Authors: Georgina Gentry - Panorama of the Old West 08 - Apache Caress
The shining splendor of our Zebra Lovegram logo on the cover of this book reflects the glittering excellence of the story inside. Look for the Zebra Lovegram whenever you buy a historical romance. It’s a trademark that guarantees the very best in quality and reading entertainment.
“Sierra?” he whispered.
She didn’t answer, knowing what he was asking. It wasn’t like him to ask, she thought. He was a man who took what he wanted, and besides, she wasn’t certain what her answer should be.
His lips brushed along her jawbone, his breath almost featherlike on her skin. “Sierra? Are you awake?”
She closed her eyes, pretending to be asleep. Her pulse began to race, but she must not give him what he sought. She must not....
It was hard to remember why, for her emotions raced as his hands stroked her flesh. She gasped at the sensations he aroused.
“Just what I thought,” Cholla murmured. And his mouth came down to cover hers very gently.
She tried to remember that she must not let herself enjoy this newfound sensuality he had taught her. She must resist or lose her dignity as a captive. She moaned as he continued to caress her. Didn’t she want to stop him? What an insane question, she thought indignantly, even as she pulled him closer....
is emotionally charged, historically accurate and smoldering with sensuality . . . an absorbing, compelling read for every Western romance fan.”
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.
All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.
Civilization prefers people who conform. Its motto might well be:
The nail that sticks up will be hammered down.
Occasionally a rugged individualist comes along who is molded of such fiery steel that he will not bend or be driven; he tries instead to break the hammer. One such man became a Western legend, to his Apache people and to those he fought. This novel is dedicated to him.
In Memory of Massai
and all the other valiant Native Americans who
suffered or died because they refused to be
Picture this: an Arizona Apache warrior loose on the outskirts of the city of St. Louis, Missouri. Yes, it actually happened during September, 1886, in one of those strange and little-known true episodes of American history.
Like all great adventures that have been told and retold, even the Apache can no longer discern what is fact and what is legend about this warrior’s escape from a train carrying his people to a Florida prison after Geronimo’s final surrender.
So some of the story you are about to read is true. Some of it is what might have happened. There is no question that 1,500 miles of hostile terrain, armed settlers, and determined soldiers stood between him and his impossible goal. Or that, against overwhelming odds, he determined to return to his beloved homeland.
And maybe, in sheer desperation, he took a white hostage, like Sierra, who had good reason to hate the Apache....
Near East St. Louis
Now that she was widowed, all alone in the world and losing the farm to the bank, where would she go and what would she do?
Sierra thought about it again as she carried a box of dishes out the door and lifted it into the wagon. At least there wasn’t much to pack and load. She squinted at the late afternoon sun. By tomorrow morning, she who had never been allowed to make decisions, had to decide what to do with the rest of her life.
With a sigh, she brushed a wisp of black hair back into its bun and leaned against the wagon, listening to the lonely whistle of an approaching train. It sounded as forlorn as she felt. She looked toward the track running just past her fence a hundred yards away. How she envied the passengers as she watched the engine puff toward her from the west. At least some people in this world were safe and secure and knew where they were going.
Sierra wished she could say the same. Reared by a stern, protective grandfather, then married last spring to a dominating cavalry officer, Sierra had resisted her rebellious impulses and done as she was told. Now, with both of them dead, she felt like a small bird thrown out of its cage into a hostile world it was unprepared to deal with.
The train chugged toward her, black smoke drifting on the warm September air. Sierra wondered where it had come from and where it was going? Only a few miles behind that train lay the wide Mississippi. She had never even been west of that river, much less far away to the mountains she was named for.
A cinder blew from the smokestack onto the sleeve of her plain black dress, and she brushed it away. The train was abreast of her now, and Sierra stared at the vague outlines of people in the coach windows, wondering who they were and where they had come from. Her wild, reckless young mother had longed to go West and had never fulfilled that dream.
The train whistled again. Two men came out of one of the passenger cars, moving across the connection toward the baggage car behind. They paused on the swaying platform. The second man wore a blue uniform, but Sierra hardly saw him, her attention being centered on the big, wide-shouldered one.
Merciful heavens, an Indian. A red-skinned savage.
Sierra recoiled at the thought, staring at the dark-skinned man. Naked to the waist, the silver conchos of his tall moccasins reflecting the late afternoon sun, he stared back at her with moody eyes as dark as her own. He wore buckskin pants and a red headband that held straight black hair back from his ruggedly handsome face.
The way he looked at her compelled Sierra to touch the throat of her prim widow’s dress to make sure it was buttoned. Wild and male as some range stallion, Sierra thought, and noted with relief that he wore shackles.
It was because of them that Robert lay dead in a hero’s grave far away in Arizona and she was alone in the world. She glared at the savage, hoping that the Army was taking him somewhere to be hanged.
