Private Treaty

Private Treaty

Kathleen Eagle

January 2016
ISBN: 978-1-61194-673-4

Clash of cultures . . .
Our PriceUS$15.95
Save wishlist

Synopsis | Reviews | Excerpt

Back Cover Copy

Clash of cultures . . .

Like so many before her, schoolteacher Carolina Hammond came to South Dakota looking for a new life, but the reality of living in such a wild place soon had her rethinking her rash decision. Especially when the winds began to howl and the skies turned black . . . 

One minute, she was outside watching the skies and the next, she found herself plucked onto the back of a horse and out of the tornado’s path to safety. But then she met her rescuer and realized she was anything but safe. This man was dangerous—to her reputation and to her heart. 

Jacob Black Hawk had never met a white woman like Carolina. She was strong, independent…and incredibly passionate. More importantly, she made him feel like a man—a man she wanted. Though they came from worlds society said could never meet, the desire blazing between them would not be denied. 

 But a love like theirs could not remain a secret for long. When the truth came to light, would Jacob have the strength to let the woman he loved walk away? Or would he claim her as his own . . . even if it made her an outcast from her own people? 

Kathleen Eagle is a mother, grandmother, teacher, chief cook and bottle washer, and best-selling writer. She has published over fifty books during the course of her long career. She lives in Minnesota with her husband of over 40 years, the Lakota cowboy who continues to inspire the stories readers treasure.


". . . will leave the reader deeply moved." —LaVyrle Spencer on PRIVATE TREATY

"It's packed with powerful emotions and beautiful moments.”—All about Romance on REASON TO BELIEVE

"This was such a vivid, compelling story . . . ”— Karen Knows Best on THIS TIME FOREVER


Chapter One

North Dakota, 1896

CARBON-COLORED clouds stacked up high in the sky. Carolina Hammond opened the cabin door and stepped outside to watch the brewing of her first prairie storm. Above the jagged horizon, slashed by buttes and rolling hills, the sky took on an eerie, yellow-gray glow. Carolina folded her arms and walked tentatively toward the bank of the creek that drained the hills, keeping her eyes on the sky. The wind picked up suddenly, lifting her skirt and twisting it around her like a corkscrew. Wisps of hair escaped the tight knot at the back of her head and blew across her face. She brushed them aside, intent on watching

As she approached the creek, Carolina noticed the way the small stand of cottonwoods swayed in unison until the wind changed tempo and their dance became wilder, nearly bough-breaking. When the rain came, it offered no warning drops. It gushed from the sky in a sudden torrent. Carolina turned toward the cabin, but the wind’s shocking punch left her staggering like a wounded animal.

She heard pounding hoof beats and felt the rush of the horse’s body at her back at nearly the same instant. The horseman’s identity became part of the blur of motion. Carolina lifted her hands instinc­tively to protect her face. An arm hooked her around the middle and jerked her off her feet, knocking the air from her lungs. Suspended at the waist, she bounced like a sack of meal over the horseman’s thigh. Through tearing eyes she watched the animal’s churning forelegs as she fought desperately to catch her breath.

"Hang on to me or I might drop you!”

Carolina tried to turn toward the voice, but the man’s grip was too tight. She reached back and grabbed his shoulder; it was an awkward position, but it was all she could manage. Now he had both arms around her, and she felt as though she were slipping. The horse ca­reened down a steep slope into a ravine, and Carolina closed her eyes. Lord help me. This man isn’t holding the reins.

The rider snapped up the reins as the horse skidded to the foot of the embankment. Carolina was unceremoniously dropped to the ground. She made an effort to pick herself up as the horse skittered to one side, but she was snatched roughly to her feet and dragged into the hollow of a rocky outcropping just ahead of what sounded like a loco­motive roaring through the ravine. She sank to her knees and curled herself into a tight ball. The man’s body wedged her against the rock, and the howling wind blocked everything else out of her mind.

The prairie shuddered from the wind’s assault. Carolina sucked her whole being into the deepest part of her brain, tucked her head against her thighs and fancied herself hidden from nature’s madness. Nothing existed but the thunderous wind and the weight of the horseman.

"If I should die before I wake, I pray Thee, Lord, my soul to take... if I should die... if I should die... I pray Thee, Lord...” The words bobbed up and down in her mind like flotsam on the flow of her fear.

"IT’S ALL RIGHT now. The worst is over.”

The voice echoed at the far end of a long tunnel, barely rising above the wild thrumming in Carolina’s ears. She was all ears, sur­rounded by all sound, all fury, receding now, leaving her with heart­beat, yes, and breath, eyes hiding against her knees, arms holding her­self tight lest her quivering body fall to pieces.

"It’s all right,” the man repeated. "It’s gone.”

Carolina raised her head, opened her eyes and looked straight up at the swirling iron-colored clouds. Not gone completely. She looked for the source of the voice.

"I’ll take you back.”


The man was all darkness—hair, face, eyes. His eyes were intent on her, concerned for her, assuming charge of her safety. He was a strong man. He had picked her up and brought here. He would take her back there. She was out of place.

"If your cabin is still standing, you will need to start a fire in your stove. You’re hot with fear now, but soon you’ll tremble with cold. Come.” He leaned forward and cupped a hand beneath her elbow. She was supposed to move.

"The wind still roars in your ears.” One side of his wide mouth lifted in a slight smile. "I hear it, too.” What there was of the smile slid away. "Are you hurt?”

Carolina blinked. She’d been staring, carefully putting pieces to­gether—the face, the words, the rock wall, the pressing clouds. "Hurt? No, I don’t think so.” She straightened her back slowly, relaxing her limbs a bit at a time, which only made her body tremble more. She tried to stand, but legs wouldn’t cooperate, and she wasn’t sure they were even connected to her any longer. She fell back to the ground and landed squarely on her bottom.

"I’m sorry,” she whispered. "I’m all topsy-turvy.” Even her voice wasn’t all there. Her shaking was an embarrassment. The only way to regain her dignity was to speak sensibly. "I’ve never seen a thunder­storm like that before.”

"Thunderstorm?” He scowled. "Didn’t you see the funnel cloud? I thought you were a crazy woman when I saw you standing out in the open like that.”

Carolina pushed a sodden clump of hair back from her face and stared, wide-eyed. A funnel cloud! She’d heard of these sudden prairie storms barreling across the flat land, and she cursed her cowardice for preventing her from taking a peek.

