Read Tallchief: The Hunter Online

Authors: Cait London

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Wyoming, #Westerns, #Fiction - Romance, #Non-Classifiable, #Contemporary, #General, #Love stories, #Romance: Modern, #Romance - Contemporary

Tallchief: The Hunter

“Adam Tallchief, In The Flesh,”

Jillian said. “I wondered how long it would take you to find me. I’ve been in Amen Flats exactly one and a half days and here you are.”

Adam braced himself to encounter the girl, now a woman, whose memory he had carried for years. Jillian Green had been his first love…twenty-two years ago. The memory of how she had looked then, so soft and on the brink of womanhood, had nestled in his heart for years.

But that image was overlaid by the one of her vivid hatred one year later. It still lashed at him. “I hate you, Adam Tallchief. Just wait. I’ll pay you back someday.”

He studied Jillian’s face. He wondered if he had unconsciously compared all the women he’d known to her. Had he really hunted for a woman like her all his life? Why hadn’t he known until just now how badly she’d haunted him?

 

Dear Reader,

Escape the winter doldrums by reading six new passionate, powerful and provocative romances from Silhouette Desire!

Start with our MAN OF THE MONTH,
The Playboy Sheikh
, the latest SONS OF THE DESERT love story by bestselling author Alexandra Sellers. Also thrilling is the second title in our yearlong continuity series DYNASTIES: THE CONNELLYS. In
Maternally Yours
by Kathie DeNosky, a pleasure-seeking tycoon falls for a soon-to-be mom.

All you readers who’ve requested more titles in Cait London’s beloved TALLCHIEFS miniseries will delight in her smoldering
Tallchief: The Hunter
. And more great news for our loyal Desire readers—a
brand-new
five-book series featuring THE TEXAS CATTLEMAN’S CLUB, subtitled THE LAST BACHELOR, launches this month. In
The Millionaire’s Pregnant Brid
e by Dixie Browning, passion erupts between an oil executive and secretary who marry for the sake of her unborn child.

A single-dad surgeon meets his match in
Dr. Desirable
, the second book of Kristi Gold’s MARRYING AN M.D. miniseries. And Kate Little’s
Tall, Dark & Cranky
is an enchanting contemporary version of
Beauty and the Beast
.

Indulge yourself with all six of these exhilarating love stories from Silhouette Desire!

Enjoy!

Joan Marlow Golan

Senior Editor, Silhouette Desire

Cait London
TALLCHIEF: THE HUNTER

Books by Cait London

Silhouette Desire

*
The Loving Season
#502

*
Angel vs. MacLean
#593

The Pendragon Virus
#611

*
The Daddy Candidate
#641


Midnight Rider
#726

The Cowboy
#763

Maybe No, Maybe Yes
#782


The Seduction of Jake Tallman
#811

Fusion
#871

The Bride Says No
#891

Mr. Easy
#919

Miracles and Mistletoe
#968


The Cowboy and the Cradle
#1006


Tallchief’s Bride
#1021


The Groom Candidate
#1093


The Seduction of Fiona Tallchief
#1135


Rafe Palladin: Man of Secrets
#1160


The Perfect Fit
#1183


Blaylock’s Bride
#1207


Rio: Man of Destiny
#1233


Typical Male
#1255

§
Last Dance
#1285


Tallchief: The Homecoming
#1310

§
Slow Fever
#1334

§
Gabriel’s Gift
#1357

A Loving Man
#1382


Tallchief: The Hunter
#1419

Silhouette Books

Spring Fancy
1994

“Lightfoot and Loving”

Maternity Leave
1998

“The Nine-Month Knight”


Tallchief for Keeps

Silhouette Yours Truly

Every Girl’s Guide To…

Every Groom’s Guide To…

CAIT LONDON

lives in the Missouri Ozarks but loves to travel the Northwest’s gold rush/cattle drive trails every summer. She enjoys research trips, meeting people and going to Native American dances. Ms. London is an avid reader who loves to paint, play with computers and grow herbs (particularly scented geraniums right now). She’s a national bestselling and award-winning author, and she has also written historical romances under another pseudonym. Three is her lucky number; she has three daughters, and the events in her life have always been in threes. “I love writing for Silhouette,” Cait says. “One of the best perks about all this hard work is the thrilling reader response and the warm, snug sense that I have given readers an enjoyable, entertaining gift.”

To the Readers
I’ve enjoyed hearing from readers
who like the Tallchief miniseries,
and appreciate every one of you.
I hope you’ll enjoy my other stories, as well.
You make all of this possible.
Thank you.

