Spring came gently to the expansive prairie. A siren
floating over her lover, she caressed fragile green
blades emerging through soil moist from recent
rainfall. Rippling eagerly in response, miles of
immature grass celebrated the birth and renewal of the
Fluttering among the tender shoots, meadowlarks
greeted the new day with joyful song. At the approach
of two young women, one songbird flew upward in a
startling flash of yellow and black.
Drops of dew scattered like tiny iridescent jewels
when one woman jumped in front of the other, then
twirled in a circle. Excitement hummed through
“I am so happy.” She clasped her hands over her
heart. “Tonight I become wife to Hoka Luta.” And
wife to an important medicine man, she added silently.
Walking at her side, Spotted Deer yanked hard on
Winona’s arm to prevent her friend from stepping
barefoot on a sharp rock. “Pay attention where you
walk or put your moccasins back on.”
Winona bit back a smile. Spotted Deer did not
share her enthusiasm for early mornings. But she
stopped and put her plain, smoked-hide shoes back on.
It wouldn’t do to cut her foot and not be able to dance
8 White Shadows
and celebrate after her wedding.
As they made their way downhill to the stream,
Winona saw several women belonging to her
Hunkpapa tribe strolling by the river. Scattered across
the prairie, several other Sioux tribes were camped.
Many had come to witness and celebrate the marriage
of the daughter of a respected Sioux chief to a
powerful Sioux medicine man.
It was early, yet many were already up, eager, as
was she, to start the day. Deep laughter from the left
drew her attention. Three men were returning from
Her gaze sharpened. Behind them she glimpsed
Hoka Luta, her soon-to-be mate, emerging from the
brush-lined stream. Winona veered slightly to the left.
In the early dawn Hoka Luta’s bare torso gleamed
wetly. It pleased her that he, too, favored early risings.
Though Hoka Luta had arrived with a dozen
warriors at his side, he walked alone. Staring at his
profile like the love-struck woman she was, Winona
eagerly anticipated starting each day with a solitary
morning walk with her husband.
“Is he not the most handsome and bravest warrior?”
Her voice softened, turning dreamy with anticipation
of the life they soon would share.
Winona lowered her gaze as she and Spotted Deer
drew closer, but couldn’t stop herself from peering
beneath her lashes to catch glimpses of Hoka Luta’s
muscular golden frame. Her heart fluttered, making
her feel like a young girl who’d just discovered the
mysterious wonders of the opposite sex.
Susan Edwards 9
A secretive smile curved her lips. Maybe she had—
or would soon. For as long as she could remember
she’d set her mind and heart on finding a mate who’d
love her and make her soul sing.
Growing up with parents whose love seemed to
grow stronger with each passing year had made
Winona determined to find the same. Hoka Luta,
whose name meant Red Badger, was everything she’d
ever wanted in a man.
Like the badger, Hoka Luta was tenacious, bold
and ferocious. His sheer size made him a force to be
reckoned with. Stories of his courage and power had
circulated at last year’s Sun Dance. Like a badger,
Hoka Luta did not back down from a fight. And
because his father had once been a powerful medicine
man, his enemies feared his spiritual power too.
He was a good leader, and commanded respect
much as her own father did. He’d make her a good
husband. Winona caught her lower lip to keep from
grinning like a besotted bride-to-be. “I cannot believe
he chose me,” she whispered to herself.
As they drew closer, Hoka Luta veered slightly
away. Still, Winona’s gaze lingered. One could not
call Hoka Luta handsome. His forehead was perhaps
too broad. His square jaw jutted forward, and his long,
hawkish nose hooked slightly to the left, as if it had
been broken many times.
Streaks of blood-red divided his face, two bold
slashes from temple to chin. Where badgers had white
stripes going from their nose to the back of their heads,
Hoka Luta chose red. Even this early in the day, his
10 White Shadows
wore his paint on his face, and his chest bore red-andblack
markings—strange symbols, their meanings
known only to him. All too quickly the warrior passed
from her sight. Unable to help herself, she turned to
Spotted Deer jabbed her in the ribs. “Enough. You
will have plenty of time to admire him later.”
