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Book Excerpt by Magnolia Belle

Ch. 1 Excerpt

Seventeen-year-old Lana sat beside the slow-running river and pulled off her shoes and socks, her toes wiggling in delight at their newfound freedom. Late August afternoons in Texas were the hottest part of the day, of the year — too hot to do chores or to stay inside the sod house where there was no air. This was a perfect time to swim and maybe to wash her hair.

Lana stood, removed her dress and underthings, and carefully laid them across a bush. She gingerly picked her way across rocks and around grass burrs, and then walked into the river until the water came to just under her navel. As she undid her braid, she let her long, brown hair fall loose down her back and shoulders. She leaned forward and gently fell into the water, its coolness a delight against her hot, sweaty skin. This was heaven!

The young woman swam and floated for a few moments but, wanting her soap, she stopped and took a few steps in the waist-deep water toward the riverbank. A noise behind her made her whirl around.

Several yards away, a Kiowa brave sat on a magnificent black horse, staring intently at the nude woman. Lana froze, not sure what to do. She hadn’t brought a gun with her. The house was so close, she hadn’t thought she needed to.


Ch. 10 Excerpt

Two days after Two Hawks’ midnight visit, Lana went on another foraging trip along the river. It was gorgeous fall day, the air crisp and cool, the sky beautifully blue. Lana found some interesting plants and, wondering what they were, set her gun and basket down for closer inspection. She had just knelt in front of the plants when someone grabbed her from behind and dragged her forcibly to the river. There, to her dismay, stood a band of five warriors, paint on their faces and on their horses. They didn’t look like Kiowa. One of them arrogantly held up her gun. It was his now.

“Let me go!” she yelled as she leapt at the brave closest to her, grabbing at his chest and pulling something from his throat. Beads scattered to the ground like colored raindrops. The brave hit her across the face with the back of his hand, sending her head snapping back. Lana staggered, but didn’t fall.

She glared at him, ready to charge again, when a noose was thrown over her neck, choking her. Just as quickly, her hands were tied. The men mounted their horses and headed southwest, forcing her to walk behind them.

Lana spoke what little Kiowa she knew, but none of them responded. She continued in English. “Where are we going? — Do you know that soldiers are looking for you? — My pa will come after me! — You’d better let me go while you have the chance. — That’s not your gun, either!”

As her nonstop chatter continued, the warrior who had the other end of her ropes turned on his horse and shook his head at her, saying what she assumed was, ‘Quiet.’

But she wouldn’t be quiet. She was angry rather than frightened. Didn’t they know she knew Two Hawks? After a few minutes of her endless commentary, another of the braves turned his horse around and, riding up beside her, kicked her in the chin, yelling at her. She bit her tongue in the motion, blood running down the side of her mouth.  But at last, she was quiet.  And, for the first time, she was afraid.


Ch. 15 Excerpt

They fought for only fifteen minutes before Nathan looked over at Lana.  "We're almost out of powder.  Enough for two, maybe three rounds."

Lana closed her eyes.  Now what?  Looking over at Two Hawks, she told him the news.  He only had a few arrows left as well.

Lana reached for his hand. “Don’t let them take me. Please.” He nodded, his jaws clenching. He couldn’t look at her, not wanting her to see how heart-stricken he was.

She turned to her brother. “I won’t be taken alive. Yi Ceŋtas will see to it.”

“Lana?” Nathan stared horrified at her. “No!”

“Oh, yes, Nathan. They might kill you and Yi Ceŋtas, but they will have a fate much worse for Christina and me. Rape will probably be the least of it. You need to talk to her now, while you have a chance.”

Nathan felt sick at his stomach, but his sister was right. The Apache could be cruel. He crawled over to Christina with his gruesome offer.

Lana took careful aim with her last bullet, blinking back tears, and then fired. Her target went down. Two Hawks shot the last of his arrows and, not waiting to see how they landed, pulled her to him, holding her close as he lay partially on top of her. It was time.

“Kiss?” he asked as he looked into her beautiful, trusting eyes. She nodded and offered her lips.

“I love you, Yi Ceŋtas.” She touched his dark hair, his handsome face in a gesture of farewell. “Thank you for this.”

“T′on Ma, wait for me. I’ll be right behind you. Then we can go to our new life together.”

“I’ll wait.” She paused to take one last look at his eyes. “Be quick,” she whispered.

