Summer, adopted by Samuel and his wife as a child, grew up with Hawk and Little Bird for a part of each year. She had the best of both worlds, Indian and white, and learned about the different customs and cultures.
She grew up and fell in love, as most little girls do. Her love was the town sheriff, Mark, who his hands full with the headstrong Miss Fox, a.k.a. Summer. He is older than she is, and both sets of parents have their worries about that, but more concerning is the fact that there are people from her past who wish to do her harm. Can Mark protect his love and prove to her family that he is worthy of their cherished daughter, all while keeping the headstrong girl in line?
Publisher’s Note: This steamy romance includes elements of power exchange.
Spring of 1865, near the Big Horn Mountains, Wyoming
Brown Hawk was riding hard towards home, a large cabin in the mountains of Wyoming, near Black Tooth. It was a hard life, but he preferred to live on his own with his wife, Little Bird, instead of with his tribe.
Hawk smiled at the thought of his little wife, shaking his head in wonder as he rode closer to home. They were getting older now, but their love was still strong. It had not always been that way before they left the main tribe to live on their own.
He had been away with his friend, Samuel Fox, on a mission for the government. Brown Hawk—Hawk, to his friends—took a page from Samuel‘s book and made a life for himself away from the Cheyenne tribe. He worked for the government and the law enforcement agencies, tracking criminals, and he made damn good money at it. On his ranch, every spring, Samuel Fox, his son Brenden, and Hawk rode after wild mustangs in the mountains. The air was cold and the mustangs fast and wild, but this life was so invigorating. They tamed them and sold them for top dollar in the autumn. They had gained a reputation for having the best horses in the country. Usually, by early summer, they had all they needed. It normally took until early autumn before they had the horses broken to ride, ready for sale.
Hawk and four of his closest friends and fellow dog soldiers had made their home in the mountains of Wyoming. Hawk and his friends had worked hard down through the years. Bone breaking work and long hours were normal for the first five years. Their dedication and loyalty to Hawk and Little Bird had certainly paid off for them and their families.
Hawk was riding in the lead. His mind was not on what he was doing. It was in the past. He was thinking about the first years of his marriage and the struggles with the tribe.
He knew the reason he was having trouble concentrating on the present. His daughter, Summer, was returning for the spring and summer. He and his wife missed her while she was away in the autumn and winter. It was a heartbreaking time for them both. He understood the necessity, but it didn‘t make it hurt any less. Every year at this time, he would wonder back all those years in his mind. His friends knew and teased him about his melancholy, but it didn‘t deter him. He preferred going for long rides by himself to reminisce. Little Bird always seemed a little sadder by the middle of winter, also, but she tried to keep a stiff upper lip. He would see her brushing a tear away occasionally or hear her sigh a lonely sigh. He would see her staring off to the south with a wishful look in her eye.
Hawk fell into his remembrances as he rode with his friends for home after a successful hunting trip on this particular day.
Soon, Samuel and Summer would show up—Samuel, to drop off their shared daughter and to start the hunt for the wild horses. In the fall, when the horses were ready for market, Hawk and his friends would take their Summer back to Samuel‘s ranch with him.
Samuel, Hawk, Small Bear and White Eagle would then take their horses to Fort Kearney to sell them to the government. After that, Hawk and his friends rode home without Summer and would not see her again until spring.
* * *
Ten years earlier
Hawk was a dog soldier for his Cheyenne tribe and a damn good one. One who made his mother and father proud. It took much hard work and training, but he was one of the best of the warriors in his tribe. He had wealth already in his young life, which was something unusual at his age of twenty summers. He knew how to trade with the settlers and the army. He also learned to use the banks from his childhood friend, Samuel. He was very smart; he knew what the soldiers and settlers wanted and what he needed. He dressed like a white man when he needed to and wore his buckskins and feathers when his tribe needed him. He learned to live in both worlds. He was young and strong and in love with life. His training gave him many muscles, and he was trained to kill in many ways. He was fearless in battle and had won many. Just the sight of him with his six-foot–five-inch body of muscles frightened many. His tribe looked up to him and valued his opinion. He would be a leader someday, and he felt he was ready.
He had married the woman he had fallen in love with many years ago when she was still a child. Little Bird was his heart and very breath; he loved her so much. His father told him it made him weak to love a woman that much, but Hawk never listened. Those were the old ways and he didn‘t want to live that way anymore. He wanted what his friend, Samuel, had, money and a home for his family, to be the head of his household and protect his wife and any children they may have. Unfortunately, Little Bird never conceived. She yearned for a child and prayed for a child, but it never happened. Instead, she helped the old woman of the tribe watch the children in her spare time, but it made her sad afterward. She would come home and cry on Hawk‘s lap in his arms as he reassured her that someday her turn would come. But it never did, and she became quiet and reserved. Her spirit was broken, and Hawk didn‘t know how to help her. His little wife was a sad shell of the woman she had been, and it broke his heart. The other women of the tribe avoided her, taunting her and belittling her while he was gone. He almost hated to leave, for fear one of the women would hurt her. Many of the women threw themselves at him right in front of her, telling him they would give him a brave son to raise. He always ignored them, but Little Bird could see how it saddened him not having a child of his own, a son he could raise to take over for him and inherit all he worked so hard for.
One day, he had come home to find her crying because the women had been especially cruel to her. Little Bird told him to go to Running Dog‘s daughter and lay with her, so he could have a child.