Prologue

’T

was no light matter to know that I had tossed away everything that I was bred to be, an English lady of standing. But when the night comes and my husband looks at me with those gray eyes, my heart races, for the woman within me knows what will follow.

It was not always so, for I resented his capture of me, just as his father had taken his Scots wife. ’Twas not my fault that outlaws made me take Liam while he was staked and helpless upon the ground. ’Twas not my fault that I bore and loved his son, keeping him safe in England.

Liam came for us both, claiming the child and me as his. Kidnapped and angry with the man who forced me to marry him, bringing me to this wild land, I fought what flamed inside me, the woman I had not known. Even as I fought and ran, I knew he would find me.

Perhaps even then I knew that the legend of the dove’s and the hawk’s feathers was true…that I would love him desperately, and that love would tear from me everything
I’d known and called safe. For in his arms, I was no longer the well-bred lady, but a woman who would claim her due.

—From the Journal of Elizabeth Montclair Tallchief

One

A

dam Tallchief rapped just once on the door of the small home. The courtesy was more than he wanted to spare the woman inside; neither wood nor lock would keep him from her.

He glanced at snowcapped Rocky Mountains in the distance. At midmorning, they were layered with late March mist that came creeping down to lie damp upon his face. The woman inside had caused the past to leap the hundreds of miles separating this small town from another Wyoming town, the images just as bright and painful as twenty-two years ago.

Without waiting for welcome, he pushed open the door. She sat in front of the large computer screen, and turned slowly as if expecting him. The morning rain slashing against the windows wove snakelike patterns along the walls of the softly lit home. Framing her, the small house served as her office and her home. The glow of the oversize computer screen caught the rich sheen of auburn hair care
lessly knotted on top of her head, leaving her face in shadows.

“Adam Tallchief, in the flesh,” she said, in the soft, cultured tone he remembered. “I wondered how long it would take you to find me. You’ve been in Amen Flats exactly one and a half days and here you are. Elspeth Petrovna is my friend. She has no idea that we know each other and she probably mentioned my name by chance.”

Her gaze skimmed the kilts and plaid he wore as she said, “It looks like you zoomed right out of her fitting to come over here and tell me off. Let’s leave Elspeth and the rest of the Tallchief clan out of this, shall we? And close the door. I don’t want the whole town of Amen Flats hearing this.”

Adam slashed his hand through his wet hair and braced himself to encounter the girl, now a woman, whose memory he had carried for years. “Jilly” Green had been his first love…She’d been fifteen to his seventeen, and starry-eyed over the high school’s prize athlete. He’d known better than to encourage her; her upscale family wouldn’t like her seeing a boy “who didn’t fit in.” But the memory of how she had looked then, so soft and on the brink of womanhood, had nestled in his heart for years.

But that image was minimized by the one of her vivid hatred one year later. It still lashed at him—
I hate you, Adam Tallchief. I’ll never forgive you. Just wait. I’ll pay you back someday.

Perhaps now was the time to exorcize Jillian from his life. He closed the door with a firm click. “Let’s have this out. Now. I want to make certain you’re not bent on payback and that you’re not out to hurt my family.”

“Protective, are you? How nice,” she stated flatly, her opinion of him quivering, lashing at him from the shadows.

Adam sensed her closer study of his kilt, his family’s plaid of dragon-green and the vermillion stripe to signify his Native American ancestor, Tallchief. The crackle of the fire in the old woodstove should have warmed the house,
but Jillian’s tone was cool and unwelcoming. “The Tallchiefs are wonderful people…. To save any discussion with you, here’re the facts—I’m leaving Amen Flats right away, just as soon as I finish this layout to the satisfaction of my customer—so don’t worry about me troubling your family. Pardon me if I don’t offer you coffee and cookies. I’m not likely to do that to a man who destroyed my family.”

“It’s Jilly Green
O’Malley
now, isn’t it? The O’Malleys from the
right
side of the tracks with the nice fat pocketbook?” he asked more quietly than the simmering anger within him. At forty years old and a world traveler, Adam had learned to tether his emotions. But just seeing Jillian served up the stormy past between them. In another time, in another town ruled by her family and their friends, he’d known the greatest pain of his lifetime.

“It’s
Jillian
O’Malley now,” she corrected coolly. “At thirty-eight, I’m not a girl any longer. And I’m divorced.”

“So I heard.” Elspeth’s account of her new friend noted briefly that she was still struggling with shadows, refashioning her life after a divorce.

