White Eagle's Touch [Blackfoot Warriors, Book 2] [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Karen Kay
eBook Category: Romance/Historical Fiction
eBook Description: Two worlds. Forbidden love. Blackfoot Warriors, Book 2 Katrina Wellington is vexed. She must marry to obtain the rest of her inheritance. But her uncle, who left her in New York with a governess to make his fortune out West, has suddenly decided he must approve of her fianc� before he will loosen the purse strings to her dowry. Swallowing her outrage, the socialite treks to the same wilderness that claimed her parents' lives years ago. Some small part of her is crestfallen that her uncle is not waiting with open arms. Only three guides, Indian guides, await her, and one of them is far too handsome for his own good. At first, White Eagle does not like the spoiled, willful niece of the white trader. When he catches a glimpse of the vulnerability behind her prickly exterior, he can't resist challenging the dazzling beauty to rediscover her true inheritance--the inner strength bequeathed to her by her parents. Close contact on the trail soon arouses a soul-stirring passion and in its turn, love. But love may not be enough to sustain a relationship that is forbidden in both their worlds. This book has been previously published. Warning: Contains a captivating passion that could lead to a romantic evening spent in the company of one's own love.
eBook Publisher: Samhain Publishing, Ltd., Published: 2012, 2012
Fictionwise Release Date: May 2012
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New York City
"This is outrageous!"
Katrina Wellington sat forward, her shoulders squared, her chin tilted up at an angle. Ringlets of golden blond hair framed her face and fell to her shoulders from beneath a capote-styled silk bonnet, while her dark, onyx-colored eyes spat fire at the man who sat across the desk from her. In one gloved hand, she tightly gripped a pink-and-white parasol, while her other hand lay clenched in a ball in her lap.
"Has the man lost all sense?" She asked the question of her solicitor, a Mr. Benjamin Lloyd. A staunch and bespectacled New York lawyer, he had been her counsellor and advisor most of her life.
To say that Katrina was upset would have been the height of understatement. It would not have done the lady, or her emotions, full justice.
"Benjamin?" she prompted when her solicitor did nothing more than clear his throat. "Did your people actually contact my uncle?"
The man looked at her from over the top of gold-rimmed glasses. "Miss Wellington, I--"
"Miss Wellington? Since when have you taken to calling me Miss Wellington, Benjamin? Unless this thing is even worse than it appears..."
Benjamin Lloyd frowned and, taking a deep breath, exhaled slowly, before he said, "Excuse me, Katrina, I did not mean to insult you, and yes, this thing is just as bad as it seems. The man that I sent out West did meet with your uncle and...it would appear that your uncle is in possession of all his faculties. I know this ruins your plans. I'm sorry."
"You're sorry? Is that all you have to say to me?"
"I have paid you an exorbitant fee to find my uncle and obtain his signature on this mere wisp of legal paper and, not only has this not been done, but your condolences are the most that you can offer me?"
"Katrina...Katrina, please understand. You are not yet twenty-five. Legally, your uncle still has guardianship over you and he--"
"--Has not even seen me for fourteen years. Isn't a guardian supposed to take a more active role in the life of his 'ward'? He has waived responsibility for me, and I will not allow him to put any conditions on my life or my possessions now."
"Katrina, it is not as though you are asking permission to go to an opera. You are asking for the entirety of your inheritance and your mother's dowry long before it's due. It is to be assumed that your uncle might put some stipulations upon such a request."
"Humph!" She tapped her umbrella against the office's wooden floor.
"Why is my uncle suddenly having an attack of conscience? I think you overstate his case, Benjamin. Does your loyalty waver, perchance?"
"It has nothing to do with loyalty, Katrina, and you know it. This is the law. Whether I like it or not, has nothing to do with this. Your uncle has a right to--"
"Has a right?" Katrina leapt to her feet. Benjamin Lloyd followed her up onto his, the man's slight stature detracting from, rather than adding to, the strength of his argument. At five-foot-five, the lawyer's eyes were just level with hers. "Has a right?" Katrina repeated. "Do you think so? What does the law say about my uncle's abandonment of me? About desertion?"
"Katrina, you know that your uncle did not truly desert you."
"Didn't he? I have not seen him for fourteen years. What is that, if not abandonment? Or are you speaking of the succession of nannies and governesses, the multitude of servants he hired?"
She puckered up her face and leaned forward. "This can't be truly legal."