Hawk stood straight up and frowned at her. This has gone on far too long, and he would tolerate it no longer. He went to the chief and told him that he and Little Bird would leave the tribe if he didn‘t do something about their cruelty to his wife.
The chief and the tribe received many benefits from Hawk. He made their life much easier and was a hero to the tribe.
That night, every father whipped their daughters for their cruelty in public and instructed them to leave Little Bird alone. The daughters all came to their tee pee and apologized, pledging to never hurt Little Bird again. They grew to hate her even more because of the punishment, but they knew to leave her alone.
* * *
A few weeks later, some of the men were attacked by the Crow as they were hunting buffalo near one of the lakes. Five of their men were ambushed and killed. Hawk and some of his men were called on to find out who had committed this atrocity. They were at peace with all the other tribes—supposedly.
One lone survivor explained it was the Crow who had attacked them. He could tell by the feathers.
Little Bird made him a meal of dried bison mixed with berries and animal fat (pemmican) to take along, with some dried deer jerky and some fruit. She knew he might be gone for days before he found what he wanted and returned home. She kissed him good bye, begging him to stay safe and come home to her.
Hawk and six of his best men went out to follow the trail, to seek justice for their friends who were murdered. They had ridden many miles before Running Wolf spotted the trail. They rode hard when they could and late into the night when the moon was full, into the mountains and through deep valleys. Running Wolf was their best tracker. He never lost sight of the trail. They followed quietly for days before they came to a wagon that held two young bodies. A man and woman were left for the animals to do with what they wished.
As Hawk searched the wagon for clues as to who these people were, he found some paperwork and a doll. Hawk was a tracker for the Pinkertons and he knew something was not right. Where was the child who belonged to this doll? He found some clothes for the adults and a child and the man still carried paper money and a gold watch. Why didn‘t the Indians who killed these people take the gold watch or the money? Where was the child? After a thorough search, the men took the time to bury the bodies and mark a crude grave.
They took a small rest and continued tracking until close to dark, when they came upon fresh horse droppings. Knowing they were getting close and it would be fully dark before they came upon these men, they decided to tie their horses near the stream and continue by foot to their camp.
Ten men, all renegades, sat around the campfire, laughing and poking a stick at something tied to the tree.
Running Wolf‘s eyes became large with shock when he saw what they had tied and gagged at the tree. He signaled to Hawk to see what he had found. They all gathered around Hawk and Running Wolf.
The men signaled amongst themselves a plan, using sign language. All six men circled around the campsite. One man crawled next to the horses just outside the camp, which were tied to a rope stretched between two trees. Five others circled the laughing and obviously drunk men, hiding in the shadows. Hawk crawled up to the tree on his belly ready to cut the child loose as soon as the fighting started.
One quick signal and the horses were all cut loose, and the renegades were attacked by surprise. While the fighting was going on, Hawk cut the little one free. He ran back to his horse and sat her down, imploring her to be as quiet as a mouse. Then, he ran back to help with the fight. By the time he had returned, the fight was already over. The warriors were all drunk and easily killed.
While searching the men, Hawk found much gold in their pockets. This didn‘t make sense. Why did they have gold but leave money and a gold watch with the young couple? Then he thought about the situation. Indians had no use for paper money. Renegades avoided populated areas, so they would have no use for the watch, especially if they were strangers to trading with the white man. Gold was always the best. It was easily used throughout the mountains at trail stores or mining stores. These renegades planed on hiding out for a while to avoid being blamed for this.
The men quickly ran back to their horses, leaving the dead men for the animals to take care of. The little girl was sitting next to Hawk‘s horse, right where he left her. Her dress was torn, and she was dirty. she had the look of one in shock. She didn‘t speak.
“Did those men hurt you, little one? Did they touch you?“ Hawk asked the child. She couldn‘t be more than five summers old. She began to shake uncontrollably, her teeth chattering. Fat tears rolling down her chubby cheeks. Hawk wrapped her in his blanket, and Running Wolf handed her up to him once he had mounted. The others followed, each mounting and turning their horses toward home. The last two men led the captured horses. They would go to the slain comrade‘s families when they returned.
Hawk held the little girl tight, reassuring her everything would be all right until he felt her slump in his arms, sound asleep. He began asking for opinions from his men as to what to do with the child. He didn‘t want to get into trouble for having a white girl in the tribe. Her long blonde hair and blue eyes would surely give her away. He didn‘t know her story or what had happened to her.
Running Wolf suggested giving her to a settlement or orphanage. Another suggested leaving her on the trail for someone to find. Running Wolf and Hawk were the only ones who could speak English, so they carried on a conversation alone most of the night. In the end, Hawk brought her back to the camp to Little Bird. The little girl had a glassy look in her eyes and never spoke a word all the way home. She only ate what Hawk fed her by hand and drank when he offered his canteen.
Running Wolf and Hawk thought the renegades were out to kidnap the little girl, and the Cheyenne hunters were either witnesses and needed to be disposed of or just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. This was a mystery, but they both knew this little girl needed to be protected until they could figure it out.
* * *
As soon as Hawk walked into the teepee with the little girl in his arms, Little Bird took her gently to the furs near the fire.
Hawk and Little Bird talked about the situation. He had called for the medicine woman and went to talk to the chief. Running Wolf was the chief‘s only son and Hawk‘s blood brother and best friend. Together, they talked the chief into letting the girl stay until her family could be found, but only if they did not bring trouble for the tribe.