The man was familiar to her, but she had not been introduced to him in the short time since she’d arrived in central North Dakota. She’d met few people, actually, and none of them were Indians. She thought that strange, since this land was part of the Standing Rock In­dian Reservation.

He suffered her scrutiny—ignored it, in fact—as she watched him remove a leather pouch from deep inside his wet buckskin shirt. The pouch was suspended from a thong, and from it emerged tobacco and paper. He rolled a cigarette as he quietly assured her that he didn’t mind waiting a few minutes before taking her back to the cabin. Carolina’s attention was drawn to his brown hand, which struck a match on its own thumbnail. Her eyes followed the match to his face, and the pieces came together now, the full picture. His face stunned her.

She wasn’t sure whether it was the rich brown hue of his skin or the strength of his features that struck her first. His face, with its high cheekbones and a strong, angular jaw, could have been chiseled from the very rock they’d used as shelter. Wet black hair hung in braids over his shoulders, and a narrow strip of buckskin was tied around his fore­head. He drew on the cigarette and glanced up at her with dark, in­scrutable eyes as he turned his face slightly to avoid blowing smoke at her. His hooded eyes held hers in frank mutual appraisal.

"What have you decided?” he asked finally.

"About what?” The spell had been broken, and Carolina resumed her shivering.

"About being carried off by an Indian.” There was no smile, and his tone was emotionless.

"I’m grateful to you, of course, Mr.—”

He stood up, taking another drag on his cigarette. Carolina un­curled herself slowly, following his lead as she tried awkwardly to straighten her wet clothes. Her eyes sought his as another trail of smoke was expelled. She felt as though she were being tested.

"It’s Black Hawk,” he said.

"I’ve seen you. You work for Charles MacAllistair, don’t you? With the horses? Is it... Jacob?” She could almost feel the cogs and wheels in her brain beginning to turn again.

"Yes. Jacob is my given name, as they say.”

"I guess I work for Charles MacAllistair, too. He’s the president of the school board.” She tried to smile as she extended her hand. "I’m Carolina Hammond, the new teacher. At least, I shall be a teacher when the school is built. May I call you Jacob?”

"Why not Mr. Black Hawk? It has a nice ring to it, wouldn’t you say, Miss Hammond?”

"Yes, it does.” It was clearly a rebuff, but when she added, "Mr. Black Hawk,” he took her hand. He applied no pressure as he envel­oped it in the warmth of his. When she reluctantly withdrew her hand, her teeth began to chatter, and she folded her arms tightly under her bosom. "I thank you for what you did. I must have looked like an id­iot, just standing there, but I really didn’t see it coming. I mean, I knew it was going to storm, but the sky... so big and beautiful.” She drew a deep breath. "And terrible. And fast, so—”

"I’ll get my horse. Can you ride astride?”

"Better than I ride hanging over the side.”

That brought a smile back to his face. He took a last puff on his cigarette before grinding it out beneath his boot heel.

The stout, stocking-footed sorrel was grazing close by, the reins trailing. The horse picked up his head but stood calmly as Jacob gath­ered the reins. With fluid grace, he levered himself up and swung his left leg over the horse’s back. He trotted the sorrel to Carolina’s side, then reached down to her. "Pull yourself up along my arm. Use my foot as a stirrup.”

She hoisted herself up as he instructed, but she found herself clutch­ing him again. She wasn’t sure she could manage to swing her leg over the horse’s rump from this angle. The helpless look on her face and the timid glance she offered made him chuckle. "Try to swing your leg up behind me. I’ll pull you up.”

Again Carolina followed instructions, and Jacob caught her leg be­hind him with his opposite arm. She tugged frantically at her skirt while he pulled her up behind him. He nudged the horse with his heels, and Carolina slipped to the right as their mount stepped out. Jacob reached back to steady her.

"Hold on to me, Miss Hammond, or you may find yourself on the ground again.”

She wound her arms around his waist, seeking security. "You don’t use a saddle?” she asked for want of a better comment.

"Not today. Good thing. Wouldn’t want to try picking you up at a dead run from a saddle.” He muttered something under his breath. "My blanket must have blown away. Lost my hat, too.”

There was no more talk until they reached the top of a hill over­looking the river and the cabin, which stood seemingly untouched. Carolina took heart, at least momentarily. The only reason she’d been given a home of her own was that it was already there. Had it been de­stroyed, she would have had to board with the MacAllistairs. She scanned the scene below and noticed the little stand of cottonwoods. Half a dozen trees had been uprooted. They leaned at various angles like so many onion plants, roots ripped from the clay bank. Exactly where she’d been standing when he’d swept her off the ground.

"You should have plenty of firewood next winter, Miss Hammond,” Jacob said as he leaned forward for a quicker pace down the hill.

He reined in near the cabin door and held Carolina’s arm while she slid down the animal’s flank. Her feet found solid perch, but her knees buckled. Jacob dropped to her side.


"I’m sorry, Mr. Black Hawk.” Her voice quivered. "I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I can’t seem to collect myself.”

He bent to help her to her feet, and she found herself leaning against him. Tears burned her eyes and clogged her throat. She hid her face in her hands. She never cried, never, and she had no reason to now. She felt as though she were watching someone else’s shameful display. She covered her mouth with her hand and gasped for her own breath between some child’s pathetic groans. Surely it was the child who leaned heavily against the man who’d risked far more than his hat to rescue her.

JACOB FOLLOWED HIS instincts. A man was born to protect the helpless ones. No matter who she was, the woman was helpless. He had to put his arm around her to get her through the cabin door. Everything about her made him uncomfortable—tumbledown hair, slender limbs, childlike voice. She was a lightweight for sure. He closed the door behind him, gave his eyes time to adjust to the dim light, lo­cated a rocking chair near the big cast-iron cook stove and gently de­posited the woman. If he hadn’t been with her the whole time, he might have guessed from the way she was rubbing her face that she’d been hurled against a rock wall instead of sheltered by it.

"Try to get hold of yourself, Miss Hammond. If anyone comes along and hears you, he’s liable to think I’ve hurt you. He’ll shoot first and ask you about the details later.”

She made a funny sound—half gasp, half giggle—and shook her head.

