Author: Constance Bennett
Case Longstreet, an Apache Tribesman who learned the ways of the white
men, follows a secret plan to destroy his enemies. He is unprepared to
fall in love with a daughter of the frontier. Libby Ashford has gone
west to find freedom. Together, they fight for their bold dream of love
-- and defy both worlds.
Apacheria, in the white man's year 1847
Hidden deep in the shadows of branches, He Stalks the Gray
Wolf crouched by the river, studying the reflection of the full moon
that shimmered on the water at the fork of Cottonwoods Joining. The
river was quiet, its voice soft as it spoke to the moon. Gray Wolf
strained to hear its words, for the river was wise, and tonight it was
wisdom Gray Wolf sought.
On the opposite shore, beyond the trees, he could see the waning
campfires of the Many Mountains band, and behind him he knew that
identical fires burned inside and out of the Red Canyon wickiups. The
two camps reflected each other as the water reflected the moon; so
alike, and yet so very far apart.
Would it always be so? Gray Wolf wondered bleakly, remembering all the
great and noble speeches he had heard at the peace council that day.
Some had advocated peace; others had shouted that there could be no
peace. Gray Wolf's people had been at war with the Many Mountains band
for longer than any of the elders on either side could remember. If this
meeting of the warring bands did not resolve the conflict, the petty,
futile feud would continue.
But Gray Wolf did not believe the feud would last for many more
generations. In his heart he knew that if all the bands of the White
Mountain Apache did not unite as one, there would soon be no Apache
left. His people had an enemy lying in wait that was far more powerful
than any single tribe, even more fearsome than the hated Mexicans, who
had made war on the Apache for a dozen generations. The White Eyes were
coming, and they did not understand that this was Apache land, that the
Apache were a proud people.
Gray Wolf considered himself a fearless warrior, and there were many in
his band who agreed. But it would take more than bravery to hold back
the White Eyes. There had to be a way to make his people see that, and
so he had come to the river to ask the spirits to tell him how.
Behind him, Gray Wolf heard a rustle of leaves so soft it might only
have been a trick of the wind. He tensed, waiting to see who approached,
and then relaxed again when a faint tinkle of beads and a rustle of
buckskin identified the intruder.
"You should not be here, Mother," he said quietly without turning. "My
father has had a difficult day, and he will want you beside him."
The wife of the Red Canyon chief knelt beside her son. "Your father is
in council with the elders and will not miss me for some time, I think."
She reached out with a mother's hand to stroke Gray Wolf's hair. "You
are troubled tonight."
Her show of affection was hardly proper, but Gray Wolf did not pull
away. Instead, he smiled and lightly chided her. "If my friends see us,
they will taunt me mercilessly and ask if I still suck at my mother's
Round Maiden smiled. "Your friends would not dare taunt you, for they
know how swift and sure your vengeance would be. They know that, like
your father, you are a great warrior."
"Great warriors' mothers do not stroke their sons' hair and speak to
them as though they were children."
Round Maiden withdrew her hand and sighed. "Very well, I shall not treat
you as my son."
Gray Wolf turned to her, and his eyes smiled with love and respect. "Now
you go too far."
She looked at her strong, handsome son, and pride swelled in her heart.
"Tell me what troubles you, my son.
Constance Bennett is the award winning, best-selling author of twenty<br><br>contemporary and
historical romances. A native of Missouri, she spent<br><br>four years in Los Angeles performing live
theatre and studying film and<br><br>television acting before returning home to launch her writing career
in<br><br>1985. Her Harlequin Superromances, Playing by the Rules and<br><br>Thinking of You, were
both nominated by Romantic Times as Best<br><br>Superromance in their respective years of
publication, and<br><br>Playing by the Rules went on to win a Romantic Times
achievement<br><br>award as best Romantic Mystery of 1990. Two years later,
Bennett<br><br>received the first of her two prestigious Rita Award nominations from<br><br>Romance
Writers of America. Her Berkley/Diamond historical,<br><br>Blossom, was nominated for a Rita in 1992,
and in 1995 her<br><br>Harlequin Superromance Single... with Children was nominated as<br><br>Best
Contemporary Category Romance. That book was also her first<br><br>Waldenbooks bestseller.