Adam knew about surviving and struggling for a new life—Jillian’s family had ripped his away when he was only eighteen. While his heart thudded heavily, and he battled the storm within him, Adam took in the furnishings of the house his sister-in-law, Michelle, had rented to Jillian. Though small and cluttered with computers and printers and books, the recently renovated old house seemed airy and light and feminine. Through a doorway he noted a dainty bedroom, magazines resting open on a patchwork quilt. Framed pictures danced across an old dresser. Highlighted beneath the lamp glow, the rich luster of real pearls threaded over a lacy doily. He knew they were her grandmother’s pearls; she’d worn them to the prom.

He fought the clasp of pain delivered from the past, when he’d thought life was innocent and ahead of him, the road smooth with Jillian at his side.
Bred to wealth and class,
there was little reason, except one, that she could be making her home in Amen Flats—or living in a rented cottage.

The woman dressed in a dark green sweat suit and white workmen’s socks looked little like the sleek society bride she must have been. Still, at a height just level with his shoulder and slender, Jillian wore elegance and grace as she rose and, in stockinged feet, padded to the old wood stove. “You’re going to be difficult, Adam,” she said in that low, smooth tone. “We could just leave it. No more said.”

“Let’s not leave it,” Adam said tightly and, heated by his anger, shrugged free of his navy peacoat. He tossed it aside onto a small, delicate chair with tapestry cushions. He leaned back against the wall, his arms crossed, careless of the Scots plaid and the kilt he wore. He’d just come from his cousin Elspeth Tallchief Petrovna’s fitting, leaving his jeans—torn by barbed wire while he was helping repair fences—to be mended. After hearing Jillian’s name and her description from Elspeth, the storms that Adam had fought for years erupted and he’d had to see her.

Jillian poured hot water from the stove kettle into a cup and briskly plopped a tea bag into it. She considered the herbal brew, the line of her throat slender and exposed in the gentle light, though her face remained in the shadows. “You’ve always been difficult. I don’t know why I should expect anything different than a full-blown attack from you.”

She’d torn his heart and he resented the memories buffeting him now.
As she turned to face him, he braced against the lock of those amber eyes. Though he couldn’t see her face clearly just yet, he felt the cool lash of her scorn and remembered her vivid hatred of twenty-two years ago. Once more, her disdaining gaze drifted over his white dress shirt and the Tallchief plaid. Her eyes lowered slowly down to his kilt and his walking boots, damp with puddles that he’d tramped through to come to her—nothing could have kept him from her, or the battle he expected.

Adjusting to the soft light now, he noted the fine auburn arch of her brows, her cheeks trimmed of that teenage softness. Against his will, he longed for a closer view of those amber eyes. So long ago they’d been soft upon him. Then, when his world tore apart, that shaded softness had flashed into gold, hot and bright.

Her lips curved slowly, just that bit that made Adam question how often she smiled—
if
she smiled and why—and he resented the curiosity. “So Elspeth wove the Tallchief plaid for you, did she? That’s like her, already fitting you into the family. March is a bit cold for kilts, isn’t it?” Jillian asked, settling her hips back against the tiny kitchen’s counter.

She’d torn his heart into shreds.
“Worrying about my backside comes a little late, doesn’t it? I was eighteen and could have used the concern while your parents and their friends were chewing on it. Why did you come here?”

“Why did
you?
” she fired back at him.

“You know why. You’re renting my brother’s wife’s house, the one she restored. I hear you’re friends with her and everyone else in Amen Flats. So you must have heard what brought me here…. I thought my brother Liam was killed as an infant—in the same wreck as our parents. He wasn’t. He was claimed by a childless couple and he only recently discovered who he really was and that he had an older brother—me. He located me in Australia and I came to meet him…. And here
you
are, suddenly very chummy with everyone in town—including my relatives.”

He resented the unwavering touch of her eyes, the artist seeing into the man, beyond the skin and flesh and bones.

“I don’t have to say anything to you, but I don’t want the Tallchiefs troubled. You’re trouble, Adam. You always were and so I’ll tell you what you want. But that doesn’t mean you have my forgiveness for what you did.”

“Your
family and friends broke
my
aunt’s heart.”

“You
killed
my
brother, or rather, put him in prison
where he died.

Their cut-and-slash truths were followed by the quiet ticking of a clock, the muted hum of the computer, the light crackle of fire in the old stove. Shadows danced between them, the small old house filled with warmth and feminine scents at odds with the big, humming computer, its huge, blank screen glaring at him like an eye that saw everything—the past, the pain.

