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Dancing Fawn

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Grace Cummings’ family is killed and she’s taken captive by a war party of young Lakota’s hungry to fight the white men encroaching on their sacred black hill; land granted them in a treaty with the government. The brave responsible for leading the war party and Grace’s captor is shunned by the tribe for drawing attention to their band and leaves the village, giving Grace to Little Elk, the nephew of the chief. With the help and guidance of another white woman in camp, Green Eyes, wife of the chief, Grace learns important facts about the tribe and accepts her given Lakota name, Dancing Fawn… and the love of Little Elk. While the warriors are away joining with other tribes to fight the war brought upon them by the young warriors, white soldier attack the camp, killing only women, children, and old men. Dancing Fawn is discovered, identified as a white captive and forced to return with the soldiers to Fort Sully. Tied hands and constant guarding display she’s not going voluntarily. Back in civilization and under the watchful eye of the Colonel’s wife, Fawn must decide where her heart truly lies.

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Publié par
Date de parution 08 septembre 2015
Nombre de lectures 20
EAN13 9781771457200
Langue English

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Dancing Fawn by Ginger Simpson
Digital ISBNs EPUB 9781771457200 Kindle 9781771457217 WEB 9781771457224 Print ISBN 9781771457347
Copyright 2015 by Ginger Simpson Cover art Michelle Lee 2015 All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights un der copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or my any means (electroni c, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher of the book. * * * Dedication To my fellow BWL authors for being a supportive fam ily
Chapter One Grace trudged along behind the wagon, struggling to keep up with her mother. Though the prairie grass grew knee-high in some places, th e wheels found the dust hidden below and spiraled the powdery dirt into the air, c overing Grace’s hair and skin. Her muscles quivered with fatigue. The day stretched on but rather than rest, father k ept the family moving in search of the perfect place to stop. The more exhausted she b ecame, the more her thoughts turned to bitterness. Why did they have to leave th eir home? Was it this stupid thing called gold fever? She didn’t want to live in a wag on. She wanted her own soft bed back… in their own cozy house. She smacked her dry lips and cursed the day her fat her announced the beginning of thisped his hat against his knee, andhorrible journey. He’d walked into the house, slap displayed his usual heartwarming smile. “Pack up th e wagon,” he’d said. “I’ve got a plan that’ll make us rich.” The anger she experienced at his proclamation gripp ed her again. Grace had just gotten used to being in one place for any length of time. She’d actually made friends her own age and enjoyed their company. Now, surroun ded by endless prairie, and glancing at only her family, she realized how much she missed the fun times with those with whom she went to school. Tears clouded her eye s. The creaking wagon wheels, plodding hooves, and rus tling grasses made the only sounds on the lonely trail. Pa headed toward the di stant mountains—the Black Hills, where precious ore supposedly ran in golden veins s o thick the brightness rivaled the sunrise. Funny, from where she stood, the raised la nd looked like any other mountains. Nothing more than granite peaks jutting from a sea of grass and dotted with trees and scrub brush. Mama marched through the weeds ahead, her head held high and her shoulders squared against the growing wind. Where did she get her stamina? She seemed to be faring better than Grace. Mama’s admirable tenacity and devotion to Papa went without saying. Even when he uprooted the family, her mothe r never complained. If given the same opportunity, would Grace be such a follower, s he wondered? Would she ever get a chance to find out? Suitable husbands didn’t pop up in the middle of nowhere. At sixteen, she was definitely marriageable, but being an old maid seemed her fate in life if the family never put down roots. Her father drove the wagon while her older brother, Kevin, prodded their single cow along and kept her from straying. Grace smiled, thi nking of Kev’s silly jokes. He always seemed to find humor in everything, and even when t imes got tough, he made her laugh. Recalling a few nights back when he’d donned Mama’s bonnet and danced a jig around the campfire to Papa’s fiddling raised Grace ’s gritty lips in a smile. At twenty, Kevin should have a wife and be making his own plan s, but with all the shuffling from place to place, he hadn’t found a woman to share hi s life. Did being single bother him? If so, he didn’t complain.