Cholla paused on the swaying platform, watching the white girl standing by the small, canvas-covered wagon. Why was she glaring at him as if she hated him? It made no sense, but then who could understand the thinking of whites? Cholla had scouted for the Army against renegades like Geronimo, yet the Apache scouts were now being shipped to that same Florida prison as the hostiles.
Anger at the injustice and the betrayal smoldered in his soul, fueled by the way the dark-haired girl put her hand to her throat as if she feared even his gaze.
Lieutenant Gillen pushed him roughly. “Blast it all! Get on in that baggage car!”
Cholla half turned, ready to strike out at his captor, then realized this wasn’t a good time or place to attempt to escape. And he intended to escape . . . or die trying.
He let Gillen shove him into the baggage car, thinking he had not lain with a woman in many weeks.
But it was not an Apache woman or even a Mexican
girl he thought of now. In his mind, he imagined that white woman shaking her long hair loose from its pins so it blew wild and free about her naked, pale shoulders as she slowly peeled off the black dress. Her face had been brown as any Apache’s from the sun, but under the black fabric, her breasts and thighs and belly were surely as pale as the mountain snows of the high country.
Gillen slammed him up against a stack of crates in the swaying baggage car. “You damned Injun! I saw the way you looked at the white girl! Got rape on your mind, do ya?” He tried to kick Cholla between the thighs, but the Apache managed to protect himself.
“You’re voicing your own thoughts.” Cholla glared at him. “If you weren’t armed, and I weren’t chained hand and foot, you wouldn’t be so brave.”
The officer laughed and hefted the rifle in his hands. “You’re smart, Cholla, too damned smart! You know I’m looking for any excuse to kill you before I finally have to unload this train at Fort Marion.”
“Just remember”–Cholla smiled without mirth–“if you kill me, you’ll never find out what you want to know.”
Gillen pushed his hat back on his brown, curly hair and swore softly. “You red bastard, there’s
things I aim to find out!”
Cholla looked at the shorter man. “You’re running out of time, Lieutenant.”
Gillen took a paper bag full of candy from his jacket, popped a piece in his mouth. Even from where he was, Cholla could smell peppermint on the lieutenant’s breath. “Blast it all, why do you think I brought you back here away from the other prisoners? I intend to beat it outa you!”
Cholla wished he could get his hands on that rifle. “All I’ve got to do is yell, and the other soldiers will come running.”
“After serving with you, Cholla, I figure I know you pretty damned well. You’re too proud to scream for help.” Gillen leaned against the small window. “Tell me what
happened that day to Forester, and tell me about the gold.”
Cholla shrugged, watching for an opening. “It was all in Sergeant Mooney’s report; you read it. As for the gold, you know the Apache god, Usen, forbids us to dig for it.”
“But you all know where’s it’s likely to be found,” the lieutenant insisted.
Cholla’s skin felt raw from the iron fetters. He rubbed at his wrists, and the chains rattled. “If you say so. I’m just a scout.”
“Blast it all! Don’t be so damned calm and superior with me, you damned Injun!” Gillen rolled the candy around in his mouth, hefted the rifle.
“Why hurt the innocent with the truth?”
“God damn it! The truth is what I want to know!” Lieutenant Gillen advanced on him.
“The men who survived that ambush know; no one else ever will.” Cholla forced himself to control his temper. He must not attack the officer. That was what Gillen was after, an excuse to beat him senseless or kill him.
“You blasted red bastard! I’m gonna kick you bloody! You’ll tell me everything before I finish with you!” He brought his rifle back, slammed the butt hard against Cholla’s ribs.
The pain was worse than the Apache had expected. He went for Gillen’s throat, mindless, enraged. As he attacked, the officer swung the rifle again, catching Cholla across the ribs, knocking him back against a stack of boxes in the swaying, noisy car. The boxes fell with a crash, but Cholla managed to keep his footing, even though the breath had been knocked out of him. All he could do was double over, gasping for air, stalling for time as the officer advanced on him.
Gillen smiled slowly. “You attacked me, scout. That’s all the excuse I need. When I get through slamming you between the legs with this rifle butt, you’ll never top another woman, much less look at a white one!”
His flesh seemed afire with bruises, but Cholla feigned even more pain than he felt. Under his feet, the train swayed into a curve, beginning to slow its speed. If he could get that rifle, he would kill Gillen. After that, he didn’t care what the Army did to him. Even hanging was better than life in a cage thousands of miles from home. He didn’t straighten up. “Please,” he gasped. “I’m hurt . . . don’t hit me again. I . . . I’ll tell you what you want to know.”
The officer hesitated. “Didn’t think it would be this easy, you lousy redskin. Maybe you’re not as tough as you–”
Cholla dived for his legs. Even though the train seemed to slow as it went into a wide curve, the momentum and the swaying caused them both to hit the floor hard. They rolled over and over in dust and a tangle of chains, the clatter and the puffing drowning out the desperate sounds of their life-and-death fight.