"It most certainly is." Benjamin Lloyd slapped his hand on his desk.
"Benjamin, don't you talk to me this way."
"Then start speaking sense."
Katrina blew out her breath, shaking her head at the same time. "I am, I... Does my uncle hate me so greatly?"
"Hate you? Cease this sort of talk at once. I'm sure that isn't the reason--"
"He must," Katrina insisted, her chin hiking up into the air. "I have always suspected it to be so.
Why else would he never visit me, never write to me, never...?" She stopped, her glance falling away from Benjamin's before she continued. "Do you know that when I was a child, I used to write to him? I used to think of him as something of a knight. Did you know that, Benjamin? I used to dream of him coming to get me here; I used to envision..." Katrina glanced away into a corner of the room. It was some moments before she spoke again, saying, "But that was all so long ago, wasn't it?"
"Katrina, I didn't know that--"
"How could you?" She sighed. "He wants me to go there, you say? He is demanding that I travel out West and meet with him, if I desire my inheritance?"
"And he would provide my transportation there?"
"I know of no reputable coaches that travel that far."
"You are right," Benjamin Lloyd was quick to note, "but I have looked into this, and I could make travel arrangements that would be quite comfortable for you. Firstly, I could hire a private coach that would carry you all the way to St. Louis. I would ensure your comfort and your safety, that is, if you decide to make the trip."
"If I decide? I thought I had to--"
"You don't have to go, Katrina."
"But didn't you just say that--?"
"You wouldn't have access to your dowry, of course, nor to the whole of your inheritance, until you are twenty-five, the age your father set down in his will as the time to receive the remainder of your legacy."
"Twenty-five. Six years away... You know that I can't wait that long. I barely have enough funds to pay my current bills. What would I do for six years?"
"You would have to be most frugal, my dear."
"Frugal? Penniless is more the correct word."
"Benjamin, this carriage that you would hire for me"--Katrina returned her glance toward her solicitor--"would it see me all the way to the Northwest Territory?"
"Well, no, there are no roads that travel that distance, but it would take you to St. Louis, and from there, I could arrange your passage aboard a steamboat to Fort Union in the Northwest Territory. And there you would meet with your uncle."
"I see. Whatever, do you suppose, possessed my father and uncle to become traders?"
"Hmmm... What did you say, Katrina?"
"Traders." Katrina glanced away. "It's a savage and uncivilized life that they chose for themselves, wasn't it? Trading European goods for the furs of the Indians. Why do you think they chose it?"
"Perhaps for the adventure. Mayhap for the money. They did accumulate quite a fortune for themselves...and for you, my dear. Might I remind you that all the wealth and enjoyment that you have possessed thus far in your life has come down to you from the richness of that trade?"
"Yes," Katrina said on a heavy breath, "all my enjoyment." Then, lowering her voice, she whispered, "And all my sorrow."
Katrina didn't answer.
Instead, she raised her chin, and asked, "Is that all, then? I have only to go there and meet my uncle and then I might have--"
"And your fiance."
Benjamin Lloyd cleared his throat. "Didn't I mention that to you?"
"No, you did not."
"Oh, yes, well, your uncle here stipulates that he must meet and," Benjamin Lloyd lowered his voice, speaking quickly, "...and approve of said fiance before the distribution of--"
Katrina leaned over the desk. "What further madness is this?"
Benjamin Lloyd fingered his collar. He leaned backwards. "I was certain I had told you that. I was... Why, here it is. This document says"--he shook out a piece of paper--"when the party of the first--your uncle--shall meet and approve of matrimonial choice of said ward--that is you--any hitherto obligation of said ward will be discharged and the distribution of funds shall commence--"
"He wants to meet my fiance?"
"Why does he want to...? This makes little, if any sense at all. First, he asks me to place myself in danger to go and meet him, and now he is demanding to approve of my fiance?"
"In danger, my dear? I'm not sure I would use those terms to..."
Katrina no longer listened to the lawyer's ramblings. No, she had already lifted the hem of her pink satinet dress, stepped away from her chair, and begun to pace beside the solicitor's desk.
She stopped suddenly, interrupting the lawyer, as she said, "Well, I am certain of it now. My uncle hates me."
"It's the only possible explanation. Perhaps my uncle hated my father, as well as me, and it is only in this way that the awful man can seek full revenge." Katrina hurriedly dropped the hem of her skirt and turned around, stepping briskly to her solicitor's desk, the bustle under her skirts swaying with her movement.
