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Authors: Susan Edwards

White Dusk

BOOK: White Dusk
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White Dusk

By Susan Edwards

Dakota Territory, 1810

Nothing is more important to Swift Foot than restoring his family's honor, not even love. Though his heart belongs to another, he agrees to wed Small Bird, in the hopes that the marriage will end a war. A war that began when his own father chose love over duty to his people…

Small Bird believes she is destined to stand by Swift Foot's side as his wife, that their shared past has shaped their future. She knows he does not wish to marry despite the desire she sees in his eyes, but she is determined to win his heart as well as his respect.

Just as passion flares between the newlyweds, the enemy draws near. And the wife of Swift Foot is their target…

Book 2 of 12.

Previously published.

70,000 words

 

Dear Readers,

I am so excited to see my White Series available in digital format and once again available to you, my readers. This series is so close to my heart—each character became my brother, sister, best friend, etc., and to see them republished makes it seem like a long-awaited family reunion. I can’t wait to become reacquainted with each character! Even the villains, for there is nothing like seeing justice served.

I started the first book,
White Wind,
way back in the ’80s. These two characters just popped into my head one day. I met them at a stream in the wilderness where my honorable (and very virile) hero, Golden Eagle, was determined to rescue a very stubborn heroine named Sarah. It just seemed as though the action stopped as they turned to me and said, “Well? What now?”

Huh? Did they think I was a writer? Not me. Never did any writing at all and had never had any desire to do so. Well, Sarah and Golden Eagle just shook their heads and let me know that despite never having written before, it didn’t matter because I was a storyteller! A vivid imagination, a love of romance and the Native American historical genre were all that were required. Okay, not quite but I got the message.

So I thought, why not? I could write a nice scene or two. Or three. Hey, how about even just a love scene in this wonderful setting that I could see so clearly in my mind? But then I ran into the first problem. What had brought my two willful characters to this stream at the same time? What connected them? Why would this mighty warrior want to claim this white girl? What made him fall in love with her and risk everything for her?

I found that I couldn’t go on until I had answers and that meant, yep, I had to start at the beginning. I learned who they were, what their problems were, and when we once again met at that stream in the wilderness, I just sat back and gave directions, and this time, my characters knew their lines and away we went!

And that, dear readers, was how my writing career began. Once I started, I could not stop. I loved writing about this family. Sarah and Golden Eagle had four children and it just seemed natural to continue the series. I had so many letters begging and, yes, even demanding Jeremy and White Dove’s story in
White Dove.
And honestly, I was right there with each and every reader, for that was one story that just called to me. So from two people, who met by chance, eleven books were born.

Over the years, I valued each and every reader comment: from the mother who read the books to her dying daughter, to the lonely women who found companionship, and to women who appreciated the bravery and willingness of the heroines and heroes to do whatever it took to overcome adversity.

Each of the White books has a story that means something to me. Jessie in
White Wolf
is a lot like I was in my youth. I couldn’t accept “no” back then without a good reason, always looking for a chance to rebel
. I could go on and on but then I’d be writing a book instead of a letter!

Just writing this letter makes me all teary and homesick, but just as these books will be available once more to my readers, I will become reacquainted with each book and each character. Thinking of reunions, I might just have to plan a White reunion! But for now, I am just so grateful to Carina Press and my editor, Angela James, for once again making this series available.

Sincerely yours,

Susan Edwards

This one is for you, Lynn.

Prologue

Rolling banks of wispy, cottony-white fog shrouded a band of warriors riding across the gray premorning prairie. Silent as the moist clouds concealing them, they followed the river.

Above,
Wi
rose, coloring the sky with pale pinks and golds. Taking a deep breath, the sun stretched his light and warmth upward and outward from the horizon, chasing away the last of the night. Satisfied his work was especially nice, he glanced down—but frowned when he spotted the war-painted warriors taking advantage of his absence and the morning mist. Anticipating the violence soon to take place below, he let his light dim.

Tate,
the wind, howled his own protest. He rushed downward, dispersing the fog in tendrils across the rich green land. Reaching the oncoming warriors, he circled them.
Go back,
he howled. But the revenge-bent braves ignored him, pressing onward. Reaching a thick wall of trees, they dismounted and led their mounts through the silent woods.

Flowing above the budding forest,
Tate
swirled across the land until he reached the small encampment that was the war party’s objective. His breath sent waves of green grass flowing across the prairie. Flames flickered in the fire pits there, and smoke from the camp’s many cook fires was sucked high and far.

Unaware of the danger, the camp’s men gathered to plan their day while women began the morning meal. Children of all ages embraced the dawn with the exuberance of youth. No one paid any mind to
Tate
’s howls of rage.

Saddened and angry over his inability to stop more blood from flowing into the earth, he screeched upward, back into the heavens.

Pounding hooves, along with the high-pitched shrieks of the band of Miniconjou warriors who broke through the thick stand of cottonwoods lining the river, shattered the gentle spring-morning calm.

All in the Hunkpapa encampment, now alerted to the danger, scurried to protect themselves. Settled away from the river, away from the trees that could hide an approaching enemy, they had time to take action.

Men grabbed weapons and mounted their war ponies while women cried out warnings, grabbed their young children and ran out into the expansive prairie. Like ants fleeing their nests, they ran low in the tall, dark grass, and hid. The aged, feeble and ill members of the tribe had no choice but to take refuge in their tipis.

