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Excerpt for The Untamed by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

THE UNTAMED

A Novel of Early America

BOOK TWO



KASEY MICHAELS


Praise for Kasey Michaels’ THE HOMECOMING

“A tale of love and passion.... A fast-paced plot and the history of the Lenape tribe, told with poignancy and sensitivity.... Splendid and worth the read.”

Rendezvous


“Intriguing.... Michaels provides vivid description and authentic historical detail.... This colonial romance with a dash of English elegance and a touch of Irish sass is an uncommon mix....”

Library Journal


“Kasey Michaels’ obvious adoration for Pennsylvania’s history glows within the pages of The Homecoming. Readers will be fascinated by the colorful details, marvelous characters, and the exciting adventure and passion....”

—Kathe Robin, Romantic Times



Copyright 1996 by Kathryn Seidick

Electronic Edition Copyright 2018: Kathryn A. Seidick

EBook published by Kathryn A. Seidick at Smashwords, 2018

Cover art by Tammy Seidick Design,

EBook Design by A Thirsty Mind Book Design, 2018


All rights reserved.


No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photography, recording or any information storage and retrieval system without written permission of the author.



A student’s best friend is a good teacher.

My life has been blessed by five of the best: Marjorie Lazarus, William Piff, Ranald MacAdam, John Durishin, and William Helfrich. They gave me a love of reading, of writing, of history. They made me angry; they made me think. They awakened me to the world.

This book—every book I write—belongs in part to them.



Table of Contents


Titles by Kasey Michaels

Prologue

New Eden

Book One

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Book Two

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Book Three

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Book Four

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Epilogue


The Promise excerpt

Titles by Kasey Michaels

About the Author



TITLES BY
KASEY MICHAELS

Alphabet” Regency Romances

The Tenacious Miss Tamerlane

The Playful Lady Penelope

The Haunted Miss Hampshire

The Wagered Miss Winslow

The Belligerent Miss Boynton

The Lurid Lady Lockport

The Rambunctious Lady Royston

The Mischievous Miss Murphy

Moonlight Masquerade

A Difficult Disguise

The Savage Miss Saxon

The Somerville Farce

Nine Brides and One Witch: A Regency Novella Duo

Historical Regency Romances

A Masquerade in the Moonlight (Enterprising Ladies)

Indiscreet (Enterprising Ladies)

Escapade (Enterprising Ladies)

The Legacy of the Rose (A Dark Gothic)

Come Near Me

Out of the Blue (A Time Travel)

Role of a Lifetime (A Time Travel Novella)

Waiting for You (Love in the Regency, Book 1)

Someone to Love (Love in the Regency, Book 2)

Then Comes Marriage (Love in the Regency, Book 3)

Just Good Clean Fun Regency Romances

The Straight-Laced Duke Selbourne;

The Just Good Clean Fun version of Indiscreet

The Bedeviled Viscount Brockton;

The Just Good Clean Fun version of Escapade

The Dangerous Mister Donovan;

The Just Good Clean Fun version of A Masquerade in the Moonlight

Historical Early-American Romances

The Homecoming

The Untamed

The Promise

Contemporary Romances

Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You (D&S Security Series)

Too Good To Be True (D&S Security Series)

Love To Love You Baby (The Brothers Trehan Series)

Be My Baby Tonight (The Brothers Trehan Series)

This Must Be Love (Summer Lovin’ Series)

This Can’t Be Love (Summer Lovin’ Series)

Stuck in Shangri-La (The Trouble With Men Series)

Everything’s Coming Up Rosie (The Trouble With Men Series)

Find Kasey’s books here!



Happy the man, and happy he alone,

who can call today his own:

he who, secure within, can say,

tomorrow, do thy worst, for I have lv’d today.

—John Dryden

PROLOGUE

1763


A Violent Land...

Would that I were under the cliffs,

in the secret hiding-places of the rocks,

that Zeus might change me to a winged bird

—Euripides

Prologue

New Eden

And if I perish, I perish.

—Esther 4:16



Come here to me, Eileen, and we’ll be watching God’s great sun set together. The sky’s as faerie pink as our sweet Mary Catherine’s lips, and a multitude of birds are singing us their good-nights. And look—here’s our own two fine, strapping sons, traipsing up the hill, back from the village in good time just as they promised. They’ve got themselves a bit to go yet, but even from here I can see their cheeks stretched with sugarplums. Glory be! Could that be the bolt of fancy plaid cloth you’ve been pining for tucked up under our Joseph’s arm? It’s a glorious sight you’re missing, sweet Eileen, don’t you know, rubbing at those pots.”

Eileen Cassidy frowned and put down the heavy cast iron pot she had been scrubbing. She hastily dried her hands on her apron as she walked to the open doorway of the barn that housed not only her family but the farm animals as well, and would until Daniel could spare the time to build them the fine new house he had promised her when they left County Clare to seek their fortune in this new, untamed land.

She rested her head against her husband’s shoulder. “It’s a pretty picture you paint with your sweet blarney, Daniel Cassidy,” she said, smiling. “And who was it lied and whispered in your ear that I’ve been pining for a scrap of cloth, plaid or otherwise?”

Brighid Cassidy, just turned sixteen, and the oldest of Daniel and Eileen’s four children, scooped up her sister, Mary Catherine, and followed her mother to the doorway. “Oh, would you listen to her, Da, pretending not to know what it is you’re talking about. And after spending a good ten minutes visiting that same bolt of cloth each time we go into Mr. Benjamin Rudolph’s store. It’s a new dress she wants for when Uncle Sean and Cousin Bryna come.”

Eileen shook her head, her fair cheeks blushing as pink as the sky—as pink as her little Mary Catherine’s sweet lips—and admitted the truth. “But I didn’t need it, Daniel, truly I didn’t. Not with us so penny pinched. How wonderful it will be when Sean comes with the money to pay the quitrent on our warrant and we can patent our land.” She laid her head against her husband’s shoulder once more, sighing. “Our land, Daniel. Is there not a beautiful sound in those two sweet words? Nearly as beautiful as this lovely sunset.”