Lost in thought, Grace almost slammed into the back of the wagon. She swerved out of the way, missing by mere inches. She walked arou nd front and stood next to her pa, watching him check the harnesses. “Papa, when are w e going to stop for the night? My legs are tired.” Her words came out in a whine followed by a loud sigh. He glanced at the surrounding terrain. “We’ve come a far piece today. Don’t reckon’ we’ll find any place much better than right here. G o gather up some kindlin’ for the fire.” The gaze in his eyes turned dreamy. “Just think, in a couple more days, we’ll stop for a good spell.” * * * Living here, in the shadow of the mountains, two we eks had passed. The loneliness and desolation weighed on Grace, and made the time she’d lived in the wagon seem more like a lifetime. She’d seen no other families, just solitary miners occasionally passing by and working the hillsides, all too busy to share even a howdy-do. Greed for the precious ore provided great motivation, but lef t little room for making friends. The sounds of hammering on stone filled the days—a stea dy cadence that already grew tiresome. She stared out at the miles of drying grass they’d traversed and sighed. Surely this wasn’t to be her home until Papa struck it rich. Fi nding gold might take forever. The current accommodations paled in comparison to livin g in a real house. A makeshift canvas tent, hooked to the side of the wagon, serve d as a bedroom for her father and brother, while she and Mama shared the wagon. No ou thouse…no privacy. Every evening, Papa and Kevin worked during the las t glimmer of sunlight on a temporary shelter built from spare planks and piece s of wood found in and around the mining area. The lopsided building didn’t appear to provide much more protection from the elements than the wagon. * * * She gazed at the hills where sunburned and smelly m en searched every day for the elusive gold. Rumors had exaggerated its abundance, but gossip didn’t dampen Papa’s spirit; he was determined to find the mother lode. The sea of browning grass around her whipped in the breeze, stirred her loneliness, and turned her insides hollow. Her eyes misted. How long did Papa expect her and Mama to sit idle all day? A person could only do so many chores while conserving water in this…this purgatory. Grace raised her gaze skyward. “Please God, let Papa find gold soon, so we can get back to civilization.” “Grace, dear!” The sweet sound of Mama’s voice inte rrupted her prayer. “Please get the flour and salt out of the wagon. We’ll be needi n’ some biscuits to go with the beans for dinner. Papa and Kevin will be hungry when they come down from the mountain.” Great! Beans again. What Grace wouldn’t give for so me variety.She shook her head. How could Mama consider this place a home? After cl imbing over the wagon tailgate, Grace searched through the food bin and found what she needed.
“Got ‘em, Mama,” Grace called as she hopped back to the ground. “If you want, I’ll make the biscuits.” At least helping with dinner ga ve her something to do. A shelf bolted to the wagon bed served as a work ar ea. Grace made space for her bowl and mixed together a floury concoction to bake in a Dutch oven. How she longed for the luxury of the cook stove in their last home , despite not being there long enough to truly enjoy it. Papa had traded a team of horses for the old iron giant, and Mama had claimed she’d died and gone to heaven when he and K evin toted it inside. Grace stopped stirring and sighed, staring blankly at the white expanse of wagon bonnet in front of her. The family had had more hom es than she could count. Mama always told her they moved so much because Papa was born under a wandering star. Sometimes Grace wished it would fall to earth like other shooting stars and put an end to his restlessness. * * * Brightness invaded the wagon’s interior and woke Gr ace. She crawled to the opening at the back of the canvas and peered out. The risin g sun crept over the mountain and spread fingers of light to dry the dew left by the cool evening air. She stretched and yawned, dreading yet another boring day ahead. The aroma of sizzling bacon filled the air. Grace g lanced over at her mother’s empty pallet and sensed a pang of guilt. Mama had always been an early riser, and a darn good cook. The smell of breakfast wafting just outs ide made Grace’s mouth water despite bearing remorse for being no help at all. She dressed in a hurry, and preferring the sensatio n of bare feet on the springy prairie grass, pushed her uncomfortable boots aside. She wo re shoes only out of necessity despite Mama’s objection that ladies didn’t go unsh od. Reaching behind, she tied the bow on her dress, and winced when craning her arm s o far back sent a painful jolt through her shoulder. She shook off the ache and ho isted herself over the tailgate to the ground. Her mother hunkered next to the campfire, turning the sizzling pieces of pork. Grace walked up behind her. “Mornin’ Mama.” Her mother’s head jerked around with eyes wide as a frightened pony. “Lordy, girl, you just took ten years off my life. You scared me to d eath walking up on those silent feet of yorn.” Grace dug her toes into the powdery dirt and chuckled. “Sorry. I didn’t try to.” “I guess I was just too engrossed in my cookin’ to hear you, but if you wore shoes like everyone else, a body’d hear ya comin’. You’re not a child anymore, Grace. You’re nigh on to seventeen, and you best act it.” “Gracious, that bacon sure does smell good.” She ch anged the subject. If she involved Mama in the task at hand, Grace wouldn’t have to he ar the shoe sermon she knew by heart. The tin pot still sitting on the wagon sideb oard gave her a new direction. “Mama, want me to get the coffee ready for brewing?” “That would be nice. Afterwards, please go and rous t the men folk.”
