Kidnapped by Indians ten years ago at the age of seven, Teressa Bryant had no memory of her parents or her life in San Francisco. Known as Winter Rain by the Lakota, she is on the verge of marrying a Lakota warrior when a handsome stranger rides into the village.
Half-breed Chance McCloud, known as Wolf Shadow among the Lakota, has been hired by Teressa’s parents to rescue their daughter from the Indians. The attraction between Chance and Teressa can’t be denied and soon he’s torn between his need for the reward offered by Teressa’s parents, and his need for Teressa.
“Baker is justly renowned for her portrayals of American Indians.—Publishers Weekly
Originally published by Signet Books
The Indians came boiling out of the timbered hills like angry ants whose nest had been disturbed. Teressa Bryant stared at them out of the window of the stage coach, her eyes wide with delight. Mama had said they might see Indians on their way to San Francisco, but Teressa hadn’t expected anything like this.
As the Indians drew closer, she saw that they wore pretty feathers in their long black hair. There were streaks of paint smeared on their faces and chests. Some of the Indians carried bows and had quivers filled with arrows slung over their shoulders, some carried long lances with feathers tied to the shaft. A few of them waved rifles in the air. She noticed that the Indians painted their horses, too. One had a red handprint painted on its rump, another had white circles painted around its eyes, still another had zigzaggy lines painted on its legs.
She felt a shiver of unease as some of the Indians drew alongside the coach. She could see their faces now, hear their cries, and they didn’t sound friendly.
As more Indians surrounded the coach, Teressa turned to look at her mama for reassurance, but mama looked as scared as Teressa felt.
“Venuto qui, bambina,” Mama said, and Teressa scooted into her mother’s lap.
Papa patted Teressa on her arm. “Don’t worry, Teressa mia,” he said in his big booming voice. “Everything will be all right.”
She nodded, her heart pounding with fear.
Mama pressed Teressa’s head against her shoulder. She could hear Mama praying, asking the blessed Virgin to protect them, could hear the sound of arrows whizzing around the coach like angry hornets.
Teressa heard the driver shout at the horses, heard the crack of his whip. The coach picked up speed and for a moment, she thought they might get away. And then, to her horror, the coach began to tilt to one side.
With a shriek of fear, Teressa threw her arms around her mother’s neck. The coach balanced precariously on two wheels for what seemed like a very long time before it slowly toppled over on its side.
Teressa cried out as she was thrown off the seat, along with Mama and Papa. Stars exploded in front of her eyes as her head hit the side of the coach. She heard Mama groan softly, heard Papa swear as they tumbled inside the coach, arms and legs flailing. Hearing papa swear scared her almost more than anything else because her Papa never said those words in front of Mama.
The coach skidded to a stop in a choking cloud of dust. Outside, the Indians were shouting to each other.
Moments later, the door, which was now where the roof should have been, was wrenched open and an Indian peered down at them.
“Teressa,” Papa said, “get behind me.”
Teressa stared at the gun in her father’s hand, covered her ears with her hands when he fired at the Indian and missed.
With a low cry, the Indian shot two arrows at Papa. One arrow pierced his right shoulder, the other his left thigh. With a cry of pain, her father fell backward.
Teressa stared in open-mouthed horror at the arrows quivering in her father’s flesh.
Mama screamed Papa’s name as she pulled him into her lap and cradled him in her arms.
Teressa stared up at the Indian, her eyes filling with tears. “I hate you!” she shrieked. “You killed my Papa!”
The Indian looked at her through narrowed eyes, then dropped lightly inside the coach.
Teressa tried to duck out of his way, but he grabbed hold of her with one big hand and pushed her up through the doorway and into the arms of another Indian. She saw three other Indians cutting the horses free of the broken traces and leading them away. The driver lay face down a few yards away. She wondered if he was dead.
“No! No! La non mia ragazza piccola! Non prendere la mia ragazza piccola! Teressa!”
Teressa heard Mama screaming her name as the Indian lifted her onto the back of his horse and vaulted up behind her, one arm settling around her waist.
Teressa scratched the Indian’s arm, trying to get free, and when that didn’t work, she bit him as hard as she could, but he only laughed and urged his horse into a trot.
Sobbing and hiccoughing, she stared over the Indian’s shoulder, crying for Mama and Papa, but the Indian ignored her and kept riding.
With tears rolling down her cheeks, Teressa stared at the coach, watching it get smaller and smaller until it was out of sight.