Daniel didn’t answer her, his body suddenly stiff and tense beside her. She lifted her head and looked out over the land they had cleared, the few acres they had so far carved out of the dense forest that made up the majority of this area of the Pennsylvania colony so hopefully christened New Eden. Joseph and Michael must have seen something, too, for they had stopped a good fifty yards from the barn and were looking to their left, into the dense undergrowth. “What is it, Daniel? What do you see?”

“Indians. At least six. There, in the trees. Haven’t seen these particular fellows before,” Daniel said tersely, reaching for the weapon he kept propped against the wall just inside the door, then seemingly changed his mind. “Savage-looking beasts, don’t you know, but harmless enough I’ll wager, for all Rudolph says. I’ll go out to meet them, Eileen, to show we mean no harm. You and the girls stay here.”

Eileen looked to her boys, so near to the barn and yet still disconcertingly distant, and then to her husband, who stood just beside her, tall, straight, and appearing utterly fearless. She remembered the brace of dueling pistols their nearest neighbor, Dominick Crown, had pressed upon her only a few short weeks ago, and the horrific instructions he had imparted to her against her wishes, against all her motherly instincts. But surely Dominick had been overreacting, as everyone in New Eden said—seeing demons where there were none. Surely Daniel was right to offer a friendly welcome rather than combativeness. Dear Virgin, please let him be right.

Eileen began to tremble, then willed herself to swallow down her panic, her impulse to scream. “Offer them some food, Daniel,” she heard herself say, taking Mary Catherine from Brighid’s arms and motioning for her older daughter to fetch some of that day’s fresh loaves from the cabinet. “Daniel, I—”

“I know, darlin’,” he said soothingly, kissing her cheek and then Mary Catherine’s as well as the five-year-old reached up to grab at his shoulders with her chubby fingers. “But this is our land now. If we’ll be staying, it’s best we begin as we plan going on. And Daniel Cassidy is not one to bar his door and shut out his neighbors, white or red.” His smile faded. “Especially with our own two boys still out there.”

Eileen nodded and stepped back to watch as her husband, his stride long and confident, walked down the slight slope toward the half-dozen Indians who had now moved fully into the clearing. Eileen drew her breath in sharply. She had seen Indians before: Dominick Crown’s friend Lokwelend and his son and daughter. They didn’t wear painted marks on their faces. Who were these men, these strangers? And what did they want?

Daniel raised a hand to their unexpected visitors, shouting out a cheery “A thousand welcomes to you! And a fine evening it is for a bit of visiting!” At the same time, he unhurriedly motioned with his other hand for Joseph and Michael to come to him.

Eileen held her breath and maintained her own smile with a steely determination, wishing the boys inside with her. Wishing Daniel inside with his family. Wishing the stout wooden door closed tight and bolted. Wishing all of the Cassidys safely back in County Clare, still dreaming of their new home in America.

Brighid left the loaves on the table and returned to stand beside her mother. She leaned around the doorjamb to peer outside. “Should Da be doing this, do you think, making these Indians as welcome as the flowers in May? Mr. Rudolph says the Lenni Lenape are nothing more than ignorant savages, no better than wild bears, and we should shoot them all as soon as look at them.”

“Benjamin Rudolph would have us shoot everybody, child, for he’s a mean, narrow man.” Eileen turned to Brighid for a moment, hoping to ease the girl’s fears with a reassuring smile.

Neither woman saw the war club that suddenly, unerringly, sliced through the dusk-dimmed air and brought Daniel Cassidy down, his forehead split open like an overripe melon. Eileen only looked to her husband, saw him sprawled on his back on the packed brown earth, as she heard her boys scream out in panic: “Da! Da!

“Sweet holy mother! Daniel! Brighid—they’ve killed your da! Dear, good Jesus, no! Daniel!

“There’s no time!” Brighid grabbed at her mother’s arm as Eileen instinctively made to rush to her husband’s side and pulled her back inside the barn. “Michael! Joseph!” Brighid shouted, her voice holding an icy command far beyond her age and experience. “Run, boys! This way! Run!

The Indians began to yell now as well, after being so silent, after killing so silently. They added their fierce voices to the sudden, strident cacophony of sound that had nothing to do with faerie-pink sunsets or brightly chirping birds. Blood-curdling screams reverberated in Eileen’s chest and rooted her to the floor, no longer able to move, no longer able to think. She looked on, as if caught in a dream, while the boys dropped their packages and prepared to defend themselves.

The report of Daniel’s rifle being discharged close beside her made Eileen flinch, even as a part of her mutely cheered the fall of one of the Indians. But only one. Five more remained, and it would take Brighid precious time to reload.

“Run, boys!” Brighid commanded yet again, standing the rifle on its hilt as she measured powder and charge. “Mama, tell them to keep running.”

But it was too late for running. Eileen knew that, just as Brighid must know it. Just as Michael and Joseph, for all their youth and innocence, must know it.

The boys halted a heartbreaking thirty yards from the barn and lifted their childish weapons—more toys than weapons, fashioned for them by Lokwelend’s son, Pematalli—only to have them torn from their hands by their attackers. Eileen watched, unbelieving, as her babies were thrown to the ground, still loudly crying for their da, for her, as if they’d had a nightmare and were calling out for comfort. Their agonized cries were terrible but blessedly brief.

And then the Indians were on the move again, heading straight for the barn. Eileen reacted at last. She was awash in disbelief, stunned, her happiness destroyed in an instant, her only thoughts those of anguish and terror over what had happened. What could still happen. Mary Catherine began to struggle and cry in her mother’s fiercely clutching arms. Too late to protect her from the horrific sight, Eileen belatedly turned the child’s head against her bosom.

Mary Catherine’s cries reminded Eileen that even if Daniel and her boys were gone, she still had the remainder of her precious family to protect. She resolutely closed the door on the carnage, stifling her sobs, and threw home the bolt even as she ordered Brighid to shut the heavy shutters on the single window. “Stick the rifle through the gun slot and shoot yourself another one, Brighid, while I hide Mary Kate,” she ordered, willing herself to concentrate on her girls and not the horror outside her door.