Grace filled the pot with water from their precious supply, dumped fresh grounds in the basket, and carried it to her mother. At the tent w here Papa and Kevin slept, she pushed aside the blanket that served as a door and peered inside. An overwhelming odor of perspiration and dirty feet leaked out; she wrinkled her nose, but reasoned that hard work and little water didn’t equal clean bodie s. “Hey, you two!” She winced and breathed to the side. “You gonna sleep all day? Mam a says it’s time to get up. Breakfast is cookin’.” Kevin coughed and caused his cover to drop to his w aist. His well-developed chest caught Grace’s attention. When had he sprouted that manly mat of hair? Smells forgotten, she couldn’t help staring. He hadn’t bee n shirtless in front of her for a long time, and evidently she had paid scant attention to how much Kevin had developed in the past couple of years. He raised on his elbows and stared at her. “If you don’t want an eyeful, you’d better leave. I sleep in my birthday suit.” His threat yan ked her to the moment; she averted her stare and took two steps back, dropping the blanket to its original place. Warmth crept up her neck into her face, although she couldn’t fi gure why. For goodness sake, it wasn’t like they weren’t related.. Kevin came out of the tent buckling his pants and l aughing. “Scared you, didn’t I?” “No!” She sneered. “I just didn’t want to see your ugly butt.” Her mother glared in their direction. “I don’t want to hear that kind of talk out of you, young lady, and Kevin, you’ll put on a shirt, or yo u’ll get no breakfast.” As he crawled back inside his makeshift bedroom, Pa pa ducked out, his boots not laced and his hair flattened from sleep. He tweaked Grace’s cheek as he passed. “Mornin’, Sassy.” Sassyers. She. Papa had a pet name for everyone, and she loved h wasand sassy, quite frequently the trait got her into trouble. Ma ma claimed she talked back and asked a lot of questions, but Grace considered herself in quisitive. Knowing was a good thing. Moving to the fire, she sat on the damp grass. Papa pulled up an empty bucket, turned it over, and sat, waiting for the coffee to finish perking. He laced and tied his boots then plopped his over-sized hat onto his head . Beneath the dust-covered brim, Grace studied his su n-tanned face, drooping moustache, and then gazed at his big hands. Their s ize made her feel safe and protected. Tall and muscular, Papa was a fortress o f a man. How any times had she hid behind him for safety when she and Kev were young? Her father might be gruff and bullheaded, but he had a soft and caring side when it came to his “Sassy.” * * * Papa scraped the last speck of egg from his plate a nd set it aside. “I s’pect Frisky (his nickname for Kevin) and me’ll find gold any day now . People are discoverin’ it all around us. When we make our strike, we can find som e land and build a real house. Findin’ gold is sure to happen soon… afore summer i s past and the weather turns cold,
I’d say. In fact, Sassy, you and yer ma might want to start gatherin’ fair-sized stones and rocks for our fireplace.” He pointed to the lean-to, still in progress. “In the meantime, Frisky and I will finish our temporary shelter, so we can spread out a bit.” No more climbing in and out of a wagon to sleep. Gr ace clapped. “Oh, Papa, a real home sounds so good, but we aren’t going to live wa y out here are we?” She flashed the look that always won him over…the h alf-pout, wistful gaze. “How do you expect me to be courted out here in the middle of nowhere?” “I’m not so sure I want you to be cour—” He jerked around and looked over his shoulder. “Do you hear that?” “Hear what?” Kevin asked. “I hear it, Papa,” Grace chimed in. “Sounds like ye lling.” Her father stood and scanned the horizon. He pointe d. “Look. There!” A group of riders emerged from a dust cloud in the distance. The yelling grew louder as they came closer. The furrows in her father’s brow frightened Grace. “What is it, Papa?” He darted for the wagon. “Injuns! Hurry! You two wo men get inside and keep low. Kevin, get yer rifle!” * * * Grace’s heartbeat quickened and fear clutched her c hest, making breathing a chore. She’d heard about