His best move would have been out the door. He could stop at the ranch house and let somebody know the state she was in. Yes, that would be a good way to go. Maybe swaddle her in a blanket like a squalling newborn so she’d feel secure. Instead, he put his hand on her quivering shoulder and gave her a little squeeze. Sympathy had over­taken what wisdom he’d gained, mostly the hard way.

"You’re cold. Spring rain seeps into the bones. I’ll get the stove going. Is there wood?”

She looked up, all big round eyes, and nodded.

Jacob found the wood box and built a fire in the stove. Then he struck another match and lit the lamp on the small table near the stove. Out of respect, he would ignore her struggle now. Such tears were an embarrassment, even to a woman.

He stepped away from the light and the woman, and surveyed the one-room cabin. In addition to the stove and the rocker, there was a little table with its four straight-backed chairs, a sideboard with upper shelves, a spool bed in one corner with a large trunk at its foot, more shelves, books, small boxes, bits of glass, and painted pottery. Two braided rugs softened the plank floor, and blue-and-white curtains dressed the small windows on either side of the door. The cabin had a comfortable feeling about it, Jacob decided, and he relaxed his guard.

He turned to the woman who’d become, for the moment, his charge. "You must take off those wet clothes, Miss Hammond. The house will be warm in a few minutes. I’ll be going now.”

She took a slow deep breath and wiped her eyes with her wet skirt. "I hate this,” she mumbled. "It makes me feel like a child. I saw the trees go wild, and I saw myself standing in the midst of something be­yond my ken, and I didn’t move. You must think me a fool, Mr. Black Hawk.”

"I think you’re cold.” He paused, watching her attempt to dry her face. "It’s the cold of death, which has just passed close by.” She lifted her head, and he saw a circle of white around the blue in her eyes. "It’s also the cold of being wet to the skin. You need to change your clothes.” He started toward the door.

"Mr. Black Hawk, I would be grateful if you would stay a little while.”

He paused. Reluctantly, he turned.

"I don’t want to be alone. I feel as though I left half my wits out there by those rocks.” The woman closed her eyes, rested her head back against the chair and suffered another tear to slip quietly down her cheek.

Jacob wondered at the fact that her tears moved him. His contact with most other human beings was impersonal. Living in two worlds, he was a man in his mother’s house and an Indian elsewhere—at Fort Yates, where the Indian agency was; at the ranch where he was em­ployed; in the white communities that were springing up everywhere. But this woman was willing to call him Mr. Black Hawk, and she had asked for a favor, rather than ordered a service.

"Do you have any coffee, Miss Hammond? That might help both of us.”

Carolina rose from her chair and made her way to the cupboard. "No, but I do have tea,” she offered. "If you wouldn’t mind taking a few moments to get some water from the well, I would change my clothes and brew a pot. It is getting a bit warmer in here, don’t you think?” She fluttered about the sideboard, assembling the tin of tea, the kettle, and the cups and saucers, which clattered in her hands.

Jacob took the bucket she handed him and left the cabin. His horse remained ground-tied by the doorway. He picked up the reins and led the sorrel away from the nearby vegetable garden and its suc­culent new shoots. A low, uneven wire fence, held up by a variety of sticks leaning this way and that, surrounded the little patch. She must have done that herself, he thought.

He thought, too, of his mother’s little patches of planted ground. She listened to the missionaries and tried to follow their suggestions, hoping to supplement the family’s rations. Some disaster usually befell her efforts—raccoons or horses or drought—but she always tried, and sometimes she was rewarded with a little produce. We are not farmers, he reminded himself as he picketed his horse on a grassy knoll several yards from the house. Then he took the bucket to the well.

The dark clouds were rolling overhead, pushed by a cold north­easterly wind. It felt like more rain. There had been much rain this spring, which was good for the grass, good for the horses. Good for his mother’s garden, he admitted, and with a wry smile, he included Carolina’s. These women adapted.

Even so, the prairie was ruled by the sky, and the wind, the clouds, and the occasional tornado were reminders of that. At least that was something the white man had found no way to change. He com­manded the wind to turn his windmills, and the wind obliged at its convenience, but when the white man needed a lesson, the wind un­leashed its fury and battered the contraptions to the ground. Jacob was still smiling at the thought as he hoisted the bucket off the edge of the well and headed for the house.

"Please come in. I’m dressed, Mr. Black Hawk.” The woman slipped a shawl around her shoulders and drew it close as Jacob came through the door. Her face seemed to brighten at the sight of him.

He looked away quickly, intent on taking care of what was needed. Nothing more. He set the bucket on the sideboard and moved to the stove."You could go to the MacAllistair place for tonight, Miss Hammond. I’ll be going back there myself.” The cast-iron door creaked on its hinges when he opened it to stoke the fire. "I don’t see a horse around here. Didn’t they give you one?”

"Mr. MacAllistair said he’d have a small corral built here for me and leave a horse for my use, but he hasn’t done so yet. I think they’re still hoping that I will decide to move down to the house.”

Jacob stripped off his buckskin shirt, which was uncomfortably soggy. He felt chilled, too, and wanted to dry out before facing the cold spring wind again.

"But it’s so good to have a place of my own,” she went on. "I have employment, and I’m earning the right to stay here—at least, I will be once school starts.” Carolina glanced up as she set the kettle on the stove. She frowned and brought one of the ladder-back chairs near the stove.

"I certainly don’t mind your removing your shirt, Mr. Black Hawk. Under the circumstances, it’s the sensible thing to do.”

He allowed one corner of his mouth to turn up in amusement when she took the shirt from his hands, draped it over the back of the chair, and found more words to keep her going. "I’ll have tea ready soon. Please bring another chair over here by the stove and warm yourself.”

Jacob chuckled. "I’m not yet so civilized that I feel inclined to ask a woman’s permission to take off a wet shirt.”

But he did move the chair.

He seated himself and watched her go about a woman’s business. Her hands trembled as she arranged her delicate little pot, her painted cups, the plates, the spoons and the other tools that were small and wasteful, designed to serve no more than a single purpose. He wanted to laugh when she realigned the teapot in the row she’d built, but he didn’t because she suddenly summoned the nerve to look at him with­out pretense, to take his measure openly.