“You are jealous,” Winona teased.
“I am tired,” Spotted Deer retorted. “Why you
insist on rising so early—”
“Admit it,” Winona teased.
Spotted Deer rolled her eyes. “Only if you will be
silent.” She eyed Winona, her expression changing.
“You are fortunate. He is
“Very handsome,” Winona agreed. She slid a look
at Spotted Deer and lowered her voice. “And, um,
big.” She nudged her friend in the ribs, making it clear
she wasn’t commenting on his sheer bulk.
Spotted Deer started coughing. “What do you know
of such things!” Twin splotches of pink colored each
Now waves of heat burned Winona’s throat and
face. She lowered her voice. “He was bold last night.
He wants me. I felt…him.”
In his supervised walk with her last night Hoka
Luta had made no secret that he desired to mate with
her. After presenting her with a black mare, he’d used
his blanket to shield the two of them from watching
eyes so they could talk privately. The blanket covering
their heads and upper bodies and the large bulk of the
horse against her back had formed a shield for his
Susan Edwards 11
roaming hands, and the stolen kiss they’d shared.
Winona’s heart raced. Whether it was from
excitement or fear, she wasn’t sure. She knew how
men and women mated. She recalled the time when
she and Spotted Deer had come upon Lone Shield
mating with a widowed woman in the woods. That
embarrassing encounter had ended Spotted Deer’s
wish for the warrior to court her. After seeing him in
all his manly glory, she was far too mortified to face
him—much to his amusement.
“Remember when we saw Lone Shield?” Winona
asked slyly. She studied her friend’s flushed features
and relented. “Lone Shield does wish to court you. He
has spoken to my father and brother about you.”
“No more,” Spotted Deer warned.
“You are sister of my heart. You know I speak the
truth. He watches you.” Winona wanted to see her
friend married and happy—she wanted Spotted Deer
to experience her own excitement and joy. But her
friend refused to even hear what Lone Shield offered.
Spotted Deer tipped her head back. “Lone Shield
does not hold my heart.”
Though Spotted Deer acted repulsed, Winona knew
better. Her friend had long adored the warrior. “You
are being stubborn. Just because you saw—”
Spotted Deer quickly changed the subject. “There
is much to do before the ceremony. We should return.
Your mother will be expecting us.”
Winona fell silent. How she wished the peace and
quiet of the morning could last forever. While she was
thrilled that this was her wedding day, she didn’t look
12 White Shadows
forward to the noise and bustle. For days the camp had
been in an uproar preparing for the feast to be held that
She sniffed the air. The aroma of cookfires mingled
with the acrid scent of roasting coffee beans that White
Wind, her older brother’s white wife, had introduced
them to. A wave of unexpected sadness washed over
Tomorrow she would have to say goodbye to her
old life. Marriage to Hoka Luta meant she’d have to
leave her family—and Spotted Deer—behind. “I will
miss you,” she whispered to Spotted Deer. Stopping,
she hugged herself. “How can I leave my family and
friends behind? How can I leave you—my best friend,
The realization that the two of them had only this
last day together dimmed their excitement, lending a
sadness to what should have been the happiest day of
Winona’s young life.
Normally a man left his tribe to join a woman’s
tribe, allowing female relatives to remain together,
work together and raise their families together. But
Hoka Luta was a medicine man for his tribe, so
Winona had agreed to live with his people.
Winona turned her head to the side, unable to bear
the stricken panic in Spotted Deer’s face. This woman
was more than her best friend. The two girls had been
inseparable for as long as she could remember. When
illness had claimed Spotted Deer’s parents, Winona’s
parents had welcomed the girl into their home.
“I will miss you,” she whispered, nearly breathless
Susan Edwards 13
from the sick, hollow feeling in her stomach. Only
now did she realize just what she was leaving behind.