Eileen pressed a kiss against Mary Catherine’s bright red curls. She traced the sign of the cross on the child’s forehead with her thumb, then bent and slid her youngest child under the wide bed, pushing her back as far as she could, all the way to the rough wooden wall. “Not a word, Mary Catherine,” she warned as sternly as she could. “You hear me? Stay under here until I come back for you. As you love your mother, sweet baby, not a word, not a sound!”

The child nodded, her eyes already wide with the shock of what she had seen. Eileen whispered a quick prayer, then lowered the coverlet, hiding Mary Catherine from sight.

“Mama, hurry—they’re still coming!” Brighid screamed to her mother, sliding the barrel of the rifle through the slot in the shutters even as Eileen rose, stumbled over to a nearby shelf, and picked up the rosewood box containing Dominick Crown’s loaned dueling pistols. “Oh, why, Mama? In God’s name, why?

“I don’t know, Brighid,” Eileen answered at last, her hands shaking as she stood at the table and fought to load both the pistols. Late at night, while the children were sleeping, Daniel had taught her how. “Just in case, darlin’, like Dominick told us,” he had said. Daniel had taught her how. Like Dominick Crown, he had told her why.

She just hadn’t believed either of them, that’s all. Even now, with Daniel murdered, with her babies butchered before her eyes, she could not believe it. Surely the savages had enough of killing by now? Surely they’d go away and leave them in peace, leave them to bury their dead?

“Filthy bastards! They’re after Da’s hair!”

Eileen flinched when she heard the report of the rifle as Brighid fired again. She knew the next shots should be hers—one fired into her older daughter’s brain, another into Mary Catherine’s.

But could she do it?

The crash of axes hitting the door, the piercing war whoops of the savages ringing inside her ears, nearly undid Eileen. She had to fight to recall how to load the pistols, could barely cudgel her panicked brain into remembering Daniel’s instructions. Her entire body shook. She bit through her bottom lip to hold back her screams.

Now that Brighid had fired again, there would probably not be time to reload the rifle. Not that it mattered. She didn’t possess the strength of will it would take to shoot her own babies with the dueling pistols, then either reload the rifle or one of the pistols and dispatch herself to hell. Murder her own children? Commit the unforgivable sin of suicide? No. Her Lord’s teachings were too ingrained, her hope of heaven, of being reunited with Daniel and her boys for eternity, too dear to her.

Daniel, she implored her beloved husband silently. I can’t do this. Forgive me, my love. I simply cannot do this. There must be another way.

A sure, certain calm washed over her. What happened to her would happen. She would not, could not, murder hope. The pistol ball she was holding fell from her suddenly steady fingers and rolled under the bed.

Eileen laid the pistol in her lap, refusing to consider it further. She extracted her rosary from her pocket and looked to her older daughter. Brighid had picked up a carving knife and was turned toward the door that was already half kicked in. The girl’s expression was resolute and remarkably brave for all that tears streamed down her pale cheeks.

Eileen greedily drank in the beauty of this first child of her heart. Brighid’s was a beauty that had been there since birth but was just now blossoming into a true wonder of fair skin, bright green eyes, and a glorious fall of midnight dark curls. And she was as purely beautiful within as she was on the surface. Brighid deserved a future. Both her girls deserved a future.

The wood holding the lock gave way and one of the grotesquely painted savages crashed through the doorway, then stopped as he saw the two women. “Brighid!” Eileen called out, gaining her daughter’s attention for a split second. “Da said they sometimes take children as captives—”

“Never!” Brighid shouted, brandishing the knife with one hand as she loosed a bit of crockery toward the savage’s head with the other. The Indian ducked his head out of the way and remained where he was, probably shocked to see this fiery-eyed demon whose expression held not fear, but naked hatred and loathing.

“Cling to your life, my darling!” Eileen was unable to look away as the savage yelled and raised his bloody ax. “You are never a slave if your mind is free! Lay down the knife!”

Eileen Cassidy then rose to her knees, using her own body to block the savages from the bed, from Mary Catherine. Her lips barely moved as she held the rosary and began to recite: “Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners...now and at the hour of our—”

BOOK ONE

1768

Confrontation

The greatest griefs are those we cause ourselves.

—Sophocles

Chapter 1

The King’s might is greater than human,

and his arm is very long.

—Herodotus



The sun shone down brightly as Philip Crown, Earl of Ashford and reluctant savior of damsels in distress, guided his weary mount along the dusty groove of a footpath leading toward a small encampment of teepees and rude tents outside the gates of mighty Fort Pitt.

“This is where they’re keeping the returned captives, Lokwelend?” he asked of his companion, the elderly Lenni Lenape who rode beside him, holding the lead rope of the extra mount they had brought with them from New Eden. “Hardly seems fitting unless they’re all lousy with lice or some such thing.”

Lokwelend grunted. Lokwelend grunted a lot, Philip had decided. At least the Indian had for the past three weeks, the time it had taken for the two men to cross nearly from one end of the colony of Pennsylvania to the other. When he wasn’t quoting long dead Greeks and Romans, which Philip had seen as a splendid joke, before they’d been just the two of them, alone together, traveling through the wilderness between outposts for weeks. The Indian had more books in his head than most English estate libraries.

“To your people, Little Crown, the captives are White Indians. They are Lenape, no matter what the color of their skins,” Lokwelend said now. “These people did not come here willingly, and the whites inside the fort fear them as enemies. For many years the Night Fire has been a Lenape, and she might not agree to go with us.”

Philip smiled, shaking his head. “You think so, do you? And would you be willing to be the one who says as much to my dear aunt Bryna when we return to Pleasant Hill without her cousin, now that she has hope Brighid may have at last been found? Wasn’t having her shoot at you once enough for you? Why, the way I heard the story told, Bryna singed your feathers and came within a whisker of blowing your head right off. That was before she learned to love you or my uncle Dominick, of course.”