As he kissed her with longing and love and sorrow, he pulled his long knife out of its sheath. He could feel her lips trembling against his as she rolled slightly away from him, offering him her breast. Apache war cries filled their ears. This would be last thing they heard. He raised his arm straight up, the knife’s blade glinting relentlessly in the sun.


Ch. 39 Excerpt

"Should we wait until morning to move in?" the sergeant asked.

"No.  We'll take them tonight, while it's dark.  If we're this close to their camp, they don't know we're here," Liam reasoned.

"Surprise ′em," the scout nodded in agreement.

"Exactly.  Now, what's the land like around their camp?" the lieutenant asked.

The scout gave as detailed a report as he could, squatting down and drawing in the dirt. Within the hour, Liam had an attack mapped out and the sergeant organized the men.

Under cover of darkness, Liam sent four of his men toward the Kiowas guarding the horses. The rest quietly encircled the sleeping camp, being careful not to arouse anyone until the last minute.

When the soldiers were in position, Liam gave his silent signal by raising and then quickly lowering his saber. The Kiowa guards were killed while the rest of the soldiers galloped into the camp, quickly capturing the warriors.

Two Hawks leapt to his feet at the first sound of trouble, but, before he could reach his rifle, there was another pointed directly at his chest by a mounted soldier. Two Hawks backed up one step, his hands raised in defeat. Looking over his shoulder, he saw that his entire band was either staring down the barrel of a gun or lying dead.

Liam slowly rode in a wide circle around the captured Kiowa. When he saw Two Hawks, he stopped, looking down at the defiant young warrior. The two men stared at each other for a long moment and then, with the utmost contempt on his face, Two Hawks spit on the ground in front of Liam.


Ch. 40 Excerpt

"Oh, it's you, Water Woman," he announced, surprised.  Taking some food from her, he turned back.  "Isn't she your woman?" he asked Two Hawks.

Two Hawks had been sleeping, propped up in the corner, but at the warrior's words, he jerked awake and looked out.  There, in the darkness, stood a familiar silhouette.  He stood and walked slowly to the bars, where he waited until everyone else had food.  Then he approached her.

"What are you doing here?" he growled as his eyes flickered toward Liam and then back to her.

“Hello, Yi Ceŋtas.” She spoke in English so that Liam would understand. “Food.”

When he shook his head in refusal, she offered it again. “Please,” she said in Kiowa. “I brought this for you. I know you’re hungry.”

The angry man almost refused a second time, but something in her eyes stopped him. He’d seen that look of love hundreds of times before, but this time it couldn’t be true. She loved someone else, not him — didn’t she? Even so, her expression softened his resolve. T′on Ma had made this food by her own hand, and brought it because he was here. He sensed that she wouldn’t have done this for any of the others. Reluctantly, he took the offered food from her. Liam scowled as he watched, an alarm going off in his mind.

Next, Lana poured them all coffee, adding sugar to each tin cup. The cups just fit through the bars and were taken by eager hands. Sweet coffee was a treat at any time. But in these circumstances, it only proved once again how strange the white man was. Who gave treats to prisoners?

“Is it true you married him?” Two Hawks nodded toward Liam.

“Yes.”

“Do you love him then so quickly after me?” He sounded contemptuous.

“No.”

“What?” He stepped back in his surprise.

“Only you,” she said softly in Kiowa. “Always you.”


Ch. 41 Excerpt


After changing quickly into her nightgown, she twisted her hair up into a high bun. Next, she pulled on Liam's uniform shirt and trousers over her gown, and then she put on his cap.  Making sure the bed covers were turned down, she took the key to the stockade off his key ring.  She raised the back window and carefully looked around.  To her relief, no one was in sight.  She climbed through the window and pulled it almost closed before she checked again for the sentry.  One had just reached a far building and was turning the corner.  Scurrying behind Officers' Quarters, Lana ran from shadow to shadow until she made her way to the back of the stockade, where she knelt, watching again for the sentries.

Still kneeling in the shadows, she spoke in Kiowa in a low voice. “Two Hawks?”

Nothing.

“Two Hawks? It’s me.”

“Water Woman?” he whispered back.

“I’m here to get you out.”

“All right. How?”

“I have a key to unlock the door. You unlock it and give me back the key. Wait for a little while before you escape so that I have time to get back home.”

“I unlock the door. Give you the key and wait.”

“Yes.”

Hearing a soft noise, he looked at the bars and saw her hand waving a large key. He took it from her. “Do you have horses?” he asked.

“No. You’ll have to steal some.”