The medicine woman woke the girl long enough to give her a bitter tasting medicine. It put the girl into a deep sleep. While she was sleeping, woman examined the child.
“She has not been raped or harmed. But she is harmed up here.“ She pointed to her head and heart. “You will have to work hard to gain her trust in man again,“ the old woman stated as she lifted the flap of the teepee.
Little Bird covered the child as her husband entered and said, “She will be ours until we figure out this mystery, wife. Do not get too attached to her, because she may have family who will be looking for her. I will talk to some of my friends and ask them to discreetly ask around for answers. We must be careful. We think someone wanted to have her kidnapped and didn‘t care if she was harmed.“
Little Bird smiled big enough to light the sky, and it made Hawk‘s heart sing.
“The medicine woman gave Summer something to make her sleep soundly. I will give her more after she eats and drinks, tomorrow. We will let her little body rest a few days. I think I will call her Summer, because we found a miracle in the summer. It is not only an Indian name but an unusual white name, also.“
Hawk smiled. “I can see my warning of not getting too attached is too late. Come, wife, take care of your husband.“
He gathered Little Bird and carried her to their furs on the far side of the teepee. Letting her gently down, he began to undress as did his wife.
Hawk was amazed every time he looked at his wife. He was amazed at how lucky he was to be married to such a beautiful woman, one who didn‘t even realize her beauty inside and out. He loved her more than life and would protect her with his own life.
His rough hands gently caressed her body, stopping at, first, her breasts and then further down to her nest. “Your skin is so soft.“
His mouth lowered to her breasts as she lifted from the furs to get closer, quietly moaning his name. He suckled her breasts lavishly, moving his hand to her core and gathering her juices to circle her bud. Around and around, he circled her bud harder and harder, until she clenched her fist in his hair and came apart with a low, keening wail. “Aww, Hawk, that is so good, aww, please fuck me, please take me hard,“ she begged.
Hawk had no trouble doing as she wished. He began pushing into her slowly, inch by inch, until he felt her muscles grip him. He began slowly and gained momentum until he was pounding into her. He could feel her heat.
Fire streaked through him. “Let go, Little Bird, come for me,“ he instructed.
He felt a small shiver snake down her spine just before they both came, his woman with a whimper and he with a roar. He pulled her into his arms and they both slept until they heard Summer moaning in her sleep.
“She is reliving the nightmare, Hawk. I should wake her and feed her some broth and water and then give her some more of the medicine.“
Hawk agreed and helped her wake the child. He sat her up in his lap as Little Bird went outside to the low fire and retrieved some of the broth she had warming.
Summer looked up into their eyes as Little Bird fed her. He was happy to see she was not afraid and ate every drop of broth and drank greedily at the water.
Little Bird took her to the bushes outside the teepee to take care of business while Hawk watched carefully over them. Leading her back into the teepee, she carefully led the child to the furs and Hawk held the cup with the sleeping medicine.
Summer wrinkled her nose but drank what was offered. Soon, she was sound asleep again.
“The clothes we found for her in the wagon were expensive. I believe the family comes from wealth. The gold watch has a picture of the three of them and we found paperwork with her date of birth and name, Lilly. But I think we should dress her in buckskins like the rest of the children and treat her like one of ours. For her protection, we will call her Summer. I have a feeling this was a kidnapping attempt. They did not touch anything in the wagon or take any valuables that could be traced back to them, but the renegades had pockets of gold coins. I will ride to the nearest town and telegraph some of my Pinkerton friends and Samuel. Maybe they can find something out while we protect her. We will keep her father‘s watch, paperwork and her doll until she is better able to handle what happened to her. Agreed, Little Bird?“
“I agree, husband. I will let her rest for a few days and then begin teaching her our ways as if she was my own. Tomorrow, we will go to the lake and bathe, if you will stand guard. I am sure everyone will gawk at her, until they get used to her.“
The next day, after Summer finished the last of the broth and water, she was led by both Hawk and Little Bird to the lake. Little Bird gently bathed the child and washed her hair, while Hawk guarded the two of them. She wrapped Summer into a blanket and led her back to the teepee, sitting her on her furs while she brushed her hair. It was a snarled mess, but Little Bird was very gentle. When it had dried, she braided it into two braids. She then went to the furs and retrieved the buckskin gown that Red Moon had brought.
Red Moon was married to Running Wolf, and the women were sisters, just as the men were brothers. Red Moon and Running Wolf had two children. A boy, about ten moons, and a girl around the same age as Summer. As soon as Running Wolf had explained what had happened, Red Moon came right over with some clothes for the child.
Little Bird took Summer outside with her while she prepared dinner. She cooked fish and corn bread and added some wild berries for their meal. When she was finished, she showed Summer how to dish it up on wooden plates. Summer helped to serve Hawk as he sat on a log to eat. The men ate first, Little Bird explained to Summer. After Hawk finished, they both dished up their meal and ate. Hawk leaned down to kiss Little Bird, explaining he was going to be gone for a few days to send his telegraph to his friends.
“Do we have to find her family, Hawk? What if they are the ones who are trying to hurt her?“ Little Bird wanted to know.
“We will be very careful, wife. I will investigate everyone before we let anyone know we have her.“ He tousled Summer‘s hair and went to mount his horse.