Benjamin Lloyd, however, watching her, did nothing more than swallow noisily.
"Well, at least I understand my uncle, now," she said. "He hates me, has hated me all my life, and this is his way of getting back at me."
"Katrina, I'm not sure that I--"
"I always wondered why my only living relative never came to see me, why all the nannies and servants..."
"Now, Katrina, I don't see that this makes any difference to what is being asked now. The servants and the maids, the--"
"Don't you?" Katrina interrupted, turning away and presenting her back to the spectacled solicitor. Briefly she glanced into a corner of the room. A moment passed. Another. At last, though, she took a deep breath and, pivoting to confront her lawyer, looked directly at him. "You're probably right, Benjamin. None of the past matters anymore."
"Please, my dear, I know that this is all so unexpected. Naturally you are upset and--"
"I will go."
"Now, now. Don't make too hasty a decision. It's best to think it over carefully before... You will?"
"Yes, I will. My uncle wants to see me. I will go. He never came here to see me, but I will go to him. Besides, what choice do I have? If I don't do this, I will lose all reputation here, what with no more available funds to draw from." She turned so that the pink bonnet she wore did not obstruct her view of the solicitor. "My uncle has played an excellent game with me, I think. A game of chess, if you will. He has laid siege to my queen for the moment. Do you know that? I thought to marry in order to avoid my uncle and draw upon the rest of my inheritance without ever a word to him. I thought I had placed my uncle's king in checkmate. Now I see that I had a more worthy opponent than I had at first envisioned."
"Katrina, what are you saying? You might be taking this too much to heart. Perhaps, my dear, it would be best not to judge your uncle until--"
"He will not win, though."
"Katrina, I don't think that..."
But Benjamin Lloyd might as well have remained silent. Katrina had already collected her purse and umbrella, marched to the room's door and flung it open before she turned back toward him. Her lips parted for a moment, as though she might say something further, but with a definite shake of her head, she merely stated, "Good day, Benjamin."
With that said, she delayed no longer. Picking up the front of her dress, she swept through the door, her head held in a stiff, defiant angle.
And there was no one, not a single person at this moment, who would have interfered with her without cost.
At least no one in New York City.
Pikuni Camp of Blackfeet
White Eagle, who had been paying more attention to stoking the fire than to his friend, suddenly glanced up. "Tahkaa?"
"Who?" The fair-headed man stared at his Indian companion, the two men sitting comfortably within White Eagle's lodge. The look in the older man's eyes was rich with affection. "My niece comes," the old trader responded after several moments. "My brother's daughter, Shines Like Moonlight, is finally arriving home...and after all these years." The older man sighed.
"Yes, she is coming here to visit, and please, White Eagle, mopbete, behave. Speak English. If you won't use the language that I've taught you, what good was my effort?"
"Aa, it does me well in trade, my friend," White Eagle said, beaming a lopsided smile at the old trader. "That is enough. Your language is not as pretty as mine."
"Yes, well...that may be. But I can very well see that my language helps you in trade. You have much wealth here to prove that." The older gentleman uncrossed his legs and leaned forward. "No longer can these traders lie to you or take advantage of you. And this, because you now speak their tongue." The trader chuckled. "Why, I guess you could just as easily curse these new Americans in English as well as in Blackfeet."
"Do you forget," White Eagle voiced, "that the language of my people has no curse words?"
"No, son, I don't. But sometime I will have to teach you how and why the white man swears...or rather makes an exaggeration."
"An exaggeration, a curse? Or do you not mean a lie?"
"No, my friend, not really. It's called stretching the truth. An exaggeration is something the white man says more for the effect of saying it than for its truthfulness."
"Haiya, is that why the white man lies and tries to cheat us--for an effect?"
"No, friend, it's done more because--" The elder man glanced up at his young comrade. White Eagle grinned, the expression on his face widening into a broad smile. "You make a jest at me. There's no need for me to explain this to you, is there?"
White Eagle just smirked, his smile showing straight, white teeth.
"You did that well, my friend. I forget sometimes how quick you are to understand. Still, I'm certain that your learning the English language has helped you to trade better."
"Yes, old friend, it has. That and recognizing that the Big Knives, the ones you call the Americans, have never been known to speak with a straight tongue. Realizing this has saved me from making many bad decisions."
The old trader nodded.
