The Warrior's Captive Bride
His wife for two moons…?
Plagued by a mysterious sickness, Crow warrior Night Storm captures the witch he believes cursed him. But his anticipated revenge dissolves when he realizes that beautiful Skylark might be the only one who can provide a cure…
Skylark agrees to pose as Night Storm's wife so she can find a way to heal him. But when an unexpected desire flares, Sky's mission changes and she'll do everything in her power to find a way to make their arrangement last a lifetime!
Excerpt from THE WARRIOR'S CAPTIVE BRIDE
Night Storm led his horses through the dense undergrowth. He didn't know if lightning would strike twice, but he was growing desperate. This was very near the place he had first seen her, during the Many Flowers Moon. Only three moons ago and his life had changed completely. The time of first seeing her had also been the last time he had ridden his horse. She had looked like an ordinary woman, but now he knew better. Well not ordinary. She had been exceptionally beautiful with thick ropes of hair and wide eyes that sloped upwards at the edges. That was what he remembered most, her eyes and her smiling mouth. But her form had also been perfect, full and lush as the ripe berries she gathered. Perfect, too perfect, he now realized.
He had been so taken with her that he considered carrying her off. She was Crow, or so she had appeared, from her dress and moccasins. So why had he not seen her at last season's winter camp?
But now he thought he knew. Now he understood why she had not shown the least bit of fear at his approach. Because like the puma, she was beautiful, powerful and deadly.
How had she cast a spell without his notice?
He was uncertain. What he did know was that he must find her, capture her and then, somehow, he must make her remove the spell.
But what if she was not even a witch? What if she was a spirit. Anog Ite, double-faced woman or Kanka, the greatest of all witches. Night Storm knew that it did not matter. If he found this woman, he would succeed in getting her to restore him or he would die. For one thing he knew, he would not live like this. Any day now those of his tribe would discover he was cursed. And then he might be outcast. At the very least he would lose his status as hunter and warrior and that was a fate worse than death. His malady even kept him from courting. For what woman would want a useless man who could not even sit a horse?
He glanced back at his empty saddle and the rage inside him swirled like the whirlwinds.
He would find her, make her reverse her magic and then he would kill her so she could never do this to another man.
An unfamiliar sound drew his attention. Something large was crashing through the forest in his direction. He slipped his bow from his shoulder and notched an arrow. From the sound it was a deer, though soon he realized that it made too much noise. He sighted down the long shaft. Perhaps he would bring home meat for his mother and father after all. If it was an elk there would be more than enough to share with many families and his mother would be so happy to have the fine white teeth to decorate his sister's dresses.
But the creature thrashing his way now howled like a wolf and then quacked like a duck. Night Storm lowered his bow and watched as a naked man leaped over a rock and headed straight for him. The man waved his arms and shouted.
"Napping at noon. Everyone nap. Feasting, napping and then games!"
The man spotted Night Storm and slowed. He grinned and came forward at a trot holding out a stick.
Night Storm returned the arrow to it's quiver and slung the bow across his shoulder.
"For your new home, unless you think to live with your mother forever."
He didn't live with his mother. Though he also did not live with a wife.
"Here." The man extended the loincloth. "Put this over your eyes for a napping. It will seem just like nighttime. Have to go. She is after me again."
She? Night Storm looked back the way the man had come as a possibility struck him. Was he talking about the same woman? Had she bewitched this man as well?
The man did a little circle dance, a dance reserved for women and then continued on.
"Tell her she'll be late for staying put. Hurry, Hurry. I'm so full."
He lifted a new stick and used it to hit each tree trunk he passed. The knocking sound continued long after he was out of sight.
Night Storm turned in the direction the man had appeared. He had a certainty growing within him that just a little farther into this cursed woods he would find the one he sought. He had first seen her in early spring, when the new green leaves were so bright with sunlight that they hurt his eyes. Now the leafy canopy had turned dark and lush. Sunshine filtered down in bright beams on the gnarled roots and clumps of fern.
She was here. He felt it.
Night Storm dropped the stick and tucked the scrap of buckskin in his pouch. Then moved as quietly as he could, but still the jays called out from the treetops warning all creatures of his approach.
He saw her then, moving with a delicate tread in his direction. He ducked behind a thick tree trunk and drew out one arrow, gripping his bow. He pressed his naked back against the rough surface of the tree's solid trunk.
He peered around the tree to watch her approach. She was just as lovely. The fringe of her simple dress swayed with her graceful tread. If he killed her would it break the curse?
He didn't know.
Could he force her to remove it? If he captured her would she trade his freedom for hers?
He could only try. Night Storm lifted his eyes to the heavens and offered a prayer to the Great Spirit asking for his help. Then he stepped from behind the tree and drew back the bowstring far enough to send an arrow cleanly through her heart.
Her step faltered and she stopped, staring with widening, mysterious eyes. Her mouth dropped open next as she gasped.
"You," she said.
"Me," he answered and sighted the arrow.
©Jenna Kernan, Harlequin Historical, September 2016