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LOVE IN THE WIND

Cover by Cynthia Lucas

Original cover copy ~
Shattered by grief at her fiancé’s death, lovely Katy Marie Alvarez decided to enter a convent. But fate had other plans. En route to her destination, the coach in which Kay traveled was attacked by Indians and Katy, the lone survivor, taken captive. Thus she became the slave of the handsome, arrogant Cheyenne warrior known as Iron Wing.

Quickened by desire that transformed hatred into love, both were soon ablaze with an erotic flame with neither time nor treachery could quench.

Romantic Times said:
Madeline Baker proved she knows how to please readers of historical romance when she created Reckless heart and Love in the Wind.

Chapter One
Spring, 1874


Katy Marie Alvarez wept softly into a small black lace handkerchief as she followed her mother down the hill away from the freshly turned grave. Racked by grief, Katy was oblivious to the whispered condolences and sympathetic glances bestowed upon her by her friends. Robert was dead, and all Katy’s dreams of love and marriage had gone into the cold ground with him.

When she reached the Alvarez carriage, Katy paused and looked back one last time. It was over, all over. Fresh sobs tore at her throat as she stumbled into the coach and huddled against the plush red velvet seat, her head buried in her hands as she gave vent to the anguish in her heart.

Sarah Alvarez frowned as she stepped gracefully into the conveyance and took a place beside her daughter. Sarah Alvarez was a stern-faced, strong-willed woman, and her daughter’s flagrant emotional display annoyed her immensely. It was a hard land, and many a woman had lost a husband or a lover. Sarah, herself, had buried three husbands in the last twenty-five years. But then, Sarah mused ruefully, she had a weakness for a man in uniform. And in these times of constant strife and warfare with Indians and gun-runners, soldiers frequently died young. Sarah had lost her first two husbands in battles below the border; Katy’s father had been killed by Apaches seven years before when Katy Marie was eleven.

A small smile softened Sarah’s stern countenance momentarily, letting her real beauty shine through as she thought of Katy Marie’s father. Juan Diego Tomas Alvarez had been a dashing young lieutenant in the Mexican Army when she married him. Juan had been Sarah’s favorite husband, and she still burned with anger and hatred when she thought of the murderous savages who had killed him and hacked his handsome body to pieces.

Katy was still weeping copiously when the carriage pulled into the courtyard of the Alvarez hacienda. Sarah Alvarez had married well all her life, though money had never been a factor in her choice of a husband. Her first two husbands had left her money and jewels, but it had been Juan Alvarez who had made her self-sufficient. He had bequeathed her a thousand acres of prime grazing land, twice that many white-faced cattle, and a house worthy of a Spanish grandee. The house and lands had been left to Juan’s parents years ago. Under Sarah’s capable hands, the Alvarez estate had flourished.

The house was built in the Spanish style, with a courtyard in the middle. Gaily colored pots filled with gardenias and wild roses lined the wide veranda that ran the length of the front of the house. The outbuildings were all neatly painted, the fences and roofs in good repair. The Alvarez cattle were the best in the territory, and her fine thoroughbred horses were coveted by gentlemen as far east as New York and Boston. Katy Marie turned up her nose at the leggy thoroughbred, preferring to ride a little dapple-gray Arabian mare.

“We’re home,” Sarah Alvarez announced sharply. “Pull yourself together, Katy Marie. A lady does not air her sorrows in front of the servants. A lady always comports herself with dignity and grace.”

“Yes, Mama,” Katy answered sullenly, and dutifully wiped her eyes with her handkerchief.

Sarah Alvarez peered intently at her only child. “Are you still determined to do this thing?”

Katy’s small chin went up defiantly. “Yes, Mama.”

Harsh words rose to Sarah’s lips, but before she could voice them a grizzled Mexican hurried out of the house and down the wide stone steps to open the carriage door.

The aged servant bowed his head respectfully as Sarah Alvarez stepped briskly from the coach and swept past him. Inside the house, Sarah removed her hat and gloves and ran a slim white hand through her thick auburn hair, her thoughts turning to the new seed bull that was scheduled to arrive from California early the following morning.

Moving into the small, austerely furnished room she used for an office, Sarah sat behind the polished mahogany desk that dominated the room and riffled through a sheaf of papers. She had never spent much time mourning the deaths of her own husbands, and she saw no need to dwell on the fact that Robert Andrew Wellingham III had passed away, however unfortunate the circumstances. Life went on, and a widow running a large cattle ranch in the wilds of New Mexico had little time to waste lamenting the deceased. How cold-blooded she sounded, Sarah mused wryly. And how hypocritical, when she had never really stopped mourning the loss of Katy Marie’s father.

