Please help me welcome horsewoman and western romance author Ruby Merritt.
About the author: Ruby Merritt writes historical western romance. Her passion for imagining life and love on the High Plains has its roots in reading and rereading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books as a child. Although Ruby doesn’t call the High Plains her home, she resides in an equally beautiful and rustic locale, The Gateway to the Texas Hill Country.
When Ruby’s not reading or writing, she can be found riding her horse or homeschooling her children who are avid horsewomen and readers as well.
Today the spotlight is on Ruby’s western historical romance with a touch of Native American:
When Ella Hastings is captured by the Blackfeet Indians at age nine, then adopted by the Lakota Indians, she is thrust into a new way of life and transformed into Little Brave, adopted daughter of their revered and peaceful chief, Grey Owl. Ten years later the white man returns. Their soldiers storm her tribe’s village and bring reminders of a world she’d almost forgotten. Suddenly, she is confronted by the question: To which world does she now belong? Her only hope in discovering who she really is lies with the enigmatic army scout, Beech Richoux.
Son of a French trapper and Lakota mother, Beech Richoux was raised in a white man’s world after his mother’s death. Acting as an army scout to raise money for his horse ranch, he’s unaware of the Army’s true intent to annihilate his mother’s people until it’s too late. And the white woman he finds living among the Lakota only adds to his desperation to save his people. Now the narrow path he has created to balance himself between these two worlds is tipped by the mysterious white woman known to the Lakota as Little Brave.
Can two people robbed of their own childhood learn to live together in such differing worlds? Can Little Brave and Beech forge a new path into a life where they both are finally set free?
Only moments after the man they called Richoux reclined against the tree, Little Brave detected his even breathing. Her hands stilled and she watched him uninhibited. Her people had experienced much sorrow and anguish at the hands of the white man’s soldiers and this scout today. And yet, the scout slept here before her tepee, within the heat and light cast by her fire. How did he do this?
The scout stirred, his legs stretching out in front of him. He looked like her people. He had the power and stealth of their mighty warriors. She set aside her work and approached the slumbering man. He spoke the white man’s tongue fluently, knew their ways as well as those of the Plains People. Yet, he was not under the spell of the blustering military man. How did he live in two worlds?
She crouched beside him and watched the steady rise and fall of his muscled chest. More than once today, he’d stood between her people and the soldiers. He’d kept her from rushing into gunfire when Moon Howler had been killed. Yet, he’d carried out Gleaming Chest’s orders to move them from their village. In which world did his heart beat?
For long moments, she scrutinized the strong angles of his face sharpened by the cast of the firelight and found no answers. She shifted, intending to return to her work when suddenly, a hand clamped around her wrist. She gasped and would have tumbled backward if he hadn’t steadied her with his other arm about her waist.
He muttered something she did not understand. She shook her head and he switched to the language that was more familiar to her now. His voice gentled. “I’m sorry, I grabbed you. A reaction from too many nights being on guard.”
Staring into eyes as blue as her own was disconcerting. There was kindness there, but it was accompanied by something more primitive. Similar to that she saw in the braves’ eyes when they looked at her. Unlike the braves, the primitive gleam in Richoux’s eyes did not annoy or unnerve her. It gave her an airy feeling that stole her breath.
He released her wrist and shifted his arm lower on her waist.
Her stomach fluttered strangely when his hand moved to her hair. He stroked the errant strands framing her cheek. She was no stranger to what went on between men and women, their tender looks and loving caresses, their passionate kisses, but the intense heat left in the wake of this man’s caress surprised . . . and excited her.
A shiver ran up her spine and she licked her lips, wanting to feel more of these heady sensations. His fingers traced the line of her jaw. Her gaze flickered to his full lips. As if he sensed her desire, he cocked his head and her breath caught in anticipation, but he did not lean in to kiss her. His fingers stilled beneath her chin and she waited, her heart beating faster than hummingbird’s wings. And when his fingers curled ever so slightly beneath her chin, inviting her forward, she touched her lips to his.
His lips were full and firm beneath hers, slightly moist. They shifted against hers and took over, gentle but sure, tasting and teasing hers. A sizzling feeling moved through her, intensifying like the fires that often swept the prairies after a storm.
Soon, she responded in kind. Her hands moved to the hair brushing his shoulders, her fingers twining into the silky strands—their softness another sensation to revel in. One of his large hands cupped her cheek, while the other caressed her from waist to hip. Every stroke tightened a coil of need deep within. Suddenly, that womanly place between her legs moistened and throbbed for something more. Every kiss, every touch and every breath she shared with him edged her toward that something more, a fulfillment of a yearning within them both.
A twig snapped. His lips froze against hers, his hand stilled its caressing. Another snap . . . closer. Whoever was coming was not concerned about being heard. He released her, and Little Brave scrambled to her feet. Richoux did likewise, but she noticed he did it more slowly than she had.
The soldier Sun Hair appeared.
At the sight of those gleaming buttons and the stale smell of the dark clothing that all the soldiers wore, Little Brave regained her senses.
Words issued from the soldier’s mouth, and just as easily, the white man’s words fell from the scout’s mouth in response.
The telltale huskiness of his voice suddenly filled her with shame at what she’d been doing. This man had led the soldiers to their camp and was helping to rip her people from their home. They’d been forced to relinquish their weapons. Stone Skipper had been wounded. Moon Howler had been killed. She did not know what would be forced upon them next, but she knew she could not involve herself with such a man. Her people would not accept him. She would become an outcast.
And she would lose another father.
Sun Hair left, making his way back through the trees.
The scout turned. “I am on watch now but—”
She glanced his way, fear and shame evident on her face.
“What is wrong?”
“It is dishonorable of me to betray my people like this.”
The scout regarded her for a few moments without blinking then he exhaled slowly. “My intention was not to cause you dishonor.”
Little Brave, resenting her flare of admiration for his careful manner, retorted, “What was your intent?”
The scout shifted, settling deeper into his stance. “Since you approached me, perhaps you tell me yours first.”
She was angry that he gave an answer as wily as one Running Bear would have given her. “Do not come back here,” she said in a low, hoarse voice. She wiped the back of her hand across her mouth and spat out the taste of him on the ground at his feet then turned and marched back to her tepee.
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