“Stay close to the teepee until I return. Running Wolf has promised to keep an eye on you two. Do not leave the camp.“ He looked down to Summer and spoke in English for her. “You listen to Little Bird and do not leave the camp. Running Wolf will watch out for you, and Red Moon and the children will come for a visit. Do you understand me, Summer?“
Summer look up at the big warrior. “Yes, sir, I understand.“
Hawk nodded to both and turned to trot off.
Some of the other Indians were staring at Summer until Hawk shouted at them to mind their own business and leave his family alone. They all scampered off to do their own work.
* * *
True to his word, Running Wolf stopped by with his family the next day. While the children played outside the teepee, Little Bird explained that Summer rarely spoke.
She stayed inside while the other children played, sitting on her furs. When Little Bird tried to get her to go play with the other children, she just shook her head and played with the beads on her pretty little dress.
Little Bird finally put Summer on her lap as the women talked. Summer watched the women talk carefully. Trying to understand them, she watched their mouths and facial expressions.
Finally, Running Wolf noticed the child‘s predicament. She didn‘t speak the language.
Running Wolf translated for her, explaining to the women they needed to teach Summer the language. Little Bird looked so relieved to have discovered the problem, she began immediately teaching her words. Red Moon jumped right in until Summer began becoming confused.
“That is enough for now. You women can continue teaching her and so can the children.“
He took Summer by the hand and led her outside, explaining to his children that they needed to help Summer understand the language. The children laughed, holding out a bug and explaining the Cheyenne word. The young boy, Little Wolf, caught a frog and brought it to her to teach her the word. Soon, the children were laughing and playing like they had been friends for years. Running Wolf told his children how proud of them he was before he told the women he was going out to hunt for a few hours. They would be moving soon with the season. There was much to get ready for winter.
Usually, in the spring, both he and Hawk met with Samuel in the mountains and caught the wild mustangs to sell. They brought their families in the fall to Samuel‘s land, where he had long houses set up for most of the Cheyenne to live in. In the fall, they would take the broken horses to Fort Kearney and sell them to the army. In the spring, they moved back here, near the buffalo, until the fall again. His family and Hawk‘s would have a warm hut to live in for the winter, and Samuel and his father always made sure there was enough beef to butcher to add to the buffalo, so they were warm and had plenty to eat.
Samuel‘s grandfather was Little Fox‘s son, the Cheyenne chief of long ago. He had married a white woman and moved from the tribe to just outside of Buffalo. Between Samuel, his father, son and brother–in–law, they owned two thousand acres of prime land right at the feet of the Big Horn mountains.
Samuel and his family ran cattle and wild horses, mostly, leaving some of the lush green grass near the foot of the mountain for grazing. They each had large cabins and long houses set up for any Cheyenne friends who wanted to winter. There was plenty of wood and food. Some of the Cheyenne still preferred to winter in teepees outside, but Hawk and Running Wolf insisted their families stay inside in the warmth. Also, the elderly stayed inside as the trip was still hard on them. Some of the elderly had already begun the journey, along with a few braves to travel with them. The medicine woman and her family were well taken care of. They each had wagons which also carried a few necessities, such as food and teepees.
The women of the tribe could tear down and put up a teepee in minutes. Little Bird would show Summer how it was done, when the time came. Now, they were all busy drying meat and making jerky as well as gathering nuts and fruit to make pemmican and fry bread, which would keep on the journey.
Summer learned much in those few days. She could speak broken Cheyenne and understand what was asked of her. Today, she was to go for the first time to Little Bird‘s parents‘ teepee and help watch the children while the women went out further, gathering berries and fruit. Summer tried to tell Little Bird she was afraid of her mother, but Little Bird made light of it, saying she was afraid for no reason. Her parents would take good care of her.
Summer saw the way the old woman looked at her and knew this not to be true, but she was only five summers old and had to do what she was told. She hoped for the best. This all was so strange to her. She had come from Boston to Fort Kearny with her parents. They were wealthy, mostly from trading with the soldiers. Her mother‘s family had money from banking. Her father had decided to take the family to the fort, this time. That was as far as she could remember. She had erased all the memories of the attack in her mind. She couldn‘t bear to think about it. Every time she tried to remember, she endured a blinding headache.
Little Bird took Summer by the hand to her parents‘ teepee and left with instructions for Summer to stay until she returned. Little Wolf and Brook were with Red Moon today, so Summer didn‘t know any of the children. As soon as Summer arrived, the woman put her to work gathering wood and watching the children. She would scold her for any little infraction, not considering that Summer was new to this way of life. Some of the older children began teasing her and pulling her braids, calling her names. Summer tried to ignore them, but Little Bird‘s mother seemed to be encouraging them. When she was sent outside, the children began throwing rocks and sticks at her. When she ran back inside, Little Bird‘s mother pushed her back outside. Finally, Summer could stand it no more and, grabbing some of her own rocks, began throwing them back at the bigger kids. She was just a little girl and her throws never even made it to the bigger children who kept throwing them, hitting her on her arms and head. One older girl threw a large rock and hit Summer on the cheek, right under her eye. Summer began to cry and tried to turn away, but they followed her. She could hear Little Bird‘s mother laughing at her plight. Finally, the woman came out with a switch and began switching Summer, claiming she started the fight. Her little legs were covered with welts, and her arms and face was bruised and swollen, her eye black and blue when Little Bird returned. As soon as Summer saw Little Bird, she ran to her. Little Bird was shocked at the sight of the child she had left in her mother‘s care. Little Bird and her mother were soon yelling at each other. Summer could understand Black Bird, when she yelled at her daughter that she had no business bringing a white child to the tribe, much less to her teepee. She deserved everything she got. Summer couldn‘t stand the screaming any longer, running for the lake. She knew she wasn‘t allowed out of the camp, but she just ran.