Her mother and father. Golden Eagle and his wife,
White Wind, and their four young children. All of a
sudden, marriage didn’t seem all that appealing.
Spotted Deer’s eyes misted over. “Promise you will
“I promise. And you will come visit me.” Winona
tried to force a lightness to her voice that she didn’t
feel. For a long moment the two friends stared at each
Blinking back tears, Winona turned her head to
stare out at the large herd of horses grazing down the
hill. Since Hoka Luta’s arrival, the herd had grown
even larger, for her soon-to-be husband had brought
with him more than twenty horses that he’d presented
to her brother, Golden Eagle. As her
male relative responsible for negotiating their
marriage, Golden Eagle was entitled to her bride price.
The two women continued walking downhill
toward the fast-flowing stream. “I wish you could
travel with me to my new home,” Winona said
wistfully. She stopped suddenly, her eyes growing as
wide as her grin.
“I know that look, Winona. What are you planning?
Today is not a day to get us into trouble.” Spotted Deer
watched her warily.
“Me? Get us into trouble? We are women. We
don’t get into trouble anymore.” Winona burst out
laughing at the look of sheer disbelief on Spotted
Deer’s face. She clasped her hands in front of her.
14 White Shadows
“Mine is a good idea.”
Spotted Deer scowled, walked around Winona and
continued down to the stream. “No. Whatever it is you
are planning, the answer is no.”
Now it was Winona’s turn to scowl. She caught up
with Spotted Deer. “You have not listened to what I
have to say.”
Lifting one brow, Spotted Deer shook her head.
“Whenever you get that look on your face we get into
trouble. So whatever you are thinking, or planning, the
answer is no.”
Winona grinned. Spotted Deer knew her too well.
She tipped her head to one side and said slyly, “Hoka
Luta has many handsome warriors in his tribe. Do you
Spotted Deer glanced over her shoulder toward the
visiting warriors. “Yes. So?”
Striving to keep her voice neutral, Winona hid her
smile. “Which warrior has caught your eye?” She
turned and walked backward so she could observe her
Spotted Deer relaxed, as though reassured that
Winona harbored no harebrained schemes in her mind.
She shrugged. “There are two, but it matters not. They
will leave with you and Hoka Luta tomorrow.”
A slow, satisfied smile curved Winona’s lips. “You
could come with us.”
Stopping abruptly, Spotted Deer shook her head.
“No, you are crazy. You will be newly married. I
would only be in the way. Besides, that would not be
Susan Edwards 15
Newly married! Winona sighed. She was already
happy, but if Spotted Deer made the move with her
she’d be truly thrilled. The more Winona thought
about it, the more determined she became. When she
made up her mind, nothing could sway her.
“I will speak to Hoka Luta. Surely there is someone
you could stay with—a family in need of a daughter.”
Spotted Deer’s eyes lit up. “Do you think he will
Confident and pleased with her simple solution,
Winona nodded. “He will agree.” In her mind, the
decision had been made. Hoka Luta loved her. He’d
put her happiness first.
Pulling Spotted Deer by the arm, Winona changed
directions, heading toward the herd of horses. “Just in
case, we will ask the spirits for their help.”
Spotted Deer pulled back. “Oh, no. We cannot
leave camp unescorted.”
Impatient, Winona jerked harder. “We will not be
gone long. Now come on. Do you want to come with
me when I leave tomorrow or not?”
Groaning, Spotted Deer followed. “You know I do.
It is just—”
“It is decided. We will make the spirits an offering
of sweetgrass and sage. They will be pleased, and will
grant us our wish.” She let go of her friend’s arm and
took off at a run.
With a long-suffering groan, Spotted Deer ran after
Winona and caught up with her. “Do not expect me to
climb all the way to the top of the rock with you!
Being that high makes me sick.”
16 White Shadows
Feeling incredibly happy and fortunate, Winona
slowed, dropped down low and circled the herd of
horses. A quick glance showed that the braves
guarding the herd were chatting down by the stream.
