Medicine Woman

Medicine Woman

Kathleen Eagle

February 2023 $14.95
ISBN: 978-1-61026-216-3

Two worlds — one love.
Our PriceUS$14.95
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Two worlds — one love

When Kezawin, known to her people as Double Woman Dreamer, first met James Garrett, she believed he'd come to her before—in one of her most troubling dreams. But the strange white man shared her interest in the plants that grew in her homeland—hers, for feeding and healing, and his, for what he called 'science'.

She couldn't help being drawn to the stranger, though she knew the attraction was doomed. According to Lakota legend, a woman like Kezawin, one who'd dreamed of the changeling known as Deer Woman, might well become a powerful healer, but her love could kill a man. And Kezawin wasn't about to take that chance.

Naturalist James Garrett knew Kezawin felt something for him. Why else would she have risked her life to save him from an excruciating death at the hands of her enemies? Still, he wondered why was she resisting him now. And how far did he have to go to convince her that their love was strong enough to keep them both safe?

Author Bio:
Kathleen Eagle published her first book, a Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award winner, with Silhouette Books in 1984. Since then, she has published more than 50 books, including historical and contemporary, series and single title, earning her nearly every award in the industry. Her books have consistently appeared on regional and national bestseller lists, including the USA Today list and the New York Times extended bestseller list.

"Kathleen Eagle is a national treasure." —Susan Elizabeth Phillips

"Eagle crafts very special stories."—Jayne Ann Krentz

"Kathleen Eagle is an author without peer." —Tami Hoag

"One of romance fiction's premier storytellers." —Debbie Macomber

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Paha Sapa, the Black Hills in the land of the Lakota

ONE BY ONE the sharp-edged figures dissolved as hideous, high- pitched laughter tailed off. Kezawin forced her eyes open wide and covered her ears against the staccato hoofbeat that marked the dream’s final retreat.

Too late. Your two ears have heard. Your two eyes have seen. You have chosen two forms.

She turned her head slowly, pressed her cheek into matted curls of buffalo hair, and stole a peek at her sleeping husband. Iron Shell was a beautiful young man with a stalwart body and a strong heart. For three years he had protected and provided for her, never complaining as he waited day after day for his wife to speak of new life stirring in her belly. But on this day, in the gray light of morning, a terrible truth seized Kezawin’s whole being. She was barren. No life would quicken in the womb of a woman to whom such a dreaded dream appeared. Now her very presence in Iron Shell’s bed threatened his life.

Kezawin flexed her trembling fingers as she eased herself from the sleeping robes. The morning chill touched her backside. She balanced herself on feet and hands, shielding her breasts behind her knees as she backed away. She must not wake him, certainly not tempt him, never let him see her crouching and shivering in shame.

She slipped a robe over her shoulders and uncoiled her body as she located her moccasins with her toes. Rather than risk the sound of elk’s teeth clicking against each other or the soft swish of fringe—for Iron Shell had the keen senses of a warrior—Kezawin tucked her buckskin dress under her arm and headed outside. Her fingers might have been greased with tallow, so awkward were they in untying the thong that secured the tipi’s rawhide door. But she was a daughter of the Lakota, and she knew how to move quietly. She drew a silent breath, glanced back at her sleeping husband, and told herself that no one else need know of the dream. She could hold it inside where it could do no harm. Surely a strong Lakota woman could wrestle such a dream to the ground, make it powerless. She rubbed her fingertips against her thumb, settled her mind on the simple task of loosening the knot with a steady hand.

The autumn air was chilly and thin. A shallow breath of it pinched her nostrils. A full breath startled the depths of her chest. But even as the air refreshed her, the dream’s piercing horns hung on. She adjusted the robe closely around her shoulders and cast a hasty glance at the pine-green and autumn-brown valley. Tipis rose from the ground-hugging mist in miniature imitation of the peaks of the Paha Sapa that surrounded the village. The golden glow of the coming sun glistened in the mist and lent an illusion of luster to the tall, tan, soot-tipped cones. Picketed near their owners’ doors, the war ponies stood with necks drooping and hind­quarters cocked to rest a leg. A big gray dog was about his business early, scavenging around the ashes of a dead cooking fire. The camp rested peacefully.

Kezawin hurried to the river and dressed in the shelter of a thick stand of pines. The soft skin of the elk blocked out the light as she slipped it over her head, but the light and dark of the dream swirled within the confines of her dress and warred round and round her head. She stretched her arms, dove into the sleeves, and popped her head through the neck, gasping for air. She sought the light. She chose the light.

She knelt in the tall slough grass that lined the low earthen wall the river had cut for its bed. Stretching out on her belly, Kezawin dipped cupped hands into the icy flow and splashed handfuls over her face and neck. The water trickled between her breasts, and she shivered, laughed, and reached for more. It tingled and tightened her skin over prominent cheekbones like the deer hide fixed over a willow frame in the making of a drum.

She closed her eyes and swiped the droplets from her face, strug­gling to shake another unwelcome picture from her mind. Her skin did not compare to that of the deer. Perhaps she could still drive the creature away. Its image flew in the face of the destiny she wanted for her­self—the roles of mother, wife, woman respected by the people for her impeccable virtue, industry, and skills. She had lived her eighteen years to that end, and she would not, could not see it all blown away on a night wind.

Her father would tell her the dream had deceived her. Lone Bear was a holy man, a man of wisdom. Surely the daughter of such a man could not be touched by unnatural visions. Kezawin pushed herself up from the ground and reached for her robe. Her father would interpret the dream. She would tell him every detail, omit nothing in her re­counting. There were signs she could not read, but Lone Bear would know them. He would tell her it was not as she feared. She had not been touched by the Deer Woman.