Katy Marie’s footsteps were slow and leaden as she crossed the threshold of the hacienda. Burdened with grief and an aching sense of loss, she walked down the short hallway that led to the parlor. Dropping into a corner of a curved, high-backed sofa, she stared, unseeing, at the Oriental rug at her feet. How could her mother act as though nothing terrible had happened, as if today were just like any other day? Did nothing touch the woman?

Frowning, Katy tried to remember the last time her mother had expressed great joy or sorrow, but no instance came to mind. Through drought, through death, through the joy of Christmas, Sarah Alvarez remained cool and reserved, hiding her true feelings behind a mask of crisp confidence. With a start, Katy realized her mother had never displayed any affection or love other than an occasional pat on the shoulder, or a quick hug. Always, it had been her father who had kissed her hurts, who had tucked her into bed and heard her prayers. Her father who had laughed at her childish pranks, or dried her tears. With a sigh, Katy lifted her head and gazed out the window into the courtyard beyond. She made a striking picture sitting there with the late afternoon sun dancing in her thick black hair. Her skin was smooth and creamy, her almond-shaped eyes an astonishing shade of deep sky blue fringed by long black lashes. Her figure, hidden now beneath the voluminous folds of her cloak, was near perfect, with full breasts, slim hips, a narrow waist, and long, shapely legs. Indeed, it was the kind of figure women envied and men dreamed of.

Robert Wellingham had often admired Katy’s voluptuous curves, boldly declaring she had more charms than the law allowed. He had written her numerous love sonnets extolling the color of her eyes and the modest, maidenly blush of her cheeks. He had brought her countless bouquets of flowers, assuring her that her own beauty put the blossoms to shame. He had sent her chocolate bonbons packed in heart-shaped boxes covered with red satin, each offering accompanied by a note expressing his love and admiration. He had courted her as gallantly as any man had ever courted a woman, and Katy had basked in the radiant glow of his affection. There had been many men who had sought to win Katy’s hand, for she was not only beautiful, but heir to a large fortune as well. But Katy had coolly rejected every suitor until Robert Wellington entered her circle of acquaintances. He had swept her off her feet with his boyish charm and brash self-confidence.

And now he was dead, killed by the same tribe of savage Indians who had so brutally murdered her father.

Katy pushed the hideous thought from her mind and contemplated the Little Sisters of Mercy convent instead. She had toured it once when she had been a little girl, and its peaceful atmosphere had lingered in the back of her mind. Whenever something unpleasant had intruded in her life, Katy had conjured up a mental image of the convent, and it had brought her peace.

Its magic did not fail her, not even when news of Robert’s death turned from horrible nightmare into harsh reality. And when the reality became too painful to bear, Katy summoned the convent to mind, lingering on the memory of the candlelit chapel, and the beautiful face of the Madonna. She could recall every detail of the statue of the Blessed Virgin, the soft blue of her robe, the silver girdle that circled her tiny waist, the dark blue mantle that covered her dark hair, the sandals on her graceful feet.

And later, drowning in a sea of despair, Katy remembered the restful solitude of the convent, and in that instant she knew what she would do. She would enter the community of nuns and spend the rest of her life in the peaceful shelter of cloistered walls, protected from a life that was suddenly too ugly, too empty, to endure.

Sarah Alvarez had tried in every way possible to discourage Katy’s decision to become a nun, but to no avail. Katy Marie had stated emphatically that she would not live in a world without Robert.

Sarah had finally given her consent, convinced that after a few weeks of cloistered life, plain food, a hard bed in a tiny cell, and rigid discipline with no thought for comfort or self, that Katy Marie would be more than willing to return home where she belonged.

“Are you packed?” Sarah inquired as she entered the parlor. “Did you remember to take your blue wool cloak? It will be cool crossing the desert this time of year.”

“Yes, mama.”

Sarah sighed, exasperated by Katy’s sullen expression. “Dinner will be ready soon, Katy Marie. Why don’t you run upstairs and change your clothes? I’ll send Anna up to help you.”

With a nod, Katy climbed the winding staircase that led to her bedroom on the second floor. Unfastening her cloak, she let it fall carelessly to the floor. Anna would pick it up later. Kicking off her shoes, she threw herself across the big feather bed and let the tears flow anew.

“Oh, Robert. Robert.” She whispered his name like a prayer, longing to see his brown eyes laughing into her own once more, yearning to feel the touch of his lips on her cheek. Robert had never crossed the bounds of propriety, had never done more than kiss her. His touch had never stirred her passions, but she had loved to be held in his arms, had loved the feeling of belonging. She had loved him with all her heart. Her Robert, so tall, so blond, and more handsome than any man she had ever known. And now he was dead, his dancing brown eyes forever closed, his hearty laughter forever stilled. How empty her world seemed without him!