savages, but never saw one up clo se. She didn’t care to. Her mother stood frozen in place. Grace grabbed her hand and yanked. “C’mon, Mama, we’d better do as Papa says.” They ran around to the back of the wagon, and her m other boosted her up and over the closed tailgate. Grace dove inside, her mind fi lled with horrible thoughts. Would she get scalped or worse…were they all going to die? Al l the while, piercing yells sliced the air while thundering hooves pounded the ground. Realizing her mother hadn’t followed, Grace rose on her knees and peeked outside. A pack of whooping Indians rode round and round the w agon, their voices creating a din of eerie screams while bullets exploded. The hair o n Grace’s arms stood on end. She covered her ears, crouched against the sidewall and prayed the savages would go away. Shots rang out from beneath the wagon when Papa and Kevin returned fire. Fretting over her mother, Grace peeked out again. Mama shrie ked and grabbed for the tailgate, but a mounted marauder pumped a bullet into her Sil enced for a moment, she fell. A red stain spread across the shoulder of her dress while she tried to struggle to her feet. The Indian shot her again, sending her face down into the dirt. Grace’s screams echoed in her own head. “No! Oh God , Mama,” she yelled at the top of her lungs. “Mamaaaa...” Overpowered by hopelessness, Grace looked on as the painted rider reined his horse next to Mama’s fallen body and emptied yet another round into her. A stream of blood
trickled through the dry dirt, and her beloved moth er remained motionless. Bile rose in Grace’s throat. She collapsed into a c owering heap, silenced her sobs with her hands and clenched her teeth to keep from screa ming. God hadn’t intervened so maybe the ordeal was all a bad dream and Mama wasn’ t really dead. Still, the shooting and whooping continued. Pounding hooves sent dust s eeping into the wagon, and Grace sputtered. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t awaken from the terror. The gunfire ceased. She listened for the awful yelp ing but heard nothing but stony silence. Terror brought her breathing in ragged gas ps. Were her brother and father still alive? And was Mama really dead? Grace wanted to look out, but feared what she’d see . Were the Indians gone? Summoning courage, she forced her eyes open and lif ted her gaze even with the edge of the tailgate. Her heart seized when she found he rself nose to nose with a scarred face covered with paint. Hate-filled eyes glared at her, and in his hand, a wooden club with dangling feathers loomed directly over her hea d. In fear for her life, she recoiled and covered her mouth to stop the scream rising in her throat. A second face, not as old or menacing, peered in at her. The younger Indian grabbed the arm of the other and said something indistingui shable. They both stared at her. Tears stung her eyes then drizzled down her cheeks. “Please, don’t kill me, please.” The angry one grabbed her arm and dragged her over the splintered tailgate. A piece of wood pierced her side. She grimaced, scrunched h er eyes closed, then hit the ground with a painful thud. Was this the end for he r? The painted savage stood over her, burning her with his hateful glare. Why? She didn’t know, although she’d heard stories about the Indians’ anger over the miners being in the Black Hills. But to kill over gold? Th at couldn’t be why. It just couldn’t. Looking past him, she noticed others still mounted; beyond them the body of her mother. Through blurred eyes, she glanced back to t he younger man then scanned beneath the wagon, searching for her papa and broth er. Their lifeless bodies lay sprawled next to one another. Her heart ached at th e needless loss. She no longer had a family. She glared up at the Indian whose bright, lightning -bolt markings did little to hide the evidence of his encounter with a sharp blade—a jagg ed scar ran from his ear to his chin. Well-deserved, she supposed. Despite her grie f and trembling legs, rage overcame her. She jumped to her feet and pummeled t he chest of the one she believed responsible. He reeked of death. “You...you savage. I hate you, I hate you,” she yelled. The younger man grabbed her wrists; the look in his eyes warned her to stop. She lowered her head and stared at the ground. Her fall ing tears sprinkled the sparse grass and glistened in the sun. Again, in a language she didn’t comprehend, the two men spoke in raised voices. The older one shoved the younger one away, grabbed Grac e’s hands and trussed them together with a long piece of rawhide. Yanking hard on her tether, he pulled her toward his horse. Once mounted, he glowered at her with pi ercing eyes beneath a brow creased from years of frowning. He nudged his horse forward and led her like a pack