Ordinarily, he knew what a woman was thinking when she looked at him the way she did, but he decided to give this one more time be­fore he came to any conclusions. She was still shaken, and maybe he was, too. Why else would he feel such strong empathy for her? Why else would he sit there waiting for her to serve him tea in a little cup with flowers painted on it? By anyone’s standards, she was too old to be unmarried and too young to be living alone. For all of that, she was a handsome woman in her own fair-skinned way. Curiosity had always been a weakness of his, and he’d cursed himself many times over the years for his curiosity about people so unlike his own.

But he wasn’t ready to curse himself over the Hammond woman yet. He’d given her his help. He’d opened her door and walked into her home, and there he sat. His curiosity would be satisfied.

"Why do you choose to stay here when the ranch house would of­fer you more comfort and safety?”

"I feel safe here. The prairie is safer than city streets. Boston has its storms, too.” She put her fists on her hips and stared at the kettle as though it had ears. "I came to North Dakota for the opportunity to be self-sufficient. Charles MacAllistair promised me separate quarters when I inquired about the teaching position. I want independence. Perhaps it’s a romantic notion, but I’m hoping the West might offer a woman the same promise it holds for a man—the opportunity to be one’s own person.”

Jacob turned the idea over in his mind. Being one’s own person. Meaning what? Owning one’s self? Cutting away, cutting yourself off from others? For how long? Forever, he had once been told. For good. What good, he’d asked? Whose good? He’d never heard anyone call it being one’s own person, but it didn’t sound like an opportunity. It sounded like a separation, and he knew how lonely such a life could be.

He watched her sit down in the rocker and pull the shawl tightly about her. Her hair was still wet, but she had taken the pins out and combed it back from her face. It was long and dark, sleek like the wet fur of an otter. She kept staring at the kettle as though willing its con­tents to boil. He studied her profile, with its high forehead, the long, straight nose, and full lips. He liked the roundness of her eyes and the dark, heavy fringe of lashes that framed them. There was innocence and honesty in those blue eyes, he thought. A rarity.

She had a good face for a white woman, now that a little color had returned to it. For her sake, he would wish for more. He would have her invite the sun to chase away the sickly look of the white-skinned. She was on the thin side, and Jacob wondered why white men did not feed their women better. Of course, this one had no man. And he wondered what made her covet this strange white man’s ideal of inde­pendence. Among his own people, to be put out of the community was the ultimate censure. To leave it voluntarily was madness. But he had learned that white people valued other things. Their notion of in­dependence was an example. But for a woman? He’d known a few white women, but none who spoke to him the way this one did.

She folded her hands in her lap.

"I’m not interested in living under anyone else’s roof, you see. I brought my own furniture with me. I want to serve tea from the teapot left to me by my mother, and I want to ask people to stay or invite them to leave as I see fit.”

"Among my people, the home and its furnishings belong to the woman, not the man,” he told her.

"Is she free to live alone if she chooses?”

He shrugged. "It used to be that a woman needed a man to pro­vide meat.”

"I don’t,” she said firmly. "I can provide my own food.”

"Do you hunt, Miss Hammond?”

"No. But I garden and can, and I hope to have chickens at some point.”

"My mother does some of those things, too. She’s getting better at it. Do you allow red meat in your diet?”


"Do you like venison?”

"I think I would if I knew how to prepare it properly. I haven’t had much—.”

"I hunt, Miss Hammond. I am willing to trade.” She gave him a puzzled look, and he chuckled. "My mother’s garden isn’t always pro­ductive, and she dries most of what she is able to grow. I’ve come to enjoy canned food as well.”

"Perhaps we will have to do some bargaining, then.” She relaxed and permitted herself to smile. "I certainly plan to learn about local fare.”

It seemed like a good plan for one faced with feeding her own person. "What kind of a man are you running from?” he asked.

"My father.” Her quick answer surprised them both, and she quickly added, "But I’m not running. I didn’t seek his approval to come here, simply because he has never approved of me. Or my ac­tions, anyway. He allowed me to attend a woman’s college after my mother’s death because it meant I would be out of the way. I had foiled his attempts to arrange suitable marriages, and he wanted me out of his sight.”

"Your traditions allow a father to select a husband for his daugh­ter,” Jacob observed. "It is his way of providing for her.”

"I don’t want to be provided with some rich old man who thinks he has the right to come to my parlor and put his hands—” Her mouth clamped shut, her gaze strayed from his, and her tight smile did little to contain her frustration. "I imagine your people permit a man to foist an unwanted husband off on his daughter, also.”

Jacob laughed. "Not often. Young men wait in line outside a woman’s door to court her. She chooses the one she wants, and then the families make the arrangements. Her father’s permission and the exchange of gifts between families are part of the ceremony.”

"That’s the way it should be. He chooses to court her, and she de­cides whether he’s the one for her.” Carolina nodded. "Marriage shouldn’t be part of a business deal.”

"Why did you choose North Dakota?”

"Because it’s a long way from Boston. Some of my friends at school aspired to do missionary work, and there was much discussion of Indian Territory out West. I made a number of inquiries and found Charles MacAllistair to be the most tolerant of my idiosyncrasies.”

"Does your father know where you are?”

"I wrote to him. He probably read my letter and said something like, ‘The devil take her, then!’ He didn’t need me any longer to care for my mother, who’d been ill for years before she died, or my brother, Andrew, who’s grown up to be Father’s protégé. Most of the men he fancied as prospective sons-in-law didn’t want me any more than I wanted them. I refused to be a quiet parlor decoration, and I stood my ground when it came to—”

"When it came to the old men’s hands.” He caught himself, en­joying her victory. She’d assumed Indian men decided everything for their women, and he’d assumed a white woman on her own must be a little mad.

"Yes,” she said. "When it came to that.” She went to the stove, grabbed a potholder, and moved the steaming kettle. "Forgive me for going on so. I haven’t told anyone around here that much about my­self, and I probably just told you more than you wanted to know.”

Jacob decided to remain silent on that particular assumption. He stood and walked across the room to the window. It was raining hard again, and it had grown dark outside, even though it was midafternoon. When the rain stopped, he would take her down to the house before someone came up to check on this independent newcomer. The MacAllistairs had left early to visit Marissa’s parents in town, as they often did on Saturdays. The road would be a quagmire if the rain kept up, and they probably would not return tonight.

The bookshelves caught his eye, and he moved closer to examine the titles. As he touched the spines fondly, he murmured, "So you, too, have brought us the Word of God, Miss Hammond.”