“You have too long a memory for a man of so few summers,” Lokwelend answered as the soldier he had spoken to earlier motioned for them to approach. “Here, they are lining up the captives for our inspection. Like cattle at a sale, brought here from their many tribes. Nipawi Gischuch will not thank you for this humiliation. If she is even here.”

“It would please me immensely, Lokwelend, if you would stop referring to Brighid Cassidy by that name.”

Lokwelend grunted again, then shrugged eloquently. Sometimes Philip couldn’t decide between considering the Indian as a Greek oracle or as a damned Frenchman, speaking more with his gestures than his mouth. “It is who she is, Little Crown. She is Nipawi Gischuch, the Night Fire, just as her cousin is the Bright Fire. Such it will always be. A name cannot change what is inside.”

Philip gave up the argument. He only dismounted while Lokwelend, who unlike himself had previously met Bryna’s cousin and could thus identify her, got on with the business of finding the girl so that they could all go inside the fort and find a wet bottle and dry beds.

The captives had been herded into a ragged single line along the pathway, standing with their heads bowed, their collective posture defeated. Philip flinched in reflected embarrassment at his government’s treatment of his fellow human beings. Like cattle at a sale...

These, Philip knew, were the last known Lenape captives, the men, women, and children who had fled Pennsylvania with their captors five years before, having formed new bonds, new relationships with the Indians that superseded those they had left behind.

There were young mothers standing in the dust, half-breed children sitting at their feet. A redheaded fellow of no more than sixteen and dressed all in deerskins was chained to a wagon wheel, obviously not overjoyed to have been returned to the white man’s world. And, behind them, standing just outside the tents and teepees, were Indians, young and old. They were already weeping, pulling at their hair and clothing, sure that this time, with this new inspection, their particular loved ones were about to be separated from them forever.

Some of the captives had been living with the Lenape for more than a decade. Long enough for a young child to forget his natural parents, much too long to conceive of a separation from their adopted families, the only families they remembered. If, indeed, they had any relatives remaining after the particular raid that had left them not dead, but adopted to replace a child, mother, or brother lost to the white man’s war. Many had married into the tribe that had captured them and were content in their new lives. White Indians, as Lokwelend had said they were called.

Returning the captives and their half-white children to civilization had seemed a practical, even laudable, idea when the last treaty had been signed and the edict had come down from the government. Seeing this coldly pragmatic solution in practice made Philip shiver with distaste.

Lokwelend’s warning that he would not be greeted with effusive thanks for “rescuing” Brighid Cassidy sounded more logical now. His mission seemed less noble than when he had agreed to—how had he said it? Oh, yes, he remembered. He had volunteered to “go Brighid hunting, the moment misplaced, recalcitrant Irish maidens are in season, of course.”

For the five years since making that promise to Bryna Cassidy Crown, Philip had traveled throughout the colonies, even returned to England for a few months, his offer more than half forgotten. Until the long arm of the government had reached out and found the last of its once-loyal, captive subjects and demanded they be brought home.

Philip had been visiting at Pleasant Hill once more at the time of the news, and Bryna hadn’t hesitated a moment to remind him of his promise. Dominick couldn’t leave. Not with Bryna once more with child and with all the responsibilities Dominick had, both at his estate and in the town of New Eden, where he remained its most prominent citizen.

Leaving Philip to make good on his rashly spoken promise. Leaving Philip to be the one who got to ride on horseback across the width of the colony with the grunting, shrugging, bear-grease-smelling, Greek-quoting Lokwelend, who swore he could recognize Brighid Cassidy no matter how many years had passed.

The sound of weeping brought Philip back to the moment at hand. “Let’s get this over with, Lokwelend,” he urged quietly, “before the soldiers decide to silence a few mouths with their rifle butts.” He accepted and held the reins of all three horses as the Indian began walking down the long line, looking intently into each young woman’s face.

Lokwelend had known Brighid Cassidy when her family first came from Ireland to settle in New Eden. It had been Lokwelend who, at Bryna Cassidy Crown’s request, had searched for the girl several months after her capture by a raiding war party. And it had been Lokwelend who had found Brighid, then left her behind with her new Lenape family, returning to New Eden empty-handed.

But full of sage sayings and obscure reasons, no doubt, Philip thought ruefully as he watched the Indian’s slow progress.

No more than a third of the way down the line, Lokwelend halted in front of a particular young woman.

Palli áal, Grandfather,” the woman ordered tersely, Philip’s limited knowledge of the language still encompassing the translation of that particular phrase. “Go away,” the female had said. He tilted his head to one side, beginning to be interested.

Lokwelend mumbled something in reply, then bowed his head, saying quietly, “Itah. I say, good be to you, Nipawi Gischuch. When last we met, you told me of your wish to remain with your new family. I had promised the Bright Fire only that I would find you, and so I left you again as you asked, without breaking my word. The Bright Fire learns quickly and was more pointed in her request this time. She wants the sister of her heart to come home. As her friend and as the friend of Crown, I could not refuse her. I ask you to forgive me.”

The young woman sighed, keeping her chin lowered.

Lokwelend grunted, stepped back a pace, and pointed to the young woman as he stared levelly at Philip, his dark eyes silently imploring the younger man to measure his words well. “This is she, Little Crown. Before you stands the Night Fire, the one I have told you about, the one you call Brighid Cassidy.”

“Are you sure?” Philip leaned forward slightly to get a better look at the girl. Her hands were bound in front of her, unlike those of the other women, as if this one particular woman might prove dangerous if untied. Her skin, what he could see of it, was as dark as either birth or Mother Nature could make it and glowed from the usual Lenape application of sunflower oil meant to keep her safe from sunburn while working in the fields. Her black hair, slick with bear grease that could tame any tendency to curl, hung nearly to her waist in long, thick braids.

Tall and slim, she wore a fringed, deerskin wrap skirt that fell to her knees over deerskin leggings and soft-soled moccasins. A man’s blue cotton shirt was tied at her waist with a striped length of material. Colored beading decorated her clothing, a band of beads sewn to a thin strip of leather encircled her forehead. She looked about as Irish, as white, as Lokwelend, clad in a kilt, would appear Scottish.