"My people used to refuse to barter with these Americans. Always before did we travel to the north. Those men at the Hudson Bay Company we understood. But now these Big Knives, the Americans, come into our country, and try to tell us that they are here for our own good. And each time these men come, they bring whiskey, and you know that the weaker spirits in our tribe cannot resist the white-man's-water.
This whiskey drives many of our people crazy, and always something bad happens."
"Yes, White Eagle, what you say is so. It also makes it harder for free trappers, like myself, to trade. True, the free trapper is not dependent on 'the company' and the H.B.C., but since we free trappers carry little whiskey, we can hardly compete."
White Eagle nodded. "And now these Big Knives have built a new post on Kaiyi Isisakta or the Bear River and my people are anxious to barter again. It seems that my kinsmen forget the Big Knives' tricks from the past. I fear my people will sell themselves to these liars for the simple price of a few pretty beads and crazy-water. It was better when we burned down their fort last year. But these naapia'pii, these white men, keep coming back no matter that we drive them from our land time and again."
"Aa, yes," said the older man. "And they'll keep returning, too. There are so many of them."
"So you tell me, old man, so you tell me, but I have yet to see very many of them."
"You will," the older man responded, shrugging. "You will." And with this said, the fair-headed trader leaned back against the willow backrest. "Do you remember my niece, friend?"
"How could I not?"
The white man chuckled. "No, I don't suppose that you could forget her. She was only what, the last time you saw her? Five years of age? And you could not have been more than--"
"Yes, eight winters. Now, I remember it. If I recall correctly, you seemed to have loved Shines Like Moonlight as much as I did."
The blond man suddenly sat forward. "I have much to thank you for, my friend, very much, indeed."
White Eagle said nothing, merely shrugged.
"But I am going to ask even more of you."
This declaration had White Eagle glancing up.
"Here," the older man shoved a piece of paper toward the Indian. "Read this."
White Eagle glanced over the paper, his gaze scanning the contents of the white man's words. That this fur trader had dared to teach a young boy how to read so many years ago had stood in good stead for the Indian, not only to help White Eagle and his family, but for the whole of his tribe, the Pikuni band of Blackfeet. White Eagle had soon come to learn that many times the words written on the papers of the white man were different from the pledges that the naapia'pii spoke, and this, more than anything, had helped his tribe in trade.
White Eagle suddenly caught his breath as he read. He frowned, his only other reaction.
"I want you to go and fetch her for me, friend. I cannot make the journey to Fort Union this time of year, not when the trade here at Fort McKenzie is going so well."
White Eagle didn't acknowledge the words, didn't move at all; he stared at his friend.
The elder man, his glance steady, pushed his point. "She is your responsibility, after all."
White Eagle frowned, his brows drawn. "The man who wrote this says that he expects you, her uncle, to meet her at this Fort Union. This post is a good distance from us."
"Yes, I know, but I think you had best go to greet her, not me."
Again, White Eagle said nothing, although his displeasure became more pronounced.
The old man said quietly, "She belongs to you."
White Eagle could barely contain his glower. "Why do you say this?"
"You know why."
Jerking his head to the left, White Eagle countered, "Do you mean because I saved her life all those summers ago?" He shrugged. "I have rescued others since that time, and the fate of these other people did not fall to me."
"Yes, I know, but there was always something special between you and the child. Besides, her father asked you, as well as me, to watch over her."
"She was only five winters old and I was--"
"Eight years. Yes, so you have told me. Still, there was... I can't go and meet her, my friend. You know what your people will think of me if I suddenly leave this trade to travel a great distance to seek out a woman, even if she is my niece and I haven't seen her for many years. I would be laughed out of this country."
"So, you wish me to make this long journey and incur my people's wrath in your place?"
"Yes," the old trader responded, "but it's not as bad as you say. You know that you can do this thing without penalty to your reputation. You are neither trader nor white man here. It is not you who has been suddenly besieged by all these bands of Blackfeet, all wanting to trade. You'll do fine, son. Bring her safely to me from Fort Union. I entrust you with her life."
White Eagle grunted. "I think that you use me, my friend. You came to our village only yesterday. Have you known since you arrived that you wished me to travel to meet your niece?"
"And were you only awaiting the best moment before you would ask me to do this thing for you?"
The old man winked at his friend. "You always were smart as a fox."
White Eagle grinned, at the same time shaking his head. "And it is this thing which has brought you to my lodge so early this morning?"