Little Bird called for Summer but received no answer. Fear took hold of her as she worried about her little girl. She ran to Red Moon‘s teepee to ask for help finding the girl, when Running Wolf came walking back into camp with a sobbing Summer in his arms. His face was full of fury.
“Who did this to this child? Tell me now and quickly!“
Little Bird told him what had happened, and before she could make an excuse for her parents, Running Wolf took Summer with him to their teepee.
He called out to them to come out as Summer clung to his neck, sobbing her heart out.
Wailing, she pleaded with him, “Don‘t make me go back; please take me away.“
It tore at his heart, making his anger even worse.
“Come out and face me now, or I will have my father banish you.“
“Black Bird came out, full of defiance. “Why do you bring this white child back to me? Take her back to her own people.“
He gently put Summer down, kneeling to her level. “Stay here until we finish this. Be brave just a little longer.“
Summer didn‘t have it in her. She wrapped her arms around his leg until Red Moon came to gently take her to her teepee.
Running Wolf grabbed the nearest switch and began switching the older woman until she danced to avoid it. He dragged her to the switching post kept in the center of the camp and tied her to it, lifted her dress and continued switching her until her legs buckled. When he was satisfied she looked the same as Summer, he turned to her kneeling on the ground.
“If you ever allow anyone to touch this child, or if you ever touch this child to hurt her again, I will see you and your husband gone from this tribe. Do I make myself clear?“
The older woman wailed her displeasure at being exposed in front of the entire camp.
“I asked you a question, woman; do you understand what I have said?“
This time, she screamed out her answer, “Yes, I understand, please let me loose.“
“No, you will stay there for an hour for all to see.“ He turned to the rest of the tribe. “What will happen if anyone or anyone in your family hurts this child? She is under my and Hawk‘s protection. Does everyone understand?“ he asked, looking at every single person. They all mumbled in embarrassment that they understood. Turning to leave, they all returned to their chores, leaving Black Bird to suffer alone.
Running Wolf returned to his teepee just in time to see the medicine woman leave. Little Bird held the girl in her lap, letting her sob until she fell asleep.
“The medicine woman gave her something to help her sleep again.“
Running Wolf took the child from her. “I will carry her home for you. Never leave her with that cruel woman again. I cannot imagine how you turned out so sweet with a mother so mean.“
Tears were in Little Bird‘s eyes. “The medicine woman put salve on her little legs, and I am to go to the lake and get some cold water for a cloth for her eye. I feel so ashamed. She told me she didn‘t want to go to mother‘s. She said she could tell she hated her, and I made her go, anyway. I hate her! She never was a good mother to me.“
Little Bird ran back to her teepee to get Summer‘s furs ready before Running Wolf arrived.
Red Moon waited with Summer while Little Bird went to get cold water. Red Moon and Little Bird worked out a system. They would take turns watching each other‘s children, so they could get their work done.
The next day, Black Bird and her husband were gone. They had left for Samuel‘s with a few men, and Little Bird was glad to be rid of her.
When Hawk returned home and heard the story, he was just as angry as Running Wolf. It had made the final decision in his mind. He was torn whether to leave the tribe. He had been thinking about it since the women were so mean to Little Bird. He hated to leave his childhood friend, but he thought it was time for a change. He was tired of moving and tired of living under someone else‘s rule. He wanted a place of his own. He would talk to Samuel when they made it to his home. He went to find his brother and talk to him.
Running Wolf understood his friend better than his friend knew himself.
“I knew this day was coming. I agree, if you want to put down roots, now is the time to do it. We will see one another every spring and winter, and it will be like old times. If I wasn‘t the next in line to be chief, I would follow you. I will help all I can, whether it is manpower or watching your family.“ They grabbed one another‘s arms in a warrior‘s handshake.
Hawk went home to talk to his wife. He hoped she would be just as happy.
“My Pinkerton friends told me that it would be very unusual for them to find Summer‘s family with what little they know. We would have to wait until someone comes asking questions. We have ourselves a little girl to raise, if that is what you want,“ he explained.
With a squeal of glee, Little Bird launched herself at her husband, who caught her with ease.
“I would love that, and I would love a home of our own. I am sick of the hatred in this camp.“
Hawk agreed, “I will go to take the mustang to Fort Kearney soon, with Running Wolf. You and Red Moon and the other families will travel with the rest of the tribe for safety, in two days. Our four friends will deliver you two safely to our cabin, in the mountains, before they continue the rest of the way to the long houses with Samuel. These four dog soldier friends will guard you until we return with the horses. I know the cabin is small, but this spring, I will build a cabin fit for my wife and child. Our land near the Black Tooth is not too close to Samuel but not too far away about in the middle of the tribe‘s camp in the summer and Samuel‘s land. We find many mustangs in that area. We own many acres of land, thanks to Samuel. Running Wolf also owns many acres next to us. Samuel has helped us buy the land we need. It also didn‘t hurt that we three have done much to help the U.S. government. I have already talked to Running Wolf. My mind is made up; we need our own place.“
Little Bird looked at Summer asleep near the fire. It was getting colder at night, and the winter would be on them. She worried they would have enough to make it through the winter at the cabin.