mule, slow and steady at first. She flashed a plead ing look back at the younger one, but he mounted his horse and averted his gaze. Why didn ’t they just kill her and get it over? She quickened her pace to keep from falling. Her ba re toes struck an occasional rock, and she winced in pain. Now she wished she’d listen ed to Mama and worn her shoes. Mama!e forced herself to glancewonderful, beautiful Mama. Through tears, Grac  Her back for one last look at the family she’d never se e again.
ChapterTwo The air inside the tepee grew hot and stagnant with the door flap closed, but Green Eyes sought solace from the sorrow that gripped the entire village. The morning fire lay in a heap of gray ashes, but veiled sunlight filter ed through the smoke hole, providing light enough to see. Occasionally, one small ember with the circle of stone sizzled to life, but quickly faded. The constant wailing of the four-daywacekiyapi, or worship ceremony, continued outside. The woeful chorus replaced the sound of ch eerful children laughing and playing. Chief Broken Feather was dead, and the tribe mourned his passing. Green Eyes rested against her willow backrest and b raided her auburn tresses. Her thoughts turned to her mother-in-law, Singing Sparr ow. She and Broken Feather had been married for over twenty years. Although he’d b een a formidable leader, Green Eyes hadn’t known him very well. Sioux tradition pl aced men and women on separate levels, with the men meeting to discuss war, huntin g, and visions, while the women cared for the children, cooked the meals, washed cl othing, and tended to their husband’s needs. Her mate rarely complained, and seemed to love her as much as she did him. Lone Eagle was her life, and she would do anything to pl ease him...anything possible. Her only regret— She hadn’t yet given him a child. A so n of his own. She heaved a loud sigh. True, he claimed the child her first husband father ed, but Green Eyes still carried the burden of failure in her heart. Often, Lakota men t urned to other women to produce more children, and even though Lone Eagle assured h er she had no need to worry, she did. Mating with another was his right to continue his bloodline, but to lose or share him was incomprehensible. The idea turned her thoughts back to Singing Sparrow and the sense of loss she must feel. Green Eyes shuddered. Vivid pictures of the past flashed through her mind . Fate had sent Lone Eagle to her rescue when her first husband, Walt, failed to retu rn home and left her stranded alone in the middle of nowhere. Seriously injured and covere d with blood, Lone Eagle had stumbled into her ramshackle cabin and collapsed at her feet. Thinking back, maybe she had rescued him. She smiled. The past etched vivid pictures in her mind. When Wa lt married her, she barely knew how to cook or clean. Her skin, soft and unblemishe d, changed with her first attempt at real work—helping Walt repair the barn. With no glo ves, her fingers blistered and split. She recalled how angry she became. Her gaze dropped to examine her hands. Her once man icured nails were now jagged from hard work, and scraping countless animals hide s had calloused her palms. Strangely, she felt no anger. Gone was the naive an d helpless Cecile, and in her place, Green Eyes, a woman who decorated clothing with bea utiful quills, made moccasins from softened hides, and even erected tepees…now a mature and accomplished wife. During their trip to the village, Lone Eagle had as sured her she would be safe, but the Sioux’s reception made her question his promise. Cu rious at first, then angry, the