“I didn’t know he died.” For just a moment he softened toward Jillian; he knew how much she loved Tom—enough to believe Tom’s lies.

“Don’t say you’re sorry. I wouldn’t believe you.”

Her anger sizzled in the quiet room, setting off his. He didn’t disguise the cool fury in his tone, spearing each word into the serene, feminine setting. “Get the facts straight. I testified at your brother’s trial. He did the crime and landed in prison. He and his buddies ran a car theft and burglary ring while we were in high school.”

“He died in that prison. The legal fees destroyed my parents. They had to sell everything, and then, they died of heartbreak.”

After years of brooding, Adam speared the real facts at her: “Your family was wealthy. Tom and his friends didn’t need to steal, but he liked the thrill. When that old woman was killed in his burglary, whether by accident or not, he was there, and I knew it. I was delivering groceries and I heard her cry, ‘Tom Green—shame on you. Give me back my money.’ I saw him leaving her apartment. Before that, I saw Tom and his buddies hot-wiring a high-priced sports car. I followed them to their chop shop, where they took it apart and sent the parts out for sale. I could have kept quiet about that, but not the old woman’s death. She was a friend of my aunt and she nursed Aunt Sarah through some bad spells.”

He closed his eyes briefly and saw the elderly woman’s frail body on the floor again, blood seeping from her head wound, the kitchen cabinet too close. She’d clung to her opened and riffled purse, her apartment torn apart. When
Tom had been found, he’d had her wallet. “I would testify, and for that, the town’s elite—whose sons were also involved in Tom’s crimes—turned against me and my aunt. In a small town, the ruling class can bring plenty of pressure to get what they want, and they wanted to protect their sons. Bribes didn’t work, and for the first time Tom and his friends had to face consequences. While waiting for the hearing, he tried to kill me before I testified. For that and other things, he didn’t get off as easily as his buddies…. Why are you here, if not for revenge?” he asked bluntly.

He sensed rather than saw the probe of her eyes, tracing his features. She spoke thoughtfully. “I was surprised at how much the Tallchief family looks alike—and like you—that same night-black, thick hair of your Sioux chieftain ancestor, those gray eyes from Una, his Scots captive bride. All the rugged features are there, a bit of the arrogance, the pride, but there the resemblance ends—because I know what you are. I don’t believe that my parents or their friends could have damaged Sarah or you. I don’t believe that my brother led any crime ring. I’ve gone over this in my head for years. I think you misread the facts.”

“Did I misread that Tom tried to kill me that night he was out on bond, Jillian? Did I misread the revolver in his hand? Or his threats?”

“He said he was cleaning it and intended to show it to you because you were a hunter. He wanted to make friends with you, share something in common. Yes, you misread that entire scene. Tom was angry, of course, and I’m certain his threats came out of that anger. Any person charged with a crime they didn’t do is going to react.”

“Oh, he reacted, all right. He was still spewing threats when I had him tied to a chair and the sheriff arrived. That incident snipped away even more of my aunt’s life.”

“I don’t believe Tom stole anything or he was the kind of person you say he was! But he’s not alive to deny it, is he?” Jillian’s voice quivered with anger.

Then as though reclaiming her composure, taking time
to deal with her anger, she slowly lifted the tea bag from the cup and methodically placed it on a tiny saucer. Jillian sipped slowly, studying him before she spoke. “I met Elspeth at a weaver’s fair—we share the same interest in textures and design. I created a small brochure for her work and she invited me to visit. I met her family, and she later wrote me about Liam’s missing brother, Adam. You were only three when your parents and Liam, then an infant, were in that car wreck. You were battling the end of a cold and stayed with your maternal aunt. What a shock it must have been to discover that your brother was alive.”

There was no expression in her tone, as though she were settling in to uncover his life’s rough edges, to use them against him. Adam had been stunned to discover that his brother Liam lived and hadn’t known his true identity until almost two years ago. Liam had been a widower with a small son. He had come to Amen Flats to give his boy the richness of the family’s history. “You know a lot.”

“I know that you ran through the inheritance your aunt left you. From the looks of you, you must have. You have no visible means of support, and you can’t stay in one place long enough to hold a job. You hitched a ride here with a friendly farmer and arrived at Liam’s gas station with a worn duffel bag and a backpack. That doesn’t say a whole lot for your life’s success, does it? You can’t blame that on my family.”

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