White Eagle didn't say another word. At length, he passed his pipe to his friend, and only after the old gentleman had smoked and returned the pipe to its owner, did the Indian speak again, saying, "I will do as you ask, old friend, and bring the girl to you, but what do you want me to do about this man she is to marry?" White Eagle held up the letter. "It says here that you have demanded to meet this man she chooses to marry. Do you desire me to bring him to you, too?"
The old trader paused. "Well, now, my friend, I suppose you must, although meeting him doesn't matter so much to me. But I do want him to try to travel to this place. I hear he is an Englishman--of a titled class and nobility."
White Eagle grunted. "What is this nobility?"
"Did I never teach you that?"
White Eagle just stared at his friend.
"Nobility is a state in society, I suppose you could say, wherein a select few people feel they are better than all others because of wealth or mayhap position, or some other rubbish. It's a title that..." The old trader looked toward his friend. "Never you mind, son. If this marquess is the kind of man that I suspect him to be, he will find reason enough to turn back from the trail. That is why I have made the requirement that I am to meet this man. Only if he can survive the journey here without much complaint will I give my consent for my niece to marry him."
White Eagle hesitated. "You suspect this Englishman will not be able to make this trip?"
"Won't last more'n a day."
"But if you know this about the man already, why do you not just tell your niece that she must find another?"
The old man glanced up, his gaze calculating, if not downright prudent. "I have my reasons, son. Listen to me now. You must never mention any of what we have talked of this day to my niece, nor to anyone else. Do not let her know in any way that I wish her to come here."
The Indian frowned.
"It would be considered ill-mannered if I were to request a woman to make this trip. It was enough that I managed to get her to Fort Union."
White Eagle said nothing, although he continued to gaze at the old man as though his friend had suddenly lost the full measure of his senses.
"How can I make you understand this? In the white world, women are treated as frail creatures and are...taken care of...pampered, if you will."
"Your men fuss over a woman?"
The old fur trader sighed. "Yes, they do. And oh, what a pleasure it is to do so."
White Eagle snorted. "Does the white man also wear a dress?" White Eagle brought his hands up in a motion...an expressive, though somewhat obscene gesture toward the older man. He continued, "You speak the words of man-who-is-a-woman, my friend, not those of a warrior. It is no wonder that the men of your nation are so weak-willed that they lie."
The older man shrugged. "I will not debate that point with you. But you would do well to remember that you are dealing with another culture when you go to this fort. It is true that many of the white man's ways will seem strange to you, but that doesn't make them bad, only different."
White Eagle raised an eyebrow.
"Son, you must understand, if I even imply that I wish my niece to travel farther than the fort to reach me, it will not happen. She, as well as every man at the fort, would consider that I have bestowed upon her the greatest of insults. How can I explain this? No well-brought-up lady would ever make this trip."
"Is your niece well brought up?"
"Then why do you believe that she will come here willingly? Do you wish me to capture her?"
"Saa, my son, no." The old trader grimaced. "I believe she will come here of her own accord, that is, if she is anything like her father and mother." The old man smiled, and seemed to lose himself in thought for a moment. "I promised them, her father and mother, I would do right by her, and by Jove, I will keep that vow. Her father was the one who wanted the girl sent back East at such a young age, not me; made me promise to do so if anything ever happened to him. Personally, I've always believed it was a mistake, sending the child into a city where she had no friends or family. Why, I'd almost wager all my profits with you that the chit's as spoiled now as..." The old trader suddenly stopped, looking up. "Now, never you mind, son, never you mind.
Just ensure that you tell M'Kenzie there at the fort that I only require the Englishman, her fiance, to travel here to see me. Do not mention her at all. And then wait. I believe my niece will not be able to resist coming with you."
White Eagle nodded. "I will do as you ask." Then, glancing down, he went on to say, "I did not know that you had made this vow to her father. I had always thought that it was you who decided to send Shines Like Moonlight away. But do not worry, I will do as you say, and we will see if she decides to come. If she does not, I will bring her to you anyway. It will be harder that way, but I will do it."
The older gentleman nodded, and White Eagle, with a symbolic gesture, tapped his pipe upon the stone next to the lodge's hearth. Such was the Blackfoot way of signifying the end of a visit.
The white trader then stood, and although he made ready to leave, the grizzled old man stared at White Eagle for a moment longer, his look momentarily as cunning as that of a mountain lion.
And White Eagle, seeing it, grimaced. Perhaps this journey to this place was not to be as easy as it would appear.