"Oh, no, I’m not a missionary. I came to offer a lay education to the children here. I hope... I plan to teach the Indian children along with those of the ranchers who hired me.” She turned from the side­board. "Our tea is ready.”

He returned to the chair and accepted the steaming cup from hands that trembled slightly, even now. The cup and saucer clattered. In his hand, they seemed absurdly delicate. She seated herself in the rocker.

"Do you enjoy reading, Mr. Black Hawk?”

His eyes narrowed. "Yes, I enjoy reading.” He paused to savor the tart taste of the rose hips in the tea. He preferred wild mint. It was good for the digestion. "Does it surprise you that I can read?”

"No. You’re an interesting combination of two cultures, Mr. Black Hawk. Your flawless English, your clothes, your job at the ranch—I’m guessing you’ve used up quite a bit of chalk on a student’s slate.”

"Your friends, the missionaries, got hold of me at an early age. I liked chalk and slate, but not the rod and the lye soap.” He grimaced. "Still, I learned the language for my mother. She thought it would help me walk in the new way. I learned to read for myself, because it was like a game and came easily to me. I enjoy books, but there aren’t many available to me.”

"You’re welcome to read anything I have. I’ve sent for more.”

He nodded. "Have you always lived in Boston?”

"I attended school in western Massachusetts, but my father’s house is in Boston.”

"I have not been to Boston, but I have been to the East,” he said. It was a part of his life that he rarely discussed, and he wondered at the fact that he even mentioned it now.

"Oh, really? What part?”

Her interest seemed genuine, and it occurred to Jacob that this woman might regard him simply as a person, as fully human as she was. "I was sent to Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. I was there four years.”

"I see why you’re so well educated, Mr. Black Hawk. You are a college man.” She smiled at him as though they were compatriots.

He shook his head. "I was supposed to learn a trade, so that good hard work would take the savage out of me. I spoke your language. I was curious about the white world, and I wanted to learn, but I did not want to learn about carpentry and farming.”

"Was that all they taught there?”

"No,” he said quietly. "They taught us shame. They cut off our braids and made us wear their uniforms and their shoes. They told us that, although we could never actually bewhite men, we should try to be like them.

"But they knew nothing about us. We were from many nations. Our languages and traditions were different, one from another. Some of us were ancient enemies. I almost killed a Chippewa man over the use of a horse, but because I was considered the better student, it was he who was sent back home.” He smiled, remembering. "Sending a man back to his people was their idea of punishment. They wondered why some of the students took their own lives when they were on the verge of becoming civilized. When they said I had reached that goal, I looked in the mirror and wondered what they meant, who they thought I was.”

"Who did you think you were?”

He turned, surprised by the question. "It doesn’t matter. I know who I am now.” His feeling that she posed no threat to that knowledge surprised him even more. "And I have not told anyone around here that much about myself, either.” He lifted one corner of his mouth. "It was probably more than you wanted to know.”

"On the contrary, Mr. Black Hawk. I hope to have Indian children in my classroom this fall, and you are the first Indian I have been able to talk to. I’m certain I have much to learn.”

"Then you should know first that there are government boarding schools and mission schools for our children. You will seldom find Indian and white children in the same classroom.”

Carolina looked puzzled. "I understand that farmers and ranchers have bought land here, but I was under the impression that this was still a reserve for Indians.”

"It is.”

"If we’re to build a rural school, wouldn’t there be some Indian families living in the area who might want to send their children here, rather than to board them away from home?”

Jacob sipped at his tea. This woman really did have a lot to learn. "Indian children are taken away from their families, Miss Hammond.”

"Taken away? Do you mean they have no choice? But you were...”

"I was educated by missionaries who came to live among us, but that was some time ago. Now, our villages are deathly quiet during the winter months. The children are put in boarding schools to have their traditional lives scrubbed from their minds.”

Carolina shivered. She adjusted her shawl. "Could they come to my school if I... if I invited them?”

"I think you would have to discuss that with MacAllistair, and he would discuss it with his board. Or you might discuss it with the Indian agent, and he would discuss it with his superiors in Washington. The army might have something to say about it, or the church mission boards.” Jacob gave a dry chuckle. The new teacher’s intentions seemed refreshingly simple. "Your invitation might get lost somewhere along the line.”

"I thought the MacAllistairs were friendly to the Indian people,” Carolina insisted.

Jacob studied the bottom of his teacup for a moment. "Marissa MacAllistair’s grandmother and my grandmother were sisters. Her mother is half Indian, her father is white. It is not uncommon for a white man to take an Indian woman. The Indian agent who left here last year had an Indian wife. McLaughlin, his name was. People thought they could trust him, but it wasn’t so.

"MacAllistair is a fair man, but I am the only Indian he employs. I think he would hire more of us if more would work for him. But for most, it isn’t possible. We are a people whose way of life is passing, and yet we know no other way to live.” He was not speaking to her of these matters with his usual bitter tone. He wasn’t blaming her.

Refreshingly simple.

"What will you do?” She was leaning forward in her chair now, and she was wide-eyed with interest. "What will happen to all those people? And to you, Mr. Black Hawk?”

She had asked the question that burned in his soul, and he was not ready to share any of his guesses, certainly not with a woman whose people sought to determine all the answers.

Instead, he returned his empty cup to the sideboard. "I don’t know about them,” he said lightly, "but if anyone comes up here to check on you and finds me here, my future might be in doubt.” He turned to offer a pointed look. "Not only mine, but yours. A white woman who entertains an Indian man alone in her house might not be welcome to teach anyone’s children. As soon as this rain stops, I’ll give my horse a rubdown, and we can both ride him back to the house.”

"That will be fine, Mr. Black Hawk,” she said as she rose from the rocker. It teetered at her back, nudging her skirt. "Be assured that, should anyone come, we shall explain what happened, and you will receive credit for saving my life rather than criticism for unseemly conduct. Now, will you join me for supper while we wait for the rain to stop?”

"Do you have any red meat?” he wondered aloud with a soft smile.

"I do, in fact. And I baked this morning.” She opened a cupboard door to display three golden-brown loaves of bread. "Aren’t they tempting?”

His smile broadened considerably. Of the "four white sins”—salt, sugar, flour and alcohol—the three he could not resist were best served baked.