Philip, a tall, broad-shouldered English peer with shoulder-length hair the color of liquid sunlight, a man dressed in comfortable deerskins yet carrying an English walking stick—and not for a moment considering his own confusing appearance—laughed out loud. Then, speaking in the slightly amused, cultured tones of London, again so unusual an occurrence here, in the middle of a wilderness, he said advisedly, “Time to reach into your pouch and pull out those spectacles of yours, Lokwelend. Look at her. That’s no white woman.”

“You want this one?” the soldier interrupted, walking up to the young woman. “Be glad to get shed of her if you do. We had to tie her up after she bit Corporal Manton. Damn near took his ear off as a matter of fact. Here, I’ll give you a better look-see.”

So saying, the soldier grabbed at the girl’s braids and roughly pulled back her head. Philip, his good humor quickly leaving him, found himself looking into a pair of frightened, yet excruciatingly lovely aquamarine eyes, their whites startling against deeply tanned skin. “Well, damn me, I don’t believe it,” he swore quietly as something tightened deep in his gut. “Those Cassidy eyes. So many ways to be green. Excuse me, Miss Cassidy. I’ll introduce myself. I am Philip Crown, nephew of Dominick—and your escort back to New Eden.”

Brighid Cassidy looked at him for a long while, those aquamarine gaze unwavering and growing rudely assessing, infinitely hostile. Then, as the soldier released his grip on her braids, she turned her back to Philip, exposing the wooden cradleboard strapped to her shoulders and the sleeping child tied to the board.

She turned around once more to face Philip again, her expression now more than hostile, more than merely protective. Fierce. Nearly murderous. “The child is my son, Tasukamend,” she quietly announced in a rusty-sounding Irish accent that carried more than a hint of Lenape gruffness. “In your language, he is known as the Blameless One. And this,” she continued, employing a slight inclination of her head that brought a small, wizened raisin of a Lenape woman scurrying to her side, “is my mother-in-law, Lapawin. Her son, my husband, is dead. Killed by the white man.”

She took a deep, steadying breath. “Move me one step from this place without both Tasukamend and Lapawin by my side, geptschat, and it’s a sharp knife I’ll be taking to your gullet first time you turn your back. Is it understanding me you are?”

Philip was nonplussed for a moment, but only for a moment. “Geptschat?” he asked, leaning on his walking stick as he turned to Lokwelend. “That, if memory serves, would be the Lenape word for fool, would it not?”

Lokwelend smiled, then reached forward to untie Brighid Cassidy’s hands. “We’ll need a wagon, Little Crown,” he said unnecessarily as Lapawin broke into raucous sobs, obviously believing she was about to be left behind.

Brighid put an arm around her mother-in-law’s thin shoulders as the soldier walked away and whispered something in her ear, which served to silence the woman. She then smiled at Philip, displaying straight teeth as brilliantly ivory as the whites of her eyes. “And a cow, Little Crown. We must have milk for Tasukamend as I have gone dry with shock, and the cow we brought with us must remain with the other mothers. I’ll be wanting us on our way before nightfall, I will. Once we’re out of sight of the fort, you can let us go, and we’ll be making our way back to our own people.”

“The devil you will!” Philip exclaimed, wondering what great sin he had committed to find himself saddled with this trio of impossible charges—one too old, one too young, and one who’d already threatened to murder him—not to mention Lokwelend, the grunting, quoting oracle. Was there ever such a mess? “We’re leaving before nightfall all right,” he bit out at last, “traveling east, all the way back to Pleasant Hill and your cousin. All of us.”

Brighid lifted her chin a fraction. She seemed to be feeling stronger and more sure of herself by the minute. “Very well, Little Crown. I hadn’t really believed otherwise. But I warn you now, I do not wish to return to New Eden, and I will do my level best to make every step of that trip a living hell for you.”

“Yes. I’ll just wager you will,” Philip said dryly. “Lokwelend, remain with the women if you please. I’m off to purchase a wagon—and a cow.” He took one last look at those amazing aquamarine eyes before deftly swinging the ebony walking stick up and onto his shoulder, turning smartly on his heel, and heading for the fort.

I’ve got to make Lokwelend stop calling me Little Crown, he decided as he walked. The girl finds the name entirely too amusing.

* * *

Brighid sat quietly on the uncomfortable wagon seat, refusing to cry as the man called Philip Crown sat beside her and guided the lurching, dipping wagon along the rutted dirt roadway. Crying would do her no good. Besides, Lapawin had been doing enough weeping for the three of them. For the past two hours the old woman had keened and howled. She had wept so long and so hard that she now noisily snored in exhaustion in the back of the rudely jolting wagon, a sleeping Tasukamend beside her.

But Brighid refused to cry. She was going back. Against her will and contrary to her wishes, she was going back while the remainder of her tribe, as unwelcome in the Ohio territory as they had been in Pennsylvania, moved once more to the West. Every turn of the wagon wheels doubled the distance between them, until that distance would open into a wide, deep chasm she could never cross.

All of her friends gone. Her family scattered. Wingenund, her dear friend and sister, buried beside the White River. Wulapen’s body lying somewhere, she’d never know just where, unprotected from the ravages of wild animals, his bones bleaching in the sun, his hair hanging on some Iroquois belt or in an English trading post. She didn’t know who had killed him, who to hate. So she hated everyone.

She had no one now, no one save Lapawin and Tasukamend. She’d had a mother once. A father. Two wonderful brothers. She’d had a sister. But they, too, were all gone from her these last five long years. Lokwelend had told her about their fates not four months after the raid that had swept her from New Eden and into a new, frightening, ultimately welcoming world.

Until the moment Lokwelend had said the words, that lifetime ago when he had searched her out the first time she’d seen Fort Pitt on her way west, Brighid had believed all of her family to be dead. She’d had no other choice but to accept their deaths, as she could remember little more than playing with her baby sister, Mary Catherine, as her father moved to the doorway of their small living quarters and began talking of sunsets and plaid cloth. Of the raid itself, of what had happened after her father had gotten to the doorway, she remembered nothing.

