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DAKOTA DREAMS

11-31-16 Cover by Cynthia Lucas

The desperate convict…Wrongly convicted of murdering his wife, Nathan Chasing Elk has never lost hope of avenging her death and reclaiming his lost daughter. His only chance is to break free from prison—but with his escape comes a grave injury that threatens his own life.

A prisoner of love…Catherine Lyons is struggling to maintain the family ranch in the wake of her parents’ untimely death. When Nathan shows up on her property, badly wounded and close to death, Catherine provides him with sanctuary.

Their Dakota dream…As they grow closer, Catherine offers Nathan more than the healing of his body and mind. She agrees to join him on his journey into Lakota territory to avenge his wife’s death. But as they trek through the dangerous west they discover a passion just as untamed—one that will change their destinies forever…

Originally published by Signet Books


Chapter 1

Yuma Prison
Arizona Territory

Nathan Chasing Elk stared out the window, his hands fisted around the bars as he watched the setting sun slip behind the distant mountains in a blaze of bright crimson.

One more day gone.

Moving away from the window, he paced the confines of his cell. Three long strides took him from one end to the other. There was nothing to impede his progress save the wooden beds that were stacked three high on the long sides of the cell. He glanced at one of the narrow cots with its bug infested straw tick. Given a choice, he would have preferred sleeping outside on the ground; it would have been cleaner, he mused, and far more comfortable.

He paced for hours, restless as an animal in a cage, but it did nothing to cool either his rage or his frustration. Or calm the fear that threatened to engulf him. The fear that, in the end, he would stop fighting and they would win.

Sweat dripped from his brow, ran down his back. The summers in Yuma were like hell, with temperatures soaring above a hundred degrees.

How long until he lost the will to keep fighting, the will to live, and simply gave up?

He stared at the walls that surrounded him on three sides. They were made of granite he had helped quarry with his own two hands. The granite had been plastered over and whitewashed. The doors were made of strap iron. Four years, six months and thirteen days since they had arrested him, four years of it spent in this hell hole. How much longer could he survive being locked in a cage, a cage that he had been forced to help build?

He swore under his breath. He thought it ironic that a number of the men who now inhabited the prison had helped to build it. The prison, situated on a bluff above the Colorado River, was located in what was surely the hottest, most isolated stretch of ground in the territory. The nearest town was Phoenix, which was more than a hundred and fifty miles away. Prisoners from all over the country had been sent to the Hell Hole in the four years since the place had been built. There were even a few women confined behind its walls. One had been convicted of killing her brother, another for attempted robbery.

He stared out the barred door of his cell. Across the way, another prisoner stared back at him. Chasing Elk’s hands tightened around the bars. Did he wear the same disconsolate expression? Were his own eyes as sunken and devoid of hope?

Despair settled on his shoulders at the thought of never seeing his home or his daughter again. He knew that other prisoners had obtained pardons and been released early. So far, he’d had no such luck. But then, he’d been convicted of a far more serious crime than robbery or theft.

Escape. The word whispered through his mind, as fervent as the prayer of a dying man. Escape. It was his one hope. His only hope.

His hands tightened around the bars until his knuckles were white. There might come a time when he could no longer withstand the cold walls, the wormy food, the beatings, when thoughts of suicide would tempt him to put an end to his misery.

But it would not be today.