THE STEW SHE prepared warmed them both. Carolina sensed that whatever grudge Jacob Black Hawk bore her race, he was considering setting it aside for her, as he apparently had for Charles MacAllistair. For her part, she had found few men’s company as stimulating as Jacob’s was. Moreover, she was comfortable with him.

"One thing you should know about Indian people,” he began as he leaned back in his chair for a final sip of tea, "is that we don’t think of ourselves as Indians. Most of us who have been herded onto this useless patch of ground called Standing Rock are of the Lakota nation. The Lakota, have seven council fires, which are bands of people, like large families. Extended, you know? And the seven bands are related, but not closely related. Iam of the Hunkpapa band.”

"But you have used the term Indian in our conversation.”

"You said you wanted to learn about us.” The look in Jacob’s eyes grew hard. "When I am among white people, I think in English, and I use their term Indian so that they will understand me. They can’t think in Lakota, nor do many of them want to. But if you wish to know about my people, then you should know who they knowthey are, not who the white man says they are.”

Carolina offered a tentative smile. "You’re right, of course. Like anyone in new surroundings, I’ve come with some preconceived ideas. I’ve heard your tribe called Sioux. Where did that name come from?”

"It was given to us by our old enemies, the Chippewa. It means ‘little snake’ in their language. They don’t like that name, either, but your government chooses to use it.”

"It’s strange the way the wrong name sticks. When someone calls me Caroline I’m quick with a correction.” His raised brow prompted her shrug. "Not quite comparable. Well, then, I’m not really fond of being categorized as a white woman, but I suppose that will be the way you see me. My mother is from the South—a Rebel—my father a Yankee from the North. That’s almost like—”

He cut her off with a sardonic laugh. "Sioux and Chippewa?”

"There was a horrific war, you know.”

"Yes,” he said softly. "So many killed. Your weapons destroy much more than the lives of enemy warriors.”

"Not... not my weapons. I don’t have any... weap—” She shook her head. "That’s not me. Not I.”

"Who are you, then?”

"I’m a woman named Carolina, a teacher, the daughter of a Yan­kee farmer and a Southern...” The image of her mother made her smile. ". . . lady. I don’t mind saying she was quite a lady. And I’m a newcomer here, a little naïve about the life here, the climate, the power of the wind.” She laughed. "But asked about my origins, I would not say, ‘I am white.’”

"You wouldn’t have to, Miss Hammond. Your warriors have taught us to recognize you.”

"Our warriors are not teachers.”

"No?” He drew a deep breath. "I will make a bargain with you.” A smile lurked in his eyes. "I will not call you the white woman if you will not call me Injun. Agreed?”

Carolina returned his smile. "I would take that bargain one step further. You’ve saved my life and shared supper at my table. I should think our friendship could progress to a first-name basis.”

"You are still blind to the way things are here.”

"How much more must I learn before I may call you Jacob?”

He shook his head. "Nothing other than discretion, Carolina. I’m called Jacob by the few white people who are friendly to me, and you seem to be one of them.”

"And will you teach me more about the Lakota and the Hunk­papa?”

His face sobered. "Visits between us would cause too much talk. I would not be a friend if I caused people to talk about you in that way.”

"Maybe it wouldn’t be quite so scandalous if you were to keep your shirt on.” She smiled.

"True.” Jacob folded his arms across his chest and leaned his chair back on two legs. "The Lakota are very conscious of manners. We al­ways dress properly when we take meals as guests. My uncles would have taken me to task for my behavior today.”

"But your shirt was wet.”

"Excuses are not acceptable. My family tells me that I’ve been among the whites too long and have forgotten what is proper. I would also be reminded that it is not proper to be alone with an unmarried woman in her house. Not proper, not permitted, not even safe.” They looked at each other while the words spun in the air like the wind that had brought them to this moment.

And they burst out laughing. It was the kind of shared laughter that grew as one voice fed the other, the kind that drained away slowly and ended in shared sighs.

And shared quiet.

"It’s good that you’re willing to make up your own mind about me,” he said, "but you should not be so trusting. You must not invite strange men into your home when you’re alone.”

"I had no choice but to trust you.” She pushed her chair back and began gathering dishes. "It’s hard to argue with someone while on a galloping horse.”

"But still, you didn’t know me.”

She looked up from her handful of dishes. The man was simply being sensible, but she was still feeling jittery. From her harrowing horseback ride, no doubt. But there was no horse present, no wind, no downpour. There was only the man.

She hated to see a grown woman flutter simply because there was a man about, but she was doing just that. Fluttering on the outside, shuddering on the inside. He was watching her, challenging her, maybe even trying to scare her with doubt. She was all feeling at the moment, and not a thimbleful of good sense. There were doubts to be consid­ered, senses to be recovered. Otherwise, a woman could find herself in more peril than mere wind and rain could ever bring down upon her.

He stood up from his chair. He was taller than she was, but not especially tall for a man. He wore two leather pouches around his neck. The thongs passed over the well-defined muscles of his bronze chest, forming the lines of a V, echoing the shape of his long torso. The pouches dangled in front of his flat abdomen. His denim pants, cinched by a wide leather belt with a brass buckle, rode low on his slim hips. Carolina glanced from the buckle to his face. He smiled at her more easily than she thought fair.

"I know a bit about you now, Jacob. Jacob?” He nodded, and she smiled. "You are a considerate man. You can be sure that I’ve met few men who fit that description, and there are fewer still who would be welcome in my home under these circumstances.” He looked at her curiously, and she glanced at the rafters. "Mmm. I can think of none offhand.”

Her fingers brushed his as he handed her his cup and saucer, but it was her unsteady hand that caused the china to rattle.

He gave a humorless chuckle. "And only one who makes you this nervous.”

SHE HAD REASON to be nervous.

It had been a long time since Jacob had wondered what it would be like to hold a woman close to his body and comb her hair with his fingers. But now he’d imagined the length and the scent and the feel of this woman’s hair. Big mistake. He was about to take her back to the ranch, where, as soon as she recovered her own person, she would be untouchable. She would be aloof, and they would not share this easy conversation between two equal human beings. Too soon, she would see how it was here. She would read the signs, sense the boundaries, see him treated with disdain, and she would choose sides. He shoved the chair under the table.

Carolina turned from unloading her dishes into the washbasin on the sideboard. His noisy gesture had startled her, but he saw no fear in her eyes.