Hunkpapa warriors of all ages rode away from camp, toward the stream, to meet their enemy with lances held high and outraged shouts ringing in the air. Half a dozen Hunkpapa youths ran to their tribe’s large herd of horses. As they mounted, their yells rose and sent the rest of the herd galloping to safety. Braves of a visiting tribe also joined the defense.

Despite the resistance they met, the attacking band of warriors continued on, and birds flew from the treetops, frantically beating their wings to escape the melee below. White-tailed deer froze in place for a heartbeat before leaping nimbly across the stream and away across the grassland.

A group of young boys ranging from seven to nine gathered upstream from the enemy and whirled as one at the first war whoop. Calf-Boy, the youngest, felt his heart slam into his throat when he saw the enemy riding out of the fog, heading toward them.

His uncle rode past. “Go! Hide!” the man called.

Moist earth churned up by the horse’s hooves pelted him, spurring Calf-Boy into action. He and the others wasted no time in heeding the command. While their skill with the miniature bows and arrows slung on their backs might bring down a squirrel for the morning meal, they were no match for seasoned warriors.

Heart pounding against his ribs, Calf-Boy ran, his feet swiftly carrying him across the uneven ground. Fear bit at his heels. Had the enemy learned that he, the son of Runs with Wind and Sun Woman, lived? Had they come to kill him as they’d killed his parents?

Calf-Boy ran between two large rings of dwellings. A miniature tipi and two dolls lay in his path. The girls who’d been playing with them were nowhere to be seen. He jumped over the toys. Behind him, the sounds of a fierce battle raged. The enemy had chosen to attack while many of his tribe’s warriors, and those of the visiting tribes, were out hunting.

Once he was far past the camp, Calf-Boy dropped flat. Dew clung to the tall grass there, soaking him. On his belly, he lifted his head, parting the grass carefully.

He trembled when he saw that several enemy warriors had managed to reach the camp. Slashing at the hide walls of tipis, they yelled in victory. When they reached the eastern horn and the largest tipi pitched there, one warrior leaned out, his knife stabbing through the hide and into the home belonging to Calf-Boy’s uncle—the Hunkpapa chief.

Frightened, a woman and a young girl stumbled from the entrance, seeking safety. Horrified, Calf-Boy watched the two warriors follow. His ill aunt, one of the females, stumbled. Willow Song, his cousin, stopped to help her mother up. One of the warriors raised his war club.

Helpless and unable to look away, Calf-Boy watched the woman who’d raised him fall beneath the blow. Then the warriors ran down his cousin. All around Calf-Boy, screams of pain and victory ricocheted through the air. His uncle’s warriors were fighting off the enemy, but slowly. More than one tipi fell to the hacking of a knife blade or ax. Smoke from the cook fires inside the dwellings billowed, followed by flames licking at the fallen hides.

The two warriors who had killed his aunt and cousin left the fighting behind to ride out into the grass, sending running the women and children hiding there. In that moment, Calf-Boy realized the enemy knew of his existence. They searched for him. Frantically, Calf-Boy prayed for his uncle to come, to stop these Miniconjou. He didn’t want to die. He didn’t want anyone else to die because of him.

A large rock dug into his knee, but he ignored pain and remained still until a frightened cry to his right brought his head around. There, a small girl fled her place of hiding: Small Bird, a child of the visiting tribe. She ran away from the two searching warriors, right toward where he was hidden. The two Miniconjou laughed and followed.

Suddenly one of them screamed and fell. An arrow had found its mark in his back. Looking around, Calf-Boy spotted several of his uncle’s warriors riding out from the camp. But they were still far away. With a cry of rage, the other Miniconjou warrior raised his club high to strike down Small Bird—a life for a life. Without thought, Calf-Boy grabbed the rock beneath his knee. He had to do something. He couldn’t allow the girl to be killed in cold blood as his aunt and cousin had been killed.

Rage and grief propelled him forward. These men had killed his family. Not in battle, but for no reason. The same would not be done to this girl. He threw the rock with all his might, hitting the Miniconjou warrior’s horse between the ears. The startled animal reared up on its hind legs, forcing its rider to cling to its back and use both hands to regain control.

With his blood pounding in his ears, Calf-Boy ran nimbly toward the flailing horse. He couldn’t let this man kill the girl. Grabbing an arrow from the small quiver slung crosswise over his shoulder, he ducked around to the other side of the horse.

Using both hands, he stabbed the arrow deep into the surprised warrior’s thigh.

The enemy screeched in pain. Calf-Boy scooped up the little girl. Tiny at only three winters, she felt light as a feather. She clung to his narrow chest tightly. “Hold on, Small Bird,” he cried. Turning, he ran for all he was worth.

The pounding of hooves beating at the earth rumbled behind him. He didn’t dare take his eyes off the ground beneath his feet to glance over his shoulder. He couldn’t fall. Didn’t dare falter. He ran—ran until he was overtaken by a large black horse. Looking up, he saw it belonged to his uncle.

They had won. They had fought off the Miniconjou.

That night, in a simple ceremony, Calf-Boy was renamed Swift Foot—and the legend of how he had at such a young age counted coup and saved a small girl of a visiting tribe would be retold by friend and foe alike long into his adulthood.

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