“Hawk, is there wood for a fire at the cabin, and what about food? Will we have enough for the winter. I have some dried meat, but we all share in this tribe, and we will be alone at the cabin.“
“Running Wolf, Samuel and I spend many weeks at the cabin, both in the spring and in the fall. We have plenty of wood, and I will buy a beef from Samuel before winter. The mustangs stay in the mountains with us until fall. By that time, they will be broken and ready for sale. We never catch more than we can tame in one season. They are much sought after horses and rare, which drives up the price. Samuel takes his to his home and Running wolf and I tame ours and deliver them to Samuel‘s ranch in the autumn. Where we take them to fort Kearney, we make good money from the soldiers every year. I have sent a telegraph to Samuel, explaining our girl and our concerns. He will keep our secret, unless it endangers his family.
* * *
Two days later
The wagons were full and teepees all down. Little Bird looked around to make sure the camp was in as good of shape as it was when they arrived. Wood was all neatly stacked, waiting for their return in the spring. Little Bird and Red Horse mounted their horses. Red Horse held Summer safely in front of him while Little Bird rode beside him. They rode further in the middle to conceal Summer as much as possible, in case they were approached. The chief and his wife rode in the front, leading the procession to Samuel‘s long houses. They would stop halfway to rest, and Red Horse and three more dog soldiers would deliver Little Bird and Summer. No one else in the tribe knew where the cabin was, not even the chief. Only very select few friends who could be trusted with one another‘s lives were aware.
The four warriors would stay until Hawk and Running Wolf returned. It would take three weeks, usually.
The trip was slow, due to the number of people and many were elderly or handicapped. They stopped often, taking their time, resting the horses and eating leisurely meals before starting again. The children mostly rode in the wagons with the most abled riding on their horses alongside. Some of the men went ahead to make sure it was safe, and a couple of them rode behind as a safety precaution, to ensure that no one who shouldn‘t be was following them.
Everyone was in a good mood. Everyone knew, through the good graces of Samuel and his family, their winter would be much easier on them than in the old days. He always had plenty of wood to warm the long houses, and they had plenty to eat. The men hunted in safety for food, and the ones who wanted to put up teepees and wintered outside. The children were safe and warm. The boys went out with the men to learn to hunt and the girls learned from the women. Samuel would come once or twice, to see to it everyone had all they needed but never interfered.
They stopped the first night near a lake. They took the same path as always, never varying from one year to the next. It was getting colder at night now, and most would be happy to reach their destination. Little Bird and Red Moon took the children to the lake, and the dog soldiers stood with their backs to them, guarding them as they bathed in the cool water. They didn‘t stay in the water long before they were scampering for their clothes. The chief‘s daughter–in–law and grandchildren and Hawk‘s wife and Summer were guarded every minute. It was a very important duty, along with providing protection for the chief and his wife and daughters. These men had no more important duty.
The dog soldiers were fierce and relentless fighters. Brave and smart, they protected the tribe with their lives. Hawk and Running Wolf belonged to the club, along with a dozen others. Not many were selected to belong to the group. Their loyalty had to be proven before they became blood brothers with the rest. Their skill had to be tested and found to be exemplary before they could belong. They practiced skill with the bow and arrow and hand to hand fighting every day. Many had guns and practiced target shooting daily. There were a couple of crack shots that the government would love to have had, but they were true to the tribe and had no interest. Running Wolf‘s tracking skills were much sought after among the Pinkertons and the army, while Hawk‘s tracking skills, keen eye and intelligence earned him many jobs. Both men made good money working for the government. Samuel helped them invest and use the banks. Both men could live in either the white world or the Indian world. Running Wolf would be the next chief. He was tied to the Indian world, while Hawk preferred the Indian way but was not tied to either.
As the little group was returning from the lake, they heard a skirmish. Red Horse raised his hand to signal the group to stop and be silent. Summer stayed close to Little Bird, shaking in fear. As Red Horse came into the camp, he saw a dozen soldiers giving orders to the women and children, telling them to go to parents.
The leader rode to the chief and said, “We are looking for a small child. A white girl with blonde hair and blue eyes. We have had inquiries about a young man and women and a child. The man and woman were found near a wagon in a shallow grave, but we didn‘t find the child. You or your people haven‘t happened to see her, have you?“
The chief stood proud and spoke in a loud voice, in English. “My son has worked for your soldiers many times, and this is how you treat his father? We have seen no white child. If we had, Hawk or Running Wolf would have let you know. My question is who is asking for this child? If we happen to hear, we need to know who to contact.“
The leader, along with the other soldiers, was shocked that a Cheyenne chief would speak English.
He quickly recovered. “Relatives of the child look for her. If you see her, please turn her into the sheriff; there is a large reward for her. Her family is distraught at the thought of this child being held against her will.“
Summer and Little Bird stayed hidden in brush outside of camp, but they could hear every word. Tears rolled down Summer‘s cheek as Little Bird pulled her up against her and silently comforted her.
After assurances that they would indeed let the authorities know should they find the child, the soldiers left.
Red Horse led them back to the camp and up to the chief, who had a worried look on his face.