With a soft whistle, she called her mare.
Swaying heavily on slender pine branches, ravens
cried loudly from their high treetop perches. Below,
standing on the limb of a tree split by lightning, a
squirrel chattered at a silent enemy crouched behind a
thick wall of pines and brush.
Night Shadow ignored the warning chatter and
cries. He held himself perfectly still. From his vantage
point he had miles of unobstructed view. Around him
the trees were so tall and thick, there was little light.
But just a short distance in front of them the trees
thinned as though someone had drawn a line
separating forest from prairie.
Shifting his gaze without moving his head, he
picked out dark shadows far away. Buffalo, he
thought. Sudden movement drew his attention to the
left. A hare sat tall on its powerful hind legs. In the
blink of an eye it was gone, a blur of gray among
green. Night Shadow returned his attention to the
Sioux camped a short distance away. Like the
Cheyenne, the Sioux preferred to make their camp out
in the open prairie, where the danger of surprise attack
He narrowed his eyes as he studied the Sioux camp.
Susan Edwards 17
The number of tipis remained the same, yet something
had changed. He studied the herd of horses, then
smiled grimly. The groom bad arrived.
Night Shadow fingered a long scar running down
the side of his face. At last. After years of waiting,
months of careful planning, and weeks spent watching
the Sioux, he would soon have his revenge.
A low rustle in the bushes warned he was no longer
alone. “We take her tonight,” he said as his
companions settled beside him. Crazy Fox hunkered
down on his left. “We are four against so many.” Night
Shadow’s gaze followed a group of warriors riding out
onto the prairie. “The Sioux prepare to celebrate. The
wedding will take place today.” He narrowed his eyes.
“I have waited long for this day.” His plan was a good
one. He’d wait until after the marriage ceremony, then,
after the new couple was left alone for their first night
together, sneak in and kidnap the woman. A woman
for a woman. When he got Jenny back, they’d get
Night Shadow breathed deeply. Anticipation
flowed through him. For fourteen years he’d suffered.
He’d hated and he’d despaired and he’d survived—just
for this day.
He flexed his fingers over the hilt of his knife. So
close, yet he dared not act too soon. Not until he had
Jenny back. Then the bastard who’d taken her would
die a slow, torturous death.
Without taking his eyes off the Sioux camp, he
stood. “Come. We have much to do before the sun
lowers.” He took one last look at the Sioux camp, then
18 White Shadows
froze when he spotted a lone rider heading toward him.
Motioning the others down, he watched the rider
draw near. Long, shiny black hair flew behind her as
she entered the sparsely wooded hillside just below his
hiding place. She said something and laughed. The
young woman sitting behind her didn’t look so happy.
Night Shadow studied the Sioux women. A ray of
sunshine pierced the thick canopy of pine leaves,
falling on the upturned face of the woman controlling
the gleaming mare.
“The spirits smile down upon us,” he said under his
breath. He recognized the young, carefree features of
the Sioux chieftain’s eldest daughter. As soon as he’d
learned of her upcoming marriage to Hoka Luta, he’d
made it a point to learn everything he could about the
Weeks ago he’d shown up at the Sioux camp with
his loyal warriors to trade. They’d spent three days
with the Sioux, and during that time he’d watched and
studied the one called Winona.
He grinned. The Sioux chief was foolish to allow
his daughters to ride without escort. Incredulous at this
turn of events, he let his gaze follow the women and
horse as they rode past. As soon as they were out of
sight he stood, his heart thudding with anticipation.
What a stroke of luck this was. Although he’d been
interested in taking only Winona, he couldn’t pass up
the opportunity to take them both.
The spirits watch over you.
He grimaced at the words his mother had often said
to him. Once he’d believed in unseen forces, but no
Susan Edwards 19
more; not in the white man’s God his father spoke of,
or in the many spirits of his mother’s people.
Life was nothing more than a long string of events,
some good, some bad. A man had to take control of his
own destiny. And right n