It had been Wingenund who had nursed her back from a serious injury to her head during those first days. Wingenund who had explained that their captors had cut a path of death and destruction through New Eden, sold their captives to Lapawin and other Lenape a week later, and then moved on. All Brighid had left of her family were happy memories and, thanks to Lokwelend, the comforting knowledge that young Mary Catherine was still alive and safe and living with her cousin, Bryna, in the glory that was Pleasant Hill.

Brighid could have gone back then. Home to Mary Catherine. To her cousin Bryna. Home to the memories that eluded her yet filled her with some nebulous, crippling fear, as if recovering her memory of the raid and the days that had followed it held more danger than answers. Home to taint Mary Catherine with her presence. For a woman captive, be she gone four months or five years, was naturally assumed to have been violated by savage, dirty Indians, so that she was tainted, less a woman, and a definite embarrassment both to her remaining family and her whole community.

With Lapawin, with Wingenund, Brighid had felt safe; safe from her hidden memories, her nameless fears. She had felt loved. And she had felt necessary. If Mary Catherine had needed her, Brighid would have gone back. But she would not go back only to humiliate the child with the stigma of her “soiled” presence.

No, there had been no reason to go back five years ago. There was less than no reason for her return now. Better to starve with the ragged remnants of her small tribe as they moved ever westward than to return to New Eden, where she would soon outwear her welcome and taint Mary Catherine’s future with her presence. Better to die with her people than return to a place where she could never belong. And if it weren’t for Tasukamend and Lapawin, who depended upon her, she would have found a way to escape long before Philip Crown could come and get her.

For she had no future now. Nobody wanted a woman of one and twenty who had lived with savages for more than five years. No one wanted a half-breed child, especially a man-child, and she would never give up Tasukamend. Bryna would say she wanted her, but after the thrill of the reunion of the two cousins, what would there be for either of them? Not when she was Nipawi Gischuch, wife of Wulapen.

“This won’t work, you know,” she said flatly as the roadway widened, signaling their approach to some small frontier hamlet—and none too soon, for it was rapidly growing fully dark, when only the moon and Lokwelend would be able to guide them. “They won’t let me set foot inside their inns, and I wouldn’t stay there if they did. I’d suffocate beneath a roof, I swear it.”

Philip Crown turned his head toward her, his smile so naturally pleasant that she had to look away from him. “You’ll stay where I put you, Miss Cassidy, and like it. And while I’ll admit that you and your small company don’t smell especially wonderful, I’ll wager that my money will be as good at the upcoming inn as it was on my way out here.”

Brighid, angered, turned back to look him up and down, then sniffed. “And you smell even less appealing. You smell English to the marrow, Little Crown. And it’s a proper name, I’m thinking, as you’re no more than half the Dominick Crown I remember. What are you then, the toad-eating relative? Playing fetch and carry at a rich woman’s whims? That’s what our Bryna is now, isn’t she? A rich woman? Rich Bryna Crown, of Pleasant Hill. Never lived with the chickens, our Bryna didn’t, even when her nimble-fingered, cardsharping da had not a feather of his own to fly with. I’ll be no more than an embarrassment to her, you know.”

“This is how you talk about a woman who has done everything but move heaven and hell to get you back? You’re a pleasant little bitch, aren’t you?” Philip remarked, nodding to Lokwelend as the Indian spurred his horse into a fast trot, taking him ahead of the wagon to guide the way. “I suppose telling you that I am actually Philip Crown, earl of Ashford and sole heir to the marquess of Playden and the Sussex estate called Playden Court—along with several other properties whose names and locations I won’t bore you with right now—would do no more than convince you that I’m a liar as well as a toad-eating poor relative?”

Brighid looked at him for a long, assessing moment, taking in his clothing, his accent, his infuriating good humor. “An earl, is it?” she commented at last. “Well, of course you are.” She then exaggeratedly rolled her eyes heavenward and spoke to the darkening sky. “And isn’t that just like Cousin Bryna? Sending off a madman to fetch a fool. For it’s a fool I must be to stay sitting here beside this poor, deluded fellow who thinks himself to be such a mass of grandeur. You’re as much the misfit as me, aren’t you?”

She watched, astonished, as Philip Crown threw back his head and laughed out loud, clearly amused rather than insulted by her intentional sarcasm. “Bryna won’t be able to deny I’ve brought her the right Brighid Cassidy,” he said when he’d recovered his composure. “In your own way, you’re going to be every inch the handful your cousin is and more, aren’t you? And if I turn my back on you between here and Pleasant Hill, I’ll deserve that knife in my gullet, I swear to God, I will.”

Chapter 2

All have not the gift of martyrdom.

—John Dryden



Philip set the brake and looked up at the sign hanging over the inn door. The Weary Traveler. Good description, unfortunate building. Sprawling, crooked in its top floor, and probably choked to its rafters with drinking, singing, unwelcoming farmers, trappers, and tradesmen. He could already hear a chorus of strident voices destroying a perfectly good sea chant.

Even as he watched, the front door opened, spilling yellow light, more raucous sound, and a drunken trapper onto the packed dirt. “And stay out, yer bloody lout!” a growling barn door of a man ordered from the threshold, his fists jammed on either side of his three-foot-wide waist. “We gots respectable folks in here wot don’t take to yer foul mouth!”

“Charming,” Philip drawled as the trapper lurched to his feet, grabbed at his crotch, pushed his hips forward in the direction of the innkeeper, then staggered off down the street to the next inn of this two-inn hamlet. “I do so delight in encountering an establishment with such pleasant ambiance when traveling, don’t you, Miss Cassidy?”

“You also enjoy hearing the sound of your own voice, don’t you, Little Crown?” Brighid countered, turning about slightly and motioning for the slowly waking Lapawin to remain in the wagon. “Wulapen, my husband, could go for days without uttering a single word.”

“That’s understandable. From what little I’ve learned of you so far, Miss Cassidy, the poor fellow was probably afraid to open his mouth,” Philip remarked pleasantly, then hopped down from the wagon, flexing his stiff knees. “Lokwelend, stay here and guard the ladies, if you will. I’ll go arrange for our rooms.”