“All right.”

“Also,” she continued, “leave this nail on the floor by the door when you go.”

“A nail? Why?”

“There’s no time to explain. Just do it.”

“All right.” Two Hawks reached out a second time and took the bent nail. With the key and nail in his possession, he motioned to his band to be still. Going to the stockade door, he checked for guards. One stood at the other end of the stockade with his back to them. Two Hawks slipped his hand through the bars, quietly unlocked the door and then placed the nail just inside. When he came back to Lana, he simply dropped the key to the ground beside her.

She had planned to leave quickly, but couldn’t go without seeing him. Checking over her shoulder for the sentry and seeing none, she stood up.  Two Hawks stood just inches away, his strong face in shadow. 

"I love you, Water Woman."  His hand reached through the bars to caress her face.

"Still?  After all that I've done?"  She held his hand against her cheek.

"Yes.  Always."

"I love you so much - but I have to stay with my husband."

"For now."

She couldn't risk staying any longer.  "Goodbye."

"Goodbye, my heart."

He watched her slip away, wishing he could take her with him.  It wouldn't be just his escape.  It would be theirs.  Even though she hadn't said, he knew she was in her own prison - a prison without bars.  All those dreams of her crying in the night had told him so.


Ch. 45 Excerpt

"Here.  Right here," Nathan said after they'd walked a short distance.  "She used to come to this spot and sit under these trees to think and to read."

"All right."  Taking off his shirt, Liam walked to a high spot and began digging.  Nathan began digging about six feet away.  It was well past dark when they returned to the house, hot, sweaty, dirty, tired.  When they sat at the table, Paul handed them each a glass of whiskey.

"We've dug the grave," Nathan announced just before he gulped his down.

"Good," Joshua nodded.  "We'll bury her in the morning."  May sat in her rocking chair, staring unfocused into the fire.  The gentle wish-swish, wish-swish of the rocker was the only sound she made.

“Oh, I’ve brought her things, too,” Liam broke the silence. “Maybe Ma and Christina can make use of some of them.”

“All right.” Christina stood up. “Where are they? I’ll go get them.”

“No. I will.” Liam finished his whiskey and went back outside. When he walked into the dark barn, he went to the wagon seat, reaching under it for her things. When he straightened, his eyes locked on the casket. He stayed there for a long time, thinking.

“Honey,” he whispered. “You’re home now. Your brother and I have got you all fixed up by your favorite place next to the river. I finally got your letter to them, just like I promised. And Ma has your wedding ring. I thought maybe that’s what you’d want. And now, I’m taking in your things hoping they can use them. I can’t keep them around me. I’ll lose my mind if I do.” Reaching out, he touched the edge of the casket. “I miss you so much, Lana. I wish it had been me instead of you. How am I supposed to go on now? How?” Liam looked around in the darkness. For what — he didn’t know. “Bringing you here was hard,” he continued. “But at least you were with me. I don’t know how I’m going to make myself leave. You’ll be here. My heart will be here. My life will be here.”

When he didn’t come back, Joshua went looking for Liam and heard the last part of Liam’s words. When Joshua touched him on the shoulder, Liam whirled around and then held on to Joshua, crying, not like a baby, but as only a grown man can cry in the face of unbearable grief. Joshua understood and let him.

The next morning brought a hint of the coming fall. The Texas sky was deep blue and wide open. Joshua stood at the head of the grave, the family Bible in his hand. A Psalm was read, a prayer said, a hymn sung, tears shed. When the grave was filled, Joshua set up a crudely-made cross. May laid what flowers she could find beneath it. There was nothing left to do but go back to the house.

Liam refused to stay. “I’ve got to get back. I leave for Boston very soon, and I have a lot to do before I go.”

"Yeah, Boston."  Joshua looked somberly at Liam.  "I suppose you won't be back this way, then."

"Probably not.  Not with my family in Georgia."

"Well, then, this is goodbye for real."  Joshua extended his hand.  Liam shook it and then hugged Joshua. 

"I loved her with everything I had," he said quietly, so that only Joshua heard him.

"I know you did, son.  I know."  Patting his back once, Joshua stepped away to let the others say their goodbyes.  In a short time, Liam was back on the wagon headed east to a life he no longer cared to live.

This article was published on Tuesday 24 April, 2007.
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Legal Notice: All works, current and future, by Magnolia Belle are the intellectual property of, and are copyrighted to, Magnolia Belle and Black Wolf Books.