“Running Wolf is right, someone wants this child and not for any good purpose.“
Red Horse nodded in agreement. “I will take the three men we agreed to and ride with Little Bird and the girl tonight. We will begin our journey to the cabin soon after they eat. I feel it is safer for everyone, in case they decide to return or keep an eye on our camp. We will lead the horses for some ways to make sure no one sees us. I will have one of the men retrieve their wagon after we arrive at the cabin.“
The chief agreed it was an excellent idea. “Let Hawk know what has happened. We did not find out the name of the family who searches for her.“
After a quick meal, Little Bird was told to take just what they needed for a couple of days and what would fit in the saddle bags. Red Horse knew they were already tired but felt it was much safer to be gone.
Little Bird and Summer rode atop one of the horses while the men led them for a few miles to make sure no one knew they had left the camp. One of the men fell behind to make sure no one followed, erasing any sign of them ever being there. They rode carefully but steadily throughout the night. Dawn saw them a day‘s ride from the cabin. They stopped to eat and drink and were off again. This time, since it was light enough to see, they rode hard, only stopping long enough to water and rest the horses and grab a quick snack of an apple or jerky. By nightfall, if they were lucky, they would make it to the cabin.
They rode by moonlight and made it to the cabin by midnight. The men gathered wood and started a fire in the cabin, leaving the girls to make the bed with fresh sheets stored in a cedar chest in the corner.
Little Bird put Summer in the bed and crawled in beside her. Neither girls undressed. Instead, they were fast asleep under a heavy quilt in the warm cabin in a matter of minutes. Little Bird gathered Summer in her arms and held her close as they slept.
The four men took care of the horses and started a small fire in the fireplace in the small sleeping room next to the stables. One warrior stood guard, and the other three slept for a few hours until they changed places before dawn.
Little Bird woke before Summer. She quietly crawled from the bed and stirred the fire. She took a pot and went in search of water. Finding a well just out the door, she quickly filled it and put it over to the side of the fire to warm the water. Next, she went in search of one of the soldiers to find the oats she had put in one of the saddle bags.
Red Horse was just leaving the stable with the supplies she needed for breakfast.
“I will go to hunt for some meat for us for dinner. Small Bear stands guard near the forest, and Swift Fox and White Eagle are in the forest cutting more wood. If you have immediate need of any of us, ring the bell.“ He pointed towards the large bell just outside the door. She also noticed the sign of the fox on the gable. A sign that the Cheyenne protected this home of Little Fox.
Little Bird let him know she understood and returned to the cabin to stir the oats into the boiling water. She had also brought in an apple for each of them.
Summer was tossing and turning, tangling her legs in the quilt as she moaned.
Little Bird knew she was having another nightmare and wondered if the soldiers the night before were reminding her of the bad things that had happened to her. She quickly went to the child and brushed the hair from her face, kissing her forehead. She loved this child already as her own. Summer opened her eyes, full of fright, until she saw Little Bird. A slow smile crossed her face as she wrapped her arms around Little Bird‘s neck. Little Bird lifted her onto her lap, talking to her about what a lovely home Hawk would build for them in the spring. Little Bird set her on the floor and led her to the table where she served her cooked oats with honey, remembering to teach the child the words in Cheyenne.
It warmed Summer‘s tummy and filled her up.
After breakfast, Little Bird began cleaning. She swept the floor and washed the pot, bringing it back in filled with water to warm again. She would let fire die down some, just keeping it going enough not to go out completely. She found a tub in the back room, filled it with warm water and gave Summer a nice warm bath and washed her blonde hair, all the while singing an Indian song to her as she worked. It wasn‘t long, and Summer had picked up the words. Little Bird used the bath water to wash up in. When the men knocked on the door to deliver the rabbits, it brought a huge smile to their faces to hear the child singing their song. They were growing fond of the brave little girl already, as well.
Little Bird cooked all of them a nice meal for dinner before the men went back out to their duties. Small Bear brought them in plenty of wood for the fire and a couple of squirrels for supper, later in the day.
* * *
Two weeks later
Hawk, Running Wolf and Samuel came galloping in with fifteen or sixteen wild horses they had found on the way back. Red Horse opened the corral gate and the wild horses came racing in. The men all greeted one another and told each other all the news they had before Hawk went running into the house, picking up Little Bird and twirling her around, kissing her.
Little Bird squealed in delight, laughing as she was spun in a circle.
“I missed you, wife. Where is our daughter?“ he asked, looking around.
There was Summer, hiding in the corner, her hands over her ears. The squealing had scared her.
Hawk walked over to Summer, holding his hand out for her. “Come, little one, no one will hurt you here. Come and give me a hug so I know you missed me.“
Summer lowered her hands and took his big, rough ones timidly as Hawk helped her up. He scooped her in his strong arms and walked back to Little Bird. “My family. You and Little Bird belong to me. Understand, little Summer?“
A smile broke across Summer‘s face, her eyes lighting up as she gave her new family a hug, reaching over to Little Bird, who took her from her husband, kissing her temple. Summer felt safe here.
Running Wolf and Samuel came to the door, stomping on the porch floor to let the occupants inside know they were on their way in.
Hawk introduced Summer to Samuel, who looked carefully at the child, while Running Wolf gave Little Bird a hug. “We did very well this time. We have, again, found some unusual horses on the way home. I am keeping the albino for my own; he will be prized,“ he said, smiling, pride showing in his eyes.
Hawk had given Samuel the papers he had found for Lilly Chutney. Samuel had promised to look into it carefully and discreetly. Running Wolf and Samuel would sleep in the stables tonight and start out early in the morning for his ranch. Running Wolf would stop at the long house to collect his family and would be staying in a cabin Samuel had for them near his home. He would help Samuel break his horses this winter.