"Please smoke if you wish to, Jacob,” she suggested quietly. "It will take me a moment to clean up, but I should be ready to leave shortly.”

Jacob reached for his shirt. It was damp, so he turned it over. "Enough time to give my horse a rubdown. Otherwise we’ll be in for a wet ride.”

She offered a long-handled ladle and a handful of clean rags, and Jacob left the house to attend to his horse.

The rain had stopped, and the early-evening sky was brightening. The mud sucked at Jacob’s boots, but he strode through it, hoping the cool air on his bare chest would bring him to his senses. She was just another pale-skinned woman, an immigrant, probably even less sensi­ble than most. He had only followed his instincts when he’d sheltered her from the storm. But now they had shared food, thoughts, and memories, and he had seen her as a true woman. She had stirred needs he’d willed silent. He had no woman, but he had family. He had rela­tives, but he was short on friends. Not that he needed more people in his life, but this woman intrigued him. She was different. She was no longer just another pale-skinned woman. He would have her see him as a true man, a Lakota who deserved welcome in a friend’s home.

He did what he could to dry the sorrel’s wet hide, rolled himself a cigarette and respectfully called out to the woman before he went in­side. He kept his eyes from her properly as he walked over to the chair, took up his shirt, balanced the cigarette on the edge of the stove, took up his shirt and pulled it over his head. Then he noticed the mud he’d regrettably tracked across the plank floor. She was watching him, and he knew it. He retrieved his cigarette and watched her as he drew hun­grily on the smoke.

She moved like a bird caught in a trap, fluttering to put the dishes away in the overhead cupboards. Whenever he was quiet, she seemed to feel the need to talk.

"I’m finished here, Jacob. We can leave when you’re ready. I know I’m a little unsteady on the back of that horse, but I’ll do my best not to topple us both.”

"You will ride in front. I’ll see that you don’t topple us both.”

She grabbed the broom and swept up the little clods of dried mud. That done, she brushed her hands together. He finished his cigarette and tossed the butt into the stove. Smoke trailed from his lips as he approached her.

"I like you, Carolina. We’ve become friends in a short time. But at the ranch, when other people are around you, I won’t be friendly to you.” He found it necessary to touch her in some way. The look in her eyes seemed to welcome the hands he laid lightly upon her shoulders. "It would cause too much speculation,” he said quietly. "Just know that I am your friend.”

She gave him a pretty smile. "I like you. You have yet to call me a strange bird, or any of a number of epithets I’m accustomed to hearing. I have no intention of pretending. I am who I am, and people may think whatever they choose to think.”

His restive fingers flexed, and he lifted the edges of her shawl and pulled it snugly around her slight shoulders. Pretense, perhaps. He would have preferred to wrap her in his arms.

And soon, he would. It would be both pleasant and painful—a worthwhile challenge for a worthy warrior.

"The air is still cold from the rain.” But he would put his back to the wind. It was a fine thing to think on how he would warm her.

He made a stirrup with his hands and invited Carolina to fill it with her foot and her weight, to swing her free leg over the horse’s back and pull herself aboard. He handed her the reins. An agile vault brought Jacob over the horse’s rump, and he settled himself close be­hind her, slipped an arm around her waist and held her lightly against his body. His thighs ensured his seat and steadied her legs at the same time. She was securely tucked in the envelope of his strength.

"What is your horse’s name?” she asked.


"Sagi,” she repeated carefully. "What does it mean?”

"It’s his color, the red brown.”

"He seems very reliable. He doesn’t wander away when you leave him standing by himself.”

"A necessary thing. I trained him young.”

Jacob looked to the west at the streaking expanse of rosy glow in the blue-gray sky. Holding her felt good, and he could not fault himself now for enjoying the feeling. She had braided her hair and twisted it into a knot at the back of her head. There was a soft look just below her ear, like the down beneath the dove’s feathers. He detected the tremor of the pulse in her neck. Her breathing seemed too fast, and he lowered his eyes to catch sight of the rise and fall of her chest with each breath.

"Still frightened?” he asked softly, his lips brushing her ear.

"No. I’m fine now.”

She felt as he did. He smiled to himself. His flesh was hard and warm and alive where her slight weight rested against him.

He tightened his arm around her body. He might have stilled the slight stirring of his fingers at her waist. But he didn’t. She drew a deeper breath and shivered as she expelled it slowly. Yes, he knew she felt as he did, but she probably did not even recognize the feeling. Even as he berated himself for desiring a white woman, he turned his face toward her hair and inhaled its rainwater smell.

THE TINGLING surges of warmth inside Carolina’s body confused her. The muscles in the horse’s shoulders and across his back caressed her intimately. The animal’s moist body heat penetrated her clothing. Even more unsettling, she felt a little breathless with every movement of Jacob’s body against hers. And none of it was unpleasant.

She heard thudding hoof beats of approaching horses just as the sorrel topped the rise. Ranch foreman, Jim Bates, and two of the hands, Tanner and Culley rode below, horses nose to tail. Bates’s hearing must have been even sharper than Carolina’s, for he looked up suddenly and then spurred his mount uphill.

"Miss Hammond!” Bates hauled on his reins. "We come to see if you’re okay. We was fussing around over the damage the wind done down to the calving barn, and Culley here recollected you being alone up there at the old cabin. Figured we’d better look in on you.”

"The house wasn’t touched, but the cottonwoods by the river were ripped from the ground.” Carolina smiled and made an effort to look as though she were completely at ease riding double with Jacob. "Fortunately, Mr. Black Hawk saw that I was in a precarious situation and helped me take shelter.”

"How did you happen to be up there, Black Hawk?” Culley de­manded, as though he had some sort of authority.

Carolina felt the tension in Jacob’s body, and she empathized. Culley made her skin crawl. The ferret-faced little cowboy peered past her, looking for something from Jacob.

"I sent him up there,” Bates said. "One of the studs got out last night.”

Jacob steadied the prancing Sagi and offered an explanation for his boss alone. "I was looking for cover when I saw this woman standing out in the open. I spotted the funnel cloud at the same time.”

"Mr. Black Hawk’s quick thinking and expert horsemanship saved my life,” Carolina added, pointedly ignoring Culley. "He found shelter for us among some rocks, and then the storm hit. I’ve never seen the like of it.”

Squinting past Carolina, Culley persisted. "We didn’t see no twister.”