Brighid quickly clambered down after him. “Wait! I’m coming with you.”

“The devil you are,” he answered with an assured laugh, then realized that unless he tied her to the wagon wheel he had no way of stopping her. He ran a hand through his hair, poking inside his brain for something politic to say, then further realized that tact would be completely wasted on the young woman. So thinking, he went with blunt honesty. “Look, Miss Cassidy—Brighid. This won’t work. You look like a bloody squaw. We wouldn’t get past the common room.”

She tipped her head to one side, suddenly appearing much more Irish than Lenape. “Oh, so it’s admitting the truth at last you are, is it? Well, good. I told you I won’t be welcome under any white man’s roof.”

“You will if you’ll let me alone long enough to arrange it. Two rooms, a private dining room. Enough coins greasing the proper palms. If I take you all in by the back entrance, no one but the innkeeper will be the wiser.”

The moment the words were out of his mouth, Philip regretted them.

“Sneak us in the back door? That would be your grand plan? Is that how you traveled with Lokwelend? And he allowed it?” Brighid turned to the Indian, who was standing beside the wagon now, his back deliberately turned on Lapawin, who seemed to be eyeing him assessingly. “Is this what the proud Lenape have come to, Grandfather? Playing the white man’s lackey? Is staying on this land worth such humiliation?”

“‘Yet do I hold that mortal foolish who strives against the stress of necessity.’”

Brighid’s frown was comical when she turned back to Philip as if for an explanation of Lokwelend’s response.

“Euripides,” he told her, shrugging. “You’ll get used to it. Lord knows I’ve had to. Long ago, missionaries taught him to read, and my uncle opened his library to him. But Lokwelend has a point, Miss Cassidy, although I think you might understand it more if I just say that needs must when the devil drives. Now, are you going to let me go secure us a private dining room and some dinner, or are you going to stand here in the dirt and be foolish?”

As if also asked for her opinion. Lapawin leaned over the side of the wagon and growled out something that, Philip supposed, must have roughly translated to “What’s the problem? Let’s eat!” Brighid shot her a quelling look—Lord knew it would have quelled him if she’d looked at him that way—and then motioned for him to enter the inn.

“Needs must when the devil drives,” he muttered beneath his breath as he pushed open the door, ducked his head under the low lintel, and blinked, trying to become accustomed to the light of a half-dozen lanterns. “Innkeeper!” he called out imperiously above the din coming from the common room as he banged the flat of his hand against the tall, scarred desk that was the only bit of furnishing in the small hallway. “I require assistance if you please!”

The barn door appeared from the rear of the building, wiping his hands on a greasy leather apron as he looked from Philip to Brighid, at which time he misplaced his welcoming smile. “Don’t serve no squaws in ’ere,” he pronounced shortly, turning to return to his customers.

“The lady is white,” Philip blurted out. And none too tactfully, he thought a moment later as he heard his own words echoing in the hallway. “A captive,” he continued in explanation, “just returned from long years in the West.”

“Even worse,” the innkeeper pronounced, spitting toward a small brass pot in the corner, appearing unconcerned that his aim was wide of the mark. “Sinners, all o’em. That’s why they was taken in the first place, yer know. Ta pay fer their woeful transgressions. It’s God’s own punishment fer their wicked ways, and so says every preacher I ever heard, an’ I won’t have no Jezebels in m’house with decent folk. Now, get gone wi’ yer both, or feel the back of m’hand.”

Philip took a single quick step forward. “Now, look here, my good man, I’ll have you know that—” he began angrily, only to have Brighid cut him off.

“That’s it, boyo,” she said in clearly understood and thoroughly damning English. “Tell him what you told me, why don’t you? Tell him you’re a great and powerful English earl. Tell him you’ve got gold enough jingling in your deep pockets right now to buy this putrid tinter box and put him and his whole wretched family out in the street. Tell him—”

“Would you shut up,” Philip growled under his breath as he took hold of Brighid’s elbow and all but flung her back out into the street, slamming the door behind him. “Idiot! Why not just hand me over to be murdered in my bed?”

She shook off his hand. “There’s no time for chitchat, Little Crown. You have to hie yourself down the street and get us some food from that other inn. We have several miles to be putting between ourselves and this hellhole before we’ll sleep safe.”

“No thanks to you and your flapping tongue,” Philip countered, knowing she was right—and knowing she was perfectly aware of what she’d done. “And we’ll be sleeping out-of-doors tonight, which is just what you wanted. Are you happy now?”

“Happy as a leprechaun with his pot o’gold tucked tight beneath his arm,” she answered with a bright grin, climbing back onto the wagon seat, giving him a maddening view of her derriere as the deerskin skirt pulled tight over her shapely bottom. She picked up the reins and released the brake. “You’ll learn, Little Crown, that I invariably get what I want. And right now I’ve a hankering for some thick pink ham and a crusty loaf if you don’t mind, as it’s been dogs’ years since I’ve had a bite of either. A bit of cheese wouldn’t come amiss either, now that I think on it. Don’t frown, Little Crown, I did warn you. We’ll meet you at the bottom of the street.”

Philip looked to Lokwelend, remembering that he’d had Brighid Cassidy in his grasp once and lost her. He calculated how far a wagon, two women, a child—and not forgetting the cow—could travel in the time it would take him to procure food for them, and shook his head. Why borrow trouble? “Yes, Miss Cassidy,” he said, making up his mind. “You’ll meet me at the edge of the village.” Reaching into the wagon, he lifted out the sleeping child, cradleboard and all, and started off down the street, muttering words he hoped the child too young to remember.

* * *

And on the seventh day, He rested. The familiar Bible passage ran through Philip’s head as he sank onto a large rock beside the babbling stream. “Of course, God could go that long without a rest. He only had Adam and Eve and a conniving snake to deal with. If he’d had Brighid Cassidy,” he said, picking up a flat pebble and skipping it across the surface of the water, “he would have had to take a break along about Wednesday.”