Hawk had told the four friends they were free to go to the long houses, also, but they insisted they stay as they had no families to worry about, and Hawk was grateful. They decided it was not too late to build a bigger room off of the stable for the men to stay in. Samuel said he had quite a lot of wood already planned down, and he would have it delivered in a week, so they could finish quickly. They needed to finish it, so they could concentrate on breaking the horses they had found. The other warriors would be valuable help with that, also. Hawk had thought to give the extra horses to his friends to keep or sell, as wages for the winter.
The men were lucky and brought down a deer that day, and with the help of his friends, they made short work of skinning it and cutting it up. Little Bird would make moccasins and other clothing with the hide. They had a lovely meal of vegetables the men had brought back and venison before they all had an early night.
Little Bird made a bed for Summer near the fire on the floor, made of several blankets to lie on and a quilt to cover her with. Little Bird also reminded Hawk that their things in the wagon had gone on ahead to the long house, because they had to make haste in arriving at the cabin.
Hawk asked Samuel to include their wagon and their things with the wood delivery. It was agreed, and Samuel let them know they would get more of what was needed, along with their things. He knew they would need more blankets and vegetables and a steer to butcher for winter. The meat shed would be full for winter.
That night, Little Bird warmed some water, and Hawk helped her bring out the tub. They filled it with water. Hawk was tired and sore from all the physical labor of rounding up the wild horses and bringing them back.
Hawk stripped—the bath looked so inviting. He sank in the hot water with a moan as Little Bird went to gather the cloth and soap she needed. She lathered his back, massaging his muscles as she went, washing every inch of him carefully and thoroughly. When she got to his cock, she was surprised that it was standing straight out of the water. He was a big man, in all ways.
“Oh, husband, are you not too tired for play tonight?“
“I am, but my cock is not. It has other ideas, little wife.“
Little Bird giggled as she undressed and climbed into the tub with him, lowering herself on his cock.
“Aww, little wife, you know just what I need.“
She fit him into her tight little channel and began lifting and lowering herself until her head fell back and she moaned with pleasure.
Hawk groaned and sat up, lifting her. “Out and onto the bed, Little Bird; let us do this right.“
Little Bird got out of the tub and dried herself, running for the bed as Hawk got out and did the same. As he got close to the bed, she lifted the quilt for him. He got under the blanket and lowered himself to her little love button, gently sucking her clit, lapping at her pussy.
She began to moan again, louder this time.
Suddenly, they heard a small voice, “Mama, are you all right? Are you hurt?“
Hawk froze as Little Bird caught her breath. No way was she able to move.
Hawk came out from under the blankets with a smile on his face. “Mama is fine, Summer, she is just enjoying a treat. Go back to sleep, little one.“
“Ok, Papa. Goodnight.“ The child rolled over and was instantly asleep.
Hawk went back under the covers and began where he had left off, but Little Bird tried to be quieter. She whispered, “Please, Hawk, finish it. I need to finish it.“
“My pleasure, wife,“ With that, he fit his cock into her slick, tight channel and began the dance of a man and woman, slowly, at first, building momentum until they both came apart. Hawk got up and retrieved the cloth to wash them both before gathering his little wife in his arms and falling into a dreamless, deep sleep.
* * *
Samuel had made good on his promise. A steer, wood, and blankets, along with some canned foods Suzy had made from her garden were all delivered in short order.
Vegetables and fruits were stored in the storage shed next to the house. It was built into the side of a hill and stayed very cool but rarely froze. There was a shed for meat next to it, but they would not butcher the steer or hunt extra deer until the weather turned colder. They hunted for what they needed every few days yet. The men worked every day on making the room on the side of the stable big enough for four grown warriors. It didn‘t take them long, and the size was tripled. Extra wood was cut to warm it this winter. Bunk beds lined two walls, and an outhouse was put just to the side of the building. The men worked hard every day until everything was finished and then they turned their attention to the horses. The barns were full of grain and hay, ready for winter. The wooden fences were checked to make sure they were in good condition, so the horses could graze until winter.
One at a time, a horse was brought to the corral, so it could get individual attention—to be talked to and to get used to the men touching them until, one day, a rider would jump on his bare back. That is when the fun started. It took many days to finally break a horse without ruining it. It took patience and not cruelty. The Indians believed if the horse was broken with a gentler hand, they became loyal to their masters and would have respect for the men who trained them. The men grew to respect each and every horse, as well.
Hawk told Little Bird that when they made the extra trip to Fort Kearney this time, he would bring back a gentler pony for Summer and Little Bird. Little Bird was excited to have her own pony again.
While the men were working, Little Bird and Summer cleaned and got the cabin ready for winter. They gathered berries and dried them, and Little Bird taught Summer more of the Cheyenne language and even how to soften the deer skin to make moccasins. She wanted to make each of them a pair of moccasin boots for winter. Every time one of the men brought in a deer, they brought in the skin, also, for her.
The weather was getting colder. Little Bird knew the winters were brutal in Wyoming, especially near the mountains. People died every year because they ran out of food or they got lost in a snow storm. Before the first snow, she would run a rope between the stable and the house.
Soon, the men would bring the horses all closer to the stable. When the weather turned to winter, the horses would go into the stable most of the time, let out only long enough to get some exercise and for the men to clean the stable. With all the horses in the stable, it would stay nice and warm in the barn and help warm the large room the men had made alongside of it.