Even now it was hard to believe he was gone. Her mother had refused to let her see Robert’s body when it was brought home.

“It’s been mutilated,” Sarah had told her matter-of-factly. “It’s best you don’t look. Best to remember him as he was.”

Katy did not stop to think that her mother spoke from experience, did not know her mother often woke in the night haunted by the memory of Juan’s cruelly dismembered body. She did not know why her mother adamantly refused to let her see Robert one last time, and in her ignorance, she thought her mother was being cold and indifferent to her grief.

Mutilated. Katy knew what that meant. She had read dozens of newspaper accounts of soldiers and settlers who had been killed by the Indians. The savages frequently scalped their victims, sometimes while the victims were still alive. The Indians cut off arms and legs. Sometimes they stripped the dead of their clothing and left them lying pitifully naked on the plains, prey to scavengers and wildlife. They did other things, too. Unspeakable things that nice people did not discuss openly.

Katy felt the vomit rise hot and bitter in her throat as she imagined Robert stripped naked, his scalp raw and bleeding, his beautiful blond hair hanging from some Indian’s belt. In her mind’s eye, she saw the feathered arrows striking his flesh, heard his harsh cry of pain.

A light rap on her bedroom door interrupted Katy’s grisly fantasy. She swung her legs over the side of the bed and sat up as the serving girl, Anna, entered the room.

“Señorita, what is wrong?” the girl gasped upon seeing Katy’s wan expression. “Are you ill? Should I call the Señora?”

“No,” Katy rasped, choking back the bile in her throat. “I’m fine. Just get me some hot water and a towel. I’d like to bathe before dinner.”

An hour later, clad in a severe black dress trimmed in heavy white lace, Katy joined her mother in the spacious dining room. A dozen long white tapered candles filled the room with a soft light, casting long shadows on the richly paneled walls and heavy oak furniture.

Katy picked at the food on her plate, hardly aware of what she was eating, not caring that the cook, Juanita, had lovingly prepared all her favorites. On any other night, Katy would have cleaned her plate and laughingly called for more. But not tonight, not with Robert fresh in his grave and her mother scowling at her from across the damask-covered table.

Sarah Alvarez regarded her daughter with mixed emotions. She had not approved of the match between young Wellington and Katy, but Katy was eighteen years old, and on occasion she could be as stubborn as an Army mule.

Sarah sighed as she pushed her plate aside. She had hoped Katy would marry into the family of Jose Alvarado. Jose’s eldest son, Pablo, was a fine young man, and he was eager to marry Katy, but Katy had eyes for no one but Robert. And now it looked as if Katy would never marry at all. Sarah sighed again. Imagine, her Katy as a bride of Christ! If only Juan were still alive. He would know how to talk Katy out of this foolish notion of becoming a nun.

Katy Marie retired to her bed early that night. Lying there, with the covers pulled up to her chin, she bid a silent farewell to the room where she had spent much of her life. It was a lovely room, elaborately furnished with everything to make her comfortable, from the canopied bed to the thick blue carpet on the floor.

Her eyes lingered on the worn rag doll sitting on the table beside her bed. The doll, Carlotta, had been a gift from her father when she was five years old, and Katy cherished it above all else.

Katy’s eyes shifted to the heavy drapes at the open window, and on the gilt-edged mirror where she had often admired a new gown, or a new hairstyle. There would be no new gowns at the convent, she mused. No shimmering silks and satins, no soft velvets, no rustling crinolines. There would be no soft carpet under her feet, no fine china and crystal on the table, no one to wait upon her.

She ran her fingers through the thick mass of her waist-length hair. It would be a sacrifice, letting the sisters cut off her hair, but even that could not sway her. The convent beckoned, promising peace and forgetfulness.

Katy glanced out the window at the night sky, a small smile of anticipation on her lips. Tomorrow she would board the stagecoach that would carry her to the Little Sisters of Mercy convent in Colorado. There were many other convents closer to home, but none possessed the quaint charm that had so captivated her years ago.

Half-asleep, she recalled the nuns of her school days, always so serene, their faces peaceful, their eyes untroubled by worldly cares or sorrows. Nuns and convents, Katy mused sleepily. They had always fascinated her. Perhaps it had always been her destiny to become a nun. Soon she would find shelter in their beautiful, cloistered world. She would don the pristine habit of a postulant and enter their sacred community to serve God and mankind. Never again would she suffer the awful pain of losing a beau. Never again would she risk her heart, only to have it broken.

Closing her eyes, Katy saw herself in the years to come, her white habit exchanged for a black one when she took her final vows, her long hair shorn off, all worldly thoughts erased from her mind as she spent her life in humble service to others.