Which Philip would have done, except that he had wanted to keep moving, praying that somehow the miles would magically disappear between Fort Pitt and New Eden, so that he could be shed of his responsibility. No, responsibility was too tame a word. He picked up another pebble as he searched his tired mind for a better term. Obligation? Commitment? Burden?

“Penance.” he pronounced at last, grimacing as he spoke. “That’s what it is. Penance. I’ve committed some dastardly, long-forgotten sin, and now I’m being punished. There’s no other explanation.”

Tuesday, the cow he had traded the extra horse for went lame. Wednesday, the damn thing died on him. It died on purpose, just to torment him. He was convinced of that fact. Then he had to hear several lectures on why they shouldn’t just abandon the damn thing where it was, but rather stop, skin it, strip its meat, eating some and smoking the rest, saving the hide for tanning...and a dozen other things that can be done with dead cows he really didn’t want to learn.

He’d bought a goat at the next farm they’d come to. A goat that, his manner and disposition strangely resembling that of Miss Brighid Cassidy, took an instant dislike to him. The cursed animal had butted him, all but tearing the seat out of his deerskins. Which had made it necessary for Lapawin to sew them for him as he hid behind a tree, far enough away to be private, close enough to hear Brighid Cassidy’s every girlish giggle at his predicament.

The woman was a menace. Too uncivilized to know that she should keep her mouth shut, her opinions to herself, and her eyes downcast like a lady should do, she also took every opportunity that presented itself to show him up as the dandified, useless Englisher. What she did, Philip had long ago decided, either consciously or unconsciously, was behave like a man, believing herself capable of all a man’s freedoms, all a man’s tendency to think for herself and make up her own mind.

Lokwelend said that most Indian women were like Brighid. Strong. Independent. Outspoken. No wonder the Lenape went to war. It had to be less stressful than remaining at home with their wives. And a hatchet to the head had to be a kinder death than to wither away slowly, watching one’s manhood be trampled on by a headstrong, opinionated, outspoken, generally disagreeable woman!

Not that Philip was alone in his travails. Lokwelend was coming in for enough problems of his own to make him give up Greek poets and take up swearing. On only their second night on the trail, as they sat around the campfire, Brighid had translated for Philip questions Lapawin had shot rapid-fire at the usually loquacious but suddenly, unusually, taciturn Lenape.

“Why you have a scalp lock, old man? Do you fight old wars in your sleep, kicking your hind leg and whimpering like a dog dreaming of a rabbit?” had been her first question, one which Lokwelend had ignored.

“Do you have a house?” Brighid had further translated her mother-in-law’s words, beginning to giggle lightheartedly as Lokwelend shifted uncomfortably on the ground.

“Do you have many blankets?” had been the next question after Lokwelend had signified with a curt nod that, yes, he did indeed possess a house. A second nod seemed to indicate that he had blankets.

Philip decided then and there that Lokwelend also had a problem.

“Do you have a woman?” Brighid had whispered to Philip next, confirming his suspicions, adding, “Now she’ll go in for the kill.” Which Lapawin did with her final question, delivered with a gap-toothed smile that nearly split her raisin face.

“Do you want a woman?” Brighid translated, barely able to restrain her laughter as Lokwelend bolted from the clearing as if all the yapping hounds of Dante’s Inferno were after his soul.

Yes, Lokwelend was keeping far out in front of the wagon these days, blazing a trail through already cleared paths, spending any free time off in the woods, hunting. Hiding was more like it, but Philip had refrained from teasing the man, considering the fact that he’d probably take off, leaving Philip to find his way back to New Eden through Virginia or some such thing.

Philip had already learned from Brighid that Lapawin was Lenape for “rich again,” which is what the enterprising old biddy definitely preferred. She’d had three husbands, burying two of them, divorcing the third, and she had once been a wealthy woman—at least by Lenape standards. So wealthy, she had bought her son a white wife five years ago. So powerful within her tribe that she had been able to protect that wife from insult and attack by those who might not wish that white outsider in their midst.

All of that changed, Philip had also learned, when Wulapen and the rest of the tribe had joined forces with several other tribes bent on ridding the colonies of the greedy Yankwi menace. The Lenape did not want war. They wanted to hunt, fish, tend their crops, and raise their families, as they had done for all of their history. Just as the white man wished for themselves. Only the white man did not wish to share Nature’s bounty.

First to go had been Lapawin’s lands, her plantings of corn and squash and wheat, as circumstances had forced them out of their homes and put them on the run.

Her horses had gone next. Then her blankets. Then her son. And then the rest. Lapawin had been left alone with only the white woman and her grandson to care for. The two women had followed after the tribe, with no man to help them with their burdens, nothing with which to trade for victuals. They had boiled maple bark for food when the hunters returned empty-handed. But they had not starved. Brighid had been adamant about that. The tribe had taken care of them as best they could.

Until the Yankwis came to talk peace. Then a few of the desperate mothers had pulled Brighid out of her hiding place and made the white men take her away. There would be two less mouths to feed if she and the child were gone. Three, counting Lapawin. It wasn’t, Brighid had told Philip, that the tribe didn’t want them. It simply couldn’t afford to keep them, to feed them.

“We all had to think of our survival, Little Crown,” she had told him as they rode side by side on the wagon seat, passing the time by speaking of this and that. “We were better off with the English, and my people were made lighter in their burden as they traveled westward. I don’t feel hatred for those who turned me over to the Yankwis. It’d be far more to their blame and mine if Tasukamend had starved. My milk had dried, you see.”

“You’ve mentioned that before, yes,” Philip had told her, squirming uncomfortably now as he had then, still finding it difficult to think of Brighid as a mother. Picturing her as wife to a Lenape warrior was even more impossible.

Except at night. At night, Philip had found, it was more than possible to see Brighid as Wulapen’s squaw. Lying on mounds of animal skins, her head thrown back as a dark, brawny savage ministered to her slim body...

“I need a drink,” Philip announced to the uninhabited countryside, rising from the rock and looking about as if he expected an inn to materialize in the near distance. “I need a drink, I need a real bed, and I need a docile, conformable, quiet woman. Not necessarily in that order.”


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