The chains hampered Cholla. Gillen managed to stumble to his feet, a triumphant gleam in his eye as he cocked the rifle. Recklessly, Cholla charged him again. Gillen would kill him anyway, he might as well take the white man with him.
They meshed and fell against a stack of heavy crates that swayed dangerously. Now Cholla slammed Gillen up against the small window, and it shattered as they fought for the gun. If he could just cut the white man to pieces against the jagged glass . . .
But Gillen seemed to sense Cholla’s thought as he, too, twisted to throw the Apache scout’s arm against the knifelike shards. Cholla’s warm red blood smeared them both as the train slowed to a crawl in its curve.
By Usen, he had to get that rifle. Oblivious to pain, Cholla fought with desperation, slammed Gillen hard against the wall. With an agonized cry, the white fell, and the rifle flew out of his hands just as the crates crashed down.
Fettered as he was, Cholla just barely jumped out of the way. Gasping for breath, he managed to keep his balance, his body one aching mass. Gillen lay covered with blood, motionless near the crates. Dead, Cholla thought with relief, and he turned his attention to the rifle wedged under the fallen boxes. He needed that weapon. At any minute, another soldier might come back to investigate why they had been gone so long.
Cholla looked out the shattered window. Late afternoon, thousands of miles from home. If he had the rifle, he might have a chance. The train gradually slowed to a crawl.
With superhuman effort, he put his wide shoulder against the crates, trying to move them. He felt the veins in his massive body bulge. Sweat stood out on his bloody, naked skin as he threw his strength into the effort. Whatever was in the crates, it would take more than one man, no matter how strong, to move them. And the rifle was under them.
Beneath his feet, Cholla felt the swaying train begin to pick up speed as it came out of the curve. He knew he had to make a choice. Soon it would be hurtling down straight track and jumping would mean certain death. Yet how could he survive in this white man’s country without a weapon?
He struggled again to move the crates, groaning with the effort. The train whistled as it picked up speed, clacking over the tracks. In another minute, it would be moving too fast to jump, but staying meant he’d be hanged when the soldiers found Gillen’s body.
Cholla didn’t have much choice. However slim his chances were in this strange country far from home, he would have to try to escape. He had lived most of his thirty years on the edge, always taking risks. To do otherwise was not living but existing like a bird in a cage; the same kind of cage that had awaited him in Florida. Captive security against dangerous freedom. Better to take his chances jumping.
The chains clanged as he stumbled out onto the swaying platform between the cars. Cinders blew past him in a cloud of smelly smoke. By leaning out, he could see a downhill slope ahead. The train would be picking up speed, hurtling down the hill in only seconds more. To leap then was to die. Remaining, he’d be hanged when the soldiers found the body.
Cholla took a deep breath, said a prayer to Usen and jumped as far as he could, hoping to clear the hurtling cars. For what seemed eternity, he hung in midair. If his chains caught on anything, he would be dragged under the giant wheels and killed. Or worse yet, maimed.
He hit the ground hard and rolled. Cholla remembered the smell of crushed weeds, the numbness of his flesh, the taste of blood from his cut lip. He told himself to get up. They would be looking for him. But he could not force his muscles to respond.
Dimly, he heard the distant whistle, the far-off chugging of the train. He lay there, listening to the fading sound, expecting to hear the shrieking squeal of brakes as someone found the dead man, pulled the emergency cord. Cholla struggled to sit up in the patch of tall weeds. Through them, he saw the train still moving away, swaying and puffing as its speed increased.
He must leave this place. Very soon someone would find Gillen and the train would back up, the soldiers looking for him along the tracks. He needed to get far away before that happened. Uncertainly, he got to his feet and assessed his injuries; weary, dirty, and bloody from the glass cuts–but no broken bones.
Cholla glanced toward the late afternoon sun. Under cover of darkness, he had a better chance.
Chance of what?
The chains rattled as he moved. No weapon, no food, no one to help him. At least fifteen hundred miles from familiar territory. In the distance, the train disappeared over the rise, but its whistle echoed and its smoke hung on the pale blue horizon. He began to work his way through the tall weeds.
When he found a small creek, he walked down it to confuse the tracker dogs the Army might bring in. Then afraid of being seen, he drank his fill and lay in the shelter of some bushes, waiting for darkness to fall.
What was he going to do? Up until now, he had thought only of surviving minute to minute, but he was a seasoned warrior, used to danger and hardship. Coolly, he began to think and make plans.
If only his friend, Tom Mooney, were here.
– brother, he thought. But Tom had been left behind at the Arizona station, arguing with his superiors and risking court-martial by trying to prevent Cholla and the other loyal Apache scouts from being forced on that train. Cholla didn’t even want to think about what had happened to his horse and his dog. They were no doubt dead, as was beautiful young Delzhinne, and as he himself soon would be.