She stood near the covered door of the tipi adorned with brightly colored paintings that proclaimed Lone Bear’s triumphs.

"Father?” With any luck, her brother, Walks His Horse, would sleep through this disturbance if she spoke with a small voice. "Forgive me for troubling your sleep, Ate, but I must speak with you.”

"Now?” The voice she knew better than her own rattled with early-morning dampness.

"It’s an important matter, Father. It frightens me.”

A head of graying hair emerged from the tipi. Lone Bear hitched his striped trade blanket around his waist and straightened to a height that surpassed his daughter’s by a head. He squinted against the sun’s early rays and drew his face into a well-established pattern of protective folds. "Where is your husband, Kezawin? He’s the one to be shaken from his blankets when something frightens you.”

"My husband is not a holy man, Father.” Without lifting her gaze from the toes of his quilled moccasins she felt her father’s gaze upon her. "I believe I have seen something wakan. Something holy.”

Lone Bear turned back toward the door.

"This is not for my brother’s ears,” Kezawin said quickly. "And I need to feel the sun on my head.”

They went to the river and sat upon Kezawin’s robe in a grassy clear­ing, where crystal beads of dew twinkled in the morning sun. The long dry summer had diminished the river’s power. It sloshed lazily in the confines of its banks while Lone Bear waited without speaking.

"It came to me while I slept.”

Lone Bear nodded, acknowledging the weight of his daughter’s concern. She had not sought this vision. She had not fasted and prayed for it. It had simply come to her.

"We were walking, searching for a rare plant. I was young, just learning, and you told me I would know even if I could not see its roots, which would be red. We came to a river, but it was not like this. The water ran high, and we could not find a fording place. We walked. Then we saw a deer.” Even though he sat more than an arm’s length away, she could feel her father’s back stiffen at the word.

She described the deer’s motions with her hand.

"It crossed the river, and the water only came up to its hocks. It—he had a beautiful mossy rack. I’m sure I saw all that made the creature a buck.”

She looked at her father in the hope that this piece of information was significant, but there was no change in his grave expression. And so she continued.

"The deer began to scrape his antlers in a scraggly chokecherry tree. But the tree grew bigger, and soon he was entangled in its branches. I could see his eyes. He didn’t panic. He entreated me to cross the river and free him.”

"Did he speak?”

"No. Not yet. I asked you to go with me, but you said that only a woman could use this ford. If I chose to cross, I would have to go alone. I asked you whether the red root plant might grow on the other side. You said it was likely.

"I followed the trail the deer had taken across the river. He was deeply ensnared, and my arms and face were soon bleeding from scratches.” She held her arms out in front of her, turning them over to examine them. The dream burned so vividly in her mind that her unscathed arms puzzled her.

"I freed him,” she said. "And then he spoke. He sounded... much like a woman.” That part she knew to be significant, and she paused in fear. But her father’s calm face called for courage. "He said he would give me the red root plant if I would stay with him. I refused, and he became angry and began chasing his tail like a dog. Round and round, round and round. My head was soon spinning. I heard the sound of a whirlwind, and I felt drawn into the vortex of the deer’s wild dance. I had no thought of walking, but I was moving closer. Even as he spun, he watched me through flat black eyes. His lips curled back over his teeth, and the wind shrieked in my ears.

"Something white caught my eye. Another buck was grazing nearby, but this one was white. All white. I wanted to touch him. He raised his head, and I saw the red roots of the plants in his mouth. I walked away from the spinning deer. The white stag stood quietly until I reached him. He let me touch his face. He dropped the red root plants in my hands. He licked the blood from my arms and face with his cooling tongue.

"We walked to the riverbank and found a wild-haired woman, strangely beautiful, powerfully so. She sat with her feet in the water, and she seemed to be watching something below the surface, maybe a fish. Across the river I could see the village, and I told the white stag that I would take the red root plants to my father. The woman laughed, and when she looked up, I saw the flat black eyes and the curling lips of the spinning deer. She pulled her legs out of the water and put her moccasins over cloven hooves, and then she sat cross-legged, unbefit­ting a woman. The village looked close, but it felt distant. I asked the woman how far it was, and she said, ‘They are beyond your reach now. You are a fool if you stay within theirs.’ And then she went to the chokecherry bush and began rubbing her head on it, tangling her hair even more in its branches. My scalp itched, and I wanted to imitate her actions.”

"Did you?” Lone Bear asked.

"No. The white stag stepped into the water, and I knew he was not a woman and could not ford the river there. He floundered in deep water. At my back I heard the woman’s laughter, but I followed the stag into the deep water. I followed him because he knew the secret of the red root plant and because he was beautiful, and I didn’t want him to drown.”

"Did he drown?”

"I don’t know,” she said. "The gray light woke me.”

"Did the white one speak?”

"Not a word.”

Lone Bear nodded. He looked across the river and into the trees. "And the spinning deer,” he said. "What color was the tail?”

"It was a white-tailed deer.”

Lone Bear nodded again. The white tail came as no surprise. Father and daughter both knew it was can tarca winyela,the female woods deer, a vision no woman sought.

Kezawin’s father was a holy man. He would pray about his daughter’s dream and consider the meaning of each detail, but there was no ques­tion in either heart about one thing. "You have dreamed of Deer Woman.”

Kezawin shivered and hugged herself against a cold that was not caused by morning air.

"You are Double Woman Dreamer,” Lone Bear proclaimed.

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