a man of honor and he refused to go against my father's wishes. And so, quite shamelessly and deliberately, I seduced the man I loved, knowing that once he had taken my virginity, he would marry me, for honor's sake. Shadow had been secretly pleased and amused by my obvious tactics.
"I suppose I shall have to marry you now," he had lamented in mock resignation. "That was your intent, wasn't it? To tempt me into marriage with your irresistible woman's body?"
I had happily admitted my guilt, and he had promised to return for me the next day. But Shadow did not appear the next day, or the next. Three days later, Shadow arrived at our place, badly wounded. He had been whipped and knifed by some of the men in Bear Valley. Feelings had been running high for several weeks. Homesteads had been burned, John Sanders had been killed, his six-year-old daughter, Kathy, had been kidnapped by the Sioux, and when the settlers had encountered Shadow riding toward our place, they had dragged him behind their horses, pistol-whipped him, slashed his leg, and left him for dead. That same week, Joshua's homestead was attacked, his father, mother and brother killed. Josh stopped at our place on his way to Fort Lincoln. He was going to join the Army and fight Indians, he declared vehemently, and nothing we could say would change his mind.
When Shadow recovered from his wounds, he left our place to join his people in their fight against the increasing flock of whites moving west. I had been heartbroken to think Shadow's loyalty to his people was stronger than his love for me. My father had stated it was for the best, and Mother agreed.
In the spring of 1876, the minor skirmishes between the Indians and the settlers turned into a full-fledged war. Our homestead was attacked. My mother was killed, and it seemed that all was lost when Shadow arrived on the scene. He bargained for my life with the chief of the attacking Indians and they agreed to let me go. I had not wanted to leave my father behind, but my father, who hated Indians with every fiber of his being, had pushed me out the door, insisting I go with Shadow if it would save my life. I had never seen my father again.
That night, I made the decision that had brought me to this place. Shadow had not tried to influence me. I can see him as he was that night, kneeling before me, his arms outstretched, his face impassive, as he waited for my decision. Would I go with him and live with his people? Or would I go to Steel's Crossing and stay with Pa's friends? That night, for the first time since I had fallen in love with Shadow, I saw him as an Indian. The hideous red paint on his face, the eagle feather in his long black hair, the wolfskin clout that covered his loins--all bespoke Cheyenne blood. How could I spend the rest of my life with this man, this stranger? How could I ever forget that he was an Indian, and that it was an Indian who had killed my mother? I thought of all the people in our little valley who were dead because of Indian hatred and Indian vengeance.
I gazed into Shadow's eyes, but I saw nothing there--no trace of love to persuade me--and I knew that this was a decision I had to make on my own. Only Shadow's outstretched arms betrayed his inner feelings.
For endless seconds, I did not move. My parents were dead, killed by Indians. My friends, everyone I had ever known, had been killed by Indians, and hate for the whole red race churned in my breast. But wrestling with that hatred was my love for Shadow, for love him I did, and I knew that no matter what happened, my love would remain unchanged. Our people might turn the sun-kissed grassland red with blood in their efforts to slaughter each other, but I knew our love for each other would survive. With a sigh, I had gone into Shadow's waiting arms and from that night on Shadow was not an Indian and I was not white. We were simply two people desperately in love.
For a time, Shadow and I had lived with his people. I grew to love the Cheyenne, especially Shadow's father, who was a kind, warmhearted man. But then, in the summer of that year, Custer came to the Greasy Grass. His defeat at the hands of the Sioux and the Cheyenne outraged whites everywhere and the Army began to hunt the Indians with a vengeance. Sitting Bull fled the Dakotas and took his people to Canada. But Shadow would not leave his homeland and when, after many battles, the Cheyenne decided to go to the reservation, Shadow refused to surrender. I can still remember standing alone on the prairie, just Shadow and me, watching his people begin the long journey to the reservation.
For a while, Shadow and I had lived alone near the river crossing in Bear Valley, but then, by some magical Indian method of communication, the word spread that Two Hawks Flying--that was Shadow's warrior name--had not gone in. By twos and threes, warriors from various tribes came to Shadow, the last fighting chief on the plains, begging him to lead them in their fight against the whites. Calf Running was one of the first to find us. To my chagrin, Shadow had agreed to lead the rebellious warriors and so we went to war once more. I had fought at Shadow's side until I grew heavy with his child. Even now I shuddered to remember those days, for they were filled with terror and bloodshed. We had been hunted by the Army day and night, driven ever westward until we crossed into the land of the Apache. At last, when there were only thirty warriors left in our band, Shadow said it was time to quit.
The last night we spent with the warriors had been a sad time. Shadow's men, made up of warriors from many tribes, had developed a strong bond of love and respect for one another. Together, they had shared many hardships. There were no formal farewells that last night. The warriors left as they had come, in small groups of two or three or four until, at last, Shadow and I were alone again.
I put my memories aside as they began to grow more unpleasant and centered my thoughts on my husband instead. Shadow. He was an integral part of my life, the best part. He had been there to comfort me the day my mother was killed. He had been there when our first child was born dead, he had been at my side when Mary was born.
Shadow. I felt my heart flutter with excitement as I saw him striding toward me now, a deer slung over his broad shoulders. I had known this man most of my life and I marveled that he seemed to grow more handsome, more virile, with each passing day. Or did it only seem that way because my love for him daily grew stronger?
I gazed at his face, a face I knew as well as I knew my own. His forehead was unlined, his cheekbones high and proud, his nose as straight as a blade, his jaw firm and square. His thick black hair, parted in the middle, fell to his waist. He wore only a clout and moccasins, revealing a broad chest, skin that was a deep bronze, and arms and legs that were long and well-muscled. His flanks were lean, his stomach hard and flat. And his eyes--they were as black as ten feet down, shaded by sooty lashes that women would have died for. Just looking at him thrilled me down to my toes.
"Nahkoa, look!" Heecha cried, running toward me on strong, sturdy legs. "See what I caught?"
I smiled proudly at my son as he showed me the fat gray rabbit he had killed.
"You have done well, little warrior," I said, beaming.
Heecha grinned from ear to ear as he held up the rabbit so I could see it better. My son was a handsome child, all Indian this day. He was dressed in buckskin pants and a buckskin vest. Moccasins hugged his feet, a beaded headband held his shoulder-length hair from his face.
Heecha gazed at the rabbit in his hands. "I set a trap to catch