Carolina dismissed the comment without sparing the cowboy a glance. "You missed quite a sight, then.” Truth be told, she, too, had missed the sight, but not the ear-splitting roar, not the driving force of the wind, and not the terror. She wouldn’t bring any part of it back for Culley.

"I ain’t sayin’ it couldn’t’ve been one,” he said. "Just sorry you had to—”

"Did the MacAllistairs return safely, Mr. Bates?” Carolina asked.

"Not yet. I expect they might not come back ’til tomorrow. Road’s pretty muddy now.”

"I’m going to stay at the house tonight, anyway,” she told him. "I’m still a bit shaken.”

Bates nodded as Culley leaned over and mumbled something near his ear.

Bates straightened, looking uncomfortable. "Miss Hammond, would you care to ride with me? You might be better off with a... a saddle.”

"Thank you, Mr. Bates, but Mr. Black Hawk has offered to take me to the ranch, and I’m eager to be on our way. The storm left such an unsettling chill in the air. After what happened, it cuts to the bone.” Carolina turned her head as far around as she could and caught a glimpse of Jacob’s stoic expression. "You don’t mind, do you, Jacob?”

"No, ma’am.” He nudged the sorrel with his heel, informing Bates as he passed, "I’ll track that stud down in the morning.”

Sagi took the slope at a smooth trot, leaving the three riders be­hind to discuss this turn of events. The big sorrel carried his added burden easily, putting a comfortable distance between the couple and the cowboys by the time the trio turned to follow. Comfortable for Carolina, with Jacob between her and Culley.

"It bothers Culley to see you sitting on the same horse with me,” Jacob said.

"Mr. Culley would do well to mind his own business.” The very sight of the man put Carolina in a huff. Since the time she’d arrived, he’d been appearing around every corner. "That man’s ears prick and his nose twitches at the very thought of hearing something that doesn’t concern him. He emerges from the woodwork when I have a bag to carry or a piece of furniture to move. Or he sees me and thinks he has to amble over and say hello. Doesn’t he have a job to do?”

"I try to stay away from Culley. His job doesn’t concern me.”

"Yours seems to concern him. He’s nosy. He’s unctuous. He acts... strange.”

"Strange?” Jacob chuckled. "Some might believe you to be a little strange, Miss Hammond.”

"Do you?”

"I haven’t decided.”

"Why not? My earlier behavior was uncharacteristic, I assure you. And my first impression of Mr. Culley was spot-on. We agree on that.”

"We do. Bates keeps Culley and me apart. We’ve had some run-ins. I’m happy to ride ahead and leave him in the dust, and I do admire the way you dismissed him with a few simple words.”

"I’ll do better next time. I’ve had some practice.” She squared her shoulders and took her satisfaction. "Such puffery deserves its re­proach, and I have no trouble delivering it to those in need.”

"Staying away from Culley is the best way to deal with him. He might think he has something to say to you about today, since he and I don’t get along.”

They crested the last hill. The ranch lay on the flat ground below. The ride had been too short, Carolina thought. "Don’t worry about Mr. Culley on my account, Jacob.” Jacob tightened his arm around her waist. She touched the back of his hand. "I’ll have no trouble con­vincing him to twitch his nose elsewhere.”

"He might have trouble listening. Tell me.... Tell MacAllistair right away if Culley bothers you.”

The sorrel stopped in front of the ranch house’s stately veranda. Jacob hesitated to pull his arm away, and Carolina dreaded the moment when he would. She would have to go into the house, and he would retire to the bunkhouse. She wanted to ask him to sit with her on the veranda. They would talk as they had at the cabin, and she would serve the coffee he’d craved earlier. She thought she felt the subtle stirring of his fingers at her waist again, but his hand was gone before she had time to savor the small gesture.

He might have been an acrobat. He slid over the horse’s rump, dropped to the ground and moved quickly to Carolina’s right side and reached for her. "The Lakota mount on this side. Don’t confuse my horse. Come.”

Carolina swung her leg over the horse’s neck and planted her hands on Jacob’s strong shoulders. He lifted her off the horse, set her down, and there they stood.

"I’m grateful for your help, Jacob.” She would not be first to step away.

"Among my people, a good deed brings honor to the giver, and gratitude is not necessary.”

"For your part, that’s lovely. For my part, the gratitude stands.” As did she, lost in his dark eyes. "I hope we’ll be able to talk again,” she said tightly. "Soon.”

Jacob smiled, but at the sound of approaching horses, he dropped his hands to his sides. Carolina turned away, and disappeared into the house.

Please review these other products:

The Last Good Man

Kathleen Eagle

March 2012 $14.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-092-3


Our Price: US$14.95

click to see more

You Never Can Tell
Kathleen Eagle

June 2012 $13.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-136-4

She tracks him until he catches her...  Some say Native American activist Kole Kills Crow is an outlaw; others say he's a hero.
Our Price: US$13.95

click to see more

Night Falls Like Silk
Kathleen Eagle

August 2012 $13.95

ISBN: 978-1-61194-161-6

"Edge-of-the-seat suspense...Her scene setting is convincing and her pacing flawless...Eagle enriches the romance genre." -- Publisher's Weekly

His gift is a rare talent; his art celebrates an important American legacy. But it's born from a torment that might make him as dangerous as he is irresistible.

Our Price: US$13.95

click to see more

This Time Forever

Kathleen Eagle

December 2012 $15.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-2439

She'd helped convict him of a crime he didn't commit.

Now she wants his help adopting the son he never knew he had.

Our Price: US$15.95

click to see more

What the Heart Knows

Kathleen Eagle

April 2013 $15.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-258-3

A secret son. A lost love. A dangerous job. A frightening risk.

A second chance at the happiness their hearts were once afraid to share.

Our Price: US$15.95

click to see more

Reason to Believe

Kathleen Eagle

July 2013 $15.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-300-0

Can their marriage survive the ultimate betrayal?

Our Price: US$15.95

click to see more

Sunrise Song

Kathleen Eagle

December 2013 $15.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-3-733

Two love stories, separated by years, intertwined by blood and history.

Our Price: US$15.95

click to see more

The Sharing Spoon

Kathleen Eagle

October 2013 $13.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-366-5

Warm, generous, and totally unexpected. Holiday miracles can happen.